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Roberta: reclaiming my body through ultra-running

The body is an amazing machine. A few months ago I ran my first ultra-marathon. An ultra-marathon is any run longer than a marathon. In my case, being my very first one, it was comparatively short. Still, for me, it was a great achievement.

During the summer of 1998, 20 years ago, I was on a holiday with the local volleyball team in which I had been playing for a few years. I have very random memories of that holiday. A distant one, from the very last day, stuck with me all these years.

I enjoyed simple activities outdoors; I didn’t have a phone or computer and, definitely had never heard of eating disorders.

I remember standing with everyone else by some ping pong tables where an afternoon snack had been laid out for us.

I remember deciding, at that point, that I was not going to have part of it and I would lose some weight before starting middle school in September.

A response triggered by a series of events

That thought had been triggered by a series of small events (a mock catwalk; a tight, childish swimsuit among older girls wearing bikinis; feeling isolated; etc) that happened during that holiday and that at that time I did not think much of. I was a healthy, normal child at that point, living in a relatively remote area in Northern Italy. I enjoyed simple activities in the outdoors; I did not have a phone or a computer and, definitely had never heard before of eating disorders.

As you might guess, from that summer afternoon, things slowly spiralled down, fed by other events (beginning of middle school with new classmates; my first period I did not know anything about; the first boyfriend etc.)

The first of several hospitalisations

Exactly a year later I was lying in the hospital bed of a psychiatric department (as I say, eating disorders were not well known at that point in rural Italy, so there were not many specific structures to cure them) where I had been admitted with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. That was going to be just the first of several hospitalisations.

The following eight years, between 1999 and 2007, saw me in and out of hospitals and rehab centres.

I went through force feeding, intravenous therapy, taking pills to stabilise mood, cure depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, etc… all kinds of psychotherapy, art therapy, garden therapy; losing weight, putting on weight, low blood pressure, osteoporosis… At one point I even lost sensitivity in a calf and had an epileptic seizure.

My body fought everything I was throwing at it

But the body is an amazing machine, and, probably against my will at times, it fought through everything I was throwing at it. And I am so grateful it did.

And after all it had gone through, after the high and the lows, this amazing machine that is my body has bounced back and, a few months back, carried me through a run up and down hills to the finish line.

Read more about the happy ending to Roberta’s story at Beat

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