From a young age, Ruth Giles felt different. The victim of bullying, she believed she had nowhere to turn as her mental health began to spiral out of control. But with time, and the help of her loving family and partner, Ruth found happiness – and a new sense of self-love as she found support in an unexpected place: TV show, Curvy Bride Boutique
My mental health journey started when I was very small. I’ve always been an anxious person, but it all changed when I was six years old. We moved to a new house, which meant I needed to start at a new school. I was picked on for being “weird”, “fat”, and “a freak”. Because I don’t always have a filter when I’m talking – and I ramble when I am anxious – I felt like I was fuelling the fire.
I became more and more anxious and depressed, but because I didn’t have very much knowledge of mental health, I didn’t understand what I was feeling and assumed it was normal. When I moved to boarding school when I was 16, I realised that there was something wrong with the way I was thinking about myself. This allowed me to seek help from the nurses and medical bay within the school. I received some counselling for a few months, and this helped me to deal with my anxieties, and the anger that I was feeling.
A few years later, I went to university. I was in halls of residence in a city I was unfamiliar with, living and working with people I’d never met before, and hundreds of miles away from home. I thought I would be OK because I had moved away from home at 16, and thought this would be a similar situation, but university was nothing like boarding school.
I had to cook and clean for myself, I had to budget money in a way I had never really done, and don’t get me started on trying to do laundry. I felt so alone, and wasn’t looking after myself properly, which led to me gaining weight, not keeping up with hygiene routines, and resorting to nicotine and alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism. I didn’t see people for days at a time, sometimes weeks. I wouldn’t go to my classes, and I was putting myself into situations that were not healthy or safe for myself, which lead to some experiences I would never want to relive.
This was all between my 18th and 19th birthday, and was also when I was put on antidepressant medication for the first time, which led to me being given a diagnosis of depression and anxiety.
It was also when my bulimia nervosa habits began. When it first started, most people believed it was a diet and, because I’m a plus-size person, nobody questioned my changes in eating habits. I got stuck in binge and purge cycles, that got worse and worse. This carried on from the age of 19 until I was finally able to control it when I was 23 years old.
However, this doesn’t mean I recovered. I still deal with negative thoughts, and struggle with binging and purging. But I have a strategy in place that will help me to deal with this. These ‘urges’ to relapse into eating habit behaviours surface nearly every day. I work 12-hour shifts and, while I can have breaks throughout the day, I struggle to make myself eat sometimes. This is alarming and is something I am constantly monitoring, because I don’t want to relapse without even noticing the change – which can be easy to do when you’ve had these habits for so long.
That said, the support of my family and friends was a huge help in managing my eating disorder habits. I was also finally in a healthy relationship that empowered me to build my confidence and feel happy about myself, which allowed me to eventually stop my habits.
I met my partner Joe via social media, and we became a couple in April 2017. Joe is my best friend, the person I go to when I need advice, and when I am angry and need to vent he is always there for me. We are there for each other when we’re sick, when we’re excited, and when we’re stressed and need to unwind.
He proposed on Christmas Eve 2018, when he invited me on stage at the theatre he was working in, and asked me to marry him while one of his co-workers made it snow. Once we were engaged, we went on a wedding planning frenzy. We booked our venue, we organised suits, and then I decided to start looking at wedding dresses.
I’ve watched Curvy Brides Boutique for a long time, but I never thought I would be able to get involved, because I didn’t think I would meet someone. However, when I saw the advertisement for participants on social media, I just thought, why the heck not!
When I found out the show wanted me, I decided I was going to get involved with the show to prove to myself, and others, that our body shape and size has nothing to do with their worth. I have been through many ups and downs when dealing with my weight and body image, but I still deserve to feel good about myself, and have access to amazing clothing – especially my wedding dress.
I wanted to go to a shop and be able to try something on that I didn’t feel made me look ‘frumpy’, I wanted to be able to ask the people helping me their advice, and know I could trust their opinion. I found that in presenters Jo and Al. They helped me talk about my mental health even more openly than I already did. They made me realise that I am worth more than I always believed I was – they helped me to feel beautiful. I never thought I would feel special, but finding somewhere that helped me find my perfect wedding dress just showed me that no matter how big or small you are, male or female, old or young, you can feel special with a little help.
When I reflect on all my different mental health experiences, I realise that I am stronger because I went through these things. I have a set of strategies that I can adapt and use in everyday life. I still have hard days where I have to work through with the support of my family, especially Joe. I have come to the conclusion over the years that it doesn’t matter how horrible things might feel right now, or that you don’t look like the media tells you to look, because you are amazing – because you are you.
‘Curvy Brides Boutique’ premieres at 8pm 6 March, exclusively on TLC.