I Had a Pencil in My Foot- and what that means beyond injury

In 2018, I experienced an injury or rather "event" that I consider to be life defining.


To hear a more in depth story of how I came to have a pencil in my foot watch the video below.
Yes, 
you read that correctly. 
I said "in my foot."

In today's blog post, I would like to discuss the bigger picture of this whole fiasco.


 

My therapist recently said that "I seem to take pride in having a high pain tolerance." Something that is no doubt parallel with my eating disorder.


And up until she said this, I was unable to recognize this "trait" in myself.


My therapist recently said that "I seem to take pride in having a high pain tolerance."

She was spot on-


I feel a sense of "gratification" when sharing the awful things I have endured or parts of my health that I have sacrificed for the love of dance- whether that's sharing stories with directors I look up to or even strangers.


The things I have experienced are things I would NEVER want my students to endure or even my peers. Yet when I share them, the looks of fear and shock on other's faces makes me feel like I am worthy or deserving of accolades.


I can't say I blame myself though, this is something I witnessed from a very young age in the world of dance, where comparison is always the name of the game. Whether that be dancer versus dancer and sometimes even teacher "competing" with the young dancers they are entrusted with.


I don't like to think of myself as a particularly competitive person, but in the environment, this nature is sometimes forced upon you, even when it feels foreign or unaligned with your personal values.

 

Relating back to my eating disorder, I have had a hard time coming to terms with recovery. I have been so terrified of people not believing me or thinking I was sick. Now, I know that eating disorders do not have a "look" and I would be the first person to tell you that. When I think of myself, however, I feel like none of those common coutersys apply to me. Eating disorders are extremely competitive,-another reason they seem to thrive in dancers-with an unmatched determination to become the "sickest."


And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still experiencing these things-people body checking me or looking at me, thinking I am past the Eating Disorder. I was sick for a long time before I became severely malnourished. Once I reached that point, the point where people were finally concerned, I was pushed to get more help. Now that I am no longer dehydrated and quite frankly have visible life behind my eyes again, the most common reaction for people to have is "oh she's healed she's fixed." It would be wonderful if this was how eating disorders worked- where once you "look" a certain way the eating disorder disappears. This assumption is definitely one of the main impetuses for those in recovery-including myself-to relapse.


So while people may think they are being encouraging by telling someone with an eating disorder that they "look so much better," that they're "a lot healthier," or even that "they look good,"

it feels like a failure to the eating disorder part of our brain. It's also important to consider the millions of other things we can compliment one another on that have absolutely nothing to do with weight or appearance.


consider the millions of other things we can compliment one another on that have absolutely nothing to do with weight or appearance. 

It's nobody's fault, but I would be lying if recently these comments haven't driven me to relapse and get even sicker than I did initially. My boyfriend keeps reminding me though, that I am sick. The fact my brain still thinks that way is proof that I am still suffering from my anorexia.


Adding on to that, I know that if at this point in recovery I were to relapse, I would have to start all over again- and to me it would be not worth putting myself through all of these steps of discomfort a second time around.

 

Now, you may be wondering, "If sharing these stories of pain and suffering gives you validation, why are you choosing to share your pencil story?"


The overly simplified answer to that question is that I am no longer acting from that perspective.


...and hopefully make a change for dancers in the future.

I have an awareness of how this sort of fulfillment impacted my decisions in the past in terms of sharing my injuries. Now, I would like to share my story not so I feel "validated," but to bring an overall spotlight on the institutions that glorify that mindset.


Another interesting thing to consider, courtesy of my many productive chats with my therapist, is that nearly every "sport" has some sort of governing body watching out for participants. There are set rules and guidelines everyone must follow, and if for some reason they aren't being met there is someone to report that misdemeanor to.


I have a hard time with people touching me. I recoil at any grab someone makes toward my body-sometimes even hugs.

I have lacked a sense of body autonomy my whole life and now I feel extremely uncomfortable at any bit that comes my way- almost like a delayed trauma response. This isn't the case everywhere but I would say its definitely something to be aware of.


Between these lasting effects on me paired with new teaching conditions throughout COVID-19, I have reevaluated how I direct my students. In an industry that would constantly rely on touch to guide, I have learned how to teach without touch. If I find it necessary, I make sure to ask the student first if they are okay with me adjusting their arm. Something that is often overlooked in our corner of the arts is consent. I didn't realize it initially but what I am offering them is control over their own bodies- something that should be a given, but sadly is and has not been.

something that should be a given, but sadly is and has not been.
 

Dance, but especially ballet, has yet to establish such an organization- on a national level. A body that would protect dancers and prevent teachers, directors, whomever from become power hungry and leading with whatever rules they'd like. Obviously, there isn't much we can do about this reality overnight, but we can certainly start the conversation and hopefully make a change for dancers in the future.

Watch My Pencil Story on my Youtube channel for more on this topic.


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