Relationship with my body article

A heartfelt love letter to anyone who struggles with body image

Peter Lennon
17th May 2022
Image: unsplash
My relationship with my body is long one – you could say we’ve known each other our entire lives. The formative years were the honeymoon years. In my youth – unashamed – I could run around the neighbourhood in my underwear without giving it a second thought, let alone doing something mundane like going to the swimming pool with friends. Then things took a turn for the worse. Signs of puberty started to show before I left primary school and were in full swing by around thirteen. Spoilers for ahead: it was not fun.

I bypassed the everyday, once in a lifetime type of acne and headed straight for the “advanced acne” – in GP appointment terms, that’s “severe cystic acne that may or may not be chronic because only time can tell”. Regular antibiotics didn’t do much good so I was moved onto Roaccutane – if you know what this is, you know were I’m heading. For the uninitiated, Roaccutane is a strong skin antibiotic with far-ranging symptoms, often making the acne more violent before it gets better.

Naturally, my body didn’t take too kindly to the treatment, with my dosages having to be increased by less than a milligram each time to avoid outbursts. This continued for a few years. During this time my body self-esteem was at an all time low. I quit the rugby team (a small blessing) because it was near-impossible to get through a training session or match without bleeding. I’d stopped going swimming, which had been a favourite pastime up to that point. I started to feel incredibly uncomfortable being topless in public by thirteen and avoided such situations at all costs. It got hard to even look at myself topless; what started as a conscious effort to avoid mirrors became a subconscious reflex. Even to this day I have to make a point of it.

I may have gotten rid of most of the acne but the top stayed on, the mirrors stayed adverted

Eventually, the acne surrendered to the antibiotic, but not without leaving me with plenty of mementos. It couldn’t go quietly. It couldn’t just leave and let me get on with the rest of my life. It had to leave my shoulders with pigmented scarring and leave a small trail down the centre of my chest. I may have gotten rid of most of the acne but the top stayed on, the mirrors stayed adverted. The scars were a little going away gift for university, where they would help me avoid relationships out of fear of rejection and summer beach days.

At this point, I’d love to point to how I’ve overcome my toxic relationship with my body and how I’ve completely and utterly moved on with my life. Unfortunately, it has gotten there quite yet. But I have started to make progress in the last year and it began with one simple thought: I can’t fix my body, but I can try to mend my mind. What steps you take from that are going to be different for everyone. For me, it meant doing things that I was still pretty uncomfortable with.

The same activities would be much harder with people I know because I don’t want them to imagine me differently

It meant going to a public swimming pool topless, but doing it in the early AM when your only company are retirees. It meant going to the beach alone where I could be at peace. I’m slowly becoming more comfortable being topless around strangers in these kinds of circumstances: people really don’t care and I’m never going to see them again. The same activities would be much harder with people I know because (and I know how silly this sounds) I don’t want them to imagine me differently.

I know it’s a tease to end this story as a work-in-progress, but it’s the truth. There’s nearly eight billion people in the world; all logic and reason tells me I’m not the only one that has this relationship. So, to anyone going through a similar predicament, this is my way of saying that it can get better.

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AUTHOR: Peter Lennon
English Literature undergraduate. Although I primarily write for the Courier's Film section, I do love helping out in the Televsion and Gaming sections as well. I also organise and host livestreams/radio shows as FilmSoc's inaugural Head of Radio. Twitter: @PeterLennon79

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  1. As someone who was previously on Roaccutane - thank you for writing this article! A great read and really hits some great points.

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