I sat in the exam room with my sports medicine doctor (who also happened to be my boss). I was just diagnosed with my second stress fracture in two years and faced with the hard reality that I might need to stop running.
As we discussed my MRI, I felt this burning sensation ignite in my chest and engulf my face; my heart was racing. I now recognize this as my body’s physiological warning signal- oh shit, here comes the truth and there’s nothing you can do to stuff it back down.
“I was bulimic,” I blurted out.
Is It Was or Am…
Those three words exited my mouth with such celerity as if propelled in energy by years of shame, hiding, and disgust. It was only through admitting my problem aloud that I was able to see it still existed, just in a different form.
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Food Was My Comfort and Control
As a teenager, bulimia was my mechanism of control. It was my method of coping with an angry, unpredictable father for whom I was never quite good enough. It was my attempt to regulate my weight when I emotionally over-ate.
Can You Relate?
Food was my comfort: a warm blanket that made me feel safe and full. The feeling of (physical) fullness temporarily satiated the cavities of inadequacy I felt within. Food was also something I could measure, monitor, and restrict. Typical of all self-destructive behaviors, I eventually paid the price: I faced a myriad of medical issues in my mid-20’s. There came a point where I made the steadfast decision to face my bulimia.
What I failed to see was that I never fully healed my eating disorder, I just replaced it with a running disorder.
After I qualified for the Boston marathon last August, my second stress fracture forced me into a period of R&R: recovery and reflection. Life has a funny way of knocking us on our asses when we refuse to listen. While in stillness, I continued to hear the question: WHY DO YOU RUN?
The Truth Hurts
I now recognize that my decision to become a marathon runner was rooted in pain and suffering, just like the eating disorder.
I used running as a way to punish my body, seek external validation of my worth, and to escape the emotional mess floating between my ears. I ran to or from everything in my life: heartache, pain, goals, dreams, and uncertainty. I ran from the sadness of my past and the truth of who I was. I ran with suitcases full of baggage: sexual abuse, lack of worth, and self-hatred. That’s a lot to carry for 26.2 miles let alone all the training miles leading up to the race. It’s no surprise my body broke.
A New Journey
As I toe the line at the Boston Marathon next week, it will be my first race as a recovered bulimic and runner. In the six months leading up to Boston, I unpacked my baggage, healed, and radically changed the course of my life.
As a result, I no longer need to run- I choose to run.
Running has become my form of moving meditation: a celebration of this beautiful gift of life. With each step of every mile, I give gratitude to my body, which is a far cry from the punishment I use to endure.