The Road to Wellness: The Two Faces of Wellness Week

The Road to Wellness* is one man’s journey to win the Wellness Challenge, become Well, and take home $100 in the process. In part one I got a pedicure, petted some cacti and walked the dish. In part two I petted a dog and did some yoga. In part three I went to California Pizza Kitchen and meditated. In part three, I watched The Soloist and did my best Grant Wood impression.*

28. Project Love Cookies

The penultimate (not that I’m counting or anything) day of Wellness began with an attempt to get cookies. I say attempt because despite the fact that we were there during the correct hours (Sen. Warma was deeply saddened), our cookie-producing benefactors were not. However, for the second consecutive day, my Wellness has resulted in a free mug, as the Census tablers were rather inexplicably giving them out in exchange for me also taking some colorful piece of paper. No matter. It counts.

29. STAMP Monologues

The premise here is that people read anonymously submitted monologues about mental health. A couple issues here, and I know it’s a sensitive topic, so I’ll do my best to be tactful. The first three monologues followed a rather depressing (in my opinion) arc of “I felt depressed / anxious,” but then I got medicated, and while I don’t really feel all the way better, and I’m not cured, it’s somewhat better. Personally I’m rather anxious (in the non-clinical sense of the word) about this emphasis on using drugs to deal with mental health issues. I understand the pros of it, but it really seems like in a lot of cases it is a crippling restriction of freedom, and runs counter (so far as I gathered–protagonist Nathaniel Ayers apparently continues to live without medication) of last night’s film, The Soloist.

I don’t mean to say STAMP is in the wrong here, just that it strikes me as a sad state of affairs. I don’t know–I found the monologues that had students who resigned to living with the ups and downs of their mental health issues left me in a more hopeful place. I should note here that NONE of the monologues were about actually definitively winning a battle with mental illness, so much as trying to get the upper hand in a never-ending struggle.

30. Wellness Room Party

The Wellness Room Party–there were massages and self-made juice, and bags of popcorn. It was surprisingly well-attended, leading me to wonder if the word “Party” rather than “Wellness” is what brings people out. This was unquestionably the most people I’ve seen in the rather small Wellness Room, perhaps 15-20 while I was there. As such, ASSU President David Gobaud (seen here to the right of me) was advocating for the expansion of the Wellness Room, because “it’s not big enough.” Sadly, he nixed the idea of a pillaging Wellness Room force annexing other parts of Old Union until it had conquered most of the building. That I could get behind.

31. Read a children’s book

I’ve done a lot of Wellness activities this week, and as with some of the earlier ones, I’m not entirely sure what this had to do with mental health, but it gave me the chance to leaf through the Wellness Room’s copy of Horton Hatches the Egg.

32. Start a massage train

Don’t show this picture to John Mayer.

[![]( "Running Trains")](
Photo Credit: David Gobaud
Though I have to admit the rest of the Wellness Room was [running]( a more impressive massage train.

If you haven’t noticed by now, Wellness Week operates in two rather extreme modes, with the STAMP monologues giving an impression that mental illness is all-pervasive, and things like the Wellness Room Party that almost make a fetish of happiness. Perhaps these two events are for different audiences, but attending them back to back was something of a shock to the system. While none of these messages are explicit, there is a rather stark contrast between getting the message that it’s eminently possible, perhaps even likely that you or someone you know has a rather serious mental illness that they’ve been skillfully hiding, and an environment where not only contentedness but actively peppy happiness is expected.

When one is asked how they are feeling in either of these places (at a Wellness Party vs. mental health monologues), the social pressures are diametrically opposed. In one situation, positivity and childish joy is expected, in the other, if not negativity, at least severe reflection and sobriety. Perhaps these two opposing pressures work hand in hand, but I’m not sure yet.

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