This post was originally written for Project Heal's blog.

2-3 minutes is about the length of an average scene in longform improvisational comedy. When I was at the height of my eating disorder, that would have been enough time to have 20-30 different thoughts about how disgusting I was, but not do anything else. I am an eating disorder survivor and an improv comedian, two aspects of my life that while separate, sometimes seem to have everything to do with each other.

Improv means making it up on the spot. It’s not really important where you are. You can be on a theater stage in front of hundreds of people, or in the back of a bar basement in front of only your mom, who is probably too distracted looking for Lysol wipes for her seat (It was nice of her to come, though.). You get up there and you work with partners and teammates to connect with and understand each other, with the goal of creating characters and worlds that the audience will relate to. That relating part of it is key, because that’s what makes people laugh, and if you do your job well enough, even your mom will put away her lysol wipes and laugh, too.

Recovery from anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder has meant different things to me over time. It’s meant putting my life on hold to simply restore my body and think straight again. For a while it was having to remind myself every couple of hours that negative thoughts I hold about me and my body don’t necessitate negative eating behaviors. It always means accepting that recovery doesn’t happen in a straight line. But right now, recovery means being able to view the world from a different lens–the lens of a full person and not the lens of a “girl with an eating disorder.”

Entering an improv scene invites the performer into a unique opportunity: the opportunity to see the world from the perspective of a character outside themselves. When the improviser makes a strong decision about what their character does, thinks and feels, everything changes: the things they say and the ways they say them, the feelings they have and the things they believe, and even the way they hold their body. All of a sudden, the improviser begins to discover new things that wouldn’t have been possible without this shift in perspective. I’ve seen a young male teenager transform into a completely believable nervous mom teaching her son how to drive, and a mother of three jump into the chair next to him to play that son who is more passionate about legalizing marijuana than driving. This happens in a matter of mere moments. The improvisers don’t have trouble figuring out what to say, because their minds are open to other perspectives.

Humans are stubborn. Rarely do we allow ourselves the time and energy to think in the way I’ve just described, which is why improv is really hard. But so is recovery. And I want to do both well.  By shifting the lens in improv scenes, I am able to create a new world for the character I’ve invented. By shifting the lens in recovery, I am able to create a new and better life for myself.

In my eating disorder and depression, everything I did was filtered through a lens that was inherently ill:

I am out of control if I eat that.

My phone’s ringing. I don’t have the energy to pick it up, so I won’t.

I should walk instead of take the elevator.

I’ll just lie and say I already ate lunch.

It’s not worth getting out of bed today because I’m not worth the effort.

That fight was my fault.

Everything is too hard.


Today, my lens sounds a little different.

Ice cream? Oh hell yeah.

I already ignored this person’s phone calls three times. I guess I can show up for people and actually pick up the phone.

Elevators are a great invention because I can safely text and fix my makeup while traveling.

I’m never again going to miss out an opportunity to be with people I love just so I don’t have to eat lunch.

I’ll give myself a little bit more time in bed. I’m not a piece of shit. I’m tired and maybe sad and that’s fine.

That’s what a healthy fight looks like? Oh, cool.

Things are hard but not out of my control.

I’ve had to shift my perspective entirely in recovery, but in this case I’m not adopting that of a character outside of me, but rather returning to my authentic self.

A bold move in an improv scene is a risk. It takes vulnerability and you don’t always know how it’s going to go. You say something crazy or decide that your character is going to do something unexpected, like start crying or dancing. In the split second before, you’re pretty much like, “this could end up being awful.” And then you make the move anyways and you wait for another split second of awful silence that feels like an eternity. If it’s a good move, the silence erupts into insane laughter, and it’s the best feeling in the world. Recovery’s pretty much the same I guess, except that split second of awkward, unbearable silence can end up being something like twenty years of awkward, unbearable insecurity. But just like that laugh, the result is oh so sweet, baby.

I am an eating disorder survivor and an improv comedian, two aspects of my life that while separate, sometimes seem to have everything to do with each other. I think it is important to note that my recovery is not in and of itself due to improv. Not at all. Recovery has taken me years of therapy and hard work in every moment, and there is no replacement for that. But improv is my passion, and I am lucky that it happens to constantly reaffirm to me the idea that shifting my perspective towards recovery is both a bold and a good move.

This fall marked two years in full and active recovery from my eating disorder, two years living a pretty great life.  As a celebration, I am hosting an event on November 13th at the Magnet Theater in New York City that combines two of my favorite things: ice cream and comedy. Half of the proceeds benefit Project Heal- New York City Chapter, and you’re all invited. Visit the link below for more information on location, time and ticket reservations, and I hope if you’re able, you’ll come celebrate the hell out of life with me.

Want to read about fried chicken? Don't read this (sorry).

The other day the six-year-old sass-master who I babysit told her grandmother that I am a very qualified sitter. Specifically, she told her this is because I know how to properly toast blueberry bagels. Oh. This made me stop for a second and think about how the skills and qualifications that I have been listing on my resume for years have changed a bit in the past few months now that I have a six-year-old boss. They’ve gone from “data administration and organization,” “fluent in Microsoft Office,” and “Dean’s List” to “Beanie Boo organization,” “fluent in the Kidz Bop version of every pop song,” and “ability to list all characters in Frozen.” (For those of you who don’t know, Beanie Boos are just today’s sexier Beanie Babies, and I do mean every pop song.)

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here for a few reasons. One has been self-criticism and doubt. Putting myself out to a large group of people and talking about the things that drive me into both self-punishment and into connection and hope does provide a sort of high, an energy that makes me feel really great. Those feelings of empowerment and relief are what have motivated me to open my computer to write on multiple occasions. But what leaves me hours later with only a blank word document, and maybe a clever tweet that no one but my sister will favorite (thanks, Maura), are thoughts about potential judgement from that new person I’ve just become friends with on Facebook, about how I don’t have the time or the energy to find the perfect words to describe my thought processes, or about how something similar to whatever I am going to write has inevitably been expressed before in some form. What’s the point? That's the same old story I've written about a lot, doubt I have to fight through by talking to others, listening to myself, and believing that I have something worthwhile to share. Same old, same old.

But there’s also something else. I’m kind of just fucking sick of addressing these concepts all of the time. I’ve spent the past four years talking about my problems with food or my emotions (usually both) every day. Some of that time has been in residential treatment, focusing on them for every moment of the day that I am awake. It’s exhausting, can be boring, and is definitely depressing (no surprise there, am I right guys?).

For a long time, my life has been centered around eating disorders, anxiety, and depression, and quite honestly, not much else. I haven’t had the time or the energy to develop too many passions or interests unless I can access them by logging into my Netflix account. That has made it so easy for me to step out of my life whenever I feel like it, choosing treatment, or maybe just my bed for a weekend, over anything else.

Things feel the tiniest bit different now. I’m starting to care about activities that don’t have to do with analysis of my mental state. I’m working on projects and connecting with people that challenge the way I think in a completely different way, and, wait for it, make me laugh. I’m not entirely sure what will come of all of this but I know that right now I have people that count on me and right now I really don't want to let them down. I guess I don’t have time to step out of my life, or maybe I just don't want to. I started babysitting so I can have the time and money to work on all of these things, and now a six-year-old counts on me, too. Oh? But honestly, she can count on me much more than any of my old coworkers could, when I constantly had to take extended breaks because life was simply too overwhelming and too unfulfilling (and was that salad I ate for lunch too big?)

I really like sharing my history and being open, but I just don’t want to do it all of the time. My life has other parts now. My mental health and relationship with food are still on my mind a lot and part of my daily conversation whether I like it or not. Just today it took me an hour to pick out what to eat for lunch, and I had to spend part of that time explaining to someone else why fried chicken and pizza still scare me. I guess I could write an entire blog entry right now about fried chicken, but I’m going to question your judgement if that’s something you’d really want to read all of the time. 

Oh, but make sure to tune in next week for my tips on the perfect ways to toast a blueberry bagel. 

Peace and love,