May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Emily Fogle‘s story is like none other you’ve ever heard. Her story may bring tears to your eyes, but also shares some powerful insight into the swimming world and the struggles of living with an eating disorder.
Emily’s freshman year of college yielded success, breaking the school record in the 200 breast (2:10.57) by more than 5 seconds, making the finals at Big Ten Championships, and qualifying for NCAAs.
Sophomore year was also a successful year for Fogle, as she won the consolation heat at NCAA Championships in the 200 breast in a time of 2:08.28. Fogle also qualified for the Olympic Trials and placed 28th at the meet, Purdue’s top individual finish. Fogle, however, said she was not satisfied with the results and pushed herself harder than she ever had that summer in order to come back for next season in the best shape possible.
Fogle was on track to have another breakout season, but she injured her hip and had to have surgery. Around this time, Fogle developed anorexia, and soon her weight dwindled to barely a hundred pounds. The 5’10” Fogle was skin and bones, not even strong enough to be advised to have another hip surgery. Fogle turned to smoking cigarettes to suppress her hunger, and even collapsed walking up her stairs carrying only a half gallon of skim milk.
Fogle said she was in a dark place and refused to seek help, terrified the people who loved her would try to take her eating disorder away from her, forcing her to confront her true feelings.
On April 16th, 2013, Fogle’s mother unexpectedly passed away. If anorexia was not enough, Fogle had to deal with the extreme grief of losing a parent. Fogle’s depression got the best of her, and at one point Fogle considered suicide, leaving a note next to her bottle of pills.
Finally, Fogle accepted treatment and recovered in time to swim one more year at Purdue. After missing almost two years in the pool, Fogle shocked everyone by qualifying for NCAAs for the third time in her career and was part of the 200 medley relay team that broke a school record at Big Ten Championships. At NCAA Championships in 2016, Fogle placed 8th in the 100 breast (59.20) and 14th in the 200 breast (2:08.47).
Fogle’s story is not solely one about swimming, as it relates to all aspects of life. Her perseverance in the face of insurmountable obstacles proves to all of us that we can do whatever we set our minds to.