Prologue and Publishing

I figured it was high-time for a manuscript/book update.
The process of publication–if I want it done right–takes years (I started this book-writing journey back in 2013!). I’ve gathered opinions from friends, authors, professors, and literary agents, I’ve read my book out loud multiple times after what feels like hundreds of silent readings, I’ve found more parts of the manuscript to exclude as well as parts to throw back in, and I strive to find a small publisher after almost a year of contacting agents.
I knew part of what I was getting myself into, but I have continually felt humbled by the tedious process while keeping motivated and open to new ideas, suggestions, and ways to improve. I am growing as a writer as well as a person, and I enjoy the learning process.
Since you all have been patient and supportive, I have provided the prologue to Running in Silence below. I will continually work to reach my goal of publication because I believe that even the most common stories of personal growth as athletes, disordered eaters and the eating disordered, as well as those who know the struggle of obsession with perfectionism, must be written in a way that engages all to create understanding and awareness.

 

“Be kind to your body.
It will speak for you, or against you one day.
Remember.”

 

Prologue
With a butter knife in one hand and the destiny of my weight in the other, I pulled the crumbs and rock-hard frosting of the frozen birthday cake up to my tongue.
And I clawed. I clawed deeper into the cake from my squatting position over the chilly kitchen floor, clawed desperately for any morsel I could chip off the solid block of sugar. All the while the hair on the back of my neck stood up on end for fear that someone would come by and catch me in the act, for fear that someone would walk into this cold, white kitchen and find good, sweet Rachael sitting before the open door of the refrigerator as a food thief.
I could have waited for the cake to thaw. I could have pulled the cover off the dessert to avoid cutting my wrist as my hand scrambled beneath the plastic. In fact, you could say that with proper discipline and control I could have avoided the incident altogether.
Only, I had been the epitome of discipline for the past two years. The girl who snuck into the desolate kitchen that night couldn’t even recognize herself when she frantically opened all the cabinets and drawers only to find them bare, when she pulled at her face with desperation and want. The girl who had been eating cooked food all day when she seemed so adamant about her raw food lifestyle could barely believe she was now putting not just her “purity” in jeopardy, but also her running success. Nonetheless, she opened that refrigerator door to find the frozen cake sitting before her like a god on its chilly throne.
All-American.
I slammed the blunt knife into the stiff icing.
School record-holder.
Brown cake crumbs scattered everywhere.
Raw. Food. Runner.
I grabbed a chunk of frosting between my shaking fingers, all the while knowing this was not the first time I was putting my newest, greatest running career at stake. I could already imagine the confusion on my parents’ faces when I crossed the finish line of the 5k in over eighteen minutes; how my teammates would shake their heads and mutter something about “her raw food diet”; and the skeptical eyes that would trail up and down my growing body—how embarrassing it would feel to reveal the Rachael I had tried to push down for so long, the Rachael my new college friends and coaches never saw because I entered collegiate cross country and track with a body shrunken from my high school one—a body now equipped with a dark voice whispering its incantations, its reminders of how different I was, how I needed to exert more control because something was broken inside of me.
And as I continued to reach for the cake that night, as I repeatedly told myself this is the last nibble, this is the last piece of frosting, I could feel the walls of the hallway just outside the kitchen closing in on me, tighter and tighter, someone is coming, they will find you, you will grow bigger, you must stop this. The very air suffocated me, fear electrified my body, and the lights of the small kitchen glared down at me—
Until the butter knife slipped.
The knife slipped from my frosting-covered fingers and clanked to the floor, screaming,“She’s done it!” And I jumped, my heart pounding wildly as I wondered who could have heard, who would come running in and how I could possibly explain what the hell I was doing.
But the hallway outside the kitchen remained just as silent as ever. And deciding this was a good chance to escape before anyone really did come, I let the refrigerator door fall shut, slid my foot across the tile floor to remove all evidence of cake-thievery, and dashed back to my room.
The dark voice followed. It swept through the hallway with me, clung to my shoulder as I entered the guest room and finally realized with horror what I had just done. Because the moment I entered the bathroom and looked down at the chocolate cake crumbs peppering my outstretched palms, my mind was screaming.
Calories.
Binger.
Thief.
I struggled to turn on the faucet, my fingers slipping with frosting residue, but not even the rush of cold water could flood out the voice. I tried to reassure myself that this mistake was okay because it meant I had come to a breaking point, and I promised everything would change from here.
But it was a promise I kept breaking that summer. Because even as I washed my hands vigorously that night, even as I promised again and again that this was the last time, the Rachael deep down burned with a passion, a hunger, a desperation that the raw food diet could not fix—
And she demanded to be heard.
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Race Against the Stigma of Mental Illness: Interview with Suzy Favor Hamilton

Suzy Favor Hamilton–US Junior Record holder in the 1500m; three-time national junior champion in high school; winner of nine NCAA Titles, 32 Big-Ten Championships, and seven USA National titles; American Record holder and a three-time Olympian.
And back in 2012, outted as a high-end escort in Las Vegas.
As the Olympic “sweetheart” of track and field, many were appalled and shocked by the news of Suzy’s “second life.” Amid the chaos of the reveal, Suzy began therapy to understand the reasons for her behaviors–and in doing so discovered she suffered from bipolar disorder.
Suzy reveals all in her memoir published this past September–Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from MadnessI immediately read Suzy’s book with great interest and found it relateable in that with my eating disorder I fell into behaviors that my “normal” self couldn’t even fathom doing (like stealing/sneaking food from friends just to feed the high of the binge, for instance–more details to come in my upcoming memoir). And when Suzy touched on her own eating disorder in her book, I couldn’t help but want to reach out and hone in on the subject as it relates to her bipolar disorder and the enormous pressure runners feel that often drive them to an eating disorder.
Suzy’s honesty, openness, passion, and tremendous insight made this one of the most exciting, eye-opening interviews I have experienced yet. I am thankful for her willingness to share her experiences and offer hope, as well as blaze a trail for runners to live a more healthy, balanced life.
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I officially met Suzy at the Footlocker Midwest regional back in fall of 2009–just as my eating disorder began to take hold.

When did you start to realize you had a problem with food?
I remember it was in high school when I was improving on the national level and seeing girls who were much thinner than me running faster. I thought that I needed to be and look like that to run fast. There were a couple girls who were extremely anorexic. And I thought these girls were supposed to be the best.
That was the beginning of it all. I didn’t realize I had any issues with my mental capacity. Already I had insecurities with myself. In that time [the eating disorder] was the one area that was in control of my life but I wasn’t aware. I couldn’t control my running because I didn’t know what the other runners were doing. I couldn’t control these outside sources so I figured out I could control my body—that one thing. That gives me power, that gives me satisfaction, even though it wasn’t that simple. It actually caused more anxiety and issues. And at that age I didn’t know how to speak up. I couldn’t say that to my coaches–to anybody–because I had learned early-on as an athlete that you don’t show your weaknesses. Psychiatrists were only for people who were “crazy.” Because my brother had bipolar, and I thought, Okay my brother is not normal but I don’t need a psychiatrist because I’m “normal.”
Did it directly affect any of your races or training negatively?
I would have been able to train harder and rest injuries with more nutrition. I didn’t realize the harm the eating disorder was doing to my body. And what’s upsetting is no one interfered. I guess my coach didn’t realize I was bulimic. They also saw other girls in high school on my team who were anorexic and bulimic and it was just ignored. And I don’t know if that’s just because the coaches couldn’t speak up. I just believe it was something that was ignored. It wasn’t looked at as a mental issue—just a girl going on a diet. Almost applauded. Especially for runners—Oh you’re a runner, you’re so fit, I can see all your muscles, they would say. But it’s actually starting to show your skeletal body.
Do you think your bipolar disorder was part of the eating disorder?
I see this all as a part of the bipolar. The eating disorder was due to mood swings and feeling low so you’ll feel good not eating as much. I do believe eating disorders are a sign of some anxiety, a mental health issue. Everyone’s issues come in different forms with eating disorders.
Was it difficult to turn away/recover from your eating disorder?
I think eating issues—my personal opinion—I think it never goes away. I think you’ll always have issues with food your whole life. Now I don’t feel like I don’t want to eat—I don’t have that approach. Now that I know that it was a mental way to feel good, I have other things to replace that—with my yoga and running when I can run. But I don’t use the eating disorder now to feel good. I think that if I did, I wouldn’t have solved my problem.
Did any of your family members know about it?
I don’t believe so. My sister might have had some suspicion because she was the closest—she was a runner too. She had some idea but wasn’t going to do anything about it.
Did you ever feel like the eating disorder wasn’t “bad enough” for you to seek help?
Yeah I don’t think it was noticeable for anyone to step in. In my mind I looked big. I saw myself as somebody who was not thin enough. I was comparing myself to these other girls and not seeing that we all have our own body figure and we should all be proud and happy about that.
What is your advice for those who are heading down the eating disorder path but don’t believe it’s “that bad”?
That’s tough because if you’re in denial, you don’t see anything wrong. It’s just like an alcoholic. I just deny it and say I’m fine. Also during that time when I was manic in Vegas I wasn’t eating much but that wasn’t a conscious effort not to eat–that was part of my mania. But I was completely in denial. Even when I was outted I was completely in denial. I had to hit rock bottom.
So I would suggest to young athletes—really ask yourself why are you doing this? Are you doing this because you want to run faster and this is the easy route to getting there? Because you’re going to head down a dangerous road that’s going to spiral down. Really look at the problems in your life. It could range from anything. There are so many things that could go wrong in someone’s life—someone’s divorce or they have been raped or their coach says you just need to drop five pounds and you’ll run faster.
And that’s where it’s tough to go there and examine it. It’s easier to find a coping mechanism than to go down a dark road and explore. It’s hard at that age when you’re in high school and in college to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. I think when you’re young you see everything—gosh, you’re really focusing on that day and not the big picture and what’s healthy for me and eating three meals a day—you’re not thinking about how important these things are. I look at love as a huge part of what life is all about—to be loved, to love somebody. I think in running I strove to please everyone and it’s a form of trying to get love.
If a coach is forcing someone or putting pressure on them to lose weight they need to leave that coach. If they can’t leave that coach they need to speak up. Somebody needs to intervene then.
As a coach what do you think is the best way to approach this topic among our young athletes to bring about awareness and prevention?
Educating these young runners is tucked away and totally not talked about. And there’s a high percentage of eating disorders among men, too! But oh my god, and for girls, losing your period. I think some girls want to prolong puberty—they don’t want to get boobs, they don’t want to get hips—they are afraid of the body changing. And you hear this from the coaches! “That girl developed too quickly.” That’s why I got a breast reduction because I’m not what the runner body type looked like. I should have been, I have boobs and that’s great! But I didn’t have confidence in myself. Getting a reduction is what gave me confidence. Which to me, looking back, it’s not like my boobs were ginormous. It was all about that body image. And that’s mental illness because you have a warped sense of who you are and what you look like.
You could see someone on the team dealing with an eating disorder and they seem to pull back, they pull back from reality. And that’s what the doctors in college would tell you to do—you would have to stop running and eat. And that is so not the solution for an eating disorder—to tell her to stop and just go and eat. So why are they going to stop that behavior? They’re going to continue and they’re going to sneak it and they’re going to pull back even more. They won’t like that people are telling them what to do again. So we have to get these athletes in counseling and it’s tough to find the right person for them. And it’s all about perspective—that running is a small percentage of your life, that there’s so much more to explore. My friend who passed (who I write about in my book) lived life—she didn’t fall into that running world trap.
As a coach you can handle it in a delicate way and maybe talk with the girl who looks like she may be having some issues. It shouldn’t be sneaky like telling her parents. You can ask the athlete, Is there anything you want to share with me? If not I think it would be a great idea to talk with a school guidance counselor because we all go through these things in life and sharing the experience is very helpful. If you share your own experiences that weren’t good but you learned from them, that can be something that’s very healing and make the eating disorder seem a little more normal, too.
And another way to approach it is to bring in a specialist. You can say, You know what? We’re going to have a nutrition talk so that we don’t go down this route because everyone I know goes down this route hasn’t been able to run due to injury. Really educating and then telling everyone the nutritionist is here if you want to email her opens the doors for some source of help.
What do you think we can do to lower the risk of eating disorders among athletes (especially in the running world)?
The praise of being thin—and we praise that—isn’t health. And you know, we see more runners on the cover of Runners World magazine that aren’t stick figures and that’s healthy to show a different body type.
I think there’s so many issues in life (like with my bipolar) to educate people. We have to have the professional come in and educate the people. It’s not as easy as telling them what they should eat. It’s about finding out what the problems in your life are that are causing the behavior. I think that until you can get to that point with the athlete, nothing can change. Nutrition is great to tell the negative effects, but you need a sports psychologist.
I think it’s important to express how counseling for everyone is a step towards wanting to be a better person. And praise the fact that someone would want to talk to a psychologist. Society needs to do this more. People have psychiatrists in their lives. We always bounce our ideas off of our friends but our friends can’t always handle all of that. It can even ruin friendships.
What role do parents have in their child’s mental health as a runner? 
I strongly think that somebody who is down that [eating disorder] path is going to have a hard time recognizing [their eating disorder]. It’s always in hindsight. I think parents need to really be aware and handle it in a delicate manner—not the “just eat” method. I think if a parent doesn’t force it and instead maybe sits down and says, Whatever your feelings are, these feelings aren’t going to last forever so if you’re feeling down and depressed I can help you and get you help. I know with my own daughter I would ask her to share her feelings with me and ask her what is causing her to feel so low. Because my daughter says, Mom, I don’t know why I don’t feel happy. So I’ll go, Is it something with your friends? Did you eat? She may say no. Well, let’s start with that. So we’re going through the things of why you don’t feel good and tackle those.
I think parents have a huge role in the child but it can also be difficult if the parent is the one who is causing the problems. And parents don’t ever think about that they could be the problem and if you have a strong parent and your loved one has an eating disorder, the daughter needs to get counseling and parent needs to get counseling to examine their own life to understand what the are doing to harm the child—something they are not even aware of. I see moms who have eating disorders and see young girls develop the same issue because they see their mom starving themselves. Like my daughter. She only eats plain food, her diet is not a variety, and I realize I do the same. So I realize, okay, what I’m eating she’s seeing, and as a parent it’s safe to eat all these other foods.
Do you have any extra words of advice, insight, etc?
Friendship is so important—friends willing to express their imperfections, friends that have issues or have gone through a lot of shit and are in such a better place now. I’m very much attracted to that type of personality. I had a hard time in the running world and didn’t have many lasting friendships because they felt artificial and I didn’t want to let everyone in because it was such a perfect little world and sometimes runners create this façade and create this type A. For me friendships are more important than anything—developing these new friendships makes me so happy.
And yoga! Yoga is so mindful and you can find a bliss through meditation and through yoga. Meditation isn’t something you just learn overnight—it’s a process. I just brought it back into my life just a few weeks ago—and what a change it’s been in the few weeks I’ve started. There are some weeks where I know I’m not doing well, and as hard as I try to snap out of it, I know I’m just not feeling good but I’m conscious of it and I can then call my psychiatrist and try to figure out why I’m feeling down again.
So it never ends. I’m going to continue to have down days. Coping mechanisms are the key in recovery. If you don’t have a coping mechanism, how are you expected not to resort back to that old behavior? And for me going to Vegas was my coping mechanism, because it just took away everything in my mind and it was like bliss for me. And I’ll never forget that feeling. And that’s the hardest thing—I went down that road and now I have to live with that feeling and knowing how great that feeling was and not having it back. But I’ve found coping mechanisms.
For me when I was outed I immediately started therapy and medication. And you’re going to lie to a psychiatrist and lie and manipulate to get back to what you want. You know if you’re doing that, there are huge issues you are still hiding.
So having the strength to face the obstacles in your life to get healthy—to be willing to look at it and become healthy–that’s better than training or winning any race.
That—to me—is the biggest accomplishment in someone’s life.
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Guest Post: ED Meet BETH

Jennifer DiGennaro is an inspiring friend of mine who I met through the Go Boldly, Love Your Body Campaign in Grand Rapids. She is the founder of Nourished Energy, a fusion of Grounded, Mindful, Intuitive Eating and Energy Support for Women. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Energy Therapist, Mentor, Activist and Advocate, Jen offers support, education, and guidance to women who are ready to move beyond the dieting mentality to practice Intuitive Eating and to let go of body shame to reclaim authentic beauty, energy, and power. Jen has a private practice based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To learn more about Jen’s work please visit www.NourishedEnergy.com.

Jennifer DiGennaro cropped circle-2

Not me. I do not have an eating disorder. I saw the after school specials. Anorexia. Bulimia. That is not me. It was not until one afternoon in my mid 30s that something changed.
The veil over my eyes lifted.
It all came into focus. I was feeling anxiety, and the urgency to start a diet came on so strong it shocked me. I had been practicing mindfulness and was able to sit with the intense feelings and thoughts with curiosity. The pattern of my life revealed itself. Since I was 14 years old, my go-to when life presented me with difficulty was to start a diet, detox, cleanse, radical lifestyle change, or exercise regimen. I thought it was simply the drive to be thin and healthy that kept me on the diet mentality hamster wheel, yet it suddenly hit me, maybe there was something deeper going on.
I knew it was time to do something other than diet.
I read the book Life Without ED by Jenni Schaefer on recommendation from a therapist I was working with. Jenni named her eating disorder ED. Throughout the book she talked to him and was able to tease out her voice from his, which helped lead her to recovery. That is when I met my own disordered eating voice. I called her BETH, an acronym for Bad Eating Thoughts Hell. She actually started hanging out with me when I was about 9 or 10. She told me food was something to be coveted and controlled, that there was something wrong with my body and ABSOLUTELY there was nothing worse in the world to be than fat. She was the collective voice of our fat shaming culture and she also aimed to shield me from the troubled times of my own childhood. By focusing on what was wrong with my body, I was distracted from the complicated issues in my family life and the world at large. BETH worked so hard to keep me numb. As long as I was focusing on what was wrong with me and what I was eating, I did not have to deal with other hard things.
When I was able to discern my own true voice from BETH’s my healing journey intensified. I started to access my wisdom grounded in connection to reality. Not the false sense of security BETH offered me. I had space around my thoughts. I started writing letters to BETH. Here is the very first one:
Dear BETH, for years you unconsciously held my hand. Now that I know you for who you are, there is no going back to you. Now when I hear your voice I know it is not mine. I can no longer listen. For so long you have been my constant companion. When, as a young girl, I got the message that my body was not okay, you came in and took that pain away. You held my broken heart and made food my medicine, my poison, my cure, my problem, my answer, my comfort, my hell. You tried, but now I know the truth. Food is just food and my body is okay. And when I get scared and uncertain around food and my body, as I sometimes still do, you no longer get to answer for me. I am choosing a life where food is just food and my body is okay, believing I have that choice. Wading through and flushing out the junk you have told me. Living in a culture that often echoes your distorted voice and finding ways not to listen.
It has been a wild ride. Sifting back through the years of my life, the flip-flopping chaos and hyper vigilance around food. My heart still hurts when I think about the years spent with BETH, years I can never get back.
One step in my recovery was making some visits to a community support group for suffers of eating disorders. Sitting in that room for the first time shook me to the core. It became clear that there is not a clean line between those with eating disorders, the recovered, and normal eaters. There is a big gray problem area fueled by the diet industry and other industries aimed at keeping us lost, disconnected, scared, and confused. At one meeting, I sat across from a teenage girl who wondered why she could not go on diet, why everyone else can do it, but she can’t. It was like looking at a younger version of myself, I wanted to jump up and grab her by the shoulders and scream, wake-up, it is all lie, no one should be dieting! Do not waste years of your life like I did. A flame in me was ignited that night and it has not gone out. We can and need to be louder. We can teach others to recognize and then stand up to the EDs and BETHs that thrive in our culture of body shaming and food shaming.
I was able to walk away from BETH through doing my own healing work from meditation to naturopathy to bodywork to counseling to acupuncture to cognitive behavioral therapy to integrative psychotherapy and back again. But first and foremost, by stabilizing my eating and then moving into Intuitive Eating. It is my passion to bring hope to those who struggle with food and body acceptance; to take away the stigma around seeking support, as much support as it takes, when we struggle, and making a radical vow to deep self-care a non-negotiable one.
Nourished-Energy-Logo.pngFor more with Jennifer DiGennaro, visit her at:
https://www.facebook.com/NourishedEnergy/
www.NourishedEnergy.com
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GUEST POST — Addiction: Chasing the High #2

I got in contact with Dean Robertson about half a year ago, and ever since have been so grateful for her help in editing my manuscript and navigating the publishing world. I appreciate not only her advice and wisdom with book publishing and editing, but also her honesty with the struggles she has overcome herself:
I am a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, compulsive overeater, and bulimic. Before I stopped drinking and drugging at the age of 40, my favorite legal drug was a mug of room temperature Guinness stout with a chaser of vodka from a bottle my favorite bartender kept in the freezer for me. My favorite illegal drug was marijuana. I never snorted cocaine, smoked crack, or dropped acid—mostly because the opportunity never presented itself at a moment when I was drunk enough to say ‘yes.’ My favorite legal drugs, other than alcohol, were prescription medications. I believe the unattractive term for me is “pill head.” dean1To this day, nearly thirty years later, I cannot have mood-altering prescription medications in my house for long. I would get up in the middle of the night; I would have an argument with my son; I would wake up with worse-than-usual back pain or what my mother called a “sick headache”—and I would take double or triple the prescribed dosage.
I would take pain pills for depression or just to take the edge off; I would take an extra capsule of my neurological medication to be sure I get groggy enough to sleep; I would take Dramamine with Excedrin for a bad headache (the combination stops the headache and, if I take two Dramamine, gives me a buzz).
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When I was in the grip of my eating disorder, I ate all day. I got up at night and I ate I ate raw vegetables and I walked across to 7-11 at midnight for ice cream. I gained weight. The weight gain depressed me. I took extra pills for the depression. Sometimes, when I had eaten enough to make me sick, I threw it all up, firm in my belief that it would prevent more weight gain. Sometimes, I took laxatives with the same faith. For several months, a few years ago, I had a bout of nearly constant diarrhea; even a glass of water would bring it on. This malady, which was certainly inconvenient at best, had a stunning advantage: it allowed me to eat anything and everything and lose weight. I was, for that short time, literally having my cake and eating it, too. The leaching of nutrients and fluids from my body created a kind of manic high. I liked it.
Back in the days of my worst drinking and drugging, I would periodically go on a crusade to “clean out my system,” a project which involved, among other things, long periods of fasting. Water only. I discovered that, with no help from vodka or marijuana or valium, I could reach the stars. I could, in fact, achieve the greatest, and best, and highest high of all. No hangovers; no DUI’s; no fear of the police. No consequences. I discovered that I am one of those people who suffers no ill effects from prolonged fasts—no headaches, no muscle spasms, no weakness, nothing but a better and better rush as the days go by. I once told someone that I drank to hear the angels sing. When I fast, I hear them every day.
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And, incidentally, before diagnosis and medication to treat them, my temporal lobe seizures produced the same results—powerful “spiritual”experiences that went away with the anti-seizure drugs. There are days when I long for those visions and even consider stopping the medication.
In July of this year, my first book was published. I wrote that book in seven months of non-stop, day-and-night, midnight-to-dawn writing. I didn’t eat; I slept very little. I was in what athletes call “the zone.” I lost weight; the circles under my eyes got darker; friends and family worried. It was a terrifying and exhilarating time. I loved every frenzied minute of it.
I am an addict. I am always—always—chasing the high.
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Contact info:
http://pdrobertson.com
https://www.facebook.com/Dean-Robertson-353793754819660/
https://twitter.com/pdroberts123
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DeanRobertson1946/posts
https://www.linkedin.com/in/patricia-dean-robertson-20455b88
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14158482
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I am a retired English teacher; I am approaching seventy.
I spent thirty years of my life teaching literature in independent secondary schools and in small private colleges. When I retired, I cut off my schoolteacher’s bun and headed to the Tidewater region of Virginia.
At the end of 2012 I had a terrible fall. I spent eight very long months in an assisted living facility in Norfolk, Virginia. The name of that facility is the Lydia Roper Home.
I arrived at the Roper Home in bad shape. In addition to undiagnosed neurological problems, I was in the grip of a paralyzing depression, and I was definitely not cheered up by offers of bingo or arts and crafts. I don’t “do” activities. In an effort to preserve my last shreds of sanity, I asked permission to lead my own activity, a Bible study. I had taught the Hebrew Bible as Literature for nearly thirty years so I knew I could do it.
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Sometime in March of 2013 we started with Genesis. There were five of us, and those four women were my pioneers.
I left the Lydia Roper Home on the last day of October 2013 and moved into a wonderful co-op, in a building erected in 1928, in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk. For a year after that, I travelled once a week, at the request of the Bible “ladies,” to study the New Testament.
In February or March of 2014, I began writing about that Bible study. The result, published on July 24 2015 is Looking for Lydia; Looking for God.
I have owned llamas and kept bees. I have one son and one grandson. I have been happily single for twenty years.
dean8
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A Life Without Running

I feel there are many reasons I developed an eating disorder (predisposition, type-A personality, being a people-pleaser, etc). It began with disordered eating (which, unfortunately, is very common), and when the key turned into the lock at a track race back in 2010 (the final trigger), it went from disordered eating to an eating disorder as I flat-out dropped twenty pounds from a perfectly healthy bodyweight, strove to please a coach, compared myself to a smaller runner, and felt the approval of success with my faster running times.
Eating less and running fast became everything to me.
Of course, as many of you know, the raw food diet stepped into the picture a year later. Then entered a year of bingeing, and another year later something cracked–literally–when my kneecap broke.
As devastating and as painful as this injury was (more to be shared in an another piece/manuscript I’m writing?), a part of me also felt that it was the end to the madness. There was no possible way for me to race. I no longer had to compare my body to other runners. I had time to sit with myself and see what else there was to my life beyond running and food.
This, of course, was not an easy transition–and the eating disorder worsened before it improved–but by the end and up until this day I am better off not running consistently or competitively.
There's nothing like breaking your kneecap to get you to stop running.
There’s nothing like breaking your kneecap to get you to stop running.
Grieving
I no doubt still love to run. And when I think about how fast I used to be–how wonderful it felt to float across the ground, how much I enjoyed the freedom, how excited I felt to race, what a joy it was to help out my teammates while racing–I know I just can’t go back to it for a while. Even when I do try interval training once in a while or simply go for a run, if I know the distance or time I get down on myself, or get so competitive that I think about how I could restrict again or purge and how good it would feel to reach the top.
Whenever these thoughts flood back into my mind, I remind myself of where I am in my life: happy and fulfilled at last. As much as running adds happiness to my life, it also has an element of madness, and I do very well without running, as I’ve come to find out.
I will always miss running as fast as I used to. I will always yearn for that euphoric joy. But I know that when I ran that fast, it was really the only area of my life that brought me happiness. At this point, it is too risky to be competitive, and simply exercising too much causes the eating disorder that lurks beneath to surface.
Benefits of Low-Key Lifestyle
A life without running does have its perks. I’m not as hungry as often (since I’m not burning as many calories), which makes me less self-conscious about how much food I eat in front of others. I don’t binge as often either because I can go longer periods without eating and not feel ravenous. I also have embraced my body a lot more because I no longer solely view it as an instrument for running fast.

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I also find myself more daring–I can stray away from my previously strict schedule, I can participate in activities that may risk a little injury (even the smallest things like a blister or scratch on my foot caused great distress for me in the past because it might mean a day off from running), and I allow myself to eat other foods because I don’t feel the pressure to eat “purely,” or eat as few calories as possible. And even though I allow myself to be much more fluid with my food choices, I do not do it in an unhealthy way–I eat some treats without going over the top.
No one tells you how much grieving there is in loss, and I have certainly had a long grieving period. I am still sad over the loss of running, but the tradeoff–having my life back–is well worth it. Running will always feel like a long-lost friend, but I know there is potential for it to return to me (healthfully) in the future.
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Always Aware

I told many people that my main reasons for going raw were for ultimate health and to prevent any and all disease. Even if those are indeed advantages in consuming a raw diet, they were not my main reasons for going raw. As many of you know from reading my blog, I went raw to have an excuse to eat more food with fewer calories and make it look “acceptable”–that I was doing it for physical health and well-being when really, I was only feeding into my ever-growing eating disorder.
I eventually had to give up the raw food diet (more to be explained in my upcoming book). My mental state had gone severely downhill, and that compromised my overall health more than a raw food diet might have aided in the health of my body.
I still don’t know for sure how much a raw food diet can prevent all disease, but while we are striving to eat as healthy as possible (with healthy attitudes/mindsets) it’s still important to look out for signs of cancer. And since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bankers Healthcare Group, a company that provides loans for doctors and other healthcare professionals, has provided this great infographic on their blog BHG360 that gives great tips, warning signs, and routines to take in caring for our bodies. Just as it’s important to spread awareness for eating disorders and understand the warning signs, we must be aware of these breast cancer warning signs as well.

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Friends Forgotten

I felt happy for most of my high school years. I can’t say it was a joy ride, but it certainly wasn’t bad. I mainly focused on running and schoolwork, but I also built relationships with my friends and made a few new ones—until the connection between weight and running became the sole focus in my life.
During my final semester of high school I counted calories as teachers taught lessons in class. I ate lunch alone. I wore baggy pants and sweatshirts because I couldn’t muster the energy to wear something nice, and because those were the warmest clothes I had for a body that constantly felt chilled. I dragged myself through the hallways in silence and fatigue. I ran my track races with the main goal to please my coach and to try to feel a greater sense of worth.

graduation

In college, things would change, I thought. They had to. With each run leading up to that first college semester, I assessed my body and yearned for energy again. I hoped I would find happiness. College was supposed to be the period where I could start over and show the real Rachael I had always wanted to let out.
College was a fantastic transition for me, no doubt. I wrote to my parents and family friends about how happy I was, how much I enjoyed the freedom, how great it was to run the fastest I had ever run in my life. But as I got further and further into the college scene, I began to realize how tough it really was to be who I knew I was deep down—the person I had hoped, by then, would come out. I searched for opportunities to bring the real Rachael out at last, but even though I attended events on campus, shared my knowledge of nutrition, and won races, I still could not seem to connect with my own teammates on a deeper level than just running. I made friends with my classmates, but in reality, they were probably more just like acquaintances for those first few years.

Reaching Out

During my sophomore year of college I emailed my friend Sharon about my food difficulties. And now, four years later, I recently told her how sorry I was that our conversation back then was probably the extent of my connection with her; that I hadn’t talked with my childhood friend Jackie in months; that even with the other few friends I made in college, I had good times with them but my mind was so occupied with the eating obsession, that I never had time to be there for them when they had taken so much time and energy to be there for me.
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Working to recover from the eating disorder was the path to bring out Rachael. The Rachael deep within screamed to be heard, demanded to be exactly who she was. But it was a mess–it was like a rebirth, and not without the complications and “yuck.” It meant ups and downs with the emotions, dealing with the torrent of bingeing to periods of restriction, letting my fear drive me to bulimia, and losing everything I ever thought I had wanted in life—the thinnest body I could achieve, success in running I had only ever dreamed of, and pleasing everyone around me with my performances.

Coming Into My Own

College ended up as a five-year period of forging a new relationship with myself. While I had sunken into the eating disorder for my last semester of high school, now in my last semester of college I rose with a stable energy and a newfound joy in simply being. And suddenly, I discovered it was easy to be open with others; that I was no longer just talking about running and nutrition; that it was effortless to share my opinions and practice confidence; that it was okay (and even kind of funny) to make mistakes—and that my body was not a mistake.
And with all of that, stronger friendships developed.
I could say that I found myself too late; that now that I have graduated college and I am happier than ever, I had lost many opportunities to be all of myself during those college years and develop great relationships. But it took the eating disorder to force self introspection, development, and to be the wakeup call I had needed for so long.
Thank you to the friends who stuck with me through the worst of it–when I wasn’t the happiest, most exciting friend–but stayed with me until the end.
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A+ Attitude

I’ve recently been told (and quite often now), that I have a great attitude on life.
For someone who felt like she had such a bad attitude years ago (as an obsessed, possessed, distressed eating-disordered runner), this feels like both a compliment and a relief.
My life isn’t perfect, and I have a lot of things I could be unhappy about. I have not lost the weight I gained from bingeing. I do not run as fast as I used to. I’ve graduated college and I’m still looking for a job related to my degree. My book is not yet published (I’m working on it!).
And yet, because I am happy with who I am as a person–without needing validation or relying on numbers–I feel stable overall whether good or bad circumstances come my way.

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Acceptance

Changing the attitude from bad to good first began with accepting myself. Even though I didn’t like the weight I had reached due to all the bingeing, and even though I hated how “slow” I had become as a runner, I had to finally accept that this was where I was going to be, that this was what I had to deal with, and that restricting–only to binge later–was a result of so desperately wanting to change who I was or how I looked. Acceptance was not a form of “giving up,” but instead seeing myself as someone worth more than her weight and fast running times, and someone who could begin to look past all of that and work on loving herself.
And how did the self-love process begin? Introspection has been the key for me (as I stress time and time again). I had to understand where the eating disorder started, why I felt the need to please others, how I could feel okay making mistakes (we are human, after all) and what parts of Rachael the eating disorder was covering.
An SSRI medication was a piece of the puzzle to calm anxiety and reduce feelings of guilt. Starting the medication did not come easily however, as the eating disorder side of me worried that a side effect could be weight gain (it never was). I also had to dare to try foods the eating disorder told me would pile on the weight. I had to allow myself to enjoy food when the eating disorder equated enjoyment with failure.
I also dared myself to get out and do things unrelated to running. I was encouraged by a friend to stray from my perfectionist, obsessed mentality. And as I met more people, as I learned that I actually liked to have these different experiences, I began to see and feel Rachael without an eating disorder break free.

race3Finding Peace

I understand how attitude is about perspective now when I wake up each morning no longer feeling guilty about what I ate the night before or feeling worried about if I will binge again. I no longer wake up thinking about whether I should restrict or find another way to eat “perfectly.” I no longer feel like I want to crawl out of my own body, and I don’t have to listen, through every cross country practice and race, you must restrict again, you must go back, you must close down, and you will binge and all will be lost.
Yes, I still have tough days. Yes, the eating disorder rears its head once in a while. No, I don’t have everything together. But knowing that I am progressing, that I enjoy spending time with my friends as well as by myself, and after gaining a new perspective after struggling for years with the eating disorder, a good attitude has prominence in my life.
Now that I’ve uncovered Rachael through acceptance, finding ways to love myself (through introspection, medication, daring to try new things) makes me excited to share this Rachael I have always wanted to bring out. I’m excited (and have that “great attitude” on life) because I’ve never really gotten to try out me; because this is the person I knew I had inside for so long–
Because I worked my ass off to get to her.
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The Pain of Change

Memories of the good times you had before everything go downhill are a mix of incredibly annoying and addicting to hold onto. It’s fascinating how vivid those movie-like flashbacks are, and how distracting they can be when you are trying to move on with your life. Even when things are going well, there is always that lingering uncertainty and pain from a part of your life that used to bring you joy.
Pain and hurt have no mathematical, logistical measure of time before we know we are okay; thus we must treat these feelings with fluidity while encouraging ourselves to move forward. And moving forward often requires facing scary, unfamiliar situations that pull us out of our comfort zone–and to trust that we will learn along the way. This allows us to see what we’ve learned from the bad circumstances of our life, and to see that perhaps these difficult times brought us to a better place than where we would have been without the pain. I know that without having dealt with my eating disorder and the difficulties in running, I might not be out of my perfectionist mindset that I had carried with me throughout childhood and high school. Yes, it took years of struggle through recovery for me to let go of the pain, but through this, and having the courage to make small changes over time, I have learned that there were better things beyond the comfort of the eating disorder. It was the difficult times that finally allowed me to see my errors in perfectionism, worry, and fear.
Painful circumstances hurt, but I’m thankful for them because they are the things that bring us back to life–or perhaps even just to a life that we never knew before, and wouldn’t have had without the pain of change.
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“Please Notice When You Are Happy”

Reflecting on this past year (as today is my 24th birthday), I realize 23 has been very good to me.
This is not to say everything was perfect, but it was the fastest I have developed as a person and the best I’ve felt in my own body and mind because I continually stepped out of my comfort zone.
I have felt more satisfied because my happiness does not depend on a number on the scale or the time I have when I cross the finish line of a race. Self acceptance and relationships with family and friends are my main sources of happiness now–and it stems from introspection, challenging myself, and breaking away from the perfectionist mindset. I realized Rachael needs sass and opinions and mistakes and to stop saying “I’m sorry” for everything; and that because of it, Rachael is doing–as my college coach (Woj) was happy to say–“a lot more living (not just being alive).”

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Kurt Vonnegut is quoted as saying, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy”–and how powerful these words are when we see that we can predict future happiness by noticing when we are happy from day to day. Happiness is more sustainable if it comes from being happy with who we are.
Yes, I still have bad days. Yes, I’m sure there will be hardship in the months or years ahead. But in this moment—when I know and trust myself—I am simply happy with being, with feeling like I am learning and discovering myself and my relationship with others.

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Accept challenges and discomforts in your life, because it’s the only way you’re going to change and grow. It will move you toward the path of self love and acceptance—and that is the greatest achievement anyone can have because it touches all parts of your life.
That, my friends, is genuine happiness—and I want you to feel it with me because it’s a wonderful spot to be and the eating disorder has no place in it.
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