Double amputee overcomes severe depression by learning to box – now he’s helping others with disabilities
“You know the most difficult tasks are the most rewarding,” Donahue Fields said about his journey from depression to now helping others fight it – literally!
These days Donahue teaches adaptive boxing in a small gym space he rented in New York – but it was his journey to this point though, that made all the difference for him.
At 19-years-old, Donahue had hopes of joining the Marines, but unfortunately that dream was short lived after a stray bullet sliced through his spine while he was walking home one February afternoon in 2003 – the injury would result in the loss of both his legs.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, sometime later he got mugged and assaulted while staying at a medical facility during his recovery, he told the New York Times.
The combination of losing both his limbs and the crushing blow to his confidence after the mugging, got Donahue thinking about his own self-worth, or in his mind, the lack there of.
“I was shot in my back, I lived through a spinal cord injury,” Fields, now 37, told PEOPLE. “The depression and PTSD just spiraled. I tried to commit suicide, woke up in the ICU. I didn’t know where to go with my life from there.”
Due to lack of motivation to get moving, his health and mental health, started to decline at an alarming rate.
But then something magical happened – Fields found that ever so elusive and coveted emotion – he found love.
This new inspiration compelled Fields to get back into shape and start moving again – both physically and mentally. And that’s when he found out about adaptive boxing.
“I was approached by a trainer at the gym,” Fields recalled. “During a program that I attended here in New York. I just started going, got better, kept training harder and I started to feel good.”
Boxing was the catalyst that gave Fields a new lease on life, and a new foundation to rebuild from – he started to feel happy again.
“I found confidence, a confidence that I was meeting goals. I was getting better at something,” he says. “It played a part in me wanting to try other things and wanting to become better — to apply myself.”
After seeing what the sport did for him and his confidence, he saw his next opportunity – he wanted to train others with disabilities.
So he rented out a small section of a gym to train them, and got to work.
“I wanted people to enjoy it the way I’m enjoying it to create a self-esteem boost,” he says. “It starts with security, and then you apply that in other areas of your life. Hopefully, they experience the same thing I did and just keep growing and growing.”
Those who have joined have a variety of conditions, Fields said. Some have cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other developmental disabilities – one individual is recovering from a stroke.
“It serves a purpose,” Fields said. “It brings fulfillment. What this is really about is how it affects their lives.”
He is now hoping he can help get adaptive boxing included in the 2020 Summer Paralympics.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” he says. “You know the most difficult tasks are the most rewarding.”
Don’t ever let your circumstances keep you from being happy and chasing your dreams.
Will you have to work harder than most? Yes.
Will you get discouraged? Yes.
And will you fail many times before you succeed? Definitely.
So now there’s just one question we have for you: How bad do you want it?
Thank you, Donahue for inspiring us and many others. We salute you sir!
Keep up with Donahue by following his Facebook page.