I missed most of Year 8. I was just 12 when I was diagnosed with anorexia. It had all started with a social media post, a post that changed my life.
Nothing helped me. Until one day. It was a day I will always remember: 11 November 2014. It was yet another doctor’s appointment. This time, however, I weighed just 30kg. The doctor explained to me that if I lost any more weight I would be hospitalised. That was my turning point.
Because of my anorexia, I had to conserve as much energy as possible: I wasn’t able to walk anywhere, not even up and down the stairs at home. I lost so much confidence and self-esteem during my illness.
So when I was nominated to attend a workshop to learn public speaking, I was nervous: the thought of performing in front of a huge audience terrified me.
The topic was “my proudest achievement”. I decided to tell the story of my journey in overcoming anorexia. Although I had talked to my family and friends during my recovery, to discuss this on a greater scale filled me with fear.
I first gave my speech at a school assembly. It was a relief to be able to share my honest thoughts. It was wonderful to get up there and say: “After a gruelling 13 months of starvation, pain and suffering I am so proud to stand in front of all of you and say that I, Rosie Gospage, am a fully recovered anorexic.”
I received a standing ovation from my friends, peers and teachers. I was so touched; their comments overwhelmed me.
I then practised my speech every lunchtime and after school. I wanted to fine-tune my techniques such as vocal variety and gestures in readiness to represent my school at the regional final of Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge! There were some phenomenal speeches that night and I couldn’t believe my ears when I was announced as the winner and promptly burst into happy tears.
I was so proud to then go forward to represent Havering in the Grand Final as one of the top 15 public speakers in London and Essex and to share how I have overcome the challenge of beating an eating disorder.
Being announced as third in the whole competition was an absolute delight. I never thought that in the darkest of days I found myself in that I would be able to stand in front of an audience of 1,200 people and be so proud to deliver my speech with confidence, humour and passion. I want to share my feelings far and wide. I hope that if I am able to help even just one person, that’s one more person on the road to recovery.
My wonderful parents, whose strength, love and care have inspired me, were so proud of my achievement.
Since the grand final, I feel so much more confident – at school, playing hockey and going into my forthcoming work experience.
I would urge everyone to have a go at public speaking. Nerves are good and give you the adrenaline to stand in front of complete strangers and tell your story.
If I can do it, anyone can.
The “Speak Out” Challenge! is run by Speakers Trust and funded by the Jack Petchey Foundation. This year, over 19,000 Year 10 students at state secondary schools in London and Essex were trained through the programme. It is the largest youth speaking event in the world. www.speakoutchallenge.com
Rosie Gospage is a Year 10 student at The Coopers’ Company & Coborn School. She came third at this year's Speak Out! Challenge