Good Girls – Hadley Freeman

Anorexia was in some ways like a security blanket for me because it allowed me to hide from the world, it provided structure and rules, and there was always one simple right answer: don’t eat.

I love memoirs. Sometimes they make you feel seen through shared lived experience. Other times they invite you into a world that’s unlike what you’ve known. You are given the opportunity to see your struggles in a new light and may discover new ways to cope, survive and maybe even thrive. There are just so many possibilities when you open yourself up to accompanying someone as they do life in their own unique way, even if you only meet one another within the pages.

I have read about eating disorders since I was an early teen. Although never officially diagnosed, I absolutely had one at the time. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the right book at the right time, something that allowed me to change some of my eating habits before the slope got too slippery. That’s not to say that disordered eating didn’t follow me into my adult life. But this book reminded me that Hadley’s story could have very easily been my own.

Hadley stopped eating when she was fourteen and spent several years living in psychiatric wards.

I had developed, the doctor said, anorexia nervosa. He was right about that, but pretty much nothing else he told me about anorexia turned out to be correct: why I had it, what it felt like, or what life would be like when I was in so-called recovery.

Hadley’s experience was so different to my own and pretty much everything I’ve ever read about eating disorders. But that’s a good thing. Eating disorders, much life like itself, aren’t one size fits all. (Pun purely accidental but now my brain can’t come up with an alternative.) When we’re only looking for a specific presentation of something, we’re likely to miss more than we see.

That’s what I remember perhaps most of all: the loneliness. I genuinely didn’t understand what was happening to me, and nor, it often seemed, did anyone else.

Content warnings include mention of addiction, attempted suicide, death by suicide, eating disorders, mental health and self harm.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and 4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From Hadley Freeman, the bestselling author of House of Glass, comes her searing and powerful memoir about mental ill health and her experience with anorexia. 

This is how the Anorexia Speak worked in my head:

‘Boys like girls with curves on them’ – If you ever eat anything you will be mauled by thuggish boys with giant paws for hands

‘Don’t you get hungry?’ – You are so strong and special, and I envy your strength and specialness

‘Have you tried swimming? I find that really improves my appetite’ – You need to do more exercise

In this astonishing and brave account of life with anorexia Hadley Freeman starts with the trigger that sparked her illness and moves through four hospitalisations, offering extraordinary insight into her various struggles.

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