Sunday, December 29, 2013

Josh Hanagarne Revitalizes my “BE Strong” Project

When I selected Josh Hanagarne’s book The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family for the December Savvy Reader Book Club I thought it would be the perfect read to close out my Be Strong reading challenge.  To my surprise instead of wrapping up my project this book inspired me to revitalize it.  Josh’s story helped me realize procuring inner-strength is not something that can be accomplished in one year. It is a life-long project.

Josh who began experiencing symptoms of Tourette's syndrome at the age of six describes Tourette’s syndrome as follows:
In any language, the movement disorder comes down to two things: those with the disorder either move involuntarily, makes noises involuntarily, or both.
He writes:
The worst part of Tourette’s wasn’t the bodily harm or even my inability to go outside sometimes. It wasn’t that I was being driven toward increasing isolation. It was the uncertainty. It felt like driving at night, with headlights coming toward me, and every car seemed to be in my lane. I no longer had a destination. I only knew that everything coming toward me had the potential to wreck me, to derail any plan I could make.
To say Josh's journey towards controlling his Tourette's symptoms was difficult would be an understatement. He tried numerous methods from visiting questionable doctors, to ingesting drugs - Klonopin/Clonezepam, Tetrabenazine, Zyprexa, Risperol, Haldol, Clonidine, even a nicotine patch—none of which helped for more than a few days and most had side effects. After his involuntary outbursts turned to screams, he receives botulism toxin injections that paralyze his vocal chords. These injections reduce his speech to a whisper.

As Josh’s symptoms continue to worsen, they cause increasing turmoil in his life. He leaves his Mormon mission early; he is in and out of jobs as well as college. Eventually he ends up refusing to leave his parent’s couch suffering from a debilitating depression. Thinking his son has zero confidence his father convinces him to try weight training.

Eventually Josh’s strength training leads him to Adam Glass, a strongman and former Air Force tech sergeant. Adam describes a good trainer as someone who gets results and shows clients how to figure something out for themselves. Josh writes:
Working with Adam was the first time someone actually asked me to think about what was actually happening to me. My doctors they never asked how I felt. They treated symptoms.
After coming home from spending a week with Adam, Josh has a breakthrough epiphany - his breathing is the key to controlling his Tourette’s symptoms. He practices taking a lung-filling breath that does not result in a tic. These breaths turned into seconds, seconds into days, days into weeks and weeks.

Unfortunately, Josh’s life does not remain symptom free. While under stress after witnessing early signs of Tourette’s in his son Max, they return with a vengeance. Josh has to begin the process of taming them all over again.  

As I mentioned in my book selection postThe World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family is about much more than Tourette’s, but for me, Josh's battle with Tourette’s is what resonated the most. His trainer Adam says it best:
I don’t know how you do it? Having control of my body is one of the only things that keeps me this sane, and I’m pretty wrecked.
This book has inspired me to improve upon my own inner-strength project. To dig deeper, seek out mentors and trainers that ask the right questions so I too can strengthen my inner core.

Bottom Line:
Despite enjoying The World’s Strongest Librarian and feeling it is a worthwhile read for a strength project it is not a perfect book. Even though - I think - I grasped the gist of the chapter covering the week Josh spent working with Adam it was a cumbersome read that did not improve with a re-reading. I particularly enjoyed learning about his family life, his take on reading, libraries and his experiences working in them. In addition, the section covering the difficulties he and his wife experienced conceiving a child are heartbreaking. Overall though, I am left with a feeling that something is missing.

Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a good book. I could not imagine having an illness like turrets.

    Thanks for linking up for #FlashbackFriday!!!