For the past five years, I called New York City home, a home I worked hard to build for myself. Around 2017, I finally felt the hard work of recovery paying off. Heck, I even felt completely recovered from a fifteen-year battle with my eating disorder. I had done the heavy emotional labor in therapy, I had been to treatment, I was riding the ebb and flow of my emotions, I had found communities who loved me exactly as I was, quirks and all. In New York I felt seen, artistically fulfilled, and brimming with possibility. I felt like a real New Yorker, swept up in the rhythm of the city.
Enter: global pandemic
My lease ended, my future theatre jobs were cancelled, I lost all four of my part-time jobs. I found myself back in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, which was never in my future plans. All March and April, I filled my days with teaching virtual lessons, taking virtual acting and dance classes, taking countless laps around my neighborhood, acting in Zoom play readings, and I even signed up for a virtual course at Yale…God help me. Anything to avoid feeling the immense loss of having to leave a place I worked so hard to make my own. Throw in the fact that I was doing this in the place where my eating disorder first showed up and well…the flood gates were bound to open. And open they did.
Come May I found myself laying on the shag rug in my childhood bedroom, feeling nine weeks of loss, sadness, grief, anger, and longing. I was struck with the hard truth that I had been slipping farther and farther from my recovered self. Old disordered patterns and actions were creeping back into my world. I had worked so hard not to feel the pain in my world that I hardly noticed their presence until their presence was all I noticed. I realized I needed more support, much more support.
“But Alie B., “ I thought, “Just suck it up and figure it out alone. You have been in enough therapy; you shouldn’t need any more help.” My thoughts nagged at me. I let them nag at me until the middle of July…but eventually, enough was enough! I opened my email and sent an email to the dietitian I worked with ten years ago. A few more weeks passed and I logged on to a virtual Alliance support group (thanks to some gentle nudging from McCall). Finally, I held my breath and picked up the phone to call a new therapist based in Birmingham.
It took me months to come to terms with the fact that it is OK to STILL need help. Now, I can finally exhale big, cleansing exhales. I can sleep at night without my disordered thoughts causing me to toss and turn. I am taking some of the bravest steps in therapy that I have ever taken. It doesn’t matter that I started this work as a preteen, I can still come back to it.
If the uncharted waters of this pandemic are causing you to feel farther and farther from your recovered self, I am sending you all the love right now. And I want to gently nudge you the way McCall encouraged me. Take one new step. This pandemic is causing us to try enough new ways of living already, what is one new action step? Call a friend and let them know what is REALLY going on with you. Send a reach out email to an old care provider or maybe start fresh with someone new. Log in on Mondays to the Alliance Recovery Check-In group (that step is free). It doesn’t matter how long or winding your recovery road has stretched, you are worthy of support. You are beyond worthy of support. And you can always STILL ask for help.
Alie B. is an optimist, actor, and disability inclusion consultant. She has performed on tour, off-Broadway, and regionally. When not onstage, Alie B. works with arts organizations, businesses, and educators on building a more inclusive world for people with disabilities. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Arts in Medicine from the University of Florida. For more, visit www.aliebgorrie.com (Instagram @aliebg)