Proud2Bme | Writing for Recovery: An Interview with Author Neesha Arter

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Writing for Recovery: An Interview with Author Neesha Arter

By Michelle Zaydlin--I recently had the honor of connecting with Neesha Arter, a writer who published Controlled, her account of surviving sexual assault and a battle with anorexia. We discussed Neesha’s powerful memoir, coping with trauma, and the courage it took to share her story.

Michelle Zaydlin: Could you share a little about yourself (work/school, hobbies, etc.) and the story that you wrote about in your book?

Neesha Arter: I went to college at Chapman University in Orange County, California where I received my BFA in Creative Writing. I actually wrote the first draft of my memoir, Controlled, when I was a freshman there. I graduated in three years and during those three years I worked on editing and revising my book. It is about a sexual assault I experienced when I was 14 and the aftermath, which included legal proceedings and a battle with anorexia.

After graduating when I was 20, I moved to New York City to pursue a writing career, which is where I live now. Since my book just came out a couple of weeks ago, I have been focusing on that for the past month, but I also write for the New York Observer, The Daily Beast, and Women In The World at The New York Times.

MZ: How did you feel about sharing your story and what motivated you to speak out?

NA: Since I wrote the first draft of my book at 18 and am now 24 years old, I feel a lot more comfortable than I did at the beginning of this process. I initially wrote this book for me, as a way to come to terms with the past, but as I continued to share my story many people shared theirs with me. That has made it all worth it to me. I have had so many people tell me that they were raped and have never told anyone but me, and I wrote this book as a way for people to realize that sexual assault is not the victim’s fault and they should not be ashamed of what happened.

As far as my battle with anorexia, I felt like that was almost more difficult to share so honestly in my book because it was a lot more personal to me. However, I do think these are prevalent issues that are not going away and I wanted to start the conversation, especially for the youth and their parents.

MZ: How did your experiences with sexual assault/an eating disorder change you?

NA: It all happened when I was young, so it’s hard to imagine what my life would have been like had neither of these things happened to me. But for me, I guess the most important thing is turning these dark things that happened into something positive.

MZ: What was your main goal in publishing your book and how have others responded to it?

NA: I wrote this book for the 14-year-old girl that I once was. I also wrote it for every parent coping with his or her child going through trauma or an eating disorder, and any friend or relative. As for people responding to the book, I have been received a great deal of support, which has been wonderful. It has been a scary few weeks though!

MZ: What advice do you have for young people about seeking help and sharing their story?

NA: I encourage young people to tell someone they trust. It’s impossible to deal with these issues alone at any age. As for sharing his or her story, it’s different for everyone. In many ways, this book has set me free and I have learned so much about myself as a writer, as a daughter, and as a friend. 

MZ: What do you wish people understood better about sexual assaults and eating disorders based on your personal experiences?

NA: I want society to stop blaming the victim when it comes to sexual assault. This is a massive issue that we see in the news daily and I wish people would be more empathetic. As for eating disorders, I want people to know that there is a whole different life other than the one you’re living in. And it’s a world worth knowing.

MZ: Proud2Bme strives to help others build self-confidence through a variety of ways. What does self-confidence mean to you?

NA: Self-confidence means loving yourself and accepting yourself for who you are. It also means that you don’t have to be perfect and life is never going to be perfect and that has to be okay. I also think the relationship you have with yourself is the most important one you will ever have and you have to be kind to yourself.

About the blogger: Michelle Zaydlin is currently a senior at the University of Michigan and will be graduating this May with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Spanish. She is currently involved with NEDA as a coordinator of the second annual Ann Arbor, MI NEDA Walk and a member of Dance Marathon which helps support pediatric rehabilitation therapies at local children’s hospitals. She also works as a physics study group leader through the science learning center at the University and as a behavior technician doing applied behavior analysis (ABA) with children on the autism spectrum.

For more interviews, check out:

Lose Hate, Not Weight: An Interview with Virgie Tovar

Empower All Bodies: An Interview with Jes Baker

My Big Fat Fabulous Interview with Whitney Thore

Image via NeeshaArter.com

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