The first time I remember ever interacting with children my own age was in playschool. The playschool was in a church near where my nan lived and I remember my mum used to take me to my nan’s early in the morning, and she’d then walk me to playschool or, sometimes, we got the bus. One snowy day the buses were cancelled and we walked up the way, tripping and falling in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other and having a great time. But the time we arrived at play school we were very sodden, very happy, and very late. That was, at least, until the stern lady at the church told us that playschool was cancelled and we had to walk all the way home again.
Playschool is a bizarre whirlwind of broken memories: making an Easter card for my mum and the teacher sellotaping a tea bag to it; playing with the cars and garages with all the boys; my tongue going fuzzy for licking lots of envelopes (I’ve no idea why). I was relatively care-free at playschool and was too busy charging around to compare myself to others.
When I was 4, I started primary school. That was an interesting time for me, it was the first time I really had to spend long periods of time in concentration whilst surrounded by others my age, and it gave me a lot of time to think.
It was around this time that I started to develop an image of what I might look like. The only mirror we had in the house was too high up for me to see myself in, so I didn’t often look in the mirror. I developed this image of what I thought I looked like based on the other girls around me and mirrored myself in their image. That was until I sat next to my friend and compared my wrist to hers. She was tiny, and her wrists slim and dainty; by comparison, I was a lumbering whale.
I went home that night and I dragged out a dining room chair, stood on it and looked at myself in the mirror. My hair was frizzier than I had expected, and my face was rounder. In fact, on closer inspection, all of me was rounder than I thought. I didn’t look in the mirror for a long time after that.
When I was 8 I walked to the doctors with my mum. It was a hot summers day and I was wearing a skirt. By the time I got back home, my legs were really sore. I found out that it was called “chafing” – and decided that must have meant I was too fat for skirts. I didn’t wear a skirt or dress again until I was 13 and had discovered black tights that could really hide my fat legs.
When I was 9 I had to go for a bra fitting. I was a C. At 9! My mum told me I was becoming a lady, but to me, my boobs just looked like two funny shaped tummies. They were just sacks of fat and I had to wear a special vest to hold my extra fat. All the girls at school were bragging about moving on from vests to training bras and under crop tops. I wanted to be proud – I had a proper grown up bra – but I just felt like my body was racing ahead of my friends and I was so much bigger than they were in such strange ways.
When I was 10 I stopped changing for PE in the classroom. I screamed until they let me lock myself in the toilet cubicle to put on my PE Kit. I developed habits to help minimise the risk of looking awful. I would not leave the house without a fleece or cardigan. It served a multitude of purposes: it hid my arms throughout the day, my dainty friends would not have to stare at my soft round arms; I could tie it around my waist when I had to sit cross-legged on the floor so I didn’t risk my trousers sliding down a bit too far; it provided an extra layer of cover over my stomach.
Moments like these carried on through my teens. Boys called me “Tissue Tits Abbii”, girls teased me for being fat and having spots, and nobody liked the way I dressed. By the time I turned 15 I had stopped buying lunch at school. I saved up my lunch money throughout the week and spent it on a CD at the weekend. There were days when I had to eat dinner, but many evenings I could lie and say I was eating at my friends’ houses.
Between the ages of 17-19, I went through phases of binging and purging. It became easier to do once I got to university. I would not buy food for weeks and I would run up and down my halls room when I felt too embarrassed by my flab to run outdoors. Everything I ate was purged off.
I put more weight on during this time than I ever had until this point.
I’m 24 now, and I’m more or less the biggest I’ve ever been.
It took an intense period of depression, followed by an intense attempt at practising self-love, a few more bouts of depression, and a chain of antidepressants to get to be this big. The above picture was taken just 5 days ago, and I’ve actually shrunk a bit to get to that size. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed and be seen by the world, but after a lifetime of obsessing over my appearance, I’m starting to realise it’s not so important.
My wedding is five weeks away tomorrow. My sister has lost 3 dress sizes to look the best she possibly could to be maid of honour. I’ve lost maybe about 4lbs. My dress will show off my greatest weakness: my arms. After a lifetime of comparing my arms to others, I’m to going to be exposing my biggest fear to my friends, my family, and the photos that I will cherish forever.
I’m doing this for myself. I’m no longer a 4-year-old girl comparing myself to the dainty little girl next to me. I am a woman entering into the greatest celebration of my life. And I’m worth so much more than the inches on my body.