“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
I really hate admitting when things aren’t quite perfect, when I’m feeling a little low, when I doubt my decisions. I’d much rather put on my shiny façade and float around as if everything’s ok. The problem with this method is that it’s not conducive to any sort of real happiness and it’s incredibly unhealthy. So, here is a confession: Today I feel like shit.
It’s been a little up and down this week, I’ve oscillated between feeling proud of my strength and embracing the changes I’ve made. I’ve been hyper aware of the positive effects these are bringing into my life and I’ve been happy about the choices this hard work has given me. Along side that though, I’ve also had the notion of being ‘too big’, of taking up too much room, of looking slightly grotesque, of being fat. It’s bizarre, I can look at myself in the dance studio mirrors one moment and go “yep, I’ve finally got some sort of an ass” and then the next be agonizing over some small curve I’m not quite happy with. I will let these feelings fester and grow and then, in general, I will crack. I had one such ‘crack’ this week, this resulted in my sobbing to poor old Sam for over an hour, shaking and every now and then struggling with breathing. ‘Ridiculous’, you must be thinking, to sob over something so trivial, to hyperventilate at the prospect of being fat, but anyone who has followed my writing or knows about anorexia to any extent will know that I did not starve myself to be thin. Starvation and emaciation represent many different things to someone with anorexia. The cage of bones that I built myself felt as if it were keeping all of the bad guys out for quite a while, trouble was, it was keeping the good out as well. I was numb, floating on the euphoria of starvation every now and again until I crashed and sunk into the deepest pits of misery. Anyway, I digress from my confession (avoiding difficult conversations such as: “Maya, have you eaten today?” is something I became incredibly adept at, old habits die hard!) So, back to feeling like shit. As I sat sobbing away to Sam and curled myself up into a little ball that represents quintessential crazy the World over I suddenly thought “Oh God, is this a relapse?!” Half of me was enthralled by the idea of shrinking away again and the other was absolutely horrified. The prospect of hospitals and devastation, of having to put a halt to my actor training, of bloody well having to abandon all my dragonfly plans and put up a sign saying “Sorry, my time is once again taken up by starving myself” seemed abhorrent. I was torn, as much as I’d have loved to get on the scales and see those iddy biddy numbers, the effort and shit it puts everyone through just did not seem worth it. Sam was quite rational with it all, he made me laugh, told me I am not fat and actually need to gain more weight and then also told me that I had to eat lunch. Then he sat with me as I did and ate some of the mozzarella from my salad when I announced I was full and he agreed I’d made a valiant effort. (Sam can eat mozzarella by the ball, its very odd). As we went back into our separate rehearsals, he turned to me and said “Anyway Maya, you can’t disappear again, I don’t know what I’d do without you!” With that simple statement, he hit the nail on the head of how I must get through the trickier days. On the days I’m not able to recognize my values as a single entity, I must recognize what I bring to other people’s lives and how they need me to keep on being strong. As much as I want to shake Sam some days with his constant drama off stage, I also love the fact that he trusts me to give him sound advice, just this morning I received a text that simply read “Fuck me, You were right” (Obviously I quipped that this is something he should just take to be a given). I’ve got a lot to do and give and being emaciated incapacitates all of this. I tried to kid myself otherwise for a long time, to convince all of the Health Care Professionals that I was basically wonder woman, that my brain still worked at full capacity even when starved and I could absolutely manage fine as I was. Utter bullshit. Even if my body could put up with the torture I put it through (it couldn’t), my brain sure couldn’t, I don’t know how I could have expected it to, the average brain needs somewhere in the region of 500cals a day to run, and that is if you are not stretching it and attempting and sort of mental gymnastics. There is a reason we get irrational and bizarre when we haven’t eaten enough. My body is getting stronger and although at times it feels wrong and I just want to shrink away again, the memory of what that really is needs to be hammered home.
I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive group of friends who I can call upon for help, I can send an ‘SOS, my brain is fucking with me again’ type message and get phone calls, texts, dancing and tequila in return. I can get reminders of how much more fun I’m having in a heart-beat. I get a big hug and photos and I get a very firm “don’t you fucking dare start on that downward trajectory again”. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, because it’s important. Without my friends, I would be lost. I don’t always communicate that well and I know I have been guilty of running around London, Cambridge, wherever, trying to get a million things done and seriously neglecting my friendships. This is not ok in any shape or form. So, here is some gushing. It is the friends who stand by you even when you are behaving atrociously, when you stop being fun and are quite literally disappearing in front of their eyes that are the ones I hope to have with me for a life-time. Without them, I do not know where I’d be. The fact that even now, after having dealt with years of crazy, they can still be relied upon to rise to any cry for help is astonishing. I sent my SOS this week and got an array of different responses all of which I needed and appreciated.
Poor old Thea has had to deal with many moans and they just keep on coming (this morning was one of my best Doors, waist to boob ratio-the struggle is real), but at the point I was feeling really quite rubbish, I spoke to the person I trust more than anyone in this World. We exchanged nothing profound, we spoke about summer plans, work and boys. To many this may seem to be pretty inane conversation, but to me, it meant the World. It was a sign of things getting back to being ‘ok’. I am no longer calling Thea to sob over a conviction that I had a bigger slice of cake than everyone else in hospital, or to tell her of a depressing blood test result. We have the normal conversations we’ve shared for well over a decade and we laugh over the details of our debauchery. It has been a long time since we’ve been able to do this and it’s helped me realize that I’ve wasted a LOT of time, I’ve been sad, scared, freezing and angry for a very long time and on the days where progress seems too much, it’s my friend’s who remind me that I’ve got a LOT of life to catch up on. So, I guess this post is a couple of things, it is both a confession of imperfection and a thank you to those I love and who have loved me through it all, an apology for being a little shit a lot of the time and a reminder to those who are struggling themselves that you should ask for help. It’s not easy, some days I feel as if I’m fighting an army of 1000 orcs (having a bit of a Lord of the Rings geek fest atm, go with it), but the most important thing to do on these days is to ask for help, don’t let your brain run away with you. I’ve learned people really appreciate it if you confide, I always felt as if I were a burden, but it worries people more if you don’t communicate, people can sense misery, especially those who know you well. SOS when it’s needed, after all, where would Frodo have been without all those pals around him?! (Yep, that just happened…). Here’s to a summer of travel, drama (both on and off stage), parties, training, dragonfly and the usual frolics, no more summers on an EDU. Thanks, but no thanks, I’d far rather go live up to the nick name of ‘trouble’ (thanks Alex Vent) that I was graced with before all this began!