Narrating Anorexia: "Full" and "Struggling" Genres of Recovery



Exploring narrative processes through which women treated for anorexia reframe their illness and recovery experiences, I identify features of two distinct genres, "full recovery" (FR) and "struggling to recover" (SR) that differently shape, while also being shaped by, women's lived senses of self. Analysis suggests that full recovery may entail a temporal disjuncture between past and present selves, and the construction of a coherent empowerment narrative with clear beginnings, turning points, and felicitous, institutionally condoned endings. Alternatively, the habitual telling of equivocal struggling to recover narratives, in which protagonists question received wisdom, ponder past and hypothetical life paths, and envision self-starvation as both good and bad, may perpetuate a cyclical life course in which anorexia recurs and permanent recovery eludes narrators. Illuminating why complete recovery may remain ephemeral and, perhaps, not desirable, for some women, this article contributes to scholarship on the possible role (and limits) of narrative as a therapeutic medium and resource for confronting illness.