On this day, October 13, 12 years ago in 2006, my whole world absolutely got turned upside down, was shaken around, and I would eventually be spat out into a new life. But, that was better than the alternative. I was 18.
At that time, I didn’t know that, 12 years later at 30, I’d be married, a homeowner, have two crazy pups, or live in Mississippi. More than that, though, I didn’t know that I could look back in the mirror and like the person (the whole person!) staring back at me. I didn’t know what true happiness, first with myself, and second with my life, could be.
I think this is a perfect first blog post. I’ve written other blogs, but have since changed website servers and lost it all. It’s time to reinvent my blog like the one I’ve always wanted to share with people and get focused on what matters. This one feels the most authentic. In my words, I’m not looking for sympathy. In all my years of sharing my stories and life, I’ve always (always) gotten messages saying, “You too? I thought I was the only one. How did you survive?”
I think everyone has a story of “this is when I decided to change,” and sometimes, “this is the event that changed my life without me trying.” Sometimes these events are positive, but often times it’s when we’re at the bottom looking up when we know, “This is it. My life has to change.”
I heard this quote once that has stayed with me, and I bring it out in uncertain times and when change seems too challenging to accept. It goes like this:
Not all positive change feels positive at the beginning… which leads me into, The only way out is through.
Oh, boy. The problem is, before October 13, 2006, I didn’t know that I needed a positive change. I didn’t know it was possible, and I certainly didn’t think I was worthy of a better life. And, I didn’t know how lucky I was to have a second chance.
Here’s what happened before and on that fated day, a Friday the 13th, in fact…
I was a college athlete and that was my identity: a volleyball player. (I will certainly talk about identity more at a later date.) I struggled with being stripped of that title when I transferred schools my junior year of high school and was ineligible to play my senior year. I took it personally. On top of that, I was bullied for the first time in my life. That was when the internet sort of took off and cyberbullying became a thing. I went from being successful in my sport and popular in school in the way that I had a lot of friends in different “groups,” to hiding in the bathroom and library so no one would see me, every chance I got.
It was a lonely and sad time in my life and I exasperated this feeling and held onto it as my new identity: I’m not __ enough. (enter: good enough, friendly enough, athletic enough, funny enough, pretty enough…) I was full of lack.
I used sleeping as a way to avoid putting myself in situations to prove how unworthy I was of attention and to escape my life. And, I used exercise to run away from it all (my life). Running away from things became a theme, both literally and figuratively, in my life for years to follow.
At the onset of my addiction and problem, it began seemingly innocent. I thought, “Hey, I’m not playing volleyball as much, maybe I shouldn’t eat so much.”
So, I cut down on snacks. I began noticing my body changing and working better in athletics, so I cut out more. Then, other people began taking notice and praised me for having such discipline and looking so thin and toned. (My older self says, “Why are we talking about the way our bodies LOOK and not celebrating the amazing things they can do?)
So, I continued to cut more food, and exercise more. I truly thought this was something I could control and, honestly, 17 year-old-me wouldn’t dare go back to being the slightly chubby elite athlete. Sadly, being chubby and 17 is a “bad” thing to be in the eyes of many at that cohort.
I’m skipping over a lot, but let me tell you that I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa early in my senior year of high school.
Never going back to being chubby also meant that I wouldn’t go back to being bullied for what was happening in my life at the time. I couldn’t separate it and didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing. I fought it and spent much of my senior year being shuffled from doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and nutrition meetings. In a matter of about four months, I’d dropped around 50 pounds and went from a beaming ball of energy to a hopeless, dull being who wished nothing more than to continue shrinking out of existence. I made progress (much to my contempt) and could finally, medically speaking, return to volleyball.
It was April of my senior year in high school when I decided on a college. At that point, I was skipped over on the scholarship offers I was given, so I chose a school I thought I’d like and was accepted into and thought I could just play wherever.
So, I went to college in 2006 and upon even beginning the first day of practice, my coach brought me into her office and had me sign a contract of sorts. It said, in general:
- If you get to X weight, you won’t be able to dress for competition until you can regain the weight you’ve lost;
- If you get to X weight (lower), you’ll also have to sit out of practice;
- If you get to X weight (even lower), you won’t be able to travel or do any team activities;
- Finally, if you get to X weight (lower, still), you’ll have to leave and go to an in-patient treatment program for eating disorder recovery.
Check, check, check, and on October 13, 2006, check.
On October 13, 2006, I entered treatment at the Refrew Center in South Florida. It was the day I first saw (made) my father cry. I felt scared someone would strip me of my survival tactics. And, I was worried that I truly didn’t care if I got better.
But, it was also the beginning for me. I didn’t know that I would meet dozens of women just like me, and not like me at all, who fought similar demons – athletes, students, mothers, grandmothers… all special, intelligent, empathetic women who were struggling and aspiring survivors. This is not only my story, but the story of so many that I carry with me.
In this blog, I will continue telling my story, with what I’m up to now mixed in. I’ll also have a few features. If you don’t know me, you can read a little about me, here.
For one, I’ll share a podcast presenting unique perspectives of female athletes and their challenges and celebrations. I’ll also share a never-been-told series of short stories that I will call “Dating Diaries of a Tomboy” – the humor, the embarrassment, and the relatability of it all. It’s the lighthearted side of being an athlete and a female that I can look back at with a little bit of cringing, and a lot of laughter.
Drop me a line on my contact page, here, if you’d like to be a part of the podcast and tell me a little bit about your story. Also, let me know what you’re interested in hearing about and what you like to read from me.
This space will no doubt grow and change as I do. In my work as a writer of female sports (what I do for actual compensation!), I felt that writing about the human element of how difficult it is to be a female athlete in today’s landscape compels me to do that, too.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin