When Karen McGratten developed anorexia at the age of 20, she was shocked.
"I never, ever thought I would get an eating disorder," she said.
The Thunder Bay native wanted to share her story of developing anorexia, her treatment and recovery and, along with her illustrator sister-in-law Emily McGratten, is creating a graphic novel titled wiTHIN.
Before struggling with an eating disorder, McGratten also battled obsessive compulsive disorder and thought she was "crazy."
"It wasn't until getting an eating disorder and going to the hospital and getting assessed that I found out it was OCD. I just felt like if people had talked about this, I wouldn't have had to go through all that shame or all that self-hatred and confusion," she said.
McGratten is open about her journey and wanted to share it with others and show there is hope as well as give family and friends of someone struggling with an eating disorder a glimpse into what life is like for that person.
The idea for a graphic novel came from her brother.
"He always collected comic books as a kid and he was a huge support to me," McGratten said, adding telling the story through a medium that means a lot to her brother was a way to say thank you for that support.
The novel will be released in three parts. The first part deals with McGratten's life before developing an eating disorder and explores the underlying factors. The second installment will detail her inpatient treatment she received in Guelph, Ont., where McGratten also now calls home and works as an eating disorder therapist.
And the final chapter will focus on recovery, relapsing and the decisions she had to make to maintain her recovery.
"It's all written but we're putting it out in chunks so we can get it out there quicker," said McGratten.
To help with the printing costs, McGratten has put wiTHIN on Kickstarter.
The McGrattens hope to raise $3,000 to cover the printing costs of the first part of the novel.
They have raised more than $2,100 so far and as of Saturday will have 21 more days to reach their goal.
What McGratten finds interesting about Kickstarter is they have family and friends donating, but also complete strangers.
"They can relate to it," she said. "It's their way of helping to contribute to breaking stigma and raising awareness as well."
It's that stigma around mental illness that keeps some people from getting help, said McGratten.
"We're not crazy ... We're regular everyday people and everybody knows somebody with a mental health issue," she said.
"And it's OK, just get the help you need so you can deal with your issues and be able to move on or learn how to better tolerate your issues."
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