I neglected my body when I was younger, and now I’m paying the consequences

I neglected my body when I was younger, and now I'm paying the consequences

My left knee is so inflamed that it hurts when I walk. The pain now covered my legs, my upper thighs, and my lower ankles. Sitting doesn’t feel better than standing, and the ice only gives me relief for a minute or two.

It’s been a long time since this happened, but I should have known it was coming.

I started easing my way back into running last month. A few miles here, a few miles there. Most of the time, I like running and walking because I appreciate intuitive movement and I don’t like forcing myself to do terrible things anymore.

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

Getting up from my desk and doing something – anything – is important for my mental health.

However, running is a slippery slope for me.

Why? For years I used to run to escape the pain, purge my food, and manipulate my body to look a certain way. I suffered from something called exercise addiction as well as other eating disorders.

People like to joke and say, “Yes, but wouldn’t it be nice to get addicted to exercise?”

I don’t know; you tell me.

Is it a good idea to prioritize burning calories over spending time with your loved ones? Is it okay to tell yourself that you are a worthless person when you do not exercise?

Is it a good idea to ignore physical pain, your mental health — and literally everything else — if it means working out?

i don’t think so.

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

I didn’t listen and listen when I was younger and was told I would pay a price for it. Doctors and physical therapists explained that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30 if I didn’t learn how to rest.

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

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

I can’t do the things I used to do and I’ve accepted that. I’ve accepted that I’ll never be the runner I once was, and for good reason. My body can’t take it.

My hips and knees are weak and tired from years of running on the bones and rejecting my gut. My feminine energy has chimed in to say: Hno! We need balance and this is not the way.

But it’s hard. It was hard because there were so many things I loved about running before it became an unhealthy addiction and my eating disorder took over my life.

Now – even if I wanted to – I can’t run like I used to. I’m 26, but it feels like I’m living inside the body of someone much older than me.

I can’t even do simple core exercises without modifying them because my hips simply can’t handle them. I had very little cartilage left from those times when my body was screaming at me to stop, but I turned up the music and ran faster.

Nothing else matters… not even my future.

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

I didn’t track the distance I traveled, nor did I tire myself out when I felt like walking. Instead, I celebrated my body and was grateful that even though I couldn’t run as much as I used to, I could still at least run when I wanted to.

Thankfully I have practiced and continue to practice other forms of movement that I enjoy, such as yoga, Pilates, high-intensity training, walking, hiking, gardening, and swimming.

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My pain came out of nowhere

Like I said before, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this kind of knee pain and I’m not sure why it suddenly appeared. I ran last week, but not close to when I first noticed my knee being swollen and uncomfortable.

So far I haven’t been able to do any kind of movement. Yesterday, I rolled out my yoga mat, and even that was too much. For the first few minutes, I turned off the online trainer and went and got ready.

It hurt so bad.

Because I was compensating with my other leg when I stood, my right knee also hurt.

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

These moments and bouts always present a challenge of listening to my body. Will I be patient and respect what he asks of me, or will I endure the pain and resort to old behaviors?

This time, it’s especially tempting not to listen because I recently expressed to my partner that I think I’ve gained weight and my body doesn’t feel its best.

“Well, remember, your body is the least interesting thing about you,” he told me.

This is what I would say to others who are struggling to accept their appearance, but of course, the advice we give others is never easy to give ourselves.

What I learned from my bad knee this time around is that no matter how much I want to erase the past and pretend it never happened, it is still there and will forever be a part of me and my story.

It can hurt, frustrate me, and make me sad, but we have come a long way – me and my body – and I have to remember that in the tough moments.

I made bad choices when I was younger because I didn’t know how to survive and stay well. Now, I am older and wiser and I am asked to remember the past and honor it with open arms.

This pain may be more than just a random annoyance; Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow and heal further…as cliche as that sounds.

Whatever the reason, I endure the pain, meditate, and listen.

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Carly Newberg is a yoga instructor, photographer, and freelance writer passionate about telling authentic stories. Carly published her memoir, Good Enough, in 2020 and is now a regular contributor to Medium. She has published 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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