The Passed Note Issue 6 February 2018 - Page 26

culture. My fellow dancers and I looked at ourselves daily, sometimes multiple times a day, from every angle in the mirror-covered walls of the studio rooms. As we danced, we scrutinized every part of our bodies, from the elegance in our feet to the sizes of our breasts to the leanness in our shoulders. This was quite a balancing act; we had to appear as though we never looked at our reflections. I began to despise my body. My feet were flat and sickled; my thighs, butt, and arms were too muscular; my hands didn’t look right (I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with them, but they didn’t look right!); my nose was too big; my teeth were too big; my ears were uneven; and my upper lip curled under too much when I smiled.

I enjoyed playing a game with myself. How little could I eat while maintaining enough energy to dance? My greatest achievement was oatmeal, a handful of almonds, and an apple or carrots each day. But my weakness became binging on two helpings of dinner. Revolving my life around my body only increased my anxiety. Depriving myself, with minimal results, fed my depression. No matter what I did, my body structure wasn’t right for a professional ballet career. This realization was devastating.

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While I had no problem routinely getting naked in front of other dancers in the locker room, some of them strangers, I couldn’t let my closest friends know I’d started taking medication for anxiety and depression. I worried if people learned I wasn’t happy most of the time, they wouldn’t want to be around me; if I shared my problems, they might think less of me.