Friday, October 8, 2010

Jennifer's Story

This post is written by guest blogger, Jennifer Hicks. I met Jennifer online, she lives in my great city of Toronto and through our emails we realized we are connected through mutual friends. Really, we are all connected in some way or another. I am sure you will feel connected with Jennifer too when you read about her struggle with a mental illness and how she used her creative pursuits to overcome it.

I have a secret. I have Bipolar Disorder. Actually, that’s no secret. If you were to read anything I’ve posted on my blog over the past several years, you’d already know that. And you’d know that I feel there’s no reason for me to hide it from anyone. 

Actually the real secret is that although I have Bipolar Disorder, I have learned how to live a relatively normal life. Well, as normal as normal is these days…

Crazy. That’s what I would have called someone with anorexia, an exercise obsession and Bipolar Disorder. That is, before I turned 30 and suddenly was the one living with all those things. 

But now, 7 years later, I see my experiences with mental illness as something crazy with a big dose of awesomeness. Because I have control (at least, to some extent). Like a scientist, I’ve spent many hours in the lab experimenting to find out what is the most suitable remedy for me.  I became my own Christopher Colombus and explored every inch of my being.

Sure, I support  the pharmaceutical companies, doing my best to take my little white pills and capsules daily, but that’s not quite enough for me.  And you wanna know how I discovered that? 

This is the secret part. Ready for it? 

The truth is, I listened to my soul. Yep, there’s this quote by Dorothy Allison that is kind of like my wellness anthem: “I would rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me". In other words, wellness came to be because I made choices that my gut told me were right for me. Instead of letting others tell me what was best for me, my will, my spirit, (or whatever you care to call it) called the shots and guided me to the right places.

So what exactly did my soul whisper to me? Among other things, it pushed me in the direction of dance. When I didn’t have the words to sort out my emotions, dance took me there. When I had too much energy or not enough, dance helped stabilize me by burning out the highs and boosting me up from the lows. Yup, dance helped feed a creative desire and allowed me to trade self-destruction for self-expression and self-care.  

Now? Now I teach expressive movement. Specifically, I teach Nia, which combines elements of dance arts,  martial arts and healing arts. Nia encourages participants to find joy in movement,  moving according to the way our bodies are designed to move. Over time, Nia taught me that I could exchange the pain I’d experienced in my previous workouts for smiles, pleasure and laughter. For me, Nia is joyful, energizing & empowering fitness practice that allowed me to burst into my creative self which has given me a business to nurture and grow. Because of it, I have watched my self-confidence swell and can better cope with inevitable mood fluctuations. 

And so I believe wellness is with me now because I paid attention to myself and my need to create and express. I acknowledged my desire to move;  moving not only my body, but also my mind, spirit and emotions. 

Jennifer Hicks is a Brown Belt Nia Instructor in Toronto, Canada. Teaching high energy, dynamic and free-spirited Nia classes is her passion. Leading by example, Jennifer inspires her students to jump right in and make the most of themselves. Jennifer also maintains a private Speech-Language Pathology practice working with adults recovering from brain injury, stroke and other neurological issues. 

Jennifer Hicks


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