new york i love you (but you’re bringing me down)

I recently found a blog written by an actor in NYC recovering from binge eating disorder. She writes about that never-really-discussed thing of having eating disorders when you’re in recovery—even as you’re trying to accept yourself the way you are made, and love yourself through your body’s process, you still need to be a certain size to do your job. Now, I have it a bit easier since I’m not going out for chorus roles (generally I don’t need to be lifted by gay boys), but in order to play the roles I’m right for, I need to be a certain size. That’s just the way it is. If that lovely girl is reading this, first I want to say to you: you are awesome and 100% not alone!! And second, it might be the way it is, but you have worked and made connections and done your “job” at all the sizes you’ve ever been. It feels like a limitation, but the reality is that you’re still working, even though it feels like you’re not. Finally, this too shall pass.

The moral of the story is this—the girl moved to Hawaii for a time and is finding and healing herself away from this city of cattle calls and stunt casting and bitchy agents and pay-to-plays. New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

And it got me thinking. What would happen if I just… left?
If I just… stopped auditioning and moved home to Idaho?
If I didn’t check Playbill and Actors Access and Actors Equity anymore
If I unsubscribed from Backstage
If I didn’t consider throwing down money to meet agents that aren’t looking for clients
If I didn’t go out late at night to try and stay friends with people I want to hire me
If I didn’t wake up early to go to morning calls
If I moved my headshot and resume from my desktop to the trash

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What would happen?

And I realized my worst fear—that nothing would happen.

That I’d stop getting emails offering me auditions
That my agent wouldn’t call me since she already doesn’t call me
That nobody would miss ME in the New York theatre world.

And of course I then thought of A’s ex, who I’ve done okay at detoxing from, but still glance at occasionally. She left the city completely, stopped acting, didn’t try and get auditions, didn’t look at Playbill, didn’t submit to everything she could. She seems to be stupid happy, working at fucking lululemon and living in a city most famous for its racism… and here I am, doing just as fucking much (ie nothing) yet not stupid happy at ALL. Just… normal happy. Just doing fine.

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But then there’s a part of me that doesn’t really believe that that’s what would happen. That thinks that eventually, someone would reach out to me because they wanted me.

I have to believe that I’m not living in a vacuum here. I have to believe that I’m not the only one working, that for all the darts I throw into the universe, some actually do hit the target.

Otherwise, it feels like I just have an irritant that detracts from my “regular life”—like my career needs to be scratched and taken outside to shit and I get NOTHING from it except this cycle of non-productive chores.

And that, my friends, is terrifying.

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Empathy.

Empathy.

I tend to be a very warm person. I like to think the best of people. Perhaps it’s how I grew up, in a small town in Idaho with a wonderful family, safe from danger and protected from most cruelty (except, of course, middle school girl cruelty and the cruelty of my own brain). And perhaps part of it is because I have struggled so much, I feel great compassion for those who are struggling too. That’s part of the reason I read blogs of those who have EDs, depression, other struggles that I have experienced. I feel enormous empathy.

It’s not sympathy. I don’t feel pity for others. I don’t look down from a place on high and think, “oh, you poor dears, you are struggling so, so much. I pity you.” Frankly, most of the time I don’t have much to say but “Yep. That shit SUCKS. I have been there too. Sorry you feel like that now.”

I honestly think the most deep part of the recovery process of my own struggle with an ED was to give myself empathy, compassion. When I fuck up, my usual response is self-loathing, anger, sadness. This has been my pattern since I was ten years old, and after acting out towards my parents, would be sent to my room and would pound my head against my pastel-painted wall to punish myself. I once dressed in shorts and a tank top and climbed out my window, barefoot, onto the roof of the garage, and stood ankle-deep in the show until my parents noticed and secured a ladder to get me down.

That doesn’t work for recovery, at least for me. I remind myself every single day that recovery is NOT “fixing it,” but rather “failing less.” That sounds tragic, but if I think of it like that, then look at my success!! Over the last three years, my greatest struggle has not been to change the eating behavior, but rather to change how I treat myself about it when it flares up. It’s not that I don’t hold myself accountable, but I allow myself room to mess up sometimes. I give myself the same empathy I give to everyone I meet.

This is not a finished struggle. It’s not something I’m even that good at. But it has changed the way I see myself totally. I am still a hard, hard worker. Still dedicated and strong. Still a good friend and an excellent actor. But I now have many colors, not just “perfect” and “not perfect.” I have the power to change my outlook, to discover what I really want and pursue it. I trust myself. I don’t feel like the world is out to get me (most of the time :)).

I slept in today because I get tired when I’m on my period. And instead of saying to myself, “What the fuck! Why are you sleeping in?! You should have been awake an hour ago!” I breathe, get up, stop worrying, and start my day. “It’s okay. It’s your body saying you need more. And you’re not breaking any plans. It’s fine. You’re awake now. Take your day. Have a great one.”