Running: Away from or towards myself

I have only one tattoo. It’s located on the inside of my left wrist and simply says, “Stay”. I got it immediately after leaving my first ED treatment center, at 18 years old, and haven’t gotten another since. It’s the most important message from myself, to myself. It’s also the reason why I feel like sh*t today.

I recently went on a trip to Hawaii, my first trip since being back from living abroad, about 9 months ago. I was VERY excited. Many things happened on the trip, but one thing, in particular, turned my world upside down:

I went for a run.

Let’s rewind a bit. When my eating disorder began at age 14, I had been playing soccer my whole life, but suddenly I felt the need to take up cross-country. Needless to say, as my ED developed, so did my solo exercise career, and my days were consumed by running, by myself, hours on end, until I finally collapsed from exhaustion. It has been years since I went to a gym, and in the past 9 months, I have eliminated exercise completely, mainly to help with weight gain. So when I began running in Hawaii, I didn’t expect I would last long, maybe a couple of minutes, since I was completely out of shape. Wrong. I ran for two hours straight.

After that, the days were a blur. If I could have, I would have run 24/7. All of a sudden, my craving was sky high. No matter how many miles I ran, I never felt satisfied. It was back: the unquenchable thirst, the bottomless well. The more I ran, the more my body hurt the next day, and the only thing that made it feel better was to keep running. So I did. Until the blackout spells got longer, the muscle spasms more frequent, and eventually fainting became a daily nuisance.

After all of these years, I didn’t think I still needed my tattoo to remind me NEVER to numb my emotions with running. But here I am now, four days run-free, and the only thing keeping me from sprinting out the door is the word engraved on my left wrist, which I am repeating over and over: “Stay, stay, stay.”

“STAY!” I command myself. Stay here. Stay in this moment, this precious moment. Stay present with your emotions. Stay steady. Stay strong. Stay, for you cannot run from yourself.

It is scary how quickly I fell back into my addiction. The illusion that my running obsession is “under control”has been shattered, and a new awareness has set in.Fighting the urge to run is exhausting, and not worth the small “escape” it provided while I was on vacation. Looking at my tattoo is helpful, but it does make me regret not having done so a week ago, before taking my first run. Despite this, I am 100% committed to turning this into a learning experience, rather than allowing guilt or shame to take me down.

For those who can relate, my heart goes out to you. I am with you now, living from moment to moment, praying the urges subside the more I ignore them. I know there is someone else out there experiencing this exact same thing, in this exact same moment, and that knowledge strengthens me. I am not alone. If such a person happens to be reading this right now, my parting words are for you:

We can do this. We are doing this. We are becoming who we are meant to be, and we are improving the world by doing so.


(In case adding quotes would improve my article, here are two à propos)

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.” – Gandhi

Hadley Thayer, 23 years old, recovering from anorexia nervosa (and a hodgepodge of other addictions such as drugs, exercise, cutting etc…) I attended UC Berkeley and Georgetown University for undergrad, focusing on neuroscience, immunology/virology, and political science/IR respectively. I’m in the process of falling back in love with life. I am an extremely passionate person.