Diaries a lens for eating disorder memoir

From eating disorder shame to ‘an open book’ 

A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was the gift of time to embark on the incredible journey of writing my memoir. A project of this magnitude always seemed too daunting but as soon as I began pouring through my old diaries, I thought that writing my memoir might help me to heal on a deeper level from the significant challenges I had faced. Once I made the decision to write my memoir, another purpose was to instill hope for women who have faced similar challenges, especially women in mid-life who are struggling with eating disorders. 

My inspiring message is that it’s never too late to be a work in progress. I want my readers to know that it is possible to heal from childhood trauma and gain a deeper understanding of complicated and painful relationships and events. My diaries gave me the lens into my past through which I could look back to the time when the trauma and other difficult events unfolded. I felt as if I were putting together a jigsaw puzzle of my life, trying to figure out how the pieces fit together.

In addition to reading through my diaries before beginning to write, my amazing mentor, June Alexander, had me outline the different chapters in my life, the important people in each chapter and the significant events along with the challenges, lessons, and positive experiences. 

The actual writing, over a period of 10 months, was a time of introspection, reflection, smiles, tears, emotions, and ultimately a deeper understanding of myself. Throughout the process, I was able to talk through the difficult emotions with my therapist. Reading my diaries and writing about painful events and experiences was the key to my healing, but not easy to revisit in such a profound way.

I was thrilled to have June Alexander as not only my writing mentor, but also my editor. She was with me every step of the way. During the writing process, I focused on one chapter at a time, not starting a new chapter until the previous one was completely edited. I loved the feeling of starting a new fresh topic. The words generally flowed freely though there were certainly times when I needed to take a break and refocus.

My life story encompasses my childhood, the aftermath of my parents’ divorce, my parents’ early cancer deaths, and my own complicated grief, anxiety and depression, asthma and ultimately a full blown eating disorder in mid-life. My eating disorder was the culmination of these many challenges, but also the catalyst to healing. Recovery required vulnerability, connection, and professional support, specifically getting in touch with decades of suppressed emotions. 

Recovery allows me to be fully present in my life, savor the special relationships in my life, and feel comfortable as my authentic self. There is nothing more vulnerable and authentic than sharing my entire life story. I am truly excited for the May 2021 release of my memoir, The Longest Match: Rallying to Defeat an Eating Disorder in Midlife. I hope my memoir evokes the message that one can emerge from life’s challenges and become healthier in body, mind, and spirit.

Now that my memoir is complete, I feel a sense of tremendous accomplishment, almost disbelief that I actually have written a book about my life. I do believe that I have healed on a deeper level through the process of self-examination, deeper understanding and putting my life into words. 

Very soon my book will be available for readers around the world. When I shared my cover design on my social media, the feeling was surreal. I was overwhelmed by the positive response of people from all chapters of my life. As someone who has always been a private person and has suffered from the shame often associated with eating disorders, I am now literally an open book. I am truly excited and ready to add new chapters to my life’s journey. 

About Betsy Brenner

Betsy Brenner is an Eating Disorder Recovery Speaker and Peer Support Mentor. She will be a published author with the release of her memoir, The Longest Match: Rallying to Defeat an Eating Disorder in Midlife, in May 2021. Betsy is a long-time high school tennis coach. She and her husband Jeff reside in Barrington, Rhode Island and are the parents of three grown children. www.betsybrenner.com

All articles by Betsy Brenner

One Response

  1. Betsy:
    You are truly a talented writer. Everything you write speaks to my soul and the journey of recovery. Can’t wait to read your book. I too feel like my life is now an open book and I am finding my true authentic self. It is so freeing. It is a process of peeling away the onion and softening the sharp edges. Best of luck, I am sure ur book will be a success and on the suggested reading lists of many rehabs, out-patient clinics and therapists! Blessings.

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