I know. A post two days in a row! A rare thing for me these days – so I hope you don’t mind my blog taking up your feed for just a while – because I want to share something rather precious with you all.
So this post was written by a teacher from my high school – her name is Keturah and lots of you will probably know her and value her as much as I do! I feel privileged that she said yes when I asked her to write something for my blog and I hope the post gives you some more insight into … my past. And eating disorders. And my eating disordered past. And how these things don’t just affect the individual, they affect lots of others too.
A Teacher’s Perspective
When I first met Bek, she was in Year 7. I had no idea that she had an eating disorder. As I came to know her better, she began to seek me out and ask me questions after class or while I was on lunch duty. She needed attention and sometimes confided in me. Gradually, she started disclosing information about herself that began to concern me; about past trauma and issues with eating – of not wanting to eat and hating what she imagined her weight to be. It made me so sad to see such a beautiful young girl so torn up inside. As a teacher, I’m bound by law to report these things. I’m not sure if she was more angry or relieved that I informed the school counsellor. At the time, she was angry. When she passed me in the playground she would scowl to make me know that I’d done the ‘wrong’ thing. (But we’re still friends today, so it didn’t last long!)
I sometimes noticed Bek’s thinness and commented to her about it. She was in Year 9 when it started becoming more apparent. She would be evasive but I could see that she was trying to hide (or show?) that she wasn’t coping and was not just dieting and purging but had also begun self-harming. The long sleeves of her school jumper hid the marks but her friends came and shared their concerns with me. While she still seemed angry that I’d told the school counsellor, she continued to talk to me. I tried to give her the time she needed but couldn’t always provide it as I knew I wasn’t professionally qualified to give advice with such deep issues. But listening and caring goes a long way. It must have been really hard for her. I know that at times she felt alienated from her friends because they didn’t understand what she was going through. At other times, I think she drew away from them because they would be eating and that would be ‘awkward’. At other times, she told me that other girls in her year were also struggling with eating disorders.
From my perspective as a teacher, it seemed that it was two steps forward and one step back for Bek. She started seeing a psychologist and started journaling and this seemed to help. One day she would look happy but the next she looked like her world was crashing down. An obsessive-compulsive habit is hard to break. Then I noticed a very real transformation in her as she became interested in God. She found someone who cared for her, loved her, understood her and accepted her. Someone she could trust. She began to find hope and forgiveness and newness in life. Since then, she’s grown in her faith and found a really supportive church family who has journeyed with her and supported her through the ups and the downs.
Looking back and seeing Bek as she is now today, I feel so proud of her. Not only has she faced her fears; she has committed herself to the tough road of recovery, of facing her past trauma, and of being real with herself and others. I’m also thrilled that she’s using her personal experience to help others and using her skills in writing to communicate through her blog to those who are walking the path that she has.
So what did I manage to teach Bek in my English classes? Or rather, what did Bek teach me? She taught me that students often have a lot more going on in their lives than teachers could ever imagine. She taught me that students’ academic progress and behaviour at school is often dependent upon their physical and mental wellbeing outside of school. She taught me that students bring their own stories, coloured by their past experiences, into their school life. And she taught me that all students are worth believing in – because they really are!
There you have it. It is interesting to get others perspectives, I reckon. And interesting for me to reflect on where I was and where I am now – so bizarre; much has changed.
Love, Bekah (and Keturah!)