Elena Vanishing

By Elena and Clare Dunkle

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Eating disorders have extensive and pernicious effects on your mental and physical health.

Throughout her book, Elena Dunkle describes her struggle with anorexia nervosa. Issues with her body image began when she was violently raped at the age of 13. There was a voice in Elena's head telling her that she is "fat" and "unworthy." The pressure Elena put on herself to be perfect slowly wears on her and rips her life apart. She develops cardiomyopathy as a result of the starvation she put herself through. She became extremely fatigued and struggled to stay awake in her college courses. The damage she did to her body was irreversible and still causes problems today. Along with the physical side effects, her mental health deteriorated as well. She began to fight more with her psychiatrists and her parents. Before she headed on the road to recovery, the voice in her head dominated her whole life.

Eating disorders are more serious than society percieves them to be.

One major point Elena set out to achieve in her book was to erase the stigma associated with rape and eating disorders. She wanted readers to remove the thought that anorexics are pathetic model-wannabes and gain a better understanding of the disease. She achieves this by telling her story in a very candid manner. She doesn't sugarcoat any details of her struggle. I believe more people, particularly high school students should read Elena's story because it provides a deeper, more truthful understanding of anorexia.

Eating Disorders affect not only the person suffering from the mental disorder but also everyone close to them.

Often eating disorders are seen as a problem people keep to themselves and that they deal with internally. Most people don't realize the impacts it has on the family and friends of the person who is suffering from the disorder because they can only seen the physical implications. In Elena's book, she clearly demonstrates the profound repercussions her actions have on her family. Elena acted completely different after experiencing the sexual abuse and this caused a major change in her family dynamic. She describes how her relationship with her sister, Valerie, was destroyed because of her moody outbursts and cruelty towards her. Also her sister's own depression was influenced and aggravated by Elena. Valerie began to self-harm and burn her arms repeatedly as a way of coping with her shattered self-worth. Also Elena's need for treatment inflicted a lot of stress on her parents. They were constantly trying to find new psychiatrist or institutions to help. Elena had to be transported from hospital to hospital which was very stressful on her family. At one point her mom, Clare, threatened to kick Elena out because all her efforts to help Elena, she refused. In Elena Vanishing, she tells her story of not just how her eating disorder almost killed her, but also how it almost devastated her family.

After treatment

During treatment

Before treatment

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Link to Elena's Twitter

Elena tweets news about her's and her sister's lives. She also retweets and replies to comments about her book.

Link to Clare Dunkle's website

Clare's books played a major role in Elena's childhood. The characters in those books influenced the tattoos she got later in life.

Important Quotes

"There is a skull on my back. But there are also wings."


"Because it's like this: there's fat, and there's thin. Fat is bad, and thin is good... If she's fat, she's pitiful. If she's thin, she's sophisticated and mysterious. People say life's different, but people say there's a tooth fairy too."

Eating Disorders Currently

Elena's story connects to recent studies on eating disorders. Recent studies show that eating disorders among children have grown tremendously in the past 20 years. Disorders in children under the age of 12 have increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006. Children today grow up believing "thin is pretty" so many kids strive to be thinner and thinner eventually developing an eating disorder. Young people with this sort of illness tend to have high anxiety, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Elena is among these children. Throughout her life, Elena is constantly reprimanded by a voice in her head for not being thin enough. She obsesses over her weight or "number" and is constantly putting on her makeup or going over calorie counts in her head. This book gives an insight on the reason why numbers are rising. Elena is just one example of the many suffering today. Linked below is a story on the rise of eating disorders.
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