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My Body Journey: Peter Radford   Leave a comment

*Welcome to our first ‘My Body Journey’ this week featuring Peter Radford. Peter is an extremely brave individual & despite how emotionally draining it must have been to relive memories that span the majority of his life, he has put his heart wrenching story into words exclusively for us, in order to reach out and help other people. Although at times difficult to read, this mans life story will undoubtedly teach us all something we didn’t truly understand before reading it and resonate with people whose lives have been touched by a similar disorder. We would like to send masses of #BodyLove and gratitude to Peter who will no doubt achieve his goal of helping people by allowing us to post his journey so publicly. Thank you Peter, you’re a true survivor!*

 

My story begins at a very young age, 6 years old to be precise. When I was 6 I was victim to an event which no human being (of any age) should ever be forced to face. it sickens me to my stomach, and while a couple of people know, on this day you won’t. all you need know is that it played a big part in my life and lead to many other difficulties as a result.

I always struggled as a child, I was bullied from my second year of primary school up until the age of 19. that is a lot of years of daily physical punishment and mental torment.

I remember talking to somebody once, and somehow a certain topic of conversation cropped up that I have a lot of experience in; Suicide attempts in young children. The reason being is that there was a case of a young teenager committing suicide on our local news, and naturally people felt the need to talk about it.

This person was informing me of their opinion on the matter, and while I was listening intently, my own experiences came to the forefront of my mind. I respected their opinion as everybody is entitled to their own, but just to throw a bit of a spanner in the works I brought up the fact that I had attempted suicide, at aged 9.

A bit stumped and taken aback by what I had just said, the person in question looked at me with complete surprise; they clearly didn’t know what to say. I’m not sure if it was because of the situation, or because this person didn’t understand why, but what came next had me taken aback in return.
‘But you look so normal’.
But I look so normal. I had no idea what to say to this, it really caught me off guard. I’m not really sure what I was expecting by sharing my experience, but it most certainly wasn’t that.

It caught me by surprise, as would be expected. Just because I look ‘normal’ doesn’t mean that I hadn’t had traumatic experiences or suffered with mental illness all my life, apparently.

I realise that it wasn’t the person’s fault, and I’m not critiquing them in any way for their reaction, it’s just something that we as western culture deem to be Taboo, until it happens and then every key rallies around for a while. It seems nobody ever expects you to go through traumatic experiences and be able to conquer them, coming out fighting.

I remember it perfectly. I was being bullied, again. I remember thinking of all the ways over and over for a long period of time, and after a few days had gone by since thinking it, I decided I just couldn’t take it any more. Why was I being bullied? What had I ever done to anybody that prompted such a negative response? I could never decipher that mystery, and to this day I am still unable to. I remember thinking of the different ways to end it all. 9 years in to my life, and I didn’t even want that gift any more.

I don’t remember the exact age I stopped eating, but it was early on in my life. why did you ever stop eating? I hear you ask; let me enlighten you. The last two years excluded, I have always struggled with my health, in and out of hospital from the moment I was born. I have always had issues with my stomach, as well as suffering from Mental illness for the majority of my life. As I said, I don’t remember the exact moment, but I do recall a memory from roughly around that period. I was only little, and skinny as a rake (no exaggeration), a human xylophone if you will. Each rib was clear as the features on my face, and you could see the bones inside of me. My body fat was dangerously low, and as a result I was severely ill. One night after school I recall undressing out of my school uniform and looking up briefly only to realise I was being glared at by a sickening image, an image of fear and illness. an image of myself staring back at me.

from that description one would assume that how ill I was had been realised. I realised and was going to make a change. not quite… All I saw was a little roll of SKIN as I bent down, in that instant I had convinced myself that I was fat, and that I needed to lose weight. From that moment my goal was clear, lose weight. I remember walking in to school promising to go to breakfast club (Which was subsidised as we didn’t have much), going to class and hearing the dreaded break time bell. Most children enjoy that time of the school day, but not me. I knew that at break and lunch times friends and bullies alike would be eating at some point, which meant I was expected to as well. Over the weeks I managed to perfect a technique or two that would help me get out of eating. Those techniques involved multiple things, and for a long time they worked well. really well.

What I forgot is that the person I was trying to fool was my best friend, but not only that, she was my mother. Good Mum’s don’t miss a trick like this, and she didn’t. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt my parents, especially Mum based on what we had been through together in the past, and so I agreed to make a change.

We tried resolving my eating disorders over the years, and at one point we managed it, even though it meant I would only eat one thing and that was it. Chicken Kiev and super noodles had become my saviour, and I felt good from eating, as you would expect. This went well for a few weeks, although looking back I’m sure it was a nervous time for Mum & for Dad because they knew that me eating the same thing over and over would soon become tedious and thin. How long would it last? Not even I knew, but I do remember that one day when I didn’t want it any more, and all of my progress went downhill, real fast. I looked in the mirror on the day that I found myself bored of the same food every day, and I had noticed that I had gained weight (and was a little bit closer to being healthy). Gaining weight for me was always going to come with a consequence because I had convinced myself that it wasn’t a good thing, no matter how healthy it would make me.

This ‘yo-yo’ dieting as I was told it was called became common place for me. I’d eat something for a week or so because I ‘fancied’ it, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother eating at all. The issue I had was eating in public, I hated it. No matter how hungry I was, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat in front of other people, it repulsed me. I remember thinking to myself that this had to stop, it was stupid for me not to eat because somebody would see me, but it didn’t, and the spiral continued.

Now let’s not forget that at no point in my life had the bullying stopped, so on top of my eating disorder I was being physically beaten on a daily basis, being sent death threats every night by a number that we couldn’t trace. When we spoke to my service provider, they stated that the number wasn’t active and didn’t exist, when it clearly did because every night it was telling me it would kill me, and telling me how. By this point I had reached the end of my tether, and I reverted back to self harm as a form of release. When I say self harm I don’t mean in the common sense and stereotypical way that people see it in this day (referring to the cutting of one’s self, though I have had enough experience in that field) but it was in physically beating myself, punching myself in the face, all over the body, pulling my hair out and doing anything that brought pain upon myself. The pain was a release for me, and the release from everything felt much better, even after harming myself. Looking back it was a reckless thing to do, especially considering the abuse I was getting from those bullying me, I really caused some damage to my body, and as I said before, the spiral grew faster, and faster, and there was no sign of it slowing down.

I struggled for a few years more with my eating, and then something really did have to change. I really thought I was going to manage this time. I started eating again in order to gain weight as a promise to my loved ones, but as soon as I noticed in my body that I was gaining weight, I went straight back to how I used to be when I wasn’t eating. For a long time I was able to get away with it, until people cottoned on to what it was that I was doing. I was put on watch by the school and by my parents, and because it was only a village school 90% of people were watching to see whether or not I would eat. The dinner ladies would give me extra as an incentive to eat, ask me if I was okay and then keep their eyes glued to me until my tray was completely empty, or until I had thrown my food away (as was the case some days). Things did get better though, I was eating a small amount on some days, but on others I wouldn’t eat at all and I struggled with these inconsistencies for a few years. My biggest issue was that I would ask Mum for sandwiches every day with things I liked in them, in order to fool my parents in to thinking I was eating. I’m not saying I never ate them, but 90% I wouldn’t and they would either end up in my ‘friend’s’ hands, or at the bottom of the bin. I grew quite good at throwing things out, especially when people were watching me all the time. Now it wasn’t always just because I wasn’t hungry, as I said before, I hated eating in front of people. Because of this (and knowing I had to eat food), I would sit in a toilet cubicle and eat my food, or I’d go and sit in a corner of the field or playground where nobody could see me, or at least where there was less people.

As I’m sure you can tell by now, I did have a high point again after this. I managed to put on a few stone and felt a bit better about myself despite everything that was happening to me. I was happier, still being bullied but felt a bit more secure in my body based on my new found tolerance for eating. I gained 3 stone after a lot of hard work, and I’m sure you can understand based on my story so far that this was a big task for me. I felt good, I looked better and I wasn’t constantly ill all the time, my body was functioning almost properly for the first time in my life. It didn’t last. I noticed my cheeks looked a little but fuller than my usual drained and ghostly self, and despite the odd logic, that wasn’t good for me. I spiralled once again, completely cutting all food and losing 3 stone in 3 weeks. Yes, you read that right. It took me 3 weeks to lose 3 stone, and go back to being anorexic.

This carried on for a few more years, right up to about 18 years old and after the worst of it, when I had joined a basketball academy. I’d just like to explain something about the academy. I went to high school before I moved with some people who I thought were my ‘friends’. I started playing basketball because of these people, and not because of their support or because they enjoyed it, I started playing seriously because one of them told me I couldn’t. Now they may not realise it but one of those people made my life hell, and I despised the very mention of his name. We used to play basketball on the weekend as a group, in which instance he used to push me in to the wall, bash my head off of the wall, shove me over when I was running and just physically hit me in order to hurt me. I wasn’t a strong person, as I’m sure you can imagine. I never had any strength and my body didn’t have anything to run on as it was. I remember one time we went they said ‘The closest you’ll ever get to playing professionally is the logo on your jersey (I was wearing a replica Jersey), and then everybody there proceeded to laugh, all 9 of them.

Things changed when I moved away, people realised this is what I was chasing and started being a lot nicer to me. You may think that it was just friendly banter between friends, but I had started to realise these people really didn’t care about me too much. I had suffered with severe Paranoia, suicidal tendencies and manic depression all at once at one point in my teenage years. Things had gotten too much and other events had forced me in to a state of paranoia (remember those death threats I said I received? They were back on a nightly basis), where I was too scared to even write my own name in case somebody found out who I was, where I was and decided to come after me. I removed my name from everything, my gaming profile on my console, my school text books and even forced people to find a way to remove any account online that had anything to do with me at all. I was petrified for my life at all times. I would come from school (still being bullied, making this serious issue even worse) and sprint in to my bedroom, close my curtains, and hide under my quilt until the early hours of the morning so that nobody could find me. I hid myself from the world, and everybody in it.

I had never told anybody my problems, and it really was difficult for me to tell people, but when I did it was always pretty blunt, simply because that’s how I like to be. For instance, when I was suicidal once I was sat watching Billy Elliot with Mum, concealing my feelings relatively well although I know she felt there was something going on, but she was just waiting for me to open up. I did, and it caught her by surprise. We were watching the film and hadn’t spoken in a little time, when all of a sudden I said ‘I don’t want to be here any more Mum’. I saw the tears start to roll, and everything else was a bit of a blur for me. I can’t really remember a lot of what happened through these times to be completely honest with you, but I do remember some of it, which is why I offered to write this.

Back to what I was saying about me being Paranoid, I was at the house of a person who was supposed to be my ‘best friend’. He asked me why I had been acting differently, and I explained that I was paranoid somebody was after me and that I wanted to end my life. That was big for me, because as aforementioned I really struggled with telling people things, and I never spoke to my friends through fear of being judged and laughed at some more. What happened next created a temporary void inside of me, and it carried on for a long time. The person in question always thought we were fine, but we weren’t, I was upset about this for a long time. Where was I? Oh yes, I had just told my best friend and somebody I considered family, that I wanted to end my life and I was also fearing for my life. He laughed. He sat on the end of his bed, looked me in the eye and laughed hysterically for a number of minutes. Mocking me, laughing, almost tears in his eyes from the amount of laughs he was having. What made it worse (could it get worse?!) was that I went in to school after that weekend only to be mocked by him and several other people about the concept of thinking somebody was after me. That day there were so many little remarks and whispers from people, making jokes they were coming after me. That night I received a death threat again, and was dead set on ending my life. I tried, adding to the numerous attempts I had under my belt in my lifetime. Safe to say without my parents, I most certainly wouldn’t be here.

I was doing well when I was in the basketball academy at college, eating a fair amount of food and getting myself on track because I knew had to for my sport, that is until I saw myself gaining weight (by know I’m sure you know how I reacted to that) and then I began crashing… again. I started to get ill, and was on a downwards spiral suffering with suicidal thoughts, chronic depression and out of control eating disorders, my body hated me just as it used to. Now playing basketball for 7-8 hours a day on an empty stomach and having no food in me for energy was never a good idea, but that’s what I did. When one of my teachers and close friends noticed me losing weight they immediately contacted the people In charge of the team and warned them, who in turned spoke to me expressing concern for my welfare. It got bad, and as with before I was still eating lunch in the bathroom, in the local sports centre (away from students) or spending my break, lunch and free periods shooting free throws in an old and tatty miniature hall.

Eventually I had managed to control myself, focus my mind and realise that if I wanted to achieve my dream and not become a physical wreck, then things would have to change. It did, and I managed move on to bigger and better things, and conquered my demons, becoming a more developed person who aspires to help and give back.

In the last four years I have gone from not playing basketball properly, to teaching myself to play, being the victim of racial abuse in sport, to being on the brink of achieving my dream and receiving offers from professional teams. How times change.

I have gone from being severely underweight and anorexic, to weighing approximately 200lbs, in 4 years of lifting weights. I gained approximately 80lbs, and continue to do so. Making myself stronger, faster and more athletic. But first and foremost, becoming the strongest version of myself.

It took a lot for me to realise that I needed to eat, because that’s always been a difficult thing for me. The positives gained from the lifestyle I lead is that as an athlete I now understand the importance of what fuel you put in to your body, as well coming to terms with how my body works, what it is capable of and what foods it responds to well, and those it doesn’t like. Thankfully the situations I have been put in throughout my life (along with much persistence) have led to me coming out on top, and becoming more educated from doing so. The great thing about going through these events is that if you can endure it, you are prepared for if anything remotely similar happens again then it’s simply a walk in the park to get over such hurdles, or at least a bit easier.

I apologise for the length of this article, and if you have read it all I would like to say a massive thank you to you. I aspire to inspire, and if my story can help at least one person, then my job is done.

Make each day your masterpiece.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents for their continued support throughout every single struggle in my life. I would like to thank my beautiful girlfriend, who saved my life and whom I would be lost without. The support she gives me is beyond belief, and I appreciate everything she does. We will always support each other in our dreams and ventures. Finally I would like to thank the handful of people I have met over the last few years and who I have become extremely close to, considering them as family (as well actual adopted family) for their continued support.

Thank you.

*Do you want to share your story? Do you want to thank Peter for sharing his? Get in touch on twitter @_B_O_D_Y_ on our facebook page or by emailing Tasha@bodycharity.co.uk*