16 June, 2014

Student Story: Liz

Bex: When Liz first came to classes she was very nervous and unsure of herself but showed a lot of promise. She came to class every single week without fail and always worked hard. One particular day after class she approached me to thank me for helping her build up her strength and to tell me her story. I am so proud of Liz, her progress, her confidence and her new found strength. Her story really touched me and I hope it will be of inspiration to you also.

The first time I looked in the mirror and was vaguely happy with my body was almost 2 years ago. I lived by myself in Manchester, following a promising career, at the expense of a 7 hour distance between myself and anyone else I knew. Without the judgment or concern from my friends and family; I started my descent from a size 16 by changing my diet to mashed potato and chewing gum. By the end of three weeks I'd lost almost 2 stone. The obsession was immense and the compliments were egging me on. By the end of 8 weeks I was sliding into size 6 dresses. I met my partner in this time and he lived in Somerset, so in between a ridiculously unhealthy diet and 6 hour drives to visit him, I managed to conduct a fairly decent relationship and starve myself to the point where my skin was grey, my hair was falling out and my bones protruding. About two months into our relationship my partner told me I was unattractive. He told me bluntly I'd gone too far. My mum saw me for the first time in months and cried. For love, I was determined to fight what I'd done so I started to eat. My colour returned and my energy levels rose. I started to feel healthier but my struggle mentally just worsened when my partner started to show a side of him I never knew. I battled rumours of infidelity, lies and a lack of communication. The desire to go back to controlling my weight was immense. 

In January of last year I found out I was pregnant. Life instantly changed! Food was vital. I had a life to build! My partner arranged for me to move to live with him which I did in the June. In this time though, his previous depression had returned at full force and he was starting to aim it at me. A shove here, push there, aggressive language... I didn't want to think the baby would be born into this. But I couldn't fight it, my body was still weak from my dieting and creating this little life inside me. The baby was born in October last year and the relationship progressed but the pressure of sleepless nights fueled more violence, and shoves turned to punches. Punches turned to strangling. By January I was so weak I knew I needed an avenue where I could focus on building myself back up. After suffering from m.e as a teenager I couldn't stomach the gym. I found a local pole fitness class just half an hour from where I lived and before I knew it I signed up. I felt safe around other women only and I could escape this hold of feeling so helpless. An hour a week away from my baby and a chance to feel good about myself, I walked into the first lesson shaking. I knew nobody in the area and I was already afraid of walking out my front door. The girls turned around and smiled and the teacher told me I'd be back for more lessons with no hesitation. 

I went home that night proud I'd managed a knee spin! Looking back such a simple thing made me feel confident and positive. Weeks became months and one lesson a week became two. Girls became friends and my teacher became an inspiration. The baby weight became toned, and muscles appeared in my stomach and arms. Just two months after I'd started my pole lessons my partner went to swing at me. He stopped before he could hit me because my arm was up over my face and my eyes were firm. Nothing was going to happen again. I ended the relationship and reported the violence. I couldn't sleep for hurting, physically and emotionally, but every Monday and Wednesday my teacher would teach us all another impressive move that I thought I couldn't do and every week I proved myself wrong. I found strength in my body to find strength in my mind.

I stopped and looked in the mirror the other week and I finally saw a person I'd always wanted to be! I sometimes wonder how just two hours has changed me this much, and I sometimes wonder where I'd be if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the class. I wonder if I'd even be here. I've made wonderful friends, changed my outlook on life and changed my outlook on me. I think, for the first time in 28 years, I may finally be happy with who I am and what I see.

- Liz