Jennette McCurdy's 'I'm Glad My Mom Died' Tackles Anorexia and Fame

Jennette McCurdy had her first audition at age 6 and went on to find childhood fame alongside superstars like Miranda Cosgrove and Ariana Grande on iCarly and Sam & Cat, respectively. Her life looked like any aspiring kid's dream—but things aren't always what they seem.

McCurdy's memoir, I'm Glad My Mom Died, out August 9, opens with a deathbed confession: The actress hunches over her comatose mother, and in an attempt to get her to wake up and rejoin the living, delivers what she thinks will be exciting enough news to get the job done: "Mommy," she tells her, "I am...so skinny right now. I'm finally down to eighty-nine pounds."

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On Newsweek's podcast The Parting Shot With H. Alan Scott, the actor, writer and director, now 30, revealed why it was so important to tell her story—even though it wasn't always pretty or easy. Click above to listen to the interview.

Scott: Were you at all concerned or worried about the title of the book? Did you have other titles in mind?

McCurdy: I did not have any other titles in mind. And I wasn't concerned because I feel like it's a title that I earned in the writing of the book. I get that it's attention-grabbing. I definitely wanted something that was provocative, but also very truthful. And I think that anybody who reads the book—I hope that anybody who reads the book, by the end of it, will understand why I've chosen that title and be on board with the title. I think provocative and truthful was exactly what I was going for. I wouldn't name it that if I wouldn't say it flippantly, you know?

Jennette McCurdy, child star and author
Jennette McCurdy's memoir, "I'm Glad My Mom Died," documents the actor's rise to stardom while dealing with an eating disorder she says could have killed her. Above, McCurdy is pictured. Brian Kimsley

Scott: Were there nerves about how other members of your family would react? Or how people in your life would react to some of the stories you're sharing, and how honest you're being?

McCurdy: I wasn't nervous with my family, just because I have a great support system, [especially] my three older brothers. I talked about them a bit in the book; our relationships are so strong and I have always throughout my life received so much love and support from them. So those are my foundational, key familial relationships. So whatever anybody else on the outskirts of the family thinks or feels? So be it. My brothers' opinions are the ones that matter most to me.

And as for the public-facing aspect, it was because I came from that child acting background that I think those people-pleasing instincts are so entrenched. They certainly were for me. It was really important for [the book] to put my own preferences first—okay, do I like this? Do I believe in this? Am I willing to share this personally? And then I think there was also an element of just trusting that the right people would connect with the material. And, you know, so far I've certainly experienced that. The way that I'm approached these days from people just walking on the street is a completely different experience than it used to be, and I'm extremely grateful for it.

I'm Glad My Mom Died book cover
The cover of "I'm Glad My Mom Died"

Scott: Did you ever feel like in writing the memoir, you were able to relate to your mother more? Did you feel like you could understand her in a different way?

McCurdy: Wow, what an insightful question. I did feel that a bit, you know, through the process of writing the book. I have grieved her differently. Grief is absolutely not an aspect of my life in the way that it was once she first passed. And for those few years after her passing—it's been nine years now—the grief was so complicated. I would feel angry that I felt grief, because I felt she didn't deserve my grief and I think she abused me. Why am I, how am I still able to feel sorrow for this person, this devastation? And through writing the book, I was able to grieve in the very simple way where I can miss her now, and it's just that I can just miss her, and it's not "well, she doesn't deserve me to miss her." There's that over-analytical piece that I think has fallen off a bit. And I truly think it's only because of writing, and maybe the attempt at closure, that it was. Maybe it's some sort of closure that I've actually gained from it.

Scott: [At iCarly's peak,] you're famous, you have this difficult relationship with your mother, but you're also a child. You're going through teenage years, and we have all of the normal angst of comparing ourselves to others. What struck me in the book was how a lot of times these authority figures would use your own fame and use it as an abusive agent. Do you feel like that happened a lot?

McCurdy: I definitely agree that there's a lot of angst naturally when you're at that age. It's just part of being an adolescent. I think what was definitely difficult for me to recognize was that the fame piece wasn't normal, because you're also so engaged in the life that's happening to you at that moment. So I was famous, and super busy. I knew, of course, that not everybody's famous, this isn't everybody's experience, but I can't know anybody else's experience....The fame piece kind of went unaddressed for a long time, because I didn't really consider how much worse that made the angst.

Scott: How are you able to have these difficult conversations about a difficult past, and yet still maintain a place of loving yourself—and a healthy outlook on where you are now and the growth that you've been able to achieve?

McCurdy: Hm. The most important thing for me is boundaries. Boundaries with myself and others, mentally, physically, emotionally, environmentally. There was a time in my life when I did not know what a boundary was. There was even a time in my life when a therapist suggested that I try implementing some more boundaries, and I said, "What is a boundary?" I could understand on the surface, but I couldn't think of a practical one to implement. It was so elusive to me. So I did a lot of work and it wasn't always the easiest, but I feel much more kind of comfortable with those now. And I feel a self-assurance that I never could have felt without good boundaries.

Scott: For anyone who talks, or does storytelling, or acts for a living, boundaries are a difficult area, because so much of what we do in our work is based on our life and sharing a part of ourselves in a way, right? Like, what's a boundary to us? I don't even know.

McCurdy: That's such a funny point. It's such a good observation, because I do recognize that there is irony in me saying, "Oh, I have solid boundaries," and I have just written a memoir with a huge amount of personal details included. But also, these were all things that I spent a lot of time processing in therapy. I was in therapy for six or seven years before even going anywhere near exploring my personal life in any sort of a creative or public-facing way. So I absolutely never would have dipped my toe in that water had I not done a lot of soul searching privately.

Scott: When was the moment where you truly felt like, "I'm ready to do this. I'm ready to tell the story. I'm ready to live my version of a normal life?"

McCurdy: It was probably a few years ago. I knew very distinctly, and I talked about this in the book. But on my 26th birthday, I had a very eye-opening moment where I was in a Downtown Disney restroom, and had purged. I had been in quote, unquote, recovery for a bit. But as my therapist told me, slips are expected. They're just kind of a part of the process. "Don't let a slip become a slide" was kind of his go-to phrase and was a really helpful piece of information for me. But I had this moment where I'm sitting there going, "I don't want to be this in 10 years, I don't want to be this in 15 years."

And for me at the time, 26 felt so different from 21. I [thought], "I don't want to have this baggage anymore. I don't want to be bogged down by this anymore." So that was like a very distinct moment that I can point out as being, in retrospect, really assertive and empowering. But at the time, it just felt more definitive than recovery had been for me, previous to that point. It definitely was, as I see it now, the jumping off point for being able to talk openly about any of this. It really started on my 26th birthday.

Listen to H. Alan Scott's full conversation with Jennette McCurdy on Newsweek's Parting Shot. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Twitter: @HAlanScott

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association offers live assistance Monday through Friday — online, or by texting or calling 800-931-2237. 24/7 support is available via the Crisis Text Line by texting NEDA to 741741.