December 20, 2017

How Writing Helped me to Heal from an Eating Disorder—and Sexual Abuse.

The Healing in Sharing.

When people ask us about our lives, we often mention our careers, our families, and our accomplishments. We tend to cut out the bad parts to let people think that we are happy and fulfilled.

It’s time to change this rule.

We shouldn’t be afraid to be true to ourselves and to share the truth. Telling the truth can encourage us to change—to help ourselves and to help others. It’s time for us to be brave and to move past our fear, shame, and insecurity.

Whenever people ask about my story, I say that I was a dancer for pretty much all my life. As a little girl, my dream was to become a professional ballerina. I was well on my way when I was accepted into one of the top ballet schools in the United States at the age of 12.

The part I leave out is how terrible my experience was. Being on my own that young was difficult. I lived on the opposite side of the country from the rest of my family. I had to grow up quickly.

My ballet teachers were ultra-strict, harsh. They tore down my self-esteem. They called me fat, despite the fact that I was already underweight. They also called me stupid, despite the fact that I excelled in my academic classes.

I felt worthless and confused with their unrealistic expectations.

I started to see ballet as my enemy—like something to resent. I wanted to end this part of my story.

When I returned home at 15, I fell apart even more because of personal difficulties: I was forced to face someone close to me who had sexually abused me as a child.

As I did not know how to cope, I turned to self-harm and starved myself. I had terrible insomnia and panic attacks. Finally, at 17, I attempted suicide and went to the hospital.

Back home at my dancing studio, my ballet teacher became a mentor to me. She was one of the kindest people I’d ever met. She helped me rebuild myself. After my hospitalization, she encouraged me to open up to her and to write down all my stories.

I tried to start writing on many occasions, but I could never bring the words onto paper. Sharing them out loud was one thing—but writing them down made them feel more real to me.

A year later, I moved to Las Vegas to continue pursuing dance. It wasn’t exactly my favorite place in the world. I went there because I could live with my sister.

Unfortunately, my career fell stagnant as I stopped taking care of my mental health. I became depressed again. I ended up drinking, doing drugs, and dating inappropriate men.

By the time I turned 19, I was planning on attempting suicide once more—but this time, I wanted to succeed.

Instead, I followed my sister when she moved back to our hometown. I lived with my father for a while, which turned out to be somehow healing. We had been separated most of my life because my parents divorced when I was young.

Encouraged by him, I began to write, and I found everything spilling out of me and onto paper.

Writing was a healing process unlike any other. To my surprise, my writing became a real, actual book.

Indeed, writing and sharing my journey with others has helped me go through all these years of pain stuck inside me—this pain sought to destroy me completely.

I learned two important lessons from this process.

First, everyone’s path to healing is different.

In my case, I was told that going to the hospital or being put on medication would help me—but this didn’t help me. It was even discouraging because I believed I was a hopeless person.

Rather, I found my own path, discovering things that did help me—like writing, meditation, and yoga.

Second, I learned that sharing the truth was powerful.

Talking to people I trusted helped me face everything I’d tried to hide from. It allowed me to work through my problems. Sharing my story with more and more people made me realize that something good could come out of my struggles.

I could even help others by sharing my own story. This is what we all need to do more of: to share with others, be open and honest. It’s the best medicine.


Excerpt from my book “Dancer”

I took a deep breath, shut my eyes, and stepped up on the scale. Then, I opened one eye at a time and glanced down.


I couldn’t believe it. I stepped off the scale and moved it to a new spot on the bathroom floor, then stepped back on. Still 88. My eyes caught sight of my reflection in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of love for the girl looking back at me. I ran my fingers along my collarbones and my ribs, then down to my protruding hip bones. All 88 pounds of myself felt beautiful and powerful. My left hand fell to my side, and my right hand drew a line up my sternum, stopping to rest on my chest.

My hand was as cold as ice, and my heart was pumping along at a slow pace, like a sad, repressed prisoner in my chest begging to be freed. Water welled up in my eyes and dripped to the floor. I hadn’t cried in a while, so my tears came as a bit of a shock to me.

I was a tough girl, but I wasn’t strong. Strength is something that carries people forward through difficult times, allowing them to face reality head-on and work through their problems in a healthy way. Toughness is nothing but a thick wall built up to shut out the world. For me, my walls were distractions, manifesting into a false reality I created for myself—a reality where hunger dominated my life and the only pain I had to feel was the kind I physically manufactured for myself.
But the walls of toughness aren’t as sturdy as they appear. Eventually, they crumble.


Author: Rose Smith
Image: Sharon Sainclair/ Flickr 
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis


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