2024 marks 10 years since I was first diagnosed with anorexia.
Anyone who knows me is aware of how open I am about my eating disorder. Too little is still known and understood about this illness. Even the word ‘anorexia’ makes people wince and recoil awkwardly. This shouldn't be the case.
Anorexia is NOT a taboo.
Feeding into its silence is EXACTLY what it wants: to isolate.
This year, on my 10 year ANA-versary (sorry 🙄), I feel it’s more important than ever to speak up and share my story.
There was so much I could have posted today: the depressing stats, the fact that anorexia has the highest mortality rate out of ALL mental illnesses, or the glum details of my own experiences.
But no. This year, I choose to celebrate my life, in spite of anorexia. I dedicate this post not to the grim milestone, but to something that came into my life in the summer of 2021 and changed the entire course of my anorexia journey…
I’ve always run, but before 2021, it was simply another way for me to torture my body. I ran with the sole aim of burning off every single calorie I’d consumed throughout the day, and I hated every step.
I never knew that I was any good at running until - on a complete whim - I entered my first race in June 2021.
I placed in the top 10 females on my first time out, and took a massive 7 minutes off my PB, finishing as a complete novice with a 10k time of 41 minutes.
I lay in the grass at the finish line, staring at my results in disbelief. I couldn’t believe my body had done that.
After years of being at war with one another, my body and I had actually worked together to achieve something extraordinary.
In that very moment, my whole relationship with my body changed, and it’s continued to strengthen and blossom ever since.
My body has altered since I started taking running seriously. I’ve steadily gained back a bit of weight and I’m more muscular now.
Of course, there are days when anorexia sneers at my new frame and calls me a failure, but I’d rather look and feel healthy than be skin and bone and utterly miserable.
I need food to nourish my body and fuel my running. It’s simple: if I don’t eat, I don’t run to the best of my ability.
My love for running is so much stronger than my need to control and abuse my body.
Getting into competitive running has opened up a whole new world for me. It’s allowed me to experience things I could never have dreamed of, such as the immense pride of winning multiple races, most recently including a half marathon event!
I’ve raced in Malta, Lisbon, Brussels, and under the phenomenon of the midnight sun in Iceland.
From running sub 90-minute half marathons, to training for my first ultra marathon this year, my body has shown me time and time again how resilient and powerful it is, despite all I’ve put it through. And in these revelations, I’ve learnt to respect and listen to it.
I’m the very best and happiest version of myself when I’m out there at ridiculous o’clock on a Saturday morning, pounding through 13 miles before sunrise.
If you wish to escape time and reality, go for a run. Seriously. The outside world trickles away into complete insignificance when you get lost in that blissful zone, completely at one with your body and mind. Its an almost out-of-body experience that I can never quite put into words.
Running is so much more to me than just a hobby.
It’s the one thing that continues to save me over and over again, even on the darkest days of anorexia.
It’s my happiest place, my breathing space.
In those moments when everything feels too much, all I have to do is go out for a run and my whole mindset instantly changes. It’s literal magic. ❤️
The thing I’ve learned about anorexia is that it never really goes away. I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll probably always rent a space in my head to it’s demands. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t - and can’t - live a happy and fulfilled life alongside it.
The past 10 years have been a complete rollercoaster, but for all of the upset this illness has brought, it has also pushed me to limits I never knew I could withstand. It’s made me a much braver and stronger person, with a passion for life that only comes from hitting rock bottom. Sometimes, you only truly get to know yourself and your capabilities after freeing yourself from the prison of your own mind.
‘Where’d you wanna go? How much do you wanna risk? Some fairytale bliss, just something I can turn to… I want something just like this.’ 🔐❤️
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©
✍🏼 You can read more about my anorexia journey in my book ✍🏼
'Running For My Life: An Anorexia Memoir & Self-Help Guide'