The Power of Art and Healing
Hello, We Are The Real Deal readers! My name is Caroline Rothstein and I am honored to be a contributor on this site. I’m a New York City-based writer and performer of spoken word poetry, theater, creative nonfiction, and journalism. As a longtime eating disorder recovery advocate, I host an ongoing video series on YouTube called “Body Empowerment” promoting my own recovery story, positive body image, and eating disorder awareness, prevention, and recovery.
My role at We Are The Real Deal is as a contributor on wellness and the expressive arts, with a focus on writing and poetry. Having had a decade-long eating disorder, from which I have now been recovered for seven years, much of my art shares my journey in an effort to create dialogue for change and healing. As a We Are the Real Deal contributor, I will explore the ways in which my writing and performance work incorporates my passion for promoting self-love and wellness, as well as how it has provided positive healing for me personally.
In my experience as a professional touring artist, I regularly meet people around the United States who have misconceptions about eating disorders. These are typically smart, well educated, highly successful and accomplished people from all ages and walks of life. For instance, recently I was on tour in Washington D.C. and I was interviewed on a spoken word radio show. The host asked me to share a poem, and I recited one of my eating disorder themed pieces “Fat.” I finished, and the host – an amazing radio veteran – said he didn’t realize the causes of eating disorders were so varied, vast, and complex. He assumed middle and high school bullying was the main cause behind eating disorders. I told him it was much, much more complicated and diverse than that.
Similarly, when I was on tour this past November in Indianapolis, Indiana, I ran a workshop on writing about healing and recovery at a nonprofit women’s organization. At the end of the workshop, I had everyone say what they learned. One of the participants – who had never struggled with an eating disorder – said she learned how eating disorders were not just about body, weight, or wanting to be the size of a model, as she’d previously assumed. She learned there were far more mental and emotional triggers, causes, and aspects at play. These elements are of course often deep contributing factors, but the causes and triggers run a far greater spectrum than simply bullying, media influence, and aesthetics.
My goal in sharing my eating disorder and recovery story through art is to both educate and heal. In fact, I’ve written a new one-woman play called “faith” about my experience. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to perform it this April 3 and 4 in New York City as part of the Culture Project’s 2012 Women Center Stage Festival. As an actress, performer, and writer I am blown away by this incredible opportunity to participate in such an acclaimed festival. But as a recovered individual, I can utilize my skillset, my work, and my artistry to educate. To show audience members the pains and throes of an eating disorder. To prove recovery is real and tangible and possible, and further paint a picture on what it can look like. Anyone who comes to “faith” can tell other people they know about eating disorders and recovery, and isn’t that how knowledge spreads?
Eating disorders are an epidemic. Awareness is crucial in the journey to decrease the numbers of those suffering and in turn boost recovery statistics. Awareness includes education and dialogue about what eating disorders are, what prevention looks like, and how recovery can be successful – all of which are quite amorphous and absolutely vary between every individual.
We must educate and talk about self-love and support, perhaps the keys to our ultimate success in overcoming this illness, and all of the negative experiences and thoughts that perpetuate its epidemic. I know that art can heal, art can educate, and art can inspire. Poetry and storytelling have been integral to my life since I learned how write as a child; I’ve been performing on stage since I was a three-year-old ballerina. I’m excited to share my thoughts here on how the expressive arts can create positive change.