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How Creating a Web Series About My Eating Disorder Became a Declaration of ‘Normalcy'

When my first article for The Mighty, “My Eating Disorder and I Co-Wrote a Web Series” was published back in July, I was terrified.

I was about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for my comedy web series, “Nutritiously Nicola!” It’s the funny, zany and surreal story of an East London Instagrammer called Nicola, who is trying to establish a healthy relationship with eating, whist navigating the confusing, food-obsessed landscape of social media.

I was terrified because the series is based on my own experience of having had an eating disorder since the age of 13. Terrified because, up till that point, I had barely told a soul about this monster, which had been a resident inside my brain for more than half my life. And now I was revealing my deepest, darkest secret to the entire internet.

Leading up to the launch of the Kickstarter and the publication of the article, a series of nasty thoughts played through my mind on repeat. My friends would suddenly hate me for not being more honest with them.  My employers would sack me. Nobody would believe me because I wasn’t “thin enough” to have a problem. The people who had asked me if I had a problem, who I had assured shouldn’t worry, that I was “naturally” thin, would think me a liar.  People would look at me differently. My outpatient team would stop helping me. I would feel completely alone, deserted by everyone I knew and without my secret eating disorder, my longstanding pal, for company.

Of course, none of this happened. That’s because the thoughts, which seemed so convincingly my own, were that of my dying eating disorder. It knew that once it’s existence was ousted, it would no longer be able to survive. It was it’s final, desperate gasp for breath. Impressively evil to the end — it almost convinced me to stay silent.

I think this is probably a familiar experience to many people with mental health problems. And unfortunately, sometimes these thoughts are not unfounded. There is still a stigma, which is real, alive, and can cost those struggling their jobs, friends and relationships.

This is why I am certain that writing the article and making the web series is the right thing to do. I have had messages from acquaintances, hushed, private inbox affairs, whispering how happy they are to have seen what I’m making, because they too have been hiding the same secret.

The thought that I might have sent a small ripple in motion, might have bought even a few others closer to opening up, seeking help or identifying which voices in their head are worth listening to, makes my release of control completely worth it.

But of course, for big change, we need more people speaking up. So that the small number of  loud voices talking about their mental health problems becomes a great number of moderate voices talking about their mental health problems. So moderate and normal, that employers, lovers and friends will listen to the problems, rather than hearing “mentally ill.”

For now, I’m happy to be a loud voice (and I’m thrilled to have finally found a use for those many hours of drama school voice classes!). “Nutritiously Nicola!” is a big, boisterous declaration that mental health problems are normal, complicated, messy, funny and most definitely worth talking about. Maybe even laughing about.

This weekend, “Nutritiously Nicola!” met it’s funding target. I am beyond thrilled by the support it’s had and relieved that it is really, truly going to get made. However, we raised the bare minimum needed to fund the production to the series, and have added stretch goals, which will allow us to make more episodes, create more content and pay our cast and crew a fair and decent wage. The campaign ends on Tuesday, August 15 at 8 p.m., so if you would like to support “Nutritiously Nicola!” and make it the best show it can possibly be, please pledge via our Kickstarter page.

With some fantastic guest stars lined up, including Matthew Lewis, aka Neille Longbottom from “Harry Potter,” Andrew Gower from “Outlander,” Christopher Ettridge from “Goodnight Sweetheart” and Heid Reed from “Poldark,” it is set to be a fantastic, funny, taboo-busting show.

I can’t wait.

Here are some other ways to stay up to date with the project:

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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 Lead image via “Double Yay” Youtube