My Anxiety Made Me Do Steroids
It became sort of a game. Wrap your hand around my bicep and see if your fingers would touch. Then call me anorexic.
I understood I was painfully skinny and didn’t need affirmation from my friends and classmates. Nor did I ever have an eating disorder. If anything, I ate as much as possible, but I was always active and had a high metabolism.
In 4th grade, our teacher used to have us gather around each other in a circle and air out any grievances or problems we may have. It was a progressive move for a teacher in the mid 90’s, props to her. At one of these sessions, I felt I had to speak up or it would just continue. In situations like those, I would tear up. I was emotional in a multitude of ways. Sad from being constantly made fun of and angry because I couldn’t do anything about it. An angry cry is one of the more special cries.
For example, I was getting hot in one of my high school basketball games and had just hit my last four shots. When I went up for my next jumper I came down on the defenders foot and rolled my ankle. I got up limping, trying my best to run it off, but I just looked like a newborn deer who didn’t quite have their footing. I was taken out for the remainder of the game and was livid. I knew I wouldn’t go back in and put a towel over my head to hide my crying and seat punching. It was pure anger and competitiveness mixed with my adrenaline that caused the tears. My mom tried to make me go to urgent care after the game and I said no I would be fine. And she responded, “but AJ you were crying.”
Back in our 4th grade therapy circle, I raised my hand and immediately started to tremble. I held my tears as much as I could and whimpered, “I am so tired of people doing this,” then demonstrated the hand wrap around my arm. My teacher seemed confused. As the tears streamed I explained how people continuously do that to make fun of my skinny arms.
After that session, my friends came up to me and told me to let them know when people would do that. It was getting old and annoying most of all and I was a sensitive little kid with budding OCD who didn’t know how to quite deal with being picked on.
Part of my solution was to add layers. I would wear multiple shirts on a regular basis to add a little more stock. Years later I read that Kurt Cobain would do the same thing because he felt scrawny. Layers didn’t work during sporting events or when I’d go swimming.
My soccer team entered a lot of tournaments in junior high and for most of those, we stayed at hotels. At one specific tournament, there was a team of girls a year or two older than us staying at our same hotel. During down time, we would play tennis or go swimming. My friend struck up a conversation with one of the girls. Eventually, she and her friends joined us by the pool and then the hot tub.
My friend was bantering back and forth with the girl, who was acting as the spokeswoman for her teammates when she began asking about our age and what grade we were in. Almost before anyone answered she looked directly at me and said, “you look like a first grader.” Laughter ensued from everyone. When that died down I made a harsh comment back to her. It was the beginning of me taking a jab from someone then dropping a bomb on them in response. For her credit, she apologized to me later as she could see how embarrassed I was.
I didn’t weigh 100 lbs. until I got into high school. Slowly that weight increased, but even as an 18-year-old I was still disappointed with my appearance. During my senior year of high school, one of my friends started to go in hard on me about my weight, making sure to point out how I looked sickly skinny on the basketball court and how he could see my ribs and spine when my shirt was off. He was one of the smaller members of our circle, so I understood why he would choose me to try and throw shots at. In that douchey alpha high school world, where we are still trying to figure ourselves out, the bigger guys were less prone to the teasing.
I started to have a short temper and could be rather brutal and cutting. If people were going to give me shit they were going to get it right back tenfold. I found it the only way to preserve myself because I wasn’t a fighter. I couldn’t out tough guy people, so I practiced verbal sparring and was good at it. It was not the way to go about things and I wanted to change. I started to channel my energy into working out. I never liked being mean to people, it didn’t make me feel better. Adding bulk by lifting made me feel better.
Around the time I turned 19, I took my workouts up a notch. I added different supplements into the regimen besides the standard protein shake. I put in consistent work in the weight room, but reached a plateau. Although I was happy with the progress up to that point, I still wanted more. Then one day I went to the gym and saw a couple kids I went to school with. They were jacked. Way more than they had been just a year prior in high school. I told them about my supplement use and asked them about theirs.
“Bro, go on this website and order Methyl-Test Extreme. I’m telling you, man, you will be jacked in no time,” one of the guys told me.
I kind of asked what it was, not really wanting to know because I was going to try it no matter what.
“I mean it’s basically testosterone.”
I didn’t have a credit card, so I asked my mom if I could use hers then I would pay her the cash. Reluctantly, she agreed. I assured her you couldn’t just order illegal stuff on the internet like that. At the time I believed it, then quickly realized you could get all the illegal stuff you wanted online.
It arrived after several days. The bottle contained 30 pills, enough for a month cycle. Just take 1 pill prior to workout was all the instructions said.
Within a week I was seeing drastic results. Two weeks in and I was seeing insane gains. My muscles got noticeably bigger and I was able to lift amounts I never thought possible for me. My max bench press went from 210 lbs. to 260. People were starting to notice me in the gym for my prowess rather than my weakness. It felt amazing and did wonders for my self-esteem. I could walk around with my shirt off. I got compliments all the time. Three weeks into the cycle and it seemed like the other gym patrons were staring at me. It was weird at first, I wasn’t used to being admired in the weight room.
Then like many unprepared steroid users, the fall came. My shoulder was killing me. I had trouble doing certain workouts and that quickly turned into having difficulty even lifting my arm. I didn’t want my progress to go down the drain, so I made a doctor’s appointment.
I was told that I had a partially torn rotator cuff and would need months of physical therapy. My frame wasn’t capable of the exponential weight increases that happened during that period and gave out.
Physical therapy started and I stuck to the 4-day a week program to bring my shoulder back to normalcy.
When I got into my 20’s, I changed my ideology. The behavior was childish and my work in mental health helped me realize some of the things I was doing. Our population of residents functions at a much younger level than their actual age. I watched them behave in ways that I and my friends did in our teen years and started to see how ridiculous it was.
It never really made me feel better anyways. I found confidence and self-esteem by helping people that I work with and focusing on my love of writing that I, unfortunately, lost as an adolescent. I sometimes cringe when I think of myself as a crying little kid or eventually doing steroids, but it was the best learning experience when it came to my own mental health and how I can positively shape who I am.