All my friends used to bring in Doritos and Oreos for lunch, but not me. I grew up in a fit household. My mom was a multi-marathon runner. She and my dad both worked out early in the morning to start their days. We all have Fitbits and compare our step counts at the end of every day. I knew all the nutrition facts in my food, that apples have fiber, and bananas, potassium, that brown rice is better than white rice, even as a kid.
It took me so long to realize that being healthy didn’t only relate to my body.
As I went onto college, heaps of emotional baggage and years of denial in handling my hardships built up in a boiling pot that spilled over in waterfalls. It was dark, it was empty, and it felt like it would never end. I felt embarrassed, I felt ashamed of the way I felt, of my inability to explain how I felt, in my incapacity to handle it. It felt that the small steps I was taking – yoga classes, counseling, medication, talk therapy – were futile and trivial. It was my dad who gave me advice that I have never, and will never, forget.
He told me to go to yoga. To go to the counseling sessions that I constantly canceled. He called it a “mental gym.”
“You never want to get up and go to the gym. It hurts. It’s hard. But after all that sweat and pain, you feel better. You feel better that you went.”
And he was right. I realized that all the time I put into resisting those meetings, to telling myself I’m fine, I’m not one of those people who goes to therapy, to feeling ashamed of my mental health wasted time I could have used for rebuilding and recovery. I was fighting with my own mind to take care of myself. It was so difficult to me just to sit in the waiting room chairs as every ounce of my body was pulling me back towards the door.
I had to reprogram my thinking.
I thought of all the times I dragged my feet to yoga, I weighed out my options of lying in bed versus going on a run around the block. I thought of my runner’s glow. Of looking in the mirror and being proud of myself, of waking up sore and knowing I had worked hard. I thought of what my dad had said.
Mental health and physical health are directly and inextricably related. This is something our society has yet to recognize and take in stride – and something I had struggled, and still am struggling, to accept. It is as important as the food you eat and the exercises you do. Health is about what you think, what you say, the relationships you keep, and the way you feel. Health takes work. It is hard. But health must envelop all aspects of a person – mental, emotional, and physical. Then, and only then, can a person truly be happy, healthy, and at peace.
by Angelina Fay @a.angelina