Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The back story to StandUpera! Bulimia, Singing and Recovery. NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

Ladies and Gents,

Last week I blogged about "Why Do A One Woman Show."

See, I am performing my one woman show, "StandUpera"
as an official entry of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Yup! Six performances of Standup, Storytelling, and Song...

But more about that in a minute.

Some of you may know me as far back as when I did public speaking, forums, and awareness work on behalf of ENDING Eating Disorders. And as they feature prominently in my near-demise, but also feature prominently in my discovery of spirit, compassion, loving kindness, source, universe, oneness and God, well... I decided I would write a little bit more about eating disorders here.

I have a little hesitation about it. See, when I was a kid, I learned how to HAVE eating disorders by "It happened to me" articles in teen magazines. My eating disorder coincided with the explosion of the internet, and it seems like there are SO MANY levels of UNHEALTHY ARTICLES (even those meaning to help) as well as pro-ana and pro-bulimia sites, let alone extreme diet pages, body shaming memes, etc.

See, we can use these as tools to destroy our health and our lives...

But to me, eating disorders are another symptom of a culture that utilizes fear as part of greed, greed as part of self-worth, and is constantly promoting that your life isn't good enough. If you're not the best, or the thinnest, or at least this rich or this thin or this famous or this successful, and especially  by- wait, how OLD are you?- then your life sucks.

And one thing I have learned by looking into the skies and receiving that divine blessing of breath is this:

Your Life Is Possible.


I am sharing parts of my journey not just to make fun of having been chubby and then anorexic and then bulimic and then depressed and then etc.

But to say, dang. If I can find Loving Kindness and Be Here Now?

Anyone can.

'Cause I'm a bullheaded, stubborn know it all who learned that life is so much more fun when you are present to the people and places who surround you.

Life is so much more successful when you live in love and walk in grace.

And it's a practice and this is my practice today!

On to the blog:


The Most Insane Binge I remember:

I have to really think about this. I might be piecing different ones together….

I don’t remember my first binge, because those started when I was really young. I was an overeater as long as I can remember, and my mother put me on my first diet at age 8. I remember taking before pictures. There were no after pictures. There were many promises of a new wardrobe. But there were no after pictures.

I was already obsessed with food, just not chubby yet... age 4. Took another three or four years to get to chubby.

By the time I was in high school, I was a full on anorexic. I DID binge periodically, eat a dozen cookies, or something along those lines, but then I would not eat for a day or two or three to make up for it. By the time I was in my junior year of high school, I would have a binge, not eat for four days, repeat. By the time I was a senior, my diet consisted of: breakfast: ½ c Cap’n Crunch, soy milk. Lunch: one apple. Dinner: watered down cabbage “weight loss” soup. If I had to go to a weigh in, I drank a half liter of diet 7Up to quickly gain “weight” (well, 2 L worth!) which I would then, of course, not really gain because it was “0” calories. Blech.

By the time I went to my first college, this awful- okay, fine, perfectly nice place but not right for me at that time in my life- place full of perfect people with perfect minds, bodies, hearts, souls, musical abilities, sexualities (even the weird ones were somehow perfect. It was a bunch of Minnesota Scandinavians, which is as close to the Stepfords as you will ever get, unless you want the fake boob/ lip injected kind of Stepfords, who all live in the O.C.)… I mean, *I* was the face of diversity at this place, because it was *before* I went blonde. I was a fucking mess of a person inside and out, and I hated it there, and I was running AWAY from my dreams rather than chasing them, bored with an academic system built for people concerned with getting good grades rather than expanding their minds and discovering new worlds. I know that sounds bitchy, but people of vision do not do well in institutions, and so I started failing…. Not class….. but as a person.

My first binge that led to a purge was…. I was 18 or 19. You’d think I’d remember something so paramount. Actually I am fairly sure I was 18 because I went home for Christmas right after that, where I started not only binging/ purging but using laxatives and drinking Ipecac and periodically, cleaning solution. (I was trying to poison myself to death.)

(It was... soap poisoning!)

Anyway, the binge- well, that was- I remember it being a blur. Years later I taught myself to at least enjoy them. Enjoy is the wrong word. Be present to them is a better way to say it! I mean, it always started out with a harmless [sic] trigger food and then suddenly it would become A LOT of that trigger food, like, could feed a starving village amount, and it was like you had to keep going until you had enough to purge... but I am getting ahead of myself, as usual.... anyway, I also know a lot more now about the body’s starvation principle and how it will do what it needs to do to survive. Of course, so will the mind of a perfectionist!

It started with a bagel. This was back in the days JUST as we were leaving the world of low or no fat and calorie counting, and just as we were starting to get into the South Beach/ Atkins/ no carbs diet. I missed the whole no carb/ South beach/ Atkins diet train of thought because I was in rehab all those years- so when people talk about being fat because of carbs I KNOW that isn’t true, because I was 96 lbs for years eating basically ONLY carbs, and sometimes a lot. No, I mean, I was sometimes anorexic on a LOT of carbs only. I ate almost no fat and very little protein. I ate plenty of sugar, just in small amounts… like…. Dinner was sometimes one bag of skittles instead of my cabbage soup. This has resulted in me realizing that most diets are just complete bullshit, and that balance and listening to your body is kind of the key, unless you have allergies or clogged arteries. But for the average person, I think the thing making us fat is crappy food with no value couple with obsession and denial and secrets and lies. Yup!

Anyway back to the binge. So yeah. A bagel.

Which… once I had gone there… it was like this switch went off in the back of my head…. Well, probably that’s where it would have been, because that’s where the amygdala is, the part of the brain that governs fight/ flight…. Anyway…. Suddenly I found myself walking from café to café, eating a dozen bagels with cream cheese and am….. and then I bought a package of Fig Newtons. Fig Newtons were my all time favorite cookie but they were totally forbidden because I was NEVER able to eat just one or two. (I since can’t eat them at all. They no longer taste good to me because they are associated with that time of my life!) I ate the entire package and decided it was time to wash it down with an entire container of Sunny D. Suddenly, I woke up. No, seriously. It was like this other part of me was living for me, taking over, and conscious Erin was asleep. I USED to call that person Ed, and thought Ed was an evil snake. I think now that Ed was the part of me that was trying to keep me alive, and I embrace that shadow who works on my behalf in devious ways in a world of duality where perfection is an ideal that can never be attained.

Of course, shadow work, and embracing ED not to keep me anorexic or skinny or bulimic in a pro-ana way is NOT what I am talking about. I am talking about that part of myself that used ANYTHING IT COULD to wake me up. C.S. Lewis once wrote something along the lines of, there is a heart-shaped keyhole in each of our hearts, and the only key that can fill that keyhole is actually the shape of God. I am completely paraphrasing. But the point is this: eating disorders, and depression, and drama and self-sabotage.... those were all ways that my SHADOW was trying to get my attention because in my daily life I was eschewing my spirituality as I grew more workaholic, more perfectionistic, ever more consumed with the cultural idea of success. 

*I* did those things, not culture. But I seek not to BE culture, nor blame culture for all of my problems, but to identify where the cracks are so we as a collective may heal them.

Back to the binge, and resultant first purge.

Warning: The Next Part is Gross.

Of course, we can watch the movie the PURGE in which human lives are purged in bloody messes and still eat popcorn with nasty fake butter so, maybe you really can handle the next portion? I don't know. Good luck.

Damned Fig Newtons. After that, I thought to myself, well, I have to do it I really do. I have to purge. So I went into the Student Union bathroom, rolled up the sleeves of my sweater, leaned over and stuck a finger down my throat. My right pointer finger. It was shockingly easy. The bagels came up in all these bread chunks and you could still taste the blend of cream cheese and grape jelly. It was surprising to me that bagels came up sometimes before Fig Newtons. I thought they would come up in the reverse order from which I had eaten them, but they didn’t. I couldn’t stay in this bathroom all day and I was getting scared, so I cleaned up thoroughly, bought more Sunny D, and went to my dorm. There I downed a brownie and some Grandma’s cookies from the vending machine, drank the Sunny D, and went to the bathroom. I saw the Dorm Advisor on the way into the bathroom and told her I had the stomach flu…. Just in case she heard me… then I puked some more. Then I cleaned up and went upstairs to the next floor, used their bathroom. For me, college was like the guided museum tour of bathrooms. Some are definitely better than others! Generally, girls’ bathrooms are cleaner… and if you think about splashback… that’s a better option.

I know I was wearing multiple layers because at that time, well, by then I was being watched and weighed and had to weigh at least 105 lbs, or else I would be sent to the hospital. I therefore weighed between 106-108 most of that first year of college until after Christmas when I was binging and purging and my weight rose to about 120. By the time I was in rehab I was at 135-140 and my clueless doctor who gave me Prozac (and I was among those unfortunate for whom Prozac makes things worse and I tried to kill myself a few times. It was like a hilarious comedy in which I kept surviving car rollovers, car crashes, etc. I even tried to drown myself in the river and couldn’t do it! I just got a very fast, very cold ride down the Mississippi. ) I don’t weigh myself now and haven’t really since I was 20. I tried to once about 5 years ago and it was a big mistake and I have literally erased the number from my memory because it was too disturbing for me, and the whole gravity thing and muscle v fat thing makes it all seem like such an arbitrary way to measure yourself.

Anyway back to my clothes- I am certain I was wearing long underwear and a flannel and a sweater, because I was always cold (no body fat), and a hat. I always wore a beanie because 80% of the heat of your body escapes from the top of your head, or I read that somewhere, and believed it. I would have worn Express jeans and Doc Martens. That was my uniform when I wasn’t performing.

Ugh. College.

This became my routine form then on. Anorexia was over and bulimia had begun.

Once you go bulimic, it’s really hard to go back to anorexic. Since I am being fairly damn honest about how sick I was, I will admit that I missed the days of anorexia because I was so out of control with bulimia and depression and I really thought I had control over things back in the days of anorexia. Control. What a joke.

I feel compelled in this moment to reassure you all that as a grownup, I am recovered. But that's me trying to people please and make nice nice about everything and not frighten family members who may read this. I mean, I AM recovered, or, really, IN recovery, because so far it's still a daily practice. I believe all things are possible, and so I believe it is possible I MAY some day live without even THINKING about food. But then again, I will gratefully my life on life's terms. I am reminded of George Carlin's rants about eating disorders. I do not feel First World Shame about having had an eating disorder, but I would like to use the energy I formerly funneled into THOSE kinds of struggles and apply that energy to help needy in any capacity I can, be they starving folks here or abroad, or a fellow singer struggling with an eating disorder.

NOW, I don’t really want to be anything other than precisely what I am. Body size, shape, gender, age, skills, life experience. YES I want to grow as an artist, person, performer. I want to help people and have more fun. But all of that I want to be based in the truth of me as a person on the planet at this time. Like I said, I never weigh or measure myself. That's for doctors and costumer designers. I don't judge myself by my clothing size, although sometimes I want to! Argh. What I really want? 

I want society to be different and for people to stop using something actually really sick and unhealthy to hurt themselves. I want society to accept all body types and stop shaming people for being who they are, skinny, fat, in the middle. We’re all beautiful. We are beautiful. You are beautiful.

Eventually, when I slowed myself down- no more multitasking binging, purging, emailing, studying!- and I really began to be present to binging and purging- it just didn’t do much for me anymore. It’s kind of a bummer because it was one of my main hobbies. One of my only ways to relax. In a weird way, it was my best friend, the one I could always turn to and who was always there for me and who really didn’t judge me for doing any of this. It was like, yup! I exist because of you! So keep it up!

But it wrecked my voice. Oh sure, screaming in a rock band, bad singing, singing in a key too low for me, drinking a lot, barely sleeping, the early days of drinking bleach to try to poison myself… these things all contributed. But purging- all the stomach acids coming back up and coating the vocal folds- that took years to recover from. I spent years rebuilding my voice, which was tough because I would still purge from time to time. Eventually, I made a deal with myself. If I had a gig or an audition, I could eat whatever I wanted but I could not purge. I decided my voice was more important than my body weight….

When I started rebuilding my voice, THAT'S when my teacher first heard my opera voice. He was shocked. I kind of smiled. I thought I had ruined my voice and would NEVER sing classical music again, but in singing, I began to rebuild not just my voice, but... something SO much greater.... my LIFE.

More to come- about Manhattan School of Music- about StandUpera- about divine music. 

But there you go! Me and about 10% of my warts. :)
And part of the back story to StandUpera.

I love you.