Trigger warning: Eating disorders, purging, self-harm, drug abuse, suicide
I just want to start off by saying thank you to Ugly Ducklings Inc for giving me the opportunity to share my story with all of you. Through my crazy year and recovery I’ve learned so much from the words I’ve heard from others and I hope I can somehow impact one of you as well.
My name is Courtney Leigh, (I love my middle name way too much to just leave it out) and I was born in Moscow, Russia. When I was six months old, I was adopted and started my childhood adventures in Springfield, Illinois. I was truly the “little princess” of the household. I had two older brothers, and for three years it was just me. I had the childhood almost any kid could dream of.
I had parents who were well off, so anything I wanted I pretty much got at the drop of the hat. When I was three, I began ballet and had parents who supported me 100%. When I was four, my parents went back to Russia and adopted my baby sister. And even then with an extra little girl in the house, we always got what we wanted. My parents, my family, anyone who knew us instantly could realize we had the dream childhood.
When I was about five or six I began to be bullied. It was about weight, my hair, my chubby cheeks, I was tall, anything these kids could think of it was brought up. I never wanted to disappoint my parents and tell them about any negativity in my life so that’s when I started hiding things from them.
I always thought if I never showed emotion I would never have to deal with anything. Really smart for a six year old in my opinion. I think when you are so small and you want to be accepted you will do what is necessary to convince yourself you fit in.
The more advanced in dance I got, the more self image and perfection took over my mind. I was eight and probably one of the most muscular girls of my age in the studio. So instantly that translated into “you are fat”. My costume sizes were getting bigger, my thighs were touching, and I was miserable. At nine years old I decided to stop eating. From such a young age I always saw food as such a negative thing. I did not see it as fuel or energy, but only as: ‘this is what makes you gain weight’. At this point, the bullying got to where I couldn’t go to school. I’d get so sick from starving and being so sad I couldn’t make myself go to school.
This pattern of no school, not eating, and being upset, continued into the sixth grade where it was brought up that I may in fact have an eating disorder. I was taken to a dietician once, and hated it. I pouted my way out of counseling. It got to a point of being so bad my parents switched me into the private school district in our town. Good idea right? Take the girl who’s been bullied for multiple years and move her into a school where her class size is only 20.
I ended up joining the cheer squad, (you’ll see how important this is later). Needless to say it was awful, I was bullied, I was starving myself, and then I picked up self harm and purging. I ended up telling the school I had mono for nine weeks while I stayed home because my malnutrition got to a bad enough point I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to my room. I somehow managed to pull myself together physically, and somehow made it out of there alive.
My freshman and sophomore year of high school I decided to try out for cheerleading, and I didn’t make it. I joined a competitive cheerleading squad and instantly fell in love with the sport, and I finally found somewhere I belong. Cheerleading was the one place I knew I could go and be happy. Then my junior year I somehow got the courage to once again try out for the school cheer squad and I made varsity. I also started drinking, smoking, my cutting got worse, and so did my eating disorder.