As an Australian I went to a co-ed primary school from Prep (age 6) to Year six (age 12). The bullying started when I was 11 and continued till the end of primary school but made a large impact on my life for many years after that. One of the so called ‘popular’ boys let’s call him Sam, made it his personal mission to intimidate and embarrass me in front of everyone. He didn’t just beat me up or call me names but physiologically bullied me. I would be sitting by myself either at lunch time or somewhere were the teaches couldn’t see, when Sam would sit next to me, wrap his arm around my shoulders and yell obscene things in a condescending tone to his friends about how I was his girlfriend and what a great body I had. This hurt me more than anything because his sarcastic tone proved that he meant the complete opposite of those words and I had to watch on as his friends laughed and stared at me, waiting for my reaction. I was too scared to tell anyone, I didn’t know how to explain it to the teachers, that they would think I was lying or that Sam actually meant what he was saying. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents because I had always been their Golden girl, like any parent they believed I was good at anything and I felt that they would judge me or even blame me for what these boys were doing, that they would realise that I was actually considered a ‘loser’ at school. So I endured it, never resisting it but slowly dying on the inside. At the start of High school I thought I had left it all behind, I was going to an all girls school so there would be no boys to harass me but it was the start of a whole new problem.
I became close friends with a girl in Year 7 who was obsessed with becoming a model she introducing me to fasting. We made bets to see who could last the longest without eating but as she grew out of that phase I became obsessed with losing more and more weight. In previous years I had never even thought about my weight, I ate what I wanted when I wanted but I began to think that if I was thinner than boys would never bully me again, that everyone would like me if I lost a few kilograms here and there. The winter of Year 7 was the darkest months of my life, I survived on a can of tuna for lunch and steamed vegetables, I quickly became underweight and was taken to a dietician and psychologist. I chose to become vegetarian as a way to control what I was eating but still during the winter of Year 8 I gained 10 pounds because of the meal plans my dietician had provided. The psychologist didn’t help and the weight gain was a serious mental and physical strain. I began deceiving everyone, I said I was recovering, that I barely even thought about my weight but in reality it was worse than ever. Once the treatment stopped, I became obsessed with being ‘healthy’, I ran for 5 to 20 km a day and ate mostly raw vegan. I didn’t eat anything I didn’t consider clean and pushed my body well over the limit. After a few months I noticed sever joint pain, headaches and I seemed to be sick all the time, I was deficient in many vitamins and had a series of hair line fractures and callouses on my feet. Ironically in my quest for health was actually weaker and sicker than I had ever been before. For the weeks that I didn’t exercise, I didn’t look in the mirror and buried myself in school work.
It was during this time that I finally began to recover mentally, I realised that the world wasn’t going to end if I ate a few too many calories, that I had a great group of friends that truly cared about me and would always be there. I gradually stopped caring what people thought about me and accepted that in life there will always be somebody who doesn’t like you. Recovery sounds easy but it was years of battling myself constantly trying not to focus on the image reflected in the mirror. One of the most difficult things to do I to change your way of thinking.
My quest for perfection was over and self acceptance was the light at the end of the very dark tunnel.
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