KeeShaun Coffey joined the Navy in 2007 to see the world. “Both of my brothers and father were in the service, and after high school, I felt out of place on the college campus where I was a freshman,” KeeShaun said. “I joined the military to find a sense of purpose.”
As a Religious Program Specialist (RP), KeeShaun was charged with accommodating the spiritual needs of other service members where he was stationed. He assisted with weddings, as well as funerals, and was often present when the Navy Chaplain delivered last rights.
“I chose to be a Religious Program Specialist because it gave me the opportunity to serve other people through faith,” KeeShaun said. “As an RP, you develop an emotional commitment to your job and the individuals you serve; I not only got to know people on a personal level but a spiritual level as well.”
But on June 24, 2010, KeeShaun’s personal faith and professional duties were tested.
“One of my dear friends jumped from the starboard side of our ship and fell to his death on the dry rocks below,” KeeShaun explained. “I started to question the meaning of life and my purpose. I wrestled with guilt, wondering if I had done enough to help him. His suicide ignited an internal war with God and the world around me. I started to pull away from people who were dear to my heart and made a vow to myself that I would no longer make an emotional investment in others. I lost that very sense of purpose that I initially sought when I joined the military.”
After KeeShaun was honorably discharged from the Navy, he enrolled at The University of Texas at Dallas but still struggled with demons he did not want to acknowledge. KeeShaun reluctantly signed up to be a participant in a research study at the Center for BrainHealth at the recommendation of another veteran who had been through the program. The 13-week, Department of Defense funded study, is helping to heal one of the most common invisible wounds of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, by investigating a novel treatment combining repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and cognitive processing therapy.
“When I first came to the Center for BrainHealth, I was emotionally broken. I doubted myself at every turn. In the ensuing weeks, I embarked on a journey that allowed me to visit the very thoughts and situations that were holding me hostage,” KeeShaun said. “The PTSD study helped me rebuild my identity and core understanding of life; I learned that the death of my friend did not have to be the death of me.”
When he successfully completed the PTSD research project, KeeShaun enrolled in the Center’s Brain Performance Institute’s SMART Program with other veterans and corporate leaders. The eight-hour program arms participants with nine strategies to enhance cognitive performance and overall brain health.
“As a college student, I felt as though in order to feel smart, I had to memorize and regurgitate information,” KeeShaun said. “The SMART program gave me the tools I needed to take in information I learned in class and apply it in a more effective and productive manner; it showed me how to restructure my critical thinking skills and learn the true way to become smarter.”
“The Center for BrainHealth and The Brain Performance Institute have been true beacons of light for me over the past year and a half. I walked through their doors broken, looking for a compass that would give me a sense of direction. I received more than a compass; they gave me a road map to success. They accepted me at my worst; now it is time for the world to accept me at my best.”
KeeShaun graduated from UTDallas with an accounting degree in May 2014.
New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published online today in Brain and Cognition illustrates how fear arises in the brain when individuals are exposed to threatening images. This novel study is the first to separate emotion from threat by controlling for the dimension of arousal.Continue Reading