“People who make throw away comments about cutting oneself ‘like an emo’ make me want to yell at them.”

**trigger warning for self harm, depression***

“Don’t cry and cut yourself.”

“Cut yourself like some emo/goth.”

“I hated it so much it made me want to slit my wrists.”

Half remembered, throw away comments that I hear on the regular.

I hear a variation on them I would say probably once a week, sometimes from friends, or colleagues, often strangers.
I work in a bar, it’s very easy to overhear conversations.

I have many scars, of various shapes and sizes on the top half of my right arm.
I cut myself there because I was still in secondary school when I did it, and if I did it there they were easy to hide with my school polo shirts.
I’m left handed, and it just seemed natural to hold the blade with my left hand.
I also cut my wrists a little, but it proved hard to hide them with bracelets.
I cut the inside of my thighs a couple of times too, but that was difficult to hide in the communal changing rooms.
An arm was much easier to make sure I had turned to the wall.

What I didn’t know at the time but have since been told by my doctor is that I over-produce scar tissue.
Even if I were to go for laser removal surgery, I would still have scars.

It is harder to write about this than I thought it would be.
It has been around 8 years since I self harmed, but it’s still difficult to remind myself of how I felt when I did.

People who make throw away comments about cutting oneself “like an emo.” make me want to yell at them.

People who ask me about the scars on my arm, which I do not make a lot of effort to hide because I shouldn’t have to, generally also piss me off.

I do not mind people that I know well, asking me respectfully, in private, about the scars.

I don’t really understand the need, because it’s obvious what they’re from. You can fairly safely assume that the answer to your questions will be: “I have depression, I used to self harm.”
But fine, if you feel some need to have me explain, whatever, I can do that.

But I would like to caution you against asking people.
If they want to talk about it, they will.

If not, please feel free to draw the intelligent conclusion that it’s none of your damned business; silently salute them for being able to brave the stares that not hiding your scars foster.

The whispered comments behind hands, and the brazen (usually drunk) assholes who ask you about the darkest period of your life and the constant reminder that you are stuck with on your body in the form of scars which represent a pain so all-consuming that you did not know how to process it.

These assholes will ask me casually.
As if they are entitled to ask me.
It often happens when I am on a night out, being brave, not hiding them, not hiding something that is inexorably a part of me, trying to have a good time.

Smooth.
Thanks stud.

Fortunately these outrageous dickheads are fairly few and far between, and fortunately for them, I have a good handle on my temper, and usually I’m able to make them leave me the fuck alone with a few words and a look.

I am strong, I am confident, a lot of people are not.

I’m stuck with these scars, there’s nothing I can do about that.

What I can do though is ask this of you; I would ask you to take a second to think the next time your curiosity tries to get the better of you, to think about what the scars on someone else’s body mean to them, and whether you have any right to ask about them.

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I am a trauma survivor

**TW: child abuse, sexual abuse/rape, self harm, suicide, mental health issues -depression, anxiety, violence, sex**

My relationship with my body is just that – a relationship. It’s a negotiation between what I can do and what my body can do. Sometimes my body is like my best friend, and it looks out for me and protects me. At other times, it feels more like my body and me are an old married couple that bicker and throw tantrums and sulk at each other for not being good enough. I am a trauma survivor. I dealt with pretty bad emotional abuse for most of my childhood and adolescence. Even after managing to escape the people who inflicted that abuse on me, I perpetuated these abusive behaviours in my behaviour and my interactions with people. I am living with the consequences of this trauma now, and part of where I carry these memories is in my body.

I have depression, which comes and goes but often brings fatigue with it. Fatigue is the hardest to deal with of all my problems. It makes walking from my bedroom to my kitchen look impossible. It means that I can’t carry a light bag because my arms and back end up actually painful. It means I might want to go out and see my friends, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to walk all the way there and all the way back. Fatigue means my muscles often hurt and simple tasks like walking can be painful. I am lucky enough that I have enough money now that if the worst comes to the worst, I can get a taxi home from the bus station – but it wasn’t always like that, and I’ve learnt through necessity that my body can do things it is 100% sure it can’t do, if there’s no other option.

I have anxiety, most of which is a direct result of emotional abuse destroying my confidence, and I feel that in my body as well. Overwhelming anxiety starts by stealing all the feeling from my legs, so that they’re numb and shaky and heavy. My tummy starts going round and round like the alarm light on a police car. Low level anxiety, which is with me most of the time, can manifest itself by blotting out my bodily functions. I won’t get hungry or need to go to the bathroom if i’m in a situation that is potentially stressful (like staying at a new friend’s home) – this is my body protecting me from the anxiety these activities can trigger. I might not even notice that I’m panicking, until I’ve realised that I haven’t eaten anything all day and still don’t feel hungry.

Incidentally, my fatigue is actually pretty good for my anxiety because sometimes I just have to sit by the side of the road for half an hour – and necessity makes it easier not to care that people are staring at me. If I’m too exhausted to have many emotions, reason kicks in and reminds me that it really doesn’t matter what random people on the street think about me.

Depression and anxiety are the mental consequences of my experiences. There are physical consequence as well. My abusers taught me that nothing I had was really mine, including my body. While I was living with them, there was nowhere that couldn’t be violated without warning. No privacy and no safety, even within my own body.

This came out into my relationships with other people as well as in how I dealt with and felt about myself. I started having sex when I was 14, and looking back I can recognise almost all my adolescent sexual experiences as non-consensual and abusive. Now, I’m trying to work through all of the sexual abuse I’ve dealt with and exploring ways to actually want and enjoy having sex. Being present during sex is a challenge because I learnt to have sex by dissociating and zoning out. My body automatically tries to shut that whole area down because I’ve learn that it’s wrong and that it hurts and that the best way to survive it is just to shut it out and let it happen. But I don’t want to feel that way anymore, and I’m making efforts towards allowing my body to feel sexual and for that to be a positive thing. Trying to actually be in my body during sex means that I’m more likely to have anxiety and find it difficult not to panic, but I’ll take that because it means I’m making progress. Allowing myself to experience sexual attraction is also hard because that’s one of the things my body decides it’s not worth experiencing – but my brain is pretty sure that it is, now that I’m only sleeping with people who only want fully-consensual, mutually enjoyable sex.

My body is intrinsically wrapped up in all of my trauma issues; it is also a key part of my healing. The worst of my abuse was over by the time I was about 14, and I started recovering by forcefully making a claim over myself and the environment around me. I wallpapered my bedroom with pictures cut out of metal and rock magazines. The entire room was black and ugly but it was finally a space that was mine. I dressed my body in corsets and skinny jeans and eyeliner – and when I got abuse about looking ridiculous I felt proud inside because I knew I looked shit hot – I’d chosen this outfit with care! The claim I staked over my body was somewhat violent – partly because the clothes I wore and the music I listened to got me attacked by strangers on more than one occasion, but also because my tendency to self-harm (present since I was a child) became a regular and defined habit. I don’t think self-harm is healthy, but I know that it was positive for me because it was the first time I’d really been able to stake a claim over my own body. Because my abusers at this point were also people who loved and cared about me, I was obligated to keep my scars hidden from them – and they became my first secret, the first thing that was really and truly mine. My body also demonstrated its remarkable capacity for healing by swallowing the scars time and time again – keeping my secret with me.

I moved out of that house as soon as I possibly could. Living away from there for the first time was an eyeopener – until recently, I didn’t even recognise a lot of what happened to me as abuse because it was presented as so normal. My mental health issues are my body reacting to being safe. I am no longer in a crisis situation, and my body is beginning to let some of that in and deal with it. That’s why I’m considerably less able to function on a day-to-day basis than I was when I was a teenager. I’m forgetting some of my coping mechanisms because I no longer need them every day. I used to be superb at hiding my emotions and thoughts (I could have a panic attack without anybody around me noticing) and now I can’t do that – but I’m working to see this as a positive thing because it means I’m surrounded by people who are going to be ok if I have a panic attack. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m surrounded by people who are going to everything they can to help me if I have a panic attack..

I am still learning that all of the things I learnt as fact when I was growing up are not fact. It’s beginning to sink in, after four years away from home, that I can do whatever I want with my body and my life. I have piercings and tattoos now, and some of my tattoos are ridiculous and anaesthetic and my family Do Not approve and I’m yet to explain them to anyone without getting a sort of disbelieving sneer in response – and my reaction is to shove two fingers up at them and remind them that nobody gets a say but me! Now I can put write a note to myself on my mirror, and know that nobody is going to come in and look at it without my permission. I can leave my diary lying on the floor of my bedroom. Hell, I can leave my diary lying on the floor of my living room because nobody would even dream of opening it! I can walk out of my room with fresh self-harm marks, and the only reaction I will get is people who care about me and want me to explain to them how I want them to help me. I can lie on my bed and kiss someone, and not be required or expected or obligated to have sex with them, and even though I still have difficulty feeling that that is true I know on an intellectual level that it is. I’m just waiting for my body to catch up.

My depression in high school made me want to not live because I couldn’t envision anything remotely worth living for. I expected to get married and have children because that was what I’d been taught inevitable happened, and I would probably have a job – but none of this held any particular emotional or motivational appeal for me. I didn’t have any dreams or hopes because I couldn’t envision anything giving me a positive life experience. I went through phases where I didn’t particularly want to die, but I sure as hell didn’t want to stay alive and I’d fall asleep at night praying I just wouldn’t wake up. But now, I’ve worked out that there are things I want to do – and I mean want with a burning passion that occasionally keeps me awake at night because I’m so excited about doing them. Now, I want to live so badly that even when I’m going through a bad depressed period and beyond experiencing emotion at all, I can remember that those feelings and wants exist and feel sure that I just need to hold on and work through the depression and when I come out the other side, all of the good things and good people in my life will still be there waiting for me.

annonymous 

“I think perhaps self-harm is something that never leaves your blood.”

Trigger warning for vivid descriptions of self-harm

I think perhaps self-harm is something that never leaves your blood. I no longer think of myself as someone who self-harms; it’s been a long time since I took apart a razor and longer – years – since I took one to my flesh. And yet as I sit here, my cuticles are ragged from tearing at them with my teeth in times of anxiety, I can see the ghosts of tooth marks on my arm where, months ago now, I bit myself so hard I almost drew blood. And it isn’t so long at all since the last time I let myself be overtaken by impotent rage and pummelled myself with my fists.

I have a cut on my hand just now, which was an accident. But feeling the pain as I press on it, and watching the miraculous day-to-day knitting together of flesh, makes me remember how very, very good it can feel to open up your own skin. It makes me remember the pain which can be controlled, second to second. It makes me remember my flesh crying tears of blood. The subsequent empty numbness and shame which is somehow so much better than the feeling that my very veins will explode with the rage and pain boiling inside them.

Sometimes there is nowhere else for pain to go. Sometimes pain has to become real before it can dissipate. When I used to cut myself, when I bite myself, hit myself, it’s a loss of control. And yet at the same time it’s making something manageable. It’s taking a feeling that I can’t articulate or push away and it’s making it into something concrete, a singular moment of pain that I can understand. I suppose it isn’t healthy, and it’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t feel that urge. It’s something you’re not supposed to talk about. The marks can be hard to hide, but you have to try and hide them because people will ask. And the truth isn’t the right answer. When people ask about my old scars on my thighs, I usually simply tell them, “Those are old.” It’s not an answer but it is, and usually they leave it at that. It’s easier when it’s something you used to do. There is no good explanation that doesn’t cause concern and embarrassment all round when someone asks about current injuries. “Oh that? I got angry one day and I bit myself till I bruised.” No one knows what to say to that, and I don’t want to put them in that position. And I know how mad it sounds when I say the words out loud.

Physical pain can be understood and dealt with right away, right in that moment where it happens. Emotional pain can spring up all over again, months and years after whatever caused it in the first place, and you can’t control it. When you cut yourself or bite yourself, it hurts exactly as much as you want it to. The purity of it is gorgeous, cause and effect of pain that can be managed there and then. When you have that pain to focus on, it isn’t confusing and multifaceted and incomprehensible. It is right there. It is real. Sometimes you just need to feel something you can understand.

Just the other day, I stopped myself from biting myself in anger and upset. My arm was at my lips, my mouth was open, and I stopped myself. I didn’t want to. I wanted to feel that pain, that instant moment of release. I wanted my anger to be channelled into something and I knew that, for a moment, it would help. What stopped me wasn’t a desire not to hurt myself, but the thought of the bruises that take so long to fade, and the toothmarks for which there is no adequate explanation. It wasn’t out of resistance to my own weakness that I stopped myself; it was out of embarrassment at being thought weak by others. People don’t talk about this very often. It is the preserve of the angsty teenager, the young person who can’t handle their emotions. Adults don’t lose control like that.

But we do. It is over ten years since the first time I remember hurting myself in anger. I remember vividly the boiling urge, sitting at the computer in my mum’s dining room, and running my long fingernails down my neck, hard. I remember the claw marks and wearing polo necks in June. I remember getting better at hiding it. Because the shame I feel of the fresh marks is still the same now as when I was 14. The way I feel right before I do it is still the same as when I was 14.

I hurt myself a lot less now than when I was a teenager, but the way it feels has never really changed. The boiling, burning desire; the momentary bliss; the ensuing shame. I am someone who can experience pain in a positive way as well. When I have enjoyed being tattooed, or play-piercing, or some kinky sex, it has never been about self-loathing or anger, but about the sensuous experience of controlled pain, and for me that is totally separate from the urges I can experience to hurt myself. Those are things I have done in a healthy state of mind, and not snap losses of control. I entered into them freely, to feel and experience them in a joyful way. When I hurt myself in anger or sadness, it is a totally different thing. There can be a tendency to conflate enjoying some kind of pain with the desire to self-harm, but that isn’t true for me and I suspect it isn’t for many other people as well. The pain of self-harm is almost incidental – it is a lot more about the emotional release. The pain is a tool to control my emotions, not the goal in itself.

I know that this is rambling and perhaps it seems self-indulgent. But I hope that someone reads it and recognises themselves, and feels less alone.

– a 25-year-old woman

“My body tells a story; not a story of a victim but one about a survivor.”

*Trigger warning for rape/sexual assault/self-harm/anorexia*

I’ve always been slightly proud of my body.

I’m gay, I have a very liberal attitude to sex and sexuality (I actually work in an erotic boutique!) and, while I’ve never thought my body was ideal, I know that I’m slim and I have nice boobs and a nice be-hind. I’m confident and comfortable in my own skin. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the only one I’ve got so I might as well love it.

I was sexually assaulted and then raped. My initial reaction was to not think about it. To bury it in the recesses of my mind and, essentially, run away, made sense.
I became anorexic and started self-harming. This was because these people, who had taken advantage of me, had so much control over me; even now, when I’ve not seen them for years, they control so much of my life.

I used to be bisexual – now I couldn’t consider having an intimate relationship with a man.

Sometimes, I’d be in a perfectly good mood, when BOOM, I’d start to cry, or to have a panic attack.

Starving or harming myself were forms of control: people who have hurt me controlled my sexuality, my emotions, whether I felt strong enough to out of bed in the morning. I had control over my weight and my physical pain.

I had all these scars over me, and I was dangerously thin. I hated my body. I looked in the mirror and loathed what I saw: a scrawny, scratched and scarred girl. Not the strong confident woman I knew and wanted to be.

Through counselling, support from friends, and learning to accept what happened to me, I got better. It took time and there were so many times I just wanted to give up, but I got better.

Through counselling, I learned not to put what happened behind me or to forget about it, but to confront it, accept it, and move on with it. I now see it as something which shaped me into the strong, confident, compassionate, caring person I am.
And that includes my body. I still use bio-oil to reduce the scars, and I’m no longer underweight, but I love my scars. My body tells a story; not a story of a victim but one about a survivor. Someone who was close to death, who cut herself and who punished her body and nearly gave up on everything and everyone, but didn’t.

My scars say: “remember that time, and be thankful for this time”. They say “you’re a strong, confident woman; you’re not that girl any more”. But most of all, they say “well done”.

“When I was growing up, I always felt a little heartbroken.”

*Trigger warning for self-harm*

When I was growing up, I always felt a little heartbroken.

I think it started at school, when I was the girl in the game of ‘spin the bottle’ that no one ever wanted to kiss. I still remember when one of my classmates (who I kinda fancied) asked everyone why they were punishing him when he got a dare of having to give me a peck on the cheek. I never played ‘spin the bottle’ again. After all, why would I make anyone subject themselves to the torture of touching repulsive me.

I was never picked to be at the front in the class photos and always got picked last in PE. Not that it really upsets me now. I never liked sports, playing basketball was like the 7th layer of hell…Yeah, I was an awkward teenager, with loads of acne and an inability to stand up for myself. And thanks to other kids/teenagers in school, I’ve learnt to be really, really cruel to myself.

At the age of 14 not only did I let other people mentally hurt me, I started physically hurting myself. For a few years, cutting was the only way to feel. I even used to carry a razor blade under the cover of my phone in case things got ‘too much’ at school. And all the time I was injuring myself, I felt like I deserved it. Each scar on my arm was for some special reason. My ‘ugly’ nose. My ‘ugly’ eyes. My ‘ugly’ hair. My ‘ugly’ legs. I even went to extremes of thinking that my toes were really hideous because, I thought, I had abnormally small toe nails.

I must’ve been really out of luck, because when I got my first boyfriend (at that point it seemed like a miracle that anyone would ever use their time to spend with me), the nicest thing he ever said was, ‘You’re not the ugliest girlfriend I ever had’.

See? I hope now you understand why I was so heartbroken all the time.

Thankfully, it wasn’t all shit. By the time I was 16, I became the cool depressed goth kid. And that landed me with the young Kurt Cobain-looking boyfriend. The one that all the girls wanted. It’s funny, because up to this day I still want to hold up my middle fingers at every girl who bullied me and shout “Fuck you, bitches, the hot guy thinks I’m hot!”.

In ideal world I should never have suffered what I suffered, or worst of all, thought it was my own fault. But this is not an ideal world and I’m making the best of it. I slowly started building my confidence again. I kissed a lot of boys. I kissed a lot of girls. Learnt that I’m not that ugly at all. Now I’m 22 and do nude life modelling to make extra cash. And sure, I still get my heartbroken days, when my lumps and bumps seem too lumpy and bumpy and my toenails just seem too small, but at least now I have the resilience to say ‘fuck it all’, put a pair of heels on and maybe flash somebody at the pub.

“The most important thing that came from recovery was a newfound, unshakable, almost instinctive respect for my body. It never fails to amaze me just how strong my body can be, and how fine-tuned it is to my needs.”

*Trigger warning for self-harm/anorexia/bulimia*

This is a cliché, but it is difficult to know where to start when writing about my body. From existence? We talk about ‘bodies’ as if they are somehow separate others, yet what am I if not purely my body? Perhaps that scares me more than if my body and mind were separable. Growing up my body was me, always – I ran, or grew, or was damaged in a playground fall – yet at the beginning of the inevitable slide into puberty bodies become something else; untrustworthy objects that swell and act defiantly out of our control, things to be scrutinised and unwillingly accepted with time.

Since around about 2nd year, I increasingly saw my body as something I should use in some way to express myself – whether by trying to distort it to somehow show the ‘real me’ or (this came first) by using it as something which I could use for emotional release. I got into the habit on binge-eating after school to deal with stress and general teenage angst (and then grew increasingly horrified at the weight gain, which felt completely unconnected to my actions); later, when that didn’t help, I got a release from pocket scissors in the webbing of skin between my middle and ring fingers. I wore gloves to hide any marks, but eventually stopped after a mortifying moment when holding hands with a friend.
Every year, I made a secret New Year’s resolution to lose weight, and gain control over my body, and eventually, in 2009 I gained ‘control’ in the form of an eating disorder that effectively lasted for two years, and which still lingers in some ways. The mind-set of these things is incredible – the only way I can describe it is to compare it to an addiction where control, starvation and listening to the commands that eventually occur unprompted in your head are the drugs. The first six months are now a sort of blur of rules and numbers, and a thrill in feeling my body shrink that increasingly gave way to exhaustion, and the unwilling realisation that I, in fact, was no longer the one who had any control at all. Recovery was longer and slower than I ever expected it to be, and in many ways lasted longer than the disorder itself. But the process taught me so much. Calorie-counting is insane! A calorie is the measure of the energy required to heat 1 litre of water by 1 degree C. Thin doesn’t mean healthy, fat doesn’t mean unhealthy. If you listen, physically, bodies tell you what they (you) need. Scales are inaccurate and weight fluctuates by kilos. Most importantly, advertising is mad: for years I failed to see that women are beautiful when they are healthy and confident, not when they starve and pout. I still have difficulty doing this sometimes, but at least I can now see it’s a lie.

The most important thing that came from recovery was a newfound, unshakable, almost instinctive respect for my body. It never fails to amaze me just how strong my body can be, and how fine-tuned it is to my needs. When I starved, my metabolism slowed right down; my periods stopped to save energy; the hair or my arms and face grew longer and faster to keep me warmer; I craved food until I binged. Despite my best efforts it held on to every ounce it could, and kept going. That alone, and the disparity between how I felt and how I feel, have made me eternally grateful for my body – regardless of the occasional hatred of my body’s appearance or new weight – new hips, new boobs, the sour disappointment of ill-fitting clothes – I can’t help but love some small, deeper part of it simply for being alive and strong.

“This is the story of how I came to love being naked, and how I came to love my body.”

This is the story of how I came to love being naked, and how I came to love my body.

I didn’t always love my body, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve hated it. When I was a teenager I would see all the things I hated about it when I looked in the mirror. I compared myself to the lithe girls in my ballet class whose stomachs were flatter and whose thighs were more slender than mine. I compared myself to the girls at school who were more popular than me. But these were the bodies I saw clothed – and naked I could only compare myself to the toned, polished, photoshopped bodies of the media. And that body – for really, it is only one body that we see in the media – didn’t look anything like mine.

I am a woman of average healthy weight, neither thin nor very voluptuous, and average height, but my body was nowhere to be seen. My breasts, like many women’s, are neither perfectly round nor exactly the same size. My tummy isn’t flat, and it pudges out when I sit down. My bum is big and it isn’t firm like the bums in underwear adverts; it wobbles when I bounce up and down, or run, or dance, or fuck. My thighs are squishy and I have a touch of cellulite. I don’t go to the gym and I love to eat cake, but I try to eat a decent meal or two and I use walking as my main means of transport. My body is normal, but I didn’t know that and so I hated it.

Sometimes I hated it enough to cut its skin in anger at its imperfection. In time, watching scars heal would come to be the first small step towards realising my body’s strength and function. It could make itself new; it could grow new flesh to fill the gaps that I had made. My body wasn’t the perfect body I thought it should be, but it worked.

A little older, a little wiser, and perhaps as a result a lot happier, I left home to go to university in Glasgow when I was eighteen. In the five years that followed, I had myriad wonderful experiences that brought me to loving my body. My degree was in theatre studies, and I became very involved with the theatre society. I hung out with people who were comfortable with their bodies and found myself at parties where people would end up naked in a totally non-sexual way, just hanging out and chatting, drinking and smoking (carefully!). I saw other women’s normal breasts. I saw naked bodies that hadn’t been photoshopped. They were all different and they were all lovely. I could look at another woman’s body and just see everything that was beautiful about it, not pick out the flaws I saw in my own mirror. It made me start to realise that if all of these varied bodies were beautiful, then maybe mine was too.

When I was in my third year, I was cast in a production of Cleansed by Sarah Kane, a role which would require me to be naked on stage. I was honestly quite excited. We all had naked rehearsals together, since everyone had to be naked at some point in the play, and it quickly felt normal to be naked. We were just people not wearing clothes, rehearsing and chatting and laughing as usual. It wasn’t possible to feel shame in this situation; when you’re all naked together it becomes natural. It begins to seem almost strange to get dressed. Once you’re all naked, you wonder what you were worried about. On stage, when I took off my dress, it didn’t cross my mind for a second to wonder if people thought my body was weird or ugly. I was proud that this was my body.

In my final year, I took part in an incredible project called Trilogy. Despite how comfortable I had already begun to feel in my own skin, it still proved to be a transformative experience – in many ways, but especially regarding my relationship to my body. A performance art triptych, the first part of Trilogy culminates in an exuberant naked dance performed by volunteer women of all ages and shapes. Leading up to the performances, we participated in a week of workshops where we eased in to being naked in a completely emotionally supportive atmosphere. I can say without reservation that it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. To look around a circle of dozens of women and see slim women and big women and women who’ve had children and women who have scars, and to see the beauty in every single one of those bodies, rid me of any last vestiges of hatred for my own. This dancing wasn’t about looking sexy, it was about loving how your body feels when it dances. It was feeling your body wobble and loving it. Absolutely, purely rejoicing in the way your body moves and in its strength and power. I loved every moment.

Since Trilogy, on a couple of occasions I’ve gone with some other women to climb a hill and be naked at its summit. I have found such freedom in moments like that. In being naked I become aware of all the other things about my body apart from how it looks. I can feel the warmth of sunshine on its skin, and the breeze, and the grass. I can make it spin and run and dance and love the way it feels. I can just enjoy being in my body.

I still sometimes catch myself looking in the mirror and comparing my body to perfection. But I push the thoughts away. My body is not a photoshopped image – it’s a million times better. It’s soft and warm, and it can breathe and bleed and run and sweat and fuck and cry and laugh and think and dance.

My body is real.

by Hannah, age 23