I neglected my body when I was young. now i’m paying the consequences

My left knee is so inflamed that it hurts to walk. The pain has now wrapped around my leg, up my thigh and down to my ankle. Sitting is no better than standing and ice only gives me relief for a minute or two.

This has been a long time coming, but I should have known it was coming.

I started easing my way back into running last month. A couple of miles here, a couple of miles there. And most of the time my runs are more like jogging because I appreciate intuitive movement and no longer like to force myself to do things that feel scary.

But man, spring is here and I couldn’t help but put on my shoes and go outside. Working from home has made me appreciate movement even more.

Getting up from my desk and doing something is important to my mental health.

Running is slippery for me though.

Why? For years, I ran to escape my pain, clean my food, and make my body look a certain way. I struggled with something called physical addiction in addition to other eating disorders.

People like to joke and say. “Yeah, but isn’t it good to be addicted to exercise?”

I don’t know you tell me

Is it okay to prioritize burning calories over spending time with loved ones? And is it okay to tell yourself you’re worthless when you don’t exercise?

Is it okay to ignore physical pain, your mental health, and literally everything else if it means starting your workout?

I do not think.

CONTACT: 4 bad habits that the happiest people avoid, according to a psychologist

I’m in my twenties but I feel like I’m in my sixties

I didn’t tune in or listen when I was younger and I was told I would pay for it. Doctors and physical therapists made it clear that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was thirty if I didn’t learn to relax.

But I didn’t know how. All I knew was to run further and further away from my trauma and mental turmoil. I knew how to start running and stop only when the monsters in my head told me I had done enough, but only for that one day.

And even though my body and I are much closer friends than before, it still holds a grudge. It hurts and I don’t blame it.

I can’t do what I used to do, and I’ve accepted that. I’ve accepted that I’ll never be as much of a runner as I used to be, and for good reason. My body can’t take it.

My eyelids and knees are weak and tired from years of running on bones and rejecting my intuition. My feminine energy began to say. E:no! We need balance and this is not the way.

But it is difficult. It’s hard because there were so many things I loved about running before it turned into an unhealthy addiction and my eating disorder took over.

Now, even if I wanted to, I can’t run like I used to. I’m 26 years old, but I feel like I’m living in a much older person’s body.

I can’t even do simple core exercises without modifying them because my hips just can’t take it. I have little cartilage left from all the times my body was screaming at me to stop, but I turned on the music and ran faster.

Nothing else mattered… not even my future.

Last year I got to where I could usually do one or two runs a week and I’m still good. A little sore here and there, but the good kind of sore. Running wasn’t forced or planned, it was just a spontaneous decision that I was excited about.

I didn’t track my runs or beat myself up when I wanted to walk. Instead, I celebrated my body and was grateful that even though I couldn’t run like I used to, at least I could run when I wanted to.

And thank goodness I had and still have other forms of exercise that I enjoy, like yoga, pilates, HIIT, walking, hiking, gardening, and swimming.

CONTACT: 7 Weird Habits That Could Actually Be Secret Addictions

My pain went away

Like I said before, it’s been a long time since I’ve had knee pain like this and I’m not sure why it decided to start all of a sudden. I ran last week, but nowhere near when I first noticed my knee was swollen and sore.

So far, I have not been able to make any kind of movement. I rolled out my yoga mat yesterday and even that was a lot. Within the first few minutes, I turned off the online instructor and went and got ready.

It hurt so bad.

And because I was compensating with my other leg when I stood, now my right knee hurts too.

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I ice incessantly using a foam roller, soak in Epsom salts, massage, scrape, do the old physical therapy exercises, and use a TENS unit. I have all the tools, but my body rejects them.

These moments and flare-ups always present a challenge to listen to my body. Will I be patient and honor what it is asking of me, or will I push past the pain and revert to old behaviors?

This time it’s especially tempting not to listen because I recently confided in my partner that I think I’ve gained weight and I don’t feel the best about my body.

“Well, remember, your body is the least of you,” she told me.

That’s what I like to say to others who struggle with accepting the way they look, but of course the advice we give others is never so easy to give ourselves.

What I’ve learned from my injured knees this time is that as much as I want to erase the past and pretend it didn’t happen, it’s still there and will forever be a part of me and my story.

It may hurt, frustrate, and upset me, but we’ve come a long way, me and my body, and I have to remember that in the hard times.

I made bad choices when I was younger because I didn’t know how to survive and still be okay. Now I’m older and wiser, and I’m asked to remember and honor the past with open arms.

Maybe this pain is more than an occasional inconvenience; maybe it’s an opportunity to grow and heal more… as harsh as that sounds.

Whatever the reason, I sit through the pain, reflect and listen.

CONTACT: To sober up. Why is it absolutely possible to overcome addiction on your own?

Carly Newberg is a yoga teacher, photographer, and shallow writer with a passion for authentic storytelling. Carly published her memoir, Enough, in 2020 and is now a regular contributor to Medium. She has had articles in publications such as Insider, Well & Good and Dame.

This article was originally published on Medium. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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