An Honest Talk About Mental Health
With Dr. Mondo
Season 5, Episode 5 | May 17, 2022
Anxiety, depression, limited self-beliefs, perpetual feeling states — we all experience mental-health struggles, and what we often don’t realize is the effect they can have on every area of our health and wellness. Dr. Mondo joins us for an honest talk about mental well-being, including the role trauma plays and the power that comes from healing.
Dr. Armando (Mondo) González is the CEO, foundation director, and founder of Cheatcode, a company and non-profit created to rewrite the narrative around mental health by ending the stigma about receiving support, and providing access to strategic, effective mental-health services to the most at-risk and underserved communities.
He has a clientele that includes Olympians and athletes from the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NWSL. Dr. Mondo has proven his ability to unlock human performance at its highest level.
As a speaker, Dr. González has toured the nation speaking and teaching in academic, corporate, and church settings. He approaches taboo mental-health topics with a level of vulnerability, compassion, and swag.
As an immediate step to gaining self-awareness about your current mental state, Dr. Mondo suggests asking yourself the following questions and reflecting on your answers:
- What is the story you’re telling about yourself? Mondo urges being careful about the narrative you’re creating about yourself because eventually that’s what you’ll live — if you’re not already.
- How is that story working for you? How is it limiting you? Our stories often contain beliefs, and we know that we can’t reach a goal unless we’re able to believe we can get there. When we stretch ourselves to grow, often what happens is our cluster of pre-existing beliefs is revealed to us when we’re faced with adversity and obstacles.
- Who is the author of the story? Rather than living our lives as if it’s an autobiography that we’re in control of, some of us are living out a biography that reads like a research paper with several different authors. Whether it’s something that was impressed on us as kids or because of our race, gender, ethnicity, or other reasons, we often let other people’s voices impact our own stories.
- Level Up With Dr. Mondo: David Freeman of Life Time on Overcoming His Personal Rock Bottom, Sleepless Nights and the Importance of Routine
- @drmondo on Instagram
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
- @the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram
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Transcript: An Honest Talk About Mental Health
Season 5, Episode 5 | May 17, 2022
Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, Editor and Chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole life health and fitness magazine.
And I’m David Freeman, Life Time’s National Digital Performer Brand Leader. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey and no matter what we’re working toward there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.
In each episode we’ll break down the various elements of healthy living including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, and health issues. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.
And we’ll be talking to experts from lifetime and beyond who will share their insights and knowledge so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.
What’s up, everybody? We’re back with another episode of Life Time Talks and today we have a special guest, Dr. Armando Gonzalez, aka Dr. Mondo, and we’re going to be talking about setting the standard within metal health. I had the privilege and opportunity to be able to connect with Dr. Mondo earlier this year around my personal mental health as I jumped on his podcast and he did take me from good to great and I’m forever grateful for him.
So, with that I know that I ended up sharing some of that story with you, Jamie?
Yeah, and you know, you introduced me to Dr. Mondo and his work and I started following him, digging more into his work, and I really think he’s making a really interesting play in the mental health space and helping not just the athletes and you know, like high-performance athletes that he’s working with, but everyday people like really work towards optimal mental health and realize that we can heal from our pasts so, it’s been really fun to start following him and I’m really excited for this conversation. Let me introduce him.
So, Dr. Mondo is the CEO, Foundation Director and Founder of Cheat Code, a company and nonprofit created to rewrite the narrative around mental health by ending the stigma about receiving support and providing access to strategic, effective mental health services to the most at risk and underserved communities. He has a clientele that includes Olympians and athletes from the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NSWL, and Dr. Mondo has proven his ability to unlock human performance at its highest level.
As a speaker he has toured the nation speaking and teaching in academic, corporate, and church settings, and he approaches taboo mental health topics with a level of vulnerability, compassion, and swag. So, David, any final thoughts before we jump into the conversation?
I’m ready to dive right in. You all get ready to unlock the Cheat Code in setting the standard with mental health with Dr. Mondo.
What’s going on, brother? It’s been a while. How are you doing?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
It’s been too long, man. I’m doing good. Yeah, I’m doing good. How about you?
I’m rocking, I’m rolling. I had a little bit of some back issues, but like Justin Timberlake said, I’m going to bring some sexy back in this healing process. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Wow. Okay. I see you. I love it.
That’s one thing I just still appreciate about you, David. You’ve got a plan, you know what you’re going to do with this. You’re going to make the most of this situation. So, anyway.
Well, Dr. Mondo, we’re so happy to have you on today and we’re talking today about mental health and well-being with you. We’re really thrilled. You know, one thing that we know…you know, we knew over the past decade that mental health issues were on the rise, we know that since the pandemic they have kind of sky rocketed, more and more people are reporting issues with mental health so, we want to kick off right away with you today just talking about…when we talk about mental wellness there’s also the opposite of that which is mental illness and can you kind of talk through the difference of those two things for us?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s an interesting, you know, the way you put it makes me think of this continuum, right? On one hand we have optimal health that we’re all looking to give as far towards as possible, and on the other hand we have the opposite of health, whether that’s illness and disease, whatever it may be. You know, in mental health for a long time, you know, we only understood so much of a way that makes sense of what dysfunction is and so, we have this model that we’ve used for a long time that has looked at, you know, any dysfunction as illness.
You know, me personally I would tell you that, you know, the way I look at it as I think we all have mental health struggles and I think that illness would be the extreme of the continuum, and a lot of time where I spend most of my time is speaking to people about the part that we can all relate to on that continuum which is mental health struggles and I think that what COVID did, it was a great equalizer to what all of us found out real quick that we have things we’re struggling with and COVID was like musical chairs that we all had to just be placed and the music stopped in the same place and we had to face things, and I think we found out in that time not only through the struggle of what COVID brought in terms of the stress, but also we had to finally face some elements of ourselves, our relationships that we never had dealt with, and I think that’s the great equalizer that COVID’s been, and it shows we all have mental health struggles.
So, on that continuum there is such thing as illness and we see that with, you know, strong personality disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. Those are more rare than they are common. What’s more common I think for all of us, the language we could all relate to is anxiety, depression, limited self beliefs, perpetual feeling states. You keep getting attracted to the type of people that don’t serve us but only hurt us.
Those are things I think we can all relate to and it impacts every element of our health and wellness including the elements that you two focus so much on, too, with the physical, it just impacts everything.
I want to dive right into self. We talk about self-love, self-care, self-awareness. When you think of what we can do from a self-assessment to know where we currently stand in a mental state, what are some hacks that you got in that space for somebody who might be struggling and we talk about those three elements, self-care, self-love, and self-awareness. Where can someone start to understand where they currently stand mentally?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
I would say be careful of the story that you tell about yourself because eventually you’re going to live it and chances are you’re living it now. You know so I think a first good step for all of us that are listening is to examine what is the story that I tell about myself? Now, often the people in our lives will tell a different story and what we have a tendency to do is we tend to be more critical on ourselves than others are critical in regards to us.
Be careful of the stories you tell, eventually you live them and so, I think that’s a big thing is examining what’s the story that I tell about myself? What it contains often is beliefs and I mean, you both know that no one can get to reach a goal unless they actually are able to see themselves there or believe that. And when we stretch ourselves to grow what ends up happening is that story that we tell about ourself, that cluster of beliefs is revealed to us when faced with adversity and obstacles.
So, I think the biggest thing we could do today is take stake. Even that question of what’s the story that I tell about myself to others, how is that working for me, how is it limiting? Also, who’s the author of that story? Some of us are living out a biography that reads like a research paper with 12 different authors. Some of you have seen those research papers. They got so many authors they had to, you know, buy more paper just to put all the authors and give them credit on that study.
Some of us are living out lives that we act like it’s our autobiography that we’re in control when in reality we’re living out something that was spoken over us as kids, we’re living out something that was spoken out over us based on our gender, our race, our ethnicity. So, be careful of the stories you tell about your living so, I think listeners can really do a good job in just pondering that question over a good cup of coffee, look out into a forest or something and just spend some time with that.
What’s the story I’m telling about? Who are the authors? Is it working for me, is it not working for me? I think that question in general leads down a rabbit hole of self-discovery that will be important for anyone and we all deserve to have that sort of self discovery to understand those stories because we can’t change something we can’t see.
Absolutely. Well, that actually leads me into my next question because behind some of those stories there are reasons that those stories exist in our lives and they’re often maybe tied to trauma or some other experience that has happened for you, and I know in your work through Cheat Code, you know, you offer some quick life hacks to help people take that first step. But let’s talk a little bit one, about trauma and the role it plays, and then what we can potentially do about that in addition to the exercises, you know, asking ourselves what are the stories, who’s the author.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Yeah. It’s, you know, I’m so glad that you brought up trauma because even that first question, you know, the question of mental health struggles or illness. Bessel van der Kolk who wrote a book called The Body Keeps the Store. Amazing.
Yes. So good.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
_____ 00:09:13. It’s so good, right? Yeah. So, you know, in that book at a certain point he’s essentially saying I wouldn’t be willing to go as far as 90 to 95 percent of mental health symptomology that we would classify as illness or struggle, 90 to 95. Even he would go as far as to say the big ones that I mentioned earlier as illness along the schizophrenia, bipolar. He says, genetics loads the gun but our conditions in life pull the trigger essentially, and what he’s saying is that trauma is the conditions in which typically pull the trigger and create mental health struggle.
I think it’s a huge, huge reason for all of us to be optimistic if we take this information in. It’s not just a theory, he’s proving it in the research of how the body stores trauma and the brain coincides with the body to keep us safe.
So, when you take all that into consideration what it really says is that if the trauma is the reason that so many of us are experiencing mental health struggles, the question then becomes, can we heal trauma, can we release it from the body, can we rewire our brains? And the answer is, yes, and that’s what’s so exciting, and through the work that I’m doing now with athletes and you know, lead performers is really showing them that they a lot of times internalize this story like something’s wrong with me, I’m a failure, when in reality a lot of their struggles are coming from unreleased trauma.
The body’s number one job is to keep us safe, right? So, if I went to go perform in front of a lot of people…now again to the listeners, I’ll bring this home to create examples because I know sometimes we tune out and go, I’m not an athlete, I don’t perform in front of thousands, but this relates to all of us. But imagine in the extreme example, you know, a quarterback or offensive lineman is playing in front of thousands and has a moment where they feel exposed. Okay? Has a moment where they feel like they struggled. Their body is doing its job, is going to essentially highlight, bookmark that moment, and how it bookmarks it is through tension and the brain creates essentially a set of rules around that which will protect the individual from ever having to endure that again.
So, sometimes athletes are stuck saying I can’t perform, we see it in baseball called the yips where they can’t throw where they want to throw. The reason for that is usually a cluster of trauma stored in the body around embarrassment, fear of letting other people down, and those roots can link all the way back to critical interactions with a parent, a coach, and the body is again basically saying I know you’ve made the decision to go be the best version of yourself but I’ve made the decision to protect you and I’m sorry, at the end of the day I’m going to override you and keep you safe.
So, this is how the body works. Its job is to keep us safe and so many of us, going back to the everyday person, so many of us have these goals that we have set for ourselves to evolve and what we don’t realize is sometimes in order to evolve we have to heal. We have to release the trauma because the trauma is saying, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You know, if some of you have dreams and goals to go back to school but you experience severe rejection or were told at times in your life that you weren’t good enough, your body’s going to be like, I don’t know about that goal. I think I’m going to give you some anxiety, I think I’m going to throw a few daggers of self-doubt, that stomach ache the morning that you’re going to go sign up for classes, and then we interpret that as…you know, we get lost in that, we don’t realize that’s trauma.
So, it’s an invitation to heal and where there’s an invitation to heal we then find the ability to again start evolving towards those things. But this element of trauma that you brought up, it’s been a missing puzzle piece that changes the entire game, and that’s a lot of what the work that I do is about is really healing the trauma and getting clear on what is your purpose, what’s your calling, and then helping people once they get healed go release yourself to the world and go do big things.
I love how you broke that down as far as trauma and how it can have so many different definitions for so many different individuals. So, when you say the Cheat Code, I mean, I love that because it takes me back from a nostalgic vibe of how to get past certain levels in a game, and we’re in somewhat of a game in this life that we play, and the game that we play as far as within life how we approach any and everything, and I remember I want to say it was a quote from Russell Wilson. I don’t know if it originated from him but he said, pressure is a privilege, and these feelings that we come across that are unknown, that’s your invitation to grow.
But you just said it, too. You have to be ready to grow and if that trauma now creeps in and now prevents you from taking that next step, you never know what you could have been. I mean, so once thing that I saw the other day and I mean, I reposted it and I shared it to so many different individuals as far as being your authentic self and showing up every day as being unapologetic with yourself. So, like in your experience, I got to ask, over the years do you feel it’s easier today to tap into one’s true self versus the past?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Oh, man. I love how you set that up, David, because there’s going to be, you know…so, Russell’s saying, yeah, pressure’s a privilege. Here’s the other thing I was going to say. I was working with a major league baseball player a couple days ago in these intensive, I spent three days in their life essentially, eating dinner with them, I’m living life with them, we’re going…you know, one minute we’re doing intense therapeutic work and healing and trauma and the next minute we’re out there listening to music and catching a vibe and throwing the ball. It’s all these different things.
And in that time we talked a lot about this particular app that I was working with him and once we healed his trauma he had to realize like for so many of us that he never even knew how to be…his trauma response, there’s fight, flight, freeze, but here’s a fourth one that a lot of us don’t know about. It’s a survival response known as people pleasing. So, a lot of us, people please, right? They call it fawning with the Fs, right? Some of us might add a fifth F word when they figure it out. I mean, come on, you know? These are all things I’m used to doing.
Now, it’s a programmed response and where I’m going with this is a quote I said to him. I said, self-expression is a privilege, okay? So, what I mean is that we’d have to first acknowledge, you know, like what is our position in this world and how we show up. You know, not to get sociopolitical here but I’m just observing the reality. It’s easier for some people to walk into every room as themselves because they have the privilege to do so and when you’re in the majority camp of anything, right? If you’re in the majority camp and you have the majority, therefore you have the authority to walk into a room and be yourself.
So, yes. Self-expression is a privilege, 110 percent. Pressure is a privilege, and I think we have to first acknowledge, though, that for many of us we’ve never had that privilege. It wasn’t safe to walk into a room. Many of us had to code switch. We didn’t have the luxury of let me be my real self. There was going to be some implications to that. So, I think that we have to first unpack that, but what does that go back to? It goes back to trauma so, the body is telling you to be someone else.
And then what we often do is we then tell a negative story like there’s something wrong with us for not being our authentic self. Well, no. You were in so many rooms where it wasn’t safe to be you, you automatically defaulted to be in who the room wanted you to be. Let’s heal that trauma first. Now once we heal it and you feel liberated, now let’s figure out who you truly are.
I believe, David, that self expression is one of the biggest keys that we don’t talk about to greatness. So, I do think that we all do need to get there but I think some of us have some healing to do first and you know, you look at someone like Russell Wilson, I’m sure he had some healing he had to do to get there, right? You know, as a black man, as a black man at a position that traditionally has been dominated by white men, and there’s probably elements of things he had to work through in order to get to that point.
But yes, self-expression and being your true, authentic self, when you’re able to fully get to a point where you feel like you can do that it sets you up to live out a life that’s for you and it sets you up to walk into every room and also create a magnet for yourself to others to see who actually is a good fit for you to do life with. And if we’re putting on masks when we walk in a room, what are we going to track? We’re going to track something that’s not true for us, whether that’s relationships, whether that’s jobs, whether that’s a tribe so, we have to really get to a point of being authentic with ourselves but I do want to make that point that for some people it’s easier than others because of privilege.
That’s such a huge point and I feel like my mind has been blown a little bit by that fourth F that you just brought over, the people-pleasing part. Honestly, I’m like, I had not heard that and I’m sitting here going, wow. Yeah, and I think for different people in different spaces it presents differently, right, like how that shows up. So, whew. Okay. That was a big one for me just now.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
I was going to say before we even move on so, I think it’s one for so many of us, right? I was a kid that grew up, I mean, I did research on this for my dissertation working with people that grew up, you know, overweight in a weight-shaming society because I lived that, and there are different things that you would experience that put you in the one-down position, or you’re in a family where, you know, everyone else is allowed to be mad and explosive so you have to be the one to like be calm and take everything and be the one to be the diffuser.
So, you know, we’re born into different scenarios again, and you know, my message is to understand the context because taken out of context we all seem strange, right?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
So, we people please, a lot of us do and if we view that outside of a context we start to get hard on ourself and when we see the context we go, man, I got a lot of compassion for what my younger self did, that why I started to learn those behaviors, a way to keep safe. But yeah, it’s one that we need to know about because, you know, again, it’s going to be a key for us to evolve and level up to the greatest version of ourselves to finally deal with some of those fawning responses, but we have to heal the trauma at the core of it.
That’s so important as we go into all of this. So, I want to jump back. So, you know, we speak a lot at Life Time about our core pillars of health and well-being. You know, it’s fitness, nutrition…well, I should movement and fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress, _____ 00:20:26, all of those pieces, but we also talk about mental health as well and, you know, a lot of times when people set goals they get caught up in chasing, you know, weight loss you just mentioned, or building muscle or overall performance without really thinking about the mental, the role of mental health in helping them get there.
So, how can we as everyday people who are, you know, going after health goals really make sure that we’re paying attention to our mental health and well-being, emotional health and well-being throughout that journey?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
I love the pillars, first of all, and the fact that you have mental health in there, this is one of the reasons why I love Life Time and what you guys are doing because I know we’ve gotten deep a few times here, I’ll get deep for a moment and just say that, you know, it’s only been in the Western world that we started to see these things as separate, right? You saying it’s going to be the pillar but essentially it’s like there’s a holistic element of one affects the other. Your mentals affect your physicals, your physicals affect your mentals, and I think that for some people the question then becomes, you know, how do I integrate that as you’re saying, how do I integrate that mental pillar?
And I think one thing that was really powerful for me was to really realize at a point that what is it that I really get from a mental standpoint from my physical movement? I think it’s a question we could all ask ourselves. You know, we’re so focused again on numbers, we’re so focused on goals that we have. It’s good but what we often miss is that we don’t realize how much of a mental impact our physical health has. Some of us are doing these routines so focused on physical goals we’re not realizing maybe the best mental health medicine we have is movement. Maybe the best mental health medicine we have is being conscious of what we feel our body doing.
So, I’ll tell you for me as someone that grew up as a, you know, lifelong dieter and all those things, when I shifted the focus from what I can and can’t have to let me make conscious decisions because it’s going to impact how I feel, that was a game changer for me. When I started saying, running is my medicine for my mental health, it shifted for me because before it was like the thing I had to do in order to be, you know, thin or whatever.
So, I think that’s really important is consider the role and the impact that your physical routines have on your mental. The things that trainers and that you all bring to the table, you know, it’s you and barbers. Trainers and barbers the next closest thing to therapists in our own. I mean, because you’re dealing with something that you end up hearing a lot about being journaled because they’re so closely linked.
So, I think consider that element. How is my physical routines impacting my mental well-being? What if I shifted my focus more to those things. I’m showing up to work out today not to be skinny or to hit a number or weight loss goal or to stop feeling like crap about myself, but instead I’m showing up today to move because I know it’s going to make me feel better. I know it’s going to make me more balanced, right?
And then the second part is this and the research I did for my dissertation when we looked at long-term success and who was able to maintain their weight loss or maintain their positive health outcomes during a drastic transformation, it was why. It was the question of why are you doing this? And you have to hold your why close to your face every single morning. I know I’m telling you two, I know I’m preaching to the choir, you know this, right? But that why, why are you making your pillars a level of importance in your routine? Why is it important for you to be healthy? Why is it important for you to be around long term?
Now, take it from the big zoomed-out perspective and make it specific. For me I know the thought of not being able to walk my daughter down the aisle, the thought of not being able to go out and throw a football with my son, that’s real, intangible impact. So, now the choices I make that are physical have a direct impact on whether or not I’m able to do that. So, when we tie our health goals, our pillars to something bigger, not just bigger in terms of life perspective but also bigger in how it’s going to impact others, we’re able to be more successful.
So, those are just ways I would say right now you can ask yourself those questions and start thinking about it.
Yeah. I want to double-down on it. I know I might have my bias as far as being a coach, but just the other day, it’s understanding movement is medicine and one of my athletes said, hey, the scale isn’t what I want it to be, and I came back and I had a rebuttal. I said, how do you feel? And it was that pause, but then again it was like no, but I want to go back to this number. And I’m here to say after being in this industry for 15 plus years, the number does not yield the emotion that you think you’re going to get once you get there. I’ve seen the people lose, you know, 10 to 15 pounds. Oh, they might feel a little bit better temporarily but it still did not address what really the issue is.
And that’s why I keep going back. It’s so much bigger than the numbers and I stress it. I say, hey, 30 minutes a day. If you didn’t do the workout that I programmed for you but you got out and you moved, I’m happy because what happens is you’re in the sedentary state of stress. Sedentary, and then you’re sitting there and you’re just taking in even more stress, whether it’s meeting this deadline, getting on a call and taking in all this information, but you never allowed anything to be released.
So, when you go out on that walk or you go do that run or you do that workout for 30 minutes, how do you feel afterwards? And usually you feel good. You should feel good.
I would just make a tag onto that is that we know that movement helps complete the stress cycle. You know, we’ve covered that, you know, movement is a way, you know, in our ancestral days when we were running from the tiger it was that movement that helped get us to safety but also worked out some of that stress. So, movement is all connected.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Yeah. It’s all 100 percent interconnected and I think the two points that were made by you both I think are so important to highlight and even add another layer onto it just saying, you know, so, it’s the movement that…again, we go back to trauma and again, we can’t release the things that we took in throughout the day if we don’t take the time to move and release those things. You think about ancient culture but I always think it’s interesting, right? They have more figured out than we thought. We thought we were dancing, I think in some ways we need to get back. You know, I think of tribes that would dance in the middle of an emotional time, right? There was something communal about that, a sense of belonging, we all have that, we’re still thriving for that, you know, craving that now. And then a sense of movement, right?
So, I think when we look back at how we view some of these things we’re doing we need to get, just as you all are putting it, how Life Time puts it in this frame of seeing it holistically because if we keep seeing it singularly we’ll lose.
The second part I’ll say, too, that is going back to that dissertation. Dissertations are a lot, a long, long, long process of just, you know, going back over research, all sorts of things, and I spent a lot of time with people that had lost a lot of weight, and one of the things that I found is that yeah, like if it was simply about weight loss for you, you were not going to be happy at the end.
If it was a part of a bigger transformation for you and what happened is it may start off as a weight loss goal but it becomes a whole different goal for your life, a goal to transform, be the best version of you, and now this is just one element of it, and in that process if you’re willing to address some of the trauma that you were emotionally eating for, address some of the elements of your life that you weren’t necessarily happy with and food became an escape mechanism for you and you know, depression was a result of your feeling state. If you’re willing to do that work then you will find happiness again but it won’t be because you saw some number on a scale, it’s because you were engaged in a whole transformative process and now your trainer becomes another one of the guys for you on that process to wholeness and watching you heal and watching this become an element of your life but it’s not the only thing.
Again, I think so many industries have focused on just one element of the being as opposed to seeing how they all interconnect. It’s beautiful that we’re framing it this way, it’s beautiful that you all are bringing it together like this on this podcast.
Yeah. We’re going to frame it a little bit deeper on this next one and get a little bit raw with you because I know we had a conversation earlier this year and when we talk about the mental health and when it comes to people of color for years, I can speak from my personal experience as far as being a black male, it was forbidden to show any other emotion and besides being strong and fearless so, I know that I’m still working on myself in this space, and working with my children daily has allowed me to grow and evolve in this space and kind of almost reposition the way I think, and that’s still part of my healing process.
But within this challenging mindset that so many people of color maybe facing from your work, I want to understand that why it’s so deeply rooted in the black and brown communities.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
You know, I think first of all, I mean this in all sincerity. I’m proud of you, man, because that’s one thing that we don’t tell each other enough, like truly, and this is a thing, too. You know, Jamie can weigh in but I know that for men we often don’t say things. You know, I make a point when I feel proud of someone I let them know. I feel love for someone I let them know, and I’m proud of you for what you’re doing because it’s intergenerational transformation that’s happening, it’s not just for you. You said it’s for your kids, right?
And we look in black and brown communities, you know, when there’s stigma to mental…you know, people ask it a lot so, the foundation we had at Cheat Code foundation, it’s biggest goal is to find way to bring transformational mental health experiences, practices to underserved, non-served communities. Traditionally black and brown communities tend to be underserved. Traditionally they also experience the highest levels of trauma but have the least ability to access transformative mental health practices because of the way the system is set up.
And so, you know, people will say well, how do you get someone in an underserved community that, you know, how do you get someone that’s black and brown to buy into this? I say, you start by acknowledging they had every reason to not trust the system, you know? For so long the system has been a mechanism of oppression. Mental health if you look at it in many underserved communities, mental health was, I’m going to call CPS on them, right? Mental health was some guy that I’ve never had any relationship with, whether he’s a good person or not, an older white guy going to try to get in my noodle and that doesn’t seem safe to me, right?
So, when you think of that sometimes distrust is an actual healthy distrust, it’s part of keeping you safe. But the struggle is, is that on one hand we see for many black and brown communities that they had every reason not to trust the mental health system that doesn’t look like them. Five percent of commissions are black, okay? So, a system that doesn’t look like them, doesn’t understand them typically doesn’t have ways for them to access their care, they should have every reason to be non trusting. However, on the other hand we also realize it’s this source of wealth to experience transformation.
So, I think that the reason why people are resistant in black and brown communities I think in some ways stretches back to the system they live in.
The other part, too, is that I do think a lot of the cultural norms that we have in those communities were created as a result of living in those contexts, right? So, it wasn’t safe to tell, like a lot of times you’ll hear in black and brown families like our business is our business. Keep our…well, think about that. Again, if you’re living in a system where you don’t trust, he’s outside of, in the system they get involved, you don’t want teachers, CPS. You don’t want those people involved because you don’t know what they’re liable to do to break your family up.
So again, I think we have to sometimes acknowledge people’s resistance and put it in context, and I think in black and brown communities we don’t do that enough, we just say go heal, go heal, go heal and people have this resistance and we need to speak to it.
And then I think the second part is, too, is realizing that, you know, this is how I flip it. How many things do we get taught to have negative connotations about that actually are keys to our wealth? And we think about this financially, we think about this in physical health. There are many things that we may have negative stigma towards but it’s almost like they’re running game on us even from keeping us out of those things, right?
So, we have to also see that our true wealth is found in wellness and those pillars are what you mentioned earlier, one of them is mental health. So, the thing we need to access, we all deserve transformational healing, we all deserve to be able to feel liberated to speak about our fears. Doing that will be the key to your success so, if you’re listening today and you’re a member of the black and brown community and you’re like look, that’s my issue, like I don’t trust the help, I validate that.
And number two my point is, but don’t stop there because you deserve it. Don’t just accept the status quo because believe me, it will continue to keep you from growing to the degree that you deserve to grow and healing to the degree that you deserve to heal by continuing to just accept it and stop there, you have to find a way. You have to find a way to access some sort of level of releasing what is inside of you and so, my hope…truly, David, and what I can do in my position is I want to train more black and brown clinicians in the best of the best methods, that’s what we’re doing in the foundation so, we can put that number in the field of black and brown clinicians and increase it. I want to change a lot of the theory that we use and have them be more inclusive to black and brown communities. I think there’s a renaissance that we need to add in the field of mental health and that’s one huge element of it so that more and more folks in black and brown communities feel comfortable and feel like there’s someone that they can actually relate to on the other side of the chair.
And feel great. Well, keeping all that in mind, Dr. Mondo, I want to talk through, you know, for some people access to therapy or mental health coaching as you sometimes refer to your work isn’t available for a lot of people so, what are some things that people can do or that they can go and look for in terms of resourcing to be able to do some of this work for themselves?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Yeah. I’ll tell you, even in the answering this question I’m not fully settled in how to…so, there are resources and we’ll get there but again, I want to speak to the front end of it that to me I’m sorry but that’s not okay, like it’s not okay that we live in a society where to me it’s so simple. The most traumatized people don’t have access to something to heal their trauma. I’m sorry, that’s pretty basic like…so, I think there is a point that we have to start and I don’t have a perfect answer for this but I’ll just tell you the, you know, the Che Guevara, Malcolm X, MLK, [inaudible], we need to be really loud and boisterous about the fact that’s not okay.
You know, I don’t trust a ton of the system. On our foundation board we have some folks on there that have really involved the public system and they’re always encouraging more to trust a little more and hey, there’s money out there, but we need to ask the systems to change because we shouldn’t have to settle for table scraps of transformation. We shouldn’t have to go work on our own vehicles here and try to understand how to change an engine and do all, like come on, like there’s something wrong with that, right?
So, we need to put some pressure and some heat on some of the public entities, and I hope that people see the model of what we’re trying to do in Cheap Code Foundation and it’s not perfect but we’re trying to basically say, let’s go raise some money so we can do this in underserved communities. Forget the institutions, we’re not going to wait on them any longer. So, I do think we have to start there.
Demand your healing. Say, look, I think it’s a basic human right and we demand an opportunity to heal. Mental health should be more covered. There should be more access to transformative mental health practices. So, don’t silence your voice and settle for anything less than what’s out there and there is an amazing transformative mental health experiences you can get.
So, I would say that in the meantime, you know, a step below that is, you know, looking at your insurance just to find out if your insurance covers it, looking for free clinics. There are clinics out there that offer what’s called a sliding scale and again, these are steps to get access to therapy. I worked my way all the way down below that. If you have the ability to pay out of pocket, use psychologytoday.com like you were using it as a dating app, right? Decide whether you want to swipe right on some of these therapists after you read their profile, right? And really treat them, treat us like that, like really make sure it’s the right fit because you’re going to open up and work with some stuff, you know, work through some stuff with these folks.
And then when it comes to our daily stuff, I mean…now saying all of that now I’ll say this other part which is again, cause for optimism. This podcast, okay, is a great example of the fact that we now have so much information at our fingertips. You know, we could go out and curate an Instagram list of people. We could go purge…if you were really committed to wanting to to heal, then what you would probably want to do is you probably want to purge some of your Instagram follows, any accounts you’re following that aren’t in alignment with that. You probably want to add some account that help you.
I’ll tell you, you could follow me but I’m going to tell you the best one out there to follow is The Holistic Psychologist, okay?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Her stuff is raw, like it is so good. Oh, my gosh, she’s making information just readily available to all of us. So, I would say on Instagram curate your feed to where you’re now learning and you’re taking in information that’s free and out there, it’s free gain. Go on YouTube and curate a YouTube list, right? So, there’s ways that we can access this free information but also, too, realize that this is one of those unique things that like trying it at home when you’re trying to heal from really severe things that have held you back, you often need someone to walk through that with you.
So, I still say demand access to working with someone, but those are some things that you can do in the meantime.
It feels like from the top-down there’s lots of things we can do and again, I think raising your voice, asking for more and better is a huge thing that we all have the opportunity to step into more in our lives.
Well, I know we don’t have you for an endless amount of time today, Dr. Mondo, but I want to give you chance before we hand you over to David for his hot seat questions, anything left you want to add or want our listeners to know before we kind of wrap things up today?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Yeah. I mean, honestly, I’ll just…the easiest way for me to answer something like that is just to just search my heart, you know, and I don’t know, the thing that came up right when you asked me that is just wanting to tell people that they’re worthy, you know? That they’re worthy of love, they’re worthy of the best, you know, that healing’s possible, that the things that you’ve been through in your life, those are things that you can heal from and they don’t define you, and that the negative beliefs that we often find ourselves caught in are scars from the things we’ve been through that haven’t healed yet. It’s often remnants, artifacts of our past that haven’t been healed that we hold onto. Sometimes it’s things we went through that we tried to make sense of when we were small children and it became a negative belief. I don’t matter, I’m not worthy, something’s wrong with me, I’m unlovable.
Those beliefs you were not born with. You did not enter the world with those beliefs. Instead you interacted with a broken world and along the way you experienced pain. When that pain doesn’t heal you don’t have people to walk through that pain with to heal it, what ends up happening is you develop negative beliefs, the story you tell about yourself.
We all deserve an opportunity to heal. It’s not necessarily always about evolving to becoming someone that you’ve yet to become. In some ways it’s about getting back to who you’ve always been at your core. That’s what I would want to encourage people to know, that healing and transformational healing is possible, you are not the things you’ve been through, you can heal from those and you’re worthy of love, you’re worthy of living a life which you wake up every day feeling like wow, this is the life I have? Because we all have a calling and a purpose and when we realize what that is and we deal with what needs to be dealt with in order for the blocks to no longer be in place so we can live that life out, it’s a lot of fun and health and wellness become a lot easier. It’s easier to work out, it’ easy to go to therapy when you’re living a life that you love. It’s easy to evolve, it’s easy to put yourself in pressure situations so, everyone that’s listening is worthy of that and stop at nothing to get it.
I love it. Before I go into the hot seat, just because I think I know everything happens for a reason. The call that I had prior to us connecting, it was up in Dublin, Ohio. Her name’s Jessica Orwig, she’s one of our General Managers, and she ended up doing something for a school with kids. It was a yoga program to allow them to be able to tap into knowing how to pit it whenever they face certain types of adversity. And the yoga instructor said those exact words while everybody at the end of the session, you are loved, you are worthy, and was going through a series of other things during that time. And all their eyes were supposed to be closed and Jessica said she opened her eyes and while the instructor was saying you’re loved and you’re worthy she saw a kid’s head shaking like this.
And she said in that moment she realized this can’t just be a one-and-done, we had these resources and now they have this eight-week program that they’re going to be doing and the kids are growing this relationship so, it’s just powerful. It’s easy sometimes for us to say, right, is these words, but to actually believe it is a different vibe. And if we have the ability to be able to tap into individuals and change lives? These were fifth and sixth graders and this is where we can really create movement.
So, I had to share that story just because you said the exact words that she said and I was like oh, I have to share it. So, I appreciate you sharing that. You ready to get into this hot seat?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
I’m ready to get into the hot seat. I just want to…let me put some rims and tires on what you just said real quick.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Go for it. Yeah.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
My final point is this, and so many of us are struggling with it. There’s a difference between knowing it here and knowing it in your gut, you know? Native Americans used to say we got three brains. You got one in your gut, got one right here, and you got one right here. Use them in that order. So many of us know this truth, I’m worthy, I’m lovable. We’ve heard it a thousand times but in our core we don’t believe it. That’s because of trauma. When you heal the trauma at the core you’re able to connect what this brain thinks and what that brain thinks and when you operate from a deep knowing that I know, that I know, that I know that I’m worthy and I’m lovable, watch how your life will change. Watch how what you put up with will change. Watch with what you manifest and what you desire changes.
So, it is, and those kids were not born with that. They had to learn from someone those beliefs. That’s why just speaking it one time isn’t enough because you got to get it to heal the root where it came from. Yeah, man, I’m ready for your hot seat.
Here we go.
All right. So, typically what we usually do is just some random questions but I want to keep to the theme as far as mental health so, there are all centered around mental health So, first one I want to ask the question, how much did you work out this week?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
None and I’ll tell you right now as I’m listening to this podcast I got spiritual, you know, timing and things all being divine. I did not work out once and I have been in a very, very big rut with my physical. I’ve been traveling a lot and I just have been making excuses, and I used to be running 30 miles a week, okay? Thirty miles a week and it wasn’t because I was trying to hit that number, it was all love, right? So, even being on this podcast and interacting with you both, you both are inspiring me to make that a priority. So, the reality is there’s a lot of stuff that I take in and I’m sometimes not always moving through it like I need to. I’m just being real with you. I don’t know any way other to be so, the majority of my movement has been walking through airports, walking different places so, yeah, I’ve done some walking but I need to be more intentional.
All right. No, I appreciate that honesty. All right. Next one, tell me something you did today that made you happy.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
I looked into my daughter’s eyes, I looked into my son’s eyes and I just told them the truth about who they are and what God thinks about them. And you know, my daughter is very similar to me in terms of which is how her mind…you know how it is, like some kids you just go, like, I don’t know, we got this vibe, like the minute she was born I knew that we had this connection. I have that with my son, too, it’s just different. But you know, I’ll do this thing where I’ll just say like, look at me, like look at me in the eyes, you know, and she’ll look at me and she’ll, all of her attention just to focus there and I’ll just tell her like, I love you so much. There’s nothing you could do that could ever make me disappointed in you and no matter what I’m always here for you and do you know how amazing you are?
I’m like, we’ll do this thing and I swear to you that, I mean, it’s much of a hookup as it is for her, it’s a hookup for me, I still feed off it right now And so, yeah. That was something we did this morning before school and I try to do it sometimes longer sessions…when I say long, like a minute, sometimes it’s just 15 seconds but just that connection in the eye it makes such a difference.
No, I love it. I love it. So, all right. What are you looking forward to in the coming days?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Spending time with my family. You know, I think one of the things that’s been a huge blessing is last 18 months, 2 years of my life from a career standpoint I’ve experienced so much success being able to now work with elite athletes, big names in their craft. They challenge me to be better at what I do, but the challenge that’s came with it, too, as I mentioned is balance. I’m still trying to find my balance and so, when I’m here with my family I get a chance to spend a couple days this weekend with them, I just want to spend time. I just want to connect. I just want to enjoy it.
It’s hard being on the road. I mean, you know, it’s like when you’re on the road, and I’ve been on the road so much the last, you know, two years, you just miss it and so, when you’re here you want to just capture those moments. That’s what I’m looking forward to
All right. Last two we got here. What is one thing you are thankful about right now?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
God’s provision, man. I don’t deserve it, you know? I say it all the time, just being able to co-labor and you know, I didn’t grow in a faith and all that other stuff but at some point in my life I went from being agnostic to believing there was a God and like, all I’ll say is this. It’s certainly in me but there is something going on right now in the work that I’m doing where I get to watch people, like the guy I just spent three days with. In three days, you know, say things like my entire life shifted, we healed so much and like just to be able to have the provisions that come from having these roles and have those blessings I’m so grateful for, but really to be able to experience that because it’s not me.
People have moments in their life where it’s their time to heal and it’s their time to finally say yes to a calling, and I often get put in front of them in those moments. I’m so grateful for that. It’s I love it, I could do it all the time. Probably shouldn’t, probably should work out a little bit more because if it were up to me I would do that 24/7 and that’s not always the best for my balance. I got to think about my pillars, that’s why I’m here.
Yeah. We’re going to finish with this one right now. How are you feeling today mentally and physically?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Mentally I feel, I feel happy. I spent some time yesterday at a place here, it’s called Asha Urban Bath, shout out to Asha. And it’s a place where they got cold plunge tanks, they got salt water pool. When I’m stressed and I have a lot of stuff I took in, I go there and I spend, you know, half day there. I did that yesterday so, mentally I feel good.
Physically I want more, that’s how I feel. Physically I feel like I know even through talking with both of you, you know, there was a time where I would take my temperature physically and if I didn’t feel like I was where I needed to be I felt shame about that. Now I don’t feel that. I just feel honest. Physically I want to be better, you know? I hope that…so, I take moments like this and go, I want to be even better physically and I feel good enough, but that’s not enough for me, I want excellence in all areas of my life.
So, talking with you two today has reminded me of that and if anything it’s made me want more. So, now I start thinking okay, don’t make it such a big deal, just think about the next choice you have. Will you choose to move today, will you choose to put things inside of you including food that works for you, that serves you in a way to help you be the version of you, you want to be? So, I want more. I want more.
Well, I wish we had more time with you because I feel like this has just been such a great hour spent and I mean, I just feel like an energy within myself just having listened to this, and I want to make sure our listeners also know where they can find you and follow you. I know you’re on Instagram @drmondo. Your website for the Cheat Code is thecheatcode.org. Any other places people can follow you or find you or connect with you?
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
Those are the two one that I think that are the easiest right now. Yeah, see what we’re doing with cheatcode.org. You could also follow the Instagram for that foundation, it’s just Cheat Code, like video game, cheat code, you could follow us there. And yeah, I would love to have any of your listeners stay tapped in and stay plugged in with me.
Well, thank you so much for being with us, this has been just a real pleasure.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
No, we appreciate you, brother.
Dr. Armando Gonzalez:
No. We could keep going and going so, I appreciate you both. Thank you for having me.
All right, ‘til next time.
Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you, where do you run into challenges, where do you need help?
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Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time Healthy Way of Life. It is produced by Molly Schelper with audio engineering by Peter Perkins and video production by Kevin Dixon, Coy Larson, and the team at LT Motion. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode and everyone who provides feedback.
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