Brooks’ memoir about her feverish battle with her own mind.
Mental illness has been the “cruel conductor” of Brooks’ life. The Australia native began suffering from bouts of depression at age 12. By her teens, she was trapped in the tortuous grip of anorexia, punishing her body through starvation and relentless exercise. Plagued by guilt and self-loathing, she withered to 62 pounds as an adult. Her bipolar disorder brought destabilizing mood swings, pushing her to the brink of suicide. With raw emotion and lurid detail, Brooks reveals her secret compulsions in a patchwork of prose and poetry. Readers must navigate the labyrinth of a disturbed mind as the author describes her struggles for sanity. In the screedy poem “The Cost,” Brooks describes the depths of her self-abuse: “I ate the vilest messes of pseudo-food, to fill my stomach—knowing it was largely indigestible and would cause bloating and painful spasms, and ferment inside me. I endured the awful gut torture with fascination, the tempting fear that bowel obstruction, or internal bleeding would kill me.” Despite two failed marriages and numerous hospitalizations, Brooks attended medical school and became a practicing physician. She also raised two children, whom she credits with helping her turn her life around. Throughout the book, Brooks searches for what drives her destructive urges. Was it her relationship with her parents? Her belief that she was “evil” in the sight of God? Her oppressive feelings of loneliness? At its best, the writing is fervid, gripping and excruciatingly candid. But the book lacks editorial restraint. The jumble of verse and vignettes smothers the core narrative. Now in her 60s, Brooks never achieved complete victory over her demons. But with professional help and perseverance, she discovered that life need not be an unending cycle of self-flagellation. She found a measure of contentment in the realization that she is, in fact, “good enough.”
The private hell of anorexia laid bare in a heart-rending story of self-torment and survival.