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The One Person Who Never Gave up on Me Through an Eating Disorder and Recovery

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My eating disorder is a selfish, greedy monster. I was not the best team member, athlete, or person I could have been, but you stood behind me. It was not your job to help me, you could have ignored the signs and told me to keep up, but you didn’t. You may not know the affect you had on my life, so this is a thank you.

Thank you for noticing I wasn’t OK when I was still deep in denial that I even had a problem. I’m sure I said “I’m good” and then vowed to myself I’d hide it better the next day. But you kept asking, no matter how many times I blew you off.

Thank you for not treating me differently in front of my teammates. Eating disorders bring so much shame and embarrassment on their own, the last thing I wanted was for my teammates to know something was wrong.

Thank you for listening to me complain, whine, rant, and moan about feeling sick, being exhausted, being cold, etc. while I still denied that I hadn’t eaten in days. You often offered a solution to the problem we both knew I had, and I wouldn’t take it, but you still listened.

Thank you for always asking if I wanted lunch, or dinner, or anything else at all. I was annoyed and rolled my eyes, but you knew I couldn’t tell you no. Most of the time, those were the only meals I managed to get through.

Thank you for being calm and supportive while I slowly came to terms with my eating disorder. You gave me a safe spot to rummage through every thought that went through my head, giving advice when I would take it and simply listening when I was too closed off to hear anything.

Thank you for calling me out on my bullshit. Eating disorders are obscuring.

Most of the time I did not realize I was being rude, was miserable to be around, was snapping at my teammates and friends, and was making choices that were nothing short of self-harm in front of people who cared about me. I always hated you a little bit for it, but on days I needed a kick in the butt, and you gave it to me.

Thank you for not letting me quit. There were many days I wanted to throw in the towel, blame my sport for every problem I had, turn my jersey in and call it a day. Every time I mentioned it, you told me if I had to step down to focus on getting healthy it was OK, but if I was quitting as a way to try and run away and isolate myself deeper into my eating disorder, you wouldn’t allow it.

Thank you for continuing to let me play. You had every reason to bench me, and there were a few days you did, but I think you knew that my sport was the only reason I had not completely given up. On days I wanted to let my eating disorder take over, my sport and my team were what gave me a reason to get up and keep going. Taking that away would have easily sent me over an edge I may not have returned from, so you let me have that while giving me the space to slow down if I needed.

Thank you for looking me in the eyes and telling me you were scared I was going to die before I saw the end of the season. Maybe you didn’t mean it quite as seriously as I took it, but that conversation shook me to the core, and saved my life. I knew you meant it, and I knew you weren’t wrong. I was dangerously close to heart failure at the time, but the next day I called a doctor’s office and began my very long, hard road to recovery.

Thank you for continuing to stand behind me even though I am not your athlete anymore. You have continued to be one of my biggest lines of support even though I have left your team and moved on. I’m not “your kid” anymore, but I still consider myself one. When things get rough, as they often do when recovering from an eating disorder, you always seem to know and are the first one to check in. When things are going well, you’re the first one I want to share small victories with and the first one to say how proud you are.

You coached me to many wins, a couple of state, regional, and national championships, and prepared me for a professional career. I am so thankful for your mentorship in my career and sport, but it doesn’t compare to how thankful I am for the support in the rest of my life. You didn’t have to do anything. You could have let me struggle, fall behind, and written me off as another kid who couldn’t handle the pressure: but you didn’t. I’m sure it was hard to handle some days, watching me be half the person I once was and physically unable to perform at my best while you had far more talented athletes waiting on my spot, but you kept me on the roster and never let me doubt that you were still on my side. You went beyond the description of “coach” and saved my life, whether you knew it or not.

You often shrug it off and say you were just doing your job, but I hope you know just how much I appreciate what you’ve done. I will never be able to say thank you enough times, no matter how many times you tell me I don’t have to. My biggest hope is that the next time a quiet, worn out, struggling freshman wanders into your office looking for a shoulder to lean on, you stand behind them just as strongly as you stood, and still stand, behind me.

Getty image by Alistair Berg

Originally published: May 24, 2022
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