Timing is everything. This can be the case for seeking, receiving, and maintaining mental health support.
Having been in the Hurt Locker, Vince shares how being in the right place, at the right time, ultimately changed his life, by choosing to accept the offer of help.
Vince is now armed with a toolbox of strategies and skills to navigate those inevitable bad days.
“Embrace the suck, and choose your hard”.
thinking, life, coaching, run, people, military, listen, months, brain, kilometers, active participant, person, therapy, deployed, world, support, somalia, exercise, empathy, adhd
Vince, Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski
Nicki Kirlin 00:02
Already, thank you so much, Vince for joining us today for this episode, we’re so thrilled that you could be here to have a conversation with us. So to get started, we always like to ask this first question, which is to tell us a little bit about yourself. So your age, your hometown, your occupation, and a fun fact.
Vince Fowler, Vincent. I have lately been going by Vincent. Yes, Vincent Fowler, because it just sounds way better than Vince. I like that. The legal name is Vincent, Arthur Fowler, and 51 today born in 69, the end of this 69. So it’s a really fun date of birth on a Friday, oh, webs like BC is my hometown. It’s not the end of the earth. But you can see it from there. I hated that town growing up because I didn’t play hockey and I didn’t rodeo didn’t ride Bronx and bowls and horses and stuff like that. And that was really the mainstream sport to that town. But I’ve since the town is home, and I absolutely loved the town. Don’t go back enough. But there was a long time I’d had a love hate relationship with it. Because it was just it was not a fun town for me to grow up in. But and today, professional coach, I work with CEOs I work with their leadership teams, we really focus on the impact that we want to make, what’s the impact? How does what we do make the lives of others better, whether it’s our team in our, in our business, our customer, our families, our community and beyond, because some of my clients are nationwide. And some are just little corner, Calgary. What’s common between all them is they want to make a dent in the universe of some kind. So that really gets me excited. And then people wouldn’t know like, for listeners, for context, I have a 48 inch chest and a 36 inch waist, which means I cannot buy clothes off the rack 230 which means I don’t look like a runner. And I do I run. I run a lot in the last year. So yesterday was a run up most mountain and back. And the whole goal is how you know how much can I enjoy it and run at the same time.
Jenna Fortinski 02:28
Wow. So what’s the furthest you’ve run so far?
48 and a half kilometers was last soul ultra down Lethbridge a month ago. And this Sunday on October 10. I run in the grizzly ultra, which will be 50 kilometers. Wow. So the last row is supposed to be 54. But there was crazy rains. And they changed the course at the last minute. So it was just a 10 kilometer sub 10 kilometer loop. So in the end, it was 40 and a half. So while I identify as an ultra runner, I’ve never done a 50k until this weekend coming.
Nicki Kirlin 03:02
That’s exciting. How does a person trained for that? Like, what? What is your training schedule?
for that? It’s it’s kind of like every second day, and it mixes up. I did hire a coach. And it’s like, no one’s gonna run 50k to try to compete for a 50k Right, right. So the farthest they’ve ever gone leading up to the race was 29 Wow. Oh, wow. 25. But I did a hike two weeks ago, Northover Ridge just kind of ask us and I was 35 kilometers. And that was we ran a little bit but mostly we just hiked fast and took lots of pictures and had lots of snacks. Yeah. So as you already know, and I do well with snacks,
Jenna Fortinski 03:49
yes. snacks are delicious.
But it’s it’s just understanding my own nutrition. It’s understanding my own hydration and really listening to the body. We don’t like I I’m not going to be on the podium, right? That’s not the goal. So people who are on the podium probably did run 50 kilometers right without any breaks. Whereas I will lock up all the hills I will run on the flats and by run like a quick shuffle it’s not all around right? This isn’t Usain Bolt sprinting stuff, right? Just, you know, seven minutes per kilometer pace. And run the downs whenever we can. And also I typically walk when I eat so I don’t choke myself. That happens sometimes I’ve choked on a few things.
Yeah, it’s a constantly feeling like you can do a half marathon even a marathon with a little bit of fuel but for an ultra we’re eating Yeah. Every 20 minutes I’m eating
Jenna Fortinski 04:58
Wow. Oh my Goodness, that’s amazing. Well,
buddy can do a lot of things. It’s understanding that we can do our things and we can we can go farther than we ever imagined the body was designed to move. Yeah. So yeah, it’s fun. It really is. For me, it’s fun. I don’t I wouldn’t describe a runner’s high. I would just say that when I’m out there running the world makes sense. A lot of peace of mind.
Jenna Fortinski 05:25
Yeah. Do you think about anything when you’re running?
Oh, for sure. Sometimes I think about work problems or life problems. But in a lot of times I sell. I just how far can I go? Yeah. Sometimes there’s a song that gets caught up in my head and they’ll play it or I listened to an audio book. Specific, I only listen to one audio book when I run, okay. And that’s David Goggins can’t hurt me. Yeah. Seventh lesson. Wow. I think I just want to be a narrator for that book. Yeah.
Jenna Fortinski 05:52
Sounds like you’re on your track. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. David Goggins is fascinating. My goodness. Sorry, right. Yeah. And there’s
so many things he’s not wrong about. There’s a lot of things that you’re interesting. Some stuff you haven’t dealt with. But there’s also some like, he’s pushed through some serious, significant challenges in life. And he’s proven that. Just grab a pair of shoes, open the door and go, yeah, don’t overthink it.
Jenna Fortinski 06:20
Yeah. Yeah. Oh, my goodness. life lesson right there. Don’t overthink it. And don’t run while you’re eating. Correct. Like lesson number two? Yeah. Awesome. wagyu sausage. Oh, no. recover from it. Oh, my goodness. That’s not ideal. Yeah, yeah. Oh, man. Oh, goodness.
Nicki Kirlin 06:46
Okay, so could you just share with our listeners a little bit about your, your life story, maybe some of the different experiences that you’ve had. Give us a like an eagle eyes perspective on what’s happened in your life.
It was just me and my mom, when I was born in 1969 definitely wasn’t cool to be to be pregnant and not married. So the show is not long enough to talk about how all that worked out. But but so it was just me and my mom. When I was born. She had three jobs. And again, it wasn’t cool. So she got fired from one job the story goes because she was an unwed mother of one. So we moved around a lot. And in the small town of Williams, like BC, by the time I’m in grade, I go to 10 schools in that one town to graduate, right? So now kindergarten, and grade six and seven are the same school. grade two and grade. You know, there was two schools in grade two, there was three schools and grade two the second time. There was one school for grade 345. But grade six and seven were another school. And then Junior High was another one Senior High was another one. So all in I went to 10 schools. Wow. And she married when I was she married twice before. I don’t remember either of them. But she married when I was 11. That’s how I became Vince Fowler. And I didn’t know my birth father. So when I was 17, I asked, Hey, can I meet my birth father? And she’s like, Yeah, sure. So she made an arrangement, I met a very nice man named john grant. So at 17, I realized I could have been Vince grant. And, and so but having moved a lot as a kid, you know, I used humor as a mechanism to survive new environments. And sometimes that got me in trouble and I got a lot of fights and I got beat up a lot. And when I was in grade six, a classmate was doing a presentation on D day, June 6 1944, and paratroopers jumping in behind me lines. I was like, that’s gonna be me. If I can be a paratrooper. No one’s gonna pick on me, and no one’s gonna pick on anybody else under my watch, because while it’s incredibly uncouple get beat up. It’s even more uncomfortable for me to watch someone else be picked on and have no capacity to do anything about it. So that’s why I want to be a paratrooper. So here I am. I’m 17 I’m, I’ve been in cadets now I joined the military. I know who my father is. It’s you know, the world is lumpy and bumpy. But I ultimately believe I’m joining the military to pick fights with bullies, and meet girls, German girls, because my unit that I was going to go to would be deployed to Germany. So that was sort of the sense of adventure was definitely there. But long, like, only a year ago, I realized the whole reason for joining the military was to feel safe and have family and connection. That’s what the that’s what the military ultimately meant to me was family and connection because I didn’t have that growing up. And but I did so I go on to the military ppcli, which is Princess Patricia’s Canadian light infantry. And then I went to jump school and then I went to the Canadian airborne regiment in 92. And shortly after that, I’m deployed to Somalia. So just turned 23 November 21, turned 23 December 19, deployed to Somalia, just six days before Christmas. So having Christmas overseas and in a third world country, I don’t know if we can categorize some eyes a third world country, it’s pretty beat up. Like it’s fifth world. It’s not a wonderful place like this country has been abused. If you think of an abused person, this country has been abused by a lot of different countries in the in history. So I have a lot of empathy for anyone born in a country like Somalia who figure out a way to get out and and make something else. It’s not to say that staying in Somalia isn’t a good idea. But let’s just say there’s not the same opportunities there as we have here. When the military when my career is over seven years, take a release. And because I had a choice, get out or stay in for 13 more years to get 20 and a pension. So I said No, thanks. My goodness, the military the time was heavily underfunded from the government. So we were literally going on exercises without ammunition. How do you practice your craft without the tools that you need to practice your craft? Right? So practice counseling without an office? Yeah, sit on a bus bench downtown Calgary and do your job there.
Jenna Fortinski 11:16
Yeah. So I got out. I worked at us as a server for a couple months, but ultimately ended up working at a photocopier dealership knocking on doors. Hello, my name is Vincent from my car. You want to buy a photocopier? No, No, you don’t. Okay. All right. I’ll come back and never get it. Okay. Sure. You bet. All right. Do that 30 times a day? Yeah, reject. So 100% Commission. And at the time, I was dating someone I lived in Edmonton. She lived in Calgary. So that’s what brought me to Calgary in 97. One of them you know, we’re not together but which is great. Because I’m married. That would be awkward. But I’ve been in Calgary since 97. And a series of different sales careers, sorry, sales jobs in the UK in the career of selling. So from there, it went to law enforcement equipment sales, all the police services in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba. So we’re talking ammunition and looking at autopsies of police shootings. Bullets perform, you know, the science of bliss, the ballistics and science of bullet performance. Wow. And so firearms and body, body armor pepper spray, those sorts of things been pepper sprayed just for the purpose of one so I can sell my stuff spray me so I can show you that my solution works. There’s a population about 3% of the population doesn’t really respond to pepper spray. And I’m one of them. Oh, my goodness, Another fun fact. Yeah, the first two shots didn’t even faze me until he got me right score on the eyeballs, which just was like hot. But the ability to function through that. I didn’t know that I could do that until that happened. So that was pretty cool. Like, what is it about? It just feels like someone threw a hot pizza on your face. Like it just taught but it doesn’t irritate me, it doesn’t stop me from thinking it doesn’t stop. I’m not looking. I’m not looking for help them. I’m just okay, I can I can do this. Wow. You know, now in their world, when someone’s under the influence of alcohol and drugs and pepper spray shows up pepper spray also doesn’t work very well either. Because there’s all these, these. These are, what’s the word but they make us do things
Jenna Fortinski 13:31
or they come when when someone’s temperament is accelerated and amplified because of a drug like math exacerbated. Pepper Spray just won’t probably work on that person. So that’s why there’s tasers and other less than lethal solutions. So I sold all that kind of stuff. Wow. Which is really interesting. And I got to understand the world of policing from a very different perspective. So massive respect all the men and women who are in the police service. And so I was I sold gym memberships, I sold a variety of things I worked in, ultimately ended up at a job at edge school for athletes coaching kids on how to use a gym properly so they don’t get injured. Right. Athletic was a strength and conditioning role. And it was great. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven in this coaching capacity. And I’d always had an interest in coaching because I played rugby through my entire life played at a pretty decent level. And so that’s sort of where the coaching bug picked up. So when when I was no longer at school for athletes, I got laid off is the fancy word I heard fired. There one year contracts and no slight edge school. The economy went sideways. Yeah, they looked at their expense line and just said look, we got to cut, cut, wait, and you’re it but I took it personally. It led I didn’t know this until later but it led to a 16 month depression. So that was discovered after two. It definitely led to a 16 month unemployment. But, but so, at the end of that 16 months, I end up at a my wife gave me an ultimatum. And she said, if you don’t get a job in three months, we’re bankrupt by Christmas. So it’s like, Okay, so what do I know, I know how to. I know I understand sales and business to some extent, I really like coaching, what’s what’s that look like in the private sector. And I thought that was a sales manager’s job. And in the process of looking for a sales manager that didn’t require university degree. I found this, the sperm actually found me. And so I joined this business coaching firm, did business development for the first eight months, got my certification through their governing body, and have been in the coaching space since and started my own practice in 2012. Wow. So September 2012, this was the you know, this September was 10 years of actual actual coaching professionally, so it’s been a really fascinating journey. The coach, I was not the coach I am. And if it wasn’t for ending up in therapy, I never know. I don’t know what I’d be doing. Really. I wouldn’t be doing anything. Well. Yeah. So that’s incredible. So that’s a faster Oh, and last, you know, like, just just for fun. My wife got me ancestry DNA. Yes. Have you ever done that? No. spit in a cup, send it off to Ireland ancestry DNA, which probably Skynet. But turns out my dad I met at 17th on my dad. Oh, my real dad is john is sort of Donald brecknock. And he lived in my hometown. That’s where him and my mum met. But he died two years, pretty much to the day when I discovered who he was. And he died in innisfail. calving at 3am in the morning. Oh, he’s pulling calves at 78 years old. had a heart attack. Oh, that came with a sister and three brothers by john grant family has three sisters and a brother. So all in I have six sisters and five brothers. So summer path in summer zero blood, but they’re all We’re all family. Yeah. I love them dearly.
Jenna Fortinski 17:21
Wow. So so you found your family? Yeah,
yeah. And then they, you know, but can massive crisis of identity?
Jenna Fortinski 17:28
Yes. Yeah. I
don’t know the answer to that.
Jenna Fortinski 17:33
Do you feel like you know that answer? No,
I am. Yeah, I am Vince, which is just a name. And I am curious, and I am compassionate. And I aspire to exercise courage. That’s beard full stop. Love it. That’s it. Yeah, identify myself through my values versus my job. My past, things like that. Yeah. That’s beautiful. I am curious, and I am compassionate. And that’s good enough. Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 17:58
And it’s wonderful that you like, you know, when you first started sharing your story of, you know, when you were a kid, and your hopes and dreams for what you were going to do in your life, and you thought that it was going down this path of being military and, you know, and, and helping others in some capacity, right. And look at where you ended up now, you know, like, you’re still you still have those same values. Yeah, it just looks good.
Yeah. Right. Yeah. I really did want to make sure that others felt safe to do what was important to them. And the military was just a vehicle to support that. So that you know, that, that thinking was always there. Yeah. In my career today is amazing, because that’s really all I do is just help facilitate them. doing their thing. Yeah. What’s your thing? Are you Yeah, you know, you do you you just happen to sell cupcakes or, yeah, logistics or it or agriculture, like what you do is not so relevant is why you do it. Right. And these are just vehicles to, to, to help them in that mission of theirs.
Nicki Kirlin 19:08
Because we’re all human at the end of the day. Absolutely. We all have our own skill sets and strengths, right? That’s wonderful that you that you’re in a position to be able to help people find that and to embrace it and use it to their advantage.
Yeah, and going through The Hurt Locker myself has really opened my eyes to you know, the fact that they’re in their own her locker without judgment without shame, and and those who are reluctant to do the work. I have a lot more compassion for Yes. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m the right coach for them, but I can have compassion for them. And if they’re willing to take the next step, then maybe I’m the right coach, but but you got to be an active participant in your own world because I can’t do the push ups for you. I can’t walk the door. I can’t walk through the door for you like, here in your psychology practice. The client still has to walk through the door. Absolutely don’t take that first step. There is no shortcut. There’s no service. Yep,
Jenna Fortinski 20:13
that’s right. Right. Yeah. And the amount of courage it takes to do that, right? Like that is that is the epitome of courage in in my world, right? And when what when I look at people is being able to stand up and say, Okay, I need support. Right. And I can’t do it alone. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
took me a long time to ask for that. Oh, yeah. And except that when it was offered, yeah. So that was, you know, I didn’t want to be perceived as weak. Yes. That was the narrative like, dude, you’re such a pussy. Yeah. That was like, that’s how I spoke to myself. Yeah, the language I use, but that was how I spoke. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Hard, hard, hard on myself. But now asked for help. A whole lot more often, and accept help. Most of the time. Yeah. Yeah, I’m still working on
Jenna Fortinski 21:04
it. Well, and I think we all are right, like, it’s it is in so many different avenues in our lives. Right. And it’s not just about mental health, right. It’s a it’s an everything we do is that there is a time and a place to seek out support and to accept the support. Right, and, and to see other people’s value in your life. Right. And that, you know, yes, we are the expert in our own experience, but that doesn’t make us the expert in everything we do. Yeah, right. Yeah, I agree with that. So it’s, it’s interesting when we start to see that, oh, like, if I am able to accept support from somebody else, that everything in that part of my life can just be that much easier. And that much more effective, that much more efficient, right? And there’s so many bonuses to that. But unfortunately, like, why we have this podcast is that there is such a stigma, with getting support, like you just said, and we are our own worst critics. Because not everybody thinks that of everybody else. We only think that of ourselves,
right? It’s not normalized. Yeah. Like if if I had a broken arm, it’s perfectly normalized to ask for help. Call 911 you know, and get me to a hospital get. Fix the brake, cast the brake, come back, check on the brake, all these things, strength test, physio, all these things. But to say, I can’t handle today, I can’t get it a bit. That is not normalized. Yeah. Not in our own head. And really in society. There’s no come on. What’s wrong?
Jenna Fortinski 22:38
What’s wrong with your day?
Jenna Fortinski 22:40
Yeah, what’s so hard?
Okay, nice house you live in. Must be so hard getting up in that house. Yeah. And then painting the story how others will will view me how they’ll communicate with me when i when i disclose that, hey, I just spent the last two hours in the fetal position underneath my desk in my office with a blanket. Yeah, and headphones. there and the lights off. Now, if someone knew that there’s a they’re not gonna hire me, and the ones who did are gonna fire me.
Jenna Fortinski 23:10
Yeah. Yeah. It’s so interesting, cuz the conversation I have with my clients often is, you know, this, this idea of what does everybody gonna think, right? What is everybody going to think? If I do this? What is everybody going to think if I say this? And what we really need to look at is for you yourself, are you busy critiquing and judging what other people are doing? Or are we all really just worried about ourselves, really, truly, we are just really worried about, I’m busy worried about what you’re going to be worrying about. And so is the next person, you’re busy worrying about what everybody else is gonna think. And so that’s where everybody’s head is at. And if we could all really truly just remember that, and remember that we’re all just worried about what everybody else is gonna think. Rather than, what do I need to worry about? About myself?
Have either of you had gym memberships before? Oh, yes. I sold gym memberships. And women more than men? Would? You know, there’d be some hesitancy on getting the membership. Okay, what’s what’s what’s up? Well, what will people think? Yeah, what I mean? Yeah. I don’t know how to use this equipment. So there. We have personal trainers, you get two training sessions for free. And I said, trust me, no one’s watching. Yeah, I guarantee I know. No one’s watching. Yeah, every man and woman in here. They’re looking in the mirror. Yes. Am I doing this? Right? They’re listening to their music. They’re daydreaming. Yes. I guarantee you. They’re not looking at you. Yeah. And, and for some that was helpful for others. They didn’t believe me. Yeah, but that’s even me. And I’m very confident and competent in a gym. But I’m still looking at me. Yes. Yes. My technique, right is my form. Right? Yeah. You know, is that enough weight Is that too much weight. It’s all about me. Yeah. It’s not about the other people. I don’t even notice the other people in the gym. Yeah. Unless they’re way better than me. Yeah. True. True.
Jenna Fortinski 25:11
They can lift more weight than me. Yeah.
I have an appreciation for anyone who exercise the courage to walk to the gym that day. Yes. I don’t care what they you know what shape they are. They chose to walk in the gym that day. They made a decision. Yeah. And, and in my mind, I’m celebrating them. Yeah, but then I’m back at me. Yeah. Like, 99.9% of the time. It’s all about me. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s everyone’s narrative. Yes.
Jenna Fortinski 25:37
Yeah. Everybody’s worried about what everybody else is thinking. Every person is worried. Like, if you’re not focusing on yourself in the gym, like if you’re just doing the the everyday life thing. Everybody has those exact same thoughts? What is everybody else thinking? Yeah, that’s what we’re worried about is worried about what everybody else is thinking. So we’re not actually exercising judgment on other people. We’re just worried about what everybody else is thinking.
Yeah. And it holds us back. It’s why it’s probably why I didn’t get help sooner in my life. It’s why didn’t ask for help sooner. It’s why I didn’t accept help. I thought I could just ride the wave. Yeah. And couldn’t. Yeah, yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 26:23
So and that’s what I wanted to kind of shift our conversation towards was understanding a little bit more about your, I guess your maybe the different experiences that you’ve had in reflecting on your mental health and where, where it’s been throughout the year, given how varied and diverse your experiences were in your life? What What have you noticed about your mental health journey, what has helped you with what has hindered you
worrying about what other people think is hindered. And lots of therapy has helped. So it you know, in finding out that my dad’s not my dad, and this other guy, he is and I have all these other family members. I have a cousin who lives in Hong Kong. So this is 2017. And sorry, 2018. And he’s, Hey, would you get some poppies? For me? Like, sure. So I went to the Legion command was actually 2019. So I go to Legion command to go to pick up these puppies. And there’s this guy who comes up to the counter and says, Hi, how are you doing? I’m fine. He introduces himself as Shawn. And I’m like Shawn, would he goes yeah, he said, Well, hey, I have a I have a friend Cliff Reeves, who said if I ever hear and meet you. He goes Cliff Reeves. He so Cliff Reeves is my platoon commander when I was in Somalia. So I was 23. Cliff was 26. Just for context. Yeah, our brains already been built yet. Yeah. And here we are in a theater. So Shawn, and I have coffee. Yeah, I just hang on his office and we shoot the breeze and, and somewhere about an hour later. He’s like, hey, how’d you like to very innocent conversation, I’d like to talk to our team at the OSI clinic. So team is code for psychologist. OSI is operational stress injury, okay. So I’m picking fine get free psych to help me coach my clients better I am in. I’m sure he’s like, Oh, boy. Yeah. So this is, um, it’s October. And remember, it is November 11. So it’s all before then and I you know, within, within three weeks or so I’m sitting in front of these two psychologists and being assessed and, and feelings are rots coming up to Remembrance Day, I’ve lost quite a few friends, overseas and domestically on deployment. And so of course, I’m, you know, feeling anxious and, and quite teary in a moment and whatnot. And I come back two weeks later, and I read a 1517 page report. Posttraumatic stress disorder. And, and this is where they say you also have major depressive disorder. We believe it’s in remission, and you have ADHD. I’m like, I already knew about the ADHD. Are you that? But tell me more about this post medic stress disorder. I just couldn’t believe it. How is this possible? How is this true? I didn’t, you know, I got deployed, but it wasn’t like Afghanistan. We didn’t have the, you know, we weren’t fighting Taliban. We were fighting very unorganized tribes. We weren’t in combat. There was a couple shots here and there. It just wasn’t the same. So there’s this massive comparison. You know, I didn’t lose a leg. But there was a mat, like if there was six months of hyper vigilance. What if what’s next, what’s around the corner? We went with, we were deployed without a redeployment date. That’s not normal. So when are we coming home? We don’t know. We went without enough bug. mosquito repellent. What We had was expired and we didn’t have enough. My goodness, we went without radio sets enough for one per man, the Americans did. But we only had one for every section of sections. Eight people in the Petunia have a number of sections make up a platoon. So platoon would only have five radio sets total for all 34 of us. So if if our eight man section is out on patrol, and somehow we lose our ability to use a radio, yeah. We don’t have maps. That’s the other little fun thing. The Americans had GPS GPS was just coming mainstream in the military, but not for us. So no map the radios down. How do I ask for help? Yeah, we’re in the locker like, we’re in the her locker, how do we get help? Can’t do that. So the level of stress and anxiety and the hyper vigilance was massive. And that’s a big part of what impacted my thinking. So I had, you know, being hyper vigilant, and everything I do was always there, and just stacked and stacked and stacked in my life.
But if I hadn’t gone to the Legion to pick up these puppies, right? Never, and I never would have met Shawn would. Because I have a cousin that I didn’t know about prior, like, see how old the universe like gotten in line to. Hey, Vince, we’re thinking about you, but we’re gonna really mess up your life, too. And so, so while it was the most hardest thing I’ve ever done mentally, and at times, physically, it was absolutely the best thing that I’ve ever gone through in life. Yeah. I think Peter Levine says it really good. He says trauma is not what happens to us. Rather, what’s happens inside of us are what’s left in us in the absence of an empathetic witness. And so there was no empathetic witness growing up as a kid because as we unpacked all this post traumatic stress, we also discovered there’s a few boxes on the shelf. What’s in these boxes? Oh, just some spankings or spankings, tell me more. And so we started unpacking these boxes in my brain around the treatment I experienced as a kid. Well, guess what, it wasn’t a spanking, it was a full on meeting like me and David Goggins could compare notes, beatings, only his was from his dad and me, it was from my mother. So I didn’t join the military to fight bullies. I joined the military for founding connection, and the biggest bully in my life was actually my mother. So like, put that in your pipe and smoke it for a while, and holy. But 22 months of therapy, and in the OSI clinic, they call it graduation from the program. And so it was end of August, was my graduation. Wow. So. And, for me, my own headspace is I refuse to call it a disorder. I call it a response, post traumatic stress response. I had these experiences, events are not the event, I just experienced the event. And how do I think my way through this and what, what interventions can I deploy to refrain the moment and I’m not against medication or anything else like that? I happen not to use medication. But I was just okay, how do I how do I get to a better place? And it was just one one bite at a time one step at a time. It was not, you know, there’s no miracles at all was just how do we? How do we do me better today? Yeah. You know,
Jenna Fortinski 33:25
it’s so interesting, because I just finished listening to a book by Dr. Bruce Perry. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him. He’s pretty well known in the in the trauma world. And he does a lot of research around childhood trauma, and how it affects the brain as the brain is developing. And so he just did a book with Oprah Winfrey. And the book is called What happened to you? And they’re trying to get the title? Yeah, they’re trying to encourage asking that question instead of what’s wrong with you. Yeah, it’s what happened to you. The title is familiar. Yeah. And it’s brilliant. It’s, it’s a little bit technical, just because he does a lot of talking about the brain and how the brain gets affected depending on At what point in your childhood, the trauma happens as to what point what part of your brain it affects, and then how it affects you long term. It is fascinating. And, and so he’s done a wealth of research around that he worked with, like the branch davidians I don’t know if you’re familiar. Yeah. So he worked with the kids from the branch davidians. And he’s, he’s done a ton of work very fascinating. But I love this proposition of this question of what happened to you, not what’s wrong with you? Because I think we are, we are what happens to us in a way right? And it affects us how we function and that’s why I like what you said is that it’s not a disorder, right? It’s it’s this is what happened to me, right? And this is who I am today.
I understand from governing body perspective once it’s a disorder we have access to drugs and treatment and all these other things. I understand that but but I identify as I have this disorder, I just refuse to do that. The same with ADHD is not a learning disorder. It’s a learning difference. Yeah, I don’t feel like I have a disorder. My body responds differently to certain environments and somebody else why is that a disorder? Yeah. And again, I this is me and my belief about me. I’m not smashing my belief on anybody. Yeah, I have I did a drug trial for ADHD. I just didn’t like it. Yeah, I chose to do without, but I have friends and clients who do have ADHD and I’m loving. I could care less. Yeah, you do you? Yep. And we see like, what’s wrong with you as a response? whether I’ve seen in athletics, I’ve seen it work with my work with the work I do. We see a behavior that we can’t make sense of. So the Jesus, look, what’s the what’s wrong with that person? Yeah. I don’t know life. Yeah. My life? And you know, they’re they haven’t recovered from it yet.
Nicki Kirlin 36:12
Yeah, well, it’s a much more empathetic perspective, right? It puts you in a place of taking an authentic perspective with that person, if you ask what happened to you. Fully shifts the conversation. Yeah. Man,
it’s really easy to sit and judge and ridicule and embarrass, or worse shame. It’s, it takes thoughtfulness to get curious and, and exercise some empathy. And so yeah, but that’s not mainstream. Education.
Jenna Fortinski 36:50
No. And I think, certainly with where the world is at right now, even with, like the pandemic that’s happened, and all the stuff that’s happened within the police system, and all that, right, like this, we really need to get some empathy into this world, we really need to take some time to understand each other and to listen and to hear and validate. And, you know, there would be so much more proof so much more production, you know, within people, and so much more opportunities for people if we really just took that time to, to understand each other. And to have a little bit of empathy.
There’s, I forget his name. First name is Paul. He’s a Toronto space psychologist. And he, he wrote a book, which basically talks about the downside of empathy. He was being interviewed by Adam Grant, not very long ago. But he’s basically saying, look, there’s cognitive empathy. I, I know what you feel, and then there’s emotional empathy, I feel you feel, and sometimes emotional empathy can go south on us totally. Right, we end up in the hole right beside him. And yeah, and neither of us have a paddle to get out. But, but that was, for me, that differentiation of Paul bloom, and that differentiation between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy and, and just saying, hey, like, I get it, you’re having a bad day, I’ve had bad days to a note that I know what that feels like. Yes, we have a job to do today. So what’s the best way to do this? Do you need to have the rest of the day off? Do you need to do this? Do you need to do that, but there’s this there’s this collaborative way to work together so that someone doesn’t feel guilty for having a bad day? Or a bad experience? Recently, a friend died, and I’m sure that his wife isn’t going to work the next day. Yeah, she’s passed away of cancer within just within 10 months. So you know, we need to empathize that that person shows up differently. Yeah. And if they have a job Okay, so how do we do this? How do we cover for you? We’ve built an organization that is looking to drive impact we will you’d go take care of you take care of us. And you know, yeah, but we don’t necessarily have to light ourselves on the empathy fire. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Again, it requires some education I can’t learn any this in school Yeah, it’s through books and podcasts.
Jenna Fortinski 39:20
Yeah, life yeah. Life Life. Yes. Love Life. Yes. Yeah. Oh my goodness.
Nicki Kirlin 39:26
So could you just share with us a little bit been like in reflecting on this journey that you’ve been on? I started recently around your you know, attending to your mental health. What How do you think it’s shifted in terms of like when you’re looking at your life, sort of before you started getting that mental support and then looking at it after what do you see the biggest difference in your in your everyday,
so there’s this idea that I don’t have bad days anymore, and that’s not true. I have just as many bad days as the next person. I just have a toolbox. talks that I know how to use, I know when to use it. I know how to use it and know who to talk to when I need it that I didn’t have before. And so my go to have a bad day. Okay, what do I do? movement movement is a big deal doesn’t matter if it’s a hike, walk or run doesn’t matter, just movement, anything, it can be something as simple as every morning begins with a yoga routine. It’s a moving, yoga meditation. So everyday starts with movement. Sleep, massive reset for me, I’ve done some homework on the on the significance, importance of sleep. So for me, it’s a big deal. These are all interventions I deploy. For me. Nutrition plays a role, my brain and sugar don’t work well together. And the hard part about ultra running is we use a lot sure simple carbs, like basically gummy bears to fuel ourselves because it can easily be converted into glycogen for the muscles. So but sugar and me on a normal day don’t work well together, impacts my ADHD, so impacts my gift. So there are others like that I don’t do I don’t deploy don’t deploy journaling very well, like this journal I have with me right now has been around for two years. Every page is pretty much dated. But what does work is, is seeking out the empathetic witness. Now I have a small list of people I know I can call for anything at any time. Yeah. who’ve also been in The Hurt Locker. That will definitely exercise time and space for me. Something that’s probably not discussed openly a lot. Really, the way I look at it is neutral thinking. So for example, I just received this diagnosis. I’ll be happy. It’s not cancer. Pardon. I just got diagnosed. Automatic stress, just be hobbies, no cancer events. My response is, okay, you’re you’re dead to me. Like a very physical, visceral response to anytime we’re going through something bad and someone says Just be happy. Not that it’s not. You know, labor was 28 hours. You should just be happy with 35.
Jenna Fortinski 42:24
ask for your input. Wrong. Yeah. But it’s not well received. Yeah. So neutral. Like, one of the biggest challenges with the pot with you know, being positive in that whole self help industry is when things are going south on us. Being positive is not actually helpful comment to me. But then what’s the alternative to be negative, and that can’t go there either. So this gentleman Trevor Moe had talked about in a podcast, he just died last month from cancer. But he said stay neutral. Neutral isn’t negative or positive when cars going backwards, and we’ll just say that that’s negative thinking we can’t just drop it into forward or in a blow off the transmission. So you put it into neutral, let it slow down, and then we can put it back into first gear. So neutral thinking. Two weeks ago, I’m doing a hike Northover Ridge, we get to the ridge, the ridge is extremely narrow. So on my right side is straight down death. On my left side, I don’t know 80 degree, like it’s just my 80 degree slope forever. This is forever Yeah, in other words, is death. And here we have two three feet in front of me. And I’m not it’s not a heights issue. I can climb a ladder. It’s not a height issue. It’s an exposure issue. So I start to breathe really shallow. I start to and I saw I just said small hills, sticky feet, small hills, sticky feet. And then I just repeated that with every single step. So I didn’t like I didn’t think positive and I didn’t think negative and if a negative thought were to sneak its way in and then I just replaced it with a different thought. Yeah. And that’s the other thing Oh, even through therapy, you must not have any negative thoughts. Firstly, do I have more time I’ve got about 60,000 negative thoughts a day. But I introduced a new thought I stay neutral and I just focus on what’s the next step. And for me, that’s you mix that with exercise it’s like a big chemical cocktail in the brain. And and never underestimate the power going to sleep. Yeah, but that toolbox that they have today didn’t exist two years ago, right? Really? Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 44:41
Right. And I love it is it’s such a holistic perspective. The things that you touched on our you’re you’re representing functions and strategies and interventions that are they’re holistic in nature. And again, it’s not just one piece is a combination of many different things. Can a person mentally Well,
I’m not advocating like I’m not what’s the word, I’m not offloading my responsibility to anybody else either, like, back to your patient, Jenna has to walk through your door first. So I on Northover Ridge or in a, in a discussion with a client, let’s say, I still have to take that next step. That’s still on me, I still have to do the push. No one can do any of that for me. So to one must be an active participant in their own journey. They cannot offload that anybody. Right. And this is one challenge I have with society is we’ve somehow given everybody permission that they don’t need to be an active participant. We can sue them. You know, we can take this medication again, not battling not coming down on medication. medication is really important. But we look for all these other, we have society look for all these other external solutions, when really the first step always comes from me. Yeah. And hell yeah, it’s scary. Yes. Like, it’s really scary. And the wind is howling. And I’m thinking if I lose my footing, and I’m my brain is all by itself coming up with all sorts of worst case scenarios. Yes. So me have to proactively think what’s best case scenario, and what’s most likely 11 people had gone through the ridge that day, including a dog. And seven of the 11 were women. And I like that’s amazing that, like my sport running is, I think, dominated by women. Which is fascinating. Yeah. Other men’s. We’re all humans, but we’re finally in a place in society where no women can do good things.
Jenna Fortinski 46:50
Yes, we can get this podcast. Yeah, we’re trying. Right? Exactly. Yeah, no, it’s true. And I think, you know, I just wanted to jump on the the positive, positive thinking process, right, and people not really knowing how to, you know, stay in the mud with others, right. And I, Bernie, Bernie brown talks a lot about it, of course, right? The The old man in the arena, but also, you know, the, staying in that moment with somebody and really learning how to do that. And it and I think there is an art to it, for sure. Right of, of how to be there for somebody and to exercise, you know, a little bit of empathy and a little bit of support and, and to just be there for somebody in that moment. And my famous last words are just listen, yeah, just listen, right? And you don’t need to, you know, you don’t need to make it better. And I think a lot of times when we try to make things better, quote, unquote, for others by saying, well, it was only 28 hours, at least it wasn’t 35 hours of labor, right? is ever also trying to make ourselves feel better in that moment, rather than the person we’re talking about, or talking with. So I think, you know, just really focusing on listening in that moment is really helpful for anybody is that you know, oftentimes we just want somebody to hear us out. Right? My wife
and I, we have a discussion every now and then. And you know what? So what? she’ll ask a question, for example, what? And I respond with what hat do you want? Do you want a husband hat? Yasmine? Answer colleague answer. Yeah. But the other one is, did you need a fix? Or do you need a list? Yes. And sometimes we’ll even start the conversation. Look, I’m frustrated. I have no way to pissed off. I don’t need to fix I just need to. And either one of us can say that to the other. Yeah. And man is the listener. It’s so great to great. I can just listen. Yes. Tell me more. Yeah. grab a coffee with Hi.
Jenna Fortinski 48:43
Yeah, I can listen. Yeah. Great with pa Yeah. But really, it’s just yeah. Humor is awesome, isn’t it? Yes. But listen, listen, so powerful, just to be heard. You know, and just ask, just don’t worry about it. If you got a question, ask it. And then listen some more. Yeah. Resist the urge to fix. Yeah. So you’re not it’s never my place to fix anybody. Yeah.
Jenna Fortinski 49:11
And I think not not to be sexist. But I think that there is an element with men when they’re listening is to fix right is that there’s that intuition of I need to fix I need to alleviate you of your pain. I need to you know, find a solution for you. Whereas if we if we could just listen to each other, there’s so much more power than in that.
I don’t think that’s sexist at all. I think men have been raised to be the fixer. Yes. Right. Yeah. Women have been raised to be the caregiver. Yes. And, but we can learn
Jenna Fortinski 49:48
and learn. Yes, we all can. Yes and
Adam grants research shows that at the highest level of corporate America, so to speak, corporate Canada’s is a very empathetic male. A very assertive female CEO, right they, the women can become more assertive as men have learned to become more empathetic and listen. Yeah, it’s otherwise they wouldn’t be in that seat. Yeah, you need it’s such a well rounded human. Yes. Is what we need. Yeah, gender is not relevant. Yeah. At that level. Yeah. Yeah, just look at all the women that that have been to the International Space Station or fly jet fighters and, and run Netflix when it was by a woman. Sara Blakely was with Spanx, right? Yeah. Humans are capable of so many great things. genders. Yeah. It’s just part of your makeup. Yeah. But it’s Yeah, yeah. Yeah, men can do a better job listening.
Jenna Fortinski 50:43
Yes, yes, I agree. And I the only reason I say that is because I talk about it a lot in private practice, right. And a lot of the a lot of the couples counseling we do is, you know, learning to listen, you know, not preparing a response while your partner is talking. It’s listening, and then preparing your response. Right. And that goes for both right?
Man, my brain is I can’t fix this. And what value do I bring? Yes. So I think I need to fix because I need to, because I have value. Yeah, my value system is no longer based on my ability to fix something is based on being curious and compassionate.
Jenna Fortinski 51:21
Which is worth its weight in gold. Right? I’m
still bad at listening at times. Yeah. We all are. We all are. That’s my kids. Yes. Yeah, it’s a skill. It’s a skill. Yes. Like anything else. Yeah. And it requires the mere test like, yeah, like it requires some outside.
Jenna Fortinski 51:41
awareness? Yes. There’s
no change in behavior without awareness. Yeah, it’s my own. Or someone else’s.
Nicki Kirlin 51:46
Yeah. Yeah. So just before we wrap up, I want to ask you one question about just thinking about this conversation about mental health. If there’s one thing that you can maybe share with listeners who are questioning whether they should be getting support, or maybe they were had similar feelings that you did it around, being scared to seek the support, or receive a sort of appear to be perceived as being weak? What What message would you share with listeners to maybe shift that, that perception that?
Well, the narrative itself, if a person, if the person listening is thinking, if, if you knew what I’ve done, if you knew what I think, if you only knew the mistakes I’ve made, you would not want to be my friend, you would not want to be my husband, my wife, my brother. I’m broken. If that narrative, even a fraction of that narrative exists in your mind as a listener, then number one, you have no idea what people wouldn’t be willing to do to support you. There was a lineup of for me, like military veterans affairs came through my wife was amazing, still is a couple key friends who’ve been through hell and back in their own life, they just they appeared. But in this suffering is worth it. If we’re I think it’s Susan David, that said, suffering is just the cost of admission, the cost the cost of tuition for a meaningful life, yes. And, like, we don’t get to go through life without suffering. So make a conscious choice to ask for help. And maybe the first person does, doesn’t listen well. But that doesn’t mean the next person won’t. So just have the, you have to exercise the courage to seek some sort of help. And it’s probably not on Facebook. You know, it’s probably not there. Start with a phone call, or a coffee date, or someone you trust and just say, hey, I’ve got some stuff and I don’t know what to do. And that’s okay, too. It’s totally okay to say, I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m just I don’t feel normal in my own body. Have these narratives I can’t shake him. I have these feelings have these emotions. Yeah, and it requires a lot of vulnerability. Renee brown would say risk, risk, emotional exposure and uncertainty. Those are all normal feelings. Just that if that’s how you feel Holy shit, what if Yeah, that’s normal. Yeah. So ask Anyways, what if they don’t like me? unlikely, but that’s normal to think like, well, they laugh that’s normal. here and but unlikely. So what’s the alternative? Just sit here. To be miserable, and watch life get harder and harder and harder again, because that is a guaranteed route to more misery. sufferings inevitable misery is optional. And you know, and it’s step by step, don’t expect leaps and bounds. It’s just start peeling back some layers. Just take the next step. Don’t worry about the next month, the next year. Focus on really just sticky feet, small hill, sticky feet, small hill. I never wanted my shoes to stick to the ground so badly. Right? Just sticky feet small hill. Yes, my friend Tyler, who was guiding me on that he just said, just remember that the path is is equally as wide as the hallway in your house. It might look differently, and there’s more wind, but the path is equally as wide. Oh, my God just he reframed it. Yeah. And I put my hiking poles up in front of me, I stretch them out in front of us, right? It’s, and at times, it was still like, there was always something to hold on to. But in the moment of fear, and not breathing well. It’s so easy to buy into that narrative that says things are going to light up and burn down. It’s just rarely is that ever true. Yeah. It’s a made up story.
Jenna Fortinski 56:22
Yeah. Oh my goodness. Brilliant. Brilliant. Yeah. Love it. Yeah. Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 56:31
And, and then.
Jenna Fortinski 56:35
Nicki Kirlin 56:36
your last thought so. Yeah, I just just wanted to thank you for being my pleasure. And for joining us, and yes, great conversation.
Jenna Fortinski 56:48
Yes. Thank you so much.
We have ever played minesweeping in a bar. know, what’s how you get through a bar a night at the bar without paying for your drink. If there’s a drink left behind. Drink that, right? That’s called minesweeping. That’s how we get a good drunk on 25 year old soldier is way more risky than telling a friend. Look, I got some shit in my head that I can’t shake. And I bet to the listener that’s like, What do I do? I bet if you look back in your history of life, like in your life, you’ve taken more crazy risks than just saying, hey, like, have you ever drank and attended drink at a party? You took a lot of crazy unnecessary risk. That’s an unnecessary risk. Five bucks. Maybe it’s 10? Yeah, exactly. 10 bucks, probably the brain just wants to amplify this, this little tiny warning sign and just blow it up into a whole bigger thing. And it’s not their problems. Not a big deal. It’s just brains working overtime to keep you safe. Yeah, just doesn’t know that’s actually hurting you.
Jenna Fortinski 58:02
Yeah. Yeah. So just ask the question. Yeah. And don’t leave. Don’t drink the left behind drink.
Don’t drink unattended drink,
Jenna Fortinski 58:11
do you not? Yeah, yeah, we’ve got some really good ones. Yeah. Running,
don’t eat. Don’t eat while you run. Yeah. Definitely don’t eat while you run.
Jenna Fortinski 58:25
If you speak like a scientist, only scientists can understand. I agree. You speak like a trucker. Everyone can understand you, including scientists.
Jenna Fortinski 58:36
Exactly. And that’s, we that’s why we like to keep it simple. So everybody can.
Yeah, me and I grade 10 vocabulary.
Jenna Fortinski 58:46
We like it. We’re good. Yeah, we understand. We hear you. We like it. Thank you. My pleasure. As always, we end our episodes with a quote. So we have Vince who’s going to share his code with us.
So in the military, we had a saying embrace the suck, but it was just it was said in the context of Just don’t be a baby. You know, put up with it, deal with it. But ultimately, what embrace the suck means is to consciously accept and acknowledge that something hard is also necessary and unavoidable for forward progress. And so, therapy sucks for me There was some serious serious suck moments, my wife would say I was therapy today and she tried to be all positive and uplifting. I said suck balls. It just was horrible. And that’s okay. Because it was necessary and unavoidable for forward progress to backstop that is to choose your heart. So living in a life for me living life in a state of mind where just, you know, I felt hopeless. I felt like tomorrow wasn’t gonna be any better than today. What does any of this for? That’s a hard life to live. And to go through therapy is also hard. Yeah. So choose your heart. Yeah. And when I’m hiking, there are lots of hard moments. And hiking through this particular Ridge was extremely hard, but so was camping on the ridge like, I would much rather hike off this ridge then have to be helicoptered off by search and rescue. So just choose your heart. Both paths are hard, I get it, but we can all agree that, that going through therapy, being an active participant, the outcome is much more favorable. Yeah. No, we don’t get to do life without doing heart. Yeah, thanks. Yeah. And I forget who said it. I think it was Angela Duckworth. She just said that when we do hard things or teaching our brain we can do more hard things. And her book grit, so yeah, so we really embrace the hard, embrace the suck, embrace the hard.
Jenna Fortinski 1:01:28
Love it. Thank you,
Mike. My pleasure.