Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Big O

I'm sure I'm not the first to express disappointment in the big O, Oprah, that is. What I mean to say is, Fuck You, Oprah.

When I saw the Weight Watchers commercial starring the big O, I immediately knew there was something suspicious about it. It turns out, the billionaire acquired 10 percent of the company, and don't you know that their stock soared right after the ad aired? Who would have thunk it? Certainly not the former talk show host. Of course not. She just wants to help people.

You see, it's not enough to be one of the most recognized names in television. It's not enough to be a billionaire, and it's definitely not enough to win medals and get honorary degrees. No, if you're not THIN, none of that matters, right Oprah? Being thin is what life's about.

When you look in the mirror, Oprah knows you're not supposed to see something you like; you're supposed to hate yourself and pick on every flaw. Then you can turn to the multi-billion-dollar beauty industry for help, yes? Take this or that pill. Nip or tuck here or there, or simply call Weight Watchers. Oprah knows you want to.

Oprah claims, "Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be..." followed by a lot of blah blah.

Some people are calling this inspirational. I call it bullshit, complete and total bullllllllllshiiit. You may not be confident and secure in who you are, dear O, but many people of all shapes and sizes are.

Stop inflicting your insecurities onto others. Go back to your charity work. You were more likable when you were doing that. Mostly, just shut the fuck up and stop damaging the impressionable minds of young individuals and people who might be hurting with your quest to make yet more fucking cash.


Meanwhile, France has taken one small step in the right direction by banning models who are at an unhealthy and potentially dangerous weight.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Art of the Relapse

Why are relapses so common, and how do you get to a place where you no longer fall into those dark holes? A relapse takes planning or at least some specific steps leading up to it. It doesn't usually occur out of the blue. Forgetting or refusing to use the tools of recovery is what will land you in a relapse. Once you have recovered, you always have tools at your disposal; it's up to you whether or not you use them.

If you look at any addiction, relapses are the norm. Statistically speaking, you are more likely to relapse at some point than fully recover. Considering that a relapse with anorexia could mean death, I know how lucky I am to have escaped the clutches of that hellish illness. What was it that allowed me to beat the odds?

The way I look at it, choosing to recover in a moment isn't as difficult as making a commitment to recovery. Both take courage, but one takes courage and continual hard work. It's a little bit like the resolutions people make at the beginning of the new year versus making lasting lifestyle changes. Most people say they want to exercise more or change a bad habit, and they might start the year off smoking less or exercising more. It's rare that people continue these changes throughout the year, though. That's because the commitment has to be reaffirmed every time the temptation to go back to old ways rears its head, and, in recovery from addiction or eating disorders, the temptation crops up a lot, especially in the beginning stages.

One of the reasons why relapsing is so common is because you have to stay one step or many steps ahead of the illness or addiction. You also have to let go of something that can feel like a security blanket, and that is scary. Ultimately, you have to find and trust yourself, and then form a new identity apart from the illness.

Many people claim that they want to get well, but they are not willing to give up certain aspects of the illness. I can think of one woman in particular who often says she wants to recover, but she wants to do it within her own unrealistic guidelines. For example, she wants recovery, but she is unwilling to give up restricting and counting calories. She wants to get well, but she is unwilling to gain weight. She wants to be healthy, but she refuses to stop focusing on exact food exchanges and the exact amount of exercise she engages in each day, every day. These are conflicting goals. There's no room for real choice, no real options in her life other than which low-calorie snack she chooses or how she will skip or replace this meal if that meal is XX calories more than she determines it "should" be. What a nightmare. You can't have it both ways. Yes, change is hard, but you can't expect to get well while hanging onto the very behaviors that are keeping you sick.

Please note that I'm not talking about using a meal plan as a guideline here. That is fine, especially in the beginning stages of recovery, but if you can't or won't allow for some looser rules here and there, some variety now and then, you probably won't get very far.

Some people give up their unhealthy patterns for a while, but then, when it starts to feel too uncomfortable, too painful, too hard or too unfamiliar, they revert back to old habits. It takes tremendous courage and strength to keep moving forward when you are scared and hurting.

One of the best concepts I have heard regarding recovery from bulimia is that the best way to stop binging and purging is to stop dieting. When you learn to give your body what it needs, you are far less likely to end up in those big swings of starving and then binging and then purging and then restricting and suffering through all of it. The same can be said of any addiction. The more you take care of yourself every single day, the more you will uncover the ability to stay on a healthy path. The more you are aware of why you rely on the unhealthy patterns, the more you can find new, healthier ways to cope.

A good exercise is to describe in detail what you want your life in recovery to look like. If you find that you are too afraid to give up certain behaviors or are unwilling to try new, healthier behaviors, ask yourself if you are truly ready to change. If not, explore the reasons why you don't want to make the necessary changes. It helps if you have some guidance from a professional or a close friend.

When I first made a committed attempt to get well, I was fortunate to have some guidance from someone who had been through a similar series of events. Focusing on one change at a time was helpful, but the main thing for me was to eat at least three meals every single day, no matter what. That was my first commitment, and I stuck to it religiously. I still do. I was reminded that people all over the world eat three to five meals a day without getting fat, and that gave me hope. It reassured me that I didn't have to starve myself. I could be active, healthy and not balloon to an absurd weight. But the first year, maybe even longer, was not easy. I was challenged in all areas, and it was more of a struggle than not. In the end, it was all worth it, but I can understand why people get cold feet when trying to heal.

But that's the only way to get to the other side. You have to go outside of your comfort zone in order to change. When you're ready, it's not as much of a struggle. With support, it makes the transition easier. In the beginning stages, though, you have to wake up every day and ask yourself how you are going to stick to your recovery. What specific actions are you going to take to stay well? For some, it's more of a moment-to-moment thing. You just have to trust that it will get better, but you have to keep committing to your health.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Setting Boundaries

Sometimes my brain is filled with so many fragmented thoughts, it's hard to know how to sort it all out. With some added stress in my life, the sorting process becomes even more complicated. Rather than fight it, I'm going to accept that this post will probably be a little bit disjointed, just me dumping my thoughts somewhere, so they don't keep clogging my brain.

This morning, I read a free very short book about how to overcome binge eating disorder. I was curious, because it's my feeling that all eating disorders are related, even if the symptoms of each are different. The author offered some good advice, but a lot of the material was poorly documented and contained inaccuracies. With anyone being able to call themselves an author these days, it's important to do your own research. I suppose if there's at least some good advice in the book, it's worth reading, but this isn't one I would recommend. I think Geneene Roth and others do a much better job of offering valid information about binge eating and how to overcome it.

What's more on my mind lately, aside from a lot of personal stuff, is an incident that occurred in one of the eating disorder forums I'm in on Facebook. I don't want to go into too much detail, because it seems like that would be a violation of trust in the group, but I want to bring it up in a vague way in order to point out how difficult it can be to step into the role of a mentor.

Basically, the incident can be broken down into some simple parts.

1. Some people are too sick to see outside their own illness.
2. Those who are suffering intensely often don't realize how hostile they can be to those trying to help.
3. People who aim to help have no way of knowing how another person will interpret what's being said, and a person who is not well may not be in a position to absorb what's being offered.
4. Anything in written form can be difficult to interpret when facial expressions and intonation are lacking.
5. Trying to help someone who isn't ready for a change can be exhausting and frustrating.
6. Just because I'm on the recovered side of my illness, it doesn't mean that I'm immune to getting hurt. When others are mean, I still feel it. I no longer use it as an excuse to hurt myself, though.
7. Sometimes it's better to remove yourself from a situation if you feel it's too unhealthy, and being exposed to someone else's constant struggle and continual complaining can definitely be an unhealthy distraction. Know where to draw your own lines.
8. Taking care of yourself is not being selfish.
9. Try not to take what mean things someone in the throes of any illness or addiction says personally.
10. Make sure you get the support you need if you are dealing with someone in your life who is not well.

With all this said, I am still glad that the group I'm in is tolerant of people struggling, because I left a different group when one of the moderators came off as way too unsympathetic to those posting. I don't think it's helpful for anyone reaching out to be faced with unkind comments from someone who is filled with loads of anger. People with eating disorders can be highly sensitive, so a harsh response to someone really struggling can potentially cause a lot of harm. I don't like to see anyone being attacked or put down for reaching out, so I decided that group wasn't for me. I can offer help in other places, and people can take it or leave it.

On a completely unrelated note, yesterday, I was heading home from a run on the trails. My feet have been more sore than usual, so I have been forced to back off any real running and settle for plodding. Fortunately, after one upsetting dog encounter a few weeks ago, I've had pretty good luck with people being fair about sharing the trails. I'm the type who often jumps out of the way if someone else is determined to be a trail hog, but most people are nice and courteous. Yesterday, I wasn't so lucky.

Since the trail I was on was wide enough to comfortably accommodate four individuals walking shoulder to shoulder, I wasn't worried when I saw a large group of people walking toward me. I assumed the crowd would part, especially since I had moved to the very edge. Pretty much everyone let me by, but nobody really gave me the room they could have. I moved further to the edge. Bringing up the rear of the group were three guys who clearly did not want to let me by. I had eye contact with the one closest to me, and, instead of taking a wee little step to his side of the trail, he stepped further into my path, leaving me no room to pass.

My choices were to stop, to jump off the trail or to keep going come what may. I decided I was sick and tired of always being the one to jump out of the way for other people and continued, still hugging the very edge of the trail. Our shoulders collided, but nothing really came of it. He kept going, as did I. Still, I couldn't help but think what an ass this guy was.

On a more positive note, I watched the online presentation of the World Master's Chocolate competition held in Paris. It has inspired me to eat and enjoy more chocolate, as if I needed an excuse.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Interview With Suzy Favor Hamilton

In 2012, I did an interview with Suzy for Recently, I caught up with her again for another interview, this one about her book, "Fast Girl". Thank you, Suzy, for your thoughtful responses and for helping to raise awareness about mental illness. You are forever an inspiration both on and off the track. 

Fast Girl
Suzy Favor Hamilton's book, "Fast Girl" covers her life as an Olympic runner and, later, as an escort in Vegas.

Interview with Suzy Favor Hamilton 2015

What was it that got you interested in running, and how old were you when you started?  

As a young girl around age ten, I discovered my love for running while running in the woods and pretending to be a horse. It felt so natural, and it made me feel happy. I didn’t understand what it was doing to my brain at the time, but I quickly clung to it.

At an early age, you seemed to be a perfectionist, determined to be the best. What were some of the outside forces driving this need to be number one, or was this something that was entirely internal? 

It was mostly internal. It’s been pretty well established in the book and other media that I felt this need to please, this need to bring happiness and pride to my family through my running, making up for what I saw as a family in silent pain from what was happening with my brother and his illness (bipolar). I saw the effect this had on my parents and wanted to do my part to make them happy. This only increased as time went on. 

My dad was very involved with my running, and that put a silent pressure on me.  Back then parents had to be involved because young runners needed to travel to other states for the big races. There weren't many local races to run in. I began to feel at a very early age that I had to be perfect, not necessarily who I wanted to be. I believe a factor in what happened in Vegas was this repressed desire to finally be the “bad girl”. I really believe that, as do my doctors.

In your book, you mention that your brother was bipolar. How was it growing up with someone who had trouble regulating his moods? How did you and the rest of your family cope? 

It was extremely difficult because it was never really explained to me growing up, not as well as it should have been anyway. I saw his anger, his recklessness, his overall misbehavior, and just could not understand it. I just wanted him to STOP! My parents did what they could for him as far as getting medical attention, but it was never discussed in the family, at least not with me. Nobody really understood it. I know they tried to shield me from his behavior, but it was impossible to do. The focus was more on the behavior and not the illness behind it.

Despite tremendous support from friends and fans, you have been strongly criticized for coming off as insensitive to those around you while you were working as an escort. Can you give critics a better idea of what it's like to be driven by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, especially in the manic phase of bipolar disorder? 

For me, during that 1.5 year period, I was in a pretty constant state of mania. My doctors attribute this to the Zoloft, an anti-depressant I was put on in early 2011. With the illness, comes this insatiable desire to get and keep the high. You do all you can to get it, even if it’s at another’s expense. It comes across as selfish and narcissistic, attributes often associated with mania / bipolar. You also can experience irrational thinking and behavior. While I knew what I was doing and made the series of decisions I made, looking back, I cannot say I made them with a clear mind. Sex was always at the forefront of my mind, and I acted accordingly. It all seemed perfectly rational to me at the time. My husband was the one I saw as irrational. Why was he objecting to my behavior? I was happy, independent, in control of my life, for once.

I mentioned in a recent blog post that the drug Zoloft is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Too much dopamine in the brain can cause unwanted behavioral changes, especially in those who are bipolar. How did Zoloft affect you when you were taking it?  

It triggered my mania, in a HUGE way. I went on it in March 2011, and my husband and I had our threesome in May, which kind of flipped the switch for me. You see, I had never been diagnosed as bipolar. I went to a general physician who, after a 10-minute consultation, put me on Zoloft, an anti-depressant. It’s pretty well established that this is a huge “no-no”. Now, she didn’t know I had bipolar. I didn’t know I had bipolar, but what I wish she would have done is refer me to a psychiatrist. This is evidence of how poorly the current medical system handles mental illness. I was never asked whether there was bipolar in my family, whether there was mental illness in my family.

How have your parents, your family, and your husband responded to your book and your speaking engagements around mental illness? 

Everybody has handled it at their own pace and comfort level. Some show their support in different ways. I’m appreciative that my parents, for example, love me and want what they believe is the best for me, but I think it’s safe to say they don’t understand my behaviors, were not very supportive of the book and would prefer me not to speak about mental illness. At one time, that angered me, but I’ve come to realize I can’t force it. They have to go at their own pace. It has to be mentioned that they have had to deal with the shock that their daughter was an escort in Vegas. I get that they’ve had difficulty understanding, and am grateful they show any level of support they can. I know they love me, as I do them. 

My husband has been great, very supportive, though this whole book ordeal has been very stressful for him. I know he’s looking forward to the hype dying down, as it’s beginning to, and us moving on with the rest of our lives. He’s been doing his best to help keep things manageable for me, but it’s been tough for both of us behind the scenes.

People have also criticized you for including vivid descriptions of the sexual activity you engaged in while in Vegas in your book. With the understanding that anyone writing about their vice, be it alcohol, shopping, food or gambling, it seems nearly impossible to describe what was going on for you without including at least some of these details, but what would you say to anyone who thinks you went too far?

The sex is in there to show how out of control things got, to show what was happening in my undiagnosed bipolar mind, which was being fueled by an anti-depressant that was triggering constant mania.

And, you have to understand, the publisher/editor has more control here than most probably realize. In the memoir, we had over 500 pages to give the editor to work with, and the editor obviously preferred focusing on the Vegas stuff. I suppose in some people's eyes, sex sells. I would have rather had fewer details relating to sex and more information about recovery, and I communicated this. Fortunately, some of the passages relating to sex were removed, and more mental illness education was added, along with a recovery prologue. It’s not exactly how I wanted it, but I think it’s a good, effective book that many are relating to.

Have people struggling with bipolar disorder, anxiety or eating disorders reached out to you specifically because of this book, and, in turn, have any readers offered helpful suggestions to you regarding mental illness and any struggles you have or have had to face?  

Yes, both. This has been the rewarding part for me, seeing that sharing my story has helped others. Literally, hundreds of notes where someone says they totally relate with my story have come my way. Reading my book gives them the feeling they are not alone. They thought it was only them who felt the way they do, and many are now willing to talk about it with others, get help, etc. Many people have shared with me they have taken an anti-depressant with adverse effects. Reading what I went through gave them inspiration to look at things differently, to get help, etc. Many letters from family members of people affected by mental illness have also come my way. My story seems to help many of them better understand what their loved ones must endure.

In your book, you mention that you lost a lot of weight while you were working as an escort. Do you feel you were dealing with any traces of the eating disorder you had overcome earlier in your life, and how are you doing with that now?  

My eating disorder was related to the lack of control I felt I had in my life when I was young. Also, it was related to the unhealthy perception I had to be thin, to be a faster runner.  When I was manic, though, it was more that I just lost my appetite, and food was something I wasn’t thinking about. I was too driven by the mania to have clear, rational thinking.

How quickly were you able to find a medication or a combination of medications that worked for your bipolar illness? 

I was diagnosed in about two to three weeks. Then, I was put on a mood stabilizer called Lamictal, but at a very low dose, as the primary side effect is a rash that can actually kill you. Once we realized that I did not get the rash, the dose was increased. I started noticing a difference after about two months. During this time, they kept me on Zoloft (the anti-depressant) since they knew I was more susceptible to depression during this time than ever. Once the Lamictal kicked in, then I was weaned off the Zoloft. At that point, it was difficult for me, because the Zoloft always made me feel good/manic. The Lamictal calmed me and provided more clarity, but I missed that high of the mania. I took Xanax for times of heightened anxiety, and still do. I was also put back on the birth control pill to take care of mood swings associated with my period. I had been off that for several years.

Do you think people who are bipolar are diagnosed properly and effectively? 

While some are, in general, I would say, no. One in five individuals eventually diagnosed bipolar are misdiagnosed with depression initially (as I was). Too often, general physicians do the diagnosing and prescribing of medications, as is what also happened with me. The system must change dramatically to make sure everybody has access to a psychiatrist for the correct diagnosis. The good news is that once properly diagnosed, there is hope. Effective medications, therapy, reduction or elimination of triggers and support can all lead to a fulfilling life.

Did your husband see what you were doing as simply a compulsion or a phase that might eventually pass, or was he concerned there was something more going on with you? 

You could say we were leading a life of separation in the months leading up to my escorting. I convinced him on the open marriage concept, as there was very little intimacy in our lives, but we both wanted to stay married primarily for our daughter. So, when I started seeing a male escort and hooked up with a couple of guys, he saw it as a phase, just a girl who had been repressed much of her life experimenting and finding her sexuality. Once the escorting turned into more than a one-time arrangement for discreet sex, he realized something more was going on. From there, it was constant conflict between us.

How did the two of you protect your daughter from any negativity relating to this situation, both in terms of the tension between you and your husband and also the choices you were making, and how have you dealt with explaining to her what happened? 

While I knew what I was doing should remain hidden from Kylie, it was all Mark who did the protecting during this time. She saw us argue a couple of times, but, by and large, our arguing took place when she wasn’t around. Mark focused on what he could control. He learned pretty quickly he could not control me, but he could protect Kylie. Most of his efforts went in that direction. I will be forever grateful that he protected Kylie during that time and never tried to turn her against me.

As for the aftermath and how we handled Kylie, Mark and I separated for a few months after I was outed by the Smoking Gun article. It was best for me to get well first before we tried to work things out. So he and Kylie stayed in Wisconsin, while I was in California getting treatment. Mark would bring Kylie for a quick visit every three weeks during that time. 

Kylie knew before all this that I had dealt with depression, so she had a rough understanding that my brain didn’t work quite right. When things got really crazy after Vegas, he just emphasized that point more. “That’s not your mom.” “She needs to get well.” “She’s going to get well.” As things progressed, I started to come back to Wisconsin every couple of weeks, and gradually, very gradually, things got better. It took about 1.5 years before we really had a healthy family life again. It took lots of therapy, including lots of talking with the psychologist and other experts on how to handle things with Kylie.

As a result, she learned what I had been doing in a kid-appropriate way. She knows about sex. She grew to understand as well as she could. We saw her understand mental illness and encourage her, like everyone else, to focus on the illness and not so much the act associated with it. As a result, we have an incredibly compassionate, and very aware 10 year old. I would say she understands mental illness better than 99% of adults out there. I don’t think we give our kids enough credit for what they can handle sometimes.

Do you feel you understood the potential consequences of the risks you were taking when you were in Vegas? 

Absolutely not. I felt I was untouchable. I felt my husband, the only one trying to pull me out, was being an unreasonable ass. This is the stuff that hurts the most today. I look back and see what I put him through.

What was the turning point? In your book, it seems to be the article that caused you to look more closely at what was happening in your life. Do you think you would have eventually reached a turning point without being outed? 

I believe if I were not outed, I would have kept going with my life in Vegas. I was beginning to engage in riskier and more reckless behavior at the time I was outed. I was picking up clients outside of the agency, in bars. I was taking ecstasy and cocaine was being offered, and I was getting closer and closer to saying yes, anything to bring the thrill up a notch. If I had to guess, I would have become addicted to drugs and kicked out of the agency. Mark would have left and taken Kylie away. I would have gone into a very dark place, and either overdosed or taken my life. I know it sounds dramatic, but that is the path I was on.

There are times you speak in the third person as if Suzy and Kelly are two different people. Do you try to integrate the two and accept that they are both parts of yourself, or do you really feel like Kelly was a different person? 

I try to separate the two, as that person was not the person I am right now. That being said, there are bits and pieces of Kelly I admire and try to bring into my current life. She had a voice. She was a badass. She was independent and confident and certainly not ashamed of her body or her sexuality.

Was there ever a time when you felt you were working in Las Vegas for the money? 

Well, it was always a factor. It enhanced the thrill, the taboo of the whole thing. I had a plan to make enough money so my husband could quit his job, the job that I saw as destroying our marriage. Remember, this was my unhealthy brain at work here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Four Mile Firefighter 10 Mile

I'm on a posting rampage, it seems, but I wanted to get a quick race report out there before all the details get blurred in my mind.

Sunday was the Four Mile (canyon) Firefighter 10-mile Race on paved and dirt roads. The race starts in Boulder and ends in Gold Hill. Races got to see beautiful scenery along the course with views of the turning trees, the mountains and the big rock formations on the side of the road.

I know these are horrible pictures of me, but they pretty much sum up how I was feeling at the finish. As you might have guessed, I was in over my head. My body was struggling from the start:


Yup, not much I can add to this.

Going into the race, I knew it would be a challenge on maybe not all but many fronts. I'm not in great shape. My mechanics are still way off, and 10 miles seems like a long, long run to me. So, naturally, I jumped in anyway. It's hard to pass up an uphill race when there are so few of them around. That probably wasn't a wise move considering the state of my body and all its twinges and aches. I gave it a shot, though.

It was a long bus ride from the finish line, where we had to park our cars, to the start. Those of us running kept talking about how long the ride down seemed. I could have sworn we were scooting down the hill for days, but it turns out it was only about 20 minutes or so.

Though the day would end up sunny and hot, the morning was cool, no cold. Most of us huddled around the fire pit near the registration table as we waited for 9 a.m. to roll around. Finally it was time to start, so we jogged up to the road and off we went with a police car leading the way.

Almost immediately, a small group broke away forming a large gap, which left me leading the second group. Unfortunately, my hamstring/hips were clicking and catching, so I didn't want to risk pushing it harder than I was, even though the racer in me hated to see that gap getting bigger. My foot was holding up better than it had in past races, though, at least at the start.

Before we even hit mile one, the gap between the two groups was large enough for a second cop car to squeeze in between the two groups, so it made me feel like I was leading the race. Of course, I couldn't back off the pace at that point! I felt obligated to at least hold steady, but my mind went back and forth between wanting to really race and wanting to pull back and make it a fun run for my already hurting body.

I led the second pack for what seemed like a long time. One guy passed me further into the race, but I passed him back. While I was still in front, a group of cyclists cruised by us. I didn't think much of it until the last guy to pass me leaned in and shouted, "You know, it looks like you're not wearing anything under that shirt." I was shocked. Because it had been cold at the start, I wore a t-shirt with shorts. My number was pinned to my sports bra. His comment did not sit well with me. I ditched the shirt a few aid stations after that, because the temperature kept rising. His comment lingered on my brain for a while. Not cool.

At about mile six, things started to fall apart, my body, I mean. Both feet started hurting, and my hips were really locking. In an effort to relieve some of the pain, I skipped, jogged and made funny wiggly movements, hoping something would loosen up my hips and hamstrings. As much as I wanted to push myself in the last miles, my body really wouldn't allow it. It was frustrating, but I had to accept it. A few people passed me. I let them go. I knew I was right on that line and could end up with a full-blown injury if I did much more than jog.

I crossed the line in 4th place. It was a very small race, but it was still nice to feel part of the crowd. Approaching the finish line, I felt mixed emotions: disappointment, sadness, fear, relief and pain. Everyone was so nice, though. I want to be able to run again, really run. I don't know how to get there, but I'm going to keep searching for answers.

Now I'm just taking things very easy, hoping my body will recover, so that I can keep running. I'm back on the bike some, just to keep things from getting worse. I'm glad I did the race, but I can see that I need to figure out how to attack these mechanical issues before I can think about doing more of this kind of stuff.

Looking a little better in the early stages.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton

I'm almost finished reading the book, "Fast Girl" by Suzy Favor Hamilton. It's about her life, her outstanding running career, her family, relationships and her struggle with bipolar disorder. Despite some passages relating to her sexual encounters that were difficult to read in terms of making me feel uncomfortable, I have to admit it's a hard book to put down.

Because I have known Suzy since high school, it was also difficult for me to read about all the pain and mental anguish she suffered. We shared a lot via letters when we were younger, but I didn't know the extent of her struggles.

In one radio interview by John Mercure relating to her book, Suzy was confronted by supposedly hard-hitting questions that were really nothing more than a way for the host to attempt to stir up controversy. He couldn't seem to understand what Suzy was saying, or he simply refused to hear her. Either way, I think Suzy handled herself well.

Mercure was incorrectly claiming that the book is mostly about sex and insisted there were too many unnecessary details about sex and sexual incidents. The truth is that the majority of the book focuses on her life, her challenges, her running career and her relationships, especially the one with her husband. The sexual content is contained within the last one third of the book.

The message of "Fast Girl" is definitely not what Mercure suggests, that working as an escort is glamorous and exciting. If anything, Suzy goes out of her way to describe the many ways in which she was not thinking clearly in the situation, taking risks that she was fortunate to come out of relatively unscathed. Sex was her vice. You wouldn't expect to read an account of a recovering alcoholic's life without reading at least a little bit about his drinking habits. He might even go as far as to say that he enjoyed the feeling of being drunk. Does that mean he's promoting drinking? I think not.

People might assume that there's no correlation between mental illness and an increase in sexual appetite, but if you look at individuals with excessive dopamine levels in the brain, they often exhibit what's called polymorphous perversion or hyper-sexuality. Guess what? Zoloft is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, so when Suzy said that her behavior started to change after taking Zoloft, it make sense to anyone with more than a few brain cells. Probably in people who are simply depressed and not also bipolar, this mechanism wouldn't lead to the same outcome as Suzy experienced.

Having had a backward and intense response to Prozac that made me feel like a completely different person, so much so that my behavior changed in a negative way, I understand what Suzy is saying regarding Zoloft. I believe There's a connection between brain chemistry and abnormal or excessive behavior, be it sexual or otherwise.

If the only message that John Mercure can get out of this book is that having sex with strangers for cash is glamorous, that's sad. It's not Suzy's fault that he is unable to comprehend the words on the pages in a more accurate way, and it just shows that it takes some deeper thought to fully understand mental illness. Suzy's book has the potential to help a lot of people who might be struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, addiction and other mental issues.

One of the most important messages in Suzy's book is that people who suffer from mental illness should't be judged or feel ashamed of themselves.

People will think what they want about Suzy, but I hope that this book will help anyone who is dealing with or anyone who knows someone who is dealing with mental issues feel less alone.

As far as Suzy making money off of this? I don't see anything wrong with that. She made it clear that she is planning to donate at least some of the proceeds to charity, but even if that weren't the case, I wouldn't see a problem with it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


For a long time now, I have wanted to be one of the lecturers selected for the TedxBoulder talks. I was told that they tend to pick people who are part of the in crowd, so to speak. As everyone who has watched these talks knows, the lecturers are generally well-spoken, smart and interesting. It's somewhat intimidating to even go through the selection process.

One thing that's written on the submission form is that it might be beneficial if you have attended lectures in the past, so, for the second year in a row, I bought myself a ticket after being rejected as a speaker. The lecture is going on right now. Obviously, I didn't attend, but I had every intention of going and actually got as far as the check in process.

First let me say that this week, I have been feeling very emotional and sensitive. A lot of stuff is going on, and I also had a bad encounter with a nasty woman who yelled at me. Granted, I was volunteering for something, and got lost on the way there, pretty much missing out on the event. Still, nobody died or was left hanging, and I apologized and even offered several ways I could make up for it. This woman's reaction was so disgusting, I could hardly believe it. How the fuck do people end up so fucking full of themselves? I don't get it. I get anger, but I will never understand why people think it's OK to take that anger out on someone else who is doing the best she can.

During the week, too, some supposed good 'ole Christian boy was a dick after he sent me a private message asking about my religious upbringing. I wouldn't answer him. Later, I and a few others commented on a public post relating to abortions on his facebook page. He is someone who has mocked Caitlyn Jenner, supported defunding Planned Parenthood and is adamantly against gay marriage, which is his right to do but comes off as unkind at minimum.

Initially, I was trying to be nice and thoughtful in my responses, but when he started to act like a condescending ass, I was less nice. He ended up blocking me, because that's the civil, mature Christian thing to do, I guess. Actually, that's not at all true. I shouldn't even be sarcastic about that, because I have many tolerant Christian friends who would never act like that, even if they don't share my beliefs.

By the time today rolled around, I was feeling better, but then some jerk on a bike swerved around me while I was out jogging, squeezing in front of me just as I was going through a small opening in a gate on the sidewalk. I surprised myself by the string of choice words that came out of my mouth. But, really? What the hell? You couldn't wait the entire two seconds for me to go through and just had to whip around, cut me off and zoom through? God, people can be real shits.

This evening, when I showed up at the doors for the lecture, I was early, so I waited until a minute after the doors opened and got in line. I noticed that one of the volunteers was about as unkind as possible to the lady in front of me. She was perturbed, because, even though the email stating that anyone who was attending need not worry about bringing a printed ticket, the volunteer didn't want to bother looking up the lady's name. Fortunately, the lady had her phone and could access her email and also her ticket for the volunteer to scan. I saw that transaction and scouted out someone who appeared to be a hell of a lot nicer.

Score! The young lady who helped me was very sweet. I mentioned that I didn't have my ticket, and she immediately reassured me that she could simply look up my name and allow me inside. She found it right away and ushered me toward the door. Just as I was stepping over the threshold, people who had already gone in were being shooed outside by an angry lady yelling at them. "It's not about the door time," she shouted, "It's about what's going on on the stage!" as if the people who had been instructed to go in were at fault.

At that moment, staring at the woman's contorted face as she shut the door in a grand gesture and twirled around to stomp back into the building, I decided I had had enough of people's bullshit. I turned around and left. I do not want to be a speaker anymore. I don't want to be associated with people who treat other's so badly and appear to think they are better than everyone. No thank you.

I'm fortunate that I have my little platform here to discuss recovery, body image and mental health. I feel very lucky about that.

I was writing a post about Suzy Hamilton's new book, "Fast Girl", but I had to vent about all this first. That post will come later.

Monday, September 14, 2015


I've been hesitant to post about my running progress, because there's a part of me that's hugely disappointed. I'm thrilled that I did more than I thought I would or could this summer, but the athlete that hasn't completely died in me is not happy. Given how often I thought I would have to give up running completely in the last few years, I know I should be elated with where I am, but I can't help but think that I want more.

After the 5K "race" (I can't really call it that, but it was something more than a jog), I realized how beat up my body felt, mostly because the restrictions and imbalances that may look slight are more than meet the eye. They end up causing some major tweaking the faster I try to go. I was forced to back off any kind of training, and finally ended up going back to the doc for some cortisone shots in my left foot. It helps some, but the trade off is that I lose some proprioception each time.

Shots in the foot are never fun, but these were even more challenging, because one nerve is so trapped in scar tissue, the doc couldn't get the needle in very well. Then, once he got it in, he had trouble pushing in the plunger. The other nerve is deep and was also a bit squirrely, rolling around trying to avoid the needle. The end result is that the burning and occasional sharp pains are still there, but they're much more muted. I have some other options to explore, but I've been able to run with a bit less pain lately.

The Rattlesnake Ramble 2015

Well, that was embarrassing...

Over the weekend, I jumped into the Rattlesnake Ramble. I keep wanting to call it the Rattlesnake Rumble, but it's not about snakes fighting. I learned a lot in this race, mostly that I completely suck going downhills. Anything technical isn't quite my thing either. I managed to do quite well on the wide uphill roads, though, and I even made some real runner-like moves out there on those sections. Unfortunately, the downhills and super rocky terrain got to me. One or two of the people who were hiking the gnarly ascents were going faster than I was jogging, but I noticed a few of them were also cutting the corners on the switchbacks.

The recap:

Things started out just fine. I felt pretty strong and was doing well initially. When the sun got in my eyes after we turned onto the first rocky section, I was running blind, and I started to get discouraged. A few people, one of whom threw a hard elbow into my side, passed me while I was trying to figure out how to run by braille. Despite losing some places, though, I rallied and passed a few people back once we hit the main road before the second big ascent.

I also ran right by the water station without realizing that's what it was. Nobody was holding cups of water, so it didn't register until well after I had passed it that a big white table in the middle of nowhere was a water station. D'oh! It seems obvious now, but I missed a much needed drink of anything liquid as a result.

On I charged, though. I sort of held my own, even though I'm not that great on the real technical stuff going up or, especially, down. Because I didn't know where the top was, I was hesitant to really go for it at any point.

The downhill was what did me in. I think somebody's grandma passed me near the bottom of the single-track trail. It was ridiculous how awful I was on this descent. Frustration made me let loose a nice string of expletives while I was dodging people and trying not to trip. Oops. I was basically jogging, just trying to stay upright, though at one point, I did sit down in order to get myself down one of the steeper corners. I also crawled over a rock on the ascent, so I'm guessing I wasn't looking very graceful out there.

I had the feeling that nobody would be around at the finish line, but I somehow managed to not come in last. This may be my worst placement in a small race, but I was second to last in my age group, which means I got 7th in the 40-49 category. The race was limited to about 100 people.

I didn't feel like a runner after that adventure. No more gnarly downhills for me.

I'm just hoping my body can recover enough to squeeze in a few more good workouts and maybe even a race or two before I wimp out in the cold weather and decide to do more stationary biking or yoga. Come on left foot; you can do this!

Making up lost ground where the trail was more runable.

This wasn't even the technical part! 

Heading back toward the road. 

Trying to stay upright.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with Diane Israel

Diane Israel

From Diane's website: 
Diane Israel is a psychotherapist and conductor with a private practice in Boulder, Colorado. She is professor of transpersonal counseling psychology and trustee of Naropa University. She ignites students and clients to recognize their wholeness and follow their passions through mind-body integration and celebrating their inherent genius. Her experiences as a world-class runner and triathlete led her to specialize in body image and eating struggles. Her award-winning independent documentary film, Beauty Mark, follows her personal journey as an athlete and explores our race to perfection. She is a end of life care consultant and ally supporting families as they navigate end of life issues.

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Interview with Diane Israel

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Lize and Diane

Friday, August 28, 2015

Social Media and Eating Disorders

I think I have thrown this rant out there before, but I'm in the mood to complain about things again.

There's not a whole lot of improvement in the social media world when it comes to people posting potentially triggering content. When I look at tweets, blogs and facebook posts of people struggling with an eating disorder, I sometimes wonder if all this sharing is a good thing. Of course, there are many who are committed to recovery, and even some who aren't, who can still provide others with some insight, encouragement even. My biggest problem is with those who constantly post questionable content while pretending they are fully recovered.

I aim for honestly in my posts, and my main goal is to help others. That's why you won't see tons of images of my XXX calorie breakfasts or photos of me pretending to lick an ice cream cone. Readers might remember that I have a thing for ice cream. I eat it. I enjoy it, but I don't feel the need to document my desserts in photos. If this were a food blog, it might be a different story. Quite often, I get the feeling that people who post a lot of food images in recovery blogs are trying to convince themselves they are well when maybe that's not the case. In some instances, it's painfully clear it's not.

But I'm not here to bash anyone, mostly because I couldn't do it with as much flair as Anthony Bourdain, but also because I don't want to be mean. I just have a hard time understanding why people who look incredibly unwell would be motivated to post so many potentially damaging images of themselves. I get more upset when I know the inside story and see that the blogger's content paints an entirely different image, one that's not at all truthful.

When I was sick, I wanted to disappear. The last thing I wanted was to be in photographs. I didn't want people to see my bones sticking out in odd places or my pale, sometimes yellowish skin. More than that, though, I was frank about my struggles and at least admitted I had a problem.

Perhaps social media has encouraged a new way for people to seek attention, a way that's not healthy or constructive, but I wonder what goes through the mind of someone who is so dedicated to broadcasting her compulsions. Is it a cry for help? Is it a symptom of narcissism? Maybe it's a warped way of seeking approval. Ultimately, my concern with all these attention-seeking attitudes is that what's depicted in blog posts etc. can end up sending the wrong message, especially to others who might be struggling.

Nobody who's trying to recover needs to be reading: "LOOK AT ME! I WEIGH  XX POUNDS, AND I JUST ATE A CUPCAKE FOR DINNER!" It's fine to eat a cupcake for dessert and even mention it, especially if you're breaking through some fears around it, but do it and be done with it. We don't need to see an entire documentary about your date with a cupcake, the hours and minutes leading up to it and all that goes on relating to it for days and days after the big event. If you want to get into the calories, point exchanges, exercise changes, meal replacements and restrictions leading up to eating the thing, that's not helpful in any way. It's a fucking cupcake.

I want to make it clear, though, that there's a difference between someone committed to recovery posting images of herself enjoying a meal, snack or dessert, maybe even with friends, and someone who's sick posting an image of her 1/2 cup of non-fat yogurt in a bowl with 1/2 a small banana and 10 frozen blueberries claiming it's a "recovery meal" after a 9-mile jog, especially if this person calls herself a coach or life coach. Um, no, that's hardly even a snack! What confuses me more is that these types of posts often get the most likes and encouraging comments, but there's a dangerous message in there, one that the poster should acknowledge. And I'm sorry, but posting something like that probably isn't helping you, your readers or anyone, really, because you're focused on the symptoms.

The struggle for anyone suffering from an eating disorder is real and often life threatening. That's why I get so upset about these kinds of issues. I'm not making light of anything here. I just wish people would move away from their own obsessions with details, numbers and fears and stop inflicting their unhealthy patterns onto others under the guise that it's healthy. Again, I'm not talking about anyone who's merely trying to process -- I do a lot of that here -- or being honest about what she's doing, and I'm definitely not talking about anyone who's seeking help. I'm talking about people who try to give the illusion that they have their shit together when it's so very obvious they don't. Mostly I'm talking about people who are unable to think about how their actions might affect someone else.

There are times when I can't look at running or training blogs, because I know seeing posts from streakers, high-mileage boasters and race-every-weekend types can upset me. That's my own shit. These kinds of posts can be very inspirational to others and probably are. I just don't want to get into comparing where I am with anyone or where I wish I could be with where I am now, but I fully support people being able to post whatever they like. In these instances, it's easy for me to look away and know that I'm not perfect and need to take steps to make sure I'm doing all I can to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

I'm more concerned with people being honest about what they post in so called recovery blogs or health-related blogs. Yes, it's up to the reader to look the other way if need be, but if you claim to be a mentor, health professional, someone in the women's health field or even someone who struggles with an eating disorder, at least have some sense that what you post could possibly negatively affect someone. Ask yourself why you're posting it, and then go one step further and ask yourself what message you're trying to send.

As far as where I'm at with everything, I know that any time I'm getting too caught up in details or other people's issues, it's time for me to take a step back, reflect, listen and search for some inner peace. That's easier to do away from the computer. Sometimes it's just fatiguing to be exposed to other people's shit, but I should have more patience since I was once very ill too. I can't say I'm ever triggered by online content, but I guess I'm somehow affected or at least concerned that others might be and get a little bit angry about how insensitive others can be.

For the record, none of the blogs I follow fall into this category, so if you are looking for inspiration, please feel free to click on any of the links to blogs on my list.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh Dear Body I wish you would cooperate.

My head is still mostly in the competitive athlete zone, but my body has moved to the hobby jogger lane.

I ran a 5K today. Leave it to me to get lost in a 5K, but I managed to go off course. It was towards the end of the race, but I lost some momentum and had to backtrack to get on course. It would have been nice if the race official standing at the corner had been on the opposite side to prevent people from going down to the sidewalk. There was a dirt trail above the sidewalk, but I didn't know we would be running on it. I may have let slip an F-bomb or three  Oops. One guy who was behind me ended up quite a bit ahead of me by the time I got back to the dirt path. Major grrr.

A woman running next to her husband who was pushing a baby jogger was in first place pretty much the entire race. As we were approaching the finish line, her husband pulled the stroller over, and she suddenly stopped to take her little girl out. They proceeded to run with the girl at a slow trot. I was coming up behind her and would have felt like a tool if I passed, so I reminded them that the finish line was a bit further. She thought we had just crossed the line. It was a little confusing, because we had to pass all the balloons where we had started earlier and continue to the finish line. Needless to say, I jogged it in behind her and her daughter and congratulated them both once we got to the actual end of the race.

My time was super slow, but I was OK with my effort. I definitely need to work on my confidence, but there are bigger issues to address than learning how to fully race again.

The best way to describe how frustrated I am when I run is to try to imagine running with thick rubber bands around your upper thighs, ones that limit your range of motion. Then stick a sharp knife blade into your left big toe and add a continuous blast of fire underneath it. Toss in a dose of worry about hamstring issues and other minor injuries, and that about does it. I'm running with the idea that I may break at any given moment, so I aim to run up to but hopefully not past what my body can do.

Despite all this, I ran as well as I could. It always feels more like a fast tempo run instead of a race, but that's about what my physical body, in terms of mechanics, can handle right now. It seems like I'm actually building a little bit of fitness, so my heart and lungs and even my mental skills are doing OK. Overall, it was a good day, even if I didn't set any records, except maybe in the slowness department.

I'm super sleepy, about ready to limp to bed with a belly full of yummy noodles from Zoe Ma Ma.

Race start. 

Aids Run at Cheeseman Park in Denver, Co.

Talking to the winner after the race.

The winner and her mom, or maybe it's the other way around.

Diva Dash winner.

Diva Dash.

Monday, August 10, 2015

TOE- Interview with Isabelle Tierney

Isabelle Tierney is a life coach and licensed marriage and family therapist with an M.A. from Tufts University in Child Development. She is the founder of the Body Beloved Renaissance, a counter-cultural movement designed to shift us from shaming our bodies to seeing them as sacred.  Loving our bodies is about more than just accepting how our bodieslook; it’s about falling in love with the intelligence, wisdom and consciousness our bodies hold within. As a pioneering Eating Disorder therapist who previously struggled with bulimia for 30 years, she now helps others move away from unhealthy and self-harming behaviors.

Isabelle Tierney

For more information about Isabelle, click on this link:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oh Yes I did!

After quite a few years of not racing, I randomly decided to get in over my head and try the Mt. Falcon 15K in Morrison, Co.

Notes about the race that were made clear before the start:

No aid stations or water
Steep four miles up at the start and down at the finish
Shuttle bus to the start

Since it has been forever since I last toed the line, I ended up getting really nervous before the start. I was excited, but I had a feeling it was going to be a gnarly race. At the same time, I was focused primarily on the first four miles, the ascent. I read that there was a 2,000 foot elevation gain in those first miles, and that's what I wanted to run. I figured once I got to the top, I could carefully make my way to the finish line, even if I ended up walking bits of the course. Oh who am I kidding? I didn't want to walk! I gave myself that option, because I haven't been training much over an hour these days. This race was bound to take me into the two hour plus range, even if I had a good day.

The race started well. I ran strong but not crazy to the top, and was in pretty good shape by the time the trail evened out into some nice rolling sections. I even managed to keep my place for probably another mile or so. Someone yelled that I was third or fourth woman. At this point, I was in no-man's land, so I just held steady.

A few times I had to ask people on the trail if I was headed the right direction, and everyone assured me that I was. I was following the orange ribbons in various spots along the course, tied to trees or stuck near the side of the trail. Apparently, I wasn't the only one confused, though. Much later, I ran into a lady coming up a different way right before the final descent. She looked surprised to see me and a few other runners coming from the other direction and announced, "I think I went off course!"

All was fine until I started to go down and down and down. I may or may not have grabbed a tree branch to help me down one extra steep part. I kept telling myself to take it easy and stay upright. That became my main goal, not falling. Droves of people passed me. I passed a few back on the short uphill sections, but the majority of the remainder of the course was a lot of steep downhill.

As far as the rest of my adventure, at about 50 minutes, I basically stopped racing. Everything happened at once: the elephant jumped on my back, my foot started hurting, my hips were complaining, my stomach began to grumble and my head fell out of the game. I was TIRED. I still had a long way to go, and it was still a matter of surviving, getting down the brutal descents in one piece. 10 minutes later, I had a gel, which helped with my energy. I was glad I opted for chocolate instead of bacon flavor at the store. I can't imagine bacon-flavored goo sliding down my throat when my tummy is already unsettled, but that option is available for those who have the guts.

Are we there yet?

The course was beautiful, full of dips into forested valleys and climbs along pretty ridges. A lot of maneuvering took place in the last half of the race, making my way between hikers, mountain bikers and other runners. I did my best to get out of the way of those agile individuals who can fly down the mountain, because near the end, I was just trying to stay in one piece and get to the finish line sans bloody knees.

Right before the end, I came to another fork in the road. I started to go down one way but hesitated. Shortly after, a very nice lady stopped at the fork too. I asked if she knew which way we should go, and she said she was pretty sure it was the way I wasn't heading. I quickly jogged up and ran the rest of the way with her to the end. I wasn't going to try to out kick someone who had just pulled me back onto the correct course, so I settled in behind her to the finish.

Everyone there was very nice, except for one old man who passed me near the end. That was hard to take. He was one of those grunters who emitted strange sounds with every foot strike. Though it looked like he was shuffling along, swinging his arms forcefully, he was actually moving along at a good clip on the descents. I say he wasn't all that nice, because he yelled, "Fuck!" and mumbled some unintelligible things at a biker who was in the man's way but trying hard to get out of the determined old guy's path.

After the race, I had to get home quickly, because I had a half day at work to complete. By the time I left work, I was ready for more food, even though I ate well after the race. I wandered over to Salt and grabbed the last seat at the bar. Otherwise it would have been a 35-minute wait, and I knew I wouldn't last. Fries, a cheeseburger and half a beer hit the spot beautifully.

I don't know how far back I slid in the rankings, probably quite a bit, but I had my shining moment when I heard I was in 3rd or 4th place smack in the middle of the race. Considering all I have been through over the last few years, often thinking I may never run again, I'm pleasantly surprised how well my little body moved around on that course. I had to conquer some huge fears to get there, so there was at least one major goal accomplished.

I'm pretty sore and tired and maybe even a little bit cranky now, but I'm glad I did it. I think in the future, once I can walk normally again, I will stick to shorter, more uphill races.

**ETA - The final results are:

Time: 2:06
Place overall: 11th
Place in age group: 4th

I'm usually asleep at 6:37 a.m., but that's when I left.

Catching the shuttle to the start.

Start area.

Wider trail at the start that narrowed quickly. I like the big cushy wide part.

No, my socks don't match, but they are at least the same brand. 

This song was stuck in my head throughout the entire race. Since it's a bit of a guilty pleasure, I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit it: