The other day was the first time I have feared injury in a long time.
As someone recovering from an eating disorder who has been lucky enough to keep running as a part of my daily life, this would certainly be a challenge. But it is amazing how little by little I’m able to shift my focus from needing to run – to being grateful that I am strong enough and healthy enough to run.
Running shows me daily that I don’t know how to give up. I can only remember three runs that I have let myself stop and walk – two because of cramps and one because of wind. There is a part of me that simply doesn’t know how to give up.
And when I run – I can feel. So much of my recovery is about feeling. I’m afraid to feel. And this summer I’m doing plenty of feeling.
I’m learning that feeling is hard – but I can make it through. Where did I learn to be afraid to feel? I don’t know if it is so much that I was afraid to feeling – as I learned that I shouldn’t feel – that I shouldn’t be so sensitive. But the funny thing is, those feelings don’t just go away, they stay inside and they have to come out somehow.
And that is what continues today. It has to come out somehow – and as I get closer and closer to facing those feelings…. I am able to let go more and more of the control, the fear, the need to protect myself.
I read an article that made me cry. The description of the grips of an eating disorder brought back memories and sadness. Last night I read in a book about body image which shared a girl who had lost everything – her friends, dropped out of school, been addicted to the fatal combination of heroine and cocaine – when she was asked if she feared relapsing into drugs and alcohol her reply was, “No, not really. I fear going back to being anorexic.”
We have lived a hell. That is what the article reminded me of. And the fear I have of going back is never completely gone – especially this summer as I’ve been struggling a bit more. People can’t imagine what we have been through. I remember when I was told, “I was playing with fire.” By that point I already knew it was too late. As an educator, I watch many of my students “play with fire” with eating habits… And I want to shout out – don’t do it!
Everyone’s story is different. No one can understand exactly how I got where I did. No one has the exact same underlying roots, reasons, or current struggles. But there are people who know what it was to be in a place where you knew you weren’t yourself and where being controlled by an illness (while ever thinking that you were fine.)
I do fear going back. And this summer as I push myself not to be afraid to feel, I know I’m healing yet another aspect. The fear for me comes from the fact that there is no defining line between struggling and a full blown eating disorder. I can’t name the moment when that switched. And so every time there is an eating disordered thought, or behavior, or inclination… it strikes fear in me.
I am sure with time that fear will diminish. But for now I keep pressing forward – always with the unknown. Like that pesky feeling in my knee the other day – I had to slow down, stretch, rest, re-center, and assess. And that is how it is with the pain of feeling… the eating disorder fears… all I can do is slow down, assess, and re-center.
The image and reality of distance running help me remember that. Sure, it is a place I can feel… but mostly it is a place that reminds me again and again of my strength. I can keep going. I do not quit. I have never quit. It isn’t about how fast or slow I go. It is simply about never giving up.