As the nation recognizes and honors our presidents today, I reflect not only on the accomplishments of the men chosen throughout the years to run our country, but the obstacles they dealt with medically. Illnesses and challenges that may have often been hidden from public as these men made choices, both good and bad, to run our nation as they saw fit.
My biggest idol, Abraham Lincoln, one of the most well known presidents from American history, suffered from severe depression. Perhaps if he lived during our time, he would have been placed on disability, pumped full of medication to manage his symptoms, and required to see multiple doctors for his condition or perhaps admitted to a mental institution. However, he existed before our time, before more advancements in medication were made and procedures to deal with depression were available. He lived what many may think today as a troubled life. His head filled with depressing thoughts and images of low self esteem. But as we all know, he was elected president and became one of the most recognized individuals in history because of the accomplishments achieved during his time in office. Not all the presidents that came before or after Lincoln made such a lasting impression on our nation, but the fact that these men dealt with their illness, disabilities or handicaps and accepted their fate as not being 100% healthy did not stop them from pursuing their goals of becoming a leading man to an entire country.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Over the years, during the time when my heart was extremely weak, before doctors found a combination of medication that would help regulate my heartbeats…a time when I was so exhausted and out of breath that I often feared that I would go to sleep and my heart would stop beating, I found part of my strength and drive from learning about others, such as our presidents, who faced illnesses, disabilities, and handicaps and kept on living life and achieved great things, leaving behind their legacy. I was tired a majority of each day and multiple naps soon became a part of my routine, but rather than sitting home and feeling sorry for myself, I still wanted to continue working. Photography soon became a release for me and I made time to stand behind the camera, viewing the world through a lens. I still set goals for myself, many of which dealt with achievements in my health, they were still goals none the less. I will admit, there were times that I became so tired and struggling to breath (a result from a weak heart beating irregularly and not having the ability to pump oxygen rich blood properly throughout my body), I would break down in tears and wished I hadn’t been “cursed” with heart disease. But the feeling would soon pass.
I figured, if individuals, like Lincoln, could face such health crisis and still continue to live a life and impact the world around them, I figured I could do the same. Perhaps it sounds odd, but I am actually grateful for the life I have been given, heart disease and all. I have accepted that I will be a cardiac patient for life and from this experience I can hopefully educate, motivate and inspire others. I figure you have two choices when you have to deal with a health crisis. Either succumb to it and allow it take control of your life or accept your fate, deal with what it throws at you and fight hard to overcome the obstacles that it may throw your way.