When I was six years old, I sat atop a hill in my back yard in Falls Church, Virginia. I had a blue bike under me that had just had its training wheels removed, my aunt Mona behind me, and my path down the (not so) gentle slope ahead of me. She let go and the wind immediately caught my hair as I sped off. I was a master. My angle was straighter than an arrow and my grip on the handlebars strong. My feet rested calmy on the pedals.
For a moment there, I was the fastest kid on my block. And then it occured to me, seemingly all at once, that my Aunt and I hadn’t discussed the finer points of physics before my journey to the bottom of the hill. One principle in particular would have proven very useful. Apparently there was a force called gravity that – when introduced to my quite ample mass – created speed. Not only that but in order to counteract that speed, I would need more than the soles of my shoes gently kissing the ground, which had been more than enough when I was rolling about on my much-flatter driveway, which had offered more friction than the slightly slick grass of the canyon I’d aspired to conquer in my back yard.
No, in order to avoid the large wooden privacy fence that lay at the bottom, I would need to apply the brakes that were installed on my bike for just that kind of situation. However, I had never heard of brakes before. I knew that pedaling generated a great amount of speed but I’d never considered what pedaling backwards might achieve; the desired “braking effect” is the answer for the BMX bike I had, by the way.
My aunt started yelling something when I was about three quarters of the way down the hill. I couldn’t hear the end of whatever she said though, because my ears were busy doing work for my brain, which was working diligently to decode the various crunches and crinkles that followed my introduction to Mr. Fence. Mr. Fence had outstanding posture. He stood tall and barely even flinched when I ran into him at approximately 200 miles an hour. He was kind. He waited there the entire time to make sure I was ok when I woke up.
After that day, I spent the rest of my life speeding directly towards another barrier; this time, I just barely found the brakes before I slammed into him. Shame. I spent a lot of that travel time wondering if I would remember Mr. Death as fondly as I had Mr. Fence.
Depending on where you know me from, my name is either Vainglory or Jesse Stilwell and in March of 2010, I weighed myself for the first time in a decade. With her tax return, my wife purchased a heavy-duty scale for me. We were both positive that I weighed well over 600 pounds so we bought a scale that went up to 750 pounds. I stepped on it and the number quickly climbed until it rested on 538 pounds. I felt relieved that it wasn’t higher and that’s the number that would mark the beginning of a 2 year transformation journey that’s lead me to where I am today.
When I was 19, I developed agoraphobia and became a shut-in. I didn’t work for over a decade and relied on my wife and parents to support me. I now work as a Health & Wellness Advocate doing nutrition consulting & weight loss management at Vitality Medical Wellness Institute in Concord, NC. I’m also the company’s Systems Administrator. I’ve reintegrated myself into society and the mental aspect of my transformation is as important as the physical transformation; I’m not done with either yet.
This is the story of Phase 1 of my life transformation. What caused my lifelong struggle with obesity, how I stopped it, beating my agoraphobia back, and how I’ve rebooted my life.
Most of the people from the Internet know me only as Vainglory instead of my real name because Vainglory is a pseudonym I started using when I started a weight loss log on the SomethingAwful.com’s Fitness Log Cabin sub-forum but was too embarrassed to start it under a name anyone could connect to me. I’d spent a large part of my life online, was still deeply engaged in World of Warcraft, and didn’t want anyone to know who or what I was in real life.
I’m no longer embarrassed but I was still using the name Vainglory until January of 2012 because my best friend — who I moved away from about 6 years ago — didn’t know that I even started to lose weight. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 2 years due to the travel time and I wanted to inspire people to lose weight and get my story out but I didn’t want it attached to my real name yet in case he stumbled upon it. He’d only known me to be 450+ pounds when I went to visit him on New Years Eve, 2011. I got his reaction on video but haven’t gotten around to showing it to anyone yet. He basically looked at me like I was a threat to his family and then freaked out when he realized who I was.
Part 1: Mistaking Family Tradition for Genetics
I was fat before I left my mother’s womb. I was born on November 1st, 1981 at a robust 10 pounds and my weight just kept climbing from that point on.
When I was in elementary school, Arnold Schwarzenegger was leading the President’s Fitness Council, which is when I was indoctrinated with the first bit of information that would lead me down the road to morbid obesity. If you were fat, it was because you were lazy. Otherwise, you had to be genetically predisposed to obesity.
I was always the moon-faced chubby kid in school but my baby fat never left me like most other kids. I was incredibly active and involved in sports, playing something for at least an hour every day; most of the time I played for 2 or more hours. Basketball, football, baseball, soccer, and anything else I could find a group of kids playing. I played in every kids league that was made available to me, I played after school at day care, and yet I kept gaining weight.
I looked around at the rest of my family and one of my brothers was morbidly obese. Many people on my father’s side of the family were morbidly obese as well. Coupled with my parents’ nutritional ignorance (they weren’t alone), the knowledge that a good portion of my extended family was obese or morbidly obese, and my blossoming addiction to sugar, there was an easy path forged for me to shift the blame for my own obesity from myself to a genetic predisposition. In my naivety and ignorance, I failed to look at obesity from a broad angle and instead focused on what was in front of me instead, which was often some form of brightly packaged junk food.
What I failed to see were that the eating habits of my immediate family and my extended family were incredibly similar because my mother learned how to cook the things my father liked and my father liked what his family liked. Biscuits, gravy, breaded and fried everything, cornbread, and all forms of dairy. One of the most insidious concoctions I learned to produce in my adolescence was a giant bowl of cornbread and milk; a titanic sugar bomb that likely guaranteed at a pound of weight gain with each serving I slurped down.
So I was exercising like crazy but still fat and getting fatter. Members of both my immediate and extended family were morbidly obese. I had developed an addiction to the high fructose corn syrup that was being packed into all of the cheap food my family was forced to buy due to budget constraints after a bankruptcy. This was the genesis of my morbid obesity and the formula for a hanging cloud of hopelessness that would haunt me for most of my life.
In my family, holidays were extra special occasions because they were the only time that much money got spent on the kids. Most of our family’s money was tied into our mortgage and other bills but my parents always found a way to produce Christmas and Birthday presents, Halloween costumes, and Easter baskets. Those holidays also came attached with ritualistic family dinners that left our table crowded with traditional holiday foods. I won’t bother listing them but if you’re an American or know American traditions, you can probably guess most of them.
It’s important to note that the holidays became more about the food and the presents than they did about the family interaction. However, as I aged and looked back, I’m pretty sure that the family interaction was the source of the happiness and the food and presents were augmentations. The food is easier to remember fondly because it engages all five senses and creates stronger memories. When I thought about it more, I began to see that food was attached to every single event in my life that I remembered fondly.
It’s no wonder food is used for comfort. When you’re depressed and your brain is frantically trying to repair the problem, every happy memory that gets jogged will likely contain food. Over time, we’re conditioned to link food to happiness instead of human interaction. We learn to treat our depression with sensory overload and there is no greater sensory overload than junk food. Our bodies naturally crave fats, sugars, and salt. It’s no coincidence that most of the junk food we crave contains those three things in abundance and it’s no accident when they’re mass marketed when the holidays roll around. Our fondest memories are being manufactured and then being used as weapons against us.
Part 2: Fear and Self Loathing
Growing up, I never really got picked on for my weight much, though I was definitely aware of how different I was. This was during the late 80s and early 90s when fat kids were in the minority. By puberty, I was already ashamed of my body and rarely even swam without a shirt on. I was also starting to shy away from social interaction. My brother built a computer for me and put a dial-up modem in it, which truthfully probably saved my life but also gave me the escape that would destroy my need for real life human interaction. I didn’t have access to the Internet immediately but I could connect to local dialup bulletin board systems, which is where I first learned how to be somebody else. I spent hours upon hours on them either chatting or playing DOOR games, which were little text-based role playing games mostly. I often skipped school to play them. About a year after that, the same brother let me use his dialup shell account that I used to access the Internet for the first time. I found and became addicted to Internet Relay Chat.
This is relevant only because IRC introduced me to a couple of groups of people in Richmond, Hampton, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. They were the last friends I had before agoraphobia ripped me out of the real world.
Around that same time, I was incredibly depressed and it was only getting worse. The aforementioned cloud of hopelessness had been raining on me for a good long time and I had become suicidal by the time I was 15. I made two attempts on my life at that time. The first was was with a shotgun that I couldn’t figure out how to load because luckily, I am not my father’s son when it comes to firearms or things that require any degree of manual dexterity. The second was a full bottle of ibuprofen that resulted in the worst stomach pain I’ve ever felt and a ball of undissolved pills on a hospital floor. They thought it was a stomach flu and that’s the story I let my Mom believe, too. The first attempt was after my 8th grade English teacher called me stupid in class and said I would amount to nothing. If you read this at any point Mr. Johnson, don’t do that.
I was in middle school, getting bigger, and failing every single class I was taking. I had a couple of mostly in-school friends and I was too shy to talk to girls. I spent most of my time either lonely or online pretending to be someone else. My mental state was a wreck and I utterly hated myself. I had been held back twice already in second and third grade. In the eighth grade, Culpeper County Middle School instituted a pilot program that only lasted one year that required that students who didn’t finish homework throughout the year complete it in summer school. If it wasn’t completed, the student would be held back. I never did homework so at the end of the year, I knew I was going to be held back again. I talked my parents into letting me drop out and become home schooled. They offered up surprisingly little resistance partially because I think my mom recognized the desperation and despair in my voice. I was not going back to school, no matter how I got out of it.
I passed a placement test that put me at an 11th grade level and I spun my wheels. To her credit, my Mom tried to educate me, but failed badly through no fault of her own. I was lazy, didn’t care, and was too busy learning and caring only about computers, phones, networking, and how to circumvent their security. She did talk me into enrolling in a class at a local technical school where most of the region’s bad children went instead of high school to learn how to work on cars. Instead, I went to learn more about computers and took an A+ certification class that once again, I didn’t complete. However, I did meet my best friend to this day in that class. His name was Josh, we were both 16, and we would spend the years that would follow wasting an unmitigated crap-load of time playing massively multiplayer online games together.
Josh’s Mom really wanted him to get a GED, while my parents were somewhat indifferent to it but supportive none the less. While Josh was smart, he was tremendously bad at taking tests due to anxiety issues that clouded his thinking. We turned 18 around the same time and I told him that I would take it with him, even though I didn’t care, in hopes that my presence would make it easier on him and that’s the anti-climactic story of how I ended up with a Good Enough Diploma that I still haven’t used once.
Part 3: The Calm Before the Storm
Josh and I started our friendship with a mutual interest in hacking but we were also addicted to video games at that point as well. Early in our friendship, we played countless hours of Starcraft, Diablo II, and EverQuest. Even though we lived relatively close to one another, most of our communication was done over the phone or Internet.
When we were 17, Josh and I both moved out of our houses to stay with his father for the summer. Around that time, I introduced him to IRC and we started talking to a group of hackers from Richmond, Virginia that consisted of a married couple and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met to this day. Nearly every weekend during that summer, the couple would pick us up in their atrociously small car, and we’d drive to Richmond to spend the weekend dumpster diving and hacking various and sundry things. If you had an analog cellphone and you lived in Richmond in the late 90’s, there’s a chance a small group of dastardly teenagers and disenfranchised 20-somethings were rummaging about your conversations looking to create havoc.
Josh and I also had a group of friends from the Virginia Beach area that weren’t techies but just good and fun people. We often traveled down to their neck of the woods to go to parties. Sadly, all of my friends from the Internet I enjoyed hanging out with in real life would become casualties of my agoraphobia. I really loved some of them but when agoraphobia hit me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The only person I felt comfortable around for the next decade was Josh, his family, and my wife.
Before Miriam was my wife, she was of course my girlfriend, and I met her right before that ton of agoraphobia bricks fell on me. We went to see Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and briefly after that, we went to Maryland to visit her friend where we saw Signs. That was one of the last three times I’d step foot in a public place for the next ten years.
When Josh and I weren’t playing games, we were abusing our phones’ third-party calling capability and conferencing in random people to have random conversations. One of them was Kanise, who was a 12 year old that he knew through school somehow. His brother Brandon was 9 at the time I think. They got married a couple of years ago and it still remains very strange to me.
Part 4: The Dark Decade
When I was 19, I developed agoraphobia that lasted until I was 29. When I left my house, I started to have panic attacks that would cause me to sweat profusely and cause my heart to beat out of my chest. After experiencing that a few times, my brain became very adept at manifesting those panic attacks whenever I was faced with even the possibility of going into public — a sort of defensive mechanism I think — mini-panic attacks to avoid giant ones. It was so bad that when Josh got married to his wife Heather in the early 2000’s, I had to back out of being his best man because the night before his wedding, I panicked so badly that I got no sleep and made myself sick. His brother filled in for me. I attended the wedding but skipped the reception because the wedding its self wrecked what was left of my comfort zone, even though I wasn’t a member of it anymore. That day remains among my greatest regrets even though Josh never held it against me.
In 2004, one of my brothers decided to move with their two children to Davidson, North Carolina. My parents, wanting to be near their grandchildren, decided to follow. Because I was dependent on them at the time and unwilling to move in with my relatively new girlfriend in Hampton, Virginia, I decided to move with them to Kannapolis, North Carolina. The move would take me approximately 5 hours away from Josh, which would turn out to be enough distance to limit our visits to once or twice per year. One visit would be on New Years Eve and the other on July 4th. The trip would do terrible things to my knees every time because cars aren’t made for fat people and I would have panic attacks the whole way. Josh has anxiety about traveling on highways and had two small children to deal with, so he couldn’t come down to my neck of the woods very often, either.
I used my free time — which was all of my time — to play video games. Sometimes I played console games but mostly, I was addicted to massively multi-player online games. EverQuest claimed 5 years of my life, including some that I spent playing before I became agoraphobic. World of Warcraft claimed nearly 7 years. I became very good at them and met some amazing people that I still talk to. However, the games allowed me to completely ignore who I was in the real world and who I was in the games became more important to me. The end result was that I became very good at the games, became a guild and raid leader in my fantasy world, and plunged deeper into sadness and despair in the real world. My wife was an introvert herself and loved to read, so our relationship wasn’t harmed. If it was harmed at all, it was more my cynicism, depression, and inability to go places. She remained incredibly supportive however, amid what I assume was a veritable torrent of girlfriends and family members asking her why should would stay with me.
Until I was 29, The last time I would step into a public venue was when my wife and I got married in October of 2006. We had to go to the courthouse because I couldn’t handle a real wedding. Instead, Josh and his wife were our witnesses, and we had a small gathering at our house the next day. Even though I knew most of the people there, the number of them and the few people I hadn’t met were enough to cause me to have a series of panic attacks that essentially ruined what should have been one of the happiest days of my life.
I remained suicidal from middle school and on through my twenties, thinking about it at least once a day. I went to bed most nights hoping that I wouldn’t wake up the next day and when I did, I was disappointed that I had. My life was of no consequence, I hadn’t had a job in over 10 years, and I had spent approximately 3 years of my life inside of two video games; as in 3 total years of 24 hour days. I was atrociously fat, barely mobile, and I broke every piece of furniture my wife and I had, including a computer chair with a 500 pound weight limit. I didn’t have health insurance and I even though I was suicidal, I spent a lot of time worrying about how sick I was because I hadn’t been able to see a doctor in so long.
In my estimation, I was at the very least a waste of oxygen and at the very worst, a burden for my wife and family. I reached a point in my life where it was either do something about it or just finally kill myself.
I weighed myself for the first time in a decade. With her tax return, my wife purchased a heavy-duty scale for me. We were both positive that I weighed well over 600 pounds so we bought a scale that went up to 750 pounds. I stepped on it and the number quickly climbed until it rested on 538 pounds. I felt relieved that it wasn’t higher and that’s the number that would mark the beginning of a 2 year transformation journey that’s lead me to where I am today.
Part 5: Balloon Mario to Princess Peach
Armed with a scale that could weigh me for the first time in a decade, I tried to lose weight for a week using a program one of my wife’s co-workers gave her. I think it was a printout from the Southbeach Diet but I’m not sure. It was a low carb diet with a carbohydrate refeed every 18 meals. I lost 10 pounds the first week and it felt like a key turning over in my head. It was game on.
When I’m interested in something, I tend to become obsessive about it. I started searching online for low carb diet information and stumbled across a sub-forum on the SomethingAwful.com forums that I had been a member of since 2005, except I had frequented the forums for its comedy content and had no clue it had a forum dedicated to fitness, nutrition, and personal hygiene. It was there that I found the thread that would really change my life. I’d never been exposed to scientific information that was broken down into words I could understand that were in short enough spurts that it held my attention and in the Low Carb Megathread, a user named Sizzlechest did just that.
I heard that Trent Reznor used a program called IT Tracker to sequence music for one of his Nine Inch Nails albums and being in love with Nine Inch Nails, I tried to learn how to use the program between dumpster diving sessions on one of those weekends I spent in Richmond with Josh.
I could kind of play guitar but fell in love with electronic music and trying to produce it. I eventually gave up on it but not before I created a bunch of songs. There’s 2 CDs floating around the Virginia Beach area with autographs on them that contain some horrendous beep-boopy stuff and I’ve got the last — and probably best — stuff I produced on SoundCloud. Eventually music took a back seat to fitness and nutrition, which was a welcomed change of pace.
He didn’t just go over nutrition but he also went into a broader view of obesity that included videos, articles, and other things pertaining to anatomy and systems in the body I hadn’t the fuzziest clue about. I’d never heard of ketosis in my life, nor did I understand what was causing my obesity. That thread provided me the answers that would spark my interest in the subject and usually, that spark is all I need to send me on an information gathering rampage. Instead of video games, I wanted only to learn about how food interacted with my body. It wasn’t long before I started reading about fitness as well.
I decided to start a detailed weight loss log to track my progress throughout my transformation and around that time, also decided to take progress pictures and measurements once a month. That’s when I named myself Vainglory and started sharing my journey with the Internet. I started out fairly slow and stalled at 515 LBs for 3 weeks before I transitioned to a standard low carb diet, trying to stay under 100g a day. The idea is that I did damage to myself gradually so I should probably try to repair the damage gradually as well. That was the last time I would stall for a very long time.
Jinger Q: I would love to know what sort of movement/activity/exercises you were able to do while you were in the 400+ range. Thank you!!
Vainglory A: I actually got a weight bench, bar, and plates in the upper 400’s. I did deadlifts and bench presses to start. I couldn’t do back squats or any other variation due to my size and shoulder inflexibility, so when someone in my log suggested zercher squats, I started doing those. In the very beginning, I just used a couple of 20lb dumbbells and did generic dumbbell work alongside body weight squats.
adambuchbinder Q: Looking back, what’s your view on the people who judged you before you got motivated? Did it help or hurt, or were you just numb to it?
Vainglory A: The damage done to my self worth and confidence was ultimately self inflicted. Anything anybody else said only echoed my own beliefs, though it sucked to be reminded to think about it.
CuddlyBoo Q: Did you have to deal with any insidious nay-sayers? The people I am talking about are the ones who say they support you, but they do subtle things designed to sabotage your success. They don’t even mean to, it is just that they are comfortable with you the way you are and you changing makes them uncomfortable. Did changing cost you anything relationship wise?
Vainglory A: No real nay-sayers, no. There is a strange duality on the Internet. Uppity fat people get jumped all over while downity fat people get showered with affection. I mostly had to deal only with the latter. I am insanely trollable due to wanton insecurity, so that led to a few flame wars here and there but they were my fault. Otherwise, everyone has been pretty swell.
Part 6: Fear is the Catalyst of Liberation
In September of 2010, my parents invited my wife, my brother, and I to drive to the beach in Norfolk, Virginia. I weighed 450 pounds, so I was only down 88 pounds. I had gained an incredible amount of confidence in myself, though. When I asked my brother and wife if they wanted to go see Inception, my wife shot me a familiar look; it was the “Yeah, until you decide not to go again.” look that she’d justifiably shot me many times before then. In all honesty, I was very close to backing out and even though I was panicking, I had gained enough confidence from the weight loss to that point that I was able to push through the fear. The sandals I was wearing had holes in them to let water drain back through the bottom but coupled with my body weight, they caused me to make popping noises like bubble wrap every time I took a step on the mall’s polished floor. The theater was on the third floor and it was packed. We made our way past a little under 100 people standing line and bought our tickets. When I sat down in the theater, I still didn’t quite fit between the arm rests but they were adjustable and when the lights fell, my head cleared up and I enjoyed the movie.
Leaving the theater, I was completely calm. I told my mind that I was in control again and it listened for the first time in almost a decade. The agoraphobia wasn’t completely gone but that night took away a large chunk of the absolute control it had over me. Inception remains my favorite movie.
km_eldridge Q: Apologies if I just haven’t dug around on the site enough to find this but what was the catalyst for quitting WoW and does the agoraphobia still affect you as severely?
Vainglory A: I still played WoW for like 6 months into my weight loss. I eventually stopped gaming all together, though. I started caring way more about fitness/nutrition research. I haven’t touched a video game in a long time. I don’t even have one on my phone, much to my wife’s chagrin. It turns out my agoraphobia was just me feeling like every eyeball in the world was turning to look at me when I left the house. As soon as I started blending in with the crowd more, it started going away, and it’s pretty much completely gone now. I still get a little weird when people stand behind me though.
Part 7: Food is for Fuel
I steadily lost weight and logged it in my forum posts but I think the real magic started happening after Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2010. I cheated heavily on purpose for those holidays and gained a bunch of weight but I finally looked at my relationship with food and saw the addiction for what it was. I felt so good and changed my state of mind so drastically that I was actually upset that I’d hurt myself and my progress. It was a gigantic breakthrough that lead to a thought that I share with all of my patients now. Holidays are about people, not food. Nothing is about food. We make things about food because it’s easy — it’s easy because it’s tradition and you’re expected to do it. The greatest triumphs come when you do the hard thing instead. The funny thing is that if you’re 100% committed to doing the hard thing, it eventually becomes the easy thing. But if you’re only 99% committed, it will remain just as hard as it is now, forever.
Optimism began to sneak into my head and the cynicism that had dominated me for so long began to dissipate. I began to transform into the person I am today when I became the most disgusted at the person I used to be. Dieter’s nirvana. I fully bought into my own rhetoric that food is for fuel. Enjoying it is biologically imperative to the survival of our species but being utterly enthralled by it is completely optional and ultimately destructive; multiply its destructive capability by 100 if you’re impulsive and your metabolism is inefficient.
By the holiday season in 2011, I was wholly committed to my health and I lost weight on both Christmas and Thanksgiving. I didn’t cheat even a little bit and I didn’t even think twice about it. The most interesting thing that happened wasn’t that I successfully avoided cheating. It was that some of the people I spent the holidays with treated me as if though I was torturing myself. They knew I had a food addiction, were inspired by my progress, and congratulated me on my progress. However, they expected me to cheat. I’m glad I can look from the outside in at the absurd pedestals we place on our food on. To me, it’s tantamount to presenting your car’s gasoline in a crystal vase before putting it in the tank. That’s partially why I’m successful.
actinide Q: I’d like to see you go into more detail about your relationship with food, i.e. how you dealt with emotional triggers to eat and stuff like that.
Vainglory A: A paradigm shift. I decided that I wanted a new life more than I wanted to keep feeding and reliving the trauma that ruined my old one. Once I began to treat sugar as poison, it was easy. I view cake right now with the same caution I would rat poison.
(Fun fact: actinide is one of my dumpster diving friends from Richmond.)
Part 8: Living
As I begin this paragraph, it is April 14th, 2012, at least for another few hours. Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the day I shared my struggles with anyone but my wife. My forum-based weight loss log guided me through my transformation and provided me incredible support along the way. It gave me an outlet to dump my thoughts and ideas into. It taught me that I’m still an idiot at times, no matter how much weight I lose or how much insight I gain. Most of all, it gave me a reason to track my progress and through that, I’ve managed to turn my life around.
The weight log I kept, the pictures and measurements I took, and the log its self are at least partially responsible for me getting my first job in a decade. My wardrobe is no longer full of super baggy clothes that wouldn’t look right on a hobo. I’m very much alive and my future prospects are as bright as the sun. Even if I end up working retail for the rest of my life, I’m a success story. I beat an enemy that had a death grip on me and not many people can say that.
I have the Internet to thank for that and specifically users who have gone through or are going through the same thing I did. They didn’t have to say kind things to me but almost all of them did. The online weight loss community is the greatest support group in the history of the world and I’m eternally grateful to all of them for helping me find some worth in myself for the first time… ever.
Thank you all for your interest in my story and I really hope it inspires someone to change their lives too. I’m probably going to miss a few people but I want to make the final words on this page a tribute to the strange goons (some with stranger names than others) who helped me to find joy in breathing. Most have been supporting me the entire time.