The next few posts are going to be some of my most difficult to write, so I apologize if they lack eloquence or if they take me a while to compose. I am still struggling with the nuclear fallout of my most recent relapse–especially because ED disguised itself (and sometimes continues to do so) as healthy living. Please bear with me as I get these words onto the page…
I reluctantly let my plantar faciitis heal through orientation in a desperate attempt to–please pardon the pun–start my school year off on the right foot.
The problem with my going back to school was that I was really, really good at it. Academia has always been my comfort zone, and reading and writing about theatre is an instinct that comes as naturally to me as does breathing. However. There is one thing that I am better at than being an academic, and that is doubting myself to the point of lung-crushing anxiety. And I was scared to death of failing.
Since I had not been a part of the New York theatre scene for many years, I put my entire heart and soul into playing catch-up. There were so many plays, so many actors, so many musicals and monologues and theatre critics who I felt that I should have just known. I didn’t want to look stupid in front of my brilliant classmates or the famous directors, writers, and other such high muck-a-mucks who ran my program.
The nail in the coffin for my anxiety attacks came from Lysander, whose daily phone calls usually included some sort of disparaging remark about my pursuit of a graduate degree in theatre. I could, he assured me, be doing something more useful, like law or business (and, coincidentally, he happened to be doing both). There was always something negative about my particular program encoded into our conversations. I was stuck between agreeing with him and trying to prove to him that I was doing something worthwhile.
To ease my anxiety about my degree, I threw myself even more wholeheartedly into my physical transformation plan. I created an account on caloriecount.about.com, and, for the first time in my life, not only logged my food, but also started counting calories. Calories were these mythical, magical little numbers that existed somewhere in food, and by controlling them, I could finally control how much I was eating–and therefore, how much weight I was gaining. I would weigh myself on my little red scale every morning and log the number on the site. I spent my days weighing and measuring my portions. I would then spend every night logging every morsel of food that I put in my mouth.
I also left J’s Big Gym and started using the university’s on-campus gym. Since I lived in Washington Heights (on 172nd St.), it was silly for me to go up to 181st and back, when I still had to get down to school on 116th St. in time for class. I woke up every morning at 4:45, ate 1/3 cup of shredded wheat cereal (no Publix in NY!) with 1/2 cup of skim milk, took the subway to 116th, and did my Jamie Eason workout followed by an hour of cardio from 6 am until 7:45 am. Then I showered in the locker room (which involved about 30 futile minutes of trying to flat iron my curly hair in the dank, humid air), and then walked to class.
For lunch, I ate an apple and my usual peanut-butter-and-rice-cakes–until I saw one of my classmates eat an english muffin. Just seeing that bread-y goodness made my mouth water. I don’t know how to describe it without sounding crazy, but that day I ached for an English muffin. I started toasting Ezekiel gluten-free english muffins (120 calories per serving: 1 muffin) and slathering them with my all-natural peanut butter (also 120 calories per serving: 2 tbsp).
Although I absolutely adored my fellow classmates–absolutely adored them–I only rarely saw them outside of class. I was both scared to death that they’d see me for the inexperienced pretender I felt I was and that they’d want to go out to eat or drink. I couldn’t spare the calories if I wanted to be a fitness model by November, so I had another apple for a snack and then went home right after class most nights. I would sit in my apartment, eat a lite tofu (1/5 block, ~ 30 calories), black bean (1/2 cup, 57 calories), and Thai veggie (1 cup, 33 calories) stir fry, and do my homework (and calorie counting) until my nightly cereal binge before bed. (And with the cereal binge, I’d fudge the numbers, because I didn’t want to admit how much I was actually eating.)
The good news was that I was finally starting to lose weight. I could see it reflected in the way my clothes hung on me, in the number on the scale, in the mirror. And my school anxiety, though still stressing me out to no end, at least motivated me to become an expert in all things theatre. I could discuss everyone from Eugene O’Neill to Nicky Silver without batting an eye. And with all of that positive feedback, I continued my destructive cycles of calorie restriction, exercise, and stress.