The idea of the “Six” in the Count O Rama has been very interesting and enlightening to me ever since a couple of F3 Toledo Pax brought it back from F3 Louisville. The sixth man in the Count O Rama shares a little bit about their F3 journey, including who headlocked them, how they got their F3 nickname, and what F3 means to them. The idea of talking in front of everyone about what this amazing group means to you is amazing. During F3 Toledo’s 2019 Winter Challenge, I believe I was the 6 on more than 50% of the beatdowns that I attended. I felt like I opened up. But, that short couple of minutes is simply not enough to explain how I have been transformed by this group and all of the amazing men that I can now call my friends.
Rewind back to Labor Day of 2017, I had been getting hounded by my brother, Mater, and my co-worker, Mickey, to come out to F3. All summer long, the idea of waking up at 5:00 am and working out simply wasn’t important to me at all. I knew that I was out of shape, and I knew that I needed to do something. But, I was comfortable being in a state of contentment, even if it wasn’t the best me, physically or mentally.
Mater convinced me to come out on Labor Day because “Hey, it’s a holiday, and we work out an hour later”, so I could get up at 6:00 am instead of 5:00 am. I initially told him I was going to come out just to get him to stop bugging me, fully intending to skip in the morning. Fortunately, I know God had a plan for me, and he wanted me to be a part of this group.
The night before Labor Day, we were at our neighbor’s house with a couple of other people from the neighborhood, and somehow, F3 came up. One of the people at the house was Rose, and I made the mistake of telling him that I was contemplating going to F3 in the morning. He told me that since I told him I was thinking about going, now I had to show up. I thought, “Great, another person to hound me about F3. I guess I better just go and get it over with and say I tried it.”
That was my mindset coming into the beatdown, and I fully intended to just quit after trying it. Rose had told me the night before that Monday workouts were always a “Murph”. I knew what the Murph was, and, needless to say, I was not exactly thrilled to be doing it the next morning. I got through maybe half of the workout before time was called to head the mile back to Faith Hill. I was sore for days after this because I was completely out of shape and hadn’t done anything like that ever. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I came out to a few more workouts. But, I never really tried to enter the group or make any friends because I had already had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to continue.
I feel that telling the background to my life story and my complete rock bottom is very integral to elaborating what F3 now means to me.
Ever since I was in high school, I have suffered with severe depression and anxiety issues. I was always the type of person who would put on a happy face during the day because it wasn’t tough, or manly, or whatever, to be sad or vulnerable and reach out to somebody. Or, so I thought. I kept everything bottled up inside of me for 4 years, and finally my world came crumbling down on top of me in the fall of 2004 when I ventured off to college at Purdue. Having no one I knew within 4 hours of me, on top of feeling crippling depression and anxiety, was too much for me to deal with. Within 4 weeks of school starting, I knew I was never going to make it, and I was either going to kill myself, or I had to get home.
At the time, I felt like such a failure and a worthless person. But, little did I know that decision to drop out of school, return home, and start life over was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I was finally able to admit to myself, my family, and my friends that I had a problem, and I needed to get help for it, or else I wasn’t going to live very long. Once I came home, I started medication and seeing a doctor regularly. I met my wife a month later, and we began dating 6 months after that. We are now married with 2 beautiful children.
Roughly three months after both of my kids were born, I had severe relapses back into a state of depression, anxiety and panic. My second child was born in August of 2016. So during the summer of 2017, when Mickey and Mater were hounding me about me joining F3, I was thinking about how I wanted to die, and everyone would be better off without me. I felt worthless and completely lacked any motivation to want to improve myself. That was the state of my mind when I came out on Labor Day 2017, and that continued until December 2017, when I finally committed myself to wanting to be a better man, a better father, and just better myself physically and mentally. I posted 3 times in 12 days when I started, and I fell off the map until 12/27/17.
I don’t know what it was that sparked my interest in coming back into the group. But when I did, I immediately felt like everyone welcomed me back in with open arms. This was a first for me, anytime I had gone long droughts without seeing someone or doing something with a group, there was always this attitude of “where have you been”, “why are you back now”, etc. But, this was different. Everyone was just so kind and supportive of me.
When I started back with the group, I began to hear about the GrowRuck that was taking place in April 2018. I was intrigued and decided to sign up. That meant I had 4 months to get myself back into decent shape and also buy a lot of things for this “free” group, haha. In the months leading up to the GrowRuck, I had a lot of text conversations with Colonel. To this day, I can remember the words he told me, the faith that he had in me, but that I had yet to find in myself. Those conversations started to break down the walls that I had put up. They allowed me to start to open up and actually try to fit into the group, instead of just being a person working out with other people.
By the time GrowRuck came around, I was terrified because I didn’t think I was strong enough, mentally or physically, to be able to complete the event. During the middle of the night, I had severe doubts about myself and those words from Colonel just kept playing on repeat. I thought “if he is so confident in me, there has to be something there that I can use.” I was able to make it to the dawn, and I remember when we walked back into Camp Miakonda I thought the event was over. I began to tear up because I felt good with myself for the first time in a very long time. I was able to push myself mentally and physically, and I performed and pulled my fair share of weight for the team.
However, we were not done yet. After a break and some personal stories at the amphitheater, it was time for our Platoon to serve our penalty from earlier in the night. We had to carry the other two Platoons rucks around the lake and back to the start. This was horrifying to me, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to do it. About halfway around the lake, one of the three rucks began falling off of me, and I couldn’t get it back to a comfortable position. At that time, Colonel was to my left, and for a brief second, I was about to ask him to take one for me. But, he said something to me at that moment, and I was able to pull it back together. I was able to get the rucks back in place and finish with him and Ollie. I never thought it would be possible to finish with those guys just a couple months earlier.
That event really opened my eyes to what I can do mentally and physically. When I first started F3, I told Mickey and Mater I never wanted to lead a workout, and I was fully committed to that until the end of the GrowRuck. Once GrowRuck ended and so many kind words I received from a lot of the Pax who knew my doubts, I felt this desire and need to show what I had learned and lead a beatdown. And lead I did, leading my first beatdown about 2 weeks later in May 2018.
My commitment to my physical and mental battle through F3 was tested again in June of 2018. After being a continual presence at beatdowns since the beginning of 2018, my family went on vacation to Tucson. I went a week without even thinking of getting up early. At that time, I was still not disciplined enough to go a week off and get back in the routine. Unfortunately after returning from Tucson, I was MIA until September 2018. I participated in Trinity’s Capture the Flag ruck event that September and was MIA again until November 2018. In that time, I had received so many messages from various Pax, seen a lot of people out at grocery stores, or soccer games that really wanted me to come back. That was new to me and I finally knew that I needed to get back out in the gloom with all the guys. I have been going out to F3 religiously since November 2018, and it has been such a help to me. I have gone since January 2018 without really having any depression issues. I have gained so much confidence in myself and gained so much knowledge to live by, both mentally and spiritually, from all of the Pax. I have become more physically fit than I had been since I had Achilles surgery in 2014. At that time, I was in peak running shape and was running a couple half marathons a year. I had just completed my first marathon the prior year. Since Achilles surgery, I was never able to get back into a running routine and just became content with whatever my body was going to become. I feel physically better about myself. I am not at what I would call my goal weight, but I am at least working towards it. That wouldn’t be possible without the help of all of the F3 Toledo Pax.
Needless to say, F3 Toledo has changed my life for the better. Along with returning home from Purdue back in 2004, joining F3 is one of the top 3 decisions I have made in my life. I couldn’t imagine my life without you guys, your push, and your support through whatever life is throwing at me. I no longer feel alone in my life. I now feel like I have several life long friends that truly care about my well being and how I am doing. I truly thank each and every one of you for saving my life in one way or another.
Aaron “Danica” Feller
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