Thursday, 16 August 2018

Learning To Love Summer.


I am not a summer person. I do not do well with heat, I get bitten by every insect in a ten-mile radius, and my usual hobbies of watching Netflix and napping suddenly make me feel guilty. So I didn't exactly relish the prospect of an extended heatwave this year...


I know a lot of people will think I'm mad, but I have always preferred rainy, cosy days in to lying outdoors in the sunshine. I'm pale with red undertones - I can transcend to full-blown tomato within 20 minutes and have been known to burn my face in Scotland, in April. Summer has always left me feeling uncomfortable, sweaty and irritated, so I've always tried to avoid it. Even as a child, the prospect of seven weeks of nothingness stretching out in front of me didn't really excite me. My complicated relationship with anxiety (and the fact they were all on amazing trips abroad) meant that I didn't spend much time with friends, so I found it hard to get hyped up about the holidays.


In fact, the bright, sunshiney days can hugely impact my mental health. It is hard to struggle with motivation for, well, anything - and it is even harder to struggle to get out of bed when you feel like you should be relishing the weather. Mental health issues don't disappear just because the sun is out, but I've definitely felt the pressure to "cheer up" during the warmer months. Any day spent inside when the sun is shining in Scotland (a rare occurrence!) is a "waste". I feel like I have to be outdoors constantly, and taking on social commitments that my introverted, socially anxious personality cannot handle. Basically, summer has always stressed me out.


Beginning to enjoy the hotter weather actually started in February for me. You see, the thing is - I'm fat. Always have been, probably always will be. I also have self harm scars that I don't like having on display. That's a huge factor for why I hate summer - I feel like I have to cover my entire body with clothing which not only leaves me boiling hot and uncomfortable, but doesn't even get rid of my self-consciousness. Now, instead of being worried people are looking at my flabby arms or chubby legs, I'm hyper-aware that everyone is staring at the weirdo wearing a cardigan and leggings in 30 degree heat.

In February, I was lucky enough to visit Antigua in the Caribbean. My husband's family and I were staying in a villa which came with its own private pool. To say I stressed out about that is an understatement. I considered just not using the pool at all, preferring to stay fully clothed in front of this handful of people - members of my own family!

Thankfully, I gave myself a bit of a talking to in the end. Was I seriously going to refuse to use the pool - or go for a swim in the sea on the holiday of a lifetime - just because other people might judge me?! I was annoyed that I had even considered limiting my own enjoyment on such a special trip, when the people I was with don't care what size I am, and anyone who might have been bothered by me at a beach was a stranger I'd never see again. Plus, let's be serious - it was bloody hot and without the respite of the pool I'd have melted.


When the hot weather appeared back in May and June, I resolved to keep the same attitude. No, sorry, I'm not going to cover up my boiling hot body because it might disgust you. I'm not going to hide away indoors, avoiding the sunlight and the stares. I decided to wear whatever I wanted, whatever would keep me (relatively) cool, and to focus on my own comfort rather than the opinions of strangers.

This change of heart on my clothing options also seemed to affect other aspects of my summer. It opened up a door to a room full of possibilities. It allowed me to try new things: I'm usually an avid reader and find that reading is beneficial for my mental health. I didn't touch a book for nearly three months. You know why? Because I was discovering so many other things that made me happy too. Instead of being in my same old environment, partaking in my same old hobby, I was embracing the summer and everything it had to offer me.


I went kayaking for an entire day, lazing around in the middle of a loch, soaking wet and loving every minute. I went on a road trip with my husband and my best friend, heading to some of the prettiest places in the country. I wandered barefoot over wet sand, swapping stories of how much we'd give each other if we won the Euromillions (turns out my husband is cheap). I went 'sailing' around the Isle of Bute, embracing the lack of phone signal and arguing over whether we were actually moving at all. I've explored hidden gems close to home, reveling in the seemingly endless evenings, when the sun is still up far after the barbecue has been eaten and the beers have been cracked open. 

I have also spent entire days lying on my bed, too hot to move and not remotely interested in being in direct sunlight. I've had days where the highlight was watching Love Island. I have not "made the most of" every day of nice weather, and I have refused to feel guilty for it.

I have opened my mind to summer, and I have realised that whether or not I enjoy it is up to me. I've been able to embrace the weather without having to be around too many people, spiking my anxiety and putting me on edge. I've discovered new activities that make my heart feel full, clearing my mind and reminding me of the bigger picture. Allowing myself to do absolutely nothing without that little nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I'm wasting my life has been so liberating. There are no rules to enjoying a season, and there is no wrong or right way to spend your time.


Don't get me wrong, I will never be happy about my entire body feeling sticky with sun cream, the need to have my shower on a basically freezing setting, or the fact I had to stack up on deodorant, but this summer has been a turning point for me. I am tired of letting my own insecurities ruin things. Life is short and I want to be able to enjoy it, but I also want to quit putting pressure on myself to feel a certain way just because of the weather! I know there are lots of people with very valid reasons for disliking summer, and I don't blame them! But I have to say that I am thankful that I've figured out my own way to love it.

I'll be honest - I'm still looking forward to roaring fires, hot chocolates and snug blankets though. Autumn is forever my favourite!


What is your favourite thing about summer, and what is your favourite season?
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