Friday, October 25, 2013

Escaping The Abyss: My Journey Back From The Depths of Hell and Depression

The Beginning

Sigur Ros' track Untitled 4 comes on, bringing me back to the day.  I was depressed.  My body ached.  My heart ached.  It hurt to get out of bed.  All I wanted to do was lay in bed, scared to go out into the world.  Unable to even face my loved ones.  My energy was low, I ate unhealthy and didn't exercise.  My appetite was nowhere to be found.  And for a 6-1 235 pound person with a lot of muscle, this didn't help.

My soul cried out.  Why did I feel so tremendously depressed?  Why did I keep choosing to live this way?  Why even go on living?  The pain increased until I became numb.  Neither sadness nor smiles crossed my expression.  Rather, I faked smiles to not let on to others the pain I was experiencing.  But they knew.  It was painfully obvious.  I disappeared from college for weeks at a time, emailing professors the excuse of being sick, a loved one dying, anything to excuse me from class.  I wonder now why I didn't tell them I was severely depressed with suicidal thoughts.  Who wouldn't understand missing class for that?  But, I lied because I didn't want anyone to find out.

All I wanted to do was bawl my eyes out and was unable.  Do you know how much that hurts?  To want to cry and let out all the pain, the sadness, the unreleased emotion, the regret of living a life marred in mediocrity?  Meanwhile, the people around you keep telling you that you are "fine."  I wasn't fine.  I wasn't moving towards becoming the best version of myself.  It's not their fault.  They didn't know any better. But I did.  I was painfully aware.  Maybe not consciously aware everyday leading up to the dark abyss that overtook me, but it lingered in my subconscious.  And it wasn't leaving without me meeting it head on.  And boy did it crush me.

Belly of The Whale

Mom said try anti-depressants.  Bless her heart.  She is the most caring individuals I've ever been blessed to know.  But she was off base.

You bet your ass suicidal thoughts crept in.  Fighting them off every hour, every day, and every week gave me something to live for.  At least I was overcoming that.  But if I had possessed the technology to click a button to end my life, I would have been very tempted.  Scary to think about but it's the dead honest truth.

The final straw came when I put a belt around my neck, looked myself in the mirro and asked myself which pain is worse.  The pain of living a life unfulfilled and feeling the depths of depression OR the pain of crawling out of the Abyss, using each checkpoint, each hurdle, each moment of victory as perspective as I moved onto the next.  You see, it is because of that moment at 312 Johnson I am where I am today.  No two ways about it.  I keep my triumphs over those demons in my pockets, pulling them out whenever I want to remind myself that whatever I am going through is miniscule compared to that moment in time at the gates of hell, belt wrapped around my neck, seeing the numb and sullen person looking back at me.

Why I am I so crazily mad about becoming the strongest version of myself?  You ask why?  Because I have been the weakest version of myself.  I have been in the cave with the dragons.  I have danced with the demons.  Sat with the snakes.  And broke bread with the devil.  I have experienced all of it.  I know where that road goes.  I am not going back.  But I will always remember what it taught me.  Something I remind myself and others of is life will give you a lesson until you learn it.

What The Abyss Taught Me

1. Be the Hero in Your Own Life
It taught me to be the hero in my own life.  Not to question my heart, my intuition, my gut, my balls.

2. Compassion
People are at different emotional situations and it does not serve me or the individual to pass judgment.  It does serve both of us when I offer a helping hand, share things that helped me if asked, and inspire them.

3. You Are Not Your Past
The past contains things you have done or experienced.  They are not you.  You are a soul, a spirit, whatever you want to call it---but you are not your past.  The past does not define you unless you give it permission.  I would be homeless, starving and living an unfulfilling life if I was my past.

Before I continue, I am writing this with the upmost emotion possible.  Something is coming over me, forcing me to share.

4. Impermanence of Things and Situations
What you feel right now will not last forever  I promise you.  But, nothing is guaranteed.  My brother died recently, on October 6th, 2013 19 days ago at age 32.  Behind, is his loving wife and two children, 4 years and 5 months old.  You think someone plans for that?  Hell no.  But the pain is not permanent.  It will subside.  As Eric Thomas says, it may take a day, a month or even a year, but eventually it will subside.  I refuse to wallow in pain.  Nick's death reinforced my journey to become the strongest version of myself.  On the Hero's Journey there is a Call to Action.  Nick's accident and subsequent death symbolized my Call To Action.  I flowed like like a waterfall when it I was alone with him in the hospital.  I flowed until no more tears came out.  Other times, the emotion would overtake me as I supported my family in the hospital.  People would wipe my tears from my face and it angered me.  THESE TEARS ARE NOT PERMANENT, I thought.  Let them be.  Let me feel them flow down my face.  Let me be vulnerable.

5. Your Time Is Finite But Your Value & Contributions Last in Eternity
Nick's death showed me that even though we will all die our spirit does not.  It reverberates throughout the Cosmos, into the unseen affecting the whole Universe.

6. Science of Action
The abyss taught me how to take action.  The science of action is not to think, but simply listen to your intuition and act.  It may not lead you to the place you thought, or the place you wanted to go but it will lead you where you need to go.  Forget research.  Forget waiting for the right time.  The time is now.  It always is.  Forget questioning the decision.  Forget what other people may think.  Forget all that.

7. Surround Yourself with People Who Are Strong Mentally and Physically

I learned from men who were physically and mentally strong.  They pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of doing.  They gave me a reason to show up.  They offered camaraderiemore than they know.  Loren, Zach, Matt, Chuck, Bob, Logan, Eric, Mike, Sam, Max.  I began to express myself more, becoming stronger each day.  Below are two videos, 12 days apart with an improvement of ~27 pounds.  I eventually got to 455 pounds but it would not have happened without these strong men. These guys helped me improve not only physically and mentally, but they showed me how to be a man.

196kg/432lb Back Squat

8. Refusal of Settling for Mediocrity
As a Strength Coach, it taught me to not allow the little things to slide.  If someone can be helped, I help them.  If they are doing an exercise or movement slightly wrong, it is my duty to correct them. Not to be high and mighty, but to enhance them and help them on their journey.  And on days in which I fail, I learn and move on.

9. Disconnect
I love being by myself because I have learned to love myself and all of the idiosyncrasies.  Meditating, chanting and getting lost in my work is second nature when I love myself.

10. You Are Not Perfect Nor Should You Expect To Be
Objectively, we know this.  But subjectively, I didn't understand this on a deeper level.

11. Act Swiftly & Decisively
Don't leave it up to chance.  Don't leave it to your mind to talk yourself out of doing what your gut tells you to do.  As I wrote this, I thought about stopping midway through---but like lesson # 4, it's only temporary---the mind trying to stop you from shining your light.

12. Get Uncomfortable
The mind wants to be comfortable.  You will be mediocre and live an unfulfilled life if you stay in your comfort zones.  Growth is only possible outside of them.  Also, you might me a special someone like I did when I used 10 seconds of courage to ask her out.

And while the Abyss has taught me many more things than I have listed, the final lesson today is...

13. Shine Your Light
When I shine my light, as Marianne Williamson wrote,

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others

If I don't Shine My Light, how can I impact people around me?  How can I help them become the strongest versions of themselves?  If I don't Shine My Light, how can I become the strongest version of myself?  If I don't Shine My Light, how can I contribute to my family?  If I don't Shine My Light, how can I support and be supported by my significant other?  

And finally, if I don't shine my light, how can I inspire hope in the hopeless? The voiceless minority.  Those who feel trapped but can read my words and my posts.  Those who see me every day but feel lost and alone.  If I don't Shine My Light, I am doing a disservice to myself and everyone in this Universe.  I used to be that little boy.  In the shadows, scared, wishing someone would mentor me and teach me.  I would observe others and revel in the chance to learn from them, if only at a distance.  I was in pain.  But by Shining My Light I can help the voiceless and the hopeless, directly and indirectly move past the pain.  

I can only hope and have faith my actions can impact someone, just one person in that regard.

Yeha Noha,

Shine Your Light

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