Well, since this week has been absolutely NUTS (working 32 hours at a new job on top of in-person training and trying to keep up on training plans for all my online clients, in addition to taking care of a new puppy) & I haven't posted since Sunday, I thought I'd take some time to introduce myself to my new followers/talk a little about how running has shaped/improved my life.
I started running pretty young. I grew up in a rural town in upstate NY & I have memories of running over to my best friend's house every afternoon after school; timing myself each time to see if I could get faster & faster. When I was in intermediate school, I beat all the boys in the mile race, so when I got to junior high I couldn't wait to join the track team. I graduated 8th grade with the school record in the 1500, which I was super proud of, but I was also a soccer player and I refused to give up soccer to join cross country even though the coach was actively trying to recruit me (and I wasn’t very good at soccer. Lol). Finally, sophomore year of high school, I finally decided to ditch soccer and take up cross country. I immediately fell in love with the sport and was very successful. I went to Providence College with the dream of being a successful D1 athlete. And my life began to slowly unravel.
My first week at Providence (preseason), I was told I had compartment syndrome and I would most likely need to get surgery. After traveling to Boston for testing, it was decided that I did indeed need surgery. I was devastated. Every time I would run, it felt like my leg might give out, and yet I knew surgery would derail my season and most likely the entire year. More than the surgery, though, it was my mental health that derailed that sent me into a downward spiral. Without running, and being further from home than I'd ever been & without a support system, I felt so lost. I partied all the time, ate my weight in crap, and skipped most of my (honors) classes. I easily gained the "freshman 15," and THEN some. Over winter break, I tried & tried to convince my parents to let me come home for good (I also stole my mom's car & ran away to Pennsylvania that winter, if that gives you any indication of my mental state). However, my parents sent me back with the expectation that I needed to do better, but it only got worse. I think my lowest point was when the athletic trainer, who I became very close with as she was treating my CS, walked me to the school's mental health office one day because she was so worried about me. I also vividly remember calling my parents sobbing about having dreams about killing myself (subconscious, but scary just the same).
I never ran again at PC. I don't even think I attended another practice. I was so angry at myself and at my circumstances that I couldn't even drag myself to do the one activity I loved more than anything else in the world. I left PC after freshman year having virtually been kicked out for my grades. I don't even think I attended my final exams. I was so broken, and I was convinced that leaving PC was the solution to it all.
When I returned back to NY, I tried to put my life back together. Instead of immediately enrolling back into school somewhere else, I took a year to regroup. I got an apartment with some girls in downtown Rochester and worked and took some classes. After a few months, I re-applied to SUNY Geneseo, where I had been accepted as a senior in high school. Although my grades from PC were horrendous, I had a great HS transcript & the Xc & track coach had been a high school mentor and pulled some strings to get me re-accepted.
While I was definitely in a better head-space than I had been at PC, I certainly didn’t have my life together as much as I pretended to. I did quite a bit of partying the year that I took off, and I kinda screwed around at the community college I dabbled in classes at because the classes were much easier than what I was accustomed to and I really didn’t need to apply myself to get easy A’s. I didn’t much take anything seriously, and to be honest I stuck to the idea that my experience, and disturbing mental state, at PC was a one-time thing and was situation-, and location-, specific. So as I went off to Geneseo, I wasn’t nearly as mentally healthy as I should have been, although I certainly put up a good front to not only everyone around me, but also to myself.
The summer before I headed to Geneseo, I was running a decent amount of mileage because I felt that I had a lot to prove. I was coming from one of the best Division 1 programs in the country, to one of the best Division III programs in the nation. Well, while I may have been running good mileage, I wasn’t taking care of myself in every other way. I was out most every night until the wee hours of the morning, and I had no idea how to strength train to strengthen my body and prevent injury. So, I again found myself coming into an amazing cross country program injured. I had plantar fasciitis in both feet that just wouldn’t quit. I tried running for about a month and I think I may have competed in two races. But it was just too painful, and I was just too discouraged, to continue. I received physical therapy from the athletic trainers but again, the situation at PC began to repeat itself.
Much of what happened at Geneseo I’ve actually forgotten. As in, I honestly can’t remember huge chunks of time. I think the way I treated myself and some of the people around me is just too painful to remember, so in order to protect myself (and my pride), my mind has shoved it as far back as it can. It’s not like anything insanely awful happened, but I think I realize that Geneseo was basically a second chance that I completely blew. But in the same manner, I realize that I must cut myself some slack and lend myself some grace because I slipped into a deep depression and eating disorder that I couldn’t climb out of on my own. I needed help, and I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to get it.
Long story short, I left Geneseo after almost 2 ½ years. I was supposed to graduate in 2011, and I dropped out over Thanksgiving 2010. I couldn’t even make it to the end of the semester. At that point, I was sleeping all day and going out all night. I found false intimacy with men who were dating other people. I drove to Rochester almost every weekend to party. I was doing drugs on a regular basis. I never went to class. I would binge on food until I made myself sick all day Sunday and Monday, and then wouldn’t allow myself to eat for the next two days.
My mom only just barely allowed me to come home. She was furious of course, but her stipulation was that I must see a therapist. There was a lot of hostility, and still is, between my father and me, and in therapy I realized that our dysfunctional relationship was the root of many of my issues. I slowly began to heal.
I wish I could tell you that this is where things began to turn around and get better, but as life often does, it threw me yet another curve ball. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer exactly one year after I left Geneseo, and died the following year, exactly one year after she was diagnosed (almost to the day). I won’t draw out details, but it was an awful year. As you can imagine, my healing screeched to a halt and probably regressed a bit. But although I would give anything in the world to have her here, her death shook me in a way that I needed to be shook. I was finally able to see the bigger picture and to take it upon myself to really and truly get my life together. She told my aunt before she passed that while she had come to terms with dying, she was worried about me and the fact that I seemed to be so “lost.” When my aunt sat me down to tell me this, I felt so incredibly sad and ashamed. This woman, the love of my life, my best friend, the person who had stood by me through all my ridiculous and terrible decisions, was worried about ME while she was fighting brain cancer. I clearly had to change some things.
So began my journey toward transforming my life into something I was proud of. I went back to school and graduated with a 4.0 and was asked by my professors to join them in research. I interned in a chemical dependency unit and felt blessed that my mental illness hadn’t led me down the path of addiction. I hosted a cancer gala in my mom’s honor. I got my personal training certification. I fell in love and moved to Colorado. And, perhaps most significantly, I found my love for running again. I stopped using it as a punishment for what I had eaten that day. I started taking care of my body, which included NOT running if that’s what my body was telling me (when I was injured in high school, I would sneak out of my house at 2am to go for runs because I knew my parents & my coach wouldn’t let me run injured. Smart. I know.). Although running will ALWAYS be important for my mental health and for stress relief, as it is for many, I’ve learned other ways to cope and I don’t berate myself nearly as much if I take a day off. I will always be a work in progress, but my gosh, I didn’t expect that writing this particular blog would create such a surge in love for myself. Self love is SO important, and that is why I coach runners, and also why I train. If I can help you gain just a little more confidence, or if my workouts help you relieve just a little bit of stress built up from your day, then my own day has been made.
Wow guys. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks so much for reading. I set out to talk about my love for running, and got pretty deep. We all have a journey and sometimes the healing process involves sharing. So thank you.
Please, please reach out to me if this spoke to you; if you’re currently struggling with something similar, or if you simply enjoyed the read. I would really appreciate it. Much love <3