My name is Petronella and in this blog post I will share my personal story why I started Progress Me.
With all the time that’s passed, it’s quite difficult to truly describe what I went through and the factors leading up to it. It’s difficult to relay how the strength within me disappeared. How I allowed my clouded thoughts to eat away the little strength I had left. How do you proceed when your body no longer bears the strength to hold you up after having let the scale lead the way. Who am I without that sense of control? Who am I undefined by an eating disorder?
I was a different person once upon a time. Someone who appreciated family dinners, christmas, and easter lunch. Someone who felt happiness and saw colour around me. Someone that laughed at funny stories. I painted art with bright and happy colours and felt joy within my skin. However, society’s ideals plagued me and I became distant to the harmonious soul I once was, and became just a shell of who I once was.
I was 16 years old when I began to feel embarrassed of myself. It’s not unlikely that I had felt this way even before this age, however at 16 is when I truly began to truly feel bad about it. In middle school, I mostly hung out with guys, played football and hockey. I didn’t really put much consideration into my appearance rather that I just did whatever I enjoyed at the time. I didn’t have much in common with the other girls in my class, we had different interests, and different style. And regardless of how much I tried to tweak and adjust myself to the situation, I still never really felt as though I fit in anywhere.
When I was in the changing rooms after gymnastics I felt ashamed of my body. Trying to hide one thing after another as my body was developing faster than the other girls. I recall two girls coming up to me and saying it was high time I bought a bra considering my breasts had begun to grow and my face turned red.
My mother often expressed her opinion on how I should be treated, who I was hanging out with and how I should be. I easily experienced performance anxiety, and in school I was a top student. Swedish, visual media and music were my favourite subjects. At night, I often felt sad and stressed out. My teacher made me nervous because I hadn’t fully learnt the multiplication table and her voice was often harsh and strict. I did my best to live up to the expectations and never gave up even if I didn’t succeed at first.
Suddenly, everyone became mature and you’d ask someone out, boys fell in love with girls and you’d send out scraps of paper answering YES or NO. There was a guy in my class that I was really in love with, but he wasn’t in love with me. I was just wrong. One day I gathered the courage to send a note, but the response wasn’t at all positive. I felt I was all wrong. I felt as though this had to do with the fact that I didn’t look or act like the other girls.
When I was 10 years old, I was the tallest in the class. I was quite boyish with my style and just wanted to engage in things I thought were exciting and challenging. One day my teacher came up to me in the cafeteria and told me to only take one portion – it was important that I didn’t get fat! I had always fallen under a normal weight, but now I’d become taller and I had also started to eat more. Clearly this wasn’t interpreted as something that was right according to my 10 year old self.
How do you erase something that defined your self-esteem. How do you dare to be vulnerable around the adult role models that tell you how you should be. How do you take the comments with a pinch of salt when you don’t even know what life’s all about?
In high school, I started to find myself. My musical side grew even more and my dreams to work with music were all I had. Many pieces fell into place as I began to fall apart. I began to control everything involving my diet, training, and my sense of wellbeing was better than ever. People I had never seen suddenly began to have their eyes on me. Comments I’d never received before, became a daily occurrence. I found comfort in being seen. The comments could be heartwarming but also horrible. I remember a close friend of mine commenting on how I had a big head in comparison to my body. It really got to me that I still think about it today. Imagine just what words can do.
I became best friends with someone who didn’t exist. I listened to the voice within me that forbid me to enjoy the good things, that shun out friends and family. I listened so intently to this voice that one day I couldn’t take it anymore. Twice, I attempted something that could’ve led to me not being here today if I hadn’t immediately gotten help.
I went from being happy and content within myself to a feeling of despair. I was locked in a cold room without windows. I may have felt that I myself didn’t want to live, but when I saw my family fall apart I felt angry and disappointed in myself. I never wanted to hurt anyone, the feeling took over both my character and my will to live.
In 2012 I was admitted to Vallbyhage Rehab Center because I’d spent so much time both in the clinic and at psychologists – here the focus was on food, BMI and weight.
But at Vallbyhagde they worked on me.. Who I was. With my self-esteem and what I yearned for in life, it was something else. And I began to feel better. So much better that I’m sitting here today and talking about these things that I used to be so afraid of speaking on.
I want to pass on what I’ve learnt. The things that helped me become stronger. I want to be able to help, spread and engage others going through the horrible and nasty things I’ve gone through. This is why I built Progress Me, to digitalise the elements that have made me feel better. Self-esteem.
And I want to spread this in order to help as many people as I can. Together with my unbelievably fantastic team.
I’ve now exposed myself completely and I don’t know if I’ll have the courage to see people face to face for a while. This is my deepest secret and something that my family has kept hidden for many, many years. But I’m sharing so that I don’t feel ashamed and most importantly: if you experience these thoughts.. There is help out there. I’m also here, please write to me or us. I know how it feels.
/Petronella, founder and CEO of Progress Me