As a 13 year old girl I was mostly focused on writing about what was happening at school – who was “going with” who and other kinds of pre-teen gossip – and sharing the latest and greatest news about my soccer team and how awesome we were. I was confident, goofy and happy.
Once I started high school, though, so many of my insecurities and self-criticisms started developing. Most of this criticism was with regards to my self image and my weight. How I measured up to my peers purely from a superficial standpoint. I wrote about all of it and poured my heart into these books. If you saw me from the outside you probably would not have ever guessed that on the inside I was so cruel to myself, that I did not love myself. I was an athletic, active, and happy teenager as far as anyone could tell: involved in sports year-round, a good student and very social. I had amazing friends and got along with everyone at school and I had a boyfriend, Seth, who was also my best friend and who I dated very seriously. From the outside, you would think I had it all and that I would be extremely self confident.
But I wasn’t.
I remember at 16 years old, during the winter of my Junior year of high school, I had this idea that I would “stop snacking” so I could lose a few pounds. I did not have any intention of letting this get out of control. But it got very out of control. The next thing I knew, everyone was concerned about me. My family, my friends, my boyfriend – everyone was making comments about how I didn’t eat enough, how skinny I was. My journal entries from this time are astonishing – I truly honestly did not understand why people were freaking out. I thought I was fine. I remember going away on vacation with my family that Spring Break, and my mother encouraging me, begging me, to eat some pretzels on the airplane. I did not want to eat them. She was scared and upset and told me that if I did not start eating she was going to have to take me to the hospital when we got home. She needed me to see how I was hurting myself. How serious this was.
|smiling, but hurting. wasting away.|
|me with my beautiful sister, Alissa|
I still couldn’t see it. But when we returned from this trip she put me on a scale and stood me in front of a full length mirror. My mother was crying and gripping my bony shoulders. And that was when I saw it. When I saw my mother’s face – filled with fear and sadness – and looked into my own tear-filled eyes, I understood. It was one of the saddest moments of my life. I could not believe how much pain I was causing my mother, and how much I must have been hurting everyone I loved by doing this to myself. I ached to make it all better, to stop hurting the ones that I loved. But even still, I did not recognize that I was punishing myself. That I was not loving myself.
That took some time. A lot of time.
I went to therapy, I went to a nutritionist. I reached a healthy weight again but struggled every day to feel good about myself and about my body. My college years were the darkest time in my life, for a lot of reasons. I feel like I walked around with a big heavy weight in my heart. I was incredibly depressed and developed some pretty awful, self-loathing habits like smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, sleeping all day, eating horribly. My weight fluctuated a lot during those years. I just had no idea how to take care of myself.
My journal entries from this time reveal how much I struggled to find inner peace and happiness. I began to pray a lot and to write about how I wanted to break free from the trappings of my physical body. I was finally aware that I needed to learn to love myself, and I wanted, SO MUCH, to figure that out. It was not only about self acceptance, but about self love. I had spent so much time criticizing my body and defining myself by how much I weighed or how I fit into my clothes. It was time for me to shed that way of thinking and to begin to love myself for who I was on the inside. It was time to begin to believe in myself.
And this is when I started training for my first marathon. I was 23 years old. I was one of those people who had no idea how many miles a marathon even was, yet I wanted to do it with every ounce of my being. I researched and researched (and yes quickly learned that a marathon is 26.2 miles!) and I put a training plan together for myself. It was not about losing weight or about wearing a certain size of clothing. It was about doing something so incredibly hard because I needed to believe that I could. It was about taking care of myself from the inside out. Running took me to a place deep within myself and introduced me to parts of my spirit that I did not know were there. I remember thinking to myself that every time I went out for a run by myself, I was getting to know the real me. I began to respect, love, believe in and feel proud of the person that I am.
Running saved me from depression and it taught me how to truly love myself from the inside out.
I am forever grateful.