There's Nothing Wrong...
It started with a desire to be the best. I was a dancer and constantly surrounded by talented girls in skimpy leotards. And I was not the best dancer, or the most flexible or the strongest. So I decided to be the best at being the smallest, at not eating and still being able to dance. This wasn't the only cause, but this is how it started for me. It was a way to cope with the uncertainty of completing my exams and what came next, of friends leaving for other schools and countries, of boyfriends moving on, people passing away and the constant, never-ending change. It was a way to gain control of something, anything.
At first it was a quiet niggle, an increase in talking about food and diet with friends, a new obsession over healthy eating, making excuses to skip meals. Any discreet way to avoid food. At least, I thought I was being discreet. It turned out my mum had noticed something was wrong and she dragged me to a doctor. She'd noticed the weight loss, the skipping meals, the weird habits I'd developed around food and the mood swings. The problem was that I was still very much in denial. I went along with appointments, but in my head, nothing was wrong, and I thought I was totally in control, so not much changed.
Then friends and teachers started to notice. I'd collapse during dance classes; I was constantly complaining I was cold; I would disappear at lunch time because I couldn't bear others seeing me eat. I stopped attending social events, because you realise when your whole life revolves around avoiding food that every social event seems to revolve around eating. People would make subtle comments in an attempt to reach out, but no one really knew what to do or say. They noticed the signs before I did, because in the warped world of an eating disorder, when you are that ill you do not realise it and you miss the signs. I was still attending school and all of my extra-curricular activities and I hadn't fallen behind with my grades, so I thought I was okay. Until one day I realised I wasn't. The looks of concern, the not-so-subtle comments, the whispers and looks wherever I went and the realisation that I was terrified of food and gaining weight suddenly hit home. My form tutor had gently reached out to let me know she was there to talk to and I decided to grab the olive branch and admit I needed help.
I'd asked for help, but I still wasn't quite ready to start fully recovering, so it took some time before I began making progress. Once I did I realised that although I'd had to want to get better to start the recovery process, I wouldn't have gotten there if it hadn't been for the people around me, especially my family, gently nudging me along the way.