JBLM Army Spouse Battles PTSD With Fitness | Article
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders like PTSD, which affect 40 million adults, are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the United States.
According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 8 million people in the United States live with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I’ve dealt with anxiety since childhood,” said Keshaunda Ellison, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Ellison, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “So I know how it can affect your body both mentally and physically.”
Exercise is known to improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. This is exactly what Ellison plans to use to help service members and their families deal with anxiety, PTSD and related disorders.
Ellison is currently the only certified personal trainer to hold a contract with JBLM. She said helping her clients helps her too.
“I’ve had a contract with JBLM for about four months now,” she said. “But I had my own personal training business for two years.”
Ellison, who is the eldest of six children, was raised by her maternal grandmother in Norfolk, Virginia.
“Growing up, my mom was in jail and my dad died when I was 11,” she said. “Trying to cope with her loss and the uncertainty of my mother made me anxious all the time.”
After being diagnosed with anxiety, Ellison knew she had to do something to control her stress levels.
“It was a realization for me that I needed something to holistically improve myself,” Ellison said.
Ellison also knew she wanted to do something to help others dealing with the same conditions.
“After getting my bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation, I was a physical education teacher at West Hope Middle School in Rayford, North Carolina for many years,” Ellison said. “That’s where I got my passion for helping others through fitness.”
Ellison remembers the relationships she formed with underprivileged students at this very poor school. Many students confided in Ellison about problems at home, bullying, and even more personal issues like not having food or clothes, while exercising.
“I knew then that it was more important than just exercising,” Ellison said. “My class was like a stress reliever, not only for the kids, but also for me.”
Ellison felt she could relate so much to her students, because she was going through poverty, being bullied, and having no one to talk to about it.
“I’m still anxious, don’t get me wrong,” Ellison said. “But when I train, it relaxes me. I can be in the gym for hours. I love everything about exercise.
As a military wife, she wanted to develop something that could travel with her as she moved to support her husband’s military career. It was this realization that inspired Ellison to pursue personal training for all ages.
Ellison received his license from the International Sports Science Association in 2020, just before moving to JBLM in September.
“I wasn’t prepared for the ‘winter blues’, as people call it, and how the weather here can affect you,” Ellison said. “Coming from the south, where it’s always sunny, I had a major depression when we arrived and the only thing that helped me was exercise.”
It was after a mix-up that Ellison found out she was on the roster to be a personal trainer for JBLM.
“I originally submitted my paperwork to be a group fitness instructor for one of the courses offered on base,” Ellison said. “The lady who took my information thought I was applying to be a personal trainer. When I got my official contract, the title was personal trainer.
Ellison said she was grateful for the confusion because it was more in line with her credentials and what she wanted to do long term.
“Later I want to be an occupational therapist,” she said. “The body is my passion. The whole body. Sometimes we don’t understand that everything in our body is connected. How we think affects how we move. How we move affects how we look and how we look, affects how we feel.
Ellison urges everyone to become more active in their daily lives. According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, even a brisk 15 to 20 minute walk can provide several hours of stress relief.
“It’s bigger than me,” Ellison said. “If I can help or even encourage a person to feel better and look better, it can transform and manifest in all areas of their life.”
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