Who are you running for?

What are you running from?

This has been a theme of my journey through recovery from an eating disorder.

What are you running from? 

This can mean so many different things. What are you avoiding that is making you act this way? What are you trying to hide that compels you to destroy yourself? What has happened to you that made you feel that you can’t settle in the body you inhabit? What is it that is so hard to put into words, yet is constantly tearing at your mind?

What are you running from?

These are questions I’ve been asked throughout the last several years of my life as I bounced in and out of “recovery” and eventually ended up in treatment last summer. And these are questions that I am still teasing out today (there is rarely a therapy session where I don’t get asked ‘what are you downplaying/judging/hiding/scared of?’).

What are you running from?

It’s a very complicated question that we don’t even understand ourselves.

Recently, I was at the gym (Yes, I have a gym membership. Yes, I am working on recovery every day. Yes, it is something that I work on very closely with my treatment team. Yes, it is something I struggled with in my disorder. Yes, it is something I still struggle with sometimes. Yes, I am still learning how to walk the fine line between moving my body for joy and punishment…but that’s a whole different blog post). So, recently I was at the gym. I was walking on the treadmill and the thought crossed my mind, “I should run.”

I’ve always wished I was “a runner.” I always thought it looked like fun when I saw people in cities, college towns and parks running. It looks so easy. It looks so carefree. It’s solitary and it’s something you can do whenever. People are impressed with you if they know you are “a runner.”

In my eating disorder, I tried to be “a runner” (“a runner” in quotes because anyone can run. This is just some sort of idealized picture I built up in my mind…what’s new?).

So on this treadmill, six months out of treatment, I started to run. It didn’t feel that bad. I let myself run at a slower pace than I used to because I know my body is different, not only in size and shape but also in strength and endurance; this isn’t something I label as bad, it’s just how I understand my body to be right now. I ran for about 10 minutes. I felt tired but fine. I slowed down to a walk and told myself I would rest for a bit before doing it again but while I was walking I asked myself…”why am I running?”

Why am I running?

I hadn’t really thought about it, I had just done it, done this thing that I’ve only done maybe twice since I went to treatment and, each time, I enjoy less and less. Why am I doing this? Sure, it didn’t feel horrible, but it wasn’t enjoyable. I knew plenty of other ways I could move my body that are more enjoyable for me, so why was I doing this?

Why did I run? I came here to walk on the treadmill for a bit. Why did I end up running? I don’t enjoy this. This wasn’t the plan. Why am I doing this thing that I don’t really want to do?

The answer was one I didn’t want.

I did it for my eating disorder.

Who am I running for?

I was running for my eating disorder.

I think most people in recovery will tell you that their eating disorder still pops up. Mine does fairly often. This is normal, I think. We can’t snap our fingers, eat some food and be fixed. But the scary part is how, even after all of this time pulling apart the pieces of who we are versus what is our eating disorders, it can still pop up and we don’t even realize what is happening. I ran. I got on that treadmill with a purpose and changed my plans without questioning my motives. I straight up did something that I know is disordered for me and my disorder convinced me that I actually wanted to do that. I wanted to try it out because I used to love running so much. News alert: I never actually loved running that much. It left me tired because I wasn’t nourished for it. It left me sore and aching because I did too much of it, as well as other forms of exercise. It left me injured because I wasn’t taking care of my body in the ways I should have been.

That day on the treadmill I had an epiphany.

Who am I running for?

I run for my eating disorder. I run because, for whatever reason, my eating disorder tells me that running is the “ultimate exercise.” I always admired and idolized people who run. Writing this I feel so silly…partly because it just sounds silly to say, but also because AS I WRITE THIS I WANT TO GO FOR A RUN. I can’t explain it. I don’t enjoy running, but for some reason, I am stuck on it.

This is a great example of the paradoxical nature of recovery. This is what makes recovery so hard. This is what makes me feel like I am constantly stuck in recovery limbo.

Who am I running for?

It’s frustrating, but I now know that if I am running I am giving a piece of my mind back to my eating disorder. I run because my eating disorder says that is the best thing I can do. I can’t exactly pinpoint if it’s a body thing or emotionally attached, but it doesn’t really matter. I just can’t do it right now. Maybe it won’t always be like this, but for now, this is my truth and I have to live with that.

(So if you ever see me running and I’m not being chased by a giant gorilla and don’t seem to be in immediate danger, please slap me across the face. I’m serious).

What are you running from?

I still have days where I want to run away from the world. I still have days where I want to crawl out of my skin because the idea of being a part of this body any longer is unbearable. I still have days where I give in to the demands of my eating disorder, whether big or small. I still struggle.

Recovery is a learning process. I just learned that running isn’t a thing I can do right now and be in a healthy state of mind. This is my truth.

Who are you running for?

I run for my eating disorder.

What are you running from?

Myself, my insecurities, my body, my mind, my disorder, my vulnerabilities, my loneliness, my anxiety, my depression, my weaknesses, the truth.

Why are you running?

I’m not. I’m here. I’m still. I’m sitting through it and I’m learning.


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