Then he gained 14 pounds of muscle and reinvented his entire life.
Adam Parker says he had anxiety for as long as he can remember, but the whole time he was coping with it, rather than taking care of it.
“My dad suffered from a breakdown when I was young, and I think that may have contributed to my anxiety,” he says.
Parker graduated from college at 21 with a degree in hospitality management and started working at restaurants and bars. He enjoyed the work in the beginning, but years later, his mental health got in the way. “Even though I liked my work, my anxiety and lack of confidence meant that I could never push myself further,” Parker says.
The Breaking Point
Eventually, when he was 28, Parker says, “I realized I didn’t like my job anymore but had no idea how I could get out of it.”
Even though he’d been dealing with anxiety for a long time, he says his job, plus being in an unhealthy relationship, making his mental health really hard to handle.
“I was so low at this point I had very dark thoughts and didn’t care about my personal hygiene or myself in general,” he says. During this low point, Parks says he struggled with showering and brushing his teeth. “Even getting out of bed was a chore.”
The Catalyst for Change
One day, while he was 28, and weighing about 147 pounds, Adam was in his house, taking in who he was. “I looked in the mirror and staring back was a skinny, unhappy man with little direction and no real way of changing. I decided then even if I felt like I couldn’t change my situation, maybe I could feel a bit better about the way I looked.”
When Parker went to the gym for the first time, it took him three attempts before he made it through the door.
“I was scared of being judged. In my head, as soon as I went through the door, there’d be gigantic angry men looking at me like, ‘What are you doing here?’”
But instead, Parker was happily surprised to find the support he needed. “In some ways, I’d been right, because there were gigantic guys in there, but they were the friendliest people, and told me all about how hard it was when they started.”
Parker partnered with a personal trainer, Sian Ripley, who understood his anxiety. In four months, he’d increased his weight and muscle by 14 pounds, putting him at 161.
Over the next five to six years, Parker continued to train, increasing his weight and strength. At his peak, he was 203 pounds. He also started competing at powerlifting. “When I started weightlifting, it helped [with my mental health], but understanding my depression and anxiety was still another piece of the jigsaw puzzle.”
Another piece was being in a job he hated. “I took a leap of faith, quit my job, retrained as a personal trainer, and started a meal preparation company.”
Parker says it was hard for him in the beginning, but now, at 37, he’s three years into running his own personal training business. And the empathy his trainer had showed him—helping him with his fears in the gym—is something Parker uses as a guide when he trains new clients.
“People with mental health issues are some of the strongest people I know. Every day is like a struggle, but they’re resilient. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to channel it.
Parker also left the unhappy relationship he was in and now has a supportive girlfriend by his side.
And he finally took care of that last puzzle piece: He went to counseling for his anxiety and starting taking medication for depression.
But even though it would seem like all the puzzle pieces are in place, Parker knows his overall transformation isn’t a complete. “I’m still not done but I’m proud of the journey so far.”
Author: Gina Loveless
Source: Men’s Health: This Guy’s First Step to Combating Anxiety Was Stepping Into a Gym