So anyone who knows me knows that gymnastics is my life. I trained as an elite gymnast as a child and am still obsessed with the sport as I was then. Ever since I was 7 years old I have been a huge fan. It is frustrating to me though as not many people follow gymnastics. I meet a lot of soccer, rugby and tennis fans but rarely gymnastics. Even on here, I struggle to find groups to join.
Gymnastics is in my blood for sure. It sounds strange to say it (very strange) but it is kind of like a religion to me, what it teaches and inspires me. I thought I would use this blog at times to comment on performances and gymnasts that inspire me. I am making this post public so everyone can read along. Firstly, i am going to suggest some videos you guys can watch if you want to see where I am coming from in my love for this sport. Will focus on the 2012 Olympics for now.
1. Epke Zonderland, high bar routine...Seriously. My mouth was hanging open watching this, what he can do defies belief. I have watched this on youtube about a million times.
2. Mckayla Maroney, Vault. What this girl does on the vault is unreal. I have watched this so many times and fail to see how she can get so much height. It is unreal and she is without doubt the best vaulter I have ever seen.
3. Aliya Mastafina. Floor....So, so beautiful. If you watch her performance you will see what I mean. She is such a beautiful and expressive gymnast. Most gymnastic fans say that she is their favourite and she is mine too. She isn't technically perfect but she brings real beauty to gymnastics. I love watching all her routines but that floor routine is just stunning.
Watched the 2014 European championships last weekend and one performance caught my eye. Claudia Frangapane a British gymnast who does the coolest floor performance ever, i love the streetdance choreography and think her tumbling is spectacular. I am in love with her floor routine, super cool.
I want to start this by saying I love you. Despite how you treat me a lot of the time.
I would do anything for you and that is why it hurts me that you treat me the way you do.
I miss what we used to share. Those early days when the kids were really young and we used to chat outside in the cafe area. I loved those chats. I still miss them today. I also still see you the same way as I did then. You probably won't like to hear it but I do see you as an auntie figure. You are around the same age as my own aunts and yet I feel more connected to you then I ever have them, despite how you can be with me. I remember the hugs and kisses you used to give me, I loved the way you mothered me and cared. I look back at that time and it only makes me sad. Because it could be so different now.. If you hadn't treated me the way you did, we would be closer then ever right now. But then I wonder if you ever really wanted that. You acted like you did on many occasions but then you also act the opposite way on just as many other occassions.
I have been hurt and let down so often by you and I have had to make the choice of backing away from you. You gave me no choice. Yet despite the let down feelings and hurt you have made me feel, I still care. I also wonder at times if there are other reasons why you behave so oddly towards me. Like do you have a psychiatric condition or are you scared? I am not stupid M.I know when your parents died it broke your heart. I also know your sister lives abroad so you don't see much of her. I guess it feels like everyone leaves you. Maybe you worry I will? But I have proven that I won't haven't I? Although I don't speak to you much or hug you like I did, I think we both know that I would be there at the drop of a hat if you needed me. I never left. You have done a good job of making me want to leave but I am still here, right? Then I wonder if you even like me at all. You pretend to like other people so why not me? The truth is, I don't know. I never have managed to work you out.
I just wish you would realise the effect your behaviour has on me. You break my heart when you act all indifferent and uncaring towards me whilst loving everyone else up but equally, it hurts when you are kind and caring to me. As it reminds me of old times and confuses me as to what you really do feel. When i love you as much as i do, it hurts me not knowing where i am. I have seen so much of the boys over the summer and loved every minute of it. Yet equally, i can never relax as i know that i can't trust in you in anyway or know what you are thinking and feeling.
I see a sad, damaged little girl inside of you at times and it makes me want to just hug you. It is such a shame you can't see how much I adore you. Because I do. As weak as it may make me, I worship the ground you walk on. Despite what you have done to me and how it makes me feel. What that says about me, I do not know. All I can do here is be honest with you. I just wish you would be honest with me back.
This will be the hardest chapter to write for me. As can be seen, I had already experienced the darker side of gymnastics, the strict training regime of stretching and endless practicing, the weight issues and the fear of Alison especially when she lashed out. Ok, it wasn't often but even one slap round the leg was unacceptable and enough to make me feel even more fearful of her.
When I was paired with Caroline, I wasn't happy about it. I just didn't want to be paired with her and had a bad feeling. She had worked with Nicole previously and Nicole hadn't said anything bad but there was just this feeling. Ovee time, I began to see I was right. Caroline would stretch me excessively, to the point where I literally got up, tried to stand and found I couldn't walk in a straight line as my legs had been stretched far too excessively. I was like a jelly and walking like a drunk person. This would happen everyday and I was actuall worried for my body. I knew this excessive stretching was not normal, I couldn't walk for a while afterwards, how could that be right? Yes, I had been stretched before of course but never to this level. This wasn't stretching, this was torturing someone. Yet again, Caroline like all the other older gymnasts who were allowed to stretch us, had no clue what she was doing. Anyone who actually bothered to take a look at what she was doing to me could see that. It was a regime that I began to dread everyday, yet I never cried. I rarely cried in the gym. Perhaps in the beginning I was but not as time went on. However painful the stretching was, I never cried except one time which I will describe later.
As well as that Caroline would blame every botched up move we did on me. I remember one time she kept sending me over to practice handstands by the wallbars. Even Alison stepped in at that point and said there was nothing wrong with my handstands. Caroline also had really sharp nails and when we were doing moves where she had to hold me up by the waist, I used to come home covered in nail marks all over my hips. It was really painful and sore.
Caroline wasn't like my other pairings, they were pretty much nice girls. Caroline was spiteful and she was friends with a girl called Antonia who was also spiteful. I remember they used to make some "jokes" at my expense at times and I always used to feel embarrassed about it. Both of them made me feel uneasy.
Myself and Caroline won a trophy at a competition together and technically I was the best at gymnastics that I had ever been. We were coming up with new skills all the time and our routines looked amazing. We did well at competitions and to the outside, we must have looked a fantastic pairing but then people didn't know what hell it was
to work with her.
The worst incident with her was the last day of one of the summer camps. My parents and grandparents had all come to watch as on the last day, we all did a big display. They were all waiting outside and Caroline was with somw guy who I didn't know. I hadn't warmed up properly at this stage and was just hanging around waiting for the show to start. Caroline then started stretching me but this time it was worse then ever before. She was really, really hurting me and I knew she was doing it for a laugh as she was laughing at my distress as was the guy. He was wincing and laughing and I was just crying. Something which I never did but this time I just couldn't stop myself. It wasn't just the pain even though that was bad enough, it was the humilation. Two people older then myself having a laugh at my expense, at my pain, of not being able to get away from them and knowing that even if I told someone, they would most likely have told me to suck it up and stop being weak. Caroline realised she had overstepped the mark and carried me off to the wallbars. This time to stretch my back but also to calm me down. I did calm down and managed to produce a flawless routine with Caroline. It was videoed and I look so happy and together in it. I guess that showed how strong I had become. What sickens me most is knowing my family were literally outside the door when Caroline and the guy did this to me. They must have seen but I can't remeember them saying anything and maybe my face was hidden anyway. I would like to think they would have stepped in if they had seen how distressed I was and how Caroline and the guy were acting. My now late grandmother had come to watch the show and I know she enjoyed it and was proud. I know she used to watch all my competition videos at home and cry as she was so proud. I know that she knew about the stretching as back during one of my early competitions, my dad had filmed me getting stretched and she saw. She seemed surprised but then what she saw was light stretching. I do find it kind of weird that my dad had filmed that though. I don't have kids but I know I couldn't physically watch them be stretched without lashing out at the person involved. That isn't just because of my experiences, I just know for a fact, I wouldn't be able to stand it. My point is, I am glad my nan didn't know what had happened just before the show, that is the only thing I can be thankful for. It is a memory that still haunts me, like I say, it wasn't just the physical pain, it was the way they made me feel like I was a nobody, someone who they could do the hell they wanted with as they knew they could. It is something that I wish I could get out of my head. Again, I have never told anyone this so it is liberating but hard to finally open up here.
I don't actually know what made me decide to want to give elite gymnastics up. Perhaps something bad happened or perhaps I was just sick of living the way I did. It is surprising that I can't remember what it was that made me say that I had had enough. Perhaps it was just the fact that I knew I didn't want this life anymore. It was all the little things I had grown to hate. The running around the field, the stretching, the excessive training, the weight issues and how it was all just taking over my life. I just wanted to be a regular kid. To be able to eat what I wanted, to have my weekends spare (I always envied my peers at school for that) and not have to worry over what was going to happen each gym session. I didn't want to be yelled at anymore by Alison or to get another slap around my leg from her as it wasn't straight. Like I say, it was all the little things.
I don't remember having discussions with my parents about it, that was all just a blank. I do remember the next training session though. My dad was with me and we sat in the changing rooms to discuss the situation with Alison. When Alison heard I wanted to leave, she demanded that I go back out to the gym and tell my current partner about my choice. I didn't and all I can remember is my dad sitting there not saying much. I needed him to defend me and to help stick up for me. The way they were both acting it was like it was a life and death situation. It wasn't at all. I was achild and I was sick of the regime and the life I had to lead. Instead I was made to feel guilty for feeling the way I did and wanting out. I think it was left that Alison would let me "have fun" for a few months. I got back home and cried my eyes out, yet even that wasn't enough to make me leave for good. I could have but I still don't know why I didn't take up that opportunity.
I was back in the gym as usual that week and yes, things were easier for a while and everyone was being nicer to me but it didn't last. Alison clearly felt resentful of the fact that I couldn't be pushed as hard as normal and she would make a few digs.
Nothing really changed and of course it all went back to normal when the period of fun was over. I think back to why I
didn't leave when I had the opportunity and can only think that it was because of the fact I still had a real love for gymnastics. I hated the regime but I loved the sport and didn't want to turn my back on it. Really, my life would have been better if I had stayed doing gymnastics just once a week on a Saturday. I wish someone had suggested that then, seen that this was the best thing for me. They didn't and so once again, I was trapped in the same cycle and nothing changed. My experience here wasn't uncommon. Many of my team-mates did similar. They would either walk out of the gym during training saying they had had enough or they would quit. Some would quit altogether but then there were those including myself who came back. It was like we couldn't live without gymnastics and that no matter how much it broke us down, we would have to come back.
I don't think anyone could see that I was at breaking point and that I needed saving from myself. This regime was so destructive and I guess reflecting on it now, I feel bitter. I wish my parents woukd have seen that I needed gymnastics in my life but not in this format. If they had then maybe I wouldn't have the bad memories that came after this event. Or I would have felt less resentful of the fact that I missed out somewhat in just being a normal, regular kid. Because sure enough, I was soon back into the punishing training regime and a few months on from this event, I was soon to met Caroline, my new partner.
Things were building up to become dangerously unhealthy when it came to food and weight. I would be weighed twice at the gym each session but was also constantly weighing myself at home. Outside of gym, I should have been out having fun with friends, instead my life became all about how I looked.
I remember one summer, my mum used to sit out in the garden. I took this opportunity to run up and down the stairs constantly and then weigh myself. I would do this repeatedly, over and over again. It was the same pattern each time.Mum went outside with a book or magazine and I would start the regime of running up and down the stairs, perhaps adding in sit ups and press ups. After that, I would go into my mums bedroom, find the weighing scales and weigh myself. Because I was so young, I honestly thout that you could lose weight in seconds. I figured that if I ran up and down the stairs enough times, I would lose weight instantly. I feel sad when I think back to that child. It's actually a dark memory for me and one I have never shared with anyone. My mum doesn't know what I did and how bad it all got. The only time I guess it became obvious to my parents was at Easter time. When I was young, my parents knew a lot of people so I got a lot of Easter eggs. Yet I felt I couldn't eat them. I remember having all the eggs lined up by my wardrobe and just staring at them. I don't remember telling my parents that I couldn't eat them but I must have done because as I say, that's when they got a glimpse of how bad things were. However, they didn't and still don't know about the punishing exercise regime I put myself through at home and the secret weighing. I think myparents were a bit concerned but they didn't sit me down and speak to me. Not that I remember anyway. I can't remember how long this regime went on but my days were literally school, gym and then the extra training and weighing I put myself through at home. Of course I saw friends and family but that was pretty much my life and a pattern that I had fallen into. It was destructive and yet in my mind, there was no option of stopping. I don't even think I would have been capable of doing so. I needed help. I didn't see it at the time of course but now I can see just what a state I was in. I look back now at old notebooks and I have lists written out of gym practices I had to do. Everytime friends came round, all I wanted to do was train and play gymnastics. It was taking over my life completely and it was a dark time. Looking back, I feel sad that I lived that alone. Yes, my parents knew the weight and food issues were getting out of hand, but they didn't know the extent of it. Nobody knows how consumed I got and it has only been here that I have really opened up on this.
I can't remember how long I was like this for but it got harder to continue when the summer months stopped. My mum was no longer out in the garden and so I couldn't keep up the stair running. I still continued with the exercise drills in my bedroom but I guess I wasn't given the opportunity to do more.
I grieve for that child in a way. She was alone and weight was consuming her life. She should have been allowed to have fun and be a child. Not to have this constant burden and obsession ruling her life.
I really wish someone had seen how dangerous it was all getting. I needed someone to step in but it never happened. This dark time was closely followed by another when I found out I was to be paired with a new partner called Caroline. I felt uneasy and worried about being paired with her from the start, and as it turned out, I had good reason to be.
I am guessing that from here, my story will become harder to write. I will have to relive some memories and dark places that I would rather forget but now is the time to bring it all to light.
After the competition with the trio, I was put with various pairings, none of which lasted long. Jo was put in another trio after our silver medal win and a girl called Anna was put with me and Alex to replace her. We only did one club competition at our own gym and we won gold. I liked both girls and wish I could have been allowed to stay with them. If anything I liked our new trio more then our old one. But once again, we all got swapped around and I got put with a girl called Fiona. She was lovely as well actually but we never did a competition together. I have no idea why Alison broke up all these partnerships so regularly. It was sad for me because as I say, I liked the girls.
The club held summer camps and I went to two of them. It was basically a week of training with theme park and swimming trips. I never hated them but I was homesick. I had never been away from home and a week is a long time for a 9 year old. The one thing I remember most vividly about the camps were the injuries. Kerry a team mate of mine,broke her arm and there was also another gymnast from another club (they were also allowed to attend the campb) who busted her leg. I remember the ambulance came and she was given laughing gas. We were all standing around and laughing nervously back not sure what else to do. That really shook me up as witnessing any injuries did.
I was very lucky that in my whole gymnastics career, I never broke a bone.
As my gymnastics career progressed, I was becoming more obsessed with food. I would stand there in the gym, sucking in my stomach as I thought it looked big. Weight was constantly being monitored and the issue of losing weit and not eating much was normalized to a great extent. There was a girl called Nicole who I trained with and she was about a year older then me. She was skin and bone, absolutely nothing of her. In fact she looked beyond ill. I remember we were all in the showers and she suggested to us all that we turn the water up so it got really hot. She said the steam would help us to lose weight. I also remember Alison telling her to not eat much of the dinner we were
provided with that night. I remember Nicole sitting down with us and we all had the same meal of fries, beans and I think it was sausages. Nicole kept turning her head towards the door and whenever she thought Alison was nearby, she would start spooning the food onto our team-mates plate. It was just crazy.
I remember after camp, I told my mother all of this and she wasn't horrified at all. I know I am not a mother myself but I think that would have made me cry hearing that. Knowing that a child was too afraid to eat a meal and that their own child was witness to that would deeply upset me. I also would start to worry about the messages my own child was getting in relation to food. Because that's what was happening. I was already too absorbed with diets, food and weighing myself. Things were only set to get a lot worse and looking back, it really wasn't a surprise. I was in an environment where being thin was everything and where you were scolded for putting on even a bit of weight. I had team-mates, not much older then myself refusing to eat proper meals and always wanting to lose weight off their already skeletal bodies. Things started to get a lot darker around this time. The impact of what I was experiencing everyday would now show itself in a very destructive way.
At this point, I had only competed in two competitions and they were for artistic gymnastics. This competition with the trio was the real thing and I really hoped that we would do well. Our routine was set to Spanish music. It was Jo's old routine that she had with her partner so she was able to teach us it. I loved it, the dance, the music, our skills, everything. Weirdly enough, I can still remember that routine almost foot perfect. Shows how much I must have practiced it, it is literally ingrained in my brain.
Before the competition, I remember Jo sitting me down and reminding me of any improvements that I needed to make before the competition. At 9 years old, I weighed about 24 KG. I remember Jo saying to me that it would be good if I could get down to 23 KG.
The competition day loomed and I remember being picked up by Jo's father and her family. I remember them asking if I was excited.
When we got to the venue, it was hair and make-up time. I remember that awful gel we had to use in our hair, it as horrible.
We had to wait a while for our turn and I remember Jo being quite protective and huggy with me. Perhaps she knew I was feeling nervous. She kept sitting me on her lap and was being really kind. There is a picture of us like that and she looks like my big sister, it is quite uncanny.
I remember being mortified when my father walked in with a huge bag of sweets, chocolate and crisps for me. I knew they were forbidden and my face just dropped.
"Don't let Alison see them." Jo warned. As if I was going to do anything as stupid as that!
It was soon our turn and we all walked up in our blue and yellow leotards. They sound vile now but at the time, I think we all thought we looked amazing.
I don't remember feeling that nervous. I enjoyed it and we performed everything well. The only move that didn't go so great was the last one. It was the one where Jo and Alex would stand opposite each other and form a kind of cradle net with their arms. I would then run up, jump into the cradle and then have to spin and turn back to the front. My legs weren't straight on that move which is where points must have been taken off. When we finished, I was so relieved I cried. Our score came up and Jo was happy with it. We ended up coming second that day and received a silver medal. It felt good to have some reward for the work that we were putting in.
After that competition however, we didn't stay together as a trio that much longer. Alison was always changing the pairings around, almost to an excessive level. The last memory I have together of us as a group was at the club Christmas gym display. It was Christmas Eve and I was very excited and couldn't stop smiling. As part of the display, other sports acrobats were brought over from other clubs. I remember in one group display, Alison got my trio and another one to perform the same synchronized move. It was basically a platform to start so Alex would stand at rhe bottom, Jo would stand on her thighs and then I would climb up onto Jo's shoulders and perform a balance up on her hands. The other trio did the same and it must have looked impressive. I felt great that day and I do remember it as one of the happier days, if not the happiest day in my gymnastics career. I remember Alex and Jo bought me Christmas presents and I received a cuddly monkey and banana shower gel attached to it which I thought was the coolest thing ever. Sadly, after that we no longer worked together as a trio again and it was all time for change.
So there I was, about to start my time as an elite sports acrobatic gymnast. I have so many early memories of this time, it was such a shock to the system. We were pushed so hard right from the start. At the beginning, I had pulled muscles in my back due to the excessive strain on my body. I was told right away that I was not blessed with flexibility. Some of the other gymnasts were extremely flexible and yet it was something I struggled with. However, I was still picking up skills quickly.
At the start of every session, we had to run round the field next to the gym, we would then have to come back into the gym, stand in height order and then get weighed. Myself and Katie were the oldest of the group at 8 years old. The other girls ranged from 5-7 years. It seems unbelievable to me now and wrong on so many levels that our weight was scrutinized as much as it was. It chills me now to think of it especially as the youngest girl was five years old. That isn't much younger then some of the kids I look after in my creche.
Our weight used to get recorded in a black book. Some of us got shouted at if we had put on weight. I don't remember this happening to me but I am sure it did at some point. I always used to feel really nervous about stepping on the scales as I think we all did. Once the weighing was done, it was onto warm-ups. This was when I was introduced to the notion of stretching. For all of you who don't know, it is when someone applies force to a position that another person is in. For example, we used to have to sit in the splits and one of the coaches would come along and either sit on the back of our leg or push it down. It was during one of those earlier warm up stretching sessions that resulted in
Katie leaving. She cried when she got stretched in the splits and Alison looked at her disa about pprovingly and said she would have to get used to it as there was no gain without pain. Katie left that night and so it was just me.
When Katie left, I ended up forming friendships with some of the other girls and we would go round each others houses. By now, I was completely obsessed with gymnastics and also starting to get obsessed with weight. Even when not at the gym, I would be practicing at home in my bedroom. I remember we had family friends round once and I spent the whole time on my gym mat outside practicing stretches and tumbles. When at other gymnasts houses, I never wanted to play schools or any of the games that little girls play, all I wanted to do was practice, practice, practice. I took dedication to another level and more then anything, I really wanted to please my coach, Alison. I was frightened of her, I think we all were. She must have been in her thirties at the time and had a baby daughter of her own. She had cold brown eyes which I can still remember to this day. She herself had been a professional sports acrobat as part of a womans pair and she was determined to create champions at whatever cost. I remember one warm up stretching sesion very well. We were all attempting a move where you lie down and then sort of flip your legs over so they are in front of your head, touching the floor. Almost like a forward crab. Due to me being the least flexible, Alison probably knew there was no hope of me achieving the move, let alone stretching me whilst in it. I remember sitting back and watching Alison go over to Kerry one of my team-mates. Kerry was very friendly and chatty and used to get on Alison's nerves as she was always chatting. Anyway, she pushed Kerry into the position and then I watched in horror as Kerry's eyes rolled back and she passed out. She came to very quickly and in typical Kerry fashion, laughed it off but it was very frightening to watch and even Alison seemed panicky. I remember straight away, we then had to rehearse for a show we were going to be doing. I was very shaken up.
Alison was so strict with us and she used to get an assistant coach to help out called Carol. Carol was a mum of two and I liked her a lot more then Alison and was always relieved when she took our group. One time, both coaches were working together with us and we had to attempt five handstands into crab positions to stand. I fell on one of them. At the end, we were asked how many we had attempted. One of my team-mates said two. Alison went crazy and startedshouting at how bad it was. Yet despite being terrified of the outburst, I lied when it came to my turn and said
I had completed them all. Carol looked confused and I could see in her face that she knew I was lying but Alison was full of praise. I still don't know why I lied that day. Saying I had completed four of the skills would have been fine but in my mind, nothing less then perfect was good enough.
As well as all of this, we were also being paired up with older team-mates to form sports acrobatic teams. In sports acro, you either have a mens four, womens pair, womens trio or mixed pair. Up until this point, I was still unaware of the sport and what it entailed. My first pairing was with a 13 year old girl called Jo. On the first day, I managed to headbutt her attempting a move, not the greatest of starts! We got along ok though and in a way she was and would become a role model and big sister type figure. She herself had competed in womens pairs as a top professionally and did very well so I was in good company. We didn't work long together as a pair though as Alison was concerned that I was getting on a bit. At the grand old age of nine, she was panicking about my age. With this in mind, she decided to put myself and Jo with a girl called Alex to form a trio. Alex was only a bit older then me at 11 years old and I remember her as being quite calm and sweet. I remember one memory of her quite vividly. It was warm up stretching time and she was stretching me. She could have taken advantage of that like some of the other gymnasts would have done but she didn't. Looking back now, it seems unbelievable (and very poor practice) that gymnasts were allowed to stretch us younger ones. They had no idea about muscle and the way ligaments and tendons are formed for example. They had no idea of the damage they could cause and it was also, a perfect example of some gymnasts using this as power which I found out later on. Anyway, Alex asked if she was hurting me and I said she was so she just stopped. I appreciated that because as I say, she could have taken advantage of the power she had. Rarely was my body treated with any respect or kindness so that stands out in my mind.
Myself, Jo and Alex were now rehearsing heavily for our first competition and the pressure was on, Alison expected perfection and we worked flat out to achieve that.
Chapter 2_Entering the squad
Chapter 3_ The trio and our first competition
Chapter 4- Camp and Food
Chapter 5_ Weight issues
Chapter 6_ I want to leave
Chapter 7_ Caroline
Chapter 8_ Time to go
Chapter 9_ A new group
Chapter 10_ Weight issues part 2.
Chapter 11_A mental block and the end.
Introduction- I don't know where the inspiration came from to start writing about my gymnastics career. All I know is that I want my story to be heard. I am hoping it will be a theraputic and liberating experience. I have demons that date back to this time in my life and now is the time to speak out about it. Being a professional gymnast is tough, both physically and mentally. My story will detail just that. I hope you enjoy reading it.
I can't remember the exact moment I got into gymnastics but I knew as soon as I saw the sport on television that I loved it and wanted to do it myself. My idol was Shannon Miller a US gymnast and still in my opinion, one of the best gymnasts the world has ever seen.
I remember one morning, I was watching gym on the telly and I asked my father if you had to be in a squad to get to the world championships! I was only 7 at the time but I laugh at how naieve I was!
My parents soon enrolled me in a gym club and my friend Katie came along with me. I remember our first leotard was blue. We started off just doing Saturday mornings. I don't remember the name of my first coach but I do remember Mike who we had later on as a coach. I had just turned 8 when I started gymnastics and that was considered late. Most gymnasts start out a lot earlier. However, I was picking up skills easily and I always remember the vault and attempting front handsprings over it. Mike was really encouraging and I felt so pleased to be doing what I loved.
It must have been a few months in when the event that would change my life happened. It was a normal Saturday and my group were all on the vault. A woman called Alison who ran the elite sports acrobatic team came up to Mike. She ran the team alongside her husband Bob. They spoke for a while and it was then that myself and Katie found we had been selected for the squad that Alison ran. It was as quick and simple as that. I don't know if we got chosen on ability or simply because we were two of the younger members of the group but that's what happened. Despite wanting to be as good as Shannon Miller, I cried when I got home as I didn't want to do it. I was happy in Mike's group and liked doing artistic gymnastics. I wasn't sure about switching to sports acrobatics and as I say, I didn't want to do it. I think my mother must have persuaded me as suddenly I found myself standing in a line of other newbies in the sports acro camp, all standing in a line. Instead of just doing Saturday mornings, we would have to attend every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon as well as Saturday mornings. Little did I know what it was going to be like. From that day on, my childhood changed forever.
I will never forgive you for not being there for me and of making me believe I am a failure. Of not supporting me when I have felt totally alone and of making me feel like I have to be the responsible and mothering one when it is YOUR role. I have never felt good enough for you and I have accepted I never will. You know that I think I am a failure to you. You have not said to me that this isn't the case, how do you think this makes me feel? Well I can tell you. It makes me feel like I am a nothing, a nobody, a piece of dirt, a worthless piece of s**t. Are you satisfied now? Is that how you want me to feel? Do you think that by making me feel this way, it will shame me into being more acceptable and more like Lewis and Sadie our childhood friends?
I know I must be an embarrasment to you. I mean, I am almost 27 and what have I got to show for it? I am single, still live at home, no friends left, no social life and am in a job which pays very little and is low status. But you are my MOTHER. My belief was that mothers were meant to love their children no matter what. I thought a mother loved their child regardless of their status in life and what they had achieved. That isn't the case with you and I have been brought up to believe in that case that no-one could possibly love me unconditionally. Do you know how that makes me feel? It is a very isolating and frightening feeling.
You make me feel defective and very unhappy. I feel you are patronizing and hurtful towards me as well as insensitive. You claim constantly that you don't know why I have low self esteem but I think you do. I am pretty sure that deep down you DO realise why.
I feel like it is too little too late now. You have caused me so much hurt and unhappiness that I actively choose to distance myself from you. I hope you feel happy with yourself, knowing that I can't even stand to be in the same room as you because we can't have a conversation without you belittling me or making me feel like s**t. I dont understand why you would want your own flesh and blood to feel like that.
I have realised that I will never meet your high expectations. Yes, everyone my age seems to be married, thinking about kids, in great careers, have their own places and friends and yes, I dont know anyone my age who doesn't have all, if not nearly all of those things. But what can I do? It unsettles me deeply that I feel I have to meet conditions in order for you to accept me and that it will only be when I marry or have children that you will see me in a different light. But I ask you this. Do you think I would want you around then when I am on an up and when I have achieved? I say that because, you haven't been there for me at my downtimes and when I haven't been so successful so why should you share the positive and happy times? You are meant to be my mother yet you dont act like one. Mothers in my daycare treat me with more love and care then you do as well as more respect. I dont even bother telling you what they say about me as you will only think they are disillusioned.
My main problem is I have grown up thinking that the only way I can be successful and truly loved is if I have all the following:
A fantastic job
A home of my own
Friends and a good social life.
I cant accept that people will NOT find me strange and defective and that is because of the way you have made me feel. I have felt this way (if I am honest) since I was about 19 years old. You make me feel older then my years and like I am past it, never to achieve but destined to always be a failure and defective. I constantly crave a mother figure who I will have the relationship with that I have never had with you. Someone who will hug me, speak to me with care, kindness and respect, take me out for girlie shopping trips, for lunch and actually enjoy doing so, to praise me and to feel lucky that I am their daughter. It brings me to tears that I will never have that.
You have brought me so much pain.
I hope you are sleeping peacefully. I still can't believe you are gone. The death of someone (even those you don't know well at all) affects people as a whole. It makes you question your own life and mortality, where abouts you are in your life and your relationships with people. It makes you question god, the afterlife and it just makes you think and I mean, REALLY think. You are confronted with something that you wouldn't otherwise really give much thought to and that is frightening.
What really got me was that I remember my inter-actions with you so clearly. We only really spoke in the last two weeks leading up to your death didn't we? You came up to hoover the creche area and then I would see you around work and you asked me if another colleague was in the back office but what I remember most clearly of all is the day before you died. It is so weird and surreal of me to think of this. Because we were both doing what any of us would normally be doing on a Friday. I had just finished for the morning and was going on my break and you were sitting outside. It was just me and you, I walked past and you turned and smiled. That stays with me as it is so surreal that you were there and I were there on Friday going about our lives like everyday people and then it all changed. And change it did. It made me see how quickly life can turn, how fragile it is, how you have no idea what is round the corner. That is frightening.
When I heard you had died, I couldn't even put a face to the name. How mad is that? I saw you around all the time but somehow you just didn't come to mind. It was only that night when I was lying in bed that I suddenly realised it might be you. I texted Charlotte the next day and she confirmed it for me. At the time I was in the loo in a shopping centre on a break from work. I remember slapping my hand over my mouth and tears filling up my eyes. God bless you darling. Only twenty years old and so much to live for. I have thought of your family ever since you passed. I can't get over how one moment, you were there on a Friday lunchtime and three days later, I was putting money into a donation box for your funeral flowers
I didn't know you as such but your death has provoked many intense thoughts and feelings in me. I didn't go to your funeral as I didn't feel it was appropriate seeing as I didn't know you all that well but please know you were in my thoughts and heart. I saw the horses and carriage outside the church and my throat choked up with tears. It sounds like you had an amazing send off...
I hope that wherever you are now, you are at peace.
Please accept me for who I am, accept that there are times when I will need to repeat myself constantly to make sense of a situation, that I will display negative emotions such as hurt, fear and anger in this blog and that it might not always make for pleasant reading. That I will sometimes say something that you want to shake me for and that I may not always be rational with what I write. Please give me that right and don't berate me for it.
This blog and site is my lifeline. I don't mind admitting that I feel incredibly lonely and isolated. EP gives me strength, knowing I have this blog to write in helps me to feel better whenever things are hard. Yet at times, I feel I am judged or berated for what I say here. I am not perfect I never claimed to be, As I touched on earlier in this letter, please give me the right to get my thoughts out in a safe environment. The only environment I feel I can "speak" openly in. Most of the time I set this blog to friends, this means that only the people in my circle can read what I write. I try and make sure I trust everyone in my circle as really, I am sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings here and they aren't for everyones eyes.
Please don't kick me when I am already down. Believe me, I know my failings more then anyone. I do not need them pointed out to me. I welcome suggestions but I don't welcome criticizm. You might say that at times they are one and the same but I believe that you can word things in such a way which will not hurt someone.
I would like to be able to keep writing here but at times am not sure I can. I hope I can depend on my circle to feel more confident with what I post. I am also saying that if anyone doesn't like what I write, feels frustrated and angry when they read it then please unfriend me. I will not take it personally. I am not looking for people who will constantly agree with what I say but I also need people who are understanding and who will think before they "speak". I have been hurt by some reactions to my blog and it has hindered me and makes me feel like I can't share my feelings and thoughts anywhere. I know I don't need to ask permission to post on my blog as I can always switch it to private but I want to share it with my circle. But please know, nobody is oblidged to do anything for me. All I am looking for is kindness and support. I hope I can re-find that here.
Previous PostsGymnastics..., posted December 2nd, 2013, 5 comments
Letter to M....., posted August 19th, 2013
Memoirs of a gymnast......Caroline.......Chapter 7., posted February 10th, 2013, 3 comments
Memoirs of a gymnast.....I want to leave......Chapter 6., posted February 9th, 2013
Memoirs of a gymnast.....Weight issues.....Chapter 5., posted February 8th, 2013, 4 comments
Memoirs of a gymnast......Camp and food....Chapter 4., posted February 7th, 2013, 4 comments
Memoirs of a gymnast.....The trio and our first competition...Chapter 3., posted February 6th, 2013, 2 comments
Memoirs of a gymnast.....Entering the squad. Chapter Two., posted February 5th, 2013, 4 comments
Memoirs of a gymnast....Introduction and chapter 1., posted February 4th, 2013, 6 comments
A letter to my mother......, posted July 22nd, 2012, 2 comments
A lettter to Kirsty......, posted July 22nd, 2012
Tuesday, 20th March 2012....An open letter to my circle...., posted March 20th, 2012, 9 comments
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