Today’s post has been submitted by WOOT member Stephanie Hettinger. I’m honored to share her story because it’s one that I believe some of us can relate to in some way, yet have never had the courage to share. It’s a story of pain and suffering, with a few brief moments of triumph, and then thankfully a turning point that leads to new and hopeful beginnings. And if you haven’t guessed already, WOOT played a pivotal role in leading Stephanie to that crucial turning point.
My name is Stephanie Hettinger; this is where I will share my journey on fitness, health & healing.
I am happily married to my husband Don; we’ve been married for 15 years. We were young when we started our family; we were 22 when our son Dylan was born. Less than two years later, our daughter Brooklyn was born. Sadly, I wasn’t able to enjoy her birth due to Post Partum Depression. In 2005 we had our third child Evelyn, and again, I struggled with Post Partum Depression. In 2007 we welcomed our fourth child Joslyn into our family, and not only was Post Partum Depression an issue, but so was my anxiety. I struggled with the fear of how I was going to care for our four babies who were under the age of 5.
In 2009 our family moved, and I found myself pregnant again. It wasn’t long after the birth of our fifth child, Kaitlyn, that I was struggling to walk up the flight of stairs. Once at the top of the stairs I felt my breathing was heavy, and I was sweating. I knew then that something needed to change. At my six week Post Partum check-up I was declared healthy enough to resume my normal activities, except I didn’t remember what those were. I spoke with my doctor about my struggles, my feelings, and my outlook on life. Together, we created an outline to help me find myself and heal from the depression that was consuming my life.
In 2010 I read about a Well Water 5K run hosted by a Girl Scout Troop. The story behind this 5K was that a particular Girl Scout Troop adopted a village in Africa where the girls would walk approximately a mile and a half to gather water to bring back to their village. The Girl Scout Troop decided to raise funds to help this village build a water well. I knew this cause was something I could support, and so without thinking I signed up for a 5K – it was “only 3.1 miles” I thought. The day of the race, it was obvious I couldn’t run very long or far without being out of breath and needing to stop, but I ran, walked and finished the race.
In 2011, my husband and I discovered our fourth child, Joslyn, has a chromosome defect known as Turner Syndrome, an incurable, life long condition. My life was consumed with doctor appointments, procedures, and finding the best care for our daughter, while continuing to care for our four other children. I blamed myself for Joslyn’s condition. My anxiety kicked in; fear was always present. How would our daughter live, enjoy life, be normal? What would her quality of life be like? How would we care for her, and how would we pay for her doctor visits; we had so many questions and concerns, yet few answers.
Joslyn, at the beginning of her diagnosis of Turner Syndrome
2012 was the year our family moved to Okinawa, Japan. It was also the worst year of my life. We moved to a foreign country, my support system was half a world away, my father was very ill, and my husband was gone all the time due to work. My depression and anxiety was at an all time high; I didn’t turn to my husband for support, nor did I reach out to my support system, but instead I turned to food for comfort. I eventually went to see a doctor and after recounting my history of depression, I started a new course of medication.
My medication and dosage changed however, and my depression and anxiety continued to get worse rather than better. Soon thereafter I found myself withdrawn and avoiding people all together; I was a prisoner in my own hell. My doctor eventually moved, and I was assigned a new doctor. In 2013 I tried to refill my medication and found my doctor wouldn’t authorize my prescription refill without seeing me. I didn’t want to go and see this new doctor, and have to bring up my history once again and listen to what she thought of me, but it had to be done.
Medication and dosages were again changed, and blood tests were ran. Eventually we discovered that I was living with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre diabetes, and my weight was at an all time high. My doctor looked at me, and asked me how long I wanted to live. She continued by saying that if I continued down this path of destruction I wouldn’t be around to see my children grow up, and that they would go on to do things without me. I knew I loved my children and husband, and I wanted to see them grow and live life. My doctor and I wrote down a timeline with goals, and steps to get there.
The first step was to work on becoming healthy. I started seeing a nutritionist for guidance on how to eat better, and when to eat. I learned that I needed food to fuel my body, instead of food for comfort. I also started counseling for my anxiety, depression, and healing. I felt like a failure as a wife and mother, to those who mattered most to me. I felt as though I had embarrassed my parents; I had been self-destructing for such a long time, these feelings were normal for me. Counseling helped me to love myself again.
At the end of 2013 I was still healing and well on my way to incorporating fitness into my life. I joined WOOT (Women on Okinawa Trails) and a couple of other Facebook groups. I didn’t consider myself an athlete by any means, but felt like I could join these ladies on the trails of Okinawa; even if I walked, I was somehow bettering myself with exercise. With the help and support of countless people in the Facebook groups, my husband and kids and I signed up for races ranging from 5K to 10K distances. My dosage of medication slowly, over time went down, my weight continued to go down, anxiety and depression weren’t consuming my life, and I finally felt peace in my life. I made small changes in all areas of my life. This ranged from when and what I ate, when I went to sleep, and when I would wake up, and when and how often to exercise as well.
Ayahashi Road Race 2014
I now exercise 6 days a week, and exercise is a family affair. My girls all joined Girls Like To Run, a running club within WOOT. I am aware of the food I feed myself, and my family. I make sure that everyone in our family, to include myself, has enough sleep at night. I am finding new ways to deal with the stresses of everyday life, and I’ve found that outlet to be exercise. My journey to complete healing isn’t over yet; it has taken time, and will continue to take time. With the support of the ladies in WOOT, as well as fellow athletes, my support system, friends, family, and GOD, I have been able to openly speak about my depression, and anxiety, and begin to heal.
Out on Spider Trail 2015
Back out on Spider Trail again in 2016, and looking fit and fabulous!