Saturday, 3 March 2012

Being Normal

I have never been normal. And I've never really aspired to normality.

I come from a pretty crazy family, and when I went to school I made pretty crazy friends. My friendship with my two best friends in secondary school was almost entirely based around how weird we were, and the random craziness that we found hilarious and no one else understood. Even when I later moved to sixth form college, my best friend there and I shared a similar bond of being not-quite-normal, and proud of it! So I've always sort of relished being an outsider, being different from the stereotyped normality of people around me, not conforming to 'normal'.

But that's normal in the social sense.

If we're talking normal in the emotional sense, there have been countless times in my life where I would have given anything for a bit of normality. When I think about all the times I wished so desperately to be someone else, to be able to escape my crazy, fucked-up head and all its self-destructive fuckery. I've spent so much of my life utterly convinced that there is something inherently wrong with me, that 'normal' people don't have to battle so constantly with their self-esteem, don't have to hold themselves back from self-harm, don't have to listen to people talk about their sexual preferences as 'sick' and 'twisted', or worse 'deluded', don't have to wonder all the time what horrible but true things people are thinking about them, and don't have to constantly feel like they're intruding, unwanted, and about to make some terrible mistake.

Now, of course, I realise that countless people do go through the same sorts of things that my mind does, and there's nothing special about me, and I've never even had it that bad. This isn't a pity trip, I'm just trying to be honest. And honestly, I've always felt horrifically abnormal.

And physical normality? Forget about it.

I've been overweight for as long as I remember. I've thought of myself specifically as 'fat' for most of my life. And mostly I've attached 'ugly' to 'fat' as well. My opinion of my own image began a plummeting decline in my early teens, and it's only very very recently, in the last few months, that I've been able to start dragging it upwards again. But that I was fat, ugly, and abnormal has been an unchallenged assumption in my head for a very long time. When I was fourteen, I remember reading about an emotional exercise to improve body image: you had to write down 10 things you liked about your body, and 10 things you were unhappy with, and then focus on the positives and assess if there was anything you could do about the negatives. I tried. I sat on my bed with a pen and paper and tried to find just one thing I could honestly say I liked about my body. It was so hard to think of anything that I decided to do the negatives first and then try coming back. On the negative side, I got to 391 things before I threw the list away. It wasn't that I ran out of things either, I just realised it was hardly helping.

I hated how I looked. I hated being photographed, especially with other people, because I felt that I 'ruined' the photo by being in it. All I would see would be by beautiful friends or my beautiful family, smiling, and then me on the side: huge, fat, posture slouching, weird squinty eyes, crooked teeth, double chin. The odd one out.

I never thought that would change.

But then I started to lose weight. No big deal, I'd done it before and failed. But then I continued to lose weight. Surely I would fail soon? But I felt wonderful and full of energy and confident in myself. What sort of nonsense was this? And the weight kept coming off. And I worked harder. And the weight kept coming off. And I passed from being obese to being merely overweight, passed what had seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Surely this would be when my willpower failed and I gained it all back, like all those times before? But I kept going. Week by week, month by month. And people started to notice, to comment, and I realised this was actually happening- it wasn't just in my head, or some minute changes that only my scrutinizing eyes could see. People noticed, and they noticed immediately. And I kept going, and I kept going.

Until today, when I stepped on the scales, and this is what they said:

Which puts me just below 11 stone. Which means this:

As of now, I am officially 'healthy'. 'Normal'.

It's quite something to get my head around.

Now, of course, I'm not to silly as to think there's a sharp dividing line between overweight and normal. My body in itself has hardly undergone massive changes in the past week while my weight has slowly crossed the line. Do I still think I look fat? Of course I do! Do I still have a long way to go until I feel comfortable in my own skin? Admittedly, yes. But am I one step closer? You betcha. And do I believe with all my heart that I can do it? Fuck yes.

So how does it feel, 'being normal'?

Well, for the moment, it doesn't feel all that different. I think the idea of myself as overweight will be a hard one to shake off. But just for now, if I can hold the conviction that I'm not overweight in my head, I can promise myself and you and the world that I will never allow myself to cross this line in the other direction. I will never allow myself to become overweight again. Because whatever happens now, in my life or in my head, I know that I'm capable of this. I know that I can push myself and achieve my goals. I know that I can keep going. I know that I'm stronger than all the voices in my head whispering insecurities and insults. I know that I can get a body that I feel comfortable in, and slowly, ever so slowly, the body I have is becoming that.

I know that I can do this.

And what's really going around in my head as I sit here typing this is not 'wow, I'm normal'.

It's 'wow, I'm happy'.

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