As of today, I’ve gone for three small runs.
It’s about one exact year since the surgery on my right knee, done to repair torn cartilage after taking a wrong left turn.
In the last year, I’ve put on over 45 pounds, and subsequently lost about 30 of that through diet, but still find myself pudgy and soft around the edges – and not the man that Raymond met three years ago. I have such a journey ahead of me to regain a shape and form that suits me, but, of course, it’s important for me to stop and reflect about the things I’m discovering and learning about myself along the way.
First, there’s the weird anxiety that floods my circulatory system every time I start to head out the door to run. I sip on a mug of coffee, or chug it, and spend a great deal of time psyching myself up to put on my running gear. I listen to EDM, at volume, and pace around in some sort of weird dancing swagger as I let the beats and rhythm build inside me. What I’m doing, essentially, is trying to build up the courage to get out there. What could I possibly be afraid of, though?
Injury, for one, is a thing – I’ve been there, done that, and it sucked a lot. It sent me into a pretty steep depression last year at this time as I was prepping for surgery on my knee, and I don’t want to go back to that headspace again. Ever. I know, I know…we are a biological creature and aging means breaking down and facing injury on a daily basis. Still.
Then, there’s the idea of me in running gear. To be honest, I look foolish. Lycra, day-glo attire, hell, even the sneakers themselves – all of these things look really weird on my plump and curvy body. I’m no Usain Bolt. I’m not lithe, or muscular, or lanky, or even attractively shapely in anything other than baggy jeans and loose tee shirts. But, running in jeans would look even more stupid, so here I am. Dressed like a fool. I know this is super-duper basic of me to be even commenting on, let alone admitting to, but I hate, hate, *hate* wearing clothing that makes me stand out in some fashion. This shit? This gear? Yeah, no. Thankfully, most of it’s a light grey color, which means I’ll blend into the fog and drear that is Oregon’s signature weather pattern. And that day-glo shirt goes well under the grey hoodie, with only a few bits of it showing.
Beyond looking stupid and not wanting to rip a muscle, what else is this fear coming from?
Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s all related to my past experience with weight and body and eating. I’m still, and will forever be, a recovering anorexic/bulimic. For over two years, I spent a great deal of energy and effort to expunge my body of everything and anything, exerting exquisite control over my daily caloric intake like it was my reason to even live. Exerting that kind of control over my body, my physicality, has been my default go-to response whenever I’m feeling like the world I inhabit and everything around me has gone off the rails. I know how far I am capable of pushing myself in order to feel like I’m in control. That, right there – the levels of mania, the willpower, the stubbornness, the monster within me that I’ve turned loose on myself a number of times – that’s the thing that arrests me whenever I lace up my sneakers. I am afraid of the level of harm I am capable of doing to myself in order to feel like I’m in control of something.
Then, there is the feedback loop that one gets when they get into shape. People do notice. Interactions with others become different. Every single time I’ve dropped a lot of weight, there’s the inevitable compliments that come in from various people I interact with. Their praise and notice feeds into my ego, feeds into the desire to keep pushing myself further, and that, in and of itself, is highly addictive. I love praise. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t, right? The thing is – and especially with my history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia – every compliment I ever got when I was at my thinnest was made to a person who had put on the skin of confidence and power, when on the inside, he knew it was all one great lie. I don’t know if that makes any sense, so let me try explaining it another way.
If you’d seen me at my thinnest – and you probably did because I kept posting photos of myself along the way as a means of stroking my own ego and getting validation for what I was doing – you’d see a guy who looked great and gave off a sexy and confident vibe that was quite attractive. You’d have no idea, though, what kind of turmoil was going on underneath that outer self. Under that skinnier, sexier exterior, was a man-boy who was broken. If you had questioned me, even just a little, as to how I was doing – especially if you’d given me a gin and tonic first – it would have soon become quite apparent that my exterior was really just a facade and that things in my world were quite broken. The first time I “got skinny” I wasn’t eating but maybe 500 calories a day, was failing in a few college classes, couldn’t pay my car payments or keep insurance on my car, and had a whole host of other issues going on up to and including an identity crisis that eventually led me out of the closet. The next time I “got skinny” was about the time my marriage was failing and I was facing down the reality that I’d made a real cock-up of things related to my education, career, and finances. Oh, and I was lonely as fuck. The most recent time I again “got skinny,” I was living in the spare bedroom of an ex-boyfriend’s house, had no job and no prospects for one, had been called – to my face – fat and unattractive, had zero friends, and went day-to-day wondering just how I was going to eat enough food to curb the growl in my stomach yet not get yelled at by the ex-boyfriend for being a leech.
It doesn’t need to be like this. It doesn’t need to feel this way. I don’t need to be afraid of myself. I know this. I *know* this. I’ve spent most of my life waging this inner battle with myself. I’m tired of it. I’m not in a place of desperation. I’ve got a stable roof over my head, a job that pays quite well with pretty damn good benefits. I have a magical and wonderful man who still enjoys curling up around me at night and holding me tight. I have a lot of great things going for me and I feel like I’m in total control of my life.
So, really, I need to get over myself and just get out there. I’m dressed in these horrible running clothes right now anyway. This doesn’t need to be like every other time I’ve decided to go running.