Last November, we were contacted on behalf of Nikki DuBose, former model turned advocate, who has written a memoir about her experiences with many mental health issues, include eating disorders. While we were given a free copy of the book, all thoughts below are our own, and we are not receiving any monetary compensation for this post.
I received the copy of Nikki’s book, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light first, and when I finished reading, I mailed it to Andrea. I was able to power through the first half of the book fairly quickly, for two reasons: the book is extremely well written and very easy to read, and I was able to distance myself from most of the topics covered fairly easily. While not perfect, my early childhood home life was typical. I never experienced abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) and was never exposed to alcoholism or drug abuse (my immediate family does not smoke, drink or use drugs).
In that same vein, what was difficult to read was the inner thought process surrounding eating disorders. It’s one of the reasons why I think this book is an excellent read not for someone who is going through recovery of an eating disorder, but someone who has a friend or family with an eating disorder. One of the biggest components of eating disorders is shame, and that feeds into guilt. Those two emotions are extremely hard to put into words for someone who has no issues with food or body image.
Even as I read the words, I could both relate to them and understand Nikki’s thought process. I found myself nodding along as the words on the page reflected what I thought so many times before, but could never properly express. There were times when I wanted to shove this book at my family and friends and say, This! This is what I’m feeling!
So if you have a close friend or family member who has an eating disorder, I would recommend this book for you. That being said, be cautious for two reasons. The first, people experience eating disorders in very different ways. Even Andrea and I have our different issues. I have very little body issues and a lot more problems with the routine around how I eat and my own thought processes with the food itself, not my body. A large portion of Nikki’s book covers her issues with body dysmorphic disorder and various body image issues, and that’s something that I just don’t battle with. After reading the book, don’t expect each person with an ED you come in contact with to behave the same. There is no cookie-cutter eating disorder plan or treatment.
The second reason to be cautious is for your own mental health. This book bares everything, not only in terms of eating disorders but other mental health issues. I said that I was able to distance myself from the words I read because I had never experienced these things, but that didn’t mean I was able to read the book and not have it affect me. It was an amazing book, but I don’t think I could read it again because it affected me so much.
As an example: I saw the movie Hacksaw Ridge with my father. While it was an amazing movie, something that moved me to tears, had me raving about to everyone who asked my opinion, and be even more thankful for our men and women in service, I will never, ever watch it again. The movie does not hold back when it comes to combat, and all those dark and gritty realities that come with it, especially in World War II. I did not experience these times of war, but I know that what was portrayed on the screen was truth, and it was ugly. I was shaken for days after I watched it.
The same goes for this book. It shows the hard truth about mental illness, and sometimes that truth is hard to hear. So even though I never experienced abuse, drugs, or alcoholism, I recognized the truth in Nikki’s words. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is an absolutely amazing book for many reasons, but one of the things I loved was that it didn’t shy away from the tough topics, showed the thought process that I have very rarely read in other books focused around mental health stories, and I thought the ending was absolutely perfect. You turn the page, asking where’s the rest, and it brought a smile to my face when I realized the book ended.
There isn’t much I can say about the book, because I would just be echoing Laura’s sentiments, and she put them into words better than I could.
However, I am going to be honest – I could not finish the book. Not because it was awful or badly written. Quite the opposite. Nikki’s descriptions of her eating disorder are so close to my own experience that in the mind space I’ve been in, I was unable to handle reading more than a few chapters. Pieces of her past with abuse echo both my own and people in my family. I also saw so, so much of myself in her struggles with body image and the absolute, life-altering damage other people’s cruel words could inflict.
This is not a negative aspect. Unlike some other biographies I’ve read, Nikki does not glorify her eating disorder, her mental illness, or her abuse. On the contrary, her descriptions are ugly and disturbing and dark, everything someone with an ED could identify in themselves. Her brutal honesty makes for a discomfiting yet satisfying read, because this is exactly what an eating disorder and the long road to recovery from one feels like. I have every intention of picking the book back up again sometime in the future, sooner rather than later.
Recovery from mental illness – especially eating disorders – is a lifetime process, but reading this book, there is hope: ‘If she can overcome this, then so can I’. So, thank you to Kelsey for contacting us and sending us a copy of Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, and a huge heartfelt thank you to Nikki for your bravery in telling your story, and for being an advocate for others.