I drew this image for the first time longhand, in black pen, on a blank journal page last summer. I needed to reclaim parts of my mind from the stress, anger, and frustration induced by previously endured mind games that defied words. The wheel drawing helped me work through my pain, and it restored my sense of hope. The words I wrote between the circles felt more aspirational than real at that time, but just seeing them reminded me that I still had some power over my present and future circumstances.
The black pen drawing was tiny, crude, and comforting. I loved it. I forgot all about my artistic limitations and started thinking of ways I could make it huge and colorful. I had big dreams of painting it on canvas or on a piece of cloth and hanging it up for public viewing. I imagined the circles on a quilt, joined to the surface with thick, wide, beige stitches, descending from a wooden museum wall. I imagined the hanging quilt being as ethereal as the masterpieces I saw on display in a museum in the North Carolina mountains years ago, the ones I almost missed seeing because the drive up the clouds-high, pencil-wide mountain road scared me so much that I nearly turned around before I made it.
That artistic vision might become reality someday, but for now my PowerPoint slide-turned-PDF rendition will have to suffice. It is not very big. If I’d had my way and – better graphic design skills – some of the original crudeness would have remained. I think the spirit of the drawing comes across, though.
The original drawing had an archetypal quality to it, which got me to wondering what similar images might be out there. I decided to Google the term “wellness wheel” and see what came up. I found oodles of wellness wheels online, produced by organizations and groups promoting holistic health. The designs vary, but nearly all the wheels I saw are highly colorful and emphasize seven or eight types of wellness: occupational, emotional, spiritual, financial, intellectual, social, physical, and environmental. The focus of my own wheel is mental and emotional wellness – what that means to me and all the different things that help me maintain it.
I am a writer who holds no counseling credentials at all, and this wellness wheel is not intended to be a counseling, teaching, or educational tool. It is a personal piece of art therapy that helped me heal a little during a bumpy point on my life path.
Visual art is not my strongest suit, so it took me a minute (as in seven or eight months) to get the drawing off the journal page and into PowerPoint. I worked on it all morning on a Saturday, placing circles just so and filling them in with colors and affirming words.
I wanted the wheel to have two levels, one representing the community, the other the individual. The concepts written inside the community circles are the ones that I think make a community strong. The phrases next to the circles describe what the concepts mean to me.
Community Support: “We take care of each other.”
Community Cohesion: “We are united.”
Community Infrastructure: “We live and build in harmony with the environment.”
Community Accountability: “We own our beliefs and our actions.”
Community Awareness: “We are in touch with ourselves and our surroundings.”
Community Planning “We are prepared.”
Environmental Consciousness: “We love the earth.”
Community Education: “We are learning and growing together.”
The brown coloring in the circles represents the community of color of which I am a member and the sense of groundedness that comes from being part of a healthy community.
The individual level contains 13 circles and statements. These represent what I need to be well, mentally and emotionally.
Inner Peace: “I am calm inside.”
Self Understanding: “I am on a journey of self-discovery.”
Self Nurturing: “I give myself healthy food and rest.”
Self Forgiveness: “I am more than my mistakes.”
Self Confidence: “I can do it.”
Self Accountability: “I own my beliefs and actions.”
Resilience: “I am bruised but not broken.”
Focus: “I can concentrate.”
Self Expression: “I use my voice.”
Self Worth: “I am enough.”
Self Trust: “I have good judgment.”
Education: “I am learning and growing.”
Self Embracing: “I like who I am.”
The colors are ones that I find soothing (lilac and blue), joy inspiring (yellow), or symbolic (green for prosperity and red for creative energy). I deliberately chose the boldest color, red, for the Self Expression circle, because creative expression is so important to my well being. The brown footprints between the circles represent the ongoing-ness of my wellness journey.
The Wellness of Mind circle in the center is the largest of all. All the other circles feed into it, as represented by the green and brown hands pointing inward toward it. The green hands that point from the community circles to the individual ones illustrate how the community sustains the individual. I could have made these green hands bidirectional, because the individual’s wellness also contributes to the wellness of the community.
Each of the 13 circles has a pair of brown hands beside it pointing directly to the Wellness of Mind circle. These sets of hands are carefully positioned with roughly equal amounts of space between each set. I tried to create a spoke effect as well as symmetry and balance. Each circle contributes to my wellness and my wholeness. Take away one set of hands and the balance gets thrown off. All the factors are important.
Lastly, I wanted to create connection between the circles and levels of wellness with the hand symbols, while also keeping some space and looseness between the two levels of circles. At the time, I did not think much about my motivation for doing this. As I reflect on it now, I think the space and the looseness in the drawing represent freedom. Support is vital but suffocative and controlling support is deadening. My community and I need support and space in order to grow and realize our potential.
That’s it – that’s my wellness wheel. Maybe it will make it onto a quilt someday. For right now, it is doing a good job as a tiny anchor of hope.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.