I’ve recently begun to have some input from my local ED service after a long period of being ‘fine’. I have been ‘fine’ and ‘functioning’ for a very long time, at a low but stable, not ‘worryingly’ low weight, generally living life, getting married, having some lovely times with my husband, friends, switching from social work to a related but less stressful job where I have a bit more work-life balance. However I am forced to admit that to some degree, without me realising, my eating disorder clung on for the ride. It is only now, a little way into a course of (proper) CBT for eating disorders that I am beginning to see how tangled up I still am. The ‘how on earth did I not see this’ is the worst part, although I am still getting my head around that.
The biggest challenge so far, has been the NOT running. My running is absolutely not excessive. I have gradually improved my fitness in the time I’ve been running, I really enjoy it, it definitely is a strategy that helps me to manage anxiety, and I like feeling that I’m improving. In spite of not being excessive, it could be described as compulsive, target driven and rigid. I’ve been advised I need to be a higher BMI to in order to run and also look after my bones. I can see now how running could interfere with recovery. The difficulty I’ve had in actually stopping, and the level of agitation I still feel makes me realise how much I rely on it to manage my mood, and I am forced to admit that isn’t a marker of it being particularly healthy.
I’ve been going to a lovely, sociable running group, and telling the group leader that I am going to have to take a break (in spite of my initial resistance) was not easy. Partly because I’ll miss the group, partly because I was getting quite good! It wasn’t made easier by his flippant comment that he ‘hopes the break will have the health benefits ‘they’ think it will’. The implication being that exercise is always good, no matter what state of health you are in. Which is quite often true, but not always. And running is perhaps something that lends itself to compulsivity in ways that other activities don’t. It leaves me wondering how often running masks an unsettled relationship with food or our bodies, how we can tell the difference between healthy or compulsive exercise, and how aware the running community is about these sorts of issues.
So if you are a member of a running group, and a member of your group is pushing themselves too hard or too far, it might be better to ask them sooner rather than later. And if they muster up the courage to be honest with you, at least try to be respectful. I plan on being back running as soon as I can, but for now I’m going to (grudgingly) put my feet up and have a hot chocolate.