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.

aha-moment

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