Christmas message from The Diary Healer

Dear Friends,

As we ‘mature’ the years seem to go faster, and time becomes more precious. Not knowing how much time we have we want to use it in the most meaningful way possible. I hope 2019 has been all you have wanted it to be.

Goodness, I will be 70 next year and am busier than ever. Happily so! Aside from regular day trips to Melbourne for family gatherings and for work purposes, I love engaging with the world from my home on the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula. My family is complete with Maisie, my English Staffordshire terrier, now 14 months old, and two cats, Benji and Fizzie. Maisie, one-year-old, has become my ‘life coach’; we walk about eight km daily and my physical, mental and emotional health has benefited in many ways. Maisie and my cats sit beside me while I am at work in my writing room and I waken each morning to Benji and Fizzie sitting on my bed. 

I enjoy being a member of the Drysdale Rotary Club, which has a very friendly and community-minded membership which is mindful of mental health. My advocacy work at national and international level in the eating disorder field continues – this has involved both Channel 9 and ABC TV 7.30 Report sending film crews and reporters to my home this year – amazing but gratifying to know that misconceptions about eating disorders are increasingly being corrected; and my work as a writing mentor for people who have experienced mental health challenges, either personally or as a caregiver, keeps me busy. I feel honored to be writing a book with a Danish psychotherapist, Nina Jorring, and narrative therapy pioneer, David Epston (New Zealand), on narrative therapy for families. Oh, how I wish such therapy had been around when I was a kid! 

My travels have been few this year – to the USA for 12 days in March, to attend a 50th anniversary of the Senior Year graduation from high school, and to visit my family in Missouri, especially my dear dad, Ruben, who sadly has since died in November after a long and amazing life. From Missouri I went to New York to co-present in a workshop at the Academy for Eating Disorders annual conference. While there, I was delighted to meet in person a foundation team member on The Diary Healer, Diana Beaudet. Diana’s ever-reliable support has contributed in many ways to the growth of The Diary Healer in becoming a highly regarded source of information and connection in the eating disorder field.  In August, I co-presented another workshop, this time at the Australian and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders conference in Adelaide, South Australia. I missed my fur-family and was home in two days! Daily walks along the seashore with Maisie are nurturing! 

Aside from walks with Maisie, I enjoy gardening, both flowers and vegetables. I enjoy staying in touch with friends both near and far via social media, phone and email – and over a cappuccino when possible. Friends and family are vitally important for our wellbeing 😊

As 2019 draws to a close, I am focusing more on being a writing mentor, helping people to write their stories, and raising awareness of mental illness generally, and I feel purposeful and content. 

A major reason for 2019 being a wonderful year in relation to the narrative on my two websites has been the wonderfully creative initiatives and contributions by my assistant, Sarah Cannata. Sarah has online and communication expertise and skills that I don’t have and shares the same passion and drive for educating and informing people about eating disorders and mental health generally. She also has flair for literary projects and our major productions this year have been Come as You Are, Eating Disorders Can’t Wait, for World Eating Disorder Day, and  Art Beat of the Country with the Gippsland Rural Women’s Network. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with Sarah on new literary ventures in 2020. As for events in the New Year, the top travel destination within Australia will be to Sydney for the 2020 AED ICED in June.

My family is celebrating Christmas at one of my children’s homes this year and as usual, my contribution will be a pavlova or two and fruit salad. 

I wish you good health and happiness this festive season and throughout 2020,

With love,

June 

Postscript, before I go, I introduce you to Sarah, who will share a message also.

By Sarah Cannata

My 2019 began with a goodbye following the death of my grandfather on New Year’s Day. No one wants to begin a new year sitting in grief and helping to plan a funeral. To this day, the thought of sitting in the church next to my brother, feeling like I was suffocating and absorbing everyone else’s grief in addition to managing my own feelings, is only a quick memory away. 

Upon much reflection and after the dust had settled, Nonno’s (I’m half Italian) death served as a glaring reminder that life is short and as June so fittingly points out in her message, time becomes more precious as we mature. So when a dear friend passed away just a few weeks after my Nonno, I felt like the universe was being about as subtle as a brick with this forceful message: do not take even one day for granted.

The fact that death was a strong theme in kick-starting my 2019 is not lost on me. Likely because in moving through the process of sharing my story publicly on The Diary Healer for the first time, I came to realise just how close I once was to not being here and to not having the privilege of typing this message. While my story only went public in January this year, it feels like a lifetime ago. Thankfully, I am happy to report that all the fibs my old eating disorder self told me in a bid to keep me quiet about my experience, did not eventuate. My career did not disintegrate. The Apocalypse did not come (I am a huge Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan). The shame did not consume me.

Fast-forward to December and my greatest realisation for the year is that we need to allow and encourage people to re-write and edit their life story, at any stage or age. Our experiences, mistakes, achievements and so on, are elements of our personal story. Let us not be fooled into thinking they are our entire story. Keeping people chained to a pre-determined script is a way to keep people small. People who do the work and make the effort evolve and grow over time. Some of the greatest change makers of our time arise from the darkest of moments and circumstances.

A big thank you to June for taking me under her wings this year! For encouraging me to share my story, for being a wonderful writing mentor and most importantly, for being the most supportive friend anyone can ask for. Many times this year, I have called June a gem but while it feels silly for a writer to state this, words really can’t capture how fortunate I feel to witness first-hand all of June’s wonderful work. Our work is truly meaningful and I look forward to continuing this work in 2020 and welcoming the new beginnings that life will bring.

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and safe festive season and a wonderful 2020.

With much gratitude,

Sarah.

June Alexander

About June Alexander

I have written nine books about eating disorders since my recovery (my “reconnection with true self”) from anorexia nervosa and other long term mental health challenges in 2006. In 2017, I graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Writing). My contribution to the eating disorder field was recognised at the 2016 Academy for Eating Disorders International Conference in San Francisco where I was awarded the Meehan/Hartley Award for Public Service and Advocacy. I am currently a co-chair of the NEDC Steering Committee Evidence of Experience Group, a foundation steering committee member of the annual World Eating Disorders Action Day, and an Advisory Panel member for F.E.A.S.T.

All articles by June Alexander

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