Sharnn’s Carer Story

When my daughter was diagnosed with Anorexia in January 2023, I knew I couldn’t do this on my own. I had to reach out and secure a support network for myself, so I could best support my daughter moving forward.

The past two years have been a stressful and intense period for me and my 18-year-old daughter. In April 2020, my daughter was diagnosed with a rare blood condition called Hereditary Spherocytosis. This meant that while everything was slowing and locking down as COVID-19 surged, we were constantly in and out of Monash Hospital for endless blood tests, ultrasounds, and haematologist appointments. I think this is when my daughter’s mental health issues really began.

With all the focus on my daughter’s physical health, I was then devastated to learn that she’d begun to struggle with self-harm and suicidal ideation as well. No counselling had been offered amid her hospital visits and we did not have a regular GP – there had been no need as she’d always been happy and healthy up until this point. So now I was desperately trying to find help for her, which eventually came in the form of a private psychologist after months of being on waitlists. 

It was January 2022 that my daughter attempted to overdose for the first time. Now, just over a year on, we’ve had six emergency visits for both overdose and injuries related to self harm.  She’s finally been accepted into CYMHS – which couldn’t have come soon enough, after she told me her previous psychologist was not helping. 

And then we received the Anorexia diagnosis in January 2023 and I knew I could not do this on my own. 

Sharnn’s Carer Story

Just me, my daughter, and ED

For me, this recently diagnosed eating disorder has left me feeling somewhere between frustrated, angry, and terrified. 

Frustrated because work and personal time for me has stopped; my life is now meal planning, cooking, and just constantly thinking about food so my daughter doesn’t have to.

Angry because I am the only parent caring for her as a single mother, and it’s hard knowing that despite doing everything I can, I’m still only one person. 

Terrified because it’s like looking after a baby or toddler all over again, except I have even less control now. 

Her two older siblings are worried, of course, but as they now live out of home, they have no comprehension of what it is like to face this eating disorder all the time. I have no family to draw on for practical support as they do not reside in Australia.  As for my teen’s father, I’ve tried to maintain a friendly communication since we separated 15 years ago but he officially cut ties when our daughter turned 18.

Some days, I truly feel like it’s just me and my daughter, and this overwhelming thing called ED.

Look for moments of joy

However, the chaos and loneliness has encouraged and forced me to care for myself, too. Finding joy in the small things, and practising self-care whenever I can makes a world of difference! Some of the things that have helped pick me up on those harder days are:

  • Watching my two cats play with one another (cuddling up and pouncing on each other has always made me laugh).
  • Laughing with my teen as she tries to tickle me, and seeing her full of life.
  • Making all the cooking I have to do a FUN experience – not just heating some frozen meals.
  • Exercise and being outdoors – walking and kayaking have proven to be very cathartic!
  • Talking to friends and family.
  • Just taking a deep breath.

Knowing I am not dealing with this alone

Knowing the things I do now, and having the wonderful support of organisations such as EDFA, there are things I’d definitely wish I’d known and done sooner. 

Knowing that I was eligible for support payments would have taken some of the weight off the work I’ve been unable to do. Knowing about Carer Support Groups and the Carers Gateway, I would have felt less isolated at the start. CYMHS  have been great in providing therapists, but broader family support is lacking. 

Now, I have a big network of different therapists and holistic practitioners I can call on or make appointments with, as well as a CYMHS psychologist and psychiatrist, EACH Youth Worker, and Peer Support Worker for my daughter. For both myself and my daughter, sometimes talking with friends and her older siblings is more than enough.

EDFA has been irreplaceable as a support network – having the Facebook group available whenever I need to ask questions, vent, or simply have a chat, and to learn from the other parents of ED patients. I no longer feel isolated. They’ve been supportive in ways I can’t begin to describe, and I want to thank EDFA for simply being there to help. 

To access EDFA’s support groups, click here.