posted on February 24, 2020
If you listened to last weeks Union Fitness podcast you probably heard me bore you to death with all things CrossFit. During the podcast, I had the opportunity to talk about many things that mean the world to me, one of them being mental health – Which I didn’t entirely get to elaborate too much on (hence the reason for this weeks blog from yours a truly).
There was a point in my life where I was pretty closed off and then I realized once you understand that the opinions of others don’t matter, you will find freedom. This was the point at which I stopped being scared to open up about the things I was feeling internally. Now I’m not saying that I’m completely vulnerable 100% of the time, it’s certainly something I’m still working on, however when the moment presents itself I find that there are people in my life that respect me more for putting myself in those situations.
When I first started my fitness journey it was during a time where I didn’t like the person I saw in the mirror. I didn’t love my body, I didn’t love the choices I was making in my life and I didn’t like the road I was going down. Sitting on the third floor of my campus library I called the nearest CrossFit gym, little did I know eventually it would become the biggest part of who I am today and help me move through tough times.
Mental health encompasses a lot of things involving just you as a person. It’s everything from how you view yourself, how you treat yourself and how you deal with life in general. All of these things can have a drastic impact on your quality of life and it’s important to understand it’s always okay to put yourself first. When you take the time to invest in your wellbeing you allow yourself the opportunity to heal and to essentially give yourself a break from the stressors of life. This can be anything from getting a good workout in, talking to a friend or therapist or even just going for a walk to clear your head.
When I started to invest in myself I saw that I was growing into someone I could stand to look at in the mirror. It didn’t happen overnight though but my ability to just look at myself and not immediately think of something negative became my new normal. I stopped worrying about the number on the scale and started desiring a number on the barbell. It was that mentality shift that allowed me to enjoy life more and to celebrate what my body could do vs what it looked like.
Now that mentality didn’t come without struggle and I’m not going to sit here and write all this out without acknowledging that.
I’ve had the extreme misfortune of losing one of my best friends to mental illness and that one loss in the way that it happened will stay with me for the rest of my life. Amanda is the reason for most things in my life but more importantly, not giving up. This is truly why I believe that fitness and mental health go hand in hand, without CrossFit or an outlet for me to put my deepest self into, I would have given up a very long time ago.
Working out became my church, it allowed me to put my pain into something positive and even if I was having the worst day, the endorphin rush allowed me to feel happy. I’ve had moments in my life for the entirety of the workout I thought about the one thing that was hurting me the most and used it as motivation. So when I said in the podcast that “fitness and mental health go hand in hand” this is exactly what I am emphasizing.
Although fitness is my chosen choice of prescription, I have walked down another path.
This past year I went through a pretty traumatic experience where I felt as if I need a little something extra to help me through this time. I was previously seeing a therapist and decided at that time I needed medication, consulted my doctor and with the aid of anxiety meds I was able to move through my days a little better with a clearer head. The discussion of replacing medication with exercise is one that is very prominent in today’s society and one that I take no stance on, I’m a firm believer in whatever helps you get through the day is the exact prescription that you need.
For me personally there were more negatives to being on medication than positives. The medication essentially numbed most of my feelings, made me foggy depending on the time I took it and negatively impacted my training. It was my own decision to take myself of my anxiety meds as I truly didn’t feel like I needed them. Although at the time it was exactly what I needed, I don’t think it was ever a long term solution for me.
So now I ask myself, where do you find yourself?
As a professional in the fitness industry, I have seen a lot of people of different shapes and sizes with similar issues they are battling every day. It is not my job to tell you what prescription fits you as an individual but it is my job to give you the tools to help you succeed. After being on both sides of dealing with mental health issues I have a better understanding and appreciation for those also struggling like myself.
I have a quote tattooed on my leg and it reads, “strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming things you once thought you couldn’t.” If there is ever a moment you feel weak, lean into the fact that it will pass and lean onto whatever helps you through the situation. It is essentially all about growing through what you go through and although these experiences will be painful they will teach you to never give up.
The topic of mental health will never be an easy one to have and as I write this I feel as if my thoughts are all over the place, it’s a tough one to talk about. However, I hope from my sporadic thoughts that seem to be carefully placed together make sense to you. At the end of the day, your relationship with you in the most important and I hope you take the time to nurture your personal growth, in whatever way that may be.