Monday, July 18, 2011

Don't Get Lost in the Crowd

One of my favorite movies for awhile was Center Stage (movie trailer here for those of you unaware and missing out). Let me first explain that for the first 12 years of my life, ballet was a major fixture. At some point, I stopped enjoying it, but because I had so much invested in it, it took me my awhile to come to the conclusion that it was okay to move on and do other things. With that being said, I loved the idea of Center Stage as a movie because it follows the lives of young ballet students who are enrolled in a New York City ballet school/company. The main character, Jody, struggled with her technique but lived and breathed ballet, while Maureen, another central character, had exquisite technique but struggled with the heart and passion for dance. 

I want to highlight Maureen's role because her character in the movie has a lot to teach us about eating disorder recovery. While Maureen does in fact struggle with an eating disorder in this movie [in fact, the movie can be a little triggering in parts due to its accurate depiction of eating disorder behaviors so heads up!], what she teaches us about ED recovery doesn't actually come from her recovery from the eating disorder strangely enough. 

Maureen is a very gifted dancer. She has impeccable skills and yet, she is not passionate about ballet. Throughout the movie, she begins to lose her one-dimensional preoccupation with ballet as she branches out.. making friends, eating pizza, and even dating. She fears that these things will interfere with her ability to be the best ballet dancer in the company, so she really struggles with having a social life. Her boyfriend picks up on her ED behaviors, and questions why she spends so much time doing something (ballet) that contributes to her unhappiness and unhealthiness. While there is ultimately more to the story, she essentially feels that without ballet she does not know who she is. It has defined her for so long that without it, she grapples for a sense of identity. Cue the ED recovery comparison.

One thing that often happens when one is struggling with an eating disorder is that the ED can eclipse one's identity. Sufferers sometimes express that the ED is what causes them to stand out, be noticed, be unique, etc.. For this reason (and others too of course), the ED can become a very important and significant part of someone's identity. This is one of the reasons that makes it tough to give up the eating disorder. By giving up the ED, one feels that she has to give up the thing that makes her special and defines her. This is the big lie of course (that an ED makes you special), but one that feels pretty real for those suffering from an eating disorder. Giving up an identity that we perceive as fulfilling a need can be extremely scary, and yet crucial in order to live our lives in freedom and health. 

At the end of the movie (spoiler alert!!), Maureen end ups quitting ballet. She recognizes that she can have a life and an identity outside of ballet, and that ignoring her feelings and desires was resulting in some very unhealthy ways of coping. The same thing can be said of an eating disorder. While it can be terrifying to let go of, an eating disorder does not add anything positive into your life! If you are scared to let go of your eating disorder because you are afraid that you will lose a part of yourself that makes you unique and makes you stand out... think about your friends and loved ones. What makes them stand out to you? Is it their appearance? Probably not! It's their attitudes, their personality traits, their character, their passions, their interests. Think about what makes others stand out to you, and it might help you to think about the ways in which you stand out!

On another note, the Center Stage soundtrack was killer back when it came out circa 2000. You should check it out- Michael Jackson, Jamiroquai, and Mandy Moore. Haha!! The name of my post, Don't Get Lost in the Crowd, is actually a song title on the soundtrack, and its by Ashley Ballard. It's a good one :-).

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