In March 2017 I was three months postpartum and I had decided to start exercising again by going to a Zumba class. Growing up I had loved dancing, and I found that Zumba allowed me to enjoy this passion as an adult. I walked into the class knowing that it had been a while since I had done any exercise. I knew my body was still recovering from giving birth and that I wasn’t getting consistent sleep. It did not take long for me to realize that I had never been weaker in my life. I was shocked to find that I physically could not keep up even during the slowest dances. It took so much effort for me to move my legs that by the time I was accomplishing the step, I was three steps behind. When the instructor kicked or did a high knee, my leg barely came off the ground. I was so discouraged and completely embarrassed.
I thought I had gained some humility while I exercised during pregnancy because I needed to modify the workouts that I did and take breaks throughout the class. What I realized was this false “humility” was based on the fact that people could outwardly tell I was pregnant. I took the comments of “I can’t believe you are still exercising!” and used them to feed my pride. But in this Zumba class all pride was destroyed. The women around me couldn’t tell that I was three months postpartum or that I had barely slept four hours the night before. And unfortunately, I cared about how I appeared to them. At this time I had not yet been diagnosed with PPD and the thoughts of defeat ran wild in my mind. I came to the class wanting to feel strong and motivated and I left feeling hopeless and disappointed. I went back one other time that month, but the end result was the same.
After I was diagnosed in May 2017, I went back to the Zumba class as part of my treatment plan. Initially I had the same hopeless thought that I would never get stronger. But as I began healing from PPD I replaced that thought with an empowering one. It was “From this point on, I will only get stronger.” This thought could be applied to both my physical strength and mental strength. Throughout the next few months I was able to see my physical strength increase. I noticed that I wasn’t exhausted after the first few songs. I had built up some endurance. I was also able to kick a little higher, move a little faster. Eventually I was able to start participating in the jumps, which is something I didn’t think I would ever be strong enough to do. At the same time my mental health was increasing because of the anti-anxiety medication and my therapy sessions. It increased every time I chose a productive, grace-filled thought about myself instead of a destructive thought.
At one point during my healing I felt a lot of anger. I was angry that I had believed the lies of the Satan. He had succeeded in having me doubt my worth, my purpose, and the mercy of my God. I was angry that he had stolen irreplaceable moments of my daughter’s first year from me. I had read the words Jesus spoke about our enemy coming to steal, kill, and destroy, but I had never been so furious that he plotted to do that in my life and the lives of the ones I love. The kickboxing dances in my Zumba class were the perfect outlet for my anger. As I punched and kicked with tears burning in my eyes, God turned my anger into motivation and a desire to persevere. He gave me beautiful moments of reflection of how far He had brought me, despite Satan’s schemes. He reminded me of Paul’s words from Philippians that through Christ’s strength I could do all things, including recover from PPD. He reminded me that He is an expert in turning brittle, unwanted ashes into a thing of beauty (Isaiah 61:3). These truths encouraged me to continue pursuing health even on the toughest days.
Looking back, I am astonished to see how far I have come in both aspects of my health. This experience has made me realize how important it is to take care of our bodies holistically. Achieving our physical health goals has so much to do with how we are thinking about ourselves during the process. When I took care of my mental health I knew that I had a long way to go to regain physical strength, but I believed I could do it. When I began taking care of myself physically I had a stronger desire and motivation to monitor the thoughts I was thinking.
I want to encourage you if you are in a place of defeat when it comes to your physical or mental health that where you are is the start of a journey, not the end of one. Each step you take toward your goal is making a difference even if it doesn’t feel like it. A step for you may be signing up for a class, finding a healthy dinner recipe, or seeking out help like I did. I want to encourage you that your body is worth taking care of and that health is always worth pursuing. You may be thinking that your previous attempts at working towards physical or mental health have not succeeded so why try again. My story has been filled with ups and downs and yours will be to. The important thing is to learn from your previous attempts, make changes accordingly, and to not listen to the lies of hopelessness and defeat. If it feels impossible for you, then be encouraged because God delights in doing the impossible.
I would love to help you along the way in pursuing your health goals! Send me an email so we can determine how I can best assist you!