What is wellness?
It is the active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life (click here for more information).
Whether you battle with a mental illness or not, wellness is applicable to every single person. I will begin the discussion with my own personal experience and why I choose to apply a holistic approach to wellness as opposed to focusing on just one aspect of wellness.
The five pillars of wellness are: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, occupational, and social.
For the longest, I focused only on the spiritual component of wellness, but after much research and self-exploration, I realized that we are intricate and multi-faceted beings and focusing on just one aspect of our lives limits our ability to live to the fullest.
My earliest memory of battling against depression is probably as early as 6 or 7 years old. I remember curling up into a little ball in front of the T.V. crying uncontrollably and without any apparent provocation at the moment.
A neighbor came to visit my mom and when she saw me curled up on the floor with tears streaming down my face, she asked my mom what was wrong with me. My mom said, “She’s been like that for about a week. I don’t know what is wrong.”
The neighbor said, “maybe it’s depression. You should take her to see a doctor about this.” My mother’s response was, “She is too young to be medicated. Nothing a little faith can’t handle.”
That was my only solution until I was the age of 26. I went to church, prayed, read the bible. Did all of the things a good Christian girl should do (or at least what I was taught they should do). I asked others for prayer, served in the youth ministry, worship ministry, fed the homeless, volunteered for countless events, and yet nothing. I felt this emptiness inside that was overwhelming. I began to feel like a fraud.
Trying Something Different
Depression made sense to me as a child and a teenager. My father was an abusive alcoholic. My life was chaotic so the pain made sense.
But, once he was gone the sadness lingered. If I am 100% honest I began to loose my faith. I literally lost trust in God. It sounds horrible, I know.
I began to wonder, why me? If I dedicated myself to God and the things He loved, why was I not receiving healing from all of this? It didn’t make sense and I grew resentful. This in turn led to a great sense of guilt and shame.
I realized that my old methods of coping weren’t working. So, I decided to try something new.
I started professional counseling. After one session alone, I had a diagnosis – Dysthymia. Then, I was referred to a psychiatrist and began a treatment regime.
In all honesty, I am feeling better. The lows of depression are not as low and I am actually able to experience moments of happiness.
I began to reevaluate my choices to try and figure out what I could do to feel joy and stay joyful. I realized that focusing on my spiritual life alone was not enough. This is totally contrary to what I was taught growing up. I was taught that Christ and Christ alone was the answer to all of life’s issues. Perhaps, this was a misinterpretation on my behalf, but regardless there was a stigma regarding seeking help outside of faith.
I understood that my approach to wellness had to be revamped. Here is what my current wellness regime looks like:
1. Faith (Spiritual) – I have come to terms with the fact that depression is just one of those battles I will have to defeat in this lifetime. I believe that God loves me and His plans for me are good. I believe His plans for all of us are good, but we live in a broken system with broken people. I still need faith in my life to guide me to my one true purpose. I pray and read the word routinely. I am currently trying to find a church home where I feel I can grow and make meaningful connections. Faith/Spirituality is still a very fundamental cornerstone in my life.
2. Professional Counseling & Medication (Emotional) – This has been such a huge help throughout all of this. The very first thing that counseling helped me through is understanding that THIS is not my fault. I do not choose to be unhappy, but rather there was a chemical imbalance and years of trauma that needed to be dealt with. This part of my journey focuses on thought patterns that need to be re-framed or corrected.
As far as medication is concerned, I have been on Zoloft for about 2 years. It truly has made difference in helping stabilize my mood. It was hard for me to admit that my mood was outside of my control. No matter how many positive affirmations I used or how many times I tried to “get it together” I just couldn’t control it.
3. Exercise (Physical) – A component of my struggle is this underlying battle with anxiety. Exercise helps in this area. On really stressful days, exercise is that one thing that takes away the burden and helps me regroup and reorganize my mind.
4. Dance (Social) – For the longest, I struggled with this intense feeling of loneliness. In part it was because I am single, but more so it was because I had not made many close intimate friends. I joined this dance class taught by ElectricWhine. ElectricWhine is a dance fitness class taught by the amazing and talented, Tamaya Rodriguez (IG: @tamayarodzy). ElectricWhine has blossomed into a beautiful community of women that encourage and inspire each other. It is an amazing experience.
5. Ed.D. Bound (Intellectual) – So, I am always reading some book or another. I really enjoy learning about new things and understanding different concepts. A recent decision that I made is to finish off my scholastic journey by applying to a doctorate program. I am glad to say I am officially admitted into an Ed.D. Higher Education Leadership program which I should be starting this upcoming Fall. Learning is one of those things that just intrinsically bring me joy.
6. Work, work, work (Occupational) – At my place of work, I try to keep my life organized. Organization helps me feel at ease. Small alterations to improve clutter, aesthetics, and an overall sense of cleanliness helps with stress believe it or not. Other small things that help are checklists (a handy dandy notebook) to keep track of important things to-do helps me keep my sanity in check. Overall, I have learned to truly love my job. It is more of a behind the scenes work, but I love the fact that I am helping create a seamless experience for students. As a life-long student myself, I am using my life work to bring it all full circle.
Your journey may look entirely different. You may not feel the need to focus on all of the pillars of wellness, but if you feel a bit overwhelmed with life or you are struggling with a mental illness, there are healthy steps you can take to achieve a sense of wellness.
Tell me more about your story!