“I’m not sure why I’m staring at the ceiling wide awake. It’s 3am, and I’ve already listened to this “Toxicity” album three times since laying down. My body feels like it’s ready to collapse in on itself. I can’t get comfortable. It’s okay, if I fall asleep in ten minutes, I’ll have had 4 hours of sleep. That’s plenty. What’s it like to die? I don’t have much to do first thing. Maybe I should have not listened to music before going to bed? Maybe I should have smoked a little more before… I feel like I needed to smoke more. Does weed mess with my, mind? I’m going to go smoke more. Shit. Now I’m too high. Maybe I’ll play some videogames. Will I fail if I don’t do the homework I didn’t do? What’s that going to hurt? What? It’s 5 A.M.? Oh well. May as well stay up. I can tell the teacher I am sick and get out of class, maybe even get dismissed early. All I care about is band anyway. I’ll just take a nap before I go to work. Should I just quit school? Do my friends notice I wear the same American Eagle shirt three days a week because my mom found it at a salvation army and it’s all we can afford?” Me: Age 15
Call it anxiety, call it depression, call it paranoia, call it “a phase”, call it “teen angst”. Bottom line, I was fucked up. This was my mind 24/7. And this was early in life. Being 31 now, I can remember this night as if it were yesterday. This was a rough time in life, and I didn’t even realize it. I had things to distract me, things that I could fall back on to make my life seem cooler or more relatable. Weed, drinking, skipping school. It’s what the cool kids did, I can fit in. I’m normal.
The fact was though, I wasn’t. And it took me a long time to figure this out. And I’m still not sure if I have or not. I would do things outside of my character to please the crowd, to fit in, to make it seem like I was fine. All these things ended up being a cry for help. I’ll spare you the story of my fucked up childhood, you can ask me over a beer if you’re really curious, but man, I had a fucked up childhood.
Fast-forward 12-or-so years, and here I am. 80 pounds overweight, because using the things that make me popular (booze, food, beer, etc.) have made me fat. “Oh but you’re tall”. F THAT. I was fat, and have been in the “obese” category for quite some time. I personally think that the government has no idea what they’re talking about in regards to height/weight ratios, but nonetheless, it was just yet another thing I had to try and fit in with.
Being this way, and thinking that I had nothing coming to me in life, I succumb to comfort and things that do not take too much effort. Exercise? Hell no. Diet? Nah. Finding the right person to spend the rest of my life with? All set. So, I settled. For everything. I got into a marriage that I had no business being in (lasted a month). I went to the gym obsessively for a year, not for myself, but for the wedding, and I did a “cleanse” which lead to me losing 75 pounds because I was starving myself to the point that I would be afraid of eating food. I would chew food up to taste it, and then spit it out as to not absorb the calories. Yikes. That’s an eating disorder. Period. I’m a fucking chef, food is my livelihood. Once again, who was I?
Then, I met a woman, a woman who opened my eyes up the fact that I didn’t have to hide. I didn’t have to settle, I didn’t have to make excuses for the person that I was if I wasn’t ready to make the change into a “better me”. She’s just the strongest most determined individual I’ve ever met. I’ve never been so impressed by someone before in my life. Aside from my Mum, who did the best she could to raise me like a champion.
This woman, not my mum, but also my mum, you know what I mean, also stood by me through the HARDEST years of my life to date. Throughout the therapy sessions, through the irrational arguments, through the stress of being someone close to ME. I’m selfish, I’m needy, I’m anxious, and I’m fragile; to the point of breaking on a regular basis. Fast-forward 4 years into our relationship, and the calm, cool, collected, calculated now wife I have tells me that she is thinking about applying for a position in Virginia Beach. I’m like, “Huh? You?”. And my immediate response, without even thinking was, “I will support you no matter what. Apply.”
We move to Virginia Beach.
Moving here triggered something in me. It was exciting, but also FUCKING terrifying! Here I am, already barely hanging on with my depression and anxiety and we’re moving, hundreds of miles away from my life. My mom, stepdad, friends, places, things. I tried to get into running, but every time my heartrate got above 150bpm, I thought I was going to die and had a panic attack. I ran the Surfin’ Santa 5-miler and almost didn’t even start because I was having a panic attack BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED. It was my first race!!! And I couldn’t even enjoy it. I ran like shit and was miserable after it… I’m not in shape, I’m drinking too much, working too much, driving too much, and not taking care of myself. I thought that sitting around and doing nothing all day on my days off was “taking care of myself”. And anything more than that was too much stress on me. Let’s fast-forward now, yeah?
My wife (2 years on the 29th of July, 2019) kept going to this morning workout, and it was called November something-or-other. I couldn’t bother to listen. 5:30 A.M.? You’re out of your goddamned mind if you think I’m going to that shit.
Can we just fast-forward again? Here I am. Typing this, smiling. I’m almost 3 months into NOVEMBER PROJECT and I’m here to say, this has changed my, and our life. The positivity that has come from this group of amazing individuals has been something that I really struggle to come up with words for, especially to my work friends that are tired of hearing me pitch the idea of them coming to better their lives. I feel as if I belong. No, I DO belong. It’s just a workout though… Like, what? My first day, I was hooked. HOOKED. What a random-ass group of people. I don’t even know what all ya’ll do for work, but I assume there’s anyone from Doctors to Gas Station operators, but it doesn’t matter. All that shit is left at the door. It’s one of the first places, aside from when I’m at home with my wife, that I can truly be myself and know that there is NO judgement. Tell me a place that you can go that’s healthy, positive, and FREE where you can walk in and be instantly welcomed the first day you come and be embraced for as long as you continue to come…. Okay?… I’m waiting?
Now, you may be thinking, “Dude, what does this have to do with the first half or your self-pity sob story about you had such a bad childhood, and anxiety.” I’m here to say, it’s okay to not be okay. To be a male, especially a male with mental and emotional health issues, it’s really difficult to accept being damaged. At NP though?? All that burden is shed from my mind. I feel welcomed, never judged, celebrated even! Where’s the last place that you have been where you have felt you can be your true, authentic self and not be judged for it? I can’t tell you that, because it has never happened for me. The tribe, the co-leaders, the locations, the DOGS, make this one of the most fun and meaningful experiences I have had to date. My wife and I look forward to visiting different tribes, and with planning our next move, we have NO idea if we’d want to move somewhere without NP. You are our people. Doesn’t matter if I know your name, if I’ve even looked at you, or if you live in a different country. YOU are my tribe, I feel welcome. YOU have done things without even trying to help me feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ll never not do this. I HATE waking up early. Truly, I do. But now, instead of staring at the ceiling at 5am, wishing I could fall asleep because my brain can’t shut off the anxiety, I’m staring at my phone yelling at me wishing I could go BACK to sleep. Wednesdays and Fridays though, you can bet your ass I’m going to be there every time, no matter the city, state, or country. This is my tribe, ya’ll are my family, and I’m proud to call you my friends. Thank you for your support, thank you for giving me a home, and let’s get healthy together, and help those around us become better too. We have no idea what anyone is going though, so hug someone today, will ya? It’s okay to not be okay.
My name is Justin Matthew Hall, and I’m glad you’re here. Fuck Yeah.Share via socials: