I was 11 years old, in Grade Six at primary school, when I developed a mental illness called anorexia nervosa. It starved my body and I became emaciated. Eventually I gained weight and everyone, including me, thought I was well again. But anorexia hid inside my brain, and continued to sabotage my mental and emotional health.
My memoir is written almost entirely from my diaries, which I began writing at the age of 12. The process of diary writing was important for, although not aware of this at the time, it helped me stay alive. Many years on, when I summoned the courage to read my journals, I was rewarded with a heightened understanding of self, of the influences and environment that shaped my childhood. This was liberating in moving forward with my present. For decades my life had seemed like a jigsaw puzzle – there were pieces missing. I had gaping holes within. My diary contained clues to help heal and fill those gaps.
Isolated by my illness, my diary was frequently my only friend, my only link with a tiny thread of self. Often, tears soaked the page as I off-loaded loneliness, despair, alienation and rejection. Other times, my writing ran crookedly over the page, thoughts spilling haphazardly out of a mind numb from bingeing or heavily dosed with prescription drugs. When given a small, soft, covered diary for my 12th birthday, the little book quickly became my best friend.
Initially, entries were mostly matter-of-fact observations. I went to school at this time and came home at that time. Expressions of emotion—happy or sad—were rare. As our relationship grew, I began to share my heart and soul. Some entries were cryptic due to concern that my mother read my entries while I was at school and for several months, I resorted to writing entries in shorthand, to defy her curiosity. Reading my diaries, from age 12 to 55, was cathartic and often scary. I felt I was tumbling back in time, re-living an arduous journey to regain my life and be ‘normal’. I felt I was climbing my mountain all over again.
Almost a year had passed since I developed anorexia when I wrote my first diary entry on January 1,Tuesday, 1963:
Woke up at 5 o’clock. Had breakfast at 1/4 past 7. I had 1 round of toast + 3 bits of meat ….
Fighting an eating disorder and coping with a mental illness, requires preparations like a soldier preparing for battle. It requires doing away with ‘keeping up appearances’. Reporting on the launch of A Girl Called Tim in Bairnsdale in East Gippsland News Page 3 March 30.
Hi June, I have just finished listening to your podcasts of you reading your book A Girl Called Tim. I’d already read the book years ago but wanted to re-visit it.
Oh my gosh, I enjoyed it so very much! It made me smile and made me cry (a lot); it is a very powerful, beautiful and insightful account of your journey with an eating disorder (ED) and your beautiful self … I think you are incredibly resilient and I admire your resolve to keep exploring avenues for healing when things within and around you were so challenging and life felt so helpless and hopeless.
I am glad you have the love and constant of your beautiful children and grandchildren surrounding you. The power of family for healing is evident yet again
This book is hard to put down. Non-fiction, it spans half a lifetime of gruelling illness. June, a tomboy farm child becomes a teenage girl who is good at everything, popular and hard working, but sick with anorexia.
June never gave in to her illness, she fought it every day for 21 years of her life and she won. She lived. This is an inspiring story.
I am so happy you were able to facilitate our workshop! It was a very informative and engaging event. I know we each left the workshop with wonderful confidence in the process and excited to start keeping a journal. What a gift you have shared with us.
Knowing the hideous nature of anorexia, I can only be amazed at your strength in surviving and recovering in times when not much was known about the disease and we didn’t have people like yourself to educate and inspire us. I truly appreciate your kindness.
June provides us with not only a personal journey of discovery, learning and recovery. She also provides the societal and professional history and evolution from ignorance and misunderstanding of eating disorders.
She creates the picture so clearly that I felt I was there with her, agonizing as she stumbled and wanting to help her up, cheering as she made steps in progress to recovery.
It is the handling of living with an ‘eating disorder’ from age 11, and the candid analysis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and food obsession as a means of control, via her crafted diaries that makes this genuine autobiography a ‘must-read’.
Thank you for an extraordinary read of your book A Girl Called Tim. I bought the book and read it in two days. It is the only book ever I have read so fast and delved into every detail that you were describing. … I felt really sad for you that your mother used to call you Tim, and Toby when she was cross. I could not understand why she just didn’t call you June. To me right from the start it sounds like you were living like a boy. And it sounded like you were being that son for approval because that’s how you were identified.
… While family is not to blame for having an eating disorder, I believe family can contribute in some cases to the disorder and I think your family did contribute to it. You sound like a beautiful woman who was just not pointed in the right direction from the start and I commend your strength to keep healing. I cried when I read your letter in the book to your children.
I am cheering for June. Her book, which I finished last night, brought me through time and two continents. Through anorexia and bulimia as they went from unseen, to misunderstood, and then overcome. What is most amazing to me is June’s ability to re-frame the past with such compassion – when her illness showed her none and often the world around her was unable to show her anything but confusion.
Of all the books I have perused pertaining to eating disorders, yours is the one I relate to best.
All of my adult life, I have been plagued by the debilitating practice of gorging and purging — incidents of excessive and compulsive overeating, followed by extreme purging, fasting and dieting.
I am blown away by A Girl Called Tim, I feel a sense of understanding…I don’t feel so alone – this 10-11 year “battle” I’m going through seems liked nobody could understand and now as I read your words I feel hope.
Your book let me look from the outside and inside. I’m lucky that I found it and able to read it!
Your message of hope for total recovery – even for long-term sufferers – means more to me than I can tell you.
I congratulate you on your honesty and forthright approach. I am 68 years young and my beautiful lady is 63, she has had anorexia all of her life and to this day is unable to find a health practitioner who even recognises that her anxiety and depressions are as a result of her anorexia. Thank you once again for your wonderful book, it gives me hope for my loved one and my future.
I have just finished your memoirs – I got so involved that I forgot the cup of tea sitting on my bedside table! Had to drink it cold!
June, A Girl Called Tim arrived this morning, I started reading after lunch, and six hours later put it down, the last page turned. I KNOW your story, your courage and determination will be an inspiration and motivation to many people as they seek their own recovery.