We all love a good recovery story; we love to see those who have been down, get up and go on to lead happy, productive lives. Pop stars and entertainers inspire us when they get their life back on track, but there are quiet achievers everywhere – in the suburbs, down town, in our rural districts – who also need to be heard. I’m talking about the quiet achievers, the survivors and carers of people with eating disorders. We need to let the world know that there is hope, that you can not only survive but create a whole new life and live your dreams. Yes, you bet. Kelly, a young mother and health professional, who shares her story in Ed says U said, writes:
While recovering from anorexia almost a decade ago, I longed to hear a good recovery story. I devoured those stories that I could find, but was always left wanting. I wanted the stories of real-life people: doctors, musicians, artists, writers, business professionals, community workers, nurses, mums and the like. I wanted to read the stories of people who have recovered from anorexia and live in regular cities and rural towns and who have gone on to achieve productive and fulfilling lives. I think I know why we don’t hear from these survivors. Like me, they are probably happy to blend into the community and not be singled out as having had a mental-health problem. When I was diagnosed with anorexia, I grieved hard and long for the perception of my former ‘sane’ self. I acutely felt every sideways look, comment and question about my ‘condition’.
Despite the risk of being judged negatively for having the illness, anorexia, I feel compelled to share my story. It’s not a new tale. Anorexia became my companion during university and remained at-large over my life until I was 27. More than a decade has passed since I sat opposite a psychologist for the first time, attempting to convince her that I wasn’t supposed to be there. At the time I all but screamed: ‘I’m not skinny enough to have anorexia!’ Her diagnosis proved otherwise.
Now, as a mother of three young children with a loving partner, living a regular life in the suburbs, no words are adequate to express my gratitude to those who persisted over several years to help me combat the non-stop negative self talk that is the fellow traveller of an eating disorder. While I could never say I am grateful for the anorexic experience, I am thankful for the intense gratitude I now have for being healthy and happy. And I would love to see others share their stories of recovery. I want the community to know that people who suffer from eating disorders are usually damn talented, sensitive, hard-working, empathetic, and high achievers in our community. We have a lot to give.
Let’s hear hundreds of stories of recovery. Let’s hear of the courage and determination it takes, over years, to recover. Let’s tell those people who still struggle with eating disorders that they are not alone, that around them, everywhere, in their town and on their street, live people who have recovered. And, unlike the days gone by, today there are many opportunities to share our stories with the blogosphere of online magazines, e-books and forums. If we share more stories of recovery, perhaps more people will recover. Certainly, we can encourage people to reach out for help, the sooner the better, for best chance of getting their life back on track quickly.
I encourage everyone who has ‘socked it to Ed’ to shine some light for the thousands of people, of all ages, stuck right now in the eating disorder trenches (close to a million Australian people according to the Butterfly Foundation, 2012), and encourage them to seek treatment, to be less fearful of being negatively judged, and be aware that with hard work and determination, there is a whole other exciting, rewarding life waiting to be discovered. Life is really brilliant for me now!
Australians and New Zealanders – and in fact, everyone, everywhere – register now to get the early bird rate for our first national conference on eating disorders! The theme for this conference, which will feature fantastic researchers and clinicians, together with remarkable quiet achievers – the carers and survivors – is At Home with Eating Disorders – for ‘at home’ is where, we know, the major battles with ‘Ed’ take place. I look forward to meeting you there!