Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My painful, honest truth

Of course I have much to write about. I've been yearning to write this (in public, not just in my journal) for about two weeks now, but I couldn't due to certain circumstances.. Anyway, I am hear to tell my story. Be ready for a long post. *P.s. If you want to skip my history and just get to my present status just skip to the purple text at the bottom*

I went into college as an eager young girl, unsure of what I wanted or what was to become of me now that I was away from home and friends. I struggled a good bit. I broke up with my boyfriend of 8 months because I felt the need to experience college and figure out what it was I wanted. I dabbled in dating just before I started things back up with Connor, a high school romance and the first and only boy I  have ever really loved. Connor brought me happiness, and I felt okay with school, so overall I was content. But I missed home. I felt like the people in college weren't genuine like my friends in Memphis.
Running at the SEC level was challenging and thrilling. I enjoyed it, but I had never before been criticized for my weight or size. That year I heard it all too often from my coach at the time. I was also praised by football players and others for being 'thick'. I liked the attention, but I hated the connotation.

I went home for summer to develop an eating disorder. Of course it was not only the comments that sparked this, but they did contribute a bit. Mostly, though, it was because that summer my mother relapsed after over 2 years of sobriety, the longest sobriety date she had had since she left when I was 7. Her boyfriend called me over the day she relapsed to try to talk some sense into her. I went over to her house only to have her blame me for her drinking. She claimed that I had never really loved her nor had I ever been a good daughter.
I took her purse and keys from her so that she wouldn't run off and buy her precious cocaine, and she retaliated by scratching, punching, kicking, screaming, doing anything she could to hurt me. And I have to say, the words left far deeper scars than anything else.
In the end, my mother somehow snuck away amidst all of the chaos, stealing my car and money.

I will never forget that day. It's a memory that has changed my world.
A couple weeks before my mom's relapse. June 2010
Almost immediately I became obsessive with eating and running. I was already strict enough earlier that year due to pressures from running. This episode really pushed me over the edge.
Eating and running. Those were the only two things I really cared about. I tried to care about Connor, but it's hard to love someone when you hate yourself so much.
I would go to sleep dreaming about food. Food Network was always on my tv. I romanticized the thought of eating, yet I had such difficulty putting anything to my lips. I avoided my friends and family. I avoided everyone, really. I just wanted to eat, sleep, run, and read. All alone. If you knew me before that summer or know me now, then you would be surprised to hear how introverted I became. I hated it, though. I am not an introverted person. I need people to make me happy, so I was really losing myself to this disorder.

(This is terribly painful to write...)

Connor, my friend Kenzie, and her mother approached me at the end of the summer. I remember it quite vividly. They told me they believed I had a problem. Obviously I was in denial. I did not want to be sick. I never thought I would have a problem with eating. I always loved food. Plus my best friend of 15 years had gone through the same battle, and it had broken my heart to watch her starve herself just a few years earlier.
So Kenzie's mom showed me papers she had printed out, describing symptoms of anorexia: constantly cold, preoccupied thoughts of food, hair loss, pale skin, isolated behavior.
I could no longer deny it.
Fall 2010. Pretty gross.
I went into my sophomore year of college knowing that I needed to recover. But running and my anorexia had been my best friends all summer. I didn't want to lose them.
I was faster than ever because I had run so much over summer. I also associated my anorexia with my success in running, although this was a mistake.
I slowly gained weight my sophomore year, and as I did, my times improved. I began to see my efforts pay off. I was becoming more sociable; I gained back friends I had pushed away. And I started this blog as an effort to track my progress.
Penn Relays with beautiful teammates. April 2011.
Recovery isn't what you would expect, though. It's much more difficult. I wanted it so badly, but it was so difficult to convince myself to backtrack on all of the hard work I had done to lose the weight. My worth was placed in that number on the scale. I couldn't remember life before the number. I was scared to know what I was without ED.

I had much success track season of sophomore year. Spring 2011. I reached goal weight, surpassed it, and continued to get faster. I found happiness. I loved who I was becoming.
SEC Championships. May 2011.
But summer happened. I was alone in Starkville, taking summer classes. Again, eating and running were the only things there for me other than schoolbooks. I began to obsess over the weight I had gained, and I began to restrict again. As a result, binging occurred.

I mostly binged on things that I didn't allow myself on a regular basis. Cookies, peanut butter, crackers, hummus, granola..
The binging was always followed by extreme exercise and restriction.
I remember in particular the consequences of this one binge. I ran 11 miles the morning after, but that wasn't enough. I took a nap after showering from my run, and then I went to the gym at school and stayed for over 4 hours. I biked for an hour, lifted weights, went to spin class, and ran on the treadmill. Not a moment was spent resting. I went home that night to eat an apple (only food for the day), do a workout video, and go to bed.

I hated myself for letting my life spin out of control.

The fall of junior year (2011)was spent in much the same way except I think I got burnt out from the excessive exercise. I began to binge at night to deal with my daily insecurities and problems, but I did not make up for it with exercise like I used to. I also tore my calf muscle around this time, and not running at all was very hard to deal with.
I was plagued with injury after injury this past spring semester (2012). I was just so tired of it all. I hated that I couldn't run, and I hated that I couldn't stop eating. Connor and I broke up, and that change threw me off a bit, too. Ultimately, though, my eating disorder has nothing to do with anyone but me, so Connor's leaving didn't affect it much.
The end of spring semester 2012
Eventually, I recovered from all of my injuries, and I left school for summer in a decent state. I could run. I couldn't wait to get fit again.
The thing is, I had an unrealistic idea of what my summer would be.
Half of me really just wanted to be sick again.
I thought, 'you can do this just for a couple months. Just run all of your mileage, eat <1000 calories a day, and you'll lose the weight and you'll be healthy and fit by fall'.
The other half of me couldn't let myself do this.
'I have been through far too much to go through all of that again', I thought.

Now I have almost caught you up. This summer has been a rollercoaster. But I have been more happy this summer than I have in a long, long time. Since high school I guess.
I have only been super depressed when I think of August 13, the date when I have to return to school. 

You see, every time I tried to get back into running, my eating disorders lingered over me more than ever. I would be out on a run and I would think, 'you can't eat tomorrow. Maybe an apple and a yogurt. That's it.'
Or I would go the opposite way. Thinking that it is almost impossible to get back to my All-American status, I would eat my emotions. That part of my summer has been miserable.

So obviously I have had much to think about this summer in terms of my future running career and my recovery from ED.
I love running, I do. But I lost all the joy that comes along with it last summer.
I miss the way I once yearned to wake up in the mornings and lose myself on the pavement of city streets.

This is all to say that I have decided to quit competitive running. I love my team, and I really do love and respect my current coach, but I cannot sacrifice my health and happiness by continuing on in this vicious cycle. I have hated myself for this decision, but I am also quite proud of myself. It is the most difficult decision of my life thus far, and I think I made the right one.

I understand that most people will not understand, but I have had to learn to get over what other people think of me. In my gut I know that this is what I need. I am tired of being between extreme eating disorders.
The great news is that I have been eating so much healthier and I've been exercising every day since I decided to break from the pressures of staying on my team.
It's weird, but I love doing this for me. I am already losing some of the weight I gained this summer, and I don't even care how small I get. I do want to get back in shape, but most of all I just want to be healthy and happy.

It's going to be strange and different going back to school without having practice every day, without wearing my MSU Track & Field gear.. But I will make the most of it. 
I am really excited to see what I become.


  1. you know how happy my heart is for you. im so glad you're in my life. i love you. i know how painful that must have been to write, reliving those memories, but you ARE NOT defined by the past, ED, relationships, accomplishments. you're loved so much by so many. i truly hope you feel tha when you return.

    1. thank you for being so honest. I was moved to tears

  2. This is a great decision, Haley, and I can only imagine how hard it was for you to come to this. Running will always be there. You will be able to go back to it in the future when you feel ready.

    I'm so proud of you, sweetheart <3

  3. I have been waiting for this day to come. After following your blog from nearly the beginning, it did seem all your problems seemed to stem from competitive running. I had my own personal battles as a collegiate athlete, quite separate from your own, but it's amazing how much weight was lifted off my shoulders when I was done. I became a completely different person and was able to develop friendships and relationships I was unable to do as an athlete. Clearly, as a collegiate coach myself now, I would NEVER discourage an athlete to quit the sport, but sometimes it is the best thing to walk away. Who knows, maybe you just need this year to step away and regain yourself and then you'll find yourself knocking at Coach Franks' door ready to come back. But if not, that's OK too because regardless, this is the BEST time to find who HALEY the PERSON is, not Haley the ATHLETE. Enjoy your time girl, I know I have :)

  4. I am SO proud of you. There are tears in my eyes. You are so strong.

  5. Your honesty is absolutely refreshing to read. No one understands that has not been through this, but doing what you need to do for YOU is key... you only have one life to live. :)

  6. Wow, what a brave move. I'm really glad that you are happy and at peace with your decision, and ready to live the healthy life that you deserve. Take care, I'm rooting for you!

  7. AWESOME HALES !!!! so much love and support for you. keep smiling that beautiful smile !!! i'll be praying for you <3

  8. I don't think I can say anything that others haven't already, but I will say that I agree with everyone else about your bravery. It took me many years to rediscover the joy of running, and I had to give it up completely for a bit to get there. There were times I truly hated it. I think when we start to find ourselves, we begin to enjoy everything more. We also seem to find the right direction in life more quickly. It's really awesome to see the support and love in the comments here. I hope whatever you decide, you will continue to reclaim yourself and find more happiness. :)

  9. Hey Haley! Like Lize, I don't think I can say anything new, but I read this morning and it was interesting to see the whole story. I do think people often forget that behind the ED, the food issues, bingeing, purging, restricting, craving, meds, doctors, and therapy, is a person with experiences, feelings, and emotions. And I really saw that in your post today. I'm glad you made the choice that's right for you! You're a talented runner and could run anywhere, so if you have to take a year off, you could run later with eligibility or somewhere else, or maybe just not run competitively anymore but start coaching or working with runners somehow. But above all, you're way more important than any finish time or record or race and you have to do what's best for Haley, not for a team or for another person. And definitely not for running because you're worth so much more than that.

  10. You are so strong Haley and I don't know who wouldn't accept your choice or not understand it. Your health comes first and competitive running takes such a toll on a person's body and mental state! After pretty much not being able to run the past 3 months I have been able to separate myself from the obsessiveness and addiction of running. It's not my whole life and it does not control me. I often teeter with the idea of quitting because I know I'm not good enough for a division one program, I'm so far behind in training and my school schedule is so intense my senior year of college. Obviously I want to try and work it out but if I can't, I need to accept it, just like you. It is not our life, it is part of our life. When it WAS our life, it took control, much like it did with you and your ED. It associated itself with each other and you felt you had to be perfect in every way, at least that's how it makes me feel. If I take an unplanned off day I would get mad at myself or feel guilt trips from others. It's just not the way to live. We need to put ourselves first and take care of ourselves. Much like how I am not rushing my recovery and if it ends up getting me kicked off the team, I'll accept it. Because my health comes first and I think that is such a great outlook for life and I am so proud and envious of your strength because YOU are taking control of life now. Running is not everything, but your health is. I love you and even though we haven't spoken much, I follow every post, fb status and picture :) I'm always thinking of you and wishing the best in your recovery!

  11. Love your guts! Way to go!

  12. I am always truly impressed with your ability to be honest and raw with the way that you share it is a beautiful thing and very inspiring. Bravo!

  13. Giving up competitive support was so hard when I did it.
    At that time I wasn't suffering with an ED but it through my mood right off and ultimately years later the Anorexia came.
    I am so proud of you for having the courage to say "I" matter more.
    "me" matters more than anything.
    I love you and I am ALWAYS here for you <3

  14. You are amazing. I know how hard it is to go through all of this and you are so strong. The last year for you is exactly what I am going through now, and the other day I decided that I'm not going to compete this year and felt the exact same weight was lifted. It's a difficult decision to make but you have to do what is best for you and what will help you to be healthy. I'm sure this will help you to get to a happier place faster!!

  15. What a strong, mature and level headed decision. So happy for you Haley! Keep finding freedom

  16. You are awesome, girl! Way to make the right decision for you. I know it must have not been easy, but if it makes you happier and healthier it'll all be worth it.

    Ashley :)

  17. I think all these ladies said all there is to say but I think you made a great, mature choice that will make you stronger in yourself and not in the things that you think have to characterize you! Way to go. I know there will be times when it's hard but just run for fun if you ever feel like it! Don't make it something you HAVE to do or else this process will steal your joy and stress you out.

  18. I can only imagine how hard this must have been for you to write and to come forth, share your experiences with those who follow your blog and to state publicly (is a blog public?) that you are not going to competitively run. That has to be truly hard and, at the same time, building yourself inside to announce that to the world!

    Some things in society and college never change--the imperfect physical ideals that women are suppose to achieve and still be healthy. I went to college after breaking up with my boyfriend, I lost a lot of weight from not eating and exercising a lot. I worked in the dining hall on campus, ate for free and ate good food when we catered. When I 'got over' my breakup, I enjoyed the food available to me and I gained weight. PLUS I my room digs were not good and there was conflict with the roomates. By the end of the year I was sick and I ended up being very sick that summer.[ Sadly, I still have that illness almost a score later, though it's in held at bay with medication. I a drastically scarred colon and am on spendy medication because of it. ] When I went back to school the following year, the thing I heard over and over and over from the women was "you look GREAT!" "What diet did you do". "I wish I could get SICK like that for a few months". Right, because people want to be close to death in order to look great?!?!?!?!

    My hope is that you will find your happy place and that you will be strong on the inside for YOU and not for anyone else. You can't make other people happy at the risk of making yourself sick. I and my siblings are finally coming to terms with our upbringing. While our mother is not quite the special woman yours is, she has her own issues, brought on by depression, helplessness, and untreated diabetes. She had children because that was the "thing to do" in the 60s and 70s, maybe not because she really wanted kids.

    Your statement about needing people struck a chord with me. I'm mostly an extrovert, but I enjoying some time alone as an introvert too.I often wonder if my being an extrovert, being funny and *acting* carefree is a way to hide the sadness we can't fix in the recesses of our mind.

    Be strong for YOU!

  19. I know how hard it is to have the overexercise make your performance initially better than before. It happened to me with cycling and it is such a hard rut to get out of. Of course I had the same experience as you, and my performance increased even more when I began to nourish myself properly. I am so proud of you for taking that step, because I know it is so so hard <3

    You're so strong! You can do this :)


  20. Hi Haley,

    I used to read your blog a couple of years ago when I was about 14 (I'm 17 now) and beginning to recover from my eating disorder. I too was a runner and I guess you were the first person I looked up to in the beginning of my journey to recovery (I got super excited when you left an encouraging comment on my attempted blog once). I was thinking about that time today, which was definitely one of the toughest times of my life, and remembered you and thats why I'm here catching up on how you've been doing. Like you my anorexia turned into bulimia/binge eating disorder, which I am very proud to say I'm nearly fully recovered from. This post really stuck out at me though; I've been struggling with my decision to quit competitive running at the beginning of the year after countless injuries and way too much pressure on myself. Running has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, but without it I feel so much happier and relaxed in myself. I completely understand the difficulty of the decision, especially when we've been identified as "runners" by the people around us for so long, and also by ourselves. It was a hard decision, but ultimately the best one for me at this time. Thats not to say I will never go back to competitive running, but for now there are more important things to focus on- especially my health. I hope you can find peace with your decision and I'm proud of how far we have both come. Thank you for giving me hope all that time ago. I'm so happy to read that your doing so well.

    Stay strong,