Vincent’s significant other, best friend, lover and girlfriend of two years had taken her own life.
“I came home that night, after an argument that morning to be greeted by silence,” he said. “Not only did she die, but a part of me did, too. She was the most beautiful, loyal, caring, compassionate, selfless, and empathetic person I had ever known. We’d stay up until the early mornings just talking. Sharing. Laughing.”
After coming home, Daniel relied on drugs and alcohol to escape life and all its emotions. If he’s honest with himself, drugs and alcohol helped him escape, literally, everything.
“I gave up jobs, family, friends and myself for a very long time,” he said. “I began getting DUIs at the age of 26. I racked up four within 10 years. The last one was in 2012. I was at the point in life where I wanted to die.”
“I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma,” he said. “That was about eight years ago. Never did I think that was the end for me. I knew that I would fight and overcome it. That’s exactly what I did.”
In fact, not only did he overcome it, he competed in his first Scottish Highland Games just 18 months after his surgery.
“For the rest of my high school education, I was in and out of treatment facilities for Anorexia Nervosa and Exercise Bulimia,” she said. “I became addicted to feeling empty, fragile and weak. I severely restricted my intake and would run until I burnt off double whatever minuscule amount I consumed. Although I was tired, I was constantly chasing the high that my eating disorder gave me. I was no longer living for myself; I was either eating to please other people or succumbing to the voice in my head. I was completely disconnected from my body and in denial that what I was doing could have serious repercussions.”
“That’s when they found how big my heart was,” he said. “They diagnosed me with hemihypertrophy disease. I always knew there was something wrong – I had a size 22 left shoe and size 18 right shoe – but I didn’t realize it was my heart.”
“My story begins after my last deployment to Iraq in November of 2006,” APEMAN Juan Cervantes said. “My struggles with dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and multiple attempts and thoughts of suicide, and how my wife has been by my side the entire time even before she was my wife.”
“My father died when he was just 35, I was only seven-years-old,” Branden said. “I grew up in a broken home and we were very poor. I was hurt. Angry. Developed trust issues. I don’t think I ever really recognized how angry I was.”
For Shaun Gill, anger led him to a pivotal crossroads in life.
“My mom was sick for nearly 20 years,” he said. “But for the last eight years of her life, from about 2008 – 2016, she was bedridden and had to be fed, taken to the bathroom and helped in the shower.”
“Being disappointed is such a painful thing,” Laura said. “All the lost hopes and dreams shattered right in front of you as you learn the painful truth. I never knew of such pain and hurt. But, I took it one day at a time. Walking through the darkness and uncertainty using fear to fuel my courage to remain strong for myself and my son. I need to be his strong mom. He is my biggest motivation. All these weeks of failure and success have culminated into my first powerlifting meet.”
“I want people to understand that just because you don't look like the other people in class, in the gym, on the street, or whatever that you can still try,” he said. “People will tell you that you shouldn't be doing something but there might be that one person or one event that tells you that maybe, just maybe, you should at least give it a try. That changed my life.”
For all of his adult life, Cory Brown struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism. He’d been in and out of rehab centers and jails since he was 15. For years, he never knew anything other than just staying high.
“I’ve overdosed three times,” he said. “Drank myself to an oblivion on a daily basis. Destroyed my connection with my parents and two brothers, but ultimately they never gave up on me.”
The relentless bullying and harassment Paul subsequently endured intensified after he started wearing his brace. Being beat up in the halls of junior high school was a normal thing, and he became very depressed and introverted.
In March of 2017, he was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes. Over time, this type of diabetes can wreak havoc on major organs in one’s body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Eventually, these complications can be disabling or even life-threatening.
“A car pulled out in front of me and I hit the driver’s side,” he recalls. “I flipped over the car and was laid out in the middle of the street. My right leg got caught under the handle bars and the bone gave way to the impact as I was catapulted off.
In those same seven years, Elliott has gone through two significant back surgeries. He didn’t suffer an injury or have an accident; genetics just dealt him a bad hand. Through a long journey, he realized there is no time to feel sorry for himself.
In a special edition of our LIFTED stories, APEMAN Ellie Rojas shares a heartfelt and emotional poem that highlights the impact powerlifting has had in her life.
“While I was still in the middle of a storm of lawsuits, disappointed family members and disappointment in myself, I decided to channel my rage in a new way. I used the gym as an outlet, a place to kill my old self, and watch my new self come to fruition.”
“By about 5 a.m. it was apparent we needed to get to the hospital,” John added. “The events of that morning are a blur, but as I was hurriedly getting dressed, my wife made one specific request.”
She asked John if he could wear his APEMAN shirt because it would inspire her to be strong through whatever was about to unfold.
Wes has battled depression after all of these tragic events. Lifting, however, gives him a safe place to release his anger, and rejuvenate his spirit.
“Lifting gives me an out, a place where everything is quiet, and all the pain goes into training,” he said.
In an attempt to alleviate the physical and emotional pain, Nicholas went through a tough period of prescription drug abuse. He tried to hide his issues as he pursued a Master’s degree at Norwich and working for the United States Senate doing VA casework.