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Dancing With Death: a Poem About My Eating Disorder

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

I learned to dance at
the age of 7.

The discipline, the
rituals, the pain, it came easily to me.

In fact, I loved it.
I thrived on the physical and mental demands.

And dance became me.

A definition of who I
was to be.

By age 10 I was
Irish dancing competitively at a National level,

Age 14 I was
accepted into a performing arts school,

By age 15 I
started my own Ballet Academy that went,

On to run for seven

But I was consumed by

For there was a dance
that had begun long ago in my mind.

I didn’t realize at
the time but I had learned this dance at age 4,

It required a
partner — a voice I would later learn to label as ED.

It started off
quietly as

We waltzed around the
room and tangoed in the hallways.

We moved in a
delicate counter balance, that required trust and devotion.

There were moments of
euphoria and elevated suspension,

Only to be followed
by sweeping, spiraling lows.

The dance was
familiar, the dance became me, the dance was all I had known,

And the dance almost
killed me.

And like muscle
memory, the body unthinkingly flows through the choreographed steps,

my mind was unaware with whom I was dancing
and the destruction this dance would cause.

And though my family
pleaded for me to give up the dance;

The red shoes were
tied tightly. Bound around my ankle,

The dance continued

Pushing me through
the demanding rehearsal,

And 5,6,7,8


To the brink of

And a hospital became
the answer for the red shoes to be pried

From my feet.

And my family cried
and the loved ones around me

Just couldn’t see why
I wouldn’t stop dancing.

The once beautiful
dancer, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, cousin, niece —

turned to a corpse-like figure

Lying in a hospital

The once satin red
shoes, billowing tulle, and, delicate tiara

Replaced by

IV’s, NG tubes, PICC
lines, heart monitors and wheelchairs.

For — it was with
death I was dancing.

And this is what I have slowly come to realize. My eating disorder ultimately wants my death. Fooled by its alluring ways, its “pretty picture perfect ballerina” promises, I can now see past this and I see the torment, and torture of mind and body and the devastation it causes not only to me but my loved ones. I love them enough, to
give up this dance.

I look into the eyes of my family and friends and I know they are asking, begging me, “Please, don’t dance with your death again my dear.”

I look to all who are battling eating disorders and I see so much strength and soulful beauty in their eyes, and I say to them, “You deserve another chance.” You deserve to, “dance with life not death and for the pure joy of it my friends!”

Blog post inspired by: “The Dance” — Zoe Zdunich

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via DAJ

Originally published: May 18, 2017
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