“How to Disappear Completely”: A Memoir of Anorexia by Kelsey Osgood

In How to Disappear Completely, writer/blogger Kelsey Osgood chronicles her long-term attempt to starve herself. Several times she was hospitalized for anorexia, starting at age 15.

Osgood wanted her book to be unlike those memoirs that come off as “how to’s” for people aspiring to have eating disorders. And thus, states Molly Fischer, New York Magazine: “She’s written an anorexia memoir that’s largely a critique of anorexia memoirs.”

She does of course describe her own struggles and goals; for example, how important it is, as an anorexic, to be great at self-deprivation and to feel special. The following is from Fischer’s article:

One early therapist calls Osgood a ‘mild case,’ and her response is a defiant determination to become severe. ‘To label an anorexic not that bad is to call him or her normal, which is to say not sick at all, which is to say fat,’ she explains. She describes hospital wards where there’s understood to be a resident ‘best’ anorexic, and regional hospital circuits where certain patients have become ‘famous.’

Today Osgood can report being recovered from anorexia. Recovered. Contrary to what many still believe, it is possible to fully recover from a severe eating disorder.

According to Osgood, the majority (up to 60%) do recover (HuffPost). She adds, referring to a certain persistent myth possibly attributable to 12-step program beliefs, “…I personally find the ‘forever recovering’ aphorism fatalistic and disempowering, and I worry that when a person believes it, he or she can continue to endow anorexia with an unnecessary amount of allure and influence. Ultimately, what I object to the most is the constant presentation of this ‘always in recovery’ idea as fact, when it really is in essence a cultural construct.”

This and several other misunderstandings about anorexia are listed by her in the above-cited article. What follows are five additional untrue statements:

  • Suffering from an eating disorder ultimately better prepares you to face hardships later in life. 
  • One cannot make oneself become anorexic.
  • In order to recover, an anorexic needs to find something that will take the place of his/her eating disorder.
  • Anorexics are, contrary to popular belief, not superficial wannabe models. They are very intelligent perfectionists.
  • It is more important to treat the mind than it is to treat the body.

Publishers Weekly: “Although Osgood avoids ‘prescriptive’ content such as her daily calorie count, from which she believes ‘wannarexics’ might ‘garner self-destructive inspiration,’ the narrative is still imbued with a pathos and tenderness that angst-ridden girls may find attractive. Only the single section proposing practical solutions fully succeeds in shedding the charged, tragic atmosphere that permeates the text, despite Osgood’s good intentions.”

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