How did I get to this point? The initial training to become a SEAL is about 9–12 months and is geared towards putting the body and mind into a sense of constant battle. Week five of training is Hellweek with 5?1?2 days of no sleep, wet and sandy conditions, and near constant “exercise,” often pushing the edge of hypothermia. Through this week, seven men carry a zodiac boat on their heads when moving about. The constant bouncing puts a large strain on their necks. When the week is done, their legs are swollen twice as large as usual from the fluids in their bodies that usually balance while sleeping. The men look like they have been tortured for a week. They have open sores where sand has rubbed away their skin and they can barely walk. This is only one week of roughly a year of SEAL training, though it was not my toughest week. The biggest issue for the body is there is never a time?—?or even the intention?—?to recover. This rigorous training is designed to break down the body so soldiers will fight harder to be faster and stronger. You would think when you got to the SEAL Teams that training would spend more time in recovery but that’s not the case. Training in small tactical teams requires you to work together, and you never really slow down. You are now a professional and it is expected of you to push new boundaries on a weekly basis. You aren’t afforded the time the body needs to return to a state of stasis, or even the time to think about needing recovery. After training, SEALs are deployed to war zones and expected to perform at levels far surpassing what training ever mimicked. During my first mission in Afghanistan we were dropped off on a mountainside by a helo that landed so hard, the five of us rolled out the back and onto the ground. When I got up my ankle was sprained, and I hiked all night with a 120 lb pack to our mission location. There is no stopping, no quitting. You have to complete all tasks, no matter what it takes
I finished my service by deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq. I was 6’3” and 250 lbs of muscle (I weigh 207 lbs now). On occasion, I had to get shots of Toradol, a strong painkiller, into my neck just to get through a mission. During our first mission in Iraq, I was weighed with my gear to see how many guys can fit on a helo. I was 425 lbs, this was a light load built for moving quickly. It consisted of only the essentials?—?body armor, a gun, bullets, a helmet, and a pack containing a radio and tools. The constant weight and output?—?all part of being an elite soldier? —?was slowly twisting my body.On this particular mission, I was running around an oil field handling responsibilities for three hours in the middle of a massive firefight, all the while in a haze from the painkillers. Planes were firing on positions all around us as a full battle raged on all sides. When I finished all my tasks, I sat down on the ground by a hut and passed out for 30 minutes sitting up. Taking a painkiller-induced nap is unreal when explosions and bullets are creating an opera around you. I was out of it and just doing whatever it took to keep my body moving forward because opting out of the mission wasn’t an option.
When I got home from the wars I was in serious daily pain. I had a very visible neck tick every four seconds, and I was only sleeping about four hours a night before the pain was too much to rest anymore. I have many other battle-related issues to this day, but the blinding headaches I was suffering made the other things seem trivial. The VA hospital takes care of its wounded the best way it knows how, and I went to every kind of doctor they could think of. When I had seen them all, I started going back through the same cycle of doctors. After two and a half years of steady hospital visits, my primary doctor sensed my never ending tenacity to find a cure. He told me that most people with undiagnosable pain never find a cure. They are on a life long mission to manage pain with whatever medications serve them best. At that point, I mostly gave up on medical care. For the next four years, I took pills, adjusted my habits when the pain was excessive and took the bad days with the good.
A few months ago my roommate brought home a copy of Healing Our World magazine, showing me the full-page ad where Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI) offered scholarships to Iraq/Afg Vets. The year before I had researched the raw lifestyle and healing centers, as my mother was fighting cancer. I regularly fasted, grew my own food and was surrounded by peers who work in or subscribe to the tenets of alternative and holistic healing. Hippocrates seemed perfect for me. I wrote to the institute and HHI welcomed me, offering me a scholarship.
I can’t be grateful enough that the Hippocrates staff has given me this opportunity to heal myself free of charge at their beautiful campus. Opportunities like this are not common in my life. HHI offered their Life Change Program to me simply because they want to give something back to the Vets who served and now can’t find healing. I was touched. Vets get plenty of thanks but it’s rare for institutions to put their money where their mouth is.
When I arrived for the Life Change Program, I had three days of my usual headaches. I’m finishing up my three weeks here and I haven’t had a single headache since those first few days, which is unheard of for me. To test the parameters of my healing, I have tried a few times to give myself a headache through activities that had always caused them. I just can’t get a headache now, even when I try. I had been taking Motrin for my headaches (before I got to Hippocrates) to reduce inflammation. Instead of using drugs, HHI has shown me how to remove inflammatory foods from my diet. I also received many therapies and treatments here to support my healing. Once I get home, I have a baseline for health that I know I must follow to keep my pain from returning.
I’ve learned that the cycle of doctors and medication that are the “norm” in our society are less about curing an ailment than finding a way to mask its symptoms. I believe we have to walk the harder road, taking responsibility for our own health, and not expect that a pill or a hospital visit will solve our problems. My health is not going to come from the hospital or drug store, and I really get that now. I fell into the trap of expecting others to manage my health, though in every other facet of my life I had taken full responsibility for my journey. I’ve been diligent with my yoga this year. I kept it up five days a week at Hippocrates and intend to maintain this pace for at least a year to reawaken my mobility. I’m also going to take this living food knowledge home, share it with my family, and take responsibility for my own healing.
Vol 31 Issue 1 Page 34