Books and Recovery

Books can provide us with knowledge and new perspectives on life. For these reasons, books can also be a helpful tool in Recovery from Eating Distress. Reading  can re-enforce key elements of recovery and life and heighten our awareness. For this reason we thought it would be a good idea to share our reading libraries with one another.


“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  Ernest Hemingway

Just wanted to check in and share some learning from recent reading. I’ve been really enjoying getting into some new books and have found them all to be quite helpful and worth sharing.
So first I re-read Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and then began her new book Braving the Wilderness. Both refreshed the concepts of embracing our authentic, imperfect selves and also becoming aware of our need to be connected, feel as though we belong and have the courage to contribute. She defines True Belonging in Braving the Wilderness as:
‘The spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.’
She also had a lovely definition of spirituality which I thought was helpful ‘Spirituality is recognising and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.’
Her book calls us to become brave in finding our feet and place in the world we live in. She implores us to ‘step out from the barriers of self preservation and brave the wild.’ She makes a strong case for overcoming our differences, strengthening our capacity for compassion and ultimately finding a way to navigate through conflict towards connection.
As usual she shares very relatable insight into our behaviour around belonging and loneliness, our unwillingness to lean into emotions and vulnerable experiences and the ways in which we can take the steps to overcome these. She encourages finding more helpful methods of communication – ‘We have to listen to understand in the same way we want to be understood.’ and ‘the most courageous, is not only to be open-minded, but to listen with desire to learn more about the other person’s perspective’.
The main ideas that emerge I think are authenticity, love and compassion, connection, open and honest communication, perspective taking, understanding and another beautiful definition in the form of civility:
Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.… [Civility] is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and no-body’s is ignored.’
I think she definitely presents an important and necessary movement, one in which we could all benefit from investing in.
Another book that tied in nicely with Brenés explorations was Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Opening the Doors of Your Heart’. This is a collection of stories delivered in the ever endearing humour of this Buddhist monk.  This has a core focus of becoming more compassionate but also touches on numerous day-to-day challenges through really accessible and wise stories. He includes amongst these the story of the jar and the stones (priorities), stories that tackle the topics of perfectionism, guilt, fear, pain, values, suffering, anger and forgiveness.
There’s a lot of notable quotes and tales in this book and it’s hard to convey how helpful it is without telling his stories but here’s a couple that stuck with me:
‘The hardest person to give any praise to is ourself. I was brought up to believe that someone who praises themself becomes bigheaded. That’s not so. They become big-hearted. Praising our good qualities to ourself is positively encouraging them’.
‘The hardest part of anything in life is thinking about it’. – regaling a story in which the more he thought about the challenging tasks he had to do, the more angst he felt whereas once he started doing it the issue around it dissolved.
‘When life is painful, it hurts less when you see the funny side and manage a laugh.’
He values humour, dedication, compassion and a light-hearted approach to life’s challenges in many of these tales – it’s something that sticks out in any of his online talks too, he is always warm and engaging though he may be tackling topics from grief to anxiety to depression. I’d definitely recommend any of his work.
Which brings me on to my next book – Kindfulness – also by Brahm. This is his guide to approaching meditation through kindness and again, compassion. One of my favourites of his quotes from this one is ‘Treating your mind like a best friend involves approaching it with a warm, engaging attitude.. When you treat your mind with kindfulness, your mind does not want to wander off anywhere. It likes your company. You hang out together, chilling out for far longer than you ever expected’.
He also reminds us to realise the impermanence of our challenges – ‘avoid feeding the fire and allow it to burn out on its own’.
The book continues as a guide towards achieving present moment awareness and compassionate meditation – I’m still working on the application of this but I definitely learned a lot from the theory so far and am enthusiastic about conquering this practice.
One I’m currently reading is ‘Cracked: Why psychiatry is doing more harm than good’.
It’s another in-depth and intriguing exposition of the many questionable practices within psychiatry. James Davies is the author and he presents his well-researched findings in an easy-to-read way. He discusses at decent length, the DSM’s versions and composition, anti-depressants, their placebo and side effects (and marketing – the sale of Prozac as a PMDD remedy as Sarefem – heavily targeted at women through colour, language and advertising – and the excessive medicalisation of normal human experience. He brings up the question of where the bands of ‘normal’ will remain after psychiatry continues to diagnose our daily difficulties as well as addressing the impractical and arbitrary methods of diagnosing, medicating and treating supposed mental ‘illness’.
This book re-iterates what I’ve read before from Terry Lynch or Katinka Blackford Newman, but at the same time, I found it really good to refresh what I know and understand about this area as well as seeing it from another perspective. All of these authors are aware of and have a thorough understanding of the practices of modern day psychiatry and manage to impart their knowledge in a way that’s informative without confusion, it’s accessible to anyone and it explains a significant amount. While it irritates me that these are the facts of the practice today, it’s rejuvenating to see that there are numerous intelligent people out there who are awake to and vocal about the disorderly practices of the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries and it gives hope that together we will be able to spread a message that encourages questioning these practices and finding alternative solutions and methods of approaching the challenges presented by the human condition.
I’ve really enjoyed getting back into reading and to be able to learn something along the way is always a bonus and a really rewarding aspect I love of reading. These books all seemed to come at the right times too which is nice, Ajahn Brahm in particular is someone whose work I indulged in a lot in early recovery and have always returned to and valued since. I’ve found each book thoroughly enjoyable – Brene Brown as ever provides the challenge in addressing personal behaviour and reactions/actions personally and interpersonally, Brahm reminds me to be compassionate, calm, present and kind to myself and others and Davies has given me the opportunity to remember what I want to work for, the people I wish to help and why I want to be a part of this area of work. He has reminded me of the corruption and injustice that some of our most vulnerable people endure, he reminds me that it’s not right or fair to let these ways continue, it’s not right to convince people that they are powerless or ill or unable to help themselves – thereby reigniting my passion to help people realise their own power, their own revolutionary abilities to contribute to their own support, recovery and freedom.


I would like to share something really positive that by continuing with recovery, I have accomplished – I can now read again! I know many of us with ED were/are book-lovers but that deeper in condition there is literally nothing else we can concentrate on other than dark thoughts and destructive behaviours. As a child I loved to read, I read anywhere, anytime and devoured any book put in front of me. I could let myself escape in the world of my imagination but then I also read adhering to condition rules without even realizing it – I had to be the best reader, read the most books, and no one could share my books because they would dog-ear a page or bend the spine or get crumbs stuck between pages (heaven forbid!!). But as time progressed and the condition became more profound and grueling, my ability to even choose a book, let alone read it, was gobbled up by the all-consuming ED. I ignored reading and used my imagination for other less helpful activities. Going in to a book shop was stressful because I didn’t know what the ‘right’ book to read was and I didn’t want to spend the money on a book I told myself I wouldn’t end up reading (great ability to read the future the condition has yeno).

Fast-forward a number of years working on recovery and I can now say that I’ve rekindled my love for reading! It was uncomfortable picking a book at first but a careworker simply asked; well what would you like to read about? Instead of focusing on a fancy author or the books that the people are reading, that question reminded me of the hundreds of different types of books available, and that figuring out what the real me likes, I could pick book genres. To reduce the pressure of buying something, I went to my local library and spent a while looking. Now I even have favourite libraries and know which ones are better for different things and spend a lot of time looking around! There’s something so enjoyable about libraries! And you can take home 7 books if you want and figure out which one you like, all for free! (There’s also a great range of DVDs to take out free for fellow movie-lovers).

Oh and if it’s a challenge to take time to read, what I started with was by reading on the bus or train to make it a bit easier. Anyway my point is, if you find reading challenging at the moment, don’t use it as another reason to give out to yourself. It is another ED tactic but it is another challenge that can be overcome. At the moment it’s helping me tackle another area of busy-ness by taking the time out to read and slow my brain down.

One of the books I read recently was called the Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I tried to read it before and gave up on it a few chapters through because I found it too slow-moving. But I really suggest giving it a chance to the end because the last few chapters really bring it all together.

It’s about a 15 year old boy who just started high school and how he makes sense of his world. He keeps telling himself that there’s something wrong with himself because he sees things and interprets things differently to everyone else. I kind of related to him because of his super-sensitivity. Someone describes him as being a ‘wallflower’, and elaborates by saying it’s because he sees the world and what;s going on in it and absorbs things without doing much about it. I relate to that because for so long I observed life, I watched as things happened to people and allowed the world to happen to me. The recurring theme in the book is that of participation.

Someone says to him that although his kindness is admirable, his love for people is misguided. He believes that to love someone, one must do anything for them and succumb to their wishes, accepting anything that makes that person happy even at the cost of one’s own happiness. Like with the world, he observed his friends and allowed them happen to him… By that I mean he let them do whatever they thought was best for him without him sharing his opinion. She says ‘you can’t just sit there and put everyone else’s life ahead of yours and think that counts as love’ which i found really interesting. It made the point that relationships don’t work unless those involved love themselves enough to love the other person. I’ve heard that phrase many times before but didn’t really understand it, but now I do kinda. So by him not loving himself, he allowed the people he loved to walk all over him. But in doing so, he wasn’t truly loving the other person either because it didn’t benefit the other person. To love another, one must also be able to be honest and put the other person straight. He was always there but he wasn’t always fully present (which I also related to) because he was over-thinking everything so much in his head.

Another point made in the book is about vicious cycles i.e. passing things on to others and their choice to engage with it or not. He makes the point that we all have a choice, so for example if my parent has a destructive behaviour I have two options in what I think – ‘of course i’m going to be destructive, it’s what i’ve always been exposed to, it’s the only way i know’  or  ‘i’ve seen such destruction and i know how horrible it is, i want to make sure i have nothing to do with such destruction’. In choosing the latter option, i deciding my own fate and ensuring that my actions don’t proliferate the destruction, which is something that really motivates me to recover – i don’t want to influence any other condition so i must recover!!

What I learned from the book is that we need to participate in the world and not live it through thinking and observing. The latter option only serves to make the thinker insecure and doubtful, whereas the former option allows one to express and feel apart of something, which I think is so important to feel. It really reiterated the point made in groups about making your own world happen and choosing what you want to do, instead of being a victim of your environment. I can choose to be the person I want to be and that in turn makes me more authentic and individual. 🙂

Happy reading!



‘Wonder’ by Raquel J.Palacio

Written by Roxy8

I cannot recommend this book enough. As I walked through Easons I felt such a strong urge to read this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a lovely thought provoking read and to be honest it’s the first full book that I’ve read from cover to cover in years.

The book is about a young boy called August Pullman who was born with a rare facial deformity. He has undergone various surgeries over the years but is subjected to stares, horrified looks and at times bullying over his appearance.

The story is told by August and other characters such as his friends, sister etc.

It really highlights body appearance etc. Although the book sounds very heavy it’s told from the perspective of a 10 or 11 year old boy so it’s really not that heavy. In saying that it is very very emotional so maybe some people would rather read it in the morning.

It highlights the importance of facing challenges, love, acceptance, friendships, bravery and above all KINDNESS.

Another plus for this book particularly for those who struggle to concentrate is that the chapters are mini chapters consisting mostly of 2-3 pages and are based on a particular event etc.

It’s a children’s book aimed at children of about that age but it’s really a very compelling book for all ages

I cannot recommend it highly enough.


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I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christen Lamb

This is the truly amazing story of Malala Yousafzai, a brave young women who stood up for the right to an education in the face of the Taliban and paid a heavy price.

Told in Malala’s own words this beautiful naritive combines cultural, political and family history. It paints a stunning and vivid picture of a young girls life in war torn Pakistan and Afghanistan and her fight for education.

One of the most touching moments is when Malala is describing how her parents meet and how they saw the real inner beauty in each other.

It is ultimtly a very human story of what can happen when courage over comes adversity and how the human speirt can journey on to achieve great thing.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.



The Hospital By The River by Dr Catherine Hamlin with John Little

This book tells the inspirational story of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her husband Reg Hamlin. Catherine and Reg are Australian doctors, gynaecologist who went to work to Ethiopia and dedicated their lives to helping women who suffered the catastrophic effects of obstructive labour. What comes across in this book is Hamilton’s compassion for every aspect of the human race. Even though the stories of what these women went through are horrific, the compassion and care they received from Reg and Catherine shows that anything can be overcome. Many of these women who received their care are working in this clinic today and helping others. This book restores your faith in humanity, and allows you to see the human face of the medical profession.