Why I Want to See a Sports Psychologist; Eating Disorder; Overcoming Walls

Hi friends! It’s currently 11:10am on this scorching hot Friday morning. I’ve been up since 6am, so the day already feels so long.

Before I decided to write this post, I was applying for some jobs on campus, as I seem to have more time on my hands than I know what to do with, at this moment. See, there was so much I had wanted to do when I got back to LA, but there were two problems:

a. I have no means of transporting myself anywhere, and because LA public transportation is terrible, I have to Uber around, which is costing me a fortune.

b. Most of my friends are back at their respective homes, so I have no one to have adventures with! Going to the beach by myself is kind of lame…

So, this first week back in LA, I have found myself want of stuff to do to fill my time. This is why I have decided to get back into regular daily writing– time really does fly when I write about my life! I love the flow state I get into the moment my fingers touch the keyboard. Maybe I should become a writer, one day!

The main topic of today’s post is why I want to see a sports psychologist. There are several reasons.

Firstly, because I want to become a sports psychologist myself, I want to get a feel of what the role of a sports psychologist is during one-on-one sessions with clients. So this is partly a research/learning experience, so I can dip my toe in the water.

Secondly, I’ve been facing a huge mental block lately, in terms of regaining the disciplined training regimen I held as a gymnast. One of my goals for this summer is to get back into shape. I’ve been struggling, however, to push my body to its limit! In the past, physical pain was a usual part of my life, so pushing through walls was no problem. I’ve since regressed tremendously, and I find getting back my athletic body harder than ever. A big part of it is the negative thinking that overcomes my brain whenever I try to work out. I keep beating myself up over how out of shape I’ve gotten, comparing my present body to the body I had as a gymnast. Clearly, this is a distortion– it’s true I’ve gotten out of shape since I quit gymnastics, but that is to be expected, and it’s no reason to internalize and beat myself up over this fact. Also, it’s unrealistic for me to get back my pre-pubescent gymnast body. I’m a young woman now, with curves and a higher fat percentage. It’s only natural. Regardless, it’s this self-imposed pressure and negativity that is actually being counterproductive, rather than pushing me, to improve. And I can’t seem to break down this wall. So I’ve decided to enlist the help of a professional who is trained to help people in my current situation.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I wish to tackle the existing demons that remain from my competitive gymnastics days. Don’t get me wrong– there are so many life lessons I learned from gymnastics that have served me well to this day. I’ve developed an iron work ethic that, when I’m “on”, manifests itself clearly. I’ve learned to be brave and tackle my fears head on. However, there is an abusive side to elite gymnastics that often is not discussed. First and foremost, body image. Like I said, I long to gain back my gymnastics body. Thin, lean, nearing the point of anorexia. In my head, this is still the standard I hold myself to, and I hate my current body because it is nowhere near where I was in the past. While I never had a full-fledged eating disorder, it is safe to say that I suffer from pretty bad body dysmorphia. I pick out all the flaws with my body and obsess over them, until the flaws consume my mind. Lately, it’s been taking a toll on my mental and physical health. I refuse to eat more than two small meals a day– early in the morning, and a few hours before bed. I’m often left feeling hungry, light-headed, and tired. I refuse to step on the scale, until I am sure I have reached 120lbs or less. Otherwise, that number on the scale will gnaw away at me.

Secondly, gymnastics has conditioned me to see things in life in black and white. All or nothing. Go hard or go home. By the very nature of the demanding sport, gymnastics forces people to dedicate their entire lives to training. There is little to no balance in elite gymnastics. To this day, I live my life with this same mindset– everything I do, I must give my best effort. Now, at first glance, this may not seem like a bad thing. Trying your best, and reaping the rewards of your hard-earned success. However, when taken to the extreme, to the point where you’re sacrificing so much– relationships, mental health and self care, a “normal” life– the question becomes, is it worth it? On a similar vein, I tend to view everything from a competitive standpoint. Whatever new hobby I pick up, I MUST compete and be the very best. There is no concept in my mind of doing things simply for the sake of enjoyment. While college has helped me chip away at this particular demon, it’s a slow process, and I think I could use the help of a professional to help me along. Even with my new “hobby” of figure skating, I long to go competitive and be the very very best I can be. This pressure has led me to already grow frustrated with the slow pace of progress, despite the fact that I’ve only been on the ice for three days. At the end of the day, I leave the rink more frustrated and less happy than I came. Again– what is the point of doing something, if you aren’t enjoying it? See, with gymnastics, 95% of the sport was not enjoyable. Did I necessarily enjoy the 6 hour trainings locked in the stuffy gym, with my coach constantly yelling at me, telling me how inadequate I was? Did I love the immense pressure that comes with competing? The restless nights and inability to eat food, days before a big meet? No. But, I pushed through these barriers, because to me, there was an end goal– make the national team and represent my country in this beautiful, demanding sport. And I would do everything in my power to achieve this goal. It was this very thinking that led me to ignore the intense knee pain I faced, eventually resulting in a career ending injury. Moreover, I felt a certain nobility and pride in my ability to work hard and push myself beyond any mental or physical limit. It gave me a purpose in life. I carry this same mindset with me today– the whole “pain is good because it serves a higher purpose” kind of mindset. I guess you could say I’m somewhat of a martyr, a self-sabatoger. Again, the question looms– is it worth it?

A part of me does not want to let this athlete’s mindset go, because it has pushed me my entire life to achieve and surpass my goals and expectations. I wonder, if I soften up, will I still be able to perform well in school, in dance, in skating? I already feel myself softening up. And I loathe myself for it. My former therapist sees this shift in mindset and lifestyle as not necessarily a bad thing, but a sign of personal growth. I’m learning to balance work with self care. I’m finally learning to put myself first before my goals. But in doing so, a part of me thinks that I’m giving up. I’ve lost that sense of nobility of pushing myself past my limits. I’ve lost a big part of my former identity. Am I ready to let this go?

These are all thoughts and questions I hope to tackle with my sports psychologist.

I will conclude this post here. Have a wonderful day, friends, and stay out of the sun!

 

 

Best,

Belicia

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