Jennette McCurdy rises above childhood trauma with new book
Jennette McCurdy is well-aware the title of her new book, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” (Simon & Schuster) is attention-grabbing. She also readily admits that she means every word. “It’s something that I mean sincerely, I’m not saying it to be flippant.”
McCurdy, who co-starred in Nickelodeon shows “iCarly” with Miranda Cosgrove and its spin-off “ Sam & Cat ” opposite Ariana Grande, hopes readers will understand why she makes such a bold statement,
“I hope that readers feel that by the end of it, ‘this makes sense.’”
The 30-year-old writes in her book that her mother Debra “was a narcissist” who “emotionally, mentally and physically abused” her. She pushed McCurdy into an acting career as a child and encouraged her to have an eating disorder, McCurdy says. Her mother insisted on giving her daughter showers through her late teens, claiming she didn’t wash her hair correctly, McCurdy says.
It wasn’t until seeking therapy after her mother’s death from complications of cancer in 2013 that McCurdy began to fully deal with the trauma she was put through. Before therapy, McCurdy, was drinking excessively and had unhealthy romantic relationships. Now after years of work on herself, she’s sharing her story with the world. Writing the book, she says, was an emotional rollercoaster.
“I’d be crying while writing it and then I’d be laughing, remembering something. My mom’s way of speaking was humorous and very distinct and writing that out was a very dynamic, emotional experience.”
McCurdy, who hosts a podcast called “ Empty Inside, ” spoke with The Associated Press about looking back, therapy and how she may return to work in front of the camera.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
AP: It’s one thing to come to realizations about your childhood through therapy but another to share those discoveries with the world. What made you want to put it out there, first in a one-woman show (also called “I’m Glad My Mom Died”) and now in a book?
McCurdy: I think finding shape is very important. There’s certainly many stages of processing. Processing the events that happened in my childhood took so long in therapy. I needed to do so much of that excavating work on my own.
AP: When you think back now about your childhood and your mom, what do you think?
McCurdy: My grandfather passed away a few years ago, and I got to really experience what I consider a more conventional grieving process of a really close family member… It was heartbreaking and devastating. With my mother’s death, I’d go from being so, so deeply angry to then feeling just so sorry for her. And so I could feel compassion and sympathy and then just anger and rage. I’d cry because I missed her and I’d be angry that I was crying that I missed her and feel she doesn’t deserve these tears. I think abusive love is so complicated … It’s going to be mixed and messy.
AP: Your book is also a reminder of how you never really know what’s going on with someone because people would watch you on these shows and maybe think, ‘Oh, she’s got it all.’
McCurdy: Now my life is very boring. At the time, being on this children’s television show that’s so glossy and so polished and so exactly like perfect … my actual life felt so the opposite. Living in that dichotomy felt really confusing. But also now in retrospect, I see that there’s a lot of humor in that. As agonizing as it is to be in the ambulance with my mother while she’s convulsing in the middle of a seizure, to look up and see my face (on a billboard) felt like my life was mocking me.
AP: Are you definitely done with acting?
McCurdy: Recently, and only since writing the book, there’s been a part of me that’s like, you know, maybe I’ll write something for myself. I could see something like that happening where I think there’s a version of acting that could potentially be healing for me now, especially if I were the one sort of writing the thing.
AP: Now we should really shout out how great it is when you find the right therapist.
McCurdy: It’s so important, right? You’ve got to try a couple because you’re going to get some doozies. You’re going to get some people who just make you feel worse. They’re like very preoccupied with their doodling or whatever they’re doing.
AP: Are you still in therapy?
McCurdy: I am. I just saw my therapist yesterday. It’s funny because now if I look at my journal notes from when I first started therapy, it’s like, how many times did I binge and purge today? And, like, trying to have a better relationship with alcohol. Now it feels like little tuneups or thinking about turning 30. What an amazing thing to be able to go into a therapy session and just talk about (expletive) turning 30.
AP: How is your relationship with food now?”
McCurdy: I’m so happy you ask because I don’t obsess about food at all. I say this because I want people to know that I do believe it’s possible to not have it haunt you for the rest of your life. I feel great in my recovery. I consider myself recovered. For anybody who might be struggling now, I want them to know it’s possible to recover.