I am continuing to work on the outline for I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. Most of what I’ve done over the past couple of days has been to further develop the plot. By the next couple of weeks, I want to have a complete plan of exactly what I am going to write each day of the month of November, which is National Novel Writing Month.
As you can imagine, it hasn’t been that difficult for me to develop my main character, Megan, who is anorexic. I know how people with anorexia think, seeing as I am afflicted with the illness myself. A lot of the plot centers around what Megan would do if I put her in various situations. Knowing the eating-disordered brain, I might easily guess how she might act, for instance, in a restaurant, supermarket, convenience store, or on a bus, because I know how I act in these situations.
But Megan is not me, and I am not Megan. When people read novels, they sometimes think that the novelist is writing about him/herself, especially if the subject matter is close to home. But this isn’t necessarily the case. In my case, yeah, Megan is a lot like me. They say when you’re writing a Nano book, for the sake of time, you should write about a character who is first of all the same sex that you are, and also maybe the same age, in a setting with which you are familiar (the town where I live, in this case), and select a familiar topic as well, one that does not require a lot of research, because during Nano you only have 30 days to write and no time to run to the library, or even the Web, to look up a lot of stuff.
So Megan is a lot like me. She thinks like me. Actually, she thinks like a lot of people with eating disorders think. She fears becoming fat. She wants to lose weight even though she is already dangerously underweight. She eats very little. She is not scared by the health dangers of being extremely thin.
In the beginning of the book, and throughout the book, Megan continues to starve herself, and toward the end, she wants to completely starve herself to death. She has no will to live. She returns again and again to a man who abuses her. She turns her back on those who love her, or allows them to leave her. She closes every door to hope. Almost.
My therapist once told me that an eating disorder is like a partner who abuses you that you return to over and over. It is an addictive relationship. My T asked me why my ED was so abusive to me, and I could not answer this question. Although I do not believe I should personify my eating disorder, I can fairly say that I do have a relationship with my ED, and that it is abusive and that it is definitely seductive and therefore addictive as well. So my T was right about that much.
The world of the deadly diet is indeed very seductive. You go into your own diet universe with it, and it is a very private diet, your own secret. You tell no one. You stow away every pound you lose. You step on the scale in secret. What ultimately becomes starvation for you has a rhythm only you can feel, and you feel it all the time, even in your sleep. And it’s damn hard to give it up.
I can fairly say I no longer want to die. This has been a big step for me. I am very lucky. I feel like my life turned around just in time. Like if I hadn’t found Frank, I would surely have continued down a very, very bad path.
I feel lucky that I am not in the hospital or dead. I was surely headed in one of those directions, and wouldn’t have been able to do what I am doing today if my life hadn’t’ turned around the way it did. When I think about Nano, I realize that if I hadn’t found Frank, I wouldn’t be even coming close to doing Nano this year, or next year, or the next. Because you can’t write when you’re dead. Period.
So as November approaches, and while I work on this outline, I ponder these things, and I ponder Megan’s fate. I am lucky that her fate is not my own. I can torture her, I can manipulate her, I can abuse her, I can kill her off. I can do these things because that’s what writers do. But I am not Megan. And I am rather certain at this point that unlike Megan, I will eat, and I will keep on eating. So there.
My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access. To read more about it at my home site, click here.