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What a Ladybug Meant to Me in Eating Disorder Recovery

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I was a fair distance into my run when the numb feeling started. As if on cue, the next song on my running playlist was all about fading away. I was in survival mode again, running with my eyes half-closed, just trying to keep going somewhere. I didn’t even know where I was going. I just knew I needed to keep going. I told myself I was outrunning the familiar sense of my life not having a purpose, but who was I kidding? I was fading into the music and my endless-looking strides, fading into a time when I was fighting all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons, fading into a former frame of mind that so many people wanted me to stay away from. That frame of mind was what kept me going in the long runs alone at night, years ago. When “must keep going,” was my mantra, and there was no reason behind why I had to keep going. All I knew was I had to.

“I don’t want to be your little picture perfect pretty girl….”

That lyric caught my attention. There was no way I was going to be the eating disorder’s idea of a picture perfect pretty girl. Not a chance. I wasn’t going to believe its lies about what would make me happy, succumb to its demands about what I should be doing at every single moment and let it rob me of my chance to see how beautiful life could be. No. I was stronger and wiser than that.

I reminded myself of why I ran. To empower myself. To let out the steam that seethed from the places in my mind where the traumatic memories still burned sometimes. To remind myself my willpower to keep going was a force to be reckoned with, that I was a miracle, that life was a miracle.

Sure, that kind of self-talk was empowering, but my endless I-am-strong-enough internal dialogue got a little boring to hear over and over again. It was like hearing my favorite songs, but only one genre of them. I was getting tired of the whole “outrun the forces of darkness” soliloquy. My life was more than a movie about a girl who fights monsters in her head.

I stopped pumping my ego up when I noticed something tickling my fingers. Perplexed, I looked down at my hand. I discovered a ladybug hitching a ride on my knuckle. I stopped in my tracks. What was it doing there?

Maybe it liked my running music. It was techno dance music, though. I wouldn’t think ladybugs would like “trance” music, but maybe some ladybugs did.

Maybe it wanted to go sightseeing and travel with me as if my running feet were the wheels of a tour bus.

Maybe it knew I needed a friend who wouldn’t judge me.

Maybe it knew I wouldn’t hurt it.

I wondered how long the ladybug would stay with me.

As I ran, I kept looking down. It didn’t move at first. Was it dead? I hoped not. A minute passed, and it was still on my finger. But that wouldn’t make sense. After all, it was moving.

After that, for almost the entire time I was running, I looked down at the ladybug, watching it vigilantly. I couldn’t help but smile. I thought about holding my music-playing phone in the other hand, but maybe the ladybug was staying for the music. I put the phone back in the hand with the ladybug in it, taking care not to disturb my bead-sized friend as I adjusted the position of my phone. The only problem with my newfound companion was that he or she peed on my hand a couple times.

But I loved that ladybug. I kept running so it could get a good sightseeing tour, and maybe find a new place to live somewhat quickly. Maybe it was fleeing from a bad situation at home — too many predators, perhaps. It stayed on my hand until the spot where I turned off to run back towards the direction of my house. I saw it raise its wings, about to take flight.

“Feeling restless, huh?” I asked it. I stopped to watch it fly away, and it went vaguely in the direction of my house. My house… right…

I should head home, I thought.

Because of my eating disorder struggles, my mom set a maximum on my run lengths, which at the time, I thought was ridiculous. Following the ladybug, I let myself relax and walk the remaining distance back to my house. So, I didn’t run as much as I would have liked, but I was OK with that.

I wished I could thank that ladybug — tell it how much it helped me, read it this story and somehow have it understand. But alas, it’s somewhere near a tree, a golf course and a blue summer sky. I hope it’s happy.

Regardless, I know I’m happy. So, dear ladybug, thank you for reminding me life is beautiful. I love you.

Your DJ, Tour Guide and Chosen Sightseeing Vehicle

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Angel-Lina.

Originally published: August 14, 2017
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