I honestly can’t believe I was sitting across from Bailey about to admit something I had never told anyone. The demon was about to breathe fresh air. If the air didn’t rekindle the fire maybe it would do the opposite and extinguish it. I don’t know what sparked my desire to expose what I have kept in the darkest corridors of my mind after nearly a decade of compulsive concealment. Or maybe I do know why. It may have just been Bailey herself coupled with the fracture in my foot that inspired me to speak out about my anorexia. About two months ago Bailey and I ran into each other on the concourse. We hadn’t seen each other since spring semester and even then we only saw each other in passing. She had wanted to walk on to the cross country team last fall, but we were told she couldn’t get something passed through NCAA clearing house for whatever reason. Most of the girls on the team agreed she didn’t belong on the team anyway. Bailey had never run cross country or track in high school. Her only running experience was through soccer and a few road races. Of course she wasn’t a real runner! But, my insecurities about my fractures and poor health back then prevented me from judging Bailey based on what she hadn’t done. To me, she and I were equal. So she never ran in high school and couldn’t meet the academic record requirements—big deal. At least she could physically run. I was still in the walking cast, unsure about my chances of being able to compete at all.
Over a year had passed since we first met in the doctor’s office waiting for our physical examinations and we were still in the same position; she wasn’t running on the team and neither was I. We struck up a conversation in which Bailey asked how running was going. Though she was probably just trying to find something to talk about, at that point in time, running was an open wound, bleeding emotion and regret through all facets of my life. Responding that I was doing great was not going to happen, especially with the fragile emotional state I was in. I didn’t need to speak; without muttering a word, my facial expression said it all. My foot had started bothering me about a week and a half before our conversation and I was absolutely certain I was done running competitively. Even if the damn thing healed the next day, collegiate running was over for me. I told Bailey running wasn’t going, that I was once again injured, (I didn’t know it was a fracture at this point in time) and that I didn’t want to run anymore. Judging by the look of utter surprise on her face, I don’t think she was expecting that answer. Bailey wanted to know more, as I assumed anyone would after I made such proclamations, so I told her my extensive injury history and how I had crap bone density and I was tired of beating myself up to the point where walking to class and driving my car were dreaded chores. Her look of surprise shifted to one of empathy. She said she understood completely, and that for her, running on her own was all she wanted. She liked the freedom of choosing where, when, and how far she ran without having to adhere to anyone’s schedule. She also mentioned she had struggled with eating issues in the past and she didn’t want running on the team to trigger any unwanted behavior.
Shit! Eating issues? She mentioned eating issues and a dark cloud of stigma didn’t erupt over her? People didn’t stop and stare and point? Maybe I could do that, too…My eyes lit up as I nodded in agreement. I whispered a raspy, “me too.” We changed the subject after that, but I could tell something clicked between us, some familiar battle on familiar ground. I didn’t need to speak a syllable. She knew. I knew that she knew. I was relieved I didn’t have to say anything more. I wasn’t ready to. That was the closest I had ever come to admitting to anyone that I was anorexic. Hell, I didn’t even know I was anorexic until my therapist slapped it my plate. I read list after list of symptom on line to discover I was the spitting image of an anorexic. Fun stuff. Talking with Bailey sparked my curiosity once more. I couldn’t wait to get home and scour the Internet for more information; I wasn’t the only one with problems! But now, as I devour articles and blogs online I am fully aware that I am sick, pretty darn sick. I might not be anywhere as thin now as I was at my worst, but my thinking hasn’t changed an ounce. I am fat and I despise who I see in the mirror and as a result I have fucked up any chance of running collegiately. Bailey and I ended the conversation agreeing to have lunch together soon. I was starving to hear what she had to say and I am pretty sure she was just as hungry.