Re­cov­ery in sight

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - By KYLIE WIL­SON

IT took the con­cern of her friends and fam­ily for Wan­garatta’s Mor­gan Ben­nett to recog­nise she was suf­fer­ing from an eat­ing dis­or­der.

Dur­ing 2011, she was busy and work­ing long hours, and some of those close to her had ex­pressed con­cern about her health.

But it was not un­til she be­gan pass­ing in and out of con­scious­ness that she be­gan to re­alise the true ef­fects of her weight loss – she was liv­ing with anorexia ner­vosa.

A week be­fore her 21st birth­day, her mother Judy took her to out­pa­tients and ad­mit­ted her, and treat­ment be­gan.

Her con­di­tion, com­bined with body dys­mor­phia and a con­stant drive to ex­er­cise, was a po­tent mix.

“I could not see that I’d lost a lot of weight,” she said.

Mor­gan said that grow­ing up, “I al­ways saw skinny as an ideal”, but added there was no one cause for her ill­ness.

“It doesn’t come on overnight, and it’s not a choice,” she said.

“Peo­ple say, ‘just eat’, but it’s not that easy.”

In the years that have fol­lowed Mor­gan has had nine hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions, but said she con­tin­ues to take small steps to­wards re­cov­ery.

For her, plan­ning oc­ca­sional pub­lic out­ings and ex­press­ing her feel­ings through var­i­ous art projects are some of her cop­ing strate­gies.

“It’s dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one,” she said.

“Achiev­able chal­lenges are what you aim for.

“You don’t al­ways feel bet­ter, it varies from day to day. “It’s not a glam­orous ill­ness at all.” Mor­gan said achiev­ing real and last­ing re­cov­ery can take sev­eral years, and her con­di­tion has af­fected her long term health, leav­ing her with the bone den­sity of a much older woman, among other symp­toms.

The con­stant sup­port of her fam­ily and close friends has been in­valu­able.

“Mum took two years off work to nurse me, and my sis­ter is bril­liant and very sup­port­ive,” she said.

“You find out who your true friends are.”

Mor­gan said if peo­ple are con­cerned about their friends or fam­ily, they should look out for warn­ing signs of eat­ing dis­or­ders such as ob­ses­sions with food, recipes or cook­ing; an ex­ces­sive de­vo­tion to ex­er­cise, loss of in­ter­est in hob­bies, strict rit­u­als in re­la­tion to food, neg­a­tive body im­age and self talk, and more.

“Peo­ple of any age, race or gen­der are sus­cep­ti­ble,” she said.

Any­one who is seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion or as­sis­tance re­gard­ing eat­ing dis­or­ders can con­tact the Eat­ing Dis­or­der Helpline on 1300 550 236, North East Child and Adolescent Men­tal Health Ser­vice on (03) 5722 4837 or the North East Bor­der Men­tal Health Ser­vice on (03) 5722 5347.

More in­for­ma­tion can also be found online at Eat­ing Dis­or­ders Vic­to­ria at­ingdis­or­

Aus­tralia’s Healthy Weight Week takes place from Fe­bru­ary 17-23 and more in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at www.healthy­

PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

LONG JOUR­NEY: Mor­gan Ben­nett, who lives with anorexia ner­vosa, said the road to re­cov­ery is a long and grad­ual process.

FAM­ILY SUP­PORT: Mor­gan Ben­nett, pic­tured at a func­tion in late 2012 with her mother Judy and sis­ter Ainslee, said her fam­ily and friends have been an in­valu­able source of sup­port.

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