Well okay, maybe supermodel is pushing it a bit, but it’s true to say I am a model, and it’s also true to say I have spent most of my life feeling suicidal.
People tend to think of suicide as not seeing or appreciating the good in their life, but that’s not it. Usually there’s a little bit of good, a lot of bad, and no break from any of it, so suicide is about wanting to be free; free from the relentlessness of life. If you don’t like your job, you take a holiday; if you’re tired from housework you take a break; but when it’s your body and brain causing the difficulty, there is no escape.
There were so many things I wanted to escape from. I could never say I had a bad childhood, but I endured a great deal of mental and emotional distress throughout it. The first signs of depression appeared when I was less than 10 years old, and by my late teens I was severely depressed and suicidal. I spent my time planning my own funeral and thinking of all the different ways I could end things. When I left for university I fell apart further and became dependent on alcohol to get me through the days. By the end of the three years I had managed to turn things around somewhat and had renewed hope for the future, but I had gotten glandular fever during my time at university which I never fully recovered from, and that, coupled with another five years of stress, trauma, and minimal support, led to me developing ME/CFS along with my mental state worsening yet again. In 2007 I had my first breakdown, and in 2010 I suffered another. The second nervous breakdown completely broke me. I lost my job, my home, my friends, my relationship, and, worst of all, my independence. Faced with homelessness or admitting myself to a psychiatric hospital, I was fortunate enough to be able to move back home.
But here I was, two years shy of turning 30, and living with my parents. I had always imagined that by this age I would have a career, a home, be married and have children. Instead I was jobless, homeless, childless, and single. I felt like I had battled through the storm for nothing. I had nothing, I was nothing. I fell into the deepest, darkest depression of my life. By the end of 2012 I was ready to end it once and for all. I could no longer find the strength to carry on. I was broken beyond repair and couldn’t see any reason to keep trying.
I had recently started using twitter as a support network. There, I was surrounded by people who understood what it was like to live with chronic illness, both mental and physical. My struggles and sadness were as strong as ever, but finally I had found a place where I could be brutally honest and have people relate to that, rather than the dismissal I was used to. It was a good feeling, I felt validated and felt like I belonged somewhere. The people of twitter literally saved my life numerous times. In January 2013 one of my twitter friends came to visit me. I didn’t know it then, but my life was about to change forever.
I wasn’t looking for love, I wasn’t even looking for friendship. I didn’t want to feel anything, good or bad, so I had started shutting everyone and everything out. I had given up. So I don’t know why I agreed to letting them visit me. Maybe it was because I didn’t care, maybe it was because I was curious, or maybe it was because somewhere deep inside of me there was still that flicker of life. Suddenly here they were on my doorstep and from the minute I opened that door my world was brighter. I felt like I had spent my entire life wandering lost and alone in the dark and then suddenly here was all the love, hope, and security I’d been so desperately seeking. It was an amazing feeling.
We always tell ‘our story’ as them rugby tackling me to the ground with a hug on first arriving, kicking me out of my kitchen, nearly burning down my kitchen, then presenting me with belated birthday cake, and four hours later we had fallen in love. It sounds like something out of a movie and if anybody had told me that was going to happen I wouldn’t have believed them, but it did. In this one person I found everything I had ever wanted or needed. I thought it was impossible for me to ever start healing, but with them by my side, I slowly began to mend. A year later we were married, and two years later we had a baby. Don’t get me wrong, we still have our ups and downs like any other couple, but we’ve been together three years now and I still can’t believe how much my life has changed in that time.
I was given a second chance at life and I grabbed it with both hands. Having found true love and vastly improved mental wellbeing from becoming a mum, I felt I had the strength to start living again, and if possible, make a difference in the world. I wanted to be the best possible role model for my daughter. So although my health still restricts and limits me in many ways, I wanted to start living as fully as possible within those limits.
Being a model is a dream I’ve held for many years, but one I always thought was unattainable. I mean, who wants to see a short, chubby girl cavorting around in front of a camera?! Unlike a lot of models, I am not interested in fashion, or hair, or make up. For me, modelling is all about inner confidence. I have battled Binge Eating Disorder from childhood. Along with the weight gain has come shame, guilt, and a very negative body image. Every day I face a silent, yet torturous battle with food. It is only in the last couple of years that I have even been able to admit to having an eating disorder. It’s still terrifying to say those words to myself, let alone to anyone else.
I was given a boudoir photoshoot as a birthday gift, and the second I stepped out in front of the camera, that was it; I was hooked. Despite being naturally shy I loved standing there in next to nothing, strutting my stuff in the studio! It was when I got the photos back and actually liked what I saw, that my whole mindset changed. Instead of constantly fighting my body and my weight, I should embrace it. Instead of feeling miserable over never living up to societal expectations of beauty and feeling like a failure for always succumbing to the grasps of the eating disorder, I decided to try to learn to love my body exactly the way it was; to try and see the best in it, to try and enjoy it. So as of 2015, I have been pursuing my pipe dream of being a plus size model. I want to be proud of what I look like and who I am. No more hiding my chocolate curves; it was time to show them off!
I wanted to prove to myself, to my daughter, to the world, that you can be beautiful and worthy no matter what you look like, what you weigh, or what burdens you have to carry through life. I am determined that the next generation will grow up to know that beauty comes from within, and can be wrapped up in all shapes and sizes. I need to be a role model to this generation and the next and show that it is possible to feel sexy and confident in your own skin, no matter what.
And here I am! One year later I am signed to Ireland’s only plus size modelling agency, I am a spokeswoman for a plus size clothing boutique in Northern Ireland, and I am an eating disorder warrior – trying to open up about my experiences and raising awareness of the reality of living with an eating disorder.
As ever in my life, there have been incredibly tough times, stress, trauma and emotional upheaval, but at least now there is happiness, love, and even success to balance that all out. Not so long ago I used to go to bed wishing I wouldn’t wake up, now I go to bed with a smile on my face, eagerly looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings.