Anorexia out bush – not just a city girl problem

Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Camille Camp

I was diagnosed with Anorexia when I was 15.

Having an eating disorder is never an easy experience, but when you live 6 hours from the nearest GP (general practitioner) and a further 3 hour flight from the nearest Eating Disorder (ED) clinic, life is even more challenging.

At the time, caught up in the midst of my ED I was happy being so far from the doctors I detested. Safe on the station, I didn’t have to attend the fortnightly medical check-ups that were compulsory for an outpatient. This meant that when I did have my check-ups it was only because I’d gotten myself to a state where my physical health was at risk.

What was supposed to be a few days in Perth visiting Princess Margaret Hospital would often turn into 3-6 weeks of hospitalisation.

Whenever she could be spared on the station my mum Cheryl would accompany me on these trips. I am so grateful to her for being there during those inpatient periods. Being in hospital in Perth was alien, terrifying and traumatic. When you add to that homesickness and not knowing anyone who could come visit … well let’s just say it was never a fun time.

There are two parts to consider when treating an eating disorder, the mental side and the physical side. Unfortunately, at that time there were no GP’s in the Kimberley with the specialised knowledge of eating disorders to be adept at either. Often I would walk out of an appointment with a local GP feeling worse than when I went in.

As much as I loved spending my childhood and teenage years growing up on the station, the remoteness and isolation did nothing to help my condition. There were few distractions and it was all too easy to retreat into myself and just let my eating disorder take control. If we had lived in a city I would have had access to regular group sessions, counselling, medical check-ups and most importantly I would have had access to peers and professionals who understood and could relate to what I was going through. This feeling of being understood and not ostracised is paramount when you’re suffering a mental illness.

Eating disorders are not uncommon and yet despite this they continue to be surrounded by misconception, negative stereotypes and stigma. Even now when I consider myself recovered I still feel shame and unease when I talk about my own experience. For many it’s thought of as a vain illness – the quest to skinniness that takes over your life. I used to see people looking at me and imagined they were thinking ‘geez girl just get some good steak into you and stop this silly nonsense’. What you need to understand is that food and the controlling of food is only ever one part of the problem. It is far more complex and certainly not a lifestyle choice. For me personally, my eating disorder presented itself as a way of coping through a difficult time in my life.

Having an eating disorder is hard but recovering from one is even harder. I think of recovering as clawing your way out of a dark well. For every inch you take towards the open air you fall another five inches down. I put my own recovery down to the unwavering support of my family and my own tenacious determination. My family stood by me throughout all the hard times and struggles. A lot of the time they did not understand why I was doing what I was doing but they always believed recovery was possible.

I was one of the lucky ones.  I came out the other side and can now look back on those times and know they helped form the woman I am today. In writing this I hope to shed some light and raise awareness about eating disorders. In the ideal world there would be more specialised medical support in rural and remote locations and far more knowledge within the general community. Anyone can become a victim of an eating disorder- women, men, boys and even little girls who grow up on cattle stations.

Eating disorders can affect anyone – even little girs who grew up on cattle stations. I consider myself fully recovered now – strong both mentally and physically.


Butterfly National Helpline

Phone: 1800 33 4673

Email: support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

Online Chat: Click here to chat online with someone.

Butterfly’s National Helpline and Online Chat provide free, confidential support for anyone with a question about eating disorders or negative body image, including sufferers, carers, family and friends, teachers, employers and more. The service can provide

  • Personalised support and coping strategies
  • Information on understanding eating disorders
  • Guidance on treatment options
  • Information on available services in your area
  • Connections with other services and specialists.

The National Helpline and Online Chat service are open Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm AEST daylight savings adjusted (except national/major public holidays).

Please note: The National Helpline is not a crisis service and cannot provide medical help. If in crisis please contact the emergency help services listed below.

Emergency help

If you are in a crisis situation, need immediate medical assistance or are at risk of harming yourself please contact:

Emergency Services
000

Lifeline Australia
13 11 14

Kids Helpline
1800 55 1800

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