We are pleased to introduce our June recovery talk speaker and recovery champion Gemma. Gemma is a registered nurse working in the adult public eating disorders sector. She also works as a telehealth nurse at Eating Disorder Victoria doing peer mentoring as well as being a recovery ambassador. Gemma began to notice that something wasn’t quite right in Year 7 and Year 8 when her behaviours and thoughts began to slowly change when her jeans did not fit right. It started innocently where she began eating healthier and started becoming more active with extracurricular activities. It slowly began to become more restrictive in Year 9 where her mum became concerned. Her GP at the time had brushed this off, acknowledging that there was nothing to be concerned about and it was only within a few months where she was sent to hospital.

Gemma was diagnosed with Anorexia where symptoms that were experienced at the time involved fear of weight gain, preoccupation with weight and shape, obsession with weight loss, feeling like she was bigger than what she was, body checking, restriction, cutting out certain foods, obsessed with exercise and trying to purge but was unable to do so.

Treatment began when her mother had taken her to Eating Disorders Victoria where she got an appointment in a public hospital. She had seen a pediatrician and dietitian and was hospitalised a few weeks later. Gemma had outpatient appointments with the paediatrician and dietitian weekly. With some one-on-one therapy where therapy later moved to Maudsley Family Therapy (FBT). Unfortunately, Gemma was in and out of hospital for a few years and at the age of 16  was linked with a private psychiatrist then later admitted to a private mental health hospital for a few months.

The lowest point during recovery for Gemma involved her first hospital admission. Gemma was really frightened and her weight progressed forward.  She met some other people during her eating disorder treatment at the hospital and then it hit a point where things went backwards again. A few years later,  she experienced an extreme downward spiral and gave in all control to her eating disorder.

During her first admission to the psychiatric hospital Gemma was refusing to do anything for her recovery. It had come to a point where Gemma’s psychiatrist caught self-harming behaviour and was given the option to be unsafe and go into intensive care or letting the eating disorder take over or choose recovery. She felt like she had nothing to lose. Gemma had a passion to become a nurse and wanted to keep studying which she feels was a protective factor driving her to recovery.

A significant point in Gemma’s recovery where she had felt she was on the right track to recovery was when she began enjoying life experience. Engaging in life and things like socialising gave her motivation to recover. She began finding a sense of self. The more she explored and learnt things about herself, it gave her more motivation to keep going and it became easier to let go of the eating disorder.

Gemma had begun to recognise she had recovered from her eating disorder when living life and realising her eating disorder wasn’t taking up any space in her mind. Being able to work and concentrate on her shifts where she wasn’t preoccupied with food and enjoyed eating was also another factor that she realised she was making progress.

Gemma’s advice for anyone struggling during their recovery is for people that are not feeling ready: you can’t wait for motivation to come to you and the eating disorder  is never going to make you feel ready. You have to give it your best go. If recovery is as awful as you think it is you can go back to the eating disorder, but Gemma has never met anyone who has recovered that thinks their eating disorder life is better than recovery. It is hard at the start but it gets easier. 

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