“There are 206 bones in the adult human body. Most of us can only name a few: the mandible or jaw bone, the cranium or skull, the ribs, the humerus or the “funny” bone, the leg bones: the femur and the fibula, and maybe, if you’ve really paid attention in anatomy class, the bones of the hand: the phalanges, the carpals, and the metacarpals. These are the bones we can see, we can feel, we can break. These were the bones I knew about… before. Now, as Georgia curls into a fetal position to sleep and her blue hospital gown peels away from her back, I can see every hump, every curve, every peak and valley in her spine. I can see every bone pressing against her skin like it’s a sheet. It’s an image that will forever haunt me. My best friend is a living, breathing, archaeological discovery. Six months ago she was alive, full of color and shape. Now, her body is white and gaunt. She is a dandelion gone to seed.“
This is from a scene in my book-in-progress, Fat Girl, Skinny, in which the main character visits her best friend in the hospital and for the first time, realizes the gravity of the friend’s eating disorder. This was hard for me to write. Not because as a fat girl, I have been so tempted to take up an eating disorder that writing about one might just seal the deal. No. Writing about Anorexia was difficult for me because I honestly could not understand what it was like to think in terms of starvation.
I once had a friend who used to quip, “I wish I could develop an eating disorder, it would be the answer to all of my problems.” I used to look at her like she was insane. The answer??? How could anything so horrible and self-deprecating be an answer?
The truth is that for most of my life I thought I was too healthy to develop an eating disorder. My parents loved me, my family was “normal”, I had no parasite eating my insides. But, through the process of writing this book, most of which is autobiographical, I made a startling discovery. I do have an eating disorder. Unlike traditional disorders, however, mine is marked by lack of control rather than a compulsion to control. Eating has destroyed me more than once in my lifetime. Eating has become a thief in the night taking with it my self-worth, my self-esteem, and any integrity I thought I had. Yet, it keeps happening. I suffer from overeating just as an anorexic suffers from under-eating. And as with Anorexia or Bulimia, there is an underlying psychosis that goes along with sabotaging your own life.
I’m not here to compare the severity of eating disorders. I’m here to say that whether you allow yourself to whither away, or you abuse yourself, stuff yourself, and blow up your own life, we all suffer together. Once I found that level ground in my brain, I was able to write about my character’s anorexia with deeper authenticity. I guess I just can’t stop writing memoir.