I had always said that once I was ready to take the step to focus on getting my period back, I was really going to “go after it,” shift my competitive spirit that was usually reserved for racing towards spreading awareness about amenorrhea. I was going to do everything I could to bring this issue to light, as I knew, through years of chatting with friends, that I was not the only one who had been through this.
But about a month ago, when I wrote about not getting my period for nine years, I had no idea how much attention my story would grab, nor the amount of women who had struggled with amenorrhea at some point. I don't think anyone realised how widespread this issue actually is.
Certainly not just professional runners, competitive runners, high mileage runners, or even runners at all. Amenorrhea does not discriminate. One stressful situation can send your body into a state of panic, and once it is gone for more than a few months, it gets harder and harder to lure it back.
Now 10 weeks since I last ran, many people are now starting to wonder how it is going.
How could a professional runner who had been training for 14 years straight, go from 90 miles a week to zero and be okay with it?
In a lot of ways, this experience has been like training for a marathon.
At the beginning, I started out excited. I was determined to “win” and would do everything and anything I could to get there as soon as I could. I was going to do all the little things to give myself the best shot at getting my period to return.
The first few weeks we start training for a race, we are eager, determined, and envision ourselves crushing it in a few months time.
At first my new life was all fun. Rather than pushing my physical body, I was pushing my mind to be okay with relaxing, okay with having rest days and sitting on the couch. I was healing my body, and that is important too.
Instead of battling against junk food cravings during a time I needed to focus on fuelling for my run, I was battling that voice telling me that I was going to end up obese, that I would be ugly, unfit, and unable to have a family.
During training, you remind yourself that good fuel will pay off on race day. Now I was eating just as much as I had while I was running, but fully aware the calorie surplus was going to go to areas it was needed. I had to remind myself it would pay off when I knew my amenorrhea had gone.
A few weeks in, the novelty started to wear off.
During training, the accumulation of miles builds up in our legs, and everything that was once easy becomes a little harder than before. We wonder if we are really ready to commit our lives to something so painful?
That same heavy feeling happened with my new life. As the accumulation of food packed on the pounds, my waistband tightened in, making it uncomfortable to wear most my clothes. I started to wonder if I had made the right choice, was I really ready to let go of my former body?
Thankfully, I have my niece Charlotte as my phone background and her face kept my purpose in the forefront of my mind, and I was able to continue my journey.
Around two months into a marathon training program, we consider giving it up. We are in the thick of training, exhausted, and wondering why we put ourselves through it. This is where all the setbacks start to hit us, injuries start to appear.
We feel frustrated as we have done everything we could to be ready for this race, given up so much for it, dedicated so much to it, yet it seems our bodies are rebelling against us through injuries and exhaustion, not thanking us for all that we have done for this.
Around month two of my journey, I briefly considered giving it up. Was it worth it? I was giving my body EVERYTHING it needed to be reassured: eating more, exercising less, relaxing more, acupuncture, de-stressing. What more do you want?
The competitor in me was frustrated. The doctors told me two to three months, but I went “all in” from the start, just like the book No Period. Now What? recommended, how was it not happening for me yet? Did I even need to go to this extreme?
But unfortunately, you cannot rush your body. In the same way you cannot rush an injury that appears during your marathon training, my body was healing internally, and although you can take steps to speed the process as best you can, healing takes time, and you have to trust that it will let you know when it is ready.
Of course I miss running, and of course there have been a lot of ups and downs, but my life has been enriched in a way that I never believed possible through this journey, and I am only a few months in.
As the race closes in, you wonder if you are ready for this next step. What happens if you DO crash and burn? What happens if you crush it? Is it all downhill from there?
It took 10 weeks for my body to regain trust in me and get my ovulation cycle back, right in the middle of the time my endocrinologist and OBGYN expected.
I am about to embark on the next part of the adventure, and although I am not sure I am ready, just like we have self-doubt before a race, I know my path will unfold, and I have done my best.
This article originally appeared on Runnersworld.com.