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How Wrestling Saved My Life.

 The 2018 Indiana State Finals Parade of Champions. Who's that handsome fella in the light blue coat?

The 2018 Indiana State Finals Parade of Champions. Who's that handsome fella in the light blue coat?

I was a tough guy...or at least I thought I was.

In early 2017 I was laying bed with a cold sweat on my forehead trying to hold back every urge to jump off my balcony and end my life. Fighting with myself, finding every reason to stay in bed, and finding every reason to jump. I ultimately "snapped out of it" and convinced myself to go to sleep. Night's like these, sleep was at a premium.

The next night offered more struggling with myself to make, or not to make a compulsive decision, and ended with a vivid vision of me pulling out a gun and using it on myself...I didn't even own a gun. I walked outside and took a deep breath of the January air and starting crying. The immediate thoughts that came to mind were that I was going "crazy" and I really didn't know what to do. I didn't feel like anyone would even know what to say. 

For the coming weeks I struggled to sleep, go to work, take showers, basically any basic human needs went out the window. The problem was, I had a family to take care of, a high school wrestling team that was gearing up for the start of the Indiana state series, and a job that kept my bills paid. So I told myself that I had to "toughen up a bit", "suck it up", and "be a man". Those ideas in my head I used to give some motivation quickly turned into "No one wants you around.", You'd be better off dead.", and "No one will miss you.".

Growing up I was always taught to be tough, to fight back, and to man up. That's what attracted to me the sport of wrestling. My brother and I grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis called Greenfield. Greenfield isn't exactly known for being hard nosed and tough. The area I grew up in had four families of boys that fought and caused trouble every day. So to survive running around with those guys, you had to fight and be tough. So naturally wrestling is were I fit in after being baptized by the fire of getting beaten up everyday. 

Flash forward back to January 2017, how tough I thought I was, that was being contradicted by the minute. By the hour I felt myself sinking into this abyss of darkness. My days began to run together, and I could hardly keep track of time. My life quickly became a pattern of 1. Work 2. Practice 3. Home 4. No sleep. I had to abuse prescription pills to make sure I could get enough sleep to function. 

By the time February rolled around, I felt like nothing could bring me out of this, and that this would be my life until it ended naturally or by my own hand. At this time our team had qualified three outstanding young men to the Indiana State Finals, and I couldn't even bring myself to get excited about the opportunity to get arguably our best wrestler, ready for the biggest match of his life. And after he lost that match and I failed him, I felt nothing but more darkness creeping in. 

A few weeks later I had picked up a habit of not showing up to off season workouts or being late at best. Our wrestlers started noticing that something was wrong, and so did our coaching staff. Our Head Coach Josh Holden sat me down and told me he wanted me to head up our freestyle and greco team, to run practice, to make all the decisions. He told me that our program needed me. And after that, something in my brain clicked. Whether he meant it that way or not; I all of a sudden had another tool to try and keep myself propped up with. 

So I planned practices and our competition schedule and I used it as a way of making it through the toughest days of my life. I knew if I could just make it to practice, where I could try and forget about these horrible things I thought about, that I'd be okay. I knew I had to do it everyday if I had any chance of making it. I used wrestling as a way to exorcise my demons until I was strong enough to ask for help. I just kept telling myself that they needed me.  Wrestling finally felt like an old friend that I could lean on for two hours a day. 

After another month or so I knew that the stability that wrestling was providing could only last so long and I would have to seek out other methods of healing. So after talking to my close friends and family I decided to make the hardest phone call I've ever had to make. With tears running down my eyes, I dialed the number for the Community Health Network Behavior Health Clinic and explained my situation. I was scheduled to meet with a doctor immediately, and my treatments began. I was assigned one on one therapy as well as group therapy. And in those weekly sessions of both, I learned the coping skills needed to pull myself out of the darkness. Over a year later, I am still using these skills whenever things begin to slip away. 

If it wasn't for wrestling, I wouldn't have been able to make that phone call. Not only does this wonderful sport show you the toughness, it also teaches humility. I truly needed that humility that wrestling taught me to pick up that phone, show up to therapy, and admit that there was a problem. You could argue that therapy or my friends and family saved me, but if it weren't for those days in that hot wrestling room, I may not have made it to that point. 

Thank you to everyone that has helped me through this a year later. Thank you to Tommy and Kevin for giving me a platform to write and have fun with wrestling. The wrestling community truly is a family and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it after all these years. 

If you know of someone or think someone may be struggling with the mental aspect of their health, please reach out to them. Your impact on their life could save them down the road. 

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255