Geetha Balagopal, Raleigh, North Carolina
Date you started your fitness journey?
I lost my beautiful and brilliant 24-year-old daughter Priya to suicide in January 2016. She fought depression hard for almost 10 years. Her younger sister also suffers from anxiety and depression. In spite of all that we did, we could not save Priya, but by taking ownership of my own health and taking part in 5K walks in her memory, and sharing her story – I don’t want Priya to be known for how she died. I want her to be known for HOW she lived and how much she achieved in her short life in spite of suffering from a cruel disease. Priya was a national merit scholar, a spelling bee champion, an Amercorp volunteer, a fabulous dancer, a team captain, who led her team to win national awards, a rape crisis and suicide hotline volunteer, a tutor to elementary and middle school kids, a Spanish tutor to kids from low income households, a member of her high school and college honor court, and more importantly – the co-president of a student run organization on campus which worked to help increase awareness and reduce stigma around mental illness and an activist who cared about social justice and women’s rights and marched for the causes she believed in. I am very proud of her. I am heartbroken that she is not here. I will always have a Priya sized hole in my heart BUT I will continue to work out, and eat right and take care of my physical and emotional health so I can keep walking and keep sharing her story and continuing her fight so that no other family has to lose their precious loved one to suicide.
Priya had this to say about mental illness (in November 2014)
“Mental illness is difficult because it's like fighting a battle that your mind convinces you is not actually happening. It is an invisible disease compounded by stigma and ignorance on a global level. This pushes people into dark places of shame and silence. When you get a broken leg or you have diabetes, you see a doctor and sometimes you take medication. Whatever it takes to get better. When you have cancer, people grant you wishes and bring you dinner. They celebrate your little victories. People facing suicidal depression or bipolar disorder or anxiety deserve to navigate their illnesses with the same support, understanding and care."
What were the problems you were experiencing before you started your journey?
We lost our 24 year old daughter Priya to suicide in January 2016. Within the next 4 months, I gained an extra 10 pounds, and I was suffering immense physical, and mental anguish. I had always been healthy and when I went for a physical a few weeks after my daughter’s death, I was shocked to see all my cholesterol and LDL and blood sugar were much higher than they were the year before.
Had you tried any other solutions previously?
Walking on my own but seasonal allergies made it hard for me to walk outside regularly. Have also been to other gyms but I hated the gym experience at other facilities.
What led you to Healthtrax?
Priya’s younger sister who also suffers from anxiety and depression, had always been petite. She gained so much weight after losing her only sibling and we was also very worried about how her parents were impacted by our painful loss. I made a promise to her that while I have no control over how much longer I will live, I do have control over what I choose to eat, how much I choose to eat, and how much I choose to be active. Her best friend’s parents were members of Healthtrax and so we decided to join Healthtrax. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What is your favorite thing about Healthtrax?
The group classes (Blast, Active, Groove and Centergy) and TRX small group classes. I lost 13 pounds but the relationships and the caring, compassionate instructors and joy of group classes is why I keep coming back.
What is your favorite moment/experience during your time at Healthtrax?
I have always been very clumsy and don’t dancer and I was very pleasantly surprised how much I loved Groove. Also love my small group TRX class.
What are some of the benefits you have received?
I work from home and have a desk job and work long hours. When I started at Healthtrax, I was totally broken—totally broken—I dreaded having to live with this much pain and heartbreak—but starting from day 1 and working with Michael and then discovering the group and small group classes and getting to know the incredible caring and compassionate trainers and other members has slowly helped me to start healing from my heartbreaking loss.