When Jean-Marie Menzies, mom-of-three, noticed her 16-year-old daughter was making drastic changes to her diet, she became very concerned.
Over a six month period her teenage daughter, Phoebe Brettell, had lost a lot of weight — and while she wanted to intervene, she feared her words might alienate Phoebe and make things worse.
“I could see her start to be a bit obsessive about only eating a super healthy diet. It was all super foods and almond milks and cinnamon sprinkled over things. Her exercise patterns increased as well,” Menzies says.
In March of 2016, Phoebe approached her mother instead.
“I think something is wrong,” Menzies recalls her daughter saying. “I’ve lost a lot of weight and I haven’t had a period for ages.”
The next day, the two saw a doctor. Phoebe was diagnosed with “disordered eating” but was encouraged not to think of herself as anorexic — but something was wrong.
Phoebe’s weight continued to drop over the course of the year. By October, Phoebe approached her mother again and asked to see a specialist.
“I think it’s something in my head,” Phoebe speculated.
Shortly afterwards, Phoebe was seen by the Eating Disorders Unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. The team confirmed that she was indeed anorexic and that her heart and organs were failing. She was forbidden to move around, socialize, and even go to school. They left the hospital and began a course of re-feeding and intensive therapy.
Now, around five months after starting treatment, Phoebe is doing well. Though her journey is far from over, she has gained weight, and has returned to St. Columbus College to complete her final year.
Last week, during International Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Phoebe shared a a brave and moving update on Facebook about her illness and recovery.
“My life was a lie, there was so much I was hiding and it was killing me inside. This demon took over my mind and pushed me off the edge, where it turned into a beast and lead to anorexia nervosa. Anorexia pulled me down into a pit that I felt as if I could never get out of, I felt like I deserved it but turns out I was wrong.”
“For anyone that is going through it, trust me I know that you may feel embarrassed or ashamed to speak up or get help, but I just want to get the message out there that seeking help was the best thing I had ever done physically and mentally. I knew through how much pain and distress I was causing for my family and friends just as much for myself physically and emotionally that I needed to continue the fight.
“Despite not being fully recovered just yet, I know once I’ve finished that it will be my greatest achievement, because so many times I know I could’ve given up, or my body could of given up on me.
“So far the life I have earned through recovery is a million times better than anything I could’ve imagined for myself.”
The mother and daughter duo hope to support other children and families dealing with an eating disorder by continuing to stimulate these types of discussions.
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