Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lunch with Bailey part I

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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book of Lists

I had a friend back in high school who kept (and probably still does) a book of lists. Lists of her favorite movies, lists of her favorite desserts, lists of her least favorite places, lists of what annoys her, and so on. She shared it with our literature class one day and it was hilarious! The girl was funny to start with, but hearing her read off lists like "10 worst scenarios to be in" and including the literature class itself was downright entertaining. I thought it was kind of dumb at first, to keep lists of stuff and all, but the more I though about it, the more intriguing the idea became. So, now a couple years later, I will make some lists myself.

Let's start with something ordinary, yet necessary.
10 things that make me happy:
1. puppies, especially mine.
2. thunderstorms
3. walks in the woods
4. spending time with friends
5. chocolate, the darker the better
6. making new friends
7. the beach
8. the clean feeling after getting out of the shower
9. riding my bike
10. working with children
and number 11, RUNNING.

5 things that bring me joy:
1. God (learning, serving, worshipping)
2. working with children and watching them grow
3. nature. being outside.
4. speaking with a friend about issues we both struggle with
5. reading scripture

Situations I'd never want to be in:
1. Falling off the back of a treadmill
2. falling off my bike going down a hill at 30mph
3. getting stuck in an elevator
4. having to actually do CPR on someone
5. getting stranded in the middle of bfe w/o gas in my car
6. singing solo in front of an audience
7. pulling an all-nighter to finish a paper
8. running out of air while scuba diving.

ehh, I could go on and on with lists. I may intersperse some lists in between posts.
for now, though, I think I will study for my lab final next week.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apathy is Novocain for the mind

I scanned the cardio equipment. All the ellipticals were taken and the treadmill is still off limits. Guess I’d have to ride the stationary bike again.  At least I had a choice of recumbent or upright. I chose upright. This gym paled in comparison to the mega-gym I worked at over the summer, but with the free employee membership gone now that I was back in school and unable to work, I had to revert to printing out a free 7-day pass to another gym in the area. This time of year I’d rather be on the trails feeling the sweat turn cold on my cheeks and neck and hearing the leaves crunch beneath my feet. But, only having been out of the walking cast for two weeks, running was still so far in the future I might as well spend my time preparing for the apocalypse predicted to happen next December.

Anyway, I was in the gym, surrounded by middle-age “weekend warriors” pushing the redline jogging at 5 miles per hour, old men lifting weights, and one gangly teen trying his best to jog for more than two minutes without taking a break. I stuck my headphones in my ears and turned up the volume just loud enough to drown out the music in the gym. And the sting of not being able to run. As I began to pedal, the little screen on the bike flashed to life. Did I want “random hill workout,” “cardio blast workout,” or good ole “manual?” Tough call. I pressed the “manual” button and set the time for 45 minutes. That should be about the equivalent of a couple shots in terms of easing the pain. I have never gotten drunk, but I imagine exercising has the same effect for me. Both are addicting activities, drinking and exercising. At least I don’t break laws with my addiction, only bones.

I watched the people around me, my eyes never staying in one place for more than a moment. That is one thing I do like about the gym-other people. It is a lot easier to work harder when there others around even though I know they could care less about what I am doing just as I could care less what they are doing. I don’t really need an audience for motivation; I have enough determination to kick out a kick-ass workout on a treadmill 3 days in a row in the corner of a dimly-lit basement, but that is another story. The company of others is nice, though.  That’s my favorite environment to be in, a social aggregate, surrounded by others but not interacting with them. It’s a safety zone. No one expects me to talk to them or to explain myself and what I am doing. I don’t have to entertain anyone and honestly, watching others is entertainment for me.

I was about 25 minutes into my bike “workout,” if you could call it that, when the man who was lifting a minute ago stepped on the empty treadmill to the right of my bike. I stole a quick glance in that direction just to see who would be flinging sweat on me shortly.  My heart froze for a split second before beating clear out of my chest. My eyes ran down the man’s body again. Every muscle in my body contracted. the heart rate monitor on my bike jumped 15 beats per minute. This man looked almost exactly like him. But this man wasn’t him, thank God. His hair was a similar cut and a similar color-a dark sandy brown color, and very short, short enough that it couldn’t be styled. This man’s skin tone was the same tan as his, almost olive, the color of one who has been exposed to the elements. The wrinkles around this man’s eyes were what really struck me. My stomach churned. I was certain I would be the one flinging bodily fluid, and the fluid wouldn’t be sweat. The permanent creases around eyes that have seen too much rested underneath eyebrows that were a shade lighter than this man’s hair. The eyes triggered my reaction of uncontrollable nerves and cold sweat-while exercising. This man’s face shape was different. This man’s head was squarer, his jaw a bit more pronounced. This man’s ears didn’t stick out as much. Their physiology was the similar, but this man appeared a little heavier. Their running style was different, too. This man ran with an even gait, his heels hitting the belt as his arms swung symmetrically at his sides. He ran with one foot turned out on the back kick, he landed on his mid foot, and his arms made a lopsided ellipse, swinging more towards the right. He has the stride of a man who has been running for decades. Quirky, but efficient. I could recognize his gait a mile away.

This isn’t the only time some random man in a gym or in a park has triggered the memories. Most times I think I see him, I know it can’t be him for one reason or another: I am hundreds of miles away at school, I am in a gym where he is not a member, or he’d be teaching that time of day. I could usually push the thoughts out of my head.  After the initial shock, and return of rational thinking I knew this man couldn’t be him no matter how alike they looked. He wouldn’t have a membership to a gym, let alone this one. He has plenty of workout equipment in his basement. He would never run on a treadmill, either. He and I ran in thunderstorms, ice, downpours, temperatures above 95 degrees, temperatures below 15 degrees, and one time during a flood. We only cancelled a run once due to the weather because neither of us was crazy enough to run in a downpour at 5:30 in the morning, and besides, that morning the roof was leaking over my bed. Rationalizing the situation did calm my nerves and by the end of the workout, I had settled down substantially. 

The tranquility lasted until I got on the elliptical. Of course the only elliptical not in use would be the one in front of the TV with coverage of the Sandusky scandal. Fuck. Just my luck. The nausea returned and my sweat turned cold once again. I looked at the person on either side of me, fully expecting them to sense my uneasiness that was quickly spiraling into panic. They didn’t. Both had earphones in and were focused on the pro football game on the other television.  My eyes were glued to the screen as I read the captions crawling across the screen…”Said it was just horseplay…” “took him 17 seconds to reply no…” “He was in the locker room with them…” As painful as the report was to watch, I had to watch it. I couldn’t turn away. It was like being stuck in traffic and staring at a car accident in front of you after surviving an accident yourself. You want to look away from the shattered glass, disfigured vehicles, the EMT’s lifting a gurney into the ambulance, and guts spewed across the road. Gawking at another’s misfortune isn’t polite, but you are stuck in traffic and can’t move. There is nothing else to look at but the scene in front of you. One person’s poor judgment affects so many more lives than the one in the other vehicle. Are you entitled to look then, if you are prevented from moving anywhere until the smoke has cleared, especially if you have experienced the same trauma? Shouldn’t you at least be permitted to console the survivor, if nothing more than to offer a word of empathy and understanding? Or is it better to watch from a distance realizing your attempts to reach out are fruitless if that person is not ready to heal? The story on the news ended. I extended the timer on the elliptical and turned the resistance way up. The numbness began to set in. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Text Messaging

I should be studying right now. But I am not. Far too much is running around in my head right now to concentrate on the topic of collective behavior I need to learn for my sociology test. Or stuffing my brain full of history terms and dates. So I will write. Maybe I'll calm down a bit.

A while back I called my mother on the way back from class to explain the condition of my foot. Again. When I called the evening before it was after eight so the phone ringing probably woke her up. She has Multiple Sclerosis and her memory is fading fast. The conversation we had confirmed this. As I recall it went like this:
-Hey mom.
-Hey. How are you?
-Ummm. Alight?
-Yeah? Are you walking back from class?
-Yeah...so I heard from dad you need me to explain what's up with my foot again?
-Yeah. So it's not better? Did you see the foot doctor from out of town? Is he gonna let you run?
-No. Fractures don't heal in two weeks. Yeah, I saw the orthopedist. He doesn't determine wether I run or not. The doc here does.
-So you are still on the team?
-Yes. they aren't gonna kick me off half way through an injury. They actually do care about me...
-Uhuh. so are you gonna keep running?
-Yeah, eventually. Not on the team, though. I broke. Doc said one more break and I can't run.
-Oh, but I really want you to run.
Yeah, so do I... I thought.
-I will run again. on my own. at my own pace. so I have a body left by the time I am thirty.
-Oh. I don't want you to be injured!

I let the acorn I was squeezing in my hand drop on the asphalt and roll into the storm drain. Talking with her is like talking to wall. No, walls don't answer back with ridiculous questions. Or ask the same ones. I decided to change the subject before I had to start repeating myself.

-So mom, did you get my text message? (I was calling her on the house phone)
-No! Ooh, let me go read it!
I had sent her a text saying, "happy anniversary. thanks for making me a legitimate child." or something along those lines.
-"Oh shit! Today is our anniversary! I completely forgot! Dad blammit all. I didn't say anything to your father this morning!
-yup. today marks the 23rd anniversary of your marriage.
-That is just awful What if Paul* (my dad) gave me a card tonight and I had nothing for him?
-Then you'd have nothing for him, feel like crap, and so would he.
-I better make a card.
-That would be a good thing to do. Especially if you think he is getting one for you.
-Oh wow. ohhh wow...I can't believe I forgot.
-Somehow I can... but don't worry that's why I am here. in case the fact I am your daughter isn't enough. I will leave a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to remind you when it's the day before Christmas.

I think she missed the sarcasm in the last one. She has never been able to understand it. too bad I am fluent in it. I often wonder why I am so sarcastic. Maybe because humor masks sorrow and anger? Probably. I've been using sarcasm since I learned what it was. That is scary. An elementary schooler sad and angry. Nah, I probably thought it was cool until it did in fact start to satisfy my need to release the negative emotion I felt. That was sixth grade. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. The first time I realized the world wasn't all good.

In one way, though, her diagnosis was the best thing that has happened to me. It was then I began to pray. Both my parents are Christian, but we never went church save Christmas and Easter. The cancer was caught very early on thanks to her regular mammogram check up. She was going to be fine after her mastectomy. No chemo or radiation needed. When she did come out of surgery just fine, I knew God was real. No one else could make her better so quickly. I prayed every night. I prayed about lots of people. My mom first, a prayer of thanks. For other ill family members, for friends. I didn't really pray for myself. I was doing just fine. And honestly, all things considered, I was doing okay in sixth grade. I was going to school, dealing with middle school drama, dancing, and wanting to be like everyone else. I was pretty typical.

Well that will do it for tonight. I think I have calmed down enough to tackle Mathlusian theory and whatnot. And history. maybe.

*I am changing names in the blog to keep anonymity for both me and the others I will speak about in the future.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Field Trip

The best place to start is the present, so I'll start with yesterday. (hey, it's more recent than say three years ago!) A couple of my new friends from a university club who's goal is to bring local food to campus and I drove out to a farm yesterday. A local Unitarian congregation had connections and invited us to tour a local farm. I knew one of the people I was driving out to the farm. The two others I had only met at club meetings. We piled in my little car and headed south with incorrect written directions and an iphone. After taking the scenic route for about 15 miles, we finally reached our destination. The tour lasted about two hours as the farmer showed us his crop, cows, and chickens. Man, cows have big eyes!

We had a bit of time before dinner was ready so I began speaking with a member of the church who standing next to me in the little kitchen the farmer's used to make granola. I don't remember how our conversation began, but she said something about gluten and my ears perked up. I tested positive for gluten intolerance test this past summer which confirmed my self-diagnosis. I also found out I was casein intolerant, too. Awesome. I immediately gave up gluten and dairy (after one last trip to to the local frozen yogurt stand) and have been gf/cs for about five months now. The first thing I noticed was my face; within weeks my acne had substantially decreased. My stomach felt much more settled after a meal and I rarely felt bloated like I used to. I could exercise sooner after eating as well. That was amazing. Before I had to wait at least 3 hours before I could do any sort of impact exercise or I would cramp up like no other. Now I could be out on the trail in an hour. I miss cheese a ton and frozen yogurt even more, but I feel better than I have in years after eating.

Back to the farm...So the woman I began speaking with told me she was a nutritionist for cancer patients at the hospital. Boy that woman had an opinion about gluten and Celiac's. Apparently the blood test I had for Celiac's a while back is not always accurate. I tested negative for the antibodies but I could still have the gene. We have met our insurance deductible for the year. I will see what I can do when I return home for winter break...

The focus of this post, though, comes from her comment, "I was looking at you. You look so healthy- Your hair, skin, your eyes. I can't see any obvious signs of a deficiency." I just about died when she said that. I did laugh, though. Me, healthy? That's debatable. My hair is shiny, sure, but it is thin. I can fit my entire pony tail in my fist. It goes down to my shoulders. I have have a fatigued look in my eyes, because, honestly, I am hardly ever mentally where I am physically. Nightmares leave me exhausted the following morning even though they hardly ever wake me up.  My hands are pale, purple at the tips, and alway cold. And I just got out of my walking cast for my fourth stress fracture three days before this trip. Maybe I am being a bit overly critical, but the physical signs don't lie; I am not the picture of health. I found sick humor in the dietician's observation. They again, she's not the only professional I have fooled.

Or have I fooled them? The sports psychologist and my family doctor bought the load of shit about training too hard to maintain my weight. Yeah, I just trained so hard for 6 months 12lbs just melted off my already slight frame. Uh huh. I didn't fool one of my coaches, but he could only say so much without crossing personal boundaries, I guess. I lied about my weight, too. To him, my doctors, and other concerned individuals. I mean once you're as small as I was can any adult tell the difference between 90lbs and 82? Oh, probably. Would say anything? Maybe. Would they do anything about it? No. After all, I was running fast, winning races, and getting colleges to recruit me. I was excelling at school and winning awards left and right. Life was good. I was on top of the world, my world at least. I had this game figured out. And this is how I dug myself into the biggest f-ing hole of my life. If only the woman on the farm could read my mind she wouldn't be puzzled as to why I have a bone density so low it is considered osteoporosis for a 70 year old woman. But, alas, she cannot, so she, like the rest of the world, will take pity on me and my situation oblivious to the truth that the sickness is myself.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Not alone

I used to think blogs were dumb. Who would want to read about other people's lives? Who cares? Over the past few months, though, I have undoubtedly changed my mind. I stumbled upon a few blogs here and there, most of them about running. It wasn't until my old high school coach mentioned "she was once a runner" that I began to see blogs as more than just people writing to space. Many of the blogs I follow are about people going through the same things as me. I am not alone in my trials and tribulations. Fancy that. On a serious note, though, being able to connect, even if it is just reading someone else's blog, has enabled me to speak up about many hidden battles I have restrained for too long. So now my story begins, at least in words on a page.

As I mentioned before the anonymous blog "she was once a runner" instigated my interest in reading other people's thoughts. I discovered the story about two months into the posting and had a field day reading the all the posts consecutively. Waiting like three days for the next post was agonizing, like waiting for a pair of new running shoes in the mail. The blog had a link to "training on empty" one day. I was hooked. I could relate to Lize Brittin, the author, in so many ways. (which I will discuss later) There was someone else out there dealing with the same stuff as me. I have since read every post on the blog. And there is a lot there. Through more links and such I found other writing by collegiate runners struggling with the same things as me. There is nothing like finding out you are not alone. Someone has been there before. Someone is one the same road as you, traveling back from wherever it leads, to tell you that you will survive, to tell you that you may face pain and warn you what not to do, and to say that sometimes the only way to get back on track is to go through Hell firsthand.  But those people are returning when they tell you that. They survived. So can you.

I find so much comfort in knowing that I am not the first to deal with this sequence of events I have faced. Though everyone's situation is unique, nothing is new. Am I healed? Gosh, no. I am I getting there? Slowly, but surely. It's a lifelong battle. But I will overcome it.