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Dear Diary, I’m moving to www.thediaryhealer.com

January 31st, 2017

Recovering and healing from an eating disorder is an ongoing journey. Like life itself, the process can be as fulfilling and rewarding as we choose to make it. Accordingly, I am delighted to announce the time has come for www.junealexander.com, my website ‘home’ for the past six years, to transition to a new site, www.thediaryhealer.com. I am delighted because this new site provides opportunities for reader interaction and contribution through narrative forms of expression. Safe and supportive, this online environment has been built to invite sharing with like-minded others through the medium of writing and particularly, diary writing. Diary writing is important because, while we can benefit from engagement with and guidance from others, we also need to work privately within, and develop a loving relationship with our self. Above all, www.thediaryhealer.com aims to assist this quest, through encouragement of person-centred, self healing and promotion of self-fulfilment and wellbeing. The catalyst for this new site stems from my extensive eating disorder and diary writing experience, my memoir A Girl Called Tim, and my PhD in which the creative work is Using Writing as a Therapy for Eating Disorders – The Diary Healer.

About Me

The story behind this website began when I was 11 years’ old in 1962. Early that year, I developed an eating disorder but a gift of a diary at Christmas seemed to offer a reprieve and give me hope. Writing helped me to feel better. Words were like good friends – they were always there for me and did not judge. The diary provided somewhere to offload confused thoughts and store the calorie numbers, and food and exercise rules, that were cluttering and dominating my mind. The pen and paper provided an external connection, a tangible recording tool. In this way my diary, like the eating disorder, became a coping mechanism for easing anxiety and meeting the demands of daily life. Becoming what seemed an immediate, trusted friend, my first little diary marked the start of a literary journey that, over the next 40-plus years, would chronicle the disintegration and reintegration of my identity and self.

About My Diary

My first diary entry is crammed with detailed records of food consumed, exercise routines, the time of awakening and going to bed, and sport results. In the months and years that followed, I transitioned into anorexia-bulimia and more self-expression became evident. In adolescence, words tumbled onto the pages as I tried to make sense of thoughts and feelings, and the limitation of one page a day was sometimes a challenge – my handwriting would reduce in size as the end of the page approached. My world was small. There was the diary and me. Not for many years would I learn there was also the eating disorder, and that the diary’s influence extended far beyond the two of us.

The eating disorder, like the diary, thrived on privacy—and encouraged the keeping of secrets. As I progressed into adulthood, the diary became a safe place in which to express and analyze thoughts, and develop coping strategies. But I was unaware that confiding in the diary was also strengthening the eating disorder, with its unrelenting and stringent demands embedded on every page. Nothing I did was enough and the impossible-to-keep rules of the illness became shameful secrets within secrets that had to be guarded and hidden from others. By age 28, my diary had recorded an almost complete disconnection of self from body and increasingly I was losing the will to live.

A voice when one cannot speak

Outwardly, I was a wife and mother with a full-time career but within, the diary revealed a desperate struggle to honor daily lists and pledges revolving around weight, exercise and food intake. After 17 years of struggling privately with these demands, desperation drove me to break the silence by revealing the thoughts confined to my diaries to a doctor for the first time. Upon learning I kept a diary this doctor, and others who followed, encouraged me to continue my diary writing as a coping tool. However, like me, they were ignorant of the diary’s potential to play a pivotal role in my illness, and of its ability to be a foe as well as friend. Eventually, in my 30s, a trusted psychiatrist suggested the diary could assist the healing process and encouraged its use as a means to engage in written communication with him. Gradually, under his therapeutic guidance, what I wrote in my diary began to reconnect with authentic thoughts and feelings. Self-abuse and self-harm gave way to self-care as my body and mind progressively reintegrated. Decades later, at age 55, upon healing sufficiently to re-enter life’s mainstream, I departed my journalism career to reflect on these decades of diary writing and write a memoir about my illness experience.

Coming out

As I ‘came out’ and began to share my story publicly, the diaries ‘came out’ too. For instance, besides providing the main data source for my memoir, A Girl Called Tim (2011), they became a resource of documented ‘lived experience’, assisting the dissemination of science-based knowledge and evidence-based treatments in books for health professionals and mainstream readers. Additionally, the creation of www.junealexander.com as a companion to my memoir led others with experience of eating disorders to share how they had ‘connected’ with my story in a way that gave them ‘permission’ to share their stories too. Many adult readers wrote at length, explaining that they had felt isolated and had kept their eating disorders a secret for decades, but upon reading, connecting and identifying with my story, felt empowered to share and externalize their thoughts and experiences for the first time.

Revelation – a foe as well as friend

My reflection on these heartfelt reader responses sparked a revelation that perhaps my friend the diary had been destructive as well as constructive throughout my long illness. This insight in turn became the catalyst for my PhD in Creative Writing, investigating how diary entries might be used in writing a book to assist people in healing from and eating disorder. Upon observing and studying my own diary records, I was shocked to discover the extent to which this private friend had been an accomplice of my own illness. The two had been in collusion over many years. Yet, despite this illness-driven self-deception, diary writing had helped me to function and survive during decades of chronic mental illness. Moreover, with the right therapeutic intervention, the diary had helped me to reconnect with and reconstruct a long-suppressed true identity. My diaries had helped me to develop the ability and skills to live a full, rather than part, life. But did my healing journey have to be so long and tortuous? How much did the diary help and how much did it hinder my recovery? Could the diary have provided a more pro-active role in healing? I wanted to find out.

Using your diary as power tool for self

Keeping a diary and writing a memoir contributed greatly to my healing from a long-term eating disorder and to my process of self-renewal. Building on this base, my PhD enabled me to study the diary’s usefulness more widely. My investigation found scant reference in the literature on the effect of diary writing in the specific area of eating disorders and little evidence-based literature on the diary’s influence during the process of disconnection and reconnection between body and identity.

These gaps in the eating disorder literature inspired Using Writing as a Therapy for Eating Disorders – The Diary Healer (2016), the creative work in my PhD. Seventy diarists became my research participants, generously sharing excerpts from their personal diaries to help me explain the pitfalls and benefits of diary writing and, specifically, to explore the ambivalent relationship with body and identity that can occur when experiencing an eating disorder. The diarists, backed by insights from researchers and health practitioners, became my book’s voice in describing the role of the diary in self-healing and renewal. This collaborative sharing in the narrative epitomizes the essence and purpose of my new website home, www.thediaryhealer.com. I hope you enjoy exploring this new home as much as I have enjoyed designing and furnishing it. There is room for all of us. Welcome!

 

Our blood counts – 3000 Aussies give blood to help find cure for anorexia nervosa

December 13th, 2016

angi-logo-klarman-final-_4_Blood donations from 3000 Australians and New Zealanders are assisting the journey to find the causes of anorexia nervosa. Well done, Australia and New Zealand!

As an ardent supporter of this amazing research led by Professor Cynthia Bulik and her team and was excited today to receive the following letter from leading Australian researcher in the project, Professor Nick Martin:

Prof. Nick Martin, Queensland Institute Medical Research, Prof. Cindy Bulik (University North Carolina and chief investigator) and me, June-the-survivor-advocate, at the ANGI launch.

Prof. Nick Martin, Queensland Institute Medical Research, Prof. Cindy Bulik (University North Carolina and chief investigator) and me, June-the-survivor-advocate, at the ANGI launch, Brisbane,  in 2013.

Thank you for your support of the ANGI project. We would like to update you on what has happened this year and what’s coming in 2017.

2016 was another successful year for ANGI. Sample collection finished in July and we are very happy to share with you that Australian participants, with help from our cousins in New Zealand, donated over 3000 blood samples to identify the genes associated with anorexia nervosa! This means that our corner of ANGI Australia/New Zealand contributed almost one quarter of the total samples to the international effort, something of which you can be justifiably proud.

Over the last few months, these samples have been assimilated with samples from ANGI participants across the globe and submitted for genotyping at the Broad Institute of Harvard University in the USA. Genotyping, which gives a read out of each participant’s genetic code, will take quite a few months and be completed well into 2017. Once genotyping is completed, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) will be undertaken comparing the genotypes of participants who have had anorexia nervosa and with our control participants who have never had an eating disorder. That analysis will allow researchers to reveal genes unique to each group.

As you can see, a lot of hard work has been done and there is a still a lot left to do before we reap results from the study. We anticipate the first ANGI results to be published in 2018. We will keep you updated as the research progresses and any additional research opportunities that arise. Please also visit http://uncexchanges.org/ every once in a while as ANGI updates will also be published here.

We here in the ANGI research team are sincerely grateful for your help. We feel we are on a groundbreaking journey into the causes of anorexia nervosa and will do our best to share this journey with you.

Yours sincerely

Professor Nick Martin
Senior Principal Research Fellow
QIMR

 

A conversation on why listening to the patient’s story counts

December 6th, 2016

img_3828The patient’s story counts. Growing recognition of this truth, that the narrative has an important role to play in illness recovery, is heartening. This is  particularly so in the field of eating disorders where many mysteries remain. Listening to the patient can provide the researcher, the clinician, the therapist, the family caregivers, and the patients themselves, with clues for understanding and treating this complex and multi-faced illness. Besides listening, writing is important. Keeping a diary provides a chronicle that can provide release in the moment and a valuable record for later reflection. I explain why in my conversation in this podcast.
using-writing-as-a-therapy-for-eating-disorders_fawEmbedded in the podcast conversation links below you will hear a deep-felt

My Kid is Back - by June Alexander and Daniel Le Grange.

My Kid is Back – by June Alexander and Daniel Le Grange.

‘thank you’ from me to two researchers, Professor Daniel Le Grange, and Professor Michael Levine, for their encouragement and support in pursuing my passions for writing and raising awareness and helping to solve the mystery of eating disorders. These two people, along with many others, have greatly assisted my ongoing recovery from a long term eating disorder, by listening to my story, and believing in me.
The podcast was recorded during the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) International Conference in San Francisco in May this year. The episode and information on the episode can be found here.
The episode can also be dowloaded from iTunes or Google Play via
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ed-matters/id1173632000
https://play.google.com/music/listen?u=0#/ps/Ipedpx4db7ehbqhvytfkbi6hvrm

 

Workshop on the diary as a therapeutic tool for eating disorders

November 18th, 2016

A memorable ‘double premiere’ occurred in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday…the young, highly motivated team at the Centre for Integrative Health held their first workshop and I was honoured to be the presenter, with The Diary Healer as the focus. Thank you, Dr Kiera Buchanan, Kate Pollard, Marita Cooper and Alanah Robinson from CFIH and also I extend appreciation to the health practitioners from a range of careers in the field, who participated in, and contributed to, this inaugural event. Together we discussed and explored how the diary can be a patient-centred tool in assisting patients with self-renewal and eating disorder recovery.

With health professionals like Kiera, Kate, Marita and Alanah ready to explore innovative ways of providing treatment and support for people of all ages with eating disorders, our future in this complex and challenging field is looking brighter by the day.

I look forward to more opportunities to share my love of the diary and to encourage the inclusion of narrative expression in the eating disorder recovery toolkit.

using-writing-as-a-therapy-for-eating-disorders_fawTo discuss/book a diary workshop event for health professionals and/or for people with eating disorders, on Using Writing as a Therapy for Eating Disorders – The Diary Healer, email: june@junealexander.com

Happy to travel anywhere! 

 

Here are some pictures of the first full-day workshop on Using Writing as a Therapy for Eating Disorders – The Diary Healer. Enjoy! And if you have not already started, begin a diary today!

First picture, from left to right: Marita, Kate, Alanah, myself and Kiera; second and third pictures, samples of discussion; fourth picture, we are celebrating life, workshops, diaries as a power tool in eating disorder recovery and the therapeutic relationship!

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Journaling your way to self-renewal

November 16th, 2016

The Pages Beckoned: Write!

using-writing-as-a-therapy-for-eating-disorders_fawJenni Schaefer lights up my world with her love of writing, and passion for helping others to embrace a full life.

Using Writing as a Therapy for Eating Disorders _ The Diary Healer contains many pearls of wisdom from Jenni and other diarists who have used their pen to help gain freedom from an eating disorder.