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Nikki

Age at interview: 20
Brief Outline: Nikki has experienced bulimia, self-harm and depression since secondary school. Inpatient care, therapy and volunteering to use her experiences to help others have all helped her towards recovery and to letting herself enjoy life a bit more.
Background: Nikki is 20 and a third year university student. She is single and lives on her own. British Asian.

More about me...

Nikki describes herself always feeling like the “big one” of her siblings. She was a sporty child, particularly enjoying swimming and around the age of 13 she started dieting. Previously she had been eating “crazy amounts” but something clicked and she went the other way. Nikki started calorie counting, cutting down certain food groups and was generally eating very little. When maintaining the weight loss became harder, Nikki started making herself sick. A one-off incident soon became a habit; Nikki says purging “took a life of its own”.
 
Nikki says she felt awful but couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Her life revolved around eating and she felt no control over it. In her family and culture there was no language to talk about eating disorders or mental health problems. She was very worried about talking to the family GP in case it wouldn’t remain confidential. Nikki was having bad stomach pains, her period was messed up, she felt miserable and increasingly depressed. She was also self-harming as she felt more able to hide it from others. 
 
As self-harm took over and depression got worse, Nikki was hospitalised. Previous to the admission, Nikki’s disordered eating had subsided but in hospital restricting food and purging became a form of self-harm. Although Nikki had also bad experiences in hospital, particularly breaches of confidentiality, staying as an inpatient also changed her life. Through therapy she started gaining perspective into how to deal with difficult things in her life. It also made her realise that she wanted to live, and to live in a certain way that is not compatible with an eating disorder.
 
Nikki is passionate about speaking up for those who can’t. She wants to improve the experience of mental health care for other young people so that nobody will be mistreated. Nikki says she’s a person who can go either “the right way or the wrong way but nothing in between”. Through therapy and by putting her experiences to good use to help others Nikki feels she is on her way to the right direction. Nikki says that for her, the most important part of recovery is starting to enjoy things a bit more; most of all; “enjoy being you a bit more than before”.
 
 

Nikki felt like the “big one” in her family. She didn’t like her family using pet names referring...

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I was always a big girl; up until I was about kind of 7, 8 I was fine. In size wise I was normal. And then I was putting on the weight and every kind of healthy eating kind of effort that I put into it, I would always, you know I was a good swimmer, I had all my exercise and I was very active, but I kept the weight on. I was always out of my siblings I was always the big one. Out of my like extended family I was the big one. Pet names would be like “fatty,” if it translates from like, but it was a kind of term of endearment thing, but it did stick with me.
 
I think as well like the culture, it’s not like, if I said to my Mum or someone, you know, “Don’t call me this, this bothers me.” It’s like, “Well no we love you, and it’s done you know.” And it wasn’t, there wasn’t ever a view to kind of looking after that I guess. Just from the cultural side of it.
 
 

Being sectioned was a turning point for Nikki. She decided to accept help and put her trust in...

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I kind of didn’t want help not only did I think that I didn’t need it, or these people couldn’t help me. Or the help that they’re trying to give me doesn’t really apply to me, and it doesn’t work, and they don’t really know that yet. But I was convinced that I was gonna be dead so there was no big point in people even trying to help me, you might as well stop wasting your time. 
 
And kind of when I was like you know, I was sectioned? I was like, “No,” so I think from that point I just turned around and said, “Okay fine, if I’m gonna live I want to live in a certain way. I don’t want to live like this.” And alongside that came you know, you kind of break down your wall and you start trusting people and trusting that people can be the ones to help you. And letting them kind of lead the way and I think it all went from there really.
 
 

Nikki says inpatient care saved her life. She learnt a lot about life and about human suffering.

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In patient, it changed my life, I mean what can I say? You’ll never look at the world in the same way. But yeah I’ve learnt a lot, learnt a lot.
 
What do you mean by that?
 
You see a lot, you see a lot, I think, me and my friend were talking about it the other day. And you see the best in people and you see the worst in the people. And you’re kind of in this position where like you’re pulling like your best friend out of the way of like an on-coming car, or you’re kind of like pinning your other best friend, who’s like your sister against the wall and like taking something off her. But then you’ve got people that are doing, it’s family, you know, and I think you really learn about suffering, and human suffering of that sort and also about kind of, I learnt a lot about myself and the type of person I was, and the type of person I wanted to be. And I got a lot of role models through that, and it did, it was definitely it saved my life on a fundamental level; you know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
 
 

Nikki says its “healing” to be around people who have similar experiences.

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I mean I love to kind of, what I’ve learnt probably the best thing I’ve learnt from out of everything is never stop learning. You can never ever stop learning in anything you do in life. And every young person and I’ve met a lot of young people along the way, a lot, but I’ll never ever stop learning and everyone you meet has something to give. And it’s strange, it’s kind of weird because you realise that everyone you meet you have something to give to. And that’s what I find quite nice that in these interactions with people that have their own experiences that happen to be similar to yours, you kind of give a bit of yourself and take a bit of them and, in a nice way [chuckle], not in a horrible way. Yeah no I find that, it’s quite healing. It’s quite a healing process to be around people.

 

Nikki wants to speak up for everyone who feels they can't themselves.

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But I do just for the fact that there are people out there that are either in positions that I have been in, or worse, or better or whatever. But are just as stuck, and actually that’s not fair. And what I’ve witnessed a lot is that for whatever reason people don’t feel that they can speak up. And I feel lucky in the sense that I was, I think I was born like this, I was born gobby, and I have the ability to stand up. I don’t care who you are. If you’re wrong I will tell you and I don’t like the idea of people being mistreated and not being given the care they deserve, and not being given the right to speak up about it. That’s what I don’t like at all.

 

There is no language for eating disorders in Nikki's culture and she can’t talk about her...

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I was always out of my siblings I was always the big one. Out of my like extended family I was the big one. Pet names would be like “fatty,” if it translates from like, but it was a kind of term of endearment thing, but it did stick with me.
 
I think as well like the culture, it’s not like, if I said to my Mum or someone, you know, “Don’t call me this, this bothers me.” Its like, “Well no we love you, and it’s done you know.” And it wasn’t, there wasn’t ever a view to kind of looking after that I guess. Just from the cultural side of it.
 
Why do you think that is? That there wasn’t sort of like you said, you know, looking after it or kind of intervening like you said earlier?
 
The thing is right there’s no, I’ve honestly have come to realise you know there’s no, in kind of the language, there’s no translation for eating disorder. There’s no word for, you know, there, I think there is a kind of slang word for depression but there’s no word for anything to do with mood, mental state, someone having a mental health difficulty, anything like that. It doesn’t, if it’s not in the vocabulary it’s also not in the culture. 
 
If someone’s fat then they’re just fat and that’s about it and you get all these kind of Grandma’s saying like home remedies, like drink soda water and do yoga in the morning. And you know and you have to kind of smile and get on with it. But there’s not a view to it kind of, it, food is thought of as something that keeps you going in your life, not ever something that you would ever have a problem with. You know, it’s, and I guess it’s like that.
 
 

Nikki and her parents have been on a journey together. It’s been different for each of them.

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We’re all very strong personalities, but I think whether they accept it or not they know my life and what I’ve chosen to do with my life and, and they know that their choice is being there or not. And that they want to be there, well hopefully.
 
So would you say it’s a long process to have come to that point?
 
Oh absolutely. I’m not even, I don’t think its half way there or, to be honest, you know. But it’s I think, you do travel the road with your parents and it’s a different kind of, they have a different journey they may never ever understand what you’re going through, or they may understand kind of to different degrees, but they are your, like nature, like I mean if it’s not parents, it’s your friends and the closest people around you, and then they’re with you. And you have to acknowledge that they’ve been through something while you’re been through perhaps the worst thing, but they’ve also been through things with, alongside it.
 
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