Recovery from an eating disorder requires help from many quarters. Boundless love of family and unwavering faith in God provided gave me strength to fight for freedom. Challenge, The Good News Paper, based in Perth, Western Australia, publishes this story in their June edition:
June Alexander, who finally recovered from her eating disorders at age 55 with the help of therapy, family and faith, suffered for 44 years, Her recovery after such a long time has been described by some eating disorder therapists as a ‘miracle’.
For June, who grew up in rural Victoria, there was little awareness of eating disorders when she was first affected by anorexia nervosa at age 11. Though, as June explains, “My mindset in the 1960s was the same as that experienced by children with anorexia today. It does not matter where or when we live, the illness thoughts and feelings are similar.”
Her parents and older sister did not understand what she was going through, and doctors did not give her a proper diagnosis, so June’s anorexia turned into bulimia, and her eating disorder stayed with her as she started working, got married and had children.
Worried that she would be separated from her family, June kept silent until she was 28, when, she says, “love for my family gave me strength to confide in a doctor.”
“Another four years would pass before a psychiatrist provided a correct diagnosis of bulimia, chronic anxiety and depression,” June continues. “At age 32, recovery began with pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.”
During June’s illness she was divorced three times, became estranged from her parents and sister, and was suicidal and unable to enjoy spending time with her four children.
June found solace in writing and being a journalist. “To be free,” she says, “I had to rebuild myself sufficiently to trust my own judgment, and withstand people and triggers that fed my illness. I could not achieve this alone.
“Five years ago, a challenging family event – a wedding – provided the final step in the rebuilding of my identity… I became free to think for myself and able to eat three meals and three snacks every day without tormenting food thoughts. The days of mental, emotional or physical bruising were over.”
However, June primarily credits her faith in Jesus Christ and family with getting her through her numerous challenges.
June grew up attending church and says that she always felt the presence of God, but her challenge throughout her illness was to accept that He was really there.
“It was in my 30’s when all my morals and every value that I lived by went out the window. I had a big crisis in my life and I was too scared to fully trust in God.
“After many tearful hours of discussion with my patient and understanding local church minister, I realised that God had given me the right to life and that practising my faith more fully would help lead me to recovery. It also became clear to me that Jesus Christ, God the Son, had died on the cross so I could be forgiven and be free to focus on healing and living every moment of life according to the Word of God.
“My life changed because I had surrendered my life to Jesus as King of my life. God gave me strength, combined with support from doctors, family and friends, to persevere in learning skills to cope with, and set myself free from, my mental illness.”
She also found comfort and inspiration in the Word of God, the Bible. Some of her favourites verses are: “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23); “…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40.32); and “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7).
She explains: “From God’s Word, I have learnt that knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour and trusting in Him fully enables me to feel at peace and to feel contented, every hour of the day. For many years, due to childhood trauma, I was afraid to be alone, especially at night, and I would stay in unhealthy relationships because I was afraid to be alone.
“I have since learnt that with Jesus Christ in my life, I am never alone and He never gives us a challenge beyond what we can cope with.
“This knowledge has helped to ease my long time chronic anxiety and depression to the extent where for six years now, I have not required medication.”
June now enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren, grateful for the chance to enjoy life as she previously could not.
She raises awareness of eating disorders via her website, lifestoriesmentor.com.au and has written four books on the subject. She is an advocate of family based treatment, knowing the damage that can occur when a patient’s family does not provide support.
As she says, “A personal relationship with God and a loving family provide something that therapists, for all their care, cannot offer, and this is 24/7 love. Besides three meals and three snacks a day, faith and love are the most powerful tonics of all.
“I love having the Lord in my life. I feel I have found my purpose in life, thanks to God.”