It's been a while. I've mostly been posting stuff I wrote earlier. Finals are done and I (have to be) satisfied with my grades because there is not much I can do now! Oh, I won't be too hard on myself, my grades are just fine. The B in economics? There is a reason I am not a business major! I will stick to my social sciences. Now that the stress of school is off, I can devote some quality to time to my dog, catching up on books I've wanted to read, and writing, that is, between caring for my parents, both of whom are having surgery this month, and my job at a daycare. These past couple of days have been calm, though.
I am back running. I will probably be saying this off and on for the rest of my life, but I'm not giving it up. I was given the go to run about two weeks ago, but decided to wait until I got home to start. The last thing I needed would be to re-injure myself in the middle of finals, especially since I left my bike at home and would have to walk (more like hobble) everywhere around campus. I arrived home Thursday night so running would have to wait until Friday. I felt warm enough after taking the dog for a nice long walk to run, so I did. 5 minutes on, 1 minute off times 4. Workout of champions right there... But it felt amazing to be back running again. I didn't time myself. I am trying my utmost to stop obsessing over time and pace. It's difficult, but I am getting there. I make myself start between the little markers that measure each quarter of a mile along the path so I am not sure my distance. (and I sincerely hope I left my gps watch back at school! heck, I don't even know where the old thing is) But, I have run that path hundreds of times and I pretty much always know where I am along it and how far I am from one place to another. My mind races with mental calculations as I check my watch to see when my 5 minutes of running is up. I figured I was going sub-8:00 pace. Dang. I haven't run in months. I should have slowed down, but I was just running how I felt.
That's biggest difference right there: running how I feel, as long as I want and as hard as I want. There is no season to prepare for, no times I am supposed to meet, and no one to compete with except my own stubborn self. What a difference. I don't know if I like it. I certainly feel more free, like someone took the weight off my shoulders and the tracking device off my wrist and set me free to do as I please. I am praying that I will be able to handle this freedom. I am nervous without the constant supervision of my trainers and even teammates that I could very easily slip back into old habits or begin new ones. The desire to run collegiately is the only thing that has kept the weight on. Without that...well, I'm not sure. And, though being home is a relief from the demands of school, the demands of being home aren't much less consuming. Both my parents will need me to keep the house running, the dog fed, and food prepared. I will need more than just my own strength for this break.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I expected Bailey to deem me insane, but to my surprise she only looked concerned. Bailey knew where I was coming from. She had been there. How relieving and utterly comforting it was to read what her eyes were saying and to know that someone has been down the same road as me and come back healed. Thank God we were in a public place or I would have broke down crying and melted into my own puddle of hot salty tears. But, I remained composed the whole time as I willingly revealed more and more about my disorder. Bailey spoke next.
“I would weigh myself and freak out, literally scream at the scale, if I gained an ounce. It consumed me. It dominated every part of my life.”
My fits with the scale were in silence. I let my anger out in tears or on the treadmill. I would weigh myself three times a day: when I woke up, after practice, and after dinner. I would refrain from drinking water after practice so I could go home and see how much I lost. Never mind that whatever I drank after working out was only water weight, I had to see how low I could go. But lower was never low enough. Each time I stepped on the scale lighter than the last time, this tingling sensation, like some sort of twisted excitement, would shoot from my toes to my fingers. The satisfaction remained until food touched my lips. I would no longer weigh what the scale said before if I ate. But I know I had to eat. I wanted to run. That’s where the irony comes in; the only thing that kept me going was the very thing that released the demon to start with. Pretty fucked up if you ask me (or anyone else). I was aware of all the complications of starving yourself, but they didn’t matter because I was running well and I looked good. Surely I wasn’t damaging anything if I was performing at the level I was. I have ever been so dead wrong in my life. I didn’t have a period from August to January and then not again until late April. I lied to the doctors by keeping track of when I should have my menstrual cycle. It sure is a pity when someone with such an attention for detail uses the gift to harm herself.
I told Bailey all of this and she listened as intently as ever. Damn, she is an awesome listener. I don’t think she interrupted me once. I suddenly felt uneasy and even nervous when she spoke about the next part of her journey. Bailey told me how a camp she attended out in Arizona, Remuda, I believe it’s called, changed her life. That’s how she is where she is now: healed, strong, ready to help others, and most importantly at peace with her body. At Remuda she discovered she wasn’t alone in her habits and way of thinking. Many girls out there had been abused as well. My face contorted when she said that. If I have come this far sharing my story then there was no use trying to hide anything. I told her briefly about my abuse. I was slowly, or rather quickly in the grand scheme of things, allowing all my dark, shameful secrets seep out. I felt like a clay statue, hardened in my ways and unwilling to accept advice. But the sands of time are wearing my guard thin. All I need are tears now, my tears, to saturate this clay covering. Then it would melt into a puddle of mud and I could walk away clean and able to breathe fresh air.
Bailey asked if I had ever considered going to a treatment center like that. I said I hadn’t. I don’t know if I am ready for that yet. Then again, who is ready to go? Very few, I suppose. Our conversation continued as we discussed the lingering effects of anorexia. Her hair was brittle, my bones were thin. She talked about how alive she feels now and how through overcoming her illness her perception on life has totally changed. She lets her body be the guide and the rest just flows. I know I should want that freedom and self-respect, but I just don’t feel it. We are at two different places of a possibly unending journey. Even physical breaking hasn’t brought me to tears yet. My clay shell may be cracked, but it remains intact.
“That’s why I decided not to run. I didn’t want being around girls thinner and faster than me to trigger anything. I know I would end up in trouble again. Now I run on my own. I sign up for races and run when I feel like it and rest when I don’t.”
What an awesome attitude. When I get myself out of this funk, I want an attitude just like that: free and full of self-acceptance. I don’t think you can ever truly “recover” from an eating disorder, but you can control it. Then again, maybe you can. I don’t know if I can. It’s like an addiction, you can be sober and you can say no to a drink, but there is always that little voice, that little demon living inside you head telling you take a sip, not to eat, to light up. It’s up to you to suppress that voice. That is where strength comes in, personal strength only God can see, and the incomprehensible will to heal that begins with self-forgiveness.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Two months after that conversation, I was declared medically disqualified from athletic competition for the remainder of my college career. The pain in my foot was diagnosed as a stress fracture, my third stress fracture to be exact. I knew it was time to stop. I ran a couple races, all I had asked God for, and I was now at His mercy. He let me stray and enjoy myself. Now He is going to set me straight whether I like it or not. And I think I do. It’s easy to know God has a plan for me. He has one for everyone. It’s the hardest thing I will ever do to accept and follow where He is guiding me, especially if I don’t want to go. But He will continue to break me (and this may be literally) until I submit to His will. He is not punishing me by any means. Yes, my foot hurts, but the pain is not severe. If breaking my foot it what it takes to set me on the correct path, break away! It’s pretty hard to doubt the One who created the universe; I think God knows what He is doing.
A couple of weeks after the diagnosis, Bailey invited me to lunch. I responded yes in a heartbeat. By the time we met up, I had admitted to my therapist that I had “eating issues.” The brief look of satisfaction swept over my therapists face before the sympathy and concern came out. She knew all along. So did I. Who am I fooling? My therapist and I had briefly discussed my relationship with food before I had lunch with Bailey, so Bailey was the first, and still one of the only, to know the details of my eating disorder.
We met at a soup/salad/sandwich restaurant on campus. It is pretty much the only place I will eat on campus since I can control what goes into my salad. (no gluten or nasty dressings) I was relieved when she suggested the place so I wouldn’t have to explain my reasons for wanting to eat there. (not fried, covered in cheese, or wrapped in bread) We both ordered salads and took our meals outside to enjoy the unseasonable warm November weather. It was kind of ironic; two anorexics speaking about overcoming their issues while picking at salads sans dressing or meat. After breaking the ice with small talk we cut the crap and got right to what we were both dying to talk about: eating disorders, ours in particular. Bailey knew I was uncomfortable with speaking about it so she told me a bit about her past first. She had anorexia and has recovered. She asked me when I started having issues. My secrets started to seep out. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt as much as I thought.
“It started when I was in first grade.” I responded ashamedly, no louder than a whisper.
“Oh wow. I thought I was bad at 14.”
“Well I didn’t start restricting anything then. I just became aware that I was fat and I wanted to be thin. I started counting calories then, but never really doing anything about it. I didn’t have the self-control, so to speak, to do anything then.”
“When did you start restricting?”
“Oh, maybe fifth grade, but never for long. A week maybe, and then I would have to eat something. And then off and on in middle school. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that things got bad.”
“Do you know what started it? I know for me it just happened. I just decided I wanted to be thin. I wanted control. I didn’t know it then, but it was definitely a control issue. I am the oldest of seven and a twin. I didn’t get much attention.”
“I bet not! I am an only child. I can have all the attention I want with sugar on top, but my mom is sick. She has MS. (I went on to explain the illness) She spends most of the days on her bed and doesn’t really know what I am doing. I could run a meth lab upstairs and she’d be none the wiser. Half the time if I don’t make noise she thinks I’m gone and acts all surprised when I walk down the stairs. We never ate together as a family. And I was a real picky eater so I never ate what they ate. I made my own meals. She never even asked what I ate. My dad was at work the whole day and he wouldn’t ask anyway. I could get away with a lot.”
“Yeah, I get ya. I was the same way. My parents didn’t really pay attention. I don’t know, it just came on so quickly. I lost weight fast and my hair started to get all wirey. It still is like that.”
Bailey demonstrated how she could get her blonde bangs to stand straight up without any support. My hair is just thin. It’s shiny and smooth and straight but it hangs in strands, leaving gaps you can see through. I told her that’s why mine is always up in a ponytail. I don’t understand how she looked so normal. Even her hair, it just looked like it had been damaged from the straightener. She was barely taller than me, trim, but fit, and had a sparkle in her eyes. I watched that sparkle turn into concern as I revealed more of my past.
“I never really skipped meals. I ate about 5 times a day. The portions just got smaller and smaller. It was enough to keep me going. To keep me running 40 miles per week. I became picky about what I ate. And I ate slowly, terribly slowly, to savor every bite, to make it last. I ate food in certain ways, too. I would pick the crusts of sandwiches and eat it first, counting to at least five before taking my next bite. I would eat the fruit and veggies at meal first, then the sandwich or “main course.” Cereal was precisely measured, as was the light soymilk that accompanied it. I would do homework during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It provided distraction from food for me and it distracted others from seeing what I didn’t eat.”