I am directionally impaired. When I pull off of my street, there is a good chance I will get lost before I reach my destination, even if I’ve been there many times before.
That is what it felt like the year before I went into treatment. I wanted to go to a place of health, with a body and mind strong and well-nourished, free from obsession, restriction, rituals, and rules. I had been there before. A place where I was flexible, spontaneous, and engaged with my family and friends. A life that was way more fun. But despite my many attempts to get back to that healthy place, I couldn’t find my way. I’d get lost.
About a week into the emotional regrets writing assignment from my therapist, I did indeed begin to feel much better. My body felt calmer and more relaxed. To my relief, the physical pressure I had lived with for months had deflated, and I again found comfort in the feel of my jutting hipbones as I ran my hand across my concave belly. But as relieved as I was, I was also in a bind. I knew too much. Unleashing my feelings in my journal, and finally talking about them honestly with Karen helped me realize that the place of guilt and shame I had been hiding in for so long did not need to be. I was not stuck; I could move.
Or not move. Literally. I had finally come face to face with what I already knew deep inside. I was anorexic. Well, to a point that is. I had been tentatively “looking into” anorexia for many months. Googling signs and symptoms, admitting some were relevant to me, but deciding most were not. Oh, and books. I read many books, mostly memoirs,(Obsessed, Love Fat,Elena Vanishing ) to see how I “compared.” I found it frightening and fascinating all at once. I was well aware that my weight fell smack dab in the underweight range, and from a purely clinical standpoint, my body was anorexic. But because I didn’t feel I had the body dysmorphia, the belief that I was fat, that went along with anorexia nervosa, I convinced myself it was mind over matter. I still saw anorexia as a simple weight thing, not yet connecting how my patterns of behaviors, rituals, and routines, were related. I believed it was something I could fix if I just tried hard enough.
“What is one thing you could do that might help move you to your goal of a healthier body?” Karen asked during one of our sessions after I had declared, once again, I was ready to make a change.
“Hmmmmm, I’m not sure,” I said, chewing my lower lip. Crap, I know, and she knows I know.
“I’m thinking I need to give up running?” As if phrasing it as a question left it open for debate.
“I think that might be a good place to start,” Karen replied gently.
Honestly, I was ready to give it up. I had made several half-assed attempts to stop with no success, the draw of the runners high, and the relief of the ever-present anxiety that only running could alleviate was too strong. Just one more run, then I'll stop, just one more, one more, one more.
I needed a push to help me make a change, and I was about to get it.