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Stories of Recovery

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Meredith Davis

In the spring of 2016, I was working on the Syrian refugee campaign and pursuing my career as an actor and writer. I was working long and grueling hours—campaigning, writing, singing, rehearsing and auditioning, and babysitting. After a month of breadcrumbs, and a week of iced lattes, naturally I was sent home from work for hallucinating. On my way to the subway, I bent down to see if I could help a homeless woman who was holding a toddler. Instead she looked up at me, and said, "Are you okay?" The next thing I knew I had blacked out, and woke up on 34th street.

The next day my sister checked me into The Renfrew Center. I was in denial, because I believed that being in shape was just a part of the theatre world, and in order to book the jobs I was right for, I had to make sacrifices. Although when I was only 17 I had been diagnosed with anorexia, doctors had told my parents that it had resulted from a medication they were trying out for my epilepsy, an illness I've had since I was 11.

Since I was now seizure-free and living alone for several years, I felt that I had no reason to be sick, no excuse to be sad. I thought I should only feel grateful all the time. I was someone who always got a little carried away with working out and cleansing. But my doctors assured me that this was not just about needing to be skinny. This was something that wanted to kill me—some illness that had tricked me into believing that it was making me strong but was actually making me weak.

Eating disorders are the meanest bullies of them all.

While I was at Renfrew, my two young nephews and beliefs I hold deep in my heart were my driving force to get better. When the therapists and dietitians saw how passionate I was about children and animal protection, they encouraged me to think of myself the way I think of them— to treat myself the way I would treat them. When I see something disturbing, or worry about someone being in pain, doesn't help the situation by causing myself pain. In order to really help others, though, I had to be kinder to my body. I had to accept that I'm human and that I don't have to like everyone or act happy all the time!

Although I was released from treatment in the summer of 2016, I don't think I actually realized how helpful Renfrew was until the universe tested me later that fall. I was very close to saying: Forget that recovery thing. Luckily I had the tools that Renfrew had provided for me to get through that difficult time.

This past spring, my friend was in "Angels In America", my favorite play on Broadway. She invited me to opening night. I was nervous and worried that I might feel uncomfortable or negative in some way. The show had been one of my dream jobs since I was young. However, I didn't feel guilty, ugly, envious, or not worthy. I was entranced. It was hours of great therapy. Suddenly, I was reminded why I chose this profession. I felt sincere gratitude, not driven from guilt. I was so proud! My friend was in the greatest play ever written! She was so amazing, and she wanted me to be there for her!

When I see the people who I see at these kind of things, it often feels very fake. I was dreading those questions: "What are you working on right now? Are you seeing anyone?" However, for the first time I felt extremely wanted in my community. I believe it's because I wasn't apologetic and I didn't allow others actions to make me feel stupid.

The playwright of the show has been a role model and an inspiration to me as a writer and actor, so my friend wanted to introduce me to him at the after-party. I had this whole thing planned. I was going to thank him for writing this play that had such a wonderful impact on my life, but I was just so emotional and happy for my friend, it just wasn't the priority anymore.

As I waited for my Uber after midnight, kind of disappointed that I didn't get to meet him, I looked up and there he was—standing next to me, smiling right at me.

This may sound strange, but I truly felt that perhaps in that moment, he felt my gratitude. It was late, and I didn't need to say anything. It felt like this guy was saying, "You don't need to thank me. You don't have to prove anything to me tonight. You're not crazy for feeling love for me, a perfect stranger. Keep loving, keep writing." So, I just smiled back at him.

The truth is, this person had given me something. He had given me that sense of belonging in an industry that isn't so welcoming— especially to women. So how can feeling love for him be crazy?

A couple of years ago I would have gone home and cried for hours, angry at myself for not introducing myself to him, for thinking I missed my shot. I would have engaged in self-harm and not eaten anything for the next few days. Instead, I got in the car, and yes, I was crying—but it was that cry I haven't felt for my own happiness in many years. I said to the driver, "I'm so happy. I'm just so happy!" He said, "Okay. Why?" And I replied, "Well, I've been given more life!"

Bio: Mere Davis is an actor, singer, and writer living in Manhattan. She is a legal blogger for two law firms and has worked on several political campaigns. She was instrumental in Intro Bill 371 to end the New York City horse and carriage industry, and the passage of Bill 111 to end wildlife animals traveling through circuses in New York City. She led the Syrian Refugee Crisis campaign for Oxfam America, and Gender Inequality. She also was on the 2008 Presidential campaign for Barak Obama.