20 May 2017

One Leap Forward at a Time...

It’s 5:30am, and as the sunlight illuminates my bedroom, I am reminded of my forgetfulness in closing the curtains following my return from last night’s event- the Societies Ball 2017. As I gradually awaken, snippets of memories from a great evening circulate my mind; the celebrations of the Psychology Society’s success, spending the evening with a lovely group of people that have supported my ambitions for the Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds society and admiring the hard work of students at the university. But wait, something seems to be missing.

Throughout the evening’s proceedings, we were served each element of a three-course meal- an activity that would have previously caused great anxiety and fear. The knowledge of being faced with this prospect would have led to a continual over-analysis of everything I had consumed throughout the day, an inability to engage in conversation and the slow retraction of my presence from the rest of the world. Food has dominated every chance of having an enjoyable time at any occasion, and I was slowly coming round to accepting this as a fact of the rest of my life. However, this time felt different and I knew this from the moment I started getting ready.

Sitting on the floor in front of my mirror, I applied my make-up with the usual routine. But I spotted a vibrant lip colour in the bottom of my bag and felt a sudden rush of confidence to give something new a go. At first I was not sure about the adventurous move, but convinced myself that it was just a ‘different' look, not necessarily a ‘bad’ look, and pushed away the make-up wipes. Maybe not a spectacular revelation for some people, but having spent most of my life finding comfort and security in what I am used to, making this slightly bolder move was a perplexing yet welcomed change to my usual routine.

Make-up complete, it was time to put on my dress. Buying this dress a few months ago for my 21st birthday meal was also a big step at that time, with its ‘clingy’ fit and shoulder-exposing neckline, but I fell in love with it. Not one for believing in you should only be seen wearing something once, I decided to pull it out again for this glamorous occasion. A factor I did not take in to consideration was that of weight gain. Since my 21st birthday I have in fact gained weight- an achievement that unsurprisingly brings along with it a lot of confusing emotional states, although I am happy to say that pride dominates on the majority of occasions. However, with Mum stood in the doorway ready to zip up the back, I stepped into the garment. As it reached the top of my thighs, the ease of the fabric up my body seemed to grind to a bit of a halt. I looked up at Mum and the first of a few giggles escaped my mouth. What followed can only be described as the most unsightly dance routine that I have ever performed. But with a few wriggles, shimmies and a finale of a hop skip and a jump around my bedroom, the dress was on! Turning to the mirror, I admired the dress- the design, the construction and the colour. I am not going to say that I did not notice the slight monthly bloating of my lower stomach, but I was excited for the evening and was not going to let that insignificant, uncontrollable, natural detail of my body detract from that.

Walking to the venue with the most wonderful group of people I have met during my first year at university, I knew that the night was going to be enjoyable. Everybody looked stunning and it was amazing to see all of the beautiful outfits that they were wearing. Having experienced body image difficulties, being at an event like this used to cause quite a bit of distress. For years I have attended events and could have spent about 95% of the time comparing my body to others, completely distracted from the purpose of the occasion. But in my favourite dress, with my new lip colour, I felt confident in myself. To be honest, I was spending so much time laughing, talking and catching up with people I had not seen in a while, that the negative thoughts did not have chance to overshadow my mind.

This next significant proceeding during the evening may be deemed as somewhat trivial to most people, but it is important to me. 

I accepted a glass of fresh orange juice. What? I hear you say. But yes, I have identified this moment as one that contributes to the major leap in my recovery yesterday evening. Ordinarily, I would have opted for a tap water- a safe, comfortable drink. However, as we entered the ballroom, trays of glasses filled with either bubbly or orange juice greeted us. Due to my disliking for alcohol, it was clear that this was not an option, but in the fancy flutes the orange juice looked enticing and fitted with the glamorous ambience of the evening. Over-thinking my food and drink choices throughout the day and the unknown three-course meal I was soon to consume was not an option. I was living in the moment and feeling pretty good about it.

The event kicked off with the first of many awards, and I was once again inspired by the outstanding work of the students and their societies. It was exactly what I needed as I work hard with my committee to start planning our activities for Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds for the next academic year. It is amazing to see what can be achieved and the impact that societies have on student life; and I am excited to be working towards contributing to that next year. These were the thoughts whirring around my mind, as the starter course was served- a welcomed delight to satisfy my developing hunger. If I am honest, I cannot really say much about the starter, or the main, or even the dessert other than that they were actually quite tasty. I was spending so much time enjoying the conversations happening on the table, discussing plans for my society and applauding the winners of the awards, that memories of the food are non-existent. I was going to write that I apologise for not being able to elaborate any further, but I am not sorry at all. This is something that I have not experienced in a very long time and I could not be any more unapologetic if I tried. This feeling of freedom and clarity in my head is a moment I hope I will remember and refer back to in the future.

It can happen; you can experience an escape from negative thoughts. It may be for a minute, or in my case a few hours, but surely this can mean that days, weeks, even months without negative thoughts can be achieved! It may take another couple of years of hard work, but I have experienced those few hours now, and I will not stop trying in order to make those moments a reoccurring familiarity in my everyday life.

Who would have thought it? A bit of lipstick, an impromptu dance routine and a glass of orange juice- turns out that is the recipe for a leap forward in my recovery journey!


  1. Oh Jess I cried when I read your blog not because I was sad but because I was so proud of all you have achieved. You are a beautiful young women with a heart of gold I am so proud to say I know you. Your courage helps me with the situation I find myself in at the moment and gives me strength to try and see the positives in life. Kept up the good work . Lots of love from Diane

    1. Diane, I am so sorry to have made you cry, even if an element of it was for the good aspects of what I have been through. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, that is so nice to hear. I am sorry that you are in a difficult situation right now, but I know that you can get through it! Sending lots of love and hugs x

  2. What a beautiful read. You write so well Jess. This piece has really uplifted me. You have so much to be proud of and it's a privilege to be able to watch your journey through this blog. Keep on going, girl, you're doing good! X

    1. Thank you very much Debbie. I am so grateful for your continual support throughout my journey and I am thrilled to hear that reading this blog post uplifted you- I hope it has the same impact on many other readers! I hope you are well x