Portfolio of Hope

‘If the version of you from 5 years ago could see you right now, they’d be so proud.’

Keep going.’

I saw this quote and it made me think back to what I was doing/who I was, even, 5 years ago…

Aged 16, I was very much stuck in the depths of an eating disorder that was killing me.
I wasn’t ‘lost’ though- a word that gets ‘thrown about’ an awful lot regarding mental illnesses (and, understandably so, for they are very isolating, ‘personality-sucking’ things that can, quite literally, make you feel as though you have been abandoned in a dessert with no way of getting out). But, perhaps surprisingly, 5 years ago, before I was hospitalised, what I felt, in fact, was the precise opposite of lost. I was so sure of myself and what I wanted to do with my life- I wanted to be, no, I was going to be, a professional runner. I didn’t even revise for my GCSE’s because I was so certain that I was going to run for Great Britain, something which wouldn’t require any qualifications, only the ability to run fast, to be disciplined (and, disciplined I certainly was)…

5 years ago, my whole life was devoted to running- every waking minute was either spent running, or thinking about running. Every birthday present and Christmas present I asked for was running related. All my money was spent on buying the latest running shoes – I had to have the lightest shoes because; ‘Maybe they would make me run quicker.’ Everything tied into this belief I had that ‘lighter=faster’ and that, of course, in no way excluded my weight…

Unfortunately for my health, the ‘lighter=faster’ analogy was actually coming into fruition. As the weeks went by and my weight was, quite rapidly, declining, I was setting new personal bests and winning races. The thing is though, whilst my weight loss appeared to be ‘working‘, it was in no way at all sustainable. My dangerously low weight combined with my low heart rate and ‘off’ blood test results, all things which were, according to the nurses and psychiatrist involved in my care, becoming more worrying by the week meant that, inevitably, something had to give. It was either going to be a case of me stopping running, or me stopping living, I now realise, the latter being something which, undoubtedly, ‘could’ve been’, had I not been sectioned and forced to stop running when I was. And this? Looking back on all this? It haunts me, for I don’t think I would’ve made it to 21, or even 17, for that matter, because I was never going to stop running willfully. It was, quite literally, my everything– an ‘addiction‘, you could say, with me being of the genuine belief that I ‘couldn’t not run’ (if you’d have asked me to explain why I felt like I had to run, as I once was by my grandma, I would’ve been unable to answer- it was a belief that had become so ingrained in my head/so deep rooted in my whole being– that I felt it was beyond words).

So intense was my ‘need‘ to run that it took the decision (to continue running or to completely stop) being taken out of my hands entirely for me to realise that, actually, I could carry on without it, but I couldn’t carry on with it. And so, although being sectioned was the hardest thing I have ever experienced, it was also the very thing that saved me- not just literally (though, it is true that I probably wouldn’t be alive today had I not been sectioned), but also mentally, too. You see, even if I had been able to keep running at the level I was at back then/at the weight I was at with no damage to my physical health, mentally, I’d be in pieces. I’d be unable to say yes to anything outside of running. I’d miss out on so much- so many memories left unmade. If I died people would be able to say; ‘she liked running and she won a few races’, but that would literally be it. Because I was made to stop running though, now I can say yes to things. Now I can enjoy food. Now I can make memories. I like to think that, now, people will have more to say about me when I die than, ‘she was a decent runner when she was 16.’ Because, whilst I did feel ‘lost’ without running for a while/you could even say I ‘grieved‘ it, what I have now is worth a million times being able to run fast- now I have the freedom to do whatever I want with my life/to be whoever I want to be.

And so, the struggles that I have faced haven’t all been ‘for nothing.’ They have brought me to the conclusion that I am capable of anything, if only I devote my new purpose, not to running, but to my recovery. The good thing about having that- recovery– as a purpose? It will never go away, for recovery is an ongoing, one could even say ‘lifelong‘ journey- one that you constantly have to work on. Complacency/having the belief that you’re; ‘100% recovered’ and that; ‘everything’s fine’ is a recipe for disaster. Its good to acknowledge how far you’ve come, and to appreciate how you can do things now that, 5 years ago, you could only dream of being able to do, but its also important to recognise that there is always progress to be made. No one is completely, 100% ‘together‘ and, if they claim that they are, then, in my eyes, that’s a massive red flag (i.e., they’re lying to you).

To end this post by reverting back to the initial quote; ‘If the version of you from 5 years ago could see you right now, they’d be so proud’, I have to say that the biggest source of pride I feel when I compare myself 5 years ago to myself now, is that, 5 years ago? I was forced to recover, whereas, now? I choose recovery for myself. Every. Single. Day. And, that in itself is something that, if someone had told me 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed. How could I believe that I could not only; ‘not run’, but also not be miserable not running- that I could be happy, enjoying my life, and, excuse the cringiness here, ‘finding myself‘, not as; ‘Lisa the Runner‘, but just as; ‘Lisa‘- multifaceted, happy, alive.

This is progress.

This is living.

This is my story, and on it goes-

onto the next five years.

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