Starving for Straight As
Stigma surrounding eating disorders is widespread. As a teenager, I never thought it would happen to me. In fact, I was that type of girl that would have her birthday party at a buffet. I enjoyed basketball, art and was very academically driven. Last year my world changed when I fell victim to anorexia nervosa. Eating disorders don’t discriminate. I learnt the hard way: Like many others, going into secondary school was an experience that was both exciting and daunting. I remember recalling goals I had in mind: make friends, have fun and do well academically. There was particular emphasis on the last; my older siblings both achieved 99+ ATARS and duxed their grades in prior years. Although my parents didn’t place direct pressure on me to achieve academically, I often felt guilty that I was letting them down.
In year 9, my “dream” seemingly came true as I topped subjects and was awarded one of the highest academic awards. The following year I wanted to achieve even higher. I pushed myself further, taking on basketball, soccer, orienteering as well as part time employment and a rigorous study regime. Although I hadn’t realised it, I was completely neglecting my well-being; being caught up in the competition and acing the next test. In a short three month period, things began spiralling out of control. Perfectionism and control traits began dictating everything I did. Apart from the occasional remarks about chubby cheeks I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who cared a lot about my appearance. However, as I became more stressed I became fixated on the number on the scale. Whether it was controlling my diet to controlling my grades- I wanted everything to be perfect.
Eventually, my parents forced me to go to a local GP, even though I was sick at the time, he said nothing, that everything was okay. For me, this only confirmed that what I was doing was okay; it fed my drive to continue. I first realised something was wrong when I got back from mid-term break in year 10. At the time, I was severely restricting my diet and exercising. I had trouble concentrating in class. My grades dropped. I constantly shivered. I felt out of control. This was when I made one of the best decisions of my life. With my sister’s encouragement I met with the school counsellor. This instigated a chain of events which concluded with my diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.
My parents didn’t have any idea what was happening. Coming from an Asian heritage, eating disorders weren’t commonly talked about. At the time, I didn’t know much about them and how severe the implications could be. We didn’t know anyone that had gone through anything like this before. I was ashamed to be in the state I was, at the time I felt my parents shared this embarrassment. My condition continued to worsen until I was admitted to hospital. I was devastated, I missed out on the second half of year 10 and year 10 graduation. My recovery was slow to begin with. It was hard to juggle numerous psychologist and medical appointments with the workload of year 11. However, with the support of the school and counsellor I was able to fully recover. Inevitably, my condition could have been cured earlier if I had been diagnosed correctly in my initial consultation with the GP. Looking back, to me, this highlighted the importance of seeking out help before it is too late. If I had spoken out sooner, I wouldn’t have missed out on year 10 graduation, I wouldn’t have to have wasted 1/15th of my life in a hospital bed. If you think something is a bit off you should speak out about it, rather than avoid the subject until it becomes unavoidable. Without the support from my school, particularly the counsellor, my recovery wouldn’t have been possible.