In Summer 1998, I ran track for the Texas Stars Track Club. Competing in track meets was my life. With my team, I felt calm and confident. We practiced every day for two hours, and had track meets on the weekend. That Summer, I set a State High Jump Record of 5’2 for 11-12 year old girls, won 1st place in the 800 meters at the Games of Texas, placed 2nd in the 400 meters at the Hershey National Track Meet, and placed 2nd in the High Jump at the Youth Nationals and at the Junior Olympics. However, by the time the Hershey National Track Meet came around in August, I had severe foot pain. I trained and competed through it, but after running the 400 meters in Pennsylvania, I could barely walk. When I got back to Dallas, I found out I had a stress fracture in one of the cuboid bones. I was sentenced to a boot and crutches for 12 weeks.
This injury did not cause my eating disorder, but it accelerated the development of it. Over the summer, I had started to pay more attention to what I ate. I told myself, “The lighter I was, the faster I would be.” When the injury sidelined me from cross country, I figured that I needed to eat less, because I burned less. My weight plummeted during the first semester of 7th grade. My teachers became concerned about my health. I couldn’t concentrate at all in class anymore, and I reached that point where I could no longer think clearly.
After I was diagnosed with anorexia, my doctor referred me to Dr. Wright, a Pediatric Cardiologist at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, to have my first of many echocardiograms. Unfortunately, the echo showed a mitral valve regurgitation. Any chance that I had of being on ESD’s Track Team was gone. With a closely monitored meal plan, scared and confused parents, a struggling best friend, a worried boyfriend, and clueless overweight therapists, my weight dropped even more, and I was admitted to Children’s Medical Center for two months.
If the injury was the only thing that had caused my eating disorder, I wouldn’t have relapsed so many times. I would have found my way back to sports, gained confidence in my teenage years, and hopefully stayed eating disorder and addiction free. Nobody noticed everything else that set me up for a six year war.
I am not writing this part to show you how bad I had it, because I didn’t have it all that bad. My parents loved me. We lived in a nice neighborhood. I went to a good school, excelled in sports, was strong academically (especially in math), and had plenty of friends. I am writing this part, so that the next person that struggles like I did has a better chance of being understood. There are more resources and treatments available now, but I don’t believe those would have helped without someone else having a better understanding of me.
My Recipe for Disaster
- Competing at a high level without the support needed to work through a serious injury.
- Unnoticed attention problems in school. I was smart enough to get A’s and B’s without paying much attention. I also didn’t get in trouble, so my lack of interest in everything but math was not seen.
- Exercise was the only thing that helped me concentrate. The only time I remember that I enjoyed reading was during Summer Track Season.
- Information overload in social situations. I noticed everything, so I became incredibly self conscious.
- Being a quiet preteen around all teenagers in school
- I was bored when I wasn’t competing. Going out with friends, doing well in school, and staying out of trouble wasn’t enough for me.
What Can Be Learned (For Parents, Friends, Family Members of Struggling Teens)
- Serious injuries are difficult to come back from, especially for the high level, highly competitive athlete. The proper support through recovery and rehab is vital to an athlete’s happy and healthy return to competition.
- There is no harm in changing schools.
- Competitive people need to do competitive activities or they will find other, possibly unhealthy ways, of getting that competitive drive out.
- Children don’t change overnight. Remember who they were when they were okay. Chances are they can find their way back, as long as they are not given up on. It may take 2 months, or it may take 6 years.
- Don’t let ideas of how you think your kids should be change how you treat them if they are different.
- School is not the most important part of life. Family and happiness, then school.
I hope that sharing this can somehow provide insight for those with a loved one, friend, or student struggling with an eating disorder or addiction.
Thank you for reading My Story Part 3!