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How To Overcome Trauma And Thrive | Kelsi Sheren

Episode 51, duration 1 hr and 41 mins
Episode 51

How To Overcome Trauma And Thrive | Kelsi Sheren

Kelsi is the CEO of Brass & Unity and author of “Brass and Unity, one woman’s journey through the hell of Afghanistan”. She is a Canadian veteran who served as an Artillery Gunner & CST in Afghanistan in 2009 with the Canadian, American and British military. After deploying to Afghanistan at 19, Kelsi was diagnosed with PTSD & TBI and sent home only to begin a new war—the war with herself. Kelsi is also a coach within the psychedelic integration space and specialized in motivation, leadership and entrepreneurship.

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In this episode we discuss:
• Turning trauma into success
• Do psychedelic treatments work?
• How trauma can be both mental and physical
• How can you heal from PTSD?

00:00:00 Introduction

00:02:44 Sharon on The Ellen Interview

00:03:02 Why Join the Military?

00:09:38 Did You Want to Go to War?

00:11:52 Stepping Off The Plane

00:12:49 TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

00:18:58 The Symptoms

00:19:41 Was This The Right Decision?

00:23:58 What To Do About Women

00:29:46 The Day I Stopped Breathing

00:34:50 TBI and Blast Waves

00:42:22 Post-traumatic stress disorder in the army

00:45:37 Alternatives to SSRIs

00:52:20 Other Medications

01:04:06 More Bad Days than Good

01:07:48 Ayahuasca

01:12:34 The Healing Process

01:24:15 Are We Meant to Heal?

01:25:44 Playing God

01:29:20 There’s a Lot of Beauty in Afghanistan

01:33:16 Post-Traumatic Growth Advice

01:37:01 Stop Doing This

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SPEAKERS

Kelsi Sheren, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:00:01]          

Welcome to the Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show where I believe a healthy world is based on transparent conversations. In today’s episode of The Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show, I sit down with a very compelling, Kelsi Sheren. We talk about her new book, Brass & Unity: One Woman’s Journey Through the Hell of Afghanistan. She is a Canadian veteran, who by the way, served as an artillery gunner in Afghanistan at 19 years old in 2009 with the Canadian, American, and British military. This was not her first battle. As a child, she was a competitive taekwondo champion from the ages of 4 to 19. She holds a second-degree black belt and national champion. After deploying to Afghanistan at 19, Kelsi was diagnosed with PTSD and TBI, sent home to wage a new war, and that war was within herself. She is a coach within the psychedelic integration space, and she specializes in no surprise, leadership.

We talk about PTS and PTSD, the use of psychedelics in healing, and how to turn trauma into success. She is doing amazing work. She supports veterans. She is going to single-handedly contribute to stopping suicide with our veteran population. I know that she’s highly motivated. Let’s all give her some support. So listen, comment, rate, and share this with a friend. Let’s dive in.

Thank you to LMNT for sponsoring this episode of the show. I am a huge fan of LMNT. It is an electrolyte product, and it has little tiny packets that you can throw into your bag. It has 1000 milligrams of sodium, 200 milligrams of potassium, and 60 milligrams of magnesium. It is hot here in Houston, and I tell you what, I’m sweating a lot. that’s kind of embarrassing to say, but it’s true. I am using element at least twice a day. It is really helping my recovery. It’s helping my training. It’s helping my energy. We love this product. Big into grapefruit these days, I’m actually mixing the grapefruit with unsweetened iced tea. It’s amazing. You can get your sample packs. You can get three sample packs to try eight different flavors by heading on over to drinklmnt.com/drlyon. You can order your grapefruit, and you’ll also get an eight-flavor sample pack, which I love. I actually put the entire sleeve in my bag so I always have some. Great product. Love it. If you are a longtime listener of the podcast, you know that I’ve been supporting LMNT for quite some time. It’s a great product and I know that you’re going to love it and especially during summer. So drinklmnt.com/drlyon.

Now a word from our sponsor BetterHelp. I can’t think of a better sponsor for this episode of the show. Mental health is critical. It is something that must be supported. If you understand what is going on in your mind and even if you don’t, it’s critical to have a teammate to work through it. You take care of your body, you have to take care of your mind. There are plenty of ways to support a healthy brain and a healthy experience. This is one reason why I strongly encourage you to go to BetterHelp, betterhelp.com/drlyon. BetterHelp is online therapy that offers videos, phone, even live chat therapy sessions. You don’t have to see anyone on camera if you don’t want to. It’s much more affordable than in-person therapy. You will be matched with a therapist in under 48 hours. If this podcast episode is resonating deeply with you, if you have had trauma, if you have something that has been pushed under the rug, please do not wait. Reach out. Head on over to betterhelp.com/drlyon. Our listeners get 10% off their first month, truly incredible. I strongly recommend you check it out. And I think that this is a really good thing.

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Kelsi Sheren, thank you so much for being here.

Kelsi Sheren [0:04:48]

Thank you for having me.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:04:51]

This just worked out perfectly. I can’t even believe it.

Kelsi Sheren [0:04:55]

Neither could I. I was shocked. I’m not going to lie, when I reached out to you to have you on the show, and we started talking, you’re like, if you’re out here in Houston. I’m like, I’m in Houston next week.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:05:03]

And here we are. I love this show for two reasons. Number one, I get to bring on world experts in their field. And number two, I get to bring on people that are extremely unique, that have had experiences that are incredibly rare, and then become experts within that domain of experience. You are one of those people.

Kelsi Sheren [0:05:31]

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that before. But I’m really excited about it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:05:34]

How many female podcasts have you done?

Kelsi Sheren [0:05:35]

None. Like one?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:05:41]

You are uniquely positioned to talk about things that nobody else is?

Kelsi Sheren [0:05:47]

I believe so.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:05:48]

Are you ready for this? The listeners on the edge of their seat? I know it. 19 years old, female at war, a gunner in a combat zone. You were in, I believe, multiple places, but you were in Afghanistan. Talk to me about how you got there, what it was like, and I have tons of questions in between. But I am so grateful for you to be able to share this because we have both listeners. We have military, non-military, health care professionals, people that are struggling, people that really want to remove any physical obstacle. And that’s where you come in. Because you’ve actually been in the trenches in a way that is astounding.

Kelsi Sheren [0:06:37]

Well, thank you. That’s very kind of you to word it in that manner. I don’t know that I’ve heard anybody describe it that way. But that is on the outside, that is the reality. And for others, especially the American listeners, because I’m not quite sure of your base, but for the American listeners, the reason it was a big deal that I was the woman and doing the job was because until I believe 2015, Canada was one of the only countries that allowed women to go into combat on roles where it was infantry, artillery, or armored and or EOD. And so for me, when I got that opportunity to ultimately go and deploy, I was the only female on the guns that was just by design. And just because, to be honest, I preferred it that way. I was a tomboy. I said on a recent show that if I were a teenager, this day and age, there would be serious questions about my gender. Because my hair was an inch short. I wore snapped tearaway pants slides, and I was in taekwondo 24/7. So we all question what was going on with me. But really what it was was this, I never really knew myself, I never really understood what I wanted to do in my life, I didn’t have a plan to go to university or college and then have a degree in XY and Z and find a purpose that way. I never had that feeling.

The Olympic path was the goal. I was a taekwondo fighter since I was four years old, and that path was ripped away from me out of my own. It was not my decision; my coach made a very poor decision to sexually assault my teammate for two years and ultimately was put in jail. The person I trusted, the male figure, the dominant in my life, who might even lived with at a point during training, ripped those life plans and goals away from me. At that point, I went to college. I pivoted, obviously was an angry little teenager as most females are, depending on if they find their– let’s be honest with ourselves. It’s so funny. Girls are ruthless, and when they’re young, and so if they’re uncomfortable that they don’t know themselves. They lash out a lot of times, there’s just that fear that’s baked in. For me, at least it was.

When I left high school and went to college, that was in 2007. At that point, I never planned to go to the military. I didn’t have military family. This was not in the lineage. We knew about the Afghan war going on. Canada at this point was involved. We had just been switching from more of a United Nations figure over there to more of an ISAF role, so run and gun like the rest of the Americans, and they needed individuals. I met a lady on a bus coming back from Remembrance Day, which is your Veterans Day. You say Happy Veterans Day, we say it’s Remembrance Day. It’s a day of remembrance. We wear the red poppy like the British, and so it’s not a celebratory thing for us. I met this lady, and it was the moment where it was the fork in the road that sparked what was the decision going to be? Was it going to be the impact, or was I going to stay in college? I felt a pull to her, and I had a conversation with her and so much so that it drove the decision, which ultimately impacted my entire existence.

I got off that bus. I decided college wasn’t for me. I quit college. I found a recruiter’s office. I walked in and said, I want to join the military. I want to be on the front lines. The recruiters like, oh, I mean, I don’t know that you know what you’re saying, but hey, we need people. I was 18. My mom and dad are thinking, I’m here in college. I’m playing soccer. I’m doing this thing, but really, I’m joining the army to go to Afghanistan. They needed people, so they took my docket we went through. I ended up being sworn in. Within a couple months, I was in basic training by that January of 2008. I did basic [SQDP1? 0:10:13], so weapons handling and then trade-specific training, which is artillery. And then at that point, I got posted to the regiment that I was going to deploy to Afghanistan with in September of 2008.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:10:23]

How long was that train-up period?

Kelsi Sheren [0:10:26]

So basic training, I’m not sure if it’s 12 or 13 weeks. That’s your basic soldiering. That’s where you learn to march. That’s where you learn the rules. That’s where you learn military etiquette, everything along those lines. And then I went to a four-week [SQ? 0:10:39], which is your grenades, your rocket launchers, your cargo stuffs, your mortars, all of those weapon systems, that you would use your C7, your CH, your machine guns. You guys call them something different. You call them saws, or you call them like M16s. There’s different names for every country. It’s the same sort of stuff. You throw the grenade, it goes, boom, we all do it. And then we did trade-specific training. So that was when we started to run the artillery guns, which at the time for training were 105-millimeter howitzers. But in Afghanistan were 777s, 155-millimeter howitzers, a little very different, big boom, little-ish boom. We did that training, and by that point, that was August and I was posted in September.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:11:21]

So a total of training-specific was for more than four weeks or only four weeks?

Kelsi Sheren [0:11:27]

Trade-specific was only four weeks.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:11:29]

Okay. And for the listener, that is an extremely short amount of time to be put in combat. Just to give you an example we were talking before this, my husband was a SEAL for 10 years. He trained up three and a half years before he would deploy.

Kelsi Sheren [0:11:46]

Isn’t that insane when you think about it?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:11:47]

Three and a half years from beginning to end. And you were 19 when you went to war?

Kelsi Sheren [0:11:54]

Yes.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:11:54]

Four weeks of training.

Kelsi Sheren [0:11:56]

On the artillery gun. The basic training, learning the rifle, learning how to shoot it, that’s 12 to 13. Yeah, four weeks of like, hey, you’re an artillery gunner. This is your trade-specific training. Once we got to the regiment, the next kicker for me was I’m an English-speaking Canadian. My first language is English. I got posted to an all-French first language unit.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:12:20]

So you used Rosetta Stone? I’m just kidding.

Kelsi Sheren [0:12:22]

I didn’t. I literally did not. I stood there and would ask repeated questions to my sergeant. I would say, [FRENCH 0:12:30]. I would ask him like a dictionary, and I would just keep asking him to translate, and I would pick up little words here and there. And then I’m like, oh, kind of hurt a part of sentence. It was Frenglish for me for a long time. Then I learned the remote weapon system. I was the remote weapon system gunner in the turret for the T Labs, so I learned those in French. I learned the mortars in French. I had to go learn all the weapons system I just learned in English, I had to go learn them all in French. By that point, we did a couple weeks of work up in Wainwright, and then we did another week in Texas down here. I think it was Fort Hood of Fort Worth. We deployed in April of 2009.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:13:09]

Were you excited to go to war?

Kelsi Sheren [0:13:11]

Absolutely. I hate when anybody sits there, and says, now looking back, it’s like– you were excited. You know why you were excited? Because the media made us excited. The world wanted us to go fight this faceless enemy that if we went there, they would not come here. And that is where the perception changes after you actually go there.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:13:31]

What happened when you got off the plane, and here you are? Were you in other places other than Afghanistan, or that was the primary?

Kelsi Sheren [0:13:39]

In Afghanistan, we had a stopover point on the way to Afghanistan, it was a base within a base. That’s in a different country. That’s where we would fly in and do three days before we went, we got our kit, we got our plates, we got everything. Then we got on the Herc, and then we flew the five hours to Afghan.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:13:55]

What did you feel? Do you remember what you felt when you first step off the plane?

Kelsi Sheren [0:13:58]

It’s really funny that you asked me that, no one’s asked me that. It is a feeling that I’ll always remember. It was the moment of, oh my god, the realization of the decision I just made was a reality, and I was here. It felt like you were walking into a hairdryer. It hit every sense; it hit the sound with the hurc, it hit the heat with the temperature, it hit the ground when you stepped off just like thud. The reality of the decision that I chose to make at 18 was now here. It slapped me in the face. And I don’t know that all of a sudden, I was numb at that point to the weight of where I was or I was so excited that fight or flight had already kicked on and I could not differentiate what I was truly feeling if I was fearful or if I was just genuinely very excited.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:14:49]

Probably a mix of both. I have a question, when you left your taekwondo training, and that was very significant, traumatic event around sexual abuse with your teammate, do you think that there was initial trauma there prior to going to Afghanistan that primed you for an experience? You had a handful of weeks to prepare, probably didn’t know what you’re getting into, do you think that there was priming from that taekwondo experience of the sexual assault with your teammate?

Kelsi Sheren [0:15:23]

I think number one, that’s a super accurate assessment. I believe that childhood trauma impacts most people. We all do what we do because of some reason or not. I know, when I look back, and I’m able to draw dots, I know for a fact, based off of how my behavior was as a teenager, the rage that I felt, I know how much of an impact it had on my life, but not until much later in my life. I did get back into fighting when I joined the military, and I fought the US Open for my last fight. At that point, I realized the amount of damage I have done to my body with the weight loss and the having to maintain a certain body type, it affected my hormones, when I got a period, how I developed, my height; it affected a lot of things. I fully understood later in life, how much of an impact not only psychologically, but from a physiological standpoint, taekwondo really did. That’s not saying all taekwondo, but the level I was at and the commitment I put into it, the two a days for most of my life, it had a fairly overarching impact on my existence now as an adult.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:16:28]

Then fast forward, you get to Afghanistan, you get into this microwave heat.

 Kelsi Sheren [0:16:34]

It’s so hot.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:16:35]

That’s what I hear, so hot, lots of sand and probably greenery too, by the way.

Kelsi Sheren [0:16:41]

I didn’t see much greenery, so I’m going to go with the sand comment.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:16:46]

Your first event where there was substantial trauma, what was that? The reason I’m asking you these questions is again, the listener, when we think about trauma, and we’ll define what PTSD is, what PTS is, and what the criteria is for, because I do think that it’s really important to have a commonality in our language. And also, you are such a huge advocate for mental health and suicide prevention, which is one reason well, one of many reasons why I was so excited to bring you on. Because as a provider, I can say, well, here’s the medication. Here’s the plan. Here’s the CBT strategy we’re going to use, but I haven’t been in the shoes of the patient.

Kelsi Sheren [0:17:34]

I’m really glad how you are defining it because you hear the commonality nowadays. Oh, I have PTSD from this. I have PTSD from this. I have a TBI from this. The reality is there’s a criteria that has to be met. Unfortunately, when you’re looking at post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, they share 11 of the 13 commonalities. What we see in the community, and at least what I’ve started to see, is a lot of the initial assessments with PTSD being the diagnoses, you’re seeing individuals getting the cart put before the horse, and then things are being missed in such a drastic way that TBIs are going unnoticed. Now you’re seeing all of a sudden, an incredibly high spike in the suicide rate. Well okay, yeah, of course, gee, watch over, this has been going on long enough. You’re starting to see and understand there’s delays into how traumatic brain injury starts to show up. The amount that people have struggled up to this point, and then if their testosterone bottoms out all of a sudden, the level of depression that comes in, the inability to handle that depression because maybe that individual never really felt that side of the depression of the PTS, but they’re feeling it here, they’re not able to cope with it or wrap themselves around it. We’re seeing a spike like we’ve never seen before. I do wonder if it is the delayed onset.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:18:51]

You’re right. Are you ready? I’m about to throw some neurology information on the table. There are blast waves that happen. They have seen, and this is some new data from a recent neurology convention, don’t ask me how I know it. I’ll refrain from other kinds of jokes. But there’s a blast wave that happens. The testicular tissue doesn’t show trauma, shows no trauma. It looks perfectly fine from an anatomical, from an ultrasound perspective, from everything. Weeks, months, years later, they show no sperm count, non-functioning testicular tissue, and ultimately, low testosterone, but no overt sign of injury. While we’re focused in special operations, and we’re focused on low levels of testosterone as to is it just the quote, allostatic load from stress? The blast wave, while affecting the brain also affects reproductive tissue.

 Kelsi Sheren [0:20:00]

The only reason I knew that was because as of recently I was diagnosed with a TBI that went missed. I just did brain treatment for the first time last year.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:20:10]

What kind of brain treatment? 

Kelsi Sheren [0:20:11]

I did everything from TMS to the death machine. I did the entire thing. I would do a lot of work on the vestibular system, really looking at POTS and my dysautonomia because I was the first combat female to be treated at resiliency in Coppell, Texas three degrees of freedom. They were starting to see things differently in me that they weren’t seeing in the male, which was dysautonomia, and POTS, obviously, with things like PCOS and all of that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:20:37]

Can you explain what POTS is, and then we’re going to also for the listener, lay out what TMS, which is that transmagnetic stimulation. So basically, what Kelsi is saying is that she would be awake, but her brainwaves are doing something else.

Kelsi Sheren [0:20:50]

And it’s the best feeling. I’m not going to exaggerate. It’s the best. Why don’t you take POTS, because how they described it to me was very much towards my symptoms, so I think I will.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:21:00]

But what are your symptoms? That’s helpful.

Kelsi Sheren [0:21:01]

For me, I have a lot of vertigo. I have gut issues, balance issues. My vestibular system was off, blood flow issues, which was a huge one for me. And I don’t think people fully understood what happens when you’re being adjusted because people have this perception of chiropractic work. But when you’re utilizing chiropractic work with a patient with dysautonomia, it can be a game changer for blood flow, an absolute game changer. But for me, predominantly, it was looking at the symptoms that were coming from my vestibular system were so significant.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:21:39]

You’re going through treatment and being treated. Let’s go back to kind of the exposures that you had, because that is really, really critical. Your first experience when you got to Afghanistan, can you just briefly take us through leading up to whether it’s the first firefight or the first thing where you potentially question, did I make the right decision? Have you even had that experience?

Kelsi Sheren [0:22:07]

I never questioned whether I made the right decision. Ever.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:22:13]

You’re a fighter by nature.

Kelsi Sheren [0:22:15]

If I’m in it, I’m full in it 100%. That was never the issue. When I was in Afghanistan, we went to an American FOB. My gun troop was put with an American FOB, which meant we fell under different SOPs and rules and regulations than if we were on a Canadian FOB with the Canadians. We were experiencing different things and what you could shoot at and what you couldn’t was very similar to Canadian FOBs. But Americans again, they run a different ship. They’re allowed to use different ammunition on people that were allowed to use. Americans are allowed, they were allowed to use white phosphorus but Canadians were not allowed to shoot white phosphorus. There were those differentiators. But ultimately, because I was in the position I was in, there was a call that came down and a decision that was being made that I was not a part of the conversation. Being a no-hook gunner at the time, why would I be a part of that conversation? Even going to Afghanistan, I had no clue what I was going to actually do other than to pull that lanyard and load that gun.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:23:15]

And you would you would say that most soldiers don’t know.

Kelsi Sheren [0:23:17]

I believe so at a certain point because there’s that conversation of who needs to know. Who needs to know exactly what you’re doing? To what extent do you need to share that information, especially with the lower level soldiers? What would you be causing? Is it more stressful? Are you bringing on more undue necessary overthinking about things? We want them to run. We want them to shoot. We don’t want them to question what they’re doing. For me, it came down that I was going to go with the British. I was going to be picked up off of the 777s from my unit and be taken to the Black Watch in the 3rd Scott battalion, and I was going to go with them on an operation on foot outside the wire. I was going to be what you now call your CST, your cultural support team. At the time, all it meant for me was when we kicked the door open, I go to the women and kids, and I move them into a separate room, and then I search them.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:24:04]

Was it because you were a female?

Kelsi Sheren [0:24:06]

A hundred percent.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:24:07]

How many females were you with at the time, how many female soldiers?

Kelsi Sheren [0:24:12]

In my FOB, I had one officer but she’s in comms, but we don’t overlap.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:24:21]

How many individuals in the unit? Just to give a visual, are there, I don’t know if you call it a platoon, are there are 20 guys in the platoon and one female? Are there eight guys going on the op and you?

Kelsi Sheren [0:24:31]

When I was with the British, I had no clue to the extent how many soldiers I would be working with. What was being told to me or described to me was we don’t really use the female very much. The women and children normally flee. We don’t have a reason to pull them up. I’m very similar to somebody with the bomb dog or a medic. There’s only one or two of you, so you don’t necessarily go kick the door and because we need the one or two of you that you we have to be alive. So I wouldn’t do the night patrol, meaning I wouldn’t sit on the roof, like those types of things until I was on the roof when it was necessary.

When I went with the British, again, I wasn’t given any directive. It was, your job is to go. When we kick those doors open, go get the women and kids and move them quickly. Do it as fast as possible. I did not have somebody technically in command of me. My job was they said, what you need, Kelsi, we’re here to do for you. So you tell us, I need you to block the door, you need to do this, we’re there for you. That was the first time I was given my own control as a no-hook gunner with zero experience outside the wire on a job I was not trained to do. Fortunately, my sergeant at the time before we deployed had been infantry and was like, we’re going to do a little more training. I got dialed in on house clearing and door kicking. I got dialed in on how to run and shoot with a rifle. It’s the reason I didn’t get shot, pretty much, is because I was given extra training because he wanted to make sure.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:26:00]

When you went in to see the women and children, were you dressed in traditional female–

Kelsi Sheren [0:26:06]

No.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:26:06]

So you were in a full kit?

Kelsi Sheren [0:26:07]

Full kit.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:26:09]

They technically wouldn’t even know if you were a woman or not.

 Kelsi Sheren [0:26:12]

That was part of the problem at the first compound. We got dropped off at 0100 in the middle of the Panjwaii district, pitch black, and we waited till morning prayer. Once morning prayer happened, we kicked our first compound door in. Then I got called up right away. I got called up so quick, and at that point, I made a joke today, at the Marcus Luttrell Show, I said, I got ridden around like bicycle by a bunch of men because the units would shift me from Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and I would go back and forth.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:26:41]

What was the point of having, pardon the interruption, what was the point of having a female move the women and children?

Kelsi Sheren [0:26:47]

Number one, obviously, with the religion, where we try to be respectful. Even though we are at war, we do follow the Geneva Convention, and we do respect others and what they believe in. That means that men cannot see women with their burkas off. They cannot touch children under a certain– there is a respect factor where men cannot be witness of that. But what we understand, and Marcus illustrated beautifully today, was that if we saw women in the room, it was a problem. If the women are staying, that genuinely means most likely they’re involved. The family is involved. They’re not fearful enough of you to leave. They’re not fleeing. They’re good to stay. But what the Taliban al Qaeda got really smart at was they would use women and children to wear vests. They would use them to hide things. If we would find stacks of money, that would be a good indicator that you’re working with somebody. If you’re in a real rural area with no running water, and all of a sudden, you have stacks of cash, it’s an indicator to us that you’re working with somebody we don’t want you to be working with, so they didn’t want us to find it. They would put it with women, but they didn’t normally have a female soldier to search said women.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:27:57]

Did you find anything?

Kelsi Sheren [0:27:58]

All the time.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:28:00]

How did it change your perception of what you were doing? You’re at war, and you’re witnessing this utilization of women and children to hide money, to do things? Were you thinking, or were you just executing?

Kelsi Sheren [0:28:16]

At that time, before things went sideways, I believe I was thinking. I was in my body enough to have rational conversation. I was patient with the women and children. I felt for them. I had empathy, deep empathy. When the children would cry, I would do my best to find a better way of searching them, pretend I was tickling them. I would try to be more of a motherly figure in that way. But looking back now, I, in those children’s eyes, if they’re still alive, will remember the person that came in and took them away from their parents in the middle of the night and started touching them all over. I am the evil that those children will remember, and that is a really hard thing to sit with. I did my best as long as I could to have empathy because could you imagine someone coming into your front door and taking your kids into another room and say nope, you don’t get to come in here. That is the thing of nightmares. When I look back at it, I had empathy until I didn’t. That’s when the firefight starts. That’s when the IED started to go. That’s when the losses started to happen. That’s when the roof situation started to go off. I no longer felt anything. Happiness, sadness, empathy, hate, I was numb.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:29:31]

When?

Kelsi Sheren [0:29:32]

We had a soldier. We were on, I believe it was our second. It was June 11th.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:29:38]

You have a very good memory, by the way.

Kelsi Sheren [0:29:40]

You know, it’s funny, a lot of people call me on it and say that oh, that’s not accurate, and I think it is. I think it’s accurate. I’m pretty sure, and I know dates because dates stick. Trauma sticks. When you have an event it sticks. That event was June 11 at 11 a.m., and we were sitting outside, just up against a compound wall. We were all getting ready to move, and two men had gone forward to clear a route for us. They went down the road. On the left hand side was a like a gray [patch? 0:30:15]. Basically, there’s rectangles cut on the walls, so there’s aeration happening. One individual went in with a metal detector, and he hit, whether he hit it with his foot, or he hit it with the metal detector, but ultimately, there was an IED underneath it, and a fairly large one. That is where we had our first loss. That was the loss that I witnessed, and that was the loss that I executed, meaning I was a participant in collection, and I was a participant in the firefight. I was somebody that helped carry that individual back as much as we could to make sure that we never left anything behind. I did not have gloves on, so at that moment when I started doing collection the way that I was, there was a light switch moment I talked about. I say the light switch because it’s the best way I can illustrate what it feels like when a part of your brain drops a wall for protection. It is like a safe. It’s like, nope, we’re not doing that because we can’t. If we allow those feelings to go through those neurons, we’re not coming back from this.

I remember very distinctly one of the individuals, a platoon sergeant who actually wrote a review in my book, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, are you okay? And I just went, yeah, and then I made a joke, a very aggressive, a very dark joke that I’ve told before and I won’t tell again because people really get angry about it. But that’s the reality when you’re at war. There are dark things that happen, and if you don’t deal with them in your way, it will break every bit of you. That was the situation, and at that point, once we got everything done, the [unclear 0:31:51] flights took off. We had 15 minutes before we were going to roll into the next compound. I had blood on my hands, and I became obsessive with rubbing my hands almost in an OCD fashion trying to get it off, but not being able to.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:32:05]

Conscious or unconscious?

Kelsi Sheren [0:32:07]

Unconscious completely and to the point where the medic came over, and was like, you’re good, you’re good. Here’s some hand sanitizer. I just rubbed and rubbed, and I had the blank long stare happening. I remember because it’s still, to this day, the reason why I cannot eat food with skin on it, or I cannot touch raw meat.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:32:27]

Do you still see those images?

Kelsi Sheren [0:32:29]

Yeah, those are things that I think I’ll see until the day I die.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:32:31]

Even with all the psychedelic treatment and all the internal work that you’ve done.

Kelsi Sheren [0:32:36]

I think you see the images; it’s about how your body responds to those images. If you talk to any other veteran or first responder who has seen something that will mark them for the rest of their lives, I think you’ll always remember. But I think how your body responds will not always be the same. It’s dependent on the work that you do. I know that when I talk about this now, I don’t break down crying. Now when I went on Jocko two years ago, I was hysterical. It was the first time I had said out loud in public some of these things, and I was getting a feedback loop happening with another individual who knew and felt what I had felt because he had felt it too, and there was a feedback loop happening for me. It was a very intense experience. But now when I talk about it, it’s not that it hurts any less, and it’s not that I don’t see it clearly, and I can still smell it, I can still feel it, I can still hear it, it’s not any of those things are gone, is I’ve done so much self-work. I’ve been able to differentiate the feeling from the thought, and how I choose to work on those things has allowed my nervous system to no longer stick in that fight or flight that I lived in for so long.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:33:49]

That’s interesting. They say that the human nervous system regulates through– eyes are an extension of the nervous system, and so there is this regulation between people. That’s so interesting that because Jocko is very stoic and contained, and it’s interesting that there’s another individual there that had potentially experienced the same things, and so their nervous system kicked up. Between the two of you it—

Kelsi Sheren [0:34:18]

I feel things very intensely. I have since I’ve been a little. When I started to do a lot of self-work and really utilize psychedelics to the fullest extent, it opens me up even more. I can feel someone before they even walk in the room, and I can choose to react to it, but now I know how to handle it rather than having such an intense reaction or response. Before it wasn’t a choice. The frontal lobe was not on. It was not working. My executive function control, being able to make those decisions or have conversations without having a cortisol spike, was not a reality because it wasn’t firing. We had nothing going on up there. That was the reason why I could never make a decision, whether it was in business or life or, for god’s sakes, asked me to pack; watch what happens.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:35:09]

Well, packing is pretty rough.

Kelsi Sheren [0:35:12]

I was having disproportionate meltdowns in the closet because I could not make a decision.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:35:19]

All from the trauma that you had experienced?

Kelsi Sheren [0:35:22]

Well now we know the TBI as well. That is the beautiful thing about the blast waves you’re talking about because recently, with my traumatic brain injury, we’ve had to put the claim into Veterans Affairs, and Veterans Affairs Canada and all of the military have come up and showed these studies and these research, and they have the blast waves dialed down to every single weapon that you fire. When you stand beside an M777 155-millimeter Howitzer that shakes the earth, it sends a concussive blast every time you pull that lanyard. Now, if that’s near [HESCO 0:35:50], that concussive blast is going to smash back off and hit you again. That’s what I used to do for a living. So, of course, my brain is rattled. I’m the same height as that barrel. It’s going to smack me in the face. That is what happens when people use rifles inside, too. It’s so much worse in indoor ranges because of the blasts and the coming back.

The thing that has changed so much, though, is the utilization of not only the psychedelics, but in conjunction with the brain treatment and things like ketones. I am a triathlete. I’ve got into that recently, and then I do a lot of road biking. But because my TBI was throwing me off, I was having glucose lows like you would never believe. I’d be eating really, really healthy, lots of meat, lots of water, lots of sleep, very good movement schedule, so I’m not overdoing it, and yet, no matter what I was doing, I was having these glucose lows out of the blue, and they felt horrific. We slapped a monitor on, started checking it, and trying to correlate what was going on. I started using ketones, and I haven’t had any sense. It’s obviously because my heart rate is irregular due to the TBI. I have a higher heart rate. I have some blood pressure issues. I have the things that are going to affect the constant burning. I’m always burning more than other individuals. My resting heart rate is very high.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:37:16]

I know a good doctor for that. I might just bring you into the practice and help you out.

Kelsi Sheren [0:37:21]

Yeah, your little guinea pig, huh?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:37:22]

We do it all the time, slow all that stuff down. How many traumatic events like that did you have? You have this other soldier. You witnessed him get blown up to pieces. You’re collecting the pieces to bring him back because no soldier is left behind. You’re not wearing gloves, and you’re picking him up. Then you’re on to the next thing. There’s no downtime. What is the next event?

Kelsi Sheren [0:37:54]

The next event was an hour later moving from compound to compound into firefights. They knew we were coming. That is the thing. In 2009, it was a very nasty time. There were certain years in Afghanistan that were nasty, and they were strategic. They were taking people out hand over fist with IEDs. IEDs were brilliant tools that could do mass damage, and they did it effectively. They got it down to a science. They were using our garbage to do it. It was very frustrating. We would go to a compound, and we would wait there, and then we would go to move again, and we were under firefights again.

There was a situation the next day where we’re moving from compound to compound, and I was with my group of guys. The platoon sergeant at the time was [Steven Noble 0:38:43]. He had pushed us into a compound building, and he said then, get on the roof. I had no issue with that. I was ready to play because now I’m angry. Now I’m numb, and I feel nothing. But you just took one of our people, and I heard you on the Icom radio cheering about it and praising God about it. Now, you’ve ticked a lot of people off. This was time; this was my turn now. This is how we pay you back.

I jumped on the roof, and I had no issue with that. We were laying down fire. When the sharpshooter jumps down to get more ammunition, and this is where the squawk is with some individuals; no sniper would ever leave the rifle. We’re all right there, and he’s getting ammunition. Of course, he’s going to jump down to get ammunition. But as he jumps down and do the length of my body, his rifle was the length of my body. We took three rounds. We were being flanked and didn’t know it. Those three rounds missed my hip by inches, inches, and went into the buttstock of the rifle. There were some situations like that where you don’t realize what’s happening until after it has happened, so you can’t wrap your brain around it. Oh, my god, that was a close call. That was a situation. There were a lot of things like that that were happening.

Then the women would fight back, and I would have little squabbles with them and choosing to be violent, rather lethal violence, was a choice I was allowed to make in those situations because it was just me making those decisions in a room with up to 12 people with another woman coming at me. I was doing my best to make rational choices when my brain wasn’t working, and I was 19 years old like so many of the soldiers that were over there who were 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. I didn’t know anyone except for my staff over the age of 30. We were all kids fighting in a war that none of us had any business being in, that ultimately, damaged the next generation. We took a whole generation of people, we all went and fought, and then we came back to silence from Veterans Affairs, silence from our government, silence from those around us saying, well, there was really no terrorism. You should never have been there. Every little thing that happened plays a part in building on that trauma and stacking those events and highlighting humanity’s downfalls, really. Even though I had only done one deployment, and even though I only did four years, because after that operation, they diagnosed me right away.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:41:26]

That’s pretty significant. This is not a deployment in a quiet place as someone would say. They diagnosed you right away with PTSD or PTS?

Kelsi Sheren [0:41:43]

Acute PTSD at the time, which by the time I left country, they had solidified as, I believe it was severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:41:53]

For the listener, there’s a handful of criteria, which include has to be a major traumatic event that an individual is exposed to: death, threatened by death, serious injury, actual threatened or sexual violence. It could be direct exposure, which you had; witnessed the trauma which you also had; or learning that a relative, close friend experienced trauma, which you also saw; and then indirect exposure, which would be someone else going into like a first responder. Then the other criteria are re-experiencing flashbacks, avoidance, avoiding people, avoiding things, and then negative alterations in mood and cognition. I’m sure that this is all really familiar to you. I’m outlining it because you are now doing integration work, and I think it’s very important that we all are talking about the same thing. Another part of the criteria is that there is an alteration in arousal in reactivity; you become very angry, or you’re just highly aroused. Duration lasts more than a month, and symptoms cause distress or functional impairment within your life.

Kelsi Sheren [0:43:11]

Right, and did I ever have every single one of those. It got to the point where in-country, we would be walking around [calf? 0:43:19] while I was waiting for doctor’s appointments. If you didn’t have a full magazine on you, it was a problem. You always had to have a magazine on you in your rifle wherever you went. I didn’t have any ammunition left because we had used it all during the firefight, and I hadn’t been given any more since I came back. A warrant officer decided to call me on it. When I say that I overreacted, I not only call them every name of the book, but I did it from a no-hook gunner to a warrant officer in front of a lot of individuals. The disproportionate reactions that I was having were completely out of my control in the sense of I’m not trying to drop ownership, but what I’m saying is I, at the time, did not feel that I could control my response. I was not sleeping. I was not eating. This would go days on days on days of this. My anger levels were at a different level. I paced excessively. I would have regular flashbacks of the event. To top it off, when I did go try to talk to people in my unit, I was met with that never happened. When you have somebody who is devaluing one of the worst things that have ever happened to you in your life, their response internally, it becomes this combustion that is about to crack, and if you don’t somehow deal with this, this person is going to ultimately die by suicide, or they’re going to lash out at anything and everything, and they’re going to bleed on everyone around them.

 Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:44:45]

Is that what happened to you?

Kelsi Sheren [0:44:47]

It got to the point where when I was in-country, they put me on 11 different pharmaceutical drugs. I was 100 pounds and 19, and so many of these now, knowing how contraindications just blows my mind, and then they sent me back out to the FOB. I was running a machine gun and the 777s, and I was high as a kite.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:45:06]

While on 11 different medications.

Kelsi Sheren [0:45:09]

Anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, uppers, downers, you name it, all of them. Once that didn’t go well, they sent me back to caf and said, okay, you’re going back three weeks early before the rest of your unit. I was going to report to my unit and then to the hospital, so that’s what I did. I was ripped away from my unit, not told that I was going.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:45:28]

Did you feel supported at that time by your unit?

Kelsi Sheren [0:45:28]

Oh, god, no. No one knew no one knew I was gone. No one knew what had happened to me. They didn’t tell anybody anything, and I never saw those guys again. Ever. The only time I saw that sergeant again was a year and a half ago. We reconnected when I was writing this book. It took the Canadian Army that long to acknowledge what they did, and they just last year brought me out to Gagetown, New Brunswick because of my sergeant and because of one of the COs to let me go and do my last round as an artillery gunner and welcome me back the way I should have been welcomed back when we came home.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:46:08]

Heavy.

Kelsi Sheren [0:46:09]

it was a lot.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:46:10]

That’s so heavy. During that time, you probably weren’t even thinking about what do you need to do to take care of yourself? What are the things, eating well, doing any of that stuff? You were literally in survival.

Kelsi Sheren [0:46:23]

Beyond survival. There was no sleep. There was no eating. I didn’t want to live, so why would I go through the work and the education and all of these steps to better myself? CBT wasn’t working. Anti-depressants weren’t working. All of the things they told me that would work were not working. The thing that I want to acknowledge here, because these are the standard forms of treatment, a couple of weeks ago, I testified at the Senate subcommittee in Parliament about and advocating for psychedelic use for veterans. We had this conversation, and I stated very clearly and emphatically that CBT and anti-depressants, they are an epic failure. They are gross failure on the part of the system to try and fix veterans. CBT can work. Anti-depressants can work. But you know as well as any other doctor, on the doctors’ desk handbook, they’re supposed to be used for short-term use only, not for decades at a time. That is what we are being used as, as vending machines. That’s what Veterans Affairs and the pharmaceutical companies have been doing now for an extended period of time, and you’re seeing the backlash with the hormones issues, and you’re seeing the issues with individuals in the longevity, when it comes to fitness, mental wellness. It’s just not there anymore because the medication has beaten people down to the point where they don’t, number one, they don’t think they can function without it. Number two, if they do function without it, they believe that they won’t be able to survive.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:47:59]

What you’re talking about is definitely extreme cases. If you guys are listening, can SSRIs, can medications be used? Yes, under the guidance of a physician, but you should be seeing improvement. There should be improvement. It’s so interesting when you look at the pathophysiology of post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic stress and TBI, there are a whole host of things that happen to the brain, to the brain pathways. You mentioned alternative treatments, which I am hoping will gain more mainstream. For example, you mentioned transmagnetic stimulation. There are things like a stellate ganglion block, which, I think that these are safe non-pharmaceutical ways. But what’s so interesting is that you do talk about these alternative therapies, and just to lay it out for people, there’s the psilocybin that works on a 5-HT2A receptor. There’s ayahuasca, which I think that you have talked about. There’s a lot of literature actually. I was doing some literature review searches, there’s DMT, there’s all kinds of things that ayahuasca does and has been used for a very long time, whether it affects the serotonin system, dopaminergic system, and then there’s the endocannabinoid system, which I think that you talk a lot about. When you got home, you went on all these medications. You were on 11 medications and 100 pounds, was there a moment, and obviously, you had also mentioned you’re having suicidal thoughts?

Kelsi Sheren [0:49:33]

Incredibly intense suicidal thoughts.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:49:37]

Didn’t you lose two of your teammates or two people close to you to suicide?

Kelsi Sheren [0:49:42]

Oh, I’ve had two phone calls this week alone. Wait, this is a chronic– this is constant.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:49:52]

Is this why you do what you do?

Kelsi Sheren [0:49:53]

Yes, a hundred percent why I do it. I don’t make a damn penny off of anything I do. I’ve never paid myself. I’ve been doing this since 2015.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:50:01]

What is success going to look like for you?

Kelsi Sheren [0:50:05]

The suicides need to stop. What success looks like to me is the individual who thought he was stronger than the voices or the individual who thought, if he asked for help, it would make him look weak or her look weak, it would be those individuals coming forward and taking charge of their life and ownership of a life and saying, I don’t want to live like this anymore. I need some help. Can someone please help me? That’s a win. Every time I get those calls, that is a win. Every time somebody says, hey, I finally said to my doctor, I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I’ve been on this meds long enough. I want to try something else, and then they successfully transition off of a medication, and they’re feeling better, that is a win.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:50:50]

How did you go from medication to alternative therapy?

==========

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Kelsi Sheren [0:53:53]

I was given those drugs for a long time, and it was very obvious that the life that I wanted was not going to happen with these interventions that were happening.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:54:03]

Why?

Kelsi Sheren [0:54:04]

Because I was numb, and not just numb, there was no joy in life. You can only sustain that so long before you realize that joy has to happen. It doesn’t mean that stuff, and it doesn’t mean necessarily events or podcasts or great, awesome things that happen in life. It means I want to wake up today, and I want to think clearly. I don’t want to have brain fog. I don’t want to have chronic pain, and I want to be able to smile today. And not because I’m forcing it like, hey, I know I shouldn’t be doing this, because it comes naturally. I just wanted to feel again. Being numb like that is so difficult when you’re trying to go through life and find a life partner and become a parent and go through these incredible things where you know rationally, I should be feeling something here, but I’m not. That’s really sad. It’s a sad way to go through life.

It got to the point where a lot of these drugs, I would take at night. My husband would say you’re having conversations, and I wouldn’t have a clue. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I would cook, and I would eat. Then I’d wake up on the floor. There were things like this that were starting to happen. I had no libido my entire 20s. It’s the most– and still now, we’re working on it because it’s such a hormone issue with me. But these things were being taken from me. I was being robbed of what it meant to be a woman. I was being robbed of what it meant to be a happy adult. And of course, I didn’t think that these things wouldn’t have a long-term impact. But the medication was something that I was not aware was so overused and so quickly used without even having a different conversation.

Jocko asked me this question; it was one of the best things I’ve ever been asked, and it was, Kelsi, do you think that if your superior sat you down, or someone sat you down and said, what you’re feeling is normal, what you’re thinking is normal, this will pass; instead of going, this is what’s happening to you. This is what you have, these are the pills you’re going to take. I was never given time to understand what was even happening with my body. I was just medicated. I could never process because I wasn’t given that opportunity. I went into space. I was just existing, I wasn’t living. I started to talk to my doctor about it, and we slowly started to wean off the sleep medications, and that’s when we started to integrate cannabis. At this point, we wanted to have a child, and we knew for a fact that I could not be on a lot of these drugs to have a child without any sort of–

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:56:41]

Right. Birth defects. Yeah.

Kelsi Sheren [0:56:45]

We started to have the conversation with my doctor and he said, look, I think for sleep, cannabis might be a good step for you. But I grew up in the province where people believed that if you smoked cannabis, you were lazy. You’re going to end up on the couch. You weren’t going to amount to anything in your life. At this point, we had already had some research behind how cannabis could help us sleep, and how it could obviously, affect with hormones. But we weren’t concerned about that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:57:10]

How long ago was this when you started using cannabis as a transition?

Kelsi Sheren [0:57:14]

’14 or ‘15?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:57:16]

Were you concerned about having a child with all the trauma that you had experienced?

Kelsi Sheren [0:57:22]

It was in the back of my mind, but I believe everyone can heal.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:57:30]

I love that.

Kelsi Sheren [0:57:31]

I think if I lived my life with all the fears I have, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I had to take the chance. I knew I was a good human. I knew we had the resources to raise a child. I knew we had a support system and a network around me, and that was key. I had a family support network that I knew would be there when we needed them and as often as I needed. I was very aware of what we were about to do. Now when we got pregnant the first time, that child ultimately did not make it. We ended up having a miscarriage. I understood that too. But I was fearful then at that point that okay, maybe because of the damage that was done or at the time, this is where the PTS stuff comes in, maybe I didn’t deserve a child because of the things I had done. That is how I know the trauma was so deep and still not healed and was not getting any better.

After that, there was a full year where we tried again. But because, and I tell so many women this because they don’t– I want a baby so bad. I want a baby so bad. But when you eat, sleep, and breathe wanting that baby, the stress that it puts on your body and the weight of it, it’s not going to happen. I remember to the day I said to my husband, I’m done with this. We’re done with this. I can’t do this anymore. I’m not exaggerating, that next day, we conceived. That’s my son that we have now. At that point, I was still utilizing cannabis throughout pregnancy, and not THC, but CBD and through oil. I was less concerned about what the CBD would do to the child. I was more concerned about the stressful environment that my body was putting on the brain and the development of that child and wiring it for stress.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:59:14]

What did CBD do for you?

Kelsi Sheren [0:59:18]

At the time, CBD brought a lot of the inside inflammation down, which I understand now was a lot of my TBI. It brought my inflammation down. But because of some of the injuries I had, I have a permanently separated shoulder with no collarbone, so I have chronic pain in my shoulder. I’ve had knee surgeries. I’ve had broken feet. My body really loves CBD for inflammation, and it would take a lot of that out, and it would bring the anxieties down and the paranoia down and that fight or flight state.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:59:44]

Was this from taekwondo, or this was all from deployment?

Kelsi Sheren [0:59:48]

The feet were taekwondo. The eyelid was rugby. The shoulder was mountain biking and a misdiagnosis and a bad surgery. Correction, good surgery, bad recovery room nurse move. She flipped my chair when she tripped on a cable, and I moved my arms up after a surgery and tore everything that was in there, which led to an infection and dissipation of the collarbone, so I’m missing a gap in the collarbone and a permanent separation. Then ACL surgeries, just a very active, athletic—

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:00:21]

Tactical, warrior-type body.

Kelsi Sheren [1:00:23]

It’s a sore body. By the time I was 19, I felt 65. It was fantastic. It helped a lot with that. What I was really trying to achieve ultimately was a calm, relaxing space in utero, so the brain could develop properly and not wired for anxiety and stress. I knew growing up in a family where the form of communication was yelling that it was not going to bode well, and I wanted to do this differently. I really, really, really was conscious of this. It worked quite well for me.

Throughout the pregnancy went not too bad. At the end of pregnancy, he came a month early, which was a bit of a shock, but it was okay, and everything was fine. Then postpartum kicked.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:01:04]

Oh, postpartum, that’s major.

 Kelsi Sheren [1:01:08]

Oh, nobody talks about it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:01:09]

Oh, postpartum depression, that is a major thing.

Kelsi Sheren [1:01:13]

When you stack it on top of the other things I was going through, and then he got really sick at first. He got really severe jaundice. So then I went into this fight or flight that I was losing my child, and we had to bring him to the NICU and then do the light therapy. I was a young mom. I was 27. I was just fearful, now I’m losing something else. There was this fear because of how the situations went overseas, and how quickly somebody was standing there and somebody was gone. I had a lot of fear of losing people, so I squeezed really tight. I don’t know. I understand boundaries now. But I used to do that at a very intense level.

Once my son came out, and everything went on there, that took about a year for me to acclimate to motherhood and get my body what I thought was feeling good. But really, what I figured out was up until last year with brain treatment, I didn’t know what good felt like. I was living with all of these issues, but I just figured that was normal. No one tells you when you get out that chronic headaches are not normal. That looking concussed, if I look back at photos and podcasts, I look concussed all of the time. No one tells you that you shouldn’t be chronically bloated no matter what your diet is. No one tells you that your balance should be pretty good. You shouldn’t rock when you stand still, but I used to just rock unintentionally. But because my vestibular system, where I was in space was not matching.

Nobody really describes these things to you. At that point, my doctor and I took a different path and said, we have to come up with something else here if I’m going to sustain some type of healing. I wanted to be a more present mother, and I wanted to be a better wife. I was present, but the anger was still there. The paranoia was still there. I would take my son out, and my head would be on a swivel. I couldn’t do anything or feel safe. That ultimately is when I started to go off a couple other medications, which was fine, and I was left with one. By the time I got down to 2019 beginning of 2020, I was only on one SSRI. It was the same one I had been on since I was put on of them.

For my entire 20s, for an entire decade, I fluctuated between 125 and 150 milligrams of Zoloft every single day. That wreaks serious havoc on your body. The long-term repercussions are stuff I’m going to be dealing with the rest of my life. It’s because going through this process, my doctor ultimately also diagnosed me with major depressive disorder. Those often stack, and I wasn’t fearful of it, but it was just great, another thing? We’re going to have to do this. Then it got to the point again, and at this point, I’ve had the business. It was successful. We had it everywhere.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:03:59]

You already had Brass & Unity.

Kelsi Sheren [1:04:01]

Brass & Unity started in 2015. The last SSRI left when I was given the opportunity to go do ayahuasca.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:04:08]

How did that come up? You had struggled, probably wasn’t, I don’t know if it was on your provider’s radar because it’s not really standard of care yet. I think eventually it will be. They are utilizing ayahuasca for typically veterans that have gotten out. How did that present itself?

Kelsi Sheren [1:04:34]

Yeah, I started a podcast, the Brass & Unity podcast in October 2021. A friend of mine, who I can call a friend now, at the time, my husband said, you should get some sponsors for your show. You should try and get some. I said, I don’t have many viewers yet. He said, but you’ve got the brand. You’re known in that space. You should be able to get something. Do you remember that Shark Tank episode with the flip flops and the bullet shoes? I said, yeah. He goes, why don’t you reach out to combat Flip Flops? They’re run by two former rangers, why don’t you reach out to them? We did, and they answered back right away. You go together like peanut butter and jelly. I was like, let’s do it. Then my husband goes, you know that you have to actually have to invite people on to the show? I was like, alright. Will you come on the show? It was my first bigger guests, and I wasn’t sure. I was quite nervous, and he responded, yeah, absolutely.

I got the opportunity to sit down with Griff, and we were having a conversation. At the end of the conversation, he leaned into the camera, and he goes, how you doing? If you know Matthew Griffin, he looks into your soul and through you because he thought I was in so much medicine; now I understand. And I said, I’m good. You know the facade that we all put on ourselves and show everyone, oh, everything’s fine? Then he asked me one more time, and he leaned in and he goes, how are you doing? I buckled. And I mean, buckled. I had been struggling again, and I was getting very frustrated. I have an amazing husband. I had a great child. Business was doing well. We were in Ellen. We were in Forbes. We’re on GMA. We’re at Kevin Hart. You name it; I was living the dream. And I still wanted to die every single day. I could not make it stop, no matter what I was doing; working out, eating healthy, drinking water, sleeping lots, still had headaches, still had X, Y, and Z, and I couldn’t figure it out. Mommy was having more bad days than good.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:06:27]

How many days out of a week?

Kelsi Sheren [1:06:28]

Oh, man, out of a seven, five. I’d be on the stairs crying at something. It was 2020 that I started the show, my mistake. It was to the point where I wasn’t super happy with where my thoughts were going again. I also had enough family and friends to know that this isn’t normal. I had seen people who were taking their lives who had children, and I know what that child’s going to have to go through now and start saving through trauma because you’re going to need therapy, and a lot of it. You’re going to need ways to cope. I didn’t want to do that, but I also knew I couldn’t do this. He said look, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of ayahuasca. I said, yeah, I think I heard it on some weird, off-the-cuff, like really strong psychedelic just like an off-the-cuff show. He said, look, there’s an organization called Heroic Hearts Project. They facilitate this with veterans; I can get you in touch. There is one in 30 days in our group, and you can come.

I got on the phone with Jesse Gould from Heroic Hearts Project and he was like, listen, you just can’t be on SSRI. I said, okay, I won’t be. And he goes, okay. I called my doctor. This guy, to put it into context, served in Bosnia and Rwanda during the genocides. He’s a hard dude. I go, look, [Doc Passey? 1:07:47], I’m going to go off it. I know it’s dangerous. The way I’m going to do it, you’re not going to approve of, but I’m not calling for permission. I’m giving you situational awareness.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:07:58]

So if the other shoe drops, you notice something.

Kelsi Sheren [1:08:00]

You know why, exactly. That’s what we did, and it was the worst, most intense withdrawals I’ve ever experienced in my life, most painful, excruciating withdrawals. I would never advocate for a single person to ever do it the way I did. It was so dangerous.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:08:14]

What happened?

Kelsi Sheren [1:08:16]

Oh, my god, it’s like I would stand up and show you, but it’s so dramatic. I would be sitting there, and my head felt like it was cracking and exploding. If my body was sitting still, the inside of my head looked like I was at a Led Zeppelin rock concert. My head was head banging. It felt like my whole body was doing that. I had no balance. I could not sleep. I was irritable beyond all get out. It was painful physically, head to toe, in the weirdest way. It’s so hard to describe because I’ve never felt anything like that since.

Then I went and I sat with the medicine with a group of individuals, and here’s what I’ll tell you about that. Of course, the medicine was a big, big part here, 98%. But I don’t want to overlook the fact that I was dropped out of a community and left to be on my own. This is the first time I had been welcomed back into a community who did not question me, who did not judge me. Again, I was the only female. But instead, I was not with people who are my rank. I was with rangers and SEALs and Blackwater operatives and people who I held in such high regard, who just looked at me like a normal person and say, hey, welcome home. There is such a healing aspect to community that gets overlooked and the importance of it. I want to stress that when I say yes, it was ayahuasca and yes, it was integration counseling on the front end and the back end. Yes, it was sitting in ceremony. But the community aspect is so important to acknowledge, and that’s what I was given in that moment.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:09:47]

They say that one of the reasons why ayahuasca works– there’s many reasons, but it allows the subconscious to come up and begin to process. Did you experience that?

Kelsi Sheren [1:10:00]

Oh, yeah. Ayahuasca, being a master plant, has an entity. You hear people say, Mama Aya. Mama Aya is a real real. She’s a real real.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:10:10]

And by the way, I just want to point out, before this, it was not as if you were spending your whole life in some kind of spiritual journey that you knew of, and you weren’t reading chakras or doing any of that stuff, right? Not that there is anything wrong with those things, but that was not where you were coming from. You are a veteran gunner who has gone through a ceremony taking plant medicine and is coming out the other side explaining it, which is almost not what one would expect in that way.

Kelsi Sheren [1:10:47]

Yeah. The thing that a lot of people said to me, when you came out was like, don’t be the billboard. Don’t be the veteran with the billboard for this. Don’t go out and talk about all the fantastical things that happened in it because it’s hard for people to wrap their brain around. What do you mean you were flying on a dragon doing this? What does that represent? How is that helping you heal? But in the first three ceremonies that I sat in, I wasn’t doing anything of fantastical. I was being shown the really dark things that happened in my life that my brain had walled off. It was an opening of the mind in a safe setting where ayahuasca could come in, hold me, if you will, in my consciousness, in her arms and say, I’m about to walk you through hell, and it’s about to really, really hurt. But I promise if you just trust me and let go here, you’re going to come out of this, and you’re going to be reborn. But you have to give me three days of your life, and it’s going to suck. At no point that you’re going to want to do this again.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:11:46]

Did you do it for three days and did it help?

Kelsi Sheren [1:11:48]

That’s how it should be done as far as I’m– so a minimum of three days. Some people do three, they do five nights, they do seven nights, depending on what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. Where I was at the time, it was three nights in a row. You have the first night, which is the night where you drink Aya, and you have the experience, but it’s not fully saturated your body. The second night is a lot more intense because now you’re already saturated a little bit from the day before. Then the third night, Aya is fully flowing through you. It’s fully in your body. You can feel it during the day when you’re not in an active state. You can notice things. You can feel things, everything. You could feel the medicine within you, but you’re not having visuals. You’re not actively in a ceremony in the medicine that way. It’s just in your body.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:12:31]

Because you’re tiny, how do they dose it? Is it the same for everybody? Do we know how that works?

 Kelsi Sheren [1:12:40]

With the individuals that I sat with, they practice with the Shipibo tribe. That is the tribe from Peru. That’s where ayahuasca, as far as I know, originated. It’s the mecca of Aya. For my size, it is more of they gauge it based off of what the medicine guides them to give you. This is where we smash science and woo woo real quick. This is where people start to have a hard time with this. Because yes, in certain setting, if you’re doing a medical test, there’s going to be obviously a control. There’s going to be a proper dosing, and it’s going to be very specific. But in in spiritual settings in this sense, this is up to the shaman or the maestro or the minister to listen. When I was in Peru, for example, they sat with the medicine, and when it was your turn to come up, you give them the cup. They would look at you and listen to the medicine to hear. Then they would pour based off of that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:13:42]

It’s wild.

Kelsi Sheren [1:13:44]

Always and ever. Sometimes you can get the tiniest amount, and it will beat you into the ground, and sometimes you can get a full cup. It’s not about the dosage. It’s what the medicine is going to do for you. It’s her choice. You’re just there for the ride. If you truly do give in, she’s going to give you everything you need and more, not what you want. That’s the difference. Everyone, you see a lot of the psychedelic tourism happening, and that is where the dangers lie. People are offering medicine in unsafe settings without integration, without proper preparation, and that’s where things can get dicey, and that’s what I’m fearful for. That’s why I speak to integration so much, and I speak to these organizations and why you have to be very careful where you go. We are in this age where we’re in a psychedelic boom; we’re in another wave of it.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:14:33]

Definitely. What did you learn? What happened?

Kelsi Sheren [1:14:37]

The first three were very much a, if you were to take a line and you were to put the current timeframe, the future and your past, I was down in the past where trauma started. We worked our way each night through a different level of trauma up to the present time. The first night was very much focused on my loss. That’s where I saw my daughter. That’s where she sat with me. That’s where I had that moment of peace and understanding that she is always around. She’s just with my son all of the time, and that’s why I hear him talking in his room all of the time. He’s talking to someone. She sat with me, and she brought her to me. It’s so hard to describe how powerful it feels when you’re not losing your mind, but you’re seeing things that you can’t understand, but you’re still seeing them. At some point, you just sit there and go, alright, I guess this is what I am now. I guess this is what I see. This is how I feel. I guess this is my life. And that’s okay. Once you understand and you accept the medicine, that’s when it really comes in.

Now the second night, we’ve really started to dive into the anger that I not only held, but that was my anger would walk into the room before I walked into the room always. It was to the point where you could say something as a joke and no matter what, even if I thought it was funny, I would snap back. I have chronic pain in my shoulder. This is very hard to describe because people don’t understand how this could happen to the point where I used to have to take so much CBD every day. I was on Tylenol. I was on chronic pain medication all the time for it. And nothing, I couldn’t do a push up, I couldn’t carry my son in that arm. It was very, very weak. I went into that ceremony and I just asked, can you please take my pain away? Whatever that pain is to you, please just take it away. I didn’t want to say my physical pain or my psychological pain; my pain, can you just cleanse it out somehow?

She did that. But she did it in a way that was very– it was an illustration so that I would understand. Her way of doing that to me was to turn my body into the body of a wolf, sit me down, and explain to me that you can be a pack leader, that you can be the one that moves people along. You can be the one that never leaves anyone behind. But you don’t have to bite anymore because you have an entire pack of people around you in this room. You can put your teeth away and use them when you need them, but you don’t always need them anymore. Because I was always very aggressive. I was like a dog that had been abused. You went near me, I would snap. Not because I wanted to but because that’s learned behavior. She showed that to me by forming my body into that and showing that to me. When I went up to get my prayer, I felt this moment of my head snapping back like someone was grabbing my ponytail. I felt something come out of my throat and out of my shoulder and out of my body, physically leave my body, and my body collapsed.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:18:02]

What do you think it was?

Kelsi Sheren [1:18:04]

It was the trauma that was associated with my injuries that had never healed because we understand the body keeps the score. That’s just the truth. That was what was removed. I can bang out pushups now like it’s no problem.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:18:21]

We’ll do that after that.

 Kelsi Sheren [1:18:22]

Okay. My point is, I can do things that from a physiological standpoint, I should not be able to do without a collarbone, with a separated shoulder. But I don’t have chronic pain there anymore. And that’s because the medicine was able to pull the trauma out of me. This is where science and medicine, this is where it gets hard because things are happening that we can’t fully understand.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:18:45]

That’s absolutely true. That’s very well said. I talk a lot about evidence-based medicine, and I think that it’s critical. There are absolutely things above and beyond my understanding, anybody’s understanding that happen that truly move the needle.

Kelsi Sheren [1:19:05]

So much so that I, the last night, went through a situation where it actually threw me off today. I drove to Marcus’s house. Down the end of the road, there was a sign that said welcome to Valhalla. I started bawling my eyes out, and I drove to his door. I had never met this man a day in my life. I got out of the car, and his first impression of me was me wiping my eyes, and he goes, you good? Your sign threw me a little bit. And he asked me something that I’ve never been asked, and it punched me in every single cell, and he goes, what, you didn’t think you were going to make it there? It hit so hard. It’s because on the third night, a friend of mine that was an American soldier that was on his third deployment, he did a second with me and his third. It was his last deployment. He rolled over an IED. He made it, but his heart burst in his chest, and he passed away. Him and I had a relationship where the Americans so much– I love Americans. They were only drinking soda at the FOB.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:20:16]

What?

Kelsi Sheren [1:20:17]

They were not drinking enough water so they were becoming so severely dehydrated. They were passing out outside the wire. We were allowed soda. I did not drink soda.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:20:25]

Good for you.

Kelsi Sheren [1:20:26]

I’d never– I don’t. It’s disgusting. But you Americans get [Gucci? 1:20:30] kit. You get all the kit. You guys spend your tax dollars on everything [Gucci? 1:20:36] kit.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:20:36]

I’m not going to lie. Shane goes, ask her if she was eating Sour Patch Kids.

Kelsi Sheren [1:20:40]

Oh, yeah. I know all about it. Chris came up with an idea. He goes, I will trade you Oakleys for cans of Coke. I was like, done. So I became his coke dealer. The running joke was when we would do laundry, we’d listen to Dane Cook, and he would drink cans of Coke. The night he passed away, he came to me in my dreams. And he cracked a can of Coke and said nothing. It was like this, I’m good. It’s okay. I went through a lot of survivor guilt with the guys that were on deployment because after I left, we lost a couple more that I knew. Then this had happened, and I was not in a good state. The third night doing ayahuasca, all I asked was again, can you please take my pain away? During the prayer when they were singing the Icaros, I had to boot, so I had Griff beside me and another individual beside me, Bishop. They both said to me afterwards, you weeped like you were in the most excruciating pain.

I lied on my side. And I just remember, Chris showed up, and the Icaros got very loud. He said, you need to come with me right now, I am not supposed to be here. I am not allowed to come over here. We’re not allowed to do this. But we’re giving you this because you need it to move on. He took my hand and sucked me through the only thing I can describe is a black hole of some type where it’s like a movie where all of a sudden, they just go– sucked. I woke up in Valhalla. I was standing at the gate with him. It was just this clear wall, if you will, and it looked like Marcus Luttrell’s house today. It threw me so much because he said, I could see them all. I could see all the guys. They were all just sitting there in their versions of the uniforms with their different accents and their different placements. Chris sat down with me, and he said, listen, you can come with me now. You can sit, and you’re going to talk with everyone. Every single one of them gave me the cut the suicide shit speech. Cut it out. You’re alive for a reason. We’re here to help you and back you; cut the shit. What you can’t see is there’s a clear wall here. If you decide to pull the pin that way, you’re not coming in here with us, and you will sit there, and you will watch us for the rest of your life.

That hit me so hard and what helped me move through this survivor’s guilt. People can say this is the subconscious working. This can be chemical. This can be whatever you want to say. But I believe I was truly there, and I fully feel as if I had those conversations in person. This was like me and you sitting right here. The one individual that died that day, my first experience of death overseas, looked at me and said, there’s not a damn thing you can do. You did not cause this. You got all of me, because I was fearful because when I saw another piece go, I was quite concerned we didn’t get it all. And I kept saying that on repeat to people, and some people did go back and check. We got it all. So there was this fear that I had left him behind. And he just kept telling me, it’s fine. I’m good. You didn’t leave anything.

Then Chris was finishing the can of Coke, and he said, when I’m done this, you have to go. That’s when I cracked, and I said, I don’t want to. I’m not going back. I’m here. I’m staying here. I don’t want to go back. You can’t make me. I can’t do this. I can’t be here. I can’t live like this. I don’t want to live like this. He said, it’s not a choice. You have to go back. You have a journey and a path that you need to go down, and we’re going to be here to push you. We’re going to be here to help you, but you can’t be here if it’s not your time. He finished the can of Coke, and I just kept saying please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me. I cannot do this again.

Then it sucked me back, and then I was fully aware, and I was fully in my body. I just saw Mama Aya pick me up and sit me in her lap. I remember looking up at her like I was a baby, and she went, you’re going to heal now. Just be patient with me. You’re going to heal now. Then she lied me back down, and the ceremony ended. That was my first experience. Since then, I’ve sat six other times with Ayahuasca. That’s why I say, every time I go, we’re on a different level, and we’re on something different. She completes the circuit, it feels like, for me. The medicine will see that I’m missing a part of the healing that I can’t get past, she will allow me to do the work in that. If you were to take her to your synapses, and that is we’re not– she just gives me that– okay, now we move. Now we move, and that’s how we keep healing.

The medicine, whether it held space for me, whether it allowed the walls to come down for my brain to rationalize and process, whatever the medicine does, it is something that I will be eternally grateful for for every moment of my existence. That’s why I advocate so fiercely for it because there’s something so profound that is happening that whether we can trace it or not, I do not need science to tell me that it works. I know it works.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:26:15]

How far healed do you feel?

Kelsi Sheren [1:26:20]

I don’t know that anyone is ever 100%. What is 100%? Who is perfect? Point that person who’s perfectly healed to me. I don’t know that we’re ever meant to be fully healed. I think that if we got to a point where we felt fully 100% healed, there’s nothing else to learn. That’s like being enlightened. How far can you go? I think at this point in my life, I’m doing quite fantastic. With the brain treatment and everything else I’ve been doing, I don’t worry. If I have a bad day, it’s a bad day for about an hour. It’s not a bad day for a day or week or a month. I’m able to pull myself out of these things, utilizing all of the tools that I have in my toolbox, which I’ve gathered over a decade.

The other thing I would say is healing is not linear, and my days are not linear. Some days are great, and on the days that are supposed to be great, they might end up being just really hard for no reason at all. I honor those days, and I respect those days. Those are the days I say okay, well, I’ve just pushed too hard. Or, you know what, maybe I shouldn’t watch that. Maybe I know better, but I did it anyway. Or hey, maybe I need to take a minute on the suicide conversation. Maybe I just need something lighter for a moment. I’m aware of that. I set those boundaries for myself, and I don’t push past them anymore because I understand what the repercussions will be and the fallout can look like.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:27:45]

Do you believe that when it’s someone’s time, it’s their time?

Kelsi Sheren [1:27:49]

A hundred percent. That’s the most accurate statement. I can’t describe to you how accurate that is. I don’t think you can change a damn thing. I think we like to think that we can play God and to think that we can have longevity. My husband’s really into life extension, and he’s so fascinated by it. He follows this individual who, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but his goal is to stay 18, live like he’s 18, have the health and metabolics of an 18-year-old. He spent his whole life around health. While he’s spending his whole life around health, he’s missing the point. He’s missing the point of living. He’s missing the point of the beauty of aging. I think it does not matter how much time we get on this earth. It’s what you choose to do with it. It doesn’t matter if you have 300 years, 100 years, 50 years; you have to act as if it’s your last day. That’s the way I live. I don’t just say that; I mean that. I think that’s the strategy that if people were to look at their life and go, I don’t need to be 50% tomorrow better than I was yesterday. I just need to be 1% better than I was yesterday. That will stack, and that will give you a fulfilled life. But this living and breathing and doing everything in order to try and extend the life that you’re just overlooking while you’re actually here, that makes me sad.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:29:22]

I think it’s a really good point. There’s something to be said for being able to utilize the years that you have in a very capable way, in a mentally sharp way, and a physically strong way, which you’ve exemplified. I agree with you. I think that the time is planned. I’ve seen a lot of death, and it’s just eerie how that works. I’m curious, through your time in Afghanistan, you saw a lot of– I don’t even know if negative things is the right word, let’s just say stress and trauma. Did you see beauty there?

Kelsi Sheren [1:30:05]

Of course.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:30:09]

What did you see?

Kelsi Sheren [1:30:09]

There’s a ton of beauty in places like that. We just don’t look at it. We don’t highlight it. Because if you did, we couldn’t justify going and bombing people like they don’t exist. There was so much beauty in the way that people had conversation. For example, I had somebody on my show recently, Travis Peterson from the Moral Compass Federation. We talked about this. He said, nobody really understood, unless you understood the culture, how beautiful that country can actually be and the people are. He goes, if you ask somebody in North America, how’s your family? You’re going to get, great, good, or so and so’s blah, blah, blah. You go to Afghanistan, you better be ready for an hour at least because they want to share with you, their family. They want to share their culture. They wanted to express to you what it meant to be an Afghani.

I had a situation where there was a woman, actually, it was a little girl. I have a photo. It’s in my book. She had never seen a photo on a back of a camera of herself, and her and I took a photo together. I showed it to her, and it was my officer’s hot pink camera because I didn’t have a camera. She grabbed the camera from my hand. She ran inside the compound and took it. Everyone just looked around, and I said, well, I guess my camera’s gone. When I went in, what I was shown was the women. Some of the women had shaved their legs. They pulled out their burger to show me. They’re trying to be Western, trying to be like, I’m trying to show you that I’m assimilating like you guys want us to. I’m doing what you said. What blew my mind was in all of the horrible things that were happening and all of the death and destruction and constant loss that was happening in that country and has been happening for so long, they were still willing to feed you with whatever they had. They were still willing to sit with you and tell stories about their family and their lives. They cared. Somehow, they weren’t hardened to the death and destruction that they lived in daily. This was just their life. They were proud of what they had left or what they were accomplishing or what they did do. They just wanted to share that with you.

There was so much light in the children’s eyes, considering they lived in one of the worst, most bombed countries on our planet. It makes me wonder how we don’t have that here in North America when you can walk down the street and go to Starbucks. You can go get a job anywhere you want or live anywhere you want. You don’t have the fear of bombs dropping in your head every day. And yet somehow we can’t be happy here. But these kids who have no shoes and no running water, who don’t speak or who are illiterate and will never most likely leave that little rural area, they were happy. They were happy with what they had. They were grateful for what they had. They didn’t know any different, so of course, there’s no comparison. But they were beautiful souls who just wanted to be seen and heard and acknowledged. I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s so much beauty in war, and that may be an oxymoron. But if you look for it, it’s there.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:33:43]

I love that. Last question. Thank you so much for all your time. What advice would you give non-military individuals on post traumatic growth or trauma or experience on potentially anything that you value like being resilient or as my girlfriend, one of my physician friends, says sturdy?

Kelsi Sheren [1:34:16]

I like that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:34:18]

What advice would you give?

Kelsi Sheren [1:34:21]

Oh, that’s a very overarching question because there’s so much advice.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:34:27]

You can give it as long or as short as you want. Everybody listening is literally at the edge of their seat.

Kelsi Sheren [1:34:33]

Well, first and foremost, especially for civilians or anybody who’s listening to the show, turn the news off. Stop it. Stop it right now. None of that is helping you. It is harming you more than you can imagine. Stop the death scrolling. If you are seeing things that make you feel unwell, delete it. If there are people that make you feel unwell, you are not obligated to ingest their bullshit. Turn it off. That’s okay. You do not have to do those things. The reason I say that is because people think it’s just about what you eat, and what you put into your mouth, but it’s not. It’s about who you expose yourself to. It’s about what you see with your eyes, what you give access to. People think that just means food. It means overarching. It means you are the sum of the five people around you. If you have shitty people around you, you’re going to not be well. That could be bad behaviors. That could be how you act on a daily basis, your energy that you give off. That could be the influence that they are in terms of diet and nutrition.

The next would be move your body; just please get up and move. I try to be empathetic, but I’m so sick and tired of people telling me that I’m fat phobic, that I do not see that there is beauty in everyone. It has nothing to do with beauty. It has nothing to do with what somebody’s value is. You have more value as a healthy individual. You are what we call a liability to the system when you are unhealthy mentally, physically, it does not matter. If you are eating cheeseburgers and bullshit, you’re going to feel that way. People do not understand how much your gut biome affects your mental wellness. So knock it off and go for a walk. If walking is difficult, because this is what we do in my group on Signal, because we have a group on Patreon, and we give you challenges every month. These are not crazy challenges. These are, let’s start habit stacking and breaking bad habits. These are cut caffeine at 12 o’clock, seven hours of sleep, wake up in the same 30 minutes. These are, we’re not going to look at our phone the first hour before bed. These are things that we should know as grown adults, but we’ve, for some reason, overlooked because we’ve been distracted about everything else.

It comes down to fix your friends. If your friends suck, you’re going to suck. Sorry, that’s the reality. Find better people. That may sound harsh, but who do you want to be in this world? Are they helping you get there? Are they making you feel like you can achieve that? If not, we need to have a hard look at that. If walking and running is hard or moving is hard, let’s start with something small. Walk to the mailbox one day. Then the next day, try it twice a day. If you feel like you can keep doing that, let’s keep on that for at least two weeks. Let’s talk about what you’re putting in your body in terms of liquid. Why do we have an obsession with over-caffeinating ourselves? They have an obsession in America and Canada like I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen the size of drinks at Starbucks. It is obscene. Just stop caffeine at 12 o’clock. Just stop caffeine at 12 o’clock.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:37:49]

I’m not going to lie, that is a very hard one for me.

Kelsi Sheren [1:37:51]

Ketones in the afternoon. If you have an issue, your brain needs fuel. Ketones, not difficult.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:37:58]

I’m going to try it. I usually do it in the morning.

Kelsi Sheren [1:37:59]

I have a whole bunch for you in the car; I will give you. They’re H.V.M.N. They’re ketone shots. These things are a game changer. That’s not going to affect your sleep at all.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:38:07]

All right, I’m going to try it.

Kelsi Sheren [1:38:09]

Then the same simple ones, this is not difficult: don’t put caffeine in your face the second you wake up. Give your body a minute. Go put some sunlight in your eyes. These are all things you’re asking me to tell you, what do I tell everyone I’m working with? These are the things. They’re small steps. It’s a little bit of movement every day, and you stack that movement. If you can get yourself to just moving 30 minutes a day, I don’t mean strenuous, I mean, just walking, the difference it’s going to make in your life is going to blow your mind. Then we start stacking weight, then we start building muscle, then we start looking at, okay, maybe McDonald’s three days a week isn’t great. Maybe we start getting it down to once a week. Then maybe we don’t do it once a month. Then maybe we cut it out and stretch it out because you can’t just stop these things. These are things that people have grown up with. If you say well, we’re just not eating junk food anymore, good luck at being successful with that.

Give yourself some grace, bite-sized chunks, and know that it’s not going to be linear. You might fall, but it’s how you choose to act when you do fall. Are you going to get back up? Are you going to fall back in old bad habits? One of the last things is, for your mental wellness, not just what you eat and what you see and what you do for movement, if you’re struggling, ask for help. You are stronger in my eyes. You are some of the strongest people in anyone’s eyes if you just say hey, I don’t have this right now. I don’t know what I need because guess what, you don’t also need to know what you need. You just need to say it so that that can then be opened. The conversation can start. Okay, maybe you need a psychedelic treatment. Maybe you need an SSRI. Maybe there’s been borderline things going on there your whole life that might need an intervention here. Asking for help is the next big step, and it is often the scariest one for others, and it is often the one that will stop people from doing anything.

Fear is a motivator, but it is also the thing that can break you. It can cause everything in your life to just dead stop. There’s nothing to be fearful when getting help. It is hard work, but that’s the scariest thing. You will come out the other side. But you have to sometimes go through the dark first to get to the light. You have to start. You just have to start healing because it’s not helping you to bleed on everyone around you. At some point, you have to do the work, or life is going to be a lot harder for you than it needs to be. If you just start doing all these little things, not all at once, small steps at a time, maybe we just work on hydration this month. Maybe we’ll work on food this month, then we work on movement. But if you just start, that is the key to healing, but you have to be willing to start.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:41:00]

Kelsi Sheren, thank you so much for coming on. You are amazing. I know that if this is even a quarter as impactful as it’s been on me, then I know it’s absolutely going to blow people’s minds. I’m going to include where to find you. I’m sure we’ll have you back. Thank you for everything that you’re doing and how strong that you are showing up. I know it’s not easy. I don’t care what anybody says. It is not easy to be the first to get bloody. I don’t necessarily mean that literally, but figuratively. You’re doing some amazing work. Thank you.

Kelsi Sheren [1:41:44]

Thank you so much for having me. This is such an honor. To get to sit across from somebody who’s so emphatic in the way that you talk about things and how you care so deeply about your community, that’s why you go out and say what you say and do what you do, and you take it on the chin. I got to say, it’s easy to do what I do when I have examples like you. Thank you for having me.

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Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [1:42:05]

The Dr. Gabrielle Lyon podcast and YouTube are for general information purposes only and do not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice. No patient-doctor relationship is formed. The use of information on this podcast, YouTube, or materials linked from the podcast or YouTube is at the user’s own risk. The content of this podcast is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their health care professional for any such conditions. This is purely for entertainment and educational purposes only.