Rachael, Be Brave

“To try to be brave is to be brave.” –George MacDonald
Life outside of the eating disorder feels both scary and exhilarating. I’ve had to learn to adjust to and enter the “real world” outside of my own safe nutrition-obsessed cage–which means taking on adventures that initially sound too risky for the uptight Rachael. How would I get anything done? What if this means consuming more calories than if I were to stay at home with my healthier, controlled food? And what if the whole thing goes terribly wrong, leading to boredom, discomfort–or worse, embarrassment?
Taking on adventures that don’t involve 30 bananas a day means encouraging myself to go out and actually do things rather than stay holed up with a nutrition book or on the internet trying to find the “key to happiness” through a diet. Now that I’ve recovered from the eating disorder, I have to like, you know, live. I know that the Rachael deep down wants adventure and fun without guilt–but it takes that leap of bravery to get there.

blog3

So of course, it’s not been easy. Taking chances to stray away from my own schedule for an adventure that could go absolutely perfect or terribly wrong is a big risk–especially for the organized, scheduling, people-pleaser Rachael. The thing is, I know that by taking chances and getting “out there” will usually make me happy in the end for at least trying it.
The tough part is taking that first step.
On a recent trip, I found myself saying “Be brave, Rachael. Be brave.” And in following those wise words of wisdom the real Rachael had permission to come out at last and enjoy what life has to offer. The eating disorder voice was drowned out by laughter and bursts of joy–that, and by fun food and drinks of course. Even the awkward or embarrassing moments that did come up ultimately made for great stories to laugh about later. I found how much of myself I could be–how fun it is to balance the hard-working, organized, productive woman with the side of me who cracks jokes, is eager to take on spontaneous adventures, and can let her passion spill over to others.

blog

Eating disorder recovery is scary because you have to be brave, you have to be daring, and you have to get out of your comfort zone in order to find adventure for the possibility of something wonderful–or yes, even disastrous. Like I mentioned in my last post, feeling great emotion (whether it’s terrible sadness or euphoric joy) is what comes with living a great life. By just staying home to be “productive” and “in control” with food all the time there would not be much to enjoy, no memories to share, no chance for a step in a new direction. I’ve found through wonderful experimentation that the more you try out this bravery thing, the better you get–and the more fulfilling life can be.
So be brave, readers.
Be brave.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Embracing Emotion

“I am thawing.”
These are the final words in Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Wintergirls. Mind you, it’s a triggering eating disorder novel for those with eating disorders, but that’s probably because it’s one of the most accurate, artistic portrayals of what it’s like to deal with an eating disorder. And those final words in the book come closer to me than any other words I have read–words that very much describe what bingeing and recovering from the eating disorder did for me.
I thawed.

Ice

When I was at my thinnest I sat through high school like a zombie. I barely interacted with friends, nor did I care to try. I knew I felt sad, but it was a distant feeling, too. I simply got through each day attending school, running for the track team, practicing piano, spending hours on homework, and cross training with any extra time I might have had. I lived mostly on working and trying to please the adults in my life. Meanwhile, of course, my friends had almost all but disappeared. The only thing that seemed to keep me “happy” (or rather, in my own form of control) was the very thing keeping me trapped: restricting.
You would think that thawing would feel good–but that’s when the pain actually hit. That’s when my hunger roared like a beast unleashed, when my mind and body awoke to what I had done to it with all the restricting. Because with every binge, with every push back for life, my mind screamed with resistance and fear. My body was ready to fight back to get the Rachael that was meant to not merely exist, but to live.
I thought that researching nutrition further would save me, that a new diet might save me, that treating everything with numbers and logic would bring me back to where I needed to be. I fought myself for years doing this until my friends, family, and even a bit of myself helped me to let go.
graduating

Freshman runner to senior graduate! Many changes emotionally and physically in that time frame

The emotions that came with gaining the weight back and with developing into a normal “human” who interacted with society instead of staying home to research the 30 Bananas a Day diet online and smashing in salads until my jaw hurt, found me suddenly full of intense euphoria, intense anger, or intense sadness. Just as I was either restricting or bingeing, my emotions were seemingly following the same up-and-down path. It was not until I was completely removed from competition, applying more of my ED recovery tools, and using the support of my friends and family that I felt the comfort of a good thaw. I was allowing my body to do it’s thing. I was allowing my mind to rest from the numbers and fear. Instead of feeling the icicles slowly, painfully melt from my fingers, I felt the warm rush of life flood me.

Warm at Last

I think that no matter the destructive coping mechanism we deal with, we trap ourselves in a world of our own. It is not selfish, only a sign that we are struggling–and that we can’t get out alone. What life has to offer feels both horrifying and magnificent. We can eventually find balance if we take the chance to allow ourselves to thaw.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What the Eating Disorder Taught Me About Coping

I have often been told that a breakup with someone is one of the most difficult things I will have to go through, but I think many of us fail to realize we often go through “breakups” just as difficult through other experiences in life–“breaking up” with a passion, addiction, etc. So as bizarre as an eating disorder may seem to those who don’t have one, it is not that foreign when we think about the recovery from an eating disorder as coping with loss–a breakup from something that we feel has become a part of ourselves. No matter how painful it is to live with, the greatest fear is learning to live without it.
183366_370264289719942_335330005_n

One of my “safe” buddies who listened to a lot of my venting and frustrations. I gave her piggy-back rides in return :P

Since the eating disorder was my first major “breakdown,” getting through it has taught me what it takes to work in recovery and come out the other side–a kind of preparation for the next series of losses I will and have had to work through. It hasn’t made those next losses any easier or less painful, but I knew I would find happiness and balance again in similar ways that I did with the eating disorder–by writing out my thoughts, talking to safe people about my feelings, venting through exercise, staying busy with new activities, and allowing my mind to deal with the thoughts when they came instead of trying to constantly push them away.
It’s important to analyze our struggles so that we can know how to survive our grief and give back to the world. If we don’t take time for ourselves to understand the hurt, the emotions may build inside and cause us to lash out at others or harm ourselves. The mind is smart. It will not allow you to hold in what it needs to get out. My eating disorder is a prime example of that–something that came out of my inability to address my loss of identity and yearning to be “perfect” to please others.
Sometimes the most comforting feeling is having others somewhat understand our pain–and in recognizing that breakups from a part of ourselves can be just as painful and quite similar to breaking up with someone else, we can be there for each other with more empathy and understanding.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Today, I Graduate

I will tell you a story about a girl.

168772_1859379531238_5517613_n

I will tell you a story about a girl who entered college anticipating a chance to start over—a chance to bring out the person she always felt had been trapped inside. I will tell you about a girl who left high school as a depressed, eating-disordered, running-consumed, people-pleaser perfectionist who found out, upon entering college, that she still couldn’t let it all go.
She didn’t know how to let it all go.
I will tell you that this girl reached her ultimate dream of running prestige with All-American finishes as a college freshman, only to realize that this was not as fulfilling as she had hoped it would be; that as everyone praised her for her efforts, fear of the dissatisfaction she felt and a yearning to go to extremes haunted her in the loneliness of the disorder and perfectionist mindset.
268084_1992665528843_1009551654_31847860_2568710_n
I will tell you about the leap this girl took to start a raw food diet. While there was skepticism from her peers, raw food was the first major change, a DARE, a switch where she realized she was in control of her life, that she could do big things, too. While it did not end up as the healthiest means to an end, it was a path to the voice she had buried down for so long.
I will tell you about a girl who faced reality after that dream-come-true year of running—a girl who turned from a judgmental, glory-driven athlete to a humbled, scared, bingeing addict stripped of her running “superpowers.” I will tell you about the fears she faced in a life without her control of food or success in running, and the reality that hit her: she could be more than just running and food.
She had to be more than just running and food.
ACONFERENCE
I will tell you how this girl’s written words began to give her a voice at last despite anxiety and shame in sharing it. I will tell you about the way her eyes opened beyond her own fears to see how many others dealt with what she went through, and worse—that it was never about discipline and desire, but about disorder and chaos and a missing identity.
I will tell you about a girl who realized she could be more than the food she ate, the amount she weighed on the scale, the schedule she dictated herself by, and the times she ran in races. I will tell you about a girl who began to open her mouth not just to eat, but also to speak with confidence and enthusiasm because she realized how painful and frustrating it had felt to run in silence.
I will tell you about a girl who became me.

DSC00138

I will tell you that I am graduating college with a four-inch surgical scar tracing down my right knee that tells a story not of physical pain but emotional rebirth; that a comeback was never about racing after breaking my kneecap, losing weight again, or achieving All American, but about learning to be the best Rachael I could be under the strain of every fear that became my reality. I graduate now with extra meat on my bones, a body that has carried me through it all, and a mind that never gave up.
I will tell you that I began to see the joy in life with great friends and family—that I took the chance to break a few rules when I slept on the college soccer field for my twenty-first birthday, when I decided to not complete a school assignment for the first time in my life, when I got my first-ever C on an test, and when I decided that enough was enough with running to quit competing because the sport was taking away more than it was giving back.
That it was my turn to give back.

DSC00095

I graduate having enjoyed all-nighters, having broken away from rigid schedules, and feeling the serenity in sitting peacefully with myself without feeling guilt for “wasting” time. I graduate having met amazing new people with different ideas and views on life that allowed me to see beyond a world of running and food.
Today I graduate knowing that the desire to be the best runner was not what would make me feel better; that the “right” food would not bring out the real Rachael; and that self-discovery is painful but it forced me to face myself at last. I graduate knowing I am privileged and blessed, and that a big part of my success is from the people I am surrounded with–a community of running and writing friends, fantastic professors and classmates who supported me through everything, coaches and parents who believed in my potential to be a great person and not just a great runner, and everything beyond perfection.
Today, I graduate from the best five years of my life with a story to tell you about a woman.

presentation2

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Rachael Recovered?

[[[TRIGGER WARNING.]]]

I didn’t realize until recently how unhealthy and DISORDERED my mindset was these past five years–in all stages of an ever-changing eating disorder. After presenting about my experiences to my college a few times I’ve realized that when I talk about my past eating disorder practices, the person I speak of seems so different from the Rachael I know now. I didn’t realize how much I’ve changed because it’s been so gradual, but when I write it all out as I’ve done here, it becomes clearer than ever.

Restriction schedule

(2 years)
7 a.m.: Wakeup and the first thing you think is BREAKFAST. But you weigh yourself first, of course.
You run to the cafeteria in the darkness of dawn, feeling the ache of an empty stomach and a crazed anticipation to eat at last. You arrive exactly the time it is suppose to open but rage within when you realize the cafeteria has not opened yet. You are starving starving starving.
It opens five minutes later and you eat the exact amounts you have measured and promised yourself. You eat it all slowly, controlled with a tiny sample spoon you saved from an ice cream shop a few months ago. You are still hungry when you leave but you know that will be your biggest meal of the day because MIND RULES.
You anticipate lunch all morning. You are the first person at the cafeteria when it opens because you are starving starving starving. You eat with your teammates and try to participate in conversations but all you are thinking is how many calories how many portions how many bites how many vegetables how much do they think I am eating how much are they eating will they notice what a glutton I am what if I can’t avoid desserts.
But you escape without desserts and run through the hunger in the afternoon and anticipate/dread dinner since that has to be the SMALLEST meal of the day because MIND RULES.
You chew through a whole pack of gum an hour after dinner to avoid eating, and hit the pillow with stomach rumbling.

Binge Phase.

(2 years)
You wake up feeling guilty. You wonder why you feel guilty.
And then you remember.
You remember the three sandwiches, the four granola bars, mounds and mounds of peanut butter, trying to stuff down vegetables so you can keep the binge as low-calorie as possible. You remember going to bed with your stomach aching, fit to burst, hating yourself, wishing you could have had more self control.
But it’s a new day, so you’re starting over—right?
With each meal the dread of a binge is there—but you don’t know when it will come. You don’t control when it comes. You DO feel the urge build, though.
You try to make strange concoctions of food to keep it as low-calorie as possible so that you can try to lose the weight again. Week after week you feel like you’ve found “it”—the best way to eat. This morning it’s chopped bell peppers, cucumbers, and steamed sweet potato.
And in class you might be eating some oranges, but you are so self-conscious that people will smell it, that they will stare at you, that they think you are a gluttonous pig.
Track practice feels uncomfortable because you ate too close to practice, and you knew this as you were eating, but the urge to eat is so strong, so animalistic, that you can’t resist any and all food even though you know there are consequences. You can’t resist and now your body is suffering through the run because you are not used to handling so much food, so many heavy fats from avocados or granola bars and chocolate and peanut butter.
You have a night class and you bring in your oatmeal-tuna-coconut oil-vegetable “stew” to try to go as low-calorie as possible. You are aware that this is a strange combination but it’s your “safe” food, and you feel like people are staring and thinking about what you’re eating and you hate eating in front of people because of this but you are so, so hungry. Food is not about pleasure—it was never about pleasure since you started counting calories. And even when you finish your meal you think about what other foods you can get.
During the break, after much contemplation as you try to focus on the lesson, you cave into the vending machine food and buy two granola bars, sink your teeth into them, and transport yourself into heaven. And then they are all you are thinking about for the rest of class—how guilty you feel about eating the “forbidden” and how badly you still want more.
You come back to your apartment late at night after class only to shovel in all the food possible, hating yourself, your body, how out of control you feel, how you wonder when this will all end, when the weight will stop piling on, when the obsession with food will diminish. It is still ALL you think about.

Bulimia.

(9 months)
You’re sad. Frustrated. You want to fight back. You don’t want to feel the ache and pain and guilt from bingeing, so bulimia gives you power. When you’re angry with someone, you can just flush it away. When you’re frustrated with yourself, you can just flush it away. When you feel guilt from the food, you can just flush it away.
It is violent. It is purging food AND emotion from these past few years. It is releasing all the pent up anger and frustration with your body for all these years of pain and heartache and frustration and stigma. But no one will have to see your anger and frustration because you can hide it while still letting it all out. And now you have a form of control again like restriction. But since you can’t restrict anymore, this is your new control.
HA. You laugh at your body, at it’s ignorance, because aren’t YOU in control again now?
You eat and purge all day. You eat, and purge, and then you feel hungry again twenty minutes later because purging, you realize, doesn’t really do anything except waste the food you were buying. And to escape the hunger again immediately after a purge you escape and bike to the Y, because if you work out, you will take away the pain. But the moment you get there your stomach screams and you cannot even walk into the building. The intensity of how badly you want food gets you back on that bike and you’re flying back to your home, even contemplating stopping at Jimmy John’s on the ten-minute bike ride because your body is that desperate for food NOW.
Bulimia is not a fix.
~

Now.

I still wake up in the morning shocked with my appearance. I am still getting used to looking at “now” pictures because I am not used to a body like this. But I no longer wake up with guilt. My weight has been stable. I still have downfalls once in a great while, but nowhere near to the extent I had before. I pack a healthy lunch and peanut butter sandwiches for school. I eat the sandwich calmly in class, no longer worried about what other people think about my food. I engage in conversations and I’m able to pay attention. I laugh and smile and feel like I am MYSELF at last–without food and the obsession with running better to dominate my thoughts. I’m not constantly thinking about when my next meal will be because I eat until I am full and I go about my day. I’ve been cooking new foods and enjoying going out to eat with friends and family. I don’t have set times or schedules. I listen to my body and enjoy the peace of mind.
I do not weigh myself. I do not count calories.
As of right now, I have recovered from the eating disorder.
Granted, I still have some quirks and I still remember all the calories of most foods. I still try to eat healthy, but this time it’s with a healthy mindset. I may purge once in a while but it’s very rare now. There will always be a lingering fear from something that I dealt with for five years.
There is no quick fix or absolute answer. All I can say is that it has come with patience, learning my triggers, avoiding the competitive running life for a while, and learning how to be happy with MYSELF.
In two weeks, I graduate college. I’d say this is a nice way to enter the next phase of my life.
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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.
woods3
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.
woods7
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.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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.
Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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.
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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.
DSC_0131-lo-RS-SkiPix-copyright[1]

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.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

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.
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments