This is an interview I did with 2FM DJ Nikki Hayes for www.spunout.ie in which she talks about body image and dealing with anorexia as a teenager.
You are quite honest about having had an eating disorder in your teens – Do you still struggle with your body image?
I do, every day but I guess with maturity I am learning that I can’t change who I am. I fluctuate in weight anything from a size ten to fourteen depending on my mood, what’s happening in my life or time of year. I have PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which adds to the weight problems but I’m learning to embrace who I am. It depresses me though when I’m having a good time and strangers comment on me on my Bebo calling me fat or saying I look ugly. They don’t realise I’m a person who gets upset, has insecurities and can be hurt.
Can you tell me a bit about this time in your life?
I tried to lose weight because I was bullied by girls in my school. It started as a simple diet which I became obsessed with. I walked miles every day and ran up and down the stairs with ankle weights on. I became so bad I reached 6 stone and had to be hospitalised. It was a very hard time because friends didn’t really understand, the school wouldn’t help my mum and my father was in hospital battling bowel cancer. I ended up making an attempt on my own life which is when it all came to a head and I was put under the care of Dr. Mary Darby.
How difficult was this?
Funnily enough once I was hospitalised it became easier. There was support and there were others who were going through the exact same thing. I shared a room with my now best friend Thelma. We’ve been best friends since. We’ve been with each other at our worst and there’s nothing we don’t know about each other.
How did you manage to come through it?
Through counselling, psychotherapy, close association with a dietician and support from my family. My mother had me admitted to a private school that were aware of my condition and helped build back up my confidence.
What would you say to any young person who is struggling with their body image?
That there is support out there for you. Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and such celebrities are not normal or typical of most women’s weight and size. Try to concentrate and identify the good points about yourself and celebrate them.
Do you think there is enough support in Ireland for those who have an eating disorder?
Yes there is now. You have dedicated support groups like Bodywhys and there are numerous psychologists who specialise in eating disorders. When I was treated for anorexia it was in a psychiatric ward. Now they have eating disorder clinics. There’s much more support than you realise.
You have had a difficult few years with the death of your father. How have you managed to get through these difficult times?
Family and having the sense to get help. Counsellors are there to help and therapy actually does work.
What advice would you give to someone who is also having a tough time?
Accept that you can’t always deal with everything on your own and there comes a time where you have to put your hands up and admit defeat – get help! Whether it be talking to a teacher, youth officer, parent, older sibling or ringing a helpline; just realise there’s nothing wrong with not being able to cope. I’m 29 and this year I had to do the same and get help to work through my grief because I couldn’t deal with it myself. My dad was my best friend; I turned to him for everything, so when he was gone I was lost.
When you’re feeling crap how do you cheer yourself up?
My listeners cheer me up all the time. I’m honest with them, if I’m having a bad time I tell them and they text in the show or message me on Bebo and offer me support. It’s nice and I try to do the same for them when they turn to me. My dogs Fred and Sandy constantly cheer me up. Also I’m very lucky that the few close friends I have are an amazing support to me and never fail to make me smile.
Interview by Marie Duffy
Find supportive information:
Bodywhys is an organisation that provides information, support and advice to those with eating disorders and their families. Call their helpline on Lo Call 1890 200 444 or visit www.bodywhys.ie.