July 1, 2019
My story began 9 years ago, it was late one night when I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up getting jumped and almost killed. I had a knife pulled on me and held to my back and was threatened to be killed.
Things only began to go from bad to worse. In just a short time, my anxiety progressed to a point that left me diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Only a few months later, my anxiety escalated so much that I developed with a panic attack disorder, which began to manifest and perpetuate extremely bad from my social anxiety. Finally, only a short time later, I had developed mental issues. Things got so unbearable that I got to a point that I literally would have to get up and leave mid-lecture from my classes because my panic attacks were out of control. This drove me into a most severe case of agoraphobia because I subconsciously began to learn the easiest way, and eventually the only way, I could deal with the panic and anxiety was by not dealing. I stopped going to my classes altogether. Of course, this lead to me flunking my semester and eventually being dropped from college.
From 2011-2015 I went back home with my parents where my depression reached an all-time high. On many days, I could not leave my home much less my room. I basically ceased to exist. The second the thought of going outside of the house came up, I was riddled with so much panic and anxiety that I was virtually paralyzed in fear and my ability to function was gone. I could not even keep in touch with friends over the phone through texting or calling. In fact, to make everything so much worse, my dependency on my Xanax paired with my agoraphobia, social anxiety and panic attacks was so extreme that I remember if I did ever receive a text message from a friend or family, I would have to take at least one pill, at the highest possible prescribed dose of 5mg before I could reply to a text message. My social phobia was an absolutely insurmountable monster. For four long years of legal issues, I cut off any ties with all of my friends, old and new, as well as all of my family besides my mom, dad and brother. All I could do was eat, watch TV and sleep. This led to me gaining well over 100lbs. Closer to the end of 2015, my tolerance to Xanax was so high that I could take upwards of 20mg a day. However, it began to not have any effect on calming my anxiety, which then made my anxiety and panic spike.
Words will never be enough to describe how devastatingly difficult this was. If it wasn’t bad enough that it was the first time in 7 years I was trying to get off and function without pills, I also was faced with the task of being around people and society for the first time in a very long five years. It was the most bizarre thing ever. I had forgotten how to act around and with people. The experience was an utter culture shock. I had been gone for so long I forgot how to talk to people, how to make eye contact with people. I had forgotten what my personality was like. I had no self-confidence, no self-esteem, no self-identity and zero positive self-image as I went from being in shape my whole life to weighing around 290lbs. After my mom and brother dropped me off over two years ago, I’ll never forget the dread that came with such certainty that this was not just a grand waste of time, but also money. This was just not working. The profoundness of asking someone in my position to do something like this was cruel and unusual punishment. But what made me stay and try it was the fact that if not this, then what? I had absolutely no ideas otherwise, having spent the years seeing countless different therapists and never seeming to be any closer to getting out of that hole.
After a few weeks, I began to see rays of hope as I began to develop my social skills again by limitedly talking with a few people I felt close to and making eye contact in the groups. Learning, then applying CBT proved to be the miracle for me, through a very strenuous and tedious process of systematic desensitization and exposure therapy. But my greatest source for motivation has always been The Phoenix, a non-profit sober active community gym that offers FREE CrossFit, yoga, rock climbing, boxing and more to anyone with 72 hours or more of sobriety. I kind of found it by mistake because I didn’t realize it was a group-oriented style of working out. I just knew it was free for anyone in recovery, so I went to check it out. If I had known it was a group workout, I wouldn’t have dared to even consider trying something like this because it was simply out of the question due to my depression anxiety. But I found myself there one day and with class was about to start. I realized I wouldn’t be able run out the door, never to see anyone again. I decided to stay and see what happened. I also wanted to entertain the idea of being able to say, “Oh yeah, I did a Fitness class once.” The sense of accomplishment I got by finishing that intense workout, being as big and out of shape as I was, led me to tell myself, “Let’s go for one more class before I completely call it quits.” This led to another, then another, then a few more. Fast forward just a little bit and I was a regular Cross Fitter, working out 5-7 times a week.
In a matter of 9 months, I lost 127lbs. But what I got from The Phoenix was so much more than physical fitness. The community is so welcoming and so encouraging that I was able to forget for one hour about my past trauma and current mental disabilities. All of that was put aside as each time I accomplished something I didn’t believe I could before I walked in those doors. Not only this, but I felt as if I found a place where I belonged. This translated into my life as I continuously furthered my comfort zone through increased exposure and systematically desensitizing myself to all past paralyzing fears and anxieties. These would literally go haywire the minute I left my house.
Recently, my gym paid for me to get my Level 1 CrossFit Trainer certification! So, I will soon be coaching one of the CrossFit classes once a week. Because my story began with me engulfed in PTSD as well as social anxiety disorder/panic attack disorder and agoraphobia, the fact that I am now so overcome that I can actually handle coaching one of these classes is unbelievable to me. It fills my heart because of the opportunity to help others however I possibly can, also why I’m majoring psychology to become a therapist. I like to share my story as much as I can, not for myself but for others who need to know what kind of odds are possible to overcome, so my journey is absolutely not near over!
My recovery journey began on 1/8/15. Two years of sobriety has shown to be enough time for absolute miracles to take place. I have not only lost 130lbs, but I am able to run 1 mile in 5:50mpm and my pace for 10 miles is 7:38mpm!! These are good improvements! I am also able to lift 235lbs over my head.
I just finished my third semester in December which I again got a 4.0 GPA as a 15-unit full-time student and I am also on the President’s List at Orange Coast College. I am preparing to transfer to a Cal-State this Fall at hopefully CSU Long Beach or CSU Fullerton.
Above all, I became Vice President of Education for a Toastmasters Club which is an internationally recognized organization specializing in public speaking, leadership and communication skills. I have essentially gone an aggressive 160 from where I started two years ago. It is pretty incredible what has happened in just a short time, but the greatest gift to me is the ability to now reach out and give back to others who may still be in their own struggle, be it with addiction or anxiety or trauma. As I come out of the storm of all that I’ve been through, one of the greatest blessings to me is my ability to look back at all these things, which for years only made me cry out “Why God?” and actually understand now why I went through all that I went through. It is making me someone I would have never become had I not experienced these things. I always like to say I didn’t find psychology, it found me and that’s where my calling is. Thus, why I am majoring in Psych to eventually get my Doctorate degree and become a therapist. I want to help those who are in the shoes I was once in.
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