I haven’t posted in a while. Yes, I started out with lofty expectations of at least two posts a week. But life got in the way. Exciting life stuff, which I’ll talk about in my next post. But besides that, I haven’t written in a while because things have been good. Really good. Good at home, good with my husband, good with my daughters. Good with the body image and maybe-kinda-slightly eating disordered thoughts that sometimes softly knock at my door and whisper, “Hey. Remember me? I lived here once.”
No one has been knocking for a long time.
A few weeks ago, I heard something, though. Bang bang! Bang! Bang! The former owner of my brain, the jerk who made me feel so special for so long, poked me in the shoulder.
“Hey. Want to feel special again?”
I really like to run. I really like exercising. It makes me feel strong and capable and energetic. It calms the part of me that can get anxious and gives me an adrenaline boost.
I was also hopelessly addicted to it for a good ten years.
Many times when I was really sick, I wished that I was an alcoholic instead. Or a drug addict. Not that I really wanted to be one, but those illnesses seemed easier to me in a way.
Addicted to alcohol? Give it up. BAM. RECOVERED.
Addicted to heroin? Give it up. BAM. RECOVERED.*
*I am in no way stating that drug addiction is an easy illness to manage or recover from. I am simply stating what my formerly ill mind thought.
Food I couldn’t exactly give up. (Although at that point, I desperately wanted to.)
Exercise I couldn’t exactly give up. (Okay, I could, but I really did enjoy it at the same time that I reviled how it had taken over my life.)
I still struggle with this balance sometimes, how something I really enjoy doing can also take over my mind.
Like it did over the past month.
I did a half marathon last fall and really enjoyed training for it. I enjoyed running it so much that I did early bird registration for another one at the end of next month. Then life got in the way. Not bad things, just busyness. Busyness that made me really not want to stress out about fitting in long runs every weekend. Or following a training plan.
Busyness that was exactly how I envisioned my life would be someday, when I was placed on “activity ban” in a residential treatment facility.
I didn’t want to run this half-marathon because I had a life now. A life that I value and adore. A life with goals other than beating my “old” time.
That’s where the sick part of me comes in. Because there’s another reason I backed out of the half marathon. Because I could already tell, before I had even started training, that I was starting to worry about “beating my time.” About running faster, like running fast is some measure of self-worth. Like if I didn’t get a PR, I’d have failed.
I didn’t like that. I didn’t like feeling myself morph back into SuperRunnerGirl, who feels superior to others in a single bound! I didn’t like how I was starting to see running as the “best” exercise.
THERE IS NO BEST EXERCISE. Sometimes even doing NOTHING is the best exercise.
So I decided that even if I did like running, I didn’t want to run the half marathon. I didn’t want to start training for something that could prove toxic for me.
I wanted to run when I wanted to, without focusing on a specific time or pace.
The only problem was that I’d already bought my number. $80 down the drain. Luckily, I found someone to take it over for $40.
All right. That’s okay. It was fine to sacrifice $40 for my mental health.
So I brushed my hands of the matter, patted myself on the back…and signed up for a 10K.
Yes, you’re totally rolling your eyes at me. I’m rolling my eyes at myself. Because man, my brain is good at tricking itself.
I told myself I was signing up because it was a shorter race that I didn’t have to train for. That I was signing up because my four-year-old desperately wanted to do a fun run and it’d be great to do something together. Because at least it wasn’t a half. Because races are FUN!
Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Right, Jen.
Those were all reasons. In some ways, they were all true reasons. But the bigger reason was that I was still holding on to that old identity of mine: Runner Jen. Jen who achieves. Jen who competes against herself. Jen who needs this “thing” to feel like she’s special.
I don’t like being in that Jen’s head. Which I realized the day before the race, when my husband and I were trying to coordinate race logistics. (With my daughter’s race starting a full hour before mine and him having two kids to keep track while I was running.)
So I decided not to run. $30 more dollars.
Except I’m choosing not to think of it like that. I’m choosing to think of it as money I spent to learn a lesson. Money I invested to see how I’d react in a potentially triggering situation.
And you know what? I was triggered. Maybe not in action (I didn’t go super crazy exercising or start running ten miles a day), but in thoughts. In the thoughts that started out as a wisp of a breeze (“This will be a way for me to prove that I’m good“)* but that I knew had the potential to turn into a tornado that would tear me apart.
*whatever good means.
So maybe I can’t give up food. Or exercise.
But I can give up races. I can live with that.
I closed the door to my sick thoughts before, but maybe I need to seal that door up even tighter.
This is my soundproof barrier.
I don’t want to hear even a whisper.