Confessions of an Anorexic Runner…Continuing the Road to Recovery
Three years ago, I wrote a post for Minneapolis Running describing the raw, untouched life of being an anorexic runner. It is an ever-consuming illness that sometimes feels as though there will be no light at the end of the tunnel. Three years later, I think I have reached that light. A light occasionally dimmed by clouds and shadows, but a light nonetheless.
Related: Confessions of an Anorexic Runner
Year 6- Montana on My Mind
In 2015, I moved to the mountains and left running behind. I was exhausted with trying to maintain this image I had for myself that I could make it in the running world. I didn’t want to keep explaining to people that I was taking time off to let my body heal. I was done with entertaining the idea that I perhaps might dabble in running competitively again. I needed to reinvent myself, figure out who I was, and who I wanted to be outside of “Dani the Runner.”
Montana was calling my name. Ever since I visited a year prior, I knew that’s where my heart lied. In fact, I still believe Montana is where my heart will always be. It was the new beginning that I needed. I stopped running. Literally, I did not run that entire year. I didn’t even tell people I used to run. Running served no purpose but to make me feel unworthy and guilty about my failures.
As therapeutic as leaving behind my running past was, I found myself becoming enveloped with weight training, counting calories and spending copious amounts of time on the Stairmaster in the gym. Habits continued to be unhealthy, even if the amount of eating increased. I became obsessive and convinced that this pivot would help me remain skinny, even if I wasn’t running. I was still running away from the underlying issue of self-acceptance.
Year 7- Beginning to Let It Go
Another year of leaving running behind, I found myself becoming passionate about other things. I began working towards a career that I am confident I will excel in. I began to fill my days thinking more about work, homework, and self-care (which is usually a little workout), more than food and what I should or shouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t say I had let go of all food myths I had convinced myself of, but I began to find freedom in what I ate.
I dabbled in mountain biking. In fact, I fell in love with mountain biking, spending any extra cash on bike things. It was challenging, it was new, and I now do it because it’s fun, not because it’s a workout or a way to burn calories. Yes, it left me with a few more scars and a trip to the ER (sorry mom and dad), but I still believe getting on a bike in the mountains was one of the best things I could have done for my recovery.
2016 was a year spent figuring out who I was and what I wanted my future to look like. I began to define myself for qualities I possessed, rather than success on the track. People would come up to me, and still do, and tell me how happy I seemed and that there was a sparkle in my eyes. This sparkle had always been there, but when anorexia, anxiety, and depression take over, it darkens every inch of your being.
Year 8- Recovered
I began to run again. Not on the roads though. I started to climb mountains. It was hard. It is hard. A challenge that helped me let go of pace, times, and working out. My legs have now become vessels in which to carry me to new places, and I’ve seen some pretty amazing things.
This past year I believe I have finally gotten to a place where I have more body positive days than body negative days. I look in the mirror and more often see me for me; just the way I am. And, I’m okay with it. I still notice and size myself up from time to time. I avoid looking at old pictures of me from when I was very sick. Those photos don’t help me get better but are more triggering than anything.
I have no desire to starve myself anymore. I have hunger signals. Hunger signals, people! This is such a relief. Many women who starve themselves experience amenorrhea. I, too, experienced this but forgoing TMI, I have not had amenorrhea symptoms for over two years. Huge progress I’d say! Recovery is a word I believe I could officially start using.
I work out, still too much if you ask my boyfriend. I still get asked if I’m training for things. I say “no,” however I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m a competitor and I enjoy testing the limits of what my body can do. I do want to race again, maybe on a bike, maybe in a pair of running shoes, the jury is still out. I am learning what it means to listen to my body, find balance in all that is going on, and also how to love myself and give myself permission to be okay, just the way I am.
It’s funny, eating disorders seem to keep evolving over time, convincing you that you are “getting better.” If this is true for you, find someone to call you out on it. That is one thing I know I’ve got going for me, and always will. I have support. People in my corner telling me whether my behaviors are airing on the ED side. Ironically, my boyfriend’s name is Ed, and he is always the first one to say something that seems to resemble old habits. These conversations are tough, and not what I want to hear, however, they are exactly what you need when recovering from an eating disorder.
Admitting you need help is hard. Getting help is hard. Talking about mental illness is hard. Recovery is extremely hard. Heck, it’s taken me about nine years to get to a place where I’ve finally found freedom from ED. I do not believe my ED voice will ever fully go away, but I have now learned to ignore it. As I said before, there are still good days and bad days, but I can confidently say that my good days are far more common now than my bad days. I am proud of the woman I have become and excited for her future.