*Trigger warning - domestic violence*
For many people, especially mothers, self care is viewed as a luxury that is reserved for special occasions or only for the very fortunate. In a society that praises selflessness and caring for others above all else, caring for oneself often gets pushed to the wayside.
Marissa Quintero’s experience with selflessness started at a very young age. Born in London but raised in Colombia, Marissa was the oldest of five siblings. At age fourteen, Marissa’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and because she did not have any other adult relatives, the following two years were spent caring for her at the hospital. When Marissa’s mother passed away, she was 16 years old and she selflessly assumed the responsibility of raising her five younger siblings.
Later in life, Marissa got married and had two boys. In 2014 she moved to the U.S. to give her boys, ages ten and two, a better life. But the journey did not come without its hardships. In 2016, Marissa left a very toxic marriage to start anew once more.
An unexpected Darkness:
At the start of COVID-19, living in isolation and fear of uncertainty, Marissa found herself sucked deep into a depression that she never saw coming. Always on the go, this was the first time Marissa was forced to stop and face the traumas of her past – as well as the challenges of the present – navigating life as a domestic violence survivor.
As Marissa’s unmanaged emotions caught up with her, she found herself in a full blown crisis. During her darkest days, her oldest son assumed the role of caretaker, making sure that she was getting out of bed and eating every day, a juxtaposition of Marissa’s own teenage years.
Deep inside, Marissa knew this was a situation she desperately needed to get out of, for herself and for her boys. The experience sparked Marissa to begin a self-healing journey.
Connection & Movement toward Healing:
In the early days of her healing journey, Marissa started connecting with women like her. She found that her desire to heal brought her to the right people. As Marissa began to heal, she continued to connect with more and more women and started to explore the concept of self care.
In addition to discovering the power of community, Marissa discovered the power of running. She started running and on the very first day she ran, she fell in love. The gym had never clicked for her, but running was something that she truly connected with.
Running became an integral part of Marissa’s healing journey; a necessary act of self-care that Marissa protected fiercely. Marissa points to these acts of self care – running, community, writing and meditation – as her north star that helped her come through depression and emerge whole.
From Crisis to Victory:
Since 2020, Marissa has been determined to run—and live life—with a purpose. She found Still I Run and slowly started to get involved, becoming an ambassador in 2022. Marissa runs for mental health awareness, domestic violence and empowering women, but that’s not all she does.
Aside from holding down a demanding corporate job, Marissa makes time to continue to cultivate a sense of community in her life. She hosts a women’s prayer circle monthly. She serves on the Board of Directors at Safe Passage, a non-profit empowering domestic violence survivors. In addition, she is the Wellness Coordinator at Team RWB, an organization that supports veterans.
For Marissa, this all constitutes self-care and is an integral part of her life.
As her boys have grown, she’s found that her self care rituals have bonded them. They join her on runs and they’ve even shared a few races together. We applaud Marissa for teaching the next generation of men the value of self-care.
Learning to love Yourself:
When asked what self-care looks like, Marissa shared that for her, it’s all about finding the balance of taking care of both her physical and mental health. It’s a combination of things that she does for herself, and that combination looks different for every person.
Self care can sometimes be seen as selfish, but Marissa has learned that you cannot pour out of an empty cup. You cannot give when you don't have anything left inside of you, and the journey of learning to love herself first and foremost.
For Marissa – and many others –- the concept of self love can be the most difficult part, but she encourages people that happiness is in you, not outside of you. If you’re able to reach the point where you understand the power of self love, everything else falls into place.
Beyond World Mental Health Day, we hope you will tap into the healing that self-care can bring – and spend some time exploring things that bring you energy and joy.