Right now is the first time since being diagnosed with my Trich that I actually feel lucky to have it. Of course, the fact that this is the first time it’s brought me even a hint of happiness is not surprising in the least. At this point, I have accepted my condition and that I’m going to have to live with it, but that doesn’t make the daily battle I have with it any easier. So feeling positive and being grateful for it right now is definitely an odd thing.
You’re probably wondering why I’m suddenly singing the praises of the condition that burdens me and gets the best of me every day of my life. Well, on Friday I took part in something amazing that I would never have done if it wasn’t for my Trich. On Friday, I stood in a room, wearing nothing but a pair of knickers, while people came in one by one and wrote messages on my body, and the bodies of the six other lovely ladies who joined me. I did this as part of a performance called ‘Body Confident’ one section in a three-part immersive piece called ‘Everyday Perceptions’, put together by a wonderful lady called Ciara, who I worked closely with and got to know well only recently, when I stage-managed a different show of hers a few months back.
Now, despite popular belief (and the ‘Drama student’ stereotype that people probably associate with me) I am not a confident person. Not in the least. Volunteering to do this performance took so much. I never thought anything would be more difficult than shaving my head was but this was just as daunting, if not more so.
I have spent years, (and I do mean years!) hating myself and my body. I’ve hated that I was always the biggest one out of my friends, always the one to look the worst on nights out, always the one having to shop in different places because I was the one who needed bigger sizes. I have looked at pictures of myself in the past, acknowledged that I looked good on them, and then refused to upload them to any social media because I couldn’t stop focusing on my arm looking too big or my stomach sticking out too much. I’ve spent years making jokes at my own expense and believing every bad comment made about me over any good one and not standing up for myself when people have put me down because I’ve agreed with all the horrible things they’ve said.
A couple of days before ‘Body Confident’ I was ready to back out. I sat for a while and thought of excuses I could make to get out of it:
“I just have so much work on at the moment, I think I should focus on just getting that done.”
“I’ve just remembered that I’m at the doctors on Friday so I won’t be able to make it! I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to do it, I’ll probably be too upset and just put a downer on the whole thing.”
Really, the truth was, I was terrified.
I imagined all these horrible scenarios in my head: Scenarios where people I thought were friends came to see the performance and whispered to one another afterwards about how I looked the biggest and fattest and ugliest; scenarios where the performance ended, only for me to find that nobody had written on me because they couldn’t see anything beautiful about me; scenarios where friends and family felt ashamed of me for actually thinking I could bare my body and get a positive response.
This fear and doubt I was feeling felt really familiar to me. At first I thought that it was just because my low self-esteem has been an issue for as long as I can remember, but then I realised: the last time I’d be this afraid was when I was about to shave my head. And like shaving my head, the only thing truly holding me back was worry about what others would think.
There will be a blog about my head-shaving in the future, so I won’t go on about this too much. What I will tell you, is that shaving my hair off is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was me regaining control of the condition that was impacting my life so negatively, it was me thinking of what was best for me for the first time, and me kick-starting my own symbolic fresh start. There was a risk involved that it might come with a blow to my self-confidence and make me look and feel ‘unattractive’ but that was okay with me, because the pros by far outweighed the cons.
This was the same. It occurred to me while writing a message to Ciara telling her I couldn’t be a part of what she was doing, how much the years of self-hated had held me back.
I stopped writing and thought:
‘What’s the worst that can happen if I do this?
Yes, people might not be very nice about me or my body – but I’m not doing this for other people.
Yes, it’s possible that people might not write on me – but at least I’d know that I’d been brave and given them the option to.’
When I shaved my head, it’d been so liberating, and now I’d made the link between that and this, I knew it would be the same. The pros by far outweighed the cons and knowing that was enough to make me to take my clothes off.
I can’t tell you how it felt to stand in that room with those girls baring my body that I’d spent years hating and hiding. It was like a strange and surreal dream.But the longer we spent naked, the more normal it all was. These were just bodies and they may have been different but they were the same too. Beauty is only skin deep, as the saying goes.
Thinking back now, a few days on, I’m not thinking about the shape of their bodies, what size they were or anything of the sort. I’m thinking of how we laughed together and cried together, comforted and encouraged one another, and that is more special than I could ever possibly describe.
Since shaving my head and being part of ‘Body Confident’ so many wonderful people have told me that I’m inspiring and brave. Every time it is said to me, it feels so strange, and I always find it ironic because I’ve never been brave: in fact,it feels like I’ve spent my entire life being terrified of everything. The only difference is that now, I’m pushing through my fear and coming out the other side stronger and happier.
Let me tell you, if I can do that, anyone can. I really wish that one day people will stop putting themselves down and start building themselves up instead. You are all so much more capable than you let yourself think.
I just want to finish off this blog by saying thank you to all those involved in ‘Everyday Perceptions’, especially the ladies that stood proud with me in ‘Body Confident’.
You are all beautiful and incredible and I hope you know that now.
And to all those who have sent me messages about what I’ve done, thank you for being so encouraging. Doing what I’ve done and getting the response I have is something I’m more grateful for than I could ever tell you. You make me want to push forward and do the next big thing.
Whenever and whatever that may be, I’ll be sure to tell you. Thank you.