'Bulimia battle did not beat me' says athlete Jayne Nisbet

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news website

image copyrightSNS Group Sammy Turner
image captionJayne Nisbet said getting to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was emotional

Jayne Nisbet's eating disorder almost robbed her of her sporting dream - but the Edinburgh athlete fought back to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The 29-year-old, who has now retired from competing in the high jump, spoke to the BBC about her battle with bulimia in order to highlight the issue and inspire others to fight it.

Jayne said she had been a top junior athlete who was tipped for the Olympics, but that she "spiralled downhill" because her illness.

"I felt like I was useless," she says.

image captionJayne Nisbet has written a book about her battles with an eating disorder

"I had bulimia, which was combined with depression, and I suffered from anxiety for lots of years afterwards."

Jayne says she now recognises features of her condition, such as extreme behaviour and perfectionist tendencies, going back to childhood.

But it all came to a head in the year before the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010.

She had moved to Loughborough in Leicestershire to train at the High Performance Training Centre, but was not eating properly and went down to a weight which was very low for an athlete of 5ft 8in (1.72m).

"People would say to me: 'You are so skinny', and I would genuinely think they were just jealous.

image copyrightSNS Group Sammy Turner
image captionJayne said a medal at Glasgow would have been the icing on the cake

"I genuinely believed what I was doing was going to help my sport.

"But my performances got worse and worse and I became more and more isolated, to the point where I identified: 'This is not ok, I'm not myself any more'. I completely lost myself."

However, Jayne says that admitting she had an issue did not solve the problem.

"In fact, I probably got worse," she says.

Hide away

Over the next three months she put on a lot of weight.

"Nobody saw that because I hid myself away," she says.

"I used to hide away in my bedroom because I thought everyone was ashamed of me."

Even in the depths of her struggles, Jayne set herself the goal of qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

She says: "I spent the first couple of years trying to work it out for myself because I was too afraid to speak anyone.

"By March 2012 I was fluctuating again and I thought: 'Why am I not happy?'

"I got a therapist at that point and he started working through some of my older issues that I didn't even realise existed.

"He unravelled things that I never even knew existed in my head."

In 2013, Jayne had a fantastic season but it was cut short in July by an accident in the gym.

Get fit

She fell from the top of a step-up box and sustained a compression fracture of the spine, exactly a year before the Glasgow games.

image copyrightSNS Group Sammy Turner
image captionJayne missed out on the high jump in Delhi but fought back to compete in Glasgow

"In the past that would have triggered a complete downward spiral, and for a small amount of time it did," she says.

"But then I thought: 'What are you doing?' My coach said: 'Do not let this get back inside you, you have come so far'."

She had already pre-qualified for the Commonwealth Games, so needed to get fit and return to her best.

image copyrightSNS Group Sammy Turner
image captionJayne finished 10th in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Jayne says that making it to Hampden Stadium for the Commonwealth Games was an "amazing and emotional" achievement.

"It was like making it to the finish line for me in terms of mental health issues," she says.

Personal trainer

While a 10th place finish was not as good as she would have wanted, for Jayne making it to the Games was a major success.

"For me getting a medal would have been the icing on the cake," she says.

"But it was to actually prove that you can overcome something when you are at such a low point.

"You can get through it all and not let it beat you and become what you were meant to be."

Jayne has since retired from high jump and runs a successful business as a personal trainer.

She has also written a book called Free-ed.

"ED is a shorter version of eating disorder, and I want people to find freedom," she says.

Inspire people

In recent years she has also made a transition from high jump to running marathons.

Two years after her Commonwealth Games appearance, she ran a marathon in less than three hours and 15 minutes.

She now wants to reduce her marathon time by competing in the London marathon and the New York marathon next year, to celebrate her 30th birthday.

She says the Jayne of seven years ago would not recognise the woman she has become.

"The transformation in my confidence since competing at the Commonwealth Games has been huge," Jayne says.

"I love an opportunity now to get up and try to inspire people and that's the key thing.

"I want to help people overcome issues to try to get the best out of themselves."

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