When I set out that summer of college to prepare for my sophomore season of soccer, I never in my wildest dreams anticipated that I’d be diagnosed with an eating disorder just months later.
This is the exact reason I publicized my story and am doing everything I can to share my experiences. The more eating disorders are talked about and explained, the more likely we will recognize and label what we are experiencing. Naming the problem helps us identify it, and then leads way to treatment. And, early intervention is essential in helping to prevent serious psychological and health consequences.
Elite athletes have a serious competitive drive and a desire for perfection–to be the best, the greatest, and the fastest. Admitting or acknowledging a problem in many of our minds equates to weakness and defeat. And that is the ultimate nightmare.
So, when someone like Seattle Mariner’s catcher, Mike Marjama, opens up about his experience of ending up on a stretcher in the emergency room as a result of losing a drastic amount of weight, I couldn’t be more grateful.
For one, he is a male—and many men feel like they are immune to issues related to eating disorders. The reality is that eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives.
Another is the fact that Marjama is a professional baseball player. He proves that anyone is susceptible to developing unhealthy and dangerous behaviors—even pros. And, this in itself is so inspirational.
For many athletes, it starts off so innocently. Like myself and Marjama, we were just on a mission to perform to our utmost potential. However, a determination to enhance performance can unknowingly and unintentionally lead to excessive exercise and restrictive eating.
I had so much shame at the time of my eating disorder for letting it get that bad. I felt like a sinking ship and a complete disappointment to all those close to me. But, what I’ve come to realize in recovery is that so many more people are struggling with unhealthy eating and exercise habits than we know. It takes stories like mine and Mike Marjama’s to let those who struggle know they’re not alone. That we fight stigmas. It doesn’t matter who we are—it can happen to any one of us. And, finally, we show everyone that recovery is a real, promising possibility through which people can take back their lives from their eating disorders. Seek help, keep fighting, and please feel no shame.