Recently I have returned back to school after spending many months in Anorexia treatment. The prospect of returning was daunting and left me with a huge amount of anxiety. I know for definite I am not the only person this affects whether they have, like me, been off sick, away for a while or just the daily return. So I thought it would be a good idea to write a guide of how to survive going back to school and coping in a different environment….
I had delayed going back to school for a while before I eventually plucked up the courage to agree, with my school teacher at the hospital, to give it a go. I cannot pinpoint one specific thing that scared me about returning, but would put it down to multiple things.
- Having gained 3 stone
- Feeling uncomfortable with my body
- Going back to a place I was last in when very ill
- People knowing where I had been
- The fear of unhelpful comments “you’ve gained weight”…etc
- Places reminding me of old routines
- The amount of people who could ask questions about my absence
- And lastly the inability to hide if things were to become overwhelming
I’ll be honest, the longer I left going back the more anxiety provoking it became and I knew that one day I would have to eventually face it. So instead of running from what I was scared of I dived straight in.
The morning of my first day was incredibly difficult, body checking, changing clothes, thoughts of wanting to hide away in bed and skip my breakfast so my parents wouldn’t send me. But I thought through this and managed to prepare myself and begin my journey to school.
The walk was difficult, to say the least. With having walked a specific longer route which would take anywhere from 2-3 hours previous to admission. Excessive, yes, but it was especially bad as it contributed to me missing lessons – something I would never have previously wanted to do.
But I was stronger than that now and although I still had the compulsive thoughts although I ignored them and instead turned up at school on time. The walk up to the gates left me with a horrible feeling in my stomach and I began to over think. I carried on to my block, quietly absorbing the familiar surroundings with heightened emotions. When I hit the corridors the sudden rush of pupils became too much and I started to feel like everyone was looking at me and noticing my weight gain. I felt disgusted of what I had become and wanted to hide too.
My sister and best friend noticed something was up and took me to my school’s safeguarding teacher’s office to calm down. It really helped and my teacher helped me put things into perspective, I felt reassured and able to carry on. It was the little boost I needed to gain my strength back, and use my resilience to focus and remain positive.
It was not easy and for most of the day, internally, I felt anxious but externally I remained happy and got on with what I needed to. I stayed for 2 hours and was then got picked up by my Nan and Grandad.
I had survived!!!
Looking back a couple of weeks, on having spent my first full day at school this week I Can already see how far I have come. I no longer feel anxious about people asking me questions and instead of hiding my recent experience I am able to openly talking about it.
I shouldn’t have to hide behind a cover story – it just isn’t necessary. I am proud of how far and who I have become and will not hesitate in sharing my story. After all hiding it is just giving into the stigma.
Yes, things aren’t perfect and haven’t gone as smoothly as I would have hoped but my resilience to keep moving forwards is still there. I have done things that, not so long ago, I would have never dreamed of doing;…helping out with sports day, in science lessons, eating at school (first time in years!), speaking in a meeting to someone external who helps run our school and lastly telling people when I am beginning to struggle so it doesn’t get out of hand.
I can’t say I don’t find it difficult, even now, but the things I used to perceive as huge challenges are becoming smaller goal. I hope to continue this building up of my confidence next year when I return for Sixth Form.
I want to get things right this time and prove to everyone I can and will get over Anorexia however long it takes….
But please don’t forget, whatever your struggles are however big you see your problem is, until you face it won’t disappear. I promise it will get easier, maybe not straight away but eventually. Just take things one minute at a time, because yes some days have started badly for me but that didn’t mean the rest of the day was awful…
Remember… “Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase”
LOVE Kirsty xoxo