A few thoughts on health and wellness

I want to start out by apologizing for being rather AWOL lately and explain the circumstances of my absence from the blog. As many of you know, a few years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic condition known as Interstitial Cystitis (also known as Painful Bladder Syndrome).

Grad School is “ruff”.

While I have mostly been able to control the condition and it’s symptoms since then, that has not been the case for the past few months. Trying to manage graduate school, anxiety, depression, IC, and some semblance of a normal life became too much. In an initial attempt to balance out my life and reduce stress, I set the blog aside for a while to focus on school and my health. However, even with minimizing unnecessary commitments, my health continued to spiral out of control. It got to a point where just going to class would result in being bed-ridden for hours after. The stress of graduate school compounded with anxiety and depression only continued to make things worse. I struggled to take care of my basic needs and I lost any and all desire to take on even my favorite activities. To say I was miserable would be a severe understatement.

Let me tell you, friends, that is no way to live your life. In fact, being in chronic pain and dreading waking up to face that pain every day is really no life at all. For these reasons, I chose to go on medical leave from graduate school for a while in order to get my health back under control. After many discussions with my advisors and faculty members, I came up with a plan to move back home to California to be with my family and support system, and finish my Master’s remotely once my health is manageable again.

This whole situation and taking the time to re-focus on my health has got me thinking about health and wellness in general.It seems to me that everyone has different interpretations of what is “healthy” and what “wellness” means. It has me thinking: what do health and wellness mean to me?

Spending way more time in bed these days thanks to IC.

I feel like health is seen more from an empirical standpoint. Do you have high/low blood pressure?Can you move around free of pain? Do you have the flu? Health to me is more about having a functional body. Not only does having a healthy body require the right fuel and maintenance, but it’s not always something we have control over. While otherwise fairly healthy, getting IC was not something I was able to avoid. Simple illnesses such as colds or the flu, as much as you may try, sometimes cannot be avoided. You can eat every superfood, avoid sugar, and only drink water, and chances are you will, at some point in your life, be unhealthy. At some point, your body will not be able to function normally or optimally. It’s just part of the human condition.

Wellness, on the other hand, is incredibly individualistic. It’s a lifestyle that you choose to live your best life. Some may associate wellness with working out every single day and only eating grilled chicken and broccoli. Others may see it as having the occasional drink with friends or a enjoying a cupcake. The thing about wellness is that it’s individual to you. If working out all the time and never touching carbs makes you happy and gives you a lifestyle that is not only healthy but enjoyable, that’s wonderful. If counting calories and macros leads to disordered eating behavior and over-exercising, maybe that’s not the right lifestyle for you. So give it a thought: what makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? What can you do in your life to make it better? What do you consider “wellness”?

While the gym used to be a big part of my life, my body can no longer handle intense physical activity. a caption.

Understand, however, there is no be-all-end-all for wellness. It’s fluid and will evolve as you move throughout your life. For example, my idea of wellness was exercising four to five times a week, eating pretty healthy but enjoying the occasional Chinese takeout, and trying to fit as many responsibilities as I could into each day. That worked great for me for a while, but as my health deteriorated, my idea of what was best for me changed. My body no longer has the energy to exercise regularly and I’m now lucky if a simple walk or errands doesn’t take every bit of strength and energy I have. Some of the foods I used to treat myself to on an occasional basis I can no longer enjoy due to the food sensitivities associated with IC. And now, I can’t do near as much as I used to be able to in a day. I had to understand that my new idea of wellness was dependent on slowing down.

But, that’s okay! While I can’t wait for the days that I can get back to finishing my degree, get back in the gym, and get back to living my life as a (relatively) normal, healthy twenty-something woman, I know that for now, I’m doing the best I can and what’s best for me, regardless of what others see.

I’m looking forward to the day where hiking and other outdoor activities are once again a cornerstone of my wellness-based lifestyle.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is you need to do what is best for your mind, your body, and your soul. While physical health is (obviously) incredibly important and should be a priority, your mental and emotional health are just as vital to your overall wellbeing. Additionally, your health and wellness are yours and no one else’s. Just because someone is doing something that works for them does not mean it will work for you. Just because something looks a certain way does not mean you have to look that way, too. Make choices for yourself. Get to know what is best for not only your body, but your mind too.  Understand how your everyday choices affect your overall wellbeing. Get to know (and love) yourself. It’s worth it. I promise.




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