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Strength in the Struggle

Strength in the Struggle

Overcoming Adversity   

By Ben Wexler    

“Temper us in fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive,” wrote Cassandra Clare, an American author, in her novel “City of Heavenly Fire.” [1] 

In 2021, 64% of students dropped out of school because of mental health, with depression, family trouble, and grief from death as the root cause of the mental health issues. [2] Remembering that suffering can make you stronger is the beginning of overcoming the hump of hardship.  

Andres Velis, a freshman exercise science and pre-physical therapy major, experienced hardship and realized the importance of “accepting reality over the ease of running away from life.” [3] 

Two years ago, Velis broke his back. The “snowboard went over my head, my back curled, and landed on the middle of my back.” Along with an injured back, Velis expressed how, at the time, he was exiting a five-year relationship, dealing with his parents’ divorce, and was not having a good relationship with his brother. [4] 

After the injury, Velis continued to live as normal as possible without medical help until he noticed nerve damage and struggled to tie his own shoes. He found himself in pain when sitting in his college courses, which resulted in a medical release from school. It was then that Velis reached his lowest point in life and God revealed to him his true identity. [5] 

Velis realized that he should not expect to bounce back instantly, but to rejoice in his little, day-to-day successes which would light the path of hope for a better future. “It was about dying to myself in that season of life and accepting the potential to be a better me in every new season,” expressed Velis. [6] 

Finding fortitude through those closest to you is one way to get through a difficult season. Velis’ found strength in his mom who constantly prayed and supported her son when he felt alone. [7] 

A now healthy Andres Velis. Photo from iPhone.

Serving others helps you think less about the stressors in your life and allows you to give more attention to how you are alleviating some of the hardship others are facing. [8] As a certified personal trainer, Velis found hope in training others. “I found fulfilment not through my victories, but through other’s victories and living through those victories instilled peace,” expressed Velis. [9] 

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A graduate in a yellow robe and graduation cap walks into the distance on a trail, while their parents hold hands in the foreground, watching them walk away.

Velis grew from his circumstances by focusing on “the good in life and striving to be the best that you could be every day.” [10] 

John Hopkins Medicine found a strong link between positivity and health. People who have positive outlooks reduce their chances of suffering from a weak immune system, stroke, tumors, and heart attack. [11] Velis expressed that he “knows prayer or religion might not be the method for everyone to deal with hardship, but when you choose to believe in a greater good, you start noticing the greater good in life and you begin to move forward.” [12] 


  1. Clare, C. (2014). City of heavenly fire. Margaret K McElderry. McElderry Books.  
  1. 23 alarming college student mental health statistics. What To Become. (2021, October 18). 
  1. Interview with Andres Velis, 2/21/22. 
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. Service, F. C. (2019, July 11). Helping others is good for your mental health. Family Counseling.  
  1. Interview with Andres Velis, 2/21/22. 
  1. Ibid
  1. The power of positive thinking. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.).  
  1. Interview with Andres Velis, 2/21/22. 


  1. A now healthy, both mentally, spiritually, and physically, Andres Velis FullSizeRender.HEIC. Photo from iPhone.
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