What is "happy" in recovery?
*Both images are original and are my own, please credit if using either.*
Hey guys! For my followers who have not been following me since my fitness-focused account days... buckle up. Some feedback I have gotten from people is that they love when I talk a little bit about my life outside of my job. Models are not perfect, and I am no exception to that statement. Since I have been on a bit of an up and up and am approaching my eight year anniversary of finishing a Wilderness program years ago, I thought that I would once again give you a peek into a little bit of my personal life.
It is not always pretty.
What you will find in this blog post is a mixture of an explanation for my relapse back into what was a ten year battle with anorexia, an outline of what I did to recover the first time (and why it worked and failed simultaneously), and what I am doing for treatment this time around. If you just want to think about me as a model and nothing else, I would not recommend reading this post. #realhumanthings.
If I have to be perfectly honest, I really did think that once an individual recovers from anorexia and has been in solid recovery for a few years, it would be near impossible to relapse.
Wow, wow, wow, was I wrong. With my own education on the illness from research and leading therapy groups in college, along with watching friends continue to struggle post "solid recovery," I definitely should have known better. Is my career as a model and actress to blame? Not exactly. Let me explain.
Relapses in mental illnesses can come from a number of things. For me, it was a combination of trouble at one of my six jobs at the time, complications in yet another extremely unhealthy relationship, learning of the deaths of two close friends, and some other personal struggles, all unfolding in the same few weeks of last year. I was working on applications for PhD and PsyD programs to enhance my career in mental health at the time and decided to temporarily throw in the towel due to falling into another deep depression.
I had been working at a mental health facility I really liked for almost a year at the time and encountered some bumps. I was told that I had to choose between acting/modeling and working in mental health, and I decided to choose the passion that paid more ($16/hour for 13 hour days versus $25-$200/hour and building my own schedule... you tell me which you would pick). I was working with patients with eating disorders at this facility and have to admit that this did hurt my own recovery path. It was very difficult to be surrounded by those who were so deep in their eating disorders. After some very personal attacks from patients who went too far, I decided to leave my career at the center. I loved my job, but the patients could be so, so mean, especially once they found out via social media that I had already won my own battle with an eating disorder.
Initial relapse was a fight. After a few weeks I stopped fighting and let it happen. I was disappointed and angry that I caved from all of the pressure I felt, but I felt backed into a corner. How could I go from fully recovered to a body conscious, anxious mess all over again?
I do need to be clear about some things though:
I have figured out how to recover from the anorexia before. I have never been successful with recovery from body dysmorphic disorder. This illness in particular blows my mind and I am learning how to deal with it in different ways every single day.
"Perfectionist" should be written into my name somewhere. I am extremely high functioning for someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, anorexia, etc. Rarely do my struggles affect my work. If anything, I become more efficient with my work when I'm at a lower point. When I stopped the application for graduate schools I began to book more modeling than ever. I booked my first commercial and had the only principle role. It looked like I was flourishing but that was far from the truth. Do not expect to see me struggling in my career when I struggle with my health. This goes for all of the high functioning people in your life.
Once I decided that my eating disorder was bullshit again and stopped grieving for a bit, I started to think things through.
In an effort to bounce back and get back on track, I realized that the way I recovered last time would not work this time around. I used to do bikini contests years ago. My Instagram originally was a fitness focused account. Becoming a bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast was one way to ease myself into the recovered life without having to completely give up the obsession over food. It was very, very unhealthy. This is why you will not see me endorsing fitness competitions based on aesthetics, or diets, supplements, fads, etc of any sort for that matter (low carb, vegan, high protein, fat burners, supplements x/y/z, waist trainers). If that is you, great. Good for you. It is a cool lifestyle when you are in it and winning. It is not cool if you are one of my friends who was hospitalized from kidney complications, or who developed depression, anxiety, or some sort of eating or body image disorder from the sport. That's the very brief overview on how I now feel towards that world. Knowing what I know now about re-feeding after an eating disorder and how dangerous that can be, I would never go that route again.
Here's a peek into what I have been up to:
More than just a body:
As a model I am constantly bombarded with some sort of talk of my appearance. Thank God it's just a "Your outfit is awesome," "Love your hair," or "Can I take a picture with you?" every day. The "Can I take a picture with you?" one is weird and it always freaks me out. So strange... but... I've been lucky enough to barely have people comment on my actual body itself. The only messages I receive on social media are usually pertaining to whether I have had my boobs done (I have not), and the occasional winking emoji. Again, I have been extremely lucky to not have people in my life focused on my weight all the time. As a freelance model, I have no one to answer to about the shape of my body either. What does get to me is seeing the bodies of other models plastered all over social media all day, every day. It is my choice to follow them on social media, but it can be hard sometimes because I compare myself just like everyone else does. I am not around other models very often, so social media can make a dent in my self worth sometimes. I'll talk more about this in a bit.
I am definitely more than just my figure.
Not as straightforward as I was hoping:
My approach this time has been very different because I've been battling a particularly nasty depressive episode at the same time. I am definitely having a wild ride. It is very frustrating to not remember what it was like to live "without" the illness for a few years, but I feel like it is possible again with time and work. Minus the "clean eating" obsession approach I took last time, I am trying to exercise and eat well. While I love my vegan model and bodybuilder fitness model friends, I do avoid them sometimes because of the negative food talk. I cannot be around people who talk about certain foods being "bad" in any way. Anyone who has been to treatment for an eating disorder knows that negative food talk is bad news. I try not to follow anyone on social media who advertises following a "diet" of any sort as well, with a few exceptions... those being good friends of mine. I do not exercise on "bad" days for fear that I may allow myself to 1) overexercise and possibly get hurt or 2) exercise for the wrong reasons. I have pizza, I have ice cream. I frequent Chick Fil A with my dogs. I do not spend a lot of time around other models unless I know them well and am working alongside them. I avoid dating like the plague because I have been cheated on in the last four relationships I have been in. Dating is distracting from recovery, anyway. I do not own a scale and did not for three years. I got a new one and kept it for a few days last year. It ended up in a dumpster, just like the last one. I only look at my weight at the doctor's office. I try really hard to remember that my job is not entirely about my body.
Clearly round two is nowhere close to the paved highway I was hoping it would be.
Social media is a pain in the...
I try really hard to not overuse social media. I received a very flattering comment from a fellow Denver-area model a few weeks ago and it made me smile. He said something along the lines of, "It's really cool that if social media went away, you would still be working (modeling and acting) just as much." I'm very proud of this career I am building myself. My self worth plummets if I spend too much time on social media platforms, so I try to stick with quick swipes through stories and posts. My jobs are basically all commercial now, which means that you never get to see some of it because it is not a social media post. It's on a website, a flyer in a doctor's office, an ad in a club, a product website, or a truck (Saloon Cuts! I LOVE you guys!). While social media is fun, I am very thankful that I do not have to rely on it for my modeling and acting jobs.
Social media is a pain in the ass.
A note on authenticity:
Another thing about social media that really bugs me is the shallowness of relationships. I cut ties with a ton of people when I started getting more bookings. Why? Everyone wants something from you when you are a model. People lose their authenticity. Having gone through a Wilderness program and lived outside for 2+ months, I have a very low tolerance for surface-y, superficial people. I spend a lot of time by myself and love it. I am very picky, especially now, about who I let in my inner circle.
It is so hard to find authentic people with social media and alter Instagram egos in the way.
Relapse is normal.
Being hard on myself is something I have always done, and I am actually trying to change that for the first time. Relapse is actually a normal part of eating disorder recovery; recovery itself is quite a complex process. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a failure. It is just an opportunity to try again and learn new things about myself and an illness that is not easily understood. As for the body dysmorphia part: I have definitely accepted that this is part of me and have found ways to cope with it. Special thanks to my hair stylist who is so understanding when I call her crying because my extensions are too short and it is fucking with me.
But... take two. Challenge accepted.
I refuse to live in my illness... and my recovery.
Let me explain. This is probably the only time you will see me talk about this whole eating disorder recovery thing for a few months. I think that I lived too much as an "eating disorder survivor" the last time I was working toward recovery. I'm trying to just do the thing this time, you know? I will never, however, shut my face about finishing that Wilderness program. That is different. That is living in an accomplishment. (That is what my tattoo on my left arm stands for, by the way "I went to the woods"). I just believe that putting myself in a constant "victim" role in relation to the eating disorder may impede progress.
I'm trying to move forward. Not backward.
It's just a job. You're just an actor.
Most importantly, in a career field that is so heavily focused on outer appearance, I try to make it about my performance. I'm a model. I'm an actor. In front of a camera, I am performing. It is not about how I look, particularly, but how I can make myself look. Photoshoots create illusions. More abstract photoshoots create art. I do fun concept shoots to prevent burnout and remind myself that I am nothing more than an artist and a performer.
I am not just a body with a number from a scale that is probably broken and incorrect anyway.
A favorite self portrait of mine.
And... that is all you get for now. If this blog gets a positive response you may see more down the road.
Know that I am fine and doing great. This is nothing I have not conquered before.