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Monday, November 7, 2016

Finding My Voice

I want to preface this by saying this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’m actually shaking with the thought of posting this. But I’m putting this out there because I don’t believe we should sweep mental illness under the carpet. We need to share and educate and help each other in any way we can. I know I’m not alone so I hope this helps someone else find their voice.

While out on my run today, I realized that it’s been exactly a year since my back went to shit and I was completely bed ridden unable to do a thing. That was pretty much the start of a really tough year for me, both mentally and physically. Not only did I have back surgery, several failed attempts to come back to activity, two rhizotomy procedures and weight gain, I made a really tough decision to address a mental issue which has been plaguing me for years.

After 20 plus years of living with an eating disorder, I decided it was finally time to get help. I had been in and out of therapy several times over the last 15 years but I always went at the advice of others; I never really did it for myself. This past April I was sitting in my office so fed up with ED1 ruling my life and all I could think was “I’m turning 40 this year. I don’t want to spend the next 40 years of my life like this.” And with that, I picked up the phone and called Renfew2. I had never been to treatment at Renfrew but knew it was top notch and that I’d get the care I needed there. I cried so hard when I hung up the phone. I cried because I was scared but also so relieved. I knew this time was going to be different. *I* made the phone call myself and knew I was finally ready to get the help I so desperately needed.

After several weeks of group and 1:1 therapy, the decision was made by myself and my therapist to step up treatment. In July I began a 6 week IOP (Intensive Outpatient treatment) program and spent around 12 hours a week at Renfrew. I attended group therapy and individual therapy as well as appointments with a nutritionist and ate dinner there three times a week. During sessions I had to go to places within me that I didn’t know existed and I had to talk about things I wouldn’t discuss with even my closest family or friends. I resisted the first few weeks, threatened to stop going, even had a major outburst one night at dinner, but yet every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, I returned. Before I knew it, I looked forward to going each week and when my final week rolled around, I was scared half to death to leave. This place and process had become so safe for me.

Now I’m on the other side of treatment in this grey area called “recovery.” I continue to see my therapist and nutritionist weekly but each day is a process and involves hard work. There have been (and will be more) slip ups, but for the first time since I can remember, I’m calling shots about my health, not ED. I finally found my voice and it’s louder than ED’s.

I’m sharing this because I personally know many people who struggle with disordered eating. So often I wanted to say “I get it!” but I’ve been too ashamed to admit it. But I learned so much during that six week period and I now know there’s no reason to be ashamed. I learned I’m not alone and we don’t have to suffer in silence. That eating disorders don’t discriminate and no two eating disorders are the same. That you have to trust the treatment process and surround yourself with a solid support group. And most importantly, you have to put yourself first. You have to make the time and commitment to getting better. Eating disorders kill more than any other mental illness according to statistics. We need to bring light to the situation and not judge one another.

If you know me, you know I’m pretty much an open book. This was the one part of me that I kept secret and while doing so, it destroyed me. It affected relationships, it caused me to lie, I missed out on things that I really wanted to do, etc. I just figured ED was my true voice, he dictated what I did every day and no one would understand. I was convinced that life would be worse without him because truthfully, he was all I knew. But I was so wrong. SO wrong. ED is a piece of shit, he can be shut up, and life is so much better without him.

No one should feel that they are not worthy of love or happiness and no one should be ashamed to raise their hand and ask for help. If you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please contact:

1 – ED is the name often given to an eating disorder so you can distinguish the eating disorder from yourself.

2 – Renfrew:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Spilled Milk

Last Fall I ironed out my race season for 2016 and set a goal that was really going to challenge me. While it was going to be hard and it was going to hurt, I was mentally ready to do what it took to get me there. When my back threw a fit in November, I never thought it would carry over into this year or turn out to be anything serious.

After 2 spinal injections I slowly got back to training and started up with my new coach the first week of January. Right off the bat my body didn’t seem right. Physically I felt fine but my heart rate was way high and I was really tired. We didn’t do anything strenuous or out of the ordinary and yet my body just wasn’t responding well. My back started talking to me again and by mid-January I developed a really bad pain in my left glute (butt) and lost feeling to my left leg. My gastroc and glute muscle essentially went to sleep and my leg felt like it wasn’t attached. I went in for my third spinal injection hoping and praying it would give me relief but it did absolutely nothing. After talking with several doctors and surgeons, it was clear that I had 2 choices: live with the pain and hope it goes away and the feeling eventually comes back or have surgery.

The discussions of surgery got pretty real when I learned just how bad of shape my back was in. It wasn’t simply a herniated disc but I have degenerative disc disease in my lumbar spine and there’s very little disc left. We discussed having a fusion done now but I went with a more conservative approach and decided to just do a discectomy at this time. Not only was the thought of back surgery overwhelming, but I was told by one surgeon that I may never compete at the level I want to again and another told me the half marathon distance will not be an option in my future. Needless to say, I was devastated.

I went through every emotion possible through the next few weeks. For 2 weeks I was so depressed I didn’t even want to talk to anyone. If I talked about my back or even thought about not being able to run, I cried. For 2 straight weeks I cried…all…the…time. Then all the sadness turned into anger. I was pissed. I was so mad that my body was failing me and wouldn’t just get better. I was so mad I couldn’t workout. I was so mad that I was in constant pain and the pain just made me angrier. The anger then subsided and here I was grieving the loss of my 2016 races and all the goals I set. I was grieving that I wasn’t out there with my running buddies or riding on the crazy warm winter days. I totally felt like I lost a part of me and something that was so important to me.

Then one day I woke up and decided “it is what it is.” Like flipping a switch, I came to terms with everything and accepted it. I accepted that surgery was the best option and while the next few months might suck, there’s nothing saying I won’t get back to where I want to be. Sure, I have a ton of restrictions going forward and need to change my way of doing things, but I’m willing to make the changes because I want it bad enough. I’m not throwing in the towel on 2016 either. I know I won’t be all out racing anytime soon but it doesn’t mean I may not be out there working hard at my new post op fitness level. J

Today I’m 2 weeks and 2 days post-surgery and I’m already further along than they said I would be and the doctor is impressed with my progress. I could very easily ditch my little walks each day and not do my isometric ab exercises in lieu of resting like they instructed me. But I want to recover and I want to get my strength back. I want to get back to what makes me tick.

The point of this rambling…as athletes, a lot of us are going to have set backs. Some major, some easily overcome. If something happens that knocks you off track, let yourself feel; know it’s ok to be sad, angry, whatever and then move on with a positive attitude. It’s hard when things are out of our control and you have something you want so badly taken away from. But it’s that positive attitude that will get you back out there. Missing out on a race or a PR is not the end of the world, it's just spilled milk. Don't cry over it forever, clean that sh*t up and move on. And remember….Things could always be worse. Always.

And for those that like this's a picture of the disc they cut out. Enjoy!