The Gym Is My Salvation
Stabilizing Bipolar Disorder Through Fitness, Nutrition, Meds and Music
Some people would call it a “rant.” I call it an arch-nemesis. Yes, people sometimes can be crippled by their own condition. Only if you’re a fighter can you make it. I spent the earlier years of my life during my childhood as “cryin’ Ryan.” That’s actually what my late grandfather used to call me as a child because I cried so much. Even as a two-year-old, I was moody. It could’ve been the bout of spinal meningitis that caused my bipolar I disorder, but it’s genetic.
Bipolar and unipolar depression run on both sides of my family. When I turned the tender age of ten, I found my behavior to be quite odd. I’d go on binges where I’d starve myself until I had a Catholic school teacher give me a Snickers bar. I would retreat into the mountains a lot, as I’m from California (though I live in Illinois). It has been a battle ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar-I with psychotic features. I’ve had fifteen to twenty hospitalizations and am fortunate to be on my mother’s health insurance.
As much as it troubled me as an adolescent, I was always active in sports—until I got into the later years of high school. My most memorable class was weight training. It just clicked with me. The working out and the walks, runs, sprints as a kid kept me athletic throughout my life. This is what has helped me stay in shape while being on 8-9 medications a day. I choose a sort of diet that’s healthy and take my anti-oxidants, knowing that the medication side effects on the long-term can take a toll.
Most of the time I would be battling with the illness and then go work out when I was able to drag myself to the gym. I also suffered from the effects of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) for two years. Yes, it helped my severe depression, but ECT rampaged my memory, so my short-term is very bad, but my long-term is intact, thanks to the effects of Acetyl L-Carnitine. I only take a few supplements, just high amounts of anti-oxidants.
I’d say the biggest battle for me besides depression is education. I spent four years at a city college and was at a junior level status at the university since I moved. I’m doing my Bachelor of Arts next because I just got my Associates degree and need employment that is good enough to cover my medication, doctor visits, hospitalizations (if I have any more) and ongoing therapy to help me cope with day to day issues.
I’m 37 now and feel like a dinosaur trying to get mediocre jobs. I’m currently on disability and will be for the rest of my life, but I’ll still have my education behind me that no one can take away from me. Please, no more ECT. The lithium plus the other pills that I take for my illness help regulate my moods so that I don’t have the severity in mood swings. I have a few friends here in Illinois, but they’re living their lives which makes it difficult to get together with them.
I’d much like to consider myself a success story as I always strive to stay in shape by hitting the gym six days a week. I’ve contemplated bodybuilding, but would never put a steroid in me even though I’ve been lifting more on than off for the past twenty-plus years. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be physically, but I’m getting closer to my goal. The family support I receive has been fantastic. My step-dad and mother are wonderful to me. So again, I’ll remain a success story no longer plagued with disease even though I’ll have it for the rest of my life. Thanks for listening. Be sure to visit my heavy metal website, http://www.secret-face.com/, to view my writing and guitar transcriptions.