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Talk to someone now. Call our National Helpline on 1800 33 4673. You can also chat online or email

Gallery of Lived Experience

We’ve developed an artwork that includes pieces from people who have lived or living experience, or have been otherwise impacted by an eating disorder or body image issue.

The first public display of the compilation piece designed by Butterfly is at the Australia and New Zealand Academy of Eating Disorders (ANZAED) Annual Conference, which runs from 24 – 26 August, 2023 on the Gold Coast. The artwork is displayed in the main foyer of the conference to inspire and educate more than 600 health care professionals attending from across Australia and internationally too.

We’re deeply grateful for all the artists who contributed their work.


“I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa in 2018 when I was 13. My poem ‘From the Heart’ opens with a core memory that I have from being sick: always being cold and having really poor circulation because of my lack of heat regulation. My poem continues to articulate how the primary focus of my initial recovery was related to my physical health, however, I elaborate on how Anorexia or ‘the Devil’ continued to infest my cognitions; emphasising how the disease has both physical and mental ramifications. The conclusion of my poem showcases how it took a ‘village’ of people to help me address the mentality of Anorexia. Whilst my doctors were efficient in rectifying my physical health, it was the support of my family (particularly my Mum), a few special teachers from my high school, my friends and my counsellor which has been integral in helping me battle the toxic voice inside my head and to strive for complete recovery. They comforted me when the going got tough, they made me laugh/smile and they were always there to listen. Without the compassion of my ‘Village’ I don’t know where I would be and I thank them so much.”

Audrey Kouris

“To create this drawing I thought about what it feels like to go through an eating disorder. in my experience it made me feel like I was trapped or in jail,The tally marks on the drawing is meant to represent jail. I often felt no matter how unwell I was it was never “bad enough”. The hands reaching at this person body and pulling at the at the skin is like the voices and the disorder always telling me how I could “improve”. My head is full of negative voices and it’s like a tornado which I expressed in my drawing. I find drawing or writing is a really good way to understand my feeling and I hope other people will use art as a form of therapy like I did.”

Hallie Watson

“I’m 16 years old and just this year I was diagnosed with anorexia. My life just felt so out of control and it was like the one thing I could ‘control’ was how much I ate and exercise, It became such an obsessive thing, taking up my headspace 24/7. We moved at the start of this year and I had to start a new school in a completely new environment. This artwork represents the obsessive thoughts that circulate in my head almost every second of every day. I wanted to represent the vulnerable state in which eating disorders affect young women.”

Hayley Stanich

“My name is Hayley, I am a 22-year old artist from Melbourne, Australia, with a lived experience of Anorexia. As a passionate advocate for eating disorders, I firmly believe that recovery is possible for everyone. Through my art and the sharing of my personal experiences, I hope to inspire, motivate, and support others in their recovery journey.

In creating this watercolour painting for the 2023 ANZAED Conference, I sought to capture the strong sense of love and support I’ve experienced as part of the eating disorder community. From family and friends, to healthcare professionals, I’m continually grateful to the many the people that have assisted me (and continue to assist me) in my recovery. Although there have been bumps along the road, with the support of my ‘village’ I continue to believe in myself and my ability to recover. Through the power of love, kindness, and compassion, I continue to flourish beyond the restrictions of my disorder.”

Kacie O’Grady

“My eating disorder started when I was a teenager, however my issues with food started long before this as a small child. My eating disorder stemmed from a deep self-hatred and un-diagnosed autism. To recover, I had to come to terms with being an autistic woman and forgive my inner child for the things I could not help all that time ago. The day I chose to forgive myself was the day anorexia had no more hold on me.

Butterflies embody light and dark, their wings show this through contrast. One cannot truly appreciate the light without the dark, to have contrast is also to be human. This image symbolizes a time in which a girl is shrouded in darkness, but always sought to find the light and the path to freedom. That light, a spark, a flicker even can give rise to hope, just like butterflies gathering momentum to fly to freedom. This hope can be passed onto others, freedom is possible.”

Lauren Skyring

Lauren is thirteen years old and in recovery from an eating disorder. Her poem was submitted by her mum, Michelle.

Lauren Skyring

Lauren is thirteen years old and in recovery from an eating disorder. Her poem was submitted by her mum, Michelle.

Nell Gibson

“Despite all the support I’ve received throughout recovery, it’s still been really hard. An eating disorder is a mental illness and a mental illness is a really difficult thing to overcome. And when you have a mental illness, your thoughts can be distorted, which can make it difficult for others to get through to you and help. Recovery takes time, effort, patience and persistence from everyone involved.”

Niamh Taggart

“This is a collection of some of the art I created in 2011/2012, whilst undergoing inpatient and day patient treatment for Anorexia Nervosa at Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth.

Thanks to the team at the hospital, this art is all that remains of my eating disorder these days. For me, it is a reminder of an experience now long-gone, but still feels as vivid as if it were yesterday. This collection encapsulates an experience that has shaped me, but no longer has the power to define or control me.”

Sam Tench

“‘The Voice Within’ is a powerful self-portrait that exposes the harsh reality of living with an Eating Disorder. Through this striking image, you will see my face contorted by the relentless onslaught of negative comments that have haunted me for as long as I can remember. These comments, fueled by my Eating Disorder, have torn me apart and filled me with self-doubt. It’s important to understand that Eating Disorders go beyond food; they are complex monsters that demand our attention. It’s time for society to pause and truly listen to the experiences of those affected.”

Sam Tench

“The ‘Window into the Soul’ is a creative representation aimed at evoking a profound sense of isolation, confinement, and seclusion – the very conditions in which Eating Disorders flourish. This piece is carefully crafted to immerse the viewer in a visual experience as if peering through a window into my own lonely world. Drawing inspiration from poignant excerpts from my personal recovery diaries, it captures the essence of the journey towards healing.”

Sandi James

Sandi chose not to submit a story about their piece.

Sarah Nechama Israel

“Hello! My name is Sarah, I’ve been in recovery on and off for a couple years now, but since February this year I’ve been doing really well in my recovery :). “Feel the fear and do it anyway” is a quote by Susan Jeffers, (and the title of her book which I love!) This quote has been my mantra these past couple months and has helped me do many things in my recovery that were terrifying at the time. To me the “feel the fear” part is validating and reminds me how it’s okay to feel these things. “And do it anyway” shows me that I can be scared but to do things (that will be helpful to my recovery) but feel more of a “safe scared” and still do it even if I’m afraid. This feels empowering to me!
I drew people of various body shapes, body types, colours and genders coming together forming the letters which make up this quote. By including all types of people together, uniting, moving, and using their bodies for meaningful things (in this case to form my favourite quote) I hope it brings a message of empowerment to whoever may see it.
Thank you Butterfly for all your wonderful and helpful work!”
Love, Sarah

Sharon Ereaux

“My artwork is a self portrait with free-form poem. I created it during the many years of ups and downs in my recovery from Anorexia. In many ways, the Eating Disorder was my voice when I couldn’t actually say what was going on for me. The struggles, the pain, the questions, my story – they all stayed inside me, fuelling the fire of my ED. My artwork seeks to express the tension between wanting to be gone, to be scribbled away, yet on the other hand, to be seen and heard. It’s a plea for my mouth to form the words and let my voice be heard, but instead, my pen was my outlet at the time.
Now I’m doing well in recovery. I don’t need the Anorexia to speak for me. I don’t need to escape into it anymore either. Since then I’ve completed a degree and am building a sole trader business as well as writing to publish a book or two of my story and artworks.”

Victoria Clarke

“My name is Victoria, but have only ever been ‘Tor’. I am 32 years old, living and working in Melbourne, having moved 10 years ago from Tasmania. I love the often unnoticed joys in each day, like the crunchy sounds of autumn leaves, the smell after you blow out a candle, the feeling of clean sheets, and when you are so comfortable with someone you can be together and just sit without speaking.

I have had an eating disorder for 16 years, as well as having multiple other diagnosis applied to me at different points, that of which have never felt like me. I have recently self diagnosed as being Autistic and I feel this has finally brought some clarity and understanding to my shaky sense of identity.

This poem unfinished came from this place. How can you describe the indescribable? How do we keep asking people with alexithymia to tell us how they feel? If the poem is confusing and unclear, then it is representative of me and my mind throughout this journey.

Maybe there is something to be shared in the muddiness of our minds.”

Wandi Nerida

This piece was produced by people attending Wandi Nerida, Butterfly’s residential recovery centre located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.