"Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia" by Marya Hornbacher ..... wow ... what a raw read.
A friend lent me this title a couple of weeks ago and I finished it early this morning while sipping my coffee. I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might pick it up to read but near the end, the author weighs fifty-two pounds. It takes 271 pages to get there and she doesn't sugar coat the process of starving one's self to near death.
Anorexia and bulimia are no joke.
She started bingeing and purging at age nine. Somewhere along the line a mental switch is flipped, and once the disease takes hold of her there is no turning back until she is at the edge of her own demise. She went right there. What fascinated me the most during this read was her ability to function while bingeing and purging, and in the end, not eating at all. I was most fascinated by the splitting of the mind from the body. I couldn't help but think this is how athletes push through amazing feats and how people survive some of the most horrible circumstances. The mind simply disassociates from the house it lives in.
At one point, she is labeled "chronic" and a "hopeless case". The fact that she didn't die means, to me, they were wrong about her being hopeless. If one is still breathing, there must still be hope. However, this is not to say she didn't seem hopeless to her family and friends. How devastating it must be to witness your own child starving to death. I could not and would not let my mind go there.
In the introduction, she writes "I wrote this book because I believe some people will recongize themselves in it--eating disordered or not--and because I believe, perhaps naively, that they might be willing to change their own behavior, get help if they need it, entertain the notion that their bodies are acceptable, that they themselves are neither insufficient nor in excess ..."
At one point she is facing commitment to the state mental institution for the legally insane. What else can you call it when the body starts to shut down from zero nutrition and the patient won't eat or, in Ms. Hornbacher's case, keep from purging? I was astonished at her mind's ability to override her body's hunger signals. Personally, I start complaining when I'm two hours out from my last meal. A thought rolls into my mind that I must eat and you'd better get out of my way. When I'm hungry, hardly any other thought will have room in my mind until that hunger is quieted. If I am to understand anorexia, there is a war between the mind and the body. The disease is somewhere in between. The mind always wins. Or is it the body that wins? Or is it the disease? The disease takes on a life of its own and it has a voice. And that voice is louder than any hunger pang or any of the other symptoms that go along with an eating disorder.
In the end, she writes, "the idea began to sink in, more than it ever had, that I might be crazy, in the traditional sense of the word."
If you read this book, you'll come away with a different idea about this disease. You'll wonder if you know anyone who is silently suffering from an eating disorder. You'll learn to recognize the signs of an eating disorder. You'll wonder how the mind can be so powerful as to try annilate the body it resides in. And, if you're like me, you'll come away with a sense that there is hope.
I look forward to reading Ms. Hornbacher's "Madness", "Sane", and "Waiting".