From severe chronic pain and morbid obesity to a joyful bike rider, Tom took control of his life, lost 150 pounds, won the weight loss battle and controlled his chronic pain.
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 chronic pain from dystonia (a neurological movement disorder) 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. The master’s 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 and it appears that I am just a guy out enjoying a bike ride, 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 my life!