The personal struggle…
Wellness. The word rolls off the tongue. But when we try to put it into action, the concept becomes much more elusive. It’s not easy to attain, and yet, it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. And it’s just that. Something you must give and find for yourself.
This is one of the many reasons why we’ve launched FP Escapes: to deliver the tools and teachings to create a personal path to wellness for Free People women everywhere. Read on for a dear Free People friend, Elizabeth Sawatzky’s, personal story on finding wellness. If wellness is something you’re seeking yourself, check out FP Escapes x YOGASCAPES. Give the gift of wellness.
Wellness. Today I took a shower and brushed my teeth. Though this may be laughable to some, for me, it is a victory.
Wellness. When I think of myself, I don’t think of a very “well” person. I eat too much chocolate when I feel sad. I sleep too much, I pick scabs, I inflict wounds, I don’t talk to the people I love enough, I dislike the gym, I say “I love you” to strangers too soon.
Wellness. What is it to be well?
Wellness. “The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.” When looking at the literal meaning of the word, what resonates with me is that being well is a conscious decision — it takes “deliberate effort”. If something takes conscious, calculated, intentional effort it is safe to assume it is not easy. Likewise, if we embark on a task which requires us to be conscious, calculated, and intentional it is safe to assume it is valuable.
Within the last month I was diagnosed with depression. Though it didn’t come as a shock, admitting I was struggling with depression meant it was, indeed, real and furthermore meant I needed help. The night I broke down is forever branded into my memory. I remember being completely honest with myself, my friends, my agents and my family. It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done because it wasn’t my secret anymore to hold and feed and battle. The part of my mind which harbored the sickness was the darkest part of me and I was afraid of letting the light in and exposing myself. Sickness thrives in darkness. And though I knew I no longer wanted to suffer alone, I was afraid to speak up because healing was unsure, at least my pain was familiar.
In hindsight, being honest with myself was the first step to my journey of wellness. It became clear that if I didn’t value my own life, if I didn’t take myself seriously, nobody would. Though, at the time, my cry for help seemed like a last resort, I now realize it was a pivotal moment in becoming well. Though excruciating, once I made the conscious decision to cling to life, a sense of overwhelming freedom accompanied it — “you don’t have to live half-alive anymore, Libby; you are worth saving; life can be good, life can be really good; you don’t have to just hold on, you can thrive.”
These are all truths that played through my mind as I looked out the window of the car, tears filtering down my face. Sia’s voice was sounding through the speakers that night as my friend drove me from Los Angeles to Phoenix to be with my sister. I’ve always loved how triumphant Sia’s songs are. In that moment, with her voice all around me and her anthems beating through my chest, I realized the depth of human life, the magnitude. Mentally, I had been in the land of the dead for so long, and to think, in my tainted logic, I had almost assumed the authority to make my own heart stop beating was astounding. “Life is too precious,” I thought. “There is so much left to do,” I was reminded.
In Phoenix I was met by the open arms of the people who know me, all of my faults and little idiosyncrasies, and love me anyway. I was greeted by sunshine and the soft ears of a dog who just wanted to sit on my lap. It was here that I wasn’t told to get out of bed and get things done. I could wake up in mismatched sweats and my grey sweater (that needed to be washed) and be hugged regardless. It was here I allowed myself to take time away and h e a l.
In the downtime I cried. A lot. But whereas I used to hide my tears in the bathroom, I now let them be seen by those who were willing to hurt with me, who desired to lend comfort and insight where they could. I admitted to myself I wasn’t capable of making this journey alone, and I let myself be carried. I slept when I felt tired, I wrote often, and when I had something on my mind I spoke it. I allowed myself to be completely emptied. In a sense, I had been reverted to childhood; I was needy, somewhat helpless, and retraining my mind to think realistically and truthfully about what I had experienced, what I was experiencing. It wasn’t comfortable, but in my brokenness I realized I had the capacity to be made whole.
After about a week, the torrential waves of the initial onslaught had settled somewhat, but among the wreckage it had washed ashore, there I was. Me, myself, Libby. I had known admitting I needed help would not magically expel my demons, both internal and external, but what was I to do next? I had run out of the Xanax the Urgent Care doctor prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness. My favourite coping mechanism — sleep — had been rendered ineffective. In no particular order, the dark thoughts which had plagued me when I first left Los Angeles returned, this time with a vehemence all their own. I laid awake at night wishing so badly for sleep, begging God for a reprieve from the weight of this life. Eventually I would drift fitfully into the night, my last thoughts being of death.
Nonetheless, I survived each bleak night. As it does, the sun rose each morning. I found solace in the simplicity of these truths. I rested in the knowledge that if I was still on this earth it must mean I have a purpose. My mind was ever-divided between, “I can’t do this anymore” and “just one foot in front of the other”.
Slowly, I gained momentum and began to make choices which would benefit my well-being. I got a gym membership and started rising earlier to attend classes with my sister. I arranged to see a therapist to begin sorting through my experiences, my thoughts. I made an appointment with an aesthetician because I wanted to learn about my skin and what methods of care would be best for me. I frequented the dog park with Dash the Vizsla and reveled in the small victory of getting out of the house and into the world, even if that world consisted more of animals than humans. Each night we would lay together and I found comfort in this little creature, who couldn’t speak to me with words, yet voiced the strongest affirmation by his presence. I busied my mind and my hands writing Valentines to send to the people I love, reminding them of the simple power of “I love you” while, in turn, reminding myself. I hiked the Arizona mountains, very slowly at first, working out my thoughts with each step, stopping often to sit down and think through them, then with more power, each rock less baffling than the last. I felt the exhaustion in my legs and the burn in my lungs, but once at the top those feelings were immediately forgotten, exchanged for the cool wind, the vast open space, the knowledge that I had accomplished something. As I looked out across the landscape, I forgot my weaknesses, my insecurities, my fears, my disappointments. My mind was wholly enveloped in the slowing of my breath, the steep, abrupt edges of the canyon-like rocks, the orange, the red, the city in the distance, the sun on my shoulders. I would turn and appreciate the other hikers surrounding me, strangers bonded by a common course, and feel power in their victory, in my victory. All at once, I was the fresh air I was breathing, the mountain I was standing on, the blood streaming through my veins, their veins, as we stopped for however long to appreciate what we had done.
“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones,” as the old country song reminds us. I have learned there is no magic cure. The solution begins within ourselves. The leaps and bounds I have made toward becoming well are part of the solution, but they are not THE solution. The solution lies in continuing on, in taking what we have learned, what we are learning each day, and pressing forward. Wellness is grasped when we are intentional about our journey to wellness. In our lives we will encounter trials, we will find resolutions to those trials, and what we do with the knowledge we have gained will ultimately determine our courses.
Within the last two months I have learned a great deal about myself. I understand more fully what it means to be healthy, to seek health, and to place a high importance on it daily. I know myself more intimately, my intentions, hopes, limits, which in turn enables me to love myself more genuinely. There is a sort of confidence, a peace, that comes from walking through fire, however big or small, and not being completely incinerated by it, but refined.
So I will continue exercising my body, even when I feel like I may never look the way I want to. I will get in the car and make my appointments, even on the days it would feel better to stay under the covers. I will make time to say “I love you.” I will make time for animals, for the mountains, for quiet, for nights out on the town dancing. I’ll eat chocolate-chip pancakes and I’ll drink healthy shakes. I will say yes and I will say no. I will be struck down, but not destroyed. I will fall, but I will get back up again.
One foot in front of the other because they have carried me this far. One foot in front of the other because it’s with it. I am worth it. You are worth it.
Here’s to wellness.
Images by FP Emily.