'Taboo': My Toddler Weighed More Than Me For Years
Trigger warning: the following story discusses anorexia and mental illness and may be triggering for some individuals.
Casey is a single mum from NSW's Hunter Valley who has lived with anxiety, depression and anorexia. She joins Harley Breen's 'Taboo' this week, the show about "laughing with people you shouldn't be laughing at".
Casey told her story to 10 daily's Michaela Morgan.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety quite a few years ago, I think 6-7 years ago. At that stage, the anorexia had started but it wasn’t deeply embedded, the weight loss wasn’t dramatic yet.
Anorexia is very misunderstood in terms of the fact that a lot of the time people think it’s just ‘oh, she just wants to be skinny’, that it’s all about being thin.
And yes, that is a component of it and the fear of weight gain is part of anorexia but there’s so much more to it that’s not seen.
Certainly, for me, when I’ve been diagnosed by doctors, the anxiety and depression can kind of take more of a forefront [than the anorexia]. I think because they think, ‘okay, we’ve got a pill for this and that’ll solve that problem’.
It’s kind of an easier thing to confront because it’s not so multifaceted, whereas anorexia is such a multi-faceted disease because it’s mental, but it’s also so physical in terms of the things that your body goes through.
When I was really sick, my kidneys were shutting down, I had kidney failure. That, in turn, gave me a lot of fluid retention so my feet would swell up like balloons and I wouldn't be able to walk on them for any longer than five minutes. They were turning a purple-blue colour because I had no circulation -- because I was basically dying.
When I went to the hospital, that was the very crux of my illness. I weighed in at 26.9 kilos.
So I was really about to pretty much die.
Everything was shutting down. I had constant nausea, vomiting, no energy. I could barely walk, I could barely sit. I’d have to sit on pillows because I was so bony that everything just hurt all the time.
The main thing was my bowels, because I had abused laxatives so severely for so long, I basically ended up with colonic inertia and gastroparesis, which is essentially paralysis of the gut and the colon.
I’d think, ‘I haven’t even lost that much weight, anorexics are like, stick thin and all bones and I’m not all bones so I’m okay’.
I think the hardest thing about it is, as mums, we’re not allowed to have something wrong, we’re not allowed to have anorexia or a mental illness. We’re meant to be running the show, be in control.
I have felt like a very, very bad mum. Even though my son doesn’t know what anorexia is, I know that he knows when I’m not 100 percent.
I found that the more I restricted myself and starved myself, the more I'd be focused on Nathan’s food intake. I would make him gourmet meals and then I would watch him eat it and I’d have the biggest sense of enjoyment that he was enjoying it. It gave me a real high, a euphoric sort of feeling.
My son [then aged two] weighed more than me for three years of his life. So when Nathan was weighing around 34 kilos, I was weighing about 29.
The moment it changed for me was when I went to hospital for the second time. I’d been vomiting for days and was just really unwell. My sister said, ‘I think it’s time we go to hospital, we need to try and get some weight on you and get you better'.
I went to get my son out of the car and I realised that I couldn’t lift him, he was holding his arms out and looking at me like, ‘pick me up mum, pick me up’.
I could see he just wanted me to hold him and the fact that I couldn’t actually do that, that really just broke my heart.
Recovery and 'Taboo'
It’s so hard to break habits when they’re already in your mind but one of my first goals was to stop calorie counting. The biggest thing now is realising that I’m not hyper-focused on food now. I’ve managed to let go of that.
It’s about determination and perseverance, it’s about trying to break down all the habits that I used to have.
‘Taboo’ has been the best experience of my life, 100 percent. Not just in terms of my own growth but in getting to know the other guys, getting to know their different mental illnesses as well.
It’s opened my eyes to a lot of different things; I’ve laughed, I cried.
If I could tell anyone [going through something similar] I’d say just know that you don’t have to be stuck in the groups of mental illness or anorexia for the rest of your life.
You can recover and there is help. It might be a matter of searching and it is going to take courage. It’s hard work but it’s not impossible.
My biggest thing [to say] would be that it doesn’t have to rule you, you can recover and live, not a normal life, because there is no normal.
But you can live a fulfilling life, in terms of your dreams and what you want for yourself.
If you or anyone you know is overwhelmed, concerned or needing support you can contact The Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (8am–9pm AEST, MON – FRI) or Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 support.