Words to live by

Iowa Central Community College, with the Iowa Department of Education, hosted a Diversity Conference at its Bioscience and Health Sciences Building Thursday.

Amid several breakout sessions with students during the day, two keynote speakers were featured: the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and motivational speaker Trent Shelton of Rehab Time.

Shelton, 29, explained that after his National Football League career he wanted to inspire others. His online videos and Facebook posts, he said, are received by millions.

“There’s a handful of people that need that message. I do it for them,” he said.

Anyone can succeed, Shelton said, through determination.

“If he can do that … then I can do that too,” he said. “Take something and apply it to your life. Always be a student of life.”

Shelton encouraged his audience to find self worth beyond their title. As a football player in college, he said, he let that become his identity.

“Football was my god, my everything. That was my title,” he said. “I threw away all the values my parents instilled in me.”

There is more to success, Shelton said, than money.

“When I had the most money in my life was when I was the unhappiest,” he said.

Following the death of a friend and birth of his child, Shelton said he hit rock bottom, but didn’t let it defeat him.

“Rock bottom changed my life,” he said. “In that darkest moment I realized God still had a plan for me to shine bright.”

Shelton uses “rehab” in the athletic sense, of “putting a strength back into a weakness.”

“If you do it right, you usually come back stronger than before you were hurt,” he said. “You can’t inspire other people, for real, if you can’t inspire yourself.”

Determined to inspire others, Shelton said he spent three years speaking publicly for free.

“It wasn’t about the paycheck. It was about the seed I could plant,” he said. “As long as you can touch one life, that’s enough.”

He added, “Failure is only final when you decide to stop trying.”

Speaking for NAMI were Terri Shipman and Phoenix Shipman of Des Moines. Both spoke about their difficulties coping with multiple diagnoses.

“A mental health issue is not always fun, but it is something that can be managed,” Terri Shipman said.

Both spoke about accepting their own mental illness, as necessary a step in recovery as seeking therapy.

“Getting on the right psychotropic medications helped, because it calmed down my symptoms, it calmed down the voices, the hallucinations. It helped me function, and I hadn’t realized that the majority of my life I hadn’t functioned,” Phoenix Shipman said. “It helped me see there was hope. It helped me see, even though I had this mental illness, I could be in recovery, and function and lead a productive life.”

Terri Shipman, a trainer with Iowa Peer Support Training Academy, and Phoenix Shipman, a trainer for Life Connections, both work to eliminate false preconceptions about mental illness.

“It’s letting each other know, just because we have this stigma, this label, that we’re not really damaged goods,” Terri Shipman said. “We’re all here to do some good, and we’re all here to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”