At 22 years old, my body and my experience has only recently become a topic I can comfortably talk about and I can say that for a long time it was struggle, even just looking at myself in the mirror pained me. So with that, my story begins at the age of 13, when I had taken the huge step to study part time dance.
I had always been a happy, outgoing and confident girl who never shied away from any situation. Dancing had been apart of my life since the age of 2 and a half and I had been competitively competing since the age of 7. For a girl who regularly wore (and without hesitation) leotards and on the occasion tight fitting, bedazzled costumes even my body with a thousands crystals lighting up like a Christmas tree on a stage in front of a thousand people never fazed me ever in my life. But that did all change, drastically.
It was an exciting time, deciding to commit to a part time course where I would dance between 20-30 hours a week, whilst completing my school studies at the same time. I wouldn’t say dancing was my passion in the sense I wanted to pursue a career in it, but it made me feel so alive, I was addicted. My new teacher whom I had been taught by prior was someone I believed to be trusted, it was a huge part of my life now and I had expected she would nurture me and push me to become the dancer I had been promised to become. But her methods were the opposite of nurturing.
It happened within weeks of starting and continued right through my two years till the last days of the course. I remember so little from the two years, as half way through the first year, my tactic to survive was to shut it out. I would look out the window and see the birds and imagine myself flying away. When in fact she was yelling at me from across the room, often accusing me of becoming over weight and therefore lazy. I had hit puberty at 13 and a half, my body had spread in all different directions and every day I reminded that I wasn’t the perfect body she had envisioned me to be. She didn’t have to remind me every day how much my body was quickly changing in a way that I myself didn’t want.
I distinctly remember one day being in a fitting between her and another mother (who I also regularly had bullied by) and as I was being fitted, the mother had remarked that I would need a custom costume and extra material, as I didn’t even fit an extra large. They continued to make jokes about how much larger I was than my fellow classmates. All whilst I was standing there, in my lingerie with the tape measure around my waist, holding back the tears.
I remember little slices of insults such as: “Being overweight Madeline is causing you to go backwards, you are loosing technique!” and “You will never achieve anything” My mother was passionate about feeding her family right with the money she had. She always did her best to feed us fresh and healthy options.
And that is what hurt the most. It was the fact that I did eat healthy, I was dancing between 20-30 hours a week and I was still ‘fat’, ‘overweight’ and ‘an unhealthy size’ in the eyes of many people around me. I was something that people were almost afraid of. I was naturally curvy and its almost like they couldn’t understand it.
It was unbearable. Writing this, It’s still almost unbearable to think about, to remember. I suffered incredibly at the hands of someone whom I had trusted and she had ripped me apart, destroyed who I was and had broken every inch of my confidence. It was like looking at broken mirror on the floor, I could see fragments of myself but could not piece together the whole picture. I often looked at myself in the mirror and said; “who am I?”
Once it had finished, I had believed I was free. But it only got worse. I realized what I had been through meant I was no longer a normal teenager. I had matured and become solemn. My usually chatty personality had died down and I barely spoke. I often separated myself from social situations for fear of being criticized or bullied. I became obsessed with my weight and developed bulimia, a severe depressive disorder, social anxiety and trichotillomania (the compulsive disorder to pull out ones hair). In other words I was a mental mess. Never daring to step out in a Bikini or wear revealing clothing, I regularly covered up my curvaceous body and larger than average breasts for fear of being commented on.
At the age of 18, nearing the end of my year twelve studies I had a major breakdown resulting in a suicide attempt. I had been trying for three years since leaving the course to piece myself back together, but I realized that the person I had been trying to fix was the result of her and now it was time to rediscover who I was again.
Nearing the age of 22, it had almost been four years since my ‘new leaf’. I only had 13 and prior year old me to go on and work out who I was again. So when my mother has whispered to me “you’ve done it” I knew that I could see her, I could see Madeline! She was there smiling back at me in a leotard looking fierce and fabulous. It was a moment that I knew all my hard work had paid off. In which the Photo Studio and specifically Mette had captured perfectly.
Looking back on my experience over the last year with the result of everything that has happened in the last 8 years, I lost a lot. But I also gained even more. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to work with the studio and then be apart of their ‘Love your Curves’ Campaign. Telling yourself that you ‘love yourself’ isn’t being self-absorbed; it’s about accepting and cherishing your body for exactly what it is. Its true, curvy women and beauty standards are misrepresented in the media (especially my age group!) but it’s changing. And now it’s about your beauty standards because at the end of day, if you have a healthy body, you have a happy body, no matter what size you are. Big curves or small curves, your body is what you make of it. So work those ‘genes’! Get it ;)