It was day three of the Mojave, my body seemed to be shrinking under an extra 8 pounds of water, and I was becoming increasingly stressed about possibly re-injuring my low back – a herniated disk in college that was debilitatingly painful, led to a three month bed rest, and kept me from running for three years. The thought of going back to that space got in my head, and so began the visions.
Positive self-talk, phrase repetition, and visualization are all forms of meditation I have been trying to develop since coming to terms with my eating disorder. For as long as I can remember I have had an unhealthy relationship with food, one that morphed into a disordered relationship around the same time as the back injury. For most of the past ten years I hid my disorder from loved ones and from myself, ignoring the cycle of restriction, bingeing, purging, coming out of it, convincing myself I’m fine, and starting over in times of stress.
I finally decided to talk about this with family and friends over the past year or so and have tried getting in the habit of journaling and meditation. Of course, these coping mechanisms haven’t solved my disordered eating, but they are a start, and have been healing tools for all aspects of my life. Talking to loved ones, writing, and meditation may be obvious solutions to many struggles, but it’s easier said than done.
Walking along Rt 62, sand-dusted and sweaty, I started visualizing all the ways my body had been there for me, both in moments of strength and injury. On the opposite side of the street as my Mojave hiking partner, Travis Puglisi, I spoke my mantra, “my body is my home and I love her,” aloud repeatedly for half a mile. I had a vision of my body floating in the Atlantic, light, free, and full of gratitude. I was taken out of the desert, feeling the spin of earth.
I wasn’t able to vocalize to Travis what I was feeling while walking, mostly because I didn’t fully understand it myself. When we found our camp spot for the night, we set up our sleeping spots by headlamp, collapsed in the sand, and started boiling water for dinner.
I took a deep breath, and after being quiet for most of the day, said, “I had a really hard day today.”
Travis and I shared openly, every night of the Mojave, our unique struggles and moments of beauty. On night three, I didn’t explain my relationship with eating, or all the details of where I traveled in my mind, but it was enough to say out loud that it was hard.
“Sometimes it’s just good to have someone to struggle with. Thanks for struggling with me,” Travis said with a light laugh.
I had no intentions of hiking the Mojave with a partner until the day before we set out. I had never met Travis, and it is generally difficult for me to admit I need help, let alone from a stranger, but I genuinely do not think I could have done it without him. In addition to the start of what I hope will be a lifelong friendship, hiking with Travis got me to a place of acceptance for a fact I had been slowly realizing since starting this trip – I have needed a lot of help thus far, I will continue to need help along the way, and that’s ok. Thank you to everyone who has supported – either by encouraging comments, helping me coordinate sleeping spots, or walking 105 miles through the desert.
A huge thank you to Steve Bardwell of the Morongo Basin Conservation Association, who put me in touch with Jacqueline Guevara, who put me in touch with Travis Puglisi (find him and his hiking service at http://www.wanderingmojave.com), and for connecting me with John Lauretig from Friends of Joshua Tree, who resupplied our water at 50 miles.
Thanks to everyone reading and following along, I appreciate you and am sending all my love!