My People

Exactly a month ago, Laura Gilbert Marjamaa, one of the founders of Springs Equality messaged me on Facebook.

Hey Eric! I have a really random question for you. As you may be aware of, we do a first Friday social event every month and in January we would like our First Friday geared around better and healthier choice (both physically and personally). We are throwing around the idea of having a motivational speaker and you came to my mind. With all of the great work you did at Inside/Out and Care and Share along with your weight loss journey I thought you might be a perfect fit.

Tonight I wanted to allow myself to be super vulnerable; I spoke about how my mental and physical health took a hit running the show at Inside/Out solo, and can show and tell how the experience made me even stronger.

Here is the script I prepared:

Hello, everyone,

My name is Eric Pizana, Volunteer Services and Community Outreach Director at Care and Share Food Bank, and former Executive Director at Inside/Out Youth Services.

Inside/Out Youth Services’s mission is to educate, empower and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning youth ages 13-22 in the Pikes Peak Region.

I used to tell everyone, “I am never leaving Inside/Out.”

Growing up as a young man in Colorado Springs to a Hispanic and military family, coming out was one of the hardest things I had to do. My mom and I had a close relationship until I came out. She said the most horrible things to me, that I was a disgrace to our family, that I would die of AIDS, and that I should kill myself. I was taken to a mental health hospital. I ran away a lot.

Don’t worry; today my mom and I have one of the strongest relationships I could ever ask for.

During that time of coming out I found Inside/Out. They advocated for me by saving me from a world of rejection, educated me by allowing me to talk a bout LGBT issues – LGBT people in the media and safe sex. Inside/Out empowered me by having me understand that being gay was okay and only a piece of who I am.

The experience charted my future. One day I wanted to pay it forward and be that supportive adult for a young person. During my time at Inside/Out I oversaw the organization grow. I also oversaw the organization through one of its most critical times of need when we had our Executive Director leave and had to find a new home in three months at the same time. We found a new Executive Director and a new home, and the night before our grand opening the building burned down. The new Executive Director shortly left after.

I was left with ashes and a desire for Inside/Out to continue. I understood the impact it had on the community because of the impact it made on me. I can also see the difference in the lives of the young people who we would save.During my time there I helped them find a new home and provide stability.

So why did I leave Inside/Out? Running a non-profit solo from saving and shaping lives of young people, to being responsible for keeping the doors open, and everything in between was too much for one person.

My passion is endless, my energy is not.

I was anxious. I was depressed. I was scared. I feared failing. I wasn’t sleeping, every night and all night I kept thinking about my massive to-do-list. Who I needed to follow-up with, who I needed to e-mail, who I needed to call, where I needed to be, did we have enough volunteers for tomorrow, what will the program be, what was I forgetting and what would happen tomorrow that I didn’t even think of. I had to see a doctor. My doctor said I had legitimate reasons for feeling anxious and depressed and if I slept I would feel better. I was prescribed sleeping pills. Finally, I would sleep, but they came with a price of feeling sick all the time.

My mental and physical health plummeted. My heart was the only thing keeping me going.

A death in the family was the final straw. I remember not being able to grieve with my family because I was coordinating an event and working from afar. I remember after the ordeal my family was ready to return to what was normal, and I remembered thinking I’m not. I needed to do something.

To save myself, and to save Inside/Out  I needed to let go. I left.

In retrospect, I am so thankful I did. Today I work at Care and Share Food Bank. I learned a lot about how hunger impacts thousands of families in Southern Colorado. Thanks to volunteers, champions in our community, we can ensure that someday no one will go hungry. I love it I feel so satisfied at Care and Share.

I can sleep again! Without medications! I have peace of mind. I have found a balance between work and personal life.

What made me want to lose weight was another trip to the doctor’s office. I bet everyone’s favorite part is jumping on that scale to see how much you weigh.  I remember being devastated by the number the scale reflected back at me. I had two options 1) keep gaining weight and continue feeling bad about myself or 2) lose it some way some how.

A co-worker talked about his experience with Weight Watchers and I saw it as a message from the universe! I decided to join Weight Watchers. My personality type is all in or nothing and I also decided to stop drinking soda and join a gym. I try to go to the gym in the morning because at 6AM I only have one excuse, I don’t want to get out of bed vs. in the evening I can think I had a long day at work, I’m hungry, I had a hard day and on and on..

Since March I’ve lost over 50lbs! I haven’t been this size in I don’t remember how long.

There is no secret to my weight loss, but if there was one secret to my success it would be the support that surrounded me from my husband, co-workers and Weight Watchers group for keeping me accountable and rooting for me along the way.

Support. Support from the friendships we make, support we find from the community is powerful.

I now find time to support Inside/Out by volunteering. My relationship with them is if you love something you let it go and you know. I hope you consider volunteering your time somewhere, and to be that support for someone else. You don’t know what difference you’ll make.

Thank you for allowing me to share my experience and I wish you all endless peace and happiness.

Update: Regarding the art. I got home late and was wanting to draw something simple. I thought about drawing only a rainbow, and then I added the sky, clouds, and sun. The inspiration just came out. I then added the creature which to me symbolizes finding My People. The pattern on the creature was something created the day before. I’m glad I found a great use for it.

2 thoughts on “My People

  1. Hey sweet friend! Thank you so much for sharing this story. Wow! Can I relate? This sounds like my final days at FutureSelf. I was there for eight years; the thing that gave me life at one time was starting to take it with stress, weight gain, insomnia and ultimately over-drinking to settle the stress. I’ve also found the right job for me that allows me time for my marriage, friends, creativity, self-expression and satisfying meaningful work. It takes courage to admit you can’t do it anymore. I’m so proud of you! You did an incredible service for our youth and still do. Now you can do it without slowly killing yourself, and now they can learn self-care so beautifully through your example.

    Liked by 1 person

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