EMDR and more

Good morning and Happy Sunday, December 15, 2019

I hope you had the opportunity to enjoy the brilliant full moon this past week!  It was the last one of the year and decade.  Moon beams are truly magical and filled with energy!  The wonders of nature and the universe never cease to amaze me.  Be sure to take time to enjoy as many as you can; from glorious sunrises, to breath taking sunsets.  Each is beautiful and amazing in its own way.  Set some goals for 2020.  Together we can make the New Year awesome and amazing!

Last Sunday I wrote about trauma and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy.  I want to take that theme further over the next couple of weeks.  I hope you will follow me on my journey.   Comments, questions and thoughts are always welcome.

I spoke about the relief this therapy brought me.  It was like a miracle for me.  It rid my mind of the near nightly violent dreams and nightmares.  It allowed my heart and soul to open.  The cleared space is free to empower new thoughts and pursuits.  My mind is uncluttered and vibrant.  EMDR therapy is an amazing process, but it is just part of what aided the boost in my mental health.  The lifestyle I have been building for years enabled it to work quickly and easily.  This was all part of an extensive life altering experience.  It has created a healthier and happier lifestyle for me.

So what occurred in my life that got me here today?  Let me tell you about the mental, physical and spiritual parts to this puzzle.  Each plays a significant and integral role.  They each assist one another in maintaining a healthy life balance.

Mental healthis a vitally important component in maintaining a balanced and healthy life.  If an imbalance occurs, we feel the negative effects.  Corrective action is required before the ill effects can have an impact on our mind and body.   We know continued stress can affect our body and health.  It can also cause anxiety which leads to other health issues.  The more stress we endure, the greater the chance of anxiety.  As a result, we must take good care of our mental health; as we do for our physical health.  If you have not been focusing on both, then the time to begin is now.  Do not focus on controlling the balance.  Just become more aware of when imbalance occurs.  Then you can take action to flush out the negative and boost the positive.    

I never put much thought into dealing with mental health struggles of my own.  I was under the misconception that “mental health issues” were only the woes of others.  My recollection of childhood and growing up seemed fairly normal.  Nothing crazy or unusual occurred, or so I thought.  During counseling, several incidents were revealed that caused fear and anxiety.  These marks on my mind would have an impact later in life.  Imagine all you have learned and observed during your life.  Many times, how we react to situations now is based on what we learned from our past.  Often, the reactions are from what we saw or learned as kids.   

As adults, stress and anxiety seem to be natural components of our everyday lives.  We learn how to navigate the bumps in our own way.  Some of us are better at resolving these issues than others.  How we were raised, our personalities and lives are all different.  As much as we are on different paths, we are all heading in the same direction.  We all gather information and observe how those closest to us handle discomfort and negativity.  We learn from them and mold ourselves as best we can.  If you do not take the time to evaluate your own mental well-being, how will you ever know it requires attention. 

At a young age I learned it was best to bottle everything up inside me.  That process carried through for a great majority of my life.  I always focused on building my physical body, while neglecting to evaluate my mental health.  I took it for granted that how I felt was normal.  When life is tough you deal with it.    

I have been living my life, doing what I deem best for me.  At various times in our lives we all experience pain, sadness, stress or anxiety.  These seem to be a fact of life with our fast paced existence.  We have heartbreaking moments; due to family, social, work or relationship issues.  Depending on your age, it can be school, career or just life creating further stress.  Sadness and pain can be attached to all of these for a variety of reasons. 

If this is really part of what we have to endure in life, how can we make it better?  Having an adult daughter and falling in love with a special woman soon made me realize I was out of balance.  I needed help to get myself back on track.  It was beyond my control and abilities.

A strong support system is a great starting block.  The backbone of my mental health support system includes my daughter, family, friends and a very special love.  They provide a unique quality of support, inspiration, encouragement and love. Allowing support is just as important as the people providing it.  If you open yourself up to the process it is quite amazing.  If you close yourself off, like I had been for many years, nothing ever changes or improves.

I never learned how to openly communicate in a relationship, so consequently they failed.  I had no problem communicating at work or with friends.  I believe this is a learned behavior; one I was never taught.  When you hit the bottom, you realize there are relationships in life much more valuable than things.  I never wanted to jeopardize the relationship I shared with my daughter.  She is an amazing part of me.  My daughter wants to see me happy; as much as I want to see her happy.  When I met and fell in love with my partner, I knew I could not let her slip away due to my issues.  She inspired me to be a better person and reach for my stars.  I followed her to yoga class one day and a new world opened for me.

The introduction of yoga and meditation began a couple years before counseling and EMDR therapy.  They brought new mental clarity and peace.  The practice of yoga assists in building muscular strength, increases joint flexibility, while calming your mind. Yoga allowed me to release my ego during practice.  Freeing yourself of ego is quite invigorating.  Do not worry about what others are doing or what they see in you.  Yoga is not about impressing others.  Yoga is a journey into yourself.  It allows you to go inward and look at your inner being.  Your path is yours alone.  It frees your mind to concentrate on you.  It assists to create clarity and a calm mind.  Yoga should not be considered an exercise, like lifting weights or cross fit.  It is a pathway to meditation. 

Meditation allowed me to relax my mind and go deeper than I ever had before.  I will admit, meditation took a bit of practice.  My mind was full, spinning and not so easy to slow down.  I began sitting in my dark closet early each morning.  This provided a quiet safe place.  I would get comfortable, close my eyes and would only last a few minutes.  I increased my time when I began to focus on my breathing.  I would breathe slowly counting to four, holding for a second and then counting four to a slow exhale.  This brought the focus to my breath, which allowed my mind to relax.  Within a month my meditation was exceeding twenty minutes.  My mind was clear and free.  I enjoy meditating first thing in the morning.  Five minutes clears my mind and sets the tone for my day.  I highly recommend it, as I do yoga.  If you need assistance, please reach out.    

Yoga and meditation required practice.  I may never master the poses or postures, but that is not the purpose of yoga.  The primary purpose of yoga is to achieve a higher consciousness, where there is no conflict or worry.  Meditation is similar, clearing your mind of thoughts or stress.  During my yoga teacher training, my yoga master told me achieving a gap between thoughts is where you discover bliss.  This is where you find peace and clarity in your mind.   

Grounding is another way to relax your mind and feel the earths energy.  Getting outside and enjoying nature has benefits all their own. Whether you sink your feet in the sand at the beach, walk in a forest, visit the desert or just walk barefoot in the grass, has magical effects.  The energy of the earth and grounding yourself in nature brings mental peace and relief.  I can sit at the beach for 20 minutes and melt away stress and the anxiety of life.  Sharing that time with someone special has increased benefits as well.   

Allowing yourself to lean on others is not a sign of weakness.  As humans, we need the nurturing support of those around us.  We are all in this together.  Let us make an effort to support and build each other up.  Asking for help is difficult for some people.  Make it easier for them; offer your assistance and love as often as you can.  It is not something you can force.  Patience is a virtue.  Be sure it becomes one of yours to follow.

When you know you have the right support and love, life becomes easier to manage.  You may be feeling the stress of life, but someone next to you may feel a depression that is far more evasive and daunting.  Do not ever under estimate the power of a smile, hug or friendly greeting.  Be the power you want others to be for you.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  I will continue this discussion on the mental, physical and spiritual parts of my healthy life puzzle.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace Life!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Trauma and EMDR Therapy

Good morning, Sunday, December 8, 2019

Trauma for military, law enforcement and first responders is inescapable.  For many others it occurs as victims of crimes, abuse, violence or torment.  These incidents forever scar our minds, impact our emotions and damage our souls.  The resulting sadness and depression have a devastating effect; sometimes even suicide.

Mental health is an increasing concern, not only with adults, but with our children.  The decline can be attributed to various causes and factors.   We all experience stress, anxiety and health struggles during the course of our lives.  When these are not addressed or resolved they can lead to depression or ill health.  The resulting sadness can have lasting and negative consequences.   How you resolve these issues impacts your life.  The process and resolution has repercussions for those near to you.  What can you do to better your own mental health, assist others and inform the people around you? 

When someone is struggling with any variety of life or mental health issues, you only want them to feel better.  Our fast paced lives only serve to create more stress, unhappiness and more chaos in our life.  A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association report 77% of people polled felt symptoms associated with tension and anxiety regularly.  Stress around the world is higher.  It can cause physical and mental fatigue.  It can also affect our immune system, leading to stress induced illness.   When you couple stress with poor eating habits and lack of exercise, none of it adds up to anything good.  

I know this all too well.  I have dealt with the struggles of others and some of my own.  A war waged within my head for years.  Trauma, sadness, suffering and anxiety ruled me.  I functioned on the outside, but hurt on the inside.  My struggles are real and my successes are even better.   Now is the time to make mental health our priority.  

As a boy growing up, I learned crying or showing emotion was not manly.  Boys are tough and always in control.  Expressing emotions or tears mean weakness.  This began at an early age and carried throughout my life.  It took some time before I realized that statement was and is far from the truth.  Boys and men need to express and share their emotions and feelings.  Suppressing them and holding them inside only serve to create negativity within us.  It creates a toxic tug of war.

I entered the Los Angeles Police Department Academy (LAPD) in 1980.  Training and instruction covered a variety of disciplines.  I learned about the law, policy and procedure, police operations, field tactics, defensive tactics, firearms, cultural awareness and so much more.  There was no discussion regarding my mental health.  The Behavioral Science Section (department psychologist) was discussed briefly and available if needed.  That was the extent of my mental health training.

I encountered people during my career that could have benefited from counseling, including myself.  Somehow counseling had a negative stigma attached to it.   The prevalent atmosphere made individuals feel less tough or courageous if they sought it out.  My years of suppressed emotions and continual trauma created negativity within my mind and body.  Emotions need to be expressed and felt.  Trauma must be processed and released so we can heal.  We are all at fault for creating such a sad situation concerning mental health.  We need to create a healthy and open atmosphere for our children, teens and adults to thrive. 

I want to share my journey with anyone who might benefit.  I grew up in Los Angeles.  My career with the LAPD spanned nearly 34 years.  Los Angeles is a busy metropolis.  As a police officer, you are intimately involved in each incident.  I shared struggles, dealt with anxiety, depression and trauma.  Personal and work trauma, divorce, alcohol, stress and many other factors compounded my life.

Police work is fraught with brutality, violence, abuse, victims brutalized during crimes, car accidents, suicides, carnage, death and more.  Children, women, men and animals fall prey to the wickedness of humanity.  The consequences of these encounters make an impact.  They leave vivid mental images and damage you physically.  The trauma witnessed and emotions suppressed become locked inside the mind.  You wish your mind could forget the sights and experiences it has witnessed.  The stress and negativity create toxic harm in your body.

I retired from the LAPD in 2014.  Retirement brought freedom from the confines of work.   I never realized the extent of trauma I had experienced.  After a year of navigating retirement, I met an amazing woman.  She quickly recognized the difficulty I had expressing myself – communication, passion or emotion.  It was nearly impossible to open my heart and soul to her.  My years of violent dreams and nightmares become immediately evident to her.  She suggested integrating yoga and meditation into my life.  I built a physical practice which has enhanced all aspects of my life.  It brings new clarity to my mind and strengthens my body.   

Yoga and meditation spark a passion and inner peace.  I completed my yoga teacher training a couple of years later.  Inspiring others in the benefits of yoga and meditation are my new gift.  My heart and soul began to open.  My newfound passion could not resolve the trauma and negativity that continued to swirl around my mind.  Years of grisly images, death and ghosts are stored deeply away, but not processed by my brain.  My fears of being good enough or being able to express myself rattled my confidence.  The lack of opening myself and communication in a relationship filled me with anxiety.  I wanted to share all my fears with her.  I wanted to release my demons.  I kept telling myself, “You are a man.  A cop. You are strong.  You can talk and open yourself up.  You can bare your heart and soul, especially to someone you love.  You can do this.”  It was scary to admit, but I realized I could not do this on my own.  I needed professional help.

In January 2018 I sought help, found a therapist and began counseling.  We discussed relationships, work, trauma, family and childhood issues.  She tells me about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR).  She explained how it is used to treat trauma victims and PTSD patients.  It is her belief it will be a tremendous benefit for me.  Being a cop, I’m skeptical, so I did my own research and discussed it further at our next session. 

The years of negative issues and trauma suffered by life and career are stuck in my brain, cycling over and over.  They were never allowed to process completely after each experience.  Now they are creating more toxic thoughts within my mind.  These memories need to be processed and released.  She explained that, “Merely talking about these thoughts won’t resolve anything or release them,” and that, “There is no way I could ever resolve this on my own.  Think about it as if you are going to work.  Putting on your body armor, uniform and locking yourself up safe and secure.  Each day and the trauma suffered gets locked up within you.  If you do not process these experiences and let them go, they remain inside only causing more trauma and stress.”                

My first EMDR session lasts two hours.  It is difficult, vivid and filled with tears.  We focus on a work traumatic event that occurred early in my career.  It is a grisly murder of a young woman.  My partner and I discover her body in the middle of a lonely road late one night.  The therapist guides me through the event.  I re-live the horrific experience all over again.  I am seeing it, feeling it, hearing it, all as if I am there.  I recall conversations with my partner verbatim.  The tears flow, but I begin to feel better and lighter inside.  When the session ends I am worn out mentally and physically.  It is as if a huge weight had been lifted from me.  My mind feels less cluttered, free and happy. 

I arrive at home exhausted, but feel at peace.  That night there are no dreams or nightmares.  One EMDR session has brought a halt to the nightmares and violent dreams.  I continue for several more EMDR sessions; focusing on work trauma, childhood issues, relationships, and love.  EMDR therapy is a true gift and my salvation.  I never considered the importance of my mental health.  Now it is just as much a focus as my physical well-being. 

If you have experienced trauma, violence or a serious negative event in your life; EMDR therapy is an incredible instrument of relief.  It definitely saved me.  Talking and open communication are always important, but some issues need more than just talk.  EMDR therapy helped me overcome my lack of communication, especially in relationships.  Too much of me was suppressed inside for too many years!  Now I am open and willing to share, express and experience emotions, feelings and passions.  

I am typically self-confident, self-motivated and positive; but we all can use a little encouragement.  It is amazing what a few words of inspiration can do for your mind and soul.  Now I have added writing poetry and motivational quotes to my repertoire.  I wish I could have opened my heart and soul sooner.  Sometimes prying off the lid is not as easy as we wish.  It remained tough and often frustrating for me.  Now I am and feel so much better.  Verbally expressing my love for another is wonderful and special, but it is not nearly enough.  Demonstrating my love, coupled with communication goes hand in hand.  I am happy and grateful for new beginnings.  

Even now those silent fears attempt to slip into my mind.  Now I know better and do not listen to those negative falsehoods.  Staying positive, present and engaged is what we all need to make it all work.  Amazing relationships should all be so simple to achieve.  Keep those positive thoughts flowing my friends.  Together we will all get there and find peace, happiness and love.  Do not allow negativity or stress from outside issues influence who you are or your relationship with your partner.  Do not allow your mind to make up stupid or untrue stories.  Our mind has a silly way of doing that stuff!  Do not allow or believe it!  Daily communication is key and super important all the time.  Always be honest and direct with your partner.  Be loving and kind, but share all of your thoughts, good and bad.  Communication is something I still need to work on.  First you must love and be happy with yourself.  This is where all the magic begins.  When you achieve that, then it will allow you to share your love with others.  This allows them to share their love with you. 

Now I am living in the present.  It is easy to look back on my life and career; how choices and events alter our path.  The EMDR therapy has kept me nightmare free.  The past is gone and my future is with every new breath I take.  I am grateful to be here as each new day unfolds.  The possibilities and opportunities are mine to seize.  My heart and soul are open and loving life.  Our time here is limited and far too short.  It is imperative to live in the present, while enjoying each moment that passes.  I do not know what the future holds for me or with love.  I am not going to let myself worry about it.  I am a romantic and forever hopeful.  I do not know why my transformation occurred how it did or why it took so long.  I am forever grateful for the encouragement and love that helped change my world.  It opened me to happiness and the possibilities.  I finally took control of my life and am free.  I live my life in the present and move forward into each new day.  Happiness, joy and contentment are just the beginning.  I am happy with me.  My path is positive and that is the first step to my future. 

Have you have experienced trauma, violence or a serious negative event in your life?  If you know or encounter someone who needs help, open yourself to them.  Reach out and lift them up.  Tell them your story.  Share my story.  Let them know they are not alone.  Together we can help them conquer their fears and bring happiness back into their life.  Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy is an incredible tool to bring relief, resolution and peace. 

Our time on earth is limited.  Live in the present and enjoy each moment.  Be wise and smart about mental health; our own and of others.  I am grateful for the encouragement and love from others that have helped change my world.  I have control of my life and the possibilities are endless.  My path is positive and that is the first step to my future.  Together we can be the difference, assisting and helping everyone we contact.  Spread the word and make mental health our priority.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! 

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace life.  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Sunday December 1st Navigating the Holidays

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Holiday.  Did you venture out for the “Black Friday” shopping chaos?  My Friday was low key and peaceful.  It is difficult to imagine Christmas is a bit more than three weeks away!  Yikes!  Time flies!  My advice, stay in the present and enjoy each moment as it unfolds.  Embrace life as it happens.

The Holidays are meant to be a joyous time.  They bring much happiness, but they can also increase our stress levels, bring anxiety and create more struggles.  They can bring grief for various reasons.  My Dad passed away in December several years ago.  I know that feeling of sadness.  He was a fantastic Dad.  Everyone liked him.  He always had great advice.  I miss him.  So how do we navigate the Holidays and maintain our mental health?

No matter how happy we are or how healthy we feel, the Holidays add a bit more stress for everyone.  Things like more traffic, dealing with the shopping crowds, what to buy, where to spend the holidays or money issues can create anxiety.  For some of us, the tension and pressures are increased for more troubling reasons.  You are not alone.  We can make it through this together with the love and support of friends, family and me.  Money issues (such as spending too much) take some self-restraint and budgeting.  If you require assistance, please reach out to a professional, a responsible friend or family member or me.  If you are consistently spending beyond your means, expert advice would be a wise choice. 

If you are dealing with issues; such as traffic, crowds, what gift to buy, money or where to spend the holidays; I want to offer some mental relief.  Stress and anxiety can be released if you relax your mind with some simple exercises.  Meditation and breathing exercises will assist you in relaxing your body and calming your mind.  I meditate in the morning.  Five minutes will  set the tone for my day.

Meditation and breathing exercises can be done anywhere, including serene settings like the beach, a park, the desert or in the mountains.  I suggest doing these in the comfort of your home or at a studio or fitness center.  If you are desperately seeking to calm your mind, then by all means take a few minutes to do it.   If you are on the road and not close to home, find a safe and secure place to park.  First and foremost, always be safe.  Keep your car doors locked. 

The more grounded you are, with your butt on the earth, the better.  Being out in nature is nice, but not always possible.  If you are home, find a comfortable place to sit.  Consider sitting on the floor, use a pillow or sit on the couch.  You can do this outside in your back yard too.   Sit up nice and tall with a straight back.  No slouching.  Use a wall or something rigid if necessary.  Again, this is yours to experiment with and determine what space is best for you.  Once you are comfortable, without distractions, close your eyes.  Relax your body and allow your shoulders to drop (relaxing them down your back).  We tend to hold tension and stress in our shoulders and neck.  This is a great place to begin your release.    Focus on your inhalations and exhalations as you continue to relax and clear thoughts from your mind.   Breathe slowly and count to four with your inhales.  Hold here for one count, then exhale with a four count.  As you begin to relax, extend your exhale count to six.  Remember, focus on slow deep breathing.  Allow your thoughts to clear from your mind.  Relax.  Begin with several minutes.  Increase the time when you can and build your meditation practice.  Lots more on this in the coming weeks.  

Breathing slowly relaxes the mind and stimulates the Vagus nerve.  This reduces your heart rate and blood pressure.  Slow Deep Breathing activates the Vagus nerve enough to act as a break to the stress response. The nerve runs from neck to abdomen, both on the right and left side. It is referred to as the mind – body connection.  It is part of the parasympathetic nervous system: rest and digest system.  It conserves energy, slows heart rate, increases digestion.  The Sympathetic nervous system: fight or flight / do something / preps body to react to stress (threat or injury), increase heart rate and contracts the muscles.  Both are part of the Autonomic nervous system.  Take advantage of the natural body functions that bring us peace of mind.  It only takes a few minutes to relax.

The holidays are a time to be Grateful!  We are blessed with so much.  Even among the difficulties of life, we have much to be grateful for.  I thank God and the universe every morning when I wake up.  I remind myself how grateful I am for so many amazing things in my life.  The first is life itself, family, friends and so much more.  Gratitude is an amazing emotion of appreciation.  Experience it daily!  Relax and enjoy the Holidays as much as possible; one day at a time.

Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more!  EMDR therapy works.

Thanks for your love and support!  Embrace life.  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Happy Sunday November 24th

Let’s start a conversation about mental health.

Why is our mental health important?  I am sure we would all share a variety of answers to this question.  There are many important reasons for good mental health.  The answers between men and women may vary too.  First and foremost, our overall physical health is the most important factor when considering mental health.  Both are interconnected and play a significant role in maintaining the balance between the two.  If either is out of balance, we run the risk of suffering the consequences.  Holding our emotions in, not expressing ourselves or not engaging in good conversation with our loved ones can have a negative impact on our mental health.

Men and women struggle with a variety of issues, mentally and physically.  An amazing characteristic about women is they will talk about anything and everything.  One of the upsetting traits about men is they will not discuss important life issues.  Men shy away from discussions about mental health, emotions, feelings or open and raw conversations about struggles.  Men do not care to admit they battle any type of mental health issue.  It might mean they are weak or flawed in some way.  I know, because I bought into that thought process.  Men need to open up about these topics because the silence is deadly.   

Men struggle with their mental health and expression of emotions more than women.  Some people are better equipped at expressing themselves than others.  There are different reasons why we hold back.  The difficulties we share can be fear based.  Fear is a powerful emotion.  It can be real when danger is present or an imagined perception rising out of anxiety.  The imagined or perceived fear can strangle you and keep you from enjoying life.  The other emotional struggle men often share is a learned behavior.  Let me explain. 

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s set the tone for my adulthood.  Kids were “seen and not heard.”  Boys learned at an early age to be tough, not to cry and not to show emotion.  To be a man meant you were always in control, tough and not weak.  From my experience, this has been a learned behavior for many decades.  This was all reinforced at my earliest memory.  I recall walking to kindergarten, when a group of older boys yelled threats and obscenities at me.  I was scared and told my teacher.  She told me to sit in the corner and stop crying.  I told my mom when I got home.  She told me to sit in my room until my dad got home.  I learned it was better to hold in my emotions and be tough.  Men not showing emotions was evident being around family, friends and at school.  It was personified in movies and television too.     

I can attest to being out of balance on many occasions during my life.  Being healthy physically was a priority, but mental health never really was a thought.  We all share emotional and mental health differently.   Stress, anxiety and depression affect us for a variety of reasons.  As a result of not taking care of myself, I paid the price for that imbalance.  Let me share some of my life examples.  I am sure you can relate to a time you experienced something similar. 

Our teenage years are a period of growing, discovery and lots of anxiety.  I know they were for me.  The technology of today puts the world at our fingertips.  This information can be helpful or detrimental in a matter of seconds.  Consider how social media impacts our lives.  For us, as well as our children, it can create anxiety.  All of this can be extremely daunting.  It affects our kids, their mental health, growth and development.  Peer pressure and socialization can be especially cruel and painful for our youth today.  The agony and helplessness pushes them to depression, alcohol, drugs and sometimes suicide.  As parents, we must be vigilant in our devotion and raising of our children.  Life is not always an easy process.  Parental support, guidance and lots of love is required to boost them on their path.  It is our gift and responsibility to empower them as individuals.  They are our future.

For me, college was a mixed bag of wanting to be away from home, living on my own, learning for my future and having lots of fun.  Self-doubt, anxiety and lack of self-confidence often ruled me.  Alcohol became my coping mechanism or crutch to adapt, fit in and feel safe.  Whenever anxiety struck, alcohol was my fix.  As I grew into adulthood, the anxiety and lack of self-confidence faded.  The need for a crutch diminished too.

As I reflect on my life and career, it is easy to recognize the times my balance between physical and mental health was out of alignment.  During the early years of my career alcohol again became a crutch to deal with anxiety, fit in and socialize.  It was just so unnecessary and destructive.  It kept me from regaining my balance and my mental health.  In many ways I was physically fit, but not mentally healthy.  I functioned at work, did my job, made life and death decisions, but my personal life and relationships suffered. 

My nearly 34 year career in law enforcement subjected me to horrific events; brutalization of victims, death and trauma.  Incidents are imprinted in my memory, never to be forgotten.  I did my job effectively, without emotion or thought.  I was a man; strong, tough and dominant.  If emotion entered the situation, it only created fear.  The job demanded me to be in control at all cost.  I managed each situation, the people involved, myself and the outcome.  My life, or the life of others, may depend on it.  I was fearless at dominating work situations.  This persona carried over into my personal life and relationships.  I wanted to sway every situation to my desired outcome.  My display of emotion was minimal, while I attempted to push for the outcome I wanted.  Communication in relationships was something I never really learned.  I was great talking at work, but having a meaningful, open, intimate conversation with loved ones was amazingly difficult.

Alcohol continued to be a coping mechanism to deal with the pain and trauma.  I maintained good physical strengthen, while feeling crushed mentally.  When my daughter was born, I began to see life in a different way.  Her birth began an emotional change and opening in me.  It became clear that I needed to alter my path in order to be a good dad.  I wanted to be around for her far longer than expected.   A different mindset developed, taking me on a new path.  I devoted my off time to her.  I studied for promotional exams and wanted to better myself.  Over the next years I ultimately promoted several ranks.   Alcohol was no longer needed as a crutch or support.  I finally began to align my physical and mental strength and health.  The trauma at work continued, but I buried it deeper and deeper within me.  I had no idea how it would continue to negatively impact my life and mental health.

Trauma still ravaged my life.  Suicides and deaths of friends and co-workers caused unmeasurable pain.  The death and destruction experienced at work seemed never ending.  I bottled all these emotions up daily.  The toxic effects continued to destroy my mental well-being.  I suffered nightmares and violence filled dreams nightly.  Not having the ability to talk, share emotions or open my heart, lead to two divorces.  Luckily I maintained my relationship with my amazing daughter.

I retired from law enforcement in 2014.  About a year later I met an incredible woman who introduced me to yoga and meditation.  Her love, intuition and support motivated me to be better.  It took time and some serious struggles for me to admit I needed help.  As a man I kept telling myself, “You’re a guy, a cop, tough, strong and in control.  You can open yourself up.  You can share your heart and emotions.  You can do this.”   When I finally hit rock bottom I realized I could not do it without help.  I reached out and found new life.  Counseling and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy would be my blessing and miracle.                        

As a result of yoga, meditation, EMDR therapy and lots of love and support I am a much different person today.  I am happy, free, open and full emotion and life.  The trauma has been processed and released.  My mind is clear and my heart open.  I see men and women struggling and only want them to feel better.   I know it is possible.  I am here as your support.  I know how it feels.  I know how the release and empowerment for a new life feels.   

A recent imbalance occurred just a couple of months ago.  I returned home after some extensive traveling, both outside and across the country.  I could feel something coming on in the days before I returned home.  When I got home it hit me hard.  Lots of coughing all day and night, tightness in the upper chest and no sleep from all the constant coughing.   The doctor told me it was an upper respiratory virus.  Not much in the way of treatment, other than over the counter meds and lots of rest.  I coughed constantly for two weeks.  The lack of sleep, lack of activity and the feeling of being boxed up began to drive me nuts.  I lost my voice from coughing, could not really talk away; so the isolation created more negativity in my mind.  As my physical health degraded, so did my mental health.  Family and friends were my saviors.  They kept me sane.  By the end of the third week I was able to get outside, enjoy nature, and some normal life fun.  I had no problem expressing my thoughts, emotions and heart during this ordeal.  I am happy to be healthy and balanced once again.         

Guys, why are you holding back?  You can be a man, tough and strong, while showing emotions openly.  It is not weak to be kind, gentle, vulnerable, loving or cry.  It means we are human.  We have feelings to express.  Share your thoughts, fears, passion and dreams with your family, friends and lovers.  It is truly an expression of love to open your heart to someone.  When you can freely share your passion of life it is an energizing and vibrant experience.  Take every opportunity to improve your mental health.  Do not waste time.  Be a better you with those special to you!

Ladies, release your fears and anxiety.  Open yourself to the joys and happiness of the world.  The world is not about looking or acting any particular way.  It is not about perfection.  It is about truth, honesty, love and connection.  Be who you are and embrace your beauty.  Self-care is self-love.  We all have so much to offer, but fear often invades our minds and controls us.  You have to be strong.  Life is so short, we must embrace every moment and every opportunity to be happy.

In upcoming weeks, I will dig deeper into the connection between mental and physical health.  I will share more on my journey and EMDR therapy.  I will highlight how diet, exercise, rest, sun, air and water all play key roles in maintaining our healthy balance.

It’s not about what other people think of me.  It’s about what I think of myself.  It’s about what I’ve done to be a better man, a better person, a better me.  I have wasted so much time on fear and self-doubt.  Time is a precious gift, not to be wasted.  Make the most of it, enjoy it, share it, be grateful for it and live it.

Join me again next Sunday for more!  We will be between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I want to talk about navigating the holidays.  Please tune in!

Thanks for your love and support!  Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!!

Happy Sunday from the beach!  Thank you for joining me as I launch my new blog; sundaymorningwithjohn.com !   I am looking forward to sharing my insight on life, health, food, fitness, mental health and more every week.

I will be discussing my life and journey over the upcoming weeks and months.  I want to share what has and has not worked for me in all areas of life.  I offer a unique and unbiased perspective.  This is not about political affiliations, religion or business.  It really is all about life, my life and what I have experienced along the way.  I have had my share of ups and downs, sadness and happiness and all that comes with it.  Circumstances can change from moment to moment.  Life is made up of great times and some not so great.  How we deal with those “not so great” times reveals our true character and strength.  We can fold under the pressure, or we can stand tall and resolve each issue as it arises.  Allowing each life event to be a lesson in learning can strengthen us, bringing us more inner peace and happiness. 

Showing our emotions and allowing ourselves to feel happy or sad is an important part of our nature.  It is a universal factor for all humans.  This is life!  It is meant to be experienced and lived.  Do not hold back!  I suppressed my emotions far too long.  Childhood and situations growing up contributed to some of those fears.   My career as an adult had an even more significant impact on me suppressing my emotions.  When we suppress our emotions it only serves to make life more difficult and challenging.  Holding emotions in and closing yourself off only creates more negativity within us.  It affects how we live, love and allow ourselves to open to others.  Emotions can invoke great happiness or sadness.  When we release and allow our emotions to be experienced, only then are we truly living.  Coupled with experiencing emotions and having passion; is balancing ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.

My weekly blogs will provide insight, structure, plans and lots of encouragement to move you forward in a positive direction.  We all experience sadness, stress, anxiety, fear and sometimes depression.  There are so many life events that can bring us down.  Some issues can be complex, while the vast majority can be simple daily issues that cause negativity in our life.  Believe me, you are not alone.  During my nearly 34 year career in law enforcement, I have had my bouts with all of these.  I have experienced and lived through so much negativity, trauma and sadness; nearly daily.  I will share insight and first hand views into my career as we progress down the road.  My life is so much more different now than it was during those days.  Help and assistance is readily available, beginning here with me. 

Retirement brought an entirely new transition for me.  The search for peace and harmony was illusive.  Eventually a friend brought me to yoga.  My yoga practice blossomed into meditation, breathing exercises and the search for more information and knowledge.  I went on to become certified as a Reiki practitioner.  I ultimately sought out Yoga Teacher Training and gained my certification.  I have taught yoga, in a local studio and at a senior living apartment setting.  Both brought great joy and satisfaction.  While all of my training and yoga practice brought new found peace, my mind and body were still troubled from my past. 

Life, happiness and sadness continue to happen.  The sadness within me brought new motivation to resolve my trauma and negative issues of my past.  In the beginning of 2018 I began counseling.  The sessions brought new enlightenment.  The therapist suggested EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy).  It is often used for trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) victims.   I will discuss this in much greater detail in the coming weeks.  EMDR therapy turned out to be my saving grace.

We have witnessed an increase in suicides, for law enforcement, first responders and our military personnel.  The trauma and sadness these individuals see on any given day takes a significant toll on their health, both mentally and physically.  The stress and emotional impact is real.  The sadness continues as I read about an increasing suicide rate among teens and young adults.   Mental health needs to be our priority.

Next week I will begin my discussion with mental health.  This topic will spawn many other subjects that all play a role in our health; mentally, physically and spiritually.  Exercise, nutrition, nature, rest and a variety of daily activities all play a significant role in our mental health.  I will share more about my life and career.  I want you to see it and hopefully understand it better than you think you do.  It will be a first hand look inside through my eyes.  The pain, suffering and trauma we experience can be successfully resolved and processed by our brain.  We do not need to keep it locked up inside our mind, doing more damage to our health.  I will share what ultimately brought me to counseling and EMDR therapy.  There is help and assistance available.  The first step is reaching out.  I am here to extend my hand and help you.            

We all share this planet.  Our time here is brief and life really is a blessing.  We can all make a positive difference in the world.   We, as humans, need to start spreading harmony, solidarity and peace.  We just have to try.

Enjoy a fabulous day!  I look forward to sharing more with you next Sunday!

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.