On the good days, even if you’re going through a tough time, it’s easy to maintain a forward-thinking approach to life and your overall happiness.
But what about the bad days? Or when the bad days turn into weeks… months… years.
That’s what life was like for APEMAN Erik Plate.
“My life the past 18 years has been one of heartache, heartbreak, pain, death, strength, redemption, and reignition,” Erik said. “When you’ve lost your father at just 14-years-old, you become a bit of a numb shell of a person. Life sort of passes you by at a rapid pace, while at the same time it seems to just grind to a halt and reminds you of whom you’ve lost.”
Erik was living with his father at the time while his mom and brother moved to Colorado with their stepfather to pursue a new start in life. Life had always been difficult, but it would become even more so in the blink of an eye.
“It was a warm Sunday morning in October,” Erik said. “The year was 2000. I woke to my uncle banging on my window to take me to the hospital because my father had a heart attack. The heart attack killed him as he didn't take very good care of himself.”
When Erik mentioned being a “numb shell of a person,” that’s exactly what he meant. He simply cannot remember the several months following his father’s passing. He ultimately moved to Colorado to be with his mom and brother, but things didn’t improve much.
“My father’s death should have taught me many lessons, but they fell upon deaf ears and a numb mind,” Erik admitted. “I never really concentrated on anything nor did I really try to excel at anything. I had no real guidance through my high school years. I just did the bare minimum to get by. I spent four years in a lazy, drunk party haze. I drank, didn't give a damn about my diet, and spent hours upon hours locked in my room playing video games.”
To make matters worse, things at his new home in Colorado were equally as turbulent. His mom and stepdad weren’t getting along, to say the least. Unbelievably, almost nine years to the day of his father’s passing, his mother passed away unexpectedly.
“I went into a rage,” Erik said. “I destroyed a door and put my fist through the wall with all of the anger directed at my stepfather since he was indirectly the cause of all of this. I still have the scars on my right hand from putting my fist through a wooden door and ripping it off its hinges. I spent the next three years living in a stupor. I lived off an inheritance, ate so much that I ballooned to 325 pounds, and became very antisocial while playing video games for 12 hours a day and becoming more and more suicidal with each passing day.”
It took Erik three years to climb out of this funk. The only reason he climbed out of it was because he hadto. Money was drying up and he had to figure something out fast. Eventually, Erik found a job at a local hospital.
“When I started this job, I was obese and hating every second of my life, but I was too big of a coward to end it,” Erik said. “Finally, one day I had enough of this weak life I was living. I was watching the security cameras at work and saw a very large obese woman who had to come through the door sideways due to her weight. This same woman sat in the chair at the reception desk and got stuck in it. This was my catalyst for change. I decided right then and there that the life I was living was a weak one and I must change, or I will die.”
Erik had welcomed death for many years, but he now sees death as a weakness. At that exact moment, he became stronger than ever. Over the course of three years, he lost 125 pounds and did things he never thought he would do such as participating in Spartan races.
The storm was never enough to break Erik. But this wasn’t just a storm; it was a hurricane.
“I lost my last family member in February of 2018,” Erik said. “My brother died of a heart attack from a blood clot. He was revived physically but not mentally. He was on life support for 12 hours while receiving at least 20 shocks in an attempt to revive him, at least 16 units of blood, a stint and god knows how many drugs to keep him alive until I could get there. Working in the medical community prepares you for many things. You know the terminology well when you work in the ER like I do. But when a case manager for a hospital in another state tells you that your last family member is brain dead but alive physically… it takes a second to sink in.”
Erik was desperate. There was no clear path ahead. Erik asked his best friend how the hell he could move forward.
“She replied, ‘You’re going to do what you need to do,’” Erick continued. “’There’s no timeline, no expectations, no need to be OK for someone. You’re going to do exactly what you need to do.’ I am doing just that.”
Erik is the personification of what it means to be “Strong in the Storm.” During the worst times in his life, Erik maintained a positive attitude and did his absolute best mentally and physically.
“This storm won’t break me,” Erik said. “I have competed in the CrossFit open and two Spartan races, both of which I excelled at. I have not once broken in the face of these odds. I have remained the strong one. I have remained calm while this storm tried to break my spirit. I repeat: This storm will not break me or my family, no matter what anyone thinks. I will continue to get stronger for my loved ones. I am strong in the storm.”