I had heard about the Female Athlete Triad before, but never thought it would affect me. Seeing the evidence in front of my face was enough to prove that I needed make drastic changes with my diet and my viewpoint on what a healthy body composition is. Fast forward several months later and my orthopedic confirmed that my hip had healed on its own and I was cleared to resume my normal activities after graduating from physical therapy. I also had a follow-up DEXA bone scan, which revealed some improvement in my bone density. This gave me enough reassurance to start training for the Ironman triathlon race (2.4-mile swim + 112-mile bike + 26.2-mile run) that I had registered for prior to the bike crash. However, it was during this time that I started having digestive distress on a daily basis. Managing my GI symptoms while training for an Ironman was very tricky, but 6 months later, I found myself at the race venue.
The joy of the LORD is your strength! Nehemiah 8:10
After the big race, my now-husband and I got engaged, so planning a wedding was a big agenda on my calendar. However, instead of feeling motivated to prepare for the "big day", more and more of my thoughts were consumed with brainstorming strategies to improve my regularity in the bathroom. The night before the wedding felt like déjà vu to my Ironman race the year prior. Instead of sharing a hotel suite with my bridesmaids, I booked my own private room so I could focus on calming my anxiety about whether the next day would be a digestive disaster.
After spending too much time in the bathroom throughout the honeymoon, I decided to book an appointment with a gastroenterologist to see if I could find some answers. Two colonoscopies and one endoscopy later, the doctor reported that everything "looked fine". He also told me that my IBS symptoms were not influenced by my food choices, and my condition would be something I would have to live with the rest of my life. Here I was a recent dietetic graduate embarking on a career in nutrition and I felt defeated thinking there was nothing I could do to improve my plight regarding what I ate. I believed the GI doctor for about a week, but then my gut instinct told me that my symptoms had to be influenced by my food choices to a certain extent. Although I was able to discover some dietary trends with my symptoms, I couldn't seem to gain traction with digestive predicability, and my ability to use the bathroom normally was compromised for 7 years.
During 2012 and 2013, my health started unraveling at a faster rate with a deluge of bizarre symptoms. My sluggish GI motility suddenly turned into severe diarrhea, resulting in a 10-lb. weight loss. I always felt fatigued and weak, so I had to take several medical leaves of absence from work. In addition, I started experiencing very peculiar symptoms:
- Running into objects (my legs always had bruises),
- Developing headaches whenever I would attempt to swim,
- Experiencing extreme shin pain when I would ride my bike,
- Pulsing left ankle pain throughout the day that would never go away.
I also noticed that my facial features were becoming asymmetrical in tandem with my misaligned, crooked posture.
In 2013, the tailor’s bunions on both of sides of my feet started rubbing raw - to the point that I had to cut holes in my shoes. I also started losing my sense of balance and I didn’t trust my ability to walk straight, so I would find ways to walk next to a wall and discreetly brush my fingers on the wall to give me a sense of balance. As a result, I didn't run a single mile for over 2 years.
Just before Thanksgiving 2013, I was laid off from my job as a wellness dietitian - a job that I loved! My repeated medical leaves of absence did not allow me to be a reliable employee with a consistent work attendance. I was supposed to be a shining role model of health as a nutrition professional, yet my physical health was in shambles to the point that I lost the job that I enjoyed.
I knew what it was like to suffer through a 10+ hour race, but enduring the repeated years of continued physical turmoil was more than I could handle. I had reached my breaking point and the only alternative I had was to look up and reach out to God to sustain me. For my whole life, I had relied on my own strength to achieve challenging goals and now I could barely get through each day. I had been completely stripped of all self-sufficiency, and God was using these series of events to start healing me on a spiritual level.
I noticed the more I fixed my eyes on the promises of God and the more I trusted His provision for each day, the more my peace multiplied even though my digestive and physical problems were still there. During these unclear moments in my life, God was the one holding me through it all. Instead of trying to find satisfaction in life through temporary athletic achievements and maintaining a "perfect" body composition, I started resting my identity in the accomplished work and unfailing love of Jesus Christ. I was now at peace that no matter what came my way, God would be my advocate and He would give me enough grace to conquer my fears and troubles for each day.
I don't know what your life story is, but I do know that we live in an imperfect world, so trials are inevitable in this life on earth. Have you allowed God to have the driver’s seat of your life, or are you still gripping on the wheel determined to live according to your own rules? There is true freedom in surrendering control to the Lord because in return He extends unconditional mercy, love, and peace on our behalf. God's infinite grace is more than enough to cover your current troubles. He will meet you where you are right now if you ask Him!