It has been a while since I have written any updates or much about what has been going in my little world. I would not say there has been a lot, but what has been going on has affected me deeply and has me reflecting on many things. It is time for a serious change in my life. For someone like me, that is not always the easiest thing. I can be a creature of habit and get set in my ways even though I know shaking things up or even starting over can bring so many great new things. Sometimes it takes a hard push for me to initiate change, and life has definitely been pushing me.

Over the last couple of years, there have only been two or three months where I have felt good, felt like myself. Two winters ago I was just fed up with my issues and needed to do something to take control of them. I decided to go off all my medications because I just felt like I had no idea what anything was doing and that I needed to start from scratch. It was a very difficult time, to say the least.

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Without sleep medication, it is beyond difficult for me to sleep. I was also backing off training trying to let my body recover. The only problem with this was that I wasn’t really backing off. I would deload a week or maybe not train one session because I felt like complete crap. As soon as I felt somewhat okay, I would hit it as hard as I could again. Then I would quickly be right back where I was. My strength dropped to a point lower than my first powerlifting meet. I could not box squat 500 or bench 400, and that was a seriously hard pill to shallow.

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Once I started adding things back I started improving. I was doing it slowly, trying to see the effect of each individual thing. By that spring I was actually doing pretty damn good. I continued to watch my over-training and was deloading every fourth week no matter what. I was feeling so good I, of course, got stupid and arrogant. I started taking on more stuff and having more ideas. I started doing videos for the gym and doing some on my own. I started training on that fourth week because my strength was increasing and feeling good. I thought I had gotten it all under control and was excited about it. I was feeling good and getting shit done, moving forward. I also started an amazing relationship during this time. I was convinced I had it under control and was trying to keep up with everything. It was going so great, but then I started doing too much and staying up way too late. I started getting more and more tired, which made my sleep start to falter. But I kept telling myself I could handle it. I kept pushing right along and it kept getting worse. I managed to catch it before it reached the deep levels it has in the past but still I let it get worse than it should have.

The rest of that summer and into this last winter everything was such a struggle. I was fighting as hard as I could just to feel a little better. Training was really tough because I knew if I over-trained it would spiral me down, and I had already put my relationship through so much. So my strength was just stagnant through most of the late summer and winter. I was finally able to start making some gains again this spring.

Even harder than the struggles with my training was life, and the most difficult thing was the relationship falling apart. I am basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: when things are going okay and I am sleeping, I think I am a pretty good guy, especially in a relationship. I am a very caring, loving, and emotional guy. I am thoughtful, positive, understanding, and fun to be around. When my sleep gets bad, it triggers all these other things like the depression. I go from that great guy to one that is emotionally distant and lives mostly on logic. Any emotions I have left to feel are bad ones.

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Instead of being positive, I tend to be very negative, always looking at the worst-case scenario. I get so exhausted I do not really want to talk and would rather just stare at the TV. I have been told on many occasions I am like a zombie. It is not that I am a complete asshole, because I still try to be the same guy, but some things you just can’t fake — like when my eyes are dead. How horrible is it to be with someone like the person I can be, only to then end up with Mr. Hyde? They also have to wonder when I will be back or when this could happen again. This issue spreads through my whole life. My job becomes so much worse because of how I see things when I am like that. I barely talk to anyone and some days will not say more than three words in a whole eight hours of work. Luckily I do a good job so my bosses just leave me be. I end up not seeing my friends or family much. I force myself to just do the things I need to maintain my life. It sucks and is a horrible way to live. There are times I question which one I really am — Jekyll or Hyde. Deep down, I always know who I am and so badly want to be that person again.

Once I started improving some and my thinking got clearer, I realized a lot of things. I hit rock bottom around 2008, and ever since then I have never hit that bad of a low. In fact, every time I have gotten bad since then, I have learned more and have been able to catch myself earlier each time. Although this is good, I am tired of losing things in my life. I am tired of putting people that care about me through this shit. I am tired of dealing with the ups and the downs. Tired of getting good just to crash. Tired of fighting so hard to get better only to have that last less than a month.

Losing this magnificent woman that I felt was the one hit me very hard. I am not saying this was the only factor to it ending, but it was the biggest one. I ended up seeing more than I ever have just how hard it was for her to go through my bad spells. I understood more than I ever have just how much I change and just how much this all affects me.  Since I hit rock bottom, I have been pushing and fighting to get better and to get control of my issues. Yes, I have improved, gotten better, and learned a lot. The thing is, I thought I had it under control after the last winter of going off everything. I had those few months and thought I was on a roll, that I had this licked. Well, I did not, and I hurt someone very, very dear to my heart because I did not. This has to stop and I have to draw a line in the sand. I have to quit f'ing around and go to war against myself. It has to be all or none, because I just cannot keep going on like this.

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I needed a new plan. A new strategy of attack. I needed to look at this from a whole different angle. First, I went back to try the medical community but had no real luck. Basically, I have narcolepsy and seriously messed up sleep issues, for which there is no cure. I will continue working with them and trying new medications but there is not a lot of promise there.

I began thinking about the progression of my issues since my age of 10. I thought if I could get back to where it was in my twenties I would be really happy. I lived a pretty normal life back then. Yeah, I was still weird, but lived basically a normal life. I thought about when things really took a turn for the worse and saw it was during my heaviest powerlifting years. I have been training conjugate for one-rep max strength for over 17 years now, and even though my strength is down, I still train with all the intensity I have. I thought about how in my twenties I always trained my ass off, but it was more general strength for other sports or more of bodybuilding style. I was not training for all-out, one-rep strength.

I also always had somewhat decent cardio and great musculature stamina, which I do not have anymore. The last few years I have just felt tired to the bone. Just beat up. I am talking way deeper than the muscles like my soul is tired. There were those couple months that I felt good and had energy, but most of the time I am just exhausted. I never really take time off from training. I take one week and I spread my training sessions out, but I never really gave myself time to just fully heal up. Even the last couple years, I tried to back off more and to let myself heal, but every time I feel even a little good I jump back in.

This line of thinking lead me back to a theory I have had for a long time but never really had the balls to test it. I believe my CNS is just worn the hell out from all my training and competing. With my sleep, I think it just takes way longer to fully heal up than I ever give it time to. I think this theory becomes more plausible if you consider that I have learned over-training of my CNS is a huge trigger for all my issues, including both depression and sleep. I believe this is because the CNS has a lot to do with all the actions in the brain, from chemical production to synaptic firing. It would make sense to me that if it is exhausted, nothing will function correctly. I know for a fact that when I train my CNS too much my sleep gets drastically worse. So the key element in my plan is to change how I treat and think about my CNS.

I have thought that maybe I should just take a few months out of the gym, but I think that may be unfair and unhealthy for the general population. I lift for much more than just strength or muscle; it helps me control the rage and darkness living inside me. I am looking more for a long-term plan — one I can live day-to-day with. I think training in a more general strength bodybuilding manner will allow me that mental release I need in the gym while not stressing my CNS anywhere near the same as my current training. I also believe this will help increase my endurance, stamina, and even cardio. I think watching my nutrition and even losing a few pounds will help this also. I do not see this as a cure because there just is no way to make me sleep normal. I see this as a way to give my body the best chance it has to sleep well and deal with these issues without a ton of added stress. I also see this as a way to be in much better shape to control the highs and lows. The goal is to get it similar to the place it was in my twenties.

In this article, I have written about why I need to make this change, what has pushed me to it, and why it is so important for me to do it. In part two of this series, I will talk more about my actual plan of attack and what goals I will be setting for myself. It should be an interesting journey and I am committing six months to really see what kind of change it can make in my life. If nothing else it should be interesting!