Nia Calloway

Performer.Writer.Wellness.

Recovery and: Coming to Terms with my Exhaustion Fetish

I pride myself on the bags under my eyes. I pride myself on the aching muscles of my shoulder girdle. I pride myself on the swelling of my light brown turned bashful pink feet at the end of the day. I pride myself on every vertebrae I hear pop when I twist my spine 180 degrees to the left and right. I pride myself on the bucket of sweat I produce on a daily basis because I drank too much caffeine and now it’s time to lace up my running shoes and pour it all on the pavement.

I take so much pride in my exhaustion. Too much. I didn't realize this until I got an in-depth acupuncture treatment for the first time a week ago.

 

“Are you, or have you ever been anemic?” my acupuncturist asked as she examined the pale pink color of my tongue for reasons unknown to me.

“.... I think I used to be. Anemia can come and go, right?”

“It can, or some people are just born anemic. But I ask because your tongue is very pale in color, which is a sign of low iron and b12 levels.”

“Oh... But I take vitamins and supplements.”

“Your body might not be absorbing them correctly if it’s already in a state of exhaustion.”

 

I didn’t need to play dumb. I know I used to be anemic. I was clinically malnourished for two years as a result of an eating disorder where I lost nearly a fourth of my body weight in a matter of five months. At age 16, I stood five feet and six inches tall, and weighed 96 pounds. I used to be skeletal. How dare I try to pretend like my body isn’t still having bouts of PTSD from being broken down into survival mode for two years?

I excused myself to the bathroom, and then I cried. I’m used to escaping conversations about how I’ve treated my body in order to feel my emotional cocktail of shame, sadness, and melancholy in isolation. Taking verbal and mental inventory of my body’s well-being triggered how I used to feel when recovering from my eating disorder in outpatient treatment. I was quickly reminded of how easy it is to alienate yourself from your own body its needs. Of course I didn’t tell her what I was really feeling, or about all the baggage and body trauma I was harboring that day. I just wanted to get my treatment done and feel good as new. Feel untethered, untarnished by the lingering fumes of my body abuse shame.

I run, do yoga, or some sort of exercise about six times a week, I’ve been in a Shakespearean outdoor play for a month and a half, I’ve gratefully had random back to back acting gigs throughout the summer, along with the odd jobs and yoga teaching I do. On top of that, I’m vegan! My iron and b12 levels are basically hanging on for dear life. Is my “go hard or go home” approach to health and wellness actually a masochistic relationship with my body in disguise? Perhaps prideful exhaustion is a sad millennial phenomenon.

Ima be real for a sec. Caffeine is a mother fucker. It’s my drug of choice and it numbs me to my biggest foe: exhaustion. I exercise almost daily with the help of caffeine. Black tea, white tea, tea with a shot of espresso, chai latte, iced chai, two tea bags, maybe three, on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, right before a show, right now, guzzled down, slurped fast, inhaled like the oxygen that my body actually needs. I’m a caffeine fiend, a caff-fiend if you will. Caffeine can also fuck with your digestion if you aren't careful. It has certainly fucked with mine. It becomes a vicious, dirty chai cycle. But that story is for another time.

Let me acknowledge that there’s a distinct difference between exhaustion from responsibilities like work, performing a Shakespearean play (well), and running errands, and exhaustion from over-exertion. Despite having the busiest, most fulfilling summer ever, I purposefully layered a new daily workout regimen on top of it. I run almost everyday for at least 30-45 minutes, adding calisthenics or yoga to button the workout, usually in the heat, most of the time before breakfast.

I don’t know. I just like to.

It feels really fucking good to pound the pavement as a way to release anxiety or stress, and this summer, MY ASS NEEDED TO. I’m not a person who does well just sitting in their anxieties and worries, especially without having a therapist. Exercise has been my consistent daily therapy for the past few months. Despite the overall exhaustion, I feel like I’m in really great shape.

However, balance is key to any kind of recovery. I’m still learning about how my body works most efficiently. Unfortunately, for me to be able to take good care of my body this summer, and to do my jobs well, I’ve said no to a lot of friends. Even when I had nothing to do that day. Giving myself first dibs at my free time is essential to my well-being and energy. But I do know that in the long run (no pun intended) I will need to live a balanced life in order for my happiness and well-being to stick around.

 Photographed by Chanel Gidrea (queengidrea.com) 

Photographed by Chanel Gidrea (queengidrea.com) 

Recovery is a daily practice. Recovery looks so different on so many different people. For me, part of my recovery is listening to what my body wants to eat, but also finding ways to strengthen my body. Sometimes that looks like a long distance run in the summer heat, other times it looks like sleeping in. I like to see how far my body can go, but I push it with love. My body used to be weak, sick, ridden with malaise and extremely low vibrational energy. Running, yoga, going to dance classes, hustling for my career, and meditation (sometimes all in one day) is what my recovery looks like. It’s my resistance against a life-threatening disease, illness, addiction that wanted to isolate and kill me. Being in my body, fully, loudly, freely, passionately is how I begin to recover. Giving myself time to breathe, reflect, rest, be quiet, be still, and cry when I need to is how I fully recover.

 

#getwellsoon by ariana grande is an entire mood.