“Dad, what is happening?” 

That was the first thing that came to Brandon’s mind after he woke up. 

“Don't make me use my knife on you,” his father screamed at his roommate, Jeremy, threatening to kill him with his knife. 

Brandon remembers Jeremy’s girlfriend sitting on the other side of the couch he just woke up on, crying and pleading with them to quit.  

“You’re lucky my kid is up, or I would've killed you,” said his father as he glared at Brandon.

“I guess I saved Jeremy’s life,” Brandon said as he reflected with melancholy. “Kudos to me.”

 Brandon remembers getting overwhelmed with panic and adrenaline. It spread through his body and made his stomach go weak.

“I needed to run,” he said. “I needed to escape, and I knew my body was ready for me to make that move. My plan was to make a run for the neighbor’s house who was a police officer. I knew he could have helped. Done something to control the situation. But I just sat there with this feeling of absolute fear in my mind, stomach and arms. It paralyzed me.” 

Brandon was six-years-old at the time. 

Unfortunately, these situations were all too frequent in his home growing up. What do you say after experiencing that? How do you move on? Why are the details so hard to remember? 

Another traumatic experience...

Just five-years-old… 

“Just before that incident, I was watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’ with my father,” Brandon said. “It still haunts me. After it ended, I went back into the kitchen to help make breakfast. We were cooking bacon on a griddle. The kind of griddle that sits off the counter an inch or two. It has a power cord that allows you to plug it in the wall. The counter was tall or I was just short. I tried to reach something behind the griddle with my short arms. It failed miserably.”

The lip of the griddle poured scalding hot grease all over his right forearm. 

“After screaming, I looked at my dad like what to do next,” Brandon said. “He left the kitchen and went to the back room. I thought he would come back with a band-aid or cream to minimize the pain.”

Instead, his father covered the entire burn with black electrical tape. 

Black. Electrical. Tape

“I thought my dad, 25 at the time, would have come up with something better,” Brandon remembers. “But I guess not.”

That incident was a microcosm of Brandon’s life.

His father ended up overdosing when he was eight.

“One of the hardest things I had to overcome was healing from my father’s death,” he said. “After him leaving this world, he also left behind a hurricane of hurt and questioning. Losing him at eight-years-old still affects me to this day. Growing up without a father has become normal to me but fighting to survive with just my mother and I has taught me a lot about strength and how to push through difficult times.”

As Brandon got older, he turned to weights. He says that time in the gym allows him to work through his issues. 

“I am a personal trainer and my all-time goal is to impact the world to use weights and embrace the cracks in our souls to become stronger people,” he said. “Lifting isn’t just about lifting the weights, it’s so much more. It goes beyond the gym and into our personal lives. We all have a ‘why’ as to why we push through the grind. It’s deeper than what shows on the surface – why we show up to the gym and push ourselves past that pain. And somehow we love the pain!”

Brandon’s advice for anyone going through difficult times is quite simple: never lose hope. He also suggests finding someone to talk to about it – whether it’s a friend, therapist, God, etc. 

“I promise you whatever you are going through it is not the end of you,” Brandon said. “Embrace the hurt. Embrace the painful emotions you are feeling and go through them. Feel them take over your body and in those dark places is when you slowly start to find your true self and the ultimately the strength to push forward and ground yourself. Do not avoid the hurt because you will start to develop terrible habits that aren’t you. You are only doing those things to release the hurt you are experiencing.” 

For Brandon, APEMAN has brought forth a platform for all people to come together. He says that APEMAN has taught him to embrace his scars and hardships to become stronger in order to save others. 

“We all have similar traumas that we share and we like to hide them because they aren’t pretty,” Brandon said. “The saying that hits home for me is OVERCOME. My mom bought me the shirt and as I opened it the card fell out. I have been challenged to OVERCOME many traumatic events and hardships throughout my life and every time I read that card it resonates with me so much it takes my breath away.”