Emancipated Love Junkie: A Q&A with Rachel Wilshusen
**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Rachel Wilshusen is a dynamic and vibrant writer with liberal arts degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, University College London, and the University of Cambridge. After an extensive battle with anorexia, including admittance to an eating disorder center, Rachel wrote Emancipated Love Junkie to embolden others to follow her path toward recovery. Coastal runs with her husband and jumping into ocean waves are her favorite ways to spend sunny mornings in Del Mar, California. Learn more about Rachel via email, Instagram, and her website, rachelwilshusen.com.
Here Rachel tells us about the purpose and process of writing Emancipated Love Junkie, a memoir about her recovery from anorexia.
Tell us about your book, Emancipated Love Junkie!
In 2016, I reached a breaking point with my anorexia and admitted myself to an eating disorder center. During my time in treatment, I devoured memoirs, self-help books, and mental health resources to uplift my spirits during the most challenging time of my life. Although various writers touched my soul and inspired change, I never found what I was craving: an inspiring story with actionable help that exuded a “You got this, girlfriend!” vibe. Consequently, after treatment I toyed with the idea of writing such a book based on my experiences to provide others wrestling with their own disorders with a warm and optimistic literary hug. Four years later, which included a year of intensive writing sessions, I’m thrilled to share Emancipated Love Junkie with The Emily Program and ED community. The title is meant to emphasize the book’s proactive approach to recovery; I hope to encourage readers to release their inner critics and do the tough stuff to embrace a life of health and happiness!
What role have other memoirs played in your healing and recovery?
It’s incredible to live at a time when it’s safe to openly discuss mental health and an abundance of supportive resources are available! At the outset of treatment at an eating disorder center, I stumbled upon Emma Wolf’s An Apple a Day: A Memoir of Love and Recovery from Anorexia, which illuminated my world. I was shocked to discover I wasn’t the only high-achieving woman over thirty suffering from a chronic case of anorexia and was amazed by Emma’s ability to pull herself out of darkness to live a restriction-free life. It was the first time I honestly believed I could also recover as an adult and overpower the voice in my head. I read other books after Wolf’s, but most of the memoirs I picked up left me feeling flat—which is why I wrote Emancipated Love Junkie. Beyond the ED lit realm (as mentioned in my book!), I was massively impacted by Michael Singer, whose The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself helped me to realize I am not the voice in my head, and by Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, which shone a light on how frequently I was missing the beauty of the here and now. Taken together, with a dose of Brené Brown’s and Gabrielle Bernstein’s motivational gems, these writers inspired me to ignite change in my life and helped me stay committed to my health.
Describe the process of writing your book.
I started writing my story without any expectations. Sure, I knew it would be a laborious process and bring up strong feelings, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into! Every emotion you can imagine came up during the process, and occasionally I’d race out of a coffee shop in tears, unable to control painful memories rising to the forefront of my mind. Although specific sections took the stuffing out of me, however, Emancipated Love Junkie has been (and continues to be!) a blessing in my life. Both cathartic and bittersweet, I’ve connected dozens of dots about my past, come to realize how much love and support I received from others over the years, and gained an appreciation of my inner strength, determination, and courage. A year ago, I assumed my conclusion would center around my current, lingering struggles with food. Through writing and contemplating, however, I came to recognize that recovery is all about letting go of our inner critics to embrace a kind and loving lifestyle. Consequently, this experience has uplifted my own spirits as I see more clearly now how far I’ve come and how brave and beautiful we all are inside, regardless of our circumstances or appearances.
What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?
Although I’m sure my “self-love gems” (insights I present throughout the book) will resonate differently depending on the person, I hope readers will close the book feeling a bit lighter, a bit calmer, a bit more hopeful, and a bit braver. I’d love for readers to internalize that a bright future lies ahead, regardless of their current situation, and that their true, joyful selves are waiting to be set free! I hope readers will feel inspired to take another next step forward to become Emancipated Love Junkies—radiating their best selves and flooding their worlds with joy.
How has the response been so far? What is it like for close friends/family and strangers alike to read such personal details of your story?
The initial response to Emancipated Love Junkie has been overwhelming. I’ve always been a private person, especially in regards to my eating disorder! Consequently, although I was excited to release Emancipated Love Junkie and to join other brave souls in promoting ED awareness, I was intimidated and, yes, frightened to announce my book! What I’ve experienced, however, has strengthened my resolve to speak my truth and reinforced my belief that people want to connect, engage, and uplift others on their respective paths. I am grateful for friends, relatives—many of whom I haven’t corresponded with in decades—and complete strangers who have ordered copies of my story, sent congratulatory notes to encourage my efforts, and, most of all, those who have reached out to share their own stories about past and current challenges. I feel so supported and all the more determined to help others connect and engage with their networks and communities to discover how much unconditional love is all around us, all the time.
What’s next for you?
I’ve felt a strong desire to reconnect with the recovery community since leaving treatment. I see Emancipated Love Junkie as a starting off point to immerse myself in a sphere I understand, feel passionate about, and know I can add value. Consequently, although I hope my book with positively affect the lives of some and I’d love to write additional books in the future (in a variety of genres!), I look forward to making a difference in the lives of many over the ensuing decades as an advocate of self-love, health, and happiness.