Friday, March 3, 2017

Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot

Every now and then you come across a book that resonates with you. A book that makes you realize your own eating “quirks” aren’t something to be ashamed of or something to hide. I have a bit of a secret that only a few people know about.  Around the time I started Middle School until late into High School I refused to eat ANYTHING after 6:00 p.m. and when the time changed I would refuse to eat anything after 5:00 p.m.  My fear was based upon getting sick from my stomach. I was convinced that if I ate after that time I would get sick and the few times I tried it. I did get sick.

I would go to sleep hungry, the hunger pains keeping me awake but the fear of what would happen if I at a simple piece of toast was too much for me to handle. No amount of cajoling or begging could get me to eat. My eating habits impacted my family because they had to work around my eating habits and they knew that if a change in plan caused a meal to be late, I simply wouldn’t eat.

My grandmother who raised me was impact by this the most. When I was around 8, I was hospitalized because I lost a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time (I was well under 40 pounds and my ribs were prominently visible through my t-shirts). The doctors first suspected a brain tumor. The smell or look of food was simply revolting and would cause me to gag. The only thing I could really stomach was sprite and sweets.  I was kept in the hospital in the children’s  ward until I gained back a healthy amount of weight.

Somewhere along the way I became comfortable with eating after 5/6 p.m but I still have an odd fear or food or getting sick to my stomach from it. For example:  If I am going to fly or be traveling for hours on end, I will refuse to eat or only eat very basic “boring” “safe” foods to avoid a potential stomach issue.  The night before, I will also limit myself to ‘’safe” foods.  When, I go out to eat, I limit what I consume because I don’t want to get “sick” and then I eat the rest when I get home because I am in a safe place. If I need to run errands or go out somewhere, I refuse to do it on a full stomach, once again because I fear getting “sick”.

This fear has impacted many aspects of my life but I am getting better, much, much better! I can eat  at a restaurant when a few years back I couldn’t even walk through the door. My relationship with food, getting “sick” has also been exasperated by my general anxiety disorder (which is under much more control than it was 4 years ago!).

Current day, I love food (probably too much!) but I still have weird moments with food, I sometimes avoid eating something because an image of it being rotten or oozing a disgusting substance jumps into my head. Sometimes, I am convinced it has something in it that is going to make me ill.  I refused to eat leftovers and won’t eat anything that I have had in the fridge over x amount of time even if it is within the expiration date and I won’t eat anything that is within a few days of expiring. I don’t know if this is common – if others think the way I do but if you do have hang-ups know you are not alone.

Now Back to Sad Perfect.

Sad Perfect made my heart race, the whirlwind of emotions and beautifully written yet complex characters kept me engrossed. Stephanie Elliot introduces the reading world to a disorder that isn’t well known, called AFRID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder).
Told in second person (which I have never seen successfully done, until now) puts you right into Pea’s shoes. AFRID has taken control of sixteen year old Pea’s life, impacting all aspects of her life. It is the monster that lives inside her making  her relationship with foods and others less than stellar. Every day is a struggle. Imagine for one minute  that you’re hungry in a visceral sort of away and you are presented with a plate of the very foods you hate the most and you can’t get yourself to eat it—that is life for Pea.

Elliot adds a host of other characters, each one contributing to the novel in it's own unique way, some might say this book is about  an eating disorder but they would be wrong because it is about so much more. It's about deep seated love, the one you get from you parents, siblings, yourself and others in your circle of life.  It's about finding your voice and learning to accept who you are in order to put yourself on the path to heal.

Elliot's debut novel isn't something you want to miss. I look forward to reading more of her work. She tackled a sensitive subject with sincerity and the voice of Pea is clearly that of  a teen girl. The relationship between Pea and her mother is very typical of teen years but the love that lies between the angst is beautiful. This is one book you don't want to miss. 

- But you knew it wasn't going to happen, and that was okay. Because you'd never get that first kiss back, and you knew it would be one of those first kisses that you were going to want to put in a box and take out every day of your entire l life to relive over and over again.  -  Sad Perfect - Stephanie Elliot 

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