You may know that I’m a very positive person. What you may not know is that I spent my entire teenage years in and out the hospital. You may not know that at the age of 13 years old, I was told I’d only have 3 months to live. As a teenager, most of my weeks consisted of MRI’s, blood draws, countless trips to the hospital, and eventually home-school from the age of 15 - 18 years old. Seeing my doctors became more routine than seeing my friends, who I eventually lost almost altogether. No prom, no sports, no typical high school drama (although maybe high school drama isn't too bad to miss out on). Truly, at that age, I found myself wondering if I'd ever have a normal life at all. I never thought I'd see a light at the end of the tunnel where I'd be free from being sick....and I was right. After spending 21 collective days in the hospital, seeing every specialist in the book, and getting diagnosed with a life threatening adrenal disorder that requires me to depend on medication to live, I knew that my life would never be the same again. (if interested, you may read more on my health and what I deal with...but I won't bore you in this post)
Now this is the part where you're probably asking, "Does this story have a happy ending? How in the heck could you possibly be happy and positive after all that?" Well, this time in my life left me with 2 options on how deal with my illnesses and come out happy. And I'm not lying. Like, truly, down to earth happy.
I could suppress my emotions, suck it up, and tell myself that I was ok with my life.
I could acknowledge my emotions, the negativity, and this horrible time in my life, then learn from it and grow as a person.
After dealing with my life threatening illnesses for a couple of years, I came to realize that there was no way to sugar coat it. This part of my life sucked. I had few friends, I was never going to have those great teenage memories to look back on, and unfortunately, there was nothing I nor anyone could do to make my health better. I knew that there was no point in giving myself false hope that one day I will be cured of all my illnesses (what a godsend that would be though) because this was it. My illnesses would always be here so I had to accept that and make the most of my situation, whatever that may mean.
Do I wish that I had a normal teenage life, free of illnesses? You bet I do. But surprisingly enough, I'm happy for everything that my illnesses put me through. Not because I enjoyed this part of my life but because I acknowledge the hardships of my illnesses and everything that I learned from it. I acknowledge the man that it made me today because I know I wouldn't be the same man without it. Compassion, strength, patience, self worth, dedication, perseverance, and most of all, perspective, are all qualities that I now possess from this time of my life. Because I was able accept this horrible situation that was out of my control, it allowed me to focus my time and energy onto new things in my life that I could control.
HaleLife (previously GlutenAway), this very site and everything it's grown to be in the gluten-free community, was started because of this horrible time in my life. My career, my passion and love for helping others, my work ethic, my dedication to my job, my goal to inspire anyone dealing with hardship by sharing my story. This all came because I made the most of this bad situation. Without the negative moments in our lives, we would not be able to appreciate the positive moments that come and matter the most.
If anything, it's important to know that it’s ok to have negative moments in life. It’s ok to get down when things get tough with your relationships, your health, your job, or whatever else. You don’t have to be happy about your life 24/7 because let’s be honest...no one is. Was I immediately happy when I was told I could die at the age of 13 years old? No. Was I immediately happy when I found out that my life would forever be difficult because of my illnesses? Of course not. Instead of trying to be happy all of the time, acknowledge the negativity in your life, learn from it, and reflect on this moment to allow for more positive things to come. Learning from these negative moments instead of pushing them away is how we become happy, compassionate, overall people. If anything, I hope my story offers you some inspiration and a little perspective for anything you may face in life. Whatever hardships you face, know that you can get through these moments and overcome them too.