It has been far too long since my last blog post, when I promised that I’d write about mental health as I think discussing the subject openly is helpful. Soon after I wrote those posts I suffered a bout of mental ill health. I had postnatal depression, followed by a period of bi-polar fuelled mania. Thankfully, I am doing much better now and I’ve settled more comfortably into motherhood. Some people talk about their mental health when they are in the clutches of an episode, as Sinade O’ Connor did in a recent Facebook video. Although I think Sinade was courageous to share her misery at the time she was experiencing it, I don’t feel able to do the same. When I’m unwell I know that my judgement is impaired and I could say something that could easily be misunderstood so I choose to keep quiet and wait till I’ve recovered to discuss it.
After the birth of my son, one of the things I struggled with was body image. As I said in my last post, I have a history of eating disorders, the symptoms of which have never completely gone away. I’ve been working hard to stay well whilst finding time to exercise as I find this to be one of the most effective combatants against mental illness. Nonetheless, I can’t say that I was impervious to the notion that one should bounce back from pregnancy within a matter of weeks. We are continually bombarded by images of women who miraculously appear to drop all their baby weight before they’ve even left hospital. For most new mums, this a laughable and impossible proposition. I won’t speculate as to how celebrities manage to do this, but I haven’t found it that easy to drop the weight.
I do my best to present a healthy body image and I was horrified when I stumbled across an image of myself on a Pro Ana website. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I found the image by Googling myself when I should have been writing (#sorrynotsorry). Just in case you’re unfamiliar with this particular brand of online horror, Pro Ana sites promote anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle choice, encouraging members to lose as much weight as possible, putting their lives in grave danger. The picture in question was taken at a movie premier, hence why I am stood next to my dad. It’s amongst a ‘thinspiration’ gallery. I was not at an unhealthy weight, however I was on the verge of becoming very ill indeed. I was just starting out as an actor and was extremely insecure. I would never want to be any part of a pro-ana site and I have emailed the website to ask the to take the image down.
The discussion about pressure to be thin is an old and boring conversation, and yet even the most secure amongst us fall prey to it now and then. I’m sure someone will tell me that I should have been concentrating on bonding with my baby rather than fretting over my weight, and they’re probably right. However, whenever I looked in the mirror, all of my eating disorder triggers reverberated like an alarm bell. I know that this is something that many women struggle with and I don’t think it helps to shame the symptoms. Better to call out the cultural expectation rather than individual feeling the pressure.