Jackie shares story of eating disorder, tragedy and finally confidence for the future

October 2020

Jackie, who receives support from West Sussex Mind, talks about the many challenges she's faced in her life and how they've impacted her mental health

I have had an eating disorder since I was 14. I’ve lived my life with it and around it, had my children and seen them grow up. Some of the time I have managed it ok.

I’ve used eating disorder services for many years but I didn’t know about West Sussex Mind and didn’t realise I could refer myself without going to a doctor or specialist.

For 27 years, I’ve had epilepsy. I had my first epileptic seizure when I was pregnant with my third child. It came as a complete shock - I’d never had a seizure before. My baby was still-born at full term. I had been fit and well until then. They saved me but couldn’t save her.

When this happened, it triggered my eating disorder. I think I was using it as a coping mechanism. But I pushed my feelings about losing my baby to one side and didn’t address it at the time. I had two small children, aged two and three, to cope with.

My epilepsy started to stablise and, after many years of not having a seizure, I was taken off my medication. I learnt to drive at 40! Obviously, I’d not been able to do that before.

But about three years ago, I had a seizure and lost my driving licence. I hit rock bottom. All the feelings from before, long ago, when I’d lost my daughter, came back with avengeance. My marriage also broke up.

I had never been very confident and I became quite isolated. I wasn’t working and I lost the little confidence I did have and became withdrawn. I used my eating disorder to cope and I also self-harmed as a way of coping.

It was when I was at the eating disorders clinic at the hospital that someone recommended me to West Sussex Mind. In 2019, when I first walked in to WS Mind, I felt so low and so nervous. I had never talked about my mental health because I felt ashamed and embarrassed. It was so scary to talk to someone.

The mental health recovery worker, Diana, was absolutely amazing – as are all the people I have met at WS Mind.

I felt I could be me and I didn’t need to put on a front or an act. Whenever I walked in the door at WS Mind, I felt myself sigh with relief. I know there’s going to be no judgement.

Before coming to WS Mind, I’d become quite fearful of groups, but they helped me build on my social skills and confidence so I wasn’t quaking in my boots. I also did the first part of WS Mind’s volunteer course, in person before lockdown.

During the pandemic, WS Mind offered me online video sessions but I’m wary of IT and was reluctant. So Diana has been ringing me every few weeks and her calls have been so hugely important to me, knowing that someone is going to ring. There’s always someone in the team at WS Mind to talk to. They know the whole story so I don’t have to explain the history and it’s great to have a friendly person at the end of the phone.

I have felt very well supported since the start of Covid-19. Yes, I’ve missed meeting at the hub but Diana has suggested tools and things I can look at for self-help. I’m not quite confident on IT yet to do the second part of the volunteer course online but I am looking to the future. I plan to do an IT course first. The confidence I’ve have built and the people I have met have given me the self-belief to try something new. Maybe then I can do the volunteer course and eventually look at working again.

I feel very passionate about West Sussex Mind and the good that it does.