This article is very personal to me and contains some pretty messed up things from my life.  I wrote it because I wanted to show people that there shouldn't be any excuses. There are things in our lives that we just have to deal with, but they don't limit what we can achieve. There are plenty of problems in the world, but every problem has a solution if you work hard enough on it.

I also thought this article might help people who deal with bipolar disorder, narcolepsy, sleep issues or depression by letting them know that there are others out there dealing with the same things. I hope that it might give them ideas to find their own solutions, at least when it comes to training.  If you don't have to deal with any of these issues, maybe you will read something that might help someone you know and care about. This article is a bit long and will be posted in three parts. I hope that you'll take the time to read it, and I hope you find motivation or education in it in some way.

Anyone who has halfway kept up with my lifting over the years knows that I've had many struggles with my sleep and with depression. I've written about these things and have done my best to be very open about it for a few reasons. I originally started because I think everything in our lives affects our training. I wanted to help other lifters get stronger and avoid the mistakes that I've made. I wanted to show people that you don't have to let obstacles stop you. You just have to figure ways around them. I also kept writing about these things because I received a lot of positive responses over the years. These ranged from healthy people who just found it motivating to people who also suffer from similar things and found it nice to know that they weren't alone and could still achieve great things. I haven't written too much about these issues lately, but recently I received some new information and actually new diagnoses that shed some light on things for me. This information has me looking back over my past and looking to the future. What could I have done better with this information and how will it change what I do in the future? As I move forward, keeping these issues in control will definitely be the best thing for me and maybe my experiences can help others do better themselves, too.


I've been thinking a lot about writing this article, and I feel like the best place to start is to talk about what it's like to deal with these issues. So I'll start with my sleep issues and how my sleep has never been good. Thinking back, I realized that it all started around the fifth grade because that was about the time when I began to find it almost impossible to stay awake in school. It was from that point on that I slept in every class up through and including college. At one point in high school, my favorite teacher sat down with me before school and asked if she could ask me a question. I said sure, and she said, “Chad, you sleep in my class every day. Don't you like it?”

I felt horrible because she was my favorite teacher and that was saying a lot because I hated most of the teachers. I told her that it was my favorite class, but I just couldn't stay awake in any class. On a funny note, I used to yell at teachers if they tried to wake me up. It could be a simple, very pissed off “what?!” or if I was in a talking mood, “What do you want?!'' They usually wouldn't ask me again after that!

I had a bit of an attitude and figured if I stayed on the honor roll by teaching myself, they should be happy that I make their job easier. It was one less person they had to teach. I had to keep my grades up to play sports and to keep everyone off my back, so I would go home and read the chapters while doing the questions. For math, I did the work that had the answers and basically taught myself by reverse engineering the problems. You do what you have to do, and sports was plenty of motivation for me to get better grades.

In my twenties after school, I still struggled with my sleep. When I worked in physical therapy, I always tried to work out with the patients or make their therapy something where we were both moving. If I had to sit down to go over exercises with them, I would dose off.

Around this time, I also realized that if I didn't sleep in really late at least one day every other weekend, my life would go to shit. I started to get massive migraine headaches, things would get hard to understand, I would get very irritated and life would just get hard to deal with. This whole time though I never realized that I had sleep problems. Honestly, I just thought that I was being a puss. I figured everyone struggled at night, woke up a ton and always felt exhausted. I just needed to nut up and keep getting shit done. I look back now and wonder if that wasn't a part of the reason why I was pissed off so much and why I liked to fight. Sports, lifting and fighting were the only times that I felt really good and had energy. I was always amped up and full of adrenaline. It was awesome!

CPAP machine

It wasn't until I started getting bigger for powerlifting that I realized I had sleep issues and that it wasn't normal to sleep like I did or always be exhausted. Around a 330-pound body weight, I got apnea or at least realized that I had that, too. It got to the point where I was falling asleep at stop signs. Yeah, at f-ing stop signs I would fall asleep. I never minded hurting myself, but this was now dangerous for other people, so I got it checked out.

I had my first sleep study and was put on a CPAP. The CPAP helped, but I started researching my results and, even with the apnea taken care of, my sleep was still screwed up. They ended up doing more sleep studies and it was still horrible even with the apnea taken care of. I wasn't going into stage three or four delta sleep (I believe they've changed it to just stage three now), and I woke up a ton, jumping randomly through stage one, stage two and REM sleep. I ended up seeing a couple different doctors but didn't get any real help or answers. After a while, I got so frustrated dealing with these doctors that I just quit going all together. I figured alpha delta wave intrusion would be the best option, but the medication they recommended didn't work at all. I ended up trying all kind of medications with extremely high doses and nothing helped. I ended up finding Seroquel through a friend who is a doctor. It helped me get to sleep but wouldn't keep me asleep and wouldn't work at all during the full-on insomnia phases.

 I was up for seven days before the 2006 APF seniors meet in Las Vegas.

Up to this point, it still wasn't a huge issue for me. The CPAP got it close to what it was before, and I had lived most of my life like that, so I just went back to toughing it out. I was more concerned about quality sleep to help me recover, but I wasn't going to waste too much time on it because I had goals to achieve.

As I kept getting stronger and pushing even harder, it really got worse, and I started experiencing extreme insomnia. Before that, it was maybe a night or two but nothing more than that. I was now regularly going two to three days without any sleep at all. With my longest run, I was up for seven days before the 2006 APF seniors meet in Las Vegas. I bombed out of the meet when I crashed on my third attempt with 1173 pounds in the squat. I'm not sure that my thinking was too great after being up that long, and I missed my first two attempts because I was having trouble staying tight. In my mind at the time, I thought screw it. I'll just drop down fast and slam it up. Well, I got down, got loose again and shot my knees right out from under me. Luckily, I do a lot of that damn stretching, so I only had a minor tear to my medial collateral ligament.

Up to that point, I had been dealing with the insomnia the best I could. I knew that I had a meet, so each night, I would lay as still as possible and try to just think “black.” I needed rest and that was the best I was going to get, so that's what I did. That night after the meet, I didn't get any sleep again and that's when it got really bad. I was nauseous most of the time and would break out in drenching sweats for no reason. Even going through the airport, I told my training partner that we had to stop for awhile or I was going to pass the f&*k out. I got home and all I wanted to do was lay down, but as soon as I opened the door, my niece came running across the living room and jumped in my arms. To this day, that's the only memory about this time that can make me smile.


I got this shot of energy, from where I don't know. But I ended up hanging out with my niece for the rest of the day. Again, I didn't sleep that night or the next couple nights. I think all in all, it was 12 days or more total that I was up. It's really a weird world once you miss a couple nights of sleep and it just keeps getting more messed up with each night. I had times when my vision got blurred and I couldn't focus no matter how hard I tried. My thought process grew slow, and my memory was completely shot. In this instance, I was getting so pissed at myself because I could hardly do simple math. I had a constant headache, and I just hurt everywhere. I got to the point where looking at a bed or thinking about going to bed aggravated me and made me nervous at the same time.

I've been called a zombie by a few people when I'm in my insomnia spells (well, more like any morning). When my sleep was at its worst, even one night had me thinking and worrying about how long it would last. During the long spells, I started worrying that it might last forever. My emotions got all messed up, too. I got angry for no reason or got extremely sad for no reason. It's like my whole mind and body were confused about what they should be doing. I remember the first couple times that I had insomnia. I thought, "I'm so tired. I have to sleep tonight." Then the next night, I would think, OK, now I'm so exhausted that there isn't any way I won't sleep tonight. I finally learned that it has nothing to do with being tired or exhausted. It's something f-ed up in my head. I tried to figure it out and understand it, but I couldn't get it figured out.

Basically, my life is waking up and feeling like shit and exhausted as all heck. As the day progresses, I feel better and better. By the late evening, I'm feeling my best, but I know I need to start thinking about bed. I also know that I'll wake up the next day feeling like shit and exhausted again. This is just how it is for me, and it has been this way for almost as long as I can remember now. That's my life and it's what I have to deal with.

Looking back, the worst of it though was during my best powerlifting years, and I think the intensity with which I trained had a lot to do with that. Plus, I know that I put a ton of extra stress on my central nervous system, which probably had something to do with making it worse. I didn't really have any answers or knowledge about what was going on at the time though. It was hard to deal with and live with, but because I had no idea what to do to fix it, I just focused on my powerlifting goals. I just kept forging ahead.

Today, I have it under much better control than during those years, but it's still bad. For the last three to five years, my training hasn't been what it was. There was a lot of pretty good injuries that slowed me down. Then with my lifting and some life issues, I ended up getting pretty far in debt. In order to get out, I've been working multiple jobs the last few years. Between injuries and working so much, it actually gave me a chance to back off training some and really see how it affected my sleep. This is why I believe that my intensity and central nervous system overtraining made everything worse.


Right now in my life, things have mellowed some, and I'm happy to say that I haven't had a full-on insomnia spell of more than a night or two in over three years or more. That's a big improvement for me. Still, most nights I have to get up once just because I can't take laying there. I will get up, walk around the house or maybe eat something to help clear my head. Then I go back to bed. On a good night, I'll be able to stay in bed all night, and I will even have a time of solid sleep of maybe an hour or two. The rest of the night is smaller increments of two minutes to say 30 minutes. I can get by just fine like this, but I would like to keep making improvements.

Unfortunately, my sleep issues aren't my only issue, and I still haven't decided which is actually worse—the sleep problems I have or the depression I fight. Similar to the sleep, I spent most of my life thinking that the lows where normal and I just needed to toughen up. I never really even saw or realized it was depression (actually, it wasn't just depression). In my teens and twenties, it was some thoughts of suicide that were pretty mild. I didn't find much joy in anything that I normally would, and I basically just had spells of feeling really sad. It never reached the severe levels until I was in my thirties, and it took me reaching those levels before I even figured out that I had depression.

Over the years, I've learned the difference between having a down day, having mild depression and the beginnings of a serious episode. Again, like with my sleep, I feel as though I've gotten it somewhat under control. When I feel it starting to push the limits, I make stopping the progression of the depression the main goal in my life. If that means backing off of training or taking a week off, that's what I do. If it means going home after work and going straight to bed because of the correlation between my sleep and the depression, that's what I do. Looking at it this way has helped a lot, and I can say that I haven't had an extreme episode of depression in probably three or four years now. I've been able to keep it at a level that I would describe as moderate depression. Sometimes it last for weeks or months, but having been through severe depression, I'll take that for now.

Through my research into depression, I've heard it described many different ways, and I think it's a little different for everyone. For me, it isn't that depression causes any symptoms. It's more that it just takes things way. It's like a demon that takes away everything good in my life, like a hunger that eats away all my good emotions and feelings, leaving me with only bad ones. As it progresses, it is like a darkness that just envelops your entire being. Things that you normally enjoy bring you no happiness and you don't even want to do them. You have no feelings at all for the people you know that you love and care about. You don't have any confidence and any self-esteem. You try as hard as you can to see or find something good, but it just isn't there.


The hardest part for me is that during a serious depressive episode, I still realize how I use to feel and I know nothing has happened to change my feelings, but I can't find those feelings again. I know that I had feelings for this person or I know that I really enjoyed doing something, but at that time, I don't feel that way at all, and it is extremely frustrating. During one of my bad spells, my sister kept calling me because my niece and nephew wanted to see me. I knew there wasn't any way that they could understand what I was going through at their age, so I forced myself to see them. I was in the front yard playing with them when my mom asked me if I was OK. I almost burst out in tears, and it was all I could do to shake my head no. She replied that it was really nice that I still came over to play with them, and I could see the concern on her face. I love my niece and nephew very much and they are super important in my life, but right then I felt nothing for them. Not one thing and that f*&%#$ me up even more.

You end up wondering what the hell is wrong with you that you can't feel anything but pain. It's very hard to explain, but I think depression itself is hard to explain unless someone has felt it. I had this intellectual awareness that I loved them and I knew how I normally felt about them, but at that moment, there wasn't one ounce of actual feeling for them. It was very logical to me and maybe just right or wrong. In my head, even if I felt nothing right then, I would, or hoped I would again, feel like I did. It was the right thing to do to go see them and play with them because even without feeling it, I knew that I did care for them. I know as I write this, it must sound extremely strange. Much of the time I hide my depression for many reasons. I don't know if people can really understand what it's like. I also don't want people I care about to think I have no feelings for them even for just a little while. Can someone really understand that and, even if they can, how would it make them feel? In addition, I don't see any reason to bring anyone else down just because I am. Depression is a very strange thing for me and it causes some strange thinking. It has taken most of my life and an awful lot of thought to just somewhat understand it.

Much of the time I hide my depression.

I know with different mental issues, you have to hit bottom before you can start back up. At this point, I can't remember the exact time I hit bottom, but it must have been around 2006 or 2008. I do very vividly remember the things I felt and what it was like though. I lived on autopilot just doing what I had to do while the whole time the thoughts in my head where horrible. I would go to work and not talk to anyone all day. I would be so messed up and sad that I felt like if I opened my mouth, I would burst out in tears. If that happened at work, I knew I would end up beating the first person who smirked at me into a bloody pile on the ground.

There was a time when it was really bad. I would go train with my partners and not say a word. I would shake my head yes or no or not talk at all. Anyone who has ever trained with me knows that I'm usually happy as hell in the gym and I talk a lot. I would get home and sit in my living room in the dark and barely move. On the weekends, it was the same thing unless I could get myself to head out into the desert. Then I would find a cliff and sit there for hours and hours just staring. I would get lost in the routine and that's what kept me going—have to work, have to pay the bills, have to train, have to get stronger. The entire time, all day, every day, I was just mentally in pain. No matter how hard I tried, everything just seemed f*&cked up, and I couldn't see or find anything good.

As my depression progressed, I started thinking more and more about suicide. It just kept creeping into my thoughts and getting more intense. I spent hours and hours each day just thinking about it. Let me also say that I've always thought of suicide as a chicken shit way out and I still do, but I have a much clearer understanding of it now. Everyone is different, but being as close as I was to doing it, I feel more sympathy toward it. I also understand that if I didn't have some of the things in my life that I did, I might have followed through with it. I can only say that you have to keep fighting, but everyone has their limits.


Personally, for me, it wasn't ever that I wanted to die. It was just that I wanted the pain to stop, and at the time, it seemed like the only way. It felt like it was only getting worse, and I didn't know how long I could take it all. I found training to be a catch 22 in this area. I realize now that overtraining is a big trigger for my depression, but when I'm depressed, it feels really good to put myself in physical pain. It probably sounds crazy, but if I tortured myself at the gym, it made me focus on the physical pain and allowed me to forget the mental pain for awhile.

At one point, I was doing sled drags with my team, and everyone could tell that I was in pain. I was intentionally irritating my compartment syndrome and it was hurting pretty good. Once everyone was done, I just kept going. My one partner tried to get me to stop, and I basically told him that he had better get the f out of my way. I was being an ass, but at that time, there wasn't any way that I was capable of explaining it. I've always been able to take a lot of physical pain and probably always liked it because of the focus it gives me.

Around this time, I was going home and sitting with a gun in my lap every night trying to find reasons why I should just stop it all and give up. I ran through my head what it would really be like and how it would affect the people around me. One night, I had the gun to my head, safety off, gun cocked, nasty bullet in the chamber and pressure on the trigger. I was running through how people would deal with my death. I figured that my dad is a tough guy and he would just deal with it and move on like you have to. My brother would be like my dad. I figured my mom would be really sad for awhile, but we had talked a lot by that point, and I really felt like part of her would understand. She is pretty amazing like that. Then I came to my niece and I just couldn't do it. I had no idea what that would do to her at such a young age, and I couldn't take that chance. I just couldn't do that to her. I would live through that pain the rest of my life before I would do that to her.

In a way, I still feel like she saved my life. That was a big moment for me. Kind of a shit or get off the pot epiphany. If I wasn't going to do this, I had to do something to make it better. I had to figure some way to deal with it because I couldn't stay in that place. I ended up sitting down and writing in my training log everything that I was going through, and I downloaded it to the site. It was a little strange waiting for responses because part of me thought that I would lose all my sponsors. It turned out to be one of the best things for me and one of the things I'm most proud of. I got a lot of great responses from people, and it taught me that having an outlet could help me deal with it. I started writing about it and started doing photography about it. That's when I started to get it somewhat under control or, better yet, started to think about getting it under control.

I still wasn't at a point where my health was a main goal. I wasn't ready to focus on just my sleep or depression because powerlifting was still my life. I was still training very hard and at a really intense level. I was trying to keep things in control, but powerlifting was still number one for me. Sitting in my living room with a gun to my head was rock bottom, but I'm pretty hard-headed and had to make a couple bumps on the bottom before I wanted to come up.


After the Powerstation Pro in 2007, I turned up my training. I stood up with a 1221-pound squat that would have been a world record, but it was a little high according to both side judges. I have no doubt in my mind that I would've broken the all-time total at that meet if I had gotten that squat. I was more excited about my bench that day and would've went at least 850 and then added just a 750-pound deadlift to be right there.

So I left that meet pumped up, and I knew that my next meet would be the one. I started pushing myself harder than ever, and I pretty much got tunnel vision. Training was going well, but my sleep was getting worse, and I was fighting more severe depression. I wasn't close to committing suicide because I had already made up my mind that I wasn't going to do that, but the thoughts were still there and they wouldn't back off.

The next meet came, and I was opening with 1200. I went out, picked it up, got set and just told them to rack it. I walked off and told them no more attempts. My partners wanted to know what the hell was up. For the first time in my life, I didn't want to lift. It was the very first time in my entire life that I didn't want to lift at all. Anyone who has seen me compete knows that I get pumped and I feed off all the bad shit that I have inside of me. It's like a war or a battle. It's life or death to me, and I love it.

I told my partners that I was f*&%$# up and I didn't want to lift. There just wasn't anything there. There wasn't any drive, any fight, any caring. I ended up still benching 805 or something just because I knew that people had come to see me and, at that time, it wasn't that hard for me. At that point, I realized that my sleep and depression affected my lifting, and by ignoring it, I only made my lifting worse. I sat down with my partners, and the consensus was that I needed to take some time off and maybe just do the Highland Games for awhile.

This is just a tiny glimpse into what it's like for me to deal with sleep issues and depression. There have been a lot of really highs and really lows in my life. It would take a book to go through all of them, and even though I've just written about some really bad lows, there have been many great times in my life, too. For example, my whole experience in powerlifting is still something that I'm very proud of and I would do it all over again if I could.

I suppose I'm accustomed to taking the lows with the highs. I think almost everyone has some bad times in their lives or bad issues that they have to deal with. What's important is that we do the best we can and keep working to make things better. Never give up. I also hope that people never forget that they aren't alone. I say screw the taboo that we shouldn't be open about our issues. We all have something, so why not be open? Like it or not, it's who we are. I for one am a man of many parts.

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