Riding the Recovery Bike

I've often thought that recovery was a lot like learning to ride a bike. Part of this metaphor stems from the fact that it took me a very long time to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels--I was almost 8. The other part of the metaphor has to do with recovery being a process, just like learning how to ride a bike.

My first bike was a pink Big Wheels that, according to my dad, I rode up and down the driveway for hours on end. When I was 5, I graduated to a purple Huffy with streamers and a little plastic basket in front. Shortly after I got the bike, I thought I would try riding without the training wheels. I pedaled up to the top of our driveway, and started coasting down the (not insignificant) hill. When I got to the bottom, I panicked because I forgot how to stop. So I careened on down the lawn and ultimately crashed into the swing set. The training wheels went back on and stayed on. I was petrified.

But the summer I turned 8, I realized that these training wheels were holding me back, and I was good enough at doing "bike things" that I could probably handle it. Smartly, I took my now training-wheel-free bike over to my friend's house where I could ride on her flat, almost traffic-free street. Not-so-smartly, I looked back to give my mom a thumbs-up when I got pedaling and promptly crashed into a mailbox. My friends were waiting, though, so I wiped off my scraped chin, and kept my eyes on the road.

Of course, more accidents were almost inevitable, and I wiped out many times. The worst was on a gravel road when I was left with cuts and scrapes on my left leg from knee to ankle. Ow! But my bike continued to be my ticket to freedom as I rode to friend's houses and even my first job at the local public library. The bike (upgraded to a 26" teal Huffy) went with me to college and I was looking forward to riding it after my first round of hospitalizations for anorexia.

The first time out the spring after my hospital stay was pretty fun. My second time out on my bike, however, didn't go quite as planned. I was about 500 feet beyond the end of our driveway (the same one I ingloriously careened down as an over-confident five-year-old), when I started shaking and felt the world going black. On the edge of the road and with a split second of awareness before I lost consciousness, I threw myself away from the oncoming van and into the ditch at the side of the road. I woke up in the ER about half an hour later, recovering from the first of numerous seizures. Other than wrecking my bike, scraping my knee, and herniating a disk in my back (I crashed into a roadside sign in the ditch), I was lucky. I had a helmet. I wasn't hit by the van.

I didn't really ride after that. Besides having a severely damaged bike, I was terrified and so were my parents. I remembered enjoying riding my bike outside, but I soon became chained to the stationary variety, with its blinking red lights and much more limited opportunities for serious injury. Biking was an endorphin high, but otherwise drudgery.

I'd thought about getting another bike for quite some time, but I never got around to it. Part of it was finances, part of it was fear, and part of it was the fact that riding outside wouldn't be "as good" as riding on a stationary bike. I toyed with the idea this past spring, but I was too compulsive with all of my other exercise to even find the time to go bike shopping.

But I got a bike yesterday--nothing real fancy, but still a nice bike. I didn't get it home in time to go out yesterday, but I did manage to take it for a spin today. It was fun! I was only riding for about 15 minutes as it was getting dark, but I could have kept going for much longer. Not in the it's...not...time...to...stop...yet keep going that drove me during the ED, but in a I'm having fun this sucks I don't want to stop kind of way.

Will I wipe out on this bike? I hope not. But that's why I carry my phone and wear a helmet.

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Ari J. Brattkus said...

Awesome post!

Micco said...

I agree with Erica - awesome post! I love riding my bike, too. It puts me in a completely zen space, and I never get obsessive about it the way I do (or can) for other forms of exercise.

Girl. said...

this was an awesome analogy :)

Laurel said...

So true, the correlation between the two. I got rid of my treadmill shortly after I truly realized how addicted to it I was. When I hear people talk about thier own, I miss mine a little, but quickly think of how it wasn't an exercise in health, but in an unhealthy obsession. I love your inspiring journey, thank you.

Libby said...

I used to bike a lot. It was how I got around my town growing up... I had a maroon Huffy 10-speed that I called that "Red Demon." Had it at college, too. And then in grad school I bought a blue Specialized hybrid. Rode it all over campus. But then one of my dear friends was hit by a car while biking home. And she died. And my bike got put away.

I've tried a few times since then. But it's always been too freaky, and I've put the bike away. It's currently disassembled down in my storage area.

Your post reminds me of how much I used to love it, though. Hmmm... hmmm....

(Great post, btw!)

Amy said...

Aw, I miss riding my bike. People ride in Pittsburgh, but I'm way too scared, as I know how many bikers I've narrowly missed hitting while driving.

Lisa and Jim said...

I'm glad you're back on two wheels - for fun, not for calorie-burning. Happy trails!

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About Me

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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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