On the surface, the main character of my novel, Good Enough, is a doppleganger of myself. Like Riley, I suffered from anorexia and exercise addiction, Like Riley, I dealt (still deal, in many ways) with issues of perfectionism, of wanting to be approved of and liked. Like Riley, I struggled to get my parents and friends to understand that recovering isn’t as simple as just eating a sandwich.
Oh, so you wrote an autobiography? you may ask. Is this a thinly-veiled memoir? A way to get some therapy by writing?
In a way, yes. To that last one, at least. Because while writing Good Enough, I was able to work through a lot of my emotions about my past struggle with an eating disorder, and even to figure out a few last niggling things that I still worried about. (As I said, the perfectionism will never go away.) I read through my old journals, piles of spiral-bound books filled with feelings and emotions and oh-so-any complaints. About the therapists and nurses and counselors. About the food. How dare they pull me out of my comfort zone! How dare they make me recover!
How dare they.
Thank god they did.
It was tough reading through those journals, since I went through similar emotions that Riley does in Good Enough. First I didn’t want to recover. Then I did. Then I wanted to get the heck out of that treatment center once again. Then I was determined to get my life back.
(I had all of these emotions during the course of one day sometimes).
Recovery is hard, and the journey there is different for everyone. That’s why, eventually, my path started to diverge from Riley’s. As I wrote draft after draft, Riley started to change. She became someone other than me. She became herself, a character with her own emotions and fears and experiences.
It’s the same with anyone struggling with an eating disorder--symptoms may vary and diagnoses may be different, but in the end, it’s still a life-threatening struggle with food, body image and self-esteem. It still takes your life away--takes the chance to live your life away.
Individuals of any gender can suffer. Individuals of any size can suffer. Individuals of any sexuality can suffer.
Each person is unique, and each person deserves recovery. Just like I did. Just like Riley does. Just like you do, or the person you love does. Recovery is possible--I believe that with all my heart. It takes work and time and struggle, though. It doesn’t follow a pre-ordained path.
The end is out there.
Jen Petro-Roy is a former teen librarian, an obsessive reader, a board game fanatic and an eating disorder recovery advocate. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Massachusetts, where she writes books about girls and boys who are strong, determined, unsure, struggling to fit in, bubbly, shy, and everything in between. She is the author of P.S. I Miss You, Good Enough, You Are Enough: Your Guide to Body Image and Eating Disorder Recovery, and the upcoming Sliding Into Home (2021), all with Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.