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Havering Mind events co-ordinator speaks about experience with body dysmorphic disorder

PUBLISHED: 10:00 07 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:00 08 August 2016

Ciaran and Geraldine White

Ciaran and Geraldine White

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Throughout 2016 the Recorder is running a mental health awareness campaign with Havering Mind. This week Emma Lake spoke to events co-ordinator Ciaran White about his experience of body dysmorphic disorder.

He became obsessed with aspects of his appearance – his fingernails, weight, shape and skin tone.

The illness drove him to extreme actions, including tanning injections and liposuction surgery, all undertaken without the knowledge of his family.

He said: “You just do not realise what you are doing. You do not think it’s a mental health problem, you think it’s a physical problem.”

Ciaran’s mum, Geraldine, realised something was wrong and left a book about BDD in his room. He describes reading it as an awakening, although it did not set him on the path to recovery.

Ciaran, now 29 and leading mental health charity Havering Mind’s fundraising efforts, said: “She kept saying you have to go and speak to someone, but I didn’t know who to talk to.”

The anxiety and depression that developed alongside BDD took their toll and Ciaran began to drink heavily, self harm and occasionally take drugs.

He describes his behaviour as erratic and he was taken to A&E twice.

Geraldine eventually convinced him to ring a helpline and he started therapy, which he credits with giving him the tools to train himself to think differently.

Things got worse before they got better and in April 2012 Ciaran was sitting in the car park of Bedford’s Park with pills and alcohol, contemplating taking his own life. Thankfully he didn’t leave his car and eventually returned home to his family.

He said: “At first it’s very hard because you are opening doors. I think it gets worse before it gets better because when you open that box all sorts comes out.

“When I went home from Bedford’s Park and told my mum she cried and from that moment onwards everything got better.”

As Ciaran recovered he read widely about mental health.

Eventually he felt confident enough to travel into central London and take a course in event management.

When the position of events co-ordinator at Havering Mind became available he was offered the chance to help others.

Ciaran said: “Havering Mind has been amazing for me.

“Even on the first day, I remember going on one of the walking groups with clients and it was humbling.

“In the years since I’ve been organising events and speaking publicly. At first I was filled with anxiety but it had an enormous effect on my confidence and self belief.”

Ciaran takes medication to prevent symptoms from returning and is confident the dark days of his illness are behind him.

Geraldine said: “At the time I was upset, concerned and worried for Ciaran’s future. I was terrified he would harm himself and felt there was no real support or understanding.

“I’m now very proud of how far he’s come through his persistence in getting himself better.”

The Recorder has been working with Mind, and Ciaran in particular, throughout 2016.

In the past 12 months he has worked with us to conceive

and launch a major mental health awareness campaign, arranged events attended

by hundreds of people, given mental health training to councillors and major business leaders, alongside much

more.

In September he will take on his next challenge, the Windsor Half Marathon before looking to run the London Marathon next year.

Recorder news editor Emma Lake will join him for both challenges.

To sponsor them and help Havering Mind continue its vital work go to justgiving.com/fundraising/mindyourmentalhealth

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