I’m Madeline, pictured on the left, I’m 21 years old and I just graduated from Clonard College in 2017. I obtained an ATAR over 90 and have been accepted into Deakin University’s Bachelor of Vision Science/Masters of Optometry. My twin sister Rachael, pictured on the right, will soon be graduating from Deakin University with a Bachelor of Psychological Science. Why didn’t I finish school earlier? I’d been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, major depression and anorexia nervosa along with obsessive compulsive disorder. I’ve been fully recovered for 4 years.
I’ve always loved life and have a deep passion to create change. I’m one to make the most of all opportunities and despite some hard times, I’m glad to be where I am today. I want to start an eating disorder recovery program that supports individuals in their recovery. I was fortunate in winning the 2016 Upstart Challenge with this idea.
When I was in Year 6, in 2008, I developed pneumonia and was hospitalised as a result. I didn’t fully recover, which resulted in the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome. For the next 4 years, I was only able to attend school 3 days a week and had to quit competitive gymnastics. School and education has always been important to me, and gymnastics was my outlet, so giving these up negatively affected me. I developed major depression and gained a lot of weight in the process. I used to binge eat and had no self-love for my body. As I got higher up in my education, I aimed even higher to be the best I could be. By year 9, the pressure was burning me out and I began to skip lunch. By year 10, in 2012, I’d lost over 25 kilograms.
In 2012, I attended an appointment with my chronic fatigue specialist. He looked at me and said ” I cannot treat you anymore” and referred me to the Geelong Eating Disorder Service.
Two days before my 16th birthday, I attended my first appointment. My family and I met with a psychiatrist, psychologist and dietitian. I was told I could no longer attend school; and after being weighed, it was advised I was admitted to hospital immediately. I refused due to my birthday party being the next day. An agreement was made whereby, if I didn’t lose any more weight over the next few days, I could stay home. Over this weekend, I ate one boiled egg yolk and one piece of liquorice on my birthday. Unfortunately, I’d lost another 2 kilograms and was admitted to hospital.
I had a heart rate of 40 beats per minute and my blood pressure was 70/47 (120/80 is normal). I was fed via a tube for a week. I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, other than to use the bathroom, supervised. Solid food was slowly introduced to my diet. I was fed 6 times a day and supervised for an hour after each meal. I was discharged after 3 weeks, however for the next year, I relapsed frequently and was in and out of hospital constantly.
I had two, six week admissions in the Geelong Clinic. My medical team cracked down and enforced a “Zero Tolerance Policy”. If I didn’t eat every single piece of food served to me, or if I undertook any eating disorder behaviours, I was to be immediately admitted to Barwon Health. However, I felt like the world was closing in on me and I was out of control, I was desperate to lose weight. I began purging frequently each day and hiding food profusely. Subsequently, I was admitted to hospital even more, and new rules kept being added in. I had all of my possessions removed and would slowly get back “privileges” when I gained weight. I couldn’t even read a newspaper. I could only sit in bed and stare at the wall, left with my painful thoughts.
Eventually, I gained motivation to recover after seeing the world around me progress and returned to school in 2014. It took a long time to recover, but family and friend support was imperative.
Story and photo kindly supplied by Madeline. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.