Caitlin s Story
Galloway, New Jersey USA
"Running D1 had been a dream of mine for some time. To me, it meant that I succeeded, not only as a runner, but basically just at life. So, summer going into my senior year of high school, I went hard. I had the perfect image of the D1 runner in my head and told myself I needed to look exactly like that to achieve what I wanted. I compared myself to others around me, picking out every single aspect or flaw of myself that was holding me back.
Although I had many other stresses, such as senior year classes, home life, and relationships, I set everything aside and poured all my energy and focus into my running because at that point, that was what mattered most to me. This strategy worked, at least for a little. I had the most successful cross-country season in my school's history. I broke every single record that I ran, I PR'd every race, and on one of the happiest days of my life, I got offered a scholarship to run at a D1 school in Florida, which was everything I could have ever asked for.
I lived the remainder of my senior year with the sense that I had made it and my life was complete. Unfortunately, that success was very short-lived. All the unrealistic and unattainable standards that I had set for myself came crashing down on me. Without understanding why, my performance levels were not where they used to be. My body was hurt all the time. I was angry, irritable, and would lash out. Exhaustion became my best friend. I used every excuse in the book to try to explain to myself why this was happening to me, except for confronting the obvious one that was staring me in the face.
That March, I was diagnosed with the eating disorder: bulimia non-purging type. What that exactly means is I would severely restrict my caloric intake and overexercise. Then I would get so hungry that my body would go into starvation mode because it didn’t know when I would be getting food again. I would binge eat uncontrollably until it hurt and even then, I couldn’t get myself to stop. I’d go into this trance, where my mind would shut down and my body took over, trying to survive. It was something I just couldn’t control, and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t control it, which caused me to hate myself even more.
In the end, it was just my instincts kicking in, trying to keep me alive. The most important thing to understand is, my eating disorder was not all about the food. Yes, it started out that way, but the real root of the problem manifested itself far deeper. My cycles of restricting and binging, and overexercising would be majorly fueled by poor self-esteem, poor body image, and extremely low self-worth. I would tell myself that 'I was too fat to be a runner', that 'I was trash, worthless, and disgusting.' I would tell myself that this pain I was feeling now was because I deserved it. On top of all this, I was living in a broken home, inside a mentally abusive relationship, and fighting depression.
Up until this point I was able to avoid these emotions and hide behind the success of my running. I chose not to face any of these problems, convincing myself that I had it all together because I was running so well. Once I got to college and my body could no longer take the stress that I was putting on myself, it began to deteriorate and, with that, my running began to deteriorate as well.
I could no longer hide behind my running and was forced to face all these issues at once. I felt so overwhelmed by all the pressures I put on myself, all the brokenness, and loneliness around me, I used my eating disorder as a coping mechanism to hide behind fact that my life was falling apart. I used my bulimic cycle to fill in the emptiness that I was feeling inside. What might have started out as an obsession with weight and food turned into something much more powerful, that not even I could understand.
I ended up leaving college and seeking treatment. Since then, I have come out stronger than I ever was before. I have a firm belief in my values and worth as an individual. Running is no longer fueled by my eating disorder, but fueled by my love of self. I know the importance of facing my emotions and accepting them for what they are. Life is truly beautiful when you’re living it for yourself and not hiding behind your demons."