We are pleased to introduce our July Recovery Talk speaker, Emily. Emily is currently a mental health peer worker and lived experience consultant based in Melbourne. Emily identifies as queer, neurodiverse, and multicultural, coming from a refugee and migrant background. They started presenting with symptoms when they were 10 years old. However there were things masking it that made symptoms harder to pick up, such as social and cultural norms around bodies and food. They were officially diagnosed with an eating disorder at the age of 15.
By the age of 13, Emily was facing depression and anxiety as well as battling with other issues such as related domestic violence, gender and sexuality Emily experienced bulimia, anorexia, ARFID, compulsive exercise, restricting eating, and binge eating. It would tend to stray from one to the other. Their eating disorder was a coping mechanism for a lot of other things in her life.
Emily’s treatment journey began when they started seeing a psychologist at the age of 13 for depression; however in this beginning phase, they did not talk about her physical health. They started treatment for her eating disorder at 15 which Emily felt was too late. This treatment involved hospitalisation and an integration of many things such as diet plans and psychologist appointments. They had support for each issue including depression, LGBQTIA+ experiences and the eating disorder, but these were not integrated at the time.
A major setback for Emily was two years ago during the start of COVID. Emily’s recovery has been based around building safe spaces and with safe people. Eating disorder triggers are everywhere so it was important for them to build a life structured around safety. When COVID hit, they had just moved across Australia to a new city. They lost their routine, support mechanisms and access to their safe spaces. They felt like everything fell apart and because their eating disorder was their coping mechanism, this was the first thing they turned to. They didn’t have any foundation to stand on and had to adapt to new support systems and structures. It was a big learning journey.
Psychological treatment helped them overcome abusive relationships and problems at work. When those things were handled well, they noticed the eating disorder was not present.
Emily’s biggest catalyst for recovery was finding community and purpose. They became more involved in their advocacy work with eating disorders and sharing their story publicly, and started building connections and support again.
Emily feels that Recovery is something they will always be constantly doing and they don’t feel there is a point where you are recovered and it will never come back. Something they have learnt through healing is that every day looks different and to be kind and compassionate to themself. For Emily, recovery is not the absence of the eating disorder but knowing they are managing it well and they feel proud of themself. They are surrounded by people they can rely on and they know they don’t need to rely on the eating disorder to feel okay.
Their advice to anyone who may be seeking help or who have already started their recovery journey is that you are worthy of help and the help is available. There are people that are like you and experiencing similar things. Emily encourages others to reach out and find a community because you are not alone.
Feel inspired by Emily’s story and join their recovery talk here.