I am Maris is a recently released dark and creative documentary about a young high school girl who battles with anxiety, anorexia, and self-harm. Maris is a creative soul who depicts her struggles with self-control and panic attacks through drawing self-portraits. Although Maris comes from a loving upper-middle-class family, she finds that her life is out of control, she is alone in the world, and she cannot relate to any of her peers. She uses food as a coping mechanism as a way to take control of her body, a common practice in many individuals who struggle with anorexia nervosa. Maris eventually develops severe malnutrition and is admitted to an inpatient children’s hospital where she is treated for her eating disorder. Although the doctors treated her physical complications associated with her anorexia nervosa, she returned home still broken. She felt as though she had made some progress with her eating disorder but the more her eating disorder was under control, the more her anxiety heightened. Maris and her family underwent intensive family therapy, and she eventually stumbled upon a local yoga studio where Maris became whole again. Through yoga, Maris became able to recognize and express her emotions, take control of her thoughts and live each day with intention. She was granted a scholarship to attend a 200-hour yoga teacher training and eventually became a yoga teacher, started an online blog, enrolled in university and became an eating disorder advocate speaking at public events, supporting young girls, and mentoring others who were struggling with anorexia nervosa or anxiety. For the first time in her life, Maris felt as though yoga helped her take control of her anxiety, one aspect of her life that therapists and treatment could not improve.
Control and anorexia nervosa
One of the main areas this documentary focuses on is the relationship between control and anorexia nervosa. Individuals with anorexia nervosa will try to gain a sense of self-control through food and exercise since this is the only aspect of their life they can control. Choosing to engage in binging, extreme dieting, purging and other obsessive behaviors relating to body image and weight loss are attempts to “self-treat” their lack of control in other aspects of their life where they have no control.
Relapse or recognition
During college, Maris began to notice that some of her eating triggers were starting to surface. She started counting calories, looking at nutritional labels and dissecting her food into tiny little pieces. These symptoms alarmed her, and she began to wonder if she was stepping back into the darkness of her eating disorder. “Am I relapsing,” she asked herself. She recognized these warning signs and shared these with a friend. She was not in full relapse because this time, she knew these unhealthy behaviors and they were incongruent with what she felt whereas many individuals who relapse do not recognize the warning signs or choose to ignore the warning signs and allow these behaviors to become congruent with their thoughts and feelings.
Recovery is an ongoing process
Eating disorders are lifelong disorders that can rear their ugly heads at any time if the individual is not careful. Even if an individual becomes healthy, takes control of their life, lives each day intentionally and successfully navigates their recovery without relapsing; they are still at risk for sinking back into their dark behaviors associated with their eating disorder. At the end of this documentary, Maris explains beautifully that there will always be good days and there will still be bad days in recovery. Sometimes the sun will shine brighter, and sometimes you will feel that the dark winter is trying to pull you back into your unhealthy past.