I question myself all the time wether I should be so open about my depression and bulimia. What are the pros and the cons? Strong arguments for both cases in my head…..
Mostly I worry people will think Im weird or think less of me. But thats what spurs me on. People shouldn’t think less of someone because they have mental health challenges.
But mostly Im doing it purely because thats who I am. I’m honest and wear my heart on my sleeve. And I believe we shouldn’t have to hide or pretend who we are.
Firstly I want to say that life is good. I’m happily married, have good friends, have travelled the world and work hard. I also own property, a successful business and a nice car.
I’ve competed in bikini competitions and last year won the miss world classic fashion title. 2016.
I like to think I’m a nice person also.
I’m humbled when people say I inspire them.
But that’s why I feel it’s so important that people know the truth. Don’t believe everything you see on social media. Nobody’s life is perfect. I’ve had to work bloody hard to get here and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for finally getting help for my depression. And I still have days, sometimes weeks where I struggle.
Now don’t get me wrong, life isn’t always doom and gloom, overall I’ve lived a pretty fun, colourful life… because I chose to live it as full as possible, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve met amazing people and experienced life changing things.
But I’ve had to drag and push myself along for years, when it could of been so much easier. It could of been better If only someone, anyone, had of told me to get help.
Although I’ve had lots of friends and people support, care and worry about me over the years, not once do I recall anyone ever telling me that maybe I had depression, or that I should see a doctor or get help. At times some people thought I was grumpy, miserable, perhaps even odd when I acted particularly anxious.
I think people probably just thought It was the people I was hanging around with or the lifestyle I was living that made me miserable. But I had depression before I was 10years old.
I spent my whole life at times suffering, feeling depressed, unhappy, questioning myself, others and life. I didn’t get help until I made the decision myself when I was about 26 to get help, when I reached rock bottom mentally.
On a positive note, im writing this to say ‘you can still live life to the full with a mental illness’. But just don’t suffer alone like I did. Its nothing to be ashamed off and theres so much different help out there.
Im very open when I tell people I suffer with depression. Sure, I’ll go through phases of amazing self control, healthy eating, weight training, proactive, happy…. But sometimes I just can’t get my self together. I struggle to get out of bed, get too self conscious to go to the gym, binge on junk food, which stimulates a declining cycle of self loathing, lack of energy and weight gain.
For me, anti-depression medication was a life saver. But talking openly about how I feel has been a key coping strategy. Normally my episodes of depression aren’t particularly triggered by anything, they just ‘happen’… but half the battle of getting through them is knowing that ‘its ok to not be perfect all the time’
But I also refuse to let the depression rule my life. Im at my happiest when I live life to the fullest I can, I get knocked down but I ride it out and I get back up. I try new things and methods of wellness all the time….
I am on a constant journey of learning ways to embrace myself ‘every day’, not just when im thin/toned or having ‘happy’ days.
I actually had already decided to raise the awareness of mental illness by creating MILA (mental illness lucid association)
I share others stories and give them a photo shoot, a chance for them to express themselves as I think it’s a key element to embracing themselves.
It was only fair I share my story too and needed someone to take photos of me…..so when Dan and Natalie from D&Nphotography put a post up saying they were looking for people for an ’emotion project’, I felt they were perfect! I’d seen their work on social media and liked their stuff. What I was going to ask them to photograph was intense but they were keen to be involved and we bounced some ideas of each other.
Im not going to lie, it was tough, letting strangers into my secret world…And even the thought that the public would see my ‘fat’ photos…but this is part of my own personal self acceptance too.
Danny and Natalie are fantastic They haven’t judged me, and have been so friendly, supportive and professional throughout.
Ive bottled out of making all the images public, as felt they were too personal and they’ve completely respected my privacy.
A BIT ABOUT MY PAST
Whilst this may all sound a bit gloomy, I’m leaning on the negatives, . I’d certainly never change events of my life, They made me who I am today. Despite my somewhat destructive lifestyle choices, I’ve always dreamed big, been career minded, pushed myself, worked hard, been a nice person and always strived to better myself. I’ve never had a penny of anyone and paid my own way through life.
Firstly, I love all my family. My mums a hardworking band 7 nurse with a degree. My dad owns his own engineering business (although has addictions of his own), my step mum is financial manager for Mercedes, my half sister, 10 years my junior, is studying architecture. My twin brother has a PHD and lives in South America now teaching and working with endangered animals…. so overall a pretty good standard family.
Originating from Long Marston, a small village in Hertfordshire. There were my parents, my older brother by two years, my twin brother and me. But divorce saw mum moving me and my brothers to Buckinghamshire when I was about 7 years old.
I spent every spare minute with the horses throughout my younger years, working weekends and evenings. I was always well behaved everywhere including school and extremely shy… and without realising it my family was falling apart around me.
I remember feeling sad a lot. Looking back, crying and feeling alone as a ten year old the signs of depression were already there. Even my twin brother used to hold his breath walking past bins because he worried if he got sick he wouldn’t be able to look after us… what the hell? What poor children live like this?
By 14 years old my twin brother was moved into his grammar school because our older brother was mentally and physically bullying him, causing his depression and OCD (including scrubbing his skin raw) to escalate, and social services to get involved.
Our older brother had moved out, involved with drugs, homeless, overdosing, also suffering from depression and severe mental issues with his temper. Attempts were made to get him sectioned. I didn’t see him for 17 years after this, we met up recently, he’s doing much better, doing meditation and karate to control his moods.
Then my mum moved out with her third husband.
So there I was, living by myself at 14/15, which never fazed me from what I can recall. I loved it, would sometimes have up to 20 friends round at a time… smoking fags and pot. But then I started skiving school, although some how I managed to scrape through my gcse’s. I can safely say that this was probably the beginning of my bad eating habits, living off mostly junk food and takeaways.
At 16 I was working with horses full time when mum sold the house and I had no where to live. So I had no option but to move in with a current boyfriend and his parents. I was stuck in this controlling relationship for 3 years. I remember always crying outside their house on the pavement before I went in because I was so unhappy.
I finally plucked up the courage to leave him and moved in with my friends mums on a caravan park. I began getting involved in particular bad crowds, drinking and dabbling in drugs, partying hard and eventually outstayed my welcome. So I moved in with my boss, but by this point I was really depressed and miserable, we fell out because I was so grumpy (we still talk now and I have the upmost respect for her)
So I lived in my car for a bit before my auntie took me in. I slept on a mattress on the floor and babysat her kids in the evenings as payment for staying there and I started a new job with horses. Again, I was constantly overwhelmed with sadness, feeling like I didn’t belong. Crying all the time.
There were various boyfriends/men on the scene and by now I had started experimenting with pills and cocaine. I was now 18/19 still felt depressed and an inconvienience so I managed to get a second job as a barmaid which meant I could afford my own place…. a bed sit, with shared communal bathroom, it was dingy but finally felt I had my own space.
Now I was more heavily into cocaine, my weight plummeted to 9 1/2 stone (I’m 5ft11) I was lucky my boss at the stables looked out for me, when I rolled into work having been up all night and doing my last line half hour before work. She had been married to a famous rock star and knew how to handle me, she tried to help me. I did cut it down, but mostly because I blew a £5000 loan all on cocaine. I also had a bad trip on acid which scared me into wanting to get off drugs.
Credit to myself, I’ve ALWAYS had a job and made sure my bills were paid-car, phone, rent… but
Not only was I still depressed I had acquired paranoia and anxiety.
I worked at a couple more showjumping yards, moving in to a cottage at one of them. But I still worked at the pub too, dabbling in cocaine and men.
Something had to give. I had to get away from it all. And I felt a constant urge to find myself. So I got a job for an Olympic show jumper in Canada, I worked a season for them and they invited me to work the winter season in Florida which I did.
Working abroad was the break I needed. And I felt very proud of myself, But actually I still felt more lost than ever.
So i came back to England And got a job in Essex for a show jumper where we competed all round Europe, it was the best package to date, company car, good wage and live in. I still struggled with real down days but overall happy and had some great life experiences.
Now 23 years old, I met an amazing guy (my now husband) We were struggling to see each other enough as he was posted up north and I was always abroad…..and the familiar pattern of me getting moody at work saw me quitting the stables to embark on a career in equestrian property.
When I got a job in property, I now had no where to live so our friend let me live in his flat. After 6 months I took on a very well paid job as a sales consultant for new build houses. Me and ‘hubby to be’ were able to get a mortgage together, my first home!
So why was I so scared? This was settling down. Id spent my whole life moving around. I always thought I was unhappy because I felt I didn’t belong anywhere ….I was currently so lucky to be in love with a great man that loved me, and buying a home together….but I still felt lost, and that’s when I really knew. I knew that the burden I carried for years wasn’t because I was unhappy with life, but because I had depression. But I continued ploughing on.
Then I got made redundant and took on 3 jobs to bridge the financial gap. Pub barmaid in the evenings, local showjumping stud at weekends but a sales consultant for an energy company during the day (it was the first half decent paid job I could find)
This was my rock bottom. How did I get to this? Door to door knocking, getting doors slammed in my face and told to get a proper job! I was meant to have a career with horses! I wanted to scream at people at least I was still working, that I didn’t enjoy doing this!!
It got to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car each day. I’d sit and cry because I felt life really wasn’t worth living anymore.
I felt worthless, couldn’t understand how my husband could possible love me, or that anyone really liked me. I was a mess. And for the first time ever I seeked help.
The doctors swiftly got me on some medication which over time was a life changer for me.
I quit the door knocking job and took up dog grooming. My confidence came back, my drive and ambition. And I’ve continued to grow over the years.
I’d never had a great diet. Living myself at 14/15 saw me spending most of my money on junk food-crisps, chocolate, garage sandwiches and takeaways.. Although I’d always stayed slim from working with the horses, and cycling and walking everywhere. People used to be amazed by the rubbish I could eat and still be slim… Maybe, almost making me want to eat more, it became something I was good at….subconsciously I saw this as a personal achievement, reinforcing bad eating behaviour?
By my mid twenties, I started putting on weight over the years, not working with horses anymore, and like most women, attempted several crazy diets. But my eating habits became too extreme, and eating rubbish became binge eating. And then one day I just thought, if I can’t control my binge eating, then I’m just going to learn how to throw it up.
So I researched it, ways to do it, the cons etc and I became good at it quick. I was very strict with it to start, and lost lots of weight quickly
If I’m honest, I feel like all I do is go from one addiction to another… From heavy smoker, drugs, binge eating, vaping…..and when I’m not being ‘bulimic’ I’m training strict for a bikini comp…. there’s definitely a pattern there. But out of all the ‘addictions’, bikini training is much healthier and makes me feel physically and mentally good, unlike the other ‘addictions’.
Im very open when I tell people I suffer with eating problems and bulimia relapses. I very rarely have a relapse now but it can be very hard to break the habit.
I think im lucky, I have a very supportive husband who swiftly gets me back on track. Back healthy eating and training… both of these things help my depression, stop the bulimia and just get me healthy phsically and mentally again.
Its always really surprised me by how ‘unbothered’ people are when I say have bulimia… I really don’t think people understand how serious it is…. not just the physical effects but the emotional and psychological torture it has.. not that I want sympathy… I always had a knack of making it sound like I was lucky, I could eat what I wanted and not get fat….but bulimics are overlooked compared to anorexics, you don’t necessarily become stick thin. I have lost lots of weight before, but I also gain weight.
Bulimia relapses rule my life. It’s not a case of just throwing up a bit of food, easy peasy.
Sometimes it was just throwing up some of the regular meals, the odd take away if I feel I’ve over indulged…. Sometimes it used to be all of my regular meals, enjoying seeing the weight plummeting on the scales.
But nowadays it’s worse.
It’s strategic planning of when and where im going to go and buy my binging food. Ensuring I don’t visit the same shops too often in case they judge me.
What im going to eat, in what order to make it physically easier.
Certain foods are easier to throw up with certain drinks.
I’ll then spend a whole evening binging and spewing continuously 3 or 4 times. Each time my stomach is so full it hurts, I can’t possibly eat any more so I’ll limp to the bathroom, puke it up and then repeat the binging. Puking, with snot pouring out my nose, puke running down my arm, and splattered over the toilet, floor and sink. I’ll binge and spew all evening until the point I’m shaking, feeling like I’m going to pass out, probably because my electrolytes are off balance. Ill keep going
I’ll get worried I’m going to have a heart attack.
I ended up with stage 2 kidney failure because I was so dehydrated before, from taking laxatives too. I thought I was dying when I collapsed in the bathroom one night, and my husband had to call the ambulance, where they rushed me to hospital and pumped me with three litres of IV fluid
I have never taking laxatives since.
I get bad acne, like boils on my face.
My face gets puffy and my throats glands swell up.
I lack mind clarity, I literally can’t think straight, I’m tired, stressed and obsessing.
I’ll go for days without showering and my breath smells despite brushing and flossing.
The acid in the vomit makes my veneer caps fall out and Ill have to go for days looking like a hillbilly until the dentist can put them back on again.
The inside of my teeth rot. I have numerous fillings .
I don’t want to go out because you just want to stay in and eat. Then i feel i cant go out because I’m fat and smell. I’m so tired.
I’ll cancel all plans with friends. I’ll tell people I’m busy… which is true… I’m busy bingeing and spewing and thinking about the jobs I should be doing. I can’t wait till I’m alone so I can binge on food. Ill get irritated and angry if someone or something like a phonecall interrupts my binging. I couldn’t tell you what that movie was about because I was too busy eating and purging.
I get these massive urges to go and binge and I can’t stop myself. Its like something comes over me. It might last a few days, or even a few weeks.. sometimes longer. But then Ill be fine again, and ill throw myself in to something else.. training, work… blogging….
Every time I get back on track, I’m genuinely convinced that I’ll never do it again… but thats why I call it relapses… because even though I’ve gone over a year not doing it, something will trigger it off again.
I know a few of my triggers that can set it off, but I could literally write an essay, if not a book on the psychology behind why I am the way I am and the rationalisation that goes on in my head.
It was essential to me that we did these photos while I was at my heaviest again and spotty!
I often post photos when I’m looking my best, on stage in bikini competitions… but I want other women out there to know that I don’t look like that all the time.
I don’t like giving a fake image. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking great and the life of the bikini shows… but know all to well how mentally tough it is looking at other people’s ‘perfect lives’ on social media…. I’m here to say ‘nobody’s life is perfect, please don’t feel bad looking at other people’s life’s on social media…. they have crap days too.
I can’t stress enough I have a great life, and I’ve worked extremely hard to have what I have, but it’s been a real battle at points with my depression and addictive personality (which ultimately appears it runs in the family).
Whilst I accept my depression I manage it as well as I can, moving forward my personal goals are too stop my addictions… I’ve recently quit vaping, and have come through another bulimia relapse.
But I am trying to make sure I don’t replace these with another another addiction (i.e. Another bikini comp)…
Although Bikini competitions, maybe just another addiction for me, do genuinely make me feel healthier and happier mentally and physically.
I’m enjoying trying all new methods of ‘being happy’…. hmm perhaps this is just a new addiction…..??…..
The question I ask myself though is….. If someones addiction is drinking or drugs, they are expected to cut it out completely… theres no ‘Ill have one drink a week like a normal person’ etc….
So as a bulimic, why do people expect me to be able to eat like a normal person? ‘Just have 1 cake’ they’ll say….But that triggers off a binge… It’s very hard for me to stop at 1. Its mental torture to politely share a bowl of crisps… once I start eating them, I will find it hard to pay attention to our conversation until they are gone.
A PERSONAL NOTE
If you think you may have depression, get help. Don’t suffer for years like I did. Take action, there’s so much help out there. From medication, to counselling to alternative therapies.
And just talk about it, about how your feeling, you’ll be surprised on the support you get. And those who don’t care aren’t worth having in your life, trust me, don’t ever worry about any negative feedback. (Easier said than done I know, as I write this I’m worrying what people will think)
Try and learn to understand what depression is and the neuroscience behind it. I had lots of ‘ah ha’ moments throughout the years of trying to accept the way I am.
To any bulimics out there, ask yourself why are you doing it? Because I can promise you that there are no positives in the long run….
I know it’s not easy to stop, but talking about it is the first step to getting help.
To anyone who knows someone who is bulimic, talk to them, get them support from professionals in this field. There is a lot more going on with them mentally than they let you know or that you can see.
Ultimately, strive to be healthy, mentally and physically.
With thanks again to Danny and Natalie from D&Nphotography for helping to spread the awareness of mental illness.