February 1st was National Get Up Day – a United States Figure Skating (USFS) initiative that focuses on the the strength of figure skaters and celebrates getting up after you fall down. Athletes are encouraged to share their empowering stories using #WeGetUp.
Since Feb. 1 was US Figure Skating’s National Get Up Day, I took some time to reflect on the times in life that I have had to pick myself up after falling down. Being involved in competitive figure skating for 14 years and a member of US Figure Skating just as long, skating has a very special place in my heart and has played a huge role in shaping me into the person I am today. After being so involved in a a sport at such a competitive level for such a long period of time, when it was time to eventually hang up my skates, it was a huge adjustment.
I stopped skating when I began my freshman year of college a year and a half ago. There were already so many changes going on in my life, so there was a lot to adjust to on many fronts. I absolutely love skating and am still passionate about it, so when I stopped, I missed the sport more than I thought I would.
Although I missed it so much, I got terrible anxiety every time I thought about going back to it, even if just to skate for a day. The thought of having to wear skating clothes and the idea that I wouldn’t be as good as I was before stressed me out beyond belief. While I was in the heart of my competitive career, I struggled with body image issues and an eating disorder, so coming back to an ice rink brought back all those negative emotions.
Due to all of these conflicting feelings surrounding skating, up until a few months ago I hadn’t stepped foot onto the ice in over a year. After taking some time away from the sport to wholeheartedly focus on my other interests, I have slowly began to get back into skating, but with a whole different mindset.
In the last few months, I have slowly began to love skating again in a positive way, which all comes from finally accepting and loving myself. I now love to go skate when I have some free time and can do it without putting unnecessary pressure on myself.
My experience with what it is like to leave behind something that was once such an integral part of my life has taught me that sometimes a success story about getting up isn’t necessarily about overcoming a challenge to reach your goal.
Life doesn’t always work out with a movie-perfect plot like that. Sometimes you have to adjust your goals to fit your life and put your happiness first. My goals with skating used to be about tangible skills and competition results but now my goal with skating and myself is to let the sport enhance my life rather than become the center of it. Everything certainly means a lot more when you can enjoy it happily and healthily.
I do not normally get personal or deep on social media, but yesterday I decided to share my story on Instagram. I went back and forth about whether posting something so personal was worth it and I was definitely apprehensive. However, when I thought about it I realized that I feel very strongly that the discussion about mental health in sports, especially skating, needs to be opened up, so I would be a huge hypocrite if I didn’t share my own story because I was scared.
After posting, I was completely overwhelmed with the positive comments. I had multiple skaters who I had grown up competing with direct message me saying that they really related to my post and had gone through similar things. It helped me to realize that once you take the first step to open up about something, there is actually an incredible network of support out there.
In skating and in life, there are always going to be hard times when you fall down, and there are many different ways to get up and bounce back. It is important to find which way you want to get back up, and most importantly to learn from challenges to make yourself stronger going forward.
Not only do sports teach you a lot about perseverance, it is also importance to use your strength to help others going through similar things. This all begins by getting back up and using your voice.