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My Life

21st April 2021

My life started to go a little rocky at the age of 5. I went to school and hated it. I have no idea why it seemed to be such a chore to learn, but later on in life I was about to find out why. I remember so clearly at the age of 6 sitting in my tiny seat and the teacher calling me up to hand in work. Back then you had to write your name on the paper and I always spelt my surname wrong. The teacher would tap her red pen on my work three times and was not happy. She seemed to have lost it with me and asked why! She said why do you keep spelling your name wrong’ and she raised her voice. All the classroom stopped talking. The silence was horrible.

‘Are you stupid’ she said, looking right into my eyes, but all I could feel was everyone’s eyes on my back as I stood at her desk. ‘You are staying after school Michelle and I will call your mother and you will write your surname 100 times until you get it right’.

I was not a naughty child at all, in fact I never said anything much. I grew up knowing I was always behind in class. My two older sisters did well and my eldest went to a girl’s school and won a scholarship. My sisters found my weakness when I got older and when we would fall out they would call me stupid or thick. I was the one who would then give a big punch as I was not interested in swearing back or being like that.

I was tested a lot and they eventually found out I was dyslexic. Terrible finding that out was hard,
but at 11 years old it was even harder. So, I got moved from school to school and learnt to keep myself to myself, as friends soon drop you when you go to another school. It was hurtful in many ways.

Then my life was about to change. My parents after 19 years were to divorce. It was a terrible blow and started horrible times. I started to go off my food and become self conscious about myself more than ever. Inside I was hurting so much but did not know how to tell anyone. So, I started to cut myself and it seemed to help. Then I found being sick seemed to help and it seemed to make me feel in control of things.

I had watched the show Fame and that is how I learnt about it, so I was going to try it and yes it did and yes I found myself in a routine before long of doing it every day. My mum was not coping with my dad leaving and my sister and me were always fighting about stupid stuff. My mum was turning to drink and I felt so alone. My sisters could not cope with my mum drinking so at the first chance they got out.

By this time, I was being sick more and more I would beg myself not to be, but I could not bear the thought of food in my stomach. It was so uncomfortable. Then I would worry I would get fat then. I would worry about any small thing as it was taking such control of me.

My mum would know something was up as I had lost a lot of weight, but it was easy to binge when she had been drinking and did not take any notice of me. I had missed a lot of school by this point and I was in the middle of my mum pulling me out of the school I was in because I was falling behind, and my mum knew I needed a better school.

My mums drinking started to increase and also did my being sick. Sometimes I would cook three meals and just be sick one after the other. My mum was in bed drunk so it was easy to do but inside I could not help myself. 6 times a day turned into 7 times a day being sick! It was getting out of hand.
My mum would watch me every time I would eat as she could see my weight was dropping so I would take a plastic bag to my bedroom and be sick in it and then get rid of it. My problem was turning into a horrible habit and I wanted to stop but couldn’t because this habit was also helping me cope.

I never saw myself as thin, in fact I thought every time I was bigger and even though I would weigh myself and could see it go down on the scales, I would be like more you can get to 5 stone, do it., Make it your goal. Before I knew it this illness was controlling my mind all the time. I was having to work out when I could be sick and when I would be able to eat something normal.

I so, so wanted to eat and keep food down.

At times I would cough up blood, as I had my fingers down the back of my throat so much I tore the back of my throat. School called my mum as they were worried I had lost a lot of weight, but nothing was done.

I missed a lot of school as I was depressed and my mum was at times not good and if I had been up in the night with her, I was not going to school the next day. Having your mum waking up in the night crying and coming into your room as she is so drunk she has no clue where she is was horrible to see.

My mum was all I had in the world. My grandparent who I loved, dropped us after the divorce and I never saw them again. My dad was out of it as he had issues. It was a lonely time. My sisters just could not cope so it was down to me. The cutting self-harm became more often and when my mum went to cut her wrists I did mine too as I said if you are going to kill yourself I will. My mum just burst out crying and said sorry.

The authorities then told my mum if I missed any more of school there was a good chance I would be taken into care. That scared me so much but I would not tell anyone about mums drinking or what I was doing as I feared being taken away. My mum would often ask me ‘did you tell anyone about me drinking’ when I would get home from school and I always said ‘no mum’. The fear of being taken away was horrible and I would not do that to my mum or me as she was all I had.

By now I was being sick 11 times a day. I found walking up the stairs hard going and to do anything hard my legs felt so weak. My mum dragged me to the doctors as she couldn’t understand why I would binge. She was mad at me wasting food down the toilet, which was her words-. She took me into the doctors room and told him what I had been doing. The doctor sat back in his chair and laughed. Yes he laughed and said how silly my mum was. I couldn’t believe he offered no help at all. He suggested we come back in two weeks and we will talk again. But of course we didn’t.

After that my mum really did not have the strength to stop me with my eating disorder, as she had her own problems and demons to deal with. My throat was so sore so often. I had more days when I wished I were dead than alive. Going home to find my mum in bed after a day at school was so lonely. There was no one was there to help me or care for me. I cried alone but I could not talk to anyone.

As time went on I learnt to control my eating, but it was not easy. I had to sort myself out.
It took a long time and it was not easy, but I did because I wanted to get my life on track. There is so much more I can say and still a lot I have left out as I do not want pity. People do not understand eating disorders enough and people have no empathy with it at all.

Many years ago, I did some home courses on eating disorders and a nutrition diploma. It was the best thing for me as it proved I was not stupid, and I passed them with Distinction.

I think the system let me down a lot in school and later there was no support for me. I really should not be here today as I abused myself for so many years and I know I am today not as healthy as I should be but from 11 years old I abused my organs and mentally I went into a very dark place having my stomach pumped out at the age of 16.

I believe life gives you a choice and you have to want to get better to get better. No one can force you into it but there are also lessons to learn along the way as well. I wished I had spoken out as a child and I wished I had a voice.

You are who you are in life through what you have gone through. It makes me sad when people today are cross with those who take their own life. Depression is a very lonely place and you are not thinking in the right frame of mind. It’s actually scary when I think of how mentally I could see the benefits for others of me not being alive. This is why depression is not recognised at all in the way it should be.

You have to love you before you walk into the good love of life I say, and you have to feel loved to feel that part of yourself. I am lucky to be here today I know that, but I would not wish what happened to me on anyone. I lost my childhood and I lost my soul as a child. Tt has taken me a long time to like me and know I do it is a good feeling.

My publisher wanted me to put this on my publishing details but I didn’t want to. I knew it would make a great story but there are things that you want to keep private. My mum was my world and I did feel telling this story was making people think my mum was a bad mum and I don’t want people to think that. She was a good mum but like all people, she had her problems.

I worked for Christian Dior for ten years and had an amazing time. I became the youngest consultant in the country to have a number one account!!

I went on in later years to write two children’s books and was stocked by 36 Waterstones stores and Foyle’s in London.

Now being a mum and a wife is also something I am proud of. Those achievements in my eyes were to prove to those people out there and who called me stupid and thick that I had succeeded. It was a driver for me to say I did it and you all got it wrong.

Amen

Michelle is now happily married with two healthy daughters and a wonderful little dog.

Michelle Sherwood