Reinvention, Full Circle-Style
I found out that the hiring process has begun: Cal Poly is bringing me on as a Restorative Yoga instructor in their new, state-of-the-art Rec Center. I am thrilled! I am so excited to have the chance to really turn down the stress levels of the students there – the tension is indescribable when walking around on the campus: fundamental tension, stress like bedrock on campus. Restorative Yoga will serve many there.
I left Nevada County last month after a year of study and landing this job in my hometown feels like a sign that moving home, though difficult, was the right move.
My experience at Cal Poly was rough. I dropped out of school my second year there, cracking from the pressure. One week later, I was admitted to the local Mental Health In-Patient Unit, and the thinking became, I must be crazy, Cal Poly must be OK, it must be me. Like 75% of all sufferers of mental health disorders, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by the age of 25. I was 23: ahead of the game.
It took me two quarters – six months – to recover enough from my first (of two) hospitalization to return to school. Because I had been grievously over-medicated by the county psychiatrist, my weight ballooned and I put on almost 60 pounds, going from 125 to 179 while convalescing. My hair fell out in swaths in the shower, and I was so stoned that I could not advocate for myself. I was baffled, having never heard of bipolar disorder before my hospital experience, even though, I would come to find out, it runs in my family.
I didn’t fit into any of my clothes when it was time to go back – because I was going back, my mother insisted, despite my medicated protests that I had been lucid in my decision to quit.
So the tally was now up to this: Due to illness, I had lost my figure, my hair, a half-year of school instruction, my power to choose the route of my life and my voice.
I wore my ex-boyfriend’s boxer shorts to school the first day back, with my underwear underneath, and a big t-shirt I had used as pajamas because that was all that fit. I remember the horror on people’s faces who had known me before I became ill, checking my doughy legs as they came at me in the hall, scanning their eyes upward. I felt that I had, overnight, become some sort of big, fat ugly zombie, defective on the inside, too, and that my gifted-and-talented brain had turned to pharm rot. I felt absolutely powerless, impotent, sad.
Still baffled, still stoned, I now had Priority Registration through Disabled Student Services and could register for classes with a little bit less anxiety. The teachers in my department were either really, really nice to me or acted like I was from another planet and kept their distance. Their behavior as mentors traumatized me and I feel the effects of that special-discount kindness, rejection and fear to this day. It adds to my personal story of stigma.
Everything was really weird. I remember watching the O.J. Simpson verdict in my Women In Lit class that first, lonely, uncomfortable quarter back to school, an attitude of injustice pervasive while I tried to summon the girl within back to the surface.
Had I had an instructor on campus who offered relaxation techniques to me back then, tailored to the college student’s anxious mind, who knew a thing or two about mental health disorders, who reached out to the girl obviously struggling with a new identity, I may not have spent the past 18 years reinventing the wheel, figuring out what it means to be successful and whole while living with a health challenge. I may not have spent so much time groping to recognize resources for personalized wellness. I might have spent more time trusting and using my voice.
I like the idea that, today, I can be that instructor, potentially.
I am so stoked that I get to chill people out in a way that feeds me, no matter where I teach. I have taught in jail, mental health facilities, colleges, Yoga studios, in people’s homes and in ashram settings. I am so grateful that my eyes have been opened to mental health and to be able to apply my knowledge and experience to promote mental and behavioral health in myself, on campus and wherever I teach.
This job opportunity makes me feel like this: I am so excited to be able to appreciate the beauty of Cal Poly’s campus today without the personal stress of mid-terms, Dead Week and finals – stress so blinding that I missed how beautiful a campus it was while I was a student. I can’t wait to be at Cal Poly feeling beautiful, articulate and strong.
You’d better believe that I’m not doing this for the money, but for the full-circle reinvention, the karma, the dharma… and for all the laps that I am going to swim in that sweet, state-of-the-art, Rec Center swimming pool! Living redemption is an opportunity to continue to practice humility and to maintain the progress achieved.
When I’m riding my bike to the depot
‘Cause everybody knows my name
At the recreation center”