OWLS Treasure Blog Tour: Loving Yourself Is A Process Requiring Strength and Perseverance

Now, if you know OWLS and you’ve been following us, you might have been redirected to this post by the words and feels master Takuto, over at Takuto’s Anime Cafe. I swear, every time he makes an OWLS post I just feel like I understand everything he means. And from this month’s post, he mentions “It’s hard to talk about suicide and say “just the right thing” at “just the right time.” When is that time? Is it my fault for not knowing? It’s all just so . . . pressuring…”. This is exactly how I feel about sensitive topics like depression, suicide, and other mental health issues, but at the same time I always find myself attracted to broken characters

There are moments in our lives where we lose our sense of self-worth and value and as a result, we find ourselves deep in darkness or drowning in the ocean. However, every person in this world is a treasure—we treasure ourselves or we are treasured by others—and at times, we may need to be reminded of that. We will be exploring characters who have suffered from mental illnesses, depression, and/or suicide, and then discussing how these individuals cope with these issues, the reasons for their emotions, and how they handled the situations they were in.

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For our Sanctuary Tour earlier this year I talked about Kyoko from Skip Beat, a beautiful character who had been hurt one too many times but still found the strength to stand up. Then for our Strength Tour, I talked about Shirotani from Ten Count and how Takarai portrayed his mysophobia, how complex it was, and how he went about getting better. Both of these manga series are still ongoing so it’s hard to say what the endgame will be but in both cases, we saw that their problems weren’t something with a singular root or something that could just be cured with kind words

And for this month I’d like to focus on another book. This time it’s a comic by Katie Green and unlike Skip Beat and Ten Count, Lighter Than My Shadow is an autobiographical account of our author as she struggled with eating disorders and self-loathing (among other things). I did pick this book up more for curiosity’s sake than anything else. I wanted to read something new, the cover looked decent, and the title caught my attention. I had no idea what the book was even about and I think that’s a good thing

Warning: SPOILERS from here on out!

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Like Takuto mentioned, anything mental health is a bit of a turnoff for me. I always feel like it’s wrong of me to pick up a book or movie about sensitive topics because I don’t understand. And when I am interested I feel like someone is going to look at me weird. In a way, picking up a book like this, conscious of the content, makes me feel like I’m grabbing a porn book and that my mother is going to come out of somewhere and…I don’t know, judge me or something

I feel I think this way because mental health was never addressed in my household and if it was mentioned the term “crazy” was also attached somehow. Or even “being wrong in the head” and who wants to be called this? Additionally, I was never exposed to people that were clearly labeled as having depression or suicidal tendencies. These topics make me feel like a fish out of water. What do I do? Do I address the issue? Do I wait for someone to talk to me about it? Do people talk about it? What if I do nothing and something happens and I had noticed something? Is this my fault?

Only now that I can think back on instances in high school can I say that yes, I was surrounded by people who could have used some help but never asked for it. Why? I’m not sure, possibly because they didn’t think it was an issue, possibly because they were afraid, or I don’t know. There’s a lot of reasons one could give

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In Lighter Than My Shadow, we meet a character like this. A girl who believed she was living a good life, had a good childhood, and who never thought she had a problem until those around her noticed something amiss and intervened. Katie had always had eating issues as a kid. It started with not wanting to eat because she was preoccupied doing other things (like art), then it developed into overeating to help the stress of being bullied at school, to starving herself as girls her age began to gain an awareness of their body and what it was to be pretty. From what we learn, being pretty in Katie’s circle of friends meant being skinny

These experiences, along with trying to fit in with others her age and her perfectionist (and OCD) behavior led Katie to lose control of her eating habits and development of her first eating disorder: anorexia

What was the beginning?

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I think this book does a great job at emphasizing that there was no point in time that we can consider as “the starting point” of Katie’s eating disorder because all we see is a normal kid living life to its fullest. Little Katie likes to play with her best friend and has a great imagination, and we can see that she finds all of this more important than eating

But her family struggled with her and trying to get her to eat, often times leaving her at the table until she ate her food or having her eat it the next day. This is actually something my family has gone through with my youngest because if he’s playing a video game or outside with friends, he’ll forget to eat. It’s something kids don’t understand is unhealthy because they’re just having fun

As the years pass we learn that food becomes something more in Katie’s life. When she starts going to middle school (I imagine it was based on the fact she started her period in that time as well) her family comments that it’s much easier to feed her now. Katie has gone from hiding her food behind her shelves to overeating, something we learn is associated with the bullying at school

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School bullies would call her Neil and that she looked like a man. You can see the words in the background and how food became a comfort

But it doesn’t just stop there. Throughout the book, we see that Katie and food have a complicated relationship. At times she uses it as comfort, when she’s trying to forget certain feelings, like the bullying and later in life sexual abuse. When she wants to fit in and become skinny, food brings her feelings of regret and disgust, which cause her to want to eat less and less. And when she goes to therapy, she confesses that her eating behaviors are tied to her feelings of control. That she likes to know how many calories she takes in, that there should be consistency in her meals, and when that routine is broken, she feels lost

So where did it start? Was it because she didn’t like eating as a kid? Was it the bullying? Was it the fact her parents thought bullying was normal? Was it her controlling and perfectionist behavior? The pressure of being pretty and fitting in? Was it the compliments to her body? Personally, I think it was a combination of all these things but the point is that we don’t really know

And because a lot of mental health issues don’t leave marks on the body, it’s hard to lend help and sometimes we can only intervene when it’s gone too far

Treatment

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I think Katie was very fortunate that her family put so much effort into her recovery. No, they didn’t do too much before she ends up hospitalized because she collapses at school. Mostly just worried glances and concerns about her appearance, but they did take her to therapy sessions and made sure to keep a constant eye on her at home. She was placed on a meal plan, she was no longer allowed to have a say in what she ate (which we saw was a great struggle for her, especially since she liked being in control), and she had to leave school. School was actually another of her obsessions as we learn that her excellent grades were less about her passion for learning and more about control and wanting to become perfect

Something I liked about the whole treatment process was that it wasn’t foolproof. Katie wouldn’t just gain her weight back and then be cured. Her eating disorder never really left her. She just got better at controlling it and the book emphasizes this feeling when Katie is finally “better” as she constantly worries about how to eat correctly so she won’t have a relapse. And even then she unconsciously relapses

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It’s actually during this phase in her life when Katie gets sexually abused by someone she came to trust. As a way to get better, Katie is introduced to Jake who explains his therapy is all about releasing negative energy and making Katie stronger. Once she realizes what is happening, this experience sends her back into her eating disorder, which doesn’t manifest as anorexia again, but more as binge eating. Sort of like her comfort eating when she was in middle school but worse because she couldn’t stop

As a way to compensate for the bingeing, Katie begins to starve herself again and the cycle begins again

Depictions and Relatability

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The biggest thing I loved about this book was how relatable everything was. No, I’ve never had anorexia or been diagnosed with some mental health problem but everything in here related to weight and body image is so real to me. Even this image of Katie chopping at her body where she wishes she had no fat are things I’ve imagined doing to myself before

Most of these depictions are really simple and you might not think too much on them but it’s because of this that they feel so real. The constant shadow that haunts Katie (which she dubs as a Monster yelling at her) is depicted as a black mass of lines but to me it is sound. I can hear this thing because I’ve had similar voices in my head (and still do). When she looks in a mirror, Katie mentions that she could only see the parts that she hated about herself. That’s one of the reasons I hardly ever look in a mirror myself

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In terms of her sexual abuse, hands are frequently used to show what happened to her but so is the peeling of her body to show her bones and innards, and the shattering of her image

Suicide

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In truth it was a process of gently reminding myself, every time I was drawn to the medicine cabinet, to sharp objects or high places: no, this is not what I want. Sometimes the decision came easily, even with laughter: oh, here we are again. No, not today thank you. Other times it took every strength I had left

While suicide isn’t talked about singularly in this book, we do touch upon the desire to live and die many times, the first time being when Katie is diagnosed with anorexia. It was suggested that the doctors can put her on a tube so that she could regain her health but she was vehemently against this, saying she would rather die. But it was this one moment (image) that really struck me because I’ve been in that position before, where I’ve felt cornered and I picked up some pills and was ready to take them

“Treasure”

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In this book, Katie goes through many traumatic incidents, from being bullied at school, to developing anorexia, to getting better, and then relapsing. She was sexually abused by someone she trusted, which haunted all of her romantic relationships and sexual encounters. She doesn’t just find her lack of control over her eating habits disgusting but also the fact that Jake has touched her and she was helpless

She has had many bad experiences but she still had the desire to live and to love herself. We clearly saw all the people in her life that treasured her but it was also important for her to treasure herself as well, something she has struggled with since she entered adulthood. In the end, we start seeing her attempts at loving herself for who she is when she cuts her hair, begins to dress differently, and fighting against the memories that haunt her

I think that it’s important to listen to people and take action. It doesn’t need to be something dramatic and I don’t think we even need to get into the specifics of the problem right away but I think it’s important to take even the littlest things into consideration. Words that people say without thinking can greatly affect someone else and even if we are saying them as “a joke” it’s not funny but damaging. I’ve always told myself “someone out there has it worse” but I also know that bullying for someone or name calling for someone or even a passing comment can mean the world to them and we should treat it as such

I also think it’s important to note that when we try to help someone we also need to help them realize that they are beautiful and special and worth treasuring. I believe that people who have depression, are suicidal, or have another mental illness probably doubt this (because I sure feel this way) and if we can’t genuinely make them feel they are worth it, helping them can only go so far


And I’ve hit that awkward moment in this post. Sorry, this got way longer than I expected, as I see I’m running past the 2,000-word count. I just felt very strongly about this book because I have a Katie in myself and it’s nice to see a book where there is no magical cure and that the issue doesn’t just disappear after getting treatment. I like that this book emphasizes that these issues stay with us and sometimes we relapse and it’s ok. We just need to be strong and that sometimes being strong means getting help from others or even talking about it

Thanks for reading this post if you’ve made it to the end and don’t forget to check out Rai’s post over at Rai’s Anime Blog tomorrow! Like always, make sure to follow OWLS either on Twitter or the Official Blog to keep up with updates like our upcoming monthly livestream. And if you want to join, all are welcome! Just fill out this contact sheet

Have a great day everyone and remember to be nice to thy neighbors

Author: crimson613

Crimson is an aniblogger on wordpress who can't seem to stop fangirling about all the lovely bishies. When not writing content for the blog (and consuming media), Crimson can be found in bed with a hot cup of tea by their side, sobbing over fanfiction (or maybe even writing it)

24 thoughts

  1. I remember finding this book at my local library a few years ago, I picked it up out of curiosity and ended up sitting there for a couple of hour and finishing it in a single sitting. It is a beautifully powerful piece of work that treats it’s subject matter with so much heart that it draws you in. An your analysis of the work was filled with just as much heart and emot5uon in my opinion which made it an informative and fascinating read. Great Work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! When I saw it was 500 pages I thought I’d read a little bit one day and maybe a little later but once you start reading it, it’s like you can’t stop. I also liked how the subject matter was treated not just as a story but in illustration format. It just really resounded with me

      That’s actually really nice! I went to my local library and they didn’t have it :/ had to get it from somewhere else but I really think my library should get it 🙂

      And thanks! I was kind of worried I was rambling and repeating myself and not really making any sense so I’m glad I got something right :”D

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic work here Crimson, very powerful read. I really want to buy this book myself since were doing the giveaway for it. Didn’t realise it was so big actually but you did a great job addressing everything for our topic 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a deep post. And before I say anything else, I know exactly what you mean whenever reading any of Taku’s post. He just knows how to pull all the feels. Anyway, reading your post about this book, I’m now more intrigued by it. I’m looking forward to the rafflecopter draw. If I don’t win it, I guess I’ll just have to buy a copy from the bookstore. And those illustrations. Wow. They feel eerie, but I guess they fit the serious theme of the book. Great post, Crim. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so late to reading these posts, but I’m so glad I got to read yours! I’ve never myself dealt with something like anorexia, but I have experienced some other mental problems that I’m still working on. I agreed with a lot of what was said here. And, I’ve seen a few other things dealing with eating disorders before. One of my favorite youtubers experienced anorexia, and made quite a lengthy video on her experiences, and an author I love has a recurring character who also has dealt with it. Though it’s interesting to learn about, it’s absolutely terrifying. And I think most everyone who deals with it experiences very similar things. I’m not sure where I’m going with that, but anyway, your post was very descriptive, and thoughtful. And kudos for choosing a book without much knowledge prior, and sharing with everyone here! Sorry for rambling, but your post was fantastic, Crim!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ok wow i thought i replied to this IM SO LATE. Sorry! and don’t apologize for rambling, i like when people ramble lolol and you know, I’m really glad that there are people out there talking about these issues because when I was in HS and younger, this was never addressed, now there’s more content coming out and I hope it gets to the right people. i always feel like there’s always this ‘you don’t understand’ sentiment and if someone told me I’d be like yeah I don’t but now they can find others who do and hopefully it can be of help. and I’m glad you enjoyed it, I really ended up loving this book!

      Liked by 1 person

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