Simon Gunn – How exercise gave me my life back!!
I never intended to tell my story however, I’ve decided to share this in the hope that it will help others to feel more positive about overcoming whatever barriers they have. Read my journey and take the positives from it (I did) and then please start your own. The path might be long but there’s always a surprise at the end, and when you find it take another path and run this one, you should be stronger now!
On the 13th October 1996 at the age of 18 I was brutally beaten and mugged by strangers, just a chance occurrence. I was in a terrible state, my head and face was bruised and swollen, a couple of broken bones; I was in a lot of pain. The experience stripped me of my confidence and self belief and I struggled to get back into a normal routine. Before the attack I was a regular teenager, I was confident, lively and energetic. I loved to play sports and take part in extreme activities and I always lived life to the full. Being beaten and mugged did not only harm me physically but it stripped me emotionally, it was more than just damaging to my confidence I no longer trusted other people, I wanted to hide from the world, as for the first time I realised what a horrible place it could be. I felt like my pride had been taken, I was a young man yet I had not been able to defend myself even though I was fit and strong, I realised that no matter how strong I was there were some things I couldn’t fight, and that scared me most of all. I had a rough time trying to get back out into the real world and my closest friends and work colleagues became hard to be around, I just wanted to shut the world out.
I returned to work in early Jan 1997 and in that month I suffered my first epileptic seizure whilst at work, on the shop floor. I ended up in hospital….several seizures later after scans ECG’S and numerous tests it was determined that I had a fragment of brain, located in my frontal lobe, removed by my own skull as it was caved in during the attack.. I was then placed on a trial and error concoction of tablets to try and control these seizures. This process took several months to do so, whilst each seizure caused me to become more tired physically and mentally. Not able to drive, rock climb, canoe and do all the things I loved was incredibly hard! The beating itself was tough to come to terms with, but the resulting complications it had caused were almost impossible to deal with. The seizures meant I had to stop doing the activities that I loved, and this is what broke me. Every seizure further increased my sense of loss and hopelessness, I was mourning for the life I had and couldn’t see a future. I dreaded the next seizure as I knew I would feel ill and tired and it would drain the last bit of hope I had. All this because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and some thugs wanted a thrill.
Years and months went by and seizure after seizure took its toll. I was on and off work, I would get my driving licence back only to lose it again, I gained weight and lost my motivation along with my last bit of self esteem. I was unable to look after my own children and I was always letting people down due to my health. I was sinking into depression and I couldn't remember what it felt like to be me, I was feeling pretty worthless and no use to anyone. I was trying to make ends meet by juggling money around such tiresome repetitive strains all took its toll! The light at the end of the tunnel went out, feelings of hopelessness completely took over. I could barely get out of bed and I hated myself, the more I hated myself the less motivated I became and I got more out of shape. The thought of going to work terrified me, having to speak to people, make an effort and pretend to be happy was too much.
I felt terrible and I hated the way I looked, my body repulsed me and I knew I couldn’t live like this. I was fed up with medication and having 6 seizures a day, so I looked into exercise as a solution after reading an article in a paper about exercise curing diabetes and other conditions. I bought a mobile stepper and during good periods I would smash out the steps while watching TV, at first the bad times far outnumbered the good times but slowly this turned around. After around 5 months of this the seizures backed away and I became a little more confident. Eventually I became so confident that I went outside to exercise, this was a massive step and I felt proud of myself. I was starting to feel like me again and bit by bit I climbed back up from the hole I had found myself in, and bit by bit I grew stronger physically and mentally. I was amazed at myself, I increased my exercise, the weight stayed off, I got my licence back, and kept it and I even held down a job!
Years later, I held a job of pride, I was getting somewhere, people respected me for my work ethic, not the seizures or the struggle I had. I had become a workaholic again, my exercise was at its best, my life was amazing – ish.
I had to sort out my marriage situation, I was unhappy at home, so I had thrown myself into work and exercise to avoid the issue. Even though she had been there to support me through my darkest times, I was not happy and as much as I had tried to deal with this feeling of unhappiness, it couldn’t last. It wasn’t fair on the kids. So I left. The hardest thing I had ever done! The feelings of guilt were overwhelming, I had hurt the person that stood by when I was at my worst, and my children would be upset that I was no longer there. At the same time I landed the most amazing career opportunity there was! A dream job! So I took it. It meant a lot of travel and time away from home, and this seemed ideal way to create space from the break up and throw myself even deeper into work. This was the most amazing time in my life, yet one of the hardest, So tiring! Long hours, away from my children for so many days and weeks with little interaction – everything to hardly anything.
I questioned if I was doing the right thing with work, but it was so addictive, so intense, so incredible. It took over and my exercise decreased. I was using work to escape all of the feelings I hadn’t or couldn’t deal with. Exercise had been a focus to get me out of a rut, work was a mania that meant I could avoid dealing with my problems. After the mugging I sunk into depression and never dealt with scars it left, this time I was doing the opposite and throwing myself into work to avoid the pain. And then it happened! I was so tired, I was so weak, I had no idea what I was doing. My children seemed so far away yet so close. I lost it!
This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to speak about and write, but its all because I was so tired! I had a cognitive breakdown…and then a moment of clarity….it was and is still the clearest thing ive ever thought…. I attempted to take my own life. It seemed the easiest way to resolve things….it was so clear.
Fortunately for me I was found, fortunately for me I choose to take tablets with Ozuo, which knocked me out. Fortunately for me the hospital gave me great service and realised what had happened, they knew the cognitive process that had caused me to make that decision was due to tiredness.
So I learnt from this and spoke to work but didn’t explain what had happened – that would have been career suicide – excuse the pun! I took some time off and asked to have a little leave to gain some clarity. Which I did. I got some counselling and this helped.
A few weeks went by and I found love! My best friend became someone I adored and saw in a new light, we spent lots of time together as friends, but she grew on me more….
My career grew stronger too and the most incredible opportunities were presenting themselves, I found myself back involved in such awesome projects and places, to the point it all went further! I secured the pinnacle position, the one that everyone wanted to have….and I was over the moon! But the work really had to step up! I was working long shifts and I was constantly on the road with very few days off. After several months of this I passed out at work! I was so run down and was living on adrenaline….and Monster! the pinnacle of my career and I passed out…I couldn’t let anyone know, I had waited my whole life for this and I wasn’t ready to give it up, so I hid it and dealt with it! No one knew!
A few weeks later the seizures came back!!! I hid them too, stupid I know, but I had responsibilities, a new relationship and a new baby on the way! But I couldn’t hide it for long and I had to be honest. Work, suspended my dealings and I had 3 months off, but this didn’t solve it! I ended up losing the job I adored and the seizures took their toll for the next couple of years! The stress was immense and the pressure of having little money was hard – again! I had lost the job that I risked everything for, a job I loved and my seizures were back. This time though I had Jax to help me pull through and I still had exercise to use as a positive distraction. This time because I had such a supportive partner I avoided the slide into depression, she kept me laughing and helped me find a focus. if it were not for Jax, I’d have crumbled. Her humour was amazing! Really pulled me through.
I re-trained in fitness at West Notts college as a gym instructor and Personal Training and we started Jelly Fitness: I’ve have built a small business which I am immensely proud of and I have helped hundreds of people to reach their goals. I tell this story not to gain sympathy as my past is now well and truly in the past and without it I would not have such an awesome present. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, very few people know this story, and even some of my closest friends will only know when they read this. Not because I don’t trust them, but because I want to be respected for the person I am and the things I have achieved, I don’t want pity or sympathy so I didn’t share this with many people - until now.
I tell my story in the hope I can inspire others and give some insight as to why I am so passionate. I want those who feel like I did to have somewhere to go that they feel welcomed, and comfortable so they don’t have to do it all alone. I want people who have depression to have a role model so they think “I can do that “ everyone who works at my facility will be aware of mental health conditions, they will be sympathetic and know how to respond to those struggling with depression and other disorders. I want to enhance the lives of others, and give those that would never have found exercise the chance to feel alive again. I’m sharing this because if it helps just one person to win the battle against depression or any other illness it was worth it. Jax believed in me even when things were tough and saved me from plunging back into depression, if I can show people that someone believes in them maybe a few more people can be saved.
Now on to the next chapter, this time I'm going to need a few more people to believe in me. I have big, bold, ambitious plan to open a fitness centre that helps people, where people that felt like I did realise they're not alone. This however, will take time and good planning.
Before and after photos - yes that is me; I know right!
If you'd like to try some exercise to help you get on the right track, have a look at our Time2Define plans that I have personally created. These are suitable for beginners through to the experienced.
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Thank you for your time.
Simon Gunn (The Jelly Man)