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How to Disappear Completely She devoured their memoirs and magazine articles committing the most salacious details of their cautionary tales to memory how little they ate their lowest weights and their merciless exercise regimes to learn what it would take to be the very best anorectic When she was hospitalized for anorexia at fifteen she found herself in an existential wormhole how can one suffer from something one has actively sought out Through her own decade long battle with anorexia which included three lengthy hospitalizations Osgood harrowingly describes the haunting and competitive world of inpatient facilities populated with other adolescents some as young as ten years oldWith attuned storytelling and unflinching introspection Kelsey Osgood unpacks the modern myths of anorexia examining the cult like underbelly of eating disorders in the young as she chronicles her own rehabilitation How to Disappear Completely is a brave candid and emotionally wrenching memoir that explores the physical internal and social ramifications of eating disorders and subverts many of the popularly held notions of the illness and most hopefully the path to recovery Premise wise Osgood sets out to do something that is far too uncommon in this type of memoir she seeks to tell her story without numbers and in a way that will not be triggering that will not glamorise eating disorders I've read others that set out to do the same if less explicitly but they are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule I'll add since I've read a metric fucktonne of these that I'm pretty desensitised but that doesn't mean I don't notice So I love that that's what she's trying forBut does she succeed I'm not so sure For someone determined to avoid triggers Osgood spends a lot of time talking about them For the most part her approach to not sharing triggering details of her own experience seems to translate into limiting all details of her own experience At the same time a tremendous amount of the research portion of the book is about triggers and triggering booksOsgood knew about anorexia before she ever became ill and to her this is apparently a mark against her; even in the book she is struggling with the uestion of validity She doesn't measure her illness in terms of weight but she does measure it in terms of how many times she was in hospital and where It feels in places and of course I have no way of knowing if there's any truth to this that she's still trying to 'prove' her anorexia so that she can let it go p 139But I'm less concerned with how Osgood portrays her own illness than I am with how she portrays others She is by the time of writing distanced from any desire to relapse or any pro ana sentiment but to the extent that she comes off as disgusted by her former fellow patients Angry sometimes Not always and not in all of her discussions of other patients but often enough to be noticeable They seem to be the manifestations of all that is wrong with eating disorder memoirs and fiction She uestions whether individuals were anorexic or just wannarexic; she implies a hierarchy of illnessAnd I'm sorry but it has to be said I cannot imagine finding myself described in a book like this as 'flabby' 'plump' both p 110 or 'chubby' p 144 The last is in reference not to someone she knew but to a photo in a book of a girl in treatment for an eating disorder; I've read that book and what the hell While we're at it the 'elderly woman' from the same book she describes in the same breath was 48 when that picture was takenI read this in mid late 2013 and then again in early mid 2014 because I wanted to be surer of what I thought about it It's an interesting book and an interesting take but most of the good points are lost somewhere in the wandering and in the really problematic points I wanted to like this a great deal than I actually did It's definitely time for me to give up on this genre Again I really started out wanting to like this book and I was interested in reading a candid analysis of the eating disorder treatment subculture In the end the author does what I find so frustrating in all the other memoirs generalizes her experiences as THE universal recovery experience I can appreciate that she is trying to remove the glamor of illness and provide criticism but she does so without complexity or nuance let alone compassion essentially ascribing all eating disorders to cases of wannarexia gone too far inspired by memoirs with tips and thinspiration and the vanity of overprivileged teen girls who intentionally cultivate the illness and love being hospitalized Her research consists of reading the memoirs that inspired her to become ill rather than anything peer reviewed or so much as an interview She eventually admits that she is writing out of a desire to illuminate a subset of a problem but this doesn't come across in the manuscript We are left with the implication that this is how it is for most everyone with modern anorexiaToward the end I was trying figure out what the author was getting at and this seems to sum up the book Perhaps what we need to do is actually restore some of the myths about anorexia namely that it's a problem of vanity or resurrect some of the stigma that surrounds it in hopes that we move away from radically accepting itThat might be useful for the particular subset Osgood is writing about but in failing to present a diverse multicausational portrait of eating disorders this falls very very short of ideas that are applicable beyond her chosen archetype She focuses on exhibitionist and dare I say borderline traits But where are the people who work real jobs hide their illness or weren't raised in nice families who can finance multiple hospital stays She acknowledges toward the end that we've all heard there is diversity in eating disorders yet her memoir lists page after page of rich teenage girls throwing temper tantrums in contrast to the pathetic older patients And predisposing risk factors and traits are completely out of the discussion I imagine because this would legitimize the illness Not to mention how hospital culture could influence behavior inside them while outside there may be people with different storiesThe above statement among many others may be gutsy if not audacious but sounding edgy or bold doesn't do anything to support an argument Frankly statements like this are downright damaging It's nothing groundbreaking to back up old stigmas and myths Why we'd like to take a big leap backward in mental health education and counter the uphill efforts in recent years to reduce harmful stigmatized attitudes is beyond me Studies have shown again and again that stigma does nothing but make psychological problems their treatments and public education far worse I was initially hopeful to see some intelligent criticism of the general discourse in recovery memoirs and there are some really great insights here and there But in the end this seemed like just another entirely simplistic reading Osgood criticizes memoir writers as she tries to set the record straight not exactly an unworthy cause if not self important but in the end she falls into the trap of yet again universalizing her experience and presenting an egocentric view of the essence of an entire diagnosis as if a trivial explanation can be generalized I like that she wants to deglamorize anorexia and is willing to call out some bullshit but I don't think a return to old stereotypes or reducing the problem to dramatic displays and adolescent whims is the way to do itI also find the premise unnerving Osgood sets out to overturn all the other memoirs out there but what exactly is compelling about her book on its own It seems to only be written as a rebuttal which is fine enough I guess; but for a compelling literary piece that would stick with me longer I want to see something new here not just a rejection of other ideas and perhaps worse a call for a return to the old If she is writing to young girls who are reading memoirs for tips or writing to her former self then she does what she sets out to do But I imagine there are many others with diverging stories and her generalizations serve to stigmatize shame and silence It downright invalidates other narratives I also think this book could be potentially damaging if friends or family members are reading for understanding or educationOn the surface this reads like a reasonable reply to pro anorexia forums but I'm concerned that it also reduces eating disorders to no than these attitudes Pop media articles are already all over how terrible websites are converting our children to illness; this just reads as a sophisticated version of that old diatribe There is a lot going on but we get the opposite message as we read each decry against other writers and each description of yet another exemplary fitful teen and I can't help but wonder if any of their stories were complex or if these displays were a product of the hospital environment or anorexia; although the complexity is what the author is arguing against Perhaps if the author had better defined the scope of her work and its limits I would have had patience as a reader If you're just looking at the back cover copy or various other blurbs it's very hard to tell what this book is about so I'll try to summarize briefly This book is about the culture of anorexia—not just about the disease itself but about how the many books movies articles websites and TV shows about it affect and even harm women and girls in the name of education and awareness It's also about how the culture of inpatient eating disorder programs can actually lead to competition and comparisons among patients possibly making them worse instead of better and about the language we use concerning those who suffer from eating disorders and how detrimental it can be Finally the book is a memoir of the author's own anorexia although she tries valiantly not to give any triggering information—ie information about her lowest weight or her eating plans when she was sickI don't have any personal experience with full blown eating disorders so perhaps I'm not the best person to comment on this but I thought this book was uniue and uite valuable I've read some of the famous eating disorder books Wasted by Marya Hornbacher being the most famous and I've seen Lauren Greenfield's documentary but until recently it had never occurred to me that texts like these would be absorbed by patients and become an actual part of their experience with their disease Osgood also frames the addiction aspect of anorexia in a throught provoking way—what other addict besides an anorexic person actively strives to become the best addict they can be These are only some of the issues the book addresses—there's a lot going on here The book is also entertaining in the best possible sense; it moves swiftly and gives you a lot to think aboutPerhaps not surprisingly the book is also problematic in some ways As I said Osgood tries not to be triggering but there's really no way avoid that pitfall entirely When she names famous anorexic women—not famous in the Mary Kate Olsen sense but famous among other anorexic women I couldn't help but be curious and Google them I uickly realized that this led down a rabbit hole where Google images of one anorexic woman engendered images of others some painful to look at Could be very triggering to a different type of reader no Then too Osgood admits late in the book that although she considers herself recovered from anorexia she still struggles with the issues sometimes But by then I already knew this just based on how she depicted the few overweight women portrayed in the book—always with revolting imagery that made it clear Osgood still has some issues surrounding weight This is a very small part of the book but it was very telling for me Other reviewers have complained that Osgood seems to see her own experiences as universal when they aren't although this particular aspect didn't bother me—it comes with the territory of writing a memoir in my opinion Why do we write autobiographically at all if we don't think there's something universal about what we've been throughSo yes this book is complicated but it's a complicated subject and wouldn't be served by a simplistic treatment even if such a treatment were possible But I think this is a necessary book and it's one I would particularly recommend for people who've absorbed a lot of the cultural artifacts addressing eating disorders up to this point—and that's many of us Myopic snooty and with such a lack of insight that it pained me to see this to the end I'm in concert with everyone else here who's critiued Osgood's universalizing and alienating read elitist rhetoric throughout I'd also add that the extreme binary thinking she displays applies also to the ridiculousness of her referring to certain nurses as Carribbean Asian and African American when she never EVER ualifies that all of the other personages are white Also her whirlwind rant on wannarexics and demonization of Horbacher's 'Wasted' which is an important text for MANY of us in recovery are completely self serving and unsubstantiated except through cloistered anecdotal evidenceLittle than privilege speaking its name over and over and over

  • Hardcover
  • 272 pages
  • How to Disappear Completely
  • Kelsey Osgood
  • English
  • 09 March 2016
  • 9781468306682

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