Grace's Blog

The Mess of Progress

February 2018

This time of year, I find, is always the most sluggish. Resolutions have been abandoned and Spring seems to be hovering on the horizon too far out of reach. I am exactly half way through my first year at Uni and assessments are looming. Despite this, I feel as though I haven't progressed. I know, deep down, that I have. I know I've progressed in the sense of letting down barriers I never thought I could. I know I've progressed in my ballet and tap, however physically, I see no progression. I feel as though I'm getting less flexible and crying more. I realise that everyone is run down. Everyone feels as though they've hit a brick wall and that's greatly because of the time of year. Nothing has changed for a while, and change seems so far away that it becomes scarier and more daunting the closer it comes.

I think that, no matter how much change scares us, we need to remember that it's coming. Remember that we're halfway through and not that we've still got halfway to go. We've made it this far and feeling stuck is okay. The longest months of the year are almost over and sunshine is on it's way. The hype of a new year and resolutions have disintegrated and that is exactly why I don't ever have any. If you are not happy. Change it today, you don't have to wait for a new year to create a version of you that you are happy with.

It's hard, when everyone around you is talking about their New Year’s diet and how much 'winter weight' they're still holding, but it doesn't mean that you are. You are healthy; and listening to your body is the thing that will make you happiest in the end.

Dancing every day in front of mirrors is a constant drag on my self-esteem. I love dancing, and some days I look incredible but others, anorexia shows me as a whale that shouldn't even be trying. It's this difference in views that shows me something is lying, even though in that moment I don't believe it is. All around me people are dieting, gaining abs and muscle and my perception of a perfect body has changed. Suddenly I find myself wanting what the majority of the people around me have. Claire once proved to me that we filter out the body types we see, and compare ourselves to the ones we find 'attractive', filtering out everyone else. If you compare yourself to every tenth person, you will find that actually the smallest percent of people look how you perceive as 'perfect'. When I was in the depths of my illness, pictures and bones were all I saw, now, I find a similar obsession with the fitness I am surrounded by every day; yearning to look like that.

My point is, we are never going to be happy with our bodies if we don’t look at ourselves accurately and only compare ourselves with what we filter out. There is proof that what we filter out is what we want to see; because not everyone on my course has abs, let alone the people I pass in the street. Having muscle does not make me a better or worse dancer and being skinnier does not make me more worthy. It’s this dreary time of year that we need to turn back to what’s important. We need to re-visit our recovery tool boxes and accept that it is okay to stop for a little while. Sometimes you need to stop to re-evaluate where you are and look back on how far you’ve come. It’s okay to reach out when you feel blinded by your thoughts and look for the love that seems to be easier to see when the sun is shining and your brain isn’t full of clouds.

Make a new resolution, tell yourself that you look good each time you pass your reflection before your thoughts take over, until you start to believe it. Decide to eat something that scares you because nothing can change in a day, not even your weight. Smile, just once, at someone who isn’t, you could make their day and it could even brighten up yours.

“Fall down seven times stand up eight”

Remember recovery isn't linear. Progression doesn't have to be visible to mean it's happening. Sometimes progression comes from spending a few hours by yourself, keeping warm and doing nothing, because that's all you need to do to look after yourself. And progression comes from looking after yourself.

Reminder: "Treat yourself how you would treat a child, your inner child is still present."

Love, G x

Recovery and a Tough Industry

When I was in the first stages of my recovery I wanted to go into fashion. When it came to watching models and seeing sizes; I realised that in order to make a change in this industry, I would have to be mentally prepared enough to ignore the numbers and stereotypes that cat walked my way. During my inpatient treatment, I found a new route of expression. We took part in drama classes every Wednesday and I found that weirdly, being pushed out of my comfort zone and into a different life, place or scenario; I found a shift in my perspective and saw that there could be other ways to set myself free.

Three years on, I have become independent, found a love I thought unimaginable and calories are a thing of the past… I learnt to eat what I wanted when I wanted it and how to listen to my body whilst living the typical teenage summer of ice cream and waffles. Obviously, having three months off college after a full on performance and dancing every day, the show blues stooped to a new low and a blip became inevitable. My body changed. I grew up and I had to try my hardest to accept this. I did… ish. I accepted it on the terms that it would change again soon. It would change when I started drama school and began training professionally. Change in my body, however, was always one of the scariest things during recovery. Weight loss or weight gain. Even muscle gain terrified me: but again, my perspective changed.

The performing arts industry is as harsh on the appearance as the fashion industry, but I am more resilient now. I can cope… most days. I found an incredible drama school: one who is aware of mental health and keep our minds as healthy as our bodies. We meditate every morning but it is emotionally draining. To become an actor you have to be honest with yourself and your emotions- ones most mental illnesses strive to supress. To become a dancer you have to strip yourself bare, allow blood sweat and tears to train your body to become a kind of athlete. The competitiveness of the industry can be fuelled by the competitiveness of anorexia, but I know her voice, and I have found mine and continue to make it stronger. Exercise is a big part of training. Something at one point I was banned from. I am constantly conscious of the burn in my thighs and if my dreams are pushing me to fuel that extra star jump or if anorexia is. You have to learn to listen to your body. More than ever. You have to eat constantly to ensure you have enough energy for the next class and this is one of the biggest challenges I have faced yet. Being surrounded by healthy eating, fitness and dancers can sometimes make my mind scream with jealousy but it is almost physically impossible to compare yourself with anyone here whilst the tutors are showing you how to embrace your own individuality and strength.

The first couple of days I struggled to eat, but seeing even the fittest people talk about and crave food like never before, I know I have to eat even more to repair my muscles to become a healthier, slimmer, fitter me (who will probably weigh more because of the muscle but look a million times better from the glow of doing what I love).

I guess my point is that you have to constantly find new balances every time something changes. Your body will change and that’s okay. Change with it. I guess I expected to recover and never change weight again; but now life has got so incredible that I’ve lost track of my weight and whilst that still terrifies me, I am working to create a version of myself that is able to stand up, dance and sing for hours on end without collapsing or being inches from death. I am balancing exercise not because I want to change the way I look, but because I want to be physically and mentally able to do what I love and express myself the only way I know how to feel truly free.

Reminder: If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you.

Grace x

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