I have suffered from a pretty serious depressive illness since I was about 13 years old. Since then it has manifested itself in many different ways; which as of about 3 years ago started to include eating disorders. In the past 3 years I have suffered from both anorexia and bulimia. At one point these disorders left me weighing in at under 9 stone, which at 17 years old and 5’11” is well below what could ever be considered healthy. I was probably close to the point of needing to be hospitalised as I was painfully skinny and eating probably not even one whole meal a day and performing cardiovascular exercise almost every day.
Then it happened. My brother, who has been weight-lifting for about 8 years, took me aside and told me that he was worried about what I was doing to myself. To prove his point he grabbed my thigh with his hand and could almost get his hand all the way around it. He looked me straight in the eye and told me he was going to start taking me to the gym and sort out my eating habits so I could “beef” up a bit. Since my first weights session with him I was addicted. I loved the sense of accomplishment I got from completing a hard workout and pushing myself to try and lift more. It took a lot longer for me to get my head around that I need to eat more but it happened eventually and admittedly the fact that his PhD shakes he was giving me tasted so good also helped. Bit by bit I adjusted to eating more and within a few months there was a noticeable weight difference.
So now it’s about two and a half years later and I still have very serious issues relating to my body and self-image but now I’m attacking the problem with a clean diet and intense weights routine rather than starving myself. The deep lying problems still persist but now the gym offers an escape route for me and something I can channel my energy into and focus on when times are tough. I feel most alive when it’s just me and the gym. When I’m in the zone and focusing on pushing out those last few reps all the negatives in life melt away and it’s simply me versus the iron.
My friends and family now see me as some “fitness nut” who is obsessed with the gym and his body. To a degree they are absolutely correct but when I think about the other option it seems like the only way. I have still got a long way to go before I get my body anywhere near what I want it to be, but now at least what I am working towards is a very healthy, strong physique which brings all kinds of health benefits with it.
To do this day I have not found a better way of coping with my depression than the gym. It gives me a rush and energy that can’t be matched by anything else. I would say to anyone who is going through a rough time or is even just stressed that the gym offers a release valve that can help you cope with whatever life throws at you.
I’m now 19 and have completed my first year of study at St.Andrew’s University, getting on the Dean’s List of Excellence in the process. I’m certain that the gym saved my life, without it I have no idea how far my eating order and depression would have gone and now I can’t ever see myself looking back.
Here is a photo of me from 2009 compared to me now!