Teen girl, 16, ‘scared to drink water’ told organs were shutting down

A teen girl who was too scared to drink water was told her organs were shutting down at the age of 16.

Nine White, 21, was 13 years old when she first developed anorexia as a result of her father trying to take his own life.

She subsequently spent the next five years in and out of hospital, including a year-long stint in a facility in Glasgow, which was over 230 miles away from her home on Merseyside.

But after years of having to be fed through a tube, Nina started on the route to recovery.

She told the Liverpool Echo: "When I was about 11 I'd say, I had an incident where I choked quite badly and after that I kind of developed a bit of a fear that every time I ate I was going to choke or I was going to die."

A couple of years later, Nina and her family were faced with the trauma of her dad trying to take his own life.

She said: "I'd say that trauma then kind of made me feel so out of control, so kind of helpless, that I'd nearly lost one of my parents at that age.

"They tried to get me to go to counsellors at school to talk about it but I just couldn't talk about it. I was too kind of traumatised so I kept all my feelings bottled up about that.

"It was later that year that I'd say my eating disorder then started as my kind of way of having some sort of control in my life."

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Nina spent the following five years in and out of hospital, during which she spent a year at a specialist hospital in Glasgow, which was the only hospital bed available to her.

During one hospital admission in March 2017, Nina said she was asked to do a squat by doctors as part of a series of tests.

She said: "When I tried to squat my own body weight I literally just fell to the floor. I couldn't even squat my own body weight. [Doctors] were sort of telling me that my organs were starting to shut down and if I'd stayed at home I could have died then basically."

In a post on Facebook to mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week earlier this month, Nina wrote: "I spent five years in and out of hospital, detained under a section, being force fed by up to eight members of staff, being too scared to drink even a sip of water in case it made me gain weight. [I needed] two members of staff with me at all times because I was too much of a risk to myself.

"My consultants words as I left were 'I wouldn't be surprised if you were back in two weeks'… but here I am, nearly three years later, telling you it DOES get better."

The start of Nina's recovery journey came in January 2020 when she recalls thinking "I can't let myself go back to hospital."

Nina said: "So I started gradually trying to make changes and then it was around April [2021] I started introducing food for the first time in four years. It was terrifying. Even just simple things like picking up a spoon, picking up a fork, I wasn't used to that, I hadn't done that for so long it just felt so strange and not natural."

In May last year, Nina and her family suffered the tragic loss of her dad, who took his own life.

Nina said losing her dad made her even more determined to get better in his memory: "I feel it's important to do it in dad's memory but also because I want to spend time with the friends and family that I've still got."

If you're worried about your health or the health of somebody else, you can contact SEED eating disorder support service on 01482 718130 or on their website.

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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