What are you doing to help yourself?!?

lonely-1510265_1920I’ve talked about depression, I’ve talked about anxiety, and I’ve talked about PTSD. Well, truly, I’ve only skimmed the surface of those topics. Trying to describe what I feel has been difficult. It is a hard thing to do, to be completely honest with yourself. What makes it even harder is to watch your loved ones have to go through the same thing you are, but on the outside looking in. That’s the ugly truth behind all of this. It isn’t just about me. It is about my wife, my two beautiful daughters, my entire family has been changed by how severe some of these things have been. Countless hours driven, countless hours spent waiting, countless hours just wondering if everything is going to be alright.

Through all of this my wife has been my rock. The person who has held the family together in a time where I have been unable to. I try my best to be honest, and the more honest I get, the more difficult it becomes. I know that it scares my wife to see me this way. To see the depression and wonder if it is something that she’s missed. See the anxiety and know that there isn’t much else she can do to help. The countless ER trips and trying her best to hide it from my daughters.

That has been the amazing thing through this, five ER trips, countless doctors DSC00344appointments, different medications, different theories, my daughters have no clue what is going on. It hasn’t been my courage which has been amazing, it is how steadfast my wife is in her loyalty and devotion to our family. She is the person who bares the brunt of how I am right now. She’s the one who lays awake at night, thinking, wondering, hoping that everything will get better.

All the focus right now is on me. How can people help me, what can people do to help me. This is an obstacle I have in life right now. The truth, I have no freaking clue how people can help. Some days are good, some days are bad. Some hours I feel like myself, some hours I don’t know who I am. The one the thing I do know, the one constant that I have, is my wife.

Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, they are difficult things to talk about. Worried how people will judge you, worried whether people will think you are faking it, worried how you’ll feel the next minute, those are the ugly truths behind this. With all those things, those ugly truths, there’s still a family behind the scenes.

black-1072366_1920The one question that I haven’t been asked, and I think it is probably the most important one, “What am I doing to help myself?” It’s like staring at a blank chalkboard, waiting for something to appear, but I’m the one who has to write the words. I have to remember, that not but two months ago I was the rock of our family. It’s not that I can’t be anymore, and I know that if me then could have predicted this would happen, I would have one question for myself…”what are you going to do to help yourself?”

So what am I doing? I am writing (obviously). I have been talking with people a lot more (which I never did before). I have been overwhelmed with the support that I have gotten from people. I have been surprised by some of the people who have reached out, not thinking I was a blimp on their radar. I think that has been amazing because I couldn’t imagine how hard it is to start that conversation. “Hey man, heard you have PTSD, depression all those cool things, so how’s life been?” That has to be an awkward thing to do. I thank those from the bottom of my heart who have done that. I have such an admiration for you, it is a courageous thing to do. So talking with people has helped tremendously. I’m seeking therapy, which is a whole different world to me. I’m not used to being the person who is talking about my weaknesses or deep thoughts with someone. I am taking medication, which I hate, because it makes me feel like a shell of myself. I’m honest with my wife about how I am feeling, which is difficult because I should be the rock.

I am in a place in my life right now where I have never been. I don’t fully understand it, I’m not sure why now, and I have a hard time expressing it. Truly expressing it, how it feels, both physically and mentally. There’s almost a frustration there that it is happening to me. I was supposed to be a rock, and the ugly truth, I think constantly trying to be the rock is part of what got me here. I’ve never displayed emotion. I’ve never let anyone see me be weak. I’ve never really let people in. I’m the one in the family that doesn’t call that often. I don’t make a big deal about things that should be a big deal, because it would mean that’d I would be showing emotion.

So again, I ask myself, “what are you doing to help yourself?” I am changing thosecommunication-1015376_1920 things that I mentioned above (as the tortoise goes). I am making it a point that every day, no matter what, I call someone to just see how they are. Look out for a phone call, I have limited friends (don’t screen me, or I’ll find you!). I am making it a point to write. It’s therapeutic to me. I am being honest with my therapist, hoping that we can mentally work through some of these things. I am going to yoga (even have my own mat). I want to get off of the medications I’m on, so I can feel like myself. I am working on being open, to anyone who wants to share the journey of self-healing with me. I am working on being the first person to say happy birthday. I am working on making small things great big things, because my family deserves that. The ugly truth, I wasn’t being the best me, and I have to work on that. I’m not saying I’m here, in this mental space because of those things. I’m saying that it is something I have realized during this. I wasn’t being the best person I could be, and I am going to work on that.

I will get through this, and I will get through it with the people who are reaching out and with my family. So if you ever have a need, have a question, or recommendation, you can always privately message me. There may be times I’ll ask if I can use one of your comments in a blog post. However, if you’re struggling with something, and haven’t let it out yet, join me. I will be your voice, but we will get through this TOGETHER!

The Chair!

My College Field (LSU-Shreveport)

As I go through this journey, Amanda (wife) keeps telling me that I need to remind myself my leadership is not in question. She keeps reminding me I have been and still am a great leader. That I have effected numerous lives, albeit, some probably wish I hadn’t. However, all I can think about is a time that I struggled or failed but still had to lead. Even as I struggle now, I know that I’ll come through this stronger, and that I still need to lead. Just as I did with the chair!

I’m not sure if I buy into the, “you’re a born leader” mentality or philosophy. I think that a leader is made by choices he or she makes at times of conflict, desperation, or any type of obstacle throughout their life. I think there are many times someone can become a leader. I’ve been amongst some of the best leaders this country, and other countries have to offer. In that time, I’ve learned that not everyone is made equal, not all leaders are the same, and some leaders are great, some bad, and some just simply don’t compare to others. The ones who don’t compare to others, who are they? They are the ones who could always bring the calm to the storm. Make sound, decisive, concise decisions and somehow, no mater what, they always seemed to get it right.

I’m not sure where I would fall in the leadership spectrum, I don’t think it is something for me to decide. I leave that up to the men and women that I have led throughout my lifetime. I mentioned, that I think a leader develops, grows, or shows their true-self out of times of hardship or difficult scenarios. Well, I have one of those difficult scenario stories. At a young age (20), I was given an opportunity to learn and grow as a leader, and I didn’t know it until years later.

chess-3325010_1920Sitting in a Fort Benning, GA theater at the Captains Career Course (Army School), listening to the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, Coach Krzyzewski (Coach K) speak, I was quickly realizing that I was listening to a genius. He traded stories of leadership, failures, successes, the “Dream Team” at the 92′ Olympics. How tenacious Michael Jordan truly was at perfecting his craft. Coach K just kept going and going, story after story of greatness, triumphs, and tribulations. Enlightened from his speech, I went and bought his book Leading with the Heart. The book still sits on my office bookshelf. As I’m reading it, I get to the chapter where he talks about one of his star players. It talked about how he pulled one of his star players into the office and let him know that he was going to give him the ass-chewing of a lifetime, right in front of his peers. He needed to do so, so that his teammates knew that he wasn’t above them and so that the team could get a wake up call.

IMG_1296Now for the chair. My sophomore year in college we had strength and conditioning at 4:30 a.m.. You would think we were getting ready for the Olympics, or so it felt. We were a baseball team, shouldn’t we be just lifting weights and throwing the ball around during fall-ball (off-season). Nope, not us, we were doing speed latter training, 250 yard sprints, suicides, 5-mile runs, weight room stuff. It was a real kick in the nuts so to speak, and we started having problems with people showing up on time. It didn’t matter what the coaches did, we would have at least a few people late every morning.

If you don’t know me personally, I’m one of those you set 15 alarms because you are freaking out that your going to be 10 minutes early and you should be 15 minutes early kind of guy. I am not late! If I am, there was usually a pretty damn good reason for it. On this specific morning, I showed up my usual 15 minutes early to the lifting session, placed my bag by the door and walked around the gym to go to the bathroom. Like any man, or boy, my toilet breaks took almost an hour because I was reading something, playing something, or googling something (probably playing snake, that was the day blackberries were the hottest). Mistake number one! Even though I was on time, my gym bag was clearly inside the weight room, the coaches called me out for being late. Not thinking it was too serious, I argued a bit. I wanted to make sure he knew what he already knew and that I wasn’t late, ever! Mistake number two! He didn’t say much the rest of the time, and then the afternoon practice came. There was a chair sitting down the left field line, just past the infield dirt. A sole chair sat there, waiting, waiting, and waiting. It was lonely, and it was waiting for me!

“Everyone, everyone line up down left field line, we have some running to do since we baseball-1572551_1920can’t show up on time”, the coach said. “Everyone except for Jewell”, the next comment came. See I wasn’t too worried about running at that age, I was in good shape. The kind of shape that if we had a 5-mile run in the morning, I’d probably go out for a couple more in the afternoon. That is when my o’shit meter went off. What the hell, why am I sitting in the chair, I wasn’t even late, and what the hell was up with this stupid chair anyways I thought.

The chair was there for me to watch. To watch my teammates run and run, and run some more! To this day it is one of the worst feelings of suffering I have felt. It was one of the worst punishments I have endured. I couldn’t do anything to help them, they were suffering at my failure. This was on me, but at first I only got angrier. Angry at the coaches for being so ridiculous. ‘I wasn’t late’ is all I could keep thinking, and these idiots knew that. ‘Why the hell would they make me sit in this stupid chair, and watch?’

Normally this would be where I would say something like, what seemed like hours was only minutes kind of thing. I would be a liar, and I don’t like to lie. What seemed like hours was hours. The entire practice was dedicated to me sitting in this stupid chair watching my teammates suffer because of me. My anger went from outward to inward. Angry at myself for being in the bathroom so long. Angry that I couldn’t do anything. There they were, my teammates, throwing up, stripping down to sliding shorts, and doing everything they could just to do the next sprint. ‘They’re going to hate me,’ is all I could think. ‘I’m done on this team’, was the next thing. ‘This is the day they, the players, don’t accept me as a teammate anymore.’

Finally over, I still sat there in the chair. The coaches huddled the team around me, as I still sat in this freaking chair. Then the speech was given, “gentlemen, we will not accept being late any longer, be disciplined and show up on time.” Practice was over, and I put my chair up and sat in the dugout. Humiliated at what I just did to the team. No one said a word to me, not a single person. It had been an hour and a half of running. From left field foul line to center field and back. Over and over again. I wasn’t able to run with them, but there wasn’t going to be anyone stopping me from running afterwards.

As players left, I started to run. Since it was fall and it got dark early, I turned on the lights and just started to run. See I liked running, but I didn’t like this. I was running alone, under the lights, with no teammates around me. I truly felt alone. I felt I had just left the team, this was my final goodbye, I would endure what they endured and then I’d be gone.

What I didn’t know at the time, is some of the players had called my now-wife and let her know what happened. “Hey, here’s the deal, and he’s running right now, he’ll be home later and probably will be angry.” They gave her a heads up. About an hour into my self-pity running, some players showed up and sat in the dugout. I didn’t say a word, and they didn’t either. Then after a couple of more sprints they walked out and gave me a hug. Told me it was ok, they know that it wasn’t my fault, that it was everyone’s fault. That it was time to stop running, I had done enough. We turned off the lights and went home. When those lights turned off, I became the leader of that team and for the next three years I led the team. Of course, with other players as well.

I didn’t know it then, and I didn’t know it until many years later, but the coaches knew I wasn’t late. They needed to make a point, and they felt that I was the only one on the team who could have come out of something like that stronger. That’s where I am at right now, running. I’m running to figure out what the hell is going on. Trying to find ways to make my guilt of coming home easier, making the anxiety go away, making these struggles go away. I know now, just as Coack K knew with his player, as my coaches did with me, I will get through this. I will come out stronger, and I will have the ability to come out and help people get through these things, these feelings that we might not understand. I just have to get through them first!

The Chair. The chair taught me a valuable life lesson that day. In times where we might seem lost, in times where we might feel undone, or feel like failures, are the times we come through stronger than ever. I will come out of this stronger!


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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