BETTER TIMES: Melanie Johnson (right) enjoying a good life post anorexia.
BETTER TIMES: Melanie Johnson (right) enjoying a good life post anorexia. Contributed

Melanie shares story of ‘hellish’ eating disorder

MELANIE Johnson describes her five-year battle with anorexia nervosa as trench warfare.

A hell on earth, stripping you to the core.

You push physical and mental boundaries, fighting for the same piece of ground over and over again.

There is an overwhelming sense you can never tear yourself free.

Exhaustion is the only state you know.

But the 26-year-old former Nambour State High School student says in the end, the fight is worth the trauma.

"Last year I went travelling for the first time with my sister," she said.

"I have a nephew who I absolutely adore.

"In the future I want to be a mum, I want to return to working with disabled children and give them a bright future.

"These are the moments that are worth fighting for."

At 17, Mel graduated from high school with the world at her feet.

She was a high achiever, a straight A student, a recipient of an OP1.

But the world beyond the boundaries of school was a big and scary place.

And controlling the amount of food she consumed was the only way Mel says she could manage the chaos.

She didn't set out to lose weight or be skinny.

"It was all about regaining what I thought was a sense of power," she said.

"I started off just cutting out red meat, then I decided I wasn't going to have any carbohydrates.

"Then it spiralled out of control."

The death of her grandmother the day after her 18th birthday triggered an emotional breakdown for Mel.

She lost more than 10kg in a couple of months, her already small 158cm frame shrinking to less than 30kg.

Her distraught family convinced her to seek medical help.

The GP rushed her to Nambour General Hospital where a naso-gastric feeding tube was inserted.

Doctors told Mel that just one more week of starvation and she would not be here today.

"My heart was failing, I had urine trickling down my legs because my body was giving up."


After six months, Mel was released into the care of her family.

The next five years her mother, father, two brothers and sister rallied around.

She is still grappling with depression and anxiety, for which she is seeking treatment.

Mel has courageously chosen to share her story with the hope of encouraging other anorexia suffers to seek help .

She said early intervention was essential to recovery.

"It is so much harder to move on once anorexia has a stranglehold," she said.

"You know deep down that what you're doing is wrong but you bury your emotions.

"I would not wish this pain and suffering on my worst enemy."

Mel's experience in hospital was not positive.

She was admitted to the mental health ward instead of the medical unit which she says was isolating and frightening.

"There needs to be a collaborative approach to treatment," she said.

"Ideally your GP works with the psychologist, the dietitian and your family."

Butterfly Foundation: 1800 33 4673