After reading Brene Brown’s amazing books I continually marinate on the meaning of shame and how it has played and continues to play a role in my life. As I reflected on my college experience, shame and that time were one in the same. I was chasing my dreams to run at a program I believed in and felt supported by the coaching staff- right up until the time they “cleaned house” and brought in new coaches. I allowed the transition to rock my world. I had some health concerns and did not feel support of the coaches and no longer fully believed in myself.
I had a doctor’s appointment a year ago and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. I left that appointment with an increased sense of empowerment. During the appointment the doctor faced me with a huge medical chart of all my medical records since college. As the doctor asked me question after question, I realized I had blocked out so many of the memories and experiences from that time in my life. As I was reliving them through the doctor’s questions, the shame began to bubble up. This time the shame wasn’t allowed to stay. The guilt wasn’t going to stay. I’m not sure why it took hearing that I was never treated for the actual condition I was faced with- to completely let myself off the hook for what felt like a “failure” of a collegeathletic career. During that appointment and the remainder of the day, I was confronted with shame, guilt, frustration, embarrassment, anger, disappointment that felt like a different lifetime ago now.
The appointment served as a helpful reminder of my journey and the root for my current practice. In college, I allowed the transition to challenge my insight and trust in myself. I didn’t have the confidence to stand up to coaches or doctors or fight for the scholarship money that I had earned. I was disconnected from my internal self. I was not grounded and in turn was fueled by anxiety and shame. All that mattered to me was running fast, having coaches that believed in me and feeling like I “deserved” the money I was receiving. I could not even pause at that time to recognize what my body felt like, what my emotions were and what parts of me needed to be tended to. I just plowed forward. My mantra in college was “the pain is only temporary.” Hmm quite the indicator of my mindset. Two stress factures, and many torn ligaments and tendons later… The power of listening to my body was palpable. The importance of connection and self love was beyond apparent. I was able to talk with incredible friends, a couple really good therapists, yoga teachers, personal trainers and dig into who I am and begin to release the pain I had stashed away with my college running experience.
Driving back from the pumpkin patch with the college roommate and teammate and still dearest friend- we laughed at the life we were leading in college. The expectation to limit what we ate (as instructed a majority greens with lean protein), get our body fat checked regularly, an extremely early curfew, sneaking out of our dorm room one time and feeling like the biggest rebels for being out until 11pm.
We grow, we evolve, our perspectives broaden and even though it feels like a lifetime ago- I am forever shaped by that experience. I am no longer attaching it to shame. I gave it my all and I can confidently rest in that. In fact, I can laugh about the absurdity what I went through at that time in my life and feel angry and not at myself. I can thank that younger runner self for embedding motivation, drive, dedication, persistence in me. I also thank her for gaining humor, confidence and a belief in herself.
** By no means does my acceptance of this experience approve the unfortunate actions that were taken by coaching staff. There are a lot of great coaches and programs that treat athletes with tremendous regard. For those that don’t- they have lit my fire and ignited my passions to empower young athletes; before they even believe they need it :)