By Alyce Collins
THIS DANCER is overcoming the anorexia demons that ruled her life for more than four-years and saw her weight drop to just SEVEN stone after cruel school bullies mocked her after she lost her dad to cancer when she was just ten-years-old.
Dance teacher assistant, Sasha-Louise Szymczak (21) from Birmingham, UK, felt victimised throughout her entire school career as she was cast out by her peers, only to go through further stress at university as she struggled with her workload which made her loneliness take hold, allowing anorexia to control her.
After her father, Nick, passed away in 2007 following a battle with bowel cancer, she didn’t know how to cope without him which only fed into her inner demons controlling her habits in day to day life where Sasha would only allow herself to eat 300-calories a day and would exercise for hours on end.
This combined with the pressures from the dance industry, Sasha dropped down to just 7st 8lbs when in the grips of her anorexia after believing she wasn’t good enough and that she just needed to look thin to be accepted.
Now on the road to recovery, Sasha has managed to get herself into a much healthier regime and currently weighs 8st 10lbs.
“I was always closest with my dad, we would go shopping together, I would go to the pub with him and we would play on the pool tables, he’d take me to the park nearly every day after school,” Sasha said.
“It really affected me. I felt like I’d lost all feeling of emotion, I cried every night just wanting him to come back, hoping one day he would.
“I felt lost, out of control. I was being manipulated by a voice in my head telling me food and socialising were unnecessary. The only thing deemed to be acceptable was my anorexia and losing weight.
“I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa almost two years ago, but I’ve been suffering with symptoms of anorexia for around four years.”
While going through this difficult phase in her life, Sasha didn’t get any respite from feeling pain when she went to school as she was frequently bullied which made her feel even lonelier.
“I was bullied throughout primary and secondary school, mainly for my Polish surname. I was also bullied for certain aspects of my appearance, these being my eyes being ‘too big’, my ears for ‘sticking out too much’,” she explained.
“I would get comments about my dad’s passing, people saying ‘you only cry at school because your dad’s dead’. I would just generally get horrible comments from people calling me ugly and worthless.
“I strongly believe dancing was a huge contributor – spending everyday in front of a mirror in the bare minimum of a leotard and tights. It’s hard to hide away from all your ‘bumpy bits’.
“My head would scream that my legs were too big to be successful in the industry, that I had to lose weight to be accepted.
“I went through stages in high school when I would only eat salads for lunch and that would be it until I got home for my evening meal.
“I had a rule of not eating before midday and not eating after six in the evening, giving me six hours to eat. However, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to eat more than three hundred calories which usually meant a piece of toast, a Muller Light yoghurt, and an apple.
“I would walk everywhere, and I wouldn’t sit down. I was doing sit-ups in my room constantly as well as doing star jumps before bed. I’d also go to the gym for hours on end and dance for hours with no energy because I just wanted to be thin.”
Sasha’s turning point came when she realised she may not be able to finish her university degree because she wasn’t strong enough for her dance exam.
Although not fully recovered yet, Sasha has seen her confidence grow immensely in the few months since she turned her life around.
Sasha is now able to see the severity of her illness and she no longer wants to feel controlled by it. She can now look forward to her future and having children, but most of all, loving herself and her body.
“I was advised not to take part in a dance exam due to my ill health causing my underweight and malnourished body. I went ahead with it anyway which resulted in my legs giving way three times and collapsing. Only then did I see what I was doing to my body,” she added.
“The smile on my face wasn’t genuine, my eyes were dead, I was broken. I was manipulated into thinking the only way up was to get the number on the scale down.
“But enough was enough, I wanted to live. I’m now halfway through my recovery journey and things are starting to look up. I don’t like to think I’m ‘gaining weight’, instead I’m regaining the weight that shouldn’t have been lost in the first place.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/sashrecoveryxx