Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

New Phase

I’m entering a new phase in my life tomorrow.  Or, I guess I’ve already entered it, but tomorrow makes it official.  I was diagnosed with ARVD, a genetic form of progressive cardiomyopathy.  Fatty tissues gradually take over the muscle cells in my right ventricle, enlarging the ventricle, which puts me at greater risk of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac arrest.  Tomorrow I go to the hospital and will have an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) place to help prevent potentially fatal arrhythmias such VTach or sudden cardiac death.  It’s nice to know the answer to the symptoms that have been plaguing me for awhile, and I feel reassured that the ICD is there.  An additional means of protection.

What bothers me (well, a lot of things bother me about this) is that because we know that exercise triggers arrhythmias, I will no longer be allowed to do any type of exercise which raises my heart rate.  And this makes me very sad.  I’ve been training in athletics since I was five.  I’ve been a runner since I was twelve: that’s twenty years.  How many pairs of running shoes (Sauconys) have I worn through?  How many packs of spikes have I bought and screwed into competition flats?  How many times have I circled the 400 meter track, pushing my limits to get to the next goal, my next personal record?  And after I finished competing, how many miles have I spent running through various neighborhoods, letting all of my pent up stress and emotion float away?  

Yes, exercise was a large part of my eating disorder.  But after I took a period of time off of exercise, after I learned why I was overexercising, after I learned to enjoy it just for the sake of it, running was a part of who I was.  The first thing I did when I moved to Columbia was look at a street map and figure out a running route.  (I got lost twice in the first week. While running.)  

I’ve always used unhealthy ways to relieve stress: the cutting, the anorexia, the exercising.  In the past few years, exercise finally turned into a healthy way to relieve stress, and now that’s been taken away from me.  And honestly, I’m not quite sure what to do.  

I’ll be honest, a part of me was scared that after the news sunk in, I’d have a desire to restrict again, to even things out.  But that didn’t happen.  The opposite happened.  I recognized that now, more than any other time, my body needs me to take proper care of it.  

I realize that there are so many parts of me that have nothing to do with running, or exercise.  But this has been a way to cope.  And I have a feeling that the next few weeks are going to be extremely difficult, both in terms of physical healing, but also emotionally.  Grieving for something lost, which I can finally do now that I’m not starving all the pain away.  But I’m also going to have to take another leap of faith and trust that my treatment team will guide me and support me and help me find new ways to cope.  

I’m going to have to take another leap of faith and trust myself.


July 14, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, heart | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Alexis,
    You’re right–you will have to find alternate ways to cope, which REALLY sucks when exercise was so awesome for you! I can’t even imagine not being able to do anything that raises your pulse. For the 12 years that I competed in the pool, many years of that included 4.5 hours a day in the water. After I graduated from college, I was SO SICK of working out that I detested it for a LONG time. I decided that restricting and purging was the “easy” solution to not working out. So it wasn’t until this past February, that my team suggested I join a gym to be healthy and have a good outlet. I did, and I love it. But even when I do a “leisurely swim,” it still raises my heartrate. I’m sure even a light “jog” for you does the same. I’m not sure what you can “replace” exercise with, that will give you the same benefits, but that’s what you and your treatment team get to figure out. I don’t have an answer, but I can empathize. Good luck tomorrow!

    Comment by Beth | July 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. ” Grieving for something lost, which I can finally do now that I’m not starving all the pain away.”

    That is a very powerful statement!

    As a life-long dancer who knows that I’ll have to give up dance in the next few years(before my feet completely give out), I understand a little of what you are feeling. But since I’m not at that point yet, I won’t claim to completely get what you are going through. I do know that I’ll have to make plans for replacing what has been such an important part of my life and how to grieve for it.

    Comment by Millie | July 15, 2009 | Reply

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