For a while now I haven't recognised myself at all.
Looking in the mirror I didn't look like me. At times I would see a hint of me, I would really make an effort with how I dressed, doing my hair and doing my make up but sometimes it felt odd.
Although I was trying to look like me, the body I was dressing wasn't mine. It all felt a bit fake, and I would regularly hope to wake up and see the real me again. In the body I wanted, not this big, wobbly, uncontrollable mess of a body.
I'm a curvy girl, I accept that, I don't want to be super thin. I have a mummy tummy which I know will never go away, and I'm fine with that. We all have our flaws and if mine is a tummy with excess skin and clear stretchmarks then so be it. I know I can dress to cover over that area but also, the tummy isn't because I was overweight, it's because I grew two children. And for that I kind of want to celebrate my baggy tummy, and those bumpy marks covering it.
My mind has also been unrecognisable. I have made no secret of that and it has been an awful struggle. A real struggle. At times worse than I could ever describe.
I forgot who 'Lauren' was, or is. I forgot how to be me, I couldn't see the positives in myself.
I realised recently that I forgot what it was to be genuinely happy. To feel that emotion. To smile because I can't stop myself from doing it.
It came to the point when I thought this version of me was long gone. Lost and would just be a memory that was hazy.
I felt confused and would blame myself, like I hadn't done a good job at looking after myself, like I had let the real me go and was left kind of empty, with a version of me that I didn't really enjoy.
A person I didn't really want to be.
I really beat myself up, a lot. And still do. I feel disappointed that in myself that I didn't cling on to me more. That I let myself become this empty shell and that I became unrecognisable.
For a while I've searched for her. For the girl I actually quite liked, for the girl I always was. For the girl I recognised.
I wanted her back. And this year I am determined to find her.
It might sound odd, but I wanted to make some major changes, in the hope it would bring her back.
Something I didn't realise was that a haircut would be the start of her reappearance.
I've always had long hair really, any time I've had short hair I've ended up not really liking it and wanting to grow it out.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the hairdressers and I decided to get my hair cut shorter. A lot shorter than what I was used to and didn't really think I would like it for long.
I fell in love with it. And I had this hint of me. I felt happy looking at my reflection.
I was still unhappy with my weight, but there was something about my appearance that I liked. And rather than saying "I like my hair but hate my body" I decided to ignore the negative thoughts and just concentrated on the fact that I liked something about myself.
It was a weird feeling.
A week before getting my haircut I'd gone shopping with my mum and bought some new clothes. They were different to what I would usually wear but I got them anyway.
The haircut seemed to boost my confidence when wearing these new clothes, and they all of a sudden felt different. And I liked myself wearing them.
And then came the weight loss. And my goodness, although I am still big and wobbly there has been a big improvement. Dresses are different on me, my jeans are too big, I HAVE A WAIST!
I feel lighter, I feel a bit more comfortable in my skin and I am determined to lose more to feel even better. If I can feel this good after losing just a stone and a half then how good will I feel when I've lost 3 or 4 stone?
I've finally realised and woken up to the fact that if I want that girl back I will need to work at it. It's not just going to happen.
It will be hard work, will require dedication, but it is possible. And I can do it.
This week I have seen a hint of the girl I used to be.
She's coming back.