A WALK in the Woods

About a week ago, I decided to take a walk in the woods.
I have no idea how many miles I covered, and it was freeing not to care. I strayed off the path once in a while where I found a lake I had no idea existed, where I found a drop-off I had never taken the chance to admire. I could spread my toes, roll and bend my feet to meet the ground, climb onto logs and explore odd angles and points of view of the forest with my camera phone. I listened to the creak of the trees, a tumble and crash of a branch falling from the heavens, birds twitting in the distance, and frogs croaking in the swamp.
After years of running these paths–where I spent half of the time assessing my body for aches and pains–I was now walking calmly and assessing my mind.
This walk epitomized the strong relationship I have built with myself after five years of battling the eating disorder. Instead of running away from fear and anxiety, I slowed down to see more clearly what nature–life–had to offer. Life isn’t perfect at this point per say, but any tough situation I deal with now doesn’t compare to the way I felt inside before.
woods6There is a happiness that comes from within; it wells up in my chest and explodes in random bursts of laughter. I like myself now. I enjoy the people I am surrounded with and there is freedom when I wake up each day without guilt and fear. Sure, there are things I’m working on (who doesn’t have room to grow?), but I am enjoying the process and I am open to new perspectives and suggestions without breaking away from my core personality.
I no longer feel like “Rachael” just in running, but in all aspects of my life.
People can remind you of how good you have things, how blessed you are, and that so many others have it “worse,” but if you are simply not happy with the way you are living and cannot find peace within yourself, the sadness will not be fixed by a matter of comparing your grief to those “worse off.” Grief is real and painful to those who feel it, and we all owe it to ourselves to learn how to fix what feels broken and find what makes us happy.
The tough thing is that it takes time, hard work, and often painful self-discovery. I never thought I would reach a point where I could feel joy each day simply because of the people who are in my life and how I feel about myself. I always relied on happiness from outside circumstances like pleasing others, racing well, or getting good grades. I’m sure there are plenty of new lessons and trials to go through ahead of me, but making it out of the first round makes me feel confident that I can face what’s ahead without overwhelming fear.
With this happiness comes a greater desire to help others so that they can feel this joy as well. I remember all too well the grief, anger, and loss of hope I had felt for so long, and I never want anyone to hate being in their own mind and body. I never want anyone to feel that they are alone and out of control.
I want the next person–maybe it’s you–to take a spontaneous leap and go for a walk in the woods. I want you to laugh at yourself when you are caught taking a selfie on the bridge by another wanderer along the path (don’t judge me). I want you to slip into a muddy part of the path, to take off your shoes and wade in the chilly spring water, to peer over the edge of the ravine and marvel at the winding brook below.
I want you to find the time to take a walk, to converse with yourself, to save YOU–because by saving yourself, you possess the tools to help save others who want to find themselves again, too.
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Embracing the Life Experience

Lately I’ve been trying out new avenues for the full life experience, because the more I’ve explored what it means to live outside of perfection, the more I’ve realized how much pleasure I have denied myself. Worry and guilt were the two feelings holding me down, and courage was what allowed me to stop making myself my own worst enemy. Thus, I’ve realized several things:
1) Procrastination should be used sparingly, but it should definitely still be used.
2) Time is never wasted with good friends because having a dose of laughter makes going back to work easier. That, and life is just more fun this way.
3) You can learn a lot about yourself when you allow your mind to wander and ruminate, even when it’s 2 a.m. (insomnia is not necessarily a bad thing).
4) Trying to be productive 24/7 results in less productivity because your brain can only handle so much at one time. Breaks are healthy–and NOT a waste of time.
5) Sometimes you gotta stop doing the one activity you are obsessed with to see what other quirky things you are obsessed with. This also allows room for quality people to come into your life and give you new perspectives.
6) Pain (physical and emotional) is only scary if you make it seem scary. As a kid I used to worry and fear about all the diseases I could possibly contract, or about making mistakes that would disappoint the ones I loved, but once I faced so many of my fears (scary surgeries, painful physical therapy, mental illness, and yes, stupid mistakes) I’ve learned how strong I can be. Facing even just one fear allows you to feel like you can face them all (not happily, of course, but at least you have some confidence in what your mind and body can handle).
Sometimes you have to get through all the pain to get to all the pleasure.

Sometimes you have to get through all the pain to get to all the pleasure.

7) Our actions don’t always solidify the kind of people we are. As long as we learn from the action and feel it needs to be changed (and make steps to make that change), we can continue to grow into the best version of ourselves.
8) Sometimes you gotta fake confidence until you actually get to the point where you are confident.
9) Going with the flow is easier than having a plan for everything. Life will take you to where you need to be, and by following this principle you may have less worry and fear in your life.
10) Food tastes better when you eat what you want, when you want. I’m still learning to strike a balance and find what RACHAEL wants, but it’s getting there.
11) Nature walks (who knew walking could be just as nice as running) and little personal adventures are cool ways to build a solid relationship with yourself. I actually like hanging out with me now.
12) Life is life, and patience is the key to allowing it to come together when it should. This way, you can start sharing yourself with others and interacting with the amazing people out there–because once you love yourself, you can feel so much love and appreciation for others.
Hang in there, folks.
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Mom Speaks

We love food in this family. My husband and I look forward to meals and plan out fun things to eat for days at a time. We go out a lot. We shared our love of food with our daughters as much as possible. We were always encouraging them to try new things and laughing because we were all physically active and did not need to watch what we ate and communicated this clearly with the girls.
My mom couldn’t have explained our family’s attitude towards food any better than that. I grew up in a household where food and the love of it was encouraged. We ate everything in moderation. We weren’t banned from desserts. We had a healthy portion of processed food with healthy whole food dinners. I would say that perhaps the bad attitude about bodies/physical shape in general came more from the similar attitudes society had towards overweight individuals: “Fat,” “looks bad in that dress,” and “lack of discipline and control” were not uncommon phrases heard inside and outside of the home.
NAIA nats 2010 074Those kind of attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors are not uncommon but they are destructive. My parents and I didn’t realize how destructive they could be until they began to dictate my changing attitude and thoughts about food and my own body. And because my mom never realized how much had changed in my mind until nearly two years after the seed had been planted, it took her a while to catch up and understand my eating disorder.
Thus, I feel it is only fair to give my mom’s side of the story by sharing her voice on my blog–and to show that even with misunderstanding and ignorance, there can be change with learning and never giving up to understand it all. My parents’ constant love and support is what allowed them to do everything they could to help me–and they are a huge part of the success I have had through all of this.
Rachael was the perfect daughter: obedient, smart, hard working, conscientious, disciplined, honest, careful, healthy, beautiful (to us, her parents – even through that geeky stage of red unruly hair, white skin, glasses, braces, awkward limbs, long flat feet), athletic, humble, shy, and loyal. She strove to be perfect. Every assignment or workout or practice was completed on time or early and was prepared above and beyond expectation or requirement. She did everything she was supposed to do plus extra. She would check her work over and over before she turned it in just to be sure it was absolutely correct. Some might call it obsessive-compulsive behavior. Nothing but A’s would satisfy her. Her sister and “normal” kids were not like her. She had very few peer friends and craved the attention and approval of her parents, teachers, and most adults. She couldn’t control her awkwardness or her peers so she poured herself into controlling everything she could.

running at houseman

As a candidate for an eating disorder, Rachael was the perfect storm.
When Rachael finally admitted to herself and then to me, her mother, that she thought she might have a problem with food, I took her out to eat (!) to discuss whatever she had on her mind. I said every wrong clichéd thing I could have possibly said. I had meant well but I triggered all the negative derailment that exists.
My husband and I eventually went to an eating disorder counselor to learn about what she was going through and started reading the books they suggested. Rachael began reading everything she could get her hands on about the topic. She sent me a list of the ones she thought would help me most to understand and educate myself for her sake. I learned how horribly wrong-headed everything I had said to her that night she tried to tell me of her problem was.
We communicated. We made our peace with each other. We explained what we meant by what we said and explained how it was interpreted and why. We spent hours and hours talking. She wrote pages and pages of prose about her journals and experiences and research and goals for rescuing herself. That was the best turning point–when she told me of her plan for self-rescue.
I was so relieved. I knew she would make it. She chose health and life and I will be eternally grateful to the people who came into her life to support her and love her and tell her their stories and re-assure her that recovery is possible and she could most definitely be happy and secure again.
Through reading all the books, I knew there were parts of the eating disorder experience that were not written about. Not everyone with an eating disorder lands at death’s door weighing fifty pounds dragging loads of drama of soap operatic proportions. Not everyone hates their body for lack of beauty or excess of fat or feels it’s necessary to starve all the way to death in order to run or dance or perform gymnastics to perfection. Rachael began her self-rescue way before it was too late.
Rachael has always given me many opportunities to be proud of her throughout her life with her performances and accomplishments. But there is nothing that gives me more pride than how she has chosen to handle this struggle.
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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.

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.


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.


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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