How I Beat Depression and Lost 100 Pounds
This is a post about the illogical condition of depression. It is going to start with a moment in time that I consider my lowest point. This is the first time I have ever admitted that I felt this way to anyone. It gets a little sad. Then it is going to get a lot more upbeat. And we are all going to walk away from it with a valuable lesson. K? Alright. Chill.
I Got Friends in Low Places
January 20, 2012
I sit starring at my Pros and Cons list on the yellow legal pad.
But I wasn’t deciding what college to attend, what color to paint my room or what job to take, I was deciding if life was really worth it.
At the top of the page I had written “Life” then separated the page in to two columns. On the left side, it read Pros. And that was it. The column was emptier than a Free Aaron Hernandez rally. I got a blank space too, TSwift. But I am not writing your name there (full disclosure: if I were to do this exercise today, Taylor would make it in to the Pros column).
On the right side, it read Cons. And a bulleted list with something to the effect of:
- I am fat.
- I am ugly.
- I thought I was smart but have you seen these other kids at Berkeley?
- I don’t have a job lined up.
- I don’t have X, Y OR Z. I mean I don’t even have fucking Z, man. What the fuck is this life worth if after 21-years on this planet I don’t have Z. (It is worth mentioning that I am not referring to the actual letter Z. Like I had the letter Z. Z is a placeholder for any want or desire that I misconstrued to be a need. I can’t believe I had to explain that to you. Jesus.)
- Each individual member of Nickelback has most likely accumulated more wealth last year than I will over my entire lifetime.
The exercise is depressing and indicative of the way that I used to see the world. Depression had officially taken over my life. I felt alone. Looking back on it, I was afraid to talk to anyone because I figured I would hear something to the effect of “you are a tall, white, middle class man, what the fuck do you have to complain about? You know there are starving children in [insert part of world] who would kill for your [insert opportunity that this person perceived I was wasting].” That is a logical argument. However, depression is not logical. I was sad. And I had a lot of feelings. I decide to take a walk to think it over.
I lumber my three hundred pound frame down the street. And man, do I mean lumber. Anyone who has ever been 300 pounds can tell you, that you don’t exactly move swiftly when you are that size. I guess anyone who has ever seen someone who is 300 pounds can make that assertion as well. Unless we are talking about an NFL lineman, some of those genetic muscle lobsters can really fly. But for me, every step is a task. Your knees are like “Dude seriously? Why did you have to get up? We were having a great time watching that Burn Notice marathon. Plus we are really interested to see how Michael Westen makes it out of this predicament!” Pedestrians seem to always be watching you as if you are some sort of National Geographic special. Following you around with a camera crew. Watching you graze at the local McDonalds. Half a mile in, drenched in sweat, I stop for a snack. Because…you know, I am fat. That’s my thing.
I stand patiently waiting for the cashier to enable my addiction when a wild hot girl appears. She is the kind of attractive where you feel like the word “hot” really does not do her justice. Your mind wanders to better words to describe her. Scrumptious? Ok, Hannibal Lecter. Calm down. You are clearly hungry. Order your bagel and we will come up with a better word as you sit there eating by yourself, Steven Glansberg.
“Can I get a chocolate chip bagel?”
“Like he needs that” the angelic figure behind me whispers to her friend.
I hear her. Unprovoked character assassination from a stranger. Fuck. That hurt. Like I needed your help being depressed, lady. I was just making a pros and cons list about whether or not life is worth living and you hit me with this shit? And did you have to be that hot? You are almost as hot as the bottom of my laptop. Seriously, how many millions of my future children has this laptop of mine incinerated as it has rested on my lap typing this blog post? Is that what you measure sperm in? Millions of future children? Its alright. I don’t need a million kids. I currently don’t even need one. God, having a child sounds terrifying right now. Where were we? Oh yea, that girl just told me I was fat. It hits home. I am overwhelmed with a wave of hating myself. I cancel my order and walk out. Ashamed, I head down the street when I come upon the BART station. An awful idea comes to mind. I mindlessly abide to my impulses. I walk through the turnstiles. And head down to the platform with no destination in mind other than the relief I believe exists by jumping on to those tracks.
The BART platform is the physical embodiment of déjà vu. A twilight zone of sorts. I already know what to expect. I will be approached by an entire family carrying buckets that they plan on using as drums to play some Gospel hip hop music. They will tell me their mother died. They need money for food. I will be approached by a young man in dreadlocks. He will tell me that he is raising money for his high school basketball team so that they can go to a tournament in Vegas. He has told me this same story for the last four years. I am starting to think there is no basketball tournament. I give him the dollar in my pocket because he makes me feel uncomfortable. There is a sales lesson in there somewhere.
The familiar BART horn and accompanied screeching comes in to focus. I am wrestling with this unfamiliar feeling of giving up. I think I am going to do this. Just jump right in front of it. That will be it. The screech is getting louder. This shit is getting real. Thanks, Doppler Effect. It was a lot easier to think about than do. I close my eyes. Start to take in the smells. AXE body spray. Four Loko. Stale piss. I think of my family. Not because of those aforementioned smells. That’s just the way minds work sometimes. Hopping hopelessly from concept to concept with no real rhyme or reason. But the image of my family is clear. I miss them. I love them. Whatever love means. When I open my eyes, I realize I cannot do it. Not today. The train comes rushing passed me.
Fuck. I am not even good at this whole killing myself thing. Siri, add that to my Cons column.
Telephone, not the hit song by Lady Gaga
I walk out of the underground railway system that I was momentarily convinced was going to be my tomb. I see the bus that heads home. Well at least I have some good luck today. I board the bus. I don’t have my ID card. I don’t have money either. I gave that to the imaginary basketball team… I have to walk home. Jesus Christ, talk about a walk of shame.
I walk. One foot in front of the other. Concentrating hard on every step. Trying to not think about what just happened. Unfortunately, when you tell yourself “don’t think about it”, all you can do is think about “it.” My self deprecating thoughts permeate outward via my body language. Head down. Shoulders slouched. It feels like there is a cloud following me. Like in that Zoloft commercial. Watch that video. I love the little animation that gives you a crash course in neuroscience. OH so THATS how chemical imbalances work?! Thanks, Zoloft! The walk is characterized by feelings that I cannot put in to words. Nothing looks like I remember it. Cracks in the sidewalk. Deteriorating facades on homes. Bodies laying, sleeping on the sidewalk. Contorted in to unnatural positions that could not be comfortable. I couldn’t imagine walking a mile in their shoes, because they don’t have any. I am lost in thought, pondering the amount of pain in the world. Just then, my pants begin to vibrate.
I am receiving a call. It is my childhood best friend. He wants to say hey. He had recently gone through a life transformation himself, losing about an Olympic gold medal Chinese gymnast worth of weight. We go through the pleasantries that are associated with any conversation. And then it turns to how I feel depressed. I don’t tell him about my experience at the BART station. I tell him about how hard my life is. He listens. He’s good at that. I get through my entire sob story and there is silence. Silence that felt like an eternity. The kind of silence that Simon and Garfunkel would write an entire song about. Then he says “well what are you doing about it?”
I am caught off guard. Usually people just listen to my story and then say “its ok. you will get through this. You’re a good person. blah blah blah” No one ever really calls me on my shit. I am stunned. Because the answer is “Same thing I do every night. Nothing.” But instead I ask for clarification, “what do you mean?” I said incredulously. And he responds with a quote that will stick with me for the rest of my life: “Its not rocket surgery. If you want something to change, you have to do something different.”
I was speechless. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation because that was like three years ago, but I remember this overwhelming feeling of God dammit he is right, I have done nothing to change this. I guess I can call this an “A-ha moment.” You know the kind of moment you have during Law and Order when you figure out that the first guy they fingered (lol fingered) for the crime was completely innocent and it was really Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the butter knife? That was a Clue reference.
To this day, I cannot shake the connection I make between that phone call and the fundamental changes I began to make in my life. A profound change had occurred within me. To be super dramatic about it, the old me died and a new me was reborn. Ew. I hate when people say things like that. Can I get a redo? How about this: from that day forward I vowed to stop being a bitch. Alright. That sounds a lot more hard. Like go hard in the paint, hard. Not like boner hard. My life was about to change. (As a disclaimer, this is what worked for me. I don’t recommend walking around and telling everyone who you believe needs to hear it that they should stop being a bitch.)
Performing Rocket Surgery
Awareness. That was the gift my best friend gave me that day. He gave it to me straight and it helped me become aware of my learned helplessness. I make the realization that I spend more time feeling bad for myself than actually doing something to change my condition. Looking back on it, I realize now that I would do things like ask “how am I supposed to lose weight?” in between bites of my third burrito. Like seriously my third burrito. As in, I ate three burritos that day. And then I would wash it down with an Amped energy drink because for whatever reason I was always tired. Probably because of the massive blood sugar spikes from eating three burritos…What a vicious cycle.
So from that day forward, I decided to take action and forget about how “hard” life is. First I got a goal in mind: Lose 100 pounds. And then I started taking actions to reach that goal. I started with salad. Eat more salads. Everyone knows that salad is good for you. Just no one eats it cause when given the option between fried chicken and salad, any self respecting male would pick fried chicken. Eat a salad. Easy, right? In my opinion, no. Not at all.
Literally the worst part about losing weight is the lag time between being unhealthy with healthy habits and being healthy. You cannot help but feel like everyone is judging you when you make a single healthy decision. Order a salad at the restaurant and its not “good for that guy trying to lose weight”, it is “look at the fat guy eating the salad.” It is at this point that I start to realize how counter productive it is to think about what other people think of you. Sometimes you just have to shut up and eat the fucking salad.
So I start with eating salads. That commitment to a new healthy habit began to take root. Then I would slowly add more things in. Make sure to walk 10 minutes a day. Replace sugary snacks with vegetables and fruit, lift weights, etc… Slowly, but surely, healthy living just started to take hold. And then before you knew it, one day I woke up and I had lost 100 pounds. I can still remember the first time that I looked at a mirror and smiled at what I saw. I cried a little that day.
So that is how I beat depression and lost 100 pounds. It was really as simple as that. It was not rocket surgery. The first step, is honestly just the realization that change is possible.There is more to the formula that I will lay out in a future post. I would do it here, but I am pretty emotionally drained.
I promised to make this a little more upbeat towards the end so let me think of a story that I can tell to help make you laugh…oh I know one.
Unrelated story to lighten mood
We join our hero after he has come to the realization that he needs to go to the DMV. There is no getting around it. So he makes a plan. He is going to show up as soon as they open and get it done as quickly as possible. What could possibly go wrong?
Rule 1 of the DMV: Never underestimate the DMV.
I pull up to the Oakland DMV 15 minutes before it opens. Joke is on me, 30 people had the same idea and got here 30 minutes before it opens. I pout all the way to the back of the line. Coffee in hand. Copy of my birth certificate ready to prove that I am who I thought I was. A quick hour later, I am at the front of the line explaining that I would like 1 California ID, please. Hold the sass. The latter part of my order goes unnoticed. She gives me extra sass.
She tells me I do not have all of the proper forms of ID and she will get the manager to see what we can do. But for the time being she needs me to go stand over in this other line while I wait. I oblige. After me was a gentleman who had a simple, reasonable request. He wanted to get his license unsuspended right now. Oh wait, thats not reasonable at all. Regardless of the number of money he is willing to spend to make this happen, the woman can not help him. He does not understand why the woman behind the desk is “playing with his life” right now. He is mad. He clearly does not have Gladware tupperware.
He continues asking to no one in particular “why are you playing with my life?” He is ushered to my line to wait for the manager. That is when I come to the realization that this line is like the land of misfit toys. They tell you to go here so that they can bring a person in who specializes in letting you down. A professional Debbie Downer of the DMV, if you will. She is a lot of fun at parties. The disgruntled man continues to question the DMVs best practices when out of nowhere, the man in front of me in the land of misfit toys proclaims “man why you tripping?” The man with the suspended license looks back at the inquisitive man in front of me and states “Trippin? You want to see me trip?” He pulls up his shirt to reveal a hand gun in his waistband. Brandishing a firearm in public? Bold startegy Cotton, lets see if it pays off for him.
I am frozen. I take a sip of my coffee and anxiously await what happens next. The security guard motions over toward our group. Jesus. This is how it ends. Not with a bang. But at the Oakland DMV.
The guard is three feet away from us now and she is pointing at my hand. I look down at the coffee in my hand then back up to the security guard. We make eye contact and she says “Sorry sir, you can’t have drinks in here.”
Safety first. I take it as a sign. I go home.
Never. Underestimate. The DMV.
Ok are we laughing now? Now I feel a little bit better about this post.
Recap and Path Forward
Man. This one took a lot out of me. Reliving that moment in the BART station actually had me tearing up. But it really did help me put some things in perspective. It helped me remember that depression is temporary. Those feelings of helplessness that I felt on the platform nearly 3 years ago seem so foreign to me now.
It feels good to finally tell people about that dark time period. A large part of me cannot believe I finally “manned up” and published this. The only other time I tried to tell people about it was during a best man speech for my best friend who had called me on the phone that fateful day. When I went to talk, the words did not seem to come out. I sat there and mumbled and fumbled and ended with the line from Forrest Gump “I am not a smart man but I know what love is.” Hopefully this makes up for it? Probably not. At least we have video footage of me looking like an ass clown?
It has also helped me see that I have the same patterns of learned helplessness in other areas of my life right now that I had surrounding weight loss in 2012. I am going to be correcting these. Spoiler alert: thats the next post.
From now on, I am going to be posting something every Tuesday. Sign up for the blog mailing list here! See you on Tuesday!