THE LONG ROAD BACK by Judy Tam Sargent


A Survivor's Guide to Anorexia
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Judy Tam Sargent was first hospitalized for anorexia at age 16. During the next 10 years she was an in- and outpatient at more than 25 treatment centers. She has a world of rage—and plenty of constructive criticisms—to pass on here. Now just over 30, Sargent is a nurse-therapist. Considered fully recovered herself, she counsels others suffering from eating disorders. Her trenchant, essential point: Anorexia and other associated disorders are a manifestation of psychological/emotional problems. The most effective way to treat eating disorders should therefore be to treat the underlying problems, not to concentrate on often draconian measures aimed at forcing sufferers to eat. If tube feeding and other such drastic therapies are needed because the disease has become life-threatening, then they should of course be used, says Sargent—but not in the spirit of punishment, and not as the heart of a treatment program. The roots of Sargent’s own illness are heartbreakingly recounted here. She was born in 1968, and four years later her twin brother, Bobby, was diagnosed as autistic and institutionalized, devastating the family and causing the eventual breakdown of her parents’ marriage. Sargent is emphatic about where her problems started. —In addition to the family factors that contributed to my illness, my innate personality—perfectionistic and over-eager to please—helped fuel the anorexic process.— She began a weight-loss program at 13 in response to family pressures. From then on, the disease spiraled out of control, as Sargent became terrified of eating or drinking, exercised fanatically, attempted suicide, ran away from hospitals, and lost herself in the illness. Her disturbing account of various therapies and facilities reveals that much of the treatment for eating disorders is still in the Dark Ages. But Sargent concludes by explaining which therapist and therapy finally worked—and why. An unsettling account, told in a strong voice, and with valuable lessons for those engaged in a similar struggle.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-880823-19-5
Page count: 208pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999