Harriet's Story

Fighting the fight so I can run again


As a growing teenage girl, I do many things. I enjoy cooking and painting, and spending time with friends. I LOVE running, and it has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I first started when I was around 4 or five, and instantly fell in love with the sport. Whether it’s winning races or feeling accomplished, I love it all.

However once I became ill, my dream of becoming an Olympian sprinter was taken away from me. I had actually lost interest in the one thing I loved most. I never thought this day would come. At the time, it did not phase me. “As long as I look good, everyone will still love me”. This was the one thing I reminded myself every day.

I experienced body dysmorphia which is something that isn’t talked about enough. Body dysmorphia (BDD) is defined as “a mental illness characterised by constant worrying over a perceived or slight defect in appearance.” Waking up every day and looking in the mirror, so unhappy with what I saw. Even when I had gone “too far”, I didn’t think it was enough. I was at such an unhealthy weight, but to me I still felt like I was living in a bigger body.

However I have been body dysmorphic my whole life. I grew up with certain eating habits and rules too; it’s just always how I’ve been. However it was around the start of 2021 when my illness became more serious and I started focus more on a number, promising I wouldn’t get caught up in it (plot twist, I did). It got worse and worse, to the point where I couldn’t even stand my own family or friends. I was so sick that I didn’t understand how much grief I was causing my family.

On days I wanted to sleep in, my family would worry I had passed in my sleep. All of the days I stayed in my room, isolating myself from not just my loved ones but also my whole life, I look back on it with so much regret. I felt like I betrayed everyone. I couldn’t be the fun loving sister my sisters remember, I couldn’t be a friendly daughter or peer. I was lifeless. No emotion. I didn’t care that I lost my friends. My parents trust. None of that mattered to me anymore.

As long as I was in control, I couldn’t care less. It made me feel so alone. When I was finally forced to seek medical help and recover, I would blame myself. Not just at the time, but for days, months even on end. “Why me?” “Am I the problem?” “I don’t deserve help”. I felt like such a burden. But I can tell you right now. No matter your situation, no matter your support system. NONE OF THIS IS YOUR FAULT.

So so so many factors can bring on eating disorders. Genetics, environmental, psychological, the list goes on. Please never blame yourself for it. It is not a lifestyle choice; it is most definitely NOT a trend, or even a cry for attention. Eating disorders are real. They are harmful. They are life threatening. You are so worthy and so valid of every bit of help you receive.

I am going to be honest. Recovery is HARD. It is not all rainbows and butterflies like social media sometimes displays it. There are very high highs, and even lower lows. But this is all what makes it work. Choose recovery. You can support yourself out from dark times and become an even stronger person. I promise. Fight the fight. Wake up every day, prepared to conquer anything, and it will get easier. Challenge fear foods! Do it with people you love even. This makes it 1000x better.

It is now 2023. I still love to run, but I know what’s right for me, and I don’t push myself to run if I don’t want to. Although I don’t think I will be in the Olympics anytime soon, it is safe to say marathons are 100% on the table for me now.

I have a loving supportive network, from an amazing boyfriend to my family and friends that are full of support. I have gotten it all back and have stronger relationships than ever. Good things take time. But when they come back, you won’t regret it any bit.

With this all in mind, November 10th is my day. My annual celebration of active recovery. To this day, I am nearly 2 years in recovery, and that puts the biggest smile on my face to say. I am free from my mind, I am at peace, I am healing, and I am so so strong. I hope that if you are reading this and struggle with any kind of eating disorder, that you can achieve this too. Because there is so much more to life than numbers.