Updated: Apr 5, 2022
Written by: Brady Johnson Published: January 23rd, 2022
Before I start
I am not a medical professional, my advice and story are mine, I do not suggest trying to replicate my practices. If you are experiencing anything like what I went through please contact your pediatrician immediately so they can help set you up with a therapist or someone who can help you.
Don’t be a hero, ask for help.
We all have those Friday nights when we choose to be alone as everyone else is out partying. Those Friday nights when we choose to be alone because we would rather light a candle, listen to Echoes by Pink Floyd and try to figure out our thoughts. Right?
We sometimes can’t even be in the presence of others because it is too much stimulation for our minds. So we watch unhealthy amounts of Dexter to comfort ourselves instead.
We eat a little too much ice cream because we “deserve it”. We get used to treating ourselves way too often, and that leads to weight gain.
We are sensitive to the point where not using social media at all is better than using any form of social media. It’s impossible to live up to the standards that Instagram puts out.
We blame ourselves for the misfortunes that occur in our life because it is the only way to justify why bad things happen.
But we are stronger than we think we are. We were put on this earth to make a change.
In retrospect, I could have edited out the word we, because not everyone has these voids inside of themselves that need to be filled. But I choose not to because the only way we are going to move forward in society is if we open up about our feelings and we come together for a common purpose, spreading mental health awareness.
While I know not everyone goes through what I do, I know for a fact that we all have our own demons that we battle everyday. Whether that be self image problems, depression, anxiety, OCD, an eating disorder, or maybe you just feel like you're in a rut. It doesn’t matter what your demon is that you fight everyday, just getting up and fighting that demon in the mind is courageous. And I applaud you.
My purpose, my reason that I was put on this earth was to share my story and do whatever I can to help others. I am passionate about writing and I believe it is a way to salvation. And if not salvation, it is the perfect way to align your thoughts and find out who you are. So buckle up and get ready to dive deep into the underbelly of my mind.
From the years of around 2015-2017 my OCD would take over, especially during the nighttime before I went to bed. One of the bigger problems I struggled with was having to do everything in intervals of 4. Something as futile as shutting my door 4 times, taking 4 steps to my bed, having the TV volume on an even number, and even eating an even number of goldfish when I was snacking (I guess that’s good for portion control right?!).
What made me realize what I was doing was OCD was the fact that I could not go about normal life without accomplishing these tasks. Every day I would have to carry out my seemingly futile tasks because if I did not, I would be in great distress. It would be like someone was controlling my mind, a voice telling me that I could not go to sleep unless I checked the lock on the door 4 times.
My struggles with OCD have mostly subsided. The counting in my head is no longer something that I have to deal with. But I still am very neat and organized which I guess is an upside.
I’ve found that the best way to fight obsessive thoughts is to meditate and try to keep your mind occupied. Meditation has been huge for me, personally, because it has allowed me to focus on one simple task, breathing. When you focus on one task at a time it allows you to have more control over your thoughts. By keeping your mind occupied you will have less time for your thoughts to wander, maybe you put in some headphones, do a crossword puzzle, or read a book.
OCD is something that seems to be brushed aside today but for some of us, it’s no laughing matter. It is manipulative and controlling, and if you are not conscious of this fact, it could take over. So do me a favor, choose your words wisely and think before you loosely use the phrase OCD when describing someone.
Troubles with Eating
From 2019 (Junior year of high school) to the Summer of 2020 (Senior year of high school), I developed (and overcame) symptoms of an eating disorder that has left a permanent scar in my soul. I always had a distorted body image and low self confidence, but it all kind of came together in Junior year of High School. Mix that with a reliance on food for comfort and pleasure, you get bad eating habits, resulting in one brutal, emotional, tornado.
Shocking, right? Brady Johnson, a six foot, 200 pound, burly, neurotypical male struggled with an eating disorder. The reason why it seems so inconceivable is because we all have this interpretation of what the modern male is supposed to look and act like. He should have big muscles, a smooth voice, be charismatic, and confident. But to me, the most important characteristic of a modern male is courage. The ability to talk about his feelings without the worry that he might be judged by society. The strongest men are open about their mental illness. However, “The National Eating Disorders Association says 10 million males will be affected in their lifetimes. Men make up 15% of cases including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, recent research shows.” This is a quote from 2019, from Webmd, so while it is a couple years old, I can not help but wonder, how much have those numbers increased since then? And how many men were never accounted for because they never came forward? Let’s change that narrative, because no matter the gender, you should not have to feel alone and hopeless. Especially when that is due to the misconception that men do not experience eating disorders.
My ritual when I went through troubles with eating revolved around two rules: making sure I kept what I was doing a secret and finding the comfort that I needed at the time. Food made me happy, but I did not want my family to see me randomly polishing off a bag of chips mid-day, so I would wait until the night. My parents would go to sleep and I would begin my ritual.
My house was always pretty well stocked with food so it wasn’t hard to feed my habit. I would usually grab a little bit of whatever we had. So maybe a handful of Cheez-Its, a handful of chips, and some kind of candy. By grabbing a little bit of each snack, no one would notice if anything had gone missing. I was feeding the emptiness inside.
I would throw on The Office or whatever show made me comfortable at the time, sit on the couch and overeat. Eventually the overeating got really bad and I found myself puking some nights to feel better about myself in the morning. I would even indulge in this dangerous practice on random week days, fall asleep on the couch and go to school on just a few hours of sleep.
Loneliness was one of the main perpetrators, so summer 2020 when my family was in the Cape and I was back home, trying to find a way out of the hole I dug myself. I needed a way to ask help but I was not courageous enough to because I still haven't found my true identity. I was worried about the stigmas surrounding my illness.
So how do you overcome this?
Knowing that you are in control of your own thoughts is a big factor. Being able to self assess and recognize that maybe you shouldn’t stay up all night and instead you should get good sleep is huge.
Also changing your environment is essential to beating your “addiction”. For me, my environment that I felt comfortable in was either in my kitchen or on the couch, with videos playing on my phone. Going off to Springfield College freshman year of college was essential for me. I was not surrounded by a ton of food, we did grab and go meals, and I was alone in my dorm room just thinking about what I was doing and where I was going.
I was lonely at Springfield College during the fall semester of 2020. I was living like an inmate in a maximum security prison because the Covid cases were spiking. But this type of loneliness was different from what I was feeling that previous summer. At SC, I used my loneliness to work on bettering myself, I used the time I had by myself to make a change. The hardest and most important thing I did that semester was deleting social media. It allowed me to relax my mind and focus on myself rather than others. Because with social media, comparison was what hurt me the most, it is important to realize that you don’t need social media to be happy.
I want to sum up what has been a difficult part of this story to write. I went through a tough time in life where I did not know why I was feeling the way I did and it was hard for me to be in touch with my emotions. But I can now say, in all truthfulness that I am doing a lot better and to get out what has been a hard thing to live with, was a big part of that.
Where I am now
Let me give you a little glimpse into my life right now. I am a sophomore at Umass Amherst, majoring in Journalism and hoping to eventually write for a living. I love my job working in a restaurant, I love the people I have in my life, and I am grateful for the small moments that this life has given me so far.
My favorite song is Midnight Rambler by The Rolling Stones. It sends chills down my spine every time the tempo slows down around the 3:45 mark, building up to Mick Jagger unleashing his vocals.
My favorite show is the Sopranos. The cinematography, writing, fashion, and casting are what make this show the best of all time, it’s in a class of its own. It’s a show that can make you laugh, cry, become frustrated, or compassionate. Nothing compares.
And my favorite book up to this point has been Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. As intense and extra as he might be sometimes, he is still very inspiring and the book is well written.
Why did I throw in my favorite song, show, and book? Because I wanted to show you, the reader, that while this story is mostly about the bad things in life, I still appreciate the good things that life has to offer.
Believe it or not, this past week or so leading up to when this story was posted have included some of the best days of my life. Partnering up with Asa Floyd to create this organization has given me more joy and drive than I could have ever imagined.
What I have learned up to this point in life is that it is all about being a voice in society. And don’t get me wrong, when you have a mental track record like I do it's difficult to find your voice, but it is essential that you do. I also feel, maybe a little bit more than the average person. Maybe that is why I lead myself down a dark path, but maybe that is also why I managed to find a way out of that hole.
This was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. Writing it was easy, but finding the strength to share this story with others was challenging.
Like many testosterone filled teenage guys I believed that I was invincible, that expressing my emotions would be a sign of weakness. I am here to tell you that is not true, writing this story and being open with my emotions is the greatest decision I have ever made.
So I apologize for not coming forward earlier but it wasn’t easy to do this, my goal is to hopefully make it easier for people like myself. My parents might feel terrible because of what they didn’t know, my friends might judge me a little more because of what they now know. But the ugly truth is better to live with than the repressed lie buried deep down in your soul, just taking up space.
If I had to give any final words / phrases I would say…
Follow your passion
Monitor your thoughts
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Be different from the pack
Love who you are, and admire who you want to become
Lastly, I wanted to leave everyone with of of my favorite quotes,
“Life has many different chapters. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."
Peace and Love,