I never thought I would be ready to participate in a project like this. The thing is, I don’t always love the skin that I’m in. Doing these photos, participating in Jen’s very important and potentially life altering project, was a spur of the moment decision that I almost backed out of. I am very glad that I didn’t. At the same time, I don’t see myself this way all of the time. After a lifetime of putting this body down, acceptance is beyond difficult.
I have found it healing while on my journey recovering from depression to be a part of this project. When suffering from mental illness my struggle to turn self hate into self acceptance has been one of the largest battles I've faced, once I reached a point where I could function well enough to even consider doing so. I found that after years of unbearable depression that left me feeling nonhuman, immobile, at the bottom of a spiral that I felt had no end until I hit it and was literally unable to move or think or consider any options or ways to get out or make the feelings, or lack thereof, stop. After years of back and forth and fighting with my own mind, then came the anxiety.
Then came the neurotic thinking about what others thought of me. And as I was feeling a little bit better and trying to recover from the darkest place on earth, I couldn't help but worry constantly about what was going on around me. Why wouldn’t I hate myself when I constantly formulated terrible stories about how the world sees me?Fast forward many years. Feeling better feels amazing. It also causes guilt. Why wouldn’t I be working again if I’m feeling better? When will I be fully functioning?
My family and friends are very loving when I express these concerns and tell me that this is all part of my recovery. But the stigma in society is there. “What do you do?” is a common question when meeting people and it is a loaded one for me. I often make a joke and hope they don’t persist but if it’s someone I want to meet again then my story usually comes out to some degree. I suppose it helps me weed out those individuals who are judgmental. Not caring what people think is something I still need to learn, in all regards.
And now, here I am posing for Jen. For myself. I look at these photos and I see the beauty of self acceptance. I wouldn't have been able to even entertain the idea of doing them, even just for myself, without it. My body bears the scars of a lifelong desire for an unattainable standard of beauty. The scars, stretch marks, and sagging skin are all the result of trying to attain an idea of perfection that I decided on back in grade nine. Standards I set when I was tired of being bullied about my weight and began my first battle with depression, body image and eating issues.
I have to credit self acceptance (and the help and kindness of innumerable professionals, friends and family) for the last couple of years of my life where I have made new friends and become so much less isolated. I certainly don’t accept everything. I am more accepting on some days, less on others. I accept that this body keeps me going. I’ve spent far too many years hating it, being angry with it for not living up to my standards. I try everyday not to do that. I try everyday to forget about those standards that are so very well ingrained. For so many years. A lifetime. Today, I am so happy to say, although I may not always fall into the category of “loving the skin I’m in”, I accept it and am happy with it more often than not. And that is probably the most monumental statement I have ever made.
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