Grace's Blog

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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