Guest on "12 Minute Conversations" with Engel Jones

I had a great and fun opportunity to be a guest on "12 Minute Convos" with Engel Jones. It was definitely a blast, and an honor to have been asked to be a guest on his podcast. This experience has definitely opened me up to being a guest on other podcasts in the future.

Also, I hope you all have had a great holiday season with those you love. The upload of episodes should be back to weekly now that the holiday season has passed.

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Episode 10 - A Day I Will Never Forget

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So, I remember on 9/11/01 being scared and kind of worried about my future as I was graduating soon from high school, and I was an eighteen-year-old man and here we are about to go to war...”
— Tom Baker

This is a special episode of The Discourse. Unlike the majority of our episodes where we have a guest speaker and the conversation is constructed around their interest/expertise. This episode was created as a final project for my American Journalism course with the task of producing a piece of journalism that covers a current historical moment.

I decided to design this episode around the events that took place on September 11th, 2001 in Manhattan borough of New York City. 

The episode starts off with a poem by Theresa Gaughan called "That Sad September Day"

An ordinary Tuesday morning,
With beautiful sunny weather
But soon something would happen
To change the world forever.

Four planes went down,
Two towers fell.
A lot of people died,
And when the news spread far and wide
Millions of us cried.

We honored the heroes
Who stayed in harm’s way,
We felt sad for the families,
And bowed our heads to pray.

We felt pride in our country
For sticking close together
Neighbors and strangers gathered
To give help to one another.

It happed long ago,
But it’s not that far away.
The memories will always be with us

Of That sad September day.

 

- Background music by Bensound

Episode 9 - Entrepreneurship

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Today, I had the great pleasure of having on my good friend, and former roommate, Juan Ortiz on as a guest to speak about the concept of entrepreneurship, and especially talking about a veteran perspective on being an entrepreneur or vetrepreneur.

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Juan is the Director of Marketing for an up and coming startup company called LendIt.

LendIt is a community-based platform that enables users to post, lend, and rent a variety of items for profit while also saving time and money. Everything from tools, bicycles, school supplies, and camping equipment.

Their concept? "Don’t sell it, LendIt instead and find yourself a new source of passive income!"

To find out more or to keep up to date on the company's progress please check out the links below.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/18062520/
https://www.instagram.com/Lenditnow/
https://twitter.com/lenditnow
https://www.facebook.com/LendItNow/
www.lendit.io

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Juan is also the event organizer for the "Mac&Cheese Festival" that takes place in San Diego, CA and will be expanding to Orange County in the near future. If you would like to find out more about this event or to stay up to date on when you can buy tickets to this event, please click here.

Episode 8 - The "Veteran Empowerment Act"

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I had the pleasure of having on my buddy Tom Baker as The Discourse's first remote podcast guest. Join us as we talk about H.R. 4457, which is also known as the "Veterans Empowerment Act", and about its possible effects on the veteran and healthcare communities.

To have your own access to the bill please click here and it will take you to Congress.gov where you can download the whole bill.

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We also mentioned the sponsor and co-sponsors of the bill. You can find their information below:

Representative Doug Lamborn
Is a Republican Representative for Colorado's 5th Congressional District.
Phone: (202) 225-4422
Website: https://lamborn.house.gov/

Representative Mark Meadows
Is a Republican Representative for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District
Phone: (202) 225-6401
Website: https://meadows.house.gov/

Representative Trent Franks
Is a Republican Representative for Arizona's 8th Congressional District
Phone: (202) 225-4576
Website: https://franks.house.gov

Tom also mentioned a few Veteran Service Organizations for people to look into. You can find their information and links to their websites below:

Veterans of Foreign Wars 
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. Veterans of Foreign Wars has a mission to foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts. To serve our veterans, the military and our communities. To advocate on behalf of all veterans. 

Disabled American Veterans 
The DAV is dedicated to a single purpose: empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. We accomplish this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.

American Legion 
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.

AMVETS (American Veterans) 
AMVETS' mission is to enhance and safeguard the entitlements for all American Veterans who have served honorably and to improve the quality of life for them, their families, and the communities where they live through leadership, advocacy and services.

As well as many more. You can find a compiled list by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs here.

Episode 7 - The Wesleyan Experience

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Hello everyone,

Welcome to our first episode as "The Discourse"!!!

Why "The Discourse"? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines discourse as the exchange of ideas, especially: conversation. And that's exactly what we are all about. We believe that the exchange of ideas plays a huge role in who we are as individuals, groups, and societies.

Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you all for the continued support!

Rebranding

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Hello everyone,

I wanted to talk about what is going on behind the scenes a little in an attempt to take the place of this week's episode. In case you have not noticed we have rebranded the project from "The Paradigm Shift Project" to "The Discourse" to better capture the overall activity of this website.

Why "The Discourse"? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines discourse as the exchange of ideas, especially: conversation. And that's exactly what we are all about. We believe that the exchange of ideas plays a huge role in who we are as individuals, groups, and societies.

With this rebranding, we are also looking to acquire a new logo that helps express our mission. If you or someone you know are an artist and would like to work with us on this endeavor please click here and fill out the form.

 

Thank you all for the continued support!

Discussion On Mental Health

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There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.
— Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss

Have you ever had one of those days that no matter what you try you just feel down and out? Or have you ever been so mentally and physically drained that no matter how much sleep you get it still doesn't help? Have you ever looked down on someone because they had a mental health disorder? Do you have a mental health disorder?

For me, the answer is yes to all of the above. 

This is something I have been dealing with for quite some time, as well as many others throughout the nation and the world. According to a study done in 2012, there were around 350 million people worldwide that deal with some sort of depression and around 16 million people in the United States alone that dealt with at least one major depressive episode within that year. Another statistic is that in the last two weeks about 8 percent of the population has dealt with a depressive episode, and that number often jumps up to around 22 percent if you extend it to within the last year.

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Depression is not picky about age, ethnicity, location, or religion. Although you are more likely to find that the elderly population holds the majority of people that deal with depression, you can also find people of all ages including children dealing with some form of depression. Some of the most popular symptoms of depression are having the feelings of sadness or emptiness that don't go away within a few days. Other emotional symptoms include extreme irritability, anxiety, loss of interest in favorite activities, fixation on the past, and thoughts of death and suicide. You can also have to deal with several physical symptoms as well like: insomnia, constant fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, difficulty concentrating, and unexplained aches and pains. There is no single cause of depression and can be a culmination of multiple things including brain chemistry, hormones, genetics, low self-esteem, PTSD, physical or sexual abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, certain prescription medications, chronic diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or cancer.

One of the largest misconceptions of people with depression is that we are all hidden in our homes behind closed doors and blinds shutting ourselves off from the world, or that people who are depressed are also suicidal. Don't get me wrong that is the case for some people and I even get that way at times, but that does not mean we cannot be functioning members of society. The largest hindrances people have with dealing with depression are neglecting the fact they do suffer from depression, or they fear the stigmas attached to depression. This can lead to even worse symptoms of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, headaches, chronic pain, panic disorders, trouble with school or work, social isolation, obesity, self-mutilation, attempted suicide and suicide. From personal experience and from what I have read in multiple research papers I have come to believe that neglecting the issues we face, as well as the ever-present “macho man” mentality, are some of the biggest reasons we see so many suicides within the military/veteran community. We too often tell each other too just “man up” or hold it in for the sake of the team and try and deal with it by drowning ourselves in alcohol or drugs. This mentality has to stop and we have to continue promoting that asking for help makes you stronger then suppressing our issues. I may be wrong, but this is what I have seen throughout my entire military career and throughout my personal life.

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Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments below.

The worst part is, I have taken part in the chastisement of others for seeking help for the exact same issues I was or had been dealing with. I think a part of it had to do with wanting to be a part of the functioning team, criticizing the other person for not being able to suppress the same things I had suppressed, as well as angry at myself for not being able to ask for the same help.

To start the conversation about mental health and men’s health in general it only seems fit to share my own story. It is very long and complicated, but I will do my best to keep to the important moments I think will have the most impact.

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I have been dealing with depression off and on since I was a teenager and each episode was dealt in entirely different ways. I have pretty much done the gambit when it comes to self-medication. I have drowned myself in alcohol, dulled the pain via prescription painkillers, applied everything I had into my work to help keep me occupied on other things, I’ve withdrawn myself to my room for days on end not wanting to speak to a soul, and I’ve partied and gone out day after day and night after night in an attempt to get myself out of the rut. Each had it various degrees of success, but none of them fully achieved its goal and depression would inevitability kick back in. It wasn’t until a recent bout with depression that I finally decided to seek professional help. Seeking that sort of help was on my own accord, but sadly only was sought because I was at my wits end. I had tried many of my old tricks, yet none of them worked. I lost focus in school, as well as my volunteer work, and secluded myself from friends. I was at the lowest I had ever felt in regard to depression and could tell I was in trouble. I am finally getting over the stigmas that are attached with depression and I am finally okay with saying I see a therapist. Having someone with zero connection to your personal life is an amazing tool to release some things that have been suppressed for years. It’s a painful but beautiful thing, and I leave each session feeling like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. Don’t get my wrong it is great to talk to friends and family about issues, but they are not trained professionals and often don't give the most sound advise and may even have a roll in your anxiety when dealing with depression. That is why I now highly encourage others to seek professional help, and do a little bit of research. It’s incredible how healing it is to simply find out that you aren’t the only person experiencing the things you go through on a daily basis. So I encourage you to reach out, ask for help, ask for information, and help end the stigma surrounding depression and mental health in general.

Thank you for listening to a brief version of my story, and I hope that it will encourage you to seek any help that you may need. Please let me know in the comments below if there is any information you have found to be helpful in your journey or if you need some advice. Stay blessed, know that even with your battles/struggles you have a place in this world, and don't become part of the statistics.

- Written by Jordan Agricula

Side Note: I have a friend who is helping to raise funds for the November Foundation, which aims to raise funds for men's health, including mental health. If you would like to make a contribution, please click here.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Episode 6 - Music & Theater

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Hello everyone, and thank you again for joining us for another episode of The Paradigm Shift Project. Today I had the pleasure of having a fellow Wesleyan student, Payton Millet, on for this week's episode. 

Throughout the episode, we will be talking about his journey into the Theater/Musical realm. Payton works with Second Stage, which is a student ran theater company that has existed at Wesleyan University since 1973, and will be 

To find out more about Second Stage, as well as check out some upcoming shows click here.

Episode 4 - Recent Disasters

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Beginning Sunday evening various fires started to spring up around Sonoma and Napa Counties. Several of which sprang up around Sonoma Valley, and since then they have almost surrounded it in flames. Thousands of people have been evacuated, hundreds of thousands of acres of burnt down, about 30 lives have been lost, and numerous friends have lost their homes.

To all my family and friends in the area, I hope that you all remain safe and that no one else has to experience losing their homes. To my friends within the various fire departments, police departments, and every other first responder units that have been activated to help in this crisis, as well as to your fellow colleague, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the work that you are doing and please stay safe.

This is but the closest to home disaster that has happened as of late. It is truly frustrating not being able to have a reliable news stream covering what is going on in my hometown as I sit 3,000 miles away in Connecticut. Sadly, this is not the only disaster that has affected those I, and many others, love and care about.

It amazes me how fast we as a society move past such tragic events. People are still dealing with and recovering from the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the earthquakes in Mexico, and the effects of the last few hurricanes which have severely damaged areas in Texas, Florida, and especially Puerto Rico.

If you are reading/listening any know of any organizations that are doing some amazing work within these areas please give them a shout out by providing a description and a link to their organization in a comment below. Also, if you know of any fundraising events that are going on for those areas please feel free to promote them in the comment section as well.

Episode 3 - Preconceived Notions

Welcome to the third episode of The Discourse! Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down with fellow Posse Veteran Michael Freiburger to chat about our time here at Wesleyan so far including expectations, preconcieved notions about what Wesleyan  was going to be like, and then comparing it to our actual experience.

The Discourse Podcast Series Announcement

Hello Everyone,

Unfortunately, there will not be a new episode released today due to health reasons. I have been spending the last few days fighting off a fever and did not think it wise to record a podcast episode. We will continue next week with the third episode on Thursday, October 5th at 3 pm.

 

Do you have a topic that you want to discuss, or have you ever wanted to be a guest on a podcast? Then check out our Contact Page and leave a message.

My Transition

I wanted to start by expanding on my portion of the podcast episode. The majority of the struggles I faced during my transition out of the military had little or nothing to do with my immediate leadership. They were actually some of the most supportive and caring people I could have ever asked for. However, the "Big Army" didn't run that way.

 

I enrolled in school in July of 2013, and the first semester of class began the following month. I just so happened to take a Personal Growth 120 course which focused on getting freshman students ready for college. It taught basic things like effective study habits, time management, and effective research tools. But the thing that hit me the hardest, and had the largest impact on my transition was going over effective ways to deal with stress. Part of that chapter was to take a test that you earned or lost points depending on if you experienced certain things over the last twelve months. It had questions ranging from "Have you moved in the last three months?" to "Have you lost someone close in the last 12 months?", and at the end of the test, our professor asked if anyone was willing to share their score. Someone announced the had got 22 points, and another student in the class said, "Dang dude I only had like 16!" At that very moment, I knew I wasn't the average student and couldn't help but shake my head and laugh as I looked down at my score of 72. It was also the moment I finally realized I had experienced so much in just the last year.

Just to cover the headliners of the year I found out my father had cancer and was only given three months to live. Being in the military I could only go home for a short time before I had to return to work. The day I was flying back I found out one of my best friends from high school had committed suicide. Three months later I was on a plane rushing home trying to make in time before my dad passed away. A few days later I was present as he took his final breath. I had never experienced something like that before, and it is something that has changed me forever. Again being in the military I had my obligations to the job and had to return to work a little over a week later. Two weeks after that I found myself lying on the operating table right before an ankle reconstructive surgery, and several hours later I awoke to learn there was a complication and that my Achilles tendon had snapped. Three months later in April of 2013, I found myself still on crutches and being told I had to clear post because they couldn't get the three-month medical extension needed to conduct rehab. I remembering freaking out, not knowing what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go, or even how I would even get there. Like I said I was still in a cast and it was on my right foot so I couldn't really drive all the way back to California. Fortunately for me, I had cleared the entire post, but the night I was supposed to final out I got the call they had finally got the extension in. Three months later in July of 2013, I was now able to walk around but I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew I didn't want to go home, and that I wanted to try San Diego out. Not knowing anyone or anything about San Diego I struggled to learn everything on my own. I secluded myself to school and my apartment. trying to cast away everything about myself that was associated with the military. Then I found myself taking that test.

After that test, I realized I needed help. So I started searching and researching to see what exactly was out there for student veterans. Slowly but surely I gathered information on the infamous amount of resources available to veterans. Especially to those within the San Diego area. It just surprised me of the huge gap that existed between the services and those that needed them. That gap and my personal experience are what made me choose to major in Nonprofit Management, and it is what continues to drive me to succeed in the classroom, as well as within the student veteran community as a whole.

 

- Written by Jordan Agricula

Episode 2 - Transitioning From The Military

Hello everyone, and thank you for listening in on The Discourse's second podcast episode. I want to apologize for the quality of this particular podcast. We were having a few issues with trying to figure out how to conduct this interview with only having one working microphone. I apologize for this inconvenience.

The reason I decided to go ahead and post this episode anyway, is the fact that the content discussed during this episode is of importance to Kyle, as well as myself and I hope that you will take the time to listen in.

There were a few things that we talked about in this episode that I wanted to expand on. To do that, I have provided a few links below.

 

If you would like to read about my transition process please click here.

If you would like to read Mario Romero's blog post about PTSD click here.

If you would like to check out Mario Romero's podcast please click here.

If you would like to check out a list of resources that are available for veterans to use for education please click here

 

Thank you all for your support, as well as your patience as we continue to learn the process about how to plan, conduct, edit, and post successful podcast episodes.

A Compassionate Understanding of PTSD

When transitioning from the military to the civilian sector, many of us tacitly seek other veterans as a source of the very comfort that we grew accustomed to while active. The task of spotting fellow veterans isn’t always as difficult as one would imagine. The personal struggles of those veterans, however, can be as elusive as time.

In the special operations community, there is often an unfortunate tendency to suggest that a direct correlation exists between PTSD and time spent in the carnage of actual combat. The validity of any PTSD claim must, therefore, be buttressed by a proportionate degree of combat experience. I, too, have been guilty of this type of flawed logic in the past. This sort of judgment, however, inflicts a terrible injustice upon our sister and brother veterans across the board.

It became apparent to me shortly after beginning my very first semester of college. Conversations with other veterans regarding our struggles seemed slightly off. As if, in some manner, my experience in special operations cast too large of a shadow in terms of who could have a legitimate claim of PTSD. I noticed my brothers and sisters shy away from any sort of contribution to the conversation, and when I asked why that was the case; the answer often given echoed an all too familiar tone. Several of my fellow student-veterans subscribed to the idea that their personal experiences dwarfed in comparison to those of combat veterans, thus effectively negating any value of their personal claims of affliction, or so they allowed themselves to believe.

These are ill-conceived tendencies, and we have an obligation to correct them.

As I presented this topic as a potential article to some of my student-veteran teammates, and as I discussed it in greater detail, the room fell silent. Then one of our newer members, Derek Cohen, said it plainly, “It’s comforting to know that I don’t have to measure up to a gunfighter just to have my personal struggle validated”. In that instant, he captured the very essence of this article.

As I see it, everyone who has served in the military has a potentially valid claim to PTSD. Let me explain. Each and every one of us who has served has had to endure, at a minimum, our respective branch’s boot camp. This means that we were each plucked out of our civilian lives, albeit voluntarily, and placed into a total institution. The very objective of these institutions is to strip away the identity of the individual, in order that a cohesive working unit is constructed. While boot camp itself may not seem too damaging for some of us, who are we to judge those with a different perspective? This stripping of individuality and forging of a team is what makes America’s military the mightiest force on Earth. It does not, however, come without its share of potentially damaging experiences for some. There should be no presumption regarding the emotional thresholds of our brothers and sisters in arms. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

I have met some of the greatest people, of which I am proud to call my fellow veterans, who have seemingly endured much greater emotional struggles in capacities nowhere in the proximity of a battlefield. Holding others to a standard simply because some of us may have passed through seemingly unscathed does an incredible disservice to all parties involved, and it is cause for the alienation of those most in need of a welcoming and tight-knit community.

When transitioning, it is imperative that we bear this in mind, lest we lose compassion for our teammates.

The veteran community is our team on the outside. Let’s make the commitment to each other early on. 

- Written by Mario Romero