I have learned that being “fit” is not just about how you look on the outside. It encompasses your lifestyle: mind, body, and soul. You cannot Find Your Fit until you find your balance in all three of these areas. It is not about competing with others to see who is the fittest. It is about competing with yourself, finding your balance, and living a healthy, happy life.
I have been a competitive athlete since the age of five. I competed at a high level of gymnastics for over 14 years, practicing four to six hours a day, sometimes six days a week and year-round. I loved it! I loved to practice and loved to condition, but oddly, I was not a fan of competition. I strived to be the best I could be. I was told repeatedly that I would win at a lower level and lose at a higher level. I chose to compete at the higher level and be my own competition. There was never a time where I was unhappy in my sport or being physically fit. Living an active lifestyle was something I embraced. I challenged myself and showed up to practice early and was the last to leave.
This is the mindset I apply to everything in my life. I always go the extra mile, overachieve, and help others along the way. Exercise is my outlet. It is the only time I dedicate to myself, and I don’t have to think about my past or present life.
After college, gymnastics ended, so I started competing in marathons, triathlons, and adventure racing. Then 10 years ago, my world was shaken when I broke my back in six places, crushing several discs, in a golf cart accident. This was the first time I was not physically able to do anything active. I was not only physically challenged, I was mentally challenged. After two surgeries, I was told I would never be able to run or do anything high impact again, and I would be severely arthritic. I thought my life was over. I was so broken. Who was ever going to love me if I was broken? I was not going to let this happen. After months of physical rehabilitation, I was back running on the trails. Lucky and happy to be back in my fit lifestyle, I continued on with my four hours a day of working out, 12 hours of work, and a few hours to sleep.
I believed I was fit. On the outside, I looked like I was fit. The problem was that I was choosing exercise over relationships and social outings. I hadn’t realized that exercise had become my top priority. Exercise had become my job with no room for vacations, days off, or sick days. Although I looked confident on the outside, I didn’t like who I was on the inside. I stopped being in front of the camera. I refused to go out on social occasions. I didn’t and wouldn’t let myself get close to family and friends. Yet I had no idea why.
My world was once again turned upside down again about a year a half ago. Out of nowhere and after twenty years of zero communication, I was contacted by my best childhood friend. I did not know why, but this sudden contact turned my life into a downward spiral. I started having nightmares and flashbacks from when I was a six-year-old child. After months of little sleep, increasing my exercise and living with these flashbacks, I finally remembered that I was molested from the age of six through 10 years old by her, my best friend.
I was horrified. I had suppressed it for so long and lived with it for all of these years and never told a soul. I blamed myself for never getting help, but when you’re a child and are threatened with your life, you don’t know any better. I finally told my mother. She was heartbroken.
My life became a total mess. I was exercising eight hours a day, sleeping one hour and working 12. Yet I seemed fully functional and perfectly fine on the outside. In truth, I was wasting away. After months of living like this, the addiction grew and became worse. I needed more exercise, but there was not enough time in the day. I researched exercise addiction but did not find any answers. I knew I could not and did not want to live like this anymore.
Desperate, I contacted the television show “The Doctor’s” to recommend that they air a segment on exercise addiction – something too many people consider a healthy addiction. Long story short, they were at my door five days later, filming me. After extensive lab tests, I was featured on the show and told I was the unhealthiest guest they had ever had on the show. My body was ready to give out at any time. They offered me 60 days in a recovery home, BUT I ONLY had four days to accept or decline. This was life or death for me. So many things went through my mind: “I am going to disappoint everyone. I am so embarrassed. How can I stop my life for two months? Where is my puppy going to go live? HOW, HOW, HOW??”
I accepted I am here, and I write this as a survivor. It was the hardest thing to do. I had to acknowledge and own my past, accept it, and then convince my inner child that she is okay and it was not her fault. I realized through this process that since the age of six, I had used exercise as a way of hiding my past and escaping the trauma. In order to save my life, I had to surrender to the demons that had been haunting me for so long.
I am proud to say I am on the mend. And I now can honestly say that I have Found My Fit. I am living a healthy, happy, and balanced lifestyle: my mind, body, and soul are now in sync! I no longer have to hide from my past and from my friends and family. I feel like a new person. I have finally shown my face, told the world my story, shared my journey, and I have NO regrets.
Some days can still be overwhelming, but with the support of my family and friends, I can finally say that I love myself. I am happy with who I am, and I am proud of all of my accomplishments. The world now knows my story, and I am learning to love all areas of my life. I am learning to accept love and give love. I am learning to receive instead of always to give. I am learning to accept compliments. Therapy will be a part of my life forever, and I am grateful for it.
I truly hope that my story will help others dealing with trauma, addictions, and shame. There is help…and I dare all of you to Find Your Fit…be you…be happy with yourself. Beauty comes from within. Take it from me, once you own your past, you can conquer your future!
Thank you again for reading my story, and I hope that it will inspire all of you to Find Your Fit. I love you, Shannon…you are an amazing woman! Thank you to all of my friends and family who have been so supportive! I am forever grateful!
Please take a moment and support Erin. She is on the board for www.dogdreamsfoundation.org This organization provides low-cost veterinary services and canine rehab for rescue dogs. Fit Life will also donate 25% of February sales to support this organization.