Emily Murdoch is the the debut author of If You Find Me. The novel tells the story of Carey Blackburn, a teenaged girl who has spent most of her life hidden away in the woods, living with her drug-addicted, mentally-ill mother and her little sister. When their mother abandons the girls for good, Carey’s father rescues them and brings the two to live with him and his family.
Carey is equal parts strong, passionate, and troubled. Today, Emily Murdoch stops by Figment to talk about the book—and the personal struggles that she’s worked to overcome. Check out Emily’s post. And then stay tuned for the writing challenge below. You could see your story featured on the Figment homepage!
I want you to think of this as my fan letter to you, to all of you who struggle through endless days, wondering if this sad place you inhabit is what life is like . . . and if this is what your life will always be like.
Wondering if it’s even worth it . . . while, deep down inside, wishing so hard it would be. Worth it. Because you see it, in certain slants of light; the beauty. The value. That it does get better. That situations, families, struggles, concerns, can get better.
I’m here to tell you—me, the grown-up walking version of at least a shelf full of illuminating teen issue books—the ones I gobbled up—that the answer is a resounding, epic, YES.
This spring, while on the If You Find Me blog tour, I shared with the readers of The Midnight Garden blog the story behind my debut novel—and I came out as an abused child (something I’ll work on for the rest of my life) and as a recovering anorectic (my coping mechanism for the childhood pain and confusion).
I have thirteen glorious, happy years of recovery.
But it’s been hard won. Lots of difficult choices. Lots of tears. I know you know what I mean. And I want you to know that it is worth it.
It’s in this fan letter I sent last night to a woman I admire, that explains it best. She hosts a nighttime radio show that I love.
I’m an author with a book that released today, and I have three more glorious minutes to go, of being published for the first time.
You don’t know it, but you’ve been with me every step of the way.
I moved to Arizona as an xx pound, raging anorectic. On the east coast, I hadn’t heard of Delilah, but in the first two days of moving here to start over, in a place where I knew no one, I was flipping through the stations, and there you were.
I listened to you as I unpacked, and as I sobbed my way through my first Geminid meteor shower. I listened as I rode the exercise bike into the wee hours, and later, as I choked down the food, the calories . . . and cried my way through the necessary weight gain.
I could always count on you at night. I ate many a dinner with you, even though it sometimes took your whole seven-to-midnight time slot to finish my plate.
I never stopped listening. As I continued to write, as I’d done my whole life, I listened to you. I’d get scared, or worried, or discouraged, and you’d play “The Climb.” I’d ache inside for some mothering, something I’ve never had, as I come from a dysfunctional, abusive family, and you’d play “In My Daughter’s Eyes.”
Your words gave me strength. And most of all, hope. That there were good people out there. Not perfect, but good, nonetheless.
And that gave me courage.
I’ve spent the last hour of my book’s birthday with you, radio on, back where it all began. God definitely works in mysterious ways, if he can send mothering through the radio. A few nights ago, you mentioned bringing the mothering, Mother Delilah, and I smiled. I want you to know that the loving mother in my novel is modeled after you. I knew as soon as I began writing, where I’d find a worthy model. Right there on the radio.
Thank you. Such small words for something so important. Thank you for filling people up. Thank you for shining your light.
With my hands, I typed those words. And with my heart in my throat, in a fangirl moment, I hit send.
Because sometimes a word, a sentence, a concept, a metaphor, a turn of phrase can change everything.
I found this in my anorexia journal the other day. I used to love to write that was then, this is now pieces, as a way to both practice writing, and to remind myself of how far I’d come.
That Was Then:
October 1st, 1992
I’m going to quit therapy. It’s a waste of time anyway, because I’m not thin enough yet for therapeutic interference. He’s just going to sit there judging me, thinking how fat I am and what a joke it is that I think I’m sick at all.
I don’t want you to interfere. That’s what I tell him, inside. And I don’t want to come to therapy and face the reality of fat, ugly me . . . of my life. The starving, purging, exercising, diet pills, laxatives, diuretics . . . the eating disorder . . . my very own monster.
I say I can tame it. You say it will eat me whole.
I’m terrified at the thought of changing ANY of it, regardless of my inability (because of it) to work or think straight or write well or feel or live or have friends (I have none) or to be interested in anything else, anything that is not about fat and weight and losing weight and attempts to lose more weight.
I don’t want to go to therapy, because if I do, if I come as the “real me,” you probably wouldn’t like me anyway. Such an eating disorder cliché, but for me, it’d be true. You’d probably run like hell once the “real me” was unleashed. I am too much; you will end up hating me, with my help.
How can you ask me to do that?
And you said, “Because once you have the courage to share what’s deep inside you, you can be nothing less than beautiful to everyone.”
And I came undone.
This Is Now:
For real now! March 27, 2013.
How do you define recovery from eating disorders? The answer is most likely different depending upon where you happen to fall on the active eating disorder spectrum.
Some people, as they should, define recovery as no longer starving, purging, overexercising, overeating, or a combination of all of these things. For me, what I wanted out of recovery more than anything else — and what, back then, I thought was impossible — was PEACE. I wanted a still, clear mind. A kinder mind.
A mind that would let me nurture my dreams. My writing dreams.
The place I live now, pen in hand and free. (Okay. Free enough. Nothing, and no one, is perfect.)
Recovery is there when you’re ready, when you’re not, when you’re riding fences, and even when you’re full blown “in it” and yes, enjoying it. You can’t catch recovery from reading posts like this, I promise you, but recovery is there for you even when you don’t want it and especially when you do.
Because, it’s you. Recovery is YOU.
Recovery is the hopeful pebble thrown into the lake and the resulting concentric circles—good, bad, beautiful, ugly, imperfect, special, extraordinary, perfectly ordinary you, and the unique pattern they make—a true original.
BeYOUtiful, as my girlfriends and I remind each other. Because it’s YOU who are beautiful. Not how you look.
Reclaiming your mind and heart is possible. Reclaiming the freedom to chase a dream, to just be, to think about other things, (everything!), to make a new life, a kinder life, a life worth every bit of the effort it takes to shine, is possible.
Your life is up to you; it sounds so obvious written out that way, but with an active eating disorder, it doesn’t always feel true. The truth is, it’s not Ana, Mia, some creepy guy named ED, nor is it some monster, or something outside ourselves.
And it’s okay, actually—it’s brilliant—because if YOU hold the power, YOU can take the power back.
When you’re ready.
It’s never too late to take your power back. As long as you’re alive, there’s hope. Much like a scientist testing a theory, you can always go back to the drawing board if the theory doesn’t prove.
But I bet it does if you just let you beYOUtiful.
Your Biggest Fangirl
Want to read more by Emily Murdoch? Check out Shine On with Emily Murdoch: The IF YOU FIND ME Blog Tour!
Inspired by Emily Murdoch’s honest and heartfelt post, write about a time you overcame a challenge. Tag your story ChallengeChallenge. Entries should be no more than 200 words. The challenge runs until Wednesday, April 17 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Figment editors will be reading all the entries and we’ll choose our four favorites to be featured on the Figment homepage alongside, If You Find Me.
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