Friday, October 12, 2012

regarding the book, Brave Girl Eating

Last weekend, in my emotional confusion, I once again sought out biographies of people struggling with mental illness. I guess this would be part of my ongoing search for inspiration, understanding, coping skills, and hope.

But I found a really neat book. Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia, by Harriet Brown, (William Morrow, 2010). It was told from the mother's perspective as she struggled along-side her daughter (referred to as Kitty in the book) and, as it turned out, along-side her whole family. Not because they all personally struggled to eat, but because the struggle impacted the whole family.

Anyway, my perspective is influenced by all I have read that puts eating disorders and OCD in a related category. And the mother's understanding of Kitty's illness grew into one that definitely had similarities to my own. Food set off alarms inside her daughter. It was both feared and desired. And it set off guilt. Even suicidal ideation. (Spell check needs to add "ideation" still.)

I guess this is what I got out of it. I loved how much Kitty's mother cared about her. How much her father cared about her. Enough to sometimes stand between Kitty and the monster in her head, which the author referred to as the "Demon," not in a religious sense, but like I refer to OCD as a monster. Sometimes, her mother realized that Kitty needed her (the mother) to be responsible for the food she (Kitty) was eating, so that the demon wouldn't yell at her as much.

After reading part of the book, I went up and had supper with my parents. My parents love me, too. And I know that. And they aren't perfect, but Kitty's parents weren't perfect, either. And we don't need perfect, we need parents who care and do their best with their understandings and abilities.

Back to the book, the other way it helped me, was it helped me feel free-er to enjoy my food. I've had my own issues with food, not like Kitty. Not to qualify as Anorexia. But feel like I didn't deserve food? Yes. Not want to eat food? Yes. Force myself to eat food? Yes. Cry because eating was hard? Yes, but that was only when I was in the hospital (that I remember). It usually wasn't that bad.

On Lexapro, I've gained weight. Sure, not tons. More like 10 or 15 pounds. But it worried me. Sometimes I'd try denying myself certain food or (more often) postponing meals. But it was just this sort of mess in my head. Weight I didn't really want, but wasn't sure I should worry about. Hunger that I wasn't sure how to handle. Trying to figure out this strange new metabolism.

But the book reminded me, even somewhat taught me, that it is okay to enjoy a doughnut. More than okay. It is a good thing. Fat is a necessary thing for our bodies. Sugar is a blessing.

So it doesn't solve my whole problem with food and weight and unanswered questions. Hey, I have OCD; why should I expect a worry to go away because of more information? :) But I have been able to enjoy doughnuts.

In fact, though Lexapro may have added to my weight, now on it, I have enjoyed food a lot more. I still struggle to cook, but I do less force-feeding of myself. I might still use the TV to distract me for part of my meal, but other times, I enjoy the food and the movie.

And for one more thing about this book? I loved how the mother was able to recognize her daughter's bravery, her courage and the courage of others in similar positions. The title says it well.

So what are you? A Brave Person Cleaning your House? (I need to be one of those.) A Brave Person Washing your Hands Fewer Times? A Brave Person Interacting with Other People? A Brave Person Doing Something the Wrong Number of Times?

What am I? A Brave Woman Working with Kids (I love it, and it scares me sometimes). A Brave Woman Ending Her Prayer Early. A Brave Woman Talking to People. A Brave Woman Driving.

Or how about this, because I think it is true of a lot of us.

I'm a Brave Woman Living.


  1. Abigail, this post really touched me. I had an eating disorder when I was in my early teens and still have some food issues so it is nice to be reminded that it is okay to enjoy food. Where did I get that it isn't?
    Someone wrote a comment on my blog a bit ago how it is brave to do something you fear, and considering I have to get up each morning and face many fears maybe I can say I'm a Brave Woman Living too. Great Post and I love your book reviews.

    1. Thank you.
      And you can definitely say you are a Brave Woman Living. :)

  2. What a great post! I'm so glad the book was meaningful to you.

    1. I'm honored that you read my post. Thank you.

      And thank you for writing the book.

  3. This book was also very meaningful to me, and I nodded my head through the whole thing, as there are so many similarities between supporting and helping a child with anorexia and supporting and helping a child with severe OCD, as I had to do. I enjoyed your "review."

  4. Thank you, Abigail, this was a beautiful post. I had food issues when I was in college, and I worry about going back to that sometimes. I love what you say about being brave, and you are indeed a Brave Woman Living. I like to think I am one, too.

    1. You are a Brave Woman Living, actually, one of my role models. :)

  5. You are a brave woman, Abigail! This is such a great and inspiring post.