Getting Wild about Wellness: My Mickey Mouse Encounter
A few months before my birthday this year, my mailbox was inundated with postcards, letters and invitations from AARP. All I know about AARP is what the acronym stands for, American Association of Retired Persons. From its name that it is a group for…well, old people. It’s fair to say that this year marked a milestone birthday – the 50th. Thanks to AARP for the reminder of sorts, as on some level, I was trying to ignore, avoid, and seriously pretend that I would not be an “old” person!
But age is relative right?
With that thought I embraced my birthday (all-be-it 2 days prior to the actual date) and made plans to celebrate. Age and birthdays are extremely relevant in my case. For many years I fought hard to keep demons at bay and not hurt (or even kill) myself. Daily living was at times an insurmountable task and celebrating birthdays was not a priority.
Back in 2000, a friend who shared the same birthday encouraged me to join her for a “Girl’s Day” celebration at Disneyland. She promised lots of birthday fun and surprises. I was feeling horrible, hopeless, and isolated, definitely not in the mood for the frivolities of Disneyland. Her insistence and my concern that I would ruin her birthday led me to join my friend for a trip to Disneyland. Although I was able to be “present” and seem engaged with my friend, inside I was a mess. The picture taken with Mickey Mouse at the end of the day was all the evidence I needed that indeed I was the saddest person at the happiest place on earth. When I got home at the end of our Disneyland adventure, I did 2 things – ripped up the picture of a forlorn, far-away gazing Keris with Mickey Mouse and called my therapist for help getting admitted to the hospital.
That was a long time ago, but that memory is etched into my “birthday celebrations” memory bank and ultimately resulted in my never visiting Disneyland again …until… I got Wild About Wellness!
The latest disturbing statistic for those living with/diagnosed with a mental illness is that our lives our cut short. In fact, the research states that our life expectancy is nearly 8-25 years shorter compared to the general population! That means that while the general population can on average, have a life expectancy of 78 years, we (as people diagnosed with mental illnesses) are predicted to have a life expectancy of 53 years! And all due to preventable and treatable diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary disease etc), smoking and substance use as well as such confounding factors as poverty and poor nutrition. Please see the SAMHSA Wellness Campaign web site for more information.
Celebrating my 50th birthday this year has taken on a new and emergent meaning. I have lost too many years already to the effects of mental illness and I am darned if I am going to lose any more. I am determined that my friends, family, coworkers and peers are educated about this mortality gap and that together we do something about it; getting Wild About Wellness!
This year I also had another goal – to “Conquer the Mickey” …Go to Disneyland on my 50th birthday, get my all too well deserved birthday call from Goofy, ride “It’s a Small World” and sing along – during the ENTIRE ride and of course get some great pictures with Mickey that I will treasure for the rest of my life as proof that I can be the happiest person at the happiest place on earth!
I hope we can all find times to celebrate important milestones and live long lives through engagement in our wellness. Want to know how? Here is a start, share your wellness activities on social media. Use the hashtag #ShareWellness to help inspire others. It’s simple and it’s fun – share your stories, pictures and poems about your for activities that help you live your life well.
Live well by Getting Wild About Wellness! – Keris Jän Myrick
(Repost from a few years ago – not saying how many but I’m older and wiser and well!)