Running for Recovery – Raw, Raw, Writings

Today I cried on the treadmill, and not even just because I was running on a treadmill.  I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude for where I am in my life.

 I’m not sure if it was the nostalgia of Eminem on pandora, thinking about Boston, reminiscing about my life since I ran Boston in 2012, tapering (in so many more ways than just for a marathon), or the sheer combination of all of it hitting me at once.  But I just lost it.  For the record, I am not a crier, it is an emotion that I have a difficult time achieving.  But I felt smooth running on the treadmill this morning, I felt alive, strong, determined, fast, thankful, blessed, and sober.  Running and coincidently life for me has felt pretty awful for well over a year.  However, today I felt such a strong glimmer of courage and hope.  Today I felt so good I wanted to jump out of my skin.  It was liberating and one of those rare moments that you just want to bottle and hit rewind on the cassette player.  I hope to experience many more of these moments.

I have absolutely no idea where I am going with this piece of writing.  I doubt I’ll have the courage to hit publish once I complete this hot mess but here I am writing anyway.  Writing just because it feels like the right thing to do and sometimes, for me, purging deep emotions and just following my heart is healing.  If I’ve learned anything in my life it is that the greatest opportunities often come from the hardest trials.  Taking risks, facing fears, and leaning in to the uncomfortable is terrifying but without trying it we never really know how good it could possibly be.

I am a Manager by trade.  I am passionate about my career and absolutely 100% committed to Intermountain Healthcares mission of “Helping people live the healthiest lives possible.”  If you know me personally you know that I LOVE my job.  I have a deep profound love and appreciation for my 14 employees.  I love my boss and truly admire his consistent and uplifting example to me.  Work is important to me and I love what I do.  I am a natural leader. I love helping others, nothing NOTHING makes me feel more joy than helping others succeed.  Relationships with people are incredibly important to me.  I do not know how to work a computer, I can barely spell my own name and I have absolutely no sense of logic.  But gosh I sure like people and I think I’m kind of good at listening, helping, accepting, understanding, and caring about others.

Unfortunately I’ve always really struggled with helping, listening, and healing myself.  I’ve never really loved myself enough to help myself.  Where on earth is she going with this?

Running, Relapse, Addiction, Anxiety, Therapy, Eating Disorders – Let’s start talking!

I’m not going to dive into the background right now.  I’ve always been fairly raw with my writing and I’m pretty openly honest, probably to a fault.  But I had such a strong overwhelming sense of peace this morning while running.  My entire life up to this point flashed before my eyes and I was left thinking why am I not sharing my trials?  If I left this earth what would I want the world to know?  If I could help someone else with their personal trial through sharing mine why wouldn’t I?  It is my duty to pay it forward, to be authentic, and to stay true to my core value of being a leader and helping others through my words and my example. I’ve suffered lived with addiction for basically a century.  Anorexia–Bulimia–Alcoholism–Running–Disordered Eating–Narcotics–Relapse–Replace–Repeat–you get the picture!

Yep you read all that correctly. This energetic, happy on the outside athlete is an addict.  An addict that has gained so much from giving in, letting go, and heaven forbid even asking for help!  I’ve never in my life asked for help before and it was terrifying.  Letting go of pride, shame, running, restriction, and probably most importantly substances has been pretty awful.  I have such an intense and infinite love for my family.  I love them to their core and cannot ever repay or begin to thank them enough for loving me unconditionally.  Unconditional love is so rare and truly so incredible.  God knew I would need this family of mine.  Unconditional love of my parents, siblings, and brother and sister in law is why in my opinion I am okay.  My family has never given up on me, and I truly bare testimony to you that if you unconditionally love those in your life who are facing demons they will return.  It may take a year, or (like me) it may take closer to a century, it may not even happen in this life.  But if you do your part and have faith it will happen.  Yes I’m getting all religious on you!

Rock Bottom

I had just run a half marathon in 1:17.  My running career was thriving and my career at the Hospital was as well.  I was promoted to Manager and on the outside I looked like I had it all.  On the inside was an intense fear of myself and my own emotional reality.

Anxiety – anxiety so bad I didn’t even have the brain capacity to comprehend it was anxiety.  I have never experienced anything so utterly confusing and terrifying in my entire existence.  I did not understand what was happening at the time at all.  I was intensely over taken by fear, all I knew was that I had to simply survive each day.  That was my only goal each morning – to get through the day.  I am crying as I type this right now because I’m having flashbacks of how truly frightening it really was.  The anxiety was so intense that I could not focus on anything for more than a couple of minutes.  The only time I felt any relief was when I was running, starving myself, or sometimes with other people.  It was constant anxiety and felt like my body and brain were zapping from every direction.  I was afraid to wake up in the morning, afraid to go to work, afraid I was going to be in trouble, afraid of everything and anything.  For those that have experienced anxiety I’m sure you may be able to relate.  I do not think it was very apparent on the outside but I’m not really sure, I was so ill and so out of touch that my memory from the time isn’t the best.  I cannot be 100% certain of what the anxiety stemmed from but what I do know is that it was a combination of my malnourishment, my relationship, isolation from my family, and a deep and real fear of gaining weight.  Clearly I was again using the eating disorder as a crutch.  I was such a mess and so very scared.  My brain was not working because I was not feeding it and the anxiety was too much.

I was desperate for any relief from my anxiety yet too ashamed, afraid, and confused to ask for any sort of help.  Instead I turned to narcotics.  I hurt my back rollerblading with some friends in November 2013.  (In hindsight I likely fell because I didn’t eat that day and still ran my normal long run.)  Anyway, I was legitimately in a lot of pain.  I (my eating disorder) actually loves pain.  I deserve to be in pain according to my ED voice and the more pain I put myself in the more my ED thrives!  Remember that one time I ran a sub-3 marathon and then literally couldn’t stand for 4 hours?  I basically have no stopping point and I’m not incredibly proud of it.  Anyway, Steve offered me a Lortab and thus a love affair began.  I was in pain, yes, yes, I was.  Isn’t that how it always begins?  What I quickly learned is that the Lortab eased my anxiety and made life bearable.  It was complete survival mode for me.  Looking back I honestly feel like I was coping the only way I knew how to survive each day.  My anxiety and fear was that bad!

I wanted to shake the shit out of myself, I knew so much better.  I was an alcoholic for years, my grandpa has been addicted to Lortab for over 20 years, I’ve had two cousins commit suicide because of addiction, and I dated a heroin addict for 5 years!  Addiction runs so very deeply in my veins.  I knew so much better and I also knew exactly the road this was leading down.  I hated myself yet I couldn’t stop.  That euphoria, the build-up, the anticipation of taking the pill, the act of swallowing, snorting, and the relief!  Oh the glorious relief.  So numb, so incredibly numb and released from my emotions and my internal denial and pain.  The narcotic addiction lasted four months and I didn’t tell a single sole.

But I also knew I needed help.  I was so incredibly aware that the pills were just masking my anxiety and I was committed to dealing, for the first time ever, with the source.  I knew the anxiety I was feeling was not normal.  I went to the doctor and worked with an incredible Physician who prescribed me the right medication and helped stabilize me on an antidepressant which calmed me enough to seek treatment.  Then I embarked upon an entire year of therapy.  With the assistance of my doctor, therapist, family, Brene Brown and her amazing writing and most importantly my heavenly father I have come so far.  It has been the hardest year of my life by far.  But I survived it and I am okay.  I am still healing and piecing my puzzle back together one little piece at a time but I’m slowly learning to love myself, forgive myself and move forward.  I’m tapering off of my medication slowly and with the help of professionals and so excited to live life free of restraint.  I will never live completely free of an eating disorder.  Eating disorders are hard, really hard, and I truly do not wish an eating disorder upon my worst enemy.  But I will live in remission and free of chemical addiction. I will continue to work on myself.  There is no finish line for the remission journey I am on and it’s not a race.

I felt compelled to share this story today because SO MANY people live with addiction and/or mental illness.  Someone in your family, one of your friends, your neighbor, someone at your work, or maybe it’s even you.  Don’t judge them.  Just accept them, love them, and support them.  Most importantly let’s take a stand and start talking more transparently about these realities.

When I line up in Hopkington on Monday to run the Boston Marathon it will be much different than 2012.  I will not be running for a time on the clock.  I won’t really care much about what place I take or how well I execute my plan. 

I will meet up and run the race with my good friend Becca.  I will run with a renewed purpose.  I will run for recovery.  I will run for me, I will run for Trevor, I will run for all those out there who have overcome addiction.  I will run for those who are fighting right now, and I will run for those that have lost the fight.

And I leave you with inspiration from Cinderella – Have courage and be kind.  This post has taken me a lot of courage and I hope I can continue to lead by example and have courage and be kind.  If that is all I achieve in this lifetime that will be enough.