The Masks We Wear – A blog by Jwel

As I was reading the New York Times best seller book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, I came across a story that hit very close to home. The author begins his book speaking on various engagements with Veteran clients while working at the Boston Veteran’s Administration Clinic as a staff psychiatrist. While performing his duties he encountered a volatile Vietnam Veteran who was having an episode in the lobby area of the facility. The young psychiatrist invited the man into his office to assist with calming him down enough to find out what triggered his outburst. As the man told his story of PTSD stemming from an ambush that took the lives of or badly inured the majority of his military unit along with how it impacts his behavior to his family and his inability to sleep on most nights, the author was intrigued by one major factor. This man refused to take prescribed sleeping medication which would allow him to sleep because he believed that he should pay a daily memorial tribute to his fallen brothers by reliving his trauma.

An equally interesting factor was that this man, upon returning from his Vietnam tour of duty, acquired his degree, married and had children, and managed a thriving law firm. On paper it appeared that this man had an ideal life which he had built in spite of the trauma that he had sustained. The truth could not have been more adverse.  The quote-on-quote success that this man had achieved was merely a mask to hide the turmoil that he was going through daily. It masked his inability to connect with his wife or show compassion to his kids, and the daily fear that his volatile behavior instilled in them. It masked the fact that he drank consistently on a daily basis as a way of easing the pain. It also masked the fact that his trauma did not begin with the ambush in Vietnam, but rather seeing his father display similar behaviors as a World War II Veteran when he was a child. After reading this story, it got me to thinking how such an outwardly successful man was able to hide his internal demons? It also got me to wondering how many other successful persons I had encountered that wore the “mask” of success everyday while working to not crumble under the effects of past trauma?

How many of you reading this blog are currently walking through life while being weighed down by the effects of your past trauma. What is the “mask” that you wear daily to hide how much you are truly hurting? I am here to tell you that I understand your pain. I too have worn the “mask” of achievements to hide the broken aspects of my psyche. I too have chased the achievement of various goals in my life to divert my focus and push aside the fact that I have resentment towards the sexual abuse I suffered at 8 years old, the physical and emotional abuse received at the hands of a broken mother, and the abandonment by my father forcing me to have to learn how to become a man practically on my own. On the outside I too have a beautiful and supportive wife, great marriage, two growing kids, 3 degrees, a purposeful career helping the homeless, and a list of various accomplishments over the years. With all of these positive things going for me on paper, at times I feal that it is all apart of the mask and disguise that I wear as a successfully Black man in society. My true hope is that one day I will be able to heal from my past trauma and take my mask off. Hopefully the man behind the mask truly matches the outward display shown to the world for so many years…

Jwel’s advice: Explore all methods of getting the help that you need to heal from your past events of trauma. A mask can only hide but so much. Re-purpose your energy towards finding the true wealth in life through good mental health.

What counts more: Strengths or Weaknesses? – Blog by Jwel

Hey #TSStrong family!!! I wanted to talk you all about the strength of finding and fulfilling your purpose. One of the things that has greatly assisted me in achieving various levels of success in life has been building upon my strengths, and not dwelling on my weakness. Now this doesn’t mean that I ignore my weaknesses, but rather I have chosen to not give more energy to them than a general acknowledgement will allow. Now I didn’t always have this figured out. For example, as a big guy I used to think that I was not attractive to women, especially moments when I weighed over 400lbs. I can say that dwelling on it too much kept me from pursuing potential relationships that may have been beneficial for me. It wasn’t until I began to realize that I had more to offer in a relationship than my physical appearance that I started to build confidence in myself based on the strengths that I possessed. I offer the same advisement to you. Also, do not let your environment dictated the altitude of your success or purpose. Growing up in SE Washington, DC with various periods of living in an unstable home setting, statistically there were many reasons why I could’ve ended up engaging in street activities, incarcerated, or just an unfortunate victim of circumstance. Thankfully, I was blessed with the knowledge of self and strength to not allow my environmental factors to determine what type of person I would become or what levels of purpose I would seek. There were moments that I allowed my peer’s lack of support or enthusiasm in their own lives to assist in diminishing my output by nurturing weaknesses within myself. In those moments, life has taught me that dedication to my purpose was more important than loyalty to passing friendships. A snippet from my favorite poem titled “Our Deepest Fear” states that “there’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you”. From this sentiment I have drawn the strength and determination to seek out my own path towards purpose and have overcome nearly all barriers in my way despite my weaknesses. I leave you all with the following texts in hopes that this blog helps you discover and live in your ordained purpose in life…

Excerpt from “Be-Do-Have: The Principle for Massive Success” – by Brandon T. Bailey:

“To use the principle for massive success you must make sure that you align your work with your strengths. Keeping the Be-Do-Have principle in the correct perspective will help you see an improvement in your overall quality of life. From this moment forward when you think about personal development… STOP thinking about fixing your weaknesses. This is a draining and non-exciting task. Just like dieting only works for a season because the behavior is often unsustainable, fixing your weaknesses is not a behavior that can be efficiently sustained over time.” – Brandon T. Bailey

Our Deepest Fear
By: Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

You’re playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.