“Following a rape in the military, I tried to master the art of avoiding what I was feeling for several years. In reality, I was displaying symptoms of emotional suffering and I did not ask for help. My personality begun to change as I worked myself to the point of exhaustion through demanding projects, extensive traveling, and a Master’s program. All the while, I was trying to spend as much time with my children as possible. I thought the busy schedule allowed me to not address the unresolved issues the rape caused me.
I felt alone and hopeless. I did not think anyone cared. I even met with a friend trying to find the courage to ask for help, but my friend did not see my pain. I began to engage in risky behavior. I took large doses of the Ativan and Valium prescribed to me. Additionally, I drank wine along with the medication. As a result, I found myself in the Emergency Room, near death with my husband by my side. I was very lucky the medical staff was able to save me. I overdosed twice more after this initial episode. Since then, I have received help and I want to tell my story to encourage others to seek help as well if they are suffering emotionally.
Everyone can benefit from understanding and applying the Five Signs. I am confident that my friend, with no formal mental health training, could have recognized the symptoms of emotional suffering had the Five Signs existed. As a Chapter Captain for Team Red, White and Blue as well as a clinician at Bacon Street Youth and Family Services, these Five Signs helped me to get those in need help quickly. Knowing the Five Signs and educating our military communities will help reduce the risk of suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. Most importantly, it provides military communities a very accessible, affordable and safe tool to use.”
“I believed if I kept myself busy, served others, ran races, and continued my education that I would feel better, fill the void, and that would make me a better mother and wife,” Renee said. “But exactly the opposite happened. I ended up exhausted and disconnected. This exacerbated the symptoms of my PTSD which directly affected my ability to function. I couldn’t complete tasks. I constantly felt like a failure. I struggled with my emotions and felt lost.”
Renee discovered yoga and began to rely more on mindfulness as well as her spirituality to guide her out of her darkness. She pursued and achieved multiple Yoga certifications. Renee has been featured in Yoga International and is recognized in Yoga circles worldwide. As a certified Yoga Alliance instructor and wellness coach, Renee said that acceptance of her emotions was also key to her moving to a happier place in her life.
“When I started to realize that it was okay to not be false-positive all the time and to feel emotions like shame, guilt, sadness, and anger, that’s when the healing began,” Renee said. “I learned to let go of the things, people, and environments that were unhealthy for me. I began to feel empowered, clearer, and healthier both physically and mentally.”
“Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act,” she said. “It guides us on how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. We need to teach our children and families how to cope with stress and not shame them. We need to allow them to feel natural emotions and address them in a healthy manner not just view them as good or bad or they will not develop the capability and skills to deal with the experiences in their lives.”
Renee is an example of how mental health can have an impact on one’s entire life, either good or bad, and now she works toward helping others in similar situations. That is why Renee, along with her husband, Joe Davis, founded the organization Sustaining Youth & Families, LLC. The Wyoming-based organization takes a holistic approach to mental wellness providing service nationally. Sustaining Youth & Families, LLC provides health counseling, consulting, education, yoga lessons, fitness training and outdoor adventure programs as outlets for individuals affected by mental illness, particularly military families, at-risk youth, and those with special needs. The goal is to help prevent people from falling through the cracks left by other available services. Her experience as a certified K-12 teacher enhances her ability to connect with and understand children and teens needing someone to reach out to.
“If you know someone who has mental health issues, listen to them,” Renee said. “Be there for them without expectations and judgment and help them find resources. If you can’t support them, then step away and help them find someone who can. Don’t just blow them off.”
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