WHERE IT BEGINS
My story begins back when I was probably 10/years old. I went through kind of adolescent problems with my mental health. I was a competition dancer I danced my whole life I lived breathed and ate dance. Funnily enough I said ate.
One of my problems when I was younger was body image and fitting in with all the other girls that were in my dance school. I just didn't feel that I looked the right part to be a dancer. When I was 10/11, I started puberty quite early, my body was changing before my eyes and I didn't like what was happening so I wanted to control that. The only way I could think to control it was by restricting my eating. So when I was 15 my mum realised I had lost so much weight so quickly she herself had struggled with an eating disorder when she was 18 years old and throughout her 20's I think. She knew what the signs were to look for, she quite quickly recognised my patterns. I had a conversation with my mum and I completely broke down I had felt completely alone and was worried what people would think of me . She referred me to the Child Adolescence mental health service. At the time I didn't want anyones help I wanted to be as thin as I could I thought that was perfection. the thing is with an eating disorder you set yourself goals, but when you reach them goals, they aren't good enough so that monster is banging on at you that you are not good enough that you are too fat. I was 16 years old and wearing age 12 to 13 clothes. CAMHS worked with me for a while but in the end I was put into the general hospital a few times because my heart had stopped working the way that it should. I was put in there as an emergency. They said if you don't eat you're going to be sent to another unit where there's lot of other girls and you're going to be there for a long time. I was in such a dark place. it ended up with me being admitted to an emergency eating disorder unit when in Birmingham when I was 16. I spent 5 months there. it was hell but I had to do it. they said if I didn't go in a s a voluntary patient then they would have to section me as i was a harm to myself. That really hit home. My mum and dad tried their best at home but it wasn't fair what I was doing. I accepted the help in the end. That unit honestly saved my life. It was the hardest time of my life but it was exactly what I needed. I understand that the NHS is understaffed but I think if the services got involved with people at an early stage it could prevent those other young girls and boys going through those awful experiences.
WHAT IS BODY DYSMORPHIA?
I received a lot of treatment. What I had was body dysmorphia. For anyone who doesn't know what Body Dysmorphia is it's quite hard to explain but its that you don't see your body the same as everyone else sees your body so you over analyse. I saw myself as huge and I look back at pictures of myself back then and I wasn't huge I was absolutely tiny. It's really hard to someone on the outside world to understand that. I still struggle with it, I don't think it ever goes away you just have to learn to live with it and keep plodding on. Some days you wake up and you feel loads better.
It can be hereditary, it can be your predisposition to developing something like that in your later life.
I was quite OCD about everything. I was critical in some ways it was great as it enabled me to become a very good dancer and I don't want to sound bigheaded by that. I worked really hard but I still had that critical voice in my head saying 'you don't look like you should dance' and I thought if I was a little bit thinner i'd be able to dance. That's how it started. I got pulled out of school, I had a couple of friends who stood by me but what the illness did was made me isolate myself. I lost a lot of friends.
One of the idols I had at that age was Demi Lovato. She was such an advocate for speaking out. She had Bulimia herself in her teens. She got me through so much. I remember her mum getting me her book each day it's got a quote, she brought out a documentary of when she had her eating disorder. She went back to that unit in America and sang for all the boys and girls that were in there. She was one of my saving graces and I thought if she can speak about it and get through it then I can.
Bulimia is another eating disorder. I ended up actually having something which is called eating disorder not a voice
It took me a couple of years to recover from when I was poorly.
Moving on I said before that I was a dancer and I have been my whole life, I live and breathe and sleep it I love it. When I was 21 I got offered a job in Cyprus after going to stage school and I'd always been this party girl because that was my persona. I'd always thought everyone will like me if I was a party girl. I got this job and I thought, this is absolutely great, it was the dream life. I was sitting on the beach all day, going on jet ski's and then at night time we would do the shows. It was one of the best summers of my life. Then there's the nightlife and again I was quite easily peer pressured into doing some things that weren't good for my mind. Things like drugs and drinking. Looking back now I'm glad that I did it because I learned my lesson. But I wish I had someone there at the time. I went out in the January and by July it had all caught up with me. I went into something called unspecified pyschosis. I thought everyone was against me. I had the most amazing manager he really had my back and I will be forever grateful for that as he could see that I wasn't well. I opened up him about my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder I got diagnosed when I was 19. In January I had stopped taking my medication and it spiralled out of control. It ended up with me being sent home from Cyprus. I would be up all night pacing up and down my Villa and thinking there was cockroaches and beetles inside my skin. My manager went home with me on the plane, he was going home and was on the same plane as me. This is the first time I'd had a pyschotic episode. I had this ideology that there was a blue side of me and a red side of me. The blue side was that I was this young innocent girl, there was an angel on my shoulder and on the right side there was like a devil. To me it still doesn't make any sense so to you it's probably, its absolutely mad. I thought I was being set up by the people on the plane. I thought I was in Disney land. This plane journey feels like a massive dream to me now. All I remember is standing up on the plane and shouting 'get me the fuck out of here I don't want to be in Disney land anymore'. Honestly I don't know how I wasn't arrested. One of the stewardess's asked me what's going on and I said I'd been sent home from Cyprus i've got Bipolar I'm not taking my meds.
So I was sent home from Cyprus. 4 weeks later after going to A & E and presenting myself with these symptoms, they said 'OK, you've had a review go back on your meds and your mum can look after you at home'. God bless my mum she tried her hardest. I wanted to go back to Cyprus so I was going to go back to Cyprus. I was back on my medication I was doing really well. Most of the people were really supportive. I was so thankful for that opportunity.
When I was on stage my body dysmorphia hit even more. Again I started restricting my eating.
I stayed in the UK the year after and we had a touring band which was amazing had one of the best summers of my life, but then the band broke up for some reason or another. When we broke up it sounds dramatic but my whole world came crumbling down. I had no job I felt like I should have stayed in Cyprus. I felt like I didn't have a life anymore so I tried to step out in front of a road and tried to get myself run over. I remember I was smoking a cigarette and I can't remember who it was that found me it. Somebody found me and as they found me I put it out on my arm because the pain I was feeling it felt so deep, I just felt like why am I feeling like this, this isn't what a normal person would feel like. I felt so numb and so heartbroken. I went back to partying again.
Again I went into a massive state of depression. I was hearing voices and seeing things that weren't there. After a suicide attempt my mum took me to A& E and said 'I can't look after her anymore I don't she is safe'
That was when the decision was made to put me into secure care. Just to keep me safe. I was put in a place in Milton Keynes. It was low secure. It was voluntary. they assessed me, they gave me help, they also gave me therapies and they diagnosed me, which was something I had been searching for. I'd always wanted to work in Mental Health and had researched it from when I was younger. I always wanted to give back what help I had got when I was younger if that makes sense. They diagnosed me with Borderline Personality disorder whereas I thought since I was 19 that I had Bipolar. They said I had never had Bipolar. And I was like ok, how do I work with this three years on. I'd been on the wrong medication not getting the right service to treat what I had. This was something I'd never heard of. Borderline Personality Disorder id the American term for EUPD which stands for Emotionally unstable Personality disorder which is alot easier to understand I think. I struggle with relationships, I struggle with the manic aspects. Its day to day and week to week. I could feel like I'm on top of the clouds one week I'm achieving great things at work I'm managing my money well. Then i'd wake up the next day and be like 'I don't want to get out of bed today'. I am so lucky that I have found a medication that works for me now, I'm on Lamotrigine and Aripiprazole. This mix that I've got at the moment is really helping to level out my mood.For a while I was a bit sceptical about medication because there's all these side effects I thought I don't want to be reliant on a drug to be able to live my life but actually if god forbid I had something like diabetes I wouldn't not want to take the medication that I was offered. So why is it any different with your mind.I do struggle still to this day. I have to remember to take my medication because not taking it for one night I'll wake up the next day and my thoughts just won't make sense to me.
Sometimes I still do get thoughts in my head, because I've heard voices before in my life I don't know if it's voices or thoughts sometimes that's speaking to me. If I get a negative thought in my head that's saying 'people will be better off without you 'I'll just say out loud 'you know what I don't need you, shut up' I feel like I'm so much better then my mind tells me that I am.
One of my massive coping strategies is my work. I've always been interested in working in Mental Health. Last year I got offered this job. I work now at this Pyschiatric hospital as a staff trainer. I absolutely love it.
If I didn't have all the struggles that I've had I wouldn't be where I am today. You know the saying 'if you love what you do you don't have to work a day in your life' that's how I feel.
What I missed earlier is that I went to college when I was 19. I got a Scholarship for a stage school which was amazing it's what I had always wanted. When I went to stage school it was brilliant but I wasn't ready for the pressures that I was going to face at Stage school. You're scrutinised about your body and your look. I did an audition for Disneyland and they said 'better luck next time but we're looking for a little Cinderella'. I was like 'ok, thankyou' I went to Stage school for a while. I was a student living the party lifestyle it was great. Then something happened which was a big trauma, I had to leave stage school in the end it threw my life upside down. But then a couple of years later I got the job in Cyprus without having to complete stage school so I like to say things happen for a reason.
If you were giving advice to your younger self what advice would you give?
That you are not alone that you can speak out, and there is light at the end of the tunnel and you deserve happiness because everyone does no matter what they've done whatever they've been through, whatever their circumstances. Everyone deserves a full and happy life.
What are misconceptions with people who have eating disorders?
That people with eating disorders have to be stick thin. That is not the case at all. There's millions of different eating disorders. You don't have to look like you have an eating disorder actually low weight is just a symptom.
What advice would you give someone who is seeking support with Mental Health
I'd say listen to your friends and those around you and don't shut people out. If somebody reaches out to you let them and let them in. There is help out there if you want to access it. Find something that works for you. Treat yourself as you would like to treat other. My mum used to always say to me 'the things you are telling yourself would you tell them to your bestfriend' and I would be like 'no':)
What's next for me?
Hopefully stepping up the ladder where I am but I am so happy where I am. I also run an Open Mic at the Lake View in Milton Keynes. It's called Tuneful Tuesdays. This is one of my coping strategies too which is why I love to do it.
Last Words to end your post on?
I'd just like to end on, I was in such a dark place,I wrote in a scrapbook once 'what would you say to your older self' and it was 'theres no sunshine without showers' and that is what I have always carried in my heart.
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If you feel that you are experiencing any of what Estelle has spoken about please seek help from your nearest GP. There are also other sources which provide help and advice for example:
Mind 0300 123 3011
Rethink 0300 5000 927
Support Line 01708 765200
Also if you feel that you have an experience with regards to mental health that you believe others could relate to then please get in touch.