A well-known model and singer from Derry has revealed that during her battle against an eating disorder, her weight plummeted to five stone.
Speaking about her courageous journey, Jilly St John told student Journalists at the Verbal School of Journalism that at her lowest point she couldn’t get out of bed.
Since the age of 17 Jilly has intermittently been battling ‘Anorexia Nervosa’. This eating disorder is a serious health condition in which people keep their body weight as low as possible by restricting their food intake. The condition often develops out of anxiety of body shape, however, Jilly said it wasn’t the case for her.
Jilly explained that her disease originated from psychological control, not the hatred she had about her body shape.
“I wanted to feel in control mentally and by subconsciously restricting my food intake I could achieve this,” she said. ‘‘However it went too far and it began affecting my personality. I became withdrawn and quite shy. I didn’t want to socialise never mind leave my home. This then affected my career as a musician as I couldn’t go on stage which prevented me from performing. I would literally be almost fainting half way through a song.”
Coupled with and enhanced by the anorexia nervosa she began having anxiety, panic and depression; she lived in a constant adrenaline rush where her heart rate would be so high, and her anxiety so heightened that she would have to leave wherever she was. Jilly’s condition physically got worse to a point where she couldn’t even walk very far, lacked energy and physically couldn’t eat.
Jilly’s lowest weight was five stone and at her lowest point she couldn’t even get out of bed for four weeks.
“I was an emotional mess,” she revealed. “At one stage I was rushed to hospital to be rehydrated. To be honest, at this point I was suicidal.”
Jilly however was self-aware of her disease she knew she should get help.
“I knew myself I was too skinny and every time I looked at myself all I seen was skin and bones, I even wore padded underwear and bras to give me shape.”
Jilly makes it very clear the reality of what it means to be thin.
“It takes away the quality from your life. You feel sick, unable to eat, unable to function. It affects your body. People with an extremely low body weight put their bodies under so much pressure, they can have heart attacks, and other life threatening complications. They can die.
“Beauty isn’t physical, the more beautiful you are in the inside the more it shines from within and the beautiful, it shows on the outside.”
She even says herself that stick thin models are basically hired as ‘coat hangers’, as that is what the designers often want. Along with every other model she herself gets photo shopped.
“No two bodies are the same, everyone’s different.”
It has been a long and difficult journey, but Jilly is now seven stone 11 and feeling a lot better due to pure grit, determination and a willingness to get well.
“It is a gradual process but I am still slowly but surely recovering,” she says. “It is a psychological disorder. In my opinion you never really recover, just learn to cope. But I am delighted to be finally in a safe zone after two and half years.”
Jilly now participates in many talks with young girls sharing her experience and encouraging them to help them. She has also given the Eating Disorder Association telephone number to everywhere she’s been to talk about her story.
“There is a help,” she says. “It’s 02890 235959. Give it to anyone you may know who may be suffering. Talk to someone seek help before it’s too late.”