What I learned from a Runcation

 Runcation: noun. A vacation centered around running. 

 

At least, that’s usually what it means. In my case, however, runcation has taken on a different meaning.

Runcation: noun. A mandatory break from running instituted by medical professionals.

 

It’s been about 7 months since I have run consistently and in that time frame I have only run a handful of times. I used to run everyday, or at the very least 6 out of 7 days a week. I was a distance runner, my short runs consisted of 5-7 milers with my long runs being anywhere between 13-20 miles. Running was my time to be free, my time to be happy, my time to just be alone and process the world and life surrounding me. Running brought me into this amazing community of people that I never knew existed before I dared to start considering myself a “runner.” For over 3 years I worked up my goals: a 5k, 10k, 10 miler, half marathon and finally, conquering the full 26.2 mile marathon. I crushed it. I fell deeper in love with a sport that I had once despised and tried to get out of at every opportunity in PE during high school, it was ironic to me how I could have gone from hating something so much to cherishing it, having my life revolve around it and feeling sort of confident doing it.

I ran, a lot. I ran through rain, snow, unbearable heat, humidity, bad runs, good runs, birthdays, family dinners, nights out with friends, early mornings, injuries (and there were a lot of them), pain, hunger, tears, blood, astonishment from others, overexertion, concerns, and even through my own common sense trying to scream loudly enough to get me to hear it.

Thinking back on it, maybe through isn’t the right word, maybe it should be from. Maybe I was running from all that. They say sometimes the only way out of the storm is through it, I guess in this case that was kind of the truth.

 

See, the thing is that the running wasn’t the primary problem. Running just exacerbated the problem in a lot of ways, but despite what everyone else has said to me, I think running also helped me accept the problem quicker than I would’ve otherwise. Most of the proponents of my “runcation” can’t understand that, they see the running as part of the problem, the disorder, and the belief that you can love it that much a distortion. I think that’s a lot of the reason I have a hard time fully believing them. But I can agree to disagree on that, because despite disagreeing with them on it in it’s entirety, they do have a point; in some ways the running became an obsession, an obligation, a chore and a compulsion. And not just running either, exercising in general.

After the medical effects got entirely too severe to continue to ignore, after passing out daily for almost 2 weeks straight and having such severe chest pain most days I thought I was having a heart attack I knew I had to end it. The moment I had to jump out of an airplane for the first time was nothing compared to the fear I had when I set foot in my doctors office that afternoon. Ultimately the words came out, the questions were posed and a plan was established. My runcation was enacted with a two word diagnosis:

 

Eating Disorder.

 

See, the running wasn’t the only issue. The running perhaps would have never been an issue if there wasn’t a bigger problem lurking underneath it. Masking all the “strength” and “endurance” was a demon inside myself one who progressively restricted food further and further. At first it was just meat or just pasta then whole groups of foods were out: protein, sugars, fats, carbohydrates, fruits, until just one food remained and until a day consisted of 200 calories. No more. Ever. If I ran 15 miles on top of that, it didn’t matter. 200 calories, the same vegetable; Every. Single. Day.

 

I ended up starting treatment, being too severely ill for it and being transferred to an inpatient facility prior to being sent for residential care and to somehow regain “normalcy” with my eating habits. To say I was “onboard” with this whole process would probably be the biggest overstatement of my life. I was compliant but, as my treatment team often described it “extraordinarily ambivalent” toward the notion of committing to recovery.
For the 3 months I lived in Wisconsin. A new state, new treatment center, new “normal” and in all honesty, I learned a lot. Exercise was off the table indefinitely aside from a turtle-speed walk around the hospital campus once a day with supervision and my set diet and meals were quickly replaced by supplements and more substantial diet than anything I had done in years. After I got back home treatment continued, I am in no way “recovered”; I am not even sure recovered is a true state of being for someone with an eating disorder. I feel like being in a solid state of recovery is possible but I am not sure that these thoughts, feelings or other voice in my head will ever truly go away. Heck, some days I am not even sure staying in some sort of recovery is possible. Either way, there is still a lot of work to do.

 

Despite my ongoing war with myself I have come to realize that there has been some, and I repeat some (but not all) good that has come from the mandatory runcation:

  1. I was able to heal enough to be permitted to finally have my foot surgery (which not only has gotten me out of perpetual pain- or will eventually do that- but also will hopefully allow me to run more comfortably once I am able to do that).
  2. When you don’t run during all of your free hours, you get to see your friends more
  3. I have found new hobbies that I also enjoy doing and had time to plan my best friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party
  4. There’s more to life than running, racing, sneakers, time trials, fartleks, and beating your own PRs
  5. I don’t have to run dozens of miles a week to be a Runner, to be “healthy” or to be fit (I’m still working on continuously believing this one but today I sorta can believe it)
  6. It’s nice to sleep in sometimes. It’s also nice to stay up late sometimes too and not worry about the early morning gym wake up call.
  7. Not running all the time makes the races I can do feel more special (not that I am allowed to sign up for anymore since my little 20 mile running escapade in February…)
  8. Running doesn’t have to kill me.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to run. I want to do marathons, I want to sit in a van with random strangers and relay race 200 miles through random cities, I want to race, I want to PR, but I have kind of come to realize that sometimes the thing you think is helping you hold on to everything you have, might actually be drowning you further- at least in this case it was.

I miss it. Every. Single. Day. When I go on walks my body instinctively gears up to shorten my stride and pick up the pace, I envy the other runners I see out there on my trails, my sidewalk, and posting their race sign-ups and finish times but I know that I’m not ready to go back quite yet. Not to the extent I was. I am still addicted (remember the aforementioned 20 miler…) still using it to not only be a fun hobby but also because it has the added benefit of burning those pesky calories I fear so much and to combat the weight gain I hate that the treatment team has forced on me.

I know they’re right. I’m not ready. It will cause a relapse. Heck, I’ve nearly relapsed many many times without running having to do anything, it’s too slippery of a slope and I don’t want to go back to the days when I couldn’t stay awake for more than 2 hours, couldn’t remember anything, cried on the floor because I was hungry but couldn’t pick myself up after passing out because I feared the kitchen so much and because I wouldn’t let myself “break the rules”. My life had to stop for over 3 months because things were so bad I needed 24/7 care by trained professionals.

So for now, I guess I’ll stay on my runcation. The definition of this runcation is not one I wish to be using but I’ve succumbed to the fact that it’s the one that must be used…for now, at least until I can get back to the real runcations.

 

 

Dear Running

I miss you.

I miss lacing up my sneakers,

I miss the ache in my legs,

I miss the heaviness in my step at the start, the effortless sensation once I warm up,

I miss the elusive search for runner’s high,

I miss the trails,

I miss the pavement,

I miss fartleks,

I miss watching non-runners react to the word fartlek,

I miss the hills,

I miss the feel of sweaty, hard worked, drenched drifit tanks,

I miss the bad runs,

I miss the really really good runs,

I miss getting my headphones tangled,

I miss getting mad at my music selection,

I miss inspiring others,

I miss waking up long before dawn to start running,

I miss finishing after the sun comes up,

I miss making people’s jaws drop when I tell them how far I run,

I miss compression sleeves after long runs,

I miss getting faster,

I miss cross-training,

I miss waving to other runners,

I miss my old running routes,

I miss the blisters,

I miss racing,

I miss PRs,

I miss the alone time,

But most of all,

I miss being a Runner.

Dear Ed, You. Were. Wrong. (Telling dr #2)

Yesterday I was worried, immensely worried, about telling my podiatrist about my eating disorder (I feel so old having a podiatrist hahah). I am still really, REALLY uncomfortable saying it out loud to people who don’t already know- probably has something to do with the perfectionist part of me which also helped ingrain this beast in the fibers of my being. But, I had to tell him because my feet are almost always numb, my injuries have been less than healing and I get oddly injured a lot. (Part of getting injured a lot is just the real me, I don’t really always stop and think when I am deep into my bazillion of activities but not all the injuries are accountable from that).

Fact: I told him.
Fact: I was nervous as all hell
Fact: The nurse said my drop in weight was “definitely drastic and noticeable”
         (all I thought was “well, to one of us it is”)
Fact: Dr. C (we will call him) was really concerned when I told him I had to stop running because of “other things”
Fact: Dr. C was even more concerned when I was quiet and nervous (two things I am never when I am there)

Fact: When I told Dr. C, he looked at me and said “you know, that’s actually a LOT more common than you think” and told me if he knows anyone who can beat this and get better it’s me.

Hey, ED: YOU WERE WRONG. He didn’t judge me, he didn’t even flinch, he cared, he showed compassion, he didn’t think I was crazy, he didn’t treat me differently, he didn’t do anything other than be immensely supportive. He told me to call if I needed anything even if it wasn’t related to my feet, he told me that if the treatment center needed anything to just call and he will get it done, he told me I CAN SURVIVE THIS. He joked with me, he made me feel comfortable and you know what, ED, YOU WERE WRONG ABOUT IT ALL.ALL of it, ED, because you know what? HE PROMISED HE WOULD STILL FIX MY FEET SO I CAN RUN.

Although he said I need to continue to take the time off that I’ve been doing, especially when he realized how sick I am and when I told him the complications I am having. But he promised he would still get me back to my marathons. And I trust him. I trust him more than any other doctor (although my Nurse Practitioner is an angel and I trust her too now, Dr. C was the only doctor I trusted for a very very very long time).

Deep down I knew he would be supportive, I mean only a Grinch would be rude to your face. Plus, seriously, Dr. C has known me before I was skinny, before I started running, before a lot of things. He has never once made me feel crazy (and seriously, I have had crazy injuries), stupid, ridiculous, or anything negative. He fixes the issues, he jokes with me, he thinks my running is amazing and he said “You run more than any person I have ever met”– BEST. RUNNER. COMPLIMENT!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

So moral of the story: My ED is NOT always right, and I’m starting to think maybe it’s wrong more than right (?) Dr. C and my Nurse Practitioner are medical professionals and neither have taken my fears and dismissed me or them, they’ve done the opposite and have both showed genuine human concern, not just the your-my-patient-I-have-to-“care” disposition. And telling Dr. C was a HUGE relief, I trust him enough to know that no matter what I can count on him to support me, get me back running and to not treat me differently (my biggest fear). Also, My mom and sister were right (PS. Totally making a post later about my AMAZING little sister, we are best friends and she was texting me when I was nervous yesterday and made me feel infinitely better).

Still, you never know how people will respond but what I am starting to learn is the people you have in your life that are worth telling also think you are worth enough to be alive, happy and healthy and when they realize you need help and support it is instinctive for them to stand beside you and help you get there.

So, Dr. C. if you ever read this: Thank you. You put the awesome in awesomesauce and are perhaps the best doctor I have come to know. Best runner compliment ever: made. my. day. but your reaction to my eating disorder was exactly what I needed and for that there are no words that can express my gratitude. PS. When I make my running comeback: get ready because I am aiming for… an ULTRA and a Triathlon!!!!

And mom and little sis: *mumbles* Youwereright. SSsshhhhhhhh. 🙂 ❤

Defeat

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

I can’t run like I used to. I’m not strong enough. My head starts pounding my body shaking like when you have the flu and your whole self feels like jello. My legs begin to buckle after just a few miles. I know it’s because I eat less than 200-300 calories right now. I can’t even talk myself into 500 like I used to on distance days. I know it’s because there is 0 carbs in those calories but I can’t I physically can’t grab the food I need. I know this happens when you drop almost 30 pounds in less than 2 months but still.
I just want to run my list of reasons to get help were:

1. So I can run better again 

2. To not die.

In that order. Running is so much to me and helps me so much in other ways and I am losing it. The marathons are approaching and I am losing grasp of them day by day. 

I wish someone understood someone could make me do this, force feed me, anything. I wish I could call my mom but idk, I’ve been so burdensome lately since she found ou that I don’t want to stress her out more (& I’m scared to be lectured). I just don’t know what to do so I am sitting on a bench on the side of the trail, crying. And watching other runners, too weak to get up and run home, too dizzy to get up and walk. 

I hate myself for this. 

 Ps. Please ignore how fat I look here, I had my hydration belt on and all my trail gear with me.