The Time In Between is a remarkable memoir of a teenage girl with anorexia and it’s a personal story of how she experienced it. Nancy Tucker, the author of this book, decided to talk about why she felt the need to write her struggle with MH as a book, and the ups and downs of that. I’m so proud that I’m hosting this post and having the opportunity to read this amazing book.
GIVEAWAY: Win a copy of the book here. Open Int.
WRITING ABOUT ANOREXIA
by Nancy Tucker, the author of The Time In Between
I get asked a lot about the motivation behind my choosing to document my ‘story’ in such a concrete and public way. In a strange sort of way I think I always knew that I would, at some point, in some way, document my experience of growing up in the grips of an eating disorder. It was such a huge, bizarre, all-consuming Thing that I felt it needed – and deserved – to be preserved in some physical form. But the ‘catalyst’ to my deciding to write Book was interesting in that it wasn’t a case of my thinking, ‘I am now far enough away from this story to feel like I can write about it’, it was more, ‘This story is still filling up every inch of me and, unless I ‘get it out’ somehow, it can only continue to try to push its way out through my behaviour’ (which, at that point, was a truly hellish cycle of bingeing, purging and restricting). Book was a way to give my ‘story’ its own space: to say to the illness: ‘I accept you, you have been a hugely important part of my life for the past near-decade, I acknowledge everything you gave me and everything you taught me’, but within that there was the implicit expectation that giving the story its own space would mean it no longer needed to occupy space within me, enabling me to move on without feeling I was in any way forgetting or trying to minimise it. And, although I can’t pretend that none of my ‘space’ is occupied by the eating disorder these days, I would say by and large that agenda has been fulfilled.
I suppose as well as wanting my eating disorder experience ‘out in the open’ from the point of view of wanting to displace it from within me, I also hoped that writing Book would be a way for me to be able to look at my story, pick it apart and understand it better. By the time I put pen to paper I had been struggling with anorexia and bulimia for almost ten years, and over that period the disorders – and the huge, painful feelings they brought with them – had become so warped and twisted, and so full of shadows, that I felt I had lost touch with how they had come to be in the first place. I hoped that writing Book might allow me to understand more about the way in which my eating disorder had wrapped its tendrils around me, in the hope of finding a way to loosen the grip of those tendrils, and give myself a little more room to breathe.
People also very frequently ask whether I’m aware of the potential dangers of books like mine, in terms of triggering fellow sufferers; I am so conscious of that, and so anxious about it. My big ‘thing’, in terms of protecting readers, was not including weight/calorie numbers in the narrative; removing that most tangible source of comparison and competition. And then it was also really important – and really uncomfortable! – to me to reveal every ‘nook and cranny’ of my eating disorder ‘journey’, especially the bits which portray me as weak, unattractive, and even disgusting. I’ve always found it difficult to read memoirs which feel like vehicles through which the writer is making themselves look and feel good: the ones which feel sterile and spookily ‘clean’, because the writer can’t bear the thought of showing themselves to be ‘messy’. But eating disorders are ‘messy’ – particularly bulimia, which I suspect is written about so much less than anorexia largely because of the stigma surrounding its ‘unsavoury’ nature. I suppose I hope that by revealing every facet of my story – the horror of the bingeing, purging, ‘out of control’ phases as well as the starving, shrinking, ‘neat’ phases – I sidestep the trap of making an eating disorder out to be anything other than deeply nasty: the opposite of something to be emulated.