Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. This week, I am going to talk about a close companion to physical health, Mental Health! This Part 1 post will be a very transparent look into my world and the labels that are now part of my life. If you are ready for Lesson 5, throw a fist in the air and say it with me, “It’s time to… BLACKTIVATE!”
Do you see that Chester Cheetah smile spread all across my face after winning the Kansas State University 3 Minute Thesis Competition? I’m sure you can’t miss it! I love this capture because it is an authentic representation of my genuine feelings of happiness and appreciation for being recognized for my research. But, there was a time in my life when that smile was inauthentic.
Have you ever gone to work knowing that you were dying on the inside? Have you ever come home and made a b-line to your bed so you could go to sleep and escape the concerns of the day? How about this: Have you ever worn a fake smile while lying to someone by saying you were okay? I answered yes to all three of those questions in 2008.
I was swimming in debt; I was popping Benadryl pills to escape my pain; I was telling lies to people-fake smiles and fake “I’m okay.” It was a horrible rollercoaster ride that I don’t remember buying a ticket for. It was time to get off this ride, but I didn’t know how. I was battling depression and wasn’t winning. Eventually, that ride came to an end and life seemed to be back to normal. Well, that was until the fall semester of 2018.
On September 27, 2018, I had an anxiety attack while meeting with my major professor of all people. I didn’t even know it was an attack until I went to the emergency room later that night. I just knew that this uncontrollable itching was totally abnormal. While lying on the emergency room table, with the ER doctor in one chair and my Epidemiology book in the other, I was told that my uncontrollable itching was symptomatic of an anxiety attack. After a few minutes of questions and answers, I was diagnosed with GAD-Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
GAD is yet another label. It was a label that I did not want to wear because it reminded me of the lack of control I had over the label from 10 years prior-Depression. The beautiful thing about this particular time was that age, wisdom, and an amazing network of sister friends were there to help me through it. Additionally, I fell back in love with walking and being in nature! Who knew that there were FREE restorative properties in the great outdoors?
Obviously, researchers knew about this and so did doctors. My ER doctor prescribed exercise and meditation as part of my healing process. (Sounds kinda funny now. I’m a group exercise specialist; I know this stuff!) The timing was great because it was fall and the leaves were changing and signaling to me that it is time to change, too. As to not bore you with too much more of the emotional backstory of depression and anxiety, I’m going to leave you with this research teaser quote that ties into next week’s discussion:
… there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that time spent in the presence of nature improves psychological health and well-being” 
Well Luvs, that is it for this week. Thank you for spending a little time with me and please tune in next Thursday as we continue the conversation about Green Exercises for Black Women. This research is super interesting and I can’t wait to share it with you because THIS is how we activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. You can’t do better until you know better!
High Fives, Hugs, and Hope!
Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni
- Lawton, E., Brymer, E., Clough, P., & Denovan, A. (2017) The Relationship between Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers. Front, Psychol. 8: 1058. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01058