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I seem to have a number of posts here on the starting-over or renewal theme. Here’s another.

Why so many? Maybe because I’m struggling to find my footing, and struggle by its nature includes a lot of stops and starts, a lot of tactical retreats and attacks. As long as I don’t give up, I can make some kind of progress. But toward what?

I had a rough go of it the past few months. Making the decision to drop out of the marathon was absolutely the right one for my body — and as it turned out, Sandy meant I couldn’t have even gotten to NYC in time for the race (or had a place to stay once I got there, since the friend who was hosting me lost power and was couch surfing uptown), let alone run it.

But without my training goal, and because of my injury, I wound up inactive for a few months, which did not do good things for my emotional state. I found myself dissatisfied with my therapist, who crossed a minor line that led to me realizing I neither trusted her enough to continue working with her nor believed she could help me with what I really needed help with, my emotional eating. By December, I was binging and purging daily, yet I wasn’t telling her about it. I wasn’t telling her because I knew she didn’t have the expertise to do anything about it. So I found a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.

Funny thing, that: just taking that action was beneficial. I had my first appointment with my new therapist in late December. I told her about the binging and purging, she told me how dangerous and not-normal that is, and with the exception of a little regurgitation when the burrito I ate decided to grow about five times its size when it hit my stomach, I haven’t purged at all. I have binged, but not really much, and not with the kind of food volume I’d previously done. I’m working on my relationship to food, my relationship to my emotions. I usually wind up in tears at my sessions because I’m dredging up some painful stuff from the past. It’s uncomfortable, because things I haven’t thought about for 30 years keep bubbling up at inconvenient times when my mind isn’t actively engaged — when I’m doing something repetitive at work, or when I’m driving.

But for the first time, I feel like I might actually succeed at getting to the bottom of my emotional eating. Succeed at being “normal.”

One of the things that makes therapy and the healing process tough is the fact that I keep having to confront the missing stairs in my life:


Have you ever been in a house that had something just egregiously wrong with it? Something massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house had been there a long time and was used to it? “Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings. But it’s okay because we all just remember to jump over it.”

Some people are like that missing stair.

When I posted about a rapist in a community I belonged to, although I gave almost no details about the guy except “he’s a rapist,” I immediately got several emails from other members of that community saying “oh, you must mean X.” Everyone knew who he was! …

People had gotten so used to working around this guy, to accommodating his “special requirements,” that they didn’t feel like there was an urgent problem in their community. They did eventually expel him, but it was after months of it being widely shared knowledge that he was a rapist and had done other unethical sexual things as well.

I think there were some people in the community who were intentionally protecting him, but there were more who were de facto protecting him by treating him like a missing stair. Like something you’re so used to working around, you never stop to ask “what if we actually fixed this?” Eventually you take it for granted that working around this guy is just a fact of life, and if he hurts someone, that’s the fault of whoever didn’t apply the workarounds correctly.

There was an obvious missing stair in my childhood: my father. But the staircase had many more holes in it, holes no one in the house acknowledged were holes. I got so habituated to those holes that when I moved out, I moved into a house with similar holes — and then didn’t let anyone in who could point out the missing stairs.

Now I’ve asked an inspector in, who has begun the process of pointing out the missing stairs and helping me fix them. It’s a daunting task, not made any easier by the sense of dislocation and dismay that having something that should have been obvious to you brought to your attention as not normal brings with it. I mean, I can know, intellectually, that it’s not normal to have your mother’s reaction to a suicide attempt be, “What do you think you’re going to get out of this?” followed by a determined sweeping under the rug, but there’s something a little embarrassing about the fact that that can actually surprise your therapist in its awfulness. But as uncomfortable as that is, it’s more information for my therapist to use in helping me fix my issues. And it’s another moment where I finally look at that staircase and start seeing how rotten it really is and just how many workarounds I’d put into place to avoid noticing it or doing anything about it.

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Beginning anew

I’ve had to drop out of the NYC Marathon this year.

I’ve had a recurrence of the turf toe that bothered me early on, and which will develop into a terrible, painful inflammation if I try to push through it instead of rest it. And I don’t have enough time before the race to rest it and still get in enough mileage to do a marathon.

I’m okay with this. I’m okay with using the winter to work on my speed and start to like running again. I’m okay with taking care of my body instead of pushing it where it does not want to go. I’m okay with being able to have my weekends back for a while.

I’ve decided I’m doing a half-marathon in early November, when I get back from my NYC trip, since I’m already trained up. I’m also considering one in March, before I really get into my training. I want to do that one in part because it’s a fairly big local event, and I’d like to join a training group for it.

I’m also going to focus on losing weight between now and March, so I have less to haul across the finish line.

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When you train for a long distance run, you find yourself alone with your thoughts for hours. It’s a great time to discover things about yourself.

What I’ve discovered about myself is that I don’t actually enjoy running very much. I’m pretty much going to do my race and then hang up my shoes and get out the yoga mat.

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Withdrawal blues

So I fired my shrink. Continue Reading »

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And back again

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I haven’t felt much like doing anything, really. Though I continue to train; I did my 14-miler a couple of weeks ago, and my 17-miler is coming up Sunday. I still have less trouble getting psyched up to run long distances than I do going out for a mere half-hour, even when I’m on vacation and time isn’t an issue.

I’ve started seeing a shrink and a therapist. About time, really. It’s taken me a while to get myself motivated to go, and even longer to think of myself as a person with insurance. Turns out I have excellent insurance, actually; I have effectively unlimited mental-health visits at only a $20 co-pay. I’ve avoided going in the past because I’ve either been uninsured or my insurance only gives me a small break on the cost of therapy so that it’s simply too expensive to go.

But now I’m getting my head shrunk. My shrink ordered some blood tests to see if my thyroid might actually be the problem, which is actually what I’m hoping it will turn out to be. Because if hypothyroidism is causing what feels like depression and causing me to gain weight, I can fix that. Hell, my cat’s got hyperthyroidism and the medication manages that just fine.

My therapist thinks that a lot of my issues with overeating and self-esteem and other things may stem more from anxiety than anything else. Certainly, I’ve been anxious about a lot lately, including the fact that my shrink hasn’t gotten back to me with the results of my blood tests despite my calling several times (she may have to go. I like the therapist). If it’s my thyroid, not only can I take meds to fix it, but I can also get off the antidepressants she put me on. If it’s not my thyroid, though, I might be stuck like this no matter how many miles I run.

I keep wondering why I’m not having any trouble getting out on the road for the long runs, and I think the answer is this: because I’m working toward an incremental, achievable goal. Because I make measurable progress. Because I get closer to my goal the longer I work on it, and because I’ve already proven to myself I can do a little less than the distance I’m working on that day. Maybe those half-hour runs just seem too much like fitness runs that aren’t having any measurable effect and thus trigger my anxiety about being fat forever. But I can do this race.

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Blowing the dust off the blog

Well, here we are.

Not much to report since the last go-round. I had to take two weeks off running, though I was able to keep up with my gym workouts after one skipped session, due to my broken toe. And let me tell you, it’s not easy getting back into it after that kind of layoff.

I did a 12-mile run last Sunday. It was … ugly. I got a late start, and since the temp got up over a hundred degrees later in the day, I was running in temps I didn’t enjoy very much. I struggled. I thought about packing it in somewhere around mile 6. In the end, I just decided to walk the final four miles. I didn’t even bother to figure out my average pace. After all, mileage is mileage, right?

I’m proud of myself for not quitting. Do I wish I’d had as easy a run as I did right before my injury? Hells yeah. Of course, I had both momentum and picture-perfect weather on my side that day. And now I know what it’s going to take out of me when the temperature is high and my runs are longer. And! I’ve finished the longest distance I’ve ever finished.

I have two more long high-summer runs left, 14 and 17 miles, and a 20-miler in mid-September, which is still pretty hot here, though not over-100 brutal. Quite clearly, I can’t start at 8 again. Luckily, the weather here is nice and dry, so as long as I find shade, I should be good for a good run. I’ll probably switch to the big park somewhat south of here which has a 3-mile loop, lots of trees, and lots of water fountains. (And bathrooms. Can’t forget the bathrooms.)

I’m still having trouble with my emotions and emotional eating. I’ve made an appointment to see a shrink, and I’m looking around for a therapist. Turns out my insurance covers all this, so I won’t have to spend an arm and a leg. I really have to develop the mindset that I’m an insured person now and I can use my health care.

The race is in a little over 14 weeks. I’m on vacation next week, and I’m thinking about checking out a local gym to see if it meets my needs better than the fitness center on campus. It’s nice to have a free option, but I really hate Smith machines and I’d like to be able to take classes. I’m thinking I can do weights 2-3 times a week, and then take Pilates followed by the short run.

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Setback was the name of a card game popular at my university. I never learned how to play because every time I tried, it was during a party and I was drunk.

I’m having a setback of a different sort right now. My toe is broken, though not badly, and that’s forced me into inactivity. I have the go-ahead to run as long as I can do it without pain, but even putting my socks on this weekend was uncomfortable, and I could tell that the shoes would give me grief if I started running. I spent the weekend reading.

And eating.

I did put the scale away — damn thing tried to kill me, after all — so at least I can’t obsess about the day-to-day changes this is wreaking on me. But I’m still prone to spiraling self-loathing.

Indeed, for a few nights last week, I did the binge-and-purge. I’m not proud of it. Typically, that doesn’t happen when I stick to vegan eating; of course, I wasn’t sticking to vegan eating. We had a couple of going-away ice-cream socials, and rather than just sit with my colleagues, I had multiple bowls of ice cream. And I was bringing them back up in the restroom. Once you’ve broken the seal, so to speak, it makes the next binge-and-purge cycle easier.

Several things are happening. First, I’m frustrated because the weight’s not coming off as fast as I’d like. Even though I know rationally that a) I’m now in pre-menopause, so it’s not going to come off as fast as it used to; b) I’m not doing nearly as much cardio as I was doing last year when I lost 30 pounds like nothing (yes, even with the marathon training); and c) I’m strength training, which is both adding mass and building a foundation for weight loss down the road. One solution for this was to ride my bike to work, which worked great until I ran over a nail. Now the bike’s at the shop for a new tire and a tuneup, and due to a service backup, won’t be ready for another week and a half.

Second, I broke my damn toe.

Third, and probably most immediately important, I’m pre-menopausal. This is giving me some doozies in the hormone-fluctuation department. My tits have never been so swollen, and I’m bloated and uncomfortable as all hell. I feel like crap, I’m craving carbs, and I’m emotional in all kinds of bad ways. It’s like a perfect storm of FUBAR.

Luckily, my period came today, so I’ve gotten some immediate relief from the hormone anxiety. I no longer feel nearly as ennervated, and stuffing myself no longer seems like a valid idea. I still can’t run, though, and since I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I didn’t make it to the gym this morning.

I’ve also decided I’m going to try a kind of modified paleo-type diet. I’ve already largely ditched sugar, and now I’m going to focus on protein and fruits and vegetables. Haven’t decided whether to back off grains entirely, but I’ll get myself some eggs and see how that works out in the morning next week (this week it’s oatmeal, since I had that. Weekends, which is when I do my long runs, I can have more carbs. We’ll see how sustainable this is; I once tried Atkins and hated every minute of it. I felt greasy, and when I found myself standing in a health-food store looking at potassium supplements to prevent the wobbly feeling I’d developed in my legs, I said to myself, “Or I could just have a fucking banana,” and that was that. But maybe a high-protein (including fish and poultry/eggs), low-fat, carbs-from-fruits-and-veg sort of thing will be more liveable. It’ll certainly give me the kick in the pants I need to start making pretty salads in jars.