Yes, I know. Another musical theatre reference. But I’m low on creative energy right now to come up with a cute title, so there you go.
Just going to jump right in. A year ago today, I went to a group for the first time in Toronto. I had been stalking the website for the centre that hosted the group since about 2005, and had finally decided it was time to go. Someone I knew peripherally had recently committed suicide as a way out of her eating disorder, and it scared me. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I had been, so this group would be my last ditch effort to, well, ditch the eating disorder for good.
That day, I was still on my last extended contract as a performer (I still had a few auditions and “one-off” performing commitments to fulfill, but this was the last big one), so I sang and danced and acted my way through the afternoon, then hurried home. I didn’t have time to wash off my stage makeup (and reapply the necessary replacement layer), but I pulled my show hair into a ponytail, dropped off my show shoes, etc. and hopped back on the subway.
I made my VERY necessary Starbucks stop to get my non-fat, sugar-free coffee misto, and made my way to group. I was humiliated by the fact that the barista had written “NF” in the milk section, because I felt like such a glutton having calories in my cup, visible to all the girls who I was SURE would be judging me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go, obsessively early as I was, so I sat on the stairs and watched. When it seemed appropriate, I made my way into the group room and curled up, terrified, in a chair, coat still on, trying desperately to remember to keep the label on my cup facing away from anyone else.
The woman who would become WGT breezed into the room, and I was immediately overwhelmed. Strong women terrify me, and she was one. When it was my turn, I said my name and why I was there, then spent the rest of the group trying to disappear. Luckily, there were some wise, inspirational people in the room who were more verbal than I was. I heard people say things that I thought were some of the most shameful things that only I was evil enough to think, and it was ok. I felt so much less alone. I went back, and have seldom missed a week since.
One year later, however bleak things look right now, I’m astonished at how far I’ve come. Things got a lot worse before they got better, and I ended up jobless, career-less, completely absorbed in the rituals and routines of my eating disorder, seldom able to leave my house due to the amount of time my eating disorder demanded of me. Everything hurt, my body stopped being able to digest even the smallest number of calories, I felt like I had nothing and nobody, and had absolutely nothing to contribute to the world.
Nowadays, I’m seldom home. I have a job that I enjoy, a second job that I love, and a couple of occasional jobs that are pretty fun. I go to yoga and ballet class, and don’t (usually) feel like I’m going to die afterwards. I have a plan to go back to school, finances permitting, and I hope the resulting career will be one that makes a difference and I can be proud of. Digestion is still an issue, but I have some (natural) pills I can take that make it better. I have friends and family that I love very much. While some of my symptoms still crop up, they don’t control my life anymore, and I’m strong enough to work to try and get rid of them.
It hasn’t been an easy year. It’s probably been one of the hardest of my life. I’ve been thrown curve balls that I know would have destroyed me in the past. But I keep going. What I’ve written here is just a pencil sketch of everything that has changed this year, and I’m hopeful that the next one will bring even bigger, better changes. If you can find the smallest glimmer of hope, the smallest push to change, the smallest voice saying “try one more time”, hold onto it. Sometimes that’s all you’ll get. The rest is up to you.