Building a new life after your old one crumbles is very difficult. It causes strain on you, those around you and can pull you apart limb from limb. One thing that keeps me moving forward is the desire to challenge my mind and body. I find having something to focus on keeps any negative thoughts at bay.
Pan out to me standing in front of a full length mirror, Lycra clad, taped up, zipped up. Arm band holding my phone with Running tracker on and motivational music blaring through the pods. Trainers, the works right! I am looking at myself dressed as a runner but I don’t feel like one. Still ever suffering with my own body shaming mind, I start criticising. My hips are too wide for a start, my legs are chunky and I have muffin top to end all tops! I do not have a runners body, full stop. I’m not a runner! I’m a fraud! I wasted money all this crap and for what? I look ridiculous.
I spent most my days in the past hating my curves, I found myself in a pattern of judging my body in any reflective surface. Having idolised other people who I viewed as perfect my whole life and knowing full well I didn’t look anything like them, this was my problem. So to view myself, lighter and fitter than I ever was before, in a different way is still very hard. Its almost is as if the preconceived view that in order to be happy and successful, you must look like “this”. What ever “this” is. Like so many others, I too have to work very hard to keep healthy. Most likely a combination of laziness and comfort eating. Rather than rewarding my hard work with a bit of love for my curves, I still find myself picking holes in imperfections. “If this were a bit smaller and these were a bit higher” whilst pushing and tugging at lumps and bumps. I took at picture to post on social media as part of my hype campaign for the weekends events, more on that in a second.
After running the village streets, waving at car toots in support for my crazy ass, I dig out my trusty phone which was wedged under my armpit for the 20 mins it took me to complete my workout. Upon looking at that picture, I suddenly realized how much my body has transformed and I finally had a moment of pride. It might not last, I know how critical my mind can be but for this one moment I can honestly say “I felt good”. Those chunky legs? Well those babies are going to get me round the streets of London. That belly? I made three humans in that belly! Those hips? Well, the hourglass figure is making a comeback!
If in doubt, ask someone! Which I did, naturally. The response was clear. How I look in my head is nothing like how I look in real life. My own cloud stuffed mind is so corrupted with years of idealistic standards force fed to me via various media that I can’t even appreciate my own hard work!
Amongst all my squishing and jiggling, I am failing to grasp the bigger picture.
When I first started fundraising, I took part in a night walk.
I was quick to realize just how unfit I really was. The distance of 3 miles was enough to prove if I continued to carry down this road, not only would my health be in jeopardy but that I wouldn’t be the kind of active mum I had hoped. The idea of raising money for a cause that’s important to me provided the buzz need to get started.
However, the buzz didn’t really kick in until my first fun run when I got wind of the vibe from the crowd and that all important medal! The sensation of being active and making noise for charity combined my two desires. Being loud and being healthy.
As with many people who fundraise, choosing a charity which is important to you can be tricky with the amount available, all doing equally amazing work. For this house hold, we have received an enormous amount of support for many organizations. Mental Health, Single parent support, the dreaded “C” word, but none have helped (and continue to) like the Autism charities.
Leah was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder aged 6. Knowing only the stereo type, I was thrown in blind, armed only with a coiled “handbook” and some leaflets. In the years that followed I watched as my first-born glided through life. She had her quirks and mannerisms but this didn’t stop her from forming friend ships or being accepted socially. I grew with her, we learned together how to communicate, how to feel, how to express ourselves all in ways that were understood. School reports and grades weren’t important to me anymore. I just wanted her to try her best, she had enough going on that she was trying to figure out, the added pressure of meeting standards, wasn’t an issue for us.
She always amazed me beaming with confidence. Leah didn’t let anything stop her. She leaned more towards dinosaurs, cars, action heroes and building bricks than princesses and ponies, puppies and kittens, bows and tutus. Her friends all knew who she was because Leah never hid.
Then came the day when she became aware of her differences. School work was getting harder and more was expected of her in the ways of behaviour in class. Her mannerisms were starting to stand out and children who hadn’t grown up with Leah were picking up on it. Anxiety and stress can make the symptoms hard to control so the more aware she was that people were watching her, the more stressed she would become, the harder they were to control. It was a cycle she found herself in too many times and the cracks were bringing to show.
I have memories of her crying, asking me why she can’t be like other girls. Why she is the way she is and why can’t it be fixed. It broke my heart. Communicating feelings was always difficult for our family and this time I was truly stuck. Seeking advice through local professionals helped to ease worry and provided us with some strategies to try. They worked for a while.
The penny finally dropped when Leah’s frustration began to turn physical. She was taking her anger out on objects and it was becoming unacceptable. As a parent, you spend all your energy rooting for your child and watching them grow into people. I had spent so much time convincing others that Leah was able to do what they thought she couldn’t, but this time I had to call a spade a spade and seek help. A lot of tears were shed because I just didn’t know what to do and I thought that it was my job as a mum to know what to do. I felt like I was failing her.
Then we found it! The holy grail! A wonderful charity local to us that ran a social group for girls on the spectrum. Leah went in, shaken and low. She came out tall and strong! At last, she didn’t feel alone. However there were still questions from her. She wanted to know why she acted the way she did and why were things so hard for her. She used to say, “why does my brain stop me from doing what I should do?” After some research, I came across a book which was written in a way Autistic children could understand. I took the plunge and bought it, worth a shot, right? After reading the book she hugged it and cried. “I finally understand”
We cried together.
Over the next few months Leah grew to understand what Autism is and how it affects her. She even lead a talk with her class to raise awareness with her peers. As she continues to learn and mature, her growing sense of acceptance radiates off her. We don’t shy away from talking about the good points and the bad points, we are open about it because I didn’t want Leah to ever feel like it was taboo. I am extremely proud of how she goes into everything with poise and guts. I still learn a lot from her.
Watching my daughter battle with insecurities and smash them to pieces gives me the inspiration and drive to do the same. I might not look like a runner but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give everything I’ve got like a runner does. Like Leah, there are times when I feel like I don’t belong and like her I need to learn to smash them.
DeAnna’s (Blue Chameleon blog series) Focuses on rebuilding self-confidence after suffering through difficult times. DeAnna lives in Cambridge, England with her family, cats and dog. She credits a portion of happiness to her partner, Pete, punctuation manager..
Leah has had input in this piece and gives her approval.