Ella has lived with an eating disorder since she was just 12 years old. Her road to recovery has been plagued by stigma, disjointed treatment and a lack of understanding. At 26, Ella’s journey is still unfolding, but she has finally found treatment services and the support that she needs to recapture her life.
“A few years ago, I didn't think I would make it to see 21, let alone 26,” Ella said.
“I felt like I was treading water furiously, and not getting anywhere because there was little to no communication between my treatment team.
“My eating disorder was ruling my every move.”
Ella went through countless admissions to public hospitals, private hospitals, psychiatric wards and various medical wards, in the search for a holistic and comprehensive treatment program.
“Without the support of the treatment service I eventually found, I don't think I'd still be alive. It has enabled me to work on full recovery, rather than maintaining a state of illness.”
“I am not wealthy by any means, but I have made my health insurance payments a priority and this has made all the difference for me,” said Ella.
Frustrated with the scarcity of national eating disorder services, in 2012 Ella started the ‘Fed Up’campaign, which aimed to bring to light the shortage of current treatment options, and tried to break down the stigma that surrounds eating disorders.
“Eating disorders hardly ever seem to be seen as a ‘real’ mental illness, even in psychiatry. All too often eating disorders are seen as a ‘lifestyle choice’ or ‘attention seeking’ rather than the serious and life threatening mental illness that they are,” said Ella.
Ella owes much of her recovery to her close network of friends, who advocated for her health, and encouraged and supported her through treatment.
“I feel very lucky that I have so many friends who understand what it's like to go through a mental illness, who love and support me no matter what. I think people can often underestimate the power of peer support,” said Ella.
Ella believes that education and accessibility for eating disorder prevention, education and treatment services have a long way to go to.
“I would like people to know that having an eating disorder is no more a ‘choice’ than any other mental illness. I would like people to know that treatment is difficult to come by, often expensive and traumatic.
“With a lot of hard work, people can and do get better - I have seen it - you just have to have hope,” said Ella.
We thank Ella for sharing her story with us.
All stories are shared with direct permission, as part of Share Your Story month.
If you, or someone you know, requires assistance or needs to talk to someone, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.