We are pleased to introduce our October Online Recovery Talk speaker Joanna. Joanna is a 29 year old physiotherapist who suffered from an eating disorder as a teen. She had first started showing symptoms of an eating disorder when she was at the age of 15. Joanna loved to dance and felt that she began to feel anxious about her peers who were starting to lose weight for the sport.

Joanna had a love for dance and found that she began to feel anxious when she realised that her peers around her were starting to lose weight for the sport. It was over a 6 month period that Joanna began to restrict her food intake which later led to bulimia at the age of 17 where she had begun to binge and purge as a coping mechanism.

During this period Joanna was studying Year 12 which she believes exacerbated her anxiety and was also assaulted at the age of 16 which contributed significantly to Joanna’s disorder as it was something that was hidden for a long period of time. Joanna had later told her parents which led her parents to push her to get help which made her feel out of control.

For 12 months, her eating disorder was particularly severe. Joanna was binging and purging daily. She was spending all of her money on food, in addition to stealing money from her parents when she did not have money of her own. She was also withdrawing from friends and would avoid all social events. Joanna was beginning to experience warning signs such as her dentist saying that her teeth were eroding due to high levels of acid, and that there was a possibility of them soon falling out. Despite these warning signs, as well as her binging and purging behaviour, Joanna says that she did not think that she had a severe, life threatening illness.

Once her parents were aware of her eating disorder she was made to seek treatment from a Psychologist. Joanna believes that a crucial element in recovery is a personal desire to get better, and she believes that during these initial sessions she was not ready. As a result she found herself lying to her therapist and her condition declined. She was soon admitted to hospital and felt like her parents forced her to go.

Joanna stayed in hospital for two weeks. She says that this experience was important in her recovery as it gave her back a sense of control over her eating disorder. Once out of hospital, Joanna experienced two years where she relapsed a couple of times. However, she was slowly beginning to recover from her eating disorder. She had then seen another psychologist after this time out of hospital for about a year which she had a good connection with.

The lowest point of Joanna’s recovery was when her mother found her in the middle of a binge. For Joanna, this was her lowest point. Her mother told her that if she did not seek treatment for her eating disorder, that she would die from her illness. Joanna felt she was never able to recover and felt that this would go on forever, which became very consuming. However, a moment she felt she was finally on the right track to recovery was after her hospital discharge where she felt different and her mind felt clearer. Finally, advice that Joanna has for those on their recovery journey is to find other things that are more important to you to enjoy and that telling those around you whether that is close friends or family, means the less you have to keep something to yourself as a secret. The first step to recovery is always the hardest and that it takes time and it is okay to have set backs.