Nikki Grahame’s mother revealed that the Big Brother star ‘felt lost’ after her fame fell away and that lockdown was the final blow for her eating disorder.
Susan Grahame, 66, claimed her child’s 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of coronavirus lockdowns.
The Big Brother icon died at the age of 38 on Friday – just one month after her friends started a fundraiser to pay for anorexia treatment.
Tragic: Nikki Grahame’s mother insisted her late daughter ‘felt lost’ when her fame dried up in an interview published a few weeks before she sadly passed away (pictured in 2017)
Ms Grahame told The Telegraph: ‘This last year has just about floored her… From the first lockdown, it was hellish.
‘She struggled because she couldn’t go to the gym. Then in December she fell down and cracked her pelvis in two places and broke her wrist. I stayed with her for three or four weeks because she couldn’t do anything.’
Elaborating how Nikki took a turn for the worse amid the global crisis, Sue told hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on This Morning last month: ‘I think last year really put the cap on it with Covid.
‘It sounds crazy but even stuff like gyms closing, which is quite important to Nikki as she needs to know she can exercise.
In the weeks before her tragic death, Nikki’s former boyfriend Pete Bennett, 39, who she met in the Big Brother house, visited her amid her tough anorexia battle
‘The isolation, she couldn’t see anyone. I offered to stay with her but she said ”I need to stay in my own home”. It’s been really hard for her, really hard.
‘She had terminal loneliness… she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.’
‘With Nikki, she would get through the year knowing she had friends abroad and would visit them, and she spent a lot of time last year cancelling all her holidays.’
Ms Grahame also insisted the author was getting back on track and had been taking courses in English and Science.
She added that Nikki had just completed a course on caring for children with special needs when lockdown began.
Struggles: The TV star complained about the UK entering another national lockdown back in November, as she told her followers that she ‘seriously can’t deal’ with it
Admitting that she was initially apprehensive about the fundraiser set up friends of her daughter’s to raise funds for Nikki’s anorexia treatment, Ms Grahame said: ‘It was run by me a day or two before by Nikki’s friends. I was apprehensive.
‘First of all we were desperate, we haven’t had much help with the NHS, we had one place, she had been failed there five or six times.
‘I spoke to her and she said, ”please stress how overwhelmed I am by people’s kindness, tell everyone I’m going to try my level best to beat this, I’m going to get my life back”.
‘It’s so frightening for an anorexic because if they start to eat normally, it’s gonna go out of their control. She felt it was the one thing that she could keep control over with everything going around her.
‘When she started to get sick, she would be like, ”don’t be upset, look how well I’m doing”. It was like she was trying to divert the attention.’
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is a serious mental illness where a person restricts their food intake, which often causes them to be severely underweight.
Many also exercise excessively.
Some sufferers may experience periods of bingeing, followed by purging.
Sufferers often have a distorted view of themselves and think they are larger than they really are.
Untreated, patients can suffer loss of muscle and bone strength, as well as depression, low libido and menstruation ceasing in women.
In severe cases, patients can experience heart problems and organ damage.
Behavioural signs of anorexia include people saying they have already eaten or will do later, as well as counting calories, missing meals, hiding food and eating slowly.
As well as weight loss, sufferers may experience insomnia, constipation, bloating, feeling cold, hair loss, and swelling of the hands, face and feet.
Treatment focuses on therapy and self-help groups to encourage healthy eating and coping mechanisms.
Source: Beat Eating Disorders
Nikki previously admitted she was struggling to ‘deal’ with another coronavirus lockdown in what was to be her final social media post.
Alongside a video montage of some of her infamous tantrums in the Big Brother house, she wrote: ‘My reaction to the second national lockdown announcement.’
In her caption, she added: ‘Not this again….seriously can’t deal #lockdown #f**kcovid19 #fml.’
Nikki’s sad death was confirmed online by her friend Leon Dee on Saturday.
A statement on the GoFundMe page read: ‘It is with great sadness, we have to let you know that our dear friend Nikki passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April.
‘It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age.
‘Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely.
‘We would like to request privacy at this difficult time, while Nikki’s friends and family process the sad news. Full details will be released as and when we know them.
‘All donations have been greatly appreciated and it was heartwarming for everyone including Nikki to see how much she was loved.’
Nikki’s ex-boyfriend Pete Bennett paid tribute to the late star on Saturday evening in an Instagram video.
The Big Brother 2006 winner, 39, struggled to hold back his tears and raised a bottle of wine in memory of his former partner.
He said: ‘I thought to myself yeah we could save her, but we couldn’t. But it’s okay she’s in a good place and she’s not suffering anymore.’
The musician recently visited his fellow reality star, who suffered from anorexia, and had documented the trip in a haunting final photo of her shared publicly.
Addressing the heartbreaking news, a grieving Pete expressed his gratitude towards fans for their support when they raised money for anorexia treatment last month.
The media personality said: ‘I just want to say thank you for all your love and support since the fundraiser came out. I think that was amazing, we got loads of money. The amount of love and support we got was overwhelming and heartwarming.’
A grieving Pete expressed his gratitude towards fans for their support when they raised money for anorexia treatment
Emotional: Pete broke down as he added: ‘So I’d just like to raise a f*****g glass, or bottle of wine more like, for Nikki Grahame’
Pete broke down as he added: ‘So I’d just like to raise a f*****g glass, or bottle of wine more like, for Nikki Grahame.
‘All the love from us at Big Brother 7, we really love you Nikki and you were a true winner man, you were really great, you f*****g rocked it babes. Just want to say we’ll miss you babe. See you later Nikki.’
A statement from Nikki’s representative shared on Saturday said: ‘It is with immeasurable sadness that Nikki Grahame passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April 2021. Please respect the privacy of Nikki’s friends and family at this tragic and difficult time.’
It is believed that the star was released from hospital in Devon a day before her tragic death.
Just last month Nikki’s pals had launched a fundraised to try and gather funds for her to receive specialist treatment, managing to reach a total of £65,539.
‘Not a day will go by without missing your smile’: Nikki’s friend Leon Dee paid tribute to his late friend and revealed money raised on GoFundMe will be given to charity (pictured in 2017)
Statement: The Big Brother icon died at the age 38 on Friday – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment
The TV star began suffering from anorexia aged eight, and has never had a period or produced eggs which would allow her to conceive due to her condition.
After first being admitted to an eating disorder unit at the age of eight, she was force-fed through a tube, and has caused long-term damage to her oesophagus from years of purging.
The TV star was always incredibly open about her anorexia, often appearing on TV to speak about her experiences as well as chronicling them in her books.
Speaking with the Daily Mail in 2008, Nikki revealed that she spent the majority of her childhood in different institutions including the Maudsley, Hillingdon Hospital and children’s psychiatric unit Collingham Gardens in London.
Wow: Her pals, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee, exceeded their £50,000 goal on their GoFundMe page in March, which was set up to cover the costs of Nikki’s therapy
She was then admitted to Great Ormond Street and treated there for two tears before being placed into care.
Nikki detailed how she during one stay at an unnamed unit she was: ‘shoved in a cubicle’.
She said: ‘I had to use a bed pan, have bed baths and it was just awful. I just sat in a cubicle for 24 hours a day with no stimulation. I sat there like that for three months.’
She also detailed how she was force-fed by nurses and by a tube inserted into her stomach which she would rip out.
Reflecting on a low point in her teenage years ahead of being admitted to Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, Nikki said: ‘I was a walking skeleton. I was 15 years old and weighed 4st 3½lb.’
She was there for eight months and put on 6½lb before trying to overdose, reports the paper.
In 2011, Nikki suffered a relapse after reducing her daily intake to just 400 calories.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk