I spend a lot of time in hospitals... So much so, that I have visited almost every single emergency department in the GTA within the past three months. At this point, when I disclose to my support team that I have, yet again, spent the night at the hospital, they don't seem to be particularly shocked. If anything, my team would probably be more skeptical if my hospital visitations decreased, because that may mean I am FINALLY taking positive steps in my recovery. And don't get me wrong, I go to the hospital for many reasons, not solely due to medical complications. Oftentimes, I end up in the hospital involuntarily because of suicidal ideation in which surface due to hopelessness. I also find myself supporting my close friends, holding their hands and sitting beside them in waiting rooms, as they attempt to find the professional help that they so desperately need.
A little more than a week ago, I found myself, once again, in an Uber headed towards Mount Sinai Hospital. Beforehand, I was at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) due to a crisis that surfaced as a result of past traumas. Near the end of my admission there, I started to feel physically ill and unstable. Chest pains, the shakes, heart palpitations, and numb limbs are not exactly a combinations of symptoms that can be shoved under the rug and forgotten about. That being said, when I arrived at Mount Sinai, I was attended to fairly quickly. Long story short, my electrolytes were imbalanced (big surprise - yes that was sarcasm folks). Consequently, I was hooked up to an IV drip for approximately six hours.
Within my eating disorder, one of the biggest things I struggle with is never feeling like I am "enough". Specifically, feeling like I am never "sick enough". Deep inside I am aware that I am unwell, however, I don't think I realize the extent to how sick I truly am. Therefore, I push my body harder, and test my limits often... Yet despite this, my eating disorder is never satisfied. My eating disorder tells me that I can always lose MORE weight, lose MORE hair, lose MORE sanity, and so forth. The sicker, the better... And it's not just me. From attending certain groups, and speaking with other individuals who are also living with an eating disorder, the theme of "not sick enough" is mundane. Health issues such as losing your period is celebrated, but heaven forbid you get spotting for half a day because that just simply means "you're not sick anymore". This example is so valuable, as it demonstrates the maliciousness of this illness, and just how irrational it can be.
Speaking of irrationality, I want to go back to my story about my most recent hospital visit. When my nurse put in my IV, the first thought I had was "holy shit, I'm going to be fat now". For those of you struggling with an eating disorder, this probably hits home. To those who don't, let me break it down for you. The IV that was in my arm was also attached to a bag of fluid. My eating disorder is huge on restriction, and knowing exactly what goes into my body at all times - including liquids. I knew for a fact that I would be in a lot of trouble if I decided to rip my IV out, but my thoughts were spiralling downhill very quickly. Yes, even if I did gain weight, it would probably have been just water weight, and eventually it would go away. However, that's not what my eating disorder wanted to believe. So, my eating disorder opened my mouth and used my voice to ask the nurse, "How many calories are in my IV drip?".
As soon as I saw my nurse's reaction, I realized the illogicality in my question. No "healthy" individual would have the same thought process that I had. No "healthy" individual would become obsessed with the calories in a bag of fluid. No "healthy" individual would feel as if the world was ending because of a fucking bag of fluid. Most importantly, no "healthy" individual would destroy their body for a peace of mind that is unachievable.
And in that moment, as I stared at the disbelief in my nurse's eyes, I realized that I was sick... Mentally, emotionally, physically.
I remember the day I filmed this video very vividly. Every emotion, every ache, every destructive thought that resulted from this specific day will never be erased from my memory. Whenever I look back and re-watch this video, my stomach drops to my feet and my heart breaks into, what seems like, a million little pieces. On that sunny August morning, I realized that I had lost my passion for dance to my eating disorder. To this day, I am still trying to fight for it back.
I started dancing pretty late. Well, late for a typical dancer as many would say. At the age of 12 I attended a dance summer camp, and it was my first exposure to all the various styles of dance. Afterwards, the studio had asked me to join their competitive team. With pride and excitement, I went home and begged my parents to say yes. Looking back, I wonder what my life would be like if they had encouraged me to reject the offer. Would I still be struggling with the issues that I am battling today? Anyhow, I competed with this studio for five years, and it was mostly a good experience. There were triggers here and there... Costume fittings, being measured, and being lifted/partnered were the most difficult ones. Regardless, I genuinely, with ALL my heart, loved dance. When I was competing with this studio, I was also majoring in dance at my high school. This experience was harder on me. I remember teachers at this high school making comments about food, and about, not only mine, but my classmates' appearances too. Therefore, I was terrified of looking bloated in my body suit, and as a way to make sure that never happened, I would skip lunch. However, despite all of that, I still loved dance.
When graduation rolled around (both from my studio, and from my school), I began to question a lot of things. "What if I never dance again?". "What if I miss it too much?". "What if I don't have time to dance?". I also began to feel a higher level of depression and anxiety, due to many reasons. Firstly, I do not handle change very gracefully. Not only would I be moving away from dance, I would be attending a university in a very crowded city. Secondly, I would be moving away from my dance family, individuals that meant the absolute world to me. Individuals that I saw (almost) everyday, and loved unconditionally. I believe that these reasons are what caused my relapse.
Due to my relapse, dance turned from passion to poison. I only cared about how many calories I would burn if I danced x amount of hours. I would force myself to go to open studios at the gym, which was usually very early in the morning, in order to dance. Not because I loved it, but because it was exercise. Merely physical movement. Nothing more. I forced myself to take 2 or 3 Zumba classes at the gym per day. If I was unable to workout, I was unable to eat anything. That was the rule, and I'm still trying to fight this rule. My relationship with dance was deteriorating, and I did not care. I only cared about what my eating disorder wanted.
The week leading up to the filming of the video above, I remember telling myself, "You are only allowed to film this dance if you are skinny". At the time, I had thought that that was extremely reasonable. As a result, I fasted for the entire week. I was unable to look at myself in the mirror because I hated my body so much. I thought I deserved to starve, and it breaks my heart that I cannot love my body despite all things it does for me.
To this day, I still struggle to understand my motive for why I attend dance classes. Most times, it is because the eating disorder wants me to. Yet although my eating disorder is still very very loud and messy, I think I have found bits and pieces of the old Jen again. There are certain classes that I attend because JEN wants to go, and not ED. There are certain classes where I feel like I am able to let go, and to just appreciate dance for its artistry. My hope is to eventually, attend ALL classes because I love them. Not because I want to use dance as a symptom. I want to discover that passion again, and I know for a fact that it is inside of me somewhere.