It was these words that gave me the strength to fight my disease. A disease that had enmeshed itself within me for far too long; a disease that had robbed me of so much in life; a disease that eventually led to multiple suicide attempts & irreparable damage to my body.
In 2008, my life drastically took a turn for the worst. I felt completely out of control of the situations I was facing at the time. As a result of feeling this lack of control over my life, I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I decided to control every morsel of food that entered my mouth and exercise for hours on end, to numb myself of the emotional pain that was so overwhelming. Soon I was exercising between 3-5 hours and eating as little as 120 calories every day. My diet consisted of lettuce, apples, chewing-gum and cigarettes. These unhealthy behaviours quickly spiraled into Anorexia Nervosa.
In a matter of months, my weight had dropped 25kg. Not only was my blood pressure extremely low and my heart rate 42 bpm, but I also stopped menstruating, and grew a fuzzy coat of lanugo all over my body. My hair started falling out, my skin was dry, my nails, brittle. Electrolyte imbalances posed a threat of sudden death from heart attack, and the damage to my heart and vital organs was extensive. My body was shutting down.
Discharged from hospital in 2008 after being in there for 6 weeks due to complications from anorexia
For so long I had hidden my behaviours from my family and friends, it was my best kept secret. It didn’t take long for the Anorexia to develop into Binge Eating Disorder. After depriving myself for so long, my body hungered for nourishment. Food was the unwanted cure. I tried to fight uncontrollable urges to binge, however my body always won.
I found comfort in food, and turned to bingeing as a way to fill the emptiness inside me, the unexplainable void. A consequential weight gain of 35kgs catapulted me into a severe depression which led to insomnia, isolation, panic attacks, self-harm and multiple suicide attempts.
This lack of control over food had me desperate for a cure, and I soon discovered the art of purging. It seemed a cure-all for my problems at first, but then Bulimia took on a life of its own.
Purging releases 12 neuron chemicals in the brain, including endorphins, which induce a state of numbness and euphoria. Essentially it is a neurological addiction, with the ‘high’ being the same as those experienced by many drug addicts. I found myself doing everything I could in order to achieve the high that purging brings.
Initially, purging had been for me, a way to release my emotions and erase my mistakes. However, it had grown into something entirely different. I needed that high, at a chemical level I was addicted to it. I needed to throw up. Therefore, I needed to eat food so that I could throw it up. In other words, I had gone from believing I was in control, to knowing that without a doubt I was the one who was in fact being controlled.
My health began to deteriorate rapidly. I experienced further heart complications, severe damage to my digestive system, dehydration, tears in my oesophagus and I was throwing up blood. Cue first hospital admission.
Following discharge, I continued to engage in eating disordered behaviour.
In 2010 two tragic events re-shaped my life. I was raped and I lost my best friend, Tahayna, to the same illness that plagued me. After the rape, my Bulimia and Depression worsened to the point where I was purging up to 8 times a day and attempted suicide 17 times.
Recovery was not going to be easy, and I knew that it wasn’t going to happen overnight. It was my friend Tahayna’s choice to recover from her Anorexia that gave me the strength and inspiration to finally recover and beat the illness myself. Alongside Tahayna’s dedication and progress in recovery, her happiness and hope grew incrementally. Seeing her life begin to change in a positive way, inspired me to pursue health as well, and fight as hard as I could to get my life back.
Tahayna was accepted into a treatment programme in London, known as Remuda Ranch. She recovered quickly and was back at home in Adelaide after 6 months. Unfortunately, her body never fully recovered and she was placed on life support. After months of hope for her to get better, doctors said the chances of her body functioning again were very low, so her family decided to turn off her life support and let her rest in peace.
My health continued to deteriorate, and after a check-up with my doctor, he urged me to admit myself into hospital. My family was unaware of my eating disorder at this time so I refused to accept treatment. As fate would have it, my mother found the referral letter for the gastro-oncologist, and put all the pieces together. After she confronted me about it I decided to go ahead with the recommended treatment. I did not want to let Tahayna down. I wanted to recover for her, so at least one of us could make it out alive.
I was admitted into the psychiatric ward at Women’s and Children’s hospital. However, they do not specialise in eating disorders. I have now been accepted into Flinders Weight Disorder Unit which has been acknowledged as one of the best eating disorder clinics in the nation. My team from Flinders are working on a programme to prepare me for my admission, as well as working on improving my mental state, so that I am mentally strong enough to be able to benefit from the admission. In the mean while I am being admitted to the psychiatric and medical ward on a fortnightly basis and am getting rehydrated weekly.
Before Tahayna passed away she said to me, “No matter what, stay strong. I want you to recover and find happiness. I know you will beat this! If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me.”
If it weren’t for Tahayna Jade I would not be in recovery right now. I am so thankful for her presence and impact in my life; the inspiration and strength she has given me. Suffering from an eating disorder has prevented me from achieving so much in life; I have lost my health, relationships, grades and consequently, I may never be able to have children. I refuse to let my eating disorder take away any more from my life. It has caused enough damage.
Recovery takes strength, but I continue to fight every day. I will work to overcome this illness and, eventually, help others suffering from eating disorders. I want to inspire others, just as Tahayna inspired me, and show them that recovery is possible.