Why The Real Deal? A Letter From The Editor.
I grew up in the Midwest: good, old-fashioned, family style. Strong family values, committed and loving parents, siblings, an abundance of music, arts, gardening, camping, cooking, clubs, friends and outings. I was a Miss Badgerette award-winning dancer / pom-pon girl, a first-chair clarinet player, singer, actress, social butterfly and a super-achieving kid. Despite these external “successes” I somehow began misinterpreting messages in my early teenaged years: namely, that looks somehow inform my abilities, triumphs or identity as an individual. That if I have great legs, eyes, skin—whatever—I will be considered more valuable as a human being. And if I don’t …
As a result, my own sense of self became fragmented. Eventually, my life took on a parallel shape and was riddled (and blessed) with two marriages, an array of exciting and wild experiences and many colorful journeys. Fragmented, though, was a great way to describe my physical and emotional terrain during those years. Through my fragmented emotional state, I clutched on to my perfect body ideals, turning to workouts in a gym as my primary coping tool. Encouraged by a culture of disordered eating and over-exercise and a negative body image, I began to feel the imbalances of success: as I won awards in New York City, I felt less-and-less successful. As I accomplished more external tasks, I felt less-and-less “complete” on the inside. I couldn’t figure out why.
As a woman in her mid-20’s, then 30’s, I was a successful New York actress who found myself in relationships and friendships with individuals who were peppered with bi-polar disorder, bulimia, alcoholism, sexual or financial addictions and who suffered from abuse in their childhoods. Most were emotionally unavailable, and most couldn’t give me what I deserved: a healthy, loving, balanced relationship.
Nor could I them.
In the year 2000, I decided to pursue my own therapy after my first divorce — a heartbreak from which I believed I would never recover. I chose to stay in therapy for 7 years.
Through therapy, I started seeing how much I was surrounded by friends and extended family illnesses ranging from alcoholism to depression to bi-polar disorder … I started seeing the parallels and how closely these cycles were following me. I also started becoming “conscsious” about the ways I managed stress … er … didn’t manage stress.
In 2005, (at precisely the right time in my life), my best friend Jack introduced me to a rock musical project — based on the true story of a family struggling with anorexia. While I had never struggled from an eating disorder, myself, the project really resonated for me. So many of my friend’s experiences were similar, it was remarkable. When I produced NORMAL at Transport Group Theatre Company in 2005, many individuals were inspired to seek treatment. Variety Magazine wrote “Let’s wrap this up and send it out to schools where it can do the most good.”
So we did.
Within one year, I had created the NORMAL nonprofit organization. Over the last five years in schools, universities, treatment centers and medical conferences, then, I have seen too many kids struggling with eating disorders, self-harm and terribly low self-esteem. I have seen families in pain from diverse socio-economic and multi-cultural backgrounds. I have seen a great deal of imbalance in our culture and a shocking amount of stigma that is preventing kids from healing. Not just girls and women. Men and boys, too.
As a yoga teacher, I have also seen individuals (and families) journey toward inner peace through an array of techniques ranging from psychotherapy to yoga to arts based teachings. In fact, this process also healed a great deal of my own body image issues. As an experiment I gave myself a personal challenge: to cease from working out in a gym for one entire year, to eat what I WANT when I want and to choose things to do each day that I enjoy.
Here’s the post about what happened… it isn’t that going to the gym is a negative… it is just that for me, it was becoming an unhealthy way to manage stress and difficult experiences. Today I embrace all forms of physical exercise and activity — including the gym!
A few months ago Heather (MamaV) approached me and said she wanted to donate the WeAreTheRealDeal blog to the NORMAL nonprofit.
It was a dream come true — honestly. I had always wanted one forum whereby professionals from mental health, body image, arts and mindfulness could all come together to teach about self-acceptance.
We are all here to share ideas and concepts about body image, as well as an array of healthy coping strategies so men and women, boys and girls have ways to connect their bodies, voices and true sense of self… and to help manage the incredible pressures facing all of us in this culture of busy-ness and perfection.
Take a stroll around and let me know what you think.
I’d sure love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org.
~WATRD Editor, Robyn Hussa
This post is partially excerpted from Hussa’s book Healthy Selfitude.
Robyn Hussa, MFA, E-RYT, is Founder and CEO of NORMAL, for which she was awarded the 2010 Champion in Women’s Health award from Ms. Sue Ann Thompson and the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. Ms. Hussa is also a professional performer and New York producer. She is the co-Founder of the Drama Desk and Obie award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company, Transport Group, for which she won the 2007 Drama Desk award for the company’s breadth of vision and presentation of challenging productions. She is the Editor of the WeAreTheRealDeal blog site and author of Healthy Selfitude — a result of Hussa’s in-depth training in the performing arts, voice, movement, and yoga. She holds a Master’s in Fine Arts and is an E-RYT yoga instructor with the Yoga Alliance.