I became a vegan partially encouraged by the claims of green smoothies curing everything from cancer to hangnails.
I didn’t have cancer (thank god), but I did have an ankle that refused to heal. I thought that, perhaps, by detoxifying my insides I would be giving my body the impetus it needed to start healing.
The yoga certainly helped; in fact, doing Bikram seven to nine times a week greatly facilitated my ankle mobility and reduced my ankle pain. However, I could neither financially or temporally support my yoga addiction, and when my hours changed at work, I had to give it up almost entirely.
When I went back to the gym, besides the fact that the guy at the front desk was seriously concerned about the extent of my yoga-and-green-food-induced body mass loss* over the last two months, I had trouble doing lower body exercises without pain. Standing for hours at work made everything worse. More and more often, I was being sent to the back of house to answer the phones so I could sit during my shifts.
Without yoga, I was depressed. Without exercise period? Well, not even kale could make things better. And with both my roommate and financial situations definitively headed south–along with a major burnout impending at the Kool-Aid job–I took a much-needed vacation.
I flew across the Mississippi for the first time in my life so that I could visit my mother. In California.
In California, life was beautiful. In California, I felt calm and relaxed. In California, I felt change.
When I returned to Florida, I found out that my roommates’ guest was throwing a party for my roommate in our house (an event about which I hadn’t been consulted). I retreated to my grandmother’s house with my dog that night, and placed a phone call to my mother. I was going to California. To live with my mother. For good.
That would take care of my roommates and my finances, but what about my ankle?
I wouldn’t be able to leave Florida until the new year, and it was only October. I still had to stand on my feet for nine hours a day, forty-plus hours a week.
And since my orthopedist had been no help, I went to a podiatrist. I was X-rayed and examined, but nothing showed up to conclusively explain my pain. My ankle ached constantly and hurt acutely when I tried to run or jump. My heel started swelling whenever I wore shoes.
And so I went into a boot. (If you’ve never worn one of these evil contraptions, consider yourself lucky. They’re also known as “cam walkers,” and they have a rounded bottom–kind of like those horrifically ugly Shape Up shoes–which reduces the pressure you put on your bones and joints when you walk. They also make walking a chore, and so you do less of it as a result.)
An MRI showed that I had “bone marrow edema” (swollen bone marrow) in the three major bones in my ankle: the tibia and fibula (the two major lower-leg bones) and the calcaneus (the heel bone), and my doctor was also concerned that my boot was causing dysfunction in the subtalar joint (the hinge that moves your foot up and down) I went on disability and started seeing a physical therapist.
A bone scan in late November confirmed the edema. The PT did nothing except a few joint mobilizations, which were basically useless.
As my ankle situation devolved and my workouts remained at a standstill, I let the depression envelop me like a thick blanket, suffocating in its heat as the Floridian “winter” dragged on. My holidays were joyless, and my days monotonous.** I gained weight, despite the fact that I reduced my overall calorie intake and started substituting food with vegan food powders as often as I could. Being a vegan hadn’t cured my ankle, and it hadn’t cured my ED. The only thing I had left to do was juice some more chard and wait for California.
*I didn’t just lose fat. I lost a ton of muscle. I was becoming “skinny” in a way that didn’t look “strong.” And yet: I was thin enough to feel like I was made of air.+ I wasn’t thin enough for my black shorts goal, but I was getting there, and that felt like progress.
+When I was going through my New York anorexia experience, I read a book about Orthorexia that made me aware that there was a group of disordered eaters called “Breatharians.” Otherwise known as Inedia, or Fasting, Breatharianism is about starving yourself to break free from the heavy, cumbersome bodies to which our souls have been chained. It’s a steady diet of air to become air.(In other words, it’s killing yourself while justifying it through pseudo-philosophy. I don’t recommend this.) At no point did I subscribe to this practice (hypoglycemia was too terrible an ordeal for me to try it) but the idea of transcending the physical body to become lighter than air was often on my mind. The heavier I became, the harder I worked to become lighter.
**The only good that came out of this period was the fact that I got to spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them keeping me sane and grounded!