What Is The Matter with Mary Jane? is a cautionary tale: a powerful, funny and inspiring show that explores the world of eating disorders, telling the poignant personal story of the show’s director & co- author, Sancia Robinson. The show delves into mental illness and exposes the hopelessness felt when trapped within such a disorder. You can learn more about it here; the production will be held at the Seymour Centre from 4 to 8 August 2015.
BodyMatters psychologist Sarah McMahon had the privilege of interviewing Sancia about her experience of illness & recovery:
Sancia, you have personal experience with an eating disorder which inspired you to co-author “What is the matter with Mary Jane?” You’ve stated “The play shows very clearly how my tiny mad idea that losing weight was going fix my problems soon escalated into a full scale mental illness over which I had no control.” . Can you please say more about this?
One of the turning points in my life was when I was 16 years old and I was on a diet & I knew that I was underweight. It was my brother’s birthday & I went to have some cake. My hand wouldn’t move. I thought I needed to tell my mum something is wrong. However I remember thinking I shouldn’t. After that it was like I walked through a door way & the disease took over. The virus was taking over the machine, I felt as though the real me was put in the background and I started to protect the illness. The disease had a voice of its own that felt real. It is a sadistic, punishing voice that took me prisoner.
What did you hope to achieve from the play “What Is The Matter With Mary Jane?”?
Wendy Harmer who is the primary writer on the play and I really wanted to give a notoriously silent illness and often shame based illness a voice and to stop keeping it in the shadows. We wanted to say: this is a mental illness, this is what it sounds like, this is what it looks like. It was my very personal experience; but it was a chance to show people that it IS a mental illness, this isn’t YOU, it’s something that is happening to you and you can recover and you are not the only one suffering. We really really want to convey with this play that you are not alone, there are so many resources to get well. And that goes for the family too – there are so many place for them to get support now too – as families are deeply affected when someone gets sick too and they also need help.
What were the hardest parts of recovery?
- Stopping my exercise ritual & being forced to feel anxiety. It was very hard to experience! However ultimately experiencing it meant that I began to learn real skills to deal with it- like CBT and breathing.
- Also, choosing to go on a food plan & realising I might have to be on it for the rest of my life. I now still follow a food plan, otherwise I am a compulsive undereater. As soon as I stop the meal plan, I start play with food – and I don’t ever want to do that again.
- Learning how to feel my feelings appropriately- sadness, anger, anxiety. It was a real challenge for me. Normally those feelings were stuck. For example, rather than being appropriately angry I would hold my breath & not know what was wrong; I would just think I was “fat”. I had to learn to feel the feelings and deal with them appropriately. And that is what life is really like- feeling real feelings and “doing life” on “life’s” terms. Life IS a bed of roses, with thorns in it and that’s a good thing – that’s what makes life great!.
How can parents & partners best support a sufferer?
Parents and partners can best support their loved ones by supporting themselves first, by knowing how they themselves feel, by seeing counsellors if that helps but talking to people and being supported and being well themselves. Self care is really really important. Also, knowing that they didn’t cause the illness- they can’t control it – and can’t cure it.
What words of encouragement would you share to others who are embroiled in an eating disorder?
Walk towards all the things that are scaring you and be burnt in the flames. Because in that resurrection you are going to find all the freedom you are looking for. You will learn how brave you are & you will feel it. The old self dies and a new self is born.
BodyMatters is pleased to be able to offer two double tickets to this performance. Please tag a friend on our BodyMatters OR LoveBodyYoga Facebook pages to be in the running. Tickets will be drawn at close of business on Friday 17 July 2015. Tickets can also be purchased from the Seymour Centre. More information on the show is available here.