How Running helped me to Embrace Recovery

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It can be both scary and liberating to get your story out.  It was a difficult and long road for me until I got to the point where I opened up about my past, because for a long time I was ashamed, terrified, and not completely willing to let it go.  But once I did, I felt like I could really start the process of moving on.  And this explains more of how the decision to start running instigated the change in my life.

Brief summary of my past: I battled with various eating disorders for years–from compulsive overeating in my adolescence, to bulimia in my late teens/early twenties, to a vicious cycle of anorexia/bulimia for years.  I had a brief period of time where I believed myself to be recovered.

2012 was a life-changing year for me.  It began as a troubling and confusing time. I had recently ended a long-term relationship, and was confused as to what to do with myself, and who I was.  I was in a funky stage, and I set out to experience life with a different and freer mindset.  But there was still something inside of me that I had not dealt with, and I only ended up more confused and troubled.  Almost immediately following the prior relationship, I had found someone else to take that place.

Then, when that relationship failed, I fell, hard. I took it terribly, and as a personal attack to my character. I cried for days and refused to talk to anyone. I felt crushed, because I felt like I was losing a friendship.  I didn’t want to be alone, I wasn’t prepared to be alone.

I started to resort back to old habits. I ate less and lived off a diet of caffeine and cigarettes, and was self-destructive. I felt like a failure because I was right back to the same person that I had been six years ago.

That’s when I realized that I wasn’t back to that same person, but that I had never really changed or recovered in the first place. For a while I did stop the self destructive behaviors, but I had never really dealt with the underlying issues in the first place.

I hadn’t really recovered, I merely just swapped addictions.

Before, I was very codependent on my ED behaviors.  It was my identity.   After that, it transferred to my relationship, and I became completely codependent upon that. I didn’t know who I was without it.  It was a distraction from the fact that I had no clue who I was, or if I even liked myself.  When that relationship was over, it transferred to the next relationship.

That’s why I took the fall of the last relationship so hard. It had happened so quickly after the previous relationship that I hadn’t really had any time to myself in between. We had already become fairly good friends.  Then it led to more.  At the time, I felt that he was my only true friend (at least in Texas). I felt like everyone else had abandoned me, and he was relief from all of that. So when things ended, it was the first time in six years that I was really alone.

As much as I would have liked to blame it all on the guy, the real reason why I was so heartbroken was because I was forced to be truly alone with just myself, and I that’s when I finally came to the harsh realization that I had never really had changed at all…that I was still that same insecure, histrionic person that had no idea who she was.

I didn’t like it one bit. It crushed me.  I felt like a failure for taking so long to realize all of this. I felt like a fake. I didn’t blame anyone for wanting me out of their life or losing touch with me.  It was like I had an emotional geyser…all of those feelings and emotions and insecurities that I had been hiding from myself for the past six years that I had not yet dealt with came flooding up at once, and they smacked me hard in the face.

It made it hard to be around people.  I didn’t know how to deal with all the emotions I was experiencing and keep my relationships with others at the same time. I didn’t really want people in my life at the time anyway, so I withdrew from the world and drew further into myself.  I lied to my friends and family about how I was doing. I was reckless and foolish. I just wanted to be alone, far away from the world, to deal with my feelings on my own.  I deleted my social networking accounts, and told people various things, like I was giving up Facebook for lent (even though I’m not Catholic), or I was just trying to cut back on time spent on it.  The truth was that I was using it negatively.  I used it to feed my histrionic behaviors, and I tortured myself by constantly looking on my exes and former friends’ pages with jealousy, believing that they were all so much happier than I was, and happier without me in their lives.  I became so consumed with seeing what was going on in everyone else’s lives that I was not living my own.  As much as I feared being alone with myself and my emotions, I really needed that time on my own.

So I became once again consumed with making myself thinner.  For the time being, it was my distraction.  It was something I could focus on to get my mind off of everything else.

After a month of isolation and being depressed, things began to change.  It happened fairly quickly, almost like a night-to-day change, which I think might be due to the fact that I had bottled up so many feelings for years that I didn’t know I had, and had never allowed myself to feel them. For so long, I had built up a make-believe world around myself, believing that I was content.  In the month that I isolated myself from the world, I was forced to be alone with myself, and to feel all of those emotions I had denied myself for so long. Truth be told, I think I just really needed to get them all “out of my system” and allow myself to feel them and deal with them. It was difficult to deal with so many negative emotions at once, which is why I started to resort to self-destructive behaviors. But after that, it seemed like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. In a way it was like “Well now that all of that is out of my system, I can move on.” I learned that I needed to feel my emotions instead of pushing them down further and further, because then I’d just end up having another mental breakdown.  I started journaling to help myself get better in touch with what I was feeling (writing things down always seemed to help me get things out and recognize my emotions).

I realized that I was in control of my own happiness.  Yes, I was flawed, but now I had time to focus on me and work on bettering myself.   I accepted the fact that I was not perfect, and that I had made some mistakes, but now I could move on to bigger and better things without all of that baggage weighing me down.

Which is where running comes into play.  I wanted to exercise again to feel better and relieve stress.  So one day after work, just wanting to clear my head–as well as get some exercise–I decided to try to go for a run.

While I was running, I realized how much I hated it, and how little I could actually run. I envied the others I passed on the trail that seemed to enjoy it.  They seemed determined, happy, and at peace.  I wanted to be like them.

Suddenly, something in me snapped.

I made a goal for myself right then and there to start the C25K program a friend had told me about.  It was in my mind that I wanted to do it.  I suddenly became very determined to do something for myself besides trying to shrink down my waistline down to nothing.  I started my first blog to document my progress and keep myself accountable. As a way to prove to myself that I could follow through with something and change myself, and that I could do anything I set my mind to, I decided to pick a goal that seemed nearly impossible to me. And turning myself into a runner seemed nearly impossible because of how much I hated running. I hated it with a passion, and I never could understand how people liked it.  I always felt like I was going to die or pass out whenever I ran more than a block.

I started to get really motivated. I had lived a life of never following through with any of the goals I had set for myself because I constantly doubted and underestimated myself.  Especially when it came to physical activity–I had always been a quitter.  I hated exercise.  I started thinking more about running and the C25K program, and really wanted to complete it.

So I started hitting the trails with my C25K app and a good running playlist.  In the beginning, it was tough. For a few weeks, during a run, I would still think “How on earth do people enjoy this?? And when the heck will it get easier??” But the feeling after each run was worth it.  I felt so accomplished after every day that I completed.  I kept at it, thinking “Eventually it WILL get easier.  I just have to keep going and not just quit again. And sure enough, I soon started to look forward to my next run, and things started to change for me.  It made me so excited to know that I was actively working towards a goal.

It was then that I started to really care about my health. I realized that if I wanted to run longer distances, I needed to eat properly, and consume the correct nutrients. I started researching nutrition for runners, and nutrition in general, and actually really enjoyed it. I loved learning new things about health and nutrition.  I started to get a passion for health, and for making myself the healthiest person I could be.  I was not only motivated to keep running, but to take back my health.  And I became very excited and enthusiastic about it!

At times, it was a bit difficult to transition to eating enough, and eating healthy.  Years of unhealthy habits had royally screwed up my metabolism, and in the beginning, I gained weight.  Quite a bit, actually, and very quickly.  And the majority of it went straight to my belly and made it stick out.

But I stuck with it.  Of course, I wanted to lose the weight I had gained, but I wanted to do it healthily.  I knew that if I tried to do it the quick way again I would just ruin my metabolism even more.  And I was tired of being sick all of the time.  I didn’t want to throw my hard work down the drain, and I definitely never want to feel the way I did when I was consumed with eating disorders again. It took some time for my metabolism to level out and for my weight to stop fluctuating, but eventually it did. I really cared about my health, for the first time in my life.

It occurred to me then that the reason I never fully embraced or wanted recovery was because I never truly cared about my health. Never. In my life. I ate so carelessly in my youth and adolescence that by the time I was 13 years old I had to see a dietitian because my cholesterol was extremely high.  Way too high for a 13 year old. She told me that at the rate that I was going, if I didn’t change my eating habits I could end up having a stroke in my twenties.

I didn’t really grasp that, and I didn’t fully care. It scared me a little, but not enough to stop myself from sneaking food and binge-eating myself to being overweight in my teen-years.

At 17, I started to care more about appearance. In one week, I had two different people ask me how far along I was, and it devastated me.  I was tired of being the chubby girl and getting picked on.   I desperately wanted to lose weight.  So I tried dieting.   That led to more bingeing, which then led to the years of bulimia and anorexia. I cared so much about my body-image and weight, and I didn’t care that I was sacrificing my health, well-being and happiness just to reach a goal of being thin (that it seemed I would never be able to achieve). I didn’t care about any of the stress I was putting my body through. The dizzy spells, the thinning hair, the rumbling tummy, the lack of energy, the constant sore throats and headaches…to me they were all signs that I was succeeding in getting thinner, even though I was in constant misery. I didn’t care that I was slowly killing myself. I just wanted to be thin.

It’s amazing how much of your life can change just by caring about your health.  Once I started caring about how I was treating my body and what I was putting into it, and improved on both, I felt SO much better. I slept better. I had energy throughout the day.  I never had those “2:30 crashes” anymore.  The headaches disappeared.  My concentration improved.  My allergies got a little better. My hair even started to get some of it’s old fullness back.

My mood dramatically improved along with my health. I wasn’t just improving my physical health, but my mental health as well.  Feeling better overall made me feel incredibly happy! I developed a passion for health, as odd as that may sound to some.

I kept up with the C25K program.  I did have to take a couple breaks due to a couple different injuries, but I picked it back up as soon as I could.

I didn’t complete the full program, because I was able to run up to 4 miles before the nine weeks. The 5K challenge had been completed.  I kept running, and ran in a few different 5K’s in the past year.  I started achieving more milestones in my running, and eventually worked up to running 5-6 miles at a time. It made me excited to be living a healthy life, free from the chains and misery of eating disorders. I developed a confidence in myself that I never thought I would have.  I actually enjoyed grocery shopping and meal-planning, and I love love love working out!

My goals shifted after working up to running 5K, and I developed a love for weightlifting.  I discovered a passion for fitness and health in general, and I started a new blog.  This blog.

Every day I am dedicated to living a healthy and happy lifestyle, and increasing my strength and fitness.  And while I do have fitness goals and a physique that I’d like to obtain, my happiness does not depend upon it.  It does not dictate my life.  I will not beat myself up for gaining a few pounds.  The world does not end if I eat a cupcake.  I am happy to just work towards my goals in a safe and healthy way.  I enjoy being fit, and while I may not look like a fitness model, I am content in the fact that I am constantly working to improve myself, and being the healthiest I can be.

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