Up the stairs

"A culture that invents both escalators AND StairMasters is a culture that needs to assess what it's actually talking about."
--Jennifer Hecht
(h/t Cammy)

As I collected my mail after I got home from work today, I had to walk by the fitness room. And, like most days, I saw the same girl in there. I don't know her name, or her life story. But I know enough. I know that she is in that gym too freaking much.

Obviously, I get habit. She very well might work out after work everyday- which isn't a cause for concern, even in my highly trained eyes. My highly trained eyes see something else, however. I don't get home at exactly the same time every day. Sometimes I will take different trains and buses. So there can be great variation- up to about an hour and a half difference. Yet this girl is always there.

What's more is that she's dripping with sweat and exhausted on those machines. I can see that. I also know from using the gym that it's hot in there. You get sweaty. But she is dripping. And exhausted. She doesn't use different machines each day, which is what I initially thought. I learned this today after I went in there to get a drink out of the water cooler. No. She hops from machine to machine as she gets tired.

This girl has issues. Are they an eating disorder? I don't know, and it's not my job to ask.

She has issues, and I am feeling a bit jealous.

I miss that feeling of superiority and discipline and strength that I had when I was ill. I do. I miss it. Even knowing now that it was a false sense of discipline, an alcoholic bragging she could chug six beers, but still.

Now that I am in recovery, I can discipline myself to learn about esoteric, complicated subjects and then explain them to people who know nothing about science. I can discipline myself to make jewelry, to play with my kitty, to talk to friends and loved ones on the phone.


Yet it doesn't feel that way.

Maybe it's the gap between what society calls "discipline," which is the rough equivalent of a spanking, and what really is discipline. The dictionary says that it can be learning a skill, learning from experience, training in music or other talent. Learning.

What is the girl in the fitness room learning? That she can work out for X hours a day? Lift X pounds? Run X miles? Is that discipline? Is that learning? Or is that an addiction? A behavior that is clearly out of control.

Maybe I still miss it. Maybe I'm still jealous. But it's not because I lost my discipline.

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Vickyann said...

If she is in danger of injurying herself the gym has to intervene at some point.

In the town I used to live in, there were two women I saw nearly every week, both were anorexic (I know it's not for me to judge and I hate to feel that's what I'm doing but seeing them you couldn't ignore how sick they were). One lady I would pass on my run, her low weight sparked a little jealousy but the second girl, barely more than a teenager was pro-ana, she wore a necklace promoting anorexia, a bracelet and belt. I was saddened and it showed me how far I had come in my recovery.


carrie said...

The fitness room is in the apartment and has a simple lock, so there would be no real way to monitor it anyway.

Oddly, I worry almost more with the people whose symptoms allow them to "get by" in life because it means they may never be forced to address them. One of the odd gratitudes I have about getting so sick- I had to do something.

A said...

It is scary,

I have also seen these people where I work and feel the same way. I see them jogging when I drive down the street. It does make me jealous I guess -- but those are my own issues I think -- as to why the look of the illness appeals to me.

Nice to see that you are voicing this Carrie. I think it is such a common trigger among people with ED's.

I have also wondered the difference between intense athletes who spend hours running/swimming etc. and anorexia -- the fanatical nature seems to be the same. Often they are nearly as thin.


carrie said...


I think the difference is in *why* they're exercising (the love of the sport or burning calories, etc), *how* they're fueling themselves (properly or not), and *if* they can stop without intervention.

I guess the difficulty is that they overlap so much. The love of a sport can morph into something much more ominous. Even if I hadn't busted my ankle, I could never run regularly again. The love of running rapidly spirals into a compulsion to run.

And I did get your email- I will respond as soon as I click send here.

IrishUp said...

I love that quote!

When our d first started down AN Road, a family friend told her "don't listen to anyone, keep up that discipline". This person was already aware that we were worried about her! GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

As I've moved away from my own self-defeating habits I've found out two really important things 1) they are never as far away when life gets tough as I had hoped and 2) Hardly anyone on the Outside appreciates the discipline involved in an action *not* taken, a disaster avoided, a chaos averted. They only see the order on the surface and think "pfeh ... no news there" - if they think on it at all.

I think the poetic justice is that most of us who get derailed by various addictions and afflictions in our teens and twenties had a hard time appreciating ourselves. Yet, when we learn to move on, generally we're the only ones who can see the battles won, or sometimes fought and lost, but taken up the next day. And so, we have to learn to throw ourselves our private ticker-tape parades, pat our own backs, do our own Stuart Smalleys.

Actually, I've been thinking of putting in a sensor so that each time I enter my house, "Outstanding" by the Gap Band plays. Just to remind everyone...

Jeanne said...

I know that green monster called envy. Oh how I know her well...

thinking about you,

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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