I am Han and I love the colour green, to the point of obsession. I am a dietitian and a personal trainer. I love cooking and reading and writing and running and riding my bike. I love nature, I love music. I love movies and I love spending time with my husband, family and friends. I am a contradiction of sorts, I am a mixed bag. I despise uncertainty, yet run away from order and routine. I can be bawling my eyes out one minute and then have an epiphany of positivity the next. I am wise, and can always provide an insightful piece of advice to friends in need, yet I make many mistakes. In some social circumstances I can have a panic attack and be unable to talk, in others I can be the life of the party. I live for humanity, in all its broken glory. I am fascinated by others and their stories and what they have to offer, their experiences and knowledge. I could be a photographer or a doctor, a barista or a barrister; the only problem is I have not the time in this world to get through all of the professions I aspire towards. I still strive for perfection but I finally appreciate my imperfections. I crave knowledge and as long as I am constantly learning I think I am quite content in my life for the first time.
I think I have started writing 100 recovery stories…none of them completed. A part of me believes that this is because recovery is not a final point in time. I believe that I will always be ‘recovering’ in some way and I will always be building on my recovery story.
I spend a lot of time thinking and philosophising, and one day, recently actually, I realised something that I had never considered; the path of an eating issue and the self-harm it involves, is a long narrow road and it ends with a cliff. If you travel along that road you may be able to turn around for a while, at any point, but it gets more precarious as you go and you keep gaining momentum. Eventually there is nothing to be done except go over the cliff. The cliff is a metaphor for a breakdown, or it could mean something worse…this is why eating issues are so terrible and so hard to recover from. The only way out is back along the damaged road that you worked so hard to travel…it’s only once you get off that you realise how damaged it really was.
I had a very fortunate childhood, on a large farm as a country girl. We were a social family so I was always surrounded by a vast array of different people. I was quite naive to the world, and very sensitive. I cared very much that everyone was okay and that I was doing a good job in their eyes. I wanted to be perfect. My eating issues sprang to life as a result of many things, but I think the biggest one was a feeling of isolation and lack of control in my life, and that old goose: desiring to be perfect. I internalised a lot of my emotions because I just didn’t feel I could tell them to anyone. It happened slowly at first, just a teenager making some healthy changes. I had my wisdom teeth removed at one point and I think after that I spiralled down into a full-blown eating issue pretty quickly. The more I spiralled, the further away the exit was until there was no exit. At some point I was taken out of school and a week later I was in hospital. Two months later, I returned home and had been ‘cured’. That’s how I felt everyone saw me, but I was probably worse. Now the restrictive nature of my eating issue had changed into something polar opposite and I was terrified of it. I spent the next few years with a substance abuse disorder and living in a cloud of internalised misery, confusion and fear. I couldn’t speak to anyone, I felt completely alone. My problems were stupid, why would anyone care. I was just a drama queen and I should just get over it and move on. I had months of good days and months of bad days; every time I made a promise to pull myself together I would get upset by something or stressed and fall back down. Now, I can acknowledge that I was depressed and that I suffer from anxiety, and that neither of those conditions is selective…anyone can suffer at any time and there doesn’t always have to be a big clear reason behind it. I love my body, but the chemicals in my brain have caused me a lot of grief over the years. Anxiety has pretty much been the root of it all and I only just figured that out a couple of years ago. When I was 20, I decided to move away from my home city and travel up to Queensland and start fresh. I wanted to study, so I enrolled in a nutrition course. I did a year of that course and got into university where I studied a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. Over those years, I had ups and downs as well but I taught myself about nutrition and so those misconceptions I had fed myself were no longer viable. I guess that I would see this time as when I ‘recovered’…now I work at maintaining and improving myself every day.
I spent so many years numbing myself from myself. I feel saddened about that, but I also acknowledge that without the journey there is no treasure. There is no discovery. Recovery…I would call it discovery. Either way it’s all an adventure, a roller-coaster of ups and downs and you’re never quite sure what will happen next. I guess that this is a bit like life in general. Recovery to me is choosing to be in life, instead of hanging out on the outside and watching it pass you by. I guess I wasn’t even watching it go by; I was all consumed by my eating issues. For many years, I tried to combine my eating issue with my life…but it always got in the way and tripped me up.
I find that by setting myself little challenges I can find fulfilment and satisfaction. These can range from shaving my head to raise money for leukaemia to living below the poverty line for a week to raise money for poverty, to running a half marathon for my own achievement. I have come to realise that to be in life, I had to give up sitting on the sidelines, sharing my body and mind with my eating issues. I had to become a whole person and stop letting addictions rule me and dictate the choices I make. I have never felt so healthy and strong. I do have my moments when I feel like throwing in the towel and tapping out. However, I gave myself a chance to live life and I experienced happiness, achievement, love, heart-break, shame, embarrassment, satisfaction, nervousness, ecstatic joy and energy and all the emotions that one can experience. I have also taught myself to love all that I am and be grateful to be in this body with this mind.
And that’s my recovery story thus far. I want anyone who is going through an eating issue to know that there’s never one road to travel. Eventually we all have to make a choice, and it’s this choice that will be your slither of light in the darkness. I once told myself that all I wanted was to eat a crumpet with honey on it and not have any negative feelings associated with it. Let me tell you, you can have your crumpet and eat it too. Never ever, ever, ever give up. Each challenge makes you stronger. I wish you only peace and love.