| Removing the Stigma Around Mental Health

Author / Andrea Warner

5-7 minute read

Spend just a few minutes exploring the Power Athlete website and you’ll find heaps of quality strength and conditioning information, top notch training programs, and any number of services designed to help you Unlock your Athletic Potential and take your performance to the next level. But today, I want to switch gears a bit and take things upstairs, to focus on the health between your ears. Over the last few years, we’ve come to recognize just how pivotal and important mental health is to someone’s overall well being, and the downfalls one can face when it’s ignored. In today’s article, we’re going to deep dive on the no-so-uncommon struggles of a woman who suffered for years with unaddressed mental health issues that stemmed from some early childhood experiences, and ultimately how she found solace and support from her local gym community, helping her to conquer them and become a better version of herself.  

How It Began

I grew up in a household where name calling, body shaming, and mental and physical abuse were common. My father found every flaw in my mother’s actions and appearance, constantly pointing them out and working to wear her down to a dismal existence. In addition to my tumultuous home life, as a young woman I had something sacred taken away from me without my consent. While at a friend’s house for a sleepover, her teenage brother violated me by sexually assaulting me during the night. As with many sexual assault cases, especially for pre-teens, I was scared in to paralysis and unable to defend myself. And, like many other young women who’ve been assaulted, I was ashamed and afraid to report it even to my mother. Although I was able to move forward in daily activities, this man’s actions brought about a harsh reality and forced me to face a haunting truth: I had no control of my own body when faced with people who take what is not theirs. 

Because of my parent’s interactions and desire to defend my own body, I vowed to be a strong woman who was capable of taking on the world. I played softball, ran, swam, hiked, and by age 17 was a semi professional boxer, dominating my weight class. After a few years of feeling ashamed and afraid, I was finally in control. No longer would my self-esteem and self-worth be determined by my prior experiences. 

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It wasn’t until college when I joined ROTC as a way to continue to develop my fitness and become part of a community that the haunting voices of uncertainty, manifested by trauma, reared themselves from a dark place I had buried deep inside. As a petite, fit woman, when my ROTC instructor asked if I needed to be taped in order to see excess fat on my body, a downward spiral of shame and self-consciousness began. I’ve always been a very competitive person and I saw this offer as a challenge: I’m going to see how small I can get. I felt like my weight and food intake were the only things I could control, when everything else felt beyond my grasp. I couldn’t control the way my dad treated my mom, the way my mom was acting, or what happens when a person enters my bedroom while I was sleeping. I couldn’t control anything in life. Only this.

A Change in Perspective

Despite going through the motions of earning a college degree, getting married, and a surprise pregnancy, I developed an eating disorder in an effort to regain control…one that almost took my life. I was consumed by the desire to become smaller and smaller, taking up less space, and someday no space at all. I was comforted only by the pain that I felt was progress.

Although I sought professional help and began to learn about myself through therapy and interventions, it wasn’t until I found out that I was pregnant with my son that I began to realize the magnitude of my existence. I now not only had to be strong to take care of my son, I had to teach him how to be strong. This meant respecting women and being kind to all humans. These are the principles on which I have built my life, family, and business.  When I got pregnant I knew that I was not only meant to do something better, but I was meant to be something better. I was going to be someone’s strong mother figure. I was meant to give him an example of a strong woman, and teach him how to treat a woman so that he never made someone else feel like those other people made me feel.

A Community of Health and Healing

The road to recovery was not easy, and was not without setbacks. I found community in a local CrossFit box where I met women who were proud of their strong bodies, and encouraged other women to develop their mental, emotional, and physical strength. I began to enjoy the changes I saw in my body, and my abilities to make it through challenging workouts. It was during this time that I became pregnant with my second child – a daughter, whom I would raise to be strong by teaching her to rely on her support systems, stand up for herself, be kind to others, and relentlessly and unforgivably be true to herself. I told myself that I would not only  raise my son to not treat women so poorly and to respect everyone, but I can also give my daughter her own self-worth. If someone is mean to her, we will be able to deal with it. We’re strong, independent women.

Now, I am the owner of a successful gym that I use as a platform for mental health awareness, and providing support to people from all across our local community. My gym offers a  safe place for persons of all shapes and sizes to learn the basics of movement and strength training, , and provides the resources to make adaptive changes that translate to lifelong gains in health and wellness through functional fitness. Before opening the doors, I worked tirelessly to develop a clear mission for my business: At Full House Fitness, we want to empower humans and share our passion for fitness. We want to create a community with an inclusive environment, while never losing focus on each individual and their journey to balance life and success in and out of the gym.

Strong Mind, Strong Body

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it shouldn’t be stigmatized. My journey is not yet over. Whether you are at the beginning or middle of yours, I hope that my story can  bring a sense of understanding and relief that whatever you are going through, “This too shall pass.” Everyone goes through shit, and sometimes you need to use it as fuel. What it takes is an understanding that mental health issues brought on by trauma are real and abundant. It takes a community and network of resources to guide you through your path of recovery to peace and clarity. Having the space and people to be raw and empathetic with are how we connect with one another. For most, this is not linear and requires patience and forgiveness. It requires a support system, like a gym family, accountability through daily class sessions, and an opportunity to share your story of success, and play a part in someone else’s when they talk about their mental health and the challenging demands the universe places on us.

It’s time for more conversations and less judgment surrounding mental health and related issues. Now is the time to reflect not only on your mental health needs, but also how you speak about and think about these issues and the effects they have on those around you. Strength and stability now includes more than physical abilities – its assessing how emotions and thought patterns, impact our daily routines.

If you’re reading this, your physical health is more than likely a priority. So too can be your mental health and your ability to bring awareness to this high priority issue. If you’re not sure where or how to begin your journey, look in to local counseling centers in your areas, check out a multitude of convenient online sites that offer services based on your preferences and engagement style, and consider joining a supportive community like Power Athlete where resources to help you are abundant.

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Andrea Warner

Andrea Warner

Andrea completed her Bachelor’s degree in 2014 from Indiana University. She dedicates her entire attention to Full House Fitness and changing the way individuals and families view fitness.

Andrea has always had a passion for fitness. She played softball and volleyball growing up. At age 15, she found boxing and went on to win a Junior Olympics title and became a two time Golden Glove State Champion. She has run 3 mini marathons but it wasn’t until 2011 that she found, and fell in love with CrossFit.

Andrea has coached at two gyms and was the head coach for the CrossFit Kids class for over two years. She believes that fitness should involve the whole family and should be fun! As the mother of two wonderfully athletic kids who look forward to their time in the CrossFit environment, she understands how important family fitness really is.

Certs & Seminars: CrossFit Level 1 2012&2017, CrossFit Level 2, Power Athlete Block One, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Precision Nutrition Level 1, Adaptive Athlete Certified, CrossFit Gymnastics Specialty Course 2018, CrossFit Kids 2013, Rowing Clinic with Olympian Jen Floyd, Weight Lifting Clinic with Bob Takano, CrossFit Judges Course, First Aid, CPR, and AED for adult/infant/child.

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