My second 5k–reflections on a race not run

I woke up this morning, race day, to face a record-low temperature of 44 degrees here in Boston, meaning perfect weather for the Larry Kessler 5k race for AIDS at 9:50 at the Hatch Shell.  My alarm had sounded at 4am.  I was getting ready.  I had everything planned out for today, everything written down.  I dressed, laced up my running shoes, and got ready to walk Puzzle, my dog.  Surely, this was her day, too.  We would take one of her usual routes, though.  I didn’t want to disturb her routine too much, even though today was different.

Yes, today was different.  Every day had been different for the past several weeks–since the injury.  As we rounded White Street, passing the condo complex, and headed up Main Street, I began to weep.  I was walking with a cane, barely able to sustain a half mile’s distance before experiencing problems with my injured knee.  I placed the cane carefully along with my right leg, to ensure that I kept weight off of the problem side.  I wondered if anyone would pass by and see me crying.  But no one did, not even anyone in a car, because it was so early.

Not only was I sidelined with an injury, but I was suffering from infected sores in my mouth, edema, and morning vertigo.  All of these medical problems had appeared over the past month or so.  Surely, I was not in good shape to be running a race.  This was compounded by the fact that I had taken time off over the winter, slowing my pace considerably.  I had expected, after the first of these medical problems–edema–appeared, to finish this race in 38 minutes.  I finished my first 5k in 34.

The edema I have is called “refeeding edema.”  It results from long-term self-starvation from my eating disorder.  While my first 5k was a celebration of feeding myself, my second 5k–or, rather, not running my second 5k–is the acknowledgement that I am not feeding myself or treating my body with the love and healthy respect it deserves.  Yes, I am abusing my body.  Yes, I starve myself.   I still have this edema.  I starved it away, but it came back after two binges.  I am currently starving it away again.  Yes, I have an eating disorder.

The sores in my mouth come from cuts in my gums.  The cuts come from bingeing on raw vegetables.  I can’t eat raw vegetables really fast, because I have missing molars.  If I do eat raw veggies fast, my gums get cut up.  They even bleed in my mouth.  One of my molars is missing because I split it in half bingeing on dog food last winter.  It had to get pulled as a result.   Yes, I have an eating disorder.

I get morning vertigo after I eat the first bite of food, or sustenance, in the morning.  I go brush my teeth and 1o minutes after I’ve eaten, or had a bit of milk, I have the vertigo.  It lasts several hours.  Several hours of my head spinning.  The vertigo following eating is most likely from malnutrition.  Yes, I have an eating disorder.

My knee injury is an overuse injury.  I used to run and walk a total of 10 miles a day, and I did this for a month.  Fine.  Then, I increased to 14.  Not fine.  My body gave out.  Hence, this injury.  And every time I think I’ve licked it, I overdo it, and pain and regression in healing result.   I tend to overexercise.  Why?  Don’t let me fool myself.  I do it to lose weight.

Yes, I have an eating disorder.  I have anorexia nervosa.  I was eating okay since I got off the psychiatric unit in March, but started actively starving myself again May 1st.  I have not eaten normally for one day since then.  I have generally restricted, but have binge/fasted a bunch of times as well.  I am in no shape to be running this race.

And now I sit here, hungry.  What am I hungry for?  What is missing in my life?  What are my desires, hopes, wishes, and dreams?  Do I even know?  Am I so starved that I have lost touch with what my body and soul need?

What did I dream of when I signed up for this 5k?  Did I dream of strength, power, and speed?  Did I dream of winning, in my own way?  Did I dream of feeling proud of myself for accomplishing yet another goal among the many I have accomplished over the past few years in spite of my eating disorder–graduation, National Novel Writing Month (twice), getting published, and my first 5k?  Or did I dream of the race process itself, of concentrating on the road, keeping my eyes ahead, pushing myself, pushing myself, pushing onward, onward, onward, thinking of nothing else?

Perhaps it is in my resignation that I am not running this race that I acknowledge that I am indeed smothered by my anorexia symptoms right now, pulled under, defeated.  I cannot run 5k.  I cannot even run.  I am only now beginning to walk without a mobility aid such as a cane or crutches.  But eventually, I will be able to walk a mile again, then a mile and a half, then two–without setting myself back–because I will be healed.  Eventually, I will be running.  But it will take time.  A long time.  I know now that I must not attempt to do what I am not ready to do until I am fully healed.

And that goes for my anorexia itself right now, too.  I cannot even begin to be expected to gain weight until, in my mind, I am ready to do so–otherwise it will backfire.  This has happened time and time again.  It is happening now.  This is why I am restricting–because I was expected to gain weight way, way before I was ready.  Yes, it backfired.  I must be ready.

Maybe this analogy won’t work.  I know my injury will heal.  Of this, I am certain.  But I am not certain that my anorexia will heal.  Sure, I go up and down in mind and weight, but overall, I am not really getting better.  To add insult to injury (sorry!) I had this same injury in 2005, and it improves when I lose weight!  So there is a problem here.

Maybe my attitude will change, though.  I cannot predict the future.  There are other races, lots of them, coming up.   November, December…maybe I’ll be running by then.  Maybe I’ll be fit enough to race then, which means eating right, taking care of myself, and treating my body lovingly and with respect.  That is the key.

So today, as I sit here and write these words, and gaze over at my dog, sleeping beside me, I wonder what she is thinking, her mama laid up…probably nothing at all.  Because to Puzzle, it doesn’t matter if Mama raced or not.  What matters is that Mama is staying alive to be Puzzle’s mama.  Well, I plan to do just that.  Not only that, but I’ll sign up for my next 5k as soon as I’m completely ready to race–and not sooner.  Promise.

One thought on “My second 5k–reflections on a race not run”

  1. Eating disorder is plenty painful and dangerous. Been there, done that, and one can get over it! Step one, get a rear view look at your body excluding your own face. Our minds play games on replayed frontal views. If you must binge, try oatmeal. With maturity, decided to be kind, to myself and quit being so worried about the scale. Instead, got in touch with what looks and feels good on me. Good luck!

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