The girl in the fiberglass corset: a story about scoliosis and eating disorders
The first time I had to wear it in public, I threw up. It was at my brother’s baseball game and there I was running to the bathroom to hurl. You see, unlike the corsets of old, it didn’t make me look thinner. No, it made me look . . . well, large. It being a fiberglass cast that went around my torso to help correct my spine. I had scoliosis.
I remember it was the same year I read Deenie by Judy Blume and thought, wow that would suck. Later that year they called us all in to the nurses office and had us bend over and touch our toes. It turns out that I, too, had scoliosis. My spine was curved. For 2 years I had to wear a fiberglass corset 24/7 and then for another 2 years I had to wear it at night. Nothing says have a good night’s sleep like a fiberglass corset digging in your hips.
My scoliosis diagnosis also led me down another dangerous path: eating disorders. You see, I couldn’t stand how big the corset made me look, and I didn’t want people to notice, so I wore oversized clothes and began to shrink, both literally and figuratively. I tried to make myself as small as possible so no one would notice the fiberglass cast and how it contorted my body and made me feel like a freak of nature.
By the time I was in high school I was down to eating just a granola bar for lunch and as little dinner as I could get away with eating.
By the time I was 19 I was 5 foot 9 and weighed 102 pounds. I was eating just a granola bar or blueberry muffin a day, washing it down with one can of Pepsi. This is when I began dating the Mr. and if you asked him what his first impressions of me were he would not say I was thin or beautiful. No, he would tell you that I slept a lot. I was tired all the time because food is our energy and I simply didn’t have any.
In college I began my journey of recovery. They say you are never fully recovered; like a drug addict, you simply learn to manage I guess. I eat 3 square meals a day and generally am at peace with who I am, but it took me a while to get there. All teens struggle with body image and self acceptance issues, but some of them will spiral into full blown eating disorders of some sort. It is important that we add books in our collections, both fiction and non, to help raise awareness and help teens find stories that they can relate to. Having read the story of Deenie helped me in my journey with scoliosis; it was comforting to read that someone else thought and felt the things that I was feeling. That’s what story does for us – helps us know we are not alone.
The title of this post is a play on the book title The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. A good read to be sure, but the title always makes me think of my fiberglass corset – long ago dead and buried thankfully. View our Top 10 list of books about eating disorders and body image for stories to share with your teens. Please be sure to add 101 Way to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body by Brenda Lane Richardson to your collections. And of course, if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to a doctor.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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