Rebecca - Interview 24
Age at interview: 18
Brief Outline: Rebecca, 18, is a full time student and is in recovery from anorexia. She is currently pregnant with her first baby and says pregnancy has improved her body image. Ethnic background: White British.
Background: See 'brief outline'.
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Rebecca, 18, developed anorexia when she was 13 following the birth of her sister. She says that although she was thin like a skeleton, she would see fat on herself and used to dress in baggy clothes to hide her shape and would look in the mirror and hate herself. In order to control her weight, Rebecca remembers she simply stopped eating and at one point, was living off Lucozade. Rebecca recalls that this had a lot of serious consequences for her health, she became anaemic, she would pass out, and her periods became irregular. She didn’t have the energy to join in with other kids. The stress of her illness affected her family so much that her parents almost divorced. Rebecca says the anorexia also affected her mental health, she says she lost her self-esteem and confidence and this lead her into depression. Six months into her anorexia, Rebecca says she realised it wasn’t the right thing to do, but by then she was caught in a cycle.
By way of treatment, Rebecca saw a counsellor every week for 2 years, saw a nutrionist, and was prescribed fluoxetine. She didn’t find the counselling helpful until she was given a long term counsellor, and then she says she felt able to talk about anything she wanted without having to worry about upsetting the counsellor. She says the fluoxetine worked at first, but gradually became in effective, so she was prescribed another antidepressant at a higher dose. Around this time, Rebecca’s boyfriend at the time took his own life and Rebecca spent 10 days as a voluntary patient in a mental health institution. When she reached 18, services were withdrawn.
Rebecca considers her current weight to be healthy for her height. She believes that being under- or overweight can have serious consequences for health and maintaining her weight is important because of the problems she’s had in the past. She also admits she’s worried about putting on weight, because she says her parents are overweight and this causes them to have a lot of health problems.
Rebecca is currently pregnant with her first baby (although she was told she would never children because of the anorexia) and admits she was worried at first about how she would cope and if she would develop postnatal depression. She feels the pregnancy has actually put her on a high. Rebecca says she happy with her body now, especially since she became pregnant, and feels more womanly and sexy. She says her body has changed a great deal – making her more curvy – and that’s made her feel good. She says it’s completely different from getting fat, although she is a little worried about losing the weight after she’s had the baby.
Rebecca has recovered from anorexia and her depression is improving. She says she wouldn’t be the person she is today if she hadn’t been through the anorexia, but her advice to other young people is not to do it.
Rebecca says that anorexia caused her periods to become irregular.
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And how was that affecting you, not eating?
Not eating? Obviously weight dropped off me. I got very, very poorly, really quickly actually. I developed anaemia, which is like low in iron. I used to pass out twenty four-seven, just down. Once I passed out in the middle of the shop. At the bus stop it stopped it was snowing, I passed out at the bus stop, at the bus stop in the snow. And it’s quite horrible really because I could feel that it was coming on. And I’d just like be like, “Ok, am I going to pass out?” and I would. It was really weird. But it also like I got diagnosed with depression as well. Because like I knew what I was doing but I didn’t want to change it. If that makes sense? And I couldn’t, I couldn’t see the cause. I couldn’t see why I was doing it, I just was. And then obviously looking back I can see, right the trigger was that.
But I couldn’t see that at the time. So I got a lot of mental health problems, from the anorexia. Also it affected my gynae-, like kind of gynaecologically, I developed really dodgy periods. I’d have a period, one like, I’d have a period about two weeks long and then I wouldn’t have one for six, for six months. So they put, the doctors put me on the pill and that. And that, and that didn’t really work.
So that was all down, obviously it was, the first trigger for that was the anorexia.
Rebeccas anorexia also led to anaemia and depression.
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I wouldn’t eat breakfast. I’d refuse point blank to eat breakfast. I’d take a pack up to school and I would put it in the bin, just wouldn’t eat it. Dinner, I used to kind of like hide the food under other food. If that makes sense you know. Get a slice of bread on side of your plate and so you hide all your bits that you don’t what under that. And I used to be able to like not physically make myself sick. But it’s kind of like, if I thought for long enough, “Oh I want to be sick”. I could be sick. It was like I was able to make myself sick just by thinking about it. I used to just like exercise loads. I used to walk everywhere. Jump around, just to kind of lose all the weight that wasn’t even there in the first place. But I, I thought it was.
At one stage I wanted to go on the kind of carrot stick diet. And I had a plan that I wanted to get down to five stone, that was my target, five stone was my target, I really wanted to be that. And the carrots lasted about a week, until my mum kind of said, “Look you have to eat more like, more than carrots.” I‘d eat about, I wouldn’t eat breakfast. I’d have about an apple and a biscuit for my lunch. And I’d barely have dinner, you know, I’d have the tiniest bit of dinner that you can amount. And kind of like I was surviving on like Lucozade. I got addicted to Lucozade just because it was like it would give me the energy to get through the day without kind of piling weight on me. And that’s really it really.
And how was that affecting you, not eating?
Not eating? Obviously weight dropped off me. I got very, very poorly really quickly actually. I developed anaemia, which is like low in iron. I used to pass out twenty four-seven, just down. Once I passed out in the middle of the shop. At the bus stop it stopped it was snowing, I passed out at the bus stop, at the bus stop in the snow. And it’s quite horrible really because I could feel that it was coming on. And I’d just like be like, “Ok, am I going to pass out?” and I would. It was really weird. But it also like I got diagnosed with depression as well. Because like I knew what I was doing but I didn’t want to change it - if that makes sense? And I couldn’t, I couldn’t see the cause. I couldn’t see why I was doing it, I just was. And then obviously looking back I can see, right the trigger was that.
Rebecca firmly believes that her depression started after she developed anorexia.
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And socially, I mean I didn’t have any friends. I couldn’t go out and do what kids do because I didn’t have the energy. Every, every bit of energy that I had, I was just like not really doing anything, just like thinking about ways I can get myself slimmer. Ways I could get myself better. I mean I did, I did get myself suicidal as well, because I didn’t want to be like that. But I didn’t know how, how else to be, it was the normal. And it was really bad really.
And so did the depression develop out of the anorexia or was, did you think you were feeling depressed before the anorexia started?
I think the depression probably developed out of the anorexia. I’ve always throughout my childhood I was a lovely little girl, bubbly and everything. And after I got anorexic, I was happy with it for a bit. And then six months down the line I was like, “Nah, this isn’t right.” But I still didn’t want to change it. And then it was just like a cycle that I just got myself into. And I just really, I just lost everything really. Lost my whole self-esteem, my confidence, everything, and sunk into depression really. And I think it was because of the anorexia. Some people say that the depression came first, but I mean I don’t know. I believe it was the anorexia first.
And did you have any treatment for the depression?
Yeah. I went to see a counsellor. I had to see a counsellor once a week. For about three years. I saw a counsellor once a week, every week, under like a Children’s Services. I also had to go on antidepressants. They tried me on fluoxetine at first which is like it tries to balance out the chemicals in your brain. And that worked for about a year. But then I kind of grew immune to it and it didn’t work anymore. So then they put me on like a proper antidepressant. And they put me on the highest dose of that, the highest adult dose for that. And that started to work.
If you have an eating disorder, get help; go see a doctor
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Don't get anorexic. It ruins your health. It ruins your family. It ruins everything. If you can avoid it, then do so. If you need to see a doctor, go and see a doctor. It’s so much better in the long run to just get the help. Because it will, it can kill you. It is a killer, and that goes for boys, girls, old or young. It doesn't matter, it can kill. And it’s a very serious thing. You’ve got, you've just got to, I’ve been through it, right, and luckily I've lived to tell the tale because there’s a lot of people who don't. But I mean it did destroy my family and we had to pick it up and put it back together. And it destroyed my health. And I've had to pick it up and put it back together. And it nearly lost my career. It nearly lost me my career. And if people don't want them three things then fine. But I know that I wouldn't choose it.