athlete’s brain

In my sophomore year of high school I set personal records at every cross country meet I ran. Later that spring I could barely drag myself out to run a mile.When I was on cross country the rule was pass every living thing — every human, every butterfly, every dog. When I was in the hospital they brought in a dog for therapy. A lethargic, docile spaniel that I hated win a passion. I think I hated it because my drugged up brain knew that in that moment that dog could beat me in a 5k. That fucking dog had more energy in its left paw than I had left in my entire body.

I quit cross country in my junior year. The intensity was more than I could apparently handle. That crazy coach had no regard for his athletes’ mental health. Instead I had to focus on getting the best grades possible to get into the best college possible.

For the past two years I have been blindly following their instructions: taking the drugs so that I can function in society. The society that is one frantic, perpetual race. So I quit the race in Van Cortland Park to join the important race.

The thing is, my medicated mind was no good at reading, memorizing, testing… so they told me I needed accommodations. I needed to keep up, I needed to cross their finish line. I told them I didn’t want any part of that. If I wasn’t supposed to be racing, why ask for s handicap in the race? Shouldn’t I just end up wherever I would be able to perform the best according to my own ability? They didn’t care. They gave me the accommodations.

Here’s the thing: I’m running again. I might not be racing, but I’m getting back into the sport on my own terms. And in college I’m not applying for accommodations, and if it’s too hard I’ll transfer. Or I’ll get bad grades for once in my life.

This is not to say that accommodations are bad. This is not to say that medications are always bad. But we live in a society that is a perpetual race. They tell us we’re sick if our brains are not compatible with that structure. I didn’t know it before, but I think I prefer to run at my own pace.

Cecilia Silberstein is an undergraduate student at Haverford College. Photography by Rebecca Heilweil.


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