My dan­ger­ous ob­ses­sion

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JACK MORPHET

HOCKEY’S poster girl Anna Flana­gan may be a pic­ture of health but her fit physique be­came a dan­ger­ous ob­ses­sion.

The for­mer world hockey young player of the year has re­vealed she has se­cretly bat­tled a re­cur­ring eat­ing dis­or­der since burst­ing on to the in­ter­na­tional stage seven years ago.

“It’s not some­thing I’ve ever shared pub­licly but I went from eat­ing the per­fect diet to be­come the per­fect ath­lete to ob­sess­ing about food,” Flana­gan said.

“Ini­tially, it started as anorexia and I re­stricted my diet but it turned into bu­limia. It was a re­ally un­healthy re­la­tion­ship with food and how I viewed it.

“It took up a lot of time in my head, it would get me su­per down, and I hated that part of my­self.”

Flana­gan, 25, is at­tempt­ing to re­vive her in­ter­na­tional ca­reer af­ter a hor­ror 2016, when she was dumped from the na­tional team for cov­er­ing up a drink-driv­ing con­vic­tion.

For the first time since she was a teenager, the 2010 and 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­list missed a string of in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments through sus­pen­sion and was sub­se­quently passed over for Rio Olympics se­lec­tion.

Af­ter bat­tling back into the team she was again left out for ‘breach­ing team pro­to­cols’. Flana­gan now con­cedes she “self-sab­o­taged” her ca­reer in re­ac­tion to a ‘toxic’ Hock­ey­roos camp cul­ture.

Dur­ing her spell away from the game, Flana­gan’s well-doc­u­mented de­pres­sion wors­ened, she cut her­self off from fam­ily and friends, and strug­gled to get out of bed. As­sum­ing her sport­ing ca­reer was over, she fi­nally with­drew from the lime­light and stared down her demons.

With the help of psy­chol­o­gists, Flana­gan has come to un­der­stand daily ex­er­cise, med­i­ta­tion and healthy eat­ing keeps her “happy and healthy” but re­mains con­scious of laps­ing into a de­pres­sive state.

“Don’t feel em­bar­rassed or afraid of be­ing judged about your men­tal health. Once you open your­self up peo­ple will be there to point you in the right di­rec­tion,” she said.

Af­ter com­pet­ing at the Aus­tralian Hockey League cham­pi­onships, Flana­gan said go­ing pub­lic with her men­tal health is­sues was daunt­ing but she had found it so lib­er­at­ing she will now as­sume the man­tle of headspace day am­bas­sador.

With sui­cide ac­count­ing for one in three deaths among young Aus­tralians, the na­tional youth men­tal health foun­da­tion is call­ing on peo­ple to dis­cuss the sim­ple things they do to look af­ter their men­tal health.

The char­ity has posed the ques­tion “what makes you feel bet­ter?” and wants peo­ple to write down and post a photo of the an­swer on a plac­ard from headspace­ us­ing the hash­tag #headspace­day.

Hockey Player Anna Flana­gan at Scar­bor­ough Beach in Perth. Pic­ture: Richard Hatherly.

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