In conversation with Grace
As part of our International Women's Day celebrations, we invited people to takeover our channels and share their stories of womanhood. s with all our images, they remain untouched.
We had a chat with Grace Latter about what womanhood means to her and the journey she has been on.
Hi Grace – thanks for joining us on the womanhood journal! Can you tell us how and why you came to share your experiences with mental health after starting your blog back in 2010?
Hey, lovelies! Thank you so much for having me.
I started Almost Amazing Grace on a complete whim one day, between lessons at college, when I was having trouble getting my mess of feelings and thoughts out of my mind - writing things down in my happy little corner of the internet, then publishing posts, felt so freeing and lovely. Over the years the blog has become even more important to me; it’s a space to share my opinions, creative work, honest reviews, collaborations with brands… but I still see it as a special little haven for me and my feelings.
In 2014 you were diagnosed with a brain tumour. This must have been a monumental moment for you. Looking back, how did you cope with your diagnosis?
As soon as I got my diagnosis, I started writing about it, right from the very beginning of my symptoms. At first I wondered if it was because I needed to tell people, and it wasn’t exactly something I could write a quick tweet about - but then the more I wrote, the more I realised I was doing what I’d do as a teenager; using writing as my therapy and getting my feelings out.
You were going through this at such a young age. For most people during that time of their life, they’re getting to grips with their identity and bodies plus endless other components of growing up. Did you ever feel as though your diagnosis impacted your perception of self?
Oh, absolutely. I was only 20 years old, and in the middle of my third year at uni. It was such an important time. For a while I felt like my diagnosis had thrown everything upside down, and taken my whole life away from me. But then when I was in the worst possible way with it all, and I looked ahead and saw how I could rebuild, slowly but surely, with only the most important things.
I have such a unique perspective on life now; I don’t let the little things affect me nearly as much as I used to, I treat myself regularly and live well, I dress however I want, and I make my self worth a priority.
Over the 4 years of treatment, you had several surgeries and radiotherapy. If at all, how did this affect your relationship with your body?
I LOVE my body. I am thankful for it every day; it’s been through so much, it’s healed over and over again and kept me going despite everything. I try not to get angry or sad about the years when I was made to feel like it wasn’t good enough, or fast enough, or sexy enough. I try to spread this message to others - give your body a break. It’s the only one you get, and it’s working as hard as it can to keep you alive, every minute of every day. That is amazing.
As you say, this was the beginning of a series of medical ongoings. Three years later you had not one, but two bowel surgeries. During this time, how were you coping both from a mental and physical perspective; and did one impact the other at all?
I remember my bowel surgeries knocked me pretty hard. I suddenly had this weird, weak and empty feeling right in my centre because my core strength had been almost literally pulled out of me. It took ages to get it back as I healed, and a significant part of that healing was in my mind, too. I learned to be gentle with my body, and not expect so much. Recovery isn’t linear - mentally or physically.
Ooh goodness me, 2017 was a tough year. I am constantly amazed by how positive and gutsy I can be when I’m faced with something major like surgery, treatment or being pulled out of university and/or work, without warning. For the whole time I’m going through something like that, I’m the picture of fighting spirit and constantly smoothing everything over so my loved ones don’t get too stressed (which they do anyway) and my peers who ask after me don’t see too much of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Coming out the other side of your invisible illnesses may have felt liberating – was there ever a point when you questioned the changes your body had gone through and how that may influence you moving forwards?
It took me a long time to process and accept that my body has aged quite a bit, prematurely, in just a few years. I can’t do as much as I used to - but then I’m also aware that I am SO much better off than most who have been through the kinds of things I have. I’m so grateful to have found the invisible illness community; to have had so many wonderful informative conversations and formed so many new friendships with others who know what it’s like to live with something, and feel a little bit different to everyone else.
I’ve definitely learned that things are not always what they seem, and to never judge a person purely on their appearance. You have no idea what they’ve been through, and how much they’re capable of. (Wow, cheesy right?)
At womanhood, we consider the notion of ‘Womanhood’ to be a fluid, open ended journey. How has your experience with a brain tumour and bowel surgeries impacted your understanding of your own womanhood?
I love that thesis. I am so proud to be a woman, but it’s not without its challenges… to put it very, very lightly. I often wonder if I’d been a man, going into hospital with my horrible bowel pains, would I have been listened to the first time round? Would I have had to wait for hours in A&E only to be turned away? Would the doctor who only briefly felt my tummy have said ‘it’s just one of those things’ - or would he have properly sat down and investigated? I have so many questions, but I know if I dwell on them, I’ll get sad. And we shouldn’t be sad - we shouldn’t even be angry. We should be coherent, polite, but LOUD!