In the game of poker the strongest hand you can have is the royal flush, if you are not a poker player a royal flush consists of a Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace all of the same suit, e.g. diamonds, spades, hearts, or clubs. I am not an active card player, but I can tell you when it comes to healing my mental health I now hold a royal flush in my hand.
Back in 2013 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and I was also diagnosed with Asthma around the same time which forced me to give up my one true passion of firefighting. Giving up firefighting cast me into the darkness of the mental health world, which if any of you have ever been there you know it’s not a fun place to be.
As I was searching for a way to heal myself and get my life back on track I stumbled across the agriculture industry and more so the agriculture podcasts. It’s through these podcasts that my journey to healing myself began. At my lowest point of my mental health crisis I didn’t know where to turn for help, I didn’t know how to fix myself. I was afraid to tell anyone about my problem and how I was feeling, I also felt so alone and isolated, I had no clue that there were other people that had gone through what I was going through, I truly just thought this was something I needed to figure out on my own.
Enter in my Ten of hearts, good old Rob Sharkey. Through Rob’s vast empire of Podcasts and Radio shows, I started to discover that there are others just like me. I would listen to his podcasts and to the people telling their stories and it blew my mind how much I could relate to these people. It was the first time I began to see a sign of hope, maybe there was a way out of this mess.
Along comes my Jack of hearts, Lesley Kelly. Through Rob Sharkey I discovered probably the happiest and most cheerful person I have ever met. Lesley is a walking and talking encyclopedia when it comes to mental health awareness, the work that Lesley is doing to shed light on mental health especially in the agriculture industry is just something that warmed my heart. She has a way of putting a mind at ease that together we can all get through this.
After I had spent some time listening to Rob and Lesley banter back and forth on the podcasts I really started to feel myself turn around, that light at the end of this very dark tunnel called mental health was getting brighter. I reached a plateau where I was feeling better, but I was still not 100 percent right. Not knowing anything about mental health I thought well maybe this is as good as it gets. I thought maybe I will never reach the level of happiness I once had, I was just happy to not be where I was a few months before.
As I am dredging through my day to day routine I meet what I call my Queen of hearts, Mr. Jason Medows. For those of you who don’t know Jason he is the host of the Ag State of Mind podcast. I found his podcast because I saw a social media post that he was going to have Lesley Kelly on as his guest. I knew if his show was good enough for Lesley Kelly to be on it I for sure had to check it out. Folks let me tell you, his podcast is absolutely phenomenal, it is so easy to listen too, it’s informative and it’s structured well. His podcast lit a spark in me that got me excited about life again. Many of Jason’s guests were people that in some form or fashion had dealt with mental health and I found myself really relating to what these people were saying.
Then came along the day that changed my life, it’s the day I met my King of hearts, the one and only Jeff Ditzenberger. Jeff was a guest on the Ag State of Mind podcast, and let me tell you, listening to Jeff speak lit the largest wild fire in my soul that got me headed back to being on top of my game. Jeff’s story moved me so much that I decided to reach out to Jeff. Jeff and I talked a little and found out we both have a ton of stuff in common, both had been volunteer firefighters, both liked the 49ers, both had been in the military, and to tell the truth both pretty darn good looking guys, or at least we seem to think so, I will get back to Jeff in a minute.
Where I came from in Northern California you could join the volunteer fire dept at the age of 16, there were a few restrictions we could not do until we were 18, but for the most part we were allowed to do most things the regular firefighters got to do. One day when I was about 17 years old I responded to a rescue call at the local laundry mat for a 6 year old child that was unresponsive in the back of a van. We arrived and immediately began CPR on this child, the child only weighed 18 pounds due to the mother had been a heavy drug user during the pregnancy. I scooped up the child in my arms and carried it to the waiting ambulance. The child was rushed to the hospital but unfortunately the child did not survive. The local coroner took the child as evidence due to the child had burn marks on his chest, they suspect the mother had tortured the child, this weighed very heavy on my mind especially being I was only 17 years old, it was one of my first exposures to how cruel life can be sometimes.
Well this call has haunted me for over 28 years, after the night that I had first talked to Jeff Ditzenberger I was sitting in my front room reflecting on my life and this vision came to me, it was that little boy and he looked at me and said “Thank you for caring for me”. At this point I just lose it, I am sitting there sobbing almost uncontrollably, but yet I felt this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, even though I could not save that kid it meant the world to me that he knew I tried. For the next few days I mulled over what had happened, I wanted to tell Jeff that I felt because of our paths crossing that this kid found me, but would he think I am some sort of weirdo, then I remembered what Jeff said in his podcast with Jason, you have to tell your story, if people don’t like you then so be it. So I messaged Jeff and it turned out he didn’t think I was a complete whack job.
By now I am feeling like the old me, I am happy again, I am feeling better than I have felt in years, I had finally reached a plateau I never thought I would see again and that’s when I met my Ace of Hearts, the final card in my royal flush, a woman that probably needs no introduction, it’s the most amazing Bridgette Readel. As I continued on my journey to cure my mental health I became so fascinated about learning as much as I could about the agricultural industry, and of course I had so many questions. I found Bridgette through social media and had listened to her story on one of the Sharkfarmer shows. I reached out to Bridgette to ask her some questions about agriculture related items. Bridgette was one of the most welcoming people I have ever met, she has taken me under her wing and has always been there to answer my questions, Bridgette is truly a living wealth of agriculture information and she is a wonderful teacher when it comes to educating me on anything I can think of.
So these 5 amazing souls are what I refer to as my royal flush, with what I have learned and gained from these 5 people I now hold the best poker hand a person could have, I am now all in and ready to call life’s bluff.