So this post is probably going to be too personal. Oh well, that’s what these things are made for, right?
Let’s go back to middle/high school real quick. I did ballet all through middle school and most of high school. If you’ve ever done or seen ballet, you probably know how slim and slender the dancers are/look. Now I am not someone that has the body design and shape of a ballet dancer. I have big boobs and I have a booty (aka I have curves.) I don’t have a thigh gap or a long neck. Basically, all the things ballet dancers do have, I don’t and vice versa. I was constantly around older girls who were much taller and more slender than I was. On top of those insecurities at the barre, my regular high school life (in 9th grade) was really rough. I was teased relentlessly and sexually harassed by pretty much all the boys in my grade. It took a huge toll on my confidence. The boys would smack my butt or try and grab my boobs constantly. I was humiliated and began to hate my body. I would come home in tears almost every day. I wanted to be homeschooled again or to go to a new school.
Little did I know there was a huge blessing coming my way (even though I fought tooth and nail at first.) The summer after my very rough freshman year we moved to Ramrod Key, Florida. We had a vacation house there but decided to move there full time after my parents sold their business. I hated it at first. I hated the idea of it. I didn’t want to leave my friends. I didn’t want to leave my dance studio. Ballet may have fueled a lot of my insecurities, but it was where I could let go of everything else and just get out of my own head. It was my form of therapy.
I was so upset with the move. I was also in a relationship that was slowly tearing me down to nothing. There were so many factors in my life that I thought were just terrible. I thought my friends wouldn’t be my friends anymore. I thought my boyfriend would break up with me (which he should have.) I thought this school would be even worse than my new one. I thought this new dance studio would ruin ballet for me (it did.) So many things going on that made my tiny 15-year-old brain say, “this is it, your parents are totally ruining your life.” When in reality, this move probably saved my life.
So, this boyfriend I had…we continued to date for over a year after I moved. He would come down and visit for long weekends and I would go back up to Bradenton every few months. I thought that he was great and awesome and cute. I thought I was going to marry him. Good thing I didn’t. I was so young and nieve. I didn’t know that abuse could come in any other form besides physical. I was wrong. He mental abused me and was one of the most manipulative people I have ever met. He convinced me to do things I didn’t want to. If I said no to him I was an awful person. If I wanted a break or didn’t want to talk on the phone that night he was going to kill himself. So many different things. Finally, I realized what he was doing to me and what I was letting happen to myself. I had enough. I was ready to break up with him. That was a 4-month process. I would try to break up with him in the nicest way, but if I even mentioned it, he said he would kill himself. What was I supposed to do?? So, I stayed. Did I stay committed to him? No. Do I regret that? Yes. I didn’t go cheat on him, but I definitely didn’t act like I was in a relationship. I didn’t consider myself to be in one. I was so mistreated that I didn’t care anymore.
In the midst of him twisting and turning all my emotions in every which way, my dad was growing sicker every day. Some days were great, some days were horrible. Plus my nephews lived with us. Plus my mom had to go out of town for about 6 months to take care of my Nanna and go through our old house. My dad being sick meant I had to cook, clean, go to school, do my homework, take care of my nephews, and maybe have a social life. Somehow I was supposed to do this when I was 15 and couldn’t drive anywhere. How I did it, I still have no idea. I will say that I wasn’t taking care of myself, though. Sometimes there wasn’t enough food to feed my nephews and myself (because I couldn’t drive and my dad was too sick to go to the store all the time.) I slowly stopped eating. I can blame this on whatever I want, but I know that it all stems from dancing and the thought that I had to become a stick figure. I slowly became anorexic. That is so hard to say (type.) I have never been so low in my life. I can’t believe how much our brain can manipulate us. I know my case was not even close to as severe as it could have been, though.
I wouldn’t eat lunch at school and I wouldn’t eat dinner at home. Most days all I would eat would be something small for breakfast, and maybe some fruit during lunch. No one noticed or knew for months. This went on for probably a year, maybe more. I had such an unhealthy relationship with food.
Once my mom came back, things got a little more normal. I didn’t have as much on my shoulders. I didn’t have as much stress. I could hang out with friends and actually do things I wanted to do again. I knew that not eating was not a good thing. It wasn’t healthy and it definitely wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be. The rest of both my sophomore and junior years went pretty normally. There wasn’t anything too crazy that happened. My unhealthy relationship continued to linger, though. I wasn’t eating properly and would skip at least 1, but usually 2, meals a day. I was still losing too much weight.
My senior year I joined the swim team. I honestly didn’t struggle with a lack of energy, probably because I had been not eating/skipping meals for so long. Once I was on the team and practicing for a month or so I started to realize that I needed to make some big changes. I may not have been losing energy, but I wasn’t fueling myself correctly. I wasn’t progressing in sports. I was at a stand still. I wasn’t fueling my body, so of course, I wasn’t getting any better! I finally realized I had a big problem. That’s when I started to SLOWLY recover. I was learning to have a better relationship with food. I never went to therapy or the doctor for any of this. I was working out a ton because of swim team, I was no longer dancing, and I was starting to realize that I wouldn’t gain weight and get fat. I needed to take care of my body and treat myself with some respect. I needed to learn that I am beautiful and loved and pretty dang awesome.
Slowly I was recovering and doing better. I graduated high school and moved to Orlando for college. Four years have passed since then and so much has happened in my life. That’s for another day, though. I have had times when I take huge steps backward and fall back into those bad habits. I have had bad months, and amazing months. It was hard living on my own. It was hard to get the nutrition I needed. I finally started getting into a really good workout routine after being there for almost a year! Then my dad died. I went into more detail about that in my last fitness post.
That pretty much brings us to today. I still struggle with negative body image. I still have those thoughts about whether it would be better if I just didn’t eat. I am not always positive about myself. But I also have an amazingly supportive husband. He knows a lot of thoughts I have and he has spent so much time talking with me so I would feel comfortable. I am able to tell him how I’m feeling. Those thoughts may be there, but I also have him in my corner cheering me on.
I have been so much more positive as I have started working out again. I’m starting to feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t find myself thinking quite as negatively as I did even a month ago. It is amazing what a few small changes can do for your mental health.
It is so important to keep our children and friends close. It is so hard to tell what is really going on in their heads. They can seem like the happiest person who has it all together, but on the inside, they could be falling apart. I know I was. No one knew what I was going through and it was much harder to recover all by myself. There are so many young girls and women who struggle with negativity towards themselves. It should never be joked about or taken lightly. I am still recovering and still struggle a lot.
* I also don’t have anything against ballet dancers or ballet in general! For me personally, it was not good, but I know so many people who love it and don’t have the struggles I did!
If anyone reading this is struggling or needs help or just someone to talk to, feel free to contact me! I know what it’s like to feel like no one is there. This world is hard enough as it is, we don’t need to add to that by being hard on ourselves.