WHEN you hear the name Jessica St. Rose, if you know who she is, you immediately think of this carnival loving free spirit who is also a brave voice championing the human rights of St. Lucia’s LGBTQI community.
Little do many know that she is stronger and braver than ever after battling a major demon in her life…and winning!
The Babonneau native who resides in Corinth currently works at the NIC in the compliance department but doubles up as a board member of United and Strong which is the sole human rights organization which represents the LGBT community in St.Lucia. Whilst St. Rose is a very outgoing and outspoken woman who believes in standing up for what she believes in, she has kept one aspect of her life locked away from the world outside of hers…her battle with anorexia.
Although the number of anorexia sufferers in St. Lucia is unknown, there are definitely people, both male and female who are struggling with the disease. However, because it is so uncommon here, it is no surprise that the cases are almost unheard of.
St. Rose took the courage to tell The VOICE about her battle with hopes that anyone out there going through what she did will seek help and know that they are risking their lives to please the ideologies of a twisted society.
The VOICE: What was your childhood like and what, if you know, triggered your anorexia?
Jessica: As a child growing up I always had a very low self esteem and low confidence in myself. I had a lot of self hate and didn’t see myself as the “pretty type” because I was fat. I was often called names like Ms. Piggy, fat domino and hated myself more for being called these names. Being a child with a very low self esteem I started having feelings and thoughts of hurting myself including wanting to die, so I would have lots of suicidal thoughts along with not wanting to eat to try losing the weight. I remember once during my secondary school years a cousin told me that no boys would like me because I was fat. I think that’s what triggered my anorexia. I felt like no one would love me because I was fat and that’s where it all started.
The VOICE: Tell me what life as an anorexic was like.
Jessica: It was not an easy one. When I entered Form 1 at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School, if I remember clearly, I wore a size 20 shirt and I felt ugly and fat. I would look at my friends looking all sexy and I would long to be like them, so I decided to stop eating. I started by not having breakfast to fainting during assembly. I knew what was happening but I told no one. On mornings I would push the toothbrush down my throat just to vomit and at nights I would throw away the food my grandmother would give me for dinner. My stomach would hurt and feel like it was burning me but I continued. I suffered with it from Form One to form three until one day, my grandfather heard me throwing up while getting ready for school and called my grandmother. He told her to check up on me because he heard me throwing up and he didn’t know what was wrong. He even hinted that I may be pregnant. During that period I started losing weight rapidly and people at school started saying more stuff like, “she has AIDS”, “She’s going through depression”, “She’s suicidal” etc. I managed with it by trying to show others that I was eating. I was also hiding from persons, not meeting up for lunch, always saying I was not hungry etc. and I also denied it to my friends because they did ask me if I was throwing up my food.
The VOICE: Did you know what you were getting yourself into and if so, why did you think it was going to be a good idea?
Jessica: I think I knew what I was getting myself into but didn’t know how bad it was. During that time all what I was thinking of was losing the weight. I remember when I would look in the mirror, I would say “My God everything is going but my thighs” because I always had hips and thighs but it seemed like the hardest to get rid of. I thought that it was a good idea to do this because to me it was the fastest thing to do to lose weight and I really wasn’t thinking of the health problems associated with it. It was only after a long time, there was word of another student who was suffering with anorexia and I started hearing things about her, what was happening to her and the effects it had on her body…that’s when I started to get afraid. Her condition was bad and she was overseas on treatment. At that time I became worried but even in my worries I still didn’t stop, I continued.
The VOICE: What did this condition do to your health and did it have any long lasting effects?
Jessica: For me luckily, nothing really happened to my health except for loss of hair. I managed to see a doctor who immediately placed me on a very strict diet and I was being monitored every two weeks for my progress. I went from 180 to 90 pounds in a matter of months. I literally wore a size 0, I didn’t have to stretch too much to see my ribs and to me that felt good.
The VOICE: What impact did this have on your family and peers?
Jessica: My family became very worried, especially my mom. I remember my mom and my sister always asking me if I was eating, what’s wrong with me and I always denied it all. My mom was very knowledgeable about anorexia and she saw the symptoms. That’s what prompted her when my grandmother told her I’m always vomiting on mornings. My friends at school also started to get worried and would encourage me to eat.
The VOICE: Whilst you were going through this, did anyone encourage you to either continue or to stop?
Jessica: Everyone always encouraged me to eat and to stop what I was doing to myself. I would always tell them no I’m fat, I don’t love myself and I don’t look good. But my mom would tell me it’s all in my mind and that with the help I’m getting that would change.
The VOICE: Describe your lowest point…how did you feel and what went through your head?
Jessica: My lowest point was when persons started saying I was sick with AIDS and that’s why I got so small. Being in a school environment and friends coming to tell you that’s the rumour, it was not an easy thing to deal with. I felt really sad and I just wanted to shut everyone out. During that time AIDS was very taboo and being in an environment where that rumour is being said, knowing very well that was not the case, sure made me want to disappear and die. I remember once my IT teacher reached out to me and asked me what was wrong and why was I losing so much weight, because at that point, my school skirt had like 20 tabs. I eventually told her what was happening because I started seeing the doctor.
The VOICE: When did you finally make the decision to get better and what inspired you?
Jessica: My decision to get better came from my mother. She was very worried about me and spoke to me about how I could become and how this could even cause my death. She did a lot of research and had a friend also speak to me about someone she knew who suffered from this. Hearing all those stories made me do some deep thinking about life and my way forward.
The VOICE: Talk me through your healing process.
Jessica: During my healing process, my aim was for me to put get to at least 130lb based on my age and I was placed on a diet to help me with this. I also had to go through counselling to help restore my self esteem and so that I could learn to love myself more. I would visit the doctor every two weeks to monitor my progress and eventually I managed gain the weight back. My teachers started noticing this and were very pleased with me and the decision I took to do this. My family, especially my mom was proud of me and I started feeling good about myself. Now the same friends who told me to stop losing weight started telling me “Asiay Jessica, you really getting fat”…at that point I said to myself; “Get small, they have a problem, put on weight more problems” so I just didn’t let that bother me again.
The VOICE: With all the time that has passed, is your weight something that you still struggle with and if so, how do you deal with it without crossing that line again?
Jessica: My weight is something I still struggle with but I have realized throughout the years that my weight fluctuates. I can lose weight very fast but put it on just as fast, especially under stress. I lose weight in an instant. But it’s not a good thing to lose weight like this especially through stress so I aim to do it the right way through diet and exercise. Presently I go to a Fitness Centre and with the encouragement from my loving partner, she keeps me on the right track whilst encouraging me to eat properly to maintain a healthy body, mind and soul along with exercise.