Embracing Emotional Growth

Wow, it’s been nearly two months since my last post. Time flies when you are out making life happen. I apologize for not being more responsible and writing as much as planned. My initial hopes were to add new content every two weeks, but since this site has taken off I’ve been keeping myself rather busy with inquiries about working with some really cool people, which I hope to showcase sometime in the future. Not only has business increased, but I’ve also been preparing to do a potential photo shoot this summer with a good friend. All the while, striving to find some resemblance of balance with a social life and attempts at dating.

Speaking of dating…

The thought of dating sometimes conjures up a mixed bag of emotions, as it would almost anyone. Throw something like a cerebral palsy into the bowl of chips and you have yourself a certified bag of party mix from the stories one could tell. But like with most things in life, things aren’t always as they appear. I’m going to go a bit deeper and show some raw vulnerability here. Most would believe for as positive and successful that I’ve been, it has come with little cost. As if the “overcome” mantra resonates on high every moment of each day. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I’ve had my fair share of demons to battle, nasty and painful demons; the type that have eroded and consumed me. Even in the face of what appeared to be an otherwise positive and rich life, I’ve been miserable. While most days have not been nearly as dark, often times I still reach out to pursue my own courage, patience, and determination.

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Presented by my grandmother upon my last orthopedic foot surgery.

Outside of faith, many of times I have only to look to my grandmother who inspires me with her own resiliency to rally our family in times of great need. Not only does my grandmother possess multiple positive traits to help pilot our family, but she has also passed on a few of those traits to me as well. Above all, the one idea I’ve learned to value the most — transparency in accepting our own faults. It has been by virtue of this progressive thinking that has unlocked several doors for me in a journey to full consciousness. I’ve since come to realize, if I allow fear of judgement to get in the way of expressing who I am or what I’m learning, I will never become an effective life coach, mentor or role model. It’s through ones own trials and tribulations, that others can benefit. Taking a proactive stance, the key is making effort in bettering ourselves in the face of adversity. Even though outwardly traumatic events appear painful, for those courageous enough to begin the healing process, the end result is a gift that can be shared much like paying an act of kindness forward. Looking back, there was a time where the fear of failure would provide such an anxiety filled response, I would automatically initiate self defeat. Most of these feelings stem from childhood, but as I came into my own as an adult and more aware of my feelings, I started to overcompensate. I suppose I could call it an ‘unintended consequence’… an unintended consequence of taking control and self-empowerment to the extreme. Obsession… a personal hell giving way to a life unbalanced, and in this case, the high price of a love lost.

Throughout adolescence I tried desperately hard to seek acceptance and fit in. Most of my self-worth was wrapped up in my outward appearance. I was less concerned about my character and the type of person I was from the inside. Instead, all that seemed to matter was how I looked. I often felt devalued and had this reoccurring belief that I would always be subjected to settle for less in life. So in that respect, it’s astonishing to realize just how far I’ve come. A bit humorous honestly. After all those years of longing to be loved in spite of what I looked like, I now desire the exact opposite. I give much credit to my passion in bodybuilding for completely transforming my body, mind & spirit into what it is today. As you can imagine, getting there was not easy. Along that journey, there were many firsts, love was one of them. It was not that long ago that I met a woman to whom I was instantly attracted. It was very surreal to me in that I could not understand why I felt so initially mesmerized. Sure, I had been attracted to others before, but not like this. It was so strong that she literally changed the game for me. She embodied everything I ever wanted, I ever dreamed, and best of all she desired me too. She desired me for who I was as a person, long before the muscles. She made me feel safe, nurtured and provided me respite from my past hurt. We both had similar circumstances growing up. It was an epic pairing of two individuals complementing each others emotional needs at a time when they needed it the most.

For years our relationship continued to grow and plans were made for our future. From the outside, things appeared perfect. But little by little those long forgotten seeds of doubt started to create space between us. Neither of us knew exactly what was going on, or were insightful enough to know how to change the course of our own trajectory, but both of us felt the familiar pain of abandonment equally. Somewhere we had lost ourselves in the darkness and could not find a way back… to each other. You see… when bodybuilding is all you have known for a decade, it has a way of getting you through the tough times. It is always there for you to fall back on. There were many times I saw her in pain and did not know how to help her. I felt terrible and tried desperately to talk things out. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed as though the only resolution was to weather the storm. So that’s what I did. In my mind, I put us on hold thinking our relationship would get better in a few months. I saw no reason why it wouldn’t. We were just going through a rough patch and this was probably just the first of many in a life together. My line of thought was that life would be completely miserable if I allowed both of us to be affected by such a setback. So to keep me positive, I reverted to what I knew best – working out. It was my exit from sustaining hurt. Little did I know, she felt more abandoned in the process.

As our relationship spiraled more and more out of control, the reality was I had felt tremendous guilt and shame. Numerous times the thought occurred to me, perhaps I was placing too much time and effort into my bodybuilding endeavors. What appeared from the distance to be a perfect life, was in reality being maintained with exhaustive effort. The obsessive drive had taken over, draining my energies such that I literally did not, and could not, focus my attention on anything outside of those pursuits. To regain control, I pushed myself harder and longer in the gym — not outdoing myself physically was not only unacceptable, it was truly frightening. She had given me much praise throughout our relationship when I was at my leanest. Then nothing… Those painful demons of insecurity had come back with a vengeance. It felt so good to be empowered, to see how far I’ve come in my achievements, and have others proud of me. She at one time was proud of me and I was proud of her for seeing that in me. I thought perhaps the reason I was no longer attractive in her eyes, was because she had wanted me to look even better. I had become so hyper-focused on fulfilling an image, on pursuing goals I didn’t fully know the origin of, that I didn’t even realize how distant I’d become to her. When you’re after perfection, the idea of missing your regularly-scheduled meal time in favor of a dinner date with your  lover isn’t fully embraced. Even though a part of me yearned to comply, the daily structure of a bodybuilding lifestyle kept me safe from the fear of her rejection. The routine had become me, and I had become the routine. Yet some small part of me, the part I feared, was screaming to escape the monotonously distant and robotic existence that I had unintentionally created.

Side090708After she left and moved out of my life, I spent countless weeks ping-ponging between denial and anger. Only later to be accompanied by bouts of severe depression. I could not fathom, for the life of me, how a person of her magnitude could come into my life and eventually betray my trust. Her departure was too much for my brain to handle. It was a near fatal system error that threatened to completely crash my internal hard drive. None of it seemed to make sense. It was as if with a mere flick of a switch, life as I knew it had flat-lined. Even still, I could not escape the projection reel in my mind playing the same loop of dead memories over and over again. In complete solitude, I was left with the pain of knowing she was GONE. I had a hand in her leaving. It made me more sick emotionally than I’ve ever felt. The worst part of it all wasn’t losing her, it was losing me.

Thoreau once said, “Not til we are lost, do we begin to find ourselves”. It is in life’s darkest moments that we discover within ourselves an inextinguishable light. So maybe I briefly forgot just who I was. We all do from time to time. There are times when you must, you will, when having nothing else to fall back on. I was in sad shape and everyday was a constant battle to love myself enough to move forward. I knew I needed help. I received some counseling and started uncovering some long forgotten boxes of emotion I had stored away in the depths of my soul for years. Little by little I revealed secrets of a lost self I had suppressed and tried desperately to believe were in my past. It never occurred to me that much like storing belongings in a dark basement, one must process those feelings eventually. Otherwise they are stored and never leave you until one day you find yourself drowning in your own repression. I was scared. I was scared to think that I may never feel the same way again. I was even more scared to allow love back into my life and allow it to ever happen again. I took things one day at a time, sometimes by the hour or even minute. Then came a turning point… I mourned her loss.

Up until that point, I had this preconceived notion I needed to be strong, at all times. After all, what kind of fraud would I be if I couldn’t get over my own broken heart. I was told multiple times by several acquaintances that it was in the past, I just needed to forget and move on — Simple right? I had forced myself to become so busy, I never had any rest. I had things to do. I had no time to feel weak. One day I got so sick, and so tired of being sick and tired, I just gave in. I finally gave myself permission to fully live in the moment and feel something. I felt the frustration, I felt the impatience with my own recovery. I cried out and got as angry as I needed about not having my needs met. The flood of emotions overcame me. Reminiscent of the scene in ‘Forest Gump’ where Captain Dan is high atop the sail mast cursing at God during the storm… yeah, life can be pretty stormy at times. But, as it’s been said, every storm eventually runs out of rain. Just like Captain Dan’s, so did mine, and with it came acceptance. Once I accepted and embraced my loss, it clicked for me. The more I resist my feelings, the more those feelings will persist. Resist long enough and those feelings will grow into resentment, and just like any emotional burden, the end result is baggage we carry.

After I had surrendered and completely processed my feelings, I was free at last. What emerged was a man who had a greater respect for his own childhood wounds. By acknowledging my past, it had forced me to reevaluate those inner demons which had played a role in defining myself as a person – feeling devalued. I bounced back and got in the zone of what made me feel alive again; enriching the lives of others. I was not cured, nor was I fixed, but I was at peace knowing I found the insight and courage needed to shift momentum from being obsessed to a more balanced and compassionate person. I became more accepting of my faults, understanding my journey would not stop there. In fact, dieting down to do this upcoming photo shoot I mention has me on edge as it has a very familiar unhinged feel to it. It’s okay, I’m now aware to these feelings. My faith is bigger than my fears. My heart now stronger than my heartbreak, I’ll continue on. A constant work in progress, as we all are. Resolve to embrace those suppressed feelings deep inside. It does not make you weak. Seek ways let go and be free too. True strength is not giving up on yourself when life gives you every reason to do otherwise. That’s what makes us champions. With this new found determination, I have been able to face more of my own fears. I can better appreciate that difficulty and challenges create opportunity in life. The whole experience has encouraged me to be more transparent and a better role model for those I mentor. Thankfully through God’s grace I’m able to share a story that may begin to open some dialogue and promote the healing process for the ones who are desperate for something more. Be well my friends.

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One Response to Embracing Emotional Growth

  1. julie bower says:

    Love this and all so true.

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