Finding Peace

There was a point in my life where I–and I’m sure many of us–experienced that mind-numbing, heavy walk through each day; where we could not find the energy to speak to our friends and family; where we had lost ourselves so deeply that we only felt defined by what we did or how we ate, and not by who we were.
Running has been good to me, and it certainly was my protector. It kept me striving for goals and interacting with others through fantastic experiences as well as heart-crushing downfalls. Meanwhile, the eating disorder entered my life in a way that devastated so much in its path. But that path led me to self-reflection and, with courage, a yearning to pull everything apart to find my identity–an identity, I learned, that connects me to so many others through empathy and understanding.
I was never as alone as I thought.
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In the midst of raw food confusion; a summer of bingeing and fear.

The greatest part in all of this were the special people in my life who pushed me to find out exactly who I am today–and I know that even that will change with time. I have learned to expand my views, test the limits of the soul rather than just the body, and to find courage when the false walls of perfection are stripped down.
I’m ready to fly on my own. I’m ready for the next adventure ahead.
I’m ready to live.
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Discipline, Drugs, and Disorder

After a bad race two years ago for indoor track (I had binged terribly the night before and even a bit into that morning), my coach had come over to talk to me about the race.
“I’m mad because I know you’re mad,” he said, sitting down next to me against the wall. “What’s going on?”
I looked down at the floor.
You have to be more open if you want help. You have to be brave.
“It’s food again,” I said.
I couldn’t believe I was confessing this.
“Rachael, you know if you don’t eat enough food you’re not going to fuel your body to run well. You won’t have the energy.”
I remained quiet. He thought I hadn’t eaten enough, how funny. I almost laughed in spite of the situation.
You have no idea how badly I wish I could do that now and hold onto it.
“It wasn’t restriction. It was … the opposite.”
a rough day

A rough day.

I didn’t know how else to explain it without feeling more embarrassed than I already felt. I kept my eyes on the ground, shame flooding me. I had never told him anything like this, nothing so close to the time of the binge itself. It was one thing to post on my blog about my bingeing experiences from years ago (especially when I had been at my lowest weight), but to talk about what was happening right then, when I felt fat?
My coach was silent for a moment. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”
What else could he say?
But I wanted so badly to turn toward him and shake him, to run out screaming and pulling my hair.
Do you know how much I want to stop doing this to myself, too? Do you know how much this tears me apart not just during the races, but every minute of every hour of every day? I wish you could know how badly I want to stop. I wish I didn’t have this awful relationship with food.
~
I was recently challenged with the notion that eating disorders are not as intense or similar to drug addiction or alcoholism.
I’ve also been challenged about how much eating disorders are a discipline–not a disorder–issue.
And then we have misconceptions about what eating disorders “look” like: only when are you scarily thin should you get help. When you are overweight, you just need to “eat less and exercise more.”
Not exactly.
There’s a lot to fight against with eating disorders, and perhaps that is what makes them so difficult for sufferers to admit what they are going through. I do appreciate the questions I receive from those who simply have not had an eating disorder because it means they are either trying to understand, or that they are at least helping me to understand their confusion and skepticism. But it can be frustrating when people quickly dismiss the illness lightly when you are not hooked up to an IV or fainting at work.
No one can see the obsession circling day in and day out in your head, and that’s the scariest part–that you can’t escape your own mind.
I have certainly not had alcoholism and cannot say I know everything that entails it, but I feel I can understand the pull of the addiction. I have not had drug problems, but I feel I understand the intense, all-consuming cravings when I hoard food and binge. I even knew an eating disorder sufferer who did drugs say that after experimenting with various drugs, the worst “drug” he feels has been food.
So we’re supposedly supposed to “snap out of it.” Would you tell that to an alcoholic? A drug addict? How are eating disorders different? While the world often treats eating disorders as petty girl issues (and what about the male sufferers?) or a matter of discipline, those of us who suffer want to scream that it is not just about aesthetic or something within our control, but a chemical and emotional disturbance that is fought day after day.
I tell you, it is similar to struggle of alcoholism. It is much like yearning for the high of drugs. And to pull away from it is like a breakup from a very destructive love affair. To let go is to fall headfirst into months or even years of grieving the loss of something that you felt held you together for so long.
This is why eating disorders not only take over lives, but also kill. It may not be as quick as a life-threatening drug withdrawal, but a long, slow death is no easier.
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A New Kind of Weight

No matter how many times I may look in the mirror and find what is wrong with my weight, sometimes what I really need to look at is what I can improve on in myself–who I am, how I represent myself to others, and how I can improve my relationships with friends and family. I seem to forget how I relate to others when I have put so much emphasis on the relationship with myself–which certainly needs to be strong, but I do want to avoid limiting myself to just my experience.
I’ve begun to notice this downfall of mine more and more over the years, but it took a good friend of mine to be honest and point it out. While the mirror has been so blurred and confusing in terms of physical weight, this wake-up call was a whole new weight for me to bear—and hearing it a second time never made me feel so mentally heavy and paralyzed.
I did not cry. And for me, that’s saying something, because I cry a LOT. I think the lack of tears was due to the realization that I was finally told something that I had been thinking about for some time now, but just needed someone to firmly point it out—and not in an accusing way, but simply as an observation.
This observation confirmed my discomfort. The honesty hit me hard, but it also brought a sense of relief. I was thankful it took someone close to me—someone who I value their thoughts and opinion—because it made the wakeup call that much stronger. I only wished I hadn’t acted that way for someone I care about. Luckily it may help save me in future relationships with friends and family, and help me to conduct myself in a way that is more fitting to the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person other people want to be around.
It’s painful, especially as a perfectionist, to hear where I am not so perfect. To hear something that doesn’t measure up to the kind of person I want to be makes me realize how blind I have been. Automatic response? Panic, self-loathing, a resolve to work harder and fix it immediately. But I know there can’t be an automatic fix, and that simply being more aware of this part of me and allowing myself to gather and accept feedback from others is critical in my growth. I don’t want to change everything about who I am of course, but I do want to work on something that I know doesn’t represent the person I want to be. It is in recognizing our imperfections that we learn to become better people.
The good thing about all of this is that it’s yet another thing that will help me move on from the eating issues because it allows me to avoid focusing so much on my appearance, and more on how I conduct myself in front of others and avoid limiting myself and my views. Eating disorders are limiting, and so is the perfectionist who refuses to see what keeps her tied down. I love myself and want to continue to grow, and I will love myself enough to recognize what I want to fix—not because I feel I should change for others to like me more, but because of how I feel I should change for myself.
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An Update

Life has been different for me recently, but I have never felt more alive and excited.
Here’s the deal: there are three books I’m working on at the moment. The first, which you are all quite familiar with, is awaiting an agent. I have cleaned up the manuscript, had a wonderful friend edit it recently, and now I have pushed it to the side to take a break. I understand that the publishing process is a long, grueling journey so patience is the key. Knowing what I face with that keeps me humble and patient. There’s a lot to learn.
While I learn about how to get that first book published, I’ve completed a second book that carries on with the journey of the eating disorder plus an abrupt turning point with a major physical injury. So, there’s that … and no guarantee that that will be traditionally published, but it’s kept me busy and is continually honing my writing skills. The book is currently finished but is need of major editing.
And yes, there’s book three, which I’m currently writing as I live it. The cool thing about being a memoir writer is that part of the process is writing of course, but you have to involve yourself with other life activities in order to have something to write about. So that’s been fun.
Living it up with the night life. #Snapchats

Living it up with the night life. #Snapchats

I have never felt more like myself as I do now. I am happy. There are still ups and downs with the eating disorder and I have plenty to fix but I’m always learning and moving forward with my life. Running … that’s kind of a different story. But like I said, I’m writing a third book (even if it’s just for myself) to reflect and learn more about this phase of my life and help me to keep moving forward.
I continually think of all of you, my readers, and I hope everyone is doing well. I’m working my best to get the book published but like I said, it’s a matter of patience and moving on to other things while I wait. I have an eating disorder presentation and reading that I’ll be giving at my college in the next month, I’m continually expanding my knowledge of the writing world, and graduation will be here before I know it.
Life is good.
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Selfie Slandering

I get it, I get it! I take selfies, and I take lots of them–more than I ever even put on social media, to be honest. And I understand that selfies get a bad rap for suggesting self-absorption and infatuation with oneself. People assume that when you take a ton of selfies, it is a sign that you can’t stop looking at yourself, you think you are prettier than everyone else, or that you are trying to feel prettier due to low self-esteem.
I get it.
But here’s my take: selfies can be art, just as writing about oneself is considered art in the form of memoir. I love being able to use my own face with different lighting to convey different emotions. I love that I can portray my feelings in a form other than words, and in the same way as writing, connect with others on the level of human emotion and experience.
I understand that I am not a perfect human (this whole website is about my mistakes and downfalls, after all). I understand that I am not drop-dead gorgeous or “worthy” of a modeling contract (or however that works). But I do like how I look, and that should be totally okay. I will embrace what I appreciate about myself, but more than anything I value selfies for the reason that they are a nice way to represent, appreciate, and share oneself in a manner different from words.
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A Lot Can Change in Two Years

I began this blog in fear.
I didn’t know who I was or where I was going, but two years ago I needed this blog to make me feel like I was getting something done. It was my last hope for change. I wanted to write out my story for others to see because part of me hoped it would make all the time I had spent with the disorder more “worthwhile,” that all the hours of recording and analyzing food and my life would help others to understand why I had gained so much weight in a short amount of time. I wanted to show everyone I had not merely been lazy and ignorant to calories.
I knew everything about calories.
But I also feared what my friends and family would think — that I was faking it? That I was over-dramatic? That I was just seeking attention? I knew it might be met with skepticism, but something deep down screamed for relief–and the writer inside of me simply persisted.
Ever since my sophomore year of high school, I have been encouraged to write the TRUTH to get the best sort of writing out there. But how could you expect that from a perfectionist, from someone who wanted to control how she was perceived, from someone who couldn’t say “calories” out loud, let alone write it for others to see? I had always been the quiet one, the one who didn’t talk about food or sex or wants and needs–basic human drives. I pretended not to feel, not to care–because avoiding this, I thought, would prove that I was focused and successful.

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And then I realized that to write about the true human experience–how we constantly battle these drives to exert control on how others perceive us–was the best thing I could do.
So it’s been two years since I started the blog on December 17, 2012 after a particularly bad binge and purge session. As I reflect on who I was two years ago, I am extremely proud of the person I have become today. I feel so much more like myself–the real Rachael–since writing out my story, connecting with others, and improving my confidence. I have learned to not shy away, but instead stand up for myself and encourage others to do the same. Thanks to therapy, expanding my food choices, the support of friends and family, and even some medication, I feel like a much more mature, truthful person. I’m still working to stand up for myself and say what I mean, but I am definitely more like myself and willing to love that part of me more than ever.
So, my dear blog — Running in Silence — Happy 2nd Birthday.
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What Are You So Afraid of?

I’ve been asked this question a lot lately, or at least questions similar to it–
What is my fear, how do I handle it, and why the heck am I so afraid?
All fears need contemplation in order to face and deal with them. Half the battle is knowing what you are dealing with–and for me, coming to terms as to why I fear food must be faced. So as I finally make time (notice the word “make,” not “find,” since you will never “find” that time), I can hear myself think.
And that’s when I hear it; it doesn’t come in a roar or in an astounding revelation. It doesn’t change my life in an instant or come as a message from the gods. It comes in increments, entering either slowly or suddenly as I allow my mind to wander and drift among my thoughts to the deepest emotion.

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I am afraid of my body–of the potential it has to escape my mind’s control. I was afraid even at my thinnest of the potential I had to possibly win a national NAIA cross country meet–maybe because success came too fast, maybe because the way of reaching running “success” was not the way I had previously anticipated. Along with the success came a dark secret of restriction and pain, and I never imagined I would reach national status through something like that.I was afraid of the power my mind had over my body to sink the weight lower, but also of the power my body had over my mind as the weight gain took over my life.
So I come to this conclusion: anything my body feels without my “consent”–hunger, emotion–scares me. I am afraid of what my body is capable of. I am afraid of the potential I have within because changing, letting go, and believing in myself can be scary. It requires trust and faith in a feeling that is not easy to see or define.
How right Maryanne Williamson is when she states, “Our deepest fear is that we are not inadequate; Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.”
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Facing a Painful Profile Picture

I recently had an interesting reaction to a new profile picture I posted on Facebook–many expressions of care and concern, while some basically insisted I not post such sad photos and resort back to one of me smiling.
I love to smile–I love it! I love to laugh, and my life is wonderful. But there are painful sides of life, too–for all of us. My profile picture is just a photo showing a different part of me–and as a self-proclaimed “selfie artist” (i.e., I like to take selfies because I get inspired by different lighting and yes, emotion), I felt prompted to post the photo that I did for the “artistry,” the vulnerability, and the emotion I wanted to convey.
One commenter said I looked like I had “eaten something yucky” (I couldn’t help but laugh because I kind of agree), but another commenter suggested that this new profile picture was “not [me] at all.” I say that forcing a smile all the time is the real “not me at all.” Embracing emotion is part of being human, even in photos. I have plenty of great photos of me smiling, and every photo is me no matter what emotion I’m showing.

But comments like this reveal an interesting way to see how we view showing pain in society. I understand Facebook–and profile pictures specifically–are a window into how we present ourselves and our life, and that the ideal thing to do is post a beautiful picture of us smiling (or duck face, peace signs, whatever floats your boat). But it’s also a social media circle for revealing who we are and what we stand for–I mean, look at all the opinions and controversies littering Facebook!
I would not put profile picture like this on a business account, but I feel that Facebook is broadening our awareness of what it means to be human and share so much of ourselves. We don’t need to do it to the point that we share every little thing in our world, but I like Facebook in the way that it allows us to bring out our voices more (as long as we are not on it 24/7 and actually have a social life outside of the internet).
Life is not perfect. Facebook is not perfect. Our profiles can’t be perfect. And this doesn’t mean we need all these pictures of people crying in their profile pictures, but I know there is discomfort in seeing someone else’s pain because sometimes it prompts us to look at our own–and doing so can be scary.
I get it–smiling is so much more pleasing to the eye. But we are human. We are full of frowns and tears and laughs and smiles. I am in a tough spot in my life right now, but I know I am working to take the best of the challenges to make me a better person. My profile picture is not a cry for sympathy, but a reminder that it’s okay to be vulnerable and that we are beautiful even in our tears.
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“It could be worse.”

“Just be happy with what you have.”
“At least you don’t have cancer.”
“Don’t look so grim.”
What all of these phrases are really saying: Your feelings are trivial.
I know most people mean well when they say things like this. The problem is, these people don’t realize that such phrases do more harm than good to help those who are suffering emotionally or physically. I often smile and nod when faced with these careless phrases, but everything inside of me screams, You don’t get it, do you!?
Assuring someone that another person always “has it worse” or that they should appreciate what they have does not ease the pain; it makes the person feel guilty for feeling what they feel, and often people push the pain down further instead of acknowledging that it’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to feel emotional because then you can deal with it. If you keep pushing your emotion and feelings aside, then you are just fooling yourself—and for many of us here, taking it out on food (or other modes of self-harm).
Yes, “things could be worse.” If your mom died, you could say the same thing. Both your parents could be dead, right? So why be sad if “just” your mom passed? You silly girl, you have so much more to life! Perk up a little!
“DON’T LOOK SO GRIM.”
I always want to encourage positivity, so this is not a plea to complain about the woes of your life all over Facebook or bombard your friends with every little thing that goes wrong in your life. But we should acknowledge our feelings and be okay with letting someone know we are struggling.
I feel that many people don’t understand the crux of a difficult circumstance lies not in comparison to a worse circumstance, but in recognizing the emotion someone feels. There’s a difference between being negative and being real. It’s not as easy as changing the frown to a smile. That’s putting a Band-Aid over the situation. How many times have people said they wear a mask to hide the true feelings beneath? It’s because our society perpetuates this! By telling someone that they shouldn’t feel the way they do by comparing their situation to something “worse” tells them that their feelings are not justifiable.
I find this struggle very similar to the emotional complexities of racing. Telling someone who is depressed to “just be positive” or telling someone with an eating disorder to “just eat right and exercise more” is much like telling someone to “just run faster” to win a race. These phrases don’t often do much for the situation at hand.
We need to look at the psychological component, to help and support someone to handle the stress and difficultly of a race. Coach them. Give them a hug after the tough days and tell them they are allowed to feel upset and frustrated. We can’t tell them to improve without giving them a chance to vent and learn from their frustrations. My mom always gave me solid advice that it is okay to wallow in self pity and pain after a bad race for a day or two, but once that time passes, you have to pick yourself back up and move on. And I agree—because once you face your emotions and let yourself think and ask for help, you can move on.
We need people who can listen and hug and cry with and for each other, because that is how we break down the walls to rebuild again rather than trying to build on a rocky, unstable surface—
The pain beneath.
Don’t hide your pain. Feel it, embrace it, talk about it, and then yes, when you’re ready, leave it for good at last.
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Food Fights and Friends

I often think about one of my high school cross country teammates who may have dealt with an eating disorder. I couldn’t understand it at all back then and tried to encourage her to eat foods like cheese (“It has calcium for strong bones!”) but our discussions never went much beyond that. I didn’t know how to help her, and she never fully confessed to me about her possible eating disorder anyway. I only know from mutterings here and there that she had some nutritional issues and couldn’t race a few times because of it. I can only guess that if we had talked about it more, I would still have been at a loss as to what to do for her. Thus I believe it takes a very special person to have sympathy and patience for someone with an eating disorder. This post hopefully not only gives insight into what it takes to be a supportive friend, but it is also a thank-you to the amazing people in my life who have been there for me with my own experiences with the eating disorder.
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Me, Alina, Rachel

The Blunt Supporter
Rachel was with me from the very beginning. She not only watched as I ate plates high with vegetables, but she defended me in my mono-meal-banana eating frenzies and lived with me over the summer of 2011 as I struggled to stay raw. It was difficult for me to tell her about what was really going on with my obsession because I was worried about what she would think about me, but once we did talk more she certainly tried to be there for me. The two of us got in some arguments over where I was coming from and why (to be explained in detail in the book), and it wasn’t until months after our disagreements and frustrations that I had begun to see what she was talking about and that she addressed these issues because she cared. Even now when she says how proud she is of me and continually supports this blog, I can’t express how much that means to me because I value her thoughts and support.
The Silent Supporters
Sometimes the smallest of friends come with the biggest of hearts. It wasn’t until further along in my ED recovery that two younger teammates (each probably a foot shorter than me, haha) came along and gave me a sense of belonging, peace, and confidence. I think we actually thrive a lot off of each other (sometimes I feel like a motherly figure for them, and they are constantly supporting and encouraging me). We haven’t talk much about my eating disorder but it is their actions that speak louder than words. They came to my reading about my eating disorder at school, they often invite me to the cafeteria when it still feels embarrassing for me to express that I am hungry, and they even congratulated me on eating pasta for the first time in years and understood WHAT A BIG DEAL that was for me.

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Ashlee and Kathy—thank you.
The Soul Supporter
And then there’s Alina—the one who was always there to listen, always there to talk when I needed it. She has gone above and beyond what anyone would ask from a friend, and she was there to bring everything out of me. Alina probably understands me more than anyone because we are alike in our perfectionist tendencies. I think we have learned a lot from each other just by talking, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being there for me no matter what. She told me the other day that some younger kids accidentally called her “Angelina.” I think that “Angel” part fits perfectly. ;)
Of course there are many more people in my life who have supported from afar, and I thank those of you for that. Every little bit of encouragement, understanding, and support helps, and I thank you for the comments, messages, etc that I have received over the past few years.
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