by Dana Lise Shavin
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Just released: September 11, 2014
Publisher: Little Feather Books, Inc.
Genre: Memoir, Mental Illness
Paperback: 360 pages
In this moving and funny memoir that spans the six years following the author's purported recovery from anorexia, Dana Lise Shavin offers a candid and ultimately optimistic window into the mindset and machinations of a mental illness whose tentacles reached deep into her life, long after she was considered "cured."
In 1981, Shavin graduated from college with a BA in Psychology. It had been a difficult venture that included an expulsion, a four-month institutionalization, and a multitude of transfers. By the time it was over, she was convinced she was cured, and that it was time to start curing others. "I’m ready," she told her parents, her therapist, and friends—all of whom shook their heads in horror at her 95-pound, 5’9” frame. Undaunted, she landed a job as a counselor in a halfway house for drug and alcohol addicts. If anyone knew what it took to become a happy, functioning adult, Shavin was convinced she was the one.
As anyone would suspect, the burden of self-contempt, faulty logic, and interpersonal turmoil that are the character traits of depressive disorders and addictions do not miraculously disappear once medication and therapy have taken effect. Where, then, do these dangerous obsessions, such as the wish for obliteration (which often co-exists with the wish for immortality), go once a person sets foot on the road to recovery?
For Shavin, they lived beneath the radar of her supposed new-found health, disguising themselves in the falling-down houses she happily moved into and the dangerous neighborhoods she somehow didn't fear. They announced themselves in the deeply flawed men she professed to adore, the food rituals she thought were normal, the ordinary sex she could not have, and, most profoundly, her inability to acknowledge her father’s illness and encroaching death.
While many writers have written candidly and eloquently about their struggles with depression, addictions, and eating disorders, those stories usually conclude once there is progress toward recovery. Beyond recovery—whether from addiction, illness, the death of a loved one, or divorce—there is another story, one that is about how we re-join the world, and, in the living years that follow the darkness, pursue a life that is creative, engaged, and deeply felt in one's body.
Many things can be learned from this book. The insight on life and living from the perspective of a person struggling primarily with an eating disorder and how it affects other aspects of her life.
I liked how her stories were told with her reflections and observations which in turn made me think about my own life.
It is stories like these that can trigger positive life changes if not just a little.
* review copy courtesy of Fall Reading Challenge 2014. @booksparks #FRC2014