Michelle’s Story

This is a story of hope.

My daughter Karlee (18 yrs) was extremely anxious from a very young age, very shy, obsessional and a perfectionist. She worried about everything and always feared the worst.

She was diagnosed with anorexia in Februrary 2018, but looking back on it she had probably had it for at least 12 months prior. She was the “happiest” she had ever been. She was exercising like crazy, and would only eat ‘healthy’ foods. The eating disorder gave her false courage and confidence.

Treatment refusal

Over the next two years she became so unwell she spent most of it in hospital, going between the medical and mental health wards. She refused treatment, became mute and didn’t speak for almost a year. There were many episodes of self harm.

It was hard to see how she could recover. She battled through another year, hospital free, but fighting the daily eating disorder thoughts.  Exercise became an obsession once again, and injuries to her hips, muscles and bones weren’t enough to slow her down.

Access to better services

I had been searching for better help for years. I spent time researching what services were available world wide…

Our obstacles (as with many other families) were 

a) being too medically unstable to travel and 

b) the cost which was way out of our reach.

I came across Wandi Nerida, Australia’s first Residential Eating Disorder Recovery Centre. 

I was sure it was going to be out of our reach financially…it felt like it was just going to be a pipe dream.

Regardless, I was not going to give up finding her the best help. Karlee’s GP put in a referral as we were all frightened where her eating disorder was taking her. Hospital was never going to help her get better.

Within a week we received a phone call to say they had accepted the referral and we needed to complete an application and Karlee a self assessment. We did this immediately and within days she had a video link up with Wandi’s head Psychiatrist. They needed to be convinced Karlee was “ready” and wanting recovery and medically able to get to Queensland.

We were told an estimate of fees and had to give our full financial position for a bursary for part of the admission fees to be considered.

Within days they had approved an admission but said it could be within the next couple of months.

Finding hope

We were beyond happy but scared at the same time. The possibility of admission to Wandi Nerida gave Karlee the hope she desperately wanted and needed.  Two weeks later I had a phone call to see if we could get Karlee to Queensland on Monday to start treatment.

She was ready, we were ready, we made it happen, we flew into Queensland on Sunday night.

She was medically unstable upon arrival but thankfully they agreed to still take her, as opposed to a 10 day medical admission to the local hospital. 

Hope for eating disorder recovery

A rough start

The first few days were challenging. Karlee wouldn’t engage, and refused intake, desperate to leave. We pleaded with her to stay and begged Wandi Nerida to keep her. The saving grace was that I was in 14 days’ isolation back in WA and Karlee was so unwell that the only option of leaving Wandi Nerida was to go to the local hospital for re-feeding which terrified her more than actually staying.

We were feeling gutted and frightened.

Thriving and Surviving

There have been many times of absolute distress, begging to come home, pleading for us to come and get her but we have stood strong and begged Wandi and Karlee to do the same. The 60 day admission was almost up but they approved an extension of another 60 days, thankfully with bursary support.

I am happy to say that Karlee is still at Wandi Nerida and now thriving.

Her new Wandi Nerida nickname is “smiley”. She is so happy, so motivated, so talkative and just so loving.

She is eating various foods, no picking, no playing, no hesitating, just normal eating and chatting.  We do still have some hurdles, anxiety related, but we are working through them. She is learning how to overcome and deal with some of her fears. Wandi Nerida is working with her on this.

We will forever be grateful to Wandi Nerida and the Butterfly Foundation for the bursary support. We are so lucky that our family and friends rallied behind us to raise the extra funds needed to help with Karlee’s treatment.

We are feeling very very blessed right now and positive for a bright and happy future for Karlee and our family.  

Keep at it wonderful parents and carers, you are all amazing and doing a brilliant job. If you are in the deep dark depths, know that there really is a way out –  just try to keep moving forward.

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