!-- Background and Growing Up
Nicola Rachele-Beth "Nikki" Grahame was born on 28th April 1982 in Watford, England.
She has a sister Natalie who is 2 years older and her parents are Susan and David Grahame.
Nikki and her sister were raised by their mum after their parents separated. The split affected & hurt Nikki badly, a feeling that was compounded by the death of her grandfather from cancer around the same time, with whom Nikki was very close.
It was during this time that Nikki attended gymnastic classes and it was in one of these classes that a fellow gymnast told Nikki she looked fat in her leotard. This remark stuck with Nikki and - together with the hurt & insecurity she was already feeling over her parents split and grandfather's death - triggered Nikki's start with the crippling illness anorexia nervosa.
From the age of 8-19, Nikki went from hospitals to institutions and back to more hospitals in her long life- threatening battle with anorexia:
* The Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital, London, where she was for 6 weeks
* Upon release she continued to starve herself and a month later she was rushed to Hillingdon Hospital, Middlesex where she was force fed through a nasal tube
* Nikki was then transferred to Collingham Gardens Children & Family Psychiatric Unit, West London, where she stayed for 8 months before being allowed home
* For the next 18 months Nikki attended Northwood Secondary School, Middlesex, but she couldn't escape the grip of her anorexia and her weight began to fall again and so she was readmitted to Collingham Gardens Unit where she stayed for 6 months.
* From there Nikki was sent to Great Ormond Street Children's hospital where she was put on a Psychiatric and Eating Disorders Ward.
* It was at Great Ormond Street that, depressed and full of self loathing, Nikki first tried to kill herself at the shockingly young age of only 12 by swallowing 22 paracetomols she had stolen for this purpose.
* Nikki's weight fell so dangerously low that she went into a coma. She was so ill that Doctors told her parents they were sure she was only about 15 minutes from death.
* Nikki had a feeding tube that ran from her nose through into her stomach. But Nikki, determined that she would not be fed, would constantly rip the tube out. At one time 6 (male) doctors had to hold her down as she fought to stop them feeding her.
* In the end the doctors had to sew the tube into her stomach to stop her from ripping it out. The scar from that tube is still very visible today.
* One of the doctor's treating her said Nikki was the worst case of anorexia he had seen in 32 years.
* All during these years in and out of hospitals & institutions Nikki was allowed only minimal contact with her parents. And she never had any toys and never had any friends. Unsurprisingly as she had spent many of her most influential and learning years institutionalised Nikki had learnt very little or no social skills
Nikki was eventually admitted into Rhodes Farm, an Eating Disorder's Clinic in North London and it was here that Nikki began to improve and for the first time she could see how the illness was destroying her and her family and she made a conscious decision that she wanted to get well, "I woke up one morning and thought 'what are you doing to yourself' "? This was the turning point for Nikki.
* At 16 Nikki had managed to increase her weight to 6 stone 4lbs and was allowed home - although at 18 she had a little relapse and voluntarily admitted herself, as an outpatient, into an Adult Eating Disorder Ward to keep it under control.
* It was around this time that Nikki developed OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), an illness that's very commonly linked to anorexia and that which she still has today. In Nikki's case her OCD manifests itself in a chronic fear of germs.
Nikki is still not free of her anorexia and every day is a battle. But she's strong and determined and she has vowed to herself that she will never allow herself to get that ill again or to ever go back to hospital.
Today Nikki still visits the hospitals where she stayed to chat to other anorexia sufferers to give advice and support.