Emily, 28, HR lead & gym enthusiast in recovery from anorexia nervosa, SYDNEY
HR lead and gym enthusiast, Emily, 28, Sydney was known for her fun-loving personality, which was thwarted by her diagnosis of a potentially devastating mental illness six years ago.
While competing in the Australian University Games in 2013, Emily broke her ankle, which led to emergency surgery and a six-month confinement to a moon-boot thereafter.
During this period, Emily was unable to exercise, and for the first two weeks post-surgery, she could not even shower by herself. To help counteract her lack of exercise, Emily chose to stop eating.
She was subsequently diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
Having since mounted a recovery from this mental illness with the support of her fiancé, family and friends, Emily has now returned to the gym, is loving spending time with her dog Dexter, and is busy planning her upcoming October wedding.
This is Emily’s story.
“Anorexia nervosa is quite misunderstood. It’s hard for people to understand, but it’s also hard for the person living with it.
“With anorexia nervosa, your brain opposes every instinct you have to live,” said Emily.
Prior to Emily’s ankle injury, she attended the gym, socialised with her friends, read books and spent time with her beloved rescue dog.
“I was getting back into the gym when my accident occurred and I had to have surgery on my ankle.
“I couldn’t drive, shower or exercise. That’s when I stopped eating,” Emily said.
When Emily’s mother eventually recognised her daughter was displaying some symptoms of anorexia nervosa, she took her to the doctor, which led to Emily’s diagnosis with the mental illness.
“My weight loss was so dramatic that my GP referred me to a dietician and a psychologist for support,” Emily said.
Following her diagnosis, everything and everyone close to Emily was affected by her illness.
Her family and close friends were constantly upset, as they argued over the seemingly helpless situation.
“I had to stop attending Uni. I couldn’t see my friends, and I was so anxious about leaving the house because everyone would just stare at me, while I mistakenly thought I wasn’t skinny enough.
“I couldn’t go shopping because I was so tired all of the time. My clothes were too loose for my body, and I only ever felt comfortable around my mum,” said Emily.
“I was very depressed because I couldn’t go outside or see anyone.”
Emily was placed on a wait list for admission to the eating disorders ward at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. However, due to the gravity of her illness, she was fast-tracked to the front of the list because the doctors thought her life was in serious jeopardy.
“I was told I had to be placed under medical observation because I was at risk of having a heart attack. I ended up having to take potassium tablets, but was still continuously fainting due to my weak heart,” Emily said.
Emily received once month care from her dietitian and psychologist to help aid her recovery.
Today, she is doing very well, and is no long receiving professional support.
“Anorexia nervosa-related thoughts and behaviours will always be there, but now I choose to let go of them.
“It can be tricky for others to understand the idiosyncrasies around food and exercise that I still sometimes have, but this is something I think I will continue to work at, forever,” said Emily.
“I don’t stress about relapsing, but I do recognise just how easily I could fall back into my previous state.
“I know that I’m much better now because when the gyms were closed due to COVID-19, I didn’t have a meltdown, or just stop eating,” Emily said.
“I’ve just gotten on with life and am doing the best I can with the situation we’re all currently in. This is how I know just how far I’ve come.
“I’m very grateful to my family and friends who have supported my recovery every step of the way,” said Emily.
Emily is excited to be participating 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.
“Any research that heightens health professional and public awareness and understanding of eating disorders is great, and I’m more than happy to participate,” Emily said.
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.