About a million years ago, back when Squeez-Its were considered a nutritious fortified-fruit-juice-like beverages and scrunchies were an acceptable form of headwear, I met a girl who would go on to be one of my biggest sources of inspiration throughout … Continue reading
[source] Let’s talk about “Yes And.” If you’ve ever done any theatre (or been stuck in a drama class with a mean ol’ drama teacher like me), then you’ve been forced to play improv games. At the very least, you … Continue reading
[SOURCE] Hard to believe it’s been three years since I made the difficult decision to leave grad school and give up theatre as my career. It was a compromise I made in order to find and maintain my health and … Continue reading
While this is completely unrelated to nutrition and recovery, I wanted to share this with all of you.* As you all probably know by now, I don’t really drink. However, don’t let that stop you–should you choose to partake–from playing a little drinking game:
The setup: Recently, the amazing duo of Bryan Moriarty and Eric Bricmont asked me to join them on their hilarious and really enlightening podcast Nerds on History to discuss my first love: theatre.
I had a really great time recording–and I’m so excited to share the experience with you. So, if you’re feeling in the mood to hear some solid history, gross exaggerations, and discussions of golden phalluses and bear-baiting, then go download Nerds on History Episode 7: It’s a Grabber! (it’s a free podcast, people, no excuses now) and then pour yourself a drink.
The game: So, you know how every time you hear or see a recording of yourself, you get hypercritical of little things that no one else would notice? No? Just me? Well, my hypercriticism led me to create this drinking game. Every time you hear me say “it’s really interesting, but” (or some variation thereof), take a shot. You will be completely wasted before the middle of the podcast. You’re welcome.
Honestly though, I really love the Nerds on History podcast–mainly because I’m a nerd about history, but also because Eric and Bryan make history fun. They discuss everything from Egyptology to Star Trek, and I highly recommend that, if you liked the theatre episode, you subscribe to them on iTunes. Again, it’s free–and it’s guaranteed to be a lot more fun than your high school history class. (With the exception of maybe Drews’ or Stohr’s classes, for those of you who have followed me here from NBPS…) Go check the Nerds out and give them some love!
*Technically, this is important in the context of my own recovery. Staying out semi-late, pushing through social anxiety, and talking about the theatre again…yeah, it was an important night.
On a whim, a few weeks ago, I did something I have not had the courage to do since my freshman year of college:
I tried out for a musical.
And though I haven’t had a voice lesson in years–haven’t even bothered to sing in the shower since I left the theatre in 2010, actually–I got a callback.
And yesterday, I got a part.
It’s an ensemble role–nothing too fancy–but to me it’s a big deal.
I got a part.
It’s amazing how quickly a life can capsize (and how quickly it can be somewhat righted…even without all of the leaky holes filled).*
For the first time in my life, I didn’t finish my final papers. I packed my bags for Florida without any intention of returning to New York except to collect my things and high-tail it out of there.
The Deans of Academics and Admissions, however, did their darndest to convince me to reconsider. I could take an Incomplete in three classes and simply make up the papers before the next semester. I could move into campus housing so I could be closer to the gym and the school (which would cut my commute time and maybe allay some of my anxiety about staying on campus too late). I was talented and capable, and I could more than handle the demands of the program. It would be a shame if I left.
Long story short, I decided to return to New York to give it another try. (I wrote 50 pages in 2 weeks as well as the first draft of my full-length play for my playwriting class, reversing all of my Incompletes before the semester began).
I still had time before the new year, however, and I realized that I needed to make some big changes to my diet, since my body had plateaued. Through Oxygen Magazine I was introduced to something called the “Eat Clean Diet.” The idea was to completely cut out refined foods (easy), focus on lean protein (okay), eat healthy fats (not gonna happen ‘cause don’t fats make you fat?),** and eat six small (~200 calorie) meals a day (not so easy when you have to catch a train to 49th for some student rush tickets but then have to kill two hours wandering Times Square and won’t be home until 11 pm…but I guessed that’s what Tupperware was for). Through the Eat Clean Diet and Muscle and Fitness Hers, I learned about nutrient timing, and pre- and post-workout protein, and supplementation. I even learned how to make a pancake without any flour (hint: egg whites and protein powder).
When I returned to New York, I invested in whey protein powder, branched chain amino acid supplements, and a subscription to Clean Eating Magazine. I took the train down to Whole Foods on 59th at least once a week. I started running to and from the gym, and making sure to get home for my protein powder and oatmeal with blueberries before my 15 minute post-workout window closed and I got fat from eating carbs.
I approached the spring semester with a renewed sense of vigor. I was excited about my playwriting and critical writing classes. So what if I was the only idiot who liked things like Shakespeare and the musicals of the 1920s? So what if I felt like I had to defend the fact that I nearly cried from happiness while watching such fluff as Finian’s Rainbow,*** but couldn’t even understand some of the pieces I saw downtown? I could pretend to give a damn about contemporary, avant garde theatre. I was an expert on it now, remember? And if I could write three major papers in two weeks while finishing the first draft of a play, then I could do anything my professors asked of me.
I started attending the theatre 3-4 times per week–blowing through my savings account in order to make sure that I was the most up-to-date blowhard in the room. I could opine on any topic related to the New York stage (never mind the fact that I didn’t care about said topics as much as I cared about being seen as someone who could opine on them). I was burning the candle at both ends, between my early morning gym sessions, my late night theatre exploits, and my constant meal prepping and planning.
My good spirits began declining once again as summer drew nearer. I had no job prospects lined up because, despite my credentials and my knowledge, no theatre company had hired me. I couldn’t afford to do an internship, so my staying in New York was firmly tied to my ability to get hired. I was also exhausted. Being around theatre people began to make me sick–I felt like I was constantly being judged, constantly being put-upon. I started breaking down and walking out of my classes in tears once again or making excuses to get out of rehearsals so I could sit in my room and cry.
I was putting so much energy into my education without feeling like I was getting anything out–so much energy without enough calories to fuel me–that I was headed for another burn out. I began seriously discussing the prospect of making this my last semester in New York.
*Sorry for my horrible metaphor. It’s so lame, that I’m leaving it here without rewriting it because I think we need to bear witness.
**Said my disordered, uneducated brain. I now know that fats do not make you fat (unless you’re regularly digging into the jar of Crisco, in which case, god help you).
***You’d cry from happiness too, if you got to hear Cheyenne Jackson and Kate Baldwin sing in person.
I was getting A’s on all of my assignments, writing what would become a full-length play, and seeing massive amounts of theatre. I was basically living my dream.
Except for the part where the dream had become a nightmare. The fall semester dragged on, and I trudged through it, from gym to class to my increasingly prison-like apartment. Every play that I was required to see for class meant having to find a way to pack a healthy dinner for the trip to midtown, waiting for the infrequent uptown A-train past 10 pm, and a much-later-than-desired cereal binge before collapsing into bed for the few hours of restless sleep before my early morning wake-up. Every social engagement became more and more fraught–either it would lead to a late night and an overslept alarm, or it would force me to spend money on fattening, sugary, unhealthy foods. I became so good at making excuses that I actually started to believe them.
As my November deadline neared, I became more and more obsessed with my body image. I scoured health magazines and blogs, searching for the magic bullet that would tip the scales (har har) between “pretty fit” and “Jamie Eason.” Nothing took. I had plateaued at 125 lbs, and though I had some ab definition, I wasn’t presentable. In fact, I was a failure.
The depression sunk in with the winter air.
I spent every night on the phone with my Lysander, and our conversations were made increasingly more tense by my escalating depression and anxiety. His negativity about my grad program fed my negativity about my own self-worth, and now that I knew I wouldn’t even be able to impress him with my physique, I felt like I was somehow sub-human. I wasn’t fit to be this man’s wife. I was barely fit to live.
The thought that he would be seeing my body in just a few weeks made me absolutely sick to my stomach.*
Things came to a head in October. I called him after attending a talk given at the Shakespeare Society on Christopher Marlowe (my Elizabethan hero) because the professor who had been presenting agreed to consider letting me into his English-grad-student-only course on Shakespeare the following semester. It was a huge honor to even have him agree to speak with me, let alone consider letting me into his restricted class…by Lysander had nothing but disdain for this man and his credentials, as well as my desire to take the course in the first place.
I remember walking up Haven Ave. with my Blackberry plastered to my head, wind biting at my ears and hands, and saying, “I love you” before we hung up…and realizing, for the first time, that I didn’t mean it.
A few days, and an incoherent phone call (incoherent because I am too much of a codependent to have actually told him that I wanted to break up and because I was too busy crying to try to properly articulate myself) in which nothing was resolved, later, we were officially “not in a relationship” according to Facebook. I assumed that once I received that notification, I didn’t have to actually be the one to say, “Let’s end this before someone gets hurt.”
It was too late. ED was back and stronger than before.
*Please note that, at no point, did Lysander ever explicitly state that I had to look or be a certain way. At the time, I believed that it was implied and therefore a necessity. That was all constructed by my obsessive-compulsive, disordered friend ED, and probably nourished with some of Lysander’s off-hand, potentially passive-aggressive comments related to body image, measures of success, and the legitimacy of my graduate program.
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.
In order to go forward with my story, I’ll first have to back up a bit:
I moved back to Florida in the early summer of 2008. On the week that I arrived home, I discovered, through the Showtime section of the Sun-Sentinel, that there existed a magical entity called the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival and that it was holding auditions for Comedy of Errors.
Through some force of magic, I managed to be cast as the Abbess (a character probably about 50 years my senior–but I wasn’t complaining). I spent my summer commuting to West Palm Beach for rehearsals–and had the time of my life. As it turns out, PB Shakes is like a little community, filled with Shakespeare scholars and theatre nerds, college students and professors, professional actors and amateurs alike. The plays are performed each summer in an open air theater (almost always in Jupiter, Fl, with the exception of the outlier performance in Boca Raton in 2008), and they are always performed with utmost care for the intricate relationship between actor, text, and concept. It’s truly an incredible institution, and if you live in Florida, I encourage you to go check it out. (They’re doing their last performances of this year’s Twelfth Night this weekend!)
The following spring, I got a phone call from the artistic director asking me if I would be interested in a small part in their spring production of Sara Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cellphone. It would begin rehearsing the moment that I finished directing my high school’s musical. Too excited to worry about exhaustion, I said, “Hell yes!”
It was hard, teaching all day and commuting to West Palm at night. I had to bring my broccoli slaw dinners in tupperware and eat it in the car while sitting in traffic or else rely on Clif Bars to carry me through. I would come home after 10–or later–and wolf down my cereal before collapsing into bed. I made up excuses not to go out with my fellow cast mates because I was afraid that I would have to share an appetizer with them at a bar (and so use up my allotted cereal calories) or be asked if I wanted anything to drink (again, too many empty calories to be worth the social interaction). I was constantly tired and complaining, even though I actually really enjoyed being a part of the show. I don’t have any idea how they put up with me.
I also auditioned at Florida Atlantic University at the behest of my friend Ana for their summer production of Sondheim’s Company. I hadn’t done a musical in years, so even though I’d have to pay to register for a non-matriculating class if I was cast, I tried out anyway. I got a part.
But after Cellphone, my fellow Shakespeareans were on me to audition for the summer production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was torn. A musical or Shakespeare? I couldn’t decide, so I figured I might just audition for Midsummer and see if I even got a part. I was cast as Hermia. Shakespeare it was.
Now, here’s the thing: I met the man who would become my boyfriend at the Shakespeare audition. (We played opposite one another during the callback…and I’m guessing, but I think we were cast because our chemistry in person carried over onto the stage.) Why is this important, and why do I bother explaining any of this on a blog about food? Because the choices that I made–not taking the FAU part, dating my Lysander, etc.–would define how the next year would go, and would prove to be disastrous when ED got involved, however perfect things seemed in the short term.
And things really did seem perfect. I loved the Shakespeare festival, I loved dating Lysander, I loved that I was just a few short months away from moving back to New York City to be a dramaturg. My only problem was that I lived an hour south of our theatre (and of my boyfriend), so I was going through massive amounts of gas in order to commute (and to go on dates). The only logical answer, it seemed, was to move in with my boyfriend.
And this, my friends, is where I made the horrible mistake of letting ED back into my life.
…I submit to you a gem from the vault, a veritable blast from the past, written in my own voice, but 3 years younger.
From the now-defunct Kitchen Jouissance* blog, I bring you A Year Without a Kitchen. (This post is the set-up for tomorrow’s continuation of my story…It also contains links to my students’ performances! They really were an incredible bunch.)
*Kitchen Jouissance was the baking blog I started while a student at UF. The “Jouissance” of the title was a reference to my senior thesis, which discussed Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing from the perspective of Lacanian psychology. In other words, really useful stuff. Jouissance, incidentally, basically means “enjoyment,” but in the world of literary and psychological criticism, it has sexual connotations. In case you were curious.