Jumping Into the Unknown: The Discovery Phase of Eating Disorder Recovery

As I work on my second book this year, I’ve reflected a lot on the time in my life when I set out to find who I was (note, this is still changing/growing–at the time I was figuring out who I was outside of perfectionism and running).

I felt like my body was changing even though my weight wasn’t changing. I was at my heaviest, but it didn’t seem to matter as much anymore.

My mindset was changing without forcing it to happen.

I was enjoying who I was; bits and pieces of Rachael that had been buried under running and the eating disorder emerged. And that’s when I began to feel a different kind of beautiful. I felt I could see that change reflected in the mirror, even though it wasn’t my weight or appearance that changed.

I was happy, and it didn’t depend on what I did–it was based on the relationship I had developed with myself and others.

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When Eating Healthy Goes Too Far (Guest Post by Nora McUmber)

Nora McUmber (@therecoveryrunner), reached out to me a couple years back to start a discussion about disordered eating in college runners for a podcast she was starting. I was excited to see a college athlete contributing to this discussion, and ever since then I’ve been curious to read about her experience and share it on the blog!

Nora is a senior Education for Instruction major with a concentration in TESOL (Teaching English as a second language) and a minor in photography. She has been running since her freshmen year of high school and it has become a huge part of her life. When Nora is not running, she loves to do anything outdoors–hiking, biking, kayaking just to name a few. She is also very  passionate about breaking the stigma of mental health in the athletic world. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, she can help others who may be in a similar situation.

I remember a time when food was fun. I never cared to ask if it was healthy or unhealthy.

I remember a time when bread was not the enemy, and I NEVER felt guilty for eating certain foods. 

As I graduate from college this year, I’ve been reflecting on my four years of college and running. I have to admit I am a changed person, as I should be. I am terrified to re-enter a world where running and food aren’t the center of my personal universe. I find myself gradually separating my identity from the sport, and I find that I have picked up some un-healthy practices. The bubble has at last been popped and I see my distorted eating for what it is.

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Discovering Dysthymia: A Mental Health Journey (Guest Post with Melanie Brender)

I met Melanie Brender when raced together on a team for Michigan at the Mideast Cross Country Championships at the end of our senior cross country seasons. Melanie and I stayed connected over social media ever since, and when I began posting for this blog, she was extremely supportive the entire way.

Melanie has had her own share of mental health struggles after competing for Michigan State University and then as a professional runner for the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, and wanted to be more transparent lately with the hope of helping others. I was excited to have her share her mental health experience here about her struggle with Dysthymia. Thank you Melanie for your support of the Running in Silence endeavors, and for your own vulnerability to reach others!

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Life After Sport: Now What? (Guest Post by Becca McConville)

Because a large topic of the next book I’m working on is about breaking away/transitioning from sport (in my case, running), I’ve been looking forward to having Rebecca McConville (MS RD LD CSSD) share her thoughts on this subject here!

Becca invited me onto the PHIT for a Queen Podcast and has been supportive of Running in Silence. And with all the great work she is doing, it was a treat to meet her in person at the Eating Disorders in Sport Conference last month. In fact, Becca was one of the speakers who put together an amazing presentation about eating disorders in men with Patrick Devenny.

As I’ve learned through writing book #2, learning about others’ experiences, and through seeing articles pop up about the tough transition from sport, I’ve really begun to see how large and difficult this topic is–especially for those who have or are prone to developing eating disorders, too. Thank you, Becca, for your expertise and addressing this!

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A Runner’s Life Without Running in Eating Disorder Recovery

I will always miss running. I will always remember what it felt like to fly over the grass of a cross country course or pick up speed around the final curve of the track.

I also know that when I ran that fast, it was the only area of my life that brought me happiness. I was so consumed with running that when I didn’t have it, I felt like my world was crumbling. It was a tough growing up stage of my life, and a wake-up call. I had to find more within myself to make me happy and fulfilled.

While running was not replaced with something equal to it, I have found my joy elsewhere.

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To Let Running Go

There was a point in my life when I–and I’m sure many of us–experienced that heavy walk through each day. We could not find the energy to speak to our friends and family. We lost ourselves so deeply that we felt defined only by what we accomplished or how we ate.

Running was my protector. It was the thing I looked forward to each day. Through it, I experienced the exhilaration of flying over large expanses of grass in cross country, the challenge of leaping over piles of snow on the coldest but most serene winter days, and the awe in watching the sun rise over the horizon on muggy summer mornings.

I also experienced the shooting pain of an injured knee, the ache of a stress-fractured foot, the tears over the shoulders of teammates after races when it felt more like we had raced through mud than over clouds.

The eating disorder devastated much in its path, including running. But more importantly, it took away the people and pieces of life that I began to realize mattered even more.

The eating disorder also forced me to pull everything apart and find my identity–an identity, I learned, that connects me to so many others through empathy and understanding. I was never as alone as I thought.

I have learned to test the limits of the soul rather than just the body, and to find courage when the false walls of perfection are stripped down.

I am more than running, and I have more to give to the world.

I’m ready to fly on my own. I’m ready for the next adventure ahead.

I’m ready to live.

 

Title changed from “Finding Peace,” and post updated to better capture the feelings of 2015 on 2/20/21.