I flittered around a few different jobs in Leeds, met different people projecting my rehearsed story of how I was planning on “moving back to London or maybe even America soon”. My defence mechanism to hide how I really felt. If I told people I had big plans it deflected them from seeing me as the Barnsley girl with bad skin. Instead of just accepting myself for who I am.
I moved into a flat with my now amazing friend Chloe, but at the time I’d only just met through my old school friends and convinced her she needed to move to Leeds as she had also come back from living in London.
Again I was mentally distracting myself with a new job, a new flat. Once again a new version of me to reinvent.
A few weeks into wild Saturday nights out, I met a guy who, when I look back now was one of the most mentally damaging people to ever come into my life.
All my friends and family didn’t see what I saw in him, no one was a fan of how he looked, dressed or did with his life but I was so blinded by the fact that he liked me and he distracted me from how I felt about myself that I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I slowly started distancing myself from my friends and hanging out with his all the time.
I don’t want to say it was all bad because we did have some fun times together in the beginning but for some reason, something changed in him and he became such a vicious person with his words to me. It was like he subconsciously knew I was emotionally dependent on him.
He would call me stupid, idiot, swear at me in front of my parents, loudly call me a “fucking idiot” in public, that I should get liposuction and vocally say any flaws he saw in me in front of his friends. The most mentally damaging thing though was that he would constantly say how attractive other women were openly to me in films, on tv, in anything. These women were 5 ft 9 and really slim and he would call me tree stump and say ‘I wish you were taller’.
These women looked completely different to me, I couldn’t change my shape and height. I couldn’t alter how I looked like I previously had to fit in with who I needed to be.
Now I look back, I see I had such a toxic complex with the way I looked and who I really was for years, constantly changing myself for other peoples expectations.
I was trying to be someone else for someone else. Not only my acne, body, career complex that I had been harbouring for the last 7 years I was now obsessed with not being tall enough but I also wasn’t thin enough I wasn’t interesting enough. I just wasn’t enough! That is such a negative and draining place to be in, in your head, constantly pretending to be someone your not to meet other peoples expectation and get approval and reassurance.
That’s when one day it all got too much. Over this period I wanted to try and help myself feel better, I’d started taking Roaccutane to finally cure my acne as I thought that would make me more attractive to him, so I moved back again to my parents so they could watch over me and make sure I didn’t show any signs of harming myself as that can be one of the horrific side effects of the drug. You can see my lips on the photo below from the Roaccutane had made them so dry, this was near the end of my treatment and started to look and feel more like myself.
Having that space away from him and not living in that bubble made me slowly realise just how obsessed I’d become with been this person he wanted. I’m not sure if it was the drug that was messing with my emotions, having time off work to stop and think or having my parents support daily but at that point, I realised this wasn’t right. I was dressing and telling myself I was interested in such irrelevant shit to seem cool and it wasn’t the real me, the people I was surrounding myself weren’t me. I started to make changes.
When I see photos I don’t even recognise the person I was.
Something I am so so thankful for is that after having time off work for the Roaccutane treatment it had given me the clarity to know I wanted to go back to uni to study marketing. To this day I don’t know how I found that path but it honestly turned everything around for me. I was doing really well on my essays and was so focused on a goal again.
By the end of the first uni year Id started spending less time with him in the bubble and that’s when I started to realise this wasn’t right, I needed to make some changes for my future.
The final push was when we had spent his friend’s wedding day arguing to the point where I was sat uncontrollably crying alone after he had lost his shit, shouting and swearing at me, I had recorded him on my phone and played it back to him the next day. We were truly toxic for each other.
I remember getting home and laying in the bath at my parent’s house after that weekend and thinking how I just wanted to put my head under the water and not wake up. I was so depressed, anxious, confused and completely hated myself.
A few days later, I said I was done. I was so scared to do anything to upset him, I couldn’t go through that again. I no longer wanted to listen to that bullshit anymore.
I was such a mess. It was like I’d just gotten off a 3-year rollercoaster and had to mentally deal with the repercussions of the verbal abuse.
For weeks I couldn’t get out of bed I was mentally drained to the point my mum made me see a GP as nothing else would bring me out of it.
I was signed off uni for a month and was prescribed (sertraline) antidepressants. The darkest point of my entire life.
Trying to figure out who I actually was, what I wanted, what makes me happy. Since the age of 18, I had been one person to the next, to the next, trying to meet peoples expectations of me and finally, I was starting to realise a pattern and that I was seriously suffering from mental health issues. The doctor suggested I research anxiety and ways to deal with negative thoughts and worries.
About a month later the tablets started to kick in, I felt so much more positive about life. I was on my final year of uni and was doing internships at agency’s, I absolutely loved marketing and social media, and started a WordPress blog about my skincare journey as people were asking me over Facebook what I had done to get rid of my acne. It gave me such happiness getting lost in writing and creating content and helping people who felt the same as me.
I reconnected with friends I hadn’t spoken to in years and I genuinely was in a different mind space about my appearance and what I wanted from life only a few months after setting myself free from that black cloud. I stopped taking the tablets after 5 months. They helped me so much through that hard time.
At 26 my skin was now completely acne free, I started going to the gym so gained so much more confidence. I stripped it all back, less makeup, simple clothes and started enjoying going out on weekends with my friends. I was no longer feeling invisible thanks to my new found self-belief.
I was starting to know my worth, and for years I had seen it completely the wrong way round. I had let men treat me like shit because I didn’t see that I was not allowing myself to be me. So how could I ever expect someone to love me if I didn’t love me.
4 months later I met Anthony. When people say paths cross for a reason. I now 100% believe this.
Meeting someone who is so confident in who they are as a person has honestly changed my life forever. The difference in having a man in my life who supports me has no insecurities and fully trusts me has allowed me to flourish and blossom to become a truly confident and happy version of me. It sounds like a fairy tale ending right? I wish.
Sadly Anthony has had the worst bits of me to put back together. As much as I told myself I had dealt with all my past demons it really wasn’t the case.
Sweeping it under the carpet only triggered me to have serious anxiety over the last 3 years. Accusing him of cheating on me, creating scenarios in my head that everything is too good to be true and that I don’t deserve to be happy, you name it I’ve thought it to the point I went for a few councilling and cognitive behavioural therapy sessions which really helped me to learn practises to help with how I’m feeling and recognise its just thoughts.
From changing my mindset and understanding I needed help, it’s allowed me to gain a job that I love and be able to do well as I’m not worrying I will get sacked or that people at work dislike me, we’ve been able to buy our first home as I haven’t been worrying about money, and have met someone I can share deep and open conversations to try and explain why I am feeling the way I am. His patience and ability to listen to me has helped me get some form of control on my mental health and body image and grow into the person I am now, and I am forever thankful to him and my parents for helping me through the past few years.
I can say this is the happiest and most stable I have ever been and it’s taken cutting out the toxic people from my life who make me feel I have to be something more for them that has made the biggest difference.