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My name is Christopher Dito, and I’m a 27 year old male living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth 1A. I was diagnosed with CMT at the age of 13 and used a wheelchair by the age of 25. Although doctors argued that it was strictly CMT-related, I humbly beg to differ. I now like to think of this disease as a kicker that I must live with on top of the accumulation of bad decisions and living habits I adapted to growing up. These habits left me unhappy, anxious, hopeless, and—last but not least—in pain.

I was constantly patching up my life with dozens of different band-aids, never taking the time to consider or address the root cause of my wounds.

It was after almost 25 years of ignoring signals (including spending weeks in St. Francis Hospital for heart complications, shoulder injuries, ankle injuries, a blown ACL, a severe neck injury, lower back injuries etc), that my body had enough. In October 2014, I was walking through the supermarket when my feet suddenly gave out on me. Every tendon and muscle below both knees felt like rubber bands about to snap. It was from this point forward, and for the next year, that I would have to use a wheelchair with no real definitive answer of what had happened to me.

After many struggles (including two complete foot reconstructions requiring 26 operations), I now stand here today as a physical trainer specializing in human biomechanics. My love for the human body dates back to when I was just a kid, unable to fulfill a childhood that most people would deem “normal.” Today, my interest has become my profession and, most importantly, my passion.

My self-education of human physiology truly began while I was confined to a wheelchair; but, once mobile, it quickly turned into something more serious. I began traveling the country and partaking in continuous educational courses in the hopes that I could find the answers to my own problems as well as the problems of others. After attending courses and countless hours of research, there still seemed to be so much missing. I began to think outside the box, which led me down a few roads I’ll briefly share with you.

I was initially overwhelmed with this influx of information, as many CMT sufferers may also experience reading this article. Some might be thinking, “If I have an incurable nervous system disease, how the hell does all this help me?” Well, it may not cure us, but becoming more in touch with our body can help us understand that we have more control over our nervous systems and pain than we perceive we have.

What would happen in a world where we focused on wellness instead of illness?

This was one of the most important questions I asked myself during my recovery process. If our environment influences our health, why not work on changing our environment—or, at the very least, work on changing how our bodies respond to the environment we are in. The more I explored and researched areas such as diet, stress control, circadian rhythm, sun exposure, alternative holistic medicine and, of course, my primary scope of practice human biomechanics, the more I found out how closely they are all related.

While browsing the internet, I began finding people and methodologies that were innovative and operated outside the “ordinary.” I discovered the practice of Functional Patterns (which I am currently labeled a human biomechanics specialist under), I learned about our fascial system by reading books like Anatomy Trains by Thomas W. Myers and I explored the work of Dr. Jack Kruse (a neurosurgeon and biohacker). After delving down these roads and adapting them to my own body and circumstances, I’ve concluded that it all boils down to this: whether we are born with an incurable disease or performing at the highest levels of athletic ability, we are all human beings.

After this moment of realization, I truly began to see mental and physical progress. I was forced to let go of my ego and abandon all of the previous dogmas that I had held onto so desperately. I slowly began implementing all of these new elements into my recovery process, and I started listening to the signals from my body that I had once ignored.

My approach to fitness and therapy no longer replicates that of a traditional standpoint. I train myself and others to focus on the primary functions humans evolved to do: breathing, walking, running, and throwing. Who would have thought? Exercising and rehabbing our bodies in relation to our biological blueprint is key. Of course, it is more complicated than it sounds; yet, the reasoning is so simple and often overlooked.

During an educational trip to Austin, Texas, I spent exorbitant amounts of time absorbing sunlight, eating high quality seafood, and exercising with others who were determined to educate themselves on optimizing human functionality. It didn’t take long to reap the benefits of what I was doing. I was able to feel the all of the inflammation, aches, and pains slowly escaping my body… something I had previously only experienced on a much smaller scale while dieting.

As someone who has dealt with a lifetime of chronic pain and injuries and who now also helps others experiencing these issues, I think that it is important to first ask two questions: what is pain and what causes pain?

Unfortunately, what many people fail to recognize is that this subject, as a whole, is still somewhat of a mystery. Although scientific studies continue to be conducted and definitive conclusions remain unknown, I can assure you that pain is more of an output of information rather than an input. In fact, pain is a byproduct of our environmental context. Pain can be a response of the body to cope with our own personal environment (response to stress/non-stressful environment, past trauma, stimulation of nociceptors, danger signals, etc.). All of these environmental factors play a very significant role in the state of two divisions of the autonomic nervous system called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They also play a tremendous role in our bodies’ fascial system, another subject often understudied and overlooked.

While in Texas, I decided to go on a hike using minimalist shoes, something I would have never attempted to do in the past. I was able to feel my feet connected to the ground, rather than the usual “floaty” and unstable feeling. My body was being propelled forward using muscles I had never quite felt work (or at least not in that context). The usual extreme tightness I would experience in my calves never quite came, and I was able to complete the entire hike.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have this heightened sense of awareness and connectivity to your body when you’ve gone your whole life without it.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know they are feeling bad until they are feeling good—a common theme, even among my most highest of functioning clients.

Evidence-based Research? Public Research Findings? These are two of the most sought out pieces of information among health practitioners and scientists all over the world. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that both of these pieces of information are the result of our boundaries of understanding. Some amazing discoveries have come from research findings, and my intent is not to bash the achievements of these phenomenal breakthroughs. It is simply to open the eyes of the listener.

My own personal journey continues with its good and bad days, as does the journey of those I help; but, I am slowly seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We are complex organisms, but we are also merely human…so we must treat ourselves as such. I will always stand by and have an extra sense of connection to the CMT community because this condition has helped make me become the man I am today. Growing up with a disease, you are often given limitations and told that your standards shouldn’t be as high as others. I, myself, refuse to believe that there should be a lower standard to my quality of life or that I should accept chronic pain and limitations. One day, I wish to see proper treatment provided to sufferers of all physically-debilitating conditions and to the human race as an entirety. Until then, it’s up to us to do all we can on our own to combat this disease and to pursue a life without limitations.