feeunke (at) gmail.com
PO Box 41 Flinders Lane VIC 8009
I got mine for AU $1.70 as a cost price reissue available here
I ordered this zine because: I was keen to read another person’s story of their relationship with their eating disorder and in what way the monstrosity shows its hideous face having experienced an eating disorder myself.
Before I read the zine I thought: “God, I hope this is a healthy thing to do.” I discovered that it was healthy reading because the zinemaker’s perspective is a healthy one: she manages to portray both sides of Anorexia including what the illness takes away from the host and what it has to offer (I use the term ‘host’ here to convey the leeching nature of Anorexia).
It may seem ridiculous but an eating disorder not only destroys, it delivers. It delivers to the person, in a simple little solve-all package, a sense of control. It equates not eating with control of a life that seems out of control. Anorexia will find its power through a person’s vulnerabilities, their hardships, trauma and much more. The illness has no remorse in enslaving a person’s mind and body and locking the ‘real’ them behind thick frosted glass, incapable of protest.
This zine is gruelling: Really, bloody take-a-few-days-to-read kind of gruelling. I’m not sure if this is because my personal experiences bare an uncanny resemblance to that of the zinemaker’s. But it is a frustrating, depressing and crushingly accurate representation of mental illness as a whole.
The best (and worst) thing about this zine is: The author takes you through each aspect of her journey with ‘Kenneth’ – the name she eventually gives her negative mind that I quickly felt an undying hatred towards. As the reader, it’s like watching a sad film where you know the main character is in trouble but you can’t do anything about it. Instead, you continue reading because you become attached to their story and need to see them get out alive.
Don’t read this if it’s likely you’d find the subject matter triggering: It’s acknowledged in the zine as containing triggering materials. This is done in light of the disordered mind always being ‘on’. It will happily take anything, related or otherwise, and twist it into something negative that nourishes unhealthy thoughts. As such, the zinemaker promptly warns vulnerable readers to put down the zine and walk away. The zinemaker also includes handwritten entries from her diary: the voice of Kenneth, counterattacked with her voice of reason. For me, this conveys the two sides of the mind: the side that is ill and seeks death and the side that is healthy and promotes life. It is frustrating at times to see such awareness of reason and yet Kenneth is still considered a legitimate way of thinking.
I recommend this zine to: Those who seek insight into the world of an eating disorder. Such reasons may originate from knowing someone who lives with one or simply because education is key to recognising and preventing an eating disorder – in others and in oneself.
The zine contains large bodies of text and randomly placed “dialoging” as the zinemaker calls it. While it is all text and no pictorial content, it remains captivating because as you read, you begin to appreciate it as a hugely personal, honest and gracious story. Having written and published ‘Kenneth’, the zinemaker is taking ownership of her recovery and placing a huge fuck-off roadblock in front of Anorexia and Kenneth.
What I found irritating about the zine is: The overly optimistic ending where ambition is warranted but the possibility of relapse is not acknowledged. I think that it may have been premature to claim to be “free of Kenneth and Anorexia” while still technically being in treatment, albeit 2.5 years in, and one appointment away from discharge. It is difficult to ignore, given the persistent nature of eating disorders, the very real possibility of a trigger occurring in the future. However, one can only be aware of this possibility – and the zinemaker’s positivity towards nurturing herself and her future is the only method I’ve found beneficial for myself.
& an open response from the zinemaker:
In all honesty I haven’t read it in ages and it brought up so many memories reading your review. It was interesting to read a review from someone who can identify with the content and looking back at the ending now, I can see that it might seem overly optimistic.
That is really how I felt, I felt so free and hadn’t ever felt that way before because, as you can probably relate, that voice is always there, even before you get diagnosed with anorexia. So for the first time, I was facing a life with Kenneth in control and I did feel optimistic.
I loved the way you described anorexia as “a simple little solve-all package” in terms of control because that’s so exactly correct. It is isn’t it? It presents itself as the best solution, the best option for you as a ‘host’ (again, perfect terminology), like there will be no other option as good as having the control that anorexia presents. And I loved that you described it as ‘having no remorse’ because it’s such an utter bitch of an illness, like really, if you met anorexia as a person it would just be the embodiment of horrible-ness.
Yes, I have relapsed, which comes with the whole recovery deal, but I got through it and kept going. The last time I relapsed was in 2012 when I was in Eastern Europe in the middle of winter by myself staying in hostels with people I didn’t know in countries where I didn’t speak the language and really missing home. That sucked but one of my counselors told me that when you leave treatment, you put on a backpack that’s empty. The first time you relapse, you put what you learnt from that into your backpack and keep walking forward. Next time it happens you can unzip your backpack, take the lessons from last time and put them to use, then do the same thing over again if it happens again. That metaphor has gotten me through those relapses as well as writing. Writing always helps.