“Wow. I never knew any of that,” said an assistant coach of one of the men’s athletic teams at Michigan State University following my speech.
This coach happened to be a contemporary of mine. One who I actually have known since I was twelve years old.
As I looked at him, and smiled, I thought, “Well, of course you didn’t know any of it.”
Until Kick The Scale became established and publicized, the thought of anyone knowing I suffered from a psychological or physical disorder was horrifying. Why would I have wanted anyone to know I struggled, or needed anti-depressant medication, or that I even starved myself as a collegiate athlete? If people found out, would they have looked at me differently? Would I have lost their respect? Admiration? Belief that I was exceptional? There were far too many risk factors to let the details of my eating disorder seep out to my extended family, friends, community, colleagues, and the public.
Perception is everything, and as long as I appeared to be “normal,” I felt like nothing could be held against me; in making friends, getting job offers, and being consulted on important topics, particularly in athletics. So, as much as I knew my eating disorder influenced me as a person, I never took the chance of revealing any secrets related to my experiences with anorexia nervosa.
Until now. Until I have been reading the statistics, and meeting several others in similar situations. The most powerful ones including:
-Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment.
-Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
-Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
-There are significantly higher rates of eating disorders found in elite athletes compared to the female control group.
I am, clearly, not alone based on these numbers published by ANAD.
I stood in front of an incredible group of people yesterday at Michigan State University: Coaches, from both men’s and women’s sports, and the athletic administration, including my former women’s soccer coaches, who are still leading the program. In the crowd were many familiar faces, including several who were present in their current roles when I played thirteen years ago, and knew along the way. Associate Athletic Director/SWA, Shelley Applebaum, was my sport administrator as an athlete, a reference on my resume, and influential in organizing this program. Jacquie Joseph, Head Softball Coach, came up to me after, shook my hand, and introduced herself. Come on, Jacquie, of course, I know you! You have created a legacy with all of your success on the softball field, which is directly located next to our soccer stadium.
But, the biggest honor, and most incredible moment was standing beside the man, who everyone’s ears perked up to listen when he spoke, who saved and changed my life: Dr. Lionel Rosen. The man who no one knows, but is directly involved in several professional and championship level collegiate programs across the country. Nick Saban is no doubt one of the best and most accomplished coaches in the world. But, even he can’t do it alone. He continues to use Dr. Rosen’s brilliance to help maintain psychological strength and stability among his various programs, now at The University of Alabama. This article, Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s ‘Process,’ about Nick Saban and Dr. Rosen sums it up perfectly.
What an honor and unbelievable opportunity that Michigan State Athletics awarded me to fly in to East Lansing, and be a part of an incredible Coaches Development Program. My hopes and dreams through Kick The Scale are to help as many people as I possibly can; to share my personal story of developing, battling, and overcoming an eating disorder as a collegiate athlete, how it was identified, the process and protocol that was followed, and the struggles through treatment involving positive steps to recovery followed by relapses, and then again.
The gift to not only relate to these coaches student-athletes, and the issues they face on a daily basis, but to connect on a level of coaching with these professionals based on my years of experiences in the college game was truly meaningful and powerful. I sat on a panel with some of the most respected sports medicine physicians, Dr. Jeffrey Kovan, Director of Sports Medicine and Performance at Michigan State University, and Dr. Sally Nogle, Head Athletic Trainer, and listened to their responses based on my particular story, and others, and received a tremendous amount of further insight involving these prevalent issues among college athletes.
Michigan State University is a special place with even more special people in place. There are very few times in my life when I have been speechless after being asked a question. But, when asked how my presentation went, and how it was being back in front of the athletic department at State, I was at a true loss of words. Because it was that amazing… Just incredible. I hope it is the first of many opportunities I am granted to stand in front of such great people at a great institution.