Meet Reggie Ford, Author of PTSD

Photo courtesy of Reggie Ford

Reggie D. Ford is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, mental health advocate, and social activist. A first-generation college graduate of Vanderbilt University, he runs RoseCrete Wealth Management and speaks to audiences about financial empowerment, overall wellness, and the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Ford lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife Katie and their Rottweiler, Rosie.

I was fortunate to get to know Reggie after he spoke with our Vanderbilt Business School class during orientation last fall. After just a few minutes of hearing his story, I was intrigued, inspired, and eager to learn more. The more time I’ve spent with Reggie, the more impressed I’ve become. Not only has Reggie achieved great success in spite of countless obstacles, but he also constantly exudes a contagious warmth and positivity. I’m honored to share my conversation with Reggie about his new book, PTSD Perseverance Through Severe Dysfunction: Breaking the Curse of Intergenerational Trauma as a Black Man in America and cannot recommend his book highly enough.

You have such a unique and inspiring story, overcoming one obstacle after another to get to where you are today. What inspired you to share your journey by writing PTSD?

I’ve always known I have a unique story because I experienced so much early in my life that those around me did not. When I was inserted into a new, foreign environment — a predominantly white private school, I began to realize the many uncommon things I had normalized. I noticed how my journey sparked so much curiosity in others and quickly realized the unique perspective I have from the combination of being raised in poverty by a single mother with a father in jail, attending a predominantly white and elite private school, gaining an education from a top university, and then becoming a successful entrepreneur.

The part of my journey I would always leave out when speaking with others is the stuff we don’t talk about on a daily basis — feelings, emotions, mental health, and family dysfunction. We’re often afraid to talk about traumas that we face in everyday life because we worry what others would think. I wanted to share the amazing story of how I got to where I am today, but I also aim to increase the dialogue around mental health, as it’s a key part of my story and that of so many others. I hope that I’ve achieved both goals through my book, PTSD.

What tips do you have for those struggling to break the negative consequences of generational trauma?

I understand the difficulty of breaking negative cycles when you are still in the environment that caused so much pain. In order to break generational curses, you often have to escape that environment to find peace. That may look like distancing yourself from negative emotions, energy, and people. It may feel selfish at times, but self-care is sacred, not selfish. If you’re dealing with generational curses, challenge traditions and don’t think that life has to be a certain way because that’s what you were taught. Take a look at the assumptions and dynamics you have normalized, look at how those are affecting you mentally, physically, and financially, and challenge those assumptions. Sometimes going with the status quo is what hurts us the most.

Throughout your book you mention the important role mentors played in your life. What advice do you have for people who want to be mentors or those who want to find mentorship?

For those who want to be mentors, commit and be intentional. There are millions of people looking for someone to guide them, and it just takes opening your eyes to find them. There are also non-profit organizations that can connect you with young people who need mentors, but I challenge you to really commit. If it’s someone who grew up like I did, abandonment and lack of commitment is something that we fear. If you’re going to be a mentor, commit early on so the mentee can rely on that relationship. Above all, communicate expectations so that even if the commitment is for a certain period of time, the mentee can be prepared for that.

If you’re looking for mentorship, try to find someone who possesses character traits you admire and is doing something you hope to do in the future. Whether it is leaving them a note in their mailbox, emailing them, or reaching out on social media, make an effort to connect without the fear of rejection. People generally want to help and will be happy to do so if you take the initiative. Also, understand that everyone is dealing with something in life and people are busy. Timing may be the only issue so know it may just not be the right time if you don’t get a response. Remain persistent and hope for the best.

You discuss the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health and discuss the positive benefits you’ve experienced with yoga and therapy. What led you to these practices and what other outlets have you found helpful for your mental health?

I started yoga mainly for the physical benefits of it. I played football in college and had nagging injuries that persisted until I started my yoga practice. After yoga cured ailments that had been with me for over four years, I was immediately hooked from a physical standpoint. I then began to see the benefits from an emotional and spiritual perspective. Yoga offered me a sanctuary as life got more chaotic. I knew that no matter what was happening, I could get on my mat, breathe, experience uncomfortable postures, and feel the discomfort dissipate after a few moments. I think it’s such a great metaphor for life because everything is temporary — all of the pain, hardships, and obstacles we face will pass. The breath combined with patience can give us hope for tomorrow and help us get through those tough times.

I was more reluctant to start therapy because I thought it would mean that I was weak and broken. It took an emotional breakdown and anxiety attacks before I realized that my coping mechanisms of internalizing challenges wasn’t working. At that point, I decided to seek professional therapy. I felt that I had already been practicing therapy with people I love, especially my wife who has always been a much deeper communicator than I am. Therapy with professionals and those I love has helped me discover the liberation that comes with processing what’s going on inside you.

Sunlight, exercise, and journaling also help me tremendously. The book actually started as a journal when I was dealing with a family member who was given six months to live and writing helped me process my emotions.

Your book offered us a rich glimpse into your life and experiences thus far. Looking forward, where do you hope to be in the next 10 years?

To be completely honest, I have no idea where I’ll be. For someone who has planned every aspect of life up until now, that feeling is very strange for me. As my passions grow and I become wiser, I see the value that I can bring to the world in many different ways, but it’s hard to know exactly how that will manifest itself. I’m passionate about helping people with their finances, as evident through my company RoseCrete Wealth Management. I am also passionate about increasing awareness around mental health as I continue to see the need for more normalized discussion and treatment. Lastly, I am passionate about social justice because I believe everyone deserves equal and fair treatment. Ultimately, I want to help people live happier, healthier lives.

For more on Reggie, check out his website and his book PTSD Perseverance Through Severe Dysfunction: Breaking the Curse of Intergenerational Trauma as a Black Man in America (released June 19th, 2021).

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