For those who have experienced an eating disorder, the stories section may be triggering for you. If you feel you have the potential to be upset, please do not read. If you are upset, please reach out to your support network or contact Lifeline – available 24/7 – on 13 11 14. Look after yourself. Be safe.
Michelle has made the decision to share her story with us. At 43, she doesn’t fit the stereotype for eating disorders. She’s highly educated and works in a prominent position in the community sector. Despite all her achievements, Michelle would not let me share a picture of her because she “hates” the way she looks.
My name is Michelle and I’m from Canberra.
I’m 43 and I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 15years old.
At 15 years old I was dealing with the effects of abuse and a mum who was super critical of what I ate and who always called food ‘good food’ and ‘bad food’ even now I am struggling with the ramifications of this and it is something that I’m working through with my psychologist.
My eating disorder was initially anorexia which very quickly became bulimia and which I somehow hid from family and friends and my husband of 20years (although I have vivid memories of purging on our honeymoon) until 2009 when the culmination of a stressful situation saw the eating disorder impacting on my life even more so then what it had been.
It was in 2009 that I first heard of Northside Clinic and at the urging of my GP, dietitian and family I put my name down on the waiting list. A place finally became available and I was torn between going and not going because I had just found out we didn’t have enough insurance coverage – so my first stay at Northside in 2009 cost us close to $7500 for what was only a 3 week stay. I ended up discharging against medical advice because I couldn’t handle being in hospital anymore and I knew it was costing my husband and I a lot. I was feeling guilty.
I was fortunate that I was able to immediately go to the top level of insurance coverage without any waiting time, which was a major relief because less then 6months later in 2009 I was again admitted.
I’ve had 4 admissions from 2009 with my last admission being August 2011.
With every admission I struggle with believing I’m not sick enough or worthy enough for a bed because I don’t have low weight and never had. I’m 43 and I should be over this! I should be better! I’ve also struggled with telling people because when I have shared that I have an eating disorder people will often look at me incredulously because I don’t fit the stereotype.
So you may ask why I had to do inpatient in Sydney? Well because Canberra does not have inpatient care for eating disorders patients despite now having an award winning mental health facility (and yes I’ve written to the ACT Minister for Health and the reply is what they offer eating disorder patients in adequate – when those of us in the community know that if you want care for an eating disorder in Canberra, you need to travel interstate) I also travel to Sydney every 4 to 5 weeks to see my psychologist. I have tried to put in place a team in Canberra, but it is difficult to find people who are experienced in eating disorder treatment in regional areas. Sydney is the only option for a lot of people who experience eating disorders who live in or around Canberra.
Looking back over my life I struggle to see sometimes how I achieved what I have being quiet unwell at times – I have two diplomas, an undergraduate degree and certificates III and IV in fitness. I work in the community sector and I’m currently doing post grad study through Deakin university.
I believe it’s because of the support of my husband, family and some close friends who have continued to believe in me when I haven’t been able too.
So where am I at now? Unfortunately I’m relapsing and my dietitian and psychologist would like to see me put my name down at Northside but like in previous times I don’t believe I’m sick enough yet. My eating disorder won’t let me put my name down.
I am supporting this campaign because having been touched by an eating disorder I am passionate about seeing change occur with regard to services. I also don’t believe that a person should have to have top cover private health insurance in order to access some services.
I have met some amazing people on my journey and count it a privilege to call them my friends!
My hope is that not only NSW but all states and territory’s in Australia would listen and start providing more adequate and accessible care for people living with an eating disorder.
The right to adequate healthcare is a basic human right.