Leisl's Story

Start paving your own yellow brick road – a little bit every day. You never know, someone else might need to follow it.


I was a little farm girl, with lots of freedom to explore, get dirty and keep animals. I loved animals and I loved being outdoors. With plenty of energy and a competitive twin sister, I played lots of sport and was always fit (and trim), but without all the confidence one normally associates with kids who are good at sport. It got worse, my shyness soon turned to self- hatred and negative thoughts that were like junk food for my brain – I knew they were bad for me, but I just kept having them. I lost interest in my friends and spent more time trying to get out of things than get into things. Exercise made me feel good, so I did plenty of it. My exercise habits were insane, but easy to justify with my cross country skiing training schedule, that I had no trouble sticking to and even exceeding. It was this desire to feel good about myself that drove my training schedule, not the races that I wanted to win. I trained far harder and better than I ever raced.


When I finished school I thought things would get better, like some lid would be lifted from the box I was living in. Little did I know that things were going to get worse? We (my sister and I) moved to Sydney for university. I was moving into a new box, a smaller box with tighter walls, lower ceilings and stricter schedules than ever before. I lost all contact with my school friends and made no attempt to make new friends. I felt a strange sense of empowerment from this detachment. I was now independent and could be my own boss! I headed to the beach every morning, running and swimming, trying to fill my own ego cup before heading off to uni for the day. Knowing I was the thinnest and fittest person in the room seemed to give me some sense of worth and accomplishment, something I wasn’t getting from my studies or any other part of my life. Now that I was my own boss, I could control what I ate too, which resonated well with my obsession to be the fittest and the thinnest. I ate less and did more, I ate even less and did even more…constantly reassured by my physical strength and the euphoric aftermath that exercise provided me. Weak with discipline and fatigue from negative thinking and my strict dieting, exercise and study schedules, I reached for a new tool – purging. Anxiety about what I could and couldn’t eat and what I had to do each day was crippling me and not only that, it was making me depressed. And so the cycle of dieting, binging and purging began.


I continued this way for years, I began teaching and I was still living this way. I changed my jobs, but it didn’t change a thing. I wasn’t happy and I wanted to change.  I couldn’t focus on a conversation for more than 5 minutes, people just weren’t interesting me anymore.  Nothing interested me, except the horses. They were creeping up on me as insidiously as my ED had. Horses were beginning to captivate me. I would always pick the vulnerable horse that was full of fear and desperately in need of trust and leadership. This was the horse for me, the only horse I was worthy of.  I began working with horses as much as I could on my weekends. It wasn’t always healing, it was tough and challenged my ED and all the baggage that came with this illness. I thought I was failing, but little did I know back then just how much I was learning. Perseverance was something I learnt from my parents, so I persevered. Giving up on the horses would be like giving up on me. I knew I had perseverance, what else had driven me to run all those miles on less and less food. I had to redirect my energy and rely less on discipline and more on passion and the experience itself. My garden, horses and love of cooking were now neck and neck with my ED. I started to gain confidence and truly let people back into my life again. I was still invisible to most people, with my wilting and avoiding presence that now made me anxious in any social scene. My ever conscious self was no longer judging and comparing, but instead recognising the attributes and authenticity of others and that I too might have something to offer. Little did I expect how intrigued some people felt towards my own authenticity or how motivated they felt in my presence. Soon enough, it was me who was intrigued by a little person who could see all of me. I was no longer invisible in their presence. Defensive at first, I shunned their compliments, believing them un-genuine, and that it was only my family, who loved me unconditionally that could ever truly see my worth. So quickly, he began to see all of me, the things I struggled to accept, didn’t even like and most of all, what I couldn’t see!


Slowly I began to trust and best of all, truly believe. I’ve been lucky to always have the support, love and understanding I desire from my family, but to have this from someone else is truly special. I now understand that it was not their approval that I am thankful for, but the love that I now hold in my heart for the both of us.


Interestingly, I now find myself drawn to the more confident, spirited and happy horse. I can now stand alongside this horse, believing that I am not only worthy of being their rider, but knowing that together we will be safe, learn together and achieve wonderful things. I am not ashamed of or even regret my ED. It is my history, part of my bespoke self. ED’s are complex and the road to recovery will never be over for me. It’s a hard road to travel sometimes and it gets even harder when you try to change direction, but it’s worth it! You might get lost, disenchanted and even want to give up, but around every bend, the yellow bricks start to appear, you’ll experience life more, feel things more intensely and might even have some fun 🙂


Start paving your own yellow brick road – a little bit every day. You never know, someone else might need to follow it.