Denis Paradis Photography | Darkness to Better Days Ahead

Darkness to Better Days Ahead

April 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Earlier in January I was asked to provide a client’s story for Catalyst Fitness. I was honoured and surprised to have been asked to write my story because at the time I had only been going to the gym for a few months. In my story ( I discussed how the coaches and people of catalyst have been welcoming, encouraging and inspirational. I spoke of how they are a family here. I also stated that “my self-confidence and mental toughness continues to grow along with my strength and endurance.” While everything I stated was truth, I wasn’t completely telling the whole story. I’d like to use this space to tell the rest of the story. I need to tell the rest of the story because it has been bothering me that I couldn't tell the truth at the time. I was ashamed to talk about the state I was in. I felt weak and that I wasn't acting the way a dad or a man should. No longer. 

I'll go back to the few months and more likely the last few years prior to joining Catalyst. Things were heading in a bad direction for me. My personal relationship with my girlfriend was deteriorating, quickly. Being part of the minor hockey executive, which had been a source of frustrating enjoyment for the last few years, was taken away from me. My employment had felt increasingly stagnant and suffocating. Photography, which was my true passion didn’t interest me any longer even if I went through the motions. My workout routine had become a challenge as what I was doing was extremely boring. Most importantly was that I still hadn’t looked myself in the eye and properly dealt with the loss of my wife Lisa in 2010. I always carried the burden of guilt whenever I started to feel that I may be happy with life. Sure, I had learned to adapt, put on a brave face and went through life like all was ok. The reality is that I woke up every morning hoping to make it through the day and went to bed most nights already regretting the next day. This not only affected me but also those most important to me. I was pushing away the ones who cared most for me and more importantly I was withdrawing into the darkness of what I can only imagine was depression. My motivation for anything was becoming non-existent.

I was spending more and more time alone and was getting used to feeling down. I felt like a child stuck behind a large heavy curtain and that curtain was a dark place. The thought of being with people caused my anxiety levels to increase and my self-confidence to quickly diminish. These two combined meant I wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating properly and had lost more weight than I had intended although at the time I thought it was a result of taking up running. I knew I was heading to a bad place. Fortunately, last September I decided I had to do something about where I was headed before it became real serious. I made an appointment to see my family physician to discuss what was going on. I barely held myself together during the appointment. Under his advice I took some time off work to focus on myself and deal with what was troubling me. I got some informal counselling through talking to friends and family which led me to understand that I am allowed to be happy. I couldn't control what happened with Lisa, I could only deal with the situation handed to my family and I. I finally began to understand that I did what I had to do and that while it was a bad situation, I had done my part to honour our vows. 

The doctor also told me that physical activity was a great way to help yourself through dark times. I had decided that I needed to be in group environment to force myself to be around other people again. As I stated in my client story I had some experience with Catalyst, so I knew Coop and Ty to be great guys. I stopped in and it was suggested that I sign up for the On Ramp program which I did. I started with five 30 minutes sessions of individual coaching which was great for knowledge and experience. However, I still felt alone even though Coach Jess did an awesome job in making me feel welcomed and assured me that I was progressing well. I almost quit after the second and third sessions but forced myself to continue mostly because of the positive and encouraging attitude Jess displayed at each session. I reminded myself constantly that the goal was to get to the group environment.  

Upon getting ready to attend my first class the anxiety level increased because I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do what was required to be a “Cross-Fitter”. I was afraid I was beyond my physical prime and was headed towards not only physical failure but also mental failure if I couldn't do it. I was even more afraid of not being accepted by the others at the gym but I’ll cover this point later. I remember not sleeping the night before I had planned to go to the gym. This would continue for the next few sessions. I would check the SugarWOD app on my phone at 3 am, 4 am, and 5 am waiting until I could see what the workout that day was. At first if I felt I couldn’t do something in the workout I would reschedule to the next day. Little by little the fear dissipated as my knowledge and experience increased. Looking back, the three things that made the difference was that I was learning technique, what weight to use and most importantly knowing that I was always short changing my limitations. Heck there was also a whole new language to learn. AMRAP, EMOM, SDHP, T2B, WOD etc. (Google these if you are not familiar) Thirty plus years working in the government and I thought that there was no way anyone could use more acronyms than us. I was wrong. I still look at my phone before heading to the box (what they call a CrossFit gym) to see the day’s workout but now it’s to see what mental and physical challenges I will happily overcome for that day. I’m no longer afraid I won’t be successful because I’ve learned that as long as I’m moving I am already a success.

As for the fear of not being accepted? That went away rather quickly. At my first noon hour class everyone came over to introduce themselves. During the workout I received nothing but encouragement. At the end there was nothing but congrats and high fives. There was no judgement on how poorly the WOD had went for me, there was no self-absorbed people staring in the mirror to see if there had been any growth in their muscles from that day’s work out. (FYI, the only mirrors there are in the bathrooms). In the beginning, every time I was planning to attend another session I argued with myself whether I was going to go back.  I always gave it one more try because I was made to feel welcomed and comfortable. This scenario kept repeating itself to where I went from going twice a week, to three times a week to where I now go as often as possible. Being made to feel comfortable wasn’t just my story. I’ve been there long enough now to have seen it happen time and time again. I like to think that I am now part of the welcoming committee, always happy to see new faces at the noon hour group, always there to cheer on the others sweating it out with me.

As for me, things are better. I’m learning to lower myself off the hook of guilt. I’m learning to like myself again and feel that I once again have something to offer to those close to me. I still have bad days but they seem to have become less frequent. My personal relationship has taken some work and a few adjustments but it’s getting better and better. My overall attitude is better so work, being work, is better. Life is looking and feeling better for me. I have a lot of exciting short term goals that I am looking forward to over the next little while. Camping season is near and I plan to get my kayak and camera gear out again so I can once again enjoy the miracles of nature.

In summary, I owe a lot of thanks to my family and loved ones for sticking with me through this. I also feel that I need to say thanks to the great people, both coaches and members, of Catalyst. You all helped me get out from behind the curtain of darkness, for that I am extremely thankful. So now when you hear me talk non-stop about Catalyst and CrossFit you may have a better understanding of why it’s so important to me and why I speak so highly of my Catalyst family.  There are none better. #wegotthis 


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