This is part of a series detailing my health journey to living a paleo-esque lifestyle. This gets deeply personal, and though I am slightly embarrassed by the openness of these posts in my otherwise private life, I strongly believe that if this can help even one person it'll be worth that embarrassment.
For better or for worse, I started running about a month after I quit swimming. I felt lost without some sort of competitive goal to pursue, so being in good shape despite my energy levels I figured that running would be a logical switch. After I got over the first few weeks of feeling like my lungs would explode, I was running five miles a day, four days a week. I was sleeping better--no doubt because the chronic ear infections I'd suffered while swimming were gone--and I felt more at peace about my life than I had in quite a while. Throughout the summer after my freshman year I dabbled in swimming alongside running, but felt myself starting to get ill and fatigued after a few sessions in the pool. I don't blame swimming for this, just my tendency to over-stress my body.
I began my sophomore year as a runner, frequently logging 60 miles a week through that nasty New England winter. I ran some on the treadmill, some on the road. Unfortunately, in doing so I started focusing more and more on leaning out and becoming lighter to reduce stress on my extremely painful joints. I... went too far with that, but not intentionally. I was asked frequently if I was anorexic and if I needed help. I weighed a lean 110, which means I probably looked like I weighed well under 100 pounds. In fact, I know I looked skeletal. I knew it then, and I know it now. (You're welcome to ask my husband if he thought I looked attractive then. I'm certain he'd say no, because he's such a nice guy, but that he'd never ever want me that thin again.) For a while I was still strong, cranking out 100+ pushups at a time. Then I got weak, and I got injured. I stopped menstruating just before I went overseas for the first half of my junior year. Once again--I was dumb. I should have accepted this all was terrible for me, that I was obsessive about it. I just loved running. A lot.
So I went abroad, to the boonies of southern England, two weeks after I ran a marathon. I was no hotshot, but I was happy with my time--one that would allow me to run in Boston the following spring once I returned to the States. To make a long story short, I started running lots of miles far too soon, hurt my knee as a result, and had some seriously bad times. Bad, bad times. Like, I developed major depression, some debilitating anxiety, and bulimia. Great, huh? I had a very good experience abroad overall, and made some wonderful lifelong friends, but my health went by the wayside. I came back 40lbs heavier than when I left, terrified that my then-fiancé would be sufficiently horrified to leave. (Of course he didn't, and of course that was silly of me to think... but I was not well at that point.)
Now, I'm not going to blame my depression and anxiety on my time abroad, or even my injury. I had tendency before then toward anxiety and obsessive behavior; I just kept it under control with sports. Kind of. But that injury was a catalyst, and really threw me over the edge. Without going into too much detail, my career plans got completely derailed by my health problems and I was left with trying to re-find myself those last couple of years in college. While sick, and depressed, and generally feeling like I would feel horrible forever.
Finally my senior year I managed to get a referral to a rheumatologist (after I'd mostly dealt with the eating disorder and the worst of the anxiety), who tested me for all kinds of things (again). I had blood tests for most of the auto-immune disorders out there. All those things ended up clean. I did, however, have all of the criteria for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Great, wonderful. At the time I was relieved that I didn't have RA or lupus, and that there was an actual name for what I was experiencing. The doctor threw around options for pain meds, but, not being one for medication unless absolutely necessary I said no thanks. She also mentioned gluten intolerance and possible testing for celiac, but I was so tired of being at the doctor that I didn't follow up on going to a GI specialist.
Next edition: Why I should have gone to a GI doc, dabbling in GF eating, and other annoyances.