Reality check, podiatry-style

This winter has not been easy on me- I have been hanging in there by the skin of my teeth. Around November or so, the amount of exercise I was doing began to creep up...and up and up. Yet it took until the middle of this month for me to realize that things were really out of control. My weight had dropped some, nothing catastrophic, but also nothing to sneeze at. I have managed to get back on track with the exercise and eating, in part due to a painful left foot.

For the past month or so, I have had this nagging foot pain that wasn't getting any better. I got a referral to the podiatrist about two weeks ago, and finally got in for an appointment this morning. He took one look at my foot, poked at a spot he said "looked puffy" (I couldn't really tell the difference), poked it causing me to yelp, and said, "Yep- that's a stress fracture." X-rays confirmed the diagnosis.*

What does this mean for Carrie? No exercise--none--for about three weeks, and then only non-weight-bearing things like swimming or a stationary bike. I also have some fun footwear in the form of a walking cast, aka The Boot. Otherwise, rest, Advil, and ice, with orders to come back for more x-rays in about a month.

Well, shit.

A metatarsal stress fracture is pretty classic of the female athlete triad, the combination of osteoporosis, disordered eating, and amenorrhea. Although I currently get a period, I do have a history of osteoporosis/osteopenia (depends on the bone- my spine is the worst), and the disordered eating--well, you knew that. It's not that I think I'm invincible. I've experienced too many things to really believe that. But I didn't think the ED would keep affecting me, even after being in recovery.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize exactly how driven and disordered my behavior was. I was exercising several hours a day on a fractured foot. This sort of behavior is light-years away from wanting to look like the ingenue of the week or getting some sort of revenge at Mommy Dearest for not letting me go on Spring Break in high school. This sort of behavior is tremendously biologically driven and very addictive in nature.

I'm kicking myself (with my good foot) for letting the exercise get out of hand. I feel I should have known better. Although I've had exercise issues in the past, they never approached many of the stories I would hear in treatment. My behavior was compulsive, although not phenomenally excessive. This time around, however, it was both.

I want to forget, I really want to forget, how much ED lurks and may always lurk. I want to think there will be a day when I can relax and be a little less vigilant. But for now, I have to remember that Mad-Eye Moody said it best: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

*It's not uncommon for stress fractures in the foot to fail to appear on an x-ray, but sometimes they do.


chartreuse said...

I've heard that the director of the inpatient eating disorder program at a local university hospital says that for individuals with severe AN for whom excessive exercising has been part of their illness, it is NEVER safe for them to exercise again -- at all. I've no idea of the evidence behind this, and am not intending to make any judgments about your own choices, but I found it an interesting statement.

Tiptoe said...

Oh Carrie, I feel for you. I think we forget about our metatarsals and bones in general until real damage is done. We seem to have the mentality of "grin and bare it" even when in recovery. Sometimes, that seems like a bigger blow as some things get better but others can sneak up on you.

I do hope you are able to rest. That really is the best tx for this type of stress fracture.

Maybe this will free up some of your time to get back into jewlery making? Or even knitting? That or at least provide good coping skills while out of commission. ;-)

Jessi said...

isn't it horrible when ED slaps you in the face like that, whilst in the middle of recovery? He likes to come back and show you just how powerful he was/is!!

I hope you are able to relax and enjoy the break away from exercise while you mend!

:) look after YOU


Kim said...

This hits close to home for me. I recently just had an issue with my sciatic nerve in my back...and all I do for "exercise" is really light yoga and a daily walk. It makes me sad that things are so hard on my body. I have to take it easy, 90-year-old style. Like you, I've had bone scans and the bone loss is worst in my spine. I haven't had another scan in years though (kinda afraid). Maybe this will be a little blessing, a chance for you to see that you can take it easy and nothing catastrophic will happen in regards to your weight or sanity. I hope you're not in too much pain! Take it easy!

ali said...

Oh my god- reading your words is like reading my own thoughts! I have had the same fracture, the same compulsions- I ignored my fractures though and now I have chronic foot problems :( This disorder is crazy making- even once we're "recovered"! One compulsion turns to another, and for me it is exercise....Try to take care of yourself :)
lots of love,

Carrie Arnold said...


Sorry to hear your head has the same cacophony of chatter as mine. I think the AN has this Twitter feed in my brain, constantly updating and commenting. Sigh.

I already have a gimp ankle on the other foot from a really bad break about five years ago, so I can't afford two busted appendages!

Jen said...

Uggh, I'm so sorry, Carrie. One thing I'm wondering, though---is there a part of you that's relieved to have the break? Overexercising was the hardest part of my ED for me to break, and I've finally gotten to a point where I can do a normal amount, take a few days off a week, and listen to my body. But I still tend to feel bad when I take an extra day off. Reading your story, there's still a part of me that thinks, "Wow, she's lucky to be able to take that time off." Although I could make that decision for myself any time I want, its easier when someone else does it for you. I can liken it to when I first started getting treatment and I was relieved that people were 'letting' me eat.

Anyway (wow this is long), I can sympathize with the creeping up exercise time. One thing that I did that helped was NOT let myself exercise over a certain number of minutes, unless I was in a group, taking a long bike ride with my husband, etc. I've gotten to the point now where I can't even fathom how I used to exercise for as long as I used to.

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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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