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Perspective Part 2

In part 1, I wrote about my first weightlifting coach Richard Sorin. Specifically, how he helped a shy, hypersensitive, autistic young teen toughen up. In writing this post I wish to expand what was going on in my life then, and after, where Richard’s lesson helped me through some tragic and dark times.

My father has struggled with his mental health his whole life. He is a deeply good man but as anyone who struggles with severe depression knows, it leaves the one suffering from it unaware of how his or her struggles with it affects family. When I was young I didn’t know what was happening when my dad would sit at the kitchen table or on the sofa and cry uncontrollably and repeat the words “I want to die.” I didn’t know what those words meant as a young boy. As I got older I began to fully understand what those words meant and I didn’t want to be home when my dad was there.

Anger began building up inside of me. In the fifth grade I ripped a sink out of the wall in the school bathroom. In the seventh grade I ripped a water fountain out of the wall in the middle school hallway. In high school, even though my temper had subsided, I still lost my cool and would pick up the back end of someone’s car and place it on top a fire hydrant.

When my obsession with weightlifting began my dad did whatever he could to foster the desires in me to be stronger. He helped me buy a weight training set if I earned half of the money. I was very appreciative of this but again…I didn’t want to be home when he was home. I nor my brother didn’t know what mood my dad would come home with. The emotionally stable father who played ball with us in the back yard or the one sobbing who expressed his wish to die.

Every other day I locked myself in my room and would train for 2 hours. I had little idea what I was doing but enough sense to train larger muscle groups first then smaller ones last. I devoted a lot of time for my chest and biceps. These muscles seemed to grow easiest and give a big kid like me more intimidating size.

I didn’t have a squat rack or the knowledge at the time to train legs safely so I didn’t train them. Every other day I couldn’t wait to get home from school and be alone to train. Every week I would increase the number of reps or add 5 pounds to most exercises. No one had to push me to work hard I was hard on myself which is highly unusual for an 11 year old.

I joined a gym the summer before entering middle school. A few years later when I entered high school Richard began coaching me. It was also at this time my dad began undergoing electroshock therapy. It did no good whatsoever. It made him more unstable and at times quite scary to be around. I didn’t talk about this with my closest friends. What could I say, “My dad wants to die want to go see a movie?” I didn’t care to talk to psychiatrists either. I saw a few but most of the time I didn’t say anything. I just let them ask their questions and said whatever I needed to for them to end the counseling session.. Training with Richard became my real therapy.

The physical exertion of weightlifting and the excitement of learning and progressing was enough to get me through each week. I would daydream all day at school counting the minutes down until I could go home, eat a snack and head to the gym. I became so focused on training I didn’t care what kind of mood my dad was in when I got home. I would shower and take my dinner to my room to be alone. This may come across as harsh but there is only so much instability one can deal with.

Richard's invaluable lesson taught me many things. To persevere. To work hard. To keep showing up to train as nothing worth doing comes easy. Most importantly, to harness my anger, sadness and frustration into focus as I trained.

If you are fortunate enough to have a coach or mentor who cares enough to point out your mistakes and maybe...just maybe once in a while offers some praise thank them. Please remember when you make mistakes and no one offers to point them out they have given up on you.


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