I step out the door to run 5 miles. No, 6. Ok, go.

I have so much anxiety I am nauseous and am on the verge of throwing up on and off for the last 24 hours. I need this run. I start to feel better the minute I start running.

At the 3-mile turn-around point I don’t feel even the least bit ready to head back, so I tell myself I’ll run 8 miles. I start to think about how all of my closest female friends are extraordinarily accomplished. Among them is a PICU night-shift nurse leader, nurse practitioner, police officer, behavioral health worldwide program manager, ranked Ironman finisher, professional runners…

And my family members include West Point graduate, engineers, Silver medal award recipient–the highest army aviation award one can receive, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, town mayor, and top 1% financial adviser in the US.

My family and friends have admirably risked their own lives to successfully save others’ lives.  They have graduated from the top schools, with the highest GPAs, with top honors. They are very successful entrepreneurs and businessmen who came from nothing.

They are national merit scholars, and high-scorers on SAT, ACT, GRE, & GMAT tests.

They have taught themselves to play guitar, had their artwork sold, sang in traveling choirs, been featured in books, magazines, and newspaper articles, and won awards at adult dance competitions. They serve on hospital boards, and lead Kiwanis chapters.

We have pastors and church leaders and generally spiritually fulfilled people in our family.

They are extremely accomplished. They are intelligent, creative, successful, and spiritual.

Meanwhile, I have done nothing. I have let anxiety and the subsequent eating disorder take over my entire brain for 60% of my life. Probably the only reason I was even able to complete the degrees that I have is because every paper where I could choose the topic had to do with eating disorders, running, or sport psychology. Because then I could concentrate. I’m fairly certain I own the lowest scores on the SAT & GRE tests in my entire familial gene pool. It used to take me an hour to overcome test anxiety and I skated by with average scores.

I get to the 4-mile turn-around point and am still not finished. I’ll just run 10 miles today. I am running faster and faster and it feels amazing. But I am pushing for more because I’m angry and fearful. I’m angry at the eating disorder. I’m angry at myself for letting it ruin so many things. I’m fearful that I am incapable of anything more than a stay-at-home mom. I’m sure that I have no talents, and I’m sad that I am completely spiritually void. This run is now both amazing and sad. My body feels good since I am in great cardiovascular shape but I am using it to burn calories to punish myself for eating. I also need this run to wage my sanity because some days I want to never wake up and other days I’m afraid of the person who thought that. It’s conflicting and I don’t know why I am running, lately. Calories or competition or clarity? I have to keep running to figure it out.

It’s overwhelming to look ahead and it’s sad to look back. It’s so complicated and everything is intertwined to the point where I don’t know what I believe or value anymore. And now that there is a tiny bit of cognitive function back I am pretty terrified of peeling the onion–so to speak–because I  never truly have. I don’t think there’s anything there. There’s nothing to peel back. And when that becomes true, then what? Where is there to go from there? Anytime I get even close to this point I run, very quickly, back to the eating disorder and it’s a never-ending cycle.

But that is not the life I want to live. And I want to live. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

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