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

 

 

 

Cannabis Innovations

Davon!

Davon!

It’s all about the green… At least according to my main man, AJ! He’s not alone. Between green money and green weed, most people are concerned with either one or both forms of green. In some states, having one form of green leads to the other. As such, the legalization of cannabis is on the tip of most people’s tongues (for better or for worse) nowadays. Turn on the TV, read a news article, or scope out a random blog post (clears throat) and you’ll eventually come across the debate on whether or not to legalize weed in the country, or at least in a particular state. Depending on which state you reside, you could see the legalization of weed on your ballot this fall (even though it’s still illegal at the federal level). The fact that state governments are even entertaining legalizing recreational (and of course medicinal) use of cannabis can be attributed to one state in particular, Colorado.

With the new legalization of cannabis in the Centennial State, companies are making massive profits off its decriminalization. Of course this isn’t going unnoticed by other entrepreneurs itching to get their hands on some greenbacks in this “new” market. One of those said individuals happens to be one of my besties, Davon. I’ve known Davon for almost 15 years now. (Wow!) He was my road dog back in high school before he up and moved back to his home state of New York (side eye!). Anyway, I knew he had a weed business, but I wasn’t sure what all it entailed. So, I sent him a text inquiring about it. Before I knew it, we had a full fledged conversation about what’s been happening on the ground in Colorado. Apparently, loads of people, particularly children, have been ingesting too much candy that contains cannabis resulting in overdoses (AKA hellish trips, been there, done that). Most of these accidents stem from lack of proper labeling on the product. This is a problem. But, when there’s a problem there’s a solution. In steps Davon’s business, CannaMark. Check out more about how his business is innovating the cannabis market:

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Question 1. Tell me more about your company, CannaMark.

Answer 1. CannaMark is an FDA approved product that goes directly onto cannabis infused edibles. For example, once a Cannabis cookie or piece of candy is opened and left outside of the wrapper, there’s no way of telling it has Cannabis in it. Cannamark solves that problem because the CannaMark [logo] itself is edible; it is a tasteless and odorless application.

Q2. So you don’t actually make edibles, just the logo imprinted on them?

A2. Yes, like the Hershey’s logo on a candy bar.

Q3. How did you come up with the idea behind your company?

A3. Initially our company was compliance based. Once we knew that New York would be passing a stringent medicinal marijuana program and few licenses would be rewarded, we decided it would be best to focus on the market as a whole and find solutions to problems that were sure to arise. Fortunately for us, the west coast was already booming. With Colorado’s edibles market gaining traction, it wasn’t long before we noticed news reports of accidental ingestion and over-ingestion due to the labeling and potency of the products. It wasn’t long after that we realized we had a solution that worked: label chocolates. Even though we didn’t have a solution for non-chocolate edibles, chocolates made up enough of the market for us to begin patenting our product and reaching out to companies out west. Simultaneously, I began focusing on different applications to label popularized edibles so that we’d be able to better service clients and the industry as a whole.

Q4. You have political advisors on your team right?

A4. Yes.

Q5. How did they become involved with CannaMark?

A5. Multiple cannabis meetings and groups began to form when the bill passed in New York. [S.M. side note: Starting in January 2016, residents of NY will be able to consume cannabis, but they can’t smoke it. Interesting.] While I didn’t attend as many [meetings] as I should have, I was lucky enough to attend those that also drew the attention of political bodies. Grassroots efforts are always a great component to building a business, but in an industry that walks fine-lines, knowing the politics and laws associated within a given state helps tremendously.

We had also done business in the past with someone who would become a partner in our company. We had no idea how extensive his political contacts were because our business relationship with him had formerly been solely in the music industry. Everything seemed to gel together for us, especially given that our product didn’t contain cannabis.

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Q6. What are your hopes for the future of the cannabis industry?

A6. While the cannabis industry continues to experience tremendous growth, scalability for companies is still constricted due to the inability to ship products containing THC across state lines. I’m looking forward to the day when that becomes legal. I also hope to see the cannabis industry become widely viewed as a respectable industry without the current stigma attached to it. Of course there’s an education process that comes with that, but over the coming years I believe we’ll see a shift in acceptance towards the “herb.” The public will have to rethink [what they know about] cannabis since we’ve been programmed over the past seventy years to view it as a dangerous and harmful drug.

Q7. Can you please elaborate on what you mean by scalability? 

A7. Basically we’re a printing company, not a marijuana company. Lol! So, unlike marijuana companies, who can’t engage in interstate business transactions, we can.

Q8. What are your fears for the cannabis industry?

A8. My only fear for the cannabis industry, specifically at this juncture, is companies and consumers not working in unison with respects to public safety and health. It would be a shame to see such progress go to waste due to a few irresponsible parties. While it’s a fact that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, it’s still under close scrutiny. With that, everyone needs to do their part in self-compliance as best they can. It’s good to see states working closely with their local businesses to address problems that may arise.

Q9. What challenges are there for the legalization of cannabis nationwide?

A9. On a national scale, cannabis faces a few challenges. Two of the biggest, in my opinion, are dealing with imprisonments [due to possession] and the battle against “Big Pharma.”

On Prison Reform: Existing medicinal and recreational laws specify where people can consume [cannabis] and [the] amounts they can have on them. While those with extensive drug charges may not be considered, individuals who are currently imprisoned for minor drug charges will have to be released. Many records will have to be expunged. Without getting into the politics behind prisons and numbers, we all know what that will do for their business.

On Pharmaceutical companies: The story is not much different with regards to the pharmaceutical industry. We’re already experiencing doctors, along with parents of children with severe illnesses, and patients alike, expressing their preference to medicinal cannabis use as opposed to traditional medications. There are far fewer side effects, and as we dig deeper into the benefits of CBD’s [cannabinoids] its only a matter of time before the pharmaceutical industry is turned on it’s head. Either that or they become early adopters to developing cannabis medications of their own. Either way, we know pharmaceutical corporations have a hand (a very heavy hand) in politics. [S. M. side note: Thanks lobbyists!]

We live in a world of information today. You don’t have much digging to put it all together.

Q10. I believe you mentioned that licensing is tough. Could you expound on the issue/problem with licensing as it pertains to your business?

A10. Licensing isn’t tough in all states with marijuana programs. It may be an extensive and expensive process, but not all states are difficult. With regards to CannaMark, we do not sell or touch cannabis, at all. That eliminates the need for us to have a license. Since we’re providing labeling solutions that go directly onto edible products, we’ve luckily addressed scalability and the ability to do business nationally.

 

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Q11. Finally, where do you see CannaMark in the future?

A11. We want to become the industry standard. We’re currently working for our stamp to become a mandate so that all edible snacks have to have CannaMark stamped on it. We’re also working closely with state laboratories in testing to ensure products have exactly what they say they have in them.

We’d like to become to BBB [Better Business Bureau] of the cannabis industry, or the official stamp [of edibles]. No mail can be mailed without a stamp, right? Then no cannabis product should be sold without an official seal. Essentially, that will also help crack down on government-approved products vs. black market products. People who like insanely potent products can deal with the black market at their own risk! Lol!

Thanks for taking the time to participate in my Q&A! 🙂

After speaking with Davon, I have a fresh perspective on the legalization of weed. I always thought it should be legal; hell, I’m not sure how it’s illegal and yet alcohol is legal. I’m sure that stems from the cultural demonization of it (thanks culture wars!). Once again, it all boils down to regulation. Much like alcohol was regulated after prohibition, so too does cannabis. I think it will ease parents’ concerns about their children and teens gaining easy access to it.

What do you guys think? Leave a comment below or find me on social media. If you’re interested in finding out more about Davon’s business, check out his website: www.cannamarkusa.com

On Twisted Greens…

Twisted Greens 3D Render

Around 2013, job furlough was imminent and I was stressing about what to do. As a stress reliever, I dived deeper into writing. Let’s face it, writing’s one of the healthier means of escape as opposed to other options. One source I drew inspiration from was cable news.

I believe that around this time, legalization of weed was a hot topic on just about every cable news cycle because Colorado was set to legalize the recreational use it. That got me thinking: Man, if I had some weed to sell, I could make a good chunk of change in Colorado. Hmm, what if someone had access to a ton of weed? They’d make a killing! What if they grew it, say in their backyard? Ah ha! I coalesced those two ideas and out popped a rough sketch of my protagonist, AJ. Ok. Cool, but how can I make him more interesting? I wanted to throw some complexities in the mix. So, I made him young, fresh out of high school and on the cusp of beginning his adult life. Instead of having him pressed for cash, let’s make him rich and come from an affluent family. Great! So, I have AJ and I know a little bit about his background, now how can I complicate his life? I know! Let’s have his father stumble upon his weed in the woods behind the house! Upon finding the stash, instead of admonishing AJ, he does something unexpected because he’s harboring a secret of his own. Bam! Now we have the makings of an interesting story.

After I had the general storyline mapped out, I decided that I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to add more to it. I wanted something more than just a flat out thriller centered on a father and son dynamic. Once again, cable news was inspiring. This time, race relations was a hot topic (and continues to be so). I already knew I wanted to make my weed dealing protagonist a young white male since he would be (stereotypically) unassuming to law enforcement and could conduct “business” unimpeded. However, I didn’t want to write a story where all the characters were physically identical. That’s boring and not representative of society. I wanted something more dynamic, more colorful.

Granted, almost every character in Twisted Greens is relatively of the same racial/socioeconomic background; mostly everyone is white and rich. That makes sense. Folks interact with others who are similar to them. With that being said, that trend breaks down a little when you dissect society by class; affluent black and brown families exist just as do poor white families. In order to highlight this point, I decided to make his girlfriend (Savannah) black and make his good friend/business partner (Ethan) Asian. I consciously wanted both of these supporting characters to emphasize class distinction. Let’s take a closer look.

Savannah lives in AJ’s subdivision. Both of her parents are corporate lawyers and she attends the same private school as AJ. They have access to  similar resources and are both set on pathways toward successful futures. Essentially, the only difference between Savannah and AJ is their skin tone. Now Ethan, on the other hand, represents another socioeconomic strata, arguably one to which most could relate. Ethan is a college student trying to make it without the financial help of family. In order to survive, he sells for AJ in addition to living off refund checks he receives from excess financial aid. The fact that AJ recruits Ethan to sell for him raises a bunch of other implications that, if you really want to dig deeper, you could. But, I’ll let the reader mull over those possibilities.

Now of course, you could completely ignore all the aforementioned stuff above and take the story at face value; it’s a thriller about a young rich man who sells weed and subsequently gets caught up in some drama. But, for those who would like to dive a little deeper, perhaps knowing my inspirations behind the story are a good starting place. As always, let me know your thoughts by clicking on the comment bubble next to the headline above.

 

– Stephanie