NEDAwareness Week Day 1: Coping with Anxiety
For me, disordered eating and anxiety are intertwined. They feed off of each other until I am hollow. It’s a parasitic emptiness, one that consumes your every thought and action until you are emotionally void. The cycle is cruel – anxiety begets restriction and shame; restriction and shame beget anxiety. Ignored, the combination can easily spiral into depression.
We’re kicking off NEDAwareness Week with the root of my eating disorder: Anxiety. When I’m feeling anxious, I turn to pen and paper for comfort. This was one of those times. The following was written during a bout of anxiety earlier this year.
I should have gone to bed earlier, but I never do. The weight of the world becomes exceptionally heavy right around 10 p.m. The problems, the fears, the anxiety – they entangle me. I stare at the wall across the room and shift uncomfortably. I sink down into the cushion, staring, thinking. It feels as though pieces from five different puzzles are swirling within my mind, each trying – yet failing – to connect. I eventually break my stare and pull myself off the couch. I brew some chamomile, hoping to lull myself to sleep, and make a list of the things I need to do. Laundry, bills, call the grandparents, go to Target, find a therapist, write that blog you’ve been meaning to write. I set it aside (with the six other lists I’ve made this week) and crawl into bed. I pull the covers around me, eyes barely exposed, and breathe a slow, deep sigh. I continue my stare, fixated on the ceiling’s shadows. The cerebral fog begins to dissipate. My mind bounces from emotion to emotion – dread at the idea of repeating today, excitement for the week’s trail run quickly followed by an instinctual social anxiety. A craving to just be alone. I stare a little while longer and eventually roll over, reaching for my mug. I take a long sip, turn out the light, and return my gaze to the darkened ceiling. The tea was cold.
I hate feeling this way. This “I’m going to listen to the same four Lorde songs on repeat and lay on the floor” feeling. I’m experiencing life through a pair of smudged, cloudy glasses, and my typically optimistic and bright perspective now has a hazy, blurred lens. Everything just feels hard. Things I normally enjoy – making dinner, weekly group runs, journaling – become laborious and taxing. The smallest grain of sand is enough to uproot my entire existence. I’m not sure what led to this – stints of anxiety, the occasional bad day, uncertainty regarding my future – small things, sure, but not enough to lead to this sinking, darkening feeling. I recognize bits and pieces of this lens: the desire to run away (and the increased weekly mileage in an attempt to do so), the same Spotify playlist, the increased social anxiety and desire to isolate myself, the self-criticism and body shaming – but some things are new and difficult to navigate. The increased heart rate and shortness of breath, the periodic (and inopportune) bouts of tears, sometimes losing visual and mental focus, dreading the everydayness of my still-new routine. I am craving change, not necessarily in scenery (although that seems like the quick and easy fix), but in purpose. I feel listless and disengaged. Mediocre and unmotivated. I hate this feeling.
I’ve tried to run away from myself before. Many times. Every so often I become incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin. It scratches like cheap wool and wrinkles in all the wrong places. I am displaced within myself. Anxiety creeps in, and I crave an easy out. Isolation. Restriction. Obsessive tendencies. A dangerous cocktail of criticism and control becomes my coping mechanism. Anxiety tightens its grip and, in return, I tighten mine – disordered eating, obsessive exercising, social unease, and loneliness. I desperately want an out, to be free from myself. To run away. But no matter where I go, no matter how far I run, I take myself with me.
Also – today we’re launching the Lane 9 Project – a project by active women for active women. We aim to empower women struggling in the ninth lane. If you’re an active woman with disordered eating and/or amenorrhea, we want you to know you’re not alone, you’re not stuck, and you’re not done. This project will be your community, and hopefully the start of your recovery. If you’ve been there, these are your people.