Thursday, 21 April 2011

Paint Your Love.

A few days ago I saw a link on my good friend Rosie's blog, for a project called Paint Your Love. It's being run by a fantastic blogger called Moorea, and despite only having been in practice for a few weeks, its obvious that Paint Your Love has already had a massive effect on hundreds of women. The basic premise of the idea is very simply - self-love. Women (and men - the project isn't mutually exclusive to the girlies) all over the world neglect themselves on a day-to-day basis. We don't take care of ourselves emotionally or physically. Whether this is because we feel that we don't deserve to be loved, or simply because we just don't have time to stop and take a minute to look after ourselves, the effect is still the same. Paint Your Love is about rectifying this, quite simply by 'painting' our love for ourselves on our hands. Every week (or however frequently you want to I suppose) you take the time to stop and look after yourself, simply by painting your nails. Then throughout the week as you sign your name, type on your phone, apply your make-up, tie your shoes or anything else, you can look at your nails and know that you took the time to look after yourself that week. You can read more about the project and what inspired it, in Moorea's own words, here.

This project struck me as something that I'd really like to get involved in, simply because the message behind it is one that I feel applies very definitely to me. As a morbidly obese person with clinical depression that I had ignored for at least three years, I wasn't looking after myself physically or emotionally. I've spoken on here before about my initial attitude to losing the weight, and how I thought that once I was slim I would instantly be happy. I realised fairly quickly that that wasn't the case, and took steps to treat the depression. I'm happy to say that the treatment is working very well, and I no longer recognise the person I used to be. Its not that the anti-depressants or counselling have changed who I am, because I know that I will always be a 'depression sufferer' - its not something that ever goes away. Just like I will never have a 100% healthy relationship with food. Both of those issues are things that I'm going to have to deal with day in and day out for the rest of my life. A year ago, that thought nearly pushed me over the edge. There were times when my mind wandered into the very dark realms of 50 sleeping tablets and a bottle of vodka...more times than I care to think about. I never made plans to do anything like that, and I don't think that I was genuinely suicidal - its not that I wanted to die, I just didn't care whether or not I lived. I think the turning point came when I saw somebody on TV who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. They were crying and saying they didn't want to die, and I very clearly remember thinking 'God, they're so lucky. They get to die without the guilt of killing themselves.' That's when I realised that I needed help.

(I feel that I should warn you now, its extremely likely that this post is going to be very long and fairly deep. It was a harrowing time for me (and my family and friends, although I didn't see that at the time) and its not something that I tend to discuss with many people. But I feel like I can't explain how important Paint Your Love is without explaining some things about myself first.)

Once I had addressed some of my issues and got help, I started to feel a lot better. And although I know that I will never be 'cured', the thought of living with it doesn't terrify me anymore. I can look to the future and feel optimistic about my life. I know that I have lots of exciting things to look forward to - graduating, getting my first 'proper' job, falling in love, getting married, having babies. Basically, having a 'normal' life that isn't dictated by my being extremely overweight or crippled by my depression. They will be things that I have to deal with in the same way that I have to deal with all the other issues in life - like not being able to afford the mortgage payments or the car repairs, or being called into the head-teachers office because my child is misbehaving. It won't be easy, but it will be manageable. Now that I'm dealing with my issues, nothing is impossible anymore.

Now, onto the heavy stuff. (Just to reiterate - long and possibly very boring. But then I suppose nobody is making you read it.) I don't remember when my depression really started. In fact, I don't remember very much. I have very few memories of between the ages of 12 and 19, and really none at all of being 19. I don't remember my first year at university at all. I know that it happened, but I don't have any memories of specific occasions or of how I felt about anything. I think I was so deeply unhappy that I blocked it all out. I was fat and miserable, but I didn't do anything about it because I wouldn't let my mind recognise how bad things had got. Honestly, it had been a downward spiral since I was sixteen and had split up with my first boyfriend, Matt. He was the first person that I ever really loved and he had given me all the things that I so desperately craved, like stability and affection. I've never had a stable family life, which I guess is the natural result of having divorced parents. And while I know that my parents love me very much, we have never been a particularly 'affectionate' family. We're not cuddly, say 'I love you' at the end of every phone-call people. Its just not us. With Matt I got the stability of a steady boyfriend, plus the stability of his very perfect, very stable, 2.4-children-and-a-dog nuclear family, who were always very welcoming and lovely to me. Plus we were quite an affectionate couple. I guess he just made me feel loved and wanted, something that every girl of sixteen wants. Understandably I was very upset when he ended things, using the excuse 'I don't want a relationship'. The kick in the guts was him saying 'I just need time, I'll probably change my mind and want to try again in a few weeks', thereby insuring that I remained on stand-by and didn't move on, because I was clinging to the hope that he would 'change his mind'. 

Needless to say, he never did. He carried on seeing me every few days, he carried on sleeping with me. In fact we pretty much carried on as we had been while we were together. The only difference was that we weren't boyfriend and girlfriend, so I couldn't get upset when he got involved with someone else. Which he did. And when they split up he got involved with another someone else, and then another, and then another. All the while still seeing and sleeping with yours truly. I soon came to realise that it wasn't that he didn't want a relationship, he just didn't want a relationship with me. This realisation led to the string of self-doubts that still haunt me today - what is wrong with me?? What makes me so unlovable? I'm good enough for him to have sex with, but not to be with properly - why? These are doubts and fears that I will never get over, and they have shaped my relationships with people ever since. I'm always waiting for people to leave. In fact I'm so sure that they're going to leave, that nine times out of ten I pre-empt it and leave myself, thereby sparing myself the heartache of being the one thats left behind. This is not mutually exclusive to my relationships with the opposite sex, but also those with my friends as well. I've been known to go completely out of my way to be difficult with people in an attempt to drive them away. When they inevitably get fed up and go, this vindicated my opinion - obviously I'm not worth the effort. I know that I'm doing this, I know that its completely self-destructive and irrational, but I can't help it. 

How does this relate to Paint Your Love, I hear you ask. Well, it comes back to this - I stopped respecting myself. As far as Matt was concerned, I was only good for sex. I wasn't a person worthy of a relationship, I was just someone who was always there and would always give him what he wanted. His attitude towards me began to be my attitude towards me, so much so that I came to believe that I was only good for one thing. I went completely off the rails, getting involved with guys who were totally unsuitable and putting myself in all kinds of dangerous positions. It didn't matter to me that these men only wanted one thing - as far as I was concerned I was only ever going to be good for one thing anyway, so it really wasn't all that important. Every guy who I allowed to treat me like shit vindicated my opinion of myself and of everyone else. And on the rare occasions that I found a guy who wanted something more, I deliberately sabotaged the relationship to make sure that I didn't have to go in too deep. If I didn't get involved I couldn't get hurt. This is a philosophy that still applies to me very much today - what I find most attractive in a man in unattainability. As soon as he shows an interest I'm off, because in my mind getting too close equates to getting hurt, something that I just can't be doing with.

This lack of respect for myself as a person is what ultimately led to me neglecting my body and mind for so long. I knew I was gaining weight rapidly, but I was so sure that society saw me as nothing more than a vagina that I didn't care. By allowing my body to get to the point where it was so unattractive by society's standards, it was almost like I was sticking two fingers up to the world. They saw me as good for one thing and one thing only, and I let myself get fat so I wasn't even any good for that anymore. And as for the depression...well, good mental health didn't matter because nobody was interested in my mind anyway. I had no reason to look after myself anymore.

This is where Paint Your Love comes in. It took a long time for me to realise that actually I am worth it. My body is worth taking care of, and so is my mind. To me, Weight Watchers is the ultimate symbol of me being worth the effort. Getting my weight under control, getting my depression treated, getting happy all comes back to that freezing cold Saturday morning in January 2010 when I walked into St. Stephens Community Centre in Canterbury. It changed my life for the better in so many ways. Its made life worth living again. Taking the time and effort to get healthy is a symbol of my love for myself, and to that end weigh-in days will become Paint Your Love days. Every Wednesday, after I've weighed in, I will take the time to stop and reflect on my actions in the previous week and how they've contributed to my success or failures at the scales. It will be my time to remind myself of why I'm doing this, and how important it is to me. I will paint my nails every Wednesday with all these thoughts in mind, and for the rest of the week my hands will be my reminder and provide the motivation to keep going.

Well, thats the plan anyway.

And despite having not weighed in this week, I've already started the challenge....

Please forgive the less-than-artsy picture, this is what you get for asking this idiot to take the photo for you:

What a cretin. In case anybody is interested, the nail colours are Barry M Shocking Pink and Limited Edition. I loves them.

I must run now folks, I have to get up and go to work! I'd like to thank (and commiserate) anybody who actually got to the end of this post. I know its kind of rambly but I felt like it was important to me to explain some of the motivations behind my attitude to myself and other people, as its those kinds of things that define you as a person.

Thanks for reading :)
Love you all lots!
Lauren xxx

P.S I feel like I should mention a little something more about Matt, after verbally bashing him for half of the post. We are still friends, and I still care very deeply about him. He's now in a serious relationship, and although I still find that incredibly difficult to deal with, I'm pleased that he's happy and settled. I'll never know what it was that he needed that I so obviously didn't have - maybe it was simply that I was too available to him and that I loved him too much; there was no challenge, and we all know the chase is half the fun. Whatever it was, its something that I'm going to have to deal with. I wish we'd got together now, rather than four years ago. If we had we might have gone the distance. Whenever we see each other now, I find myself thinking that if we'd been these versions of ourselves at the time then none of this would have happened. But then I guess it needed to happen for us to become these versions of ourselves anyway. There's no point dwelling on it anymore I guess, I'm just glad that he's happy and that we can be friends. xoxox


  1. oh lauren i am so glad you are joining in the paint your love challenge and think that its as amazing as i do! i remember texting you on that cold and dreary january morning when you first went to see the doctor and admitted to him about your depression - and honestly you have come so far since then. you seem incredibly self aware and that's such a good thing.
    we are alike in many way - for example, i tend to push people away a lot too. even friends. i find reasons to severe all ties with people before they can realise that i am not a good friend - and i somehow think i have conned people into being my friend and one day they are going to wake up and realise i am not worth it. in the past i also have been known to find reasons to stop being friends with people who i have exposed too much of my vulnerability too. as i said though, i can see so many positive changes in you, and i think that reminding ourselves we are amazing and worth bothering about every week by painting our nails is a great idea :-)

    love you lotsx

  2. Wow sweetie, i dont really know what to say, other than i think your amazingly brave for posting this so honestly on your blog. It just shows how far you have come, and that you can do it if you keep going. I so proud of you, and always here if you need anything.
    I've found paint your love to be such a good idea this week, its kept me focused on the postives and everyone has commented on it. Especially as did my toes too and looks so funky with flipflops. I think sometimes we just need that little constant reminder of how important we are.
    Love you lots xxx


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