A few weeks ago, Gregorio “Craig” Lewis sent me an unusual email requesting to join the “Meet a Voyager” series. Instead of writing in words, Gregorio sent me a video telling me a little bit about himself and his journey. His genuine warmth and kindness radiated from the screen, and I knew I wanted to learn more about his past. So we did our Q&A in an unusual way: I sent him questions, and he sent me video responses.
One of the things I love about the series is witnessing the vast array of human experience. My role is not to report — it’s to listen and witness the stories of people who are earnest in their intentions and spirit. And Gregorio is definitely that, as I think you will tell by watching any of the videos below.
Q: Can you introduce yourself and describe where you are now?
Hola, greetings from Mexico. My name is Gregorio. My English name is Craig. My last name is Lewis. I am from the state of Massachusetts. Now I live in muy bonito Mexico.
I’ll tell you who I am and why I’m here. I am either 49 or 50 years old. That probably tells you quite a lot about me already.
I haven’t spoken with my family in six years. That’s what happens right? When you become a grown adult and you find out what they did to you when you were a kid and it took you an entire lifetime to get away because when you come from a family of very bad people the only way to get better is to get away so I live here now.
My life is not easy often depending on what your —I guess will say —ideal quality of life is depending on class depending on privilege depending on family support depending on education, depending on all that.
I know how I look. Appearances can be deceiving. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be part of Meet a Voyager.
Q: It sounds like you’ve faced many challenges and obstacles in your life. Want to describe just one of them?
The second question you asked about the challenging experiences or obstacles that I faced in my life. Ah, do I want to? What I have learned the very hard way is that no I don’t. However what I’ve also learned is that if I don’t talk about it then other people don’t understand me which in part is why I think you asked a question like this so my answer is usually always the same answer because it’s the same thing I’m trying to heal from my entire life. The answer is when I was 14 years old my very sick and twisted parents used the money they had to purchase a fake and fraudulent diagnosis of schizophrenia for the beautiful 14 year old kid that I once was and then had me drugged daily for 28 years.
Can you imagine what that’s like? Can you imagine taking eight to ten pills a day for 28 years for a condition you never had? Can you imagine if you had to wear a cast on your leg because they said it was broken and it was always going to be broken forever for 28 years? Can you imagine having chemotherapy without having the symptoms that would necessitate having chemotherapy for 28 years? Can you imagine taking insulin for diabetes for 28 years and then you find out, much like I did in 2013, that you didn’t have the symptoms that require treatment for diabetes. You don’t have the the symptoms that required treatment for cancer. That you didn’t have a broken leg in the first place.
Yeah, that’s what happened to me.
28 years of swallowing approximately 80,000 pills for a condition I never had. Thank the heavens I was able to escape the torture that was being done to me. Do I want to cry every time I think about it? Yeah.
Do I barely remember that it happened to me? Yeah.
Do I live with the effects of it every day? Yeah.
That’s the reality that this trauma survivor-superhero-warrior has to live and therefore because that’s my option, that is what I do.
Thank you for this question. Have a beautiful afternoon.
Q: What did you do to help yourself navigate hardship?
What did I do to help myself to navigate hardship? Okay, to all the people out there who are doing whatever they’re doing and they’re doing great and you’re feeling good with your mental health and you know respect thumbs up keep doing what you do and if it’s working with you, okay.
So my answer to this question is I stopped doing what the mental health providers said I was supposed to do. Chew on that. That’s how I help myself through hardship. I stopped listening to the professionals who thought they knew best because of their education and their degrees and their who-knows-what and I started listening to the expert, the professional on me, ta-da… I had to navigate myself through the hardship with an abject lack of support and understanding from those whose profession it is or passion without their help because they weren’t really knowledgeable when it came to understanding and working through the trauma that I had. Imagine that: every year in the United States and around the world maybe a million people I don’t know a lot of people graduate with these degrees to go to often do mental health work and I can’t find more than a couple people like in all of my life experience who can actually help me yeah that says a whole lot more about the mental health profession than it says about me. But it should really say a lot more about me than it says about the mental health profession. Hey it ain’t my fault, I have a ninth grade education, I’m my own professional, I navigated myself through hardship. Thanks for this awesome opportunity to share in my most natural way my answer for the question.
Have a beautiful afternoon or evening or morning wherever you are when you see this video. Like we say here in Mexico: abrazos fuerte.
Q: How does mental health fit into your journey?
Good morning! Now we have question number four, How does mental health fit into my journey? Well if you’ve been listening to the other videos you know that I have a bit of a funny journey when it comes to what is mental health because my good quality Mental Health seems to be like something considered negative for other people but for me I’m actually really good I’m good as long as I take care of myself as long and as long as I don’t take those pills, as long as I get enough sleep as long as I eat good food and am hydrated and I surround myself with good people and you know and I handle my business and like I am responsible and accountable for myself and do the things I need to do that right there is mental health. So for me, my daily life is just trying to maintain the balance and keep on going. Thanks for the question I hope you like my answer. Peace and have a beautiful morning.
Q: What do you wish other people understood about trauma that they might not?
So the final question that I’ve been asked on this amazing Meet the Voyager website, blog, center of awesomeness is what is it about trauma that I want other people to know that they might not. So for that answer I’m going to have the help of my friend the praying mantis. You see, the praying mantis is shedding its skin as it gets bigger and much like a human when you’ve experienced trauma sometimes you need to shed your skin. I am an example of a person who for many many years was viewed by others in a certain way in a negative way I also viewed myself in a negative way because of what others said about me. I mean I was officially labeled as a “sick person.” That’s a very hard thing to navigate yourself out of. Much like our friend the praying mantis and much like your friend, me. I’m the living proof that what they said might be wrong what they wrote down about you or me or anybody might be wrong and deep down inside most other people don’t actually know who you really are on the inside because when you are a trauma survivor the world judges you and I just want everyone to know that I’m a beautiful person on the inside.
So are most all of you who are watching this video.
Anybody who’s ever tried to tell you different — to blame you, to hold you at fault, to denigrate you, to demean you, to degrade you— because you had a trauma response to what either someone else did to you or something that happened to you that was unjust or unfair or just if life happens. ‘
You me and all of us we all deserve a big hug and I’m wearing my beautiful shirt from the Cherokee County peer support center in East Texas that says mental health recovery Warriors.
Please check out my workbooks: Better Days – A Mental Health Recovery Workbook; The Craig Lewis Guide to Surviving the Impossible and The Original Peer Support Recovery & Coping Skills Workbook & Curriculum. Because I am a recovery mental health healing trauma-advocate-survivor-warrior at sanityisafulltimejob.org. Gratitude, hugs respect to Meredith and all the people out there in the world who are with us today participating in healing themselves and helping others peace.
Thanks for the question I hope you like my answer. Peace and have a beautiful morning.