Alliance Profile - Chukky Okobi
Former American Football Center and Commercial Actor, Super Bowl Champion (XL), Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Played College Football at Purdue
What past life experiences, physical traumas or genetics do you believe have had an effect on your mental health?
In this day and age where the struggles of being a person of color in the country are top of mind for everyone, there are deeper levels of emotional struggle that black people deal with in America, different circumstances that on the surface most people cant see and are unaware of.
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., both of my parents are immigrants to this country from Nigeria and both lived through the Nigeria civil war. The Biafra War lasted from 1967 to 1970, during which time my parent lived through and witnessed the trauma and pain that come with a conflict that resulted in over 100,000 military casualties, but more importantly bearing witness to 500,000 to 2 million Nigerians dying of starvation. Needless to say, this was an experience that led to great levels of emotional trauma for both of them, and one they had not forgotten or gotten over by the time my siblings came along, me being born in 1978.
It was a civil war and my parents are from opposing sides. They met in the United States and believed that energy of that conflict and that time in life was behind them. But the pain of witnessing friends and family being slaughtered right before your eyes, children and babies starving to death almost daily for years right in front of your face, its easy to see how that can have a lasting impact on them, that would trickle down to us children.
The level of domestic violence that I witnessed and experienced in my formative years (ages 0 thru 7) was at a level of intensity that I wouldn’t dare describe or illustrate what was happening almost daily in my house growing up; I wouldn’t feel right putting those pictures into your mind. Eventually my father, after terrorizing my mother and us for years, threw us out and effectively abandoned my mom and 4 siblings. This is where in reflection I believe a lot of my emotional struggles in life originated.
After my mom was now on her own to raise us, she did everything she could possibly do to provide for us as best she could. This led to us moving constantly, eventually leaving Pittsburgh when I around age 10 and living a nomadic childhood and young adult life for the next 12 years.
How did the effects on your mental health appear in terms of symptoms?
The significance of this is that I never felt like I had a home my entire life. I developed the belief that I didn’t belong anywhere, I had no tribe to which I belonged, I mean my own father didn’t want me. I went to 6 schools before high school, going through school year after year constantly reprising my role as the new kid. And no matter where I found myself, I was an outsider, I was different. Always the new kid and different from everyone around me.
At times I went to school with all white kids, I saw that I was different from them for obvious reasons. Those times when I found myself surrounded by other black kids, I still didn’t fit in. I’m African, they were not. My mom speaks with an accent, we eat different food at home, even to black people I was a weirdo outsider. The other kids had names like Paul or David, or Jamal. Not me, my name is Chukwunweze Sonume Okobi. Being teased and made to feel like less than, just for being born me, seemed to be a theme for me wherever I found myself growing up, for my entire childhood. This led to a deep level of insecurity and a belief that I was not good enough, that I was inherently flawed, and my life didn’t matter.
When and why did you decide to ask for help to get relief?
I never actually went to look for help, I always I believed I was alone in this world so asking someone for help didn’t make sense to me. I found a vehicle to mitigate my mental and emotional circumstance through playing sports. With the general atmosphere at home being one of sadness, fear, and anger, when I was playing sports as a kid, even just being at practice, because I was good a baseball and football, sports was the only place that I felt good about myself…where I felt like a valued member of the tribe, where I felt accepted by the world. Sports provided emotional relief from the internal pain of just being me.
This is what made me decide at age 7 that I wanted to play sports the rest of my life, as long as I was playing I felt good about myself and about life overall.
What methods helped you individually get/feel better?
I began studying and practicing integrative psychology and Neuro-Linguistic Programming when I was 18 years old. My intention back then was to learn how to better control the functions of my mind and learn how to best channel my emotions to increase productivity in sports and improve physical performance. Even though I no longer play sports, the tools and techniques that I employed to help reach that Super Bowl level in sports are the same disciplines that I apply today to maintain my mental and emotional state. They’re the same mental and emotional tools that I teach and coach others on to enable them to gain control over their internal functions, and to create positive change in their mindset and results, both personally and professionally.
I’ve also studied ancient cultures and the wisdom that they had as it pertains to mental and emotional health. When Western medicine seems to no be getting me the results that I am looking for, cultures and civilizations that lasted for thousands of years, to last that long they knew a thing or two about the human condition. I’ve found immeasurable value in looking beyond the standard mental and psychological care we typically find in this country.
Why did you decide to go public with your story? Who were/are you hoping to help and how? How did people react when you went public with your story?
I typically don’t tell me story. With the tools that I have gained through studying and practicing integrative psychology over the years, the same tools and wisdom with which I help others to let go of their past unpleasant stories, as a speaker and coach my message has always been about empowerment. What happened in the past is NOT my story. It happened, but it does not define me, its not who I am. I have learned how to completely erase the pain and negative emotions from my past and my mission in life is to share this wisdom with everyone else, show the world how to do the same. I believe I am evidence that we are stronger than the stories of the past; we all have the ability to redefine our past and that each of us has the power to write our story in the future. This is my truth and I live my life by this each and every day.