Tanja’s Story

My daughter was officially diagnosed with restrictive anorexia nervosa on 31st December, 2015 at an emergency department where I took her in desperation – six months after her older sister realised she had a problem with food and four months after I actively sought help and support. 

In hindsight, I believe she had been sick for at least a year before the diagnosis. We attempted family-based treatment offered within the Victorian public health system but it didn’t work for us at all. 

We transitioned to the private sector, working with a family therapist and a paediatrician – later my daughter worked with a psychologist individually.

In early 2017 she went back to school and took responsibility for her meals, despite still being underweight. By June 2018 she was starting to relapse, and she was very unwell for the next two and a half years.

Anorexia recovery story from a mum's perspective

A profound change

To say that this experience changed me is an understatement. It has rocked my world – and I mean it in the best possible sense. Now I am a loving woman, more conscious parent, a better leader and an active member of different communities. I am a coach and mentor.

I now have extensive knowledge about eating disorders in general, and I have experience advocating for appropriate services for my child with the Departments of Health and Mental Health, collaborating with community services like Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police, lobbying my local MP for intervention and submitting hundreds of pages of documentation to various organisations.

I now have a blog and an Instagram page where I share my knowledge and most importantly HOPE for hundreds of families who are going through a very similar experience of supporting a gravely sick child in the public systems that are underfunded, poorly trained and in general not very caring as far as mental health is concerned.

I wish I'd known...

I wish I had known what anorexia was and how it would go on to affect my child. It was not helpful to hear “you know your child, get your child back”. 

First of all, I did not know my child anymore. Anorexia took over and at times it was difficult to recognise where my child was and where the symptoms of anorexia were. 


Secondly, my child was supposed to grow and change, to become an adolescent – it seemed futile to want to “get back” the little girl that I remembered.

I wish I had had training in emotional intelligence – anorexia is an “emotion disorder” as much as an eating disorder.

Skills and a support network

I have two older daughters, and both were affected, one of them developing anorexia symptoms (unrelated to her sister’s situation). But it was 2019; I knew more than I did in 2015 – I could intervene in time and put appropriate professional support in place.  My Mum was a big support – she came to stay with us twice, for a year, and then almost two years.

I work with a life coach in a group setting at the moment, and I’ve worked with three eating disorder carer coaches and I know I can ask them for support if I need it. I greatly value  EDFA – the organisation represents me as a carer and provides me an opportunity to be with others with similar experiences.  The people at EDFA are my role models – what they do encourages me to see beyond my own needs and to serve the community.

Self Care, Strategies and Cookies!

It makes me smile hearing my daughter ask for a cookie!  

I have developed a routine that includes deliberate self-care, emotional and physical. I have strategies to deal with stressful situations, including breathwork and mental practices, and I regularly learn new things and set goals for myself.

My top tips for parents and caregivers

  • Keep hope. 
  • Learn. 
  • Have small achievable goals at every stage. 
  • Love yourself and choose yourself 
  • Be a role model for your child.

As I write this (December 2021) my daughter is taking responsibility for her life with my support. I am very proud of my child – she is the strongest, the most determined and courageous young woman I know.

Do you have a story to share?

Sharing your story can help other carers feel connected, understood and less alone.

We greatly value your contributions.



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