Kirsten Fullerton is a 21 year old with a packed schedule! During an average week she fits in two sessions of badminton, a couple of trips out on her bike, a daily walk, two evenings at the swimming pool, and starts her day with some of sit ups! On top of this she regularly fits in a 5-a-side football match! Meeting with her, she is chatty and talks with enthusiasm about her life, about keeping active, and about her hopes for the future.
Exactly a year ago however, the situation was very different: Kirsten was inactive, spent most of her days sitting around in the ward she was living in, and was 5 stone heavier than she is today.
Kirsten’s story is one of a remarkable recovery. As a young teenager, she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder: a serious mental health problem that results in difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, extremely unstable emotions and poor self image. Kirsten has spent most of her teenage years living in residential care receiving treatment for her condition. She hopes to be living independently in the community in the near future.
Things began to change for Kirsten one year ago, when she was encouraged by her physiotherapist treating her for back pain at that time to take part in a pedometer programme. This was an intervention the Mental Health Physiotherapy Department at NHS Forth Valley had implemented using the Paths to Health Primary Care Pedometer Pack to encourage patients to be more active.
Kirsten and a fellow patient both started wearing Pedometers and set a challenge to out- do each other with their daily step count.
“When I started wearing the pedometer I only did about 300 steps each day as I had got into the habit of just sitting about in the ward. I was on a lot of medication and didn’t think that I could do anything anymore.”
Kirsten and her friend soon noticed that their daily step count was rising just by walking round the hospital grounds and wards.
“It was really good fun and we turned it into a friendly competition. The walking challenge was a good laugh for us both and the weight began to fall off and has carried on going down!”
It was this challenge that kept Kirsten and her friend walking in the early weeks, but as time passed, they began to notice that they were losing weight and feeling the benefits in many other ways. Kirsten found that as her daily steps increased, her mood also improved and allowed her to tackle daily life in a new way with more energy and confidence.
Prior to taking part in the pedometer programme, Kirsten felt very negative about the thought of taking “exercise”. She now lives a lifestyle that fits in some activity or other on most days of the week. Many of the activities she takes part in are organised by the staff in the unit Kirsten is staying in, but it is only because of her increased confidence levels that she has felt able to join in with these.
A lot of the focus of Kirsten’s treatment for BPD and self harm has been to learn new ways of coping with life.
“Becoming active has helped give me back control,” says Kirsten. “I no longer eat junk food like crisps and chocolate all the time like I did a year ago, now I just have my meals and that is that.”
When asked about the future, Kirsten has another target in mind:
“I want all the things that go with a normal life like a job, a house and a dog. I want to visit colleges and schools to talk to young people about BPD and self harm so that anyone else with this illness can realise that they can recover and get back in control of their life just like I have.”
Kirsten in August 2008 – size 10
Kirsten at her 21st birthday
In 2007 – size 16
For more info on Borderline Personality Disorder visit www.bpdworld.org.uk