Meet Sean Schultz and Invisible Wounds

always a vet

Hello dear readers. It’s been a few days since I’ve last chatted with y’all. I’ve been busy reading (interesting stuff out there), chatting (should really do less of), and trying to plug away on my sequel (whenever inspiration hits *sigh). Anyway, I’m taking a mini break from all of that this morning because I want y’all to meet a pretty cool guy who’s on an important mission. His name is Sean Schultz.

Hi Sean! The red filter serves as a reminder of everyone deployed. Hopefully I'll start a trend like the rainbow colored profile pics for the LGBT community

Hi Sean! The red filter serves as a reminder of everyone deployed. The intended goal is to start a trend similar to the rainbow colored profile pics for the LGBT community.

Sean is one of the nicest people I’ve met on social media. He popped up in my Twitter feed one day due to an indie author Q&A I did with his father, K.G., who’s also pretty cool (you can check out his Q&A here). Over time, I’ve found out that Sean has eclectic taste in music (awesome!), four tattoos (dope!), and he likes to bring a smile to someone’s face with his twisted sense of humor (again, awesome!). While chatting with him one day, he shared with me that he is a Marine veteran suffering from posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Naturally, I had a few questions about his Marine background. Graciously, he was kind enough to answer them:

Question 1: When did you join the Corps?

Answer 1: I joined the Corps in August of 2001 right before the attacks on September 11th, which definitely changed the pace of training once that happened. We knew then that the majority of our brothers and sisters we graduated boot camp with would be deployed at some point to a combat zone. For me, that was Iraq in 2003 with 1st Marine Division 11th Marines Regiment during the initial march to Baghdad.

Q2: When did you first begin experiencing PTSD symptoms?

A2: The fight with PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression is a daily struggle I am still dealing with. I believe I started having symptoms when I was still in the Corps and for the longest time I was using marijuana as my solution for masking my illness, which in itself does have some incredible benefits in treating my symptoms. However, it is a depressant, just like alcohol, and it got to a point that I became addicted to it. Like alcohol, or a lot of the psychological pharmaceuticals that are out there, I was using it to mask the pain. It wasn’t until my most recent suicide attempt, after I stopped smoking that I realized I had a problem that I needed to face. I finally reached out and got the support from my family and friends. I have also started hormone supplement therapy through a doctor here in San Diego in conjunction with my antidepressants and antianxiety medication, which we hope to wean me off of at some point.

red boots

Q3: What has personally helped you combat PTSD?

A3: A large help for me personally was moving to San Diego with my parents, who have been a huge support system for me. The change in scenery and the amount of resources available to me out here versus back in southern Indiana are extremely different. It also helps that there is a more positive and artistic vibe to the Normal Heights area in which I currently reside and am a member of the community association.

In addition to the change of scenery, my incredibly talented mother, who outside of her day job, is a phenomenal painter and I don’t just say that because I am her son. She got me addicted to yoga, which is where the majority of the healing began. I am very thankful for that and to the instructors at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga here in Normal Heights as well as the studio in North Park. The practice of yoga is incredibly spiritual and allows you to connect, and for me, start to love myself again.

Another huge help for me has been the starting of this movement [see below], which has forced me to get out of my shell and be motivated. I spend most of my day online talking with fellow veterans, researching, and trying to network with similar organizations to create a unified front and decrease the dramatic statistic of 22 veterans that take their own lives everyday. I have also started to network within the community and begun sharing my story with whoever will listen in order to raise awareness and break the notion that “you are fine, suck it up.” Mental health awareness, in general, is on the rise because we are finally starting to see the side effects of this “war” we have been involved with for over a decade. It has taken a terrible toll not just on the veterans themselves, but their loved ones as well.

As previously mentioned, Sean started a movement to spread awareness of PTSD along with the alarming rates of suicides among veterans. Please read more about his movement below:

The Invisible Wounds Tattoo, donated by Pete Walker of Allegory Tattoo in San Diego.

The Invisible Wounds Tattoo donated by Pete Walker of Allegory Tattoo in San Diego.

The #InvisibleWounds movement was started thanks to a woman I have never met, whose life dramatically changed due to an unfortunate event. Because of her, I have made it my life’s mission to help spread awareness of PTSD and suicide that plagues veterans, like myself, because the VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] doesn’t do their job in a timely manner. We [veterans] feel as though it is a sign of weakness, and suffer rather than seek the help we need. We feel as though life would be easier, not for us, but for our loved ones, if we just removed ourselves from the picture and decreased the burden.

I know first hand how crippling this can be. No matter how badly you would like to get up off of the couch and just do something to participate in life, you feel you can’t. You wonder why you are the way you are and how you got so broken. The worst part is you do your best to hide it from those you love. If they knew and understood what was really going on with you, they would be willing to drop everything to help you in a heartbeat because they love you.

Not to get too deep into my story, because this isn’t about me. If you want to read my story I invite you to go to my page. Because of Stephanie Mason Lembo’s video, I have been able to let go of all my built-up self-hate and have begun to love myself again. I have seen the light and that life is worth living since my attempts on my life resulted in my best friend and fellow Marine convincing me to seek help. His name is Alan Kissinger, and he discovered me in the middle of one of these attempts; he literally saved my life.

But that’s enough about me. This post is simply to spread the awareness. Hopefully it will reach those that are struggling and afraid to seek help, to let them know that there are options and programs outside the VA that can help them get better, and participate in this glorious thing we call life again. My hope is that this post will inspire someone else like it did me, to tell their story, face the demons they are hiding, and finally close those old wounds that no one can see. I can tell you first hand it is a terrible feeling to have to constantly wear a false smile for those you love, or go to work to support your family (if you are fortunate enough to have one) while you are completely falling apart and screaming on the inside for change and help. You feel as though there is nowhere to turn except toward the barrel of a gun or, in my case, a noose around the neck, a knife to an artery, or even a bag over your head.

That being said, this movement’s first mission is to spread awareness of the terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation. On average, there are 22 Veterans that take their lives every day. That statistic does not sit well with me. We at Invisible Wounds are no longer going to stand by and do nothing. The time is now to spread awareness. As this movement grows, we will collaborate with similar organizations to create a unified front and bring down those numbers.

We thank you in advance for any support you are willing to offer to help our cause, and salute you for your efforts. If you have any questions on how you can be of assistance, we invite you to send us a message. We are very responsive and open to any help and suggestions we receive.

Sean C. Schultz

“Uncle Sean”

USMC Veteran

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Startling statistic!

Q4: What support has Invisible Wounds garnered so far? 

A4: I am currently manning the ship solo, but am picking up resources as I go along, like Byron Rogers (USMC Vet, Motivational Speaker, and founder of Meaning After Military), Katie Kyle (brainchild behind Kome Together, which focuses on general mental health awareness), and Mark Zambon, the San Diego County Veteran Representative for Congresswoman Susan Davis. I’m trying to gain support from the local, state and national VFWs [Veterans of Foreign Wars USA] as well.

Thank you for your service and for sharing your story, Sean. I’m sure Invisible Wounds will help save many lives. If you want to learn more about #InvisibleWounds, please contact Sean from one of the links below:

Email: Sean@invisiblewoundsllc.com

Twitter: @Invisibl3wounds

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/InvisibleWoundsLLC

Facebook: www.facebook.com/InvisibleWoundsLLC

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/Invisibl3Wounds/

Instagram: invisiblewoundsllc

Website (coming soon): www.InvisibleWoundsLLC.com

 

 

 

Ten Songs That Started My Day

I often start my days off with music. As mentioned in the previous post, it gets my mojo flowing by allowing me to brainstorm or just relax and collect my thoughts. Therefore, I decided to share 10 songs, plus a bonus, that got my day going:

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The cover reflects the simplicity of the musical arrangement. Just a guy and his guitar.

The Beautiful People by Lee DeWyze – “It’s not your fault that you’re always wrong. The weak ones are there to justify the strong.” Wow, what a statement. This song makes me think of politics, but more so economic systems, especially with lines like, “capitalism has made its way, old fashioned fascism will take you away.” Hmm. The downside of capitalism. Obviously, in a free market society, you’re going to have haves and have nots. That’s just the way it is. However, if the scale tips where there’s a massive economic downturn and the have nots turn into don’t have shit, then scapegoating and hateful ideologies rear their ugly little heads (having a middle class is important). There are plenty of examples of that in world history. Anyway, I would love to know what his inspiration was behind this song.

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Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze – Clearly I was feeling Mr. DeWyze this morning. In celebration of the premiere of the new season of “The Walking Dead” this coming Sunday, I decided to play this song. It was featured on an episode on one of the previous seasons (for those who watch, I think it was the scene where we saw what Bob was up to before coming across the group). His raspy voice is quiet alluring and I love the folksy, bluesy sound of the song. Also, whoever played the fiddle in this song played the hell out of it. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the song.

 

She also kind of reminds me of my grandmother.

She also kind of reminds me of my grandmother.

La Guarachera by Celia Cruz and Tito Puente – This is currently one of my favorite jams! Wow! Ok. So sadly it really wasn’t until I took a Caribbean cultures class in college that realized the African diaspora extends well beyond the U.S., Jamaica, and Haiti (who knew Brazil had the highest population of people of African descent in the western hemisphere?). As such, I discovered salsa in general and Celia Cruz in particular. The foundation of salsa music is the drum. This song emphasizes that to the max. I love the drum solo towards the end of the song. Freaking amazing. (On a side note, listening to music in español also really helped me learn vocabulary and syntax when I was a Spanish major once upon a time.)

 

His blank expression conveys a lot.

His blank expression conveys a lot.

If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) by Nas featuring Lauryn Hill – I’m sure you can imagine from the title what this song is about. Basically, if Nas had his way, there wouldn’t be social or economic injustices and the have nots will, well, have. I don’t think I need to elaborate more. “Black diamonds and pearls… living for today in these last days of times.”

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Uninvited by Alanis Morissette – Ha! So you know how you’re just kind of doing your thing, not really looking for anyone, and then… BAM! Someone comes out of the blue and you’re like “wow, I’m really feeling him/her” but then you think about how you don’t want to like said person because you don’t want to get screwed over in the end (ergo, that person is uninvited). Yeah. Ms. Morissette nailed that in this song. Additionally, the instrumentation is sick! I love the rock mixed with the classical orchestra. It’s heavenly music to my ears.

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Work That by Mary J Blige – “Just because the length of your hair ain’t long and they often citizen you for your skin tone, go on and hold your head high because you’re a pretty woman…” Awesome! This song is just great. It’s all about appreciating your given beauty and flaunting what you have, no matter what society says about you. Don’t bleach that skin. Don’t feel pressured to straighten that hair (unless you’re on an interview for a job, lol) or wear those extensions. This song is all about self-esteem building. It’s also an ode to diversity. Without it, life would be monotonous.

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There For You by Damian Marley – “Vexation of spirit is a waste of time, negative thinking don’t you waste your thoughts.” Now this is a great opening line! Ah! If I were a smoking woman, this is one song that I would smoke one to while listening. It’s just a really relaxed, chill out song. It also makes you think about all the people who have supported you throughout your life and how you should appreciate them being around, even when you’re at your darkest. Well-said Jr. Gong.

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I love her smile!

 Daydreamin’ by Lupe Fiasco and Jill Scott – So, this song is definitely a gaping metaphor about a robot where the robot represents life, particularly urban life. Lupe makes tons of critiques on society. One of my favorites is where he’s speaking ironically about rap videos and all the “props” they should have (e.g. scantly clad women, guns, coke, blunts, “bling”, etc.) It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a video so I’m not sure if those same mainstays remain. However, something tells me that they’re still there and have probably gotten worse over time.

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Love of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop) by Common and Erykah Badu – Yet another metaphorical song. I love the allegory of hip-hop as a woman, or a relationship in general. When you love whatever craft or hobby you have, it kind of does feel like you’re in a relationship with it. There are ups and downs, good and bad, and sometimes you just need some distance from it to see if it’s something you’re really into, or, to find much needed inspiration.

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You’re So Vain by Carly Simon – I find this song to be hilarious! Clearly Ms. Simon had to get some things off her chest about a certain someone who screwed her over in the past. What better way to vent than to write a passive aggressive song about the bane of your existence (at the given moment)? Gotta love the arts!

 

The Legend!

The Legend!

**Bonus: Thriller by Michael Jackson – Because who doesn’t need a little MJ to start their day off! We’re getting closer to Halloween and this video was a Halloween staple. I remember seeing it on Mtv as a kid and being terrified. With my adult eyes, I now marvel at the choreography and the concept behind the entire video. Definitely avant garde for the time.

Well that’s what got me going today and inspired this post. What are some songs that get your day going? Leave a comment below. Who knows? Maybe I have it in my iTunes as well.

 

 

Is Love A Losing Game?

FullSizeRender-1 Amy Winehouse sure thought love was a losing game, as do countless other artists who write and sing about heartbreak and the frustrations that come with it. It’s true. From that perspective, love sucks. It’s the kind of suck that burns and eats away at you until one day you’re either: (a.) over it and don’t think about it ever again, (b.) accept that it’s over but occasionally think “what if, but oh well” (à la Jill Scott’s “Cross My Mind”, another great song), or (c.) never get over it (let’s hope few people land in this category). Either resolution still results in love being a losing game. However, even when you’re in a happy, healthy, committed relationship with someone, it’s still a losing game. Instead of losing the other person, you’re losing your absolute sovereignty.

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Or course heartbreak blows and unrequited love is the worst. After all, who likes it when the object of their affection doesn’t reciprocate the affection? Perhaps some masochist out there does, but I’m sure most people don’t. I know it was a hard thing to deal with when it happened to me (there were also many, many other complicating factors involved). The object of my affection was very smart and I enjoyed all of our conversations. He knew a little bit about everything under the sun. His vocabulary was extensive, off the charts. I learned new words in every conversation we shared. Long story short, when things got complicated, everything went south, quickly (similar to how it would in a theoretical zombie apocalypse). In the end, I had to pick up the pieces of my pride and in doing so, I learned what the word “lovelorn” means. In retrospect, he was right at the time; I was lovelorn, but hey, first loves are one of the toughest losses to shrug off.

FullSizeRender-3 Fast-forward 10 years and I’m married to a great guy, who says reading my posts give him insight into my thoughts. That’s cool. I’ve always said I’m a better writer than speaker. He even dropped a line in the comments section on one. (Thanks!) If you’re reading this post, thanks for giving me a strong dose of reality and a fresh breath of positivity when I really need it. Tu amor me hace bien. 🙂 I digress.

FullSizeRender-4 Anyway, when you love someone and you agree to be in a relationship, you have to give up something, essentially losing your total autonomy, your absolute freedom. From this perspective, love is once again a losing game, albeit a bittersweet losing game. I say bittersweet because it’s sweet that you’re in this amazing relationship with someone with whom you can unabashedly share all of your fears and aspirations. It’s bitter because you no longer have full autonomy. I don’t mean in the sense that your significant other won’t allow you to do certain things. That would be abusive. What I do mean is that you can’t just fuck off and do whatever you want. Someone else’s thoughts and feelings have to be taken into consideration. You can’t fully do everything you please on a whim because you lose that freedom to do so once you commit to someone. Honestly, it’s something I’m still learning to navigate. Just about everything I do, say, or even think has an indirect or direct effect on my husband.

Strangely (or maybe not), commitment makes me think of parents and children. I’m not a mother, but I imagine relationships are akin to parenting, where each individual is a co-parent and the relationship itself is the child. You have to nurture it and spend time with it in order for it to flourish and grow in a healthy fashion. You also have to be mindful about your actions and what you say so that it can grow to be the best that it can be. You have to be selfless, but not so selfless that you completely lose yourself. That’s not healthy either. It’s a balancing act.

Is love a losing game? Of course that’s subjective and contingent upon circumstances. However, love is definitely a game of reciprocity.

Why?

For the love of all that’s good, why?

Y’all get a twofer today.

I don’t feel like writing. I don’t know why. I’m not having writer’s block; I can think of plenty of things I want my characters to do or say. I pretty much know what direction I want my story to go. Yet, for some reason, I really can’t seem to put words down on the paper (or tap letters on the keyboard). Therefore, I started typing this to see if I can flush out what’s holding me back from stringing together some words that will develop into subsequent paragraphs, pages, and chapters:

Pressure/Fear. Do I feel pressure that my sequel needs to match, if not surpass the quality of Twisted? Am I fearful that the few precious readers who bought and enjoyed my story will be disappointed in the follow up? Hmm. Those sentiments probably hinder the progression of my manuscript. A part of me thinks, that shouldn’t prevent you from writing. Just tell the story you want to tell. As long as you enjoy it, others will too. Ok. I think that’s true, however, if I want to do this for a living, having readers is obviously critical. So, of course I want my story to be good, regardless to how subjective “good” is. From this perspective, being a writer is analogous to an athlete not being able to preform under pressure. When the pressure is on, some athletes cave, yet others soldier through, effectively separating the good from the great. Damn. How does Serena Williams do it day in and day out?

Distractions/Procrastination. Why am I avoiding finishing the first draft of my sequel? Perhaps it’s because I’m finding convenient distractions everywhere I look. “Oh look, someone on G+ commented or posted something that sounds interesting. Better check it out.” Or, “someone chatted me up on Twitter, better respond instead of working on this story.” If it’s not social media diverting my attention, it’s something else. Time to work out. Should I venture outside, or stay indoors? It’s a good time to wash my hair. Did Djokovic really get pushed to a fourth set? He’s been damn near outstanding all year. Anything but focusing on what I need to focus on.

I frequently chatted with someone on Twitter. One day, he disappeared. Poof. Not a peep from him. When he finally reappeared, I asked him where he’d been. He replied that he took a break from social media to really hammer out his writing projects. Maybe I should take a page from his book and unplug until I get this first draft finished.

Not in the mood/zero motivation. Perhaps I’m in an extended period of just not wanting to write? It wouldn’t be the first time. I abandoned Twisted for a period of time before picking it back up (I think it was about a year). I don’t think this is uncommon for writers. We go through writing moods, or rather phases. Sometimes I can go on a tear and succinctly write what I’m thinking. Words and scenes pour out of me effortlessly. Other times (like now), I’m like a tennis player whose serve has abandoned her in the last game of the final set. I can’t get anything done and nothing hits the paper. Maybe I’m just in one of those slumps where I’m not feeling the story at the moment, AT ALL. If this is the case, I’m really hoping my mojo returns quickly.

Anyway, I’m sure my inability to barely craft a f*cking sentence stems from a combination of all three of these theories. Anybody have any suggestions on how to overcome pressure, reject distractions, and/or get motivated? Let me know here, or find me on social media.