Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy
New Memoir Explores Healing of the Body, Mind, and Spirit
Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy—written by teacher, choreographer, poet, author, and Julliard-educated dancer Bella Mahaya Carter—is labeled as a memoir right there on the front cover. While the book does explore the story of a person’s life, though, it is just as much a self-help guide as it is an autobiography. Carter’s story is one of escape, redemption, and healing—on numerous fronts. As she charts her journey to greater health and wellbeing, though, Carter provides anecdotes about self-help and self-therapy strategies from which her readers may benefit as well.
The story of Raw starts in a doctor’s office with Carter feeling ill at ease. Many of us, to be sure, have experienced something similar. The mix of fear and futility that greets you in a hospital room is a seemingly universal experience. The reason for the fear is obvious, driven by questions like “What’s wrong with me?” and “What if they find something serious?” The futility, meanwhile, comes from a reality that too many of us have experienced with the American healthcare system: there’s always a chance that they’ll do a checkup and come up empty, unable to explain what’s wrong. And if they can’t explain it, they can’t cure it.
This deeply relatable scenario—told with vivid detail in the first chapter of Carter’s memoir—grips you and brings you into her world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this narrative represents the beginning of the story and not the end of it, the doctors don’t find an answer to Carter’s medical complaint. She’s been suffering with chronic stomach problems for years, but it’s not clear to the medical professionals what’s causing her to feel sick. The recommendations for her are what they always are: prescription medication to manage the pain, and additional (invasive) procedures to delve deeper. Even with fears of stomach cancer plaguing the back of her mind, Carter vows to take a different route: I will heal myself, she vows.
So begins the journey readers will take throughout Raw. It’s a lengthy and sometimes meandering tale, one that involves the adoption of a new diet, a battle against anxiety, and a deep spiritual exploration. The messy nature of the book, though, underlines its candidness and serves as a reminder that life itself is messy. Since one of the issues Carter grapples with in these pages is her own perfectionism, it makes sense that Raw doesn’t feel like a taut Hollywood screenplay.
Raw is organized into three main sections: Body, Mind, and Spirit. Each segment explores a different way that Carter approached self-healing and achieved new levels of wellness.
The Body segment is perhaps the most straightforward, guiding readers through the ins and outs of Carter’s new diet: a 100% “raw vegan” diet, which is to say, a diet consisting solely of unprocessed and uncooked plant-based foods. As you might expect, there are hiccups and challenges along the way. Carter’s new diet makes her feel weak, and her family and friends don’t understand her new menu. As for eating out at restaurants, forget about it.
It’s the later segments of the book, though, that make Raw a journey worth taking. We’ve all heard about the trials and tribulations of a new diet. Some of us have experienced those trials and tribulations firsthand. Countless books have been written on the subject. As Carter starts to realize that simply changing what she eats and how she exercises isn’t solving all her problems, though, Raw hits upon deeper truths of human wellness, contentment, and quality of life. Sometimes, the roots of our problems and struggles go to deeper, less obvious places. How do you find a solution when you’ve exhausted all the usual suspects?
In its latter pages, thus, Raw becomes an exploration of holistic health. It’s not all about nutrition or sickness in the classical sense. Instead, it’s about health of the body, the mind, and the spirit. Through yoga, meditation, and religious faith, Carter comes to terms with her own shortcomings—from perfectionism to relentless negativity—and learns how to live a more at-ease life. She also wrestles with the loss of her mom and the way that grief figures into anxiety and wellness. These chapters convey a deeply human message—that we are all works in progress, changing day to day—and drive the book’s tale of resilience to a satisfying conclusion.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.