I had always been a happy kid, but often anxious, when I entered high school though my anxiety increased a little and my mood began to become less positive. In Year 7 I often felt like the world was moving around me but I was excluded from it. Everything felt grey and I couldn’t seem to find enjoyment in anything.
In year 8 I was selected to play representative hockey. In this team, a high level of fitness was a must so I decided to start running after school. I soon became very good at pushing myself to run further and further and quickly became one of the fittest in my team. I also decided that I needed to eat healthier, this (without my realising) became an obsession.
My parents soon began to realise something was wrong. A key moment that stands out to me is coming home from school, getting ready to go for a run then my mum telling me I couldn’t because a thunderstorm was coming. I dissolved into tears and spent the next hour screaming and crying. It felt like my whole world was crashing down and that I wouldn’t survive. This obviously wasn’t normal behaviour. At this point my parents reached out for support and I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, depression and OCD.
Through the guidance of mainly my family as well as health professionals I was supported to eat each meal. This was important for me as becoming nourished was a crucial step towards being able to think clearly enough to change my thought processes. Eating each meal was harder than I ever imagined but having my parents by my side meant that I knew, although treatment sucked at times, it was being done in my best interest.
Eventually I put on enough weight to start psychological treatment with a psychologist and psychiatrist. The first psychologist I saw was really nice, but he didn’t turn out to be the right fit for me. I was currently attending a specialised support group for eating disorders and the main facilitator recommended a psychologist she had seen in the past. Even though I was terrified about having to tell my story all over again, this new psychologist turned out to be a great fit and I grew to have complete trust in her. I think it is really important for people to remember that finding the right supports can take a few attempts. With the right supports in place, my anorexia recovery journey seemed possible.
My psychologist helped me to realise that the eating disorder was not me, and helped me to separate myself from what ‘it’ wanted me to do. She also taught me ways to calm myself when I was distressed during meals and helped to ‘fact check’ some of the things the eating disorder was telling me such as that I was ‘fat’ or ‘worthless’ of which I was neither. I began to realise the things that the eating disorder was telling me were not true or healthy.
Through consultation with a psychiatrist, I was prescribed antidepressants and an antipsychotic, which helped dull my obsessive thoughts. Just like trying to find a psychologist, finding the right medication for me took some time.Even though I experienced some side effects at the the start, over time they reduced and the medication began to really help me. Even though I didn’t like the idea of taking medication at the start, I don’t think I would be here today without them.
Despite the supports set up to help me, returning to school was probably one of the hardest parts of my anorexia recovery. I had not left my parents side for a year – they had controlled every single aspect of my life in order for me to get better– and now I was thrown into a world where I had to make healthy decisions by myself, and where I felt completely alone. Despite this I persevered and developed supportive relationships with friends and teachers.
Despite me continually receiving support, I was still struggling and unfortunately relapsed into bulimia. This relapse hit my self-belief hard and I sometimes felt like I would never be normal again but my support team helped me get back up again. Throughout my recovery journey I learnt that recovery was never going to be a smooth and straight road, and although I would have loved it if it was, each bump in the road taught me new skills and resilience.
Despite being told that I would never graduate high school, especially not with my original peer group, I did. Despite being told I may never recover fully, I did. Despite being told I might never handle the stress of my dream job – being a nurse – I now am a registered nurse working at a major public hospital and I am.
Unfortunately so many health professionals my parents and I came in contact with over my journey held little hope of my bulimia and anorexia recovery and that’s why I think EDV’s ‘Stories of Recovery’ is crucial in giving hope and changing the conversation around eating disorder recovery.
Contributed by Tess*
* Name has been changed