To everyone who reached out and gave me some love on my birthday – thank you – I had a great fortieth birthday. Before it arrived, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I had been dreading it processing its arrival since the new year and feeling unsettled about it, wondering at every turn if I was having some sort of mid-life crisis. There was even a point that I worried I wasn’t feeling enough about it – can you turn 40 and not care? Is that allowed? In the end I did care, but not too much. I cared enough that I could enjoy the day, appreciate the love and attention, and take some time to myself to think about 40 as an opportunity, not just a liability.

It may seem like a cliche, but something clicked for me, turning 40. It was a line in the sand, a point of no return. A day or two before my bday, I posted a tweet without giving it much thought: “Imagine if I just DECIDED, as I turn forty this week, that all the painful histrionics of my lifetime of body image issues and trauma were just … over. Not erased, not forgotten, just archived and no longer a matter at hand.” In the moment, I was simply thinking out loud, but that tweet started the ball rolling.

I kept scrolling back to it, re-reading it as my birthday approached. I began to imagine a life that wasn’t constant body anxiety and negative self-narrative. How freeing would it be to have just a few of those thoughts, sometimes, instead of in almost every conceivable situation? Could it be that easy? Could I just mind-over-matter a lifetime of intrusive thoughts? I began to realise that maybe I should start internalising what the people around me who love me think, and making my own decisions about this, instead of getting lost in my own self-loathing spirals.

Lately, I’ve been slowly getting back into taking and sharing photos, so I thought why not mark the occasion? On my birthday I posted a deep cleavage shot (yes it was a B&W mirror-image version of the red one from a few days before) and to my absolute delight, it blew up. It was wild – I have never had a tweet do numbers like that (7K+ likes, 800 comments) and I had a huge onslaught of new followers. As fun as it was to have to mute notifications for that tweet because they were pouring in, the fleeting sense of popularity and visibility was not even the highlight. What really struck me was that I had thought aloud, I’d cast the spell, and the universe validated my decision to unshackle myself and just say fuck it, I don’t have to live this way any longer.

It has been a week since then and I have continued to internalize compliments and trust more in how my partners touch or speak of my body. I have started to take better care of myself, more water, more sleep, more exercise. I have a routine physical on Wednesday and I’m barely even anxious. Who am I? Is this what they mean when they say ‘living your best life’? Because I feel more confident and whole, more myself, than I have in a long time. Maybe I’m just riding high on 7000 likes for my boobs, maybe I hit some sort of ‘rock bottom’, or maybe I cracked my own code and actually started to shift from a paradigm of insecurity and scarcity to one of confidence and plenty.

Will this new outlook stick? Is it sustainable? Will there be not so great days? Time will tell. But even this tiny taste, these 7 days, have given me more hope and healing than I’ve had in my whole adult life. Proof positive that even if you are not afraid of change, you still have to be ready for it.

And I am ready. I’m so ready for this lightness. I’m so ready to grow.

Violet Fawkes

Violet Fawkes (she/her) is a freelance writer and sex blogger focusing on pleasure education, erotic fiction, and the intersection of identity, kink and mental health.