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Some of what you are about to read may be hard. It may be surprising, vague, troubling and sad. But it is also true. It is also beautiful and it is, part of my story….

I remember driving home, in the rain, dark and the roads reflective when I realized she was back. As dread filled my body, I also felt comforted by this acknowledgement. I felt the hair on my body stand on end. Not unlike a lot of relationships, this one was toxic. If not fatal.

For many years, in fact half of my adolescence, I wavered between prodigy and pawn. Excelling in some areas of my life and collapsing in others. The thing is, when a star is rising, it’s hard to notice the shadows. It’s uncomfortable to see the edges, so you shine on. I spent almost 10 years of my life wagering with the higher powers, testing my limits, pushing myself and living somewhere between life and death. In constant purgatory.

You see, I was a ballerina. I wasn’t just in ballet, IT was in me. I fundamentally had a gift which I recognize now as very rare and which combined with my compulsive work ethic was the perfect storm for angst, torment and also exceptional talent. I was good. At all of it. The bad and the good. Scholarships to anywhere, New York, Kirov, Pennsylvania you name it. If I wasn’t going to the National Ballet School, I was on my way to ABT. And if it wasn’t ABT it was SAB. My light flickering as it grew closer to the sun, but not unlike Icarus when you dance too close to the sun, you eventually get burned.img_4036

I can remember at the age of 9, a school teacher taking my Parents aside and saying, “I think your daughter has anorexia” I was intrigued. No one quite believed her. I was “healthy”, thriving in fact, just picky with food and small in stature. But for as long as I can remember, I would punish myself with what I didn’t put in my body. Instinctually.  I know what you are thinking..,. Oh it’s the ballet. No. You know what, it wasn’t. It wasn’t the modelling that came later either, or the magazines…but that’s a whole different topic. It was my unhappiness, and the pain that I felt. Sure, you look at your body all day and you tear it apart. That is not unlike the female experience altogether, which does not discount it but is altogether unfortunate and very very different. I was even considered always to be “thin”, never had to even contemplate losing weight. But it was something I always had to do. Needed to do. This was not about vanity, this was about survival. I wanted to know how to disappear completely.

During my adolescence I fluctuated between healthy enough, and progressively unhealthy. By the time my days could be spent at Lincoln Center studying with the School of American ballet and primed for a career with the New York City ballet, I was purposefully disappearing into oblivion. Into thin air. Gasping at any straw to fuel my life force that was dying. I remember walking down the steps at Lincoln centre  for that very last time.

From that time on I would spend the next 5 or so years in and out of the hospitals. 30 plus hospitalizations, organ failure, seizures, heart problems and feeding tubes. I was held in the ether. In and out. In and out. Consciously slipping into the unconscious. I was committed, restrained and forced. I was being forced to live while my brain told me to go away. To let go. To step out of limbo. Dissolve.I was empty, dark, and angry. I was pain. I was not enough, and without hope. Everything I ever was I left behind but this new friend could always comfort me. Make me safe when the many moments that were involved in my life pained me and seemed out of control. I could have that. That was mine. Laying in a ward with little left of living around me or within me, the highlight of my day would be hearing an elevator ding an arrival to the floor in hopes it would be someone for me. My family.

I remember one of those days more vividly than the rest .  A lot I do not remember for various reasons. But, I started to wake. I remember having a dream, although I do not recall the dream, I remember knowing it had been some time since I had had one. My brain was starting to function. I had more nourishment. More calories. More weight than I had previously ever been able to put on by drastic measures, and now my brain, in its remarkable glory started to think differently, negotiate after years in slumber.

I was tired. The lightest of weight carrying around a 10 ton suit. Despite a few key individuals, I remember them saying not long before this time, that they had tried everything and there were no more options for me. I remember knowing that I was the only one who could make that decision, and so I did.

I started new and fresh. I built a life I had no idea how to live but I did anyways. Blindly.  I kissed boys, I danced until 3 in the am. I smoked. I fucking loved to smoke. But most importantly I became well. I strayed from the protocol and got back to me. The me I had yet to discover. I beat the odds that were not only not in my favour, but by the time I got there, they were really against me. But I did. And I thought, If I could do this, than so can others. The sick, the well, and the hopeless.

I spent the next few years in school while working jobs on jobs, to get my counselling degree, I knew what I had to do. The brain fascinated me as I picked it apart, explored the darkest territories with time and thought. My beautiful mind.  I had to help others.  There was nothing out there. I also busied myself and made something out of thin air. It was beautiful but young, and I suppose in many ways very normal.

My career took different paths than that of counselling. From modelling and acting to fashion and design. I felt as though these careers I naturally fell into were perhaps indeed exactly what I needed. An artistic outlet with a lightness. I did after all, spend a large majority of my young life already in some of the darkest places of the spirit. So I kept on. Not fulfilled perhaps, but not unhappy. And so I spent the next 7 years or so.

I bought a beautiful home, and filled it with love. I started my own business and…

I fell in love. I never expected that. At least not a love like this. It was bright and full and real and smart and fun and fucking everything. I felt love and I loved so hard in turn. This love was like no other I could have imagined.

In stark contrast, I also started to become sick. I was diagnosed with celiac disease after a few years of stomach distress and complaints. A relief to know that this was all, and so I gladly eliminated my beloved gluten. But in the process of restoring my “health” I also started to lose weight. Wait….Take a breath. Yup, I lost weight and I got on a scale. I saw numbers that I never would have looked at months or years prior and in my gut I knew something was terribly wrong. “Just a few more” I said. Nothing wrong with that. I look great, feel great. This is so different. Everyone has diets. Why can’t I now as well?

I remember driving home that night, in the rain, and knowing she was riding with me. She wasn’t going anywhere fast and she grabbed the wheel and steered. The illness I never had imagined would rock my world again was back in business and she had me in her horrible, beautiful, gentle and evil embrace. I liked her and she terrified me. With her though, I was ok.

There are lots of things that transpired over the years that brought along this process, it wasn’t just a switch, but this was part of the impetus. The impetus that turned on countless neuropathways that knew exactly what to do and where to go again. Simultaneously, the health of my family seemed to be failing as it so often did in the past, and so I amongst other reasons…too many to list, lol, I would cling to dis health to safeguard myself from feeling. For providing control. Security.Freedom in my imprisonment.

But I was a woman in love and about to be married. I had a successful business. Why the fuck should I go and screw this all up? Was what people would say. When they noticed the veil of weight behind me. How could this be happening? How does this happen? Shouldn’t I have a say? But my mind didn’t even if my soul did.

I married the man of my dreams while he prayed at night that I would wake up after the I do’s. We wandered the streets of Europe, where at times I felt my soul leaving this world. I’ll never be able to shake that feeling. I did not crumble, I shattered, into a million little pieces that I had no idea how to sweep up nor did anyone else. I diminished. I disappeared. I did not leave home. I was dying. Spiritually, mentally and absolutely, physically and only a few people bare witness to the depths I would reach during this time and who helplessly watched on hoping for a miracle.

img_4108After being admitted yet again to the same locked Ward I’d spent much time previously, my body surrendered. The feeding tubes, the iv sites and central lines. They kept me going when I refused to go on when my 9th life was almost up. My body didn’t even want to accept food now. It went into shock. It protested. Mind body both working against me.

Many weeks later, when I was able to discharge myself, I did. Anorexia wanted the reigns. Not anyone else and so the helm was for the taking. I wanted to get better but had no idea how to get there again. I remember struggling more than ever in those days. Good vs evil. David vs Goliath. I wanted control but I could not steer. I wanted my life back and I wanted happiness. Fuuuuuckkk! I wanted to be happpy!! Fuck the food I just wanted to smile again. The darkness of depression that followed suit in the wake of malnutrition and brain degeneration was unlike any rabbit hole I knew previous. And so,  I surrendered myself helpless once again and asked for more help, but not unlike the last time, I was told again that there was nothing left for them to do. I could be provided for medically, but therapeutically I would not be accepted to treatment. Too physically sick, non compliant, chronic. I want to be certain, I do not see blame or fault in the “help” there is/was available, though there are major flaws that could be devastating and almost were, there were some incredible people who have always been in my corner, they know who they are and I absolutely adore them and their guidance. Unfortunately there is a complete lack of options, resources and creative options…that I am certain of . That horrible day though, where my vulnerability shined and was denied, was the day before the hardest. When those million little pieces. Fragments of my former life swirled like a tornado and collapsing in a blink of an eye…stripped me bare. It was the darkest day of my life. I felt and saw smoke in my head and in my body. It’s the only way I can describe it. If my body wasn’t ready to break down, my mind decided that day that it was. It is still to painful at times to consider this feeling,  but I remember saying that if I could make it through that day, I would make it through the next and nothing would ever be as hard as that. I checked myself in to St. Paul’s psychiatry, and they discharged me with two bottles of heavy psycho-pharmaceuticals.  I ditched the pills for my own safety and I knew then that I was 1. Meant to be here and 2. I used up my 9th life so let’s get this bitch good 3. I’m going to become my best experiment and 4. I’ve got a lot of people to help.

In all seriousness, that list more looked like getting through this very minute for a long while. And that was totally fine with me. But gradually and intuitively, it became that and so much more. This would be the most rewarding and intuitive approach.

I dragged myself up to the surface.  I Breathed. I Waded. I Walked and I began to create. To create life from the ground up, with new meaning, purpose, direction, love, intelligence, grace and strength. All of it.  I danced.

I knew when she came back there was a battle of extraordinary proportions to be had. I could not have bet it would almost cost me everything and in the 11th hour, give me everything I could ever hope for.

I used my lessons learned years prior as gift. I dove into getting back to me. Not the sick getting better, me, the recovering, me. But the me, me. So often this is lacking in therapeutic approaches. I intuitively brought life back into my body in so many capacities that lead to beautiful discoveries, and maybe for once, a deep fulfillment and satisfaction with my abilities.

I believe that change got me here, I believe in the exceptional, beautiful, loving, profound powers of real food, and I believe movement will carry us through. My 3 steps of wellness.

This is the brief, verrrrry brief synopsis of what has transpired over many years and many tears. There is much to share, some dark some light. Some sad and also hysterical. We all can laugh at ourselves. What a gift. Maybe I’ll write a book. Many have encouraged. It won’t be pretty but I tend to not like pretty anyhow.

One of my goals is to change how we look at and treat eating disorders and mental health. I am living, breathing and thriving proof of not only the powers of the human body and its resilience, but also of individualized and holistic healing and what we call recovery. We look at disorders, addictions, and mental health as something to cope with. But why cope with something you can die from. We are very literally doing a disservice by trying to imply this is the way life is to look. The goal is to get back to them, not the sick more well version of their sick self. It doesn’t make sense and we perpetuate this sick cycle of disease for our tolerance of, our lack of authentic connection, and our fear from looking at the darkest parts within ourselves.

I know my purpose. I was always an artist. Through movement, through words, design, and now food. My most beautiful creation will now and forever be creating health and wellness and enjoyment through food for those with similar battles and those without.

This is not to say the sole focus of my practice will be based on Eating Disorders and mental health, but if I can be of service, I will be. I find meaning and great fulfillment from providing healthy lifestyles to all of those looking for a better life be it a big change or small, an illness or a goal. What a beautiful thing that I now may have the opportunity to ride along with you on a journey with understanding, patience, commitment, and inspiration of health can look like. A beautiful balance.

Anorexia Nervosa is not a diet, it is a disease. It hunts and kills for keeps not likes. Eating disorders and mental health affects people of all ages, sizes, social status, ability and personality. You do not have to be size blank to suffer, nor depressed because you have the blues. We treat our bodies, well hopefully, like our temples, and yet our mind somehow is disconnected from this. Here’s to inspiration to change that. Because if there is inspiration, a flame ignites, and change can happen.

I refuse to define myself as the anorexic, or the recovered anorexic. Identity in either is dangerous and missing the point.

I was if anything and always will be, the phoenix born into Kate

To movement, to food, and to change and the opportunity of a new day

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images by Elena Kalis

51 Comments

  • Anna says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. You’re brave and beautiful.

    • Sandra Stenerson says:

      I loved reading your letter Kate, it is strong, determined and inspiring. Although my story, which I have shared a little with you is different there are some strong similarities. The moment I decided to walk from the bottom of my abyss I realized my strength and somehow this very hard journey had been a gift, a gift to help me cope with life as it was coming my way . I now look at life differently with gusto and determination. When one walks a similar road one becomes like kindered spirits and even though I have only known you for a short time, I feel like I have known you forever. Great Job Kate You should be PROUD, PROUD, PROUD!!!!

      • katehorsman says:

        WHat a beautiful gift to be given, to see things from the other side regardless of what the struggle is. I’m so grateful for that. I am so grateful for the love of my friends, and family, you have a big something to do with that:).And I am so grateful for the opportunity to have beautiful authentic connections with people which honestly, give us all purpose in every day of our lives. Thank you Sandra. To strength xoxo

  • Yenny says:

    So honest. So brave. So fucking determined. Your story is breathtaking. Love you xo.

  • what does one say after being handed a human heart. Kate. brave and real. you f e e l more beautiful than your physical body. you are all and everything. love to you.

  • Stefanie says:

    Very brave post… So many suffer in silence, and if this shows even one beautiful soul what they’re feeling isn’t in solitude this is worth it. ❤️

  • Jesse says:

    Actually my first blog post I’ve ever read ❤️, I hope others read this and it can inspire and help in the openness style of your writing. 💪👊 strong work Kate

  • Sharon says:

    One line in this beautiful, haunting, terrifyingly triumphant ode resonated with me… ” But why cope with something you can die from.” That is the question I will ask myself to change the way I look at disorders, mental health, and all forms of addictions, as many in my immediate family and close circle struggle with. Thank you Kate.

    • katehorsman says:

      Thank you, Sharon. Thank you. I love that you found something tangible you could feel. I daily look for things that beg me to ask questions in a different way to ensure I am on my path. Thank you for reading with open ears, eyes, and heart.

  • Aaron says:

    WOW Kate, you’ve gone through so much. I knew about ballet and your current dedication to health, but obviously I didn’t know the reasoning. It’s great that you’re now in a place that you can share your story and be an inspiration to others. Many others! Write and burn bright Phoenix. xo

  • Dominik says:

    Kate, we may not know each other very well, but I can tell you that your light shines bright. It brings me joy to see you smiling and your energy now radiates happiness. Thank you for sharing your incredible struggles; I can only imagine how difficult a task it was to write this piece. Much love and sending you all the positive energy on your new journey.

  • Marina says:

    This is one of the most accurate descriptions i’ve read of what it is like to live with anorexia. Thank you so much for your courage in sharing this ❤️

    • Leela says:

      Your way with words shines a light on even the darkest topics. Thank you for sharing and letting us into your world. Your bravery is inspiring.

    • katehorsman says:

      I take that as such an incredibly beautiful compliment. There is so much out there, what it is, what it does, but what does it FEEL. If i can convey any of that in the smallest way, than I am grateful. Thank you so much for reading..
      <3

  • Jovanna says:

    You are gorgeous inside and out. Your story is the most R E A L story I’ve ever read about what it is like. I’ve known many and your bravery is beautiful. Thank you. May you continue to inspire, heal and help change . ❤️

    • katehorsman says:

      Jovanna, Thank you. Thank you for reading, and the generous words. I’m so very grateful if I have the chance to touch people now. I’m keep going, and keep spreading the good word. Thank you for the love and support you beautiful woman. xoxo

  • Jeccia says:

    Wow. What courage it takes to share your story to the world like this. Thank you for being a voice to those who are too weak or scared to speak. I love how you refused to be defined by your eating disorder, just as people should not be defined by their mental disorder. Thanks for being an inspiration.

    • katehorsman says:

      I thank you for reading! You are so right, nothing should ever define us, not a diagnosis, nor a job, or thing. And we are so quick to go there, do that. But what happens when we do, we become that very thing. It gets us away from ourself, and I truly believe only in the self is where we find that healing. xo

  • Deborah Wardell says:

    “If they can heal my broken arm, why can’t they heal my dad’s broken brain?
    Eva age 7
    You are so capable and honourable and inspiring. You always have been. I can’t wait to see what’s to come. All of our love. Xo

  • Lara says:

    I hope my children have your strength and courage. You are the most wonderful inspiration. Lots of love to you

  • I am so proud of you for telling your story. You are an inspiration and so brave. xo

  • Dannie Raymond says:

    I am so proud of you for sharing your story. THANK YOU for sharing… tears are running down and my heart is heavy reading this… it was so raw and sadly beautiful. What I mean by that is your ability to beautifully describe your difficult journey…
    I hope many people get the chance to read this to understand that they are not alone… power and hope in number!!!
    I, like many have had body issues my whole life and have had ups and downs with my weight, the struggle is exhausting….but to have gone through what you’ve described and now, your winning battle/ new chapter filled with LOVE is truly inspiring! You are beautiful, inspirational and I admire you deeply for sharing.

    Thank you,
    xx dannie

    • katehorsman says:

      Thank you Dannie, for your words of support, understanding, love and total encouragement. I feel blessed to be on this side and in love with the authentic connection this obstacle has created for me. SO much love to you and your beautiful soul xo

  • Patty says:

    So much love and admiration Katharine. You are and always have held a special place in my heart and soul ❤️

  • simone says:

    I rejoice in your beauty, inside and out! Sharing is courageous for those who have not yet found their own voice or understanding of the pain and solitude that comes with the looming darkness. Scream this out loud and at the top of your lungs for all to hear and know there is so much life left when it feels like the shadows have you by the hand.
    You are a powerful Phoenix Kath!!! Keep rising… You only become brighter!

    • katehorsman says:

      I’m going to! and the beautiful thing is, now I have so many incredible people to share it with. Thank you for always fuelling strength in everything you do. You are so beautiful, Simone. xoxo

  • Sandra says:

    I loved reading your letter Kate, it is strong, determined and inspiring. Although my story, which I have shared a little with you is different there are some strong similarities. The moment I decided to walk from the bottom of my abyss I realized my strength and somehow this very hard journey had been a gift, a gift to help me cope with life as it was coming my way . I now look at life differently with gusto and determination. When one walks a similar road one becomes like kindered spirits and even though I have only known you for a short time, I feel like I have known you forever. Great Job Kate You should be PROUD, PROUD, PROUD!!!!

  • Justin says:

    Awesome. Very inspiring. You should be so proud. Pls continue to share your stories as they will help so many, whether you know it or not. Looking fwd to your book!
    JT

  • Tonia Mattu says:

    Kate, I commend you on so many levels. The vulnerable courage it took to share a part of your journey so openly and raw, and for going through the battle, pushing forward and now finding a way to help others through your growth. Wow, you give me goosebumps of gratitude for knowing you (even though we’ve only met a few times) – it’s a blessing to us all to connect with such a courageous woman like yourself. Keep on beautiful one, you are a gift to many who struggle with the same challenges, and you are gift too all those who are in your life. Tonia xx

    • katehorsman says:

      Tonia, Thank you for your beautiful message. The wonderful part is, as you mention, the powerful connection which is created through authenticity no matter what that looks like. I feel very grateful to be on the other side, and now use that truth regardless how dark it looks to provide motivation and strength for myself an others. Thank you for your very very generous words. I have read every comment and word with love, and a full heart. And I appreciate every single letter. all the best. xo

  • Elsa says:

    how can i help someone who i think is going though this? their family denies it and i don’t want to offend them but it’s pretty obvious.

    Elsa

  • Rebecca says:

    Kate: I do not know you but a friend shared this with me today and it could not have come at a better time. After a 24 year battle that began in my teens, I am currently in my 5th week at St. Paul’s and looking towards the future with equal parts terror and hope. Thank you for sharing your story, for being courageous, honest and vulnerable, and for helping to educate and break down the stigma of an illness that tortures too many of us. I wish you (and myself) the strength to carry through.

    • katehorsman says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      I’m so grateful that you were forwarded this and that you found any hope or truth in my story. If I can be of any assistance in any way, please know I am here. It IS possible, it IS hard and sometimes it Is easy too. It IS beautiful, and most of all YOU can do it. If nothing else. Please trust me on this. I am sending you strength, and all the hope you can imagine. with grace and love xo Kate

  • Hajnalka says:

    Kate, my Love,

    Your journey in life is a different one from most. You were meant to work hard, and you do it in a way that is so needed. Anything you touch becomes very inspiring. Your hard work and reaching out comes through in the most generous way and will influence so many, who will need to know about your experiences and strength. Love you.

  • Andrea says:

    Thank you for sharing. I do not know you personally however we have common friends and have followed you on social media. You are a beautiful human and I am so glad that you are here to create more beauty. I have seen on your IG that you like ET, I saw this and thought you’d be interested http://www.vancouversymphony.ca/concert/16SPEC04/

    • katehorsman says:

      I Love this. Thank you for your beautiful words, Andrea. And for taking the time to read. My heart is warm knowing you thought of me when you saw this! Lucky enough for me, I already have tickets 😉 I cannot wait! xo K

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