Growing up, Janet Zinn was often hungry and secretly kept a babysitting job.
“There wasn’t an idea [in my family] that it’s okay to eat,” said Zinn, of New York City. “It was regulated in a way. It seemed normal to me, because I didn’t have anything to compare it to.”
It took her years to learn how to feed herself and Zinn details how her childhood evolved into a self-destructive life in her first memoir, Good Grief.
The personal essays, or what Zinn calls a prescriptive memoir, is a about letting go of what doesn’t work from unhealthy relationships to bad habits. Good Grief retells Zinn’s transformation, good and bad mistakes, into the psychotherapist who would help lead others through their own healing process.
For years, Zinn kept journals about her unhappy childhood and downward spiral in college—all intended to be a work of fiction. “I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” she said.
Her older sister tried to drown her in the toilet and pool, repeatedly, and her mother was distant. Zinn said her sister didn’t get the love and care she needed and, “I think my mom felt deprived.” She sympathizes for her mom who had her hands full with four children and a husband who worked a lot.
“I go back and forth with what will it mean when they see this. I’ve made peace with the fact that this is how I grew up. I think it will hurt them. My parents are incredibly private people that they wouldn’t want others to know what went on, but it did happen, and I have to take ownership of that.”
Zinn said she will do everything she can to help her family with the after-affects as much as possible. She is still working on the draft.
An adult and adolescent psychotherapist of more than fifteen years, Zinn will be featured on a reality TV show as a therapist expert on a major network this spring.
Before she embarked on a private practice, Zinn went to therapy herself during her twenties. “There is no glamour to trying to get better,” she said. “Messing up is part of the process.”
When she discovered that she had a pattern of playing the victim, she was disturbed at knowing there was something manipulative about taking on that role. This enlightenment helped her find her own value, she said.