Sometimes, obstacles seem so huge and our dreams feel like they are beyond our reach, no matter how hard we try and how much we want them to become reality. I'm here to tell you that with the right tools and some hard work, NOTHING is impossible.
I am a permanently disabled veteran with both physical and mental disabilities, primarily severe Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, PTSD and Depression. When I came home from the service, after working with NATO forces during the Bosnian War, things got very bad for me as guilt, bad memories and ever-worsening symptoms took more and more control of my life. I put myself through college and tried to live a normal life working full-time, but all my problems eventually overwhelmed me.
My life reached a point where I became unable to leave my house to take a simple walk around the block... and I am still unable to do so. I can not leave my house alone anymore and even then, I rarely go anywhere but doctor appointments or to locations within a few miles of my home for short periods of time. I haven't been able to drive anywhere in two and a half years. At the same time, I gained weight... a lot of weight. I went from the 165 lbs I was in Navy boot camp and training to the 478 lbs I weighed at my heaviest. Exactly one year ago, I weighed 458 lbs.
I believed I was a lost cause, falling deeper and deeper into the pit of self-loathing and despair, without any hope. A decade and a half of working with at least 10-15 doctors, trying different medicines and therapies, but nothing helped me. I still visited my doctors each week and met new ones who promised they could help but never could, I tried new medicines that only made me worse, but in my heart, I had no faith in them anymore and each time another effort failed, it chipped away at my soul. I didn’t believe I would ever be able to contribute anything productive to society again and for a guy like me, that was a horrible realization.
If you were me, would you have given up? I did. One year ago today, I woke up in the morning with a bleak outlook for what the day would hold- sadness, fighting off panic attacks and then finally sleep somewhere around 2-3am. Then I got a very unexpected phone call from one of my idols, a professional wrestler named ‘Diamond’ Dallas Page, or DDP for short. I’d been a fan of wrestling since I was kid and my dad introduced me to matches with guys like Verne Gagne, Nick Bockwinkle and Lou Thesz. I began watching WWE (then known as WWF) and I was hooked. DDP came on the scene years later in my early adulthood, but I was always a fan because while he portrayed the outlandish style typical in professional wrestling, he also gave the feeling of being just a regular guy. I connected with who he was and I followed his career.
After he left wrestling due to some severe injuries, he began helping others with the DDP YOGA workouts he created and he did some amazing things. My admiration for DDP was cemented when I saw a video of how he had helped a fellow veteran named Arthur Boorman, a former Army paratrooper with severe physical disabilities related to his service. A man who dedicates himself to helping fellow veterans is an Earthbound angel in my book. So, in a last ditch effort, I reached out to DDP in the form of a simple video I made and sent him, figuring I would never hear from him but at least, maybe he would see it and know how much I appreciated the things he’s done.
Something very different happened and on January 4, 2013 I received a call from DDP himself. He gave me his personal cell number, his personal email and he made me an offer. He said that he couldn’t promise to fix everything that was wrong in my life, but he could help me lose weight and get healthier to be around for my family. He promised me that if I tried his program of DDP YOGA and I put in the work, he would support me every step of the way and he would be there to talk to me and help me anytime
I needed him. I didn’t believe I could lose the weight, but I accepted the offer anyway and swore to give it my best effort, which is exactly what I did. DDP also stuck to his end of the agreement and over the past year, he has gone from being this hero I admired to one of my closest friends. He has never sugarcoated anything and when I was doing something wrong, he told me. At the same time, when I wasn’t comfortable with something, I told him.
I wish I could tell you that DDP YOGA has made everything better and fixed all my problems, but that’s not the case. It would be unrealistic to expect ANY diet or exercise regime to fix all the ills of our life and sometimes, we are presented with mountains we can not surmount, despite the cutesy self-help slogans you might see. It’s my personal belief that in those situations, we can still win if we climb as high as possible on that mountain and find a way to keep our footings, to set up camp. Winning isn’t always beating every obstacle, sometimes it’s learning to live with those obstacles and not letting them take away our hope for the possibility of climbing even higher or maybe one day, actually surmounting them. Yes, I still suffer with my disabilities every day and fighting off panic attacks are just as much a part of my daily routine as laying in bed with my mind racing, reliving memories I’d rather forget and eventually falling asleep in the wee hours of the night. BUT, and this is a big BUT (pardon the pun), I am now doing it 126 lbs lighter than a year ago, with 63.5 inches of sheer body mass gone.
DDP and his DDP YOGA did exactly what he promised me it could do, it helped me lose weight, get healthy and as a huge plus, it gave me the ability to become at least a little productive again. I may not be able to work full-time anymore, but from my home, I can be a strong advocate for food banks across America and around the world, and I am proud to have used my ‘Donate My Weight’ campaign to raise over 40,500 pounds of food for those food banks. In the last two months alone, during a special Holiday Challenge that DDP and I oversaw together, we raised 8,325 pounds of food.
My life may not be perfect, or anywhere near what I had hoped it would be when I was younger, but I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish despite the obstacles that have been placed in my way. DDP will always be a special friend and as long as I am able, I will shout from the rooftops and promote DDP Yogo. Thank you for taking the time to read this.