Season 02, Episode 21
Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley
Guest: Joe Rhea

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter… here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the disabled lives matter podcast. Let’s welcome co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley.

Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone, this is nadine vogel your one of your host for disabled lives matter we are more than a podcast we are a movement, and I am joined by my amazing co host norma stanley.

Norma: Hello everyone.

Nadine Vogel: hey hey. how are.

Norma: You i’m great great looking forward to today’s show.

Nadine Vogel: I know well today’s gonna be really cool because we are interviewing Joe Rhea.

Nadine Vogel: As Joe likes to say there are moments in our lives, when we look back and say that there was some defining moment, you know for for me it was when my first daughter was born with severe disabilities norma, I think, probably for you too right.

Norma: yes. yes.

Nadine Vogel: For Joe However, it was an age 14 and.

Nadine Vogel: Although life changed he never really looked back so Joe welcome to the show.

Joe Rhea: Thank you for having me it’s an honor to be here i’m excited.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely, so I left everybody kind of wondering age 14 well then, what the heck happened.

Joe Rhea: yeah.

Joe Rhea: I was.

Joe Rhea: Just like many boys in Olathe, Kansas a suburb or Kansas City, I played sports pretty much my whole life I loved all the sports, but unfortunately I also love football and on September 11, 1984.

Joe Rhea: I was playing football and I broke my neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. for a while.

Norma: Wow.

Nadine Vogel: So. September 11 has been an interesting date for many reasons for you. Right.

Joe Rhea: Yes, yes.

Nadine Vogel: Ooh, my gosh.

Nadine Vogel: Now. I know that you, you know you go and you present globally at conferences and things like that, and one of the things that that you say and make sure I say this correctly that you believe there are only two types of people in the world ones who fight and ones who don’t.

Nadine Vogel: And you know what I I actually my so my older daughter has lots of disabilities her whole life but has been sick recently and I took that line I said so, which one, are you.

Nadine Vogel: Which one, are you so I stole that from you, I just want you to know.

Norma: Great line.

Nadine Vogel: Exactly. So if I recall correctly, after your accident, they were like yeah give it up babe, if you’re not going to be walking you know running doing anything but you are one of those who fight so tell us a little bit about the story.

Joe Rhea: Sure. Well, and they came in basically two days later, and first thing they did was tell my folks exactly what happened to my neck that i’d broken My fourth and fifth vertebrae compress my fifth herniated my seventh.

Joe Rhea: I bruised and flattened my spinal cord, and that I needed to be prepared to use a wheelchair, the rest of my life.

Joe Rhea: And then they said, but the good news is is that your bones broke perfectly so we don’t have to operate we’re going to put you in a halo.

Joe Rhea: I had no idea what that meant until they started screwing it into my skull and I found out really quick.

Joe Rhea: You know, and I always tell people when I speak, that there was two sounds and I remember very distinctly that day my mother crying and my skull cracking.

Nadine Vogel:  oooh. oooh.

Joe Rhea: Oh, you you hear it, because they keep you awake and they just screw it right in, and you can see my scars yeah.

Nadine Vogel: Okay i’m hurting just hearing about.

Norma: Yes.

Joe Rhea: Here’s The funny thing about that being a 14 year old boy they had to shave my head and I was not happy about them shaving my hair.


Nadine Vogel: That was worse than the screwing in itself.

Joe Rhea: Initially, it was. I was like, don’t do that, and then I.

Joe Rhea: So yeah so I looked at my neurologist the doctor and great man, but he was a typical neurologist dry as. can be.

Norma: Yes. they are.

Joe Rhea: Nopersonality and I just looked at him when I said after done, I was kind of nauseous I said, am I going to be able to play football or baseball again not, only am I going to walk again I want to know if I was gonna play football or baseball.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Joe Rhea: He looks right at me and he goes no he didn’t say maybe said we’ll see, he said no.

Nadine Vogel: yeah well there’s an optimist for you.

Joe Rhea: Yeah, but it made me mad it just really ticked me off, and I just kind of made a promise right then and there that if I get an opportunity.

Joe Rhea: I was going to prove him wrong I was going to do whatever I could to make this man, eat his words and then basically seven days later, my left leg, kind of wiggled and that was the opportunity that I hoped for.

Joe Rhea: And then from there was a battle, it was a constant therapy fight rebuild going through the process so.

Nadine Vogel: Sure. but you know I don’t understand and Norma I have these conversations why, when my older daughter was born, I remember, I called the N-I-C-U doctor the doctor Dr doom and gloom.

Nadine Vogel: Right, and you know and the neurologists right, I mean we’ve been through neurologists I like eat them for lunch, you know.

Nadine Vogel: Because they’re just.

Nadine Vogel: I won’t say they’re awful people, but they come off as. awful people.

Norma: Very insensitive. very insensitive.

Nadine Vogel: Well, they mean well. they mean well.

Joe Rhea: They do.

Nadine Vogel: So you have obviously endured, I can only imagine but tremendous pain, emotional, physical going through all this so talk to us a little bit about that the physical and the emotional.

Joe Rhea: yeah that’s a really good question oh.

Joe Rhea: physically the pain.

Joe Rhea: was really started coming back when I started getting my feeling I describe it as if you can remember growing pains in your body like in your legs just multiply that by 100 all over my body.

Norma: Wow.

Joe Rhea: It was really, really bad it was really painful and, unfortunately, it seemed like it always was the worst at night.

Joe Rhea: When I couldn’t move my arms to hit the call button.

Joe Rhea: I couldn’t yell out enough because it affected, my phrenic nerve to get the nurse to come in and, finally, I would cry myself to sleep and that’s when they would come in and wake me up and say I have pills.

Nadine Vogel: [Laughter.] Why does that not surprise me.

Joe Rhea: Exactly. So the pain, you know as a 14 year old boy you just kind of deal with it, but uh emotionally is what was probably the hardest for me.

Joe Rhea: I was really heartbroken what happened to me and, unfortunately, you know my folks did the best that they can, but my mom married a real cowboy he’s a cattleman roped.

Joe Rhea: did all that and his his whole mentality was we’re not going to talk about it that’s old news, you need to suck it up move on and get over it, and that was kind of how I lived at home for the next.

Joe Rhea: Five years, and so I just white knuckle balled with my emotions and really didn’t even get help for about 10 years. emotionally.

Norma: I was going to ask you about that, with your parents and you know because that’s part of I know I feel my daughter’s pain is, it seems to me, and I was going to ask you how did your parents handle that so how’d your mom, kind of maneuver that whole thing between your dad and you.

Nadine Vogel: yeah that must have been hard for her.

Norma: That must have been challenging.

Joe Rhea: It was really hard for her.

Joe Rhea: Because I think she would have put me in therapy, but I think obviously she wanted to follow her husband’s lead and you know.

Joe Rhea: here’s the double edged sword of that mentality, it really helped me physically because they pushed me so hard.

Joe Rhea: But it destroyed me emotionally, at the same time, so I was getting better physically doing things, above and beyond that what they thought possible and internally, I was really dying inside I was so heartbroken it manifested as anger.

Joe Rhea: I was mad.

Joe Rhea: At everything and everyone.

Joe Rhea: And it really came out when I uh.

Joe Rhea: I made the tennis team, two years after my accident.

Nadine Vogel: Oh wow.

Joe Rhea: Even though I could barely hold the racket but I was able to do it, and I even won tem matches and lost two yeah I was pretty good.

Joe Rhea: On the JV.

Nadine Vogel: Oh my God, you’re like Superman. [Laughter.]

Norma: Awesome.

Joe Rhea: I was a really good athlete but anytime I lost it wasn’t because I lost it was because of the injury and I would break my rackets and throw my rackets embarrass myself, but I didn’t know any different I didn’t have somebody to explain, you know it’s okay to be mad.

Nadine Vogel: Right you didn’t have the coping skills.

Joe Rhea. Exactly.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah. So, so when you think about this, you know I mean obviously both both of those right the injury itself, and then the follow up obviously changes you as a person right and it changes your perspective on just about everything. 

Joe Rhea: Yes.

Nadine Vogel: So when how and when did kind of that that pivot happened for you.

Joe Rhea: Yeah. Uh I 24 I had moved to Vail, Colorado to be a ski bum and I thought moving out there would fix everything and it didn’t I had a.

Joe Rhea: pretty much my rock bottom moment I was living with my roommate, who was a good friend of mine, for a long for many years, his mom had died of cancer The night before and he was going to go home to see her and.

Joe Rhea: He went to go pick up some groceries for us before he left and at that particular time, I guess, I was drinking vitamin D milk and he bought 2%.

Joe Rhea: I laid into him. I so angry and upset and pissed off that he would do that and how stupid, could he be and.

Joe Rhea: And then I went down my room and I cried my eyes out because I didn’t want to be that person I wasn’t this person not a mean person, and that was my breaking point so I said I called up and said I need help, I can’t I can’t do this anymore.

Nadine Vogel: And so.

Nadine Vogel: From that point forward what was that what was the process what you know, obviously there’s physical recovery and there’s emotional recovery right.

Nadine Vogel: So, what was the process and recovery for that piece different versus the physical.

Joe Rhea: Well, physically i’d already plateaued I pretty much had gotten what I was going to gain emotionally, it was then starting to see a therapist getting on an antidepressant.

Joe Rhea: learning how to cope, a little bit better with what I was dealing with in my anger and it really helped me a lot to get on an antidepressant at that particular time, I was.

Joe Rhea: Again I didn’t know that it would help, but once I got on it, it was just amazing for me at the time.

Nadine Vogel: The world kind of opens up right.

Joe Rhea:  It did absolutely.

Norma: You know it’s important that you recognized that there was something that you didn’t want to hold on to that you need to talk to somebody and that.

Norma: You know process that through because so many people don’t admit there’s something going on, when they’re always angry and something is not who they really they really are it over to do, and they don’t know who to turn to.

Joe Rhea: Exactly.

Norma: it’s a lot as a 24 year old to know that you needed help.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Joe Rhea: Yeah it took a lot of courage for me to admit that.

Joe Rhea: And I you know I.

Joe Rhea: like to say that hey I just can’t do this on my own anymore. So.

Nadine Vogel: Right, and how did that change your relationship if it did with with your mom with her husband.

Joe Rhea: Ah, probably not much because I was living in another state, so they didn’t really get the benefit of seeing me but.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Joe Rhea: You know my mom and I were close enough to where we talked a couple times a week but.

Nadine Vogel: Awe, that’s good.

Joe Rhea: Yeah it was just from that perspective I mean I was, I think I understood more what she was going through.

Nadine Vogel: Um, hmm.

Joe Rhea: and how hard it was on her because you know, while I was the one physically going through, but I think she was hurt even more mentally than I did.

Nadine Vogel: Right right. Absolutely you know, one of the things that’s interesting for me is you know you’re an athlete like you said right, so you know you play golf you ski you play tennis you I mean every sport imaginable.

Nadine Vogel: Was it ever even an inkling for your thought that you would continue to play sports but do it as a para athlete you know, like a Paralympic sport versus mainstream.

Joe Rhea: yeah I actually went to the United States Olympic facility in Colorado and wanted to try to be a skier but basically they deemed that.

Joe Rhea: Only my right arm was disabled enough to compete, so that I would have to not use my right arm against able bodied athletes who everything else was like an amputee.

Joe Rhea: really strong everything part of their and I here I am they had a spinalcord injury so everything was still affected, I had quadriparesis.

Joe Rhea: A weakness in all four limbs, but that that was what they deemed so I knew I couldn’t compete against in that in that field but yeah I thought. about it.

Nadine Vogel: yeah because I think that that’s also kind of a defining moment right, how do I continue if folks aren’t an athlete before they get injured, I think it’s probably different like for me, you know I tried to be an athlete but i’m not.

Nadine Vogel: I wonder if, because you were an athlete before you had that strengthen you, you have you know I think you had so many of those physical you know mental qualities that you just had to pull out. Which is in a way.

Joe Rhea:  It defintely helped.

Joe Rhea: That definitely helped.

Joe Rhea: That I was, I was driven. motivated.

Joe Rhea: Competitive really competitive and just to kind of prove everybody wrong.

Nadine Vogel: yeah I love it I love people that try to.

Nadine Vogel: Prove everyone wrong and are successful not just try.

Nadine Vogel: Successful so i’m curious Have you ever gotten back at those Doc initial doctors and folks that said no never huh.

Joe Rhea: No that was so long ago, but it would have been funny to do that.

Nadine Vogel: Well, you know what I liked the reason I asked the question.

Nadine Vogel: Is because my own personal situation with my daughter, they said she’d never walk talk all these different things she spent three months in intensive care when she was born and I made sure that they not only got photos but they got to meet her.

Nadine Vogel: As a young adult who is you know walking talking applying to colleges doing all these things, and for me it was more about not hey look, you were wrong or hey Look how great she is but.

Nadine Vogel: I want you to change your perspective.

Norma: Absolutely.

Nadine Vogel: I want you to think differently and not be so doom and gloom yes, sometimes that is the outcome.

Nadine Vogel: But, can you imagine.

Nadine Vogel: If you really think like she for you, Joe where you have a completely different mental attitude right that you’re going to make it, no matter what, if they could potentially embrace that.

Joe Rhea: Sure sure.

Norma: Well it’s so important and the way they break it parents, I think it should really think a little differently about how they give them a little hope, I mean don’t come, I mean you know mix reality, with the hope. In some way, in my opinion.

Nadine Vogel: Right cause otherwise they’re like you know I find that it’s like a self.

Nadine Vogel: fulfilling prophecy for them see I told you you would never walk.

Joe Rhea: You know I.

Joe Rhea: You know, I think that i’ve done a lot of thinking about this.

Joe Rhea: And they want to give you the worst case scenario to kind of cover their butts if you. know what I mean.

Joe Rhea: So if you don’t get any any better than they say look I told you, but if you gain then they’re like that’s just you know lucky you you’ve got more than we thought.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah.

Joe Rhea: And yeah I was.

Nadine Vogel: There got to be a balance, I don’t know.

Joe Rhea: I agree.

Norma: I agree there should be a balance of some kind, but.

Nadine Vogel: I think they need some special mental health training themselves.

Norma: I agree with you.  You know. for our children. You want to give them.

Norma: Some idea that you know that you have to work hard to get them to where they need to be the same time. Let them think.

Nadine Vogel: Right right.

Norma: That there is a possibility.

Nadine Vogel: Absolutely. Joe you were 14 I mean you were you were in that formative stage right.

Nadine Vogel: yeah especially a boy athlete oh my gosh um well, so we need to go to a very short commercial break, but when we come back, we will come back with Joe Rhea and have some more really cool stories we’ll be right back everybody.

Voiceover:  And now it’s time for a commercial break.

If you’re familiar with Springboard Consulting Disability Matters Events.  You won’t want to miss out on the 2022 Disability Matters Asia-Pacific Conference & Awards Live-Stream. It’s happening November 9, and it’s being hosted by Manulife.  So, don’t miss out! Visit for more information. Again, that’s for more information.

Voiceover:  And now back to our show.

Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone, this is nadine vogel and I am joined by norma stanley your co host of disabled lives matter hey norma.

Norma: Hey.

Nadine Vogel: This has been such a cool show talking with Joe Rhea.

Norma: Yeah.

Nadine Vogel: Joe you you’re you just one amazing guy for a lot of different reasons, but especially because you have really made it your mission in life, to make a difference in other people’s lives right.

Nadine Vogel: and

Joe Rhea: Yes.

Nadine Vogel: that’s you know talk about paying it forward right, and I know that you do that, in a variety of ways, including you know speaking and so forth, so i’m wondering if you could share with our audience all the different ways, you do that.

Joe Rhea: Sure um well I started out just as a waiter server for many years, this doing through sharing my story someone suggested I get into public speaking.

Joe Rhea: And I really didn’t know how to do that I got involved with the Foundation called Think First, which is a brain and spinal cord injury prevention foundation.

Joe Rhea: Speaking to kids K through 12 within about a month, they made me their lead speaker and I did that for about nine years where I spoke to about.

Joe Rhea: 150 times a year to kids in Kansas city K through 12 and then through that I developed a collegiate program for athletes and you took what I learned and called program Bars, Cars and Catastrophes, this is pre Uber and Lyft.

Nadine Vogel: {Laughter.} I love it. Was it bars, cars and catastrophes right? 

Joe Rhea: yeah 

Naidne Vogel: I love it.

Joe Rhea: yeah.

Joe Rhea: We have another. 16 to 25 year olds suffer brain and spinal cord injuries more than than any other age group, and they do most often in car crashes.

Joe Rhea: And then you factor in alcohol and then there’s falls and diving and fighting all the thing the young people do so I just developed that Program.

Joe Rhea: And then through there I started getting into doing programs on mental health and overcoming adversity and.

Joe Rhea: i’ve done that i’ve looked into corporations and goal setting and peak performance and then during covid which kind of killed everything.

Joe Rhea: I was able to finish my book and publish my book called When Life Knocks the Hell Out of You, Beat the Odds, and so I was fortunate to get that done that only took me about 20 years to finish.

Nadine Vogel: Okay, so yeah just a little time so let’s let’s kind of dissect we haven’t you have a little time so let’s dissect each one so i’m going to start with the book and we’ll work back.

Norma: Yeah.

Nadine Vogel: Let’s start with the book so When Life Knocks the Hell Out of You. 

Joe Rhea: Beat the Odds

Nadine Vogel: Beat the Odds. So tell us just give us an idea, because I, I suspect, people are going to want to order this book and i’m going to have you tell everyone how to order the book so let’s talk about the book sure.

Joe Rhea: Sure um.

Joe Rhea: Believe it or not, I started handwriting the book in 1998 to set because I had so many people say you should write a book, you should write a book and i’m like.

Joe Rhea: i’m 28 years old, I mean or how how much of a story do I have, but apparently they thought I had a good story, so I started writing what i’d gone through and.

Joe Rhea: It sits there for a while, then you put it on you know, a word processor, and then it’s not a computer and then the right anyway.

Joe Rhea: Finally, I met somebody That was a publisher here in Kansas city and she said, you know send me a chapter, you know, everybody thinks they have a book and.

Joe Rhea: I was like Okay, I sent her, the whole thing anyways she gets back she goes, this is really, really good and i’m really shocked I wasn’t expecting much, and so she was able to help me get it published but it’s really the.

Joe Rhea: The journey of my emotional physical recovery from 14 through the end of college to Vail and ultimately discovering what was my really the purpose for.

Joe Rhea: Why, I stay alive and what I wanted to do when you know, since I couldn’t be a professional athlete or achieve those dreams and goals, which are really important to me.

Joe Rhea: What was the reason and, ultimately, it really was I always knew that I could be a father and that the last chapter of the book is called Molly it’s about my daughter.

Joe Rhea: And the day she was born I knew that it was no no longer about me it was about her, and it was just the best thing ever.

Nadine Vogel: that’s that’s really fabulous so before we go into my other questions, how can folks get the book.

Joe Rhea: Sure it’s currently on Amazon, you know just plug in the title When Life Knocks the Hell Out of You and it’ll pull right up there’s the book format, you can do a kindle unfortunately it’s not in.

Joe Rhea: audio yet that’s my next goal.

Joe Rhea: You go to my website Joe Rhea, excuse me,

Nadine Vogel: Okay.

Joe Rhea: You can order it through that as well too.

Nadine Vogel: Excellent Okay, because I know our listeners are going to want to immediately want to do that so let’s work backwards, then i’m going to start with Think First so tell us a little bit about Think First because it sounds really cool for kids.

Joe Rhea: Sure, it is the national program it’s a nonprofit it’s I think it’s probably in almost all 50 states it’s like I said it’s a national brain and spinal cord injury prevention program used to be called Heads Up.

Joe Rhea: And then they changed it to Think First and they go to K through 12 and they really what they do is they have a lead speaker who comes in and set a tone.

Joe Rhea: Then they bring somebody who’s in a wheelchair he’s been paralyzed somebody who has a brain injury they’re called voices and injury prevention.

Joe Rhea: And they share their story about what they’ve gone through, because ultimately brain and spinal cord injuries are preventable on in most cases, from wearing a seatbelt or speeding drinking and driving making good choices thinking first about what you do.

Joe Rhea: Should I dive into this pool before I jump in.

Joe Rhea: You know check the deep end and.

Joe Rhea: You know, make sure it’s the it’s the deep end versus the shallow end or before I do or dive into a creek Maybe I should jump in feet first and make sure it’s not two feet deep instead of 10 feet So these are things and I loved it I just after nine years and 150 times a year.

Joe Rhea: I just wanted to do something else.

Nadine Vogel: yeah, no, no, but I think it’s great and so, for those of us, you know for the listeners out there, they have young children.

Nadine Vogel: Um.

Nadine Vogel: That are having these kinds of experiences that I just I wanted them to know about Think First absolutely so now let’s go to bars cars and catastrophes I just I just love the name.

Norma: Great title.

Nadine Vogel: The name, you know when I when I hear that name I just I think of fraternity parties.

Joe Rhea: Exactly. that’s kind of what I thought of you know, but ultimately, I really spoke mainly to college athletes.

Joe Rhea: They think they’re invincible you know they’re in shape, you know they’re as strong as they can be they finally get the weekend off to go party and then they really.

Joe Rhea: You know party hard, then you find out a lot of them have are depressed so they drink and do other things.

Joe Rhea: So I just really wanted to give them some really good information and some ideas and share my personal story.

Joe Rhea: about what happened to me, and so that they can make good choices in their life and understand that, even though they think they’re strong as they can be that they’re still vulnerable.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah.

Joe Rhea: and to think about the their decisions, because often they can be catastrophic in nature and that decision doesn’t just affect them does it, it affects their family everyone they love and if you become disabled it affects everyone in your in your path for the rest of your life.

Nadine Vogel: Right, they also could use that Think First.

Joe Rhea: Exactly. You know that was the tie in.

Nadine Vogel: yeah no absolutely.

Joe Rhea: I just wasn’t able to call it Think First.

Nadine Vogel: Think second.

Joe Rhea: Exactly. Think again.

Nadine Vogel: Think again. Oh, I like that one think again there you go um so you know it’s it’s interesting, I think that you know mental health issues are the most stigmatized of all disability types in our society, and I find that.

Nadine Vogel: college students athletes, you know they even more so they are right and they’re hiding out.

Nadine Vogel: Any thoughts or suggestions you know, to help these folks it’s just they’re at they’re at these crucial stages in their lives, and they just need to be able to acknowledge what they’re experiencing.

Nadine Vogel: And you know whether it’s the College, the university the family, people are just pushing it down bury it.

Joe Rhea: yes.

Joe Rhea: yeah i’m sure I thought a lot about this I mean for, especially young boys first it’s suppress it, you know suck it up, but even for girls nowadays I think we’re afraid to admit that we need help.

Joe Rhea: And then we can’t handle this on their own, that if we actually go and say hey I can’t do this it’s a sign of weakness but asking for help, really is a sign of strength, it takes a lot of courage to admit.

Joe Rhea: That you need help and it’s okay to do that, I mean for me I wasn’t getting any joy out of the things that I loved and that was a telltale sign.

Joe Rhea: I was angry all the time was another sign that I didn’t know this at the time I didn’t know that my anger was a mask for depression.

Joe Rhea: And so I had to learn these things, and so really I speak about these things to students and college athletes and.

Joe Rhea: And I get them to think about if they’re in the audience and they’re feeling that they’re having these thoughts, you know they know if they’re struggling.

Joe Rhea: That it’s okay to go to your coach or and say hey you know I think I need to talk to somebody because, believe me when I say this.

Joe Rhea: The first time I saw purpose and she said to me it’s okay to feel the way you feel.

Joe Rhea: I lost it I literally started bawling because I hadn’t heard that it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, that it was okay to be pissed off at the world about what happened to me.

Joe Rhea: But with that said what she made me realize and i’m glad she did it’s not okay to allow those emotions to run your life and they were running my life, and they were making my life very difficult and unsatisfying, and so I was glad I went and asked for help.

Nadine Vogel: So how do you how do you how do you do that, how do you, what do you have to do to those emotions don’t run your life.

Joe Rhea: well.

Joe Rhea: Its first acknowledging them acknowledging that they are, and I mean we have to be brave enough to look at ourselves and say.

Joe Rhea: Am I doing the things that I love I’m I getting up and going to you know out with my friends, do I enjoy these things, am I staying home all the time, do I want to sleep all the time.

Joe Rhea: These are telltale signs, but you it’s taking the first step it’s making decision that I need to go and ask somebody to help me through this process because what I learned is that if you’re depressed and I mean clinically.

Joe Rhea: depressed it’s not just you can get over it it’s a chemical imbalance, it really is, I mean, and believe me when I say this depression can be more debilitating then paralysis.

Joe Rhea: Now, when i’m you know paralyzed if you’re happy you’ll get up and go do wheelchair basketball you pay attention you’ll do these things, because you’re happy, but if you’re depressed you don’t want to do anything and there’s times, where I never wanted to get out of bed.

Nadine Vogel: Go ahead norma.

Norma: No.

Norma: I’ve been through that and didn’t even realize it and.

Norma: never really wanted to dress really I want to sleep all the time I didn’t realize that’s what it was.

Norma: And I was in my you know.

Norma: Early 50s 40s time.

Norma: So yeah you know I finally was able to work my way through it. I didn’t know I needed help or how to get help it just kind of went away, but once it went away I realized, there was a period of time, where I was not myself it wasn’t me didn’t I didn’t know it.

Nadine Vogel: Right yeah.

Joe Rhea: Go ahead i’m sorry.

Nadine Vogel: No, no, please go ahead.

Joe Rhea: I was going to say in that aspect of feeling tired all the time that’s another sign as well, especially for young people, you shouldn’t feel tired all the time.

Nadine Vogel: Right.

Nadine Vogel: Right, but you.

Nadine Vogel: You made a point earlier about that it’s a chemical imbalance.

Nadine Vogel: Yes, say, and you also made a point earlier about you know, taking antidepressants and I think that in and of itself is stigmatized because people don’t understand it’s a chemical imbalance.

Joe Rhea: Correct.

Nadine Vogel: Right right and that you sometimes need to treat a chemical imbalance with chemicals I mean I hate to say it, that.

Joe Rhea: I say it’s like a vitamin for your brain.

Joe Rhea: In essence, it really is your brains depleted of serotonin you can’t put that you can’t build it up on your own if you’re clinically depressed and again, you have to be diagnosed.

Joe Rhea: You know can’t just make you have to go see a therapist and let them diagnose you, but if you are then suggesting i’ll talk to them about an antidepressant may not be for you, but it might be and.

Joe Rhea: You know, trust me when I say when you start feeling better again you’ll notice, I mean they said it would take three weeks for me to feel it, I felt it in four days.

Joe Rhea: I mean, I really woke up and I was like yeah I feel happy.

Nadine Vogel: And it wasn’t it.

Joe Rhea: wasn’t high like i’m doing. drugs.

Joe Rhea: I literally felt happy and I hadn’t felt like that in a long time and my roommate was like, you’re weird.

Nadine Vogel: Well, but I also think you know you may I hadn’t heard this vocalized before, but you said that you know the mental health of depression can be more debilitating than the physical disability.

Joe Rhea: Absolutely, it can. yeah.

Nadine Vogel: People don’t people don’t realize it they don’t accept it, and again it speaks to the stigma right because people to your point earlier, I think you get over it, you know, but they see someone in a wheelchair, and they won’t say oh we’ll just you know get up out of the Chair get.

Nadine Vogel: get over it right.

Nadine Vogel: But.

Nadine Vogel: For you, I mean oh my gosh you you’ve experienced both on many levels and, obviously, you are the epitome of the camp that these are the people that choose to fight it.

Nadine Vogel: And not fight.

Nadine Vogel: angry fight but fight for themselves, fight for, to have their life back. I guess i’ll say 

Joe Rhea: Yes, yes.

Nadine Vogel: You know and and, I suspect, because of the fighter that you are had you not gotten the physical piece back, and you, you are using a wheelchair or crutches you still would be the guy you are today. Because you’re affecting so many.

Joe Rhea:  I think so. well, I definitely would have been a fighter.

Joe Rhea: yeah I mean the you know there’s for the longest time, one of the things that really was difficult for me, and this is my bane of my existence for a while, is.

Joe Rhea: To look at me now you would never know, I was once a quadriplegic both good and bad you know you don’t know it, but you don’t, then you don’t know what what i’ve gone through to get to this point.

Joe Rhea: I see somebody in a wheelchair playing wheelchair tennis and you think man that is amazing look at that person.

Joe Rhea: You see me playing tennis i’m just some guy playing tennis right and that was hard for me, because I, you know, and then I would feel bad because I wanted recognition and that made me feel bad about myself that I even thought like that.

Joe Rhea: I saw guy win an ESPY his name is Kevin everett of the buffalo bills he broke his neck playing football was paralyzed was all over ESPN a year later, he was one Yes, he walked on stage.

Joe Rhea: Every professional athlete you could think of stood up and was crying and applauding, and here I was angry and jealous, and then I felt so bad that I was jealous of this man of this well deserved ESPY.

Joe Rhea: That made me feel bad about myself, because he deserved it, but I wanted that and these are the things that would go through my head and torment me and then here it was two years, where I won an honorary ESPY which was pretty cool.

Norma: Awesome.

Nadine Vogel: we’re gonna get you a T shirt says, I once was.

Joe Rhea: I actually had a T shirt made which says former quadriplegic.

Nadine Vogel: See there you go.

Joe Rhea: Yeah, I did.  

Nadine Vogel:  There you go. 

Joe Rhea: I don’t know if it’s vanity or not. so.

Nadine Vogel: You know what it does it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day it was your experience.

Norma: Nice.

Nadine Vogel: It was your life experience and it’s made you who you are today.

Joe Rhea: Absolutely.

Nadine Vogel: We can’t deny that right we can’t we and we shouldn’t we shouldn’t forget that I think that that’s really important and it’s probably a great note to end on since oh my gosh we are out of time, I never understand how 30 minutes flies the way it does.

Nadine Vogel: But um. Joe Thank you so very much. Again. 

Joe Rhea: Thank you for having me.

Nadine Vogel: Again, right to.

Joe Rhea: R-H-E-A. It’s actually Joe Rhee-ah.

Nadine Vogel: Rhee-ah.

Nadine Vogel: I can’t, wow.

Nadine Vogel: Rhee-ah, I’m sorry R-H-E-A.

Joe Rhea: Now, you’re not the first one that’s butchered it.

Nadine Vogel: But shame on me becuase I asked and I still butchered it.

Nadine Vogel: But this would be the website to get your book, maybe if there’s someone’s out there interested in booking you as a speaker so please Thank you so much for joining us today.

Nadine Vogel: norma as always.

Norma: Can’t wait to get that book. Yeah great great show Thank you so much.

Joe Rhea: Thank you for having me.

Nadine Vogel: Thank you for joining us on another episode of disabled lives matter more than just a podcast we are a movement bye everybody.

Norma: be blessed.

Joe Rhea: bye.

Closing comment:  [Music playing in background.] Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of disabled lives matter. We look forward to seeing you next Thursday.  Have a great week!

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the Disabled Lives Matter podcast series are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Springboard Global Enterprises, Springboard Productions, and its employees, contractors, subsidiaries, and affiliates.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter podcast are not responsible and do not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on the Podbean hosting site and/or any other associated hosting entity. The Primary purpose of this series is to educate and inform, and does not constitute disability, medical and/or other professional advice, and/or service(s). This podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising incorporated into, in association with, or targeted toward the content of this podcast, without the express approval and knowledge of the Disabled Lives Matter’s site developers is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this podcast.  The developers of the Disabled Lives Matter site assume no liability for any activities in connection with this podcast or for use of this podcast in connection with any other Website, Computer, and/or listening device.



Originally published as S2-Ep21_Joe_Rhea at Disabled Lives Matter

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