March woman Lauren Lyon graduates with a 2:1 degree and speaks out about mental health issues that blighted her time at university

Lauren Lyon with her mum Pauline

Lauren Lyon with her mum Pauline - Credit: Archant

Lauren Lyon, the girl whose birth hit the national headlines when her mum became the oldest woman in Britain to give birth, has graduated from university.

Lauren Lyon has graduated with a 2:1 degree

Lauren Lyon has graduated with a 2:1 degree - Credit: Archant

But as the bubbly 21-year-old from March explains the journey to her graduation with a 2:1 degree in education from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent was not easy.

“For the first two years I battled with bulimia and was so ill my marks were really down. But getting help for my mental health issue was not easy and I had to rely on my friends and family, and my own determination to get through it,” explained Lauren.

Lauren’s family are well-known, not just locally, but nationally thanks to the controversy which surrounded her birth in 1995.

Her mum Pauline Lyon hit the national newspaper headlines when it was revealed she had lied about her age to get IVF treatment to conceive and at the age of 52 became the country’s oldest mum.

Lyon family. Brodie and Lauren. Picture: Steve Williams.

Lyon family. Brodie and Lauren. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Pauline and her husband Dave went on to have a little brother for Lauren, Brodie who was born four years later.

Lauren, who is currently back home with her family, like many other graduates, is busy job hunting and is hoping to find a role in marketing or events management.

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Her bulimia is still there in the background, and Lauren acknowledges it will always be part of her life.

“I have come to terms with it, and realise it is never going to go away fully,” said Lauren, “But I have managed to develop coping mechanisms to help me deal with it and now I want to speak out about mental health to raise awareness.”

Lyon family. Left: Brodie, Pauline, Dave, Lauren Lyon Picture: Steve Williams.

Lyon family. Left: Brodie, Pauline, Dave, Lauren Lyon Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

She added: “There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, and conditions like bulimia. People don’t like to talk about it, it is like a taboo subject. But the only way to deal with it and help others is to speak out and highlight the issues.”

At the height of her illness Lauren was making herself sick up to seven times a day and it was having serious repercussions on her health.

“I think I was in denial about how bad things were for me. Making myself sick was my way of coping with stress, and it was making me ill. I had problems with my stomach, my hair was falling out, my weight was dropping, my periods were all over the place and I was even warned it could harm my chances of having children,” said Lauren.

Eventually, after numerous attempts to get help, Lauren was offered counselling but the sessions were in Huntingdon with nothing more local available.

Lyon family. Lauren looking at the family scrap book. Picture: Steve Williams.

Lyon family. Lauren looking at the family scrap book. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

“It was a really poor service, the sessions I attended didn’t really help. In fact I gave up after attending just a few. I know my mum and dad were worried sick about me, but they were so supportive.

“While I was away at uni I knew I could give them a call and talk things through, or if it was really bad they would buy me a train ticket so I could come home. My lecturer was fantastic and offered support too.

“In the end I learned to cope, now if things start getting on top of me I go for a run or for a gym session to clear my head. The feeling of wanting to stick my fingers down my throat is sometimes there, and it probably always will be but I’m so happy and comfortable in my skin now. I want others to realise there is a way forward, and that there is nothing to be ashamed about.

“My bulimia is part of me, it has helped make me the strong, determined person I am today,” she said.

Her graduation ceremony, which was attended by Pauline and her half-sister Lisa, was the culmination of a lot of hard work.

“My marks were so low after the first two years it was touch and go whether I would even graduate. The fact I finished with a 2:1 and gained a first for my dissertation shows just what an impact mental health problems can have on someone.

“People need to talk about the issues more, and there definitely needs to be more support, especially locally. It is wrong that people have to travel out of the area to get the counselling they need,” concluded Lauren.

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