Karen's Story

If I hadn’t waved my arms to let someone know I was drowning, there is no way I could have kept my head above water much longer


Be still my racing thoughts.

You are not helping this time.

I thought I had faced some demons in my life and had done so with minimal noise and attention but this, this is so powerful, that if I hadn’t waved my arms to let someone know I was drowning, there is no way I could have kept my head above water much longer.

All the battles I have fought in my life have come from external sources. They have come from places that I could never have expected, and I have had no choice but to wade through the emotions that assaulted me on a week by week, day by day, and moment by moment basis.

The most terrifying moment was when I realised this battle was coming from within. This was not something that just happened to me. I have created this and it is now bigger than me. It is ironic that my eating disorder was born to help me control my spiralling world and to realise now, when my world is no longer spiralling, it is controlling me.

Sometimes the only way to cope in life is to use dysfunctional methods. This is fine when it does not impact you and serves a purpose but when the dysfunctional behaviours become bigger than the issues you were trying to outrun; you have to make a choice.

Do you continue on the road well-travelled and accept that this is how you are. Do you continue to push away the niggling fears; other people’s concerns and the mounting evidence, that your body cannot take it for much longer? Or do you look at yourself in the mirror and say it’s time to fight another battle.

For 20 years ED has been by my side, whispering its silent support, advice and rules making sure no one other than me could see or hear what was being said.

As my thoughts start to attack me I have to remind myself – Breathe, just focus on the one next step.

Be still my racing thoughts.

You are not helping this time.

To realise I was not alone, but I am always lonely, was a terrifying moment for me. I have everything in the world I could want, and yet I am so sad and feel so isolated.

Starting in treatment was the singularly scariest, overwhelming and daunting challenge I have faced. To be in a place where all my thoughts and behaviours were challenged and to be away from my family, my work and my life for over 12 hours per week felt like the most selfish act I have committed.

I had to listen to the kind, gentle and empathetic words of the staff and realise I could choose to either let the battle win inside my head and do nothing or I could start to try to trust family, friends, and a group of strangers.

I learnt to speak my pain and learnt how to fight so I was not alone. It had become almost impossible to believe it was not just me and the thoughts alone.

I am so grateful to my husband and children who have given me the gift of time and money to peel back the layers and see who I can be without the ED leading the way.

I am so grateful to the program staff, my therapist and my dietician for sitting with me in my pain, teaching me not to be so scared of my tears and not leaving when I was at my most stubborn.


Where do you go when you feel you have nowhere to go?

You listen to the people who care about you and know they want the best for you. You surround yourself with professionals who care enough to help you unlock the next piece of your puzzle.

You do what you do best. You pull yourself up past the pain, past the terror and past the obstacles and you find a way to make it work. You move heaven and earth to find who you are under the years of heartache, loneliness and fear.

And in those moments when you feel like you cannot breathe and there is not enough air, you just focus on the one next step.

Be still my racing thoughts.

You are not helping this time.

And then you jump, you jump into the unknown where fear is still there and the unknown terror feels larger than you could have ever imagined. You place your life in someone else’s hands and you pray through your misery and your loneliness that you are doing the right thing for yourself.

Despite telling myself and staff each week I was done, I went back again and again and again.

Somewhere along the way my racing ED thoughts took control and made me believe I knew best. It is not until there had been a solid period of time, where all control was removed that I could see there is perhaps, room for these thoughts to slow and time to try and breathe. The truth is, you cannot outrun, out starve or out think these racing thoughts. They will chase you, hunt you down and wake you from your slumber to remind you they are there.

It’s not until I surrendered my secrecy around my thoughts and behaviours and the staff and fellow clients bore witness to this, and challenged my thinking, did I realise the abuse I was subjecting myself to.

My racing thoughts had pushed and pushed until I literally, was a breaking point.

I always thought when I stopped; I would never be able to start again. My greatest fear was once I stopped to think, a breakdown was inevitable. What I didn’t know was the greatest battle was just beginning. What I didn’t know was the racing thoughts go with you, no matter where you go.

In the dead of the night, they appear, in the middle of someone talking to you, they appear, when you are walking, talking, moving, even being still – they appear.

I learnt so much about myself when I trusted treatment. When I allowed myself to stop and listen to the racing thoughts, I could hear things more clearly. The racing thoughts slowed long enough to allow the thoughts to turn into feelings.

Through pain comes relief and this is true for me. When my racing thoughts slowed and made space to dip into the emotions, finally, after 20 years, I started to feel different.

I first felt worse, I felt like my insides had shattered and I was exposed, raw and broken. But with time, food, sleep and nurturing I realised part of me felt light, part of me felt courageous and part of me felt a connection with hope that peace was one day, at the end of this road.

I graduated after 18 months of relentless therapy. Not because I was “healed”. Not because I no longer live with my ED.

I knew the time had come because I want to change this. Yes I can ask for support, yes I can lean on others but ultimately, I want to change more than I am scared of letting the ED go.

I hoped graduation would come with a simple path to recovery. I had tamed the racing thoughts and I had my list of new rules to abide by.

Day by day the tasks attached to my life grew and the thoughts picked up their pace. I truly expected the racing thoughts to stop once I did the “right” thing. As I decreased my support, the rapid and insidious return of the racing thoughts came as a surprise to me.

My journey is nowhere near done. I have work to do and this scares me as my thoughts begin to race. I am tired and I am impatient. I have worked so hard that the small achievements pale as I want recovery and peace to happen now. I want to stand up and tell people I am proud of who I am and the work I have done. While my ED used to keep me company and has been complacent in his comfort, he now is full of fear. He is holding on tight as he knows his time with me is limited.

Yes I miss him; yes I long for the feelings of security he gave me and yes I ache to be both invisible and strong. But I also know, after all this time I cannot keep winning this game of Russian roulette and expect to win each time.

In treatment I learnt my racing thoughts allow the ED to help and step in.

Be still my racing thoughts, I cannot let the eating disorder help this time.

So my focus is to allow myself permission to be curious about the thoughts, be open to the possibility that they are not my reality, reach out to my support team instead of my ED and continue to push myself with compassion and respect for those racing thoughts.