When I used to think of health as a teenager, I would think about how skinny I was. If I was fitting into my jeans without a bulge around my waist, then I was healthy.
Fast forward to the onset of the wheelchair tummy as it’s lovingly referred to in the disability community. As you can imagine, I was not healthy compared to my teenage mentality. This tummy seemed to come out of nowhere. One day I saw of photo of myself in a swimsuit, and not only did I see a bulge, I saw a sad face behind the smile. It broke my heart. It was around the beginning of the year, I had just eaten my way through the holidays and I was in the depths of my emotions. I had just begun to see a therapist, and I was beginning to drum up some deep feelings. On top of it, I wasn’t bringing my best (or even my mediocre) self to any area of my life, and it showed.
I was going to physical therapy, but just not feeling it any more. I was getting frustrated that my big plan to come to Hawaii and walk again was not becoming reality. I had put effort into it, but there was a mental block forming. I hated the fact that all of my time and focus was focused on my stupid injury. It was exhausting expelling all of my energy on a goal that I wasn’t entirely confident I could reach.
As I continued to work with my psychologist every Friday at 1pm, I was faced with the decision to surrender to what needed to heal or keep a safe distance from the traumas that lurked under the surface. I knew my disability would need emotional tending to, but I had no idea the others that would rush out when I opened the flood gates.
One by one, the emotional hurts presented themselves and I surprised myself and my therapist for my willingness to go there. I dove in. I allowed them to come into focus so I could face them, tend to their wounds, learn from them, open my eyes to how they were controlling my current state of mind, and then release them. The freedom I found was intense.
After a few months, I had a wild dream I hope to never forget. I was at a party at a beautiful cabin with a big pool. A lot of my closest friends were there and everyone was having a great time. At one point, I jumped (yes, I was walking in this dream) into the pool to try and stop an argument that was starting between two people. As I jumped in, I expected my feet to hit the bottom so I could push back to the surface. To my surprise, there was no bottom of the pool and I began to sink. I looked up seeing all the faces at the edge of the water, and terrified to think that was the end. I thought for sure I would just sink and never come back up.
Then, something shifted. I looked up and then down again, eyeing my choices, and said, “Fuck no! I got this!” With all the energy I could muster, I propelled myself towards the surface with the strength of a whale. I soared through the water and out into the air, but I didn’t stop there. My strength was so intense that I began to fly. I looked behind at the party full of people who loved me and they were clapping and cheering. I flew over the house, towards the beach and through the sky towards the most incredible Hawaiian sunset. The colors were magnificent and I saw the crisp blue ocean beneath me. I could feel the spray of the salty water, a luxury I hadn’t had for a long time.
I felt so alive and I had no fear. I knew in my heart I could keep flying without any worry of falling. At one point I flew past a carnival in the sky. People were on the rollercoaster and ferris wheel. I could hear the sounds of the games and rides. It was bizarre and I flew around it to experience the happiness inside. Then I kept flying over the ocean, and continued into the sunset. I could control where I went and how fast I wanted to go. I felt pure exhilaration.
I couldn’t wait to tell my therapist about this dream, excited to pick it apart with her. I had heard that flying dreams could mean you overcame something and I wanted to find out what that was.
As we began to discuss the dream and I relived it for her to hear, I waited anxiously for her response. In her true fashion, she gave me insight I never would have guessed. She said, what if the dream, and the freedom, happiness and pure joy you felt, was simply to show you that you could feel all of those things; That freedom, happiness and pure joy are very possible in your life. To show you can soar without anyone’s permission and without feeling guilt or fear. What if there is no hidden message, nothing to pick apart, but to simply feel the tremendous joy.
And with that, was a turning point in my emotional and soulful health. A simple message that sometimes you don’t have to look any deeper than what currently is. To enjoy the moments. To take your life as it is, not trying to make it into anything else, and experience the freedom, happiness and pure joy it offers.
I know I could not have gotten to that place without discovering health in the three areas of myself; my mind, body and soul. As people look at my social media, the body area is obvious. I have gone through a great transformation after addressing my fitness and nutrition head on. What isn’t so obvious is everything that took place behind the scenes, and the transformation that occurred inside. Only once I became self-aware and willing to work on my inner wellness, could I begin to shine on the outside.
I took a series of steps towards my Wellness Trilogy. I am proud to say:
I have never missed the Friday appointment with my therapist, and I never waste a week by not diving into whatever emotion needs attention.
I also began attending church and praying - without my mother telling me to do so (major adulting).
Since March, I have attended a weekly support group and 12-step meeting for Codependence (CODA), which has enabled me to stop waiting for anyone to make me happy and allowed me to release the control to try and
make others happy.
I have created a clear and honest dialogue with myself, leading to increased self-awareness, which I think is the most important thing we can have.
I have shifted my mindset towards gratitude and compassion, rather than control and fear - a daily work in progress.
I spend my free time (whatever that is) listening to uplifting, motivational and educational books and podcasts - my favorites right now are Codependent No More by Melody Beattie and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, as well as any podcast featuring Mel Robbins.
I completely changed my diet to primarily fruit, vegetables and fish.
I have decreased medication, working with my doctor to get to minimal amounts, if any, by the end of the year.
I have put major effort into patience and guidance with my 3 year old son. My first impulse is to snap and yell so this is a minute to minute work in progress.
I have tried to bring all that I have learned to every area of my life, as in family, friends and work.
I have used every criticism as an opportunity to grow. The latest was that my platform at the Ms Wheelchair America competition was all about makeup and looking pretty. That was the inspiration for this latest blog. Yes, I do have a focus on empowering women to look and feel their best, however people can quickly pick up on if it’s for show and validation, or if it is a representation for how healthy they are in their wellness trilogy of mind, body and soul. So to the woman who told me this - thank you for letting me know I wasn’t being as clear as I needed to be in my message.
I will never be perfect, but I think that is the point. Once things are perfect, the motivation to improve is gone. The day of my accident, I said the words, “My life is perfect, there is nothing about it I would change.” I can see now how God and the Universe thought otherwise, and it took my life getting messy for me to realize that perfect is unattainable. Instead, it’s better to strive to find happiness within myself, and make who I am today better than who I was yesterday.