Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Now let’s get on with the show. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Althea Williams. Althea is an Army veteran who served as an aviation operation specialist and served in Afghanistan as well as Germany. She’s also the founder of the group, She Vets It, where women from all branches of the military can come together in a safe space to connect, converse and collaborate. Welcome to the show Althea. I’m glad to have you on.
Althea Williams 00:00:48 Oh, thank you so much for having me here. It’s an honor.
Scott DeLuzio 00:00:51 I forgot to mention that Althea is also a part of the coalition of veteran podcasters that a bunch of us got together, and we’re kind of just working together, helping each other out in different ways. I’m kind of glad to be in that group along with people like me, so it’s a pretty good group with awesome podcasts, awesome content, and people doing just awesome things in the military and veteran community. I’m glad to be a part of that with you.
Althea Williams 00:01:25 Oh, thank you. I’m actually glad to be part of a group where iron sharpens iron
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:32 Helps. Yeah, because there are people in that group who are far superior at different things than we can feed off of each other, get different ideas and ways to help out our podcast, and grow and reach more people. I think that’s really the key thing there is that we’re able to help each other out in different ways that maybe we wouldn’t be able to do on our own. Like you said, iron sharpens iron and makes us all better.
Althea Williams 00:02:05 I love it. Like you said, there’s individuals that have strong points here, and I think it just helps you to kind of sharpen your area where you might be weak in that you need to kind of clean up. I really appreciate just being among some great veterans doing some great things.
Scott DeLuzio 00:02:31 Yeah, absolutely. For any of the listeners who may not know you and who you are, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Althea Williams 00:02:40 My name is Althea Williams. I am an Army veteran. I would say that I’m not your typical veteran. I didn’t join at the age of 18. I was about to turn 39. It was different for me because I had already had a strong sense of identity being a civilian. I’ve worked as a small business development person. Also ran a chamber of commerce in California, so that was a little different. Going in, and then going to war was just a different feeling. But I would say it’s something that I wouldn’t. I guess you could say I don’t regret, although there’s been some good, bad and ugly, I don’t regret joining the military because I knew when I signed up, I knew what the risks were. I knew that I was signing that blank check. I knew the consequences of going to war. That was the reason why I joined. I wanted to serve my country.
Scott DeLuzio 00:04:07 At that age, pretty much 39, I joined or I finished basic training. I was 24 and I felt like I was one of the older guys in the basic training company that we were in. How was that like going, going through? I gotta imagine there’s a lot of younger people who are going through that. What was that like for you? When you first stepped into basic training and started off that way?
Althea Williams 00:04:39 Well, when I first stepped into basic six training, I was like, why no one talked me out of this. I love my life. Like the job wasn’t really physical. It was a sedentary type of job where I just sat and used my head. I didn’t have to depend on my physical strengths or ability. I went in, and I saw young girls that were 18 breaking their hips, and I’m like, oh my goodness. They just broke their hip. I’m a goner. But then someone said, the reason why it was happening to the younger generation is because they didn’t go outside and play like my generation did. I had a chance, so I was like, okay, I made it. I had some aches here and there.
Althea Williams 00:05:30 It was definitely a culture shock because when you go to basic, they are definitely breaking you down and building you up. It didn’t matter that I was 30 and had children. It didn’t matter how much experience I have, the things that I’ve done before joining the military, it was like, okay, grab your ruck. We’re doing this PT. We are all the same. That’s one thing about the military. I would say it was definitely a cultural shock. It really was. Answer your question about age. If you thought you were old at 24, I was like, grandma. They called grandma. No one wanted to if they were competing. If we were doing something, no one would be behind me. You’re gonna let grandma beat you. I was like, really? You guys gotta use me like that. My goal was, you wanna be last? You didn’t wanna be whatever the case you wanted to always be ahead of me. You didn’t wanna be behind me, even if I’m second place, you still didn’t wanna be. You still didn’t wanna be behind me because that means granny beat you.
Scott DeLuzio 00:06:50 That’s funny. I think there were only maybe other guys who were older than me in my basic training and it wasn’t by much. I think maybe 28 was the oldest or maybe 30. I forget exactly, but I definitely felt old with that group of kids. I’d say kids because they were 18 coming in and in our basic training company and I had already finished college. I started my professional job and I enlisted in the national guard. I was gonna get out of basic training, but it was just that culture shock like you said. It’s totally different from sitting behind a desk and using your brain as opposed to using your body to do your job. It was definitely a different experience. But, it was good. I enjoyed it,
Althea Williams 00:07:55 But listen to this, my son joined the military before I did. I was telling, how you feel, talking to your friends. Hey, my mom is in bootcamp.
Althea Williams 00:08:08 Going to my regular duty station, I was mama bear or in my training, AIT in the army, I was considered mama bear. I was always that person that people kind of came to for whatever they were going through. They were coming to me, for wisdom. But after going to war, I was like, you start losing people. Then you look at the age, 18, 25, 30 this age, and then you start to appreciate your age. Then it got to the point where like, I’m 39, whatever age I was at the time when I went to Afghanistan. Hey, if you get to this age, it’s a blessing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:09:04 Yeah. Because you start doing the math. When you start seeing those people, who’ve lost their lives at 18, 19, 20 something years old. You make the difference. I’ve been blessed with this much more and start to think to yourself. I gotta do something with that, that gift that I’ve been given, because somebody else didn’t have that opportunity. They weren’t as fortunate as you to be able to live that out that long. I better not waste that opportunity. I better do something with it.
Althea Williams 00:09:41 I heard someone say, it’s selfish to think that we have time. We don’t know if any of us know the time or the hour. I think coming back from Afghanistan and coming back without some of my battle buddies made me think, wow, life is not promised and there’s no age limit for us. That we always say, when I get older. Some of us may. The reality is some of us may not reach that. To become elderly, to be in their eighties or a hundred, or, seventies. I need to live each day. I need to make a difference when I’m here. What am I doing to make a difference to know that someone’s life has changed or is because of my existence here?
Althea Williams 00:10:43 That’s why when I came back, I said, I wanted to do something to make a difference. But it didn’t happen right away because I went through a lot of changes before that. I experienced a traumatic brain injury. After experiencing a traumatic brain injury, I went to a very, very dark place. I was already dealing with depression and different things like that. But with a traumatic brain injury, it just took me a lot further because it wasn’t what I expected. I had my life planned out. I’m gonna do X, Y, and Z. I’m gonna do this for many years, and then I’m gonna get out. Then when life does not pan out like you have written it out. What are you gonna do? You got all these goals and how you’re gonna do it, but what if that changes, and that changes. Life for me was getting funny and weird. This is nothing. I had written out for myself. These are none of my goals. I didn’t have a goal to get a traumatic brain injury. My goal was not to start She Vets It. To be honest, that wasn’t part of the vision, but I believe God kind of led me into this path.
Scott DeLuzio 00:12:05 It’s funny how that happens, how you get directed. You get led to what your actual purpose is. You join the military. But that wasn’t a hundred percent, your purpose, that may have been the stepping stone to get you to where you needed to be. You get led through that whole journey. What was it that motivated you to join the military in the first place at that age? Or was it because of your son who joined first or was it something else?
Althea Williams 00:12:48 Well to be honest, like in high school, I wanted to join the military, but then something kept coming up. Then I actually got pregnant with my son later. I couldn’t join. Then I was in college and I was shadowing the ROTC program, but it was for the Air Force. I thought I wanted to go in as an officer, but I have one more class that I have to take. Someone was like, make sure you finish your degree before you join. But what happened is they said, I needed to wait another year before I could take this particular course. Once I waited that year to take that course,I don’t know if I ran the chamber of commerce, then I was working at a research Institute first.
Althea Williams 00:13:45 I got hired and I was traveling. Then later I ended up running a chamber of commerce. All these opportunities started happening for me. But really all those different opportunities didn’t go to waste because everything that I did would be an executive director of the chamber of commerce working at the small business development center. It actually helped me with what I’m doing now because it teaches you to connect with people. I had to talk to executives, CEOs for different organizations and connect them and have luncheons and talk to the governor or state representative, bring them in to speak. I was always bringing in different speakers with the chamber and having annual events. What I’m doing now is probably no different than what I was doing when I was at the chamber,
Scott DeLuzio 00:14:42 Just in a different format It’s not in that chamber of commerce format, but it’s more of a better and focused format. It’s funny when you look back, you can almost draw the path and say, well, yeah, of course, I’m doing this now, but back then, you didn’t see the whole path. Didn’t know exactly where you’d end up and whether or not this would even be a part of your future. Probably not even something that you could have envisioned, but here you are. All those things lead to bigger and better things, that’s where we are today.
Althea Williams 00:15:29 Yes. That’s why I tell veterans. I tell other people that life sometimes may not make sense at times. I believe that God has us go do different chapters in our lives and different things or different events in our lives, but it all adds up to what you’re called to do. There’s nothing that will happen in your life that will not be used. Every single thing that you’ve experienced, maybe getting fired from that job. Did you learn something from that job? Did you learn something about yourself or maybe be that coworker that was difficult, but did it build character in you and how to work with people that are difficult? Every situation is sharpening us for us to be better individuals. I always say instead of being disappointed about different things, that’s happening. You have every opportunity to use it as an opportunity to grow and do something. What can I learn from this situation? How can it make me better?
Scott DeLuzio 00:16:46 That’s an incredible mindset to have when even something as devastating as getting fired. You can still look at that as it’s not a good thing, obviously, but you can still look at the positives in the sense that you can learn from those mistakes that maybe you made. Then you grow from that. You don’t make those mistakes anymore. I know I don’t do that anymore. Now you don’t make those mistakes and then next time you have a job you’re not gonna make those mistakes and you won’t get fired for that particular thing. You grow and you become a better person that way. It’s a really good mindset to have, because if you’re just dwelling on the negatives and oh, this, this is always happening to me. Woe is me and all that kind of stuff. It’s not gonna make you any better. You’re just gonna be the same person that you’ve always been making the same mistakes, doing the same things that you’ve always done, and you’re gonna get the same things that you’ve always got.
Althea Williams 00:17:48 One thing about getting out of the military and experiencing the traumatic brain injury and the PTSD and different things than I say is the go away package that the military gives you.
Althea Williams 00:18:04 I started seeking counseling and I go to. I have counseling every week and I’m not ashamed to say that. That is because I have someone who I’m accountable to get right. Someone I can bounce things off to like, Hey, this is going on in my life. Trying to figure those things out and learning. The more you start learning about yourselves and being honest with yourself and how you show up and how others show up, you’re able to like, okay, that was them. This is me. But at the same time, you are very critical to yourself and like, okay, did I, was I responsible for that too? It’s not always being a victim about anything, but also using every opportunity to grow.
Althea Williams 00:19:02 Now we said this is a good mindset, but it’s not something that happens overnight because when you’re going through and your younger life ahead of you. You’re unsure of what those roads are. Everything that comes before you, you’re like, oh, wow. I’ve never experienced this before. You don’t know how to respond to it. You may not know how to respond to that difficult employee when you really never had a job that long. You’re learning along the way, but that’s why I always say it’s good to have a tribe of people, mentors in the workplace and so that you can bounce things off and people that will hold you accountable to be your best, best self.
Scott DeLuzio 00:19:51 Yeah. That is important. Because as individuals, we can kind of get a little lazy and let ourselves slide on, on the things that we might even know we should be doing. I don’t feel like today, I don’t feel like doing that thing that I’m supposed to be doing today to make myself better. But when you have that person who’s holding you accountable it’s a little harder for you to just kind of slack off because then it’s like, okay, well, what are they gonna think of me now? Not that you necessarily have to worry about what other people think of you. You don’t wanna be that slacker who just doesn’t put in the effort. and you have somebody who every morning you get up and you go for a run with them, or go to the gym or whatever it is, if you stop going with them, they’re gonna be like, okay, well, I’m gonna find somebody else.
Scott DeLuzio 00:20:54 That’s going to be kind of awkward to do that. You kind of just force yourself to get up and go do it, but it’s for the better. It’s not like you’re forcing yourself to go do something that’s gonna make you worse. You’re getting up and you’re going to do that thing. That’s gonna make you better. I think having that accountability partner, in whatever shape or form that that takes is important to have. Now you mentioned having a TBI and you mentioned your PTSD and things like that. That you are going to counseling. What does the treatment for a TBI look like? Have you sought any kind of treatment for that? Or, what is that like? I’ve just been curious to see what that,
Althea Williams 00:21:48 I end up having brain therapy. Believe it, or not, these little games that we play on our phone that may seem so light really help with stimulating our brain. Then two doing several things at one time, which in the beginning I would really be stressed out when too much is going on. I kind of, to some degree, can’t have too much going on at one time. It can’t be a whole bunch of noise here and there. It’s like earlier, there’s a vacuum. I can’t concentrate when there’s too much. It could be the slightest, maybe for you. You could probably work overwork through it. But for me, I kind of shut down. I can’t process it.
Althea Williams 00:22:44 it’s going through brain therapy, I was watching or reading, then what else did I do? It was mostly that the biggest thing was going to therapy. Because of the thing with PTSD and TBI, because they have so many similar symptoms that they had to separate what was being caused by the PTSD and what’s being caused by the TBI. And when you don’t know what those triggers are, those symptoms overlap. I had to be able to separate. I need to kind of find myself, and learn what those triggers are. What is causing, what caused me issues. I’ll give you a good example. I didn’t, this happened, it happened last year, actually. This is just one of many examples, but this is one and my neighbor.
Althea Williams 00:23:52 It was probably one or two in the morning or something like that was lifting weights at the garage open. It was summertime. I woke up, it startled me and I’m like, and then I said, okay, I’m gonna give him a pass today. Then it happened the next day. It startled me again at the same time. It started for me. I couldn’t go to sleep. Ss veterans, we have problems with sleeping anyway. The third day it startled me again. This time, I guess it must have been louder. I jumped again. I go downstairs to the front door and I tell the neighbor, are we gonna do this shit every morning? Now I’m very laid back. A lot of times the PTSD for me, it gets me.
Althea Williams 00:24:53 Out of my character, you’re like, oh my gosh, that’s not Althea. She wouldn’t do that. Yes. Althea will do that if she’s triggered. But here’s the thing, what I learned with therapy and things like this is that people are not going to adjust to me because I have issues with certain things or triggered here and there. I have to learn to be able to adjust because the world around me doesn’t know that I’m a veteran and I have PTSD. The person at the store doesn’t know how. I don’t want you up under me. Can you back away? The pandemic was a blessing for me because I already wanted people six feet away. That was like, oh, thank you, Lord. You heard me. You heard my prayer. But I loved that. When I go to the store, I always tell ’em when they get up under me, because I don’t like people behind me like that. I’m like we are still in a pandemic. I can use that.
Althea Williams 00:26:10 I’m gonna go back to the house. When I did that and said that to the neighbor, my daughter was like you need to get one of those silencers, not silence. What is it? The, the noise,
Scott DeLuzio 00:26:24 Noise-canceling.
Althea Williams 00:26:27 Noise-canceling that’s it. I said, okay, I need to do that. I had to make adjustments. Yes, he was wrong. That’s inconsiderate for the neighbor to do that. But at the same time, my life is gonna constantly be disturbed, because I’m constantly gonna be battling with people who are gonna trigger me in different capacities. I have to learn how to adjust. Maybe I don’t go to places when I go to the grocery store. When everybody’s there. Go during a time where everybody’s at work. Don’t go on the weekend to Walmart, maybe go early in the morning when everybody’s at work. Make some of those adjustments so that I have a little more peace, less stress, and anxiety. It has been a challenge, but I have to take over and use some of those buffers to protect my mental health, but not hold everybody else responsible for it.
Scott DeLuzio 00:27:31 I like that too because it’s similar to what you were saying before, by how when something bad happens to you, you take the lessons learned from that and you grow and become a better person. But in this case, it’s not necessarily things that are happening to you. It’s just things that are uncomfortable for you. The loud noises, the people too close to you crowds, whatever the case may be. But you learn from that. This is something that personally, it’s not something that I am comfortable with. You make those adjustments. You go to the store early in the morning, as opposed to right after work when everyone’s getting out and going to pick up their groceries or whatever you go have that noise-canceling feature going on. So that way you’re not constantly hearing the loud noises and everything. I think that makes sense, make those small adjustments. It’s not like you’re making major overhaul adjustments in your life that you’re now a completely different person living a completely different life. You’re making some small adjustments to make things a little bit easier to manage for you,
Althea Williams 00:28:44 Oh yes. If I didn’t make these adjustments, I probably wouldn’t be able to do She Vets It.
Althea Williams 00:28:54 I’ve had to learn how to make those adjustments because my anxiety would be off the roof. Sometimes I have things that may come up that can trigger me during She Vets It. Just learning how to work through that, but She Vets It this community of women veterans Talking to so many different people really holds me accountable to do the work. That’s what I like about it. That’s why I started She Vets It because community is so important because, for one, it keeps you from being isolated, not wanting to go to the store, not wanting to go to group functions or different things like that. But when you come together with veterans and people, your tribe, whatever your tribe is, it could be an underwater basket weaving club, but those are your tribe. Those are the people you have the same interests and when you’re amongst them, you understand each other. That’s what She Vets It is for me. It forces me to do the work. It forces me to show up. It’s like exposure therapy force, force bed. This is so uncomfortable, I gotta sit through it. But that’s what I like about this community.
Scott DeLuzio 00:30:28 Yeah. A good part about it is. The community aspect where you’re not isolating, you’re not just becoming a hermit and just staying in your little hole. It’s important, I think, for all veterans and there’s so many different groups of people and it’s not necessarily like you just have to go and hang out with veterans. Because like you said, it could be that underwater basket weaving group or whatever. It could be anything for a group of like-minded individuals and for a lot of veterans. They don’t relate very well to a lot of civilians. It may be a veteran’s group. Like She Vets It or any number of others that might be out there. You find the group that works for you and the type of a person that you are. If you have like-minded people in that group, you’re gonna be more likely to stay in that group as opposed to, oh, I gotta go drag my ass to whatever this group is and hang out with these jerks. You don’t want to do that. You don’t wanna be in that kind of mindset. you wanna go and hang out with the people that are similar to you, that like you, that you like them and you guys have something in common with each other,
Althea Williams 00:31:49 it’s kind of what you just said is being intentional. Even with your mental health being intentional about the people you’re around because there’s this phase and I don’t curse. But this one, it says before you diagnose yourself with a mental health issue make sure you’re not hanging around assholes. The thing is you wanna make sure you take inventory of the people that you’re around, who are people feeding you, and who do you feel good around? Who motivates you? Who pushes you out of your shell? Who are the people around you that pushes you towards your purpose, being a better individual? Those are the people you wanna be around with because you’re both your energy. You are just vibing high when you’re around the right people.
Althea Williams 00:32:50 You wake up and you wanna keep doing things you wanna get better. When you’re around people that are done all the time, someone that always has something negative to say, or those are the people you need to stay away from, because they’re not good for your mental health. Whether you’re a veteran or a civilian. I always say be intentional with the people you choose to be around and go from there. You’ll be able to find out if the mental health issues have something to do with you or is it the environment that you’re around?
Scott DeLuzio 00:33:26 I had a guest a couple years ago on this podcast and he was talking about how he was in the national guard and he lived in this same area that he grew up in. The friends that he had were the kind of deadbeats, the drug users and they weren’t really going anywhere in life. They had all sorts of issues and he found himself falling into that crowd where he was starting to use the drug and he was at this dead-end job. He didn’t really see much of a future for himself. At one point he decided he just needed to pack up and move and go to a different place, find a new tribe, find a new group of people. To this day he’s a successful business owner and he’s got a nice family. He’s got a house. He’s doing all the good things that we all dream to be doing.
Scott DeLuzio 00:34:26 That American dream, if you will. He’s got it all. But if he just stayed stuck in that same place, there’s no chance that he would’ve ended up as successful as he was. He would’ve been just going down that same bad road just because of the environment that he was in and the people that he was around. That’s just a reality. Make sure you’re not surrounded by people who are bringing you down before you decide this is a mental health thing. It might just be an asshole in your life.
Althea Williams 00:34:59 Exactly. I heard about this flower, not flower. It was a plant and they were talking positive to, and then the other one they talked negative to, but the one that was talk positive to grew, and the one that was talked negative to died. It was the same with water, the same thing. The water stayed clear when it was positive. The water that had the negative energy or spoke, it was just not good. The whole thing is it’s our environment, the people that we choose to be around impact who we are too. Whenever you’re doing the work and you experience trauma, you have to start taking inventory. Now, mind you, I’m not a therapist. I’m just saying what works for me. What has been working for me was taking care of the people in my life. Are they, are these people when I talk to ’em, do I feel inspired or do, is it positive? Or they are always something negative, everything’s negative. Then I had to start weighing who am I gonna give my time to? That has really helped. I could determine I’m triggered right now from some things that I’ve experienced through my combat trauma versus I’m triggered because someone is just I’m around the wrong person.
Scott DeLuzio 00:36:31 I just remembered something and I wanted to bring this up just in talking about your treatment for the TBI, and you’re talking about the brain therapy and stuff. I had a guest a couple of weeks ago. I forget exactly when it was a few episodes back anyways, but he was talking about how hyperbaric oxygen there can help reverse the damage caused by a TBI. The reason why I wanted to mention that is because if there’s other people who are out there listening, maybe they didn’t catch that episode. They’re dealing with TBIs and stuff. This might be another option. Just because it came up in this conversation, I just wanted to bring it up. But he mentioned how he found out about it through a football player.
Scott DeLuzio 00:37:24 Joe Namath, an old-time football player would be getting tackled all the time, concussions, lots of brain damage from all of that. They didn’t have the protective equipment like they do now for the football players. After years of that, he found himself with his mental capacity starting to be diminished. He noticed that some of his peers, the other people who played in the NFL with him, were also suffering from a lot of mental issues. He went to a doctor and he tried these hyperbaric oxygen treatments, and they did a scan of his brain. Before he started the treatments, there’s a part of his brain that was just like real dark. It wasn’t getting the oxygen that it needed to heal itself and recover.
Scott DeLuzio 00:38:16 After these treatments, and I forget exactly how many that side of his brain lit up again. It was getting the oxygen flow and it was getting the necessary flow to that, that part. It can start to heal itself again. He said he felt like he was young again, where he was able to think clearly and sharp and, all that kind of stuff. The reason why I’m mentioning it is because it may or may not be the right treatment for everybody, but it’s another option. It’s something that just came to me as we were talking. I might as well mention it because it can’t hurt.
Althea Williams 00:38:59 Well, thank you so much. I jotted that down. I would say one thing, another thing that I did was occupational therapy, where I learned how to do things. My calendars are very important. I don’t put it on my calendar, it never existed.
Scott DeLuzio 00:39:21 Yep. I’m the same way.
Althea Williams 00:39:23 Told me about it verbally. If I didn’t put it on my calendar, it wouldn’t exist. Learning through occupational therapy, certain things, knowing what my weaknesses were, and trying to find routines that will help me accommodate those areas that I would be more concerned of. But I do know for me, stress and sleep are the biggest things for me. So those symptoms, when I’m more stressed, make sure I’m away from people that will probably be stressful, stressful environments that will trigger things. My symptoms become a little more apparent. I definitely will write the hyperbaric that I’ll definitely write that down, but yeah, occupational therapy was another one that I did, but having a routine is a big deal. But my doctor was also saying staying active and exercising, keeping that blood flowing, and your body helps you eat right, having the right foods. You eat a lot of junk, a lot of sugar, and then you’re not sleeping. You already know you don’t sleep well, but then now you add a bad and poor diet, and then you’re not exercising as well. Then your body’s not gonna function. Even if you don’t have a traumatic brain injury, your body’s not gonna function well when you’re not eating.
Scott DeLuzio 00:40:59 You’re never gonna be a hundred percent if you’re eating Oreos and chips and all that kind of crap, and drinking sodas and everything. You’re just not gonna function to your fullest potential and add on not exercising to that, then it’s just gonna make things worse. It’s not even like you get a chance to burn off that, the junk calories or anything. You just sit there with it.
Althea Williams 00:41:26 But the thing with the PTSD is that when you if you’re triggered some of those symptoms from that pop-up. Balancing the PTSD is just as important as balancing the other things that we talked about, exercising, things like that as a PTSD can trigger things that look like your TBI as well, for forgetfulness your cognitive, not thinking well, and things like that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:42:06 I think I’ve heard of some people where they’ve actually been misdiagnosed with either PTSD or TBI because the symptoms just cross over so much. They’re so close that sometimes it’s hard to tell which one is which, and like you were saying before, what is triggering this particular symptom that you’re having? Is it the TBI, or is it the PTSD? It could be hard to tell.
Althea Williams 00:42:35 Oh yes, definitely. But I know with mine, they were able to see through the MRI that she’s experienced a TBI. There’s some healing that takes place, but what someone told me, not a neurologist, but a doctor told me that what you’re doing, you’re always online and you’re doing this and doing that. You’re actually helping to heal yourself because I’m doing things, my brain, that it was in the beginning last year. It was so, so stressful to do what I’m doing. It’s stressful, but it’s more tolerable than last year. But last year was like muscle fatigue doing the things that I’m doing now, I have a system which actually helps me not to be as anxious. I control my own time. So it makes it a little lot easier for me.
Scott DeLuzio 00:43:37 It almost sounds like when you first start exercising, like lifting weights or something at first, it’s really hard and you get that muscle fatigue and your muscles are sore and it’s stressful on your body. But then over time, it gets easier as you build up that muscle you get better at it. It’s kind of like that. I would imagine anyways. I’m not a doctor, but I would imagine, with your brain, the more you’re doing this type of activity, the more your brain gets used to it. The better you end up getting at it and the easier you’re, you’re able to function doing that type of stuff.
Althea Williams 00:44:15 Exactly. I just make sure that things that I do there on set days at the set, the same time Fridays I use for interviews or pop following up. But other days it’s the same day, the same time for the same topics. That actually helps me versus having too many different things go on, cuz then that’s when I’m like, okay, this, this is too much. I have to really, really have a schedule that works for me.
Scott DeLuzio 00:44:47 That’s good that you have that ability to have that kind of schedule and that structured routine in your day-to-day life. I can imagine that that is the way that a brain starts to heal itself, gets used to those routines and those patterns. It is necessary in that way that you’re, you’re trying to heal yourself.
Althea Williams 00:45:16 Exactly.
Scott DeLuzio 00:45:18 Let’s talk a little bit more about She Vets It. We kind of danced around a little bit here and didn’t really get too into it. Tell us what it’s all about and what sparked you to create it. I know you said earlier that it wasn’t something that was even on your radar years ago, but, but here you are. This is where you’re at now. What’s it all about what got you into it?
Althea Williams 00:45:41 I shared earlier that I was in a really dark place after getting the traumatic injury. I couldn’t remember people. I would have someone that I went to the military with or someone that I should know. I wouldn’t remember who they were. I joined the military, I had my MBA, I’m pretty sharp, been pretty successful on the outside. I come in and now I’m at a point and place in my life where I don’t function the same. That kind of pushed me into depression because I didn’t know what that meant for my life. When you’re no longer the person you used to be, you start even thinking about your mortality, you start thinking like, does this mean this is it for me?
Althea Williams 00:46:38 There’s nothing else for me. I watched this movie and I always say it’s the shack. I saw that movie and it really did something. It just choked me up. It just kind of gave me a little spark. I saw a little light. I was in a women’s veteran’s group and an eight-week program. And there were other veterans and we were talking about trauma and things like that. Every day we cry and it was a comradery that I had with them that I was about to get out of the military because I was getting medically retired. I was like, I wanna keep this comradery. I don’t think I would be able to have this connection with civilian friends because they’ve not experienced loss.
Althea Williams 00:47:31 They didn’t lose battle buddies in war. They don’t know what it’s like to be away from their family. They don’t know all the different things that come with being a veteran. I was like, gosh, I just need to be around people that I can relate to. I ended up starting a meetup group. I also started putting information out on Instagram about different programs out there because I was thinking I was turning 39 and I was thinking, it was tough on me. It almost took me out. How much harder is it for the young soldier that joined at 18 and haven’t yet formed their identity to know who they are. I was thinking I wanted to do something to help that soldier because I was thinking that it was gonna be important for me, for my survival was to be amongst people I can relate to. It was like finding people that will hold me accountable to be well. That’s why I realized the importance of community was so important. That’s why I thought too, bringing other people into that community, if they were feeling like I felt it would probably push them to their purpose as well. That’s pretty much why I started She Vets It.
Scott DeLuzio 00:49:07 It’s not just helping yourself, although it is doing that too, but it’s helping all those other people who might have just been isolated and felt like they had no place to turn for that community. For the camaraderie for the group of people who will push them to get better.
Althea Williams 00:49:27 Exactly. It’s like our battle, but like it’s creating a battle buddy system, accountability partners in life. Someone said, and I think it was Dr. K who said that by nature animals like you see dogs or whatever they have packs. In the military we have a pack, we have this army pack or air force pack. It’s a pack of us. But when you take off that uniform and your pack is still on the base and you have to take that uniform, you lose your pack. Now you’re looking at the world and trying to figure out what my life looks like now? Now it’s like finding an identity outside of the military and you don’t necessarily always get that help on how to transition. Rather you could get a job out of the military, but still a psychological of looking back and reflecting. Reflecting on the years that you put in rather it’s 20 years, 15 years or eight years, you’re gonna naturally reflect that I don’t. Am I correct?
Scott DeLuzio 00:50:37 Yeah, I think so.
Althea Williams 00:50:39 That’s what those were the things that I just think that having accountability to partners to help you pull you along because everything on base is given to us. We have our battle buddies, we have our NCOs, everyone, a check on us takes care of us. But when you get out, you’re left to the world, you may have family, friends that you can’t relate to. It’s good to be able to plug in somewhere, to people that you can connect to and help you navigate through the civilian world.
Scott DeLuzio 00:51:12 Yeah, yeah, for sure. I’ve always said that the military does a great job at helping the servicemembers put on the uniform. They train you to be a soldier or a Marine or airman, whatever your branches, they train you how to do your job and do all the things that you need to, to be successful in the military. But they don’t always do a great job at helping us take off the uniform in that transition to veteran status. That’s the part where I think groups like She Vets and other veteran-based organizations feel that need where there’s people who feel like they’re just wandering. They’re lost. They don’t know where they’re going next. You have that group of people who can help guide them be that accountability partner just be there to talk bounce ideas off of whatever. I think it’s just really important. It’s going back to that tribe, that group of like-minded people, similar backgrounds, similar experiences maybe, and they want each other to succeed. Getting all in that group, it’s not you’re not there just to promote your own agenda, you’re there to help people too
Althea Williams 00:52:36 I always tell people that it is really not about me, which She Vets It. Actually, to be honest, I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person. If anyone ever sees me, I’m okay. If I could accomplish everything that I wanna accomplish without being out there, I would definitely do that. But I have people that are like Althea, no people need to know why you do what you do and they need to know who you are. I am telling my story and why She Vets. It is so important to me. I said, it started with me needing to know the importance of community and knowing the importance of community as it relates to healing those and helping those to find their purpose, especially when you’re around the right group of people.
Althea Williams 00:53:32 Like I see people that were part of, She Vets It, the online scene, and I’m just seeing people just thriving in so many different ways, because I bring in guest speakers every week and they talk about entrepreneurship, mental health, and wellness career opportunities, maybe in TV and film, or maybe in other industries. There’s various topics every week. I could see the ones that have been the most consistent. I can see the transformation. It’s like we’re pushing each other. Even when I transformed, I could see the transformation when I first started to now I look at pictures and I’m like, I see now, like, okay and it was different people that I had on that may have sparked some things in me too, okay, I gotta do this. Like for me, one thing that I learned, her name is Shannon.
Althea Williams 00:54:27 Shannon with the Mocha Yogas. She remembered she came on and she would do mindfulness, and journaling prompts every week for me. She did it last year. She did one where she was talking about having a mental health tool kit. Having a toolkit of things that bring you joy and happiness. What makes you feel good? And I’m like, I love flowers. I love lavender tea. I love this. I love the beach. I love it. Whenever I’m feeling down, what do I do? I got dressed. I go down to my favorite cafe and get a lavender tea or days that I wanna say didn’t quit. You didn’t give up. I go and buy myself flowers. I don’t wait for other people to buy flowers for me. I bought myself flowers because someone said something in one of the rooms. We come here into this world by ourselves and we’re gonna leave by ourselves.
Althea Williams 00:55:31 We gotta be our best cheerleader. We gotta be our best friend. And we gotta love ourselves more than anybody else. People can’t love us if we don’t love ourselves. The way I love myself is how I tell people to love me. Guess what? I’m getting myself flowers. You did a good job. I’m not gonna wait for Scott to tell me. You’re awesome. Althea. You are awesome. You showed up. You showed up this year. Last year was tough for you. You didn’t quit. You stayed with, she bet said, even when things were triggering, you didn’t quit. Even when you wanted to fold you didn’t and what I’m proud of you. Those are things that I do for myself, but those were different people that came into my life on my platform and shared those tips and tools of wearing your good clothes.
Althea Williams 00:56:19 I’ve learned that the days I’m feeling depressed or down or more triggered like last, the last couple of weeks are the anniversary of my battle buddies. I had a really bad day Tuesday, so I didn’t go to my regular room on Tuesday. These days I still get up, still don’t stay in bed, take a shower, or do my best. Like I’m going somewhere, really great to wear the new shirt, new shoes or whatever. It looks nice. Even if I don’t feel like it. I noticed when I practiced that every day, I look at the pictures, I’m like, oh, I could tell the transformation. But that day I remember I looked my best, but I was feeling horrible. I looked my best, but it’s not about suppressing those sad things, but it’s actually making sure that my mind and my body can catch up with each other. I know you feel crappy right now, but what your mind has to start catching up with you, you feel like I feel good in this outfit. I feel good about this. I start overlooking all those other things and start embracing feeling good.
Scott DeLuzio 00:57:33 That is something that is hard for someone to do. Someone who is just struggling to get outta bed, to take a shower, to go eat breakfast or, or whatever. But that transformation that you’re talking about takes place and your mind starts to catch up with the fact that you actually do give a damn, you actually do want to better, and your mind starts to, reorganize some of the crap in your brain and saying, okay, let’s focus on, on the good stuff right now. Let’s focus on what we’re doing here I think that’s powerful, and just small little things, like just putting on the good hand, starting off the day. could change the whole outlook of the day.
Althea Williams 00:58:32 Oh yeah. Cleaning your room, like cleaning, cleaning the house, cleaning your room when you’re feeling out of sorts, those little things that we take for granted that can kind of change how we feel. Whenever I feel kind of out of tune it is like, okay, let me make sure my environment is good. Make sure I clean up a little more. Make sure I invest in myself more for the day and just, I just put a little extra in it so that I feel good. A lot of times it may be anything other than, like I said, the last couple of weeks, my battle buddies. I kind of battle with that. Even if I try to forget it, my body, as the book says your body remembers even when I forget and I’m like, wow, why am I feeling really down right now? Those are things that I’m working on. Am I where I should be? Probably not, but I’m definitely not where I used to be.
Scott DeLuzio 00:59:42 Well, it’s progress. It’s all another stepping stone to get to where, where you need to be and take it for what it is. It’s another one of those lessons. It’s another one of those paths along the way in, in your journey. I have no doubt that you’ll get to where you need to be. I think we’ll all get to where we’re supposed to be at some point may not happen as fast as we like it to happen. We do live in a society that’s very on demand. You order something on Amazon, it gets there the next day or, even sooner so, that kind of stuff happens all the time, but, but ultimately we will get to where we need to be. When the time is. It’s just a matter of patience and trusting the process.
Althea Williams 01:00:38 That’s why I was saying what She Vets it. It really holds me accountable to like, I gotta do the work.be around people. That’s gonna hold you accountable to be right. To be, well, if you have kids, they hold you accountable. I have children. I need to show up or if you don’t have children, be amongst people that are not gonna let you just stay in the bed all the time, that’s going, that forces you to get out and like, no, you need to go out and we’re going to the beach today. Well, I mean in Texas, but that would be nice, but anyhow flying to California and going to the beach
Althea Williams 01:01:25 Got that friend, tell him, I wanna be friends too, fly into California. But yeah. Have people in your life that wanna see you win. Don’t be isolated and so many. Let me tell you about men. One thing about men. Men will stay with them as women. We’re natural connectors and men, they’ll shoot the breeze with a guy, but it’s really, Hey, how are you doing whatever? Then they’re back home with the spouse, whatever, but women, we make connections. That’s where it’s tougher for men because they don’t connect like we do. But even with me being a connector, it was hard because as veterans, we will still wanna isolate. We don’t wanna connect. I know the importance for us, men and women and to our, my bro brothers in arms that’s listening is, find people that are like-minded, don’t find the friends that the people that are on drugs that are doing bad or whatever, find someone that you look up to that you admire that, wow.
Althea Williams 01:02:38 I like what they’re doing. Be intentional about those friends. I tell my children, my adult children are intentional about the relationships that you form in your life. people you can grow from iron sharpens iron. The veteran correlation is that I have strengths that I can share with you, Scott, you have strengths that you can share with me where I’m weak or vice versa. Those are the people you wanna be around, get a mentor, get a mentor, connect with your purpose, find out what you’re here for. Once you find out what your purpose is. A lot of times when you don’t know the purpose is I didn’t after getting a traumatic brain injury, not being the same. I didn’t know what my purpose was. I was like, what is my purpose?
Althea Williams 01:03:28 I knew who I was before it, but I didn’t know. I’m not sharp like I used to be. There’s certain things I can’t deal with stress. I used to and certain things I can do certain things I can’t do. Now, who am I? I had to learn who I was all over again. It was a new introduction. I went through a grieving process of grieving the old self, but I had to be an acceptance to the new person I’m out. I remember you Scott if I see you in person, but you won’t hold it against me. But I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t remember someone’s name or certain things, but now I’m like, it is what it is. It’s not my fault. I can’t, and so people that really know me, they know they accept me for whatever my weaknesses are.
Althea Williams 01:04:25 I had an interview with someone and it was RO and I knew it was RO and then I said, Rosario, and then I, we already talked it through, and then what do I do? I go and say Rosario? I’m like, oh my gosh. Sometimes there’s certain things that, that, that wouldn’t have happened to old me was sharp, was on it I’m like the go-to person for EV but learning who I am and being in the acceptance of who I am being okay. With not being perfect. I think that’s why I’m able to do what I’m doing now is just learning to not be perfect. That’s the training I’m getting with you when your podcast is learning, being okay. To be authentic and not be perfect.
Scott DeLuzio 01:05:24 Yeah, absolutely. I love it. It’s a great message. Well, before we wrap this up it’s been a pleasure first off, speaking with you today. I think we could go for hours talking together and I think this episode could, could definitely be a multi-part series if, if we let it keep going. But I want to give you a chance to let people know where they can get in touch with you and find out more about She Vets It.
Althea Williams 01:05:54 Yes. You can check me out at shevetsit.com. Make sure you subscribe. I’m having some really great things that’s coming up. I would love for you all to subscribe so you can stay in contact with what I’m doing, and then also I’m coming out with well, it’s gonna be launched pretty soon and actually on women’s veterans day and it’s He Vets It and She Vets It shirts. The reason why I wanna do that is that movement because a lot of women don’t self-identify as veterans. A lot of times we wonder why people never really acknowledge us when we’re in the VA. Well, a lot of times we don’t self-identify as veterans in general. Sometimes when there’s events, a lot of us don’t show up. I went to a golf tournament. There were 144 men and only 10 women veterans.
Scott DeLuzio 01:06:54 Oh, wow.
Althea Williams 01:06:55 We don’t show up all the time, but I want to grade a movement where we are proud to say, Hey, I’m a veteran too. She Vets It, I vet it. If you have a husband who’s dual military, he Vets it. We may not wear the hat. Women may not wear the army or whatever, a lot of times we don’t wanna mess up our hair. If you have that t-shirt, it’s very fashionable and then you it’s, She Vets It and He Vets It. Definitely looking forward to doing that, but definitely follow me on all social media platforms. She Vets It and yeah. Look forward to connecting with you all.
Scott DeLuzio 01:07:40 Yeah. I’ll have links to all of us in the show notes as well. Anyone who’s looking to reach out and get in touch or get involved with chief ETS definitely check out the show notes. You’ll be able to find all the links there, and again, it’s been great having you. I’m really glad that we got to connect and really glad that we got to sit down and have one on one with this episode.
Althea Williams 01:08:03 Oh, well I am so glad to have the opportunity come on. It was definitely my pleasure. Thank you so much for your service and for what you are doing. I appreciate you.
Scott DeLuzio 01:08:13 All right. Thank you.
Althea Williams 01:08:14 Thank you.
Scott DeLuzio 01:08:16 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.