Discovering where you are leads you to the person you want to be.
The journey to handling mental health is a scary one due to the fact that things are out of your control. Exposure to traumatic events changes the chemical makeup of our brains whether it’s prolonged releases of cortisol which leads to a re-wiring of the brain, an over sensitivity to sudden noises or startle response, even the feeling of impending doom, like death is right around the corner.
All of these reactions are related to Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Depression and Anxiety. Whether you’ve been in combat, first responder, or had an abusive childhood. These events while isolated take a lasting toll on the human psyche.
We sat down with Vince “Rocco” Vargas and discussed the path to wellness.
“You don’t know you need help, till you really know you need help” said Rocco.
Running and gunning at 100 mph was normal for Rocco, he was successful at work, still accomplishing normal everyday tasks as a dad.
It wasn’t until he began to notice things like, smells, the environment, even the gear he wore as a Border Patrol Agent was reminiscent of the time he spent deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, which lead to reliving traumatic moments years after the fact.
“It’s not uncommon for Post Traumatic Stress to rear it’s face in those moments” Rocco added.
Societal standards cater to the victim mentality, I see this especially in the Veteran community. We can’t operate the same as we once did due to a diagnosis, and the influx of thoughts from peers and leaders stating we’re not the same and not capable of continuing the mission.
That in it self is not only a blow to ones ego, but raises the question “who am I now”. Almost ensuing a identity crisis within ourselves to the point that we believe the rhetoric that we’re damaged goods, THAT’S THE FUREST THING FROM THE TRUTH!!!!!
The same way when learning a new skill we are reliant on subject matter experts to impart their knowledge, and as we put the skill into practice and gain experience we become the SME.
“You want to get to a place where you understand and learn how to manage all of your shortcomings” said Rocco.
This is achievable through counseling and getting educated on the effects on both your mental and what are your physiological responses when in a state of heightened alertness, depression, anxiety.
Rocco explained “Take note of your breathing, how your body feels, connect your physiological and emotional state to see how your body reacts during these moments.”
If we make this connection we have identified triggers, “okay here’s what I’m going through emotionally now how do I manage this. I’ve been here before this is what I need to do, everything is manageable” added Rocco.
Therapy offers many different modalities, and while you work on your mental health, you can’t ignore your physical or emotional health. “We don’t ever want to be reliant on other people to find our own happiness, we actually have to get to the place where we are self sufficient” Rocco added.
Identifying our behavior in the moment of crisis, is one of the keys to Post Traumatic Growth. Being real with yourself and holding yourself accountable in the moment takes discipline.
The discipline to understand what you can control and what you can’t control. “Once you understand it, you’ll know exactly what your doing. For instance I’m being self destructive right now because I’m sacred of this…I’ve learned those throughout the years” Rocco explained.
Rocco’s first introduction to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) was when he was with the Special Operations of the Border Patrol he was nominated to go and speak with a counselor which they had brought in specifically to speak to Operators.
She started the session with “I don’t give a fuck about your feelings, It’s not about feelings it’s about the imagery that’s stuck in your head specifically in your frontal cortex, I want to help you process that” said Rocco.
Rocco went on to say “it was interesting to me the approach she took, cause it was the right way of talking to me that made sense.”
It takes courage to take action, just as the Chinese Proverb “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Remember all that hard work that you put in to accomplish things in your life, don’t focus on the titles you received because that’s not who you are, you are the HARD WORK that got you there.
Light the Fuse!!!