Category Archives: History Lessons

There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This

(Back to the song titles)

This is going to sound kind of stupid for a while, but bear with me. I hope it will make sense in the end. You know. One of those recovery metaphor things I’m so fond of. Kind of. Blah. Here goes.

As per usual, a little bit of back story is required.

I’ve always REALLY sucked at picking up choreography. Like, really really. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I focused, no matter how much I practised on the side, unless I had a night to sleep on it, I wasn’t going to remember the choreo. Didn’t matter if it was someone else’s moves or my own steps. This was just a fact of my life. It didn’t matter if I was in a somewhat normal state of eating, a somewhat restrictive state of eating, or a full-blown anorexic state of eating: no amount of food would allow me to know the choreography well enough to dance full-out at an audition.

Now, I have a pretty damned decent memory for other things. I can recall conversations from my childhood verbatim. I can remember what I wore on specific dates days, weeks, years ago. I can tell you what grade I got on my geography test when I was 12. In my nerdiest times, I can look at a playbill and tell you:

  1. Who in the cast I’ve seen in other shows
  2. What roles they played in that show, and sometimes
  3. What name they went by before they joined Equity. They call me the Musical Theatre Encyclopaedia. Nerdiest superpower ever.

This freakish memory, however, has never extended to choreography. Frustrating as hell, but that’s my life.

Or . . .

that WAS my life.

This weekend, I decided on the spur of the moment to teach a musical theatre class instead of a tap class. I haven’t danced a step of musical theatre choreography in about 18 months. I had 15 minutes to pick music, choreograph a dance, and be ready to teach. I started scrolling through my iPod (which is, conveniently, filled with showtunes) and began to panic: I don’t think I can do this. I can’t come up with something worth teaching in this little time, and there’s no way I’ll remember it once I do! Maybe I can just teach choreography I already know from a show I’ve done before . . .

I decided to make an effort. I put on a song I know and enjoy, and just started dancing. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I tweaked it, and kept adding on. By the end of the 15 minutes, I had a workable dance. It wouldn’t win a Tony award or anything, but it wasn’t basic “recital” choreography either. I started teaching, waiting for the moment when I’d forget.

I didn’t.

I taught the whole dance, and we danced it together, full out. It ended up being good enough that the studio owner filmed it for promotional use. If it had been an audition, I think I would have booked it.

I’ve been semi-noticing my memory improving in ballet these past few months, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until Saturday. I can remember choreography now.

Cool. Good for you, Kelly. But where’s the metaphor? What’s the point?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post from the blog A Life Unmeasured. She looked at the definition of “recovery”: the regaining of something taken away, or a return to a former condition. Her take on this:

“I want to create my life, not get back what I’ve lost.  I want to be more forgiving of myself, less perfectionistic, more adventurous, less cautious.  In other words, I want to let go of this idea I have that I will be “recovered” when I am like I used to be.  I can’t be that way anymore, unless I choose a life of relapse, which is what I’ve gotten in the past.”

I don’t want to go back to the life that I had before, either. That was the life that I starved to get away from. I’ve spent my entire life trying to destroy what was and put something better in its place. I’ve gone about it the wrong ways, but even now, trying to do it “for real” this time, I never really believed that my life would be anything different than it was before.

This may be a silly, small thing, the memory for dance, but it gives me hope that maybe things will be “better than ever” in other areas of my life, too.

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Filed under Blatherings, History Lessons, Inspiration

What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

Strange title, I know. And no, it’s not a song title . . . that I know of . . . but I have many musical friends and I’m sure one of them could come up with something. (Musical Friends: if you come up with something good, I’ll TOTALLY post it)

Elephant Journal Logo via google

Anyhow. Some weeks ago, I was reading a post on elephantjournal.com entitled What Your Yoga Teacher REALLY Thinks About You. Naturally, coming from the hyper-critical world of dance, and being the cynical, judgement-paranoid girl that I am, I expected it to be a “Stop fixing your hair in downward dog/Make sure you have bathed in the last 3 days before coming to class/please make sure your yoga pants aren’t threadbare – I don’t want to see your hot pink thong” kind of thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The author, Kristin Althea, is all about the love. She thinks the sweat, and the shirt riding up, and the falling out of poses, and the being human is beautiful. Well, knock me down with a feather. And for some reason, this skeptic-of-the-year believes her.

It made me think, too, about places besides yoga class when I worry about judgement. In the eating disorder world, judgement is a pathological fear. The grocery store clerk, at one time, could have reduced me to tears if she had so much as commented on anything I bought. (ie Wow! You buy a lot of cucumbers!) I remember, when I first started eating again, that being sent to the health food store was the most traumatic of all. These weren’t just people bearing witness to the food I purchased, but people who knew something about food, who likely ate healthily themselves, and had the ultimate authority to judge my groceries.

Now, I’m that person at the cash register of the health food store, pointing you in the direction of chia seeds, teaching you how to cook quinoa, and asking that often shame-inducing question, “Are these the organic cranberries, or regular?” From this position of power, I thought I’d write my own:

 What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

As a shopper, I’m always convinced that cashiers are taking note of everything in my cart. I will often make excuses or jokes about things I’m uncomfortable about buying, or things I buy with great regularity. But here’s the shocker: I don’t have a clue what was in the cart of the person I rang through 5 seconds ago, let alone last time you came in. I worked for 9 hours today, and I can’t tell you more than one item that anyone bought today.

There are some exceptions to this checkout amnesia. There is “Hummus Lady”, with whom I have bonded over our mutual love of Sunflower Kitchen hummus, and the fact that she buys two tubs every time she comes in (sometimes more than once a week). She made jokes about it, at first, saying “You must think I’m absolutely insane, buying this much hummus.” I hadn’t noticed until then. Now it’s a running joke. There’s a little 2-yr-old boy who I absolutely love, and I know he’ll always buy his favorite cereal that he calls “Papa’s Cherrios” and, if it’s a Friday, “Choco Milk”. I know what foods some of my regulars buy, but it’s objective knowledge. No judgement involved.

  • When I ask you “organic, or non?” I’m not judging your response: I just need to know which code to ring in. Organic is expensive. I, of anyone, understand if you choose the cheaper route. I’m just happy you’re choosing to spend the money you have at our small, independent health food store, rather than at one of the “big name” stores. My bosses are some of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met, and I’d rather your money go to raising their families, than to furnishing the 2nd home of the “big name” store CEO.
  • If you have 2 bags of chips, I’m not thinking “Wow, what a glutton.” I’m thinking, “Ok, remember to take the promotional discount off of the second bag . . . oh hey, I didn’t know we got a new flavor . . . how can I bag their groceries without crushing these?” I swear. I’m too busy doing my job to think any less of you. Besides, I’m all about balance. Have the courage to eat your chips without shame.
  • If I ask you a question about why you are choosing an item, or what recipe you’re using it in, I’m not testing you: I don’t know enough about it and I really want to learn. Thanks for teaching me.
  • Unlike Kristin, I don’t think you all are beautiful. My job title makes me little more than pond scum to many people, despite the fact that I have spent more years in college than just about anyone who isn’t a doctor or lawyer. You treat me like shit, I’m not going to think that you’re beautiful. But, I have many customers of every age, shape, race, religion, and sexual orientation who I think are incredibly beautiful human beings. These people make the percentage of assholes I deal with bearable. I have customers who will introduce me as their friend, ones who I will talk with (on a slow day) for more than an hour, ones who I hug, ones who I share private jokes with, ones who I cry with over their illnesses and losses. There are people who will come by to share their cooking that they made specially for me to try (this is a challenge, but as long as it’s vegetarian, I will always at least try it). These are the things that make people beautiful to me. Not what they look like, nor what they have in their cart.

So next time you walk into a health food store, hold your head high. You’re doing something brave, and you have every right to be there. The store’s employees aren’t judging you (well, they might be judging your snarky attitude, but if you don’t have one of those, you’re good to go). Besides, chances are the girl ringing up your goji berries and coconut ice cream is working there to develop a better relationship with the food she fears so much, and is too busy worrying about what she’s going to eat for snack that day to scrutinize your cart.

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Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear, History Lessons

Yesterday

Yesterday was kind of a big day.

July 11.

7/11. (And y’all know I couldn’t care less about cheap Slurpee day)

Another year marker.

I don’t know what I thought the year would bring. I could have ended up a lot further along, I could have ended up a lot further behind. I think I expected to be a lot further along. But I’ll take what I’ve got.

Yesterday marked one year since I started eating again.

It’s a hard thing to mark for some people. Sometimes it’s a gradual change. For me, I had eaten the exact same things at the exact same times of day for a very long time. I only made changes about every 6 weeks when WGT would wear me down. They were small, inconsequential changes that nowadays I would think nothing about adding or removing from my diet, but back then they were huge. Unfortunately, they still left me in a very dangerous place, and left me losing weight every week.

I was on a waiting list to be assessed to be put on another waiting list to be admitted to an inpatient hospital program. (That’s how it works in Canada when you aren’t insanely wealthy. You wait. Sometimes you die waiting. But apparently our lives are only worth what we can pay for out of pocket. Some of us are worth a lot less than others.) I knew if I didn’t turn it around soon I’d either end up dead or in a hospital eating crap food, just getting fat. I’d done it that way before, and look where it got me.

What if I did it differently this time? What if I did it eating the foods I wanted to eat? Still seeing WGT, with whom I’d already gotten farther than any other therapist? Being able to walk around, see the friends who were still willing to put up with my shit, stay in the apartment I’d be paying rent on anyhow, not have to deal with nurses, and weigh ins, and middle of the night bed checks, and weekly bloodwork . . . What if.

So I jumped in. With the knowledge I could run away again at any time, start restricting, start exercising, start life with an eating disorder all over again, I made the leap. I sat down with WGT (who I’m sure was either shocked or in a state of “I’ll believe it when I see it”) and created a new meal plan. The new meal plan more than doubled the number of calories I’d be taking in in a day. It included foods I’d never eaten before. (Strangely enough, I learned to make quinoa from the man who is now my boss while buying it in the health food store that is now where I work). It was a marked difference, so I marked the day.

It was simultaneously relieving and terrifying. It was both bearable and complete hell. It was so much food, and yet I was SO hungry. My body wanted it, but my stomach was ripping at the seams. (That meal plan was not much more than half of what I eat now, in maintenance)

It was a Monday. That Friday I got a call from the hospital saying they could take me for an assessment the next Tuesday. Long story short, I walked in and did the assessment. They told me I was too sick, that I’d never recover on my own, and they’d put me on the waiting list for inpatient, as my weight was too low for day patient. By the time they called me with a place, my weight was at day patient level, and I politely declined.

I ran away many times. My weight went up and down. When I wasn’t restricting, my weight maintained a steady climb, and I gained the exact same number of pounds every week. I was convinced it would never stop. It did. I’ve been maintaining in pretty much the same 3 lb range since January.

I’m doing it, and I’m doing it my way. Sure, if I had done it in the hospital, I’d have conquered many more of my fear foods by now. They’re not easy to tackle alone. Yesterday, however, to celebrate my one year, a friend and I went out and got veggie burgers. It’s more of a “stigma” fear than an ingredient fear, but a fear nonetheless. You know what? It wasn’t so good. It was made of chick peas, and it was like eating a bun sandwiched between . . . a bun. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never eat a veggie burger again. I’m kind of excited to figure out what kind of veggie burger I like, and maybe make my own.

I may not be over all my food issues, but I have such a different relationship with food. I actually touch it now. I cook it. I talk about it. I’m surrounded by it all day every day. I write a blog about it at work (one of my posts was recently cited in by an online magazine as a reference). I’m going back to school to study it. Food is a part of my life.

So, yesterday may be the marker for a year, it feels like the marker for a new life. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve got a different way of getting there. And I hold onto the hope that it’s better on the other side.

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Shameless

Today is another anniversary.

One year ago today, I stepped off the bike.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it was. Up until June 5th, 2011, I was absolutely chained to my exercise bike. I had to burn off every calorie I ate before I ate it, then keep going into the night until I hit a predetermined, ever-increasing number of calories burned, or passed out. Some days, even if I’d hit the requisite number of calories, I’d have to keep going, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning. That was my whole day.

One day, when I was touring with my last show, we had a drive from Toronto to Ottawa, with a stop to do a show in between. I left my house at 9 am, and we didn’t get into our hotel until 11 that night. For the last hour of the drive, I’m pretty sure I didn’t shut up: “Do you think the hotel gym will still be open? Sometimes they close at 11 . . . Can we call to find out? Do you think they’ll have a staircase I can run up and down if it’s closed? Maybe I can just run back and forth in the hallway if I’m quiet . . . ” I was beyond caring if I sounded crazy. I NEEDED to make up for the day in the car. (The gym was 24 hours. I didn’t see much of the city that trip, but I could draw you a very detailed picture of that hotel gym.)

WGT would regularly challenge me to just step off the bike x number of minutes before my predetermined calorie burn. She was met every time with a flat out “NO”. I wasn’t budging on that one. I couldn’t imagine it. How could I?

Finally, one Friday night, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. The bike was driving me crazy. The only way I could NOT get on the bike was to sleep the whole day and not have to eat anything. The next day, I would just keep myself asleep. Every time I woke up, I’d take more medication and go back to sleep. Finally it stopped working, and I had to get up. I had to get on the bike. I was never going to be able to stop.

The morning of the 5th, I read my meditation of the day. My friend Dawn had recommended the book The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie about a month before, and a lot of the passages really resonated with me. June 5th’s was titled, “Combating Shame.”

Watch out for shame.

Many systems and people reek of shame. They are controlled by shame and may want us to play their game with them. They may be hoping to hook us and control us through shame.

We don’t have to fall into their shame. Instead, we’ll take the good feelings – self-acceptance, love, and nurturing.

Compulsive behaviors, sexually addictive behaviors, over-eating, chemical abuse, and addictive gambling are shame-based behaviors. If we participate in them, we will feel ashamed. It’s inevitable. We need to watch out for addictive and other compulsive behaviors because those will immerse us in shame.

Our past, and the brainwashing we may have had that imposed “original shame” upon us, may try to put shame on us. This can happen when we’re all alone, walking through the grocery store or just quietly going about living our life. Don’t think . . . Don’t feel . . . Don’t grow or change . . . Don’t be alive . . . Don’t live life . . . Be ashamed!

Be done with shame. Attack shame. Go to war with it. Learn to recognize it and avoid it like the plague.

I knew by that point that my eating disorder wasn’t about the weight, really, but couldn’t figure out what else was keeping me chained to my behaviors. This put a name to it: shame. Being so ashamed of everything about myself meant that I couldn’t stop exercising. Exercising was something I should be doing. That’s what the media tells us. I was so ashamed of the thought of anyone finding out that I wasn’t exercising anymore, I couldn’t stop it. I was ashamed, too, that I couldn’t stop it.

People kept asking me what I was afraid would happen if I stopped exercising, if I started eating, if I started gaining weight. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s because I wasn’t afraid, per se, I was ashamed. Shame is what dictated that my food be chopped in a certain order. I wasn’t afraid of a mis-chopped apple, but I was ashamed that I hadn’t chopped it correctly. It’s what dictated that nobody see me without my make-up and hair done. Not afraid, just ashamed.

Shame was something I could fight. I may still be ashamed a lot of the time, but it’s easier to live with than a nameless fear.

It’s been a year. I never got back on the bike. In fact, I sold it over Christmas. Yes, I still exercise. Yes, sometimes it’s more than I’m “supposed to”. But now it’s at a healthy weight, and without being chained to it. Yes, I’m still ashamed, but I’m choosing to live with the shame rather than kill myself trying to erase it. I’m told there are other ways to get through it. I’ll let you know if I find them.

 


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Versatile Blogger Awards

So, a while back (like, December), Natalie over at What’s Eating Natalie? nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks so much, Natalie. I am humbled and honored. The fact that you appreciate what I write means a lot. Having anyone read my words and come back again never ceases to shock me, and I never stop appreciating each and every blog view.

Today, I finally got around to checking out the award, and found out there are some rules attached to receiving it. Since it’s all about sharing and love, I’m all over it.

First, the sharing part. Here are 7 Random Things About Me:

1. My bowl is green. I almost always use the same one (snacks go in a coffee bowl). I don’t branch out because my bowl is heat safe, and the size is standard: I know how to measure all my meals based on its size. I should change it up. I suspect this is a problem.

2. My tv is always on when I’m awake (when I’m at home), and for 2 hours after I go to bed. Drowning out noise with noise.

3. A scarf is my favorite accessory.

4. Twelfth Night is my favorite play by Shakespeare. I like me a good trouser role.

5. I have a strange obsession with cleaning and organizing my fridge. I now have a shelf exclusively devoted to nut + seed butters.

6. I completely gut all my dance shoes, yet have insoles in most of my street shoes. I guess I like to feel the floor when dancing, then NEVER AGAIN FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK

7. Lilacs are my favorite smell right now. I picked one while out walking the other day and put it in a mason jar on the cash desk at work, and it makes 9 hour shifts enjoyable.

Now, the love. Here are my favorite blogs/bloggers, and my nominees for the Versatile Blogger Awards

Naturally, my first nominee is Natalie at What’s Eating Natalie?  I always enjoy her posts.

And in no particular order:

Megan at The Butterfly Effect Can’t wait to see the effect she has on the world.

Kayla at The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing Amazing insights on the world of performing and life in general.

Monica at Alone in the Childerness Balancing life, and so wise.

Tess at I Love My Life I Love To Sing It’s a new blog, but it’s a good blog.

Susan and Georgia at Glamour & Goop Wise women balancing family and career.

Michelle at Love Action Yoga Wise words. Walking the talk.

I’m not nominating the full 15, because I don’t want to nominate just for nomination’s sake. These are words I read and appreciate. Thank you for sharing, ladies. You make me think and you make me feel.

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How Do You Measure A Year?

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 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.

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Everybody Knows Somebody

Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, everyone! I suppose it’s a strange thing to wish people a “happy” one of, but hopefully awareness will lead to eradication (Wow, that’s a fancy word for how tired I am right now. Maybe I’ll switch it to something epic like “Total Annihilation” or something. Maybe not.) which will lead to happiness for all! A girl’s gotta have a dream. (N.B. It’s Awareness Week in Canada. NEDA’s official week isn’t until the end of the month)

Last year, NEDA‘s theme for the week was, “It’s Time to Talk About It”. I may have been late to the party on that one (I was singing and dancing on tour last Awareness Week, trying desperately to hide the fact that I was out of control in a relapse), but I think I successfully participated by the end of the year. Y’all have borne witness: now you can’t shut me up!

This year, the theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. Well, y’all know me, at least peripherally. (Wow. Another fancy one. Maybe the key to my smarts is in being sleepy . . . I’m gonna pretend it’s from wearing heels all day. Heels make every girl look . . . smarter). But have you ever stopped to think about how many people you might know who are suffering in silence?

Anorexics are generally pretty easy to spot. As WGT puts it, “You’re LITERALLY wearing your pain”. Same goes for binge eating disorder. It’s the ones in the middle that are hardest to recognize. I’ve spent a lot of time in that wasteland of disordered eating. I didn’t even know I had an eating disorder until the weight became an issue. But it’s SO not about the weight.

When behaviors around food get out of control in any way, it’s a problem. Most people don’t recognize eating disorders like orthorexia or exercise addiction because fucked up food and exercise habits have become a societal norm. (Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating, and exercise addiction is, well, an addiction to exercise. Duh.) It doesn’t sound like a problem to most people, but when a person becomes so obsessed that they can’t function in real life, it’s a problem. When you can’t eat at a restaurant because you don’t know how the food was prepared, it’s a problem. When you cancel plans with friends because you can’t miss a work out, it’s a problem. When you can’t eat a piece of your own wedding cake because it’s not an “acceptable food,” that’s a problem.  When you’re sick or injured and work out anyhow, that’s a problem. And eating disorders are a slippery slope. A “normal” diet can quickly become a dangerous practice.

So keep an eye out. Just because someone doesn’t “look sick” doesn’t mean they’re fine. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see cancer or depression or alcoholism with my naked eye, but I’d never tell someone they weren’t sick because I couldn’t see it. And people with eating disorders are really good at hiding it. It’s amazing how crafty a sick mind can be.

So be aware, spread the word and, as always, be kind to those around you. They may not wear their pain literally, but some of the deepest scars are the ones you can’t see.

 

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