Here's the Deal

There have been many questions about where I have been and why this blog has been so quiet over the last 8 months. I have alluded to some things, and some of you know parts of the story, but I want bring everyone up to speed. It has been a roller coaster, to say the least.
I don't mean this kind of roller coaster.
I mean this kind of roller coaster (the longest inverted roller coaster in the world). Yikes.
A lot of this story is extremely personal. It includes many experiences I never imagined myself going through or putting my family and friends through. Some events I'm not proud of, some I'm still a little embarrassed by. But, I want to get my story out in the open. This blog has always been about my journey, and I've always prided myself on my openness and honesty.

In addition, if I have learned anything throughout the latest portion of my journey, it is that my experiences are not as uncommon as I thought they might be; they just seem that way because few share. If I can help even one individual by sharing my experiences, this story will be worth telling.

So, here we go.

In the interest of full disclosure, the roller coaster ride really begins back in high school when I first began binging and purging. Disclosure #1: I am a recovering bulimic. The eating became worse during my first year in college, and I finally found the courage to tell Nathan about it. We worked together to battle ED (My endearing name for the disorder - it also concidently stands for Eating Disorder) in the only way we knew how: stopping the behavior. I didn't seek professional help at that time, and now I know I was never really over it. 

ED came back into my life again when I started competing at a higher level. Funny how he didn't ask if I wanted him back in my life, he just barged in and took over. He told me I needed to be thinner to be faster. The stress of climbing the corporate ladder also allowed ED to take further control over me. I was numbing my stress by binging and purging, usually on a daily basis. I told myself it was a choice, and I could stop at any time, but that was as far from the truth as you could get. When I left Red Wing Shoe in 2013 to have the time to pursue a professional running career, I also knew I needed the additional time to focus on me and overcoming ED once and for all. I began treatment at The Emily Program, and through a lot of work with a therapist (to work through the underlying cause of the disorder) and a nutritionist, I am SO proud to say that it has been over 2 1/2 years since I have had any eating disorder thoughts and symptoms. Awesome.

Life was going great. My pregnancy was a little rough, but I delivered the most beautiful, perfect, happy baby girl in October 2014. I fell in love with motherhood immediately.

Greta at about 3-4 weeks old. I miss those snuggles; now she doesn't have much interest in snuggling, she would much rather be moving!!
I recovered remarkably fast, walk/running 4 miles just 13 days after my C-section. I was excited to train hard to try to snag a second OTQ, so everyday I ran/pushed the stroller through sub-zero temperatures (remember the polar vortex?), ice and snow. December and January I logged several 50+ mile weeks. Which reminds me, please, please, shovel your sidewalks! Pushing a stroller over un-shoveled snow is not only very difficult but also really annoying!).
We bought an infant sling so we could start running with her in our Chariot. She looks sooo tiny here!
Beast 2 Feast 5k at 6 weeks post partum!
When Greta turned 3 months old something changed. Disclosure #2: postpartum depression is awful. A lot of things happened all at once:

  • My knees and hips started hurting to the point where I couldn't train without significant pain. My dream of a second trip to the Trials was becoming more and more impossible as each day passed... and as that dream slowly slipped away from me, even the thought of trying to stay in shape via the elliptical fell to the wayside.
  • Nate was gone more frequently because of the nordic ski racing season, which meant for longer days and weekends where I was home alone with Greta. I made a point of getting out of the house and doing something or meeting up with someone every day, but it wasn't the same...
  • I stopped breastfeeding, even though I didn't want to. I was just a terrible milk producer at that point; I remember the last day I pumped I spent about 2 hours pumping and got just an ounce... 
  • All of a sudden I couldn't start on the most basic of tasks. I'd walk past our sink, piled high with dishes, and couldn't get myself to start on them. I knew I should do laundry as well, but that task seemed gigantically impossible. I felt so awful...

I started working with a doctor and we tried adjusting and changing medications but I steadily began to feel more and more depressed. I felt worthless and hopeless, and on March 16 I wanted to end my life. Luckily family and friends intervened immediately and I was admitted to a psych unit on a 72 hour hold for the first time. Within a week of getting out I was admitted again.


Changes in medications by the psychiatrists I saw in those units helped, but life was still rough. I walked around in a continual "Eeyore fog". For some reason, I thought self medicating would help my mood and situation. For those of you that know me, you know that I have ever been much of a drinker. Heck, I drank just once before I turned 21, and even my senior year in college when I was able to drink legally, I rarely did.


Before I knew it, I was drinking daily. Disclosure #3: My name is Nichole, and I am a recovering alcoholic. At times it would get so bad that I would pass out in our basement and Nate would carry me to the car to take me to the emergency room. My highest blood alcohol reading was a 0.46 (nearly 6 times the legal driving limit in Minnesota). People die with a BAC that high. I enjoyed three different stays at the Hennepin County Detox Center. I spent my 32nd birthday and the 4th of July in detox.


But, I was fortunate. My family stuck by me, and they encouraged me to start a 28 day inpatient program. I chose to go to Beauterre Recovery Institute, an addiction treatment facility in Owatonna, MN. I am so thankful I received all of the help I needed while there. I am continuing to stay vigilant with outpatient treatment and AA meetings, and I have been amazed at how far I have come. Today marks my 72nd day of sobriety!




Greta visiting me at Beauterre. It was so hard for me to be away from her for those 28 days, and when all she wanted to do was snuggle during this visit, I welcomed it whole-heartedly. Turns out the snuggles were because of a 104 degree temp. She's still smiling, though. That kid, happy as a lark no matter what the situation!
You thought the roller coaster ride was just about over, right? Ha! Far from it! Last week I started to notice strange symptoms. I hardly slept at night, but was incredibly energetic and super motivated. That's a good thing right? :) I was able to accomplish so much!
Productivity!
By the middle of the week I couldn't maintain concentration and was forgetting things. It was just plain odd. By Thursday evening I didn't know where I was and Nate brought me to the ER (for the 6th time this summer). On Friday he brought me to the University of Minnesota Medical Center's Behavioral Health Unit (aka psychiatric ward). Disclosure #4: I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after manic psychotic episodes with auditory and visual hallucinations. I will have to elaborate on this experience, but let me assure you it was intense (as in a "I had an actual conversation with God" intense).

As a side note, if you have to be admitted to a psych ward (and I now have experience with 3 of them), the U of MN is the place to go. The psychiatrist, doctors, pharmacists, and medical residents that were on my care team were brilliant. Absolutely, astoundingly brilliant.

I was fortunate to be able to be seen by one of the country's leading experts in bipolar disorder here
Another side note: Nathan joked as he was packing for my latest admission that he is now a bona fide expert at psych ward packing: no strings in clothing, no laces in your shoes, enough reading material or other things to try to pass the time. I think I could call myself an expert at trying to stay in shape while admitted. Even though they don't let you have shoelaces, you can procure drinking straws to lace your shoes. Sometimes you're lucky enough to find one of those "walk-in-place-and-you'll-get-fit" videos and you can run and jump in place to the video instead. You can really get your heart rate up, surprisingly! I'm sure I also provided entertainment for the staff there!

Yes, this is actually THE workout dvd I ran and jumped in place to at the New Ulm Hospital Psychiatric Unit. How cool am I?
Back to the story.

The doctors believe that the manic-psychotic episode was brought on by a hormone surge. Disclosure #5: I'm 6 weeks pregnant. The news took us by surprise, to say the least! Nathan and I found out this past Thursday at my visit to the Northfield Emergency Room. 6 days later, when I was still at the U of MN, we were told by the OBGYN that the pregnancy likely isn't viable. There is a small chance that we could be welcoming Baby #2 to the world next May, but at this point we can only wait and see. God is good, and things are in His hands now. I'll have a 3rd ultra sound this Friday and will know a lot more at that time.

Is your jaw on the floor yet? Turns out, a lot can happen in 8 months.

Each of these disclosures is worth exploring in far more depth than this post was able to cover, but I wanted to get all of this out there up front, so that as I find time to elaborate (I have some good stories I want to tell!) there will be some context. I hope to link future posts that fill in more details back to this post.

I have been in hospitals or treatment facilities for a total of over 2 months since March, a dismal statistic if there ever was one. My heart sinks every time I think about it. Instead of focusing on what was, I am turning my energy to the days, months, and years ahead that are going to be even more fulfilling and joyful because of what I've been through. I have learned SO much about myself through this process, and know that I have family and friends that I can count on through anything. I want to especially thank my husband Nathan, both our families, our friends Craig, Jeff, and Teresa, and the many others who lent a hand, cooked a meal, or watched Greta when we needed it. 

Disclosure #6: I have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to!

Life is amazing.

Nichole Porath

Nichole is a blogger, elite level runner, and coach. She ran professionally for Brooks for two years after qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. During that time she founded TNC endurance, where she coaches and motivationally speaks to organizations large and small. This blog details her rise to national-level racing, and continues to follow her as she gets back into racing after starting a family. Read on, friends!

38 comments:

  1. Oh, Nichole! Thank you for sharing. I can't imagine.... know that we are behind you 100%!

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  2. How brave you are for posting this and it's so great that you have nothing to hide. It only shows what you and your family can endure and grow together from. Best wishes as you continue on.

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  3. I don't know you well, but agree on how brave you are! We (friends & strangers) all stand behind you & support you 100%. Best of luck! Nothing but love.

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  4. Prayers and best wishes for you in your journey. Don't stop before the miracle happens.

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  5. Love and light to you.

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  6. I'll be thinking about you Nichole. Hang in there!

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  7. I love you Nichole and I am always here for you if you need to talk!!! I wish you the best!!

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  8. You are in our thoughts and prayers. You are an amazing and beautiful person. May God be with you and your family! Hugs!

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  9. Praying to give you continued strength!

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  10. Nicole,
    We have never met in person, but I can tell you are a warrior and you will overcome anything that comes your way. You are helping many people out there reading your blog and relating to your story.
    Stay strong on your journey! I'm sending all the positive energy and healing your way!!
    Take care Girl!

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  11. Nichole, thank you for sharing such a deeply personal and honest post with all of us. There are so many parts of your story that will help others. Bless you, Nathan, Greta and Mesa.

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  12. Keeping you in my prayers- amazing you had the courage to share!

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  13. I echo Nate's comment. This has been a crazy 8 months, but you hung in there and came out the other side. We love you and are excited about the future with you, Nate, Greta and ??? Thanks for the run this morning. I couldn't have made the 8 miles without your encouragement. I am sure there will be many more to come.

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  14. Nichole, I am super proud of you! You are an amazing person and I am crying happy tears for you This is an incredibly moving and important step in recovery. Open, honest and willing. That's HOW to stay sober. This is one of my favorite quotes and I am thinking about it right now. “Our newly found faith serves as a firm foundation for courage in the future.” Basic Text p. 93

    The foundation of our lives is what the rest of our lives is built upon. When we were using, that foundation affected everything we did. When we decided that recovery was important, that’s where we began to put our energy. As a result, our whole lives changed. In order to maintain those new lives, we must maintain the foundation of those lives: our recovery program.

    As we stay clean and our lifestyles change, our priorities will also change. Work and school may become important because they improve the quality of our lives. And new relationships may bring excitement and mutual support. But we need to remember that our recovery program is the foundation upon which our new lives are built. Each day, we must renew our commitment to recovery, maintaining that as our top priority.

    Just for today: I want to continue enjoying the life I’ve found in recovery. Today, I will take steps to maintain my foundation.

    Life in incredibly amazing without alcohol. I'm Jamie I'm an alcoholic. I drank to enjoy life, silly as it sounds. But, unfortunately it didn't end up working. I need to be honest, i would go to meetings and the saying went, it can happen to anyone. I never thought it would happen to you but I feel very fortunate your higher power is in control, that all these things that happened to you scared me, but I'm also glad they did, you are alive and a much stronger person because of it. I'm so happy that you are putting 1000% into recovery, its pretty amazing to see and to feel great. Things look better every day, sleep is better, life is better. I feel like im rambling on, but I am PROUD of you. I LOVE YOU.

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  15. Lots of love from the Gentry family Nicole. I will pray for you diligently. You are so brave.

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  16. Very proud of you. I will be keeping you in my prayers.

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  17. Nicole, I don't know you personally but I have been following your blog since becoming pregnant last year and having my baby in January. Your honesty about your feelings and experiences inspired and comforted me when I was struggling throughout and after my pregnancy. You are an AMAZING person Nicole. You will get through this. Stay strong. There are people everywhere who appreciate and admire the incredible person you are. -Thank you again, for sharing your very personal journey with us. Sending big hugs and warm wishes across the border to you...xo!

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  18. I don't know you well, but I am amazed at your courage in sharing your story. I will keep you and your family in my prayers!

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  19. I don't know you well, but I am amazed at your courage in sharing your story. I will keep you and your family in my prayers!

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  20. Nichole, I've been reading your blog for several years and I've always enjoyed reading it as a fellow competitive runner. I'm so impressed with your ability to write about these issues that are discussed all too infrequently. It's really incredible how much you've been through and that you're able and willing to share it with everyone. I'd love to continue to follow your journey through this and whatever your upcoming goals will be. Thank you so much!

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  21. Nichole- we love you so much and are so proud of you and your willingness to tell your story. We are privileged to have been a part of your journey and are so glad you are a part of our family! In our prayers. Love you!

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  22. Thank you Nichole for sharing your story! You are brave and strong! In my mind, when you share your story it's like you're accepting it, which is a great step in the healing process. You will also gain many supportive warriors!!!

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  23. Nichole Porath you have been through a very tough time!! You are a strong lady to post this blog!! You will help many people thru this. Keep staying strong! You are in my thoughts and prayers!

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  24. Nichole, I have always read your posts for the running updates, but this is your most meaningful post yet. What a tough 8 months you, Nathan and Greta have had. However, I firmly believe that sharing stories just like yours can only help others in the same boat who don't know how to ask for help. Thank you for being so brave.

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  25. Oh Nichole, one day at a time sweetie. I can relate with a bit of your situation, and will say that professional help is the way to go. I still use tools that they taught me over 10 years ago. One day at a time and focus on family. Love up that sweet little Greta! You are in my thoughts and prayers, sending a big hug to you.

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  26. Nichole, you have always amazed me with your strength and never more so than today. Congrats on pushing through and prayers for your continued journey. You have tons of people supporting you.

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  27. Thank you so much for sharing this Nichole, that in itself takes a ton of courage. You continue to be an inspiration and sending lots of hugs your way! Big congrats on sweet baby #2!!

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  28. Nichole I'm learning that we are all more alike than different. And by sharing your story you are giving people hope and helping them not feel alone in areas of their lives that are similar. Thank you for being brave and sharing. (((Hugs!)))

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  29. I just want to give you a giant hug. I know I don't live especially close, but if I can ever be of any help, please let me know.

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  30. Wow - that took so much courage to write. Wishing you and your family strength as you move forward with your lives. Thank you for sharing.

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  31. I have loved your blog for a few years now. You have always been real and very inspiring. I have struggled with depression in the past and cannot even imagine the pain you went through in the past year. Thank you for sharing your story. The blogosphere is overpopulated with women trying to portray a perfect but fake life. When something goes wrong that they can't twist into sunshine and perfect abs they just disappear.

    But you have always been real and you are self aware of your issues so you will overcome them. And thank you for being brave enough to share the dark side of being a truly brilliant person.

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  32. Wow, that's a lot to deal with! Getting it out in the open is a great start. Keep plugging away at making things a little bit better day by day.

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  33. Nichole,
    Not only did the content of this leave me speechless but your honesty and willingness to share it did. Not many are so brave. This is just as much a love story as it is a recovery and survival story. To be faced with the multiple diagnosis you have been dealt with takes a strong conviction to overcome and much more difficult to do alone - which many are faced with. How fortunate for you to have Nate and the support of many family and friends. This post is almost too much to take in, I cannot imagine facing so many things at once and one after another. The larger message here is how we never really know what others are going through, to learn to be tolerant and above all empathetic to any unexplained changes in each other knowing there could be a larger reason. Private battles are difficult to go through and there is always a right time to share, put yourself out there and become vulnerable once again. Being a strong warrior is a gift but can also be a curse. I truly wish you continued health and happiness. Your story is beyond amazing and humbling for the rest of us who wrestle with smaller hurdles in life and you indeed show us that we all have the power to overcome a great deal.

    Namaste,
    Peggy

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  34. Nichole - Words cannot express how sorry I am that you have been dealing with all of this. I'm so thankful that you've had your husband, family, and daughter by your side through it all and I'm so impressed with your courage in sharing your journey. You are such a wonderful person with so many gifts (coaching others is definitely among them!!) and I am so glad that you are still here with us and are getting the help you deserve. I will be praying for you all and for baby #2. You are such a sweet person, Nichole - and you've demonstrated tremendous strength in sharing your story. I wish I could give you a big hug in person, but this virtual one will have to do. ((((HUG)))) We are rooting for you and we believe in you.

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  35. My dear, dear, Nichole. I have known you since you were born and thought I knew all of your struggles. Even so, my heart just breaks to see you, Nate and Greta having to go through all of this. I commend you for preserving, for continuing to fight the battles to come out a winner and for putting it all out there for the world to see and share. You have always been an inspiration, guess I just didn't realize what an inspiration you are and why. I am so proud of you and thank the Lord that you have had Nate there to help you. Keep up the fight!! Always remember, we LOVE YOU!!!

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  36. Hi Nichole. I know you, but you probably don't know me. I also went to and ran for Gustavus, close enough after you did that I've seen you visit, kick butt at Alumni, and give us words of wisdom, but far enough apart that I doubt you know my name. I too have struggled with eating disorders and with mental health problems, including spending time in a behavioral health unit. For a long time I was highly ashamed of these things. But for someone like you--a role model of mine, without a doubt--to open up about these struggles means so much. Please continue to take care of yourself and heal, and know that by sharing your story, you are helping others more than you could imagine.

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  37. Nichole,

    So proud of you for hanging tough and for sharing your journey. We have had some similar experiences. Thank you for helping me feel less shame. All the best to you and your family. I don't know if you'd ever feel comfortable talking with me, but just in case, my email address is heather.k.meyers@gmail.com.

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  38. Wow Nichole! I had no idea you were going through this :( I have read your blog on and off but you are so very brave to bear it all. I'm proud of you that you can openly talk about your experiences. Being a nurse, I see the stigma that is placed on mental health and the silent suffering that people go through. We need to bring into the light these issues and let everyone know that it can happen to ANYONE! I too have dealt with depression and it's really encouraging to read your story. God Bless you!

    Steph

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