I received a text message from a friend the other day that changed my life.
It. Changed. My. Life.
The friend who sent me the life-altering text message (we’ll call her Kat) has known me since my formative long-distance/marathon/triathlon running years. We met through work (we both were part-timers at a running shoe store), and after learning that Kat was just as avid of a marathoner as I, the two of us started going on jogs together, broke bread at the Spaghetti Factory together, and paced together in a number of local road races. We were friends for a number of years even after we both stopped working at the the shoe store, and although Kat eventually moved to the mainland, got married, and had a number of children (she now has enough kids to form her own basketball team, ha ha), we still kept in touch. When Kat and her clan moved back to Hawaii a little while ago, we reconnected and met up a few times at the mall and park so our kiddos could play together and we could sit back and chat.
Kat has known me before I even met my husband, and like my hubby, she has seen me through all of the ups and downs of my anorexia recovery. She always greeted me with a warm smile whenever we went out for dinners or runs, but I know seeing my sunken in cheeks and rail-thin arms greatly affected her. I cringe to think that we would go on training runs together during that time (yes, even at an extremely low weight I would still have to get in at least five miles or more on the road daily), and although I should NOT have been going on trails around the island, Kat knew my addiction to running was great and that there was no way of talking me out of a jog. So rather than try to argue with me, she’d instead suggest we go to our favorite restaurant that night after our run…and then persuade me to get some additional ice cream dessert to go with my plate of pasta. Kat had a keen way of trying to get me into a healthier state of mind, and for that, I am truly blessed.
Fast forward to the present day…November 2019 to be exact. During these past three weeks of embarking upon a full eating disorder recovery, I had been texting Kat a lot about what was happening to me mentally and physically (identifying food fears and eating cookies with my daughter). She was always so supportive in her replies (“Yay! Go for it! Eat the hamburger!!!”), and I trusted her and knew she understood how facing these body image issues and food rules was an incredibly trying and exhausting task. Most people that are recovering from a restrictive eating disorder suffer great mental anguish at the thought of getting “fluffier” or fear losing muscular strength and conditioning because food is increased while exercise is decreased (yes, I’m speaking for myself on this one), yet it is challenging for family and friends to comprehend and understand what said recovery warrior is actually experiencing.
Kat was not one of those people.
Kat herself was a remarkable rower in college and saw first hand how athletes could manipulate their weight using very unhealthy means, and as a result, she was very sympathetic towards the mental anguish I faced. Kat also knew how participating in a weight class sport (for me, it was weightlifting) could be very trying, and even prior to me reaching out to her about my full attempts at recovery, she would frequently ask how my training was going and if I was doing ok weight-wise.
Now, to the meat of this post: the text that changed my life. This past week I awoke at an obscenely early hour, and like most mornings, I immediately grabbed my phone to look at the scripture of the day on my Bible app. However, rather than see the NASB verse pop up on my screen, a blinking message from Kat materialized. I thought it was odd that she would text me at 2-something in the morning, but after opening up the message and reading her words, immediately, my heart dropped and tears sprang to my eyes.
The tears were not ones of sadness or anger. They were actually tears of revelation, a mixed feeling and stirring in my chest and belly that even now, many days later, I’m still not sure how to describe…and for a wordsmith like myself who is NEVER at a loss for words, this is unheard of and monumental. The best way I can detail what I felt during those wee hours in the morning is that it was truth, truth burrowing its’ way deep down into the pit of my stomach, spreading and meandering and reaching into my spirit and showing me light and warmth.
In the text, Kat was reminiscing on how she visited me in the hospital right before heading off to run the 2005 New York Marathon. I barely remember the conversation we had at the hospital or how her visit was, but SHE DID. Kat recounted that she HAD to visit me in the hospital before she left for the race because she thought my heart was going to stop beating and I’d die before she returned…and that on every hill she ran, she prayed and wished she could send me the strength she had so I could get better.
I couldn’t stop the tears then, and I can’t stop them now.
Feel free. You can cry right along with me.
The fact that someone cared about me so much, and to this day still supports and loves me so much, made me weep.
For so many years, I lost relationships–friends and boyfriends–to this illness. At the time those relationships ended, I always thought it was “their fault”. THEY were being inconsiderate and unable to comprehend the enormous emotional toll recovery took on me. THEY were weak and unable to help. THEY did ME wrong.
In actuality, I didn’t realize the enormous emotional toll my recovery was taking on THEM. I was actually pretty self-absorbed and blinded to the fact that their inability to be in my life at that particular time wasn’t a downfall of their characters–they were just so hurt, so scared, so fearful for me that they couldn’t bare to see me in such an awful state and didn’t know what to do.
Helplessness is awful. Some people are able to withstand the emotional roller coaster and the attached feelings of fear and anger that is seeing someone go through anorexia recovery. And now I understand that those individuals who could not just stand by and witness my emaciated frame deteriorate weren’t bad people–the reality of this illness may have just been too immense and vast and profound and hard to overcome and work through.
Kat is one friend who stood by my side, and her along with my husband, family, and a handful of other friends have seen me go from a weak 82 pound frailty to an individual fighting and challenging and standing firm in my strength. Kat’s message reminded me that I have come a long way from that girl that was initially diagnosed with anorexia over twenty years ago–I am now making food and exercise choices that I could never have done in high school (Eating pizza randomly! Taking days off of training!), and I am very open with the mental struggles I face (because anorexia is a mental disorder).
That text message was the turning point. That text message IS the turning point. I look at those words often and am reminded of where I have been and where I am going. I look at Kat’s memory of and know that there are so many people who were (and still are) praying and supplicating and willing me to get better and stay better. And I look at that message and know that their love for me is something I also want to give to others–and I certainly cannot do so if I am underweight, undernourished, and mentally and physically weak.
Thank you, Kat, for your text. You may not realize it, but your words changed my life.