Throughout my four years in high school and my first two years at Duke University, I competed at the national level in both Varsity Cross-Country and Track. Running has, and always will be, my passion, my love, and my obsession in life. It affords me time to clear my head, a means to stay in shape, and an outlet to release any frustrations, aggression, or competitive sentiments. Some of my fondest memories were made both on and off the track within the sports context, but unfortunately, so too were some of my worst. It was also during this time period that I suffered from an eating disorder, and to make matters worse, I simultaneously had to watch as countless members of my team struggled to battle similar conditions. Through our collective experiences, I have seen life at its lowest points; I have seen the depression, the anxiety, the exasperation, the exhaustion, the perfectionism, the obsessive compulsive tendencies, the self-loating, the diminished self-esteem, the injuries, and the countless other physical, psychological, and emotional deleterious health consequences that come as a result of these eating disorders.
While I did not include this particular diagram in my prezi, I thought I would include it here as it nicely outlines the thought process which led me to develop the flow of my digital essay.
As you can see, while eating disorders are a problem within the general population as a whole, female athletes reportedly live at increased risk for the development of these disorders (both clinical and subclinical conditions). What’s more, recovery rates remain dismal, and far too few individuals receive the adequate intensity of treatment that they need to ultimately achieve successful recovery. Thus, better prevention, intervention, and treatment is necessary if we are to truly help these women.
Obviously, there are multiple dimensions to prevention, intervention, and treatment, many of which can only take place within an inpatient or hospital setting. However, recounts from recovered individuals, myself included, emphasize that the factors that helped them most was the help and support that they received outside of these strictly defined medical settings. For example, coaches, teammates, friends, family, and other related sports personnel are all perfectly placed to identify symptoms of disordered eating in female athletes early on and to help these individuals to approach and deal with these disorders in numerous ways. There are also multiple measures that female athletes struggling with eating disorders can take to help themselves to cope and recover. Everyone just needs a little guidance and insight into how these things can be done. This is the purpose of my digital essay, “Realization Space.” Realization Space is meant to be a collective site of information for coaches, teammates, friends, family, and struggling female athletes themselves to gain knowledge, to become inspired, and to ultimately work towards more successful change and recovery. Realization Space is also, partly, my story.