How Roller Derby Has Helped Me Grow in My Mental Health
In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I decided to share my experience. Just wanted to disclaim that this isn’t graphic but could still be triggering.
I was skinny. Nothing seemed wrong. It was just a number on a scale. The way I ate for the past five years was a normality. I had plenty of energy. I never got sick. I was fine. Since the middle of college, I was eating one meal a day. Only if time allowed for it, because eating came second to everything else. I would start my day with a cup of coffee, work on my feet for hours, and grab something on the way home to then pick at the rest of the night. I didn’t have a problem with my body. I knew I was skinny. I didn’t think much about it, though. I wasn’t limiting my food intake because I wanted to be thin. I just wasn’t hungry.
The end of summer 2018 comes and I decide I’m going to play Roller Derby. I had been roller BLADING a lot that summer and was getting pretty fast at shredding the 5 mile trail. Endurance wasn’t an issue. I could keep up. I knew I was skinny. But it didn’t define me. It was just a number on a scale. As bootcamp progressed, I decided I was going to try to put on weight. I played a sport in high school (cheerleading, it IS a sport) and knew my body had the potential to put on some muscle.
Something was wrong. It was the first time I had to start paying attention to my food intake. I was going to have to drastically change my lifestyle in order to change my body. Problem was, I wasn’t hungry. Adding meals into points of the day that I wasn’t used to felt like a punishment. I wasn’t hungry, I don’t want to eat, it’s making me sick, why is this making me sick?? Once I realized I didn’t have control over my body, I truly felt weak. I began to define myself by the number on the scale. I knew I was skinny. I was too skinny.
When I began to face what was going on, it was very challenging for me to ask for help. It was hard to explain what was going on and most people didn’t understand. “Just eat”. I can’t. There is very little representation of what I was dealing with. When you think of someone with a restrictive food eating disorder, anorexia and bulimia are what comes to mind. I know I didn’t have this. It wasn’t about body image or counting calories. I wasn’t hungry. Well, I was hungry, but I had no appetite. Thinking about food most of the time made me sick and I would feel full after minuscule portions. The number on the scale wasn’t changing like I imaged it would so easily. I couldn’t give an identity to my problem which made me feel even more alone.
For me, it turns out the solution wasn’t just to eat. I had to improve my mental health if I wanted to improve my physical health. Acknowledging my anxieties, asking for help, and slowly making changes. Figuring out why I couldn’t eat. Trying again after not succeeding the first time. Or the second time. Telling myself I CAN do it. Being on the Outfit has changed my life in ways I had never expected. I value who I am and see potential in myself. Watching myself progress and develop into a skater over the past few months has given me a word so much greater than self-confident. I never knew what I didn’t have and how much I truly need it. I feel like I can be my most genuine self in a family that wants the best for everyone. A group of people that want me to be the best I can.
I am still skinny. But I’m working on it! I have gained 15 pound since the first day of bootcamp. I have given an identity to my problem: ARFID, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Giving a name to the problem drastically changed how I fight my battle. I still struggle with food everyday, but it feels much less like torture. I have not been perfect. I don’t reach my goals everyday. But I have motivation. I have goals. Others have goals for me. I have people who want to see me achieve my goals. I hope in the near future I can say I truly have won my battle. I’m still fighting bad habits and negative thoughts. I sometimes fall, but I am moving forward. I have to, otherwise it’s a penalty. Outfit has given me something to define myself by. A name and a number that is more important than the one on the scale.