A Thigh of Relief

"Each time I gained enough weight to be allowed back to school it felt like I had lost my slot in society inside the school. Everyone had made their friendship groups, so I just drifted alone for most of the time. In fact when it came to finding accommodation for third year I had no where to live as everyone had already sorted out their arrangements while I was stuck at home."

My thighs touch. When I sit down my thighs touch, when I stand up straight with my feet together my thighs touch, when I lye down on the ground my thighs touch, when I sleep they touch, when I eat they touch.... and I love it. I used to hate it, and I mean I really hated my thighs touching. I used to crave nothing more than space between my thighs; wanting a massive "please mind the gap" tube sign wedged between my legs.

Not anymore.

Now I want health and I want nothing but health wedged between my legs.

When I returned home from dance college I had my first sigh of relief in years, however sad it was being permanently sent away from Elmhurst it was also a big relief. Waving goodbye to Elmhurst, when I was 18 and losing my place to ill health was a nightmare that I cried about for days over. Although after a few days at home and away from time and pressure my nightmare soon transformed into a dream. Elmhurst was a wonderful dance college, with beautiful teachers and unforgettable friends, it wasn't Elmhurst that was wrong it was me in Elmhurst that was the problem. My journey in Elmhurst impacted me differently to everyone, firstly I was incredibly homesick and vulnerable. Suffering from anorexia in my adolescence halted my development, pretty much completely. When I first left home for Elmhurst I was a very young 16 year old, seeing as I was a summer baby, and 16 is young for anyone leaving home... but I felt what was even harde for me because, well in honesty I felt 8 still, I felt the second I developed Anorexia I stopped growing up. At 12 almost 13, I became Anorexia and aged 16 I was still suffering, and I was still trapped in my mindset of how I was when I was 12. My independence, my maturity, my confidence, my everything, it all suffered. I was incredibly dependent on my family and especially my mum for support, so when I went away it felt as if I had no strength or willpower in myself to eat and stay well while I was away. (Once again, that wasn't Elmhurst fault, but mine) It was my choice not to eat well while I was there, I didn't have my family to boost me, or my mum and dad to make sure I was eating or checking if I had enough. You guessed it... I very quickly relapsed and after just 4 weeks of being at school, so after just one month at college I was sent home and my anorexia had unleashed itself again.

I stayed on the register at Elmhurst for the next two years but the amount of days I actually ticked in against my name I could count on my hands. It was horrible. Really really horrible. I felt guilty the whole time I was at home trying to get better, as I knew I should of been at school, I felt awful for missing out. Missing out on dancing, education and friendships. Each time I gained enough weight to be allowed back to school it felt like I had lost my slot in society inside the school. Everyone had made their friendship groups, so I just drifted alone for most of the time. In fact when it came to finding accommodation for third year I had no where to live as everyone had already sorted out their arrangements while I was stuck at home. Even though I didn't feel safe at Elmhurst, there were some very special people that did make me feel safe whenever I was with them.

Although even my special friends couldn't keep an eye on me the whole time. I never skipped a meal while I was at Elmhurst, not to say though that I didn't under eat every time. But when it came to exercising my anorexia didn't hold back. Some days I would wake up at 5 to go for an hours run in the park (secretly) before getting back to Elmhurst to use the schools gym for 30 minutes before breakfast. But it didn't stop there, after breakfast we would either have 2-6 hours of dancing, with lunch break and out academic studies... which many of them I would bunk to use the schools gym, which a majority of the times I was caught. After are evening meal at 6 I would then give myself the option of either the schools gym (which I got banned from) for 1-2 hours or a second run in the park. This was after my secret run this morning and a whole day of studies and lots of dancing. I was a health risk, when I would go out to the park my house parents wouldn't know where I was, meaning they couldn't protect me or contact me if there was an emergency. But I knew if I told them I was going out for a run they wouldn't let me. I was totally under Ana's thumb. I didn't want to go for a run after such a tiring day, at Elmhurst I don't think Ana has ever been stronger. (Just wanted mention now I don't over exercise, I listen to my body, not Ana. And I only run when there's a donut in front of me.)

Another thing that came with Elmhurst was the ticking clock I have lived with for the many past years. I hated this ticking time bomb, but I couldn't seem to get it to be silent. When anorexia bombed on top of me as did the clock, trying to gain weight to do dance festivals, or trying to gain Wright to get back to school for GCSE's, or dance summer schools, for auditions and being allowed to go on holiday or be healthy enough to sit on a plane. Time felt like it was flying at the speed of light and each time deadline felt like it ran towards me. GCSE's I managed what I could of them, but my graces were nothing like they could have been seeing as I hadn't been at school to study for the 6 months beforehand. Festivals, I was successful due to my dancing talent, but the noises backstage of the other dances, parents and dance teachers talking about my physic were hard to handle. Some teachers said that "they would refuse to let me dance on stage, with the way I looked." Holidays, well they were rare and depending on my weight and mental state impacted the whole family and if I wasn't well enough, none of us would go away. I remember one summer my sisters and brother were begging to go away for summer to Italy to see our grandparents, but I wasn't well enough and that was a horrible feeling of guilt. Instead, my grandma flew over from Italy to us - seeing as a 70-year-old woman was much more stable than me, an 18 year old? Madness, I was mad. As for auditions, I still can't believe how well I did, I will never get over me getting a place at Elmhurst. I used to think, "I threw my opportunity at Elmhurst away." But now I constantly remind myself that, "I learned so much from the experience, I was gifted with Elmhurst but it impacted my health. And my health is a much more crucial gift than the gift of Elmhurst."

Amazingly after a few days of being sent home for the final time, the ticking clock became quieter, until it became so quiet I couldn't even hear it. Time pressure, time deadlines, it all had disappeared. I knew I had time to just get better, there were no grades, exams, shows, performances, school, auditions, holidays to set a date to gain "enough" weight for. It was just me, and as long as I needed to recover. That was the relief. That was the greatest sigh of relief that started my thighs of relief.

Thigh time

I was quite a low weight aged 18, my thighs didn't touch, of course! I mean they were sticks, the most breakable, weak sticks that would get away as "legs". My legs looked comical, fake even and inhuman! So when I restored my weight by doubling (no exaggeration) my once extremely low weight at 18 doubled still aged 18. Gaining 100% more weight in just 11 months, many of you probably won't believe me. But if the photos aren't enough proof, I don't know what is. With the added weight no matter which way I tried to position my legs, I still couldn't form a gap. Sticking my bum out, bending my knees, pushing my legs out sideways... Nope, no thigh gap. Having a thigh gap was once a tool for me by which I falsely measured my happiness, and my self-worth. "Thigh gap equals successful" I stupidly believed. Which meant that now I didn't have one my self-worth was dead, my happiness was zero and I was now officially "unsuccessful" without a thigh gap. I would think, " I am a failure now I don't have a thigh gap"... I can only laugh now at how silly I was.

My thighs touch, they do. And I don't deny that they do, to myself or to Ana. Actually, I like to rub it in her face. I feel energetic, healthy and happy, and without a thigh gap! I no longer try to achieve unrealistic thin goals, I no longer crave a thigh gap. With my proportions, my body type, and my hips being naturally small framed, the width of my hips aren't going to possibly have a thigh gap at a healthy weight - and I no longer care. Obviously, other people's bodies might be different, they might have wider hips which give them a natural space between their legs even at a healthy weight. We are all made differently and for me and my small hips and frame, there's no room for a thigh gap.

Not having a thigh gap was a hard truth to get over. I had to look at my thighs touching for almost a whole year before I could accept it, then like it and now love it. It takes time, but it will happen. There is no magic pill to make you fall in love with yourself. There is no secret spell or book to make you love your body and loving not having a thigh gap. Nothing but patience will cure this. Give yourself time to adjust to your new look, like I did. Start seeing the positives in your body and push out your negative body image thoughts. I love my missing thigh gap, I enjoy them touching, it gives me power in my legs and the ability to walk normally without having to flick out my legs at knees to manage a few steps. Having no thigh gap is a thigh of relief. 

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