anorexia

Book Review: Bone and Bread

A huge thanks to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this novel.

As I’ve mentioned many times on my blog, I have anorexia. I struggle with mental health issues and I believe books on the topic are extremely important. This took my interest for that reason, but I didn’t expect this unique view. Beena’s sister, Sadhana, is diagnosed with anorexia at 14 – after a rather traumatic, difficult childhood. Beena recaps their early days, while simultaneously narrating her current-day life. At first, Beena only vaguely references Sadhana’s illness, but it soon becomes clear that her heart attack was brought on by the eating disorder.

This book is about Sadhana’s struggle, her sister’s sire attempts to help her, and her grief at Sadhana’s eventual passing, but it is also about so much more. It is about Beena’s teenage pregnancy and single motherhood. It is about the death of their parents, one by one, before they were even midway through their teens. It is about Sadhana’s on-off struggles, Beena’s exhaustion at being her carer, their relationship and arguments and love. It is also about Sadhana’s life, separate to Beena’s, her secret girlfriend. It’s about life overall, really. And while the anorexia is a huge part of it, it isn’t the whole story.

It was written fantastically, and the opinions Beena gives on Sadhana’s illness are really quite unique. She expresses her anger and frustration, and the tiring nature of caring for her sister throughout her life. She does not express the sympathy and sadness toward sufferers that is often portrayed in books.

Sometimes, I did find Beena a bit too harsh – and Sadhana, too, actually. But overall the characterisation was great, and the relationship between the girls is so complex it feels real. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Wintergirls

22310019Another book based on eating disorders, which I’d definitely not recommend for anyone recovering or struggling with these issues. It also includes a lot of self harm and suicidal references, so just be warned.

This was another amazing book. I personally suffer with both anorexia and self harm, so this was so incredibly relatable to me. One major difference is Lia’s relationship with Cassie – her best friend who suffers with bulimia. The two of them encourage each other through their weight loss journeys, giving tips and even challenging each other to become the thinnest. I could not imagine having a relationship like this. I know several other eating disordered people, one of whom is a good friend, and we would never dream of acting like this. It was quite sick, honestly – I hate all the pro-ana stuff. But I suppose some people do it.

A quick observation: they never actually use the terms “anorexia” or “bulimia” which is interesting. There’s often a sort of rivalry portrayed between the two disorders, and the diagnosis of anorexia is held as some sort of accomplishment. It was refreshing to read a book that doesn’t mention that, and even sees them ‘working together’.

At the very start of the book, Cassie dies. Lia eventually learns how exactly that happens, but refuses to let it affect her because her and Cassie had fallen out a while ago. Lia’s eating habits seem to be getting worse (again) and her family think it’s Cassie’s death that’s triggered her, but Lia denies it. But when Cassie’s ghost starts haunting her and begging her to join her, Lia realises how out of hand it’s become.

The little details of the eating disorder were fantastic. The way Lia always quotes calories whenever talking/thinking of food, her estimating every other woman’s BMI against her own, even her initial “I want/need food” that she denies. It all felt so much like my own experience.

The ending was definitely one of those “inspiring” types; who ever would’ve thought Lia would actually work with the unit she’d been admitted to so many times and actually try to recover? I liked how honest this was, though. It wasn’t just a simple, clean recovery. There were fears and bad days and also the realisation that she had been avoiding real life, afraid of it. It’s hard to confront the underlying issues of a disorder like this.

I really loved this. It was just so accurate and inspiring and actually made me cry a bit. It did trigger me at times, but that’s probably just because I’m in a bit of a wobbly place right now. The ending has definitely provided me with hope, though. (Usually these books are focused on younger girls, but Lia is my age. It makes me feel like maybe I still have time to find my motive to recover.) 5 stars.Bookmarked Signature Logo

Book Review: Alice in The Looking Glass – A Mother and Daughter’s Experience of Anorexia

I’m probably more obsessed with ED books than is healthy, but it’s so reassuring to read other people’s experiences that are similar to my own. This book was absolutely fantastic – not only did it help me see that I’m not alone or abnormal, but I was also able to read a mother’s point of view on the experience. I understand now how awful it must have been for my own mother during my inpatient hospital stay and the initial battle of getting a diagnosis.
I found it interesting that they gave Jo (the mother)’s perspective first, instead of Alice herself. We learn about what she witnesses before we find out exactly what Alice was actually thinking and feeling.

They don’t include weights or numbers in this, which is tremendously helpful. Like Jo says, this is a competitive illness, and even parents seem to want to compete in having the “most poorly” child. But it’s so triggering for other people to read about how much weight someone lost, and it’s not really relevant. Weight loss is just a side affect of the illness, and not the main issue itself.

The reality is addressed so honestly in this book, all the feelings and experiences that we may be ashamed to admit are written in black and white. It made me feel a lot less guilty about things that I’ve felt, knowing other people have felt the same way, too. And the recovery aspect was not unrealistically easy or happy; Alice is not completely recovered even at the end of the book, but is managing her illness. That is how most of us will live for a long time, if not for the rest of our lives. But Alice expresses how she is so much happier “managing” her anorexia than she was when she was suffering years ago. It gives hope – even if you don’t fully recover, life can be good. 

I really loved this book. I’d urge anyone with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder (or has one themselves) to read this, as it would really help seeing both perspectives on the journey. 5 stars.

Graphic Novel Review: Tyranny

So as you’ve probably realised by now, I have anorexia. And because of that, I am always drawn to books about eating disorders, including this graphic novel I found in the library. It’s always good to see realistic and relatable presentations of ED’s, and I’m also always quick to point out when something is being portrayed wrong.

This book was a pretty accurate representation of my own personal battle with anorexia. It addressed the starving and the bingeing that many anorexics go through, as well as the body dysmorphia and unhealthy habits and routines. It included friends of Anna (the protagonist of this book) who are also suffering – one of which eventually suffered a heart attack and died. It’s not uncommon for people with anorexia to have friends who pass away as a result of the unhealthy habits brought on by the disorder.

Anna does eventually decide she wants life, and goes into treatment. She learns to tell Tyranny (the voice/persons of her ED) that she doesn’t care about being thin anymore, and eventually she gets her to leave entirely. (I can’t say that’s happened to me; it’s more of an ongoing, up-and-down struggle in my experience.)

One thing I wasn’t sure was so good about this book was the inclusion of weights – her weight loss process, the weight of another patient. This can be incredibly triggering for people suffering with an eating disorder, and can make people feel invalidated – feeling as if their ED isn’t as “bad” or “real” because their weight wasn’t quite as low. For this reason, I would be hesitant about recommending this book to people who are trying to recover from their disorder.

Overall, I felt it was a good portrayal of anorexia. It was brutally honest and included both the starving and the bingeing, which lots of people don’t often discuss. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

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Book Review: Unbearable Lightness

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Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi – Paperback, 309 pages – Published July 2011 by Simon & Schuster UK

Oh. My. God.

This was such an amazing book. I may have to buy myself a copy to read over and over and over again.

I’ve never really known much about Portia de Rossi. I knew she was the wife of Ellen DeGeneres, who I absolutely love, but that’s about it. Never would I have known how much I could relate with her and her life struggles.

This book is so truthful, and so inspirational. Portia tells us the details of her childhood issues with weight and eating, and how her habits developed into bulimia and a serious case of anorexia. She talks about every little thought and habit, her reaction to everything that was said to her. For anyone dealing with similar issues, it is wonderful to read someone else’s experience and know that you are not alone. I’ve always felt ashamed about certain details of my eating disorder, but I now know that Portia seems to have had very similar thoughts, emotions and habits.

Portia is also struggling to accept her homosexuality, and to feel accepted by those around her. She feels like she has to fit into everything – the sample sizes of clothing on set, society’s idea of beauty, even a certain category of lesbianism. But eventually she realises that it isn’t important to be what others expect you to be. It’s only important to be happy and healthy and just enjoy life.

The epilogue of this novel nearly brought me to tears. Portia knows things are not perfect – they probably never will be. But things have certainly changed for the better. She’s married Ellen and she’s come to terms with how to eat normally and maintain a healthy weight without obsessing over her appearance. She’s managed to find links between her childhood, her sexuality and her desires to be thin. She knows why she binged, she knows why she starved herself. And she knows why she wants to get rid of anorexia once and for all and live her life properly.

This is most definitely one of my favourite books ever. It made me rethink my life – I’m going through a tough patch with my anorexia right now, and Portia’s story has made me think twice about the road I’m going down. She doesn’t hide the ugly truth, she embraces it and brings attention to every detail. She is truly an inspirational woman. 5 stars for certain.

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