We spoke to the York student who went on Stacey Dooley’s podcast to talk about her anorexia

‘It doesn’t have to limit your future’

York student records BBC podcast with Stacey Dooley, opening up about her experiences with Anorexia Nervosa.

Molly Smith, a first-year education student at The University of York, was visited by Stacey Dooley and a BBC production crew in her Campus East flat at York to record the episode.

The podcast, titled Stacey Dooley: Fresh Starts, aired on BBC Sounds today and delves into Molly’s experiences with Anorexia Nervosa and starting university.

The York Tab spoke to Molly to find out about her experience recording with Stacey Dooley and The BBC.

Stacey Dooley and Molly recording the episode in her room on campus

‘I was never really expecting a reply’

When Molly saw a post on Stacey Dooley’s Instagram looking for participants for a new series of Fresh Starts, a podcast that looks at dealing with change, she sent an email to a BBC address never really expecting a reply.

She said: “You know for things like that they get sent so many applications and she’s a celebrity so I never thought anything would come of it. I just thought I might as well try since I’ve got a fresh start and I sort of fitted the quota if you will. I was starting university in a couple of weeks and for most of my teenage years I was ill with anorexia so moving away from home and going to uni was always something that felt completely out of reach.”

“I sort of forgot about it after I sent the email but a couple of weeks later I got an email back from a BBC producer named Blanca basically saying they were interested in my story and they’d like to give me a call to see a bit more about me and my story.”

‘It all just felt so surreal to begin with’

Having been a fan of Stacey Dooley for years, Molly said she couldn’t believe it when she found out she was going to be on the podcast: “It all just felt so surreal to begin with. I’ve been interested in her documentaries for ages and listened to series one of the podcast so to be on this season was surreal.”

Molly’s family traveled to york to support her during the recording

‘She’s so normal it felt like talking to a friend

The podcast was recorded in Molly’s bedroom on York campus. “It was really lovely that they travelled all the way up to York” she said.

“I think that was the idea of the podcast, they wanted it to be natural and sort of in my environment.”

Molly said it was both a daunting experience opening up about her personal experiences and also quite cathartic talking about it. She said: “The whole day I was filled with so many nerves being there, meeting her and having the production crew around. But she’s so normal! In a way, it felt like talking to a friend and the way she approached everything was really lovely.

She continued: “The producers said prior to the visit that I was in complete control of the day. Obviously, we were talking about quite a sensitive topic and they said if there’s anything you don’t want us to ask you can tell us. I also listened to a preview of the podcast before it came out to see if I said anything I didn’t actually want to be on air. So the way the BBC handled it all was really really good.”

‘I hope the podcast gives the message that mental illness doesn’t define you’

Molly said recording the podcast has been such a brilliant opportunity and something she’s glad she’s done. She said it’s something she wished she could have listened to when she was suffering herself: “As a younger teenager struggling with anorexia, I wish there were more things out there in the media that perhaps I could have listened to from people that have managed to turn their life around and have managed to recover. Because it’s quite inspiring to hear other people’s stories and I think that definitely would have helped me if I had something like this to listen to.”

She hopes the podcast leaves people with the message that mental illness doesn’t define you: “When you’re first diagnosed, your whole life becomes revolved around the label of having a mental illness and I think that can limit you in some ways but it doesn’t have to and it doesn’t have to limit your future.

“I never expected I’d be able to go to university and the people around me didn’t expect it either so I think I just want to put the message across to not limit yourself and you can do anything really.”

Molly’s flatmates have also been supportive of her journey

‘The support has been so great’

Molly’s family and friends have been incredibly supportive of her journey. She said her uni flatmates were “freaking out” when she told them and her family has been amazing.

“All my family came up to be there for the filming. It was so lovely and since I’ve posted about it on my Instagram, I’ve got so many comments from friends and people I haven’t spoken to in a while congratulating me which was so nice.”

Molly’s episode of Fresh Starts is available to listen to now on BBC Sounds.

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