Today's post is a guest post from a woman recovering from an eating disorder.
I have tried to write this letter nearly five times already. Every time I write it, it takes on a new personality of its own. This, I think is directly reflective of how I feel about my eating disorder; each time I reflect upon my disease I feel something new.
I have been in recovery from anorexia/bulimia for nearly two years now – writing that seems incredible because it seems like only yesterday that I was dropping out of college and fighting with my nutritionist, therapist, doctor and everyone else who came in my path. But it has in fact been two years.
I think most of us are familiar with eating disorders, at least in the textbook sense, but, unfortunately, many dancers, like me, are familiar with the real life versions. I don’t want to talk about what it’s like to live with the disorder – it’s awful but it’s your only sense of self, it’s irrational but it makes so much sense, it’s painful but the pain doesn’t matter. What I would rather talk about is what it’s like to recover from an eating disorder. If we want to have a chance at anything in this world, eventually, we have to give up our eating disorder. That was my first lesson, and I fought against it for a very long time.
Guess what? I lost. I had to give it up. I thought that was going to be the hardest part, the first step. I was wrong. It’s what comes next that is the most difficult part – rebuilding your life without ‘ED’. For so long, you pin all your hopes and dreams on this one idea; the idea that another pound lost is another step closer to – for me – becoming a beautiful ballerina. Then comes the day when you realize this is not in fact the case. On this day you are actually sitting on a couch in therapy not allowed to go within ten feet of a ballet studio and on a strict monitored diet that includes none, absolutely none, of your safe foods. From here things get really hairy because on the one hand, anorexia has lead you to this couch, and on the other hand you are still pretty sure it’s the only way you can actually matter in life. That, I believe, is the essence of the last two years of my existence, trying to navigate my way towards a ‘happy’ life while ignoring those little voices that say, “Anorexia is the only way you will ever matter.”
Two years isn’t long enough to have figured out how to walk this fine line of happy but not sick. I wish it were, because then maybe I would have better bits of wisdom for anyone out there still struggling with their own disorder. What I can say though, is that every day it gets a little easier. Every day I navigate a maze of food choices. Some days I want to say, “I’m not doing this today,” but there are also days when I invoke every coping skill I have ever learned and plan and execute a well-balanced food day. I still look up restaurant menus before I go out, and cringe at the thought of an impromptu restaurant outing. There are some mornings I wake up and the thought of squeezing into my jeans makes me want to cry. There have been days when the thought of squeezing into my jeans is so daunting I call in sick, and there are also days when I don’t want to squeeze into my jeans, but I do it anyway and go on to have a perfectly fine day. My point is, there are still bad days, but now there are also good days, and the good days are slowly becoming more frequent. When I was sick, I isolated myself from my friends, dropped out of school and quit dancing – all I had was a diet to keep me company. Today I don’t have a diet, but I do have a life which I’m beginning to think is a little more enticing.
Margie is 23 years old, a beautiful dancer and a senior psychology major at SCSU. She is a member of Elm City Dance Collective, a New Haven based modern dance company. Following graduation she will go on to graduate school to receive a Ph. D in clinical psychology.