Feb. 23, 2022

E219: Overcoming Bullying and Illness with Joey Braun | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Coach

In this episode, I speak with my friend, Joey Braun, who is the host of the MindShape Podcast, and we talk about how to Overcome Bullying and Illness. Joey was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune at 12 years old, bullied throughout high school, lost 8...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e219-overcoming-bullying-and-illness-with-joey-braun-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-coach/#show-notes

In this episode, I speak with my friend, Joey Braun, who is the host of the MindShape Podcast, and we talk about how to Overcome Bullying and Illness.

Joey was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune at 12 years old, bullied throughout high school, lost 8 inches of growth, mentally carried the trauma for 10 + years. At 22, Joey shared his story, which he kept private his whole life to a group of 10 people, and it changed his life. Joey started the podcast two years ago to help other people share their stories and get that same experience.

Let’s come and join us! As we dive into this episode, Joey will give you a tremendous amount of value today!

Learn more about Joey Braun, visit: https://www.instagram.com/joeybraun_/

MindShape Podcast: https://www.instagram.com/mindshapepodcast/

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. Very excited to be back here with another episode with my guest, Joey Braun who is the host of the MindShape Podcast. Joey, my friend, what is going on in your world today?

Joey: How you doing, Michael? It's good. I'm over here in Baltimore, Maryland, it's cold, but I love it, man. Life's good, can't complain and most importantly, everyone, my life's doing well so, happy about that.

Michael: Yeah. I love that. That really is one of the most important things like health, family, community, people, you know, you can be down in the dumps and still have health and you're a millionaire in my opinion. So for context and for those who don't know, you tell us a little bit about your story and how you got to where you are today.

Joey: We'll have to rewind a little bit right now, I'm about to be 26. My story started around when I was 11, 12, 13 so that was the aspect growing up and I grew up in a good family. I played sport, I was a star soccer player, did everything all the above, a very social kid. When I hit 11 and a half 12, I started getting sick, what we found was I got bit by a tick which gave me Lyme's disease, which was okay, we go to the doctor, get treated for Lyme disease, everything's fine. And then over progressive weeks and months things didn't get better, things got worse. The doctor said, well, the limes isn't really active, we don't know what's going on, then they were like, alright, we don't know. I got to the point where I was so weak, I couldn't even get down the steps. So I went from a star soccer player to someone who couldn't even walk down the steps it was the most confusing time of my life because I didn't understand how things can change when you're young, you think you're invincible, right? When life's good, you think you're going through life, you feel good and then all of a sudden things change and it kind of gave me my first glimpse of how fast things can change for me. I ended up going from Doctor to doctor, and I eventually was diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis, which is a rare autoimmune disease that affects the skin and the muscles and just, it's pretty much for autoimmune it means your immune system attacks itself and this case for my muscles and my muscles extremely weak. And at one point when I, when I first got diagnosed, I had golf ball sized rocks of my calves which was, is extreme pain. So that was an experience, but needless to say, when I started with autoimmune I was 12 and a half is when I got officially diagnosed, they put me on steroids, I was supposed to take those for two years, which I did completely stunted, six to eight inches of my growth. I was always short so it was tough to get stunted, six to eight inches of growth and then be told that hey, I'm not going to be socially 5’11, right now I'm only 5’5 so luckily I still grew right then, I was like, 4’8 so I was like, wow, how tall am I gonna get? So that was the experience of the start of my story, there's a lot more to it going along but that's the start story.

Michael: Yeah, and as someone who has a child was in and out of the hospital more times than I could ever count like I have so much sympathy for you, man, because I think a lot of people have that experience unfortunately and it's not spoken or talked about enough. I mean there were times, I'd be in the hospital to three times in a week easily and I don't think people really understand the impact that has on you mentally emotionally and physically at that young of an age and then once head into your teens and your adult years at one point, I was like, man, I think I'm a hypochondriac, you know, I think that's a really big part of what happens and tell you; you start to take this time, effort and energy to not only heal your body, but heal your mind around these things. So, as you're in this journey and you're heading through this as a kid and into a teenager, what were the tools are coping mechanisms that you had to kind of manage this?

Joey: Michael to be honest going from twelve to seventeen even to twenty-two, I don't have any cover mechanisms I just live my life, I literally couldn't didn't process it in that way. I was always moving to the next thing like, hey, I just got to keep moving. I guess that's the only thing I thought I didn't consciously think of it, like I do now, I just kept moving, like, I was sick, I didn't know what to do. I took pills 20 pills in the morning and I got better constantly in and out of the hospital constantly in and out of getting blood work every week to see if I'm doing better. The coping mechanisms were me were just survival at that point and I turned from outgoing kid into antisocial kid because getting bullied in school. For some reason when you're growing up through school and when you get older, it's not a big deal, but people really like to get on you for being short, they like to get on you for your height, it's not a big deal when you're older, but when you're there, when you're a kid, it's your social status is important. You're getting bullied, you get put down, when I took my steroids, my cheeks blew up like a chipmunk, they were huge and I called a chipmunk, like, people laugh at me in the hallways. Now, that's a traumatizing experience for someone going through high school that's an important time. And it was so traumatizing for me, looking back to go through that, and it was just life and moving forward I kind of just dealt with it in that way. My doctor always told me Joey; I didn't know you don't want to hear this, you're not going to be able to play sports like you did, you're not going to be able to lift weights, you're not gonna be able to do all these things physically that I always could do and I love doing and that tore me apart. At the same time, I'm a bit of a rebel and my mind, I was like, that's not going to happen, that's not how it's going to go down for me. So, I continued to play sports play soccer, wow, it's taking the medicine which I was supposed to do and I was still okay. Like I couldn't spend as long on the field, but I could still play, right? I got tired fast because my muscles got week, I kept going that direction. A big thing that helped me though and it was I guess treatment. My mom went through a lot on her and she ended up going to acupuncture, she got treated at a helped her a lot, so she told me, Joey, I want you to go to acupuncture, I want you to do this and 17 year old me's like acupuncture, isn't that where they stick needles all around your body, I didn't want to do that. It took like three months for her to convince me to go to acupuncture and seek that treatment when I went nothing really happened at first she stuck needles in my body, but she was amazing.

So, I was like, all right, I'm going to keep coming back, I don't really want to live the rest of my life with an autoimmune disease and be weak all the time and I want to seek treatment. So I did this, I went to acupuncture every single week for eight months and after eight months, I felt a lot better, I didn't go into a cycle of like remission in the spring, I didn't go through that same flare-ups, I would have I felt good so I kept going and there's was put into remission, right? I don't deal with it. Like I did back then, I don't think it's completely gone, I think it's like a mission, it's still part of me, but right now, like I could run 5Ks, I can lift as much weight as I want, I can do all the things I always wanted to do and it seems like that happened because I was able to be open enough to another form of treatment and also be confident in myself and my growth.

Michael: And one of the things that came to mind as you were talking, I was like, I remember at one point I got super sick as a kid, I was on Prednisone, which is an insane thing to be on as a child and just going through this consummate battle of pain and having Doctor, you have also having asthma like you can't play sports, you can't do these things and having that rebellious mentality in the same way, I was like, fine I'm going to do it anyway. And like, sometimes I have these like – vicious asthma attacks in the middle of like practices and stuff like that, and well, I'm going to live my life and it's funny because you always hear in medical research, when people are given a timeframe on diagnosis they always die like within a couple of weeks of that date because you know I think, there is part of and maybe this is heady and I know it might be for some people but I truly feel like when you decide that you're going to be healthy and you make that choice and you to some extent as much as you humanly can push your body and like force it into doing the things that you want it to do, it will come around, right? And you know, it's really interesting to me now 20 years removed I think I've had like one asthma attack since and it was so much about me, forcing my body into that that level of growth and not always letting doctors be the ones who determine my future because I think it's really easy to go to the doctor and they're like – hey, we're just going to give you all these drugs, God speed. Was it more of your mother's interest in eastern medicine, or your own? What I'm curious about is how did you navigate your own health? Because at some point there had to be a turning point, not only in your rebellion, but in the practical way that yourself to, I would assume look at this and go, you know what? I'm going to do this my way and how did you get there?

Joey: Hmm… Interesting question. When I look back at all of it in my life, like right now, I do a lot of things from my body, for my health and where I want to go. When I was 16, 17, 18, I went to acupuncture at that was like, all I did, I still didn't eat, right? I still didn't do the right things for my body, and I just went to acupuncture. I didn't think about anything other than not feeling the way I did and when that provided me that ability to not feel that way, I kind of just went to, okay, this is enough, like I went from straight from there, to college, and in college, my habits, didn't get any better. I went to college and I went was partying and drinking and eating college food like on campus, which is not good. I just went straight from that into college so when it comes like how I dealt with it, mentally like you said, it was a decision for me I just literally made a decision one day. I got acupuncture, I stopped taking the pills, all the pills that I felt were making me sicker and intuitively I thought like, hey, these are making me feel worse. So I guess that was one thing I did as I just committed to stop. I'm not going to take these pills on my go acupuncture, and unfortunately to the doctor and if she ever hears something like this, I'm sorry, but I just stopped going and she wanted me to come back so bad I just stopped, I didn't go back, I don't advise that for everybody, but I was tired of hearing the same old, same old, you can't do this, you can't do that, right? There's never a conversation of all you can do this, was always a conversation of what I can't do. I don't want to live my life like that and like you said, Michael, we have so much power over our thoughts and how we think and the brain we have is so plastic like we can really mold it and I think when I understand understand that, after college, I started to read better books to think, to eat the right things, to see what foods make me feel good, what make foods, make me feel worse. Then started to really take care of myself, physically, and mentally thinking the right way, it changed everything for me. So that real practical journey didn't start till after college for me was when I realized how bad being sick and being bullied and being weak affected me mentally when I was younger, I didn't realize till ten years later, how bad it affected me and how much I haven't dealt with that. What that thing, what that mental burden and trauma I had that with when I was younger.

Michael: You know, and that's heavy, right? Because I think for most kids in a similar situation as you and I there's a level of dissociation where you really kind of effectively turn off emotionally because it's survival, its protection I mean, you know, it's really funny to me looking back at being bullied all the time as a kid, being a bed-wetter, being in poverty, being one of the probably the most poor kid in the entire school and looking back on that and going man, that's crippling and there's levels of bullying, let's keep it real. If you're getting picked on a little bit you're probably going to be okay, right? But when it gets to the depth where it starts to fuck with your psyche and your identity, one of the things we do is we just learned to turn it off, you know, I don't know if this was your experience so I'm really curious is I became a robot and in becoming a robot that actually impacted really the continuation of my life until the moment I came to the realization that, oh, wait a second, that's not who I am.  What was there something like in this process in which you were reflecting on the past where you had to shift your identity and your beliefs about who you are?

Joey: Yes, it was a huge turning point for me. After I graduated from college that was my main goal to get through school, graduate from college. I went from Towson University here in Maryland all the way back to home in, New Jersey, I got a dog in college and needless to say, I got my dog for the wrong reasons, instead of and I had to take care of a dog, all by myself, back in New Jersey, living by myself and working. And since I went through a terrible breakup, right before I graduated, I was in a bad spot, a very depressed state. And when I look back on this, I realized why I had to go through that I feel like everything does happen for a reason, but I was so broken to the point where I was crying on my floor alone, not knowing what I wanted to do work in a job that I didn't like at all saying, okay, I keep having these thoughts and going down these mental patterns, and how I think about myself, and that moment on the floor I remember and this was after months, and months of the same thing it was this one moment I said, I can either flip to the next chapter of my book or throw this one out, a whole new one. And that was a powerful moment for me because I started to become open in that part of my life, listening to positive podcast, listening to or reading books and I started doing that slowly because I did that right away, I started to see a week after that, life doesn't have to be the way I thought, I think it does so I don't have to be my past, I don't have to be this identity of who I am because I realized like you said, from all that bullying, I put up this wall, I put up this shell and I just became essentially a robot. I didn't have emotionally intelligent conversations with people, I was never vulnerable, I was just always like, okay, I have two friends, that's great, and I'm moving forward. I'm just going to keep going, I don't trust people, I don't want to be vulnerable people because every time that I tried to either, I'd get bullied or the friend I would tell would tell everybody else and then I'd be hearing from that from other people in school, I didn't want to be open with people. I closed off from a social kid to an anti-social kid. My identity, completely flipped my personality flipped during that time period, between 12 and 22 however, I did realize in this moment alone, crying on the floor, that something told me I didn't have to be that identity anymore. I mean, the pass is going to be in the backseat, but they don't have to drive the car, right? You can drive or you wanna go, you can be who you want to be and when I realized that is when I started to make those changes and doing meditation, stretching, reading and implementing things into my life, that I'll help me move in the right direction and all those things helped tremendously.

Michael:  I think that we're often faced with what I'll call this juxtaposition of self in, which you have the ability to create massive change in your life in the way that you have or you have the ability to stay back exactly where you are and in that about was what were some of the first started to take because I think what happens is and this was my experience, you kind of have this idea this notion in the back of your head you sit with it for a bit, you go, okay, wait, maybe I don't actually have to be my past but often we get trapped and we get stuck there because we don't step into what's next.

What was really the Catalyst that maybe it's mindset, maybe it's action, I'm not sure for you but what was really the Catalyst that helps you actually step into what would ultimately become the change that you made in your life?

Joey: It was a step-by-step process for me. I knew in that moment that I'd had to take it literally hour by hour, day by day if I wanted to see change like I couldn't focus on a week or a year or even a day was a lot. The first thing, I did actually, the first thing I did was I think that morning I put I haven't run in years, I put my running shoes on a rant who miles, I didn't even know, I could run two miles. And on that run, I remember feeling exhausted and at the same time feeling free feeling like wow, I just did something I didn't think I could do in the spur of the moment after making a decision that I wanted to make a change in my life. That's what I started to see how malleable and plastic we are and how we can make changes in our life by a decision, right? And then I started running every single day and it wasn't two miles, I was pretty I think I did like a mile and also I started waking up early and making sure that I was up and ran that was the first thing I did now that I think about it I haven't even thought about that a lot like that.

Michael: Yeah, that's interesting. And what's so interesting is like for me it was kind of the same thing as like if I move my physical body, but it's almost like moving your physical body is more difficult than any other aspect of what I'll call those that you have for yourself because it would to do something difficult, right? And in that difficulty what I love that you said as you felt free, what was that freedom about for you?

Joey: I don't know. I think it all came to fruition for me. You know, I still believe my doctor like inherently subconsciously that I would never be able to do those things I had to, I sat out the mile races in school because of it I'm not the mile run, so weren't races but we had to do that for P.E class, when I did that, I broke through a limiting belief that I had for years, a decade and that was the Catalyst to breaking down so many like, limiting beliefs, a week later I started journaling and reflecting on my life. And when you're alone, and I repeat, this being alone is very powerful because when you're alone, you can be with yourself there's really no distractions I mean, there are there can be, but you're kind of forced to sit with yourself and saw like I don't really like these things about me, I don't like how I feel this way, I don't like how I treat people in certain situations, I don't like how I show up in certain situations, okay, now, that's a fact for me, what can I do now to improve those things? Because I do inherently believe in a higher power, but I believe that this world we live in, is his cause and effect, right? We do something, we get a result and I do believe there's solutions to a lot of problems, like, you know, personalized, if we think and we sit down and we reflect we can find ways to improve certain areas of our life. So I had to start doing that with my journaling, and being honest with myself, that's the hardest thing guys, is honesty with you. The easiest thing to do is to lie to ourselves but if you don't like something about yourself, be honest with yourself because that's when you can start to actually see, okay, now what can I do to be better? And that's how I started making that change because I didn't like myself that I was inherent reason why is depressed and sad, right? I wasn't doing the right things for me.

Michael: I feel like often people and we live in such an interesting Society where it's like be kind with yourself, be kind with you and I will always argue the kindest thing that you can do for yourself is the thing that you know, you're supposed to be doing, right? And there is a level where you kinda have to get over your own bullshit, to be able to shift into having the life that you want to have and when you do that, not only power that you get, but the freedom the sense of self compassion, love, empathy like those things really start to come into play. And I love what you said about being alone because the greatest scopes of my healing journey have been literally in the silence and that's so uncomfortable for people because it's so easy to grab the phone, hop on social media, play video games, watching movies, go party with your friends, happy hour, but if you sit with yourself for 45 minutes a day in silence, you're going to learn something about who you are.

Joey: You’re going to learn a lot.

Michael: Yeah, you are. And I think that it's okay to be scared about that because it's unknown territory and even today in this moment you're doing something you've never done before for the first time. So, you can have a Grace, you can have empathy for yourself, but I think really, if you want to step in what's next in your life, you've got to be willing to do the difficult things. And so, one of the things that I appreciate about you and I know that you've been able to do and having difficult conversations as starting your podcast and one of the reasons that I did in created Think Unbroken as I was like, I want to put together the thing that I need for other people, that I need for me, that I need for the world, and in a sense, this is kind of be, right? Because I'm always getting to learn from people. What do you think, is one of the most important lessons that you've learned from other people in your journey of healing?

Joey: We've had a ton of people on the podcast, you know, it does. It's the perspective of the world while we have our own worlds and it's important that we take care of ourselves, it's also really, really important to understand what's going on in other people's lives. What other people deal with on a daily basis is going to be completely different, it could be similar but a lot of times it's really different from what we go through in life. To be able to sit down with over 80 people now and hear stories about someone who is in a house fire, someone who was sexually assaulted, someone who had cancer, someone who's going through chemotherapy. So many different stores, someone who went through a huge weight loss campaign, lost a lot of weight, you learn about what people go through, mentally and physically and how they deal with the things in their lives and it's so powerful to gain that perspective and understand that we all are going through something difficult. If someone's not showing that, they might be a good actor, but we're all going through stuff on a daily basis and it's important to have that perspective and understand that so we can show more compassion there's other people, it's huge. And like I said, there's this dichotomy because you said, we have to be kind to ourselves, and we also have to be real with ourselves and that's a balance, right? You can't be so hard on yourself that you destroy yourself, and you can't be so easy on yourself that you never go anywhere, so there's this balance that needs to be found. And when we say balance, I think people get confused that they literally have to balance it right now. I think with balance you go one way and then you adjust to kind of balance it out, right? I went really hard on myself, I got really hard on myself, not just hard on myself and like I suck, right? It's hard on myself like, hey, I don't like this about me, I don't like that, I don't like how I do that, I don't eat right, I don't stretch, I don't go to the gym, I don't run, I don't like that about myself and I don't listen, when other people I'm in conversations, with people I just talked about myself, those things like that self-awareness you build is insane and it helps you grab control of the life that you have and we can only control us, we can't control other people but with you said, with the podcast with perspectives, it's important to be able to step into other people's shoes and hear their stories.

Michael: You know that sympathy, right? Because like the truth is, we don't know what is happening in anyone else's life and sometimes people at either the right time or the wrong time and we interpret them to be a certain way and what's it's worth me so frequently is this idea that we are all just simply having this Human Experience, none of us actually know what the fuck were doing. And even the people that we think know what they're doing, they don't and if you can just pause on that, and look at it from the scope of humanity I mean, it's so incredible what you start to understand from people because like – ultimately we're all going to fail, we're all going to make mistakes. Before I ask you my last question Joey, can you tell everybody where they can find out more about you and the podcast?

Joey: Yeah. So one of the biggest places we have our podcasts on is Instagram so that's going to be @mindshapepodcast, my Instagram is @joeybraun_ and scream if you want to reach out to me personally. Yes, our podcasts like Michael said, we bring people on from all walks of life to share their stories. One of our goals was to make the stories as real as possible and that means sensitive material, right? People shared things that might trigger people, might make people upset, but it's real, it's their experience and that's what we wanted because let's be honest, life's real, very real and censoring it what does that help? I mean, censoring something that's so real we never wanted to do that. So that's what we do, we bring people on and they share real deep sensitive stories and they open up about their trauma. So it's been very rewarding experience we hope to continue doing it for years to come.

Michael: Brilliant mind. I've got a mad love for that. My last question for you is, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Joey: To be unbroken is to be somebody who has compassion for themselves, it has compassion for the people in their life, a person who is a great friend of people, a great member of a family, someone who is empathetic, someone who can look at themselves in the mirror, and be honest with themselves, someone who can do the right things to their life, whether that be eating, working out, reading books, it's that self-love, right? We become so broken on our journey throughout life, so, broken on so many levels, we try to have everything perfect but there's always one things up, one things down. It's the practice of self-awareness and consciously asking yourself what's the right next thing to do for me, for my life, for the people in my life and to mend that all together throughout our lifetimes. We're never going to be perfect, if we can do our best and mending that and be at our best we could leave a great life behind and even a legacy for other people to look back and remember us for.

Michael: Powerful, and very well said, my friend.

Thank you so much for being here.

Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.

Please, like, subscribe, comment, share.

Tell a friend.

And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

-I'll see you.

Joey Braun & Avery ChatmanProfile Photo

Joey Braun & Avery Chatman

Podcast Host

Joey and Avery are both hosts of a podcast called Mindshape. We are a podcast that helps people from all around the world share difficult life stories. Story examples include cancer survivors, school shooting victims, 3rd degree burn victims, extreme weight loss, loss of a child, spending time in prison, rare diseases and more. Why did we start the podcast? Joey- Diagnosed with a rare autoimmune at 12 years old, bullied throughout high school, lost 8 inches of growth, mentally carried the trauma for 10 + years. At 22 Joey shared his story which he kept private his whole life to a group of 10 people and it changed his life. Joey started the podcast 2 years ago to help other people share their stories and get that same experience. Avery was brought on and had the vision to help people share their stories as well.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.