We are thrilled to introduce our October recovery talk speaker, Sarah. Sarah is currently working as a mental health peer support worker and aims to bring awareness to important mental health issues including eating disorders. Sarah has now overcome and recovered from her eating disorder and is now working in the Eating Disorder space which is empowering and rewarding for her.
Sarah began realising that something felt out of place when she was at the age of 16, where she had started to notice the relationship with her body and food starting to change. She noticed that that she wanted to change her body and go on different diets that had existed. Sarah had lived with this perception for almost 12 years before she realised what she was experiencing was not normal and was later diagnosed with bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder.
Sarah had experienced appearance-based bullying in high school which had a significant impact on the way Sarah viewed and was aware of her body. This had a huge influence on the relationship that Sarah had with her body over the years. Sarah had also experienced childhood trauma where she had grown up in a violent household which had impacted and contributed to her binge eating episodes where she had consumed large amounts of food as a form of coping and numbing her feelings. This was followed by Sarah’s bulimia which focused on compensatory behaviours, occupied with exercising, using laxatives and diet pills to lose weight to make up for the binging.
During this period, Sarah had also experienced depression and anxiety and had become obsessive around food where she would calorie count and always wanting to try new diets. After the 12 years that Sarah had struggled with her eating disorder without any diagnosis or support, she had engaged in therapy that had focused on her anxiety and depression, not for her disordered eating. When receiving a diagnosis, Sarah truly felt that she was on the right track to recovery as she was not aware of what she was experiencing or how to explain it. It was not until Sarah had engaged with a psychologist who suggested she see a dietitian who had later explained what Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa was.
A significant turning point in Sarah’s recovery was the binge eating and bulimia support groups that she had attended which was life changing to her as it allowed Sarah to understand that she was not alone. Although this support was encouraging and changing, Sarah had experienced some of her lowest points during her recovery journey which includes her major depressive episodes where it resulted in Sarah being very low functioning where she had to quit her job. This also impacted her uni performance as it affected her ability to study. This was when Sarah felt that her life has turned upside down.
Sarah has not noticed any major setbacks during her recovery but has found that the current COVID-19 situation has been quite challenging as it is the first major event since recovery where she has noticed feelings/worries around food and body image and not being as active. During this time Sarah has tried to be more mindful and aware of thoughts and feelings she is having about her body and knowing when to reach out for support.
Sarah’s advice for anyone who may be starting or already on their road to recovery is to hang in there. It can be really hard and feel like you are going backwards, however, recovery is a process and it is not linear, there will be ups and there will be downs.