Everyday Lifters was started from a place of wanting to share stories of people of all lifting sports. The idea came about when a mother of 4, saw her strong self in an image I took of her at a Strongman Event. “I can’t believe this is really me.” btw the if you check out the old article- the photos are out of focus. I’ll leave you with these words: Learning Curve.
I wanted my camera to help share stories of the average athlete and that’s when in 2016 I started the Featured Everyday Lifter Project.
It’s taken me about 2 years to get through the list of those who volunteered. And today, we have the final feature, Tom. Tom came to my home studio on August 28th, 2018. Seems like forever ago. We chatted, took some photos and shared our experiences with anxiety.
I asked Tom if he could be part of the feature because he has a story that many need to hear. One morning while scrolling Facebook’s news of cute puppies and baby photos- I saw a post made by Tom Abramoski. It stopped me from scrolling. Which you know for Facebook is a hard thing to do. In his post he openly talked about some challenges he was facing with anxiety. Here is Tom’s story.
“That was one of the biggest things for me as I was learning more about who I am. I learned a lot about myself, who I am, why I do things, what makes me who I am, what makes me tick.”
Before we start, let us talk anxiety for a minute.
Did You Know? (According to the ADDA)
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
It's not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
- ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (An international nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research)
More and more people are sharing their experiences with anxiety and anxiety disorders doesn’t discriminate. We are seeing more athletes coming forward to share their stories.
Three time CrossFit Games athlete Khan Porter, took to Instagram to open up about living with anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder and more.
View this post on Instagram
#RealTalk I don't enjoy competing. I don't mind it physically, I like the outcome and sense of achievement I get from it, but the process is a nightmare for me. I suffer severely from anxiety disorder. I've been diagnosed with both it and bipolar and these things combined with the pressure (which probably only exists in my anxious mind) make the process of preparing to compete torturous at times. Instagram is a highlight reel of an athlete's journey. What goes on for me between PR posts and #AlwaysTryNewBeers is manic episodes, panic attacks, sleepless nights, breakdowns, days I can't even get out of bed let alone into the gym, wild mood swings and worst of all is the constant anxious voice in my head which plays on loop, telling me all the worst possible outcomes for everything I do and all the reasons I'm not good enough and shouldn't compete. Unfortunately the medications I've tried mess with my energy levels and so I don't take them during the season. Towards the end of the open I began to question if I wanted to endure another year of this and if so why? I have a thriving business, am enjoying my studies immensely and have made the Games three times now. Competing again will likely have no effect on my life for better or worse and takes considerable time away from my work, study and social life. So why put myself through the process? The answer seems pretty clear cut, don't. However despite trying to talk myself out of it I can't muster up the courage to pull out and have spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out why. Then it struck me. For me competing is one way of telling that anxious voice in my head that it doesn't have complete control over me or my life just yet and win or lose that's a massive victory to me every year I take the regionals floor. By facing my own demons maybe one day I'll better be able to help others face theirs, which is exactly why I chose to go back at school and study psychology. So this year when I compete I am competing for anyone, anywhere who shares the same voices in their head as I do. That tells them over and over all the reasons - rational or irrational - that they can't, shouldn't, won't or aren't good enough.
For Tom, his anxiety was more present (or in way more difficult to manage on his own) when he graduated college.
“When I graduated college and it was time for me to make my own path, make my own decisions in that regard, what am I gonna do work wise and being put in the same social situations every day- how was I going to handle that? That’s when it started to manifest a little bit more .
“I first learned about CrossFit when I saw the games on TV and I did a couple of the benchmark workouts- those are always good!
One of the places where I used to go and get tacos from was right next-door to Poughkeepsie CrossFit. I would always see people going in and out of there. It took me a few months to get the courage to go in and my parents kind of pushed me to get started.
They knew I was apprehensive for things like this but they knew I liked working out. I signed up for a month at a time and then I went all in.”
Even after signing up there was still some apprehension in the beginning. Tom faced things such as, not knowing anyone in the group, or having a different coach or going to class on a different time. All these things may be overlooked by many were a challenge for Tom but he found a way to overcome them.
“It was a time after college where I didn’t have any friends that I hang out with or I would actively avoid social situations where I might be uncomfortable. But getting invited out, actually wanting to be in those situations and being with friends and also on the flip-side, being the person to actively engaging others was something I never done before. I started to see that in myself which is cool.”
As time went on, a few people that Tom knew got their CrossFit level one.
“My mom said push me to go ahead with it.” I didn’t know if I would be coaching right away it was more for the experience. Fortunately Greg let me jump right in. With somebody that was transitioning out it was a big opportunity for me which was cool to be able to coach my friends. It was good for me. It helped me outside the gym as well.”
Coaching CrossFit classes brought variety to Tom’s life. In the past, structure and repdictable days masked what he was struggling with. Having different classes at different times and coaching different people was good for him. Slowly he found this also helped him outside of the gym as well.
My first advice is take that next step and open up about what it is you’re going through. …with a friend or family or whether it’s some professional help. With professional help, don’t be afraid, that’s what they’re there for.
It’ll help in the long run. Take the initial step, dig a little deeper to see what you’re going through and learn more about yourself. That was one of the biggest things for me as I was learning more about who I am. I learned a lot about myself, who I am, why I do things, what makes me who I am, what makes me tick.
You can also follow his journey via Instagram here.
Please reach out if you feel you need someone to talk to. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, you are not alone. Many people experience similar struggles, and there are resources available to help. Contacting a mental health crisis hotline is a good way to get needed support.