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Marianne Dissard’s examination of her disordered life, saved by yoga.

It sounds typically romantic – French singer songwriter, leaves home aged 16 to go America to make it big in the music industry. She settles in Tucson, Arizona and finds herself recording and touring with members of alt-Americana bands Giant Sand and Calexico. Some might say, she was living the dream….

But for Dissard, the dream wasn’t so much of a dream as she reveals in her courageous book of unflinching compassion “Not Me” (available from 15 October as paperback (first edition quality-printed by CPI Antony Rowe UK), audiobook (read by the author) and eBook, with a cover design by noted British designer Jamie Keenan).

Of universal interest, Dissard’s “often improbably funny memoir” (Andrew Smith), “not just painfully but viscerally, brutally honest” (producer John Parish), will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to maintain physical and psychological well-being.

‘Not Me’ is the account of a year spent away from the stage in an attempt to reboot a life plagued by eating disorders. Invited to teach, Dissard grabs the chance to learn. Focusing on her students, opening up to friendships, she gradually finds her way back to health and connections… and a wooden boat in England.

“I kept a journal of what I desperately needed to be a momentous year. These entries would form the basis of a book about my life, all these years I wasted in exile from myself. I don’t prettify my truth. You have to face the music at some point.”

Dissard’s book addresses important topics that no one much likes to read about bulimia – Dissard herself recoils at even the sound of the word. We are better acquainted with anorexia, the more ‘aesthetic’ or normalized eating disorder (ED), but in the UK 40% of the approximately 1.25 million people with an ED suffer from bulimia. And the numbers of those over forty, men and women alike, who suffer from EDs is also rising. 

But ‘Not Me’ is not just a recovery memoir about Dissard’s struggle with ED. Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental ill-health each year but the numbers are worse in the arts. A 2014 survey published by Help Musicians, the leading independent UK music charity, found that 60% of musicians had struggled with their mental health, compared to 25% in the UK as a whole.

I got worse the more I was on stage, exposed but performing a role. And the more I toured, the less I had any sense of “home”. Call them addictions, mental ill-health or self-directed delinquencies, these conditions all share a bedrock of isolation, guilt and shame. Frightfully alone in sickness as in recovery, I did it my way—a modern curse”says Dissard, “but many are not as lucky”.

‘Not Me’, despite lifting the veil on some rarely-exposed aspects of eating disorders, is also the story of a dedicated yogini learning to give of herself as a yoga teacher.Yoga had long been my raft on tour as in “real” life”, Dissard notes, but yoga in itself is not what “saved” me”. At the end of the book, Dissard fatefully ends up in Ramsgate where she finds not just a more stable home—ironically, on a wooden sailboat—but a community and the meaningful connections to vanquish isolation and sustain a permanent recovery.

As testament to how her life has turned around, Dissard will perform the theatrical adaptation of ‘Not Me’ at the UK book launch event scheduled for October 5th at Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate.

Not Me is available in paperback from Waterstones

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