Dr Kate Ryan spoke at the GP down south staff development day last week about her experience with eating disorders. She spoke about struggling with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and then binge eating. “Food is implicit in our connectedness and shared experiences”, she said.
With no identifiable catalyst in her youth, she did acknowledge that some personality traits were clear markers for her trajectory. Being a perfectionist, introvert and driven was the perfect trifecta for anorexia to get a foothold in her teenage gears. She first became unwell around 1997 when she was living in Margaret River and there was no help for eating disorders available in the region and very little available in Perth.
Because she was high functioning, it was really hard to ask for and get help. She was neither over or underweight. In her words, ‘disclosure is a key pillar of recovery’. So, after many years she sought help to get on top of 20 years of disordered eating. During this time, Kate accomplished a degree in public health and then went on to become a doctor. An important turning point was finding a psychiatrist who understood and was able to offer support. “Early intervention is important for good outcomes, as is a care team with trained specialists and localised services”. Around 1 million Australians were diagnosed with an eating disorder last year. They have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness, yet services are still very inadequate with wait lists of six to nine months.
GP down south is an exemplary not-for-profit community organisation. We have been providing health and wellbeing services in the Peel regions and the South West of WA since 1994.