Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Am Not My Disease

I want to take a moment to be raw and vulnerable...

As a fitness professional and especially as a Pilates instructor I thought I had my life together.  I was living on my own, driving my "adult" car, in a loving relationship and even had a job with insurance/benefits.  I physically had run two full marathons without injury.  I felt I had a solid mind/body connection.  Well, life has a way of humbling you and throwing you the unexpected to see just how resilient you may or may not be.

It feels like a nightmare to one day wake up in a mental ward and have no idea what day it is or why you are there.  Your clothes are gone and you are in a white gown. You are required to stay there a week minimum till they straighten out your medications and feel you are normal enough to have your family take over. 

I was diagnosed with the mental health disease of bipolar

Suddenly I was going to therapy weekly and getting my blood drawn monthly and tossed into a world few can understand; the medical world included.  

I have never felt more alone.

There were days the medications made me feel like hell.  I had trouble sleeping having to pee several times at night. I felt stiff, sore and tired.  I was overly emotional out of nowhere.  There was a point where I felt like an old lady instead of a 20 something year old.  I wanted to quit.  Quit the medication, the therapy, my job, and life.  

Why me?  I asked myself this more times a day than I can count.  There was never a good explanation.  This disease was not going to go away.  No hypnotherapy, Bach flower remedy, art therapy class or reflexology was going to get this out of me.  I had to accept it.  I had to move through it.  I had to allow this disease to become a part of me.

I became proactive.  After a month without working out I decided to take baby steps back to where my fitness level used to be.  Pilates allowed me to regain flexibility and build back up strength.  Running allowed my brain to function normal again (endorphin high anyone?).  And blind faith told me I was going to get back to me.  I was going to find the path out of the dense woods.

I am not perfect. Every morning I make a choice to show up to my workouts, my students, and to have an open mind.  I strive to be authentically me.  I always take a moment each day to remind myself that my true identity is more than my occupation, title, or my disease. 

What has this part of my journey taught me?  We as teachers need to be reminded to be more accepting and less judging when we interact with our clients and fellow instructors.  Sure we look to the body to inform us of weakness or our clients to fill out a sheet noting past injuries/aliments.  Yet we are more than just the body.  The mind is a powerful part of the self and Joseph Pilates would agree with his quote: “It’s the mind itself which shapes the body.”

Notice how you communicate with others.  If you have patience when teaching the Roll Up to someone whom has only practiced it for a month.  Take time to relate to your peers whom may be on medications that hinder their physical flexibility or mental focus.  Know that the Method is especially for them.  Yes, it heals the body of injury, provides better posture and promotes graceful movement.  But the mind should not be left out.  Help your clients feel empowered to change and grow.

I personally have been able to teach clients Handstands or Long Stretch whom before had such internal fear and felt inadequate.  Others have relearned how to use their breath to combat daily stress or even changed their eating habits to make more healthy choices.  We must celebrate each improvement and keep a positive attitude as teachers.  The internal dialogue of the student will contribute the most to their success in each session.

May we all in the fitness community be better able to approach each other with compassion and use our workouts as tools to help heal the body, mind and spirit.