Mental illness is not a weakness – but a catalyst for building strength, spirit and empathy.
This powerful message is conveyed in the film I Am Maris, which was recently supported by Paradigm during the Mill Valley film Festival in Marin County. During this prestigious festival, Paradigm staff supported an after-party and reception of the screening, where attendees enjoyed talking about the film about mental health, self-love and the power of one person’s voice.
I Am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi stars 17-year-old Maris Degener, who is tormented by anxiety, depression and a life-threatening eating disorder. As a certified yoga teacher, Maris addresses, in her own words, mental illness and the healing powers of yoga – and ultimately self-acceptance.
Suffering from anxiety since early childhood, Maris’ mother states: “It was worse when she went to bed. Now looking back, I know it was because she was afraid she was going to die. But I didn’t get that. I didn’t get that at all.”
Maris’ anxiety increases until she starts suffering panic attacks in middle school; and during her freshman year, her parents discover she’s cutting herself and purging food. In an attempt to help, her parents put her in therapy, but their daughter doesn’t show up. Months later, they take her to a doctor’s visit, where they discover Maris has been starving herself by eating a mere 200 calories a day. They are then told the unthinkable: that their daughter’s blood pressure is so low, she could die in her sleep.
Immediately, Maris is admitted to Stanford Children’s Hospital, where her goal is not to get better, but to get out. But when she returns home, so does her anxiety.
Maris’ life then takes a sharp turn when she discovers yoga – through which she starts to heal both her mind and her spirit.
At the early age of 16, Maris becomes a licensed yoga teacher, and starts writing a blog about food and yoga. A short time later, at age 17, her story is picked up by CNN, making her an inspiration and role model for females of all ages. To date, Maris has been on the cover of CNN Health, spoken to hundreds of audiences through podcasts and school guest presentations, and been a keynote speaker at the Women’s Strength Summit.
In the end, Maris learns to accept her mental illness as merely a part of her, an illness that along with struggle has instilled strength and empathy.
Maris’ success story shows how a holistic approach like yoga can help improve overall mental health with teens.
Mental Health Treatment at Paradigm
At Paradigm, mental health treatments are based on a holistic approach, implementing a combination of the best traditional and experimental approaches in therapy, both in individual and group settings.
Depending on what teens are interested in, some special therapy approaches at Paradigm include dance therapy, art therapy, writing therapy and equine therapy.
Therapy at Paradigm is also designed to help teens learn healthy habits and positive ways to cope with stress and triggers. For instance, resources and techniques available to teens at Paradigm include exercise, yoga, acupuncture and massage.
Ultimately, Paradigm encourages teens to draw upon old likings and activities, as well as discover new undertakings, as part of an intentional effort to add positive actions to their lifestyles.