Brenda Stewart, MA
My name is Brenda Stewart. I’m a Midwestern girl, born and raised in Illinois. After graduating from DePaul University in Chicago, I lived in Colorado for twelve years, before Arizona became my home in 2014.
In 2004, after deciding to pursue my passion of studying psychology and becoming a therapist, I became a graduate student at Regis University in Denver. I discovered Health Psychology and the ‘mind-body connection’ and instantly fell in love! But, in the fall of my second year of graduate school, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and life changed in a way I was not prepared for. I was only 29 years old, it was a crushing blow.
My doctor prescribed yoga to help with the pain and it was on my yoga mat that the mind-body connection first took hold for me in the real world, outside of my textbooks. I saw firsthand, the symbiotic relationship that existed between my physical health and my mental health.
My diagnosis required a regimen of toxic medications and Oxycodone for the pain. It wasn’t long before chronic pain and medication ruled my life. After two failed semesters, I gave up any hope of finishing my thesis and graduate school. It was a vicious cycle that swallowed the next 15 years of my life.
Three years ago, after life had become completely unmanageable, I made the decision to rid myself of opiates and take back my life. It’s been an incredibly tough journey, but I am grateful to have had my yoga practice and my knowledge of the mind-body connection to keep me tethered to my foundation. My health became my life, it was a matter of survival and I was determined not to give up. I made a waking, conscious effort to build the foundation of ‘me’ so strong that I would never doubt myself again…and it paid off.
I was on my yoga mat nearly or running every day. I began eating clean, gave up soda and stopped smoking after 30 years. I began a conversation with my mind and my body and I truly listened for the first time, and when the pain in my bones screamed louder, I pushed through. I was fighting for my life.
I went back to school, finished my masters degree and have found my passion in life. Being a therapist feels natural to me, like the place that I belong and I hope to share what I’ve learned on this journey with my clients.
I am a firm believer that our environment effects us just as much as past traumas and that being truly healthy requires that we nurture our brain and our mind, our body and our soul. My personal experience has taught me firsthand that change IS possible if you truly want it. It takes hard work, knowledge, and a lot of patience, but it is worth every minute of the struggle. Discovering who you can become is as important as where you came from an we should never stop learning and growing. Life changes when we make happiness our first priority.