Submissions from the Lane 9 Project community, in response to our November writing prompt “I wish you knew”.
I wish you knew the pain you caused me. I wish you knew you were not listening to me. I wish you could hear the words I said, and the ones I screamed inside my head, when you said, “Stop running. Forever.”
I have struggled with amenorrhea for five years. I have generalized anxiety disorder. My mother is battling metastatic breast cancer. But, through thick and thin, running has been there for me. On a run, I am me, the world is open, and everything is alright.
I wish you knew the feeling that I get when I run. I wish you could see the joy it brings me. I wish you knew how running gives me the power and motivation to fuel my body when it is challenging. I wish you knew the way it makes my life whole. I wish you knew the joy and high from finishing your very first marathon or breaking that 38-minute 10K barrier you so desperately wanted to break in your very last collegiate race.
I wish you knew how much you broke me when you told me that my hormones would not recover, that running is “just bad” for hormones, and that no matter the work I had put in to gain weight to reach an objectively good BMI, running competitively would never be possible for me in order to get a period. I wish I knew if I believe you: some days I do, and the darkness of many months where I stopped myself from going for a run out of fear was overpowering. Other days I don’t. I am defiant and strong, and I will find another doctor, another opinion, another way to restore my period without giving up my deepest love.
By Calesse Smith
I wish you knew what it’s like to have a battle waging inside your brain at all hours of the day. A battle of your thoughts. Your anxieties. These mental demons that plague me. About food. Your body. What others think of you. Am I good enough? What do I have next on my to-do list? You should be doing more! You shouldn’t be thinking like that. They never rest. Even when I sleep.
I wish you knew what it’s like to feel as though you can never sit still. To have this internal pressure propelling you forward, always forward, never to just rest. To just be. What does it even mean to be? I feel like I forgot what that meant long, long ago. Almost in another life. I just do, do, do. All the time I am doing. I often ask myself, “Am I a human being or a human doing?”
I wish you knew what it’s like to constantly be comparing myself to everyone around me. She is thinner than me, she has longer legs, her hair is silkier, she’s better at connecting with people, she’s more eloquent, she has three kids, is working full time, and she always looks like she just got a makeover!
I wish you knew how much I want to be just like any other person. Able to relax at the end of a hard day of work. Able to sit, breathe, enjoy the present moment. Able to enjoy a meal out with friends without worrying about it for days beforehand, strategizing for ways to compensate for the indulgent meal that is most certainly not part of “the plan.”
I wish you knew how it feels to have an insatiable desire to control. When there is so much in life that we can’t control, we grasp tightly to the few things we can. Food. Physical appearance. Productivity. Orderliness. Why is it then, that the more strongly I strive to control these things, the more they tighten their grip on me?
I wish you knew that it feels like a pair of strong, large hands are wrapped around my lungs at all times. That there are few moments throughout the day when I even manage to take a full breath. In…out…
When you ask me, “What’s wrong?” or you want to know why I would prefer to stay in my room buried in a book, how do I even begin to answer you?
Sometimes, everything feels wrong.
But it feels so good when you ask. To know that you care. That you want to know. To help.
Even though I can’t answer you right now, please, don’t ever stop asking me what’s wrong. Because one day, I hope to be able to give you a glimpse into what life behind this serene facade is like. Beware, however, it’s like stepping out onto a stormy sea in a rickety little row boat. Are you prepared?
But right now, you feel like my life preserver. My head is just barely above water, and the waves are threatening to overcome me, but if you keep throwing out that lifeline to me, one day I’m going to grab on to it. One day I’m going to drag myself up from this story sea. And the waters will become calm once again.
By Alana O’Mara
I wish you knew when you were younger that you need to be independent. You didn’t have to follow what everybody else was doing; you could and should eat, that’s what normal sixth-graders, normal human beings, normal mammals, and normal animals do! No one has beat the system – and you’re not going to be the exception. You’re going to come to grips with ED only to realize it still lurks in the shadows, like a virus laying dormant. And then you find running – a sport, a team, the mindful pounding of feet through puddles on dirt roads, a challenge, exhaustion, and fulfillment. You’ll start to feel good again: meaningful, special, useful, relaxed, and competent. Until the thoughts come back and you wave them off ‘Oh, this is just what runners do’. You keep walking a fine line convincing everyone including yourself you’re doing just fine…how could it not be? You’re running in college, you’re with the pack?
Until you fracture your spin, then heel, then tibia, then metatarsals. You’re a broken record, depleted from treating your body like a machine – expecting perfect performance if and only if fueled with the perfect foods. I wish you knew what those voices were sooner; I wish you knew they were dangerously striving to make you “better”, always be doing something, never give in, and never relax.
I never took my foot off the pedal for as long as I can remember…even when I was injured. I never slowed down because I never wanted to get out of shape, or fear what it felt like to just be. But I wish I knew I needed relief, a break was my best shot at healing and actually moving forward.
So here now, as I sit, not running in months and maybe going to a yoga class or two I am starting to get there. I wish you knew that you’d have this dream one day…long after college. Where you see your cross-country team and coaches. You are in your new healthy body and your coach is proud – he smiles because he knows you’re ready to get back. That in this dream you get to wear your green and white jersey one more time and that size, perfection, food…it all didn’t matter. That you just needed to take care of yourself, listen and have confidence to know who you are and what you need.
To anyone who has ever praised me for being “fit”
To anyone who has ever praised me for being “SO dedicated”
To anyone who has ever identified me as “the super star runner”
To anyone who has thought of me as positive, happy, optimistic, and “just a person who has I all together”
I wish you knew.
I wish you knew the social isolation that I plagued among myself from constant running and working out.
I wish you knew how desperately I wish I could have stopped binging after years of restriction.
I wish you knew the loneliness and depression I felt both while having my eating disorder and having to part with my eating disorder.
I wish you knew how scary it is to lose your period. How hard it is to recognize my body needs to be larger than the images of runners portrayed in the media to be healthy.
I wish you knew that I wish I were you. That I wish I wasn’t expected to be fit or fast or thin.
I wish you knew diet culture had warped me into this fitness and food obsessed person.
I wish you knew sometimes I wish that if I could have gone back and enjoyed my years in high school and college that were taken over by my eating disorder and the consequences of it.
I wish you knew that you are okay.
That you are okay despite what society tells you.
You are enough.
You are fast enough.
You are smart enough.
You are where you are supposed to be.
Your body is amazing.
Thank it for all it allows you to be and how it carries you through space.
I wish you knew that not everyone and everything is how it appears.
Contribute your essay, or share your story, with Lane 9 Project.