On Falling

I hate running on treadmills, roads, and tracks. On treadmills, I get bored much too quickly. Roads stretch too far ahead of me, taunting me with their length, and tracks are monotonous circles. I love running on trails, however—windy, twisty, trails that constantly change direction and incline to keep me on my toes. Yesterday on my beloved, wooded trails a large root sent me sprawling to my hands and knees. I popped up immediately, looked at the dirt now staining my person, and took off running again. If I paused too long, the pain would have set in and I would have been distracted away from my run.

These are, in fact, my knees after my run yesterday.

It’s easy to pop back up from a stumble on a run, harder to get back up when you fall in life.

I know all to well from personal experience. After restricting my food intake and upping my exercise level to shrink myself to industry standards, my body rebelled. Crying out for nourishment, I began to experience episodes of bingeing several months after I became underweight. I was able to control it for a while—my binges were infrequent, only occurring on weekends when no one from my family was around. When I began to distance myself from the industry and when I finally separated myself completely, my bingeing got much worse.

It was scary. In the middle of a binge, I felt completely out of control, like some foreign invader had taken over my body and was desperate to take me captive. Since I was allowing my body to experience foods (and amounts of food) it had not had in a long time, it desperately tried to grab as many nutrients as it could. After being conditioned to less than enough food, my own body didn’t trust me to feed it well.

It took me awhile to get back up whenever I fell down. Even after experiencing healing from my disordered eating patterns, certain triggers could still send me sprawling, much like that tree root did. I was mad and frustrated—I didn’t understand how my body still didn’t trust me, now that I was treating it well and feeding it abundantly.

While in the healing process, I saw a sign at a farmer’s market that said, “If you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” So simple, but sometimes so hard.

When you fall, get back up as quickly as you can. Whether your struggle is food, or drugs, or anger, or depression—get back up. And if you don’t have the strength to stand on your own, reach out to someone. Someone that first sits with you where you’ve fallen on the ground, then tenderly but assuredly wraps their arms around you and pulls you back to your feet. It’s hard, I know. It’s hard to be vulnerable and open up to others, to drop the façade that you are perfect, competent, autonomous. I believed I was, for awhile, until I realized I was just sitting, broken and bleeding, in the dirt by myself.

The world will benefit when you stand. Stand, whether you are wobbling, unsteady, or afraid. It gets easier (and you get stronger) each and every time.

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4 thoughts on “On Falling

  1. My name is Rachel and I am one of Emily Vontsolos’s friends from Winston. This post resonates deeply with me. I was anorexic for all of my senior year of high school, and ever since I have started fighting the disease a year ago (March 2011) I have struggled desperately with binge eating. I am no longer thin at all, and as you can imagine, to a former anorexic, this is torturous. I feel helpless often, and have developed clinical depression as a result of my food troubles. There are many days when I don’t want to live. But reading your words, and knowing there is someone else, not so different from me, who shares my struggle gives me strength. What you say is true: the best we can do is to get up off the ground. And keep getting up. No matter how impossible it feels. No matter how far down in the depths of despair we have traveled. Choosing to fight is, in itself, a victory.

  2. Rachel,
    I am so proud, so proud that you are fighting. I know and remember the feelings of helplessness, of despair, of pain–of lying on the floor after a binge wishing I could take it all back and being unable to. Binge eating is not a matter of self-control–please, please do not feel like you should just have “more willpower.” Our brains have been fighting back against the times of deprivation, and it’s so frustrating to still binge even if we aren’t restricting.

    One of the bloggers that I’ve found the most hope from in my journey is Angela Liddon. She also suffered from binge eating, and is now recovered and a beautiful image of hope and healing. I encourage you to read her post http://ohsheglows.com/2010/01/20/binge-eating-why-you-shouldnt-feel-ashamed/ as well as the posts she links to within that one: The Unspoken Issue Part 1&2. You are not alone–binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States, it just receives less publicity than the others.

    If you’d like, ask Emily for my contact email or phone number. I’d love to talk to you more and offer you any more encouragement that I can, and tell you what has helped me to recover (I’m still in the process) from binge eating.

    Thank you for reaching out–like you said, the fight itself is a victory.

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