with Avery Thatcher and Tony Lugo
Tony Lugo is an award winning filmmaker. His film, Midnight, won many awards on the festival circuit, and his latest film is gearing up for a festival run of it’s own.
In search of adventure and a challenge, Tony joined the United States Marine Corps and traveled abroad to Cuba, Greece, and Ireland.
After his service, Tony pursued his passion in the creative arts and started writing screenplays and making films.
Tony was also selected as a Leadership Fellow for the non-profit Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME) in recognition of his leadership and volunteerism.
In this episode of The Truth About Burnout, we have the pleasure of speaking with Tony Lugo, an award-winning filmmaker and former Marine Corps member. Tony shares his inspiring journey of resilience, overcoming anxiety, and pursuing his passion in the creative arts. From serving in the Marine Corps to becoming a mailman and eventually making his mark in the film industry, Tony’s story is one of determination and self-belief.
[02:23] From the Military to Creative Pursuits:
Tony reflects on his decision to join the Marine Corps and the experiences he encountered during his service. He shares the pivotal moment when he realized his true passion lay behind the camera, leading him to pursue a career in filmmaking.
[04:03] Battling Anxiety and Finding Healing:
Having experienced anxiety and other mental health challenges, Tony discusses his journey to find healing and manage his anxiety effectively. He delves into therapy, exposure therapy, and the importance of self-reflection and self-care in overcoming anxiety.
[08:51] Overcoming Obstacles and Pursuing Dreams:
Tony shares his experiences of transitioning from the military to civilian life, facing personal loss, and struggling with self-doubt. He highlights the importance of perseverance, self-belief, and seeking help when needed to overcome obstacles and pursue creative dreams.
[12:26] Tools for Resilience and Growth:
Tony emphasizes the importance of developing tools and strategies to manage anxiety and navigate life’s challenges. He shares his experiences with therapy, exposure therapy, and finding ways to maintain a clear mindset and self-awareness.
[18:54] The Story Behind “Midnight”:
Tony provides insights into his award-winning short film, “Midnight,” which explores the themes of grief and addiction. He discusses the inspiration behind the story and the importance of shedding light on the impact of the opioid epidemic.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Tony Lugo’s new short film, titled “You Fck!ng Id!ot,” is hitting the festival circuit. The film follows the story of a man who attempts to have a good day but is constantly undermined by a literal head on his shoulder. Through humor and relatable struggles, “You Fck!ng Id!ot” explores the challenges of maintaining positivity in the face of internal obstacles. Don’t miss Tony’s insights into the creative process and the themes behind his latest project.
Hi, I’m Avery Thatcher and I believe that we can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it.
That’s why on this podcast we combine ancient, Vedic, and Taoist wisdom with our modern lifestyle and latest research to show high achievers like you, how to recover your energy and optimize your habits so you can elevate your impact, and prevent an epic burnout experience.
Because burnouts a bitch in hindsight and assholes, so rather than let them win, let’s dig into the truth of a burnout.
All right, welcome back everybody.
I have another beautiful guest to come on and share his story today.
His name is Tony and he has such a powerful story of second chances and overcoming significant struggles.
So I’m very excited for him to be here and to share vulnerably with us.
So thank you Tony for joining.
Thanks for having me.
I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.
Oh, anytime, I’m very much looking forward to speaking with you and I just really enjoy hearing from other people that have also been through significant struggle because I think we all feel very much alone when we’re in it and it’s very hard for us, especially as highly sensitive people, to know who to reach out to because we’ve always been everybody’s rock.
We don’t know how to allow somebody else to be a rock for us.
So hearing other people’s stories can be a really powerful experience.
So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and what kind of brought you to that moment where you knew that something had to change?
I guess it started from when I enlisted in the military in the Marine Corps when I was 17. I shipped off when I was 18. I served and I was in during 9-11, but I was towards the end of my contract and they shipped me off to Cuba and that’s where we handled the detainees that were coming off
We had just invaded Afghanistan and they were shipping the detainees to Cuba and we were there to see and usher in the first few waves of detainees.
I got out of the Marine Corps and just kind of floated around a bit.
I knew what I wanted to do.
I just wasn’t being proactive in how to get to where I wanted to be.
It’s kind of the gist of things.
I think I had this thing.
I still do suffer from anxiety and it can be crippling at times.
Luckily, I’ve been through a few anxiety clinics where I’m able to notice triggers or notice when I’m getting uncomfortable in the situation.
A lot of things help with that, like exposure therapy was one of the things that helped me with it.
It could be scary, but it helped a lot.
Now I’m in Los Angeles.
I work in the film industry and I’m happy to say that I got a decent career going for me.
I’m so glad to hear that.
So, bringing things back to you after you had left the military, I can’t imagine what that was like and what you went through in those until we won’t dive into those experiences unless you want to share of course.
But what did it feel like after you had left the military?
It felt odd because there is such a rigid structured Environment, the military.
And going in there, I’m just a kid when I first go in, getting out, you expect life to be that way, but there was two different culture shocks when I got out of the military and when I got in, but I feel like the culture shock when I got out was more of an actual shock than kind of like going into the military is more of like a confirmation shock.
Getting out was more of a shock because I expected this rigidness and it’s just people living their lives, people going to work and not liking their jobs or liking their jobs, but just not that intense military Marine Corps mindset of I have to be the best at this job and I’ve got to do it now and if I don’t get done right away, something’s going to happen and that type of thing.
So that kind of mindset, I think, would induce anxiety for some people just to have that kind of pressure on.
So what was that experience like for you as somebody that identifies as being highly sensitive?
I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself.
A lot of unneeded pressure, sometimes I think it still lingers, but that’s the life we chose.
I have this joke that I still tell sometimes and I had to realize that it really affected me, I had to change my approach.
The joke was like we’re on set and people make a mistake and to kind of give someone a hard time I would say, you know what happens when you make a mistake and the Marine Corps people die and I realize that might have been too harsh a joke or people kind of get shocked when I say that and in hindsight it’s like, man it’s the kind of pressure I was putting myself under all these years and not even knowing I think being sensitive to that, if you really choose to do the work and work on healing and getting to the next phase of your life, you really do a lot of searching inwardly and you think about saying that joke It might be funny, but somewhere psychologically, there’s a deep-rooted thing of that fear of having that happen.
You just kind of reintegrating yourself to normalcy.
That makes sense.
I, for one, am very familiar with dark humor.
I used to be a nurse working in the ICU for both adults and kids.
And we also had that same joke, if you make a mistake, somebody dies.
And it’s just this pressure that you put on yourselves, and I know that working in the ICU is not at all comparable to the military, but I think we all have different experiences where we can really feel that a deep-rooted pressure and then one of our coping mechanisms can be humor or dark humor.
That’s quite shocking for other people.
Also, I want to circle back to something you said.
But working in the ER is quite difficult and quite respectable.
I don’t think I could do it.
I don’t want you to place the military on some pedestal of some sort.
And this is where I think the really important comparison, like we don’t want to compare our experiences and traumas to others, because it’s like comparing apples to elephants.
So the military experience is over here and very unique, and then the ICU emerge experience over here is also very unique, but there are those dark humor commonalities between some extra pressure.
I think the humor, the dark humor could help people cope with it, and I think it’s a good coping mechanism, but also, you know, when That’s all you’ve known and you’ve realized the route or you’ve searched and you find the route of where that comes from.
It is kind of anxiety-inducing and I’m sure you could attest being working in the ER just how on edge you have to be just to do a good job, but your job is to be great.
So, do you think that when you left the military, when you left that pressured environment that was comfortable for you, did that bring on more anxiety?
Or did it change things?
No, it brought on.
I suffered from a lot of anxiety.
Also, I had my brother pass shortly after I got out of the military.
There was a little clump of time there where everything was making life very real, very quick.
When I got out of the military, I became a rebel without a cause.
Nothing to fight for, I just didn’t want to do anything.
And I kind of just rebelled against that structure, that rigidness and it bled into my personal life and my civilian life and it affected it greatly.
And I cope with that by, you know, smoking a lot of weed, that, you know, if you’re suffering from anxiety smoking, we probably isn’t the best thing for someone like me to do.
Some people say it calms them, but I’ve never been It’s weird because it did call me, but then I would get more paranoid and more anxious.
So it was kind of like I would immediately get calm, but then all of a sudden I’m looking over my shoulder or I thought I saw something.
Yes, I can relate to that a lot.
When my victim harm subtype of OCD showed up shortly after my illness changed everything about my life, my anxiety started going through the roof and then when I tried things to help lower that anxiety through weed or THC pills or whatever.
I became so much more hypervigilant.
It like triggered the stress response because now I’ve gone too relaxed and my body’s just like, what you doing?
That’s not safe.
So yeah, I can definitely relate to that for sure.
So if that didn’t really work, what did work for you?
It’s work because, going back to what you said, getting to relax biologically, I feel like we have to have some form of anxiety to kind of survive.
But we’ve entered this world of ultimate comfort.
So I guess the things that did help me was getting in tune with that, realizing we come from a history of having anxiety as a need to be with us anymore doesn’t know what to worry about, so your brain starts to worry about the smallest things or anything like that.
But I guess to say what helped me, I had to get sober for a little bit to a point where I was clear-minded, not that I’m advocating for any Soverness or a 12-step program, but I had to do it for just for the time that I needed to find my clear-headedness and I had to do therapy, I had to do anxiety clinics and I had to actually do what they were asking of me because I would go see a therapist and after that hour was done I would forget about everything and go back to being myself and not listening to the suggestions and then I’ll go back and the therapists would say, why do you think you’re still feeling the same way if you’re not doing the work I provide for you?
But I think doing that work and really channeling your mind to focus on what might seem like the boring stuff like journaling for 15-20 minutes in the morning or we’re going for that mind-clearing walk in the morning instead, if journal is not the thing, but really just getting in tune is what helped me.
And it’s a lot more easier said than done because it took years for me.
And at the end of that, you realize you’re not even The anxiety is always there, depression is always there, stress is always there.
You just learn the tools to get you through the next 15 minutes, the next hour, to get yourself to a calm state or to a state of realizing not that you can calm yourself, but just getting yourself to a state of For lack of a better term of being, so you’re in that moment and you’re realizing what’s
happening and you understand that what’s happening is this is your brain telling you this and you’re able to combat that with the tools you learned in a session or from talking to somebody.
I am so glad that you said that it’s not a journey that like, tick, you’re healed, thing, you’re done.
I really see the healing journey is building a house and so you build the house as you’re like into the healing space but then you have to maintain that house if you want it to stay standing and stay strong.
So all of these things that you were mentioning that journaling the walking those are such great strategies and stuff that we talk about all the time here on this podcast, and it’s those things that maintain your healed house, for sure.
It’s always there.
The anxiety is always there.
It’s just like now you know how to better understand it.
I think one of the things I still do that I learned in exposure therapy is I used to have a lot of anxiety going into the grocery store and one of the things the anxiety doctor told me.
One of the things you can do is back into your parking spot because I never did that just because I worried about the people behind me what they were thinking and my wasting people’s time just trying to back into a spot.
So now one of the things I do before I go to the grocery store when I park is I back into the spot and as I’m back into the spot I’m just thinking about the exposure therapy and I’m thinking about you see people waiting for you to back in and they’re not coming out of their car to bang on your hood to tell you you’re wasting their time so now you’ve got now you’re good to go now you could go shop for groceries and Exposure therapy was very helpful.
One of the things they had me do was to ask strangers what time it was.
Then they had me ask strangers sitting in their car parked on the side of the road, knock on their window and ask what time it was.
Then they had me hold my phone in my hand And ask people what time it was.
That was one of the most stressful things.
I didn’t realize how stressful it could be, but the heart starts pounding when you’re getting ready to do it.
It’s just pressing on the thing.
I’m an idiot.
I’m holding my cell phone in my hand.
It’s definitely helpful.
The exposure therapy that I went through really helped me learn to trust myself again.
To know that even if more shit comes down the tube, I can trust myself to figure it out.
Even in scenarios that do trigger a ton of anxiety, I can still trust myself to at least keep the panic attack until I can go into the car.
Sometimes that’s the win, is to be able to keep the anxiety attack at bay until it’s safe.
Do you find yourself like when you’re able to keep the panic attack at bay that sometimes it doesn’t happen?
Sometimes for sure.
I find though that my panic attacks go faster and like, I don’t experience them as much when I just let them do their thing.
But that’s for me.
I know sometimes I can make them stop, but other times it’s just like, I’ll just get it over with.
I provinciate in the car for a little bit, feel like I’m gonna die.
And then I come back to life and everything’s time.
Yeah, so let’s talk a little bit more about what you’re doing now and how all of these skills have brought you into your wonderful space.
When I got out of the military, I started to pursue acting.
I went to this college and studied Shakespeare and all of that.
This was in Austin, Texas and I got a job as an extra on this film called the Alamo.
And they dressed you up as like a Mexican soldier and they bused us to the set and we got off, soon as we got off the bus the location was right there and it was the entire town of San Antonio from the 1860s and I remember getting off the bus and seeing this farm to my right and it was way in the corner of town and you knew just by stepping off, you knew that it was never going to be in the film.
It was just so far away, it was just for background, but then I looked at the detail of the farm, and it had places that dropped the seeds, it had tools leaning against the house, and it was beautiful, and that just made me realize I didn’t want to be an actor, I wanted to be behind the camera, I wanted to work behind the scenes, and ever since then I had been pursuing a career behind the scenes and behind the camera, moved out to LA 2013 and I’ve been here ever since and I’ve been working on great productions.
I’ve made several short films of my own and I’ve written several screenplays and I’ve been working in the industry.
I’ve worked on shows like Star Trek and several other like Apple TV shows and I’ve worked on music videos with huge musicians and it’s been quite the journey for me.
It’s been fun.
It sounds fun.
So tell me a little bit about your film Midnight.
So Midnight is a story about a woman whose brother had died of an overdose.
She wants to take revenge on the drug dealer that sold her brother the drugs.
But really what that story is about is about a woman learning to come to terms with her grieving.
Of losing her brother and learning to accept help in the form of the brother’s girlfriend who survived, who was also a recovering addict, but she has been sober.
But the sister doesn’t see her as a sober woman, she sees her as like the junky girlfriend that her brother was dating.
So it really is someone coming to grips with, someone coming to terms with the cards, life has dealt them and learning to accept that.
So where can we watch this?
Because I know what my Friday night plans are.
Well, it’s a 15 minute short film, so hopefully you have other plans after.
I’m sure it’ll prompt some discussion with a group that I want to watch this with.
So I can send you a Vimeo link.
I haven’t uploaded it on the Facebook or YouTube yet, but it’s on Vimeo.
I can definitely switch you over an email link and you can post that link when you post the podcast up or whatever.
But it’s not password protected anymore, I don’t think.
Yeah, it’s on Vimeo.
That sounds great.
Yes, we’ll definitely link that below in the show notes.
I think a lot of our listeners would be really into that because we talk a lot about covert grief and coming to understand our grief through different aspects of life and the opioid epidemic is pervasive.
So I think that can relate to so many people.
Yeah, the film is titled after a fictional drug called Midnight.
It’s of course, you know, supposed to model a you don’t see the brother.
By the time the movie starts, the brother is already dead.
I’ll let you watch it.
Spoiler alert here.
That’s the beginning of the film.
That’s why I felt comfortable.
It’s just do you think?
Yeah, I’d be interested to know what you think of it.
It’s the journey and not the arrival that matters and keep up the good work.
It’s going to seem like it’s not working a lot more times than it seems like it is working.
You do get through it and you do learn how to manage it.
It’s possible to learn how to recover and how to use tools that you learned to help you along a journey.
Thank you so much for that.
That was so perfect.
Thank you so much Tony, I wish you all the best and I imagine that will connect very soon.
Thank you so much for listening, I really hope you found this episode helpful, validating, and maybe you even got a few ideas to try yourself.
If you did enjoy this episode, I just ask that you share it with someone that you think might also benefit from listening to this podcast.
In doing this, you’re not only helping those that you love, you’re also helping me get this podcast into the hands of more people.
Together, we can really make a difference.
And before I let you go, do you know your default self-sabotage style?
There are four main self-sabotage styles that ultimately lead to burnout and knowing yours can make a really big difference in your ability to prevent burnout from taking over.
Awareness is the first step and the second step.
What you can do with this awareness of your default self-sabotage style I will send you some ideas for what that second step could be after you complete your quiz results.
So are you ready for this quick quiz?
Go to becomingavory.com slash quiz to try it out for yourself and take the first step on your intentional burnout recovery journey.
Becomingavory.com slash quiz for that self-sabotage style assessment.
That’s it for now.
See you next week.