Born into what would become a family of ten, on March 24, 1987 – three weeks early – to Craig and Krisanne Veibell, in Ogden, Utah, number six of what would become eight. I came into the world weighing five pounds and thirteen ounces. One pound was from a benign cyst, the size of an average male fist, that was attached to my colon. Within a few weeks, I was back in the hospital to have the cyst removed.
Growing up I was fun, playful, inquisitive, and hands-on. I loved spending time learning. My curious personality sent me in many directions: learning, seeking, fixing, and exploring. My grandma would say that the doctors replaced my cyst with an Energizer battery. I was always on the go, finding something new to learn, somewhere to go, or someone to make laugh.
My curious nature frequently led me into trouble. I didn’t always think about or understand the consequences of my actions. I wanted to grow up, learn from my own mistakes, and experience life to its fullest.
One time, while inspecting the remnants of a recent garbage burn near our home, wearing only flip flops, I charred the bottom of my feet on hot coals after my flip flops fell off. Another time, my parents found me roller-skating on our rail-less deck which had a twelve-foot drop-off on the north side. Of course, my family quickly ran out to let me know it was not a good idea and promptly moved me to safety.
As I got older, this pattern seemed to continue, curiosity beget action, often prior to understanding or thinking about the consequence, even into my late teens. When I was a teenager, I thought it’d be a good idea to see what’d happen if I stuck my gloved finger on top of a deburring gear at my Dad’s shop. You can imagine what happened. My finger was immediately smashed between the two gears when the ribbed surface touched my textured glove. I ended up coming home from the hospital with a two-finger splint and several stitches with my Dad shaking his head in confusion as to why I would risk my health and safety to experience the feeling of the moving part on my glove.
I loved to learn. I would ask a lot of questions that drove my parents crazy. I wanted to know everything and frequently learned by doing. One day, my Dad was working on hanging the Christmas lights and unable to get a few sets to work. Half of the lights were out. He tried everything he could before determining that he would need to buy a few new strands to replace those that were not working. I told him that I would fix them, and he smiled as he walked away. I am sure he was thinking there was no way I would get them to light up, but sure enough, when he came back minutes later, I had them all working.
To my family, my future seemed bright. My parents would often tell me I was going to be successful and reminded me to not squander my talents and encouraged me to listen and learn from the experiences of others. I had a big vision for my future and the natural born talent necessary for achieving it.
When I turned eight the youthfulness and happiness started to wane. The confidence in my youth was deteriorating as I started to feel nervous, worried, and sad. Internal conflict started to set in, and I developed an insecurity deep inside and driven by fear.
The older I got, the more anxious and depressed I felt. I would worry, feel irritable, stressed, restless, and fatigued which caused me to have difficulty concentrating. I found myself feeling sad, alone, worthless, with low self-esteem, and an immense amount of guilt. “I am not like the other kids,” I would think to myself. I was anxious, depressed, and confused. The normal feelings and experiences of adolescence, wanting to fit in and be popular, were intensified by my internal feelings.
As an early teenager, at the age of twelve I began to try and control everything I could because my anxiety and depression made me feel out of control. Doing so, led me to develop addictive behaviors. I discovered ways to numb my pain. At this time, I started working for my Dad at his newly found machine shop and I loved working there because it gave me an escape and helped me make money. Each day, I buried myself in the work, producing part-after-part. I would turn up the music and cognitively ignore my feelings. As I worked, I dreamed of becoming a CEO of a fortune 500 company, of owning my own business, and starting a charity. I wanted to have money to be in a position where I could provide for my family and give back to others, while living a comfortable lifestyle. I believed in my ability to accomplish big things, but often found my judgement clouded by the reality of my mental health. One day high, the next day low; repeated over-and-over again. For eighteen years of my life, my emotions oscillated erratically and frequently.
By the time I turned fourteen, I wondered if life should go on. I considered suicide, but the thought of doing it scared me. “I can solve this on my own,” I told myself. “I am strong enough”, I whispered to myself. But soon enough I found myself in the same situation, feeling anxious or depressed.
The symptoms of my anxiety and depression drove me to the doctor’s office. After an hour in the doctor’s office, he prescribed me Prozac, informed me that seeing results could take up to a month, and sent me on my way to the pharmacy. For the next few months, I tried the medicine, it helped slightly, but I never felt comfortable that it was the solution. Deep down, I knew Prozac was masking the problem, and I wanted a way to solve my anxiety without medication – I just didn’t know how. I made the decision to stop using medication and tried to focus on work and improving my studies and friendships.
I spent the next few years battling my thoughts and emotions with varying degrees of success, occasionally going several months without extreme emotions.
When I turned 19, I applied to serve a two-year service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I sent off my application and after a few weeks of waiting, I received the letter I had been waiting for. I read the letter. “You are called to serve in the Phnom Penh Cambodia mission speaking Vietnamese.” I was ecstatic! I wanted to go somewhere exotic and culturally challenging. I wanted to learn a new language and serve people who were underprivileged, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. We rushed to get my shots, buy suits, ties, shirts, and all the supplies needed to live abroad for two years.
I was ready to go. March 7th came. I was excited but extremely nervous. I remember waking up the morning I was leaving the MTC feeling the weight of the opportunity. I was tired, mind foggy, and very anxious. I assumed the emotions were normal since I would be leaving my family, friends, and country for two years. Through the anxiety, I was excited. For years, I dreamed about serving a mission and helping other people, especially since I felt like I could empathize with their situation given my history with anxiety, depression, and addiction. I would also be the first in my family to serve a mission.
I was learning the language, but it did not come easy. I made my flash cards and studied, but I had a hard time vocalizing the language while surrounded by people who were predominately speaking English. I also had a hard time focusing my mind long enough to learn in a classroom setting.
One day while writing in my practice journal, my teacher inquired about the dark black boxes penned in my sentences. “When you make a mistake, why do you scribbled those dark black boxes over your words and letters rather than just drawing a line through it?” he curiously asked. It was an interesting question and I had never thought about it before. In the moment, I didn’t know why. I simply responded with an empty answer that was insufficient for such a deep question. He knew better. He was studying psychology at BYU and I assume his hypothesis prompted the inquiry. I know now, the black boxes were a symptom of my history with mental health. I would block out my mistakes so no one would see them. So, no one would know my weaknesses, mistakes, or inadequacies’. Just as I had all those years burying my depression and anxiety. I was ashamed of who I truly was, and I wanted no one to see.
Three months after entering the MTC, I loaded myself and my bags onto the bus, boarding pass in-hand, and headed to the Salt Lake City International Airport ready to leave the country on a twenty-one-hour journey to Phnom Penh Cambodia that took me through Los Angeles and Taipei Taiwan. Upon arriving in Cambodia, I was well rested. I had managed to sleep almost the entire flight. I was intrigued as we landed. I intently peered through the humidity laced window on the Boeing 737 and admired the lush green trees, the still brown lakes, ponds, and rivers. I noticed the huts, shacks, and buildings. They were different than I was used to. As we neared the ground for landing, the scooters and taxis raced around the streets below. We landed, taxied toward the airport, and parked. The rolling stairs made its way to the plane, the door opened, and we began to offboard one-by-one. It was my turn to debark, I walked up the aisle towards the front door. As I walked down the stairs, I was regretting wearing the long-sleeve white dress shirt and suit coat as the heat and humidity quickly soaked my clothes in sweat. The smell was foreign and hard to stomach. A heavy tropical smell of humidity, cooked food, and fragrant flowers mixed with the stench of musky sewage water filled the air. “The smell is going to be hard to get used to,” I thought to myself.
I went to bed that night with extreme anxiety and doubt started to set in. Over the next few days, my anxiety went from bad, to worse, to immobilizing. For no explainable reason, I felt like my family was falling apart back home and that I needed to be there for them. I felt like a failure and questioned my ability to learn the language and serve the people. I dealt with the stress, anxiety, and depression the same way I had managed it my entire adult life. I masked the pain and hoped that it would go away. A week in, I asked my companion if we could stop by the internet café so I could email my family. I let them know that I was not doing well and that I had doubts in my ability to complete my mission even though I did not want to go home. One morning, as my condition was deteriorating, I sat atop of our apartment room and pondered my options as I watched a swarm of people rush about their life below. I listened to the pounding and clanking of the nearby construction. I weighed my options. I could stay on my mission and serve the people or selfishly go home to the comforts of my home. I wanted to stay so I committed to keep trying.
At this point my Mission President was checking up on me regularly and the coordinated letters and emails of support started to rush in from family members and friends. I let President know that I wanted to stay. He explained that he had a conversation with the church’s area doctor and that if I wanted to stay, I would need to take medication. I responded, “President, I want to stay but I don’t want to take the medication. I don’t believe in medicating the problem.” He listened but was firm. I needed the medication if I wanted to stay.
I was prescribed Xanax, a powerful anti-anxiety medication known as a tranquilizer. Xanax is no joke; much more powerful than the Prozac I was prescribed as a teenager. President Towers gave me enough medication for three days at-a-time. When I would run out, I would go to the mission home to get restocked for the next three days. I began taking Xanax, it calmed me down to a numb state. After a few days, it calmed me so much that I had a hard time getting out of bed. One day, I slept for eighteen hours straight.
The following day, my companion and I were on our bikes to the mission home to restock the Xanax. Out of nowhere, I blacked out. I woke up in the muddy ditch on the right side of the city street. I had a bloody arm, ripped dress pants, and bruises throughout my body caused from the impact. I was disoriented. After a few minutes of recovery, we got back on our bikes and finished the trek to the mission home. When I arrived, my Mission President inquired about my condition. “Are you okay? What happened?”, he concerningly asked as we came through the door. I looked ragged, bloody, and covered in mud. The injuries were obvious. “I fell asleep or black out on my bike and ended up in the ditch on our way over here,” I replied to his question. “Elder, we are going to send you home. You need to get on your feet. You have been here for seven weeks and your condition continues to deteriorate”, he insisted. I broke into tears and accepted my fate.
Within a week I was on my way back home to get the help I needed. During my layover in Taipei, Taiwan I called my family. My younger sister answered the phone and she burst into tears. “You sound so sick”, she said as she choked over her voice and tears. I was. I had a big black cloud over my mind, my thoughts were negative all the time, and I worried incessantly, and I didn’t know what to do. I finished my twenty-six-hour travel back to Utah, debarked the plane, and shamefully walked back to the baggage claim area of the SLC airport. Just as my family had done five months earlier when I left, each of them greeted me with love and support as I came through the security doors. I didn’t want to talk about it, so I buried my feelings like I had my entire life. I wanted to appear tough through it all.
Over the coming weeks, I wrestled with the questions of getting back into normal life. What would I do with all my time? I found a job working for La-Z-Boy in their maintenance department. Would I go back to school? I signed up for spring classes in the mechanical engineering program at Utah State University. How would I handle going back to church knowing that people might question why I came home? I went back and told myself that people didn’t understand, and their opinion wouldn’t impact me. Who would I hang out with now that most of my friends were on their missions or moved away to college? I would bury myself in my work and try to find some new friends. It was hard, but I knew it was what I needed to do.
I knew I needed to put myself first and focus on my personal development. I made the choice to not allow my circumstances or the thoughts of others define who I was. I was struggling and it would have been easy to hide in my house, avoid my friends, and blame others for my experiences.
A week-and-a-half after getting home, while relaxing in my parent’s maroon recliner, I started to have unfamiliar sensations building through my body. First, my heart started to race… sweat started to build on my brow and forehead followed by chills. Next, sweaty palms, chest pains, then difficulty breathing. My hands were physically paralyzed, and I was overcome with an intense fear and acted entirely out-of-control. “Mom, I am having a heart attack,” I screamed. My Mom rushed me to the Logan Regional IHC hospital as the attack continued. The symptoms came and went but continued for the next couple of hours as the doctors ran me through a series of tests in the emergency room. “Panic Attack”, the doctor hypothesized after reviewing the symptoms and tests. A panic attack is a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety that causes a feeling of detachment or separation from reality. Coming home from my mission and re-inserting myself into non-missionary life, while at the same time confronting my anxiety and depression caused an immense amount of stress and my body was responding to it.
For the first time, I personally recognized the extent of my condition and set on a path of personal accountability and ownership for my mental health. I was determined to find a path to a healthy and happy life. I needed to learn happy, healthy, and appropriate coping skills if I wanted to be who I always dreamed of becoming.
As the attacks continued over the coming weeks, my Mom and I scheduled therapy and I determined to stop taking the medication and focus on learning strategies to live a life free of medication. In therapy, we focused the sessions on preventing panic attacks from occurring. I was taught many helpful techniques. First, to recognize when they were coming on, how to close my eyes and use deep breathing to calm my mind and body, and finally, how to engage in mindfulness. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. Originally, it was designed to treat depression, but its uses have been expanded to include treatment of several mental health conditions, including anxiety. We used cognitive behavioral therapy to correct my thinking and substitute illogical or emotional thoughts with more realistic and factual ones. I was also encouraged to participate in daily exercise.
Over the next ten years, although improved, I continued to struggle with my anxiety, but remained focused on my personal development and continued to tell myself that it would someday improve. It did, and then it didn’t. Up and down. Seasons of good and seasons of bad.
I experienced career, relational, and personal growth as well as times of struggle, sadness, and a lot of anxiety. After bouncing from business to mechanical engineering and back to business, I finished my bachelor’s degree at Utah State University in operations management. I went from installing alarm systems as a technician to managing several functional teams as a Senior Director for Vivint Smart Home.
The result of many of my accomplishments was short-term pleasure but all at the expense of continued stress and anxiety. I had more panic attacks, and suffered from, at times, unbearable pain in my lower back and left leg which resulted in difficulty walking and frequently left me on edge and frustrated. All of this exacerbated my anxiety and deteriorated my mental health. I would later learn how to identify and relieve the built-up stress and better coping skills to manage it. Through it all, I was able to have some of the best experiences of my life (even though many of them were clouded by my mental wellness) as I married the love of my life and we began having kids.
As I approached 30, the Field Operations work team I was part of began a development program called High Performing Teams. Little did I know, this program, with help from Martha and Morag – the consultants we hired to take us through the program – and Brady, my boss – would significantly contribute to my recovery and set me on a path of personal development. Giving me additional focus and purpose.
High Performing Teams, at its core, is a program designed to improve organizational and team dynamics so the team can achieve collective results. This is done by first providing a foundation of psychological safety and trust within the team. Once psychological safety and trust are established, the team can then focus on embracing conflict, committing together, and providing accountability within the team. The program is developed on the foundation taught by Patrick Lencioni in his acclaimed book, “5 Dysfunctions of a Team.”
In session one, we explored our personal profiles. I discovered how I learned to manage conflict as a child. I explored my personality – my innate nature, my personal resiliency, documented and explored my personal values, and wrote my leadership purpose. We then shared them with the team.
Towards the end of 2017, I continued to reflect on the values I had explored and documented during HPT. My family, my work, serving others, honesty & integrity, health, and knowledge were the top values I identified. Honest & integrity, family, and serving others were three that caused much reflection. Am I truly honest with others? Do I display integrity in all that I do? Am I the person I want to be? The truthful answer was that I was not living up to who I wanted to be. I ignored my anxiety and depression, and, thus, frequently prioritized my needs over others.
“Am I acting in a way that values my family as my top value?”, I reflected. The truthful answer was that I often prioritized work before my family. It was a sobering moment. I had values. I was taught good values. I just was not always living them.
It was as if God was humbling me. Ripening me for opening my past. Preparing me for the personal development right around the corner.
A few months later, in January of 2018, we started session two of High Performing Teams and spent two days getting to know the team more intimately. One of the exercises on the agenda was to develop an “threads of life” presentation capturing the most significant life events, from birth to present, that modeled us into who we are today. I chose to share my childhood, teenage conflict, coming home early from my mission, and my struggles with anxiety. I also shared the joy of spending time with family as a child, getting married, and having kids. I shared my accomplishments and moments of happiness, including building TechGenie (software to simplify our technicians’ job), graduating from college, and running my first half-marathon.
As I shared the story of my teenage years, and the internal conflict I felt as a child, emotions overcame me. I began to cry uncontrollably. Years of pain, sadness, and anxiety released in a few minutes. I was surprised. I did not realize I had bottled up so much emotion. Years of anxiety and addiction had perfected my suppression and denial muscle and I never talked about my past. I would fake it on the outside and bury my true emotions deep into my subconscious, rarely even sharing them with my wife. I left emotionally drained, although, inspired to develop and grow.
By May, we concluded High Performing Teams sessions three and four. Our Field Operations team learned and practiced resolving conflict, giving effective feedback, and listening to others. We were growing together as a team and I noticed personal development happening in my life and in others. We were introduced to many tools to increase our ability to embrace conflict, commit together, and hold one another accountable. The tools included: listening spectrum, left hand columns, conversational action modes, balancing advocacy and inquiry, displaying respectful opposition, learning loops, and how to provide constructive and developmental feedback. We demonstrated principles such as: change begins with you, trust and psychological safety are dynamic states, there will be ebbs and flows in progress, everyone is doing the best they can, there is no learning without reflection, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it, accurate diagnosis of need and readiness matter, always start at the lowest level of the five dysfunctions triangle that needs attention, people can and do grow and change, and be clear about the ground rules and make adherence an issue of commitment and accountability.
Going through High Performing Teams launched me into a developmental phase in my personal life and career. I learned that the principles and tools learned in HPT applied just as much to personal development, marriage, and relationships, as they do to organizations and teams. I began to use the tools around the house. I found myself more patient, more effective at communicating my feelings and the impact the actions of others had on me, and I started to focus on improving my listening skills. Listening has always been my opportunity for development. Growing up, my parents would frequently give me two areas of advice: listen more intently and soften the tone and message. As an early leader, several of my team members didn’t want to continue working for me because they felt I didn’t listen to them. As I went through my twenties, got married, and had other career opportunities, I became more aware of my tendency for command and my preference for executing on my vision. My wife would agree. At work, I continue to get similar feedback from my direct reports… listen and provide space for everyone to contribute their ideas and bring their voice to the team.
As I became more self-aware and worked to develop myself, while incorporating new methods, tools, and skills into my life, I became less anxious and more in control of my life without being controlling. I was happier, a better husband, friend, and neighbor. I focused more on others and their needs. I became more focused on who I wanted to become instead of allowing my past experiences and fears to determine who I was. While still present, my anxiety was greatly reduced. I became less controlling at work and home. I no longer had a desire to cover up my anxiety by working all the time. I must admit, I still cannot vacation for more than four days without starting to feel anxious and needing to accomplish something. The relationships in my life improved, and I started to feel more connected with my family, friends, and colleagues.
Being honest and open with myself and others laid a foundation of accountability, which forced me to confront my anxiety. Confronting my anxiety required the humility to focus on myself and what I could control and develop rather than looking at the faults of others. I needed to shift my thoughts and beliefs from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Towards the end of the year, I began reading the sequel to “Start with Why” titled “Find Your Why” by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker. In the book, they teach how to find your why, your purpose for existence. Finding your why, they claim, will help you make decisions that are congruent with who you are as an individual including: what should I do for my career, where should I work, what motivates me as an individual. I set a side time to follow their instructions and over the coming months I refined my leadership purpose into a personal purpose statement, “my purpose is to empower, motivate, and inspire the development of humanity so that, together, we will actualize our highest potential.”
As I developed my purpose, I began to think about how I can fulfill my purpose. As I meshed my experience with mental health, my strengths, purpose, and my desire to start a charity, I determined the best place would be to start a non-profit. Overt Foundation.
For me, mental health and happiness have been a long and winding journey. A journey spotted with many ups and downs, pain, mistakes, and grief. Often leaving me wondering if I would ever experience true happiness, alignment, and purpose, free of anxiety and guilt. I have learned to accept my past experiences and who I am today. I have learned to accept that I may always experience higher levels of anxiety than other people. I have learned to accept that because of my anxiety, I am at risk for addiction. I have learned to appreciate the human experience and the individual lessons of my journey. I have learned a deep love for the relationships of support around me and have learned to lean on them for support. I have learned to be open, honest, vulnerable, and courageous about my feelings and experiences and humble enough to ask for help.
It’s been just over two years this month I set out to restore myself to the person I was before I allowed my anxiety to define me. Honesty, integrity, and being open, with the help of my wife, therapist, and personal development at home and work, gave me the strength and accountability I needed to work on my anxiety, depression, and addiction while building the life I always dreamed of.
Life is a journey. We can choose to take the easy road, or we can choose to confront life and continue regardless of our circumstances. As one my favorite quotes says, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan.
For those reading this in despair, wrapped in the dark clouds of mental wellness, there is hope! Whether you are struggling with anxiety, like me, depression, addiction, PTSD, bipolar, OCD, or any other mental struggle, there is love and there is help! Be open, honest, and vulnerable so you will seek and accept help. Talk about your feelings to a friend, family member, loved one, or someone in our Overt community. Be committed to doing the hard work of seeking help, regardless of your circumstance or social stigma you face. Learn what you need to do to restore your life and develop into who you want to become. Learn your purpose and explore your values and set goals that align you to your purpose. And, most importantly, as Winston Churchill urged, “never, never, never give up.”