Happy 2010 everyone! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful weekend. Today, I’m happy to feature a book review by reader Kate Thieda, who shared her story of eating disorder recovery with us last month here and here. Below, she’s written an excellent review of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me by Jenni Schaefer. Thanks so much, Kate, for your review!! Oh, Marsha Hudnall over at the fantastic blog A Weight Lifted has included an interview with me today. I was thrilled to answer Marsha’s questions (I interviewed Marsha for Weightless in November). Please check it out and comment, if you like. Thanks!
For those who struggle with eating disorders, recovery can seem impossible and even unimaginable—how could life be any different than it is now? Stories of those who have triumphed and gone on to be happy, healthy and successful can be hard to come by.
Enter Jenni Schaefer, author of Life Without Ed, and her new book, Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, sharing her story of full recovery and successful “divorce” from “Ed,” her eating disorder.
Goodbye Ed, Hello Me is written in the same friendly, easy-to-read, short-chaptered format as Life Without Ed. Schaefer chose the premise of describing the stages of building a new, loving relationship with herself—as opposed to life during her “marriage” to Ed—as her structure for the book.
Part 1 is “Happily Divorced: Life Without Ed.” An important distinction Schaefer makes in this book is the difference between being “in recovery” and being “recovered” from an eating disorder. She acknowledges that life is always in flux, and therefore being “in recovery” can signify a process, but has chosen to declare she is “recovered” in order to permanently evict Ed from her life. Schafer also challenges readers to separate themselves from the voice of their eating disorders, saying the “missing piece” from her first book was this advice: “Don’t blame Ed for anything.” Ultimately, the choice of whether to listen to what Ed says is your responsibility. To have a successful “divorce,” you need to take charge.
Part 2 is “Being Single: Making It on Your Own.” One of the most confusing, and at times scariest, parts of recovery is trying to figure out “Who am I without Ed?” Answering this question takes a lot of time and effort, especially if Ed’s been running the show and making choices for a long time. Schaefer likens recovery to climbing a mountain—you make the climb over and over again, as relapse and setbacks bring you back down to the bottom. The secret is, though, once you get to the top, you can’t just stay there—you have to jump. “Jumping” means doing the scary things—listening to your treatment team, honoring your body’s wishes, or getting rid of what keeps you in your struggles, whether it’s behaviors, negative people, or “skinny clothes.” Freedom comes when you make the jump.
Part 3, “The Dating Game: Exploring the World,” is about rediscovering who you are, separate from Ed. Schaefer describes an experience of having a car accident and her computer hard drive crash on the same day and asking herself, “Why me?” Before recovery, a day like that would have resulted in Ed stepping in to “make it all better.” After recovery, Schaefer was able to turn around “Why me?” to “Why not me?” We all get bumped in life, and ultimately, it’s about how we choose to face our struggles. As a recovered person, Schaefer chooses happiness over feeling bad.
Part 4, “Getting Engaged: Relationships and More,” focuses on building relationships, both with yourself and others. Having an Ed in your life can be very isolating, so creating new, healthy relationships, and rebuilding old ones that may have been neglected, is key to being recovered. Schaefer talks about owning her own life and making a list of the choices she had made that supported her ownership, such as moving to Nashville on her own, and those that hadn’t, such as letting an ex-boyfriend dictate their relationship. She also introduces the concept of “PPDs”—personal protected days. PPDs are times just for you to do whatever you want, especially those activities you say you’ll do “when you have the time.” People with Eds in their life tend to be perfectionists, always going, going, going, so actually taking time out to relax can be a stressful experience. However, building fun back into your life is another essential element to recovery.
Part 5 is “The White Dress: A Healthy Body and Positive Body Image.” Schaefer opens the section with commentary about being the victim of the “worst pickup line ever,” which resulted in her coining the term “Societal Ed.” Western culture has created this beast who is pervasive throughout society, whether it’s through magazine covers that proclaim to have the only weight-loss plan you’ll ever need, television shows that feature “the beautiful people” or ads on the radio for the latest gadget that will bring everlasting happiness. “Societal Ed” affects us all, whether you have a “personal Ed” or not. Ultimately, Schaefer reminds us that it is not what we have or what we look like, but what we want our life to stand for.
Part 6, “The Perfectly Imperfect Wedding: Overcoming Perfectionism,” is something many readers will identify with. Schaefer’s statement, “Perfect doesn’t exist in the real world, only perfectionism does,” should give you pause. We spend inordinate amounts of time trying to do things perfectly when, as Schaefer discovers, “good enough” is often just that. In Life Without Ed, Schaefer also explored the voice of “Ms. Perfectionism” in her life, but in this book, Ms. Perfectionism does not make an appearance, proving that overcoming the mentality of “if it can be done, it must be done,” is also possible. The section ends with a prescription to have fun; for Schaefer, she even had to be told to schedule 30 minutes of fun a day, and learn to tolerate the “positive guilt” that came with it.
Finally, Part 7 is called “Happily Married: Falling in Love with Life.” Schaefer describes her decision to write wedding vows to herself, which she can review, revise, and renew at any time as part of her commitment to herself and her healthy life. She shares her favorite Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight,” reminding us that even if we fall down, the most important thing to do is get up again and “do the next right thing,” which was a theme in Life Without Ed as well. Schaefer acknowledges that there are a lot of things in life that seem “impossible,” but that recovering from an eating disorder is not one of them.
As a singer-songwriter, Schaefer ends the book with the lyrics to her song, “It’s Okay to Be Happy.” Indeed, it is! (myspace.com/jennischaefer has the song for listening.)