BY: Rachel Guerra
DATE: September 17, 2015
Paperweight by Meg Haston, has been lauded as a realistic fictional account of one individual’s experience with an eating disorder and inpatient treatment. The novel’s glowing reviews piqued my interest, so I decided to read it.
Paperweight reads like a memoir. Its narrator, Stevie, is battling an eating disorder and has been involuntarily committed to an inpatient treatment program. Stevie’s very negative attitude at the beginning of treatment reminds me of the frustrations encountered by many friends of people with eating disorders. It can be very challenging to see a friend struggling who is resisting treatment. As I read, I found myself unreasonably wishing she could ‘snap out of it’ and give it a chance. I wanted to see Stevie get better and feel better, but I was not being realistic about how difficult the path to recovery tends to be. Supporting someone with an eating disorder, even a fictional character, requires patience.
My favorite aspect of Paperweight is the relationship that develops between Stevie and her therapist, whom she nicknames “Shrink.” Shrink exudes the patience and humility that anyone would hope to find in a therapist. The following quotes illustrate how Shrink establishes rapport with Stevie even when Stevie would rather be anywhere but in a therapy session at an inpatient treatment center.
- “I am a therapist, but for better or worse, I’m not a mind reader.” 1
- “[I’m here to] share skills or offer suggestions. Or maybe to ask good questions or make observations. And always to offer support. Because we’re not meant to walk alone in this life.” 2
- “I’ll let you in on a little secret about us therapists. We’re just so…human. And we make mistakes sometimes—I make mistakes sometimes. And the other day, I made the mistake of asking you to tell me too much, too soon. We don’t know each other. Why would you share parts of your life with me that you probably haven’t shared with anyone?”3
- “I do feel honored to walk beside someone as they learn how to carry their own particular burden. Maybe they figure out how to adjust the straps on their pack, or how to lighten their load by unpacking a few things they don’t really need anymore.”4
Stevie’s story may be helpful to someone wanting to better understand the eating disorder experience, inpatient treatment programs, and effective therapist-client relationships. Although this is a fictional account, Meg Haston includes a note to the reader that the story was informed by her experiences as both a therapist and a survivor. It is always important to keep in mind that every individual’s story is unique. Paperweight and other memoirs could potentially raise troubling thoughts and feelings for someone with a history of an eating disorder, so always be mindful of your own reaction and titrate your exposure to your comfort level.
1: Haston 17
2: Haston 53
3: Haston 20
4: Haston 53