Nancy Marvin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Caravita
I am a survivor. From the time I was 12 until I was 25, I battled through a very serious illness. That 13 year struggle for wellness was hard, but it gave direction to my life and my career. The lessons I learned and the challenges I overcame in my path to wellness are why I have been an occupational therapist for more than 38 years. In my journey through personal health and through a lifetime of service in the care of others, I have been on all sides of the hospital bed; as a leader and guidance provider to those in crisis, as an occupational therapist, as an administrator, and as a patient.
Through it all, I have learned a valuable lesson: the best treatments are holistic in nature. They treat the body, mind and soul. In honor of Occupational Therapy (OT) Month, I would like to share a bit about my life as an occupational therapist and as a survivor, and how mindset matters most. I became enamored with OT when I began the road to recovery from my illness. I loved the idea that wellness and healing were not isolated to the recovery of a muscle group or from a specific illness, but that as we seek physical health, we should do so in our minds and hearts as well.
Our thinking shapes our reality. That’s the idea in a nutshell. What became clear during my struggle is that our attitudes and thoughts profoundly affect our health and well being. Too often we see our wellbeing in external terms – this happened and now I am not well – but wellness is actually derived from within, and life’s circumstances exist outside our sense of wellness. Through dealing with my own illness, I became a committed student of this belief, and used my mind and thoughts to envision the outcomes I wanted. When I cast my inner vision to a positive outcome, and I believe in the vision I have engineered with my thoughts and mind, amazing things happen across body, mind and spirit. Anything is possible.
Armed with these new tools, I recovered. Through the experience, I developed personally, and saw how this approach was also impactful for my patients. I found the gifts I learned in occupational therapy – balanced and holistic care tactics, the importance of mind and spirit in wellness – were invaluable in counseling adult children and seniors during their own life-changing times. For them, it was the loss of independence for an aging loved one, or a decline into dementia, or through an illness like mine that required a new approach. While the situations I encountered were unique, the solution was not. Letting go of circumstances outside our control, forgiveness of others, reconciling reality against expectation and facing challenges with positive thinking; these things mattered. The mind matters.
So, I pass the lesson on to you. As you work with your loved ones or your clients, my hope during Occupational Therapy month is that holistic awareness might stick with you. As you face the challenges of illness, of aging, of caring and of recovery, I remind you to look first at your own wellbeing. Where in the mind/body/spirit might you seek coaching or support? I hope that you will envision the outcomes you desire, and believe that you and your loved ones will achieve them, fighting with endless courage. For those to whom you provide care, look closely at all three aspects of their wellness, and seek out the OT’s or experts that can ensure we make strong more than just muscles and bones. Be sensitive to the behavioral and psychological challenges of aging, the importance for individuals to accomplish activities of their daily living, the dynamics of the home and family that surround them, and the impact of transition and change. Don’t forget to assess the safety of the home. OT’s are trained to complete home safety assessments, should you require one.
Lastly, thank the Occupational Therapists you might know this month. Their dedication to holistic wellness plays a vitally important role for people across the entire lifespan. They help children with disabilities to participate in school and social situations, assist those recovering from injuries to regain skills, aid older adults to stay as independent as possible, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances. They impact more than health. They impact wellness. I would know; many years ago they saved my life, and I dedicated it back in return.