15th September 2016
This blog comes, I feel, from a place of strength. It comes from a place of heart. It's been a while since I blogged as patron of SEED and I apologise for that. Sometimes life can feel like it’s going 100 miles per hour and you forget to breath. Today I need to breath, and reflect and share. In the will of showing strength and giving encouragement and hope by doing so.
Just lately I've been reminded of my school days. My hardest days. Growing up, becoming a woman, finding myself, and being knocked down before I'd even figured out my path. Who I was. I've told and spoken many a time about the effects of bullying...and today it's prominent in my mind. As a 10 year old girl, what had preceded that was pure joy. Endless days of summer and happiness in my heart. Carefree, tomboy, ran like the wind. That all changed in one day when I came home from school feeling empty, I went to bed feeling scared, I woke up feeling fear, I spent that day being sad and confused. I came home again, got in the bath, and as I undressed, looked down at my body and felt disgusting. For the first time in my life I felt fat. FAT. That word had never ever entered my mind before. I felt ashamed of myself. It's clear in hindsight when the switch happened. The day I got my hair cut into a more 'girly' do rather than a bowler hat haircut, wore a skirt instead of dirt covered shorts, and started to grow into a young women. How ridiculous does that sound? What I mean is, the day I began to 'grow up' the bullying started. All of a sudden the boys whom had been my play mates and never even looked at me when the 'girly' girls played 'kiss chase', were now chasing me. You could see the hate and jealousy building. Why? Just because I was getting attention? Were people that short sighted? Kids can be cruel. So cruel. In fact many people can be, it's a sad fact of life. It got worse as I began to excel in sport, in drama, I got the leads in the school plays, I won all the events on sports days, At 10 yrs. old I had a reading age of a 17 year old. I was doing well. They hated it. Thus began the bullying. Thus began the Eating Disorder. Anorexia creeping up on me like a little spider, hiding in the wings. You can't catch it, it's too clever and quick, but you know it's there. I won’t go into the whole journey, many of you have heard it who support SEED and my work for Eating Disorders many a time. But it got worse and worse did the bullying. Then came the 6 week summer holidays...the one before I was due to go into high school. I was petrified.
I enjoyed that summer though in some ways I remember. Being with my wonderful family. Mum and Dad had already taken me to the Drs as they knew I was at the start of anorexia. I was turned away, told I wasn't thin enough to have a problem, and the family were left to deal with it. Dad booked a holiday to Disney World and even got us a dog, Candy, god love them...all in the desperate attempt to raise me up, to make me feel loved. Bless them, I knew I was loved, I love my Mum and Dad more than life itself. It wasn't them. There was nothing they could do. Well, they could have been helped but we were turned away. Early intervention is key...but hey, that's a whole other story. One that infuriates my parents and I to think, if we had been heard, if we had been given help, I may not have lost 13 years of my life to anorexia and nearly died 4 times. Íf'. We have to let that go, but it's always there. Hence we founded SEED (Support and Empathy For Eating Disorders).
And so to high school. Immediately I was judged. That first day walking in as a year 7 student and all the older boys watching...who's the pretty one, who's the catch? Trust me when I say, I didn't feel anything but disgusting, but I was put on that pedestal and my God, was I hated. I kept trying to go, I kept trying to be strong, I swear I tried. I swear it. And in trying, I got my head down and worked hard. I thought if I just plough myself into my love of drama, of sport, of English lessons, I'd be ok. It got worse. That achieving riled fellow students more than ever. Friends dropped away as they didn't want to be connected with me in fear of being bullied too. Anorexia took hold. My point is, I couldn't control what people said to me/about me, or did to me. Or the lies they told. Or the rumours they made up. Or the unimaginable words they said to me, or behind my back. I couldn't control a thing. Powerless. What I could control was what went in me, what I ate, what I gave my body. Or so I thought. In fact anorexia had control. Also by losing weight I believed there was less of me for people to hate and attack. But back then I felt that anorexia was my only friend. Food is not the cause, it's the symptom. Equally, anyone who has ever had or been affected by someone who has a mental health illness knows, the mind has been taken over and any addiction, depression or symptom that takes place is a fight to regain what they can't get their mind to see clearly.
Fortunately, I fought. Over 13 years, I fought, along with the love and support of my family and friends, to beat the Eating Disorder. It was a long journey of unbearable pain, not just to me, but to my family. My parents wondering if I'd make it through the night at 12 yrs. old when I was admitted to a children’s psychiatric unit and told my weight was so low and I was so dehydrated, I may die. And again at 14, and again at 17, and again at 20. How I am here is a miracle. But then my parents love never wavered and I found a way back.
Today I am remembering that feeling of being helpless to people’s opinions and words. The lies, the vile words, being torn apart because of things they hear and seem to believe but have no real idea. Bullies. Pure bullies. My control gone. I feel exactly as I did at 10 years old. But here's the thing, I am stronger than I ever realised. Not once has my mind tried to trick me. Not once has that little spider been lurking. Anorexia hasn't even been able to touch me. I know where she is, and she can stay there. She isn't so clever anymore. I hope this brings hope and courage. RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. Please I pray, believe me. I know how far I've come, I know my core and my truth. I need not question myself. I know. There's the strength, there's the best feeling ever. As my best friend Joff would say "You got this beautiful! WE got this!" and as my boldest cheerleader Caroline would say "It'll be OK in the end, and if it's not OK it's not the end...you are awesome!" My friends and my family give me strength. They are my life. I hold onto all my integrity, my grit, my fight. My family...they went to hell and back, but we did it. And we will always do it. When you feel like you’re sinking, and you're being attacked, remember these words. “You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
Be kind, be thoughtful, be true to you. Be brave, keep believing. When other people treat you poorly, keep being YOU. Don't ever let someone else's bitterness change the person you are. Remember, the path will lead to where you need to be. Hold that head high and fight. RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE.