Myra Stray

2021-2022 Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Myra Stray, 16

Winner, 14-16 Age Group

Waukesha, WI

In the midst of a seemingly never-ending shut down, I wake up and can’t quite remember what day it is. The hours pass slowly, the days drag on. Of course, not all days were a bore. The pandemic was an event that myself, or anyone for that matter, will never forget. This global phenomenon rages on today in politics, in conversation, and all over the media. Even with some negative consequences, the lockdown provided a time to reflect and grow in a time when I needed to most. 

Prior to when I experienced the shut down in mid-March, I had recently visited the hospital to address ongoing concerns of my weight. Although not diagnosed at the time, months later in April I would hear the words “anorexic and orthorexic behaviors” echoed to me through the phone. For months, every week I would talk to a therapist and nutritionist reflecting on my thoughts and actions. No in-person visits meant we had to meet over Zoom. They advised me to break from running while I worked on returning to a healthy state. The next 6 months would be some of the most difficult months I have ever experienced. 

Running was the world to me. I had just finished my Freshman season of cross-country, leading the team to a State appearance and now I couldn’t even run a mile? I felt lost and angry at myself and at those who told me what I could and couldn’t do. How was I supposed to sit around all day and not feel worthless? School was shut down and I had to face my issues head on every day. At first, this was frustrating, I was denying any change. Each day that I struggled through, I grew, even as the world I knew seemed farther and farther away.

Losing activities that brought me the most joy was difficult. Finding out how I was damaging my health through an eating disorder felt much worse. Each week, I challenged myself to take note of how I feel. Each morning and night I would journal. I would write down the times I was upset, the times I faced my fears, the times I made a step in the right direction, and even the times I failed. My journaling brought me closer to myself and it is something I continue to practice today. Writing brought light to the irrational thinking behind my eating disorder and aided in my healing the most. 

In the darkness of the pandemic, I found myself to be selfish and irritable, showing little time for my family and becoming annoyed at their persistance. Except when I saw how affected each of my family members was by this global epidemic, I had a change of heart. My brother lost his Senior prom, final lacrosse season, and his last days of highschool. My mother cried for him and for me, her love could not have been more evident in her care for us. My dad did all he could to make sure we were all right. He helped us find ways to have fun at home with board games and movies. The pandemic may have exposed my shortcomings, but it highlighted the extent of love that  my family has for each other. In my observations, I was able to better communicate with my family about my own struggles, making me feel less isolated from the world. 

As the pandemic continues today, I find myself using the skills I developed during 2020 to be the best me. No longer do I suffer from an eating disorder and I no longer feel alone. Now, I can happily say I am running better than ever and ran to State again this fall. Thanks to a renewed relationship with my family, I am more communicative and find speaking to others easier than before. When the world I knew started returning to pre-pandemic normalcy, it felt different. I walked through my world with a  clearer understanding of who I am and what my capabilities are. The pandemic showed me I was lost, but never alone. In the days spent away from the world, I believe I became closer to my world in one way or another.