When I was a child I had this near unbreakable bond with home. So much so, that it was extremely difficult for my Mom to get me to go anywhere by myself or out of the comfort of familiarity. This included school, church, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, Boy Scouts, birthday parties, swimming lessons and even sleepover with friends.
You name it. I just wanted to be home.
My Mom eventually had to use a little tough love to get me out of the car to go to school. A fight would ensue and my Mom would undoubtedly win each round. Looking back now, I am convinced she learned her moves from Hulk Hogan.
I could not understand why my mother would separate me from not just home, but her as well? Why would she rip me away from a place where I felt safe, loved and able to be myself into situations and places where I felt vulnerable, unsure and sometimes alone?
There were often tears by both sides. Mine, on the steps of the school; my Mom’s alone in her car. It wasn’t easy on either of us.
Even when I said that I had enough and resolved to run away from home. I wouldn’t go very far. I would get about two houses away and then remember the big dog that lived at the corner house. The thought of an encounter made me run for the safety of home.
Not only did I find comfort in the safety of home, but I found it in food as well. Food was a pretty much a best friend growing up. We spent numerous times together after school, sometimes more than once. We watched Saturday morning cartoons together and consoled each other when things got too difficult.
Food never talked back to me, it never said an unkind word and never let me down. The best part is it could change from ice cream to nachos to soda to leftovers depending on how I felt. It was a lifelong friend.
When I grew older I slowly branched out of my narrow comfort zone. I became more outgoing. I found humor as a medium that I could express myself. I made friends throughout High School and started to challenge myself academically.
For years I had been in the special education system, but come my senior year I wanted out. During that year I got my first ever 4.0 on my report card. I began to prove to myself that I could do hard things.
After graduation I left for two years to Chicago to serve an LDS mission. Quickly, I was thrown out of every comfort zone I ever knew. The first day in the mission field we had to give away a Book of Mormon on our way from the airport to downtown. There was no running home for safety.
Throughout my mission I learned to embrace the anxiety, doubt and uncertainty of standing outside your comfort zone. For someone who loved the safety of home, I sure got accustomed to change. Throughout my two years I was involved in five emergency transfers. My first June in Chicago I had a different mission companion each week.
I even started taking charge of my health. Within a year of being on my mission I had lost nearly 60lbs. It was mainly from cutting back on the calories, watching what I ate and never going back for seconds at dinners. This is much harder than one would think.
The Lord knew what I needed to learn during my time in Chicago. Growth only happens when we challenge ourselves and step outside of what we find comfortable. I came away from my mission ready to challenge myself in new ways.
Shortly after my return I enrolled in the local community college. I didn’t have an intended major or plan of action. I quickly joined the school newspaper and anchored myself at the school by getting involved.
Soon enough I was involved in student government, the service center and student alumni board. The more I out of my comfort zone I more alive I felt. I felt that my life was gaining a great purpose.
Even when I transferred schools and moved three hours away from home I was still heavily involved. The more that I got involved the deeper purpose I felt. I loved having my hands in a little bit of everything and getting others to come along for the ride as well.
I loved the interaction that I had with my friends and classmates. Whether it was in the classroom, sporting events, parties or working together, I always aimed to make others feel included through inclusion and humor.
But, there was another side to me that others rarely saw. I never talked about it with family or friends, let alone myself. Everything that I was to others was not how I felt about myself. I didn’t feel like that happy outgoing person, in fact I felt quite opposite. I felt like I was living a lie.
I was very much depressed.
I slowly saw the weight that I once lost come back. This time additional pounds came with them. It seemed like every time I found the courage to step on the scale I would find an additional 25lbs. standing there.
My weekends were often spent in isolation. There were many times that I would stay in my room the whole weekend. Like, not leave at all. Why should I when I have a refrigerator, Play Station, cable and Facebook?
I avoided everything that reminded me or pressed me to address what was happening in my life. I didn’t want to face the issue that I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to step outside my comfort zone. I didn’t want to live life.
I always knew that something had to give. Eventually? Maybe? In the future?
But, something gave.
On my graduation day from college, one the most supposed happiest days of one’s life, I felt beyond horrible. It was hard to see my friends beaming from ear to ear of their accomplishment while it took everything in me to do likewise, especially with my family in attendance.
Besides not feeling happy, physically, I felt disgusting. I could barely fit into my graduation gown and when I sat down during the events I ripped the backside of my gown from the pressure of my weight and size. I didn’t even know that was possible?
After faking smiles for pictures I had a lot of time that night to think about the day’s events. I knew that the feelings I was feeling needed to be addressed. I was growing even sicker of the person that I wasn’t, and I knew that I had to wake up and begin living life.
So I started waking up.
It wasn’t an overnight change. It was a process. But, a seed was planted and it slowly began to grow.
Once I moved home I started unraveling the web that I cast myself into for so many years. I had to confront the many things I avoided. I could no longer avoid myself, my relationships with friends and family and especially God.
My weight had continued to balloon despite my best efforts. After getting a physical done I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid. It’s unclear how long it had been an issue, but it provided a number of answers to why I felt and looked the way I did.
Besides gaining weight, an underactive thyroid can also cause depression, fatigue and even some joint pain. No wonder I felt so discouraged whenever I stepped on the scale or tried to get into an exercise routine. Once I was medicated and my thyroid was under control, I started to slowly work on getting into a new lifestyle.
Finding the courage to start is daunting. I remember finding myself ready to step onto the scale and letting myself know that whatever number showed up didn’t define me. It was just a way to gauge a starting point.
The scale read 402. It was honestly not the number I was expecting, but it didn’t surprise me. Nearly ten years before that I remembered the promise I made to never make it back into the 300s. I made myself a promise again to never see the 400s.
I knew that I couldn’t break that promise.
Instead of looking for a quick fix, I knew I needed to find something that would sustain me. I needed a new lifestyle. So, I made it a point to walk more. At work I would take the stairs instead of the elevator from the 1st to the 2nd floor. I took the long route from my office to the bus. Just for those extra steps.
I didn’t go right into a diet. Instead I started keeping a food journal. I cut back on my portion sizes. Then, after a week I look back in the journal and make changes to my diet. Over the first month I lost over 30lbs. with just those small little changes.
It gave me hope.
I reconnected with my friend Kevin, who also happened to be a personal trainer. He helped me overcome a lot of my fears of the gym, taught me how to utilize the gym and pushed me to get the most out of the gym. I began to see big physical changes.
Soon I was down 50lbs, 75lbs and then 100lbs. But, the more the weight came off the more confidence and motivation I gained to keep going. Along the way Kevin challenged me to run a 5K. I incorporated my training for the race into my workouts.
It’s tough training for a run when you don’t feel like a runner. It’s a mentality that you’ve got to work through and towards. My training runs went from 15 minute runs on the treadmill to a couple mile run outside. Making the trek outside was another hurdle I had to make.
Because, when you don’t feel like a runner you don’t want to be seen.
On the morning of my first 5K, I was nervous. I honestly didn’t have the right equipment. My shoes were a couple years old and my gym shorts were bought at the peak of my weight. If it wasn’t for a good elastic band I probably would have lost my shorts mid-run. But, I was prepared and I had to put trust into my training and Kevin’s instruction.
The course was hilly and by any seasoned runners’ assessment an easy out and back course. But, for someone running their first 5K it was a daunting task. I felt like I was running up hills both ways. My legs hurt and my lungs struggled to keep up, but I was running alongside Kevin and he kept me going.
As exhausted and tired as I felt at the finish line this odd feeling over me.
I wanted more.
A month later I signed up for my second 5K, then another came and another. Soon, I found the courage to set my eyes on a 10K. The training for the longer race was much easier I found.
I knew eventually that I had to train for a half marathon. That was the logical next step, right? I had to prove to myself that I could do. I had to prove to myself that I could hard things. There was no other option.
My training runs grew longer and longer. Soon I found myself running not just around the neighborhood, but around town. My stamina and strength grew, while I continued to lose weight. Soon, I found myself down 125lbs., 150lbs and eventually to 180lbs.
Running was changing my life.
Soon I found my weekend preference to be running. I’m hesitate to put a number to the amount of races that I’ve ran knowing that number will change by the time you read this book. But, I love the challenges that preparing and running gives me.
But, there was more than just physical changes happening to me. I was taking the time to cure myself emotionally, socially and spiritually. I set aside my fears and anxieties from putting off my activity in church and made the necessary steps back to the religion and church I had spent two years sharing with others.
These changes have created me into a different person, a more happy, optimistic and hopeful person. One who can look at the bigger picture and revel in the opportunity of overcoming obstacles.
Because I decided to come back home. But, the return hasn’t been a mosey or brisk walk back. I’m running back.
I’m running back towards the love, safety, comfort and reassurance that comes with home.
This is my story about running towards home.