This is the story of how Whatismyhealth has become a part of my own personal health journey. This is a story of how when one door closes, another opens. This is a story about the amazing things that can happen when we choose to identify what's important to us, overcome our fears and walk through these open doors. This is a story about finding strength in moments of weakness.
Whatismyhealth has been a vision of mine for over 3 years now. It started with an idea to use fitness as a basis for social experiences and evolved into a research project, with a survey about how people understand the term “health.”
I wanted not only to understand people but in doing so, I wanted to somehow encourage people to think about health and what it meant to them. The premise of the research was that health is a broad term and that every person has their own individual definition of what “health” is.
And sure, there are many similarities in the ways people may see health. For example, fitness, nutrition, and medical health tend to draw the most attention when it comes to health. But the fact is, there is so much more to health than just these things.
The survey, titled “What is Health: The American Perception of Overall Health” was designed to paint a picture of the terms people associate with health. In distributing the survey, I took to social media to create a Facebook page. The Facebook URL I wanted (“/whatishealth”) originally was not available, and so in creating the page, I arrived at a close incarnation: “/whatismyhealth.”
I had no idea how fortunate this renaming was.
At first, it seemed to me that if nothing else, it was a unique name that made people do a double-take, or ask for confirmation that they had heard it correctly. As I began creating Whatismyhealth and developing this website, I started to realize that the name was the perfect fit in so many ways. I realized that the name itself was a representation of my mission to encourage people to internalize the term “health” to give it a personal meaning. Even better, the name itself is the exact question that we can all ask ourselves in order to find that meaning.
What is my health?
What is my health?
What is my health?
No matter how you emphasize the words, the question is there.
I began to ask myself the same question and to come up with what my answer was.
Turns out, it’s not nearly as straightforward as even I expected it to be, which I think is a good thing. The fact is while eating right and exercising are important, to look at health in terms of the way you feel and the things that cause you to feel that way opens a million different doors.
Really think about it, though- how many things in your life have an impact on the way you feel?
When I first thought about it, food and exercise came to mind, too. After all, my background is in Physical and Health Education, and so I’ve taken many courses related to food and exercise. And yes, #MyHealthIs my eating habits and exercise patterns, the way I act in relation to food and exercise has a lot to do with my body image and self-confidence, which really stems from social ridicule and the mental toll it took on me when I was made fun of as a kid.
OK, so what does this mean? What is my health?
To me, it meant that I needed to dig in and explore health on a deeper level than food and exercise. My mental state (body image, self-confidence, anxiety, and OCD) were without a doubt affected by the social aspect of my life.
In this realization, my answer grew…
What is my health? Well, #MyHealthIs social health. #MyHealthIs mental health.
This led to a train of thought in which I discovered that #MyHealthIs a lot of things based on what makes me feel good, bad, happy, sad, frustrated, mad, motivated, or indifferent:
What is my health?
#MyHealthIs the relationships I have with family, friends, and my significant others.
#MyHealthIs learning, and in turn, passing it forward by helping others learn.
#MyHealthIs not only the people I surround myself with, but my living environment, and whether it is comfortable, affordable, and clean.
#MyHealthIs whether or not my lifestyle is comfortable and affordable and clean.
#MyHealthIs my sense of purpose in the world and feeling fulfilled in the work I do.
#MyHealthIs Mental Health.
#MyHealthIs Social Health.
#MyHealthIs Intellectual Health.
#MyHealthIs Environmental Health.
#MyHealthIs Financial Health.
#MyHealthIs Physical health.
#MyHealthIs Spiritual Health.
#MyHealthIs Occupational Health.
#MyHealthIs, in one way or another, everything.
When I lost my teaching job last summer, these thoughts had been at the forefront of my mind for a long time. I knew that I not only wanted to pursue them but felt that there was so much potential to help others by taking those thoughts and turning them into something tangible. Something real. Something that others could not only relate to but could use as motivation for their own personal growth.
I don’t consider myself to be a big risk-taker (I thank my OCD for my meticulous calculations of risk and the thought processes that go into it), so for me, starting a business was so far outside of my comfort zone that it was basically on another planet. Yet, there was something about this that I was drawn to, the idea that I could create something that could help so many people was something that fueled me. I not only wanted to move forward, I truly felt that I needed to move forward.
When I was still working at my previous job, the two biggest barriers to getting things up and running were simple: myself, and time. While the loss of my job was a setback in some ways, I did my best to see it differently:
Well… now I have the time.
And so, the only other barrier to this was myself.
Now, I’m a stubborn person. I don’t like it when somebody assumes that I can do something that I’m not capable of (probably in part because I’ll have to admit that I actually can’t do something). I like it even less when somebody assumes that I can’t do something that I believe I’m capable of, and usually, I’ll use these doubts as a challenge.
So I’d be damned if I was going to be the one telling myself “I can’t.”
For the last 9 months now, I’ve put my heart and soul into creating Whatismyhealth, and the experience has been one of the most incredible, stressful, exciting, terrifying, and rewarding things I have ever done in my life. The people who have rallied around me in support has helped drown out the occasional negativity from doubters. In times when I feel isolated, the encouragement I’ve gotten from so many has been the boost I’ve needed to keep this going.
Truly, if I had stopped at “#MyHealthIs food and exercise,” I would be missing out on the blessings that have come from realizing that one of the biggest pillars of the way I feel and MyHealthIs social health and connecting with others.
This was put to the test again this week.
After losing my job, I’ve been collecting unemployment while simultaneously working on Whatismyhealth and looking for other opportunities. While not anything extravagant, these benefits were sufficient enough for me to sustain my simple lifestyle and still devote a substantial amount of time and energy to looking for work and starting Whatismyhealth. And when I say this, while I do mean financially, more importantly, I mean this mentally; these benefits helped put my mind at ease about my work status and income, enough so that I could allow myself to focus on my goals.
I got some tough news on Monday that my unemployment benefits have run out, and it's caused my OCD and anxiety to peak repeatedly. The initial shock was devastating to me, because that mental “cushion,” the peace of mind I had about my decreased income, was taken away from me- or at least thinned out significantly.
What I have realized, though, is that I’ve been here before. Maybe not to this extent per se, but I did lose my salaried job not all that long ago. In moments like these, what we do in reaction is extremely important.
The first time around, I saw the loss of my job as an opportunity, the extra time I had been missing previously that would allow me to focus on starting Whatismyhealth. By the same token, in losing my benefits this time around, there are more opportunities to be found.
So I lost my benefits. What am I going to do about it? What good can I make of this?
As anxious as it makes me to have lost my source of income for the time being:
1) It has reconnected me with many people who have reached out to be supportive;
2) It reaffirms my resolve to build Whatismyhealth into what I envision; and
3) It is a challenge of my resilience.
This is an opportunity to speak up about mental health, which is what I began writing about in the first place (the blog “Ob(C)esseD”). This is an opportunity to reconnect with some wonderful people who are willing to show support and help in different ways. This is an opportunity to challenge myself yet again.
Feeling in need of grounding, I went to church the other morning to connect and clear my mind. The song “Not Enough” by Our Lady Peace came on the drive, and to borrow from the “Being In Tune” blog concept, these lyrics really hit home.
There are those who will doubt you and discourage you from trying to do what you're doing. They'll question your strength. When they do, remember, "when they say 'you're not that strong,' you're not that weak."
Stay strong for what you believe in, and find ways to work through the struggles. Rely on others for support where it's needed, and use that to lift yourself back up. We can reach your goals. We just need to hang in there long enough to find the way.
So… What is my health?
#MyHealthIs mental strength.
#MyHealthIs self-confidence, even in moments when it seems elusive.
#MyHealthIs social support and encouragement.
#MyHealthIs being resilient.
#MyHealthIs letting myself accept a setback and the pain that comes with it, without judgment.
#MyHealthIs using that energy to fuel me into action to do greater things.
I invite you- no, I challenge you- to ask yourself, “What is my health?” and to answer the question sincerely and honestly, without passing any judgment on yourself.
Accept what you aren’t but be proud of what you are, and embrace whatever it is that you want to be.
Find whatever it is that means the most to you, and do it. Be it. Live it. Own it.
“What is my health?” Only you can answer that question.
What does health mean to you? Share your comments and thoughts using #MyHealthIs ______.
© Copyright Whatismyhealth, April 9th, 2017