Woman who once weighed just four stone credits Sheffield charity that saved her from eating disorder

A woman has credited a Sheffield charity who ‘loved her back to life’ and helped her break free from a powerful eating disorder.

Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 2:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 2:19 pm
Jess credits City Hearts for saving her life

Jess Bramhall, 37, weighed just four stone when she arrived in Sheffield nine years ago to join a residential programme called restore, run by the City Hearts charity for women with life controlling issues.

On the programme for 14 months, it helped her deal with her eating disorder, OCD, depression and post traumatic stress disorder brought on through childhood trauma.

Jess whilst struggling with an eating disorder

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As a child Jess went to live in the USA with her parents and brother, who went out there to work for a church.

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Unfortunately, her mum became very ill as she began to work through the extreme trauma she had experienced as a child.

When it came time for the family to return to the UK, she could not leave America as she was receiving specialist treatment and it was three years before Jess saw her again. 

Jess was hospitalised 10 times for severe weight loss and depression

“I became subject to abuse myself, at the hands of another child,” Jess recalls. “This made me angry and confused and I learned to block it out of my mind and became very aggressive.

“As a teenager I started to artificially put myself in control of my life through my rituals and routines. I became extremely depressed and at times became paranoid. I couldn't see an escape from the battles in my mind, they locked me into a severely ordered life.

“One of the things I controlled was my eating and at my lowest point I weighed less than four stones. I desperately wanted to gain weight but the rules in my head controlled my every move.”

Between the ages of 16 and 28 Jess was admitted to hospital 10 times for treatment for severe weight loss and depression and had suicidal thoughts regularly. 

“Four times my parents were told to prepare for my death,” she added. “And I was encouraged to plan my own funeral.

“My weight loss had left me with severe osteoporosis at just 21. I was one of the youngest people in the country have it to such a severe degree. By 2010 I had exhausted every service the NHS had to offer. Nothing worked.”

It was then she discovered City Hearts, the Sheffield-founded national charity which works with women with life controlling issues and survivors of modern day slavery.

Here Jess said she was met with hope, and found staff who cared and wanted her to succeed, helping her break her controlling routines.

After graduating the programme, she became a volunteer with City Hearts and once well enough took on paid work before becoming a full-time member of staff where she can use her experience to identify eating disorders and other mental health problems in the people she helps.

Jess said: “As a Health and Wellbeing support worker I can empathise with so many issues people go through after they have been trafficked or experienced trauma - the way they feel about themselves, the issues that come from that; I can recognise them and offer understanding and help.

“Being able to work for the very organisation which saved my life, to help others find freedom from their own fears, is the most wonderful gift I could have been given. My life is so different. I now have a wonderful relationship with my family. My mum is one of my best friends. 

“Physically I am stronger than I have ever been - and I love to cook. I'm also the unofficial 'catering manager' for my church! My issues with food are definitely behind me."

The City Hearts Restore programme aims to empower women affected by life controlling issues including eating disorders, addiction, self-harm, anxiety and depression.

The holistic and tailored service includes counselling, life skills, personal and social development and health and wellbeing support.

They also offer support to female survivors of Modern Slavery who have exited their safe house and outreach programmes, allowing them the opportunity to work through deeper issues surrounding their time in exploitation.

For more information visit the City Hearts website – www,city-hearts.co.uk