Muscle memory 

Last Sunday was bright and beautiful. I woke up late, as I enjoy to sleep in when I have a day off. 

I slept a little later than I meant to, but with sleep, I trust my body. It used to be that, as with food, I fought tooth and nail against my inner clock. I would force myself to stay awake even when a nap seemed logical or like a nice idea. Naps were a waste of time, and I didn’t need them.

One of the things I’ve really come to appreciate, for healthy reasons, is sleep. I nap if I feel like it now. Some days I don’t “feel like it” and nap anyway.

Getting back to my point- last Sunday was amazing because I got a lot of sleep. And because I went for a run. I also ruined my favorite pair of running shoes, but that’s kinda besides the point.

I went for a run! If you’ve been following my story at all, you might either be confused, or you might be doing a happy dance on the inside…a run?!

Yeah, the correct reaction would be a happy dance. People, I haven’t intentionally exercised in months. I think the last time was in the early Spring. Obviously, I’m not keeping track. 

Not keeping track…

What a thought. For so many years, I exercised whenever I could. If my family was going out of town for the day , I had to go for a walk before we left. It was exhausting and it kind of makes me sick to think about. My brain was full of numbers. Minutes I “had” to exercise, calories I was eating, time left in the day.

Sunday, when I set out for my run, I felt so good. I had no route in mind (a must for my previous, teen self) and I had an iPod full of podcasts. I began walking, thinking I’d go where my body took me. (Also, if this turned out to be a failure, at least I was being my good, multitasking self and feeding my brain a constant stream of words).

Well, the podcast thing just wasn’t working. I had walked a few blocks and was bored already. I craved movement, and not in a punishing way like before. I turned on some music, Broods I think, and my feet tripped to the beat

“hallelujah, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free ”

And I was free.

I ran out of joy, I ran out of peace. Out of rest, and caring for my body. Hallelujah, I’m free.

It was only until a few days later that I realized: I ran and when I was tired, I walked. When I got home, I sat down for a while and relaxed. And the epiphany…my brain can heal

It almost brings me to tears to think of it. I ran! And when I got done, my first thought wasn’t about how many calories I had burned, or what I would or wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t about having to do this again tomorrow. 

It wasn’t about obsession. 

And maybe you’re thinking ok, big deal. And maybe if I had never been on this journey, I would too. The thing is, I recognize this as a huge leap for me.

When I was first told I had an eating disorder, I felt so alone. At the time, I didn’t use the Internet a whole lot. I read as much as I could about anorexia, and many of the texts were probably outdated. One thing that I remember very clearly, is the belief that I better heal and get my act together before my teen years were over, as my brain would stop having plasticity and the capacity to change (in my mind) the minute I turned 20.

New research and studies on the brain have come out, and given people like me hope. Healing is possible.

My run is a perfect example of the new research being legitimate. Like my dietitian told me last year,  imagine the pioneers. Their wagon wheels made ruts in the earth that can be seen (in places) to this day. This is a perfect metaphor when talking about the habits and rituals I held for so long. My brain is a lot like the dirt those wagon wheels cut into. My actions and thoughts for ten years left big indentations in the healthy parts of my brain. Over time, these pathways might heal, given the proper thoughts, adequate fuel, and cessation of harmful behaviors (as much as I’d like to say I’m there, I’m not quite yet). Some day they might become like those wheel ruts: old trails I walked frequently at one time, but must search to find the scars of now. 
I’ve seen many subtle signs of healing happening. This revelation is the most prominent so far though. And I surely didn’t get here fast or easily. I see a long road ahead of me. Recovery is hard, and I know I have a lot of work to do still. It’s breakthroughs like this that give me the courage and hope to continue and keep moving forward.


 

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