A Glimpse of Where I Am Now

This week was huge for me—probably the biggest change I’ve ever made for myself. And I waited until Friday to write this update because I wasn’t sure how long this feeling would last and I had to “test it out” for a few days before confirming that yes, I have moved on.
It feels like it’s been a long, long grieving process; like someone close to me was dying slowly before my eyes for the past few years and I had to watch it unfold. I just couldn’t let her go. No matter how mean, how frustrating, how deceiving that voice was, I could not let her go. Hadn’t she given me success? Hadn’t she brought me glory?
Or had I forgotten also that there was pain and fear all along?
After gaining the weight back, I felt I had lost the powerful Rachael, the Rachael in control. And now I’m left with a blanket of fat to cover me up. Or is it the eating disorder covering me? Did I just need to let that past Rachael go? I felt like losing all the weight through restriction and gaining it all back plus some left me feeling that I lost a piece of myself. And every day I thought about bringing her back to life.

How do you finish grieving a part of yourself that you want to die forever? I love this past Rachael but I hate her all the same. I knew that the only way to let go, to “unstick” myself, to pull myself out of the rut where I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, was to find a happy medium of contentedness instead of skyrocketing up into restricting euphoria only to plummet down into binge-eating depressive despair. I know it sounds obvious and easy to most other people, but I finally realized that to be okay with where I am now, I had to give up the old Rachael. I had to stop dwelling on the past. It’s just difficult when I still expect myself to get back to where I want to be even when Coach Woj says he is fine with where I’m at now and that we can just “work with this new body.” I couldn’t accept that. I didn’t want to accept that.
“Rawchael” wouldn’t let me accept it.
She told me that despite what everyone was telling me, I would show them; I just had to keep trying.
I could get it all back.
These past few days I realized that I am not about to regain that past Rachael. I am not the fictional 30-pounds-less-again future-Rachael. I have to focus on the present, to live in the moment. That means I have to be okay with who I am right now, without a thought towards future weight-loss or dwelling on the past and hating myself for “messing up” by gaining the weight. I know that to be the best person I can be I must either fix this unresolvable relationship within me or finalize its death at last. If I want to live again, that old, destructive self must die.
So I killed her. I killed “Rawchael”, the demon as well as the hurt, scared girl who always feared weight, who always felt trapped. I set up a “burial” this week for the scared Rawchael and threw away the bad Rawchael.
It was one of the hardest, most difficult parts of this process because it hurt so badly to learn to accept that I may never be All-American again, that my race times may never be the same, that my weight may just stay where it is—and that I have to be okay with this. I have to be happy and fine with where I am in order to live life to its fullest and be there for my teammates. I have to be okay with not being perfect.
It’s not that I approached this whole recovery process the wrong way; I just needed time to grieve and I had to give myself the extra push to finally move forward again because I’ve been stuck for too long. I’ve made great steps toward recovery on the way but I had to the muster the courage to finally let every part of Rawchael go for good; even if it hurt.
My new “motto”? “It is what it is.” I have to be okay with where I am. That means I can’t weigh myself. It means I can only do the best I can with food. It means I need to try to avoid the mirrors. The mirrors are tempting, but they bring me down, just like the scales do. Each time I stop at the mirror to “measure” I pull myself away from it, saying, “No! No measuring with your eyes. Leave it.” It’s sad that I can’t love my body yet but it will come in time. At least I have learned to accept it.
I’m applying the rules I’ve given to myself—I mean, the good rules! The goals. Today I felt worried about the breakfast and lunch I ate but I told myself that it would prevent a binge later, that it would prevent me from feeling too hungry. I also told myself that no matter what happened at those meals, they were over and done: “It’s over, it’s done, move on,” I’d say. Every time I felt tempted to count calories I said that, too. It made it easier to not count calories when I didn’t measure out portions today; there is absolutely no way to go back and count.
Each time I thought about the past, I reminded myself: “You have to be okay with this.” As in, you have to be okay with where you are now, and that you may stay at this weight for the next few years. I have to be okay with where I am at now. And every time I reminded myself that I felt a wave of relief; there is no more pressure from that internal voice to drop the weight again, that if I didn’t drop the weight I would be a failure. I told myself that I could maintain this weight for the next few years of college and I would be okay.
I started thinking about things out of my control, about the future. I told myself, “Give your worries to God” and it helped. Every time I look at someone and start to compare myself I have to remind myself that I’m me, I’m my own person, and comparing won’t do me any good.
That is probably the most difficult goal.
So yes, I’ll admit it—I’ve been harboring Rawchael, the girl that still wants to lose weight, all this time in “recovery.” I think I realized it, but not completely. I just didn’t want to let go of her. I still wanted that anticipation, that possibility that I could lose all the weight again. I thought I could still keep her and recover.
That “need” for weight loss is gone. I told it to be gone. I mean, it won’t be bad if I do lose weight. But I’m not going to intentionally try to force it to happen like I’ve been trying all along. I’ve done too much damage to my mental and physical health that it’s not about using “willpower” anymore because my body is fed up. I’m just going to eat the healthiest I can, not starve myself to prevent binging, and listen to my body and give in to cravings (within reason of course, as I’ve found and maintained balance for the past few months).
I’m going to enjoy life and live more. I am allowed to lose weight but I know I don’t have to lose weight. Sure, I will feel the ghost of that former self hurting me mentally each day, or maybe just some days more than others. I will still have “perfection” tendencies and it’s not like I feel like I can suddenly eat any food I want.
There will still be difficult days.
But I have the tools to help me through each day, to push those negative voices away. I’ve learned hunger and fullness cues, I’ve experimented with different ways of eating, I know how to relax and understand cravings, and my meal plan helps me to eat without feeling as much guilt. But even though I had the logistics down for a while now, I still needed to let go of the mental side behind it all, fueling the feeling of inadequacy.
I see what they mean when they say, “You have to want to recover.” When I realized how stuck I felt on Monday, I realized I was the only person who could change that now. Like I said, I have the support and tools…the last part I had to change was me and how I viewed the world.
Now I know I have to brush away what Rawchael did freshman year to stop dwelling on the past. Yes, it was an outstanding, fun year, but was it a blessing or a curse? What has it done to me now? I feel I have had to fixed a damaged body—physically and mentally. It has taken so long.
No one can take away what I accomplished that freshman year. But records will fall, my name will be forgotten, and what does it matter anymore? The real me will always be here—through written words, the impact I make on other people, and of course, in me myself.
Thus, I have no more crazy expectations for myself. Sure, I ran a 17:37 for cross country, but now, with this new Rachael, this new body, my personal record for now is 18:26. I was a 17-minute runner but I was scared and lost and confused. If I have to be an 18-minute runner that is confident, proud, and wiser, then I choose her. I realized that the person I was dwelling on in the past was not happier than I am now; if anything, she felt trapped and lonely. But I blocked out that part of it and only focused on the great racing times she had, on the weight she was at even though at that time she thought that weight wasn’t low enough—the very same thoughts I have had for a long time now. If I am a stronger person now, I have to be okay with my weight and show her that I can be okay no matter what the scale tells me.
I realized that despite all the great times I had that year, I was in constant fear of weight gain, constantly in hunger, constantly over-thinking food. I kept asking myself, how could I continue to live like this? How could I keep up this willpower?
Now I can tell myself that I don’t have to live like that anymore. I don’t have to live like that. Ever since I “buried” Rawchael this week the voice has diminished to a mere whisper.
I am not completely fixed. I am not completely healed. But I took a huge step from where I was just one week ago.
I have to be okay with this.
My therapist said that the last piece to fall into place would be to accept myself, to love my body. No one said this was easy; and it sure as hell isn’t. But I’m worth fighting for, and I can only do my best.
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About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.
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24 Responses to A Glimpse of Where I Am Now

  1. Tamara Steil says:

    Wow. So amazingly well-expressed and explained. My wounded, brilliant, battling, healing, helping daughter. May everyone who reads this understand a piece of your journey and feel your current piece of success.

  2. Dale Bales says:

    So powerful! I am happy for you and happy to see the smiles and hear the laughter when you visit the family.

    Thank you for your openness and showing how shedding the light on your dark areas makes it all worth it in the end. What an inspiration!

  3. bee says:

    I hope this comment is viewed as a compliment, because I am amazed at your new attitude, your acceptance, and your outlook. U definitely have come a long way. It wont be easy to maintain your current mindset at time bc Rawchel will always be waiting around the corner… but in order to be happy, u must fight those negative thoughts and beat down Rawchel when she peaks her gaunt head out at u and begs u to come hither. Over time, if u stay strong, Rawchel will become weaker and weaker, eventually fading away to a mere shadow of an existence. U dont want to lose her forever, for she is a key part of your growth and maturing process. Without her, u would not have garnered the wisdom u do now. View her not as a painful scar, but more like a tattoo snafu :)

    And u know what? Your picture is GORGEOUS. U look incredibly strong and your muscles show how hard u work in your athletic goals. As ur body heals, u will decrease your running times and probably be faster than ever imagined. But right now, ur body is still healing, so (as hard as it is), be patient and kind to your body..its been thru a lot!

    Thank u for such honest and dare I say “raw” posts (raw as in honest, not as in 811) :)

    hugs

  4. kz123 says:

    LOVE this!! I remember you from over at 30BAD and remember you always asking great questions that got deflected from the mods, etc. This is wonderful that you are figuring out what works for you. Love, abundance, and bliss to you :)

  5. Former collegiate runner says:

    This makes me want to give you a giant big hug :) I went through a very similar realization recently. Ahhh :) :) It’s crazy how similar to mine your experience is… except I don’t think I’m even close to being as fast as you are.

  6. i Swim says:

    I am literally smiling for you as I read this post! Kudos on your strength and beauty!

  7. Melanie Brender says:

    “It was one of the hardest, most difficult parts of this process because it hurt so badly to learn to accept that I may never be All-American again, that my race times may never be the same, that my weight may just stay where it is—and that I have to be okay with this. I have to be happy and fine with where I am in order to live life to its fullest and be there for my teammates. I have to be okay with not being perfect.”

    Since we’re both distance runners, this section really struck a chord with me. It really puts into perspective how difficult it was for you to make the decision you did. I can’t wait to see the successes waiting for the new you, girl! In running and in general life. If you’re ever in East Lansing, hit me up. :)

  8. Ellen Junewick says:

    I am so happy that you are in a better place now. You are an amazing person; although your mind sometimes tries to convince you otherwise. I do disagree with you on one point: although your records may fall, you will NOT be forgotten. Your friends and family will always remember Rachael–not “Rawchael.”
    I truly believe everything happens for a reason; if God brings you to it, he’ll bring you through it. I know that you suffered for a long time, but now you can use your experiences to help others through similar situations.
    Glad you’re doing so well,
    Ellen

  9. Hemming says:

    I am so happy to hear that you have come so far!

    Can you elaborate on the physical damage to your body you mention? What exactly happened to your body, how could you feel it and have you done anything specific to improve these things?

    • rachael says:

      Thank you, Hemming!
      That’s another good suggestion for a possible post. I appreciate your questions, input, etc!

      • Hemming says:

        As I know how you’ve felt all too well I’m quite curious to hear about your experiences. One of the worst things about an eating disorder is all the doubt it creates in every little decision so getting information from someone who’s been through it all is helpful I think.

  10. Nicole says:

    I see so much of myself in you and in your journey (including the recovery)
    Thank you for posting this, and for your entire blog
    So glad to see you came out on the other side
    (18:26 is still wicked)

  11. Alexis says:

    Hi Rachael! I found your blog through running2win and all I can say is thank you. I’m going through this process right now and it feels so long and hard that I’ve found myself wondering if I’ll ever be in recovery. Thank you for giving me strength and hope. I’m trying to gain weight right now for the cross country season, and as I do, I can feel my confidence growing and my real self coming through. There are still some really tough days, where I just want to restrict, but this post (and your blog in general) helped me to realize that I have to move past that old part of my life and stop worrying about the future. Reading through your blog I can see so much of myself, and knowing how wonderful you are doing now gives me the strength to know that I can and will be like that, finally living life to the fullest. Thank you for speaking out and giving me a true role model!

    • rachael says:

      Alexis,
      The first step is recognition. Yes, it will be a long and difficult journey but it’s worth every step! Learning more about yourself will help a lot–it has helped me. I see the eating disorder as something my mind simply needed to go through in order to draw attention to deeper parts of me–parts that have wanted to come and be expressed for so long. I think you realize that when you say how you can feel your “real self coming through.” Exactly!
      Thank you for your kind words. We are working through this TOGETHER, no matter how far apart we all are. Keep fighting and staying strong–work to bring out YOU, which is wonderful and beautiful! It is a fascinating journey to find the person you’ve always been but just couldn’t completely get out yet. Congratulations on working through this!

  12. Jaclyn says:

    I think this is my favorite post of yours. It’s such a bittersweet moment when you realize that you were broken and that the only person now who can help you heal is yourself. I’ve been there too and you’re a great inspiration for stepping up and moving forward.
    And I know what it’s like to always want to keep that part of yourself, to not let go of the voice that holds you back. No matter how much you want to bury that part of yourself it’s hard because it is a part of you. It’s hard to leave the past behind because it defines you. It’s nice to know that someone has the same problems :)

    • Tamara Steil says:

      It is so good and calming and freeing to find that you are not alone in your struggle. I am proud of both of you for your progress.

    • rachael says:

      Yeah isn’t it amazing to realize, even though everyone has “their own” or even different problems, that we can still connect and understand each other?

  13. Mel says:

    Hi Rachael, what are the “TOOLS” you mentioned about coping? With cravings and all. I experienced the EXACT same thing as you, losing weight, feeling “good”, but gained the weight again, even more than I lost. As I gained the weight, I had lost myself. I did not know myself anymore, I did not want to go out to meet people as I had so much shame. And I want. And I need. ALL THESE TO STOP. I wish you all the best in your process to recovery as I’m here, going through the process of recovery too. God bless. :) <3

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