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'I want to help people.' Why Lisa Curry needs to talk about her daughter's death.

Content warning: this article deals with disordered eating and mental health, and may be triggering for some readers.

At one stage, it looked as though Lisa Curry's eldest daughter Jaimi might follow in her mother's Olympian footsteps.

"She was actually a really good swimmer. She came fourth in the country for her age [at 15] after only five months of training. But the kids at school bullied her. They said she had muscles and she looked like a boy. Everything they said to me when I was younger," Curry tells No Filter host Mia Freedman.

"It's interesting because you can say the same thing to someone different - someone takes it personally and someone can just brush it off and keep going. And that's the thing with Jaimi. She took everything to heart. She was such a sensitive, fragile girl."

Jaimi died in September 2020 after complications with an eating disorder and alcoholism.

She was 33 years old.

Listen to Mia Freedman's full interview with Lisa Curry on the No Filter podcast below. Post continues after audio.


It was while Jaimi was training for swimming that one of the swim coaches said something about her weight.

"He said maybe she could lose a few kilos," Curry recounts. "I'm thinking, 'What? What do you mean? She's 15. How can you say that?'"

Not long after that, Jaimi gave up swimming and took up outrigger canoeing.

"The coach was weighing these 16-year-old kids every session. Again, I was like, 'What are you doing?' And she'd come home and say, 'Mum, I put on 200 grams'," Curry says.

Read more: "It was like a toxic beast." Lisa Curry on her daughter Jaimi’s addiction.

"People listening to me now [on this podcast] who have children struggling with their eating will understand exactly what I'm saying. People who have never experienced it will be thinking, 'Oh, that's what it's like'.

"You can have a child who opens the fridge and inhales everything and then they disappear. And we didn't think anything of it because we had big house; everyone disappears and does their own thing. But we didn't realise that inhaling all this food and then disappearing was a sign of bulimia, of course."

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It was only when Jaimi admitted the shower was blocked because of her vomiting that Curry understood.

"This is me being really honest because people need to hear these stories," she says. "And Jaimi would tell these stories, Jamie was very open. She really was.

"She said, 'Mum, you need to call a plumber'. I said, why? And she said, 'Because I blocked up the shower, all the plumbing'. And I said, 'How did you do that?' And she said, 'I've been vomiting'.

"Then the plumber came and she told him, 'I've got an eating disorder and I'm sorry', and he said, 'I understand, my daughter's going through the same thing'. And this plumber was amazing. But he was a stranger in our house. And she was just completely open with him."

That was the first time Curry had heard her daughter talking about having an eating disorder. She was 16.

Back then, Curry didn't know much about bulimia.

"It was almost shameful in those days. You don't talk about it. You don't talk about your kid having an eating disorder," she admits.

"But nowadays, we do talk about it, and we need to talk about it. Because there's probably a reason why people are bulimic or anorexic. But we don't have the answers. And if I had the answers, I would be screaming it to the world.

"I have so many people on social media who contact me saying their child 'is going through the same thing, can you help me?' And I say to them, I really wish I could help you. But I don't have the answers, I'm still stuck. And I said, the best thing you can do is just love them. Spend as much time with them as you can, do the things that they love doing, and support them through the hard times because you don't know when it's going to be their last day."

Watch: Lisa Curry's heartbreaking interview about Jaimi's death. Post continues after video.

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Video via 7News.

In Curry's experience, there is a gap in the system that needs to be resolved.

"The problem with addictions and disordered eating and people with mental health issues is that sometimes they are too sick for rehab. But they're not sick enough to stay in hospital. So there's nowhere for them to go. And that's where Jami was," she says.

"We had everyone trying to help. There's a hole in the system, and somehow, someway, we have to address this and find a place where people who have nowhere to go can go and find the help that they need."

In Curry's recently released memoir Lisa, she discusses the impact bingeing and purging had on the whole family. Oftentimes, Jaimi would openly order three meals at restaurants - essentially binge-eating in front of everyone.

"And there was nothing we could do about it. We would talk to the doctors and they would say, 'It's not about the food, don't talk about the food', and we'd say 'What the bloody hell is it about then if it’s not about the food?' But they couldn't give us answers," Curry tells Freedman.

"And then when she was 18, there was confidentiality. You can't talk to the doctor about what's going on with your child, which just drove us mad."

The family tried several options to see if anything would help. Jaimi went to live with Curry's mother [who passed away in April this year] for a while. She lived in a unit on her own for a while. She was in rehab for a while. She lived with her father, Curry's ex-husband Grant Kenny, for a while.

"So one night, it turned into World War 3 because I ordered all the meals for everyone before she arrived [at the restaurant for dinner]. And there was one meal for everyone because I know what everyone likes to eat. And when she wanted to order, I said, 'No, no, I’ve already ordered'. It turned into a screaming match. Because she wanted more. And I said 'No, no, this is enough. It's enough'."

That feeling of helplessness has lingered with Curry.

"So you try, you try everything. But it's like, I don't know. I still, every single day, I shake my head. What did we miss? What didn’t we do? We did try everything," she says, breaking down into tears.

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"As a parent, it's your worst nightmare. And you wonder... Grant and I still say to each other, 'What did we miss?' Was there something else I could have done? Was there something else earlier? Because all our kids were all brought up the same, everything was exactly the same.

"But why do you get one child who struggles? And not only struggles but gets everything [happen to her]. In her later days, she did go to an eating rehab place in Geelong. And while she was there, her boyfriend died... so what more could the kid have, you know, pile on top of her?

"It was just this never ending hole she was in. Everything was being piled on top of her. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't find a way out. As a parent, it's awful to watch a child suffer."

Curry admits that for many years she was 'dying inside' but would put on a brave face and smile and for the cameras.

"You do what you have to do and you go home and you're just on the phone again, trying to sort something out to save your child," she says.

Her two other children - Jett and Morgan - were also deeply affected.

"Anyone that has someone in their family that's like [Jaimi] will understand. Jett's a good young man. He's very realistic about everything. And he gets it. And Morgan too, both of them got it. We spoke a lot to them about what was going on," Curry says.

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"But when you live in the house with someone like that, sometimes you can't take it anymore. Because we had a big house, everyone would retreat to their own spaces. Morgan went overseas when she was 19. So in the early years, she was away from it a lot.

"I think Jett was the one that really bore the brunt of it, along with Grant. He did things that he really didn't need to do or shouldn't have seen in his young life."

Jaimi told her mother on several occasions that she wanted to write a book to help other people going through the same thing as her, but it never eventuated.

"So in my small way, by telling part of the story and being honest about it, as hard as it is for me, I hope that... I want Jamie's life to matter," Curry says, crying.

"I want her short life to have meant something, to matter, to make a difference to somebody. But it's through my storytelling, no one else's, because no one else is gonna tell the story.

"When I wrote the book, I sent the chapter about Jaimi over to Grant and he couldn't even look at it. He hasn't read it and he won't read it. He can't. So I asked his sister to read it and make sure it was okay.

"But I know that Jamie wanted to help people. And because she can't, I feel that responsibility. And I don't know if I'm doing it justice, but I just don't want her life to have not mattered. She was a wonderful, wonderful child and a really good person. She's so talented. As all my kids are."

Jaimi loved flowers, books and photography. She was a really good nanny. She loved pretty bedsheets and styling parties.

"She was a beautiful looking girl. And yet she’d look at herself and say, 'I'm disgusting. I hate myself. You know, and it's hard to understand how people can look at themselves and feel that way," Curry says.

"I'm wracking my brain every single day, not a moment goes by when I’m not thinking about how I can fill that hole that’s in the system. How can we find a place? How can we find a programme? How can we find something that can help people like Jaimi, because they're everywhere.

"There's so many kids around this country who are slipping through the cracks."

Lisa by Lisa Curry is published by Harper Collins and is available now.

Listen to the bonus episode of No Filter where Mia Freedman and Lisa Curry talk about why Lisa decided to share her story. Exclusive to Mamamia subscribers, listen here.

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website, here.