Since the age of 14, Nico has experienced depression, which at times got very severe. He attempted suicide and was admitted to hospital for six months under the Mental Health Act. Nico describes his stay in the hospital as a scary experience and he was also on a lot of medication. He made a special bond with a girl staying in the unit and their mutual support made all the difference to him. He also says he had a brilliant psychotherapist who was “a life saver”.
After discharge, Nico felt isolated and insecure being outside of the hospital. Soon after, he met his current boyfriend. Gradually, he started feeling less good about himself and insecure about his body. Nico wanted to lose weight and went for days without food, only to put on weight at the end of it. He also started making himself sick which led to a daily cycle of bingeing and purging.
Over time, Nico has learnt to manage the urge to binge and purge and it now happens much less frequently. He says counselling, although more focused on dealing with depression, has helped him learn to think about food differently. Rather than having “an eating disorder”, Nico prefers to describe himself as having “problems with eating and his body”. Nico has various strategies to help distract himself, such as music, walking his dog and writing a daily diary. Particularly, he has found volunteering a constructive way of putting his experiences to good use. He volunteers with different national charities to help other people and also works as a part time play worker with children and young people with learning difficulties.
Nico says he is very “zen” at the moment; he has a lot of support from different people and he is feeling more and more confident to try out new things. He is currently seeing a CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) counsellor and will gradually transition into adult services. He says the most important thing for someone going through emotional difficulties is to feel continual support and love from people around them.
Nico’s problems began around the time he met his current boyfriend. He felt insecure and that he...
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The eating disorder started shortly after I had come out of the inpatients’ unit. I met my current boyfriend and I won’t say I felt insecure about, well yeah it was very, I was very insecure about myself because I’ve not been around kind of the general public if you like for quite a long time. So I had to wean myself back into it, like for example if I ever had a panic attack in the supermarket I’d have to know where to go, go to the toilet, go to the disabled toilet, chill out in there for five minutes. I’d have to have an action plan.
So when I met my current boyfriend it was like, I didn’t feel like I was perfect. I didn’t feel like, I was even good enough in the slightest, I felt like this person was way out of my league so why was this person paying any interest in me? Has this person got like ulterior motives? Has this person kind of going to try and hurt me or something? What’s wrong here? Something isn’t right.
And it was the fact that, for this person to like me I got into my head that I needed to change for this person to like me, even though that was never said. I just felt like I needed to change, why would this person like me? Is the person going to try and hurt me? And then I was like, “Right I’ll change. I can take control of myself. I can change. I can take control of myself by doing the one thing that I know how to, and the only thing that will make me happy.” I was thinking, “Well I can be happy and I can change at the same time. And I can do that by not eating and by not eating I’ll lose weight. And by losing weight I’ll be happy.” And I was like, “Right, this seems to be perfect. This seems to kind of, like it’ll work.” And then I didn’t tell my boyfriend at the time what I was doing. He just found out because, I don’t know how he found out. I think, I think I told him but I can’t remember how I told him.
Keeping a diary of his moods helped Nico notice patterns in his moods and eating and gave him the...
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What I would do also which kind of, it might sound a bit weird, but while I was in the inpatients’ unit, and the best I could ‘cos I was very drowsy a lot of the time, I would always go to Paperchase and buy me like just a little diary book that I could draw things in about how I was feeling. And then kind of that kind of, when I come out I was looking back at kind of how low I was, ‘cos I’d got the help and that was like, “Wow I really was that low.” And then every day I’d write in how I was feeling, just like a diary. Or what had happened that day. But also like how I was feeling mood wise. And then it would show like a pattern in my moods. But like generally kind of if it was low over a period of like a few weeks, or it was high then I would make sure that I would look back for say like, for the past two weeks every night to see if like it’s, if my mood was changing. And if my mood was like, had the slightest change I would start to kind of do a lot of things to kind of pick myself up more. And I think that was one of the main things that kind of gave me the self, like the self, power of the self, like will power if you like, to kind of be able to kind of move on from being so low, being kind of, having these eating problems. That was also one of the other things ‘cos I could trace back how a lot of people, when they’re a lot low, they don’t know they’re so low in the sense that kind of they’re feeling that low. But so you need to be able to look back at yourself which helps.
Nico describes the benefits of having many different coping mechanisms.
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It’s about finding resources to kind of deal with it like you mentioned yeah. And finding them resources kind of somehow masks the problem, in the sense that kind of you somehow wean your way off. And I’d say all the little things that I have done, whether it’s blogging, keeping a diary, trying new things, taking medication counselling, psychotherapy. Every single one of them has been like an umbrella, each part has added to the support that I’ve had and each part of that has helped me to develop a new strategy. So for example if I mix the psychotherapy with the diary, the psychotherapy, the diary will enable me to track how I’m doing for a week to week, to a day to day to a year to year like kind of sort of thing. And I can translate that into the psychotherapy which enables me to pinpoint things up, pinpoint things up.
So everything, you need to, you need to try as many things which as soon as you start trying new things your confidence will grow and you will feel more confident in doing things. And the one thing, and when your confidence does get knocked, which will happen, it’s about kind of remembering what you did before to pick yourself back up. Which when you’re in that low state you often can’t. So you’ve got to kind of, I’m going back to the diary, but you’ve got to kind of take it day by day again, because it’s like two steps forward one step back. You’re going to get there, but it’s going to be slow ‘cos as with everything when someone’s had a broken leg it takes time to repair and even when they get the cast taken off, it’s often still broken, repairing very slowly, and it’s often still a painful repair but it gets better. And as soon as it is repaired it’s always likely to kind of break again, because it’s already once been broken. But it can always be repaired.
More information about mental health services would have helped Nico when he was admitted to...
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The other things that kind of would have helped was knowing that there was support out there through CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services], like I had no idea what CAMHS was. When I was admitted to the inpatients’ unit the nurses wouldn’t even tell me what CAMHS was because they were scared of my reaction of the term ‘mental health’. Which to be honest I was scared of the term ‘mental health’ at the time. Now it doesn’t scare me at all and I’m sure that kind of there are people out there that are still scared of the term ‘mental health’ but then again kind of one in three GP appointments are regarding mental health. So walking down the street one in three people have probably got a mental health problem. I know it’s a statistic that says one in ten people, but to be honest yeah, it’s like if you’re watching this and you don’t see yourself as kind of having kind of any kind of issues, but you know, you think that you’ve got a friend or you know somebody, you just kind of need to take out that time to kind of show some emotion to them. ‘Cos in the sense of kind of physical health where it’s physical things that repair them, it’s emotional things that kind of often repair emotional health problems like people with eating disorders.