A Memoir of Anorexia and Recovery: Grace Bowman
Grace Bowman on Chrissy Show-
The Chrissy B Show (34) – My Body, My Rules (Do I Have an Eating Disorder?)
I remember reading this book at the Day Unit. This is a memoir by Grace Bowman, a popular 18 year old who decided to go on a diet before heading off to university. Soon dieting turns into something vicious, she finds she can’t stop. She struggles to understand how or why it’s happened and why she can’t bring herself to eat. In this Memoir, you find out what lead to Grace’s anorexia and you get to follow her recovery out of this self-destructive illness. The book draws you into mindset of Grace and into dark world of Eating Disorder. I would like to share few snippets from the book. It’s a good read, simple to comprehend and easy to relate to and gives a powerful message on power that exists in each of us to beat Eating Disorder.
The Passage of Time
The Passage of time is a powerful thing. When people ask how you overcome an eating disorder it doesn’t sound like the most convincing of explanations to put it down to things just getting better, but this was the case in my experience. It was a slow process to wear it down but the more I fought it, the more I wanted to rid myself of its strangling hold, and eventually, with sustained effort, the eating disorder voice gradually faded out.
A big part of my recovery came down to embracing the change rather than opposing it.
If you are able to admit real responsibility of what you can achieve -if you can start to encounter that fear- then you realise that anorexia is something you can put a stop to.
The strength of anorexia is such that its remnants are clearly felt, or translated into something else long after the ‘phase’ has passed. It is not something that you forget you experienced. You cannot do this because the potential long-lasting consequences for your body range from infertility to osteoporosis to the erosion of tooth enamel. And it can come back. Even if the relationship with food recovers, the relationship with yourself can remain a fragile one.
The Shape of Emotions
‘It’s gonna hurt, now,’ said Amy. ‘Anything dead coming back to life hurts.’
A truth for all times, thought Denver.
Beloved, Toni Morrison
As you recover from very low weight and self-starvation- as you put on more weight, and return to the target you are told to achieve- lots of things do improve (perception can shift and rational decisions can begin to be made), but at the same time it can be a terrifying experience. The biggest change for me was the emergence of real feeling. I felt, like many others who regain weight and grow, that I was thrust back into my hypersensitive body. Emotions returned with full force after a long period of nullification. I went from emotional paralysis to a sense of being flooded with fear and feeling. It was as if all of the experience of the last few years had been unlocked and released, and I was initially totally knocked down with it. The first thing that an anorexic looks to do with that intense emotion is to relate to her size and weight. She believes this is what shapes all of her feelings and moods, and fuels her happiness or unhappiness. It was the same for me.
As an anorexic, you don’t have a sense of what your ‘self’ equals, and so you think that if you can emulate others, something will form around you. If the images you are presented with are long and thin and glossy, it is easier to think you should be like that; it is easier to think that that is how and why those people have got there.
It is hard to accept you have to find your own level, which is inevitably a different level from everyone else’s. It’s hard to stop staring, to pull away, to stop wishing for a transformation to someone else’s idea of ‘the right shape’. Your inside strength finds it hard to come through, but when it does, you stop the self-rejection. You start to think of your-self as your own unique shape, your own outline.
I am different today, no question. The anorexic version of me is a part of my memory, but she doesn’t feel like she needs to be part of my present. It is amazing now, but I am able to stop myself thinking about the fat on my stomach, or the depth and width of my thighs. One day like that came along, and then it was two days, and then three in a row. Imagine that! Three days in a row with hardly any fat feelings and a head focused on other things. Even better sometimes I can’t remember what I ate two days ago.
Mostly I still remember today, but I certainly can’t list everything over the last week. I can’t even tell you the calorie content of a pizza, or a slice of toast with butter, or a can of coke. In fact, it’s almost as if I have been brainwashed not to remember by my own brain. It’s like I hypnotized myself backwards.
Quiet often I forget about my body and my weight, I stop thinking about it. I wonder if it is because I don’t need to focus on that anymore.
The voice, the wrong-speed inside voice has slowly faded. It is more like a whisper than a roaring shout. Sometimes I faintly hear it trying to come back. Sometimes I punch it out in the gym. Sometimes I breathe it away. Sometimes I sleep through it. Sometimes I laugh so loud that it disappears entirely. Sometimes I jump on my bed and do forward rolls; anything to mix it up, screw it right up, throw it out the window.
Anorexia just lost its appeal frankly, the view of thin me was not fulfilling, nor truthful, nor logical. The equation didn’t make sense. I had been reciting the same lines over and over again, and years later, the thinness had contributed nothing to my self-esteem (that had to come from somewhere else). It took me time to work this out. It took me time to outgrow it, until one day, or one series of, days, I decided to stop running away from finishing it.
When you decide to allow yourself access to the reality of your eating disorder, past or present, that’s when you empower it with an existence outside the confines it has shrouded itself in. That is when it can start to break down. When it is shared it is broken.
The anorexia itself tries to stop such an invasion of its privacy, of course. It tries to stop any sense of an ending to keep its power within, and you have to fight this. You have to break the secrecy.
For my part, I have stopped thinking about my body so much, and I have accepted that it will change as I change, and as I grow older. So what I weigh today, or yesterday, or tomorrow will not tell you anything about me. It will not tell you who I am, what kind of person I am, What I believe or what I will be tomorrow.
To give up control, you need to give yourself and your time to someone else’s plans, to someone else’s needs; to do things for other people. This helps to break through the fear of what will happen if your life isn’t planned just the way you want it to be. You can’t control everything, and never will, and once you have accepted this you begin to steady.
I used to feel an absence from myself. I discarded my body, I threatened it, I tried to shrink it. Now I feel it, I sit in the presence of myself and I nurture it. It has helped to try and link my body and my mind, rather than separating them out and letting them fight each other. I feel like I am not fighting myself anymore.
I actually feel protective of my body now. This is my shape, my body. This is my shape, my life.