Bend and sway, endure the day,

As any sapling should.

A weight in your crux-

Pain deluxe,

Bending your tender wood.


She came upon, a place upon,

Where weight was cooperatively moved.

For it to move,

It left a groove-

Built, and built—never gone.

-Grace Coller


Our newborn selves, our little seedling bodies, come into the world recovering: from childbirth, exposure in the womb, the trauma of creation. Here, we may have scars—birth defects, exposures or maladies that put us ‘behind the mark’ from the beginning. Or, conversely, we may have advantages—a well formed brain, blue eyes, genetic differences that give us an edge.

We are all recovering, all the time. Our skin cells replace themselves every 7 days. Some say our psyches replace themselves every 7 years. Our bodies and minds are fairly plastic in their ability to form bridges, neurological circumvents and regenerations. My body and mind are no different. I am recovering in a variety of ways, and I have no regrets. The pain and joy of the past have brought me here, and I love who I am today. I’m happy to share with you some of my story.

I was born 3rd out of 4 children into a family in the throes of alcoholism, the 80’s, divorce and general chaos borne only of the very best intentions. This beginning up to age 4 was transmuted in my mind as a spector, visiting me, at that time, only in my dreams. Dreams were a safe place where I could greet my circumstances as they were, receive comforting hugs from my loving parents who were often lost in the maelstrom described above, and move on with my childhood in a decidedly resilient manner.

My parents divorced when I was young, and my budding mind, in all of its glorious, golden resiliency, wrapped this trauma up in a pretty package:

Now I have two households that love me.

Now they will not fight.

The homes are quieter now.


I once took a tidbit from an action movie one of my brothers was watching:

If you set your mind to it, pain can become pleasure.


I actually lived like this, and in a way, I was healing. My good nature and grateful heart (of which I was taught from a lovely place my mother used to visit, which taught me of the benefits of such a heart) were endlessly helpful to me during this phase in my life. I was healing, but I was also becoming codependent—a constant ‘helper’, a believer in my ability to fix adult problems. This, in itself, was something I also had to recover from as an adult.

I brought these ‘skills’ to elementary school, and later middle school, where I was viciously taunted and excluded for most of these years. I still wonder what triggered such a response from classmates, and I can only guess that the survival skills I’d learned at home were awkward and easy to pick at in a more ‘normal’ social setting. This, too, is something I continue to recover from. Happily, I am still raw and awkward. These qualities are somehow protected in adulthood by their counterparts—confidence and self-protection. Each of these two new soldiers within me were grown from seeds, watered with therapy, and have blossomed in love and honesty.

I learned from what I saw as a child to avoid the temptations of addiction in the form of anything drinkable. I avoided alcohol, but my nature was such that all addictions could not be avoided. I sunk deeply into the addiction of approval, specifically from the opposite sex. I avoided actual exposure or contact with these alien beings, but my every move was planned and propped to please these creatures. This awkward growth in my life sent shoots of me flying this way and that, somehow resulting in me becoming a better athlete (for them), a more diligent student (for them) and more socially acceptable (for them). No one looking at my life at this point would have seen the desperation that defined my every move—my desire to be loved and saved, someday, by Prince Charming.

Prince Charming never came. Captain Morgan took his place. The culturally supported notion of being saved by the males of our society was a hard belief to recover from. Although alcohol took me down, it was also the very thing that saved me. It quelled me. It brought me solace, the illusion of confidence, and artificial rawness. Beyond feeling acceptable, I was desirable, funny, and comfortable. Alcohol was not a disease for me, it was the cure. I was so beautifully me in the beginning. Drinking made me feel very close to the person I am today, until the tables turned from the alcohol assist.

Along with the trauma of my upbringing and my codependence, alcohol is another thing I’ve had to recover from in my life. I continue to build my life and support myself in a necessary and life-fulfilling fellowship with others of the same motivation. I work hard in this recovery. Just like any other kind of recovery, self-love, an other-worldly (higher power), and enjoying the fellowship of others are the cures I’ve found effective. I have been recovering in this way for 18 years.

About 5 years ago, I had to come to terms with the fact that I suffer from several chronic illnesses. A few of them come packed with the ability to inflict great pain and suffering upon my body, but thankfully, none of them are en route to kill me. I’ve had to learn to manage each one. One has left scars on my brain, one resulted in a surgery to remove my gallbladder, another required a surgery to remove endometrial cells on the outside of my uterus. With each painful realization came eventual solutions. With each discovery of a new cause for my overall pain (of which I was only dimly aware as the result of denial, a survival tool strongly rooted within me), came solutions and more and more recovery. My life has completely changed course. I am forced to do what many dream of—I need to be at home often to rest my body. I also need to engage in nearly daily intense exercise and eat a clean diet. I need to have close, true, wonderful friends and family.

The fruits of such care have included the adoption of a second child, because now I am healthy and available and home. The fruits also include living a near pain-free life when I stick strictly to my body’s guidelines. Another huge plus has been the absolute love for sport being rekindled from high school. This time, not for boys, but for me. I do it for the exhilaration, the completion, the belief in the good that lies in my body. None of these treasures would have been unearthed if I had continued to allow my body and soul to live in pain.

My life has become textbook successful since I took an active role in recovering from all of life’s micro, mini and macro aggressions. The small tears I receive in my muscles from training are my most current type of recovery.

Joyfully, I made Team USA this year in the area of Aquathlon, which is a run/swim/run event. I’m headed to Denmark in 2018 to try my very best at a podium spot on the world stage. Regardless of where I end up at the end of this portion of my life, I will be training very, very diligently this year. I work out about 10 times a week, with Friday being my recovery day. Without this day, life becomes a blur of events. My muscles become injured. My body ill. My mind tortured. It is necessary for me to recover on Fridays. No planned exercise. A whole bunch of rest, because I cannot force my muscles to regenerate. I cannot scream my mind into clearing. A power greater than me—my very DNA, the science of my cells, the fate of my disease—is required to heal, and I must give it space and believe in the power of healing. I don’t heal by my hand, but actually in the absence of it, in the clearing of the forest where my sapling is given room to grow.

While the scars in my sapling wood tissue may never disappear, may never truly go away, they fill in, they show a splash of color, become stronger within my overall growth. I continue to recover in all of these ways. I continue to know my life is on course to improve based on the state of my mental and spiritual health foremost, then my body, and finally the feedback of the human beings I surround myself with. Only in this way do I have any smattering of control. Recovery requires giving in to the healing powers that be, giving them space, and giving my time by showing up for, and helping others. Yes, I’m recovering today and always. I’m recovering only because I give a power greater than myself the reins, and allow that power the space to transmute pain into healing.

  Grace Coller is a Team USA athlete, blogger, mother of two, caretaker of four chickens and two cats, and wife. Grace muddles through with the added weight of various chronic illnesses but is thriving regardless. She enjoys living life to its fullest, travel and deep intellectual conversations. She also enjoys nerdy graphs and such. You can follow her journey @    

Grace Coller is a Team USA athlete, blogger, mother of two, caretaker of four chickens and two cats, and wife. Grace muddles through with the added weight of various chronic illnesses but is thriving regardless. She enjoys living life to its fullest, travel and deep intellectual conversations. She also enjoys nerdy graphs and such. You can follow her journey @