A woman who battled with severe depression has told how she almost starved herself to death – living on a diet of just two jars of baby food a day.
Natasha Ross was forced to wear clothes designed for a nine-year-old child at the age of 20 after her weight plummeted to just 5st 3lbs.
Now 35, Natasha has admitted she still finds it hard to look at the images of herself taken at the peak of her battle.
The former St Saviour’s High pupil revealed her troubles started at a young age.
She was subjected to physical abuse from a relative, unbeknown to the rest of her family, from the age of four, before going through a terrifying rape ordeal in her teens.
Looking back at the incidents, Natasha says the two life- changing experiences had triggered her battle with her weight in her 20s.
Now working as a support worker in the local community, she hopes sharing her harrowing tale might help others to speak out.
Natasha said: “I’ve had mental health issues from around the age of 17 before the problems with my weight at the age of 20.
“My family were begging me to eat but there was a mental block. I couldn’t do it.
“I was surviving on two jars of baby food a day when I could.”
Natasha said people referred to her as a “junkie” because of her physical appearance.
And she became so weak at the height of the problem, Natasha struggled to walk.
She added: “People would say I was skinny and they thought I was anorexic.
“I was diagnosed with severe depression. I lost more than two stone in three weeks because I couldn’t eat.
“My hair and teeth fell out, my skin was all blotchy, the muscles and ligaments in my legs broke away. I was in severe pain, the most simple of things like bending I couldn’t do. I sat on pillows, I had an inflatable ring for in the bath – but it didn’t work.”
The pictures published in the Tele today of Natasha when she was at her worst were taken by a family member at her request.
She explained: “I was crying and shocked when I actually saw the images of myself.
“In my face you can see the pain. I looked awful.
“Although I looked at myself in the mirror every day, I don’t think I saw it. It’s still hard looking at these pictures now. I wanted them taken to see how I looked. It seemed different to see myself in an image rather than a mirror.
“My family thought they might lose me around the time those were taken.
“Even when I started to put the weight back on and go back out I was still only six and half stone.
“I would wear boys’ boxers, roll up two vests to make a bum and I would freak out when anyone touched me.”
Only recently has Natasha shared the story of her rape at the age of 16 with her family.
She admitted telling them about the incident, which happened in Ibiza in 2000, was a “massive weight” off her shoulders.
Natasha said: “By telling them what happened, it perhaps gave them a better understanding of the way I’d behaved.”
Now weighing eight and half stone Natasha has shared her story with friends via social media. It was a move she had been apprehensive about, but said the support she has received since has been “amazing”.
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“I posted it on Facebook in July and people have messaged me privately looking for advice,” Natasha said.
“I’m so glad I made the decision to talk about my story.
“By speaking to the Tele I hope people can read this and hopefully have the confidence to speak to someone. People go through such horrendous ordeals and don’t think there’s an outlet to share their grief.”
Natasha has pointed to other charities like Let’s Talk Tayside and insisted the work others are providing is vital in helping people find a voice.
And she is hopeful there could be more to come from different charities and organisations in helping with the stigma.
She said: “There are so many issues with mental health in Dundee and there are gaps in the health service which need to be addressed.”
For more information on the support available visit mentalhealth.org.uk.