One of my Ragnar teammates, Katie, has been sharing little getting-to-know-you blog posts about all our teammates. Yesterday, the post about me went live. And reading it, and all the lovely comments, was ... difficult.
To be honest, I've been having a really difficult time with this whole Ragnar experience - with getting excited, with being a supportive and encouraging teammate, with hearing people use words that terrify me like "success story." It's really hard to parade around as one of a dozen healthy people who've saved their lives by becoming runners when I feel like a giant fraud and a failure.
Picture a girl.
She's lonely and has low self-confidence. She's deeply depressed, and at times has very dark and morbid thoughts. She binge eats several times a week, trying to numb the pain of her situation. And she spends hours upon hours watching movies or sitting at her computer playing games, because she has no energy (physical or emotional) to leave her apartment. Her work piles up around her, there are stacks of dishes left dirty in the sink, and laundry remains in piles on her bedroom floor. She showers infrequently, rarely brushes her hair - she can't be bothered to care about anything, let alone her physical appearance.
That girl was me in summer 2010, right before I started to get healthy.
But to tell the whole truth, it also describes me now. I may not weigh 345 pounds, but I'm in exactly the same mindset and mental condition that I was back then. Admitting this fills me with a variety of emotions. Embarrassed, ashamed, weak. But in a way, I also feel strong for saying it. For admitting it aloud, but also, for actually realizing it myself.
I used to love blogging. I loved going to the gym, and running, and eating well. I loved losing weight. I loved how all of it made me feel: like a survivor. I was once killing myself slowly with obesity and compulsive eating issues, but not anymore. I had tough days, but on the whole, I wanted to get out there and live, to truly enjoy the life I had been hiding from for so long.
I'm alive now. But I'm not living.
Since getting my Fall contract offer on Wednesday, I've barely slept - four or five hours a night, and never more than an hour at a time. My eating has been awful, and my body aches from punishing myself with extra-long bike rides to try and counteract the binges. I've cried, sobbed, wept, at least eight times a day. I've made phone call after phone call, trying to get advice and wisdom from the most important people in my life.
Some said to stay: it's the "adult thing to do," they said. The responsible thing. Stay where you have a definite job offer. Stay where the money is good. My mother's solution was to stay but seek therapy; I agree with the idea, in part, though it presents its own set of challenges ... namely, there's only one counselor/therapist in this town - his name is Justin, and we're not on speaking terms. There are a few other small cities an hour's drive in any direction, but with my lack of transportation, it's really a tough situation to be in.
Others said to leave: it's not going to be easy to get back, and it's going to mean a lot of sacrifices. You may never find a job that pays this well again. But ultimately, you need to do what is best for your body and mind, not your bank account. You've worked too hard, you've come too far. You've already pulled yourself back from the edge once. You get one life - make it count.
With the people I've been fully honest with, the choice is simple: you can't stay in California, it's killing you. You already spent so many years inside on the couch, sad and aching. Don't waste another day.
One of my biggest issues with making this decision is a fear of disappointing my family. They are proud of my academic and career accomplishments, and I don't want them to see me as anything less than the success I've tried to project. It's easy, then, to understand why they say to stay: because I've neglected to tell them so much about my experience here. It doesn't seem so bad when you only see the tip of the iceberg ... but there's an awful lot under the surface.
I say that I love my job, but it's not entirely true. I love teaching, but this university and this town just aren't a right fit for me. The worst I'll admit to is an occasional "tough day," when honestly, a lot of my dark thoughts have slowly crept back - not daily, and not to a point where I'd consider acting on them. But they're there, and that scares me. And I haven't told them the depth of my food issues since moving here: about the binges, about the real struggles I've been having with staying focused on my health. I've been hiding behind a false success, saying I've been maintaining within a few pounds. Maintaining weight is one thing. Doing it in a healthy way is another. And taking sleeping pills at 3 in the afternoon to stop yourself from overeating isn't healthy. Neither is taking laxatives, or ignoring my body cues and biking long distances because I don't deserve to rest, I have to work off this binge. Food and exercise weren't things I used to punish myself in Chicago, they were things I worked with in order to improve my health because I loved my life and wanted to live it fully. Here, though, they're just another source of anxiety.
I woke up yesterday and dreaded the thought of getting out of bed. My sink is full of dishes, there's a pile of student work to be graded, and unless I call my family or friends, I'm not going to interact with anyone today. My legs ached from a 20 mile bike ride the day before, plus 12 the day before that, and 17 the day before that, and 19 the day before that, and so on, and so on.
I sat at my desk and made four lists: pros and cons for staying in California, pros and cons for moving back to Chicago - with sub- and counter-arguments for each point. I made a detailed financial plan for both situations. And in the end, the choice was really clear.
There will be a lot of challenges with getting back to Chicago, lots of logistics to be worked out. Numerically, there are far more pros for staying in California. But in terms of weight, the California cons are far heavier. And I'm not willing to sacrifice another day of my life being unhappy with where I am and what I am doing with my life.
I'm moving back to Chicago, final decision, end of discussion.
Moving to California was a mistake, without a doubt. But as the saying goes, mistakes aren't always regrets. I've learned a lot about myself here, about what I value most in life, about what is most important to me, about the nature of addiction and the process of recovery. And that, I am grateful for. But, as is the case with all mistakes, we have to learn from them and move on.
I'm ready to move on, to move forward. And for me, that means moving back. I'm ready to start living again. This has been a revelatory year, and I have come to understand that living meagerly in a place you love with people who make you happy is preferable to a life that is not being truly lived at all.