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Ruby - Interview 15

Age at interview: 27
Brief Outline: Ruby is 27. She's experienced bulimia, depression and other mental health problems since she was about 12. For years, she also had a problem with alcohol. Ruby says the most important thing for her was to speak up until she was listened to, and taken seriously. (White British).
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Ruby is 27. Her problems started in school where she was badly bullied. Around the age of 12 Ruby developed bulimia which overtook her life for the next nine years. At worst, she was making herself sick 7 to 8 times a day; Ruby says bulimia was so all-consuming that it “became a fulltime job”. Ruby never told anyone about what was going on because she was too scared of being criticised or being seen as weak. At the same time she says she was desperate for “somebody to notice how much shit she was in”, and to rescue her. She wishes she’d realised then that all she needed to do is “open my mouth and say one word”.
 
Ruby’s bulimia stopped when she “discovered alcohol” and what she then felt was “a grown up” way of dealing with her problems. Ruby says she “stayed drunk for 5 years” in her early 20s until it all came to a head and Ruby attempted suicide. Being admitted to the hospital was the first time ever that she’d talked to a professional about her experiences. First, she wasn’t taken seriously because nobody believed that serious bulimia could’ve gone unnoticed for over a decade. Ruby says she just finally had the guts to blurt it all out. Later on, she attempted suicide again and was then admitted to a psychiatric unit again for 3 months. She was put on anti-depressive and anti-psychotic medication which, once she eventually found the right combination, has been a big help for her.
 
Ruby has written a book ‘Accidental Recklessness’ about her experiences. In the book she take a tongue in cheek approach to her experiences. Ruby says the book covers a lot of deep dark subjects but at the same time, she doesn’t want to take herself too seriously. She wants people to laugh together with her at all the “silly things she’s done”.
 
Ruby says she used be completely “socially inept”. She found it difficult to make friends as she didn’t have “a yardstick with which to measure what normal people are like”. She says she’s had to rebuild her life from scratch and now has made really close dear friends.
 
Now Ruby lives on her own. She does volunteering work for two different charities and she also writes. She says the most important thing for anyone with a mental health problem is to speak up, and to speak loud, until somebody listens to you.
 

As a child Ruby’s family spent long periods of time as part of a religious community. She wasn’t...

As a child Ruby’s family spent long periods of time as part of a religious community. She wasn’t...

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I remember believing hook, line and sinker everything they [adults in a religious community] told me. In that I was a terrible person and the only way that I could fix that was to do my work there. But and it sounds daft, I do remember having some good times, like after every prayer meeting there was an adventure playground in the woods next door, so like we’d go, you know, it sounds ridiculous but I didn’t know anything different at the time, and you got to go and play on the swings, and all those drop slides, and so as a kid you don’t really realise the extent of what’s going on, it’s all a bit make believe and funny like. But we weren’t allowed to watch TV, we weren’t allowed My Little Ponies ‘cos they weren’t created in God’s image of a horse, does God have any pink ponies. I don’t know. Well you can’t have that one. Loads of stuff like that, just like, by the time I emerged when I was like 14 I was completely baffled as to the world around me because I’d been brought up in this ridiculous environment where all the rules or normality did not apply. I mean now it’s just hilarious looking back it’s like, Mum and Dad obviously found it when they were very vulnerable, at a certain time and me and my sister got dragged into it.
 

“You could light a firework up my arse and I wouldn’t flinch”, is how Ruby describes her depression.

“You could light a firework up my arse and I wouldn’t flinch”, is how Ruby describes her depression.

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The thing is with that, it’s so hard to find words that haven’t been used so much that they have no meaning any more. So if I’d say, oh useless and hopeless, like yes that’s how I felt, but they’ve been used so much, they have no impact when you use them anymore.

 

A pain that’s either an absolute nothingness, where you could light a firework up my arse and I wouldn’t flinch, just absolutely dead to the world. I’ll go to the shop and it’s like I’m watching myself from above, or below you know. And it swings between that and absolute searing pain to the point where I’m curled on my bed and genuinely believing that anything, including dying, is better than this kind of thing, you know. I can’t think of, get me a thesaurus [laughs], but, utter despair, followed by utter emptiness.
 

Ruby used to feel everything was her fault and that she was “utterly purposeless”.

Ruby used to feel everything was her fault and that she was “utterly purposeless”.

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I just did not care. I genuinely did not believe that there was any reason for me not to be punished by something every second of the day. I felt like everything… internally and externally was indeed my fault, and I was a fuck up, and it was my fault I didn’t have any friends, and yeah, so it was like punish myself in any which way I could. That was the kind of the objective then as opposed to it serving the purpose of going to sleep, or staying slim or anything like that, it was just habitual, it was, there wasn’t, I genuinely believed that there wasn’t a place for me on earth. Sounds a bit dorkish, but, like I genuinely believed that I was utterly, utterly purposeless and that all I did was bring other people down or have negative effects on other people and stuff. And they always you know you go into therapy and they tell you, “Oh let’s look at the evidence.” And it was like, the evidence is there, I have no friends, I mean, you know? So all the time I believed it, I genuinely believed that I deserved to be punished. Something that I still struggle with now, but certainly not in the same level. But…
 

Ruby says addiction took years out of her adolescence and when she came through it she” didn’t...

Ruby says addiction took years out of her adolescence and when she came through it she” didn’t...

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I read somewhere, quite a few places actually, that when you come out of addiction you’re the same age mentally that you went in. So when I was 18, 19 I was still technically a 12-year-old, so that 6 year period in adolescence where you learn to interact socially, oh no, I’d have my face down a toilet, I didn’t have a clue. Like you know so I was still that 12-year-old who didn’t have a clue what was going on, when I was 18, 19 when I should’ve been having the time of my life and stuff, I was sort of 6 years behind because all my growing up had taken place in public toilets and sweet shops and stuff, you know and like lonely, lonely times in sweet shops and stuff you know, not the sort hanging out with friends or anything like that. So I did find it, incredibly, because you know ‘cos at the end of the day I was the equivalent of a 12-year-old trying to articulate a very adult problem.
 

Ruby says she could've lost more to depression if she had been older. She says although she 'lost...

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Ruby says she could've lost more to depression if she had been older. She says although she 'lost...

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I’m also glad, like I know this sounds ridiculous but like you see a lot of people who are like 40 or 50 years old, they’ve got families, homes, and then they get struck by mental illness. Not being funny, like okay I lost mind, but I didn’t lose anything, I didn’t lose my kids, I didn’t lose my house, I didn’t lose my mortgage, do you know what I mean? So in some way I kind of think if I’m gonna get ill better it was now, than when I’ve got kids or you know, do you know what I mean? It’s like if, I kind of just think that I was always gonna get it so I’m kind of glad that I got it when I did, you know? A bit like getting the chickenpox, the younger you are the less severe it is, isn’t like? I’m not saying that the illness was any less severe, but the consequences certainly weren’t as, as they would be for like a 40 or 50 year old. The consequences of that just aren’t there, you know, you lose stuff, you do lose a lot, I lost friends, like some respect from people and stuff like that, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed. Like, whereas sometimes when you’re a bit older there’s stuff that you can lose that you can’t fix.
 

Every hour of Ruby's life was planned around binging and purging.

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Every hour of Ruby's life was planned around binging and purging.

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It just got worse and worse and then it was just all, like, there wasn’t a day that went by when I wasn’t consumed by it completely like every hour was spent, “Oh it’s another hour and I’ll be able to binge, oh another half an hour I’ll be able to binge.” And it, there was no such thing as “Oh another hour and I’ll be able to meet up with my friends for coffee or something.” Oh no, it was totally took over my world. It became my world. And that was terrifying.”
 

Ruby describes the physical and psychological effects she experienced with bulimia.

Ruby describes the physical and psychological effects she experienced with bulimia.

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Physically, it’s hard to know because I was so used to feeling like shite all the time, that I could look back and go, “Oh I felt fine.” But mentally I had completely screwed myself up with everything, honestly, like I did have problems like kidney infections and like really bad throats, not like today, this is a bit like, I’ve actually got a cold today. But like horrendous throats, like marks all around my face from being sick, just like no gag reflex, absolutely disgusted at the thought of any food staying down. I thought I was grossly overweight, which was ridiculous, I wasn’t at all, I wasn’t even close to being overweight, but I looked at myself and I genuinely believed that I looked pregnant and stuff like that. And it wasn’t, it was from where I’d binged and purged, and your stomach swells because of it. And then I’d stand in front of the mirror and go, “Oh my God.” And it was like; I still didn’t cotton on the link you know?
 
And , so physically, I mean in hindsight, I don’t remember anything being really bad apart from when I abused laxatives and stuff, I once lost control of my bowels on a train, and had to sit in them for two hours while I came home, ‘cos I had nothing else to change into. so that wasn’t pretty. But, I got off quite light with side effects. But as it went on and on it was the psychological effects, paranoid, hypersensitive, terrified of speaking to anyone in case they thought I was stupid or making an idiot of myself you know like, it’d been five or six years and yet I was still that kid in the classroom who was trying to hide her nose and I just couldn’t operate on a social level at all. ‘Cos I didn’t know who I was, all I was bulimia and drinking, that’s all I was.
 
And just like so it’s the psychological stuff, I just remember being suicidal loads, and I remember when I first started self harming I was just like in the same way that the bulimia was like, “We’ll do this as a one-off.” And then within a year that was my new thing, get drunk, self harm, go bed, get drunk, self harm, but look at me, I’ve beaten bulimia. You know like, yeah again it just started with a, “Oh I haven’t tried that.” So that’s how it escalated.
 

For years, Ruby was desperate for “somebody to notice just how much in the shit I was”. In...

For years, Ruby was desperate for “somebody to notice just how much in the shit I was”. In...

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I had this ongoing thing of every time there was a holiday like a, a summer holiday, Easter holiday, something like that I’d be like, “Two weeks, how much weight can I lose in two weeks?” ‘Cos I was desperate for somebody to notice what was wrong. And I just thought oh if I could just get really skinny the teachers will notice and they’ll ask if I’m alright, and you know it’ll be a way of speaking without having to speak, do you know what I mean.
 
But, never worked. Like I never lost that much weight ‘cos I was binging so much anyway. Like, and ‘cos I was very sporty they just assumed that I was, ‘cos I was doing lots of sports so, but, yeah that was my theory, every, every holiday was like, “Well six weeks, I’m going to be like really tiny when I go back, so they’ll know something’s wrong.” ‘Cos I just couldn’t articulate it at all. ‘Cos most of the time I didn’t know what was wrong, like why am I feeling like this, why am I, why has all this gone wrong you know, like I had no idea how to even start a conversation. And now in hindsight I realise that all you have to do is just open your mouth, say one word, and the rest like will come.
 
I suppose you could call it attention seeking, but not in the negative way that it’s portrayed. I was desperate for somebody to notice just how much in the shit I was. That’s, that was my goal. Not so like I would be like, “Oh my God, look at you, oh yeah.” Not that kind of attention seeking, I was desperate for an adult figure in my life to almost, take me under their wing, rescue me in some way. And I thought if I could just get thin enough someone will notice and they’ll be all caring and stuff towards me.
 
But it’s like I was constantly doing this, and it’s like, turns out years later all I had to do was turn round and ask for help and I would’ve got it. But I was too ashamed, too shy; you know everything, just assumed that it was a dirty secret, you know like I was quite jealous of people who were anorexic because it seemed to me much cleaner and more becoming you know? Whereas Bulimia was this disgusting violent act, do you know? Like, so it was like I couldn’t, I just felt absolutely, yeah, I dreamt of being anorexic, but I was so badly with bulimia, it’s not like you can choose what illness you get.
 

Ruby’s parents knew she had a problem with eating and food but didn’t intervene.

Ruby’s parents knew she had a problem with eating and food but didn’t intervene.

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I came home once when I was about 16, I moved in with my Dad and there was a post-it note on the toilet seat saying, “You’ve blocked the fucking drains again.” And he’d gone off to live with his girlfriend ‘cos he couldn’t be bothered to get a plumber. My Mum once heard me being sick in the shower, and she was like, “Why do you keep doing that when you go in the bathroom?” And I’m like, “I swallowed some shampoo.” And she was like, “No you didn’t, you make yourself sick.” And I was just like really embarrassed, like a hot flush. That’s the only thing they ever said to me about it.
 
And they knew. They knew, they really knew. But didn’t do anything.
 
What did you think about that at the time? Do you remember?
 
Um, being glad that they didn’t know. But when you look in hindsight and you think actually they did, that doesn’t, well, that doesn’t make me angry it just makes me like, “Why?” Like, why, who wouldn’t worry about that in their own daughter, do you know what I mean? Like, to them they just thought it was this silly, I don’t know how they saw it actually, it’s never been raised, as an issue. Like, I’m not close to them anyway so but then it’s never been. Nothing’s ever been said about it, other than those two comments.
 

Ruby says it was “terrifying” to tell her teacher about the bulimia because her past experience...

Ruby says it was “terrifying” to tell her teacher about the bulimia because her past experience...

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Eventually like one night I plucked up the courage just to say to her, like when we were sat alone, I was just like, “What shall I do?” Like, “What, what do I do?” And she was just like saying, “Well we’ll get you into a counsellor and stuff like that,” and, it was just like; oh it took so much out, even though she already knew, just to sit there and go, “What do you think I should do?” And for her to know exactly what I was talking about. Oh it was terrifying, but honestly like…
 
I don’t know when like, ‘cos I’ve worked as a teacher and stuff, if a kid came up to me and said something like that, I’d be like exactly the same, like really, really caring, like, so I don’t get, I don’t understand why I was ever so terrified of authority and telling adult, but that was because I guess my only experience of adults were, “Oh what you’re doing, oh you’ve blocked the toilet again. Oh you’ve done it.” You know, so that was my yardstick of what normal adult reactions would be, to anything I said. So it took me years of not being silent to get that proved wrong and to fix that in my head that it wasn’t how adults normally react, you know like?
 

Ruby says it took “absolutely everything to go wrong” for her to seek professional help.

Ruby says it took “absolutely everything to go wrong” for her to seek professional help.

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It’s one of those things they always say people with eating disorders or addictions and stuff is because they were never good enough. They never felt they were good enough. I never felt like I was bad enough to warrant love and care, do you know, like so instead of see, I guess you’d call it approval seeking, but not in a positive way. It was like I wanted someone to take care of me and clearly when I was such and such a weight I wasn’t thin enough for people to worry. When I was banging my wrists that wasn’t bad enough for people to worry. I was never bad enough. I was always just, I was never ill enough you know, to warrant love and care and stuff, which sounds so totally ridiculous, but that was what it was. It was almost like “Oh God, well I’ve been doing this and no-one gives a shit, what can I do to make them realise,” you know, ‘cos I just couldn’t articulate it, I couldn’t speak. So yeah I definitely knew it was a problem, I remember thinking oh I’ll have like, I remember sort of guiltily looking at that page of my student handbook where it says counsellor for eating disorders and stuff like that, I was kind of going, “Hmm.” You know, like, not that, I knew I needed it, but it was just like “Oh I’d never have the guts to walk up those stairs and ask for an appointment,” or something, you know like, you know it was ridiculous. So it took, everything went absolutely wrong for me to actually get professional help.
 

The decision to start medication was easy for Ruby; “like someone handed you a sandwich when you...

The decision to start medication was easy for Ruby; “like someone handed you a sandwich when you...

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Do you remember what the decision was like initially to go on medication?
 
Very easy, very, very easy. It felt like finally something was being done to fix this, ‘cos a lot of people say, “Oh, going on medication, a lot of stigma and stuff.” I mean best thing I ever did. Like in a, I know it sounds ridiculous, it might not be the best thing I ever did you know, I’ve had more fun holidays, but like, it was very, very easy it wasn’t a decision, it was a relief. It was, it was like someone handed you a sandwich when you haven’t eaten in five days, you know like.
 
It’s that’s a bad comparison, but you know, first of all it made me believe that I was finally being taken seriously. That there was the acknowledgement of how bad I felt, the foundation of how bad I felt. And there was also the way of it signified that there could be change, whereas you know I’d never have thought I’d be free from bulimia, bulimia for, I just, I couldn’t imagine my life without it, whereas, and okay it’s taken a lot of work too, like sometimes still when I eat, I have to be careful not to get too full, stuff like that you know? But certainly not restrict what I eat or anything like that, but certainly be aware of the fact that I will feel uncomfortable and not good, but you know, so there’s been a lot of work like that, but yeah, the medication made all the difference. So I should have been given it ten years ago, that’s the only thing that annoys me about medication, is that, for a while there it felt like a bit, too little too late. But it’s, fortunately it’s proved not to be.
 

Ruby says in the past she felt like she was prescribed the medication by whichever drug company...

Ruby says in the past she felt like she was prescribed the medication by whichever drug company...

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Oh God, like I said before if, if they were giving out free post it notes that week you’d be on that meds. If they got a free clickety pen the next week that said Zyprexa on it they’d give you Zyprexa, like it was just rubbish, there was no, this is why like I’m so chuffed with my psychiatrist that I have now, is because he’s looking at my case individually as opposed, oh, young girl, oh she’ll take that. It’s like no, it’s like well that’s clearly not, you know, he said there’s some brilliant like other antipsychotics out there, but they’ll make you put on weight and stuff and that’ll be a return to the bulimia, and you know, so it’s like he’s looking at my case individually and you know, doing it properly for the first time in years, as, you know as opposed to just giving me what mix and match, whatever’s popular that week kind of thing.
 
So looking at the bigger picture?
 
Yeah.
 
 

Ruby takes an antidepressant, an anti-psychotic and a sleeping pill and says the medication helps...

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Ruby takes an antidepressant, an anti-psychotic and a sleeping pill and says the medication helps...

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Yeah, when I when I first went on medication I went to the, it was from the GP and it was very much ‘give her the lowest dose of the lowest thing’. I’d have been better off having a sugar lump. Like ‘cos he just wasn’t taking it seriously, and I mean now after like five years on medication I’m on a, not cocktail, a mixture that seems to be really working. In that there’s the anti-depressant which has also been hugely influential in stopping the bulimia and lifting my mood anti-psychotics which sort of slow me down when I’m a bit hyper, not in a just like a, let’s contain her kind of way, but lots of very terrible thoughts and stuff like that, helps to relax me. And a sleeping pill, and I’m you know, so, I’ll hopefully get off the sleeping pills, but at the moment if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, kind of thing. I don’t see that as a lifetime thing, but me being on the medication may be like you know, some people have to take heart tablets, some people want to take blood pressure tablets, I just have to take that to stay well.
 
 

Ruby says that for her heavy drinking was the “grown up” way to replace bulimia. In the end,...

Ruby says that for her heavy drinking was the “grown up” way to replace bulimia. In the end,...

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But then by then I was already drinking every night. That had started when I was about 18. ‘Cos I looked so young I could never get, I mean I could never get, a small village as well, they’d know how old you are like so there was no point. So by today’s standards 18, 19 it’s quite late to start drinking but yeah as soon as I discovered that instead of binging and making myself sick, two bottles of wine. And then I’d vomit anyway, ‘cos of the wine, ‘cos like my tolerance was really low then, well I know it’s a lot, but like compared to what it did get to, and I was just thinking genius, this is an adult thing, this is a grown up thing, grown ups drunk, drink, you know, children make themselves sick. I was like kind of almost pleased with myself that I’d found this adult mature way to deal with things, like, you know I felt quite grown up and sophisticated going in and buying my red wine and sitting in bed with my cigarette in one hand, and you know, like the Martian from space like, seriously, just 17 years old that was all like, but, and not so comical, but, yeah I just remember thinking well done you, you’ve beaten bulimia. I hadn’t, I’d just completely replaced it with something else, that was all.
 
How did that escalate then?
 
Well when it, it started off with, I was working in the pub till about 11 and then getting up to get the bus to college at about 6.30. And I couldn’t sleep; I’ve always, always had trouble sleeping. And whereas usually you know people get home, they have an evening to relax, chill out, go down, I didn’t I had to go to sleep then, otherwise I’d only get two hours sleep, yaddi yaddi yaddi, so I was just like, okay, neck a bottle of wine, oh pass out, lovely. It was, it was a way of getting to sleep really quickly. It was basically like it was my sleeping pills. Was just gobbling down like as much wine as possible so that I passed out. And then I was getting up and going to college and stuff ‘cos I couldn’t stand that time between of being silent, being still, ‘cos that’s when I’d usually be binging, or working or doing something. And I couldn’t bear to that, so I was like, oh get some wine. Cheap wine, I might add.
 
I like it in that Friends episode where Joey says, “Who says Wine used to taste, cost more than milk?” That’s pretty much how I was. But, yeah it became, it was my sleeping aid. Basically. And became absolutely habitual and took over.
 
How did it take over?
 
Like a lot of people say like with alcohol abuse, it’s sort of like, it’s like going down in a lift, and at each stop you have the choice of getting off, like after the first time you get drunk, after the second time you black out, after the third time… but I didn’t, I just went crashing straight from one to the bottom. I went from having a drink to binge drinking every night. There was no in between where it got a bit more regular or anything like that. It was just, it was like I’d found the secret cure.
 
I was like, “So this is what’s been missing.” You know like, ‘cos I was socially inept, I didn’t know how to go out for a drink with people, stuff like that you know? I didn’t even have any friends anyway but, like then suddenly I was like, I was doing what all the other guys were doing, I was drinking. So what that it was alone in bed at night. Like with my head phones on. It didn’t matter, I was doing something grown up about it, I wasn’t being sick, ‘cos that’s what young people do, you know, that’s what adolescents do, I’m grown up now.
 

Ruby found counselling “rehearsed” and “put on” and the counsellors “very patronising”.

Ruby found counselling “rehearsed” and “put on” and the counsellors “very patronising”.

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My experiences of counselling, and this is purely my experiences which are a dip in the ocean, I’ve not had a good experience, I’ve found counsellors very patronising. I’ve been told when I was suicidal that I should just concentrate on my university work, take my mind off it, why not have a bath, take up yoga, like you know. And I’m like, don’t patronise me, like almost again it’s like not being taken seriously is my main thing, but… but that’s just my experience, like a lot of people I know who’ve been for counselling or therapy, they’re all like, “Oh my Gold it’s totally worked,” so again, it might be like the medication, I’ve just not met, or been put in the right situation yet for it to work, you know. Which is my hope ‘cos I you know I’ll take anything to improve my situation and like you know, but , so that’s just my experience but then I’d say the same about medication if they hadn’t have found these, the good stuff that works for me. You know so maybe it’s just, but I just found it a bit patronising in that at 10 o’clock on a Thursday morning you had to switch on as to why your mother hates you. What? That’s all a bit scripted and rehearsed and I’m really not in the mood right now. What I need is at midnight when I’m shaking and crying, I need something now, not midday the next day when like you in and talk about why you were shaking and crying. Do you know what I mean like… I just found it a little bit, put on. But that’s just, that’s just pure, I would encourage anyone to give it a go.
 

When Ruby was drinking her social life was “pointless”. Her days were measured by “when and where...

When Ruby was drinking her social life was “pointless”. Her days were measured by “when and where...

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Social life was ultimately pointless given that I would be out drinking myself so, I couldn’t wait to get home so I could drink as fast as I usually did, so I didn’t even like drinking in social situations, you know, like I’d want to be alone at home on my own. Chronic, chronic depression, suicidal depression, every morning, every night “I won’t drink, I won’t drink, I won’t drink,” an hour later pissed out of my skull. It was, that was the purpose of my days, was get through the day so you can start drinking, like, as you’d found out, I’d earn you know three bottles of wine, you know ‘cos I went to a lecture, or I’d turned up at work, so I was working in a pub, and immediately it wouldn’t be like, “Oh 11 o’clock, brilliant I can go home,” it’d be “11 o’clock quick, okay I’ll have a half here,” and then go home and get drunk, you know, everything was tied around that, the same way that previously everything else had been tied around bulimia, everything now was measurable by when and where I was gonna get drunk basically, you know? I didn’t have any thought space left for the rest of the things that I should’ve been doing and enjoying at that age.
 

It took Ruby a few years to rebuild her life, “little by little”.

It took Ruby a few years to rebuild her life, “little by little”.

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I can’t, I honestly can’t remember like an exact date, ‘cos a lot of people say when they realise there’s problem there’s an exact day or something, but I can’t remember. It was more, you know I said at the beginning that it was like I got in the lift and it floated to the zero, well this way it sort of went slowly back up.
 
So I did things in reverse really, and it was like for a good two years before I managed it, I always, I’d been trying to go a night without alcohol and couldn’t do it. It took me a good two years to actually go to bed and wake up not drunk. And I got a taste of what that felt like and basically it’s been on and off ever since. Like one week I’ll be drunk every night, then I won’t drink for two weeks, and stuff like that. And I mean recently, this last year, is the first year, maybe the last two years is that all I’m doing is punishing myself, doing this is not gonna get people to help you, it’s not gonna get someone to rescue you, you’re just going to fuck yourself up and it’s like at the end of the day all you wanted was somebody to notice how ill you are, and by the time you’re that ill, no-one’s watching. You’re on your own. When you’re finally ill enough, you’re on your own. It’s all very well taking a bow but if there’s not an audience there to clap, what’s the point?
 
So you just kind of realise well actually you know what, and it took a while, it took a really good few tries to like stop, not so much to stop drinking, I still socially drink, but I started to build a life for myself. I realised that I’d been in this city for like five years and I could name two people that maybe I’d be able to phone to go out for coffee or something. And since then I’ve done like evening classes, got voluntary work and stuff, and I get, it was literally starting from scratch, and building a life for myself. Because the entire reason I was drinking and stuff was to block out the fact that I had no friends, that I, you know like? So it was, it was about building a life for myself, and that’s taken like a good four years at least.
 
But when you consider that it took me, it took me 12 years to get fucked up, 4 years to get better isn’t exactly a big time frame.
 
Little by little, I kind of put, dipped my toe in the water and thought I’ll try an evening class. And the first time I did I went to 2 out of 10 of them ‘cos I just couldn’t do it. The next evening class I did I went to 5 out of 10 of them, and gradually and gradually and gradually it became more normal to be doing these normal things that normal people do.
 

“The situation you’re in now, is not the situation that will go on.”

“The situation you’re in now, is not the situation that will go on.”

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And also to remember that the situation you’re in is not the situation that goes on, even if it means you’re scratching off the days on a wall somewhere till you get out of school or whatever, do it, because the world is so massive. Like I was saying about how I’ve met my best friends. Can you imagine if I’d have thought that school was my be-all and end-all, I’d never have met these amazing people, you know, move to a new city, done loads of new stuff, ‘cos when you’re in the thick of it, you believe that that is the be-all and end-all and that is, if I said anything to myself, it would be like, “No, no, no, no, no. This is what’s gonna happen' is you’re going to move away from these bastard people. You’re gonna meet brilliant new people, who see you for the lovely person you are, or I’ll pay them a fiver a week to be my friend.
 
Just to like speak up, and keep speaking until someone listens. The worst thing you can do with mental illness is stay silent.
 

As a result of the bullying, Ruby started to believe that she was “ugly” and had “a hideous...

As a result of the bullying, Ruby started to believe that she was “ugly” and had “a hideous...

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I did quite well in primary school, like socially and stuff, like, not Miss Popular, but just got on really well with stuff and then when I started at comprehensive school, after about six months I was bullied, what’s the word, Intermittently? Lots. And then, and they the main thing was that they said that I looked like a pig. And I’d have comments like, “How can I concentrate on the lesson when I’ve got an extra from Planet of the Apes sat next to me?” In art class they’d draw pigs and put my name on the top and stuff like that. So my rationale was that if I was thinner my nose would be thinner and they wouldn’t be able to take the piss. That was my rationale in losing weight in the first place, like, I used to walk around town or school or anywhere like that, I was terrified of being seen anywhere, so I always used to pretend I was scratching my eyebrows or something, to hide my nose, ‘cos I really, I genuinely was made to believe that I had this hideous deformity, like I would hit myself in the face with a hairbrush and stuff in the hope that I would break my nose and have it re-shapen, or something really ridiculous. I genuinely was led to believe that I was that ugly that even walking down the street people were staring at me and stuff. And it’s like utter crap like, but at the time I was, it was so incessant, that’s the word, incessant, I was, I totally believed it, hook line, hook line and sinker.
 
I remember when I went for my GCSE’s; I didn’t even go back to the school to pick up my results. I just waited for them to come through the post, that’s how much I hated it, I just, I was terrified of being seen.
 

It took Ruby a few years to get her life back on track. She says “a building can be detonated in...

It took Ruby a few years to get her life back on track. She says “a building can be detonated in...

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I did things in reverse really, and it was like for a good two years before I managed it, I always, I’d been trying to go a night without alcohol and couldn’t do it. It took me a good two years to actually go to bed and wake up not drunk. And I got a taste of what that felt like and basically it’s been on and off ever since. Like one week I’ll be drunk every night, then I won’t drink for two weeks, and stuff like that. And I mean recently, this last year, is the first year… maybe the last two years is that all I’m doing is punishing myself, doing this is not gonna get people to help you, it’s not gonna get someone to rescue you, you’re just going to fuck yourself up and it’s like at the end of the day all you wanted was somebody to notice how ill you are, and by the time you’re that ill, no-one’s watching. You’re on your own. When you’re finally ill enough, you’re on your own. It’s all very well taking a bow but if there’s not an audience there to clap, what’s the point?
 
So you just kind of realise well actually you know what, and it took a while, it took a really good few tries to like stop, not so much to stop drinking, I still socially drink, but I started to build a life for myself. I realised that I’d been in this city for like five years and I could name two people that maybe I’d be able to phone to go out for coffee or something. And since then I’ve done like evening classes, got voluntary work and stuff, and I get, it was literally starting from scratch, and building a life for myself. Because the entire reason I was drinking and stuff was to block out the fact that I had no friends, that I, you know like? So it was, it was about building a life for myself, and that’s taken like a good four years at least.
 
But when you consider that it took me, it took me 12 years to get fucked up, 4 years to get better isn’t exactly a big time frame, you know. Like you can’t smash a building down and then you know so it goes down in 30 seconds when you detonate, don’t it? But you can’t then rebuild it in exactly the same time that you’ve brought it down with, you know like it takes time work and but it’s worth it, ‘cos it’s like, I don’t have much but what I’ve got I absolutely adore.
 

As a result of bullying, Ruby started to believe that she was “ugly” and had “a hideous deformity...

As a result of bullying, Ruby started to believe that she was “ugly” and had “a hideous deformity...

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I did quite well in primary school, like socially and stuff, like, not Miss Popular, but just got on really well with stuff and then when I started at comprehensive school, after about six months I was bullied, what’s the word, internably? [Intermittently]. Lots. And then, and they the main thing was that they said that I looked like a pig. And I’d have comments like, “How can I concentrate on the lesson when I’ve got an extra from Planet of the Apes sat next to me?” In art class they’d draw pigs and put my name on the top and stuff like that. So my rationale was that if I was thinner my nose would be thinner and they wouldn’t be able to take the piss. That was my rationale in losing weight in the first place, like , I used to walk around town or school or anywhere like that, I was terrified of being seen anywhere, so I always used to pretend I was scratching my eyebrows or something, to hide my nose, ‘cos I really, I genuinely was made to believe that I had this hideous deformity, like I would hit myself in the face with a hairbrush and stuff in the hope that I would break my nose and have it re-shapen, or something really ridiculous. I genuinely was led to believe that I was that ugly that even walking down the street people were staring at me and stuff. And it’s like utter crap like, but at the time I was, it was so incessant, that’s the word, incessant, I was, I totally believed it, hook line, hook line and sinker.
 
I remember when I went for my GCSE’s; I didn’t even go back to the school to pick up my results. I just waited for them to come through the post, that’s how much I hated it, I just, I was terrified of being seen.
 

Ruby says you’ve “gotta hang on” and “keep shouting at people until somebody listens” because it...

Ruby says you’ve “gotta hang on” and “keep shouting at people until somebody listens” because it...

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My rationale with the suicidal feelings which I hope I never get again, but the likelihood is I will, that seemed like the perfectly reasonable rational way of sorting out the cure, ‘cos I was trying all these meds, I was doing all this, I was doing everything I was told to do, and it still wasn’t going. And I, you know they bandy the word “hopeless” around, I genuinely was hopeless. Like I could not see any way through, you know, and I couldn’t stand the idea that that would be my life. ‘Cos to me that wasn’t worth, a life worth living, but that’s why I was saying you’ve got to keep shouting at people until somebody listens, and somebody comes up with an idea, you know ‘cos otherwise you might die, and then the next day someone comes up with a brilliant idea that could’ve really saved you. You’ve got to just hang on, because it does get better.
 

Ruby has written an autobiographical book ‘Accidental Recklessness’. She says it covers “deep...

Ruby has written an autobiographical book ‘Accidental Recklessness’. She says it covers “deep...

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It’s [autobiography] called “Accidental Recklessness.” Because I like to think that I didn’t mean to do any of it [laughs]. And if my Mum asks it’s completely fictional. Yes it’s about how not to grow up, it’s certainly not an autobiography or memoir in the sense that I have any worldly wisdom to pass on, it’s more my experiences, a lot of it’s quite tongue in cheek, but then I think when you’ve been through something you’re allowed to take the piss out of yourself you know. It’s basically just the sequence of events, and looking at them like, certainly not laughing at, at the actual thing, but laughing at how I was. But you know but laughing with how I was, do you know what I mean so it’s not like a big, “Oh I was so stupid, ha ha ha.” No it’s more like just like, “Oh my God, you’re not going to believe what I did this,” you know like, “What was I thinking?” kind of thing. It’s much more silly, not so silly. I’ve got told it was kind of like Elizabeth Wordsworth meets Bill Bryson, lots of depression, but lots of slightly cynical remarks. So.
 
But like every, you know everyone’s kind of said, it’s about how it’s really funny and stuff like that, I mean it’s obviously like really deep dark subjects going on in there, but I certainly don’t take myself seriously, like some of the stuff that’s on the market at the moment, of the, “How did I ever survive?” It’s like, “What?” Like, ‘cos I know that in many, many ways I’m incredibly lucky, so, you know like, you can’t, I kind of wrote the book whilst remembering that in many, many ways I’m very lucky, so how seriously can you take this, you know?
 
And I’m not saying it shouldn’t be taken seriously, some of the stuff that’s in the book, but like, it’s with a knowing wry smile kind of thing I think, well actually I did okay, you know. It’s the survived to tell the tale, so you might as well tell a funny tale, you know. ‘Cos at the end of the day you’re still here then you’ve done something okay haven’t you?
 

“Go and buy loo roll” is Ruby’s advice.

“Go and buy loo roll” is Ruby’s advice.

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Getting out that’s the most important thing, is like just phoning a friend and saying, “Do you want to meet for coffee or whatever?” Instead of stewing in your own poop. Like, and it’s hard like but once you’re out, you realise that was the best like, just as recently as Sunday, like, I was lying on the sofa like, not Woe is me, but just like “Oh I’m uuuuh and,” caveman talk, like watching god knows what re-runs of Desperate Housewives, but then my friend phoned and I was just like, “Oh Rubes I’m in the Bay, do you want to go for a drink.” And I was like, “Alright.” And then, but I couldn’t be bothered, I was a bit more, put your clothes on, put your face on, like, but within five minutes I was like I was so glad we came out like, you know, so it takes effort and it takes guts but you’ve got to get out and, even if it’s just a walk around your local area or... I always I always used to say go buy a loo roll, you’ll always need a loo roll, so if that’s a purpose for your walk, go buy a loo roll. You know like just to get you out of the house for ten minutes or whatever, have a conversation with somebody else, that’s…
 
Yeah. Small steps.
 
Yeah, teeny steps but they steps nonetheless.
 

Ruby kept going back to her doctors 'trying to prove how bad I am to warrant' treatment. They...

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Ruby kept going back to her doctors 'trying to prove how bad I am to warrant' treatment. They...

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I’m going back and back and back to these doctors again, trying to prove how bad I am to warrant some better medication or some, ‘cos that was the way I’d been brought up to think about adults. Instead of talking to a doctor reasonably and explaining what was wrong, I was finding I was having to somehow prove that I was worthy of medication, or something like that you know? Like, not that I, like would dream when I was a kid wasn’t to grow up and be on meds, but once I did realise just how bad things were I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to be taken seriously.
 
What do you mean?
 
A lot of people, ‘cos by then I was 20, 21, and by then they were like, “Well you can’t have been bulimic since you were 12, someone would’ve noticed, someone would’ve said something.” They, they couldn’t believe, or if, or if they did they thought well it’s not as big a problem as she’s making out ‘cos otherwise something would’ve been done before this. You know? So it’s was like, I had, I found it a really hard time getting people to take me seriously.
 

Ruby wants people to get to know her, not her disease.

Ruby wants people to get to know her, not her disease.

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Recently I’m at this place where I’m finding that honesty is a really good idea. But like I’m very careful to, like I’m seeing someone or something, get to know them, let them get to know me and then reveal these things. So that they see me first and foremost and then you know like, ‘cos obviously I’ve got like scars on my arms and stuff like that. You know it’s like, don’t go in there with, “Hi I’m Ruby, I’m nuts. Do you wanna go out with me?” You know, like, it’s like, you know now I know that well actually I’m not that bad, I am a nice person, well sometimes, a nice person, like so, let them see that and then later on, how can I be expected to be seen as a person without these things, if immediately I introduce myself as a person with these things.
 
And I’m not saying that they’re insignificant, or in no way important in my life, what’s happened, or what may still happen or whatever, but it doesn’t define me anymore. It’s not like, “I’m, hi I’m Ruby, an alcoholic, bulimic, mental health service user. Who are you? What kind of music do you like?” You know, I’m like, “I’m Ruby, I’m really into rock music, really, ah cool yeah. What do you do? Oh I write. Brilliant.” And then like a few, a couple of weeks down the line it’s like, “Ah I’ve been meaning to tell you, I just wanted you to know so…” Do you know what I mean like? So that they know you, not your disease.
 

Ruby’s was life was “chaos” when she was meant to do her dissertation at university. She re-enrolled a year later and had great support and understanding from her teacher to finish her studies.

Ruby’s was life was “chaos” when she was meant to do her dissertation at university. She re-enrolled a year later and had great support and understanding from her teacher to finish her studies.

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I stopped going to lectures and stuff, just couldn’t manage it. Just drinking, by then it was like, “Right I won’t drink till six, I won’t drink till five, I won’t drink till four,” and it got to like 3 o’clock and I was opening the first bottle and stuff, but…
 
And then my second hospitalisation was for three months nearly and , I was supposed to be doing my dissertation and graduating that year, on the day that I was supposed to go to my graduation ceremony I signed on for disability living allowance, so didn’t get quite to wear the cap and gown and stuff, but a year later I went back and finished, but that was purely purely through the kindness of one of my teachers, who said, “Don’t even worry, you don’t have to come to lectures, just turn the work in, there’s no deadlines.” She was absolutely fantastic to me, and I ended up I got a first, so I was like really chuffed. But like it was because she’d given me so much leeway to do it. If it had to, if it had been re-enroll and go to lectures, no way I’d have managed it, no way, I was too all over the place, like, I was, my life was just completely chaos. There’s no other word for it, just absolute chaos, like, so I had to literally get stuff done as and when I had a few moments of sanity, you know like, before I got drunk.
 

“Speak up”. People won’t know what’s going on with you unless you tell them. “They’re not psychic”.

“Speak up”. People won’t know what’s going on with you unless you tell them. “They’re not psychic”.

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Speak up. I was going through hell at home, and my only way that I thought of anyone noticing would be to lose loads of weight, so I lost loads of weight, and still nobody asked questions. Why would they? They’re not psychic. You have to tell people and even if they, and like I said, you’ve got to remember, my main fear was telling an adult what was going on, was that I was gonna be so sub-standard and like , massively weak or whatever, and then now I’m older and I’ve had young people come to me and say I’ve got this problem, I can’t imagine why I was ever scared of in the first place of speaking up, because to me and I expect most adults, certainly that I’ve met, would be flattered, privileged and honoured that somebody had come to them with that, with whatever was going on.
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