Recovery in sight
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 at www.eatingdisorders.org.au.
Australia’s Healthy Weight Week takes place from February 17-23 and more information is available at www.healthyweightweek.com.au.
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.