A recent article in The Guardian by Joanna Moorhead covers the story of Katie Green, who’s recent book “Lighter Than My Shadow” is set to be published this October 3rd, 2013 by Jonathan Cape. Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of Katie’s struggle and recovery from her eating disorder.
Here is an exerpt from The Guardian…
Katie Green isn’t sure how significant her family’s attitude to food was in the development of her eating disorder, but her autobiographical graphic novel opens with an image of them all sitting around the kitchen table. It’s dinner time: Dad is reading the paper, Mum is feeding the toddler, and the young Katie is staring glumly at her plate of food, fork in hand.
Over the following pages, Katie’s anorexia develops, characterised in her pictures by a thick black cloud of scribbles above her head. And when we see the family round their kitchen table once more, the daughters now in their teens, the thick black cloud is gathered above them all, casting its gloom across the whole family. Katie still isn’t eating; and no one else looks happy either.
This, says Katie, is very much how it felt to have an eating disorder. “It affected everyone in the family,” she says. But although everyone was right there under Katie’s cloud, no one could understand it. They did their best: the pictures show her parents asking her to try to eat. “Can’t you just manage a little bit?” asks her mum, hopefully. Katie explodes – “You just don’t get it, do you?” – before rushing off in tears.
The truth, as Katie now realises, is that she didn’t understand any more than her parents did. All she knew was that a black cloud of enveloping misery had descended on them all. She is full of admiration for the way her parents and sister coped: “It must have been terrible, seeing me basically trying to self-destruct.”
At her worst, Katie needed round-the-clock surveillance to stop her from purging and self-harming. Her parents chose to have her treated at home as a specialist told them that the outcomes were better; both had to take leave from their jobs to care for her. They paid a high price: in the book, Katie suggests it would have been better for the family if she’d been hospitalised.
Katie is now 30 and recently moved to Plymouth, which is where we meet. Her graphic novel is published next week and a second book for children, The Crystal Mirror, is due out later this year. She doesn’t think about food all the time now, but says you never really escape the mindset. She channels the behaviour that once fuelled her eating disorder into healthier pursuits – especially trying to work out what it was all about, through her novel.
What that means, explains Katie, is that she worked on it compulsively, pushing herself to get the hundreds of illustrations finished for the deadline, and obsessing about it for three years. Interestingly, the fruit of her labours is a whacking 504 pages long – it can’t be by chance that this story of how a person almost wasted away to nothing is one of the heaviest books you’re ever likely to read. The physical lightness of an anorexic body sits in stark contrast to the emotional weight that invariably surrounds it – although Katie seems unsure about whether the condition is caused by external or internal forces.
She coped by thinking of it as a disease, like cancer, or the result of an accident, like a broken leg. She’s in a much better place now than during the period described in the book – although, surprisingly, she says that writing it was not cathartic. She had managed to move on from thinking about food and all the issues involved in her condition, and the project pulled her back into it. But it will have been worth it, she says, if it helps other families to cope with the complexity of living with a teenager with an eating disorder. “When I started reading books about anorexia, I was disappointed – they either seemed overly optimistic about how easy it would be to move on or suggested you would have it for ever. Neither of those points of view seemed correct to me.”
Fairwinds Treatment Center helps individuals and their families get their lives back on track. We specialize in helping people overcome dangerous and deadly disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism and drug addiction. Being a dually licensed psychiatric facility, Fairwinds physicians and therapists engage an integrated treatment plan, incorporating several treatment models combined with psychiatric methods to identify the root of the disorder in order for specialized treatment to begin and to ensure a lasting recovery.