Born and raised in San Diego, Allyce Torres is an actor, poet and teaching artist, making her new home in Chicago. She is a graduate of Wesleyan’s BFA Acting Program, and the creator of Skin Deep- a theatrical initiative that focuses on awareness, expression, and supplemental treatment in young people with eating disorders and disordered eating. She is a Very Happy Company member at Halcyon Theater. She is a sister, a bossy girl, a beach enthusiast, lover of fairytales, and hater of snow.
One of the most common responses I get when I tell people I’m in recovery for an eating disorder is “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Sorry.I always find this so strange. Not because I think it lacks empathy or because I think it’s a weak response, but because- bear with me- I’m not.I’m not sorry about what I went through. I’m not sorry for what I go through every dayandI’m not sorry for not shutting up about it.I’m not a victim. I’m a Soldier and I’m not sorry for the war I’m fighting. My ED taught me so much about myself, my body, other people, and the world than I could have ever learned without it. I honestly and wholeheartedly believe that it made me a better person and I would not erase that part of my life.Hear me out.
Last year, I went to the ANAD (Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) Conference and heard the speech of Dr. Walter H. Kaye (the Director of UCSD’s Eating Disorder Program). He spoke on his belief that the traits that pre-dispose people to eating disorders (i.e. harm avoidance, high achievement rates, perfectionism, organization, etc.) are qualities that we would normally attribute as “good” qualities to possess. They make for a functioning and contributory member of society. However, these qualities get kicked into over drive when the person begins using them to sculpt a coping mechanism and, hence, an eating disorder develops.
Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, and other factors key in, but that is the cliff notes version. What Dr. Kaye says is that, instead of focusing on removing the eating disorder from the person in recovery, we should be focusing on teaching them how to follow the eating disorder back to it’s “good traits” roots. Therefore, we are no longer excising the eating disorder, but rather learning which parts of it can serve us in a positive way in our lives.For me, this makes a lot of sense.I used to really hate my ED. I am still mad at it. It seemed as thought it was this out of control force that hijacked my life and was subsequently ruining it. But if I think about it, there is a lot that my eating disorder taught me that I am thankful for. It helped me as much as it could when I needed to get through a really difficult time. It was a coping mechanism. And that’s what it helped me to do.
It taught me a fully intimate knowledge of my souls dark and light, my emotional spectrum, about my will power. It taught me about relationships with other people. It taught me about vulnerability. It taught me who to trust. It taught me that some people will stay and some will run away and some will stay for a while until they need to leave and that some are here for the long haul. It taught me that none of the aforementioned decisions are my fault and that they were decisions made by other people outside of my control. It taught me the power and strength of unconditional love. It taught me about the body’s ability to survive. It taught me to speak to my body in whispered exchanges and arguments. It taught me every physical capability and limit I have. It taught me that at the end of the day, no matter how hard I might try to climb out side of my body and sever the ties that bind us, this body is mine. I’m stuck with it. So I might as well listen to it.
I read this blurb by Courtney E. Martin the other day and it really spoke to me:”It takes tremendous will and determination to fight your natural cravings each and every day. It takes finely tuned control to resist the excess all around you. It also takes profound depth of emotion to buckle under this pressure, to eat until you are bloated with the evidence of your own fragility. And revolting as it is, it takes real, physical strength and strategy to find a toilet where you can rid yourself of this fragility. If you harnessed just a fraction of this will, determination, control, emotional depth, strength, and strategy to get better, to take care of yourself, to resist the culture’s monotonous messaging, imagine how powerful you could be.”It may seem convoluted, and I know that not every Recovery Warrior will agree with me on this, but Somehow, accepting that the eating disorder started with my inherent traits, grew out of environmental factors, and developed into what it was gives me the control back. It tells me that this started with me. And I can end it. And it doesn’t mean I have to completely destroy myself of cut out these things that felt as though they were a part of me for so long. But rather, I can repurpose them. Use them to a new end. Change the world with them. If these things started out as good, they can be good again. I evolved once.Who says I can’t again?So no. I am not sorry. I am proud.