Today is a really special day for me – for a variety of reasons. Today is the day of our senior meet, our last meet at our home pool as a senior class. For the seven of us that survived four years of varsity swimming (out of an original fifteen), it’s a culmination of the thousands (yes, thousands) of hours spent toiling away at something we loved, something we were good at, and something that shaped our lives with it’s ups and downs. I spoke with my uncle on the phone last night (he played football for four years at Cornell) about how life changes after sports go from something your life was geared around to something you do entirely for enjoyment, leisure, and freedom. It’s a major transition, but, after sixteen years of swimming, one I am ready for. It’s something I will undoubtedly miss, but hopefully will be able to fill the space with activities I don’t see as a “job” or a “chore” – which is what swimming became more often than not.
Swimming was my thing. And still is, for the next 2-4 weeks. But after that – as my best friend said this morning – it will be “the end of an era.” I won’t have to drag myself to a workout at 5:30 am. I won’t have to jump into an ice cold pool when all I want to do is lay in my bed and read. I’ll be able to golf, to snowboard, to run, to bike, to walk and hike without feeling like I should have gone swimming instead. When I (undoubtedly) get the urge to go and splash around in the pool, that’s exactly what I’ll do – there won’t be any yardage or time goals anymore. There will just be the thrill of diving in the pool and the elation I feel moving in concert with the water.
I won’t spend countless hours at the pool with my friends anymore. But I will be able to see these friends for coffee, a movie, a glass of wine or a girls night in. Or even a spin or yoga class. The friends I’ve made at every level of swimming will stick with me forever. You can’t get up at 5 am to go work your buns off on a saturday morning without bonding 😉 That is something I will never forget about my experience, and for which I am extremely grateful.
So – I’m sad but happy. Being honest, I’m more happy than sad. Swimming has been great for all of the reasons I mentioned and many more, but it has also had it’s severe downs and been extremely difficult to continue both physically and mentally. As much as I love competing, at some level the pressure became too intense. It may have been when I decided to be a one-sport athlete, when I first saw swimming as something I was good at instead of something I loved, or when I started swimming D1 and it turned into a job. That pressure is something I will not miss, but I am proud that in spite of that I enjoyed myself, dreamed big, worked my butt off and made memories I will never forget.
Aside from that, today is big for me because I ended therapy (and treatment with my nutritionist) yesterday. While I was on break, I thought a lot about therapy and treatment. Before I left, I knew that I wouldn’t be having an appointment for about five weeks and decided this would be my “trial run” for not having that support anymore. I didn’t think that I needed it anymore, but I wanted to be sure before making that decision. So I went home for the holidays and on training trip and came back to school and I can honestly say I feel good.
Eff that. I feel freaking AMAZING.
This is not to say that if I was going to therapy I wouldn’t feel so good. However, I have the support I need now with my friends and family and have complete faith that support will be there if I need it. And the truth is – I don’t want to give my eating disorder any more of my time. Over the last year, it took away so much. I’m not going to give it anymore.
At the same time, I’m not naive. I realize that I am predisposed to disordered behaviors and will be vigilant about guarding against them. Normally, what I begin to notice is an increase in obsessive thoughts about food. I know that if this starts to happen, I need to be honest with myself and take a look at what I’ve been doing. Right now, I am not having obsessive thoughts…about anything. This is probably the first time since elementary school that this is the case – be it about grades, swimming, my (ex) boyfriend, food, my body, or a bad situation.
I love feeling this freedom. I love feeling good inside. I love the acceptance I have of myself. I have limitations and I’m not perfect. I’d rather sit on my couch with a cup of coffee and a good book than be out saving the world every minute of every day. I’d rather eat honey nut cheerios than kale. Sometimes I’d like to come home after class and roll into bed for a glorious nap instead of studying in the libe. I’d rather enjoy my exercise instead of feeling obligated or compulsive about it…even if that means not exercising on a given day. I’d rather study less before a test instead of getting myself so completely stressed out that I’m burnt out when the test is over.
I decided to stop therapy because I’m confident in my ability to take care of myself, and I’m looking forward to using my new independence. I trust myself for the first time. I trust myself to make good decisions but also allow myself to make mistakes. I trust myself to take care of my body and be healthy, but not be obsessive. I trust myself to say yes when I should – answer the phone when a friend calls, go out for coffee or dessert, go out to a party I want to go to, to ask for help when I need it or offer help to someone else. But I also trust myself to say no when I should – to do work when I need to, to stay in instead of go out when all I want to do is relax, to protect my boundaries from people that take advantage of my willingness to help, and to take an unplanned rest day from whatever exercise I had planned if my body is not wanting it.
Three months ago I never would have thought I’d be in a position to even contemplate stopping treatment. I’m so grateful and so lucky to have worked with the most amazing people. Will I miss my therapist? Yes. I’m going to miss her snark, her perspective, and the humor she allowed me to see in life. She is one of the main reasons I was able to get myself back, to feel alive again – and that is the best gift anyone could ever give another person. I’m sad that I won’t be able to see her on a weekly basis, but only because I genuinely like her as a person and saw her more as a mentor/trusted adult than a stereotypical therapist. I’m going to keep her posted via e-mail, so if I need her I can still get in touch – which is another nice support net I can utilize if I need it.
I think before I graduate I’m going to write her a baller thank you note (as well as to my dieticians, who put up with a lot of complaints and some anger from me over the last year). I personally feel that a well-written, genuine note is a much better thank you/gift to someone than an actual gift. A gift is nice, but kind words can change a life, stick with someone forever, or merely make someone’s day brighter.
School starts Monday – AHHH!! My last semester at Cornell. Updates soon 🙂