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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Slim to none: A Journey Through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment

by Hendricks, Jennifer

on 27/07/2007


Price: £9.99

Published: Jul 2007

Format: paperback

No Pages: 384 pages

 

ISBN-13: 9780071433716

Category: Biographical


This book portrays a young woman's long battle with anorexia nervosa. It was put together by Jennifer's father, Gordon Hendricks. Jennifer’s diaries form the foundation of the book. Her father has gently edited her journal. He has also included a few situations and circumstances which he felt were significant and which were not in her diary. After a protracted 11 year battle with the disease, with all its ups and downs, Jennifer sadly succumbed to her illness at the age of 25.   The book grants the reader a privileged access into the emotional and psychological turmoil going on in the author's mind during her illness. It is compelling reading and every therapist who comes across this illness should read this book.

 

Jennifer takes the readers in a step by step manner through, what is described as a long journey through a wasteland of failed treatments and therapies.  She was given false hopes and subjected to various therapies and treatments by the mental health system which she felt did not help her.

 

Instead of understanding and dealing with her attitude towards eating and her body image distortion, much emphasis was placed on analyzing her past. She felt that therapists looked for evidence of sexual abuse almost to the point of making her believe that she had been abused. Some of the therapists  were single mindedly  concerned with Jennifer regaining her weight, ignoring  how she felt when she regained weight and what made her go back to her anorexic routines. This was counterproductive as it aggravated the very condition it sought to improve.

 

Readers can get a glimpse into the struggle the family faced everyday to cope with her illness and the devastation it has caused in the life of each family member. Her father was very supportive of her throughout her illness but was also trying to cope with the stress he was under. Her mother was made to withdraw herself, both mentally and physically, from Jennifer on medical advice. For Jennifer her illness was a lethal obsession, a struggle for power over herself and she was constantly battling with her illness. She was angry and had a rage inside her which she felt could be due to repressed emotions of past sexual abuse. She loathed and hated herself when she was unwell and this became worse when she was gaining weight.

 

Her diary suggests that there was a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding of eating disorders during the 1980s. The irregular and inconsistent treatment programs she faced made her recovery process difficult.  She writes that she was sexual abused by a lesbian nurse while undergoing treatment and that this, not surprisingly, worsened her condition.

 

This book gives the readers an insight into the world of eating disorders and the mental agony of the living with the condition. It portrays doctors and treatment from the perspective of the sufferer.

 

Reviewed by Dr Bipin Ravindran

 

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