Eating disorders


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.

Audio & video

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”.


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