I will be forty six this year. Forty six! How did I get to be so old? I’m twenty eight, or sometimes thirty seven, deep inside my head. I liked those ages. I was temporarily happy with myself then. I was slim-ish, confident, happy with my life and the way it was all going. Then I hit forty and my world turned upside down and I was lost, bereft. It was more than a mid-life crisis, everything I believed in and had worked so hard for disappeared. I also hated the thought of being forty. It was not a joyful time, back then and I entered a darkness from which I am just emerging. I see the light ahead. But it’s dim.
I think back over the years and I was never blessed with confidence and much self-esteem. I was a thin, scrawny child who never spoke and was crippled with shyness. But I got over that. Now I just babble. A lot. Especially in social occasions. I am apt to making a fool of myself and leaving people staring at me in wonder – who is this woman? I feel like a character from a sitcom. Miranda perhaps. Or Frank Spencer. You see, I also have a coordination problem, one not brought about by drink but linked to my condition of Ehlers-Danlos. It’s the clumsy gene, the thing now called Dyspraxia, once termed Sharonitis by people in my life. The real name for this particular problem is Proprioception. It’s a kinesthetic thing, the sense that deals with sensations of body position, posture, balance, and motion. Mine is out of kilter. It doesn’t help with my confidence. I’m a large clumsy oaf.
I know I have achieved. I know I am a capable and able woman. I can be strong. I worked hard at a career I loved and I was good at it. And when it went, I started a business in 2005 without any prior experience or knowledge of the field. This month my business won two prestigious awards. We have a Gold Investors in People, because I believe in my staff and working with others for all benefits. I collected my First Class honours degree from the Open University at the weekend after eight years of long study. Yesterday I found out I had won first place in a writing competition, my third big competition win this year, with many more stories shortlisted and published, not just this year but over the last five. I know I can do many things with a lot of graft and hard work. I’ve had lots of things published now. I have a successful business. I’ve battled the demons of being forty. Nothing has ever come easy but I value the rewards all the more for it.
So why am I still crippled with self-doubt and poor self-image and hatred. Yes. Hatred. It’s a big word. For a big woman. I’m a large lady. Really large. I was five foot nine and a half once. Now I’m barely five foot eight. But I’ve always liked being tall, even at school when I worked hard and kept my head down. I think it saved me from the bullies. That, or they just ignored me, didn’t see me. I’ve often felt invisible and often wanted to be invisible when I wasn’t, but you can’t hide someone like me very easily, even if you can ignore them.
I’ve never been pretty, but then, I’m not sure I ever wanted to be ‘pretty’. Attractive would do. Perhaps it stems from childhood – Freud says so. Perhaps it comes from that abusive boyfriend I had for four years in my teens who told me I was a big fat lump and I was ugly and nobody would want me so I should be grateful he was with me. The irony was, he was a big lump and I was slim in those days. Perhaps it comes from a lifetime insecurity that’s part nature and part nurture. Whatever. It doesn’t help me much today to figure out where it came from. The fact is - this is me. A huge fat bleb who wants so much to do well and be accepted and to achieve but I’m wracked with how I look. I have nice hair though.
I need to lose five stone. At least. I can’t look at the photographs from my graduation ceremony last weekend. I am a house-end. I don’t want to be seen in public. How can anyone respect someone who looks like me? I can’t even respect myself. And I can’t see how anyone can possibly like me. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of image, where a good image is promoted and a bad one ridiculed. Heck, even Cheryl Cole has been told to lose weight and has been sacked for her accent. It’s not so dissimilar to mine.
It’s easy to say ‘lose weight’. Very easy to say. Very hard to do. I know. I’ve done it all my life. I’ve been a very thin ten stone which was far too thin for me and my frame. I looked ill. I’ve weighed much much more than that. I have clothes from a size twelve to twenty four in my wardrobe. I hate it. Clothes shopping. I have big feet too – size nines, sometimes a ten. But that’s all right. You can’t make your feet smaller so that’s not my fault. Like my height.
I’ve dieted my life away since I was twenty one. I’ve toyed with bulimia, couldn’t face anorexia. I’ve used diet pills. I like them. They worked for me. But it never kept the weight off. And now I’m stuck in this body that I hate. Not only is it defective because of Ehlers-Danlos but it’s gross because I’m fat. There, I’ve said it. I’m fat. I also have an intestinal problem due to EDS but I can’t use that as an excuse as I’m still fat. I don’t scoff or cram food. You hear stories of women who eat ten packets of biscuits in a morning and then three packs of bacon with five eggs. They tell stories of how much of this and that they would eat. That’s not me. I rarely snack between meals. I don’t eat chocolate. I once had an addiction to it – I did scoff many bars a day but I successfully did the Paul McKenna hypnosis thing eight years ago and I rarely touch it now. Shame I can’t get it to work for food in general. I like good food, rich with flavour. My husband cooks and he’s brilliant at it. Of course, I have to eat it. I like to. Maybe I should just eat less of it. That’s probably the key. If only it was that easy.
I’m supposed to be going to an event tonight. Ian Rankin and Sara Sheridan will be there, two people who inspire me and who I look up to. It’s a book swap in Edinburgh. There will be other people I know from twitter. Some I’ve met before, others I haven’t. I’ve got this huge pain in my very large gut. I can’t go. I can’t face these people. I will babble. I will make a fool of myself. I will be clumsy and trip over and spill my drink, like I did at a works Christmas do when I fell over the Chief Inspector’s table, pouring gin and tonic over his guests. I will be, and look, a fool. Or worse. If I don’t go I won’t have to see the look in their eyes as they speak to me, or avoid me. I won’t have to suffer the humiliation of them looking at me and knowing what they think, that I’m a big fat middle-aged woman who wants to be a somebody but never will. Not whilst she looks like that. Nice hair though.
I’m just one big social faux-pas. I know I am able and capable. I can study at home in my own world. I can chat and make friends over the internet without anyone having to see me. I can pretend I am normal, that I am okay really. I can cheat and post pictures of me in my better years when I was almost passable. They don’t have to see the real me, the me that repulses me so therefore must repulse them too.
Perhaps one shouldn’t meet one’s icons. I am only setting myself up for failure. We all want to be liked. I can’t even like myself.