I have learnt a lot about myself in that time, but I won’t talk about that quite yet. On Friday I will celebrate my 36th birthday. Something that when I was just 15 I never thought I would see.
At just 13 I had decided that I would never get older than 16. I didn’t know how, I was just determined that I would have died by then.
I was a strange teenager, I yearned to be popular, yet wanted to be alone much of the time. I enjoyed being loud and daft, yet retreated into a silent world. I’m not much different now really. In public I’m putting on a ‘show’ of sorts. I frequently get told to be quieter and less chatty. If you talk to my friends of the time they would probably not tell you of a quiet melancholic and serious child. They will remember the amount of trouble I managed to take part in yet not get caught.
It was also around the age of 13/14 that I started to feel pressure to perform well, if I didn’t something bad would happen. The sky might fall in. I found solace in books. Stories of all types, reading them, writing in them.
I wouldn’t say I was bullied as such. I looked different to many of my fellow pupils. I was 5’8 by 15. I wasn’t average size – maybe a size 16. I was a sporty person, played hockey, netball and did shot put.
I wasn’t unpopular, I floated between the ‘cool’ gang and the ‘geeky’ gang. Never staying with any group for any real amount of time.
I tried hard with my school work, yet was at best a ‘C’ student. Not good enough to stop the sky from falling. At 15 my sporting world fell apart when I dislocated my knee and ripped all but one ligament in my left leg. Strangely I don’t remember much about the incident I hurt it in, the official line is it was a hockey injury. I’m sure that’s when it started but I didn’t pay attention to it, the main damage was done much later when I was busy fighting for the underdog in a local park.
A & E didn’t take me seriously, and I was sent home with a letter for my GP – the first words being… This obese girl… thankfully my GP saw that there was a real problem and sent me to another hospital where the diagnosis was given officially.
I lost what little identity I had held with the school. Then my GCSEs loomed. I tried harder. After my mocks I hadn’t gotten the best grades. Mainly Es and Fs. This wasn’t good enough. I threw myself into my books. I studied. I lied to people and told them I was grounded so I could study even more. It felt like a thankless task. I drew up a plan.
If I wasn’t in the world, the world wouldn’t need me to keep the sky up. So, I started collecting. A few paracetamol here, aspirin there, any tablet I could find weather I knew what it was and if it had a side effect or not. I wrote it all down in my diary. I washed each one down with whisky.
What had I done? Thankfully Childline was there. I rang them and spoke to them. Mum was at work so didn’t know what had happened. I spoke things through with a councillor and she rang for an ambulance.
The hospital gave me some liquid and the most vile orange squash I have ever had in my life (even now I can’t drink simple orange squash). I was so ill, I can only be grateful that I never had my stomach pumped, but did get to spend a night surrounded by really old ill people (I was 16 at this point, so not young enough for the children’s ward but still a bit young for general wards).
Going back to school the next day was strange. I had a meeting with the head teacher who assured me that I would be accepted for resits if I needed them and recommended that I stopped revising. I passed all my exams with either a C or a D. Not a resit in sight.
Writing this now I’m glad I did what I did, as I now have a reference point. I know that the sky isn’t going to fall down. But I still try as hard as I can. I still don’t reach the high standards I reach for myself, I doubt I ever will but I will keep trying.