Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Riding out of darkness

ANN/THE STAR – Overcoming mental health challenges can be difficult.

Unlike conditions such as cancer or heart disease, where scientific tests can identify specific issues, mental health problems present complexities in terms of diagnosis and treatment.

Individuals facing mental health issues grapple with intense emotions and thoughts, such as sadness, hopelessness, and/or fear.

These can have serious and distressing effects on their lives, which may continue for years unless help is sought. This is what Pavel Stuchlik discovered.

An athlete from the Czech Republic, he became a professional road race cyclist at 16.

“I went to the United States (US) as a foreign exchange student at 15 and that’s where I learnt to speak English!

“I raced for a US-based team, and after returning to Czech, decided to turn professional.

“My schedule was crazy, and at 17, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and having the Epstein-Barr virus.

“I could sleep for 18 hours and it wouldn’t rejuvenate me, so I decided to take a month off – my contract had ended anyway because I couldn’t race,” recalls the 32-year-old, who currently lives in Hawaii, US.

Pavel Stuchlik during a race. PHOTO: THE STAR
Stuchlik during during his journey. PHOTO: THE STAR
Stuchlik during his Darkroom Retreat in Thailand. PHOTO: THE STAR

Not one to sit idle, the youngster started an online business selling carbon bicycle parts and was surprised at how fast it boomed.

Feeling better, Stuchlik started training, racing and winning medals again. This time, the Netherlands-based Marco Polo Cycling Team spotted his talent and offered him a contract that was too good to decline.

So, at age 19, he relocated to the land of windmills to train with his teammates. The training was gruelling, but Stuchlik was determined to get to the top.

“During one national race in Czech, I remember riding uphill when my body just collapsed and I fell off the bike.

“I woke up in the hospital. And in addition to the first two diagnoses, the doctors said I also had strep infection, which explained why I always had a sore throat.

“I told myself, I’m done – I just can’t cycle anymore.”

In his early 20s then, Stuchlik went into depression and had suicidal thoughts because he didn’t know what to do next.

He confessed, “It was a dark period, but I didn’t want to seek professional help because I knew I could become hooked on the medications.

“I went on a soul-searching journey and researched ways to reset my body.”

That led him to his first darkroom retreat in Thailand.

A PROFOUND EXPERIENCE

While scientific research into the effects of darkroom retreats is still in its infancy, some studies suggest that these retreats can help lower anxiety, depression and stress.

It has also been suggested that prolonged exposure to darkness increases melatonin production, thus promoting deep restorative sleep.

For 10 days, Stuchlik lived in darkness without food, mobile phones or Internet access, and only limited human contact.

This forced him to face the demons inside him in an environment of sensory deprivation.

Before he went, he wrote that he was burnt out, tired and couldn’t see another vocation.

“It was not easy, but I had the most profound experience, which told me I had to use music to impact the world,” said Stuchlik, who had dabbled in deejaying when he was 14.

When he emerged from the darkroom, he had a new perspective of things: colours appeared brighter and objects seemed more beautiful. Despite having no food, he didn’t lose any weight.

Stuchlik said, “I wanted to reset, detox and cleanse, but I could not reintroduce food for 10 days afterwards, but strangely, I wasn’t losing weight either.

With his Internet business still soaring, Stuchlik decided to become an entrepreneur and hunted for business opportunities that would enable him to live in the US – his dreamland.

However, despite ventures that ranged from buying a sushi restaurant to a frozen yoghurt outlet, nothing worked out, although he met his ex-wife during this time.

Eventually, things started falling in place and Stuchlik ended up becoming a major owner of the multi-million dollar franchise.

“Suddenly, I had this new personality and was being featured in many US media platforms for being a young entrepreneur.

“In my busiest weeks, I would overextend myself and sink deeper into the hole; I didn’t have a balanced life and knew I needed help as there were too many extreme highs and lows.

His work stress was also taking a toll on his relationship and two kids. To save himself, Stuchlik then decided to commit himself to doing something out of the box once every three months.

His quest has carried him across the globe to samurai camps in Japan, training with psychics in Brazil, more darkroom retreats, submerging in ice, wellness workshops
and more.

He would spend a week to a month in these places in his search for truth and peace.

ANOTHER EPIPHANY

It was during another 10-day darkroom retreat that Stuchlik found some answers to realigning his life.

“I knew I didn’t want another business, but I wanted to service people,” he reflected.

Alas, nothing in life is so simple.

He said, “To be honest, I went into another extreme afterwards – I wanted to shave off my business head and started selling off the majority of my businesses, but got into trouble because I miscalculated the cash management of pre-agreed investments.

“So I ran into millions in debts and didn’t have enough money to eat, but refused to file for bankruptcy – that’s when I returned to deejaying to feed the kids.”

His marriage eventually fell apart and the couple divorced.

Broke and broken, he only had one business branch in Honolulu and worked on getting it back in the black. Right when Stuchlik succeeded, COVID-19 hit and the 40 events he was scheduled to DJ got cancelled within the first three months of 2020.

“Thankfully, my frame of mind was stronger, so I told my team of three to make use of the opportunity. At that time, the biggest need was COVID-19 testing centres, so we opened drivethrough clinics.

Finally, Stuchlik was able to come out of debt. The pandemic also offered a good “break” to transform his body and mind.

In the last three years, he has stopped doing everything that was negative, toxic or poisoning.

“But I know I’m an optimist at heart and had enough tools to help myself heal; anti-depressants are not the solution because of my addictive personality.”

He worked on himself by pooling his knowledge together. With a new partner, Stuchlik became a father again on September 2023.

HIS NEW MISSION

He is now on a mission to share his passion, expertise and favourite life hacks to heal and find peace through biohacking workshops and events.

Biohacking is a term used to describe a do-it-yourself biological reset, where people attempt to incrementally change aspects of their biology to improve their health, performance or well-being.

Also known as human enhancement, there are many ways to biohack, from making dietary changes and adding supplements to improve gut bacteria, to efforts to improve brain function.

Biohackers start with specific areas that they feel need addressing in their lives, such as deeper sleep, nutrition or mental/emotional health or relationships.

The much calmer Stuchlik, who was in town recently for a private biohacking session, pointed out, “I’m not a master at anything, but I take every opportunity as a lesson to generate and regenerate.

“We’re all here to learn – via the gutter (ie the hard way of making mistakes and learning) or love (ie fun lessons) – and in my current partnerships, there are no longer hardships.

“However, it takes time to fully integrate everything.” – Revathi Murugappan

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