A Running Buzz

I did something completely off the bat last week. Something I’m so surprised that I did but something that I’m so incredibly pleased with myself about.

I went for a run which ended up being my first ever 10k run.

What’s more, I enjoyed it.

I came back home with such a buzz. Had I really just gone on a 63 minute run without stopping and liked it? Me? The girl who told everyone (predominantly herself) that she couldn’t run?

Earlier in the week I’d gone on a shorter run with my housemate. I was so nervous because I have “exercise-anxiety”. I know I can swim well. I know I can lift heavy weights and so I don’t feel self-conscious in the pool or gym (at least, not self-conscious when it comes to my ability, body image feels different although it’s improving!) But running? I have this fear I would look awful, that I’d be too slow, that I’d not be able to make it without stopping. These fears that inevitably result in me (1) feeling self-conscious, (2) running slower and (3) stopping.

Even though I love swimming and going to the gym, I still really don’t like working out with people I know. So running with a friend was a huge challenge but…it wasn’t that bad. I came back having run about 7k, the furthest I’d ran at that point and I hadn’t “died”. I hadn’t been “too slow”. It was all fine and I felt good.

And so on Saturday morning I went and dug out my official running trainers from my triathlon days. (As a para-athlete from a swimming background, the triathlon coaches were conscious not to injure my knees through a change in training so we focused heavily on my swim and bike and less so on the run, I’d never run more than 5k in training). I had planned to do the same run as me and my housemate did but ended up feeling really good and just kept going. Once I got to 7k I knew I had more in me I thought to myself, “how great would it be to get to 10” and somehow I managed to loop back to my house and finished bang on 10k.

I had a therapy session that morning and I cried over how happy I was with myself. I still can’t believe I cried tears of happiness after running a 10k! My therapist said it was one of the first times I’ve said nice things to myself and thinks that’s why I was crying. Afterwards, I was raging with happiness the rest of the day.

I told people that it’s the first time I’ve had that “buzz” since I was an elite athlete 4 years ago but I quickly realised that wasn’t it.

It was the first time I’ve had that “buzz” since I was a healthy elite athlete 8 years ago. It was a feeling I’ve not felt since before my ED days and I think that’s why I cried so much.

It’s been a long 8 years since I could exercise without feeling like “I have to”. A long time since I was competing in sports that I loved simply because I loved them rather than hating every aspect of competitive sport because of the constant bullying and psychological mind games. 8 years since I came home really happy with my workout rather than depressed trying to work out “what else can I do?”

I didn’t even care about the calories on the run and I automatically ate as soon as I came home. I ate a good meal and kept drinking water all day. It’s been 8 years since I didn’t automatically associate every single food with guilt. People forget that bulimia isn’t always categorised with binging and although I have had binge episodes, half the time I wasn’t purging a binge but purging every single item I ate, even fruit and water. I used to hate drinking water because it made me feel full and I had been taught to associate full with fat which meant no Paralympic Games for me which meant failure, worthlessness and more.

I then got thinking that I could do more than 10k. If that was my first run in over 4 years and I’d never even ran that distance previously then surely I could do more? I began to think I could do a half marathon and lo and behold, later that day, I saw a charity I knew advertising their last remaining spaces for the London Landmarks Half Marathon on 24 March…I contacted them and there we go, I’m doing a half-marathon in 8 weeks!

The thing is I didn’t sign up to the event in the hopes it would force me to keep running. I signed up because (1) I want to keep running, (2) I want to see what I can do and (3) it is for charity that means something to me.

I’d only ever run a charity event for a charity that has some meaning to me like, Beat, Epilepsy Action or Psoriatic Arthritis UK. None of these charities were running at or had places at this half marathon and Scope is a less-well-known charity that fights for disability equality. They campaign for the government to have better legislation and they also offer practical and emotional support to disabled people, families, carers and professionals as well as having various other campaigns. None of my friends have ever heard of Scope but I have. To be blunt, being disabled does mean I know more disabled people than most able-bodied people do and I know Scope through these friends of mine. Therefore, I felt it was appropriate for me to raise money for them.

And I really want to see what happens going forward. I just want to keep running. I want to enter so many more races (which is my “athlete” coming back!). I suppose it’s a sport that I have no background with so I can’t judge myself on times or distances etc.

I appreciate I need to be careful and ensure this new found love for running doesn’t stop my recovery but I can’t just pre-empt that that’s going to happen. I’ve already noticed I’m taking so much more care to hydrate, fuel and recover properly around these runs I’m now doing and I’ve even reduced my exercise plan by letting myself sleep more and gym less. But you know what? I’m 26 and I was an athlete for two thirds of my life. Being in sport is part of me. It was part of me before the ED, during it, and there’s nothing to say it can’t be part of me after the ED. I don’t need to be an international athlete at a Paralympic Games to be “worthy of sport”. I am worthy of enjoying sport.

I’m “worthy” in general.

I’m just so damn surprised it was a one-off run that made me realise that.

 

 

 

The “Ten-Year-Challenge”

I assumed that the very first post I saw was someone posting a ten-year progress picture because they wanted to. I didn’t realise it was a viral “challenge” sweeping over all social media platforms.

I’ve never liked these “challenges” that encourage people to essentially post a nice picture of themselves. I don’t mean to judge but I do feel like it’s a cry for attention. It’s a post that demands others to tell you how cute you looked then and how even better you look now. It’s a “challenge” that seeks self-affirmation from others.

I don’t want to judge. Everyone should be able to post whatever they want.

Thing is, I don’t think that it is a challenge for the vast majority of people.

Hence why I’ve been using quotation marks until now because it is a challenge for some.

It’s a real challenge for me and my ED to post a comparison picture but I decided to compare two pictures of myself.

In the darkest days of my ED, I deleted every single picture I was embarrassed off and if it wasn’t my picture to delete you can be sure I removed every single tag. I hated those reminders of the weight I gained when I was injured. The further weight I gained because I was burying my emotions in food every single day.

I removed every single picture which made me feel “fat” or “ugly” and as a result I have lost some physical reminders of those years. It’s like I tried to erase a part of me. I couldn’t accept that I had made myself that way and so I deleted the memories.

I’m currently trying to find any pictures of myself that survived the “Facebook purge” or ones that existed before the days of camera phones and social media. I’m going through an exercise of trying to love that girl in those pictures so I can accept my past rather than trying to erase it. That in itself is a challenge.

Anyway…

Scouring through my old albums was a very real and painful challenge. It hurt to see who I was before and during my darkest days. It pained me to face the hurt behind the photographs.

I did find one picture on Facebook from my best friend’s birthday party when I was 17. I deliberately kept it because the uncropped version was really funny and I wanted reminders of my best friend’s birthday.

I downloaded it and combined it with the most recent picture I have of myself. It was from 7 days ago and I was very drunk. It was the first time I had really let myself drink since mid-November (due to the annual “December Fears”) and I had decided to stop being scared of alcohol and parties and to “rip the band aid off” to enjoy myself. You can tell from the picture that it worked!

I haven’t been able to post it on social media though and, to be honest, I don’t need to.

Half of me doesn’t want to post it because I’m scared. My stage of recovering isn’t strong enough to let me accept that girl on the left. I still blame her for the things people did and said to her. The things that ultimately resulted in and helped the ED continue, even though I know that it isn’t her fault.

The other half of me simply doesn’t want to post it. I know I spent years seeking affirmation from others and I’d like to stop that behaviour. I still post pictures of myself but I’m no longer trying to post the most perfect picture of myself to gain likes from people I don’t even talk to. I’m posting the pictures where I feel like I look incredibly happy. Something I’ve not seen in my pictures for a while.

I’m going to post it here though. This blog has always felt safer than social media even though I know my connections have access to it.

Every day is a challenge when you are recovering from an eating disorder. Every day is a challenge to look in the mirror, to eat, to rest. Every day is a battle with my body image ; both my body image today and my body image from the past.

Little Wins

I deliberately stayed away from writing during December even though I had plenty to write about. There was so much I wanted to say, so many emotions I wanted to get out onto paper but I always find I retreat in December. I shy away from so much because there’s so much going on.

December is already a difficult month and I found myself becoming anxious about it 2-3 weeks into November.

The battles were louder and lasted longer.

Every day I had to remind myself not to “earn” or “burn off” any celebration or socialisation that was in my diary.

I had to double check I was working out because I wanted to and not because “I had to”.

I then had to console myself for the days I couldn’t work out and the days my food plans became unpredictable.

I had to take my fitbit off and hand it over to my mum for the holiday period because I had a breakdown on a day where it wouldn’t sync to my phone and I couldn’t see what calories I had burned before a meal out with some old friends.

I had to remember to rest and relax.

But everywhere you look, every social media platform quickly becomes the “Competitive Christmas Competition” and we’re flooded with pictures of food and festivities. We’re reminded to “earn our Christmas dinner”, to “work off the Christmas parties” and to embrace a “New Year, New Body”.

Friends make harmless comments about “how much they ate over Christmas”. I had one friend tell me she ate so much that it made her throw up and all I could do was smile and nod. I didn’t know how to tell her that type of conversation makes me uncomfortable as I think of all the Christmases I have experienced relapses.

I relapsed this year and I blamed myself so hard because last year was the first year I was not sick on Christmas Day. I wanted this year to be the second year but whilst I ate breakfast and ate my Christmas Dinner, I purged when I had a snack at 8pm because it wasn’t on my food plan.

I wasn’t full at that point. I hadn’t overeaten. I had simply had an extra bite not on my plan and I went into auto-pilot. In hindsight, I put too much pressure on myself because of last year but I realised that this year was in fact better than last year.

Last year, I went home for the shortest time possible. I made sure I “worked for my Christmas Dinner” and I punished myself by over exercising and purging as soon as I got back to London on the 27th. I continued my restrict-purge cycle all the way through to February when I decided I needed help.

So I wasn’t okay last year. I was over-exercising, under-eating and purging whenever I could.

This year was different. This year, (minus my fitbit meltdown) I gave myself 2 weeks off exercising. This year, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I still didn’t enjoy my Christmas parties to the maximum I could but I still went and faced them.

This year, I’ve come back to London and my first instinct has not been to eat and purge. I’m still experiencing panic attacks with food. I’m still nervous around my triggers and I’m still trying not to rely mentally on my fitbit but all in all, it’s a much better Christmas period than last year.

I’ve suffered 3 purges in 15 weeks. Definitely some skipped meals in those weeks but not too many. Throw in a few good panic attacks and well, the end of 2018 wasn’t too bad recovery-wise after all.

There are going to be no resolutions this year. No promises to do X, Y or Z. No pressure on any goals. Just continuing forward each day.