The 6th Form application

This has been such a tough week for L, but the weekend has gone relatively well. It is hard to see the restless hyperactivity that follows her medication. On Saturday we challenge each other to run up and down on the spot as fast as possible for 30 seconds, to try and shake out the jitters. After ten seconds, the floor vibrations knock over my vintage soup bowls, so we stop and giggle. K mocks our lack of stamina, so I challenge her and win.

On Sunday a friend of L’s comes over. I am really pleased, I like this friend very much and haven’t seen her for a while. It is like our normal life comes visiting. We head to town and I am glad to see L looking happy and cheerful. She told me before the trip she intended to buy something nice with all her saved up pocket money. But there is some foreboding too. I know she judges herself by this friend, constantly comparing herself unfavourably. She thinks her friend is thinner than her (not true at all) prettier than her (again, not true) and blonde and tanned. (Both true, but it is like a cat staring wistfully at a dog). L is like a modern day Snow White, wishing to be Barbie. After her friend has gone, and L has bought nothing, I ask her how she felt. It turns out the foreboding was genuine, she does feel inferior, nothing she tried on looked right. But this is because a blonde, tanned girl didn’t look back at her from the changing room mirror. How do I get her to love who she is, instead of longing to be someone else. We look at old photos from her childhood, it is true that as a little girl she had a round face and that lovely little girl squidginess. But she hasn’t been that girl for many years. Except in her head, those photos are etched on her brain.

Today she completes her 6th form application. This causes far more anxiety than any form should. It is no use me telling her that a girl as bright as her will have no problems getting in. The worst part is the Disability section. Should she include her eating disorder? My view is Yes; it is unlikely that she will be over this when she starts and the college should know. But how much information to include? We are minimalist, the “mental health difficulties” box is ticked and she records that she is receiving treatment as an inpatient for anorexia. Each section causes equal anxiety though, whether on spelling or filling out the right boxes. It feels as if a voice is screaming in her head that she is not good enough and will never be good enough. She writes her personal statement – and there is so much she can tell them. But she really struggles to sing her own praises. Where does this inbuilt self deprecation come from, especially in women? And more importantly, how do we get rid of it?

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