As part of Men’s Health Week, Lou Borrelli shares a little about his family’s journey of caring for their daughter who has lived with an eating disorder for more than 9 years.
Lou and his wife Anne work together to help their daughter navigate the ebbs and flows of the illness, and he has shared some deep reflections, some big decisions, and what he would change, if he could.
‘Rebecca is now beginning her recovery journey; a journey that seemed beyond our touch whilst dealing with the “systemised” (one-size-fits-all) treatment approach’
Read more below
Lack of individualised mental health treatment
For more than nine years, Rebecca has been in various forms of voluntary and compulsory treatment programs with the main form of treatment in hospital being medical stabilisation.
It took us many years to realise that the lack of individualised mental health treatment was causing more mental anguish than good for our daughter.
Over the last 12-18 months Rebecca has chosen (with our full support) to take the riskier road of self-managing her ED recovery.
Our focus was on her needs
It is fair to say that our life was turned upside down from the first signs of this disease. Every day required our focus on Rebecca’s needs and, just as significantly, trying to better understand the illness itself. Routine gets thrown out the door and managing busy work schedules, other children/family, pets and friends becomes a difficult road usually plagued by our unreliability and important matters being dealt with in hindsight.
Stability was always our priority
We’ve been able to get on with life – you just find a way – but the strain on your body and mind is constantly there.
In reality, we much prefer living in today’s version of the eating disorder journey. With Rebecca’s health, stability is always our priority, and we often encouraged (pushed) our daughter to follow what we believed was proven medical advice.
The last 18 months has taught us that helping her to enjoy life and, in some sense, learning to live with the illness – whilst scary – is better than embarking on unwanted medical intervention for a patient that was simply not ready for it.
Choosing this, Rebecca is now beginning her recovery journey; a journey that seemed beyond our touch whilst dealing with the “systemised” (one-size-fits-all) treatment approach.
A reflection for Men’s Health Week
As part of Men’s Health Week, I’d like to share my thoughts with you. There was a time when my job in the insurance industry created a much-needed diversion from the day-to-day worries of Rebecca’s health (and other pressure points for that matter). Corporate life tends to impose a discipline permitting you to compartmentalise your issue and, somehow, I succeeded by just worrying about whatever was occupying me at that moment in time.
I was good at dealing with things in the moment; at least I thought I was. In reality, the accumulation of issues sometimes meant I was riddled with flu’s caused by being physically run-down. Longer term, I needed a better plan.
Doing what was right for me
I retired in 2019 at the age of 55. Leading-up to that point, there were many ‘life strains’ – forcing me to contemplate when would be the right time to retire.
I also noticed- that with each passing year I focused less on financial security and more on what I needed personally.
When two industry colleagues died just days after (AFL identity) Danny Frawley took his own life – all three in their mid 50’s like myself – that set-off the trigger for me and I left the industry within two months.
“A Better Me Makes for a Better We”
I am still relatively young to retire by today’s standards but my theory is you don’t retire from work, you actually retire to new things.
So, to help colleagues, family and friends better understand my decision, I created a brand for myself called Better Me Industries with my motto reading …. “A Better Me Makes For A Better We”. I now have more time to invest in family, volunteering, networking, socialising, holidaying, renovating, exercising and much more …. as well as supporting Anne in helping Rebecca of course!
What if we could change one thing…
If we could have changed anything about our journey, it would be that we needed to listen to our daughter much more closely. Whilst some of Rebecca’s pleas were provoked by her simple desire to maintain her eating disorder lifestyle and size (almost avoiding treatment at any cost) we needed to listen to her and respect her desire for a personalised approach.
At times, her voice was unheard by us, and the medical system, and yet somehow that only served to strengthen the motivation for whatever emotion the Eating Disorder fulfilled.
For those interested, you can follow Rebecca’s journey on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube under “A Taste For Life”.
Men’s Health Week runs from June 13 – June 19 and is an important opportunity to highlight the importance of men’s health, and to promote and support the health and wellbeing of men and boys in our communities.