fullsizeoutput_560Unshakeable! A former teammate of mine left a comment after my first blog post and used the word “unshakeable”. I understood what he meant, but the word to me at the time was so profound. As a person who is struggling to figure out all the things that are going on with me, both physically and mentally, the word shined bright like a diamond. It stood out because most people would have viewed or described me in the same manner; unshakeable. Until recently, I would have agreed. However, now, I think it is foolish to try and be unshakeable all the time. There are moments that require it, but all the time, c’mon.

No outlet! Get real, it is impossible. At some point it is going to boil over. Some form or fashion it is going to hit you. I thought I was one of the lucky few, but the depression I feel now is so heavy, because I refused to accept it for far too long. Depressed! Depressed about what you could ask? It would be a legitimate question. Like I said in my first blog post “Code Heart,” I have a pretty amazing life. What in the hell could I be depressed about or have anxiety about. My answer, I’m not quite sure. I think it comes from a number of things.

Firstly, I think I went about separating from the military completely wrong. I thought it was cool to blow past all of the available counseling and classes offered. Thinking, ‘those suckers, how could you be so weak.’ I was an idiot. Second, I didn’t think I had such a strong sense of identity with the military. I was proud of what I was doing, but I didn’t think it would affect me leaving as badly as it did. I was an idiot, again!

The bond you create with the small group of Soldiers cannot be recreated. It’s a bond that truly stands the test of time. You literally kill for them, you go to war with them, and they become your brother and sister. I posted my first blog post and was overwhelmed with the outreach from former teammates. Leaving the military and not having that feeling slowly ate at me. I constantly felt like, and still do at times, that no one understands me. The only people who understand me are the ones who were there with me. Who shared the spilled blood, the sweat, and tears. The military was my tribe, and I left that tribe. Cold turkey left the tribe. I simply did not understand how important that tribe was to me, or how big of a part in played in my life.

How does one cope with something they don’t understand? If you’re me, with the depression, you just refuse to accept it. Which is absolutely the dumbest thing you can do. Again, I was an idiot! Acceptance is the only way that you can get through something like this. So my wife says, she is quite a bit smarter than I am. She’s been telling me for almost two-years, “you need to write about your experiences, you need to still mentor young leaders.” She is right, and I will write about those experiences; however, I feel its more important right now to describe the place I’m writing from.

I’m writing from a place I don’t fully understand, which scares me. It scares me because I like to be in control. I can’t control something that I don’t understand. So the first thing I have started to do is make sure that I do understand. I am seeking counseling, I am seeing different people for things. I have no shame in that now. Before, I wouldn’t even contemplate doing something like this. Exposing myself to the public for judgement, ridicule, help, all of those things. I am exposed now. If I want to get past this, this thing that seems to hold me down and eat at me, I have to accept it and take ownership of it.

Unshakeable! I am not unshakeable. As I write different parts of this, it is for relief. An attempt to calm the storm, fighting the anxiety and depression. I am vulnerable. I have weaknesses. I’ve spent my entire life learning how to hide the things that make me nervous, that make me sad, that make me feel shakeable. Well let me tell you, I don’t have it together. I am shakeable. My mind goes all over the place and thinks about things that I can’t control. Now I have to try and unlearn something that I have spent the better part of my teenage and adult years teaching myself. Teaching myself not to show emotion, not to seem rattled, to always have it together. ‘I lead people, I can’t show emotion!’ That’s what I thought.  I am working on those things, but they’re real to me. Those things (struggles, depression, anxiety) are a part of me. I have to accept the fact that I am depressed about things, even though I have an amazing life. Leaving the military took a huge part of me away, and I haven’t put those pieces back together yet, but I’m trying.

I need to acknowledge the things I do have. I do have an amazing TEAM at work, IMG_2448who does care about me, who would run through a brick-wall for me. I have to remember I will never have the team I had before, or the one before the last, but I can take OWNERSHIP of the team I have now. I can relate to them with the struggles we face, the failures we have, the success we have. I need to understand that I am in a different place now. The past is the past, but the past is what made me the person I am today. Now, I need to focus on being a person who can influence the future with my experiences of the past. I need to be a new me!

Code Heart

heartache-1846050__480Code Heart ER Room 1! Code Heart ER Room 1! Code Heart ER Room 1! As I could barely speak, my poor wife, along with our two daughters sat there trying to explain what was going on to the doctors. Once done, the doctors who at this time filled the room, rushed my family out. I thought, here we go, I was about to have to fight for my life!

The day, Sunday, September 30th, 2018, was no different from any other day. I worked a little at the office during the day and watched football most of the afternoon. My oldest, Hadley, has an odd obsession for watching football. Asking after every play if the team with the ball won the game. Nevertheless, it allows me to watch something with her other than Octonauts or whatever puppy show it is for the day. After the kids were asleep, we were ending the day watching Master Chef; feeling completely normal.

Then the pain came; an excruciating pain I have never felt before. “My chest!” Is all I could say, as I tried to stand. My heart, which felt like I had just torn a muscle playing ball, was racing uncontrollably. That all known fear of pain down the left arm was there. My body was numb, extremities cold and tingling. Vision, nearly gone. Barely able to speak, my wife trying her best to calm me down. The only thing I could think about was…I needed to get to the hospital and get to the hospital fast!

As my wife woke the sleeping kids and got the semi-dressed as fast as she could, I did everything I could think of to slow my heart rate. Boy, did I fail miserably. The pain only worsened, and to the point where I could barely stand. Finally, in the car, we rushed to the hospital. Luckily, the hospital was only a couple of minutes away.

Now back in the ER, my family was whisked away, and the team of doctors started to work. Everything from that point became a blur. Waking to a doctor saying my name, he began to talk with me about everything. Blood work this, blood work that, levels this, levels that. All I was waiting for was the dreaded words…”you just had a heart attack!” I’m only 33, how could I have had a heart attack. I cycle, I run, I work out, I’m healthy as healthy can be. Then the words came…” your heart is fine, everything is normal”. What-the-hell! What do you mean everything is fine?!?!? He then went on to explain that my potassium levels were low, and sometimes low potassium can mimic heart attack symptoms. Yeah right! Is what I thought. Something is wrong. Nonetheless, we had to leave, nothing was wrong.

Thinking everything was going to be getting better, then the 2nd attack, 3rd attack, 4th attack, and finally the 5th attack. On the 5th attack, of whatever was happening to me, we finally started to run tests. I mean every test in the world. Prodded and poked, scanned, stress test, anything they could think of. I was confident that we would now finally find out what was wrong, and we could get this past us. Us, because it was affecting my family at this point to. Our life was starting to revolve around being at the hospital.

The results came back, showing not that everything was just fine, but that I actually have another artery in my heart that is just as big as the others. Meaning, I could have a blockage, and my dang heart would still keep beating because of how large the extra artery is. So…my heart wasn’t just fine, but it was extra fine. Something that should have been a huge relief, wasn’t. It was a blow to me in a way, what the hell is happening to me. Something is wrong, and I know it! That’s when the next words shot through me with such a piercing pain, and I didn’t know how to handle it. “I’m recommending you to so a psychiatrist” my wife said. My mind, my mind is what’s messed up here. How the hell did I get here; how the hell is something wrong with my mind. I’m a strong-willed man, someone who has gone through a lot, but has always gotten through to the other side. I mean, I’ve seen a lot, but c’mon, I don’t need to see a psychiatrist!

I’m fine, but I’ve never really slept well after my first deployment. I’m fine, but I don’t show very much emotion to anyone. I’m fine, but I have a hard time empathizing with people. I’m fine, but I feel like nobody can relate to me and what I’ve gone through. I’m fine, because I don’t dream about things, but I don’t dream at all. I’m fine! Then it hit me, dude, you’re an idiot! You’re not fine, you’re struggling with something, and it is something you don’t understand. I don’t understand it, because I refused to be someone who could get it; Still unable to say the words at that point. However, as I thought about the last visit to the ER which started all these tests, I had only been released a couple of hours before (the 4th time). I broke down in the parking lot of the hospital. When I say I broke down, I mean I broke down, uncontrollably broke down. I had, for the first time in my life, been broken. I was broken by something I refused to accept, didn’t understand, and simply thought other people with it were simply weaker than I. I was that proud of a man, and I refused to accept the help I needed.

When I think back to the hospital parking lot, I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go home because I was afraid of what I was going to do. If this was it, if this was how I was going to have to live the rest of my life, I was done. I didn’t want that, I didn’t want to live like this. That’s when I told my wife, I have to go back, If I go home…I just don’t know what I’ll do. The hospital admitted me and then we ran the tests. The same tests that I told you before came back negative, and even came back that I had an extremely healthy heart. Then the psychiatrist comments, that’s when it hit me. I still struggle to say the words, PTSD, or Depression, and Anxiety. For some reason I keep thinking that it makes me weak. Which is why I started this blog, to be brave, and to give words to the feelings. Hopefully, through the words will ease my transition into acceptance of the things that I have done and gone through. Through these words I hope that someone else might recognize the same thing, that we can all struggle with something and that there is no shame in reaching out for help.

My name is Kevin Jewell. I am a Hall-of-Fame College Baseball Player. Former United IMG_1293States Special Forces Green Beret. I have a two amazing, beautiful, healthy daughters. I have a wife who I have been with for over 16 years and our marriage and friendship is second to none. I have a great job that I love. A support network that extends throughout the country. If I can struggle, and struggle to understand, anyone can, and I am here to help by telling my story.

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