Finally my Animal Attending Tafe course started. The classes were done in weekly blocks every six weeks. I immediately started my pattern of not eating lunch. I went from about 9am to 6pm with virtually nothing. I sometimes had a chocolate bar but usually not much else. In winter I allowed myself to have hot drinks of ovaltine, because they were supposedly low in fat. There was another awfully skinny girl in our class and I wanted to compete with her. I made comments to the others about how skinny she was. They said that I wasn’t any better looking myself. It didn’t take long for my class to notice my poor food intake, and so the cycle recommenced. They noticed I wasn’t eating so therefore it was best to stick with what they had already made note of.
It was fantastic to be out of school. I had no anxieties of what my tech class thought of me. I was somewhere I wanted to be, and doing what I wanted to do. Given the fact that it was a small class of probably 15, I felt more secure in who I was and was able to be just myself. I felt confident to speak up in class, and even turned out to be one of the leaders and well-liked ones in the class. What a difference from high school. Despite the fact I was accepted easily into the group I felt the need to be skinny. I had to gain the attention of others somehow for some reason. Sometimes on the odd occasion I allowed myself to eat McDonalds but tried not to let this happen too often.
On the off weeks when tech wasn’t on I was at a loss for what to do. It was only 5 weeks in between classes but for someone like me that is hard. I like to keep busy, and without a job that was hard. Mim was doing her hairdressing course so I couldn’t do much with her either. In the mornings I got up, had breakfast (special K cereal) threw that up, then cycled on the exercise bike for nearly one hour. I then used Mim’s weights to work my arms and did some aerobics. Mum was still asleep while I did this so she didn’t know. She would have stopped me in a flash if she knew. I carried out this routine of mine in Mim’s bedroom because it was at the back of the house where mum couldn’t hear much. It was dreadful staying at home. I tended to eat more because mum was constantly watching my every move. This is when I practiced my violin more regularly. I took lunch into my room stating I needed to practice so I’d eat while I did. I then threw my lunch in the bin. Now and again I let myself fall and took a bite of what I had prepared. I was incredibly disappointed in myself for this because once I had the taste I then wanted more. How I could lose such control was pathetic. So I ate whatever it was then threw it up. That was the ultimate pits. I was disgusted in myself for having that happen. I tried to find other ways then to keep myself busy, even if it meant studying and doing assignments all day long. As a result of continual study I was always achieving high marks, so I guess it paid off.
Later in the year the course required us to do a week of work experience in the animal field. I chose to do mine at Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo. A few weeks prior to this another class studying an animal course were going on an excursion to the zoo. One teacher said it might be beneficial for me to attend this excursion to get to know what is required of me for work experience. It turned out to be a very depressing trip for me, as I knew no body. We arrived in Dubbo in the evening and got ourselves settled into the cabins in a caravan park I shared a cabin with two girls and the teacher. They all decided to go out to eat and invited me to join them. I declined stating I wasn’t hungry. They asked if I was sure, because it had been a long day and it may be good to get out and have something to eat. I made the good old excuse of being travelsick and needed to rest. They believed me but were a bit worried that I wouldn’t get any better if I didn’t eat. One of them made a comment that it may do me good to eat because I was too skinny. I disagreed with them and said I never eat much anyway so I should be okay. Off they went then and I stayed in by myself imagining all the food I could be eating because I was so hungry. The rest of the trip wasn’t too exciting and the others made no attempt to even include me in anything. I couldn’t wait to get home on the Sunday.
In the meanwhile, in the middle of tech and doing nothing in my absolutely monotonous life of nothingness I had committed myself to an orchestra to play in the musical Les Miserable.
This was actually quite a confidence boost in someway, as I was originally the only violin. It was a small orchestra and less formal than the youth orchestra. If I made a mistake I wasn’t looked at, or if I didn’t use all of my bow I wasn’t shamed for it. After a few rehearsals another violinist, Jess, came. It was a relief to have someone else play along with me. I enjoyed the busyness of playing in this orchestra. I was out many nights for all hours rehearsing. Mum was a bit concerned about the amount of late nights I was having, but it seriously had no effect on me. It turned out that two people from youth orchestra were also playing in Les Mis. They were Fiona and her mother Vicki. We got to know each other quite well and I usually went along to rehearsals with them. Fiona and I spent heaps of time playing duets together, and sometimes Vicki joined in with her double bass. We ended up spending a lot of time together forming a great friendship, and eventually forming a music group. I enjoyed going up to their place because for some peculiar reason it felt acceptable to eat. In fact they made eating to be fun. They are such natural people with big hearts, who accept anyone. I was accepted into their family and I really valued this. We shared quite a few similarities such as music and animals.
Throughout the time of the Les Mis concerts, I had one week of work experience at Western Plains Zoo. For that week I boarded with a lady named Winnie. I had my own bedroom there, and another girl Paula was also there. Paula drove me out to the zoo in the mornings and also picked me up in the evenings. My eating really fell here. While I had the opportunity to not eat I certainly didn’t. I never took lunch, surviving on only drinks throughout the day. Even when one of the staff brought in birthday cake I politely said no, and was very proud of myself. There was a lot of physical work involved working there. Most days I was raking out animal yards or shovelling manure. I am surprised my body coped with this. When I got home to Winnie’s, she had dinner waiting for me. I picked at my food eating a little bit of it so as not to appear impolite. Her and Paula were pretty concerned. Winnie said I needed a lot of fattening up, especially if I wanted to work in an area such as I was. They encouraged me to eat more, but I had to try and stand my ground. A couple of the nights I gave in and even ate dessert. Straight after that I had my shower and was so grateful there was a toilet in the bathroom as well. Doing this made me feel like a betrayer and ungrateful but I was too disappointed in myself to worry about anyone else.
On my first day at the zoo I was placed in the nursery with a lady Annie, for injured or orphaned animals. If I had my choice I would have been in there everyday. It was rewarding to know we were helping and caring for these helpless little animals. A man came in with a Joey he had found on the side of the road. It broke my heart to see this Joey. Annie took him from the man and began caring for him. Since I had recently become a member of WIRES (wildlife information rescue and emergency service) I toyed with the idea of taking this Joey home to foster him. I told Annie this and she agreed on one condition - he had to be over 1kg by the end of the week. I was so excited about this. Finally I could put everything I had learnt in WIRES into practice. Mum was displeased with the idea telling me I was crazy. Oh well, I went against her word because it was what I really wanted to do. The last day finally was here. I bundled up my little Joey and set out to take him home. I knew mum still wasn’t impressed by the idea at all, we had already had many an argument about it. I wrapped my joey up warmly, put him in a backpack and got on the coach back home. I think it was more of a shock for poor mum when she actually saw my joey, because it was more of a reality. Mim and I named him Harley. He was a little darling and I felt special to have the opportunity to care for him.
Suddenly my focus turned to something else. I by no means miraculously recovered and started to eat properly again, but I did believe I had a purpose to fulfil. It was a purpose to nurture Harley and give him the best care possible. This involved many four hourly bottle feeds, toileting him outside, giving lots of love. It was hard but rewarding work. There were a few times where I nearly lost him because he became exceptionally sick and had constant diarrhoea. This in kangaroos can be fatal, and I didn’t know what to do. I had the support of other WIRES members and they were very helpful in getting Harley on the road to recovery.
I had gotten my L’s this year as well. I found it hard last year to not fit in with everyone else who had his or her L’s. They were having driving lessons then acquired their P’s and most of them had a car to drive. Mum wasn’t particularly enthusiastic to teach either Mim or I to drive. At school I tried to justify myself with not having a car or my licence by saying I didn’t want to yet. Seriously I would have loved to have my L’s and go for driving lessons with mum. That’s what I perceived a normal family to do. That is what most people do. Mum did take us out on the back roads sometimes, but she panicked every time we went too fast. She usually only had something to complain about or criticise of our driving. It’s no wonder we didn’t get too far. I gave up trying in the end assuming that driving was obviously something not made for the likes of me.