085. The Gift of Presence When Free of Shame with Steve Austin

By on January 21, 2020

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The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Steve Austin is a life coach and spiritual companion​ who believes ​everyone’s story matters. He’s passionate about an integrated approach to wholeness, including: mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. As he says, he thinks anyone who wants a second chance should be met with messy grace.

In short, Steve helps overwhelmed people ​find God at the intersection of faith and mental health.

Why does he do this? As you’ll find out in the episode, Steve, a former pastor, found himself overcome by the impact of repressed memories of a childhood trauma he never dealt with while simultaneously being overwhelmed by the pain others were bringing to him as a pastor and counselor. In a moment, alone in a hotel room, Steve decided he had had enough in life. What he went through from there is what brought him to his “here”, which we talk about in a very powerful episode of the show.

Key Points from the Episode with Steve Austin:

  • Steve is a family man first and foremost, being a husband and father.
  • His work today puts him at the intersection of Faith and Mental Health as a life coach, author, speaker, podcasters (called Catching Your Breath).
  • It’s about connecting with people who feel overwhelmed and get past that.
  • For Steve, he was a pastor who nearly died by suicide seven years ago, and got to know God much more closely through the journey to discover his true self after that.
  • Steve grew up in the Southern Pentecostal Christian world, which was very charismatic and very much about being like “us”. If you struggle, it must be about spiritual weakness, so just pray harder.
  • That meant for Steve, things he was struggling with weren’t things he could get professional help for.
  • This meant he felt invisible and left alone in his pain.
  • Those “things” include being sexually abused as a child, and his parents decided not to go to the authorities but rather to threaten the perpetrator.
  • They figured Steve would not remember what happened because he was so young, and their threat would protect him from it happening again.
  • And they were right for a long time – he didn’t remember until he had a flashback in high school during a field trip when he just broke down.
  • Despite the flash back, the reason why he had it still wasn’t talked about and continued to be suppressed for the next dozen years until his suicide attempt at 29.
  • He had other flashbacks along the way, including one when he was working at a 911 center in a support capacity where he had a panic attack.
  • That lead him to get on medication for his panic disorder, which helped a bit, but not enough as he still wasn’t addressing the issue.
  • At 29, he was alone in a hotel room, which was not a good situation for someone in depression. Being alone and withdrawn will make it worse, and it did.
  • Steve believed the lie that he was a burden on his family, and that things would be better if he didn’t exist anymore.
  • He woke up in an ICU after taking an overdose of pills. In the wake of that, therapy finally began, and he started to work on becoming a whole person.
  • Steve learned how to tell the truth after that, and that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness.
  • Worse than the depression or PTSD was the shame.
  • Steve dealt with so many feelings of not being enough – not man enough, Christian enough, strong enough, etc.
  • We get caught up in all of our labels, and pass judgment, but the truth is, we’re all human beings. We all suffer. We all have trouble.
  • No one is immune to it, and no one needs to feel “less than” for going through it.
  • We talked about the religious question of what happens to someone’s soul if they commit suicide.
  • What Steve thinks is that we’re asking the wrong question. The person already is living in Hell, so it’s not about that. The question is what we do if we’re in the midst of these thoughts, and what we do for those in the midst of those thoughts.
  • How can we be more open about it and therefore supportive.
  • In the wake of his experience, Steve has stopped his full time work as a pastor, and instead works to help educate and foster people’s ability to connect to what they’ve been through and free themselves of shame.
  • He puts out good questions about what we share and don’t, who are the friends who should be in our inner circle (and will call us out or raise concern about where we’re at), and being open to going to therapy.
  • Vicarious trauma that hits many of us in helping professions (teachers, pastors, police officers, firemen, therapists, medical professionals, etc), we absorb the hurt of others, and should really be doing therapy work ourselves.
  • Getting over the sense of having to be perfect and recognizing that we all need. And that’s ok.

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