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Rebekah

Age at interview: 18
Age at diagnosis: 16
Brief Outline: Rebekah was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 16. She has also had bulimia nervosa and was in hospital for six months. Rebekah is a Beat Young Ambassador. She loves reading and writing and has her own blog.
Background: Rebekah is 18, a student and works part-time. She is single and living at home. White British.

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Rebekah is 18, and first remembers thinking she needed to lose weight when she was around 8. She remembers her Mum going on diets and talking about her weight. When she started secondary school, Rebekah used to throw away her packed lunches but pretend that she had eaten them. She found that restricting what she ate was something she was good at, at a time when other things in life were not going so well. Rebekah also went on to binging and purging, which made her feel very lethargic and she started missing school. She found pro-anorexia sites on the internet but realised that these were not helpful and stopped visiting them. When Rebekah left secondary school she withdrew from her friends and stayed in her bedroom a lot, and would ‘do anything to avoid food.’ She said she became secretive and had rituals that she followed with food. She felt very isolated and dropped out of her first year at college. 
 
When she was 16, Rebekah’s mum took her to the GP, but she says she was “in denial” about her eating at the time. The GP suggested she might have an eating disorder and she was admitted to hospital voluntarily. She found it difficult to start with, and compared herself to others. However, Rebekah says she found workshops on body image, self-esteem, creativity and relaxation very helpful. She also kept a diary and was prescribed anti-depressants, and began to feel more positive. Rebekah sometimes went home at weekends, and started to see her friends again and felt able to tell them what had happened. She feels that her six-month-stay in hospital was a turning point for her, and she started to ‘come alive again.’
 
Rebekah thinks that family support and early intervention are both very important in eating disorders. She is a member of a self-help group and finds this very helpful in keeping her from feeling isolated. Rebekah has relapsed since leaving hospital, and finds people talking about diets can be a trigger, but uses rationalization techniques to cope with this. She is a Beat (Beating Eating Disorders) young ambassador, and recommends the B-eat forums and helplines. Rebekah reminds everyone that people of all ages and backgrounds can experience eating disorders as they are much more complex than about being a certain weight. She also feels that she was given much more support for anorexia than for bulimia. She urges people not to lose hope, as she remembers a time when she could not imagine she would get better – and she has.
 

At 13, Rebekah tried different diets as she felt everyone around her was dieting. Soon she was...

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When I got to about 13 I kind of like discovered the internet, and then was all into the whole, dieting sort of phase. I was, my friends, everyone around me at school at that age, everyone wants to lose a bit of weight, everyone’s so interested in the media, interested in celebrities, they, they’re losing all that weight, they want to lose it, and I started all these fad diets, all these silly little things and I came a bit involved with some stuff on the internet, the whole pro-anorexia sort of thing, and that kind of just took me into the grips of my eating disorder.
 
I started binging and purging and just restricting my calorie intake, and it got to a point where I just, I couldn’t go into school because I was so lethargic, I was so, I was just so down, and I just kind of spent all my days pretty much on the internet, not focussing on my school work, and it was, it just became this whole big obsession.
 
 
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When she was in an environment which she found scary, Rebekah found it difficult to challenge the...

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It’s a scary time being away from home and especially when you know you’ve got these emotions, these issues, these problems in your head. You try and have like, you’re trying to overcome them, you’re trying to battle through the like, the voices like of the eating disorder every day and then it’s like, you’re placed into an environment and, you don’t know anyone and you’re forced to eat and, it is scary.

 

Rebekah goes to an 'outstanding' self-help group. She doesn't have much family support and says that without support people can become isolated.

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But at the moment I’m involved in a self-help group for eating disorders and it is, it’s fabulous, it’s excellent. The support that I get from them is just, it’s outstanding, and I find it, you know ‘cos I don’t get support at home, like my home life is pretty rubbish, and so getting the support off them daily, it’s just great because you know, you know where you are with them, and that it’s really like informal so, and they’ll tell you like if, you know, if I’m having a really rubbish day I can just say that I’m having a rubbish day and they’re there, send me a text, give me a call. And I’ve made really amazing good friends in the group, and they’re just great. And I think, and especially after you’ve come out from hospital, you, I think you always need that sort of like back up seeing the consultant, seeing like the help, the therapist etcetera, because you can’t just be set, just be gone back into the, step back, not step back, but step out into the world again without any help, because I think you can become quite isolated again and you know you need the support.

 

Rebekah said it was easy for a 13-year-old to get involved in Pro-Ana sites. What started as a...

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I kind of kind of caught up in all that whole sort of pro-anorexia circle, and it was only until, only when I guess, ‘cos you know the whole internet was a big thing and it was easily accessible and for a 13 year old girl it’s really you know, it’s so, when you’re on the internet and you come across it it’s like, “Oh okay.” And someone that’s already struggling with their, with their body and their weight and body image issues, it’s like, “Okay well I can do this, I can do that,” and so that became a real big issue for me. 
 
But I got out of that while I was fifteen, even though I still, ‘cos I kind of realised well, whoa that’s a problem, I can’t, this, you know it’s not right, it’s kind of, it’s disturbing. But my eating disorder was still going on and it was, I just wasn’t involved in it anymore and, now it’s just like, I can’t, just can’t even believe that I was actually ever involved in that sort of situation.
 
I did, I just had to leave because I think it became, you know, from what sort of started as sort of like a support system, kind of ended in like a competition between girls, and posting their weight, their calorie intake, so it was so extremely... and I thought, “Well I can’t hack this. I’m not here for, not here for competition, I’m not here to know what your weight is,” I wanted support. So...
 
Do you remember at the time, how did you feel about their comments or reading other people’s posts? Do you remember what you felt?
 
Well, Ashamed. I felt, ‘cos I remember, you know, I would post, say, “I’ve had X-amount of calories today” and they’d be like, “Well that’s a bit too high.” So I was like, really ashamed of myself. And then say other people’s posts were quite, you know they would post what they’d eaten or what they were planning to do, and then the girls like cheering them on, and it was all like, “Whoa,” I kind of found that really disturbing, ‘cos I felt well, you know people with eating disorders they’re kind of like a slow, you know, you slowly are killing yourself, and these girls or boys even, and they’re like cheering you on, they’re telling you to do it and it’s, it I couldn’t like, I didn’t understand that concept. So, and then I realised well, this isn’t right, this really isn’t a place where I want to be involved with. So I had to, I just thought, well I need to delete this account, I need to, I can’t have any more involvement with this because it’s negative, it’s affect, it’s not good for me and if I want to get better then I need to leave.”
 
 

When Rebekah was ill with anorexia nervosa there was much more help available than when she tried...

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But what I realised with bulimia was that, you know when I was ill with anorexia you know, they all sort of, like they, oh there was so much more help available, and when I was trying to get help for bulimia it just wasn’t any sort of availability, there wasn’t any services, there weren’t any resources, there wasn’t nothing, and so I found it really like angry and frustrated like. You know I’m, I may seem okay but really I’m struggling. 
 
And I just think there should be something for people that are suffering with bulimia, because it is kind of hard to break that cycle of the whole binging and purging, and I know if you’ve not got the support at home, and you’ve not got anyone you know sitting you down with meals and afterwards, it can be quite hard to not do it, so I think even if like some sort of outpatients sort of help, like you know go for your meals or, but I don’t, if there isn’t, well not where I live there isn’t, I’m not sure about the rest of the country.
 
 

Rebekah worked on her body-image in workshops and by building her self-confidence. Restoring a...

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Even now it’s hard, like look in the mirror because I find it really difficult but I’ve worked on that with like my whole body-image and workshops so I guess and I think, like that was in , when I was in hospital they do, they have like body-image workshops, creative and self-esteem and mindfulness. And I think it was really great, especially when you’re just, like your weight’s restoring and it’s getting to that healthy weight, and you’re feeling like really great about yourself.

 

As Rebekah started to get better, she told her friends about her bulimia. Everyone was really...

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I started to get like leave, so I was allowed home for weekends, and I was going out with my friends and I started like reconnecting with everybody and, I got back into the social sort of circle, and I broke it to like, I told my friends what had happened, where I’d been, and they were like extremely shocked and they were like, they were, they were just basically just a bit frustrated that I didn’t come to them. And I guess it’s because I just felt, well they’re not going to take me seriously. They’re gonna think I’m a bit of a head case because of like, you know, it’s a mental health condition and people, I just thought they would just see me as a bit crazy.
 
But they were really supportive when, you know, some of them came to see me whilst I was in hospital so that, and I think seeing like, when your family and your friends come to see you and support you it’s like, it’s really good because it just makes you just wanna just continue with getting better and just recovering. 
 
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