My Undiagnosed Story

I find it ironic how one’s passion can bring them just as much pain as it does joy.

Runners joke about the love/hate relationship we often have with our sport. We all have bad runs, and in those times, it’s easy to say “I hate running” or “running sucks.” We’re well aware that not every run is going to be cheerful, but maybe we ought to take a step back and recognize the emotions we are feeling when we say the words “I hate running.” I have a feeling if runners were really honest with themselves, many would realize the words they say mean more than a joke. If I’d been more honest with myself, maybe I would have considered whether my love/hate relationship with running was serving me positively or not, and if the answer was “no” I could have worked to change that. Had I been more honest with myself, I would not have ended my collegiate career burnt out and depressed.

My love/hate relationship with running crossed the line from joke to reality spring semester of my junior year. That winter break, life threw me some curveballs. Mentally and emotionally, I was wrecked. At the time, I clung onto running for dear life, as it was the only thing that still made me feel good. However, because I was so mentally and emotionally unstable, the confidence I had in myself began to dwindle drastically. As a result, when I had a bad workout or race, I began to panic. And never stopped.

I am a perfectionist.

Combine perfectionism with stress, deteriorating self-confidence, and running setbacks, and you get the perfect formula for self-hate. I felt trapped and I began playing the self-blame game. I thought perhaps my diet was to blame for slower race times and changing my diet would solve my problems. So I would try to eat ‘healthy’ during the day but end up stress eating at night because I had failed to meet the unrealistic diet expectations I set for myself throughout the day. When I saw the number increasing on the scale, I increased the disordered eating behaviors in the name of “health” and threw myself into a never ending downward spiral.

It is hard to think of a time that I was not stressed out.

I was stressed out about running, about being able to grab skin around my waist, about not looking the way I did when I was at my fastest. Looking back, every day felt horrible. I never felt confident in my own skin, in or out of the uniform. Everything I tried to do to make myself faster, failed. Since I was not seeing the results I wanted to see, I felt that I had lost control of everything in my life. I felt completely and utterly worthless, to the point that I considered physical self-harm. Thankfully, I had just enough strength left in me not to. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder or other mental disorder because I, like most athletes, never sought help. In hindsight, I wish I sought help and if I had, maybe I wouldn’t be telling the same story I am today.

In hindsight, I wish I sought help and if I had, maybe I wouldn’t be telling the same story I am today.

What I’ve learned is that life is too short to compare yourself to the past and to people around you. Running fast times is not worth sacrificing your health or your happiness. Running may seem like the end all or be all of your life, but it is not. I know people say it all the time, but running is a part of your life, running is not your life. And you need to believe it. If you allow it, running can take over your life in a negative way, and nothing good can come from your passion turning into your enemy.

Running is a part of your life, running is not your life.

Every runner knows that running is not easy. But we must force ourselves to recognize that with each step we take, we are making our bodies, and our minds, stronger. On your next run relish the strength you are fostering within. Do not allow running to control you but, rather, use running to bring out the best person you can be. Believe in yourself and trust in your body, the rest will take care of itself.

So ladies, take time to respect yourself and be honest about your feelings. Maybe joking about hating running is an indication of a deeper emotion you’ve pushed away. If I could go back in time, I would have sought out help right away. I would do anything to recreate all those miserable miles and turn them into happy ones. But I can’t, so I will focus on filling my life with a future full of happy miles.

Please, if you feel yourself running in Lane 9, seek help. Whether it’s your best friend, a doctor, your coach, or a complete stranger, start talking. You can get your happiness back, and you can get running back. No one deserves to feel like they are trapped. You only get one life to live. So why not make it the best that it can be?

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