Opinion

Eating disorders: how mental health nurses helped Nina Martynchyk find her way

Nina Martynchyk’s life changed thanks to help from nurses.
Nina Martynchyk

Former anorexia patient Nina Martynchyk explains how her life changed, thanks to help from nurses

My time in hospital was extremely turbulent. I was hospitalised for a year for treatment of anorexia nervosa, during which I was sectioned, experienced trauma and loss, and was moved from one hospital to another.

I went to hospital at the age of 16 after experiencing multiple losses and traumas, including the loss of my mother when I was 14, separation from my family and numerous foster placements. At 16, I had relapsed into anorexia, which I first started experiencing at the age of 13.

Nina Martynchyk

I was referred to the Royal Free Hospital eating disorders service in London and hospitalised in their childrens ward a couple of weeks later.

A few weeks into my stay in hospital, my foster placement broke down and my attempt

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Former anorexia patient Nina Martynchyk explains how her life changed, thanks to help from nurses

My time in hospital was extremely turbulent. I was hospitalised for a year for treatment of anorexia nervosa, during which I was sectioned, experienced trauma and loss, and was moved from one hospital to another.

I went to hospital at the age of 16 after experiencing multiple losses and traumas, including the loss of my mother when I was 14, separation from my family and numerous foster placements. At 16, I had relapsed into anorexia, which I first started experiencing at the age of 13.

Nina Martynchyk

I was referred to the Royal Free Hospital eating disorders service in London and hospitalised in their children’s ward a couple of weeks later.

A few weeks into my stay in hospital, my foster placement broke down and my attempt to fix the relationship with my father, from whom I was estranged, went catastrophically wrong. For six weeks after the breakdown of my previous foster placement and before my current foster mum came along, the staff at the hospital were the only consistent adults in my life.

Luckily, I was looked after by amazing mental health nurses. I will always remember their acts of compassion and kindness. I remember how one of the nurses offered to take me to the Paralympics with her spare ticket. Sadly, due to the side effects of my medication I wasn’t able to go, although this remarkable act of kindness will always stay with me.

Back on my feet

During my stay at the second hospital, I was accepted into college and had to go to an open day.

‘The most important qualities of a mental health nurse are the ability to listen and empathise without passing judgement’

Nina Martynchyk

One of the nurses came into work on her day off so she could take me. I was still on five minute observations so she had to follow me around from classroom to classroom.

Looking back, the situation was comical, although having someone watching over me so closely was the only way I was able to attend.

In addition to taking me to the college, she took me out to have lunch at Nando’s and a snack with my foster mum afterwards. Her kindness enabled me to meet my new classmates and teachers, and challenge my eating disorder by going to eat out in a restaurant twice in one day. It showed me that there were people around me who were willing to go the extra mile to support me.

Importance of confiding in someone

In my opinion, the most important qualities of a mental health nurse are the ability to listen and empathise without passing judgement. I remember how lost I felt during my stay in hospital and how important it was to be able to confide in a nurse I trusted when I was feeling confused and sad.

The nurses who showed me unconditional acceptance, irrespective of whether they agreed with what I was saying, were the ones with whom I developed strong therapeutic relationships. These nurses became my ‘rocks’ who helped ground me when I couldn’t ground myself. I will always be grateful to all the nurses who looked after me – especially those who made me feel like I wasn’t just a patient, but that I was also person with a history and a future.

Their actions showed me that I was someone who deserved time, respect and attention, irrespective of how badly I felt about myself. Their ability to bring light into my darkest moments showed our shared humanity and the power of human relationships to bring healing to even the rawest and deepest of traumas.


Nina Martynchyk is a service user consultant for Star Wards. She is the organiser of a free conference on eating disorders that will take place in London on September 3.

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