The long haul: a memoir of anorexia nervosa

Goodchild, Laetitia (2019) The long haul: a memoir of anorexia nervosa. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The Long Haul is a first-person literary memoir that seeks to challenge the stigmas that continue to misrepresent anorexia nervosa. The autobiographical account describes the treatment I received on an acute eating-disorders ward, both voluntarily and under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. Although my in-patient treatment involved multiple admissions across a four-year bracket, this memoir focuses upon my final year-long admission during which I was treated by a consultant who was prepared to tailor his approach to the individual needs of his patients, irrespective of the red tape that can, too often, divide patients from their clinicians.

It is a memoir about survival. It recognises that when life is at stake, enforced methods of treatment, facilitated by the Mental Health Act, must often be resorted to, but it also asks whether a reluctance to raise the ethical concerns underpinning these practices might sometimes be to the detriment of patients and clinicians alike. By dramatizing various crisis points in my treatment, The Long Haul seeks to draw the reader into my lived experience and in doing so, asks the reader to witness and empathise with the profoundly complex nature of treating an illness that rigorously resists intervention and understanding.

I describe the role literature played in reconnecting me with life. My consultant incorporated my love of reading into my treatment by pointing me towards writers who experimented with various literary forms in order to explore and express their own mental health. Their words are woven into my thesis, providing the clarity, empathy and hope which proved invaluable to my own understanding and progress. With their guidance, alongside the daily acts of kindness bestowed upon me by the nurses orchestrating my care, I was able to forge a pathway towards discharge and onto university.

If the memoir offers no redemptive conclusion, it does so with a view to challenging the way we perceive ‘recovery’ and the implications this can have upon sufferers for whom the illness can – and does – endure into chronicity or, even, end fatally. That said, it not devoid of hope or spirit. It simply accounts for my long haul towards the will to live that shaped this piece of life-writing – a memoir which, I hope, offers support to sufferers, understanding to their families and gratitude to clinicians.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2022 08:10
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2022 08:10

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