From severe chronic pain and morbid obesity to a joyful bike rider!
When you look at the picture below, you see a regular guy riding a bicycle; and that would be correct. I am pretty much just a regular guy doing a regular, everyday activity. However, this wasn’t always the case. What you don’t see in this picture is a former morbidly obese, depressed, angry guy in severe, chronic pain.
When dystonia entered my life, everything stopped, or seemed to stop, as everything I did was no longer possible for me to continue. Work couldn’t be done. My masters degree that I was pursuing at the time quickly became a lost dream, I couldn’t travel…heck, I could barely sit or stand without crying pain.
Because of my sedentary lifestyle with disabling pain, a terrible diet, and medicating myself with alcohol, I gained a lot of weight. I was well over 300 pounds, a long way from the 190 pounds I weighed when dystonia began. I was a recluse, holing myself up in my house for years, embarrassed and ashamed at what my life had become.
Five years after my diagnosis, I reached a point where I was afraid I might die from the punitive lifestyle I chose for myself; all done for the purpose of avoiding my physical and emotional pain, but my escape actually made me worse so it was a fruitless endeavor. A decision had to be made; continue this destructive lifestyle and suffer the consequences, or make a change a get busy living. I chose to live. I wanted a different life and would do anything to make it happen. Each day I took baby steps by exercising and changing my diet. Each day I added more things to lose weight and also gain greater control of my dystonia symptoms. I am proud to say that I have lost around 150 pounds and kept it off!
Unfortunately, I developed some problems in my back that made walking uncomfortable (my main form of exercise), so I took to riding a bike to get around the neighborhood. I felt like a kid again so I began to ride further. Wow it felt good! While I don’t go very far, maybe a few miles, I do enough to get my heart rate up and break a sweat. Some days I will really push it and get in a good workout, while other days I will roll around and just enjoy the scenery, something I missed out on for way too many years.
To everyone who sees me riding a bike that doesn’t know my story of pain, obesity, and on the verge of suicide, I am just another person out getting some exercise. This is true, but what they don’t know is that this is a guy who almost wasn’t even here at all. Most importantly, they don’t see the immense internal joy I now feel just to be able to sit on the bike again, let alone ride it!
So grateful to be alive, I love riding around and seeing a fox run by or a rabbit staring at me from the bushes thinking it is camouflaged and I can’t see it. I love seeing the colors of the sky change in the evening as I ride. I love feeling the wind on my face, the way the bike banks on turns, and how my heart feels beating through my chest; things I never thought I would experience again after my diagnosis…ever!!
To anyone looking at this picture it appears that I am just a guy out enjoying a bike ride…and you are absolutely correct. Even though I still have pain and muscle contractions/spasms from dystonia, for the first time in years, without worry or fear, I am finally just a guy out enjoying the ride…the ride of his life!
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.