Lost

I feel as if I’ve lost all sense of direction.  I’m not sure how to move forward from here, or which way forward is.  It’s like watching the needle on a compass spin round and round, but never revealing which way is north.  I’ve been feeling lost for a while now.  I don’t move forwards, nor do I move backwards; rather, I feel as if I stay in the same spot, but slowly dig myself deeper and deeper where I’m standing.  Forward doesn’t matter to me anymore- OUT is the only thing that matters.

I feel like I’m stuck mid-transition in every part of my life.  After months of frustration, I’ve decided to take a break from running to try new things, but I still cannot decide if I ever want to return to running.  It feels like my miles ran out a long time ago, but I can’t let go of the belief that I will overcome this and fall in love with the sport all over again.  After almost a year without animal products, I gave up being vegan.  After seven years of no animal flesh whatsoever, I started buying frozen salmon fillets.  However, I still call myself a vegetarian and feel tentative to bringing meats back into my diet.  And, as I’m now halfway through my junior year in nursing school, I’m not even sure if I want to be a nurse anymore.

Of course, where this sensation of being lost is hitting me the hardest is in my eating.  I bounce from anorexic, to binge eater, to bulimic, to intuitive and back to anorexic, and the cycle rolls on and on.  My eating habits seem to change faster than the days of the week.  I don’t recover, nor do I relapse.  I feel as if I’m spinning around and around on the same little patch of ground, unable to latch onto a specific direction and break free.  Why can’t I recover?  Why can’t I give into a relapse?

Maybe I’ve just lost all willpower to keep moving forward, or maybe I’ve just lost sight of which direction forward is.  I can’t lock my priorities in place like I used to; nothing feels that important to me anymore.  I sit passively and let my life manipulate me.  I feel powerless to change my life.  I feel powerless to change myself.  Every now and again, I’ll be overcome with a wave of anxiety, and I’ll become frantic as I watch the “old me” slip farther and father away.  Now, she’s lost too.

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Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about everything I’ve gone through and the things I continue to struggle with. Endless strings of white lies and half-truths cover up my past and hide pieces of my present. I am ashamed of myself and afraid to open up about what I’ve been through and the emotions that still suffocate me.

When I was sixteen years old I was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. Right off the bat, my parents established it was to be a secret. They told my track coaches my hospitalization was for dehydration when I wasn’t at practice. When anyone asked what was wrong or how I was doing, my parents would speak quickly in white lies to hide my true condition. When I returned to school, my mom made it clear that the attendance office didn’t need to know my reason for hospitalization, and to let her know right away if they tried to question me. My parents were only trying to protect me, but establishing my eating disorder as some sort of deep dark secret hurt me more than they would ever imagine.

My treatment didn’t help much either. I listened to my doctors and did what they said, however I still wasn’t trusted and honestly I felt like more of a prisoner than a patient. I often found they would test the limits of my emotions and even more often I would find myself ignored when I cried. I was required to have a constant one-on-one, therefore I never had a private moment to express my emotions, nor did I have a single person I felt comfortable enough to confide in.

My outpatient treatment wasn’t much different. My therapists sat me down with my parents on either side of me and scolded me: I was bad, I was guilty, I was responsible, I was unworthy. Righteous and unsympathetic, my therapists established themselves as figures of authority. I became ashamed, depressed and even more broken. More so, I became even more unable to open about my eating disorder.

Ever since, my weight has fluctuated up and down, but the shame remains constant. I am ashamed of every extra pound and soft curve of my body, as well as every dark depressed crevice of my broken mind. Today my eating disorder resembles bulimia a little more closely than anorexia; after years of starvation I guess my iron willpower finally gave out. 

I can’t bring myself to seek out professional help. I still have nightmares about returning to treatment three years later. I can’t talk to anyone about it. I get so upset and moody and friends, my parents, coaches and professors will practically beg me to open up to them and I just sit there in silence. It feels like I’m physically incapable of forming the words. I just can’t talk about my eating disorder-let alone admit I have one.

That’s how things have been for the past few years: mood swings, weight fluctuations, skipping social events and shying away from clothes that reveal my figure. I’m not exactly sure what I look like anymore. I don’t know if I’m skinny or fat or muscular or just plain average. I don’t know if I’m eating too little or too much. I don’t know what normal is. I don’t know what confidence feels like.

I feel trapped in a life of abnormality. I can’t go a day without counting calories or exercising or scruntinizing every curve and contour of my body in the mirror. I can’t open up enough to get help. I can’t even open up enough to get sympathy. I can only remain closed- I can only be silent. 

Fraud

I’m two weeks into the fall semester of my junior year and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  I’m at the same school, in the same program, surrounded by the same classmates but everything seems so different.  I’m rested.  I’m not overwhelmed.  The storm inside my head has been relatively calm.  I’ve even loosened up enough to allow myself to go out twice since I’ve been back.  This eased state of mind terrifies me.

I’ve been very anxious since I began my college education.  I would stay up late night after night, studying until I could hardly keep my eyes from shutting.  Then, I would pour myself a cup of coffee and press on.  I spent the past two years like this.  Pounds evaporated from my body until skin and bone were all I had left, and I didn’t bother putting on makeup or wearing presentable clothes.  Rather, I dressed more strategically, layering on all sorts of tights and sweatshirts and coats to keep myself from freezing to the bone in the frigid winter.  I looked more like a scared little girl than I did a young woman.  I felt more like a scared little girl than I did a young woman.

While the state of mind I spent the first half of my college education enduring held me captive in a perpetual state of emotional turmoil, the idea of continuing my education without such a mindset is unsettling.  While I was incredibly unhappy, my grades were nearly impeccable.  Driven by anxiety and self doubt, I would study day and night, doing whatever it would take to achieve stellar marks.  At one point during my freshman year, my lab instructor even referred to me as “the girl who gets hundreds on everything”.  Comments like this make me squirm.  Receiving a good grade always makes me feel a little sad.  All I can think about is the extremes I push myself to, the despairs I collapse into, all for a mark on an assignment or exam.  Honestly, I don’t believe I’m actually smart.  I’m nothing but an anxious perfectionist- a fraud.

Everyone in this program is brilliant.  All my classmates seem so knowledgeable, confident and ambitious.  They have their shit together, and they still find time to have friendships and happiness.  I’m not so brilliant.  I’m the polar opposite of confident.  I don’t have friends and I haven’t felt much happiness since I began my college education.  My classmates are truly and genuinely intelligent.  I, on the other hand, simply get anxious.  The past two years have been grueling as I’ve slaved to the irrational worries spinning in my head; however I’m afraid that if I finally quiet my mind, my cover will slip and it will finally be revealed what a phony I really am.

I’m not quite sure what I’m more afraid of at the moment.  I worry that this is only the calm before the storm, that my anxiety will return in full strength and drown me in its illusions of doom.  At the same time, I’m afraid of not being afraid.  What if I can’t do this without being fueled by anxiety?  While I want to be happy and have friends and enjoy college, I also want to be smart.  I want to pass my NCLEX and be a good nurse and maybe even get into a good grad school.  I just can’t find a sense of balance, or a sense of acceptance for myself.

It should play out to be an interesting semester and an interesting year.  Hell, it should play out to be an interesting rest-of-my-bachelors-degree.  I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever be successful, if I’ll ever be happy and if I’ll ever make it.  I guess all I can do is be kind and gentle to myself and to the world around me.  Maybe then, I’ll find acceptance in the world and acceptance in myself.

Thank you all for reading.

Slip

I knew today was not my day from the moment I woke up this morning. I felt drained, even after a full night of sleep, so I shut my blinds and spent the next hour drifting in and out of sleep before I finally got up.

In the mornings, I usually just have a bit of fruit before I go running. I’ve been eating especially healthy lately, but this morning I decided to have figs and prunes with peanut butter because my body felt drained and in need of something high-energy, and I could honestly care less about fat, calories or feeling sick on my run.

It took me forever to get out and go running. I laid around, watching Netflix for an hour or so before I finally got my ass out the door- something I NEVER do.

After I got back from my run, I laid in the grass for an eternity before I finally went inside to shower. I skipped my post-run snack. I barked at my mom at the grocery store. I ate lunch two hours later than usual and skipped my afternoon snack. I made dinner, but bagged it up and put it in the fridge because I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t go for my bike ride. I didn’t lift. I cancelled  a date, despite the fact I haven’t done anything with anyone yet this summer. I barked at my mom again. I sat in my room and cried to my old favorite songs. Today was most definately not my day.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten like this, and it sure as hell isn’t the last. This isn’t the worst I’ve ever gotten, but with another stressful semester rapidly approaching, all I can do is worry.

I’ve been quite a fly-on-the-wall lately. I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but some conversations just seem to prick my ears and I can’t turn away my attention. I hear people at the gym, my sisters’ friends and all sorts of people talking about people they know with depression- talking not about how hard the depressed person has it, but how burdensome they are to the people around them. It makes me sick.

I know I am not easy to be around when I’m slipping. I know I get selfish, I shut people out, and I drag others down with me. I know I am a burden and I am ashamed of it. I hear these people talking and all I can do is think of myself and all the relationships I’ve torn down, all the things I’ve thrown away because I couldn’t break out of this gloomy state of mind.

I want to be a good person. I want to be a good sister and daughter and friend- and maybe even a good girlfriend and wife and mother if I get lucky enough one day. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to just to feel like a person, period. Feeling like an empty shell has become a familiar sensation to me.

I know I need help. I want help. I’ve tried getting help. I found a fabulous therapist up at school, unfortunately she was out of my insurance network and I was only able to see her twice before I came home for the summer. My mom set me up with a therapist back home, but I only saw her once. She was much older than I was, not to mention a bit too quirky, and I felt too uncomfortable to go back. We never got around to finding another therapist.

Sooner or later, I’m going to have tell my mom I still need help. It’s a lot harder than it sounds; I don’t want her to know that I’ve still been hurting so much. My mom’s already brought up the possibility of me leaving my university, staying at home, and just attending community college. She doesn’t think I can do this and all I’ve ever wanted was to make her proud of me.

Even though I want help, it’s not going to be easy to get. I have a hard time opening up to people. I’m scared if I disclose just how broken and twisted my mind is, they’ll take things away from me. I’m scared they won’t let me be a nurse- or even worse: they won’t let me stay at college at all. And when I finally do open up to people, I cry. I turn red like a tomato, I sweat, my speech becomes completely incoherent, my nose runs like a fire truck and I basically turn into a horrible blubbering mess.

I feel like a failure. I look at all the people around me, how much they’ve blossomed, all the people they love, the people that love them, the things they’ve done and the things they’re good at. I don’t have many people I’m close to. I don’t have many people that want to be around me- and quite honestly I don’t blame them. I’m not particularly good at anything or good for anything. I never clean up. I never dress up. I never go out. I pass through each day on autopilot. Passing through days, rather than spending them…that’s how my days have felt for as long as I can remember.

I’ll be twenty years old in six days. I’m not a big fan of my birthday, it just makes me feel depressed and anxious. I’ve spent the past two decades doing a whole lot of nothing and even more feeling sad. I feel like I’m wasting my life away.

I’m tired of living my life like this. I believe that life is so meaningful and precious and evenly last damn second should be cherished. I want to laugh. I want to smile. I want to love and be loved. It’s all just a bit easier said than done for me.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read what I’ve been keeping bottled up. And to anyone else who’s been hurting…you are special. You are wonderful and special and meaningful and I beg you to get all the love, support and help you need to live your life fully and to feel the purest happiness you can possibly imagine. Thank you all again for reading.

The Building and Breaking of Habits

I spend a lot of time wondering about the human mind.  In particular, I find habits very intriguing- what makes us do the things we do?  Addictions, exercise patterns, even mundane tasks such as brushing ones teeth all interest me.  Where do our habits come from? Why do we keep doing our habits?  Why is breaking a habit so hard to do?

The sorts of habits I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are related to eating. I am passionate about healthy eating, I’ve been a vegetarian for six years and a vegan for five months, and I consider nutrition to be a key component to my training. However, I have struggled with a poor body image since I was seven years old and disordered eating since I was sixteen.

When I was sixteen, I received intense treatment for anorexia nervosa. I was hospitalized for about three weeks. After I was discharged, I saw psychologists on a regular basis. They immediately established themselves as figures of authority and I became afraid to open up to them, and they in turn became angry when I would refuse to disclose the contents of my mind.  They fixed my body, but left my mind even more damaged.

As soon as I had control over my life again, I snapped right back into restrictive dieting- a few times my weight would dip below the weight at which I was hospitalized.  After years of restriction, I began to struggle with binges, and my extreme fear of gaining weight drove me to put my finger down my throat and purge.

Finally, I looked in the mirror one night and decided enough was enough- I’m tired of being sick. I still struggle with restriction and binges now and again but I’m fighting to find the state of balanced nourishment between overeating and hardly eating anything at all. Simply “eating normally” is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s been years since I’ve ever really done so. I still binge. I still get scared and restrict my diet. I’m gaining weight and I’m absolutely terrified it’s never going to stop.  However, I’m determined to get better. I want to stop listening to dieting rules and start listening to the hunger cues my body gives me.

It’s going to be hard…it’s not easy trying to rewire your brain. At a month shy of turning twenty, my mind is slowly becoming less pliable as I grow older- putting off these changes will only make things harder and these are changes that need to happen. Obviously, I don’t have the willpower to maintain a state of starvation forever and overeating sends me into a state of emotional turmoil. My only hope is to recover from disordered eating once and for all.

It’s scary. What if it’s genetically impossible for me to have a good body? What if, after years of disordered eating, I’ve irreversibly upset my metabolism? What if I can’t clean up the mess in my mind? These are all chances I’ll need to take. Even if I can’t get “better” I want to get as close to “better” as I possibly can.

I often wonder how things would be if my treatment had been different when I was sixteen. What if my therapists had been sympathetic rather than righteous? Of course, I still probably wouldn’t be “better”. I didn’t want to be “better”, I wanted to be skinny. But maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid to open up to people. Maybe I wouldn’t have so many issues with trust. Maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid to seek out professional help again. However, you can’t change the past; you can only learn from it or let it go.

I just need to be mindful…mindful of hunger, mindful of fullness, and mindful of my emotions. I need to notice my thoughts and let go of the toxic things that cross my mind. I need to learn from my mistakes and let go of the guilt that accompanies them. I need to stay patient and positive until my body and mind are restored to the way Mother Nature designed them to work, because such a natural state will finally set me free.

Running Withdraw

Running has been one of the most challenging journeys I’ve ever taken part in.  For me, running isn’t just a recreational activity, but a lifestyle.  I’ve run before the sun comes up and after the sun has gone down- always making sure to find time for my training every day.  I endure extreme weather, and when the weather gets too extreme, I endure great periods of time scurrying along the belt of a treadmill like a mouse spinning in its wheel.  I’ve run through allergies, head colds, sleep deprivation, and days where I just feel downright crappy.  I watch what I eat, guzzle endless gallons of water and powerade, and abstain from alcohol.  Running isn’t easy.  Living a “runner lifestyle” isn’t easy.  You just get faster and stronger, and the training becomes habitual and ritualistic.  However, the hardest part of running isn’t waking up early, or tight muscles or even hill repeats.  The hardest part of running is not being able to run at all.

Up until last September, I had never suffered a running injury.  After a summer of dramatically increased mileage and intensity, I ended up with Achilles tendinitis.  I was in the greatest physical condition of my life and at the very start of my sophomore cross country season, so I ran through it.  A few weeks later, I began to experience stiffness and discomfort in the arch of my foot.  And yes, I then ran through plantar fasciitis as well.  By the end of the season, I was a wreck.  Lower back pain, hips shifting out of alignment, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis nagged me every step, running or walking, every hour of the day.  I had been seeing a chiropractor twice a week just to stay functional, and finally I asked him why my injuries would never improve past a certain extent, why my body wouldn’t just return to normal.  He told me I would need a month, at the very least, of absolutely no running for everything to finally heal.

I listened to my chiropractor.  I biked, I swam, and (although I longed for it miserably) I didn’t run.  A month slowly passed by and finally I began to run again.  I started with short runs, only a few days a week, with the bulk of my workouts consisting of cross training on a stationary bike.  Slowly I added more days and increased the duration of my runs, and by summer break, I had transitioned entirely from the bike to running.  Only a few weeks later, my body was tolerating my old distances again.  The next thing I knew, it was all taken away again.  After a large heavy cutting board slipped off a table and fell on my foot at work, I found myself strapped in a surgical shoe with the unfortunate verdict:  no running for at least three weeks.

I’ve come back before.  I know how to cross train.  My gym offers spin classes.  I can take this time to work out the muscle imbalance in my hips.  I tell myself every positive thing I possibly can to keep my head in the right place.  The difficult thing about being a runner is that it isn’t just what you do, it’s who you are.  And while I try so hard to convince myself that I can make this situation into something constructive, I’m still overcome with “running withdraw”.  I get moody, I feel fat, I feel lazy, and I feel as if I’ve lost everything that once made me extraordinary.  I get scared I’ll never be as good again, and sometimes I worry I’ll never heal and I’ll never be able to run at all again.  I tell myself I’m being ridiculous, I acknowledge how irrational all my fears are, but every now and again, “running withdraw” gets the best of me.  Two days ago it got the very best of me…I cracked.

I don’t regret it.  It was a glorious thirty minutes.  I set the treadmill at 0.5 incline and 8.0 miles per hour and my body fell into the rhythm it knew so well.  The spin classes I’ve been doing have kept me fit and strong; I felt fantastic while I was running and even as I toyed with the incline to simulate a few hills, my body transitioned effortlessly.  I could feel myself smiling like a big idiot as I ran.  I remembered how to run, and to run well.  It was still there- the runner inside me.

I stopped after thirty minutes and then hopped on a stationary bike for another half hour of cardio.  Could I have gone longer?  Absolutely.  Should I have gone longer?  Absolutely not.  While my foot was not necessarily “hurting”, I could feel it wasn’t entirely healed.  Besides, I had gotten everything I needed from that run.  Running is just as mental as it is physical.  That’s what I was looking for today- the mental aspect that is.  Rather than getting in a killer workout, I just needed a bit of reassurance.  And you know what?  The sky isn’t falling, the sun will rise tomorrow, and everything’s going to be okay.

If my injuries have taught me anything, it’s that no matter what sorts advice any coach or doctor gives me, it will always come back to my own judgement.  It’s about patience and listening to my body, not rushing a recovery faster than what my body can accommodate.  This injury, I will not make the same mistakes I did last time.  I’m smarter now.

To all the runners, or any athletes suffering with injuries:  take your doctor’s advice and trust your gut feeling.  Trying to force a miraculous recovery is only good for forcing a miraculous regression in your healing.  Eventually, you will be back and better than ever; and right now, focus on being smart and positive.  Thanks for reading and never stop embracing your passions!

My Life in an Introverted Mind

From the eyes of the world, introverts seem to live pretty quiet lives.  We tend to be soft-spoken and require a great deal of time alone.  For me, life as an introvert hasn’t been as quiet or as boring as it may appear from the outside, because all the noise happens on the inside.  Yes, I am soft-spoken, and yes, I spend a great deal of time alone.  However, my mind is never silent.  It’s like a highway, thoughts rushing in and out from the first chime of my alarm in the morning to when I drift off to sleep at night.  My mind then paints vivid dreams behind my closed eyelids, leaving behind faint traces of thought for my imagination to develop further when I awaken.

I have always had an intensely vivid imagination.  When I was young, I gorged my brain with ideas from computer games, movies, music and books.  I borrowed my favorite ideas and blended them with bits and pieces of my own thoughts and realities to create my own personal scenarios.  Finally, I would grab my scooter, hop on my bike, blast music and dance in my bedroom, or even just run around in circles outside.  Once I engaged in an outlet, I would set my imagination free and plunge deep into a world of make-believe.  I must have lived a million and one adventures by the time I was ten years old.

Growing up in a world of fantasies did have its hardships.  When I was especially young, I didn’t feel the need to make friends.  I could have plenty of fun by myself!  I never felt the need to break out of my comfort zone.  I never really developed social skills.  I grew painfully shy.  I was so afraid to participate in class that even raising my hand to ask to use the restroom gave me extreme anxiety.  I became a target for bullies both at school and in the neighborhood.  I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, and none of my few friends ever showed much interest in standing up for me.  In fact, they usually just joined in on the teasing.  I had my world of make-believe well mastered, but reality has always seemed to kick my ass.

I still have my imagination.  It has matured a great deal, but it is still vivid and very much alive.  Somewhere along the way, pursuing my imagination through the use of outlets caused me to blossom into an avid runner.  There is nothing I love more than my ritual of waking up early in the morning to lose myself in a nice, long run before I take on my day.  These past few months have been pretty rocky with injuries, but I’m trying to stay positive as I work through this rough patch in hopes that one day I will be able to achieve my dream of running my first marathon.

I have also learned how to use my mind a bit more constructively.  I have always had a powerful mind, however I have not always had a smart mind.  Up until my junior year in high school, I was a pretty mediocre student.  I got mostly B’s with an A or C here and there.  I knew my brain was extraordinary, but I couldn’t apply myself even if my life depended on it.  I struggled to remember my homework; I gave up trying to pay attention in class entirely.  My junior year of high school, something just seemed to click.  I realized if I could channel my mind’s energy to learn, I could be smart as hell.  It was like the perfectionist inside me came to life.  Now I am halfway through nursing school with a 3.8 GPA, having made Dean’s List every semester so far.  My passion for thoughts and ideas has matured to allow me to grow passionate about knowledge.  I take pride in learning and I consider my education to be one of the most valuable things in my life.

I wish I could continue to rave about how greatly introversion has changed my life for the better.  The truth is, being an introvert still brings many challenges upon me.  Despite having an outstanding GPA, I found myself struggling often during clinicals last semester because my inadequate social skills prevented me from delivering care to level in which I know I am capable.  At the end of the semester, my clinical instructor asked me the very question I’ve spent the past two years asking myself:  “Are you sure you can do this?”.  Without a doubt, I am smart enough.  I care too.  More than anything, I want to help people.  I care about people and I want to do good for them, but after a childhood starved of friendship and interaction, I’m worried my social skills may never catch up.

So there you have me in a nutshell:  a runner nursing injuries in hopes of becoming a marathoner and a scholar abandoning her comfort zone in hopes of becoming a nurse.  As of right now, I plan on remaining anonymous because it helps me feel more comfortable in divulging the inter-workings of my mind and my experiences as I brave the territory beyond my comfort zone.  To anyone who considers him or herself to be an introvert and to anyone who’s ever felt quiet or shy or awkward, please remember this:  you are extraordinary and you are not alone.