As a company we believe that each of us can become healthier, if we just take things one day at a time and provide the support our bodies and minds need to heal themselves. We believe in becoming healthier physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We understand that change doesn’t occur overnight, nor does it occur without effort on our part. However, we know from personal experiences and the many experiences that others have shared with us that improvement is a God-given ability that resides in each of us. Its part of our humanity and what separates us from animal life. Often times we let our circumstances dictate how we live our lives, believing that change is impossible instead of striving to improve no matter the situation. Whatever our circumstances may be, each of us has the ability to change the way we view ourselves, others and the world around us. The following was written by an amazing young man named Joseph. Despite his circumstances, Joseph is striving for improvement. We admire his courage and strength. Just like the rest of us he isn’t perfect nor does he profess to be. What he is however, is a true tribute to persistence. He has inspired hundreds of people and is a wonderful example to all who have met him. The following are his words. With the exception of a few grammatical corrections, this blog come directly from him.
My name is Joseph and I was born with a rare physical condition known as Marfan Syndrome. This basically means that the connective tissue in many of my major organs is very weak. As a result I’ve experienced several complications with my heart as well as lungs and muscle. I’m very frail and skinny. I don’t breathe as well as most people. My heart has caused many problems for me in the past. I don’t get to participate in a lot of the same physical activities that my peers can, and I’ve had many surgeries performed on me since I was very young. Being pulled out of school for the next surgery and having to be a bystander during recess and other activities honestly made me feel like I missed out on a lot of what should have been my childhood.
I honestly don’t remember much about my first surgeries. Like I said, I was very young when they started. My parents say they were some kind of chest surgeries. I do remember the doctors once put some kind of surgical tape all over my chest that I happened to be allergic to. The result was massive yellow blisters all over my chest. They also had to remove all of the tape. That wasn’t pleasant. I remember that quite well. I also remember getting a chest cast at one point for maybe a few weeks. By the time they removed it, the cast had decided that it didn’t want to separate itself from my skin. So, they had to tear it off like something that had been glued to my skin. Just my luck. I was maybe five or six when that happened. But the most notable surgeries I’ve had were the heart surgeries and a back surgery. The back surgery was needed due to extreme scoliosis. They fused a metal rod to my spine to straighten me up. That was when I was very young. The heart surgeries started when I was ten, and kept persisting until I was fourteen. I had four of them, all open-heart. One of them was to replace part of my aorta which was going to burst. That one was probably the hardest because I spent the most time in the hospital for it and my left lung almost collapsed post-surgery. I remember my heart surgeries most because they took place during my early teenage years.
As my peers grew and became more muscular, I remained skinny. I felt increasingly incapable and even ugly. I didn’t think girls liked me. This mental and emotional pain was coupled with the physical pains of my open heart surgeries. Initially, after each operation, I would feel grateful to have gotten out okay. But eventually feelings of self-pity would consume me once again. I spent a lot of time in Middle School and High School like this. Even after my surgeries stopped becoming so frequent, I was still so caught up in the fact that I had this condition. I’m also very human. I’ve made mistakes. This all just accumulated into one large problem for me. I had built up a lot of stress due to these thoughts.
Now, I’m writing all this in the past tense because I feel like I’ve come a long way in my life. However, I want to just put it out there that I still often struggle with these feelings and thoughts. The battles I face continue. I still deal with Marfan Syndrome and I will be dealing with it for the rest of my life. I would be lying if I said that I have figured everything out. I’m certainly no wise man, but I have gained experience. I’m hoping that maybe I can use these experiences of mine to help someone else out.
My first bit of advice would be to forget yourself. When I say this, I don’t mean to neglect yourself. I mean to stop being so self-focused as we humans tend to be. It may sound like a contradiction, but the best thing you can possibly do for yourself is to forget yourself and help someone else out. I know of no better way to get over personal problems. Just consider this: the more time invested in thinking about yourself the more pressure is on you, but if you extend outward then that pressure is no longer present.
There’s just something very cleansing and relieving about unselfish service. It doesn’t have to be something big every time. Learn to look around and see the needs in everyone. Learn to care about people. Just a smile or a short message could make someone’s day. Listen to the promptings you get in your heart. Think to yourself, who can I help today? How can I help them? Like I said, it’s usually not something huge but something meaningful. Forget yourself and do what you can to help someone else every day. Do the dishes. Give your friend a call. Don’t do it for a reward. Do it because everyone’s life is hard and we can all use a bit of light in our days. You can be the light in someone’s day. It took me a long time to realize that as hard as I have it, there’s always someone who has it worse. Even those who may not have it worse still have something hard to deal with, and we all need some cheering up.
My next advice is to always remember your worth. Once again, this may seem contradictory to my last piece of advice, but it’s not. There’s a big difference between thinking less of yourself and thinking of yourself less. Remember what you’re worth. You are worth more than the earth! It can be easy to fall into the hole of self-pity and shame. When things aren’t going our way we tend to bring ourselves down. When we’ve fallen so many times we just don’t feel like getting up again. Even when something good is happening, we have the odd tendency to only see the negative side of things. We have the potential of being our worst enemy. But you need to learn to love yourself. If you don’t love yourself it doesn’t matter who else loves you because you’ll never really feel loved. Stop putting yourself down! You are awesome! You are beautiful. You are an incredible creation. Remember that. Don’t let these positive feelings about yourself turn into pride and vainness, but don’t forget your worth either. A good state of mind to have is to think, “I’m amazing, but I’m not better than anyone else and they aren’t better than me.” Have confidence as well as humility. Don’t kick yourself. There are enough things in this life kicking you. Don’t be one of them. Be an ally to yourself, not an enemy.
My third piece of advice is connected to the last part. Be positive but realistic. I have a lot of friends who claim to be realists, but they’re so negative all the time. This isn’t right. If we could truly see all of reality, we would know that there is far more to be positive about than negative. Light always cancels out darkness. It can be a workout at times, but put a smile on your face. It’s possible to have a dull day when it’s sunny outside and to have a bright day in the middle of a storm. Get a positive mentality. I know it’s not easy all the time, especially when problems occur. This is why I added the “be realistic” part. There’s a difference between being positive and being blind. When problems occur, you still have to deal with them. But you can still deal with them with a smile.
After almost every surgery I’ve had, the doctors had to remove these tubes from my chest. I was awake when they’d do it. It would hurt a lot. They’d do it in one sharp tug, and the tubes would come out. Only after it was done would a sense of relief flood my mind. Similar things happened during my stays at the hospital. I learned something with these experiences. We’re going to hurt. Life is going to take its best shots at us. Sometimes the pain is inescapable. And it can be sharp. But there’s something about pain that we tend to forget: Pain. Always. Ends. And when it’s all over we can come out of it a better person. Or the pain can break us. It’s your choice. But I can attest to the sweet relief that is found in letting the hits teach you.
So get back up. Remember your worth, but forget your selfishness. Help someone else out. Learn to be patient with yourself. Endure. I promise that there’s happiness to be found even in the darkest of times. We just have to forget our own misery and put a smile on someone else’s face. Once you do this, you will come to find the smile you’ve been looking for has appeared on your own face. Though my trials have hardened me at times and have often appeared merciless, I still believe that this life is meant to be joyful.