**Right off the bat, I’ll add the disclaimer that there are two shirtless pics in this blog. I don’t want anyone who may read this to be caught off guard by the pics. They are used to depict a past version of myself and the journey back to that version.
I’ve been debating on whether or not to share this post for a while now. According to my admin page, since 1/18, to be exact. I published once before and pulled it within the hour, so this is my second attempt. It’s all mental, I know. However, I still struggle with opening up on certain topics, and this particular topic is an important one to me.
This blog is an intimate look at me as an individual and the path I have traveled. Albeit it is a condensed version, it still is quite personal and will give you some insight into what makes me tick.
In 2006 my way of life changed forever. I was in the best shape of my life. I was beginning to prep for body building competition when I decided to go a different route. I declared 2006 to be “my year.” However, something happened that changed everything for me.
I no longer felt invincible. I no longer felt unstoppable. My years of preparation leading up to my best year were all in vain. My body had just broken down on me.
This was a picture of me that my wife took in 2006:
I was in peak physical condition as I prepared to step onto the football field once again after recovering from a lower back injury. The season started off with a bang. Everything was going perfectly. My redemption was finally imminent. Everything for me physically was going well, but I noticed that my body was not adjusting to the physical trauma/toll of playing football. I kept encouraging myself, saying, “it’ll come back.”
As the weeks progressed, the physical toll did not ease up. I immediately knew something was wrong. I had shortness of breath but felt fine otherwise. The shortness of breath had gotten worse. I finally decided to shut things down.
Admitting Something Is Wrong
Growing up in sports, you tend to shake smaller injuries aside and continue on with life. Most sports have a “next man up” mentality, so having that methodology imprinted on my brain, I decided to deal with my injuries in a private manner. I was not ready to quit just yet and continued playing football, unable to swallow my pride and admit injury. However, I did decide to call the doctor and describe the feeling I was having, to which he immediately set me up for an appointment.
The biggest fear was a punctured lung. I went to get x-rays because he was confident it was a punctured lung.
The test results were in, and they showed no punctured lung, but he noticed fluid in my lungs as he looked over the x-rays.
I remember his phone call asking me how I was feeling, and then he told me he needed to see me again immediately.
After doing a throat culture, he wanted me to do the usual “turn your head and cough” as he listened to my lungs.
I paused for a moment and then told him, “coughing hurts.”
Naturally, he wanted me to elaborate, so I finally let him in on additional health issues that I was hiding from him.
At this point, my body had already broken down. I couldn’t pick my arms up above my head, I couldn’t turn my head, and I showed him that I had a winged scapula. He then asked what I’ve been doing, and I said, “playing football.”
He looked at me and said, “not anymore.”
I could tell the seriousness in his tone and did not challenge his words.
He was writing up a referral to have everything looked over when I asked, “what about working out? Can I still do that?”
He stopped and thought about the question for a split second, “stop everything. This is pretty serious.”
I hung my head. The stuff I loved doing was just yanked out from under me. I started questioning why I waited so long? Why did I handle it so carelessly?
I went to an orthopedic surgeon. He thoroughly investigated everything and was blunt with how I should proceed.
He said, “no surgery if you stop right now.”
I asked, “stop what football?”
“Yes, you are done with football unless you want to be paralyzed down the road.”
He had diagnosed me with a severe cervical sprain/strain and severe nerve damage in my neck. He compared the damage done to my neck to that of a severe car crash. I knew he was an excellent doctor as he knew details that I had not shared with him to this point.
He said, “the numbness you feel. I know you are experiencing it in your fingers and all-around your body. It will not go away unless you stop right now.”
So I promised him I would stop everything for the time being.
I told him the only physical activity I’ll do will be PT when it comes time.
I was done playing games when I realized what I had just done to my body.
On top of all of that, my MD called back, letting me know that the fluid in my lungs was due to walking pneumonia and bronchitis.
From that day on, I stopped everything. I let my gym membership expire, and I walked away from football. I was facing an unknown future.
Reality set in for me a couple of years later as depression began to sink in. I didn’t replace my favorite activities with anything. I just sat around eating, watched television, and went to work. My weight ballooned, making my depression even worse. All said and done I had a nearly 50lb weight gain.
This is a pic of me with my newborn son during that time.
The Wake Up Call I needed
I ran into a good friend that I haven’t talked to in a few years. Not hearing from him for a while wasn’t from a lack of trying. It turns out he was unavailable because he had joined the military. He said, “wow, you grew out a bit there.” He went on to say he wasn’t used to seeing me in that type of shape. Again, this is a good friend who would never mince words and freely tell me what he was seeing.
After that encounter, I kept thinking of his transformation in his life. He had always struggled with his weight but got sick of it and joined the military, completely changing his life. I was utterly blown away by this encounter.
I started thinking of things that I can physically do because I could feel my life continuing to slip as I sat in depression. I got thinking that I can get outside and enjoy nature as my body healed. I gave my newborn son all of my attention but still something wasn’t right with my mindset.
It’s a Mentality and a Mindset
In order to correct my behavior, I needed to understand it and get control of it. If I attempted to get my life back in order physically, not fixing the destructive behaviors would ultimately lead to failure.
I ran with this little trickle of optimism. I was beginning to feel renewed.
A quote from Confucius became my mantra to aid me in my ambitious attempt at a return :
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Month after month, I continued exercising by jogging, running, and going for hikes. I was starting to feel like myself again. Working out was such a big part of my life because the endorphins it releases works wonders on a person’s mental health—I was feeling this feeling again.
Football was becoming a distant memory for me, and I was okay with that fact now. I had made my peace with it.
I started wondering if God was guiding me towards a different path for me to travel. I ran with that thought and enrolled myself in college.
I was also now a father and a husband as I shifted my focus to having a family.
Fast forward six years, and I now have two degrees and graduated with great honors/magna cum laude. I realized this is the path I was meant to take.
I was always meant to use my brain over my brawn, but I just never embraced it.
Maybe I never needed football at all?
What if I can return to the gym now?
I had so many thoughts and questions to ask my doctor.
After a short visit, my doctor was perfectly fine with me returning to physical workouts so long as I listened to my body this time.
I felt different this time around. Armed with better knowledge of my limits, I attacked the gym ferociously.
After several months back at the gym, I felt confident enough to take a picture of myself. Something I avoided doing for almost a decade!
This is me in 2020:
When everything happened back in 2006, I thought my life was over. I wanted to quit, and I wanted to give up and hide. For some reason, though, I didn’t, and I genuinely believe it is because I kept up my faith. I didn’t travel the traditional path to get to my destination, but I still did arrive.
I realized that time had no bearing on me. For the longest time, I thought I lost a decade of my best years, but the truth is, I didn’t miss out at all. I put my brain to use instead of my brawn. It was as if God was telling me to take a break. I listened and do not regret it one bit.
I hope this blog helps anyone who may be going through a similar transition in their lives. It was important to get both the physical and mental parts of me in check and in sync to boost my self motivation and self esteem. My goal was to motivate and help you understand that just because one door closes on an opportunity doesn’t mean that another one won’t open. When that door does open for you, take it, do not be afraid of the unknowns.
Thanks for reading!