It’s a long journey….but there is always hope
I had always been a happy kid, but often anxious…. stuff like staying at other people’s places – but it wasn’t a concern – it was just normal kid worries. When I entered high school, 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 any enjoyment in anything. In Year 8 I was selected to play representative hockey for Geelong. 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.
After school one day I was taken to a GP clinic and a mental health nurse diagnosed me with anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, which I guess explained my changes in mood and my obsession with food and exercise. I had no idea what these diagnoses meant, but also didn’t fully believe I was unwell. My mum has told me that when I received these diagnoses I did not react at all, whereas she found it extremely difficult to hear about her daughter and was very upset. I think this was because at this point my emotions were extremely blunted and I felt numb to what was going on around me.
I was pulled out of school the next day. 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 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. 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. At the start of 2012 I returned to school, I felt completely disconnected from this world of school – no one really knew what happened to me – to them I had been at school one day, then gone missing for a year. Despite the supports set up to help me, returning to school was probably one of the hardest parts of my recovery. I had not left my parents side for a year – they had controlled every single aspect of my life – and now I was thrown into a world where I had to make healthy decisions by myself, and where I felt completely alone. I cried every day, in most classes.
In Year 10, I did half-time school so that I could rest and still have therapy in between classes. 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. My final year of school was hard, as it was really stressful and my body was still recovering but I made it, and I was secretly extremely proud of myself.
It didn’t take long for me to realise once I had left school that the score I got at the end of Year 12 had very little impact on the rest of my life. Me finishing school was a big milestone for my parents especially as they had been told that my eating disorder might stop me from ever returning to school, and that I may never graduate with my peer group. But thanks to them I did just that.
My story has a happy ending; I am now a registered nurse, working my way towards becoming a pediatric nurse. I still occasionally have bad days just like everyone does, but I am able to manage them by making sure I get enough sleep, taking my prescribed medication and prioritising doing something for myself.
If I can take something positive out of my experience, it is that it has taught me how brave and strong I can be, made me realise how amazing and loving my family is, and planted the realisation that I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to.