The Monster Within: Facing an Eating Disorder by Cynthia Rowland McClure is a fascinating testimony of one prosperous young woman’s battle against bulimia. She reveals why she finally decided to get help and all of the process behind her journey. It isn’t an easy, fun, painless process. It’s hard. It’s brutal. It’s emotional.
“To get to hope, you must have courage to face and battle the monsters within.” That’s exactly how Cynthia felt—like there was a monster inside her, controlling her. She says, “Those who have an eating disorder are obsessed with the body, not the heart. But it is the heart that is really hungry.”
“The questions . . . are ‘What are you really hungry for?’ ‘When did the madness begin?’ ‘What was going on in your life and who told you you were damaged?’” All through the book, she’s asked, “When did you become damaged goods?” Finally, Cynthia figures it out, and that is the beginning of healing.
Another thing that really impressed me was that several of the causes of her very deep hurts weren’t true at all. When she finally confronts her experiences, talks to her parents, and finds out what really happened when she was a child, the events that were the most damaging to her didn’t happen the way she perceived them. This ended up devastating, so devastating that Cynthia was repeatedly suicidal—even in the hospital.
There are many lessons in this book. As a counselor, I learned some interesting points about counseling people who self harm. As a Christian, I learned about how to confront old memories and forgive. I also better understood how, in a good Christian family, perceptions can go horribly wrong very easily. It’s a call for transparency and communication in families. This book is a revealing glimpse into anorexia and bulimia and the hard battle to come back from the brink.
My only problem with this book is with some of the counseling methods that are used in the mental hospital. They include threatening, bullying, and lying. Of course, the therapists weren’t coming from a Christian perspective. I understand that their methods wouldn’t be the same as a Christian psychologist’s.
I’m glad Cynthia told her story and that she is helping others to find peace and healing. I believe this book is important for those who counsel and for people who work with teens and young adults. It’s also a good read for parents of teens, so that they can recognize troubling signs that might indicate an eating disorder.