Brittany’s story

Brittany Foetschl

Brittany, 30, Senior transport operations controller who grappled with anorexia nervosa for eight years, SYDNEY

After experiencing bullying from her school peers, Brittany, now aged 30, Sydney, spent her teens battling clinical depression and binging and purging food.

In 2006, shortly after completing Year 10, Brittany was forced to leave school and relocate to a residential religious rehabilitation home (the former Mercy Ministries) to undergo treatment for her depression and disordered eating. Over the course of the ensuing year spent at the rehabilitation home, Brittany says her mental health took a turn for the worse, which resulted in a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.

After battling severe anorexia nervosa for eight years, and being medication-free for the past three years, Brittany now wants to share her story. She believes there is no typical path to the development of an eating disorder, and factors, such as genetics and mental health, can play a significant role. 

This is Brittany’s story.

Brittany spent 2006 and 2007 in the former residential religious rehabilitation home, Mercy Ministries in Sydney. Originally promised support from dieticians, psychologists and general practitioners, Brittany was instead offered the opportunity to heal through prayer and was essentially cut off from the rest of the world.

“The environment at the home stole any form of control I had over my life. So, I subconsciously regained that control by restricting what I ate.

“After leaving the home, I was extremely suicidal. In my mind, I had to lose as much weight as I possibly could in order to end my life” said Brittany.

Fortunately, the dietitian who first saw Brittany upon her discharge from the home in 2007 grew extremely concerned for her welfare and referred her to a psychologist at the Wesley Hospital, after which Brittany was admitted into inpatient care.

“I dropped half my body weight within the space of 10 months. By Easter of 2008, I was on my third or fourth hospital admission,” Brittany said.

After a litany of hospital admissions and psychologist appointments, Brittany was eventually able to apply for a job. She secured a position in 2009.

“When I started my role, I was still very unwell. However, I needed a distraction from my anorexia nervosa. The small part of me that wanted to stay alive kept pushing and telling me that I had to get up and go to work and I needed to regain my independence,” said Brittany.

Brittany soon realised that she was the only person who could save herself.

“While in inpatient care, I was very aware of the group of people who I was associating with, and tried not to get involved with those who were constantly coming in and out of care. My whole mantra turned to self-preservation.

“It is important for those living with an eating disorder to seek the help of a professional when they know they cannot help themselves anymore,” Brittany said.

In order to commence Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for her clinical depression, doctors first needed her to maintain a healthy weight, so Brittany invested substantial time into her recovery. For the past three years Brittany has been medication free.

Brittany strongly encourages those who have experience of an eating disorder to participate in the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) – the world’s largest genetic investigation of eating disorders ever performed. The study is aiming to identify the hundreds of genes that influence a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder to improve treatment, and ultimately, save lives.

“The more people who participate in the study, the greater the chance the researchers will have to identify the genes that predispose people to eating disorders,” said Brittany.

Should you suspect that you, or a loved one, may be living with an eating disorder, speak to your local healthcare professional without delay, or head to www.insideoutinstitute.org.au to complete their screener and assessment, and to access more information and professional support.

 Australian professional patient support services offering 24/7 helpline services include:

  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
  • LifeLine: 13 11 14
  • Men’s Line Australia: 1300 78 99 78
  • Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800. 

 

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