Throughout high school, running was nothing short of humiliating for me. From being one of the first “out” during the dreadful Beep Test, to being teased for running with “chicken arms”, running was synonymous with embarrassment. It wasn’t until hearing about Sole Girls last year that the meaning of running changed for me.
After years of struggling with an eating disorder, I found myself at a cross-roads during my fourth year of university. I began embarking on a journey of recovery, and as I took the steps towards a healthier, happier me, I found myself open to a whole new realm of possibilities. I developed new career goals, I began focusing on surrounding myself with positive people, and I even fell in love. A year ago, I began my role as a Soleteer with Sole Girls. I ran my first 5km run in May with Sole Girls and was immediately moved by how each and every person participating – whether they were a tween girl, brother, dad, mom or friend – was empowered through physical activity. After that, I began to implement the values from Sole Girls into my own life. When my boyfriend, Nathan, and I discussed our eating habits at home, we adopted “Go Sugars!” and “Whoa Sugars”, a guideline first introduced to me during the girls’ snack-time at Sole Girls. Running stopped being humiliating, and I found it to be not only a valuable outlet for my stress, but also an incredible way to build my network of likeminded friends and individuals who radiate positive energy.
It was hard. At the onset of each kilometer, I thought, “no way, I’m going to have to walk the next one”. Instead, I managed to push that voice out of my head and keep going. On the final kilometer, I began to focus on my heart, and the following thought circled my mind: “Wow. This is so crazy. It was only a few years ago that I was hooked up to a heart monitor with arrhythmia. The muscles in my heart were once so weak that they couldn’t beat properly. Look at me now.”
At times, it is all too easy to get caught up in those sorts of thoughts. The power my eating disorder once held over every single muscle and organ in my body is overwhelming. As I ran, with every deep breath I took, I thought of my heart and all I had put it through. I turned my focus to all my heart was doing in this moment to allow me to run. As each stride echoed up my body, I swelled in my appreciation for all that my heart has done for me, how it has healed with me, and I silently applauded the fact that it was succeeding in its ability to run kilometer after kilometer.
What is beautiful? Beautiful to me is sweating from an awesome workout. It’s beautiful to come home at the end of the day to a loving boyfriend and homemade dinner. It’s beautiful to laugh with my sisters over past antics. And to be completely honest, I don’t know if I have ever felt as beautiful as when I crossed that finish line.
A year ago I signed up to volunteer with Sole Girls with the aim of helping tween girls. Turns out, it ended up changing my own life. That noted, I do not share my story for accolades, pity, or attention. Rather, I share this as a message of hope to those who might be struggling; I used my eating disorder as a means for control, but I only begun to gain control of my life once I started letting go of my eating disorder. I share this message as a plea to those who might be concerned for their friends, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, daughters or men in their lives to seek help and to talk openly about the dangers of disordered eating, body dismorphia, and mental illnesses such as bulimia, binge-eating and anorexia.
Today, I ran my first half marathon. My ability to do this proves my strength physically, but cannot even begin to show the mental strength that I have developed through my journey to recovery. There is no denying that there are still hard days, but it is through the ongoing support and love of my family and friends that I find strength to stay on the right track to recovery. Thank you to my parents, my sisters, Ashley Wiles and Sole Girls for teaching me that it is fun to run and introducing me to a wonderful community, to Danielle for inspiring me to make mess into my message, to my beautiful friends, and to Nate, for his unwavering love and support in all that I do. Live happy. Live healthy.
Do you have a mental health story to share? I highly recommend visiting http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/guidelines-sharing-your-storyresponsibly for helpful tips about how to share your story in a responsible way.