I really love receiving Embrace:Me contributions, and I’m thrilled with the stories I’ve had the opportunity to post so far (thanks, Savanna and Emily!). I’m especially excited about tonight’s post, though, because it comes from a person whom I am am fortunate enough to consider a friend: Jill, who is also a fellow blogger. Jill and I met through our blogs a couple years ago and even though we’ve never met in person (we’ll fix this someday, Jill!) she has been a source of inspiration and support to me for a while. Jill is an accomplished runner who utilizer her passion to give back to the community, whether it’s through helpful product reviews on her blog, coaching with Team Challenge, or raising money through Team in Training. She is also the proud owner of a beautiful puppy named Jade, who, if Jill’s Twitter feed is to be believed, is a source of joy and occasional consternation.
And now, without further ado, Jill’s Embrace:Me story…
My struggles with body image started at a young age. Before I was even a pre-teen, an older girl in my neighborhood told me I had a “bubble butt” with such obvious disgust I knew I must be horrifying. I was in an accident the summer before I started 6th grade that required major plastic surgery on my nose, which made me hyper-aware of my features. In college I went through a stretch where I popped packs of over-the-counter diet pills until a friend staged an “intervention” in which she tossed them.
About 6 years ago I moved to a new city, where I had no friends and my job kept me sitting in my house all day while my husband worked long hours. I was lonely and isolated and dealing with some pretty big emotional baggage… so all of my years of disordered eating patterns and body image struggles blew up into a full on eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa restricting sub-type with compensatory exercise compulsion and perfectionism… if we’re going to be precise.
I spent hours at the gym and consumed very little food. I will not list any numbers about weight or calories because that can be triggering to others (and probably would be to me still!) but I was in a really bad spot. But then my mom and I decided to train for a marathon to celebrate her recovery from breast cancer…
In January 2008 I completed the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix. I wasn’t aware enough to remember my first marathon as fully as I would like due to brain fog (your brain really doesn’t function well when it isn’t nourished). But when I came across the finish line I knew I wanted to keep doing them. So I gained back a little weight on my own, thinking I was “fixing” my eating disorder.
In January 2009 I tripped and faceplanted in my 3rd marathon… and the whole reason I fell was that my mind was not in the moment. Everything was foggy, the culmination of years of starving myself and training excessively. Despite lying to myself and being convinced I was doing better, I still didn’t take care of myself properly and was still pretty entrenched in eating disordered behavior. After the stitches from the marathon fall came out I checked into an eating disorder treatment facility.
I spent 3 months in the intensive outpatient program, and have been in outpatient support ever since.
I’m not going to lie, gaining weight back over these past two years has been hard… As clothes get tighter and my body transforms again I immediately want to ridicule myself. But I’ve been learning a lot of tools to help cope and talk myself away from the edge. Having supportive family, friends and peers is a huge asset as well.
I debated what kind of photos I wanted to use with this post… but when I finally decided to just try taking a couple of pics I was pleased that I didn’t insult myself when I saw the results. In fact, I was kind of happy with them. No longer are all my ribs displayed, nor are my cheeks sunken; and I’m actually happy about that. I’m learning to embrace who I am and recognize that the scars (inside and outside) are just tattoos of my life experiences.
I have the Japanese kanji for beauty and balance tattooed on my ankle to remind me to notice the beauty that is everywhere in this world (even in me) and to strive to keep everything in balance. If I’m carrying too much of a burden around on myself, eventually I will topple over. It’s healthy to pause for a mental/physical/emotional timeout and allow ourselves to re-charge so we can continue to be our own unique selves!
To find out more about Embrace:Me, please read my original post on the project, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you have. Remember that Embrace:Me relies on submissions from people like you! If you’d like to participate by submitting your own story of body confidence, you can reach out to me via email at icametorun [at] gmail [dot] com, on Twitter, or through Facebook.