Daybreak WISE Family Advocate, Sharon, shares her personal testimony of self-growth and how leading by example can improve one’s personal health journey.

“Are you thriving or surviving?” It’s a question I ask in casual conversations as well as one I ask my clients. But, in late June of 2020, I remember looking in the mirror and asking Sharon, how about you? Are you thriving? 

The world had shut down three months prior and I was beginning to feel frumpy – not just physically, but emotionally and mentally, too. No, I wasn’t thriving. I was in survival mode. 

I needed… something… to change.

The only way change happens is if something outside of you changes, or something within you. I decided a walk could accomplish both.

As an avid student of the mind-body-spirit connection, I decided to experiment by being my own case study. What if I synced my thoughts, actions, and faith with an intention that felt… stretchy? A goal outside of what felt comfortable but would ultimately expand my comfort zone once achieved? Could I cure bodily aches and pains as well as the encroaching depression and anxiety? Could I simultaneously strengthen my immune system and increase my confidence?

I dusted off an old marathon training schedule, put the 16-week plan on the calendar, and announced my goal to my family. The bonus? My husband agreed to join me.

“The Mileage Project” quickly became meaningful as I realized a couple of big benefits. For starters, I’m forever challenging parents and guardians to lead by example. “Choose a couple of big goals to work toward. Challenge yourself. Be excited about what’s possible,” I encourage. Yet, I wasn’t leading by example. Somewhere along the way, I had settled into complacency. It was time to give my brain some love by disrupting the day-to-day.

The other big benefit? I realized I could leverage this project to transform a personality trait in myself. I declared that by the end of this, I would be the girl who finishes what she starts. (This was an opportunity to test my belief that personality isn’t permanent.)

Over the next four months, my husband and I collected miles as we explored the many trails throughout Spokane. We walked in all types of weather and temperatures. (We even attempted a 15-mile walk in the Northtown Mall when the smoke made the air quality too dangerous to walk outside. 15 miles. In a mall. Insert eye-roll. Three miles in, we were in a big argument and we called off the walk.)

During our walks, we talked, laughed, argued, brainstormed ideas, dreamed, and set future goals together. Some walks were quiet. Some took us way too long because the scenery begged to be photographed – like, along the entire route.

Finally, we reached Week 16. On a frosty Saturday on November 7th, our daughter dropped us off at the Military Cemetery Trailhead on the Centennial Trail. We started walking at 6:10 AM. From there, we simply followed the Centennial Trail east, ending at the State Line at 4:10 PM where our daughter met us with her truck stereo speakers blasting the lyrics, “We are the champions!” My mile tracker said 28.06 miles in ten hours.

And while we were super proud of ourselves that night for our success, we were rewarded extra the next day when we woke up energized, with zero soreness and no pain. Well, except for the half-dollar-sized blister on my husband’s foot.

Focusing on movement made my body aches and pains disappear. My depression and anxiety were left strewn along those 409.16 miles. Immune system strengthened? So far, I haven’t been sick since February 2020. My confidence grew as I practiced showing up for myself, reinforcing I could trust myself. I fueled momentum in becoming someone who completes what I start. And, while it wasn’t something I was striving for, a fun bonus is that, in the process, I lost 20 points.

The best benefits? Besides deepening the intimacy and connection in our marriage, it increased connection and built trust with my clients. I demonstrated self-care, imagined what’s possible, and worked toward a big goal. I changed my narrative from “Meh, I’m getting by. You know, surviving,” to, “Whoot! Life is amazing! I’m thriving!”

Time to put the next adventure on the calendar…

Getting to know Sharon:

As a Family Support Advocate, Sharon partners with parents and guardians who have a child or youth with mental health challenges. She helps parents and guardians gain a deeper understanding of their vision while helping to strengthen their relationships within their family, as well as strengthen their ties to the community.

Wraparound with Intensive Services or WISe is a part of Daybreak’s outpatient program. WISe teams include a Care Coordinator, a Youth Support Advocate, a Family Support Advocate, and a Mental Health Therapist. These teams meet with families and youth throughout various places in the community, where they feel most comfortable, whether that’s at a coffee shop, while on a walk, or within a home.

Sharon has a passion for helping people transform. She sought an opportunity in a field where she could invest in helping families transform in the areas where they wanted to heal and grow. “It is in the time invested in listening, engaging in conversation, and asking meaningful questions in which I am most fulfilled,” says Sharon. “It’s rewarding to be part of the process as parents discuss a challenge and then light up as they brainstorm possible solutions.”

When asked to give advice to families who have youth who are struggling, Sharon shares, “The greatest skill a parent possesses is their ability to listen and ask effective questions. Active listening while demonstrating empathy is powerful… All people want to be seen, heard, and made to feel important, including our children. Asking meaningful questions can demonstrate to our family members that we care about their experience of the world…The right questions can mean the difference between an engaging conversation and a youth who chooses to disengage.”