Talking about having a ton of stress, anxiety and depression is really difficult for a lot of people. It is especially difficult for those of us in the Latino community, since talking about our mental health isn’t something the typical family does. And getting therapy? Forget about it! My Latina shame kept me from going to therapy for many years, and getting help was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. To be honest, I can only wish to have had great Latinx role models to help me through my own battle with anxiety and mental health—and it seems I am finally getting my wish in Dominicana fitness pro Massiel “Massy” Indhira Arias.
In an article on Cosmopolitan, the business woman and Instagram star known for her killer abs opened up about her depression. After the stress of moving to the U.S., being in an abusive relationship, a brother that was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma (a cancer), and struggling in college, she wasn’t feeling great.
“I started to feel depressed because I wasn’t living up to the expectations I set for myself,” Arias told Cosmopolitan. “I always prided myself on being a good student, and I wasn’t keeping up in school. I thought that I would be in a healthy relationship, and I was with a guy who made me feel bad about myself. I felt like I was failing in every aspect of my life.”
Her depression hit an all-time high in 2011, when she quit her job and dropped out of school. Her depression symptoms included isolating herself in her room, having no appetite, losing her hair and refusing to shower. But she refused to go on medication for depression and tried homeopathic remedies instead, none of which worked. Finally, after eight months of really deep depression, a friend of hers who was a personal trainer recommended that she go to the gym.
Slowly, that depressive cloud seemed to lift. She started out on the elliptical for 5-10 minutes but was soon increasing the time she spent on the machine and, as her symptoms began to fade and her mind became preoccupied with working out, she moved on to weights and other kids of workouts.
“As I kept exercising, I realized that I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to get mental clarity,” she said. “I didn’t have the money to pay a personal trainer, but I’d ask my personal trainer friend for advice and read a lot of fitness articles.”
Although she acknowledges that she soon started “overtraining” herself (with two-hour workouts that made her feel good because she was pushing herself at the gym), she started a personal Instagram account in 2012 and, after a photo of her flat stomach blew up on the Instagram discovery page, she began an account documenting her personal fitness journey.
Soon enough, she had 34,000 followers and was training people at her gym and then in Central Park. Eventually, she grew her brand and became the fitness pro we know and love today. Most recently, after giving birth, Arias struggled with how her body changed and not being able to work out for two months while her stomach walls and pelvic floor recovered.
“I knew how important it was to rest and heal, but when my postpartum depression and anxiety kicked in, I struggled with not being able to go to the gym,” she told Cosmopolitan. “To deal, I talked with my family about how I was feeling, went on walks, and did modified exercises my doctor said I could do, like glute bridges, modified side planks, and the cat and cow yoga poses. I knew I was going to get back to my body, I just had to trust the process.”
Arias is a great example of the power of fitness and she credits it with saving her life. Her journey has not been easy and it’s required a lot of trial and error. “I kept trying,” she revealed to Elle. “I failed at almost everything. I was horrible. But every day was a ‘me’ day; every day was, Okay, let’s try this and see how it works.” Her hard work and determination have paid off. Now she has legions of followers who flock to her for inspiration, motivation, and of course, pics of her adorable daughter Indira.