Tragedy and hardship are unavoidable parts of human life. Although there is no option in preventing the events that cause pain and suffering, there is the option on how to deal with them.
Keene State College student Arian Deihim shared his story about how multiple tragedies affected his life for the worse, but how he found himself through Jiu-Jitsu and exercise during his darkest times.
Deihim said his story began in the summer of 2005 when he lost his mother unexpectedly to a brain aneurysm. “One morning I woke to sounds of distress and found my mother’s boyfriend giving her CPR,” Deihim said. “When she had her aneurysm, she was brought to the hospital and put on life support. After a few days, the doctor declared her brain dead, which means she could not support oxygen without the aid of machines. They told us the most humane thing was to remove the life support, so my sister and I were forced to sign her life away.” Deihim said that after his mother’s passing he found himself in a whirlwind of sorrow and self-loathing, which left him with no drive, no goals and no prospects for his life.
“After my mom died, I decided I did not want to go to college. I did not want to leave my girlfriend or my house, my mom’s house. I fell into drugs and depression and ended up going to jail for a short period of time. I also lost my girlfriend, which pushed me deeper into depression. As I was afraid to get in trouble again, I cleaned up my act but this really just entailed living alone and working a lot in restaurants. It was a very lonely life,” Deihim said.
Prior to his mother’s passing, Deihim said that he had plans for his future, which included attending a culinary school. However, his mother’s passing caused him to put his plans and his education on hold.
“I was planning on going to New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont. Cooking was actually something that I fell into; I went to a tech center for half of high school and originally applied for the auto tech program, putting culinary as a second choice,” Deihim said.
He continued, “My mom helped me get accepted to school and get scholarships. I still have the acceptance letter to the New England Culinary Institute that she signed; it is a prized possession, just a piece of her handwriting that brings her back to me a little.”
Eventually, Deihim said he grew tired of being depressed and having low self-esteem, which caused him to replace his drug use and other activities with more positive undertakings.
“After I cleaned myself up from drugs I replaced them with other activities of sloth like video games. One day I was just so fed up with the way I felt and I decided that I needed a change. I cancelled all of my gaming accounts and went and bought a gym membership. For the next year I got really into bodybuilding and fitness. It was the best decision of my life,” Deihim said.
Deihim added that one of the most influential forms of exercise in his life is Jiu-Jitsu, which he said changed his life through discipline and courage. “Jiu-Jitsu provided me discipline and obvious goals. It is an art that involves a family-life training atmosphere and I received a great deal of mentorship and friendship in a time of my life where I really needed it. I could feel my body change. I felt like I got into bed differently, I felt agile for the first time in my life. I gained so much confidence and self-awareness. It turned me into a man,” Deihim said.
Deihim said that exercise serves as his medicine and without it he goes crazy. As he was becoming more involved with physical activities and Jiu-Jitsu, Deihim said that he then decided it was time for him to go back to school. “To get a GPA Keene State suggested that I go to a community college, so I went to live with my father for the first time in my life,” Deihim said. After a year of attending community college in Tennessee, Deihim said that he got accepted to KSC and headed back to New Hampshire.
However, as he was making the move from Tennessee back to New Hampshire, Deihim said that his father had begged him to stay, but that he decided he must stick to his own path.
“Two weeks into my freshmen year, my father committed suicide. I had to go back to Tennessee and, per a traditional Muslim burial, literally carry him to his grave,” Deihim said.
Deihim said that although it was a brutal time, he kept his nose to the grindstone and continued on.
“I was not as close with my father, but he was my dad. It was brutal. I am still dealing with the demons from his death. I was pretty angry with him at first, but at the same time, in some morbid way. He had a pretty terrible life of his own creation,” Deihim said. Now that he was enrolled at KSC, Deihim said that school was pretty hard, especially after his father’s passing. However, rather than turning to his previous methods of mourning, Deihim said that Jiu-Jitsu not only helped him cope but also gain a great deal of confidence and skills.
“My father passed the second week of my first semester. I had just started teaching the Jiu-Jitsu Club and I realized I was really good at it. People would tell me over and over how good of a teacher I was, which brought me so much confidence. I met the best friends of my life through the club. However, there have been times when I couldn’t do Jiu-Jitsu, like recently when I had knee surgery. So the fitness end has helped me to cope when I couldn’t enjoy my hobbies,” Deihim said. Although adjusting into his time at KSC was difficult, Deihim said that his time at the college changed his life. “The jiu-jitsu club definitely had the most impact because I handled everything to do with the logistics and teaching and it helped me mature a lot. I will say that some of my teachers and classes left much to be desired, but I’m sure you can say that about any college. Sometimes I really did feel like I didn’t fit in with your typical KSC students, but that’s okay, I found my people,” Deihim said.
In terms of the friends that he has made at KSC, Deihim said that they have been the most influential people he has met at the college because the previous feeling of being out of place was never an issue with them. “They made me feel cool; like they really wanted me around,” Deihim said. “I truly love them as my new family and hope to stay friends for a lifetime.” Apart of this close-knit friend group is Liz Christian, who said her and Deihim met in an IQL class freshmen year and have been friends ever since. Christian said that a novel wouldn’t even begin to describe her relationship with Deihim, but he’s been her closest confidant for the majority of her life here in Keene and that she has been so grateful to have him.
“There isn’t a week that goes by where we haven’t at least checked in with one another about how we’re doing, and there is not a weekend that goes by that we aren’t together. He never fails to make me laugh, to make me feel loved, to make me feel supported, or to be there when I have truly needed his guidance,” Christian said.
Christian added that when she first met Deihim he was more reserved and shy. “I really feel that it was as if he could not figure out where he would fit in because he is a few years older than most students,” Christian said. “Ever since he found our group of friends and solace in his yoga practice, I have seen him become more confident in himself and the person he is.”
She continued, “More specifically, I have seen him flourish in teaching others regarding their own yoga practice and even those he personally trains. I am so proud of the man he has become, because it reflects who the real Ari is and I am so honored to be apart of his growth.” Like Christian, KSC Alumni Angela Stanton said that her relationship with Deihim is one that she will cherish for the rest of her life. Stanton said that there is really no one-way to explain the relationship she has with Deihim, but that they always have a good time together and mutually grow from one another.
“His past may have affected him as a person, but who he is as a person affected me. He went from being lost in this world to giving a sense of direction to those around him. You don’t meet someone like that just anywhere,” Stanton said.With graduation approaching, Deihim said that although he is up in the air about career paths, he knows his future is bright.
“I am done with classes but graduate in May. Right now I am teaching a lot of yoga and doing personal training at the gym. When I leave Keene in August I plan to do TFL [Teaching English to Foreign Learners] in Spain. I am also looking into teaching yoga retreats in Nicaragua,” Deihim said.
In terms of what advice he can offer for other students going through similar issues with drug use and depression, Deihim said he recommends finding something tangible that you love and can dedicate yourself too.
“We always have a choice in life. We can either let our hardships beat us down or we can try every single day to do everything in our power to better our condition. For me, giving up was never an option; I had too many people counting on me,” Deihim said.
Brogan Wessell can be contacted at email@example.com