I was born in Hobart, Tasmania to British parents and the youngest of their 5 children. My Dad was a Baptist minister, who having lived and worked in England and Wales, believed that 'God' had work for him to do in Australia. I was an unexpected surprise, as my Dad was 52 when I was born. Within 6 months of my birth my family moved to Perth in Western Australia. When my Dad was 54 he suffered an enormous heart attack during which he 'flat-lined' and the medical team took some time before they were able to restart his heart (my Dad later related that he had had an out-of-body experience during those minutes). He was quite ill for afew months, during which time he was unable to work, leaving my Mum with the stressful responsibility of being the sole provider for?5 children (aged 2 - 15). Mum hadn't been out to work for the best part of 15 years, but she found that she had to. Whilst my Brothers and Sisters were all school aged, I was not and the only kindergarten my Mum could find for me to go to doubled up as an orphanage. Despite the fact that I wasn't even 3 years old, the feelings I had at the time are as vivid now as they were then. Everyday my Mum went to work and dropped me off at the kindergarten, and everyday I thought I'd never see her or my family again - I believed she had left me there to be adopted. Everyday all the children would have an afternoon nap on rows of little camp beds, I would shut my eyes tight and pretend to sleep if any of the staff checked on me, but I was determined to stay awake, believing that if I fell asleep I'd be there all night, or much longer!?I was always over-joyed when my Mum DID turn up to take me home! I do believe very strongly though, that early traumatic experience, lay the concrete foundation for a life time of me being insecure and scared of being on my own.
By the time I was 4 or 5 we moved to Southern Australia, to Victor Harbour which was a whaling town 'back in the day'; a coastal small town, where I remember being my happiest. My parents had busy lives and were kept occupied with my eldest Brothers and Sister and I was very much in the 'seen but not heard' category. I always tried to be good, tried to do well, to be noticed or get attention from my parents. When I was about 6 years old my Mum let me have ballet classes - which I LOVED! I also discovered I was quite good at it, which got me the attention I craved, from my ballet teacher. I got main parts in the one and only ballet show I did and I got lots of praise for doing well from my teacher and even my Dad found time to come and watch me! Happy memories:-) However, my parents took the descision when I was 7 to emigrate back to England (which for me, was not my home). As Mum had a whole house of possessions to whittle down into the bare minimums to crate up and ship to England, she was ruthless in her choices of what got sold or given away and what went to the UK. Amongst the items she decided would be sold, were my ballet leotard, ballet tights and ballet shoes. I was devastated - and again, I can remember this event like it was yesterday. I can remember saying the things were only small and wouldn't take up much space in a crate, but my Mum said they would be of no use to me when we got to England as "I would be too big for them". This throw away explanation is where the (life long) seed of worry and fear of "if I get big, bad things will happen" got well and truly planted in my mind. To me I was being 'punished' for getting bigger, by having the one thing I loved and did well at, being taken away from me. When we got to England my Dad soon had another heart attack, financially things were (unbeknown to me at the time) incredibly difficult for my parents. Mum barely had enough to pay bills or buy food, let alone pay for hobbies! I wanted to carry on with ballet lessons, there was a ballet school just round the corner from our house, but instead of Mum telling me the truth (ie "we're skint Deborah"), she chose to inform me that I was "too tall" to be a ballerina. And there you have it - confirmation, that because I HAD got "too big"....I would never get to do ballet again...and I never have (though I would still like to!) I was made to feel even more insecure when I went to primary school in England, as I suddenly became aware that I had an Australian accent*, which the kids teased me about, making me a very quiet child indeed. (* the up side to this Ladies and Gentlemen was that I became an excellent mimic of accents! A 'skill' I have always kept. I dropped my Ozzie accent very quickly and just mimicked the English one I heard around me)
So by the time I was 11, my insecurity was 'set in stone', my fear of becoming bigger was also concrete and the worry about even speaking to others (for fear of being laughed at) was also there. Against this back ground, I went from a tiny primary school to an enormous secondary school. At secondary school, the unspoken 'rule' seemed to be that the pretty, slim girls got the attention (even if at the time you really don't realise, it's the wrong sort of attention!) I suddenly felt under pressure to look a certain way and I felt every much like the 'ugly duckling' compared to the condifent, prettier girls. The other thing that also happened around this time was that my Eldest Brother came back from Australia with his fiance and they came to live with us for a while. I was amazed at how tiny and skinny my future Sister-in-law was and soon found out that she was an Anorexic. Bare in mind that this was 1978-79 and at the time there was NO internet, there were NO 'celeb' mags constantly bombarding images of which blah-di-blah Celeb is too fat or which blah-di-blah Celeb is too skinny, or sexy or fit or whatever - I had no idea about eating disorders, all I knew was, my Brothers' finance was skinny and I wanted that look too. My Mum (being a nurse) knew why our new guest was so skinny and would follow her to the loo after meal times to listen....strange behaviour from my Mum I thought, so I asked her why she did that. My Mum explained what my Sister-in-law did, ie ate practicaly nothing and then made herself sick to get rid of the food she had eaten. I loved my food and didn't think I could only eat tiny amounts, BUT, the making yourself sick thing seemed like a good idea, so I gave it try. In a busy household, it was easy to disappear after a meal and not be noticed....I could (and did) get away with it and nobody knew. And so aged 12, my hidious journey with Bulimia began. Little did I know that the clever 'little trick' I had stumbled upon would become a serious illness that would take over not only my life, but myself as a person for over 30 years.