ABC ED

How old are you?

22, but I turn 23 in exactly one week. Hooray?

What is your gender?

Female.

Do you consider it possible to recover completely from an eating disorder?

Hmm. I do think it’s possible to recover in terms of symptoms– ie. not starve, not binge, not purge, normalize eating patterns. However, my experience of my ED, at least so far, is that it has changed me. I believe my ED is a symptom of my depression, and now that I’ve used this symptom to control my emotions, it will always be a tool available to me, just like self-harming, just like all these other protective measures I use to regulate myself. I don’t think I, or anyone really, can go back to exactly the way they were pre-ED.

Do you consider media (magazines, television, etc) to encourage and contribute to the spread of eating disorders?

This is a complicated question. The media does not cause EDs,no. Have I found it hard to manage gaining weight and maintaining self-confidence and integrity during recovery in a world (and a profession) where size is key? YES. It’s as though an extra layer is put on the process of recovery. I needed to weigh more than I ever had in order to get my body back into functioning mode, but it was nearly impossible to separate my pride of being where I needed to be to be healthy from the self-hatred for being above a “perfect” weight. In other words, it just worsens things, I think.

What do you think is the primary cause of an ED? If you believe that different disorders manifest differently, please specify.

To be honest, I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s the case for many of us. I believe that my ED was a manifestation of other psychological disorders in my history– bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD. It was a new method for me to self-regulate. Personally, it had NOTHING to do with how I looked or the desire to be “perfect” or “remain a child” or those other things people tell you cause EDs. I think each person is different, but like other forms of self-harm, it’s a way to keep scary emotions at bay.

Would you classify yourself as currently suffering from an eating disorder?

I tend to say I’m in recovery, or I’m recovering. That word is meaningless by itself, but to me, it means that I have all the tools in place to move forward– but it means nothing about my “success” in “beating” an ED. I still fuck up, constantly, but I feel my brain and my intentions are in the place where I am slowly, but surely, moving towards health.

Have you ever been in therapy? If so,when?

I saw a therapist as a kid, from around 8 years old to 13ish. I took a long hiatus, when I was doing “well” and my mother crowed on about how I was “fixed.” Obviously, that’s not the way it works, so I started seeing a therapist again in fall of 2009 (funnily enough, I entered into therapy, without meaning to, right in the middle of developing the restriction portion of my eating disorder. In June I called her and told her I wanted to meet, July/August was the first stages of my ED, and then I met her for the first time in Sep. Classic.)

For how long have you suffered from an eating disorder?

Summer of 2009 is when it started, so going on 3 years now. Jesus.

How would you describe your experience with therapy, if applicable?

I couldn’t really tell you what it did when I was a kid, but now I have such a strong relationship with my therapist I think it does a lot. She’s the one person on the planet who I can tell literally anything to with no repercussions. She’s also given me an entirely new language of talking about and processing my feelings. I think our work together has literally changed ways that I think. It’s a great gift.

Do you consider yourself a happy person?

Yes. However, I’m also one of the saddest people I know. Basically, I’m chemically imbalanced in every sense of the word. But I do go through my life with great wonder and joy. (my laugh/cry is legendary)

Do you share the nature of your disorder with anyone in your personal life? If so, describe this relationship.

I sent an email to about 8 of my closest friends during the deepest part of my ED, letting them know that I was struggling and working to recover. I have never talked directly to my parents about it. In the last year, I have talked about my ED (usually just the restriction part– I still find binging to be waaaaay too shameful to discuss with even my therapist) directly with two or so friends. I do not share gory details with anyone except on the internet.

Do you actively hide your disorder from anyone in your personal life? If so, please elaborate.

Not really. I don’t talk about it, never let on if I’ve binged. Sometimes I’ll say “I’m having a rough day,” if the ED has disrupted me in an extreme way. It’s not necessarily that I hide, more that I don’t volunteer information.

Are you a competitive person?

I kind of think I am. I’m not into sports or anything, but I do like to keep one step ahead of the pack. I think it’s tied to my perfectionism and my deep desire to keep everything under control.

Do you believe that you will ever overcome your ED?

Yes? I mean, it’s already been over two years I’ve been actively recovering and I still trip up all the freaking time. I hope someday I have more good days then bad, but to be honest, the recovery process has been even longer and more fraught then I ever thought it would be. If I every do “overcome” my ED, I imagine it’ll be 10+ years from now.

jesus, that’s depressing.

Flip-Flopping

I’m Idahome, and it’s nice. Weather’s fairly crummy, and my dad’s at work all day, but it’s been lovely to lounge on the couch with a book, watch a movie on an actual TV screen, and move from room to room just because I feel like it. I brought Franny, too, which is a nice distraction. Gives my family something to focus on besides each other and our “issues.”

And, yes, it’s official day two (three including travel day), but I’ve been amazingly good in terms of food. Not even an urge to binge yet, which is miraculous. And yet. Because I simply cannot be a normal human with any kind of balance, suddenly I’m freaking out.

Healthy Brain:
Last night, after brushing my teeth and heading for bed, I felt a little hungry and figured I’d have a half a cookie from downstairs. In trying to be quiet, I just took a whole small baggie of milanos (like a ziploc snack bag). And I proceeded to eat all the cookies in the bag. And you know what? Fuck it. It’s okay. I didn’t binge all day and I should just get back on the horse tomorrow and everything is fine. It’s been SO MUCH WORSE.

Crazy Brain:
Holy shit. Oh my god. I just ruined my entire day of eating well. Fuck. Get your mom’s password to her gym tomorrow. Don’t eat breakfast. They’re going to notice the cookies are gone and you’ll look like even more of a fat ass. You have ruined your entire vacation. When I woke up in the morning, I googled various exercise places in the city (even though I already have a gym and it’s fine). Gotta lose that extra paunch before Jersey. You can’t control your food at home– mom makes it and you have NEVER restricted mom’s food.

Normal Brain:
It’s vacation. Don’t go to the gym. You want to, but I have a feeling it might just make you feel worse. It’s playing into crazy brain. Make crazy brain go to the gym and leave you alone. Have a normal, healthy breakfast. Put on your comfy Gap shirt and brush your hair. Take Franny outside. Don’t think about “paunch.”

In other words… the second I stop binging, my brain turns into a restrictive monster. I LOVE EATING DISORDERS!

So I didn’t go to the gym. And I’m still freaking the fuck out about my body and how I don’t control what my mom puts in the food and how there’s dessert and wine, but I’m trying to sedate the crazy brain by saying: it’s a week. You rule the roost 2 out of 3 meals and you are not spending a cent on anything and you’re getting a massage today and you’re not going to get uncast because you weigh the same amount you weighed when you auditioned.

Let’s see how this goes.

B.

“Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you’re offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone’s feelings” 
― David Sedaris


For Better or For Worse

So far, so good.

I went to the gym this morning, my favorite class. It’s taught by this big black man named Paul, who is hilarious and warm. The usual folks at this class could be translated into a sitcom– there’s Erica, the buff white girl who dates black men, whose favorite song is “Golddigger.” There’s Hoodie Ray, buff and big, who wears hoodies and pounds some serious dumbells, silent as the day he was born. There’s Yulie from the Bronx, and Little One from Queens. There are the Jens, Jen 1 and 2, a white couple, mid-twenties, who often come to class together. There’s Cathy the Asian woman from down the block, and Big Nick, tall and gay. And I’m my own character too now, cute and silly, high voiced and enthusiastic. We play “Name that Tune” with old school beats, we answer themed questions like “What was your worst date” and then do 25 thrusters. It makes it worth it.

But I felt pretty shitty today. I saw myself in the mirror and I didn’t like what I saw. I saw a blob of white flesh, a non-descript face, puffy and pink. I saw thick thighs, emphasized by the clinging of my yoga pants. I saw an ass that blended into these thighs, plushy and fat. I saw thick, undefined arms, blurring into the white wall. I hated myself. It was unpleasant. And made me just want to be better, instantly, be perfect, with the snap of my fingers, never eat again.

Of course, that’s not the answer, and for better or for worse (for BETTER, B, it’s for BETTER), I can’t starve myself life I used to. I can’t feel hunger and not feed myself. I know that’s a really positive step. I do. But at the same time, I wish that I could do what I used to do without thinking, cutting my meals down into snack portions, a tiny portion of cereal for breakfast, plain yogurt with a third of an apple, a small bowl of salad with a splash of balsamic for lunch, a quarter serving of couscous with sauteed veggies and one tenth of a block of tofu for dinner. Tea. Water. Probably around 800 calories or less per day. It felt normal, but it wasn’t normal.

I can’t eat like that anymore. Over the last two years, my nutritionist rewove the fabric of my brain about food– noticing what’s too little, despite any ED logic to the contrary (“but I ate too much last night!” “but I just wasn’t hungry!”). And I know that eating too little just leads to eating too much. These things I KNOW.

But just because those are the facts doesn’t mean that I spend significant portions of my lifewishingbeyond belief that it were otherwise.

Wishing that I didn’t binge.
Wishing that I could “diet.”
Wishing I could stick to a firm food plan.
Wishing I could control the feeling of hunger and the feeling of fullness.
Wishing I could slice off the excess on my body and make myself lean, clean, just the core of me.

But I can’t. I can’t do it. I have to just go day by day. I have to let myself hate myself and then move on, because life doesn’t change in a day. I have to take each meal as a new challenge– a challenge I sometimes fail. I have to honor my hunger because I cannot control it. I have to find a way to love myself so that I have the strength to walk outside at all. I have to find a way to love myself because my whole life is comprised of meetings where I work to convince other people that they need me (for their play, their movie, their friend, their colleague).

It’s fucking hard, though. And I often feel like no progress has been made– that I’ve been mired in the depths of this disgusting, shameful disorder for years and years with no escape. I feel entrenched, suffocated, covered in fat and carbs and food I’ve shoved into my mouth. And I feel so angry that this happened to me, especially at this time in my career, in my life, where I NEED to be at my best, emotionally and physically.

But here I am. And I have come far.

I have talked to my friends about my feelings.
I have honored my hunger.
I have admitted when I’m at my worst, and honored it.
I have also sucked it up and ventured out when I’m at my worst.
I have never purged, no matter how many times it seems like the right idea, the solution to all of this.
I have forgiven myself, every single day.

“It isn’t easy, it doesn’t count if it’s easy, it’s the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet.” –Tony Kushner, Angels in America

__________________________________________________________________________________

Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?

Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it’s not very nice.
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching.

Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.

Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.

Harper: That’s how people change. ”

–Tony Kushner, Angels in America

oh, for the love

Hi guys.

I wrote a long post yesterday about it, but it got lost (I’m not sure I like this new wordpress).

Long story short, yesterday my best friend was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma. It’s fucking weird. My best friend has cancer.

Over the next few days we’ll be going from appointment to appointment together. Luckily I can do that and she’s allowing me to. But that also means that posting will be sporadic. It’s funny how life can change in an instant.

I had also been on a very strict diet, just to see how I’d take to it and if it would help me, but once we saw that first doctor, everything just shifted. Now my meals and life are scheduled around my rehearsals and her appointments. Suddenly my food issues seem like small potatoes. It’s kind of nice.

Also, as a PS, I got a callback for that production of Titus in Philly. I went on Tuesday and read again and met the director. I felt really good about it. We shall see.

I also filmed an audition for a Showtime pilot. Which I will never book. But which did feel good.

All right, all. Stay strong. I’ll try to be around, since it does help me, but my life is literally completely different now. My friend starts chemo on Monday. She is almost certainly curable and completely treatable, so that’s great. It’s just going to be a really, really, REALLY shitty year for her.

Love.
B

The Walking Contagion

I have bronchitis. Officially. IT SUCKS. I’m coughing up icky yellow stuff (and a lung, or so it feels like), I can’t breathe deeply, I have a nasty fever, fatigue, and no appetite. I’m fairly miserable, especially because I will have had to spend NINE DAYS in bed. Yep, this is day 7, and I’ve been ordered by my doctor to take my Zpack and stay in bed till Friday. Blerg.

Not only am I not used to being sick this long, I’m not used to staying inside this long. I’ve gotten pretty good at nice lazy weekends or long solo nights, but 9 days literally bedridden with not even enough energy to read. I’ve gone into work the last two days too, even though I’ve known it’s a bad idea, and even though my boss is out of town, because he’s paying me and there’s work to be done. I’m gonna do my best to do it from home, but lying prone with a fever and a hacking, lung-ripping cough is not the ideal work environment. I had to cancel my four ushering gigs at H2S this week because I’m supposed to stay in. I had to cancel last week too. I know it’s not my fault, but I’m not used to being unreliable. I don’t like it.

I also made the grave mistake of watching the movie Contagion. Guess what the first symptoms are? Yup, a cough. And a fever. Oh, and then they all have seizures and foam at the mouth and die. And it’s passed on by simple contact– I use a glass and the busser clears it. I hold the subway pole and then you do. I cough near you and you DIE. I literally feel like a walking Contagion. It’s not so great for the self-esteem. People aren’t pleased when you’re ill near them.

All right, gonna go back to lying on my side and hacking up infectious diseases.

B.

Cough Cough Sneeze Sneeze

Blerg. I’m sick again.

Last night, I had a 2hr audition for the company that belongs to one of my college professors. It was like a “mini” one of their weekly training sessions– because most of the founding members met at Columbia’s MFA program under Anne Bogart (esteemed director), they have a shared system of group training which involves Viewpoints, Pilates, Linklater, Physiques, Grotowski, and Suzuki. It’s all high energy, highly physical, heightened text stuff. Four of my friends from school were also there, plus a bunch of randos. It was all stuff that I’ve done before, but not since sophomore year of college. It was super humid in the rehearsal space, so I was disgustingly sweaty by the end.

On the way home, I felt exhausted. I thought maybe it was that I was already sore from ballet, or tired from the gym that morning, or hadn’t had enough protein or something. Even by the time I got home, I felt completely massacred. I’d noticed a bit of a cough, but didn’t think much of it.

Whelp, good morning fever. SUCH a blerg. I went to therapy, and felt really irritated because I felt like such shit. Then I did my weekly grocery run at TJ’s and headed home. I really need to do laundry, but it ain’t happening.

When I’m sick, I find myself fall back into negative eating patterns. Just like my emotional feelings effect physical sensations, feeling physically ill leads to emotional responses which, for me, leads to screwy eating. Which obviously doesn’t make me feel better.

So now I’m watching bad TV and hoping to get better. I was going to go to a double-header open call in the morning, but I was already reconsidering before I started feeling bad (it’s useless to go to an open call if I feel I won’t be seen), so I won’t. Auditions like that make me hate the business. If you’re not union, you wait around for HOURS to get seen by assistants usually. If you don’t have an agent, you can’t get a private audition, which is really the only way to get parts. I really, really need my union card ASAP if I’m going to keep functioning in this city. I also really need an agent. But that’s a mission for another moment, and I really need to not stress out about it. PERIOD.

Oh, and I got a callback on Saturday. I wish I had a callback for something else, but. C’est la vie.

I hope everyone out in the world is feeling better than I am.

Love.
B

“If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way to make life more bearable.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country