Suffering with PTSD from fighting in the War in Iraq, former marine Manny Marrero, OTR/L shares his story of recovery. Everyone has experienced some form of trauma. And we may need help to adapt once we’re in a safe and better place. This is the 1st part of his interview.
Manny received his master’s degree in occupational therapy from Bay Path University in Massachusetts. He’s currently an MBA candidate at Boston university’s Questrom school of business. He has a mental health occupational therapist at Cape Cod Healthcare and a yoga instructor.
Manny Marrero: https://www.instagram.com/manny_marrero
Free Worksheet: https://www.YourTruthRevealed.com/listen
Tribe book: https://tinyurl.com/yvxjyh8y
1. What is your role and how do you help people?
· Mental Health Occupational Therapist. Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Trauma Informed Care, Sensory Modulation, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, work for NAMI.
· Vulnerability is a sign of strength and not of weakness. Lack of insight and awareness as to what is out there. Especially men, it’s time to say that you need help. It’s okay to be vulnerable say that you’re struggling. It was me at one point.
2. What is your personal journey with PTSD?
· Marine Corps 2001 – 2009. 4 years active duty. My first day of boot camp was just before 9/11. At 18 years old I was in the war zone at the Iraq-Kuwait border. I was in the front lines for 7 months in intense combat.
· I returned to California and didn’t have time to process. Went back into training. In 2007, I was deployed to Falluja in Iraq for 8 months. I lost my friend, which hit me hard. After I left the marines, I wasn’t sleeping well and had anxiety all the time.
· I didn’t know about PTSD and there was more stigma then. The marines weren’t concerned about mental health.
· At 22 years old, I was on active duty and drifting as a civilian. Self-medicating with alcohol, in toxic relationships, reckless and impulsive. I struggled from 2005 – 2009. Was dating my now wife who was studying psychology. She said I had PTSD yet I was in denial. I later told the VA that I needed help.
· I was in therapy for a year and stopped drinking. I gained insight and self-awareness. I had been blaming yourself and felt broken in some way, thinking I’d never get better. I did the inner work and researched. Medications helped for a small period of time. Then I did yoga, exercise, medication, and mindfulness. I went to a veteran silent retreat. This helped me cope and be more mindful, kind, and gentle to myself and then to others. People started to notice a difference.
· I finished college, whereas before I failed out. I graduated top of my class. I went to graduate school for OT and graduated top of my class. Now I’m getting my MBA.
How do you define PTSD?
· PTSD is a natural response to unnatural events.
· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.
· Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
· If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.
· Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better.
· Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.
What would you like men and specifically veterans to know?
· We all suffer, it’s the human condition. Many suffer in silence. But there are solutions to problems we face, there are resources and programs. Like occupational therapy, NAMI, counseling, medications, and yoga.
· Mindfulness – once you have awareness of thinking and behaviors, use awareness to make changes. Respond verses react. People are surprised that they have inner resources and can access it. Change the way they think, habits, and routine.
· I see men from 15 – 85 years and older. Men are taught not to be vulnerable or show emotions. Conditioning. There is a different way of looking at things, reframing. Take good care of yourself. Everyone wants to feel good and belong. It’s a big task to change this conditioning.
· I still see a therapist once a month, it’s ongoing. Every therapist needs a therapist. Hear traumatic things. Depression and anxiety have a toll on us.
Tell me more about occupational therapy.
· Occupational therapy began in mental health. It started at state hospitals during WWII.
· Patients were locked up and some getting worse. Performed case studies on patients who were provided occupations like crafts, cooking, and things that occupy them increased their wellness. Lifted depression and anxiety.
· They wanted to create a professional that can provide this. Brought a nurse and social worker together. Provide occupations to get people engaged in meaningful activities. New roles.
· Feel purpose and meaning. Listen to what’s important to them. What work do you care about it? What are the barriers to these meaningful activities? Routine, organization, and coping strategies. Participate in their lives more.