Wyvern Writers - Neriah Mitchener

Neriah Mitchener poses for a photo with her son in their home near Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Courtesy photo)

Neriah Mitchener poses for a photo with her son in their home near Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Courtesy photo)

Moving to Italy was a major turning point for this “Farmtown, USA” type gal. I can’t say I didn’t love the attention I got from my small town, southern neighbors or the look of acceptance from the wealthier kids in my high school who had visited Europe more times than they could count. I was indulging in the purest wine, eating the most delicious food, and parading through buildings that were hundreds of years old. I was becoming quite the cultured woman and enjoying every second of it.

When Covid-19 hit Italy in March 2020, it left most of us at home. If we weren’t traveling, wining and dining, what were we doing? Some of us thrived, some of us wallowed, and some of us fell somewhere in between. After all the initial shock and awe, it left me time to think: Who was I now that my interests and hobbies were put to a stop? In the midst of a pandemic, I had to learn how to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend all over again. A new version of myself had to be created so I could better serve the people I loved.

The majority of this transformation took place while exercising.

It may sound strange, but following a workout plan has been the biggest stress relief. I am so thankful for at-home workouts, YouTube, Pinterest, apps, and subscription services for me to turn to. I wasn’t too active in the gym, but I knew I enjoyed lifting and weight machines, which I didn’t have at home, but some of my friends invested in home gyms during lockdown and have loved it. I went a different route and tried barre classes, boxing, yoga, and dumbbell circuits, just to name a few. When my emotions would run rampant and my mental health was struggling because of an identity crisis, fitness gave me something to look forward to every day and I could throw all of that energy into a workout.

My husband saw a change in me after completing 8 weeks of a barre program and a 6 week muscle building/fat burning program. I wasn’t just becoming strong physically, I was becoming strong mentally. Pushing myself to stick to these fitness routines have been some of the proudest moments of my life. Without the temptations of the world I once knew and lockdown keeping me home, I could focus on who I wanted to be. I realized that my toddler was watching me. He saw his mom set aside time for herself, and he doesn’t understand the concept of mental health, but he knew that I enjoyed being his mama more than I ever had before.

When the lockdown started, exercising was a way to pass the time. What it turned into was a mental health outlet and a form of personal growth. Along with releasing anger and tension in a workout, I also formed healthy habits like consistency and dedication. These traits overflowed into other areas and looking back at my old life, the mourning period of that life, and where I am now, I am capable of hard things. It seems as though the most uncomfortable of situations (Italian lockdown, fitness journey, etc.) have helped me grow. I am a better wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend and I can only hope to continue learning who I am and what I can do.