A successful model is taking part in a global beauty pageant in order to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Jessica Blake, who suffers from emetophobia - a fear of vomiting - as well as anxiety and panic attacks, is passionate about making 2013 her year for helping others.
The 20-year-old, who lives with her parents in Deeping St James, is a finalist in the Midlands heat of Face Of The Globe, a beauty and personality pageant, which aims to give participants the ‘magical experience of feeling like a princess in Disneyland’. The finals will be held in London and Disneyland Paris.
Jessica, who is signed to the Base Models and Lethal Model Management agencies, has appeared on Made In Chelsea, is a regular on photo shoots and has been a TV extra and a catwalk model.
“I’ve never done a pageant before but I’m trying to use my profile as a model to promote mental health awareness,” she says.
Part of the pageant involves speaking out on an issue you care about and raising money for the Rainbow Child Foundation - Jessica is planning a sponsored silence and a cake fair.
The former Deepings School pupil is also studying business management at Leicester’s De Montfort University.
She hopes to one day have her own company, as well as help charities.
Her own problems began in early childhood when she witnessed her mother being sick. She cried and hid in her room for the rest of the day. .
Jessica cannot drink alcohol in case it makes her sick, she can’t watch medical programmes on television and stays away from people feeling ‘poorly’.
Things got worse in 2011 on holiday with friends in Spain when they went on a boat trip and some of them got seasick.
A few months after a boat trip in 2011 when her friends got seasick, that her health deteriorated so badly she knew she needed help.
She has also suffered from panic attacks since her first year at university.
“I couldn’t do anything. I became scared to travel anywhere in case I was sick. When I had my first panic attack I thought I was dying. I began staying in my room 24/7 and didn’t eat anything for weeks. I felt constantly sick and felt there was no way out.”
She says her family and her boyfriend at the time were very understanding but her friends thought she was neglecting them.
“I lost a lot of weight and looked so ill. I was scared to tell my friends how things really were but later I wished I had because they have been very supportive.”
The first medication she was prescribed she didn’t take - because a side effect was vomiting.
“But at Christmas 2011 things got so bad I had no choice.”
She now takes medication and has had counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy which taught her relaxation techniques to manage her anxiety problems.
“I have now got my life back to a normal routine and can go out again with my friends - although I don’t think I will ever be 100 per cent free of problems,” she says.
She is still having treatment for emetophobia and believes more needs to be done to help sufferers.
“I know I will have ups and downs with these issues in the future but I’m now ready to share my experience. I want to devote my time to helping other sufferers,” she says.