The past couple weeks I’ve been struggling with what to say here. I find myself toeing the line between being this uplifting, the worst is behind me, wanna-be inspiration, and this car accident, can’t look away because I’m secretly interested to see if she lands on her feet, not-so-hot mess. And the reality is, I don’t really want to be either but I think I’m a little of both. So in the interest of honesty, let’s go ahead and get real personal.
Lately I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around accepting where I am both physically and mentally. When I look in the mirror now I don’t like what I see 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time I think “how dare you criticize? You did this.” It’s the voice that reminds me that every step I took, every mile I ran, every food I avoided, led me to this injury and forced me into this body. But I’m trying to change the way I treat myself because in that regard, the voice is right. I did do this. I allowed myself to take them blame.
See, the worst thing about all of this isn’t the things I did to get me to this point. It’s the fact that I still haven’t made peace with the part of myself that landed me here. I’ve never once said “I’m sorry” to my body for pushing it so far past it’s breaking point that it literally broke. I’ve never once said “thank you” for enduring the physical and emotional pain I caused myself for one more mile, or 1 less minute. And I’ve certainly never said the words “you deserve better.”
As much as this journey has taken me from a dark and scary place to somewhere in the direction of healing, the overwhelming emotion when I think of where I am now to where I was before is still failure. Failure is a tricky one. We’re told to embrace it, to learn from it, to be better because of it. But for so many of us the fear of it is so paralyzing that we never even get to those other parts. In my case, I let the fear of failure take over my life so much so that I didn’t even notice that I had inherently failed my own body.
For me, running had an innate way of preying on that weaker mindset. That mindset that wanted nothing more than to succeed, because anything less would be a failure. For years and years I let my self worth be completely defined by how fast I ran or how much I weighed and never once did I stop and ask myself, at what cost? There were no consequences for my actions that mattered outside of failing to meet my own or others’ expectations. The harder I pushed myself the more I started to feel myself breakdown, not only physically but also mentally. In my mind though, that was just another weakness that needed to be overcome. My mental game wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t enough.
I can remember so clearly laying in bed on a vacation a month before the Boston Marathon and crying because I didn’t want to run anymore. My boyfriend at the time (God bless him for marrying me anyway) asked me why I needed to do it then. To him it seemed so simple. If you don’t enjoy it anymore, just stop. But that was never an option in my mind. The crushing weight of that failure would be far worse than any mental burnout.
But it was more than just a mental burnout. Over the next 10 months, I let this obsession eat away at the rest of my life. By the time I got an MRI report that said I had fractured my back, my mental state was so far beyond broken. And all I could see was failure. My first inclination was to blame running. But that blame quickly shifted to myself. And not in the cautionary, learn from your training mistakes kind of way. It manifested as a crippling feeling of inadequatecy and a fear of what or who I would be without running.
It only seems natural being that for so long I had lived in fear. I feared what would happen if I lost my death grip control of my body. I feared what would happen if I missed a workout and performed poorly on a training run. I feared what would happen if I missed my race goals. But I never feared what I was doing to myself along the way.
When I look at where I’ve been and where I am now I can’t help but feel that residual feeling of failure. A failure to maintain control of my body despite all other factors outside of my reach. A failure to like what I see in the mirror. A failure to be able to fully put these feelings of inadequacy behind me. And despite the leaps and bounds (or more like careful, PT supervised steps) of progress I’ve made from where I once was, there are days I still feel the pressures and defeats I once did.
But No Zero Days means that failure is not an option because failure does not exist in this equation. There is no such thing as “not enough” and the only way to fail is not recognizing that. The only way to fail is believing you’ve failed to begin with.
So, I think it’s time I made peace with that. I think it’s time I said those things I’ve never before said. Rather than simply accepting where I am as another failure, I’m going to take a step not backward, but to the side and say “I’m sorry.” And “thank you”. And “You deserve better”. I’m going to (try to) stop looking in the mirror and saying “you did this.” and start saying “you’re doing this.” And it’s a hell of a lot better than what you were doing before.