I first found out about #ThisGirlCan when I saw my friend Kayleigh talking about it on Facebook. I searched it online, found the videos and loved the message of the campaign! I thought it suited me perfectly. The line that got me the most? “I jiggle therefore I am.” I wanted to hug the woman running. I jiggle, and always get embarrassed but seeing so many women just dressed for sport without caring about other people made me realise that I just needed to do it and not worry about others. I watched the video repeatedly and had it saved on my phone to watch during my workouts.I’ve always been a “bigger” girl and have struggled with self confidence when working out. Losing 12.5 stone (I used to be 26 stone) has left a lot of excess skin so I jiggle a lot for someone my size. Plus, with my mobility problems I feel anxious that people are judging me. Four years ago I was diagnosed with Wernicke’s Encephalopathy with heightened ataxia and deconditioning fatigue – basically, this means I have great difficulties with coordination and balance. This diagnosis knocked my confidence even more. I felt like I couldn’t work out and the idea of getting sweaty made me anxious.But whenever I shared posts with the hashtag #ThisGirlCan on social media, I received so much support from friends and strangers. One woman in my gym told me her daughter had seen my photo on Instagram and encouraged her to join the gym! When I was struggling, there was always someone there to tell me how good I was doing, and I’ve even had messages from Paralympic athletes telling me to keep pushing. Thanks to the support of all the people I’ve met through #ThisGirlCan, I have been able to push past my fears. I’ve achieved goals I never thought I’d be able to!
Now, I’m doing Zumba, cycling (in the gym), walking slowly and lifting weights. I love doing Zumba and cycling because they challenge me the most and with cycling I forget about my illness. And achieving my 500 Mile Challenge made me so proud! When I broke my foot in January I began to really miss the gym and working out. By the end of the month I was so frustrated that I asked my Doctor for advice on sports I could do with my cast on. So I started cycling on a stationary bike. Because it was my only cardio I decided to push myself to the limit and set myself the challenge of cycling 500 miles over five weeks – which I completed on time! The hardest bit about the challenge was fatigue, but I pushed through it and met my goal.
I am much happier with myself and now I feel like my fatigue isn’t as much of a challenge. Most importantly, I’ve regained my sense of independence. All of my current happiness is down to exercise. My confidence is soaring, which has lowered my anxiety. I went from thinking a wheelchair was all I’d ever know to believing I’d be able to walk independently again. It’s amazing what just an hour a day of working out has done for my illness symptoms. I’m so much more positive about my future now.