From the age of seven or eight I wanted to be an ‘Air Hostess’, it was the dream before the bigger dream of becoming an airline pilot. I was determined and worked hard, but by the 2020 lockdown, at thirty-eight years old, I’d faced so many rejections, set backs and obstacles, I believed life in the air wasn’t for me and I just had to accept it.
I saw the Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew recruitment campaign in January 2022 and felt a nudge; “If not now, then when?”
I applied, knowing I was more than qualified with the skills, experience and values, but convinced I’d never be accepted. I prepared for another rejection.
The response was an invite to the next stage – completing an online assessment.
What?! Me?! Seriously?!
I did the assessment online and came away inspired – I wanted the job, really wanted it, but still deep down I didn’t believe I would get through. I comforted myself with encouraging words, telling myself how proud I should be for trying and all the reasons not to feel disappointed when the rejection arrived.
Then the email came – it wasn’t a rejection but an invite to the Assessment Centre at the HQ in Crawley, UK.
I was in the Cayman Islands in the middle of a conversation with my Mum when the email popped up on my phone. I couldn’t get the words out I was so excited. They wanted me to come to the assessment day?! Really?!
I had to make the decision whether to travel back for the assessment and although there shouldn’t have been any hesitation, I’ll be honest, the eating disorder resurfaced again with a strong opinion about my decision…
“Your application is great, but you’re too fat, you’ll spend all this time, energy and money to get there and they’ll never recruit you. Get real Anny! Just focus on Eating Disorders Awareness Week, finish your ebook and stick to what you’re good at – writing and all this mental health advocacy stuff. Yes, I know you’ve been inspired by seeing others who are not the blonde, petite ladies you’ve seen at the airline before but they’re still not as fat or ugly as you”
There they were – those two words – Fat and Ugly. I recognised them and knew exactly where they were coming from – my past. The past relationship I’d escaped from.
It was the eating disorder trying to hold me back again. It was the voice that had kept me bound for most of my life. I checked my feelings – why was I feeling fat and ugly? I was scared – of setting myself up for failure and disappointment, of being rejected because of my body, of using money and investing time to pursue a dream I would never achieve and feeling worse than ever before. I felt my feelings but I knew this was a test for me: would I submit to the old voice and fears of the eating disorder or would I courageously walk through it?
Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) turned in to something very different to what I’d been planning. I’d recorded podcasts and written blog posts for Healthy London Partnership, almost finished my ebook to release and contributed a post to Beat’s blog … but i hit the pause button on sharing any of it so that I could invest everything in to putting on courage, conquering my fear and living my recovery … whether I was successful or not.
On 3rd March 2022, the fourth day of EDAW and a week before my 40th birthday, having been to the UK for 96hrs, attended the assessment centre and returned to Cayman, I received the phone call I’d been dreaming about for over thirty years – Congratulations!!! I was successful and would be joining the Virgin Atlantic family as Cabin Crew!
I was ecstatic!!! I couldn’t believe it. I sat in the mirror telling myself that I’d done it. It took a while to sink in and I’m still not sure it’ll feel real until I’m in that red uniform working my first flight. But I’d won, not just the job, but my own battle with BED.
There’re steps and processes to take between now and when I start, but I’ll continue to do what got me this far … face one thing and take one step at a time.
It’s now the last day of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I haven’t shared what I’d planned to share with you this week, but life has a funny way of prioritising on our behalf and I believe the message in this experience is exactly what I needed to remember this week …
Long term recovery doesn’t happen just by talking about Binge Eating Disorder, it doesn’t even happen through the knowledge and expertise of Clinicians, it happens by a commitment to taking one uncomfortable, scary step at a time, to walk in to the life I want. It happens by proving to myself and that voice in my head that I am worthy today just the way I am, and that I have what it takes to manage my life.
The Fat.Ugly Blog and the recovery ride I’ve been on for the last 15 months has helped to prepare me for this moment and motivates me even more to commit to the vision and development of this online space and community. Imagine more people out in the world, free, living their dreams and enjoying life to the fullest. What a great picture that would be!
If that’s something you’d like to see too, then check out The Fat.Ugly Vision and join the mission by subscribing to the mailing list below.