This post is real. And personal. And may be a bit triggering, so if you find yourself struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety, or depression (or all) please seek help right away. Your health and well-being are crucial to finding joy, so please, please do all that you can to love and take care of yourself. Also, I’m not a doctor.
I remember being in kindergarten about 20 years ago. Our Catholic grammar school started after-school dance lessons, with recital and all. I loved the limelight as a kid (well, let’s be honest, I still do) and this was the perfect opportunity to let my inner star shine.
We’d learn the basics, then a dance, then it was time to show off our newfound skills… well, probably in most cases, like mine, the lack thereof.
But, those aren’t the memories I remember most from that time. Actually, I remember the dancing the least. What do I remember?
It was a day I was highly anxious for – anxious in a good way – because me and my little girl friends at the time thoroughly enjoyed the dance class… and the picture taking (remember – lime light). I’m talking about picture day. The day we’d dress up in our tights, leotards, and tu-tus to have a few snaps taken by a semi-professional photographer.
So, you can imagine my excitement as a starry-eyed, hopeful theater kid the day the pictures were to be passed out. But, what started as effervescent eagerness quickly turned into a dismal state of sadness after being handed the packet that contained the shots of little 5-year old me posing as best as I could as the dancer I aspired to be in my bouncy purple tu-tu.
“My thighs are so big,” I ever-so-clearly remember telling myself.
It’s amazing what our minds hold on to. I couldn’t tell you what I ate for dinner last night, but I remember looking at that picture, as a small, innocent 5-year old and thinking, “My thighs are so fat.” And being ultimately crushed. My mom kept that photo up for years… I believe it’s still in my childhood bedroom, but I would wince every time I looked at it for years to come.
I was 5, y’all.
How do we get like this? When in life are we taught that our self-worth is determined by the size of our thighs or the color of our hair or the clothes that we wear?
I had a wonderful 5 years of childhood, so at what point did I come to the conclusion that because my thighs were “big” I wasn’t as good as the other dancers?
Running didn’t save my life at this point.
No, things had to get bad before they could get better.
In fact, I dealt with this self-defeating, body-conscious mental downward spiral for years. Found myself in and out of therapy, and as soon as things started getting better, anxiety and depression started to creep in.
I’ve been doing well and running for so long now that it’s become second nature. But, I started this blog with a mission – to spread awareness and to show everyone that there’s hope. There’s always hope. And, by sharing my story I’m hoping to help others realize that they too can overcome what they’re currently faced with.
Running Saved My Life
But, not in the way that it reads above. I’ve always loved life… even if there was a cloud hanging over my head sometimes.
Running saved my life because it gave me my sense of purpose and joy back. Before running, my thoughts were haywire. I had no control over what came in and out and I felt as if I was never able to gain control.
Running helped me master my thoughts. It helped me realize that I’m in charge of how I perceive the world. I’m in control of turning a bad thought into a good thought and I’m in charge of how fast or slow my thoughts race through my head.
How did running teach me this?
Well, the more I ran, the more mentally tough I became. I set goals for myself and wouldn’t stop until I hit them. I didn’t even realize how helpful that was for learning how to control my thoughts until I looked back and saw how much stronger I had become both mentally and physically.
It saved me from my sometimes dismal outlook on life. Running got me outside and active and got those happy endorphins pumping through my body.
Most importantly, running taught me how to love my body.
I learned that if I wanted to run, I had to eat. I began to look at my body differently. It was no longer something that stood in the way of me achieving perfection. No. I realized that without my body – my muscles, my joints, my legs, my feet, my core – I couldn’t run. I learned that muscles were good and they didn’t make me look fat. I learned how to take care of myself and that runners come in all shapes and sizes.
And, the more I ran, the more I realized just how important it had been in reshaping the way I looked at life. It saved me from living a defeated, depressed, and starving life.
Running filled my life with color. A deeper sense of purpose. It gave me strength emotionally, mentally, and physically. It brought me closer to God and deepened my spiritual life.
And, running continues to save my life every single day.
It makes me happy. It prompted me to start this blog. And I’ve had the opportunity to give back through ARC Running.
But, enough about me. That’s my story. What’s yours?
How are you going to let running into your life?
How are you going to let running shape you into the person you want to be?
It’s there. You just have to trust yourself enough to get started. You can do it. I know you can.
If you want more of this kind of “stuff” reach out. Or, if you’d like to continue the discussion, share how running has changed your life, ask for pointers on how you can get started, please reach out. Via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.