On being human

Sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight and sticking my entire hand into my coffee cup to get the foam from my soy latte, I’m experiencing some pretty judgmental stares from my fellow travelers. Seriously, how do you get out your foam, people? For real. I’m not going to leave the perfectly good, delicious foamy remnant of my coffee drink that I drank much too quickly. This way, I can pretend that I savored it slowly–still enjoying it fifteen minutes later!

Anywhoooo, I have to say this one is a bit difficult. That openness, honesty thing? Difficult. Sometimes, I like to pretend that I’m not human, because to be human is to be imperfect. When I was in high school I did a really good job of pretending to be perfect: I made the best grades, took the hardest classes, had a part time job, modeled on the side, was a student athlete and the president of every club. On the outside, I was golden–envied by my peers and lauded by my teachers. I convinced everyone, and on good days could even trick myself.

But I’m not perfect. To pretend to be is disingenuous, to try to be is perilous. This blog is about health, yet I am not removed from my struggles to be healthy. In this way, in being real and open and honest, I hope others can be encouraged. It’s ok to drop the facade, and in fact impossible to heal and grow when we’re clinging desperately to a false image of ourselves. I still struggle with food, with body image, with compulsive eating. One bad choice can lead to another and another, spiraling me into darkness. On the other hand, one good choice can break me from my weakening chains and lead to several weeks of freedom.

To be human is to be imperfect. I am learning to be healed, to embrace healing. Sometimes it is scary, and it is always hard. The other night I ended my journal entry with “I am still struggling,” and then realized that to struggle is to fight. Because I struggle, I have not given up, and I will not. I’ve entitled this a pilgrimage, and that is exactly what it is: a journey with hardships, joys, struggles, and happiness along the way. It is discouraging to fail. It is hard to pick myself up, to wage war against the chemicals in my body and the lies of the deceiver. It isn’t a question of willpower, which I think many people don’t realize. It is bigger than willpower, the forces waging are not simple and easily controlled.

My pilgrimage continues.

How do you stop a bad choice from becoming a series of bad choices? What good choices lead to good days for you?

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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.