Balance Your Life with Fitness
How fitness helped NPC competitor Michelle Johnson achieve harmony in all areas of life.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to admit as a single parent is that I have not coped well at times. I thought being the “Madonna” meant I was supposed to be able to handle it all and be in a constant state of bliss. But the truth is, I felt quite the opposite. When I really needed help, I wouldn’t ask for it. Instead I found myself frustrated and shouting out words that I could not believe were my own. I did not realize that overworking, volunteering all my extra time, and trying to keep up with the Joneses, was creating so much chaos in my life. The stress and anxiety I felt literally became a thorn in my side.
I wound up battling issues that nearly crippled me before I realized that I needed to make changes. I remember times where I felt like I was dying. In fact, I got to know the 911 operators quite well during that period of my life. (If only there was such thing as a hotline for single parents!) I recall being on the phone with an operator one time, explaining my symptoms—which were a cross between a heart attack and paralysis—when the medics arrived, and the next thing I knew I was blowing into a bag. On another occasion, I went to the ER for back pain that was so severe I couldn’t even sit or stand. Picture trying to get into a wheelchair when your body is locked in a plank position—I felt like I was the tin woman! On my last trip to the ER, I walked in fully prepared with a list of symptoms that I was sure would result in a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I asked for a spinal tap and got one, but the results came back negative. Was I insane, or a hypochondriac?
I went to see a psychologist to help me figure things out and they assured me that I was not insane. However, they did prescribe me Zoloft to help relieve some of my symptoms. Here’s where it gets even more interesting! I had the medication at my house for one day and it appeared that my daughter got into it. My anxiety became absolute panic. I took her to the hospital and insisted her stomach be pumped, only to later find out that she hadn’t even taken a single pill. She had only been showing me the bottle that she had accidently emptied out on the couch. I wanted those pills out of my house forever, and I vowed then that I would never get a prescription again. I would rather hit the grocery store and get a supply of those brown bags.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way the necessity of allowing yourself some downtime. My anxiety played out in my life in many ways. It cost me my hair, jobs and relationships. I knew I had to make changes, and the first step was learning how to better manage my stress and my life. After suffering with this dirty little secret for years, I finally decided to do something about it. The light bulb moment was when I was in a bookstore going through all my symptoms in a medical book. I turned to a page on “Anxiety Disorder.” The symptoms were all there along with advice on how to treat it holistically. That’s when I enrolled in my first yoga class. Yoga helped me stay centered and taught me how to work through the physical tension while “watching” my mind and focusing on my breathing. I also started to invest in massages regularly. I eventually opened Massage Express, LLC as well as a full-time yoga practice. Lying there for an hour during a massage doing nothing more than relaxing and breathing can be very healing. Learning how to breath properly can itself be like medicine. For me, it was like a magic potion. I felt like a real-life superwoman with unlimited potential. In fact, that’s how I eventually got into weight training and became brave enough to compete.
When I look back now, I realize these obstacles served me on a much greater level. They forced me to place more value on my health. I treasure my wellbeing more now as a masters competitor than I ever did when I competed in my thirties, and I pace myself much differently these days. I learned I was creating my own suffering and that I could shift this all by exploring mental and physical outlets. I also learned that lifting weights was not going to buckle me!
By eliminating the things that were holding me back, doors began to fly wide open. People can’t imagine I have a diagnosis for chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia knowing all I do now. Would you be surprised to know I spend 50-75% of my time refueling my energy systems weekly so that I can lift weights, do my cardio, compete, work to help others and support my family? I pace myself very differently and still am able to survive! If anything, I am more abundant. Michellefitness.com was born out of a condition I had that was unhealthy and gave me a story to inspire others. The greatest lesson I have learned through all these trials is that there are no coincidences and you can find harmony and wholeness in times of stress!