Did my recovery experience have to be so tortuous? Could the diary have provided a more pro-active role in healing? I wanted to find out.
Above all, the catalyst for my book The Diary Healer was a desire to explore and reveal the potential of diary writing as a therapeutic tool in self-renewal and healing.
The story behind The Diary Healer began in 1962, when I developed an eating disorder and began to keep a diary. I was 11 years’ old and did not understand why I was too afraid to eat, or why I could not sit still. My frustrated mother, unaware that my head was filled with bossy thoughts and compelling fear, criticised my behavior and compounded my guilt. I retreated and became withdrawn. Then, for Christmas that year, the gift of a diary provided a reprieve.
Becoming what seemed an immediate, trusted friend, the first little book marked the start of a literary journey that, over the next 40-plus years, would chronicle the loss and recovery of my identity and self. My healing journey took a long, long time – more than 20 years. When I healed sufficiently to be free of the eating disorder, I began to wonder about the influence of the diary in the reintegration of ‘true me’. Did my recovery experience have to be so tortuous? Could the diary have provided a more pro-active role in healing? I wanted to find out.
Writing a memoir [A Girl Called Tim, 2011] had helped to place the illness in the context of my life and to relate with others. Reader interest motivated and inspired me to delve more deeply and learn about and explain the pitfalls and benefits of diary writing. I began to explore the ambivalent relationship with body and identity that can occur when experiencing an eating disorder. So began the concept for this book.
In 2014, shortly after Routledge offered a contract for Using Writing as a Therapy for Eating Disorders – The Diary Healer, I also received the offer of PhD candidature in Creative Writing, at Central Queensland University, Australia.
Excitingly, this opportunity enabled The Diary Healer to become the creative work in my PhD.
I have written nine books about eating disorders since my recovery (my “reconnection with true self”) from anorexia nervosa and other long term mental health challenges in 2006. In 2017, I graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Writing). My contribution to the eating disorder field was recognised at the 2016 Academy for Eating Disorders International Conference in San Francisco where I was awarded the Meehan/Hartley Award for Public Service and Advocacy. I am currently a co-chair of the NEDC Steering Committee Evidence of Experience Group, a foundation steering committee member of the annual World Eating Disorders Action Day, and an Advisory Panel member for F.E.A.S.T.