Guest Post Sara Brekke: Breaking Through Fear

Running in Silence reader and eating disorder survivor Sara Brekke made the bold move to share her story with the hope that it would encourage more of us to find ways to stop running in silence. She says, “I am thankful that I have gotten to a place of recovery after all of these years to be real not only with others about the illness, but with myself.  More than ever society needs voices to speak up about eating disorders and mental illness as a whole to better our understanding of other individuals and the disease.”
You can read her original post at sarabrekke.blogspot.com
Posting this is terrifying.
Like, I was driving home from Madison by myself on a mild March day not too soon after getting my license when mother nature decided to unleash a spontaneous snowstorm. Before gathering awareness of the elements, I fish tailed off the road. After regaining control, I continued to drive at a measly 15 mph on the highway, but kept losing traction and decided it wasn’t worth it to keep going. I pulled into a side road, fully prepared to sleep in my car for the night–just as an ambulance came roaring by with its sirens blaring, soon followed by an oncoming car spinning completely off the road. The trip took three extra hours, but I eventually made it home crying tears of relief as I pulled into our driveway.
Posting this is still scarier.

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: An Update

I can’t believe how easily time gets away from me–it’s already been nearly two weeks since National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), and I’m able to update on the craziness at last.
A few days before the NEDAW officially began, Karen Saukas (eating disorder survivor and mental health advocate), Zach Stepanovich (my friend and former Aquinas cross country teammate who also suffered from an eating disorder), Gail Hall (Director of the Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders), and I were all on the Maranda show to raise awareness for eating disorders.

Just days later, early on Monday morning, Zach, Gail, and I we were on Fox17 News for the lighting of the blue bridge in Grand Rapids (huge thanks to Gail Hall for making this happen for the first time EVER in Michigan!). The bridge was lit in the NEDA colors (green and blue), which made us a part of the nation-wide “coloring of buildings.”

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Visiting Suzy Favor Hamilton: California Part II

Half the time in California was spent with Suzy, including a gorgeous bike ride along the coast to Venice beach, and two hot yoga classes (“This is my community!” Suzy said). The other half of my time was spent walking by myself along the beach, looking in shops, and reading and writing outside.
I used to have so much chatter, introspection, confusing thoughts, and deep thinking about the eating disorder going on in my mind during my alone time. Now, there’s not much left to think about in terms of my recovery. I’m just content.
Yes, there are still difficult days (especially with travel, even). I don’t have easy access to all my “safe” food, and I’m faced with food I haven’t eaten in a long time. There might always be that challenge. But I continued to remind myself that even if I did gain a few pounds from a trip what did it matter? My clothes may be a little tighter, but they would still fit. No one would think differently of me. I know how to trust my body, and having it fluctuate slightly is healthy and normal. I could partake in all the experiences in California without spending so much time and energy focusing on the food I was consuming.

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Visiting 3-Time Olympian & Mental Health Advocate Suzy Favor Hamilton: California Part I

Having read Suzy Favor Hamilton’s book Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness, I was not only intrigued with her bipolar disorder experience (and her “secret” escort job that soon followed), but also the eating disorder she discusses at the beginning of the book. With that in mind, I sent out a simple tweet asking for an interview.

One informative interview, an endorsement quote for Running in Silence, and another phone call later, I found myself scheduling a trip to stay with Suzy in Los Angeles.
“You absolutely have to visit!” she had urged me during our second phone conversation. And who would refuse a trip to Manhattan Beach?
The moment I walked into Suzy’s home on January 11, 2017, I realized how tall I am in comparison to Suzy. But packed in that small frame was a young heart full of life and energy. After showing me to my guest room, we immediately began talking, catching up (since our phone talks), and asking each other questions about our journeys through mental illness. It was interesting finding similarities in bipolar disorder with eating disorders (and how they sometimes overlap—see Wasted and Madness by Marya Hornbacher for examples). We of course touched on my experience with 30 Bananas a Day, and soon afterward decided that dinner that night would be hamburgers. : )

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Facing the Stigma: Living with an Eating Disorder as a Man

I am proud to introduce Steve Sanders for the newest guest post on Running in Silence. Steve is a recovering alcoholic , writer, and blogger at Haven House Addiction Treatment. He lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys spending time with his family and on his motorcycle when not writing. He can be reached at oneroadtorecovery@gmail.com.

The typical image of a person with an eating disorder is a woman, or more specifically a white teenage girl from a well-off family. Almost all the popular information available about eating disorders is aimed at women and is about women.
But studies suggest that about 10 million men and boys in the U.S. will have an eating order at some point in their lives. In fact, while anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are more common in women, men are at greater risk of developing a binge eating disorder (overeating without purging or otherwise compensating for the excessive food intake).

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Weight Loss & Running Faster: Beyond Fuel

 “But Rachael, you need fuel to run well.”
“Your body is a machine. You are the driver. The body needs fuel and maintenance.”
“If you burn it, it really does not matter what you put in the furnace.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these comments, and easily dismissed them in the depths of my eating disorder while running. I knew how important food was. In fact, I knew everything about food. When anyone assumed I didn’t see food as fuel, it was tough for me to give them much credit since all they knew about nutrition was that you eat to have energy.
Or, my peers did  know how much I studied nutrition in my spare time, and thus rarely questioned my “quirky” practices (at least not to my face).
I ate enough to fuel my races, but not enough to maintain my weight.  I saw drastic improvement (quickly discounting everything my peers told me about nutrition/fuel), and received an immense amount of praise for running faster.
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Thin Enough? The Athlete’s Dangerous Secret

Following up on the recent bravery of Michigan State University standout runner Rachele Schulist, I want to share my story too, because I think it’s important for all of us who’ve dealt with body image issues to speak up–
and that includes MANY of us.
Let’s examine what Rachele calls, “the lie of not being thin enough”:
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TOP LEFT PHOTO: Being thin for collegiate running got me school records, 6th & 7th places at the national cross country and track meets, and times a minute faster than I had ever run for a 5k. Sounds “successful,” right? It also created isolation, obsession with food, constant hunger, and a disconnect between me and my teammates. My only identity was cutting food and running fast.

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My Heart is Broken

The man behind the scenes of Running in Silence (helping me to bring it to life and starting the editing and revising process) passed away Tuesday night and I can’t believe how much it hurts to write that.
Dr. Brent Chesley–my adviser, my professor, and my friend of enormous quality.
From the first time we met at my college freshman STAR date back in June 2010, Brent and I felt what he called a “kinship” due to our similar passion for creative nonfiction. I remember feeling surprised at how much Brent praised the small things I was doing at the time–writing each day as well as writing for Michigan Runner magazine. It gave me confidence and joy to realize I had potential–and to hear it from a COLLEGE PROFESSOR! Who knew that in the following years he would continue to help me develop that potential.

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Book Release Aftermath

It has taken five years of writing, editing, and research to make Running in Silence happen, which means that when the book released this past Tuesday, most of what I felt was relief and exhaustion.
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And as everyone buys the book and starts to read it, I begin to feel like there’s this suspenseful silence …. I await to hear anything good or bad come my way. Then the responses trickle in little by little, and with each positive review, the excitement starts to creep in.

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My Story is Your Story

Running in Silence is not just my story.
It’s a peek into thousands of stories.
I share my journey not to highlight what happened to me specifically, but to reveal an individual perspective of fear, darkness, and chaos that either mirrors or closely reflects a community of women and men, thin and heavy bodies.

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