Two months into her term as The Rotary Club of Farragut president, Chris Camp has welcomed an interesting variety of community leaders to Fox Den Country Club [see photos] as featured speakers during the club’s regular Wednesday noon meetings.
One of those was Zach Guza.
While battling depression, Guza found exercise helped defeat suicide and that led him to found Black Dog Fitness in Knoxville.
Guza, personal trainer and owner of Black Dog Fitness in Knoxville, shared his journey out of depression during RCF’s Aug. 9 meeting.
“I saw people and saw the world but I still suffered from depression,” Guza said.
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he served nine years as an officer and Air Force helicopter pilot, flying VH1Ns. Once he left the military, he worked in middle management at a paper mill.
“My life was a Dilbert cartoon,” he recalled. “The pressure really caught up with me, and [the depression] is where Black Dog came from.”
Depression was like a black dog that “finally succeeded hijacking my life,” he said. “Going down is easier than going up.”
He eventually sought and received treatment for chronic depression and discovered exercise helped alleviate the symptoms of depression. From that, he founded Black Dog Fitness in 2015.
“I learned not to be afraid of the black dog,” he said. “No matter how bad it gets, take time to stop and get the right help.”
Guza said he has learned he is not alone in his experience with depression.
“It isn’t just you,” he said. “[Depression] is not a mood … it’s not a choice. He quoted statistics from American Society on Suicide, which states, “The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.26 per 100,000 individuals.
He added, “1.1 million tries annually [to commit suicide].
“That’s a lot of people who are hurting so badly they would rather die.”
Guza said clinical depression is the result of a lack of the chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Chronic depression, such as what Guza suffered from, “tends to come out of nowhere,” he added.
People suffering from depression focus on or target one thought.
“They can’t see past that one single target,” Guza said.
What can people do?
“Just pay attention … and make a plan to just do something,” he said.
Don’t try to fix the person and don’t leave him or her alone, Guza advised.
“Don’t say, ‘Call me if you need me…’ They won’t call,” he said. “Don’t say, ‘It could be worse’ or ‘cheer up, it isn’t that bad.’”
He also advised encouraging the person to get help.
“Depression does respond to treatment,” Guza said. “Within two weeks, I was feeling better.”
The most effective treatments are therapy, medications, a stable schedule and exercise.
“Exercise is what got me out of my rut,” he said. “It’s a shock to the brain and it promotes brain growth.”
For more information about Black Dog Fitness and Guza, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-378-0415.