Finding Gratitude for all the Things That Got Me to Rock Bottom

Everyone keeps asking me what my aha moment was. To write this blog, to start living, to start healing, to re-surface.

I don’t believe that my “aha” moment was this big bolt of lightning that struck me on my way to Schmackary’s for my second red velvet cookie of the day. No one gave me the “aha” moment in a gift-wrapped bag. No quote on Pinterest inspired it.

It was sort of just, another little moment in time, just like the rest of my previous moments in time, that was way more profound than all the others.

Sometimes, your moments have to lead you to a very dark place before the next moment can come along and change everything.

And my God, have I had quite a variety of little moments that have added up over the years.

So I think I want to explain the timeline of my personal little moments, in hopes that it will inspire you to turn around and think about your own. I actually wrote this timeline on August 1st, 2013, on my six hour plane ride from Phoenix, Arizona to Honolulu, Hawaii. I have all sorts of documents on this computer of mine, meant for blog posts at a later date, and this one hasn’t seemed appropriate until now. Because, as I begin to retrace my own steps with my beloved Geneen Roth books, since I’ve been finding myself sneaking entire bags of mint milano cookies (Karen Walker’s favorite!) during momentary setbacks this week, I feel that now is the best time to share what got me to this point.

I hope that this week’s post helps those who are looking for answers, or looking for someone to relate to. And if you yourself don’t need this help, I hope it invokes empathy in you for someone you love who may be stuggling with similar timeline events to mine. As unbelievably therapeutic, and occasionally hilarious this was for me to write, I encourage you, my strong, courageous, ferocious readers, to consider doing the same for yourself. It’s okay to embrace our funny and sad and ironic and amazing pasts so that we can learn from them, find gratitude for them, and then look to the future with hope. Because remember, my friends: all the little moments, the teeniest, tiniest of moments, have added up in their own unique ways to get all of us to right here, where we are right now.

Ladies and gentlemen, a story.

Once upon a time and all that jazz, sometime around the age of 18, a girl found herself in a land called Rock Bottom. Girl has never been quite sure how she got there, but all of a sudden, it was her new home. A home that she didn’t feel at home in.

Girl had freckles, blue eyes, unmanageable curly hair, and a tiny indent of a scar on the very tip of her nose from a chicken pox scab that she scratched when she was 4. She started dancing when she was three years old, around the time that she learned how to sing “Ten Little Angels” in church. She grew up riding forewheelers and horses in Pennsylvania. She always loved the winter because it meant hot chocolate and sledding on huge hills on her grandfather’s farm with her cousins.

Through many series of events, girl came to love food. The comfort of it. The memories it could bring back to life. The holes that it filled during times of confusion, loneliness, insecurity, emptiness.

Without her realizing it, a lot of moments in Girl’s life led her to her new home in Rock Bottom. Some of it was growing up in a dance studio, comparing herself to the other prettier, skinnier, more talented girls in full length mirrors every day. Some of it was being a band nerd instead of a cheerleader. Some of it was dating a gay man who didn’t know he was gay. Some of it was just part of growing up.

When Girl arrived in Rock Bottom, she knew that it was a place she wanted to leave immediately. So for the next six years, she came and went a lot. No really, like, a lot.

First, she went to college. For musical theatre. Some might say that was the first mistake. Looking back, it really was just all part of the journey.

She left Rock Bottom with a suitcase packed with t-shirts from every show she ever did, Abercrombie & Fitch tank tops that were too tight and too short in the stomach, pink tips at the bottom of her waist-length hair, and a broken heart. Not only did she get rejected from NYU’s Cap21 Musical Theatre program, she was dumped by her high school boyfriend that you met in Blog Post 5. So she arrived in Winchester, Virginia at Shenandoah University in August 2005, where she hung her dance pictures (aka cut-outs from ballet calendars, thank you for your time) on her closet door and decked out her entire side of the dorm room in Little Mermaid garb. Basically, Girl was nailing it. In every way.

While at Shenandoah, she discovered she couldn’t sing well enough to be in the fall musical, Sweeney Todd. So, she decided that the spring musical – the tap-dancing, showgirl-packed The Will Roger’s Follies – would definitely be where she would get her chance to shine.

Too bad there were five months in there to steal pie from the dessert bar in the cafeteria. Too bad there were no parents around to tell her not to eat peanut butter out of the jar. Too bad she discovered her tolerance for Natty Light straight from the keg.

Too bad that by the time auditions for The Will Roger’s Follies rolled around, she weighed 189 pounds. Showgirls do not weigh 189 pounds. Girl did not get a chance to shine once while at Shenandoah. Too bad, so sad.

Somewhere in there she talked to her friend Christine from high school and found out about AMDA – The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. It was a two year musical theatre program in New York City. It was her ticket out of Virginia. And after all, she really only ever wanted to be in New York City. This was it. It felt right.

So, after just one year, she left her friends and her chance at a four-year college experience at Shenandoah behind.

Just want to throw in there the near-death car accident Girl had on July 8th, 2006 which made her immobile for most of the summer before her transfer to AMDA – helping her maintain the 189 pounds with flying colors.

Girl moved to New York City in October of 2006. AMDA happened. It was great, at the time, for what it was. Are there things that could have been better? Absolutely. Were there teachers who promoted staying fit in order to make it in the business? Yes. Did Girl take those teachers seriously? Yes. Could Girl control her binge-eating, knowing that if she could stop binging she had a better chance at being cast? She tried. She really tried you guys. But no.

At this point, Girl had done Weight Watchers twice – once after her car accident and once during her second semester at AMDA in 2007. Full out, no marking, Weight Watchers program. Tracking points, losing 25 pounds, keeping it off for a hot minute, and binging it back on in a matter of days.

Girl was struggling. Trying. Trying. Boy, did that bitch try to keep that weight off.

Graduation came. There Girl was. Freshly 21. Freshly graduated. Freshly clueless. In New York City.

Over the next few years, she made frequent trips back to Rock Bottom but always left as soon as she had the chance. She was given a lot of opportunity to run away from Rock Bottom and she always, ALWAYS, took the opportunity. But she also, always returned to it. She was always so unclear on how she got there to start with, but at some point, it just became her permanent home base.

Life after AMDA looked like this:

May 25th, 2008: Girl graduates from AMDA. 160 pounds. This is fifteen pounds heavier than she was two months before when she auditioned for her senior showcase.

May 26th, 2008: Girl says good-bye to her best girlfriend from AMDA who goes home to New Jersey for the summer…and stays there.

May 27th, 2008: Girl starts bartending at Broadway theatres for survival job. Pounds are being gained.

July 2008: Girl and fellow AMDA alumni start talking about doing an all AMDA-alum production in the city.

August 2008: Girl gets drunk and meets the chef from Peru, who we shall call, The Little One, who strung her along for a year and a half.

September 2008: Girl starts working at Jake’s Dilemma, a frat-boy bar on the Upper West Side of NYC. Girl continues going home with The Little One after working all night. She also starts rehearsals for the AMDA-alum production. Pounds are being gained. Cigarettes are being smoked. Beer is becoming a staple.

October 2008: Girl, age 21 at this point, produces and choreographs Lucky Stiff in Times Square, and forms a non-profit theatre company while cocktail waitressing and trying not to piss off every friend she’s ever made with her insane mood swings and binge-drinking. What the fuck? Too much stress. Too much stress.

November 2008: Girl starts guest bartending at McFadden’s (Douchebag Central, 42nd Street and 2nd) and Turtle Bay (Douchbag Central Overflow, 51st and 2nd).

January 2009: Girl starts working at Equinox Fitness at the spa in order to get a free gym membership. 170 pounds.

Sometime in 2009: Girl’s only female cousin gets engaged.

Sometime in 2009: Girl realizes she has to sing in front of people in a bridesmaid dress. Girl gets a personal trainer through Equinox. Girl drinks a lot of Carnation Instant Breakfast and eats a lot of tomatoes with salt and pepper.

June 2009: Girl gets a sweet job working at Poco, a new restaurant downtown in the east village. Spanish tapas. Sweet, specialty cocktails. Pounds are gained.

August 2009: Girl is making so much money as a waitress and bartender. Auditions? What auditions?

Labor Day Weekend 2009: The Little One fucks up royally and girl finally cuts him out of her life before heading to New Jersey to visit previously mentioned girlfriend who was bestie at AMDA.

Labor Day Weekend 2009 continued: While visiting best girlfriend in New Jersey, Girl sleeps with the man she will proceed to date for the next two and a half years. His name in this blog is New Jersey. I know. The cleverness.

October 2009: Girl continues working at Poco. New Jersey comes to visit a few weekends and between that and a lot of phone dates they decide they are official. Cousin’s wedding comes and goes. 160 pounds. The thinnest Girl has been since March of 2008.

October 31st, 2009: New Jersey tells Girl he loves her.

Thanksgiving, 2009: New Jersey meets Girl’s family for the first time.

January 1st, 2010: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the third time.

Audition season, 2010: Girl gets called back for everything she auditions for. She is still working with personal trainer. She gives up her mild attempt at following Weight Watchers and just eats 1100 calories a day. And a lot of Splenda. She weighs 148 pounds and she is ripped.

May 2010, right before Girl’s mother’s birthday: Girl books her first professional gig at an Equity theatre. Damn Yankees. Happy birthday, Mom.

Night after booking first professional job: Girl starts a two week binge period that takes her weight from 148 to 157 in mere days.

June 2010: Girl goes to get measurements done for her Damn Yankees costumes. She tells the girls (who are dear, dear friends now) that she has just returned from vacation and they should take an inch off of all the measurements because she never weighs this much. Girl was lying.

July 2010: Girl starts rehearsals for Damn Yankees AND moves apartments during tech. Strong life choices.

August 2010: Girl closes Damn Yankees and goes to live with New Jersey for a month while doing next professional job – Anything Goes. She arrives for the first day of rehearsal 15 pounds heavier than when she auditioned. New Jersey does not ever want to have sex.

October 2010: Girl is sitting on the couch eating a pint of blueberry ice cream and gets a call that she booked Mame in Florida.

November 2010: Girl finds out New Jersey has a porn addiction. Girl drinks a lot of alcohol and looks at herself in the mirror naked a lot.

December 2010: Girl goes to Florida. Rehearses for Mame. Keeps porn addicted boyfriend a secret until halfway through the contract. Meets some of her best friends in life.

February 2011: Girl returns to New York from Florida.

March 2011: Girl goes to upstate New York to play Fraulein Kost in Cabaret. Costume designer is disgusted by how curvy all the women in the show are. Costume designer makes sarcastic comments about the size of corset all the Kit Kat girls need.

May 2011: Girl returns to same theatre to dance captain Crazy For You. Cheats on New Jersey. Dates new guy from contract. Weighs 170 pounds.

June 2011: Girl breaks things off with new guy. Girl is a total asshole about the breaking off. Girl is confused. Girl is fat. Girl can’t book any jobs because she is fat and she is a dancer and there are no fat dancers in 42nd Street.

July 2011: Girl starts talking to New Jersey again.

August 2011: Girl bartends the US Open. So. Much. Grey Goose.

September 11th, 2011: Girl moves to New Jersey to be with New Jersey for three months. Understudies a role at a theatre near his house for Equity points.

September 29th, 2011: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the 4th and final time.

December 6th, 2011: Girl gets new headshots at 155 pounds.

January 1st, 2012: Girl and New Jersey break up. For the last time. It’s really over.

February, 2012: Girl is nailing it and weighs in at Weight Watchers at 143 pounds. Girl is doing an off-Broadway show. Forty-eight of Girl’s friends come to see the show. A rich guy starts courting Girl and turns her life around, or so it seems, for two months. Life is good.

February 19th, 2012, 1pm: Girl receives an offer for How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in Hilton Head, SC.

February 19th, 2012, 10pm: Girl starts a two week binge that just, never ends, that gets her up to 150 pounds by the time she leaves for Hilton Head on April 2nd.

April 2nd, 2012: Girl goes to Hilton Head at 152 pounds. Battles a ten pound window for most of the contract. Living with boys doesn’t help.

Two hours before invited dress rehearsal on April 24th: Rich dude tells Girl he’s not in love with her and cuts all contact. Fries are ordered. Ice cream is inhaled.

Beginning of May, 2012: Girl finds out she booked another contract, George M!, immediately following this current one. Only thing is, she auditioned for it at 12 pounds lighter than she is now. Now what?

May 22nd, 2012: Girl cuts out sugar, carbs, and alcohol for the last week of her Hilton Head contract in order to drop weight quickly for her next contract.

May 28th, 2012: Girl starts rehearsals for George M! and tries not to let anyone see her eat. Ever.

Sometime in May, 2012: Girl starts sleeping with a man who is in a relationship.

July 1st, 2012: Contract ends. Girl orders Bareburger delivery a lot. Continues sleeping with taken man. Gains back all weight she lost during contract.

August 15th, 2012: Girl meets Stallion. The man who will distract her from her depression, binging, and anxiety for the next 8 months.

August 15th, 2012 – March 12th, 2013: Life happens. But Stallion is in it. Life is like, kind of good. Girl choreographs two shows. Does Les Miserables in Illinois. Eats ice cream out of half gallon containers with Stallion.

March 12th – March 22nd, 2013: Stallion says he needs a break. Girl doesn’t eat. Girl wants to look fierce when they have the final “talk”.

March 22nd, 2013: Stallion admits to being depressed and emotionally unavailable. Girl looks fierce though. 150 pounds. The relationship ends.

March 28th, 2013: Girl’s birthday. Single. Unemployed. Many croissants are eaten.

April 2013: Out of all the callbacks Girl has in 2013, nada one works out.

April 14th, 2013: Girl looks great. Hasn’t been eating carbs or sugar. Goes to pick up things she left at Stallion’s house.

April 15th, 2013: The worst of the binging over the years begins.

Beginning of May 2013: Girl returns to Rock Bottom. And stays. Lays there in her gray little bed. Looking at her gray little ceiling. Pretzel crumbs on one side. A Yeungling bottle on the nightstand. Many a “not feeling well, can’t make it to your party/thing/birthday/lunch/housewarming tonight” text is sent.

May 9th, 2013: Girl goes to see her friend, Rachel. Rachel gives her two books, including Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love.

May 10th, 2013: Girl goes home for Mother’s Day and brother’s graduation from college. Brother graduates with a degree in Landscape Architecture. Girl feels really great about her Associate’s Degree in Musical Theatre.

May 12th, 2013 at 1pm: Girl starts reading When Food Is Love on a bus back to New York City after brother’s graduation.

May 12th, 2013 at 5pm: Life is changed forever.

The story doesn’t end there. The story, this story, my story that you read every week, actually started there. A new, difficult, eye-opening story began there. Somewhere between May 12th, 2013 and May 31st, 2013, it all started happening. The calling Renfrew Center and the eating disorder diagnosis, the taking it all in and accepting and sharing of the news with friends and family, some friends being weird about it – some friends being awesome about it – some friends only finding out months later via the blog, the application and the acceptance to volunteer in Hawaii, and, the decision to share it all on the internet, with you.

I’ve had so many moments that have led me to my “aha” moment that are not the obvious. I listed pretty many of them for you.

I’d say, that there wouldn’t have been an “aha” moment without all the little moments leading up to Rachel handing me that book. I had to really be in a place where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet anymore in order for that book to speak to me.

When I opened that book, and realized that all these years, my binging was not a personal flaw, everything changed. I was using food as a drug and I had no idea. I always thought I was just really weak and had no self control and just didn’t want to be on Broadway bad enough to give up ice cream cake forever.

Sometimes, your “aha” moment will come when you least expect it. In Weight Watchers meetings, ironically enough, they ask new members what their “aha” moment was. Some ladies say it was seeing a picture at their son’s high school graduation and seeing how wide their hips were. Some say it was when they found themselves binging on their kid’s after school snacks while making dinner for the family. Some say that their doctor told them they needed to lose weight or face serious health issues for the rest of their lives.

I guess I didn’t realize that all these years, I didn’t have to be doing Weight Watchers to have an “aha” moment. Because this “aha” moment for me, in May of 2013, was the most important of them all, and it took place on a dirty bus on a Sunday afternoon coming into Port Authority after a weekend at home in PA.

I just want to say, that I think that it’s okay for us to embrace every little moment, no matter how small and trivial, with love and acceptance. Because all of those small moments make up our life. They are what makes each of our journeys unique to us. And without the shitty moments, the great moments wouldn’t stand out so much, don’t you agree?

I don’t really know what I’m doing. One day I want to choreograph, one day I want to write music, one day I want to keep Nutella in the house, one day I’m terrified of walking down the grocery aisle that even holds the Nutella, one day I want to be a vegan, one day I want to move back to New York even though there’s two feet of snow, one day I want to open a theatre in Hawaii. I am constantly changing my mind. I cry a lot. I laugh a lot. I drink too much coffee. I confuse my boyfriend constantly. But if I look back at my past, which half of my self-help books completely ban, I am reminded that I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve changed my mind or I’ve been utterly confused. Where I’ve drank too much and where I’ve made, ahem, interesting, decisions. But I’ve still landed on my feet.

I might be 178 pounds at the moment. I might not be a showgirl at the moment. But I’m learning from my mistakes, and I’m recording them so I can look back on them when I need reminding. I’m alive and breathing. I can stop at one beer. I can keep chocolate chips in the house for over two months. And at 26, approaching 27, after a year of frightening health scares and depressive periods that scared my nearest and dearest, I’m thankful to be here – not just surviving – but learning, growing, living, loving, crying, laughing, and recovering, one day at a time.

May your personal timeline reveal to you what you need to see, learn, or revisit at this moment in your life. May your personal journal entries and recorded moments inspire you to embrace your mistakes and your successes, your gains and your losses, your failures and your lessons. I said it once, I said it twice, I’ll say it again and again – we all have our shit, dude, and that’s why we have to keep spreading the love to each other. We’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and we got this.

Peace, love, and aloha.

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How I Learned To Go From Bitchy To Bad-Ass In 10 Minutes

You know all those Pinterest memes that say things like, “You’ll never feel worse after a workout” or “I’ve never regretted tying my sneakers”?

I see them and I’m like, yes, YES, yes, that’s so true, I’m just gonna sit here in my sweats and look at raw black bean brownie recipes that I’m probably never going to try for five more minutes and THEN, oh boy, and THEN, I’m going for like, the longest walk ever. Like a two hour walk for sure. For SURE.

It’s two weeks later and I’m still looking at the same recipes in my sweats. So…

Until this morning at 8:30am, I hadn’t moved my body for two weeks.

And I was a bitch.

Seriously. Moody, depressed, down, and quite sloth-like.

My boyfriend expresses how lucky he felt to be in my presence here:

“…………………………………………………………………………………………..”

Yea, that’s silence.

People, I’m telling you, I’ve been a bitch. I felt like a beached whale having a love affair with my own self-pity.

The thing is, I know exercise will make me feel better. I do. I know. But still, something keeps me from getting up and moving. Quite frankly, a two hour walk plus 45 minutes of Tony Horton yelling at me through my MacBook sounds awful when I could just have a date with a Law and Order SVU marathon.

For some reason, I can read the magazines and I can scroll the blogs that all tell me just ten minutes of exercise a day are enough – enough to get my blood moving, to get my brain working, to get my spirits up – but I just, don’t feel like it.

I know ten minutes a day are better than no minutes a day, but I talk myself out if it.

I mean, come on – I feel like if I’m going to do ten minutes, then I might as well do twenty, and someone once told me that a gym visit is worthless unless you are active for a full thirty-five minutes, and if I’m gonna do thirty-five then I might as well do a forty-five minute workout video, and since I’m already sweaty I might as well also go for a run and do extra squats.

I end up completely ignoring the entire “ten minutes a day is better than no minutes a day” concept because I get overwhelmed by what I should be doing, since I haven’t been doing enough prior to today.

First of all – what defines “enough”?

And second of all, the word “should” needs to be cut out of the English language.

It’s the leading cause of anxiety, unnecessary naps, and mother-daughter drama.

What’s my point here today?

I went to the dance studio this morning and taught four classes in a row – including a fitness class that kicked my OWN ass – and I feel like I could run for President.

Within the first ten minutes of moving and grooving in my classes this morning, I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt giddy and warm. And fit. And STRONG.

Oh, and, really happy.

And I find myself at home now, sweaty and thirsty, asking, why the hell do my walks have to be so long? Why does my workout video selection have to be Tony Horton calling me a pussy?

What is wrong with a fifteen minute walk or a twenty minute yoga video?

When, oh when, did I train my brain to believe that that exercise is all or nothing?

Probably when I trained myself to believe that FOOD is all or nothing.

See, I used to eat breakfast and if it was a healthy breakfast, I’d have a great day of following my WeightWatcher points and working out and avoiding “bad” stuff.

But if I splurged on the french toast, I would say “fuck” it the the rest of the day.

The all or nothing plague. I developed it quite young.

Why do we do that with exercise too?

I’m just saying, maybe it doesn’t have to be a two hour walk. Maybe it just needs to be a nine minute walk – enough time to listen to “Love On Top” twice in a row.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be an hour of P90X. Maybe it can be an hour of Law & Order SVU, doing push-ups and squats on the commercial breaks, and planking whenever Olivia and Elliot question a perp (normally a good 60-90 seconds).

Maybe it doesn’t have to be a dance cardio step class followed by pilates followed by spin class followed by a green smoothie followed by a walk home. Maybe it can just be a twenty minute Zumba work-out on a laptop.

I offer up these “maybe’s” in hopes that I’ll start following my own advice as well.

Like many women, I have this notion in my head that working out will change everything. Like if I start working out, my calories will automatically jump into the right numbers and my fat will be right and I will be fit and in shape and bikini worthy.

So I try to do it all at once. All the videos, all the yoga, all the classes, all the marathons, all the push-ups. I push myself until I wear myself out, and crawl under the covers, and stay in bed until my lost and confused inner voice craves ice cream.

I don’t follow my own advice when it comes to baby steps.

So hey beautiful, I’m putting this out there this week.

Why don’t we go back to basics, together, and break down what we know.

First of all, exercise is good for the heart, the muscles, the immune system, and the soul.

Second of all, exercise is amazing for morale, more amazing at flushing toxins from the body, and even more amazing for letting off steam.

Movement and exercise helps to fend off depression, to alleviate body aches and pains, and to calm down anxiety.

And, and, AND… it increases libido, releases endorphines, and improves sex life.

Obviously, one of the most awesome side effects to exercise is the whole, losing weight thing.

But what if we thought about all the other “side effects”, hello, like the sex and the happy endorphins that are released, instead of always shooting for that end goal of losing weight?

And what if we took the “ten minutes a day keeps the doctor away” approach with our exercise?

I immediately feel less overwhelmed by all the cardio, weight lifting, barre fitness, and TRX that I “should” be doing if I just accept that I can’t do it all today.

I can only do what I can do today – and if that’s ten minutes, it’s better than nothing.

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My wish for 2014 is for us to fall in love with the way we feel inside our bodies. And I think this whole ten minutes a day thing, is a way to do that.

Because for the past two weeks, I felt disgusting. I felt like a large blob with very sad organs working on overtime to slowly turn all the sugar I was inhaling into some sort of fuel source. And when my body finally figured out how to break down the fudge mint cookies and the banana bread I ingested, I wasn’t in the right state of mind to use what little fuel those baked goods provided me.

However right now, after a rather creative smoothie combo for breakfast and four hours of teaching fitness, lyrical, tap, and jazz to adults, I feel like I could paddleboard to LA and back. I’m on fire.

It comes down to the movement, dude.

It comes down to doing what we can.

It comes down to treating ourselves to ten minutes of movement because it makes us feel great, instead of forcing ourselves to ten minutes of movement to work off the calories from this morning.

If we can slowly, slowly but surely, switch our way of thinking, maybe exercise will become a habit that’s a part of our day.

Just like when we forget our multi-vitamin or we don’t have enough coffee and we can feel the difference, maybe we can train ourselves to put exercise on the list of “necessities” in our daily life.

And when we aren’t beating ourselves up about skipping Ab Ripper X for the past, oh I don’t know, three and a half years, maybe we can take a moment to give ourselves credit for the ten minute walk we took around the block this morning when we had a break from conference calls and email blasts.

Are you with me?

Let’s give it a go.

Ten minutes a day every day this week.

If it turns into a half hour, so be it.

If it turns into two ten minute segments a day, I won’t tell anyone.

It’s between you and your morale. You and your body. You and your intuition.

I’m just here trying to figure it all out at the same time.

Baby step by baby step.

Ten minutes a day.

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And that’s advice we can ALL take to heart, am I right?

Next week’s posting:

An Untitled Epic Must-Read – definitely stay tuned!


The Power of Friendship in Eating Disorder Awareness

On a Thursday in May, my friend Christina called me to check on me.

Christina and I go way back. She knows a lot about me.

She knew I was in rough shape. Homegirl’s got instincts.

I didn’t book a job for the summer. First time since 2010.

I didn’t have a boyfriend. First time since 2009.

I was not aware that I have always used both those of things as my sole source of happiness.

Without a gig or a man, I didn’t have anything to distract me from my depression.

And when all my friends left for the summer to go to their summerstock gigs and their medical school residencies and their teaching jobs in LA, I was left here alone. Single. Unemployed. Unmotivated. And seriously bingeing.

On that Thursday when Christina called, she talked to me for an hour, giving me this clarity that no one has ever given to me before. She basically slapped me in the face with this awareness – I have always found my joy in a performing job or in a boyfriend. I’ve never figured out how to find the joy in just, living life.

I had never really been aware that this was a real issue for me. Until she explained it quite simply in common language and decorative curse words.

It was one of the first “aha!” moments that I had in my journey. It was a spark that helped start the fire under my ass to find help and figure my shit out.

When we got off the phone that day, she texted this picture to me.

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Ladies and gentleman, this post is about how friendship, and sometimes the lack thereof, can change your life.

I mentioned in last week’s post that eating is a very social activity.

Okay, for me, it’s a VERY fucking social activity.

I live in New York City.

When I want to hang out with my best friend who lives in Astoria, but I live in Washington Heights, and I have no idea how to use the M60 bus, we’re probably just going to meet in midtown for lunch. Or dinner. Or drinks. Or brunch. Because neither one of us wants to transfer trains and go alllllll the way to the other’s neighborhood.

Dude, food keeps friendships alive in this town.

That being said, let me just fill you in on what happened when the five closest people who I socially eat with THE MOST, peaced out of my life for a few months. These five people are my best friends. The people with whom I spend the majority of my time. My inner circle. The people that I text “good morning” to when I wake up at 2 in the afternoon.

We all have these people in our lives. All five of MY people just happened to leave the city for different jobs in different places at the EXACT SAME TIME.

So they leave. I’m here alone. Now what?

Well, I cried a bit. I drank a bit. I ate a SHIT ton of cookies ‘n’ cream with chocolate sprinkles.

And then I hit rock bottom.

Rock bottom was always looming in the distance. But up until my inner circle of friends left the city in May, I was able to distract myself by spending all of my free time with them – socially eating and socially drinking – and keeping my binging a secret.

I should clarify something. I have a lot of wonderful friends in this city. I wasn’t literally “left alone”. But in my world, everyone is coming and going all the time. There is a natural ebb and flow that occurs when working in a big city, and in a business that takes people all over the country at any given time. So friendships are constantly shifting. I become closer to certain people during certain times in life, and although it always seems to be exactly what I need in the end, I don’t recognize the positivity of the situation when it’s happening to me. And I do believe that the coming and going of friends in this life is a beautiful thing. But everyone has their core group of people that they go to no matter where they are on the map.

Point being, when dealing with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I tend to hibernate. I retract from the people outside of my inner circle. I fall off the radar, if you will.

I ended up very alone, on my own accord.

During this awful, alone time, my friend Rachel was moving out of her apartment and clearing clutter. She gave me a book to read. This was the first of many books that helped me begin a very slow ascent back to sanity, happiness, and awareness. Rachel gave me a tool that has changed my life forever.

Granted, even with that first book, and the love of my friends, I have had to struggle through a very dark, low time before finding energy to take that first step toward freedom.

But eventually, I just, started to do it. One foot in front of the other. Melissa – one of those five best friends currently out of town – always says to me, “baby steps”. It is absolutely my favorite mantra right now.

Baby steps.

I tell you all this, because in addition to my friend Rachel looking at me ten weeks ago and handing me that book with a fierce determination in her eyes, a very large part of my recovery as a binge-eater came in the past few weeks when all of my best friends were out of town performing at regional theatres.

I mean, my friends haven’t been around to hit up Brother Jimmy’s on a Thursday night. They haven’t been here to order Domino’s and stress-eat through yet another tragic episode of SMASH. Nor have they been here to go for a run across the GWB, and then stop on the way home to grab a half-gallon of Breyer’s Peach ice cream (seriously? peach?) and a six-pack of Shocktop to have for dinner.

Basically, unless I wanted to take some picklebacks on my own, I wasn’t going out as much as I used to while my nearest and dearest were out of town.

So I stayed home. And read. And faced my shit.

I cried. I binged. I read some more. I cried. I binged. I kept on reading. Writing. Praying. Reading more. I cried every day. And then…one day, I binged a little less. And a little less. And a little less.

Baby steps.

I had to face my shit, figure out how to fight through it, and come out alive. All by myself.

My closest friends and I agree, that the alone time I’ve had in the past few weeks, has actually been the best thing that could have ever happened for me.

Everything happens for a reason. Their timing was perfect.

I want to take an opportunity to say that thoughout this process, my friends, both in town and out of town, have offered me multitudes of encouragement and love.

I know that for years, it has broken their hearts to see me hurting because of the way my weight controls my entire life.

For years, they watched my mood change when the numbers on the scale went up and down.

For years, they looked at me with confusion on their faces when I abruptly got up and left social gatherings. They had no idea that I was leaving to go get food to take home with me for a binge. They never knew what was going on. It was just typical me – flaking on plans again.

For years, they listened to me turn down the Trader Joe’s Sea Salt Caramel bar that they keep in their kitchen cabinet for me for when I have a “chocolate attack”. And for years, they never said one judgemental word when eventually I gave in, ate the whole bar in one sitting, and bitched about it the rest of the night.

My friends do not give a SHIT what I weigh. Or what I eat. They just, love me. For being me.

If I could see myself through their eyes, I would beat myself up so much less and love myself so much more.

I’m willing to bet that your friends don’t give a shit what you weigh either. They just fucking love you.

Ladies and gentleman, when your friends look at you, I bet they see a lot of things that you don’t see in the mirror every morning. They see your grace. Your humor. Your ability to solve problems. Your loyalty. Your wit. Your compassion.

But that’s not something that they will always remember to tell you.

Sometimes, we just forget to tell our friends that they are funny, intelligent, warm, talented, creative, hard-working, and amazing.

I feel like it’s not very common for people to go walking around, reminding their friends of how wonderful they are. Sure, friends will compliment a trendy bracelet, a new haircut, a fierce pair of shoes. But complimenting personality traits, or the things that make us who we are – no matter what our weight is and no matter what color our hair is at the moment – is not really a thing.

So…let’s make it make it a thing.

Seriously, what would happen if we all started telling our friends how fucking awesome they are?

And while we’re at it, let’s just go balls to the wall and tell our friends how fucking gorgeous they are. Whether your friend is skinnier than they want to be or they are heavier than they want to be, tell them how beautiful they are, whenever you can.

There’s nothing like that rush of surprise that you feel when your best friend tells you that you look hot.

I believe that the moral of my story is, give your friends a little extra love this week.

A compliment from a friend is unexpected, and special, and goes a really long way.

I, for one, am extremely lucky to have the most loving, compassionate people as my best friends. They tell me I’m beautiful when I’m in pin curls. After I wash my make-up off. At a hungover brunch the day after an opening night party. And never once, has my weight affected the way they love me.

Never forget that the same applies to you and your friendships too.

The number on the scale is never going to make your best friends love you any less.

Hey. Hey YOU. Did you hear that?

The number on the scale is NEVER going to make your best friends love you any less.

Have a great week with your friends 🙂


How Dating A Gay Man Shaped My Twenties

Glitter and Be Gay: A Blog Post

Living With Men Who Love Us, But Do Not LOVE Us

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There are a lot of women in this business who have grown up around gay men. We danced with them. Teched shows with them. Helped them come out of the closet when we were in high school with them. We went to college with them, had them over for holidays, brought them on family vacations. And now they are our roommates and dates to weddings and best friends. We love them like they are family.

We are not meant to date them.

However.

Sometimes, when we are all young, these same men haven’t figured out how to open the closet door to a happy, healthy, open life. And sometimes, they are well on their way to figuring it out, but they aren’t ready to open that door yet. And to this day, some of them are still not ready. And they are still trying to take us out on dates.

Our vision of straight men become real skewed in this biz. In college, we eyeball the straight dudes in any of the performing arts majors and then slowly, one by one, watch the majority of them come out of the closet. Depending on where you went to college, if there’s not a lot of straight options, you latch onto whatever option there is. Then, you automatically assume you need to keep his ass on a leash, because this could be your only chance at love for the rest of your time on this earth. And all of a sudden, you’re dating assholes, arrogant lacrosse players, and boring dudes just because they are straight.

DANGER DANGER.

This is not going to end well.

Over the years, these crazy things start taking place when we meet straight men because we aren’t used to having them around. We start dating men who are already spoken for, men with porn addictions, and men we meet while cocktail waitressing (which for your information, is not really dating. It’s more like, they just come to see you at work and take you home afterwards. But whatever, sometimes, when you’re 21, that’s good enough.) We allow all these men into our lives because we are hungry for the attention we are not getting from the gay men surrounding us every day. We will take the attention with whatever consequences it comes with, even if it’s keeping our relationship with our bar manager a secret, or it means we are traveling to the Bronx for a good lay. And I think a lot of it stems from feeling unwanted by the closest men to us in our life, who just happen to be gay.

It’s a special life that we lead. We are so loved by these gay men in our lives. They care for us. They hold us when we cry. They tell us to dress up and take us to dinner. They help us pick out beautiful Christmas gifts (and Hannakuh gifts!) for our mothers. The listen to us bitch, they make us laugh until our bellies hurt, and they tell us we are beautiful even at the most hungover brunches. They take us for drinks when we are in over our heads and they tell us we deserve better. But at the end of the night, after a wonderful day or a delicious dinner, we go home alone. Because although they love us, they do not LOVE us, or want us, or crave us in any other way beyond friendship.

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A few years ago, while living with one of these special gay men who cared for me, lived with me, and helped me dress fabulously for first dates, my ex-boyfriend came up.

I don’t know if any girl is ever ready to hear about her ex-boyfriend’s college sexcapades with a man.

But, ready or not, I learned about them over a casual pitcher of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat in 2009. You see, four years after a heartbreaking split with my first love, I was living with one of the first men that my ex-boyfriend slept with. There we were – smack dab in the middle of 109th Street, two blocks west of Central Park – a man and a woman who had slept with the same man.

Only, truth be told, he got farther with the ex than I ever did.

Look, I wasn’t surprised. I always suspected. I was always teased in high school about dating him. But to finally hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, was so freeing. I was so thankful to know that it wasn’t my fault.

Turns out, it wasn’t my fault that he didn’t want to hang out every day after school like every other couple did. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t want to touch me under the covers when we watched a movie on the couch. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t call me every day when he went away to college. He didn’t want me. He didn’t miss me. But not because I was me. Turns out, he had his own shit to figure out.

He was gay. All that time, he was gay.

But I didn’t know that. For sure. Until four years later.

The newfound closure that came with that Cherry Wheat, came four years after the fact. And those four years after the fact were some of the most influential years of my life. From the age of 18-22, I carried around body confidence issues and self-esteem issues that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And honey, once you have them, they only get worse.

Because when you’re 17, and you get to sleep over in your boyfriend’s college dorm room for the first time, you expect things to go DOWN. Maybe he never wanted to hook up in the car. And maybe he never wanted to sneak away from the pool party. And maybe he never wanted to go down your pants backstage while you teched the high school musical. But the dorm room, he’s gonna be so into it there. So you shave things you’ve never shaved before and you wear the laciest pair of underwear you can find at H&M. You have butterflies all day, imagining steamy positions and loud outcries of pleasure.

And then you get there, and your boyfriend just wants to go to sleep.

With pajamas on.

And you lay awake next to him cursing at yourself for everything you’ve done wrong. You make a mental list of all the things you are not. You are not sexy. You are not attractive. You are not irrestible. You curse your boobs for being small and your hair for being big and curly. You stare at the ceiling, thinking that although you can shake your ass in dance class, you’re just not a sexy girl.

When he breaks your heart the summer after you graduate from high school, you enter your freshman year of college with insecurities that your new musical theatre friends don’t have. They know how to flirt with all the baseball players, and they get asked to sit with them in the cafeteria, while you go back up for another helping of the taco bar.

And when a boy even glances at you during the next themed party that you show up to, accessorized with your freshman fifteen and the new plastic bangles you stole from Claire’s, you end up in his room making out, without him even having to use a pick up line. Which is basically a foreshadowing all of the slutty things you’re about to do when you move to New York City, including a series of one night stands in your early twenties with some very questionable subjects.

When you’re in a relationship where you’re just not wanted, you’re not craved, it really sets you up for some major setbacks in relationships for the rest of your life. That first love, that first relationship, it trained me chase men. To work hard to make them want me. And to settle for less than the best – every single time I meet a man.

To this day, anytime things feel easy with a man – comfortable, relaxed – it feels wrong. And boring. I have always gone after men who do not want me. And that’s what feels right to me.

Until now. Because once you become aware of a complex you have – for instance, the way I use food as a drug, or the way I always end up with men who do not want me – you can never go back to ignorance again.

Awareness is a very powerful thing, my friend.

Once you are aware, the only way to go is up. Up, up, and away from what’s been holding you down. You are finally able to begin a courageous upward journey towards making it less of a problem than it was yesterday. And doing the best you can to live your life in the meantime.

Listen, you never know people’s stories. You never know what they’ve been through, what they’ve been lied to about, or what has destroyed their heart.

Things like dating a gay man can ruin a young girl, on the inside, for a very long time. I had no idea how much it affected me, or dictated the men I chose, or controlled my self-esteem, until I got older and wiser.

It affected the reason I binge, the reason I dressed sluttily all the time, and the reason I was outspoken. Respectively, those things were comfort for the pain, cries for attention, and shields from judgement.

I hated that ex-boyfriend of mine for many, many years. There was red, hot anger that would cause my chest to tighten when I thought about him. I never felt that hatred for another person in my life before. It was ugly and it enveloped me.

But now, I do forgive him. It was a slow process. However, I’ve learned that half of my gay friends dated a woman when they were younger. They were too young to know what they were doing to their girlfriends. No one knew. It was never a malicious thing. It took me, being best friends with my gay men, to understand that. I was just another one of the girls who helped the boy come out of the closet.  I was the Grace to his Will.

I wish we were friends now. Our situation is different than the Will’s and the Grace’s of the world, but as long as I can let go of the hurt, and the anger, forgiveness will be enough.

To the gay men in this world: Don’t forget to remind those girls who helped you come out of the closet how much you love them. Those chicks loved you for all that you were, and all that you are, despite what you did to their hearts.

To the women who dated the gay boys in this world: Try your best to forgive the boys. They had it just as hard as we did, if not harder. Keep those friendships close and help each other grow up. Together. The boys never meant to break your heart, or lie, or make you feel unwanted. We all figure things out at different times and you happened to be there when they were sorting all the new things out.

To everyone else: Show compassion to everyone you meet. There’s a reason people are scared to trust. There’s a reason they binge. There’s a reason they’re dating that asshole right now. You might not understand why they are the way they are, but that’s what is so beautiful about compassion – you just offer it up without a reason or an answer.

And no one ever complained about feeling too much compassion.

*Friends, if you find out later in life that someone you did date was cheating on you, please take the time to get tested for HIV and other STD’s. I told my gynecologist immediately when I found out my ex-boyfriend had slept with other men during the time we were together and he set  me to be tested right away. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You owe it to yourself and your sanity to get tested. There are free clinics in most cities and by googling “free HIV testing”, you can find options in your area.

Next week’s posting:

Let’s Have A Kiki