There is something uplifting about stories of overcoming personal obstacles and the self-published Goodbye Anorexia, Hello Life! How God Helped Me Finally Find Myself and Embrace Living Loved, Healthy, and Whole is no exception. Readers follow Allison Bryant’s journey through the darkness of her struggle with anorexia through to her recovery many years later. Bryant’s ability to draw the reader in with her story keeps the reader involved and hoping for her full recovery.
The book opens with Bryant’s explanation of how anorexia had been in control of her life for 25 years, affecting her starting when she was only 11 years old. While I found this to be shocking, as I continued reading the book, I began to understand why. Bryant’s relationship with this disorder rocked her life so much that she labels Anorexia as a character in her book who displays herself primarily as a negative voice inside Bryant’s head. We dive into Bryant’s early life and follow her through adulthood, from various jobs and degrees to a bad relationship and multiple inpatient treatment periods of her life. With every piece of history that Bryant reveals to us, we are better equipped at understanding how Anorexia has affected her life, drawing her into a deep depression and tempting her to restrict her food intake for the sake of her well-being.
Bryant first describes the family dynamic and events during her adolescence. Her relationship with her parents and her schizophrenic brother led her to feel isolated from her family and unable to relate because of the attention given to her brother. Anorexia gradually began taking a hold over her life; she was first tempted to reduce her calories, then exercise by walking excessively after school. Bryant’s relationship with Anorexia also affected her intimate relationship with her boyfriend. It even convinced her to follow him to the same university out of her fear of being alone. It was because of Anorexia that Bryant pushed to stay with someone who emotionally abused her.
After her years at the university, Bryant struggled with both seeking treatment and finding a job that fulfilled her passions. Anorexia’s hold on her was so deep that she was even unable to completely finish her first of many trips to inpatient treatment centers. After her breakup with her boyfriend, Bryant continued to find it difficult to secure a job or enjoy her job once she got one. She went back to school numerous times until she decided to settle for jobs in customer service. Bryant’s turning point was her relationship with God, which pushed her to finally love her body and herself. She went back to more treatment centers to break off her relationship with Anorexia for good and repair her personal relationships with her parents. While she is no longer under Anorexia’s control, she considers herself still in recovery but finally free and in a loving relationship with God.
Before I even opened the book, I knew that a lot of the recovery process for the author would involve God, as the subtitle read How God Helped Me Finally Find Myself and Embrace Living Loved, Healthy, and Whole. While I wasn’t sure how much the book was going to be about religion, it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized how much it played a part in her journey to recovery. Her relationship with God helped her find love for herself and the inner strength to be free from Anorexia’s clutches. The book goes into great detail not only her physical journey, but also her spiritual one, which is something a reader must keep in mind. Bryant has a great ability of weaving together her relationship with God and her journey however, sometimes her explanations would run a little long at more than a couple of paragraphs.
But I liked how Bryant portrayed Anorexia, not just as a disorder but as a character in itself. Bryant’s struggle with this disorder seems more real and raw as she describes Anorexia’s hold on her and her struggle with over exercise and starvation. Anorexia didn’t just force her not to eat, it encouraged her to pursue unhealthy relationships and cut off healthy ones. It is almost as if Anorexia was holding a knife to Bryant’s throat, forcing her to do her will and whispering lies into her ears. It is with this imagery that readers can sympathize with the turmoil Bryant went through, root for her as we read about her treatment, and celebrate even more at her recovery.
I will admit that reading this book was a journey in itself. Bryant emotionally pours herself into this book and I can’t even begin to imagine what it took for her to write it. This book is not just a memoir, it is a great reminder of what kind of havoc disorders can wreak in people’s lives and how we can find resilience in ourselves and sometimes in higher powers. Going through Bryant’s journey with her was uplifting and can remind anyone that we can overcome whatever obstacles come our way.
Goodbye Anorexia, Hello Life! How God Helped Me Finally Find Myself and Embrace Living Loved, Healthy, and Whole
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, November 27, 2014
Paperback, 264 pages