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Monday, October 9, 2017

Transforming Stigma

What do we do with a kid who has severe behavior issues and problems—a kid who gets kicked out of school three times and attempts suicide by the age of ten?

Are these “just puberty” issues or is there something more? How does one handle the behavioral problems as a teacher or parent? 

I often see cases of kids with anger problems or who may cuss out a teacher or parent, and that child is written off as a bad seed who will never amount to anything. In fact, in fifth grade I was written off as a bad kid who would never amount to anything because I hit a kid in school and then lied about it. In retrospect, I was living with untreated mental illness and I had few positive role models in my life. Stigma around mental illness prevented me from getting the treatment I needed. I shouldn’t have gotten a free pass, nor should any kid with behavioral problems—what I should have gotten, in addition to treatment, was extra attention and mentorship. We need to take these kids under our wings, teach some coping skills, and then provide them or show them they can channel their energy into something healthy or meaningful. 

Mike Veny, the kid who was kicked out of school three times and attempted suicide at age ten, is a glowing example of someone who needed extra attention and an outlet for his energy. I interviewed Mike on the podcast, and he talks about how mental illness and drumming saved his life as a young man (much like theatre did for me as a young person)—and how he presently uses drumming to talk about mental illness and mental health to make sure young people don’t suffer the way he once did. 

Mike’s interview is full of tidbits of wisdom and practical skills and tools to deal with the difficulties life throws our way. He’s funny and insightful… and his spirit animal is a goat (you’ll find out why when you listen… ha!).

Mike is doing great work as a speaker and thought leader with Transforming Stigma. His website is Mike’s episode is embedded above, is downloadable, and can be found on iTunes. I hope you enjoy :)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Surviving My Past

How does someone live through one of the worst things a person can experience—their power and innocence stolen, never to be returned?

In the aftermath, they hold on by suppressing the memories of that experience… but they can’t escape—their body and subconscious remember even if their conscious is doing everything it can to keep those memories under lock and key. 

Over the coming years, this person may unknowingly become cold and distant; or perpetually angry; or develop severe anxiety, depression, OCD, post traumatic stress, alcoholism, substance abuse and misuse; or all of the above… OR they may even subject another person to the experience that they barely lived through and hated with every fiber of their being. 

That’s what severe trauma can do to a person. Especially childhood physical and sexual trauma like what my friend Matt Pappas experienced. 

Matt is an incredible dude, upbeat, funny—a father, a brother, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (great minds think alike... haha). 

I interview Matt on the podcast, and despite the subject matter the tone of the interview is friendly and cheerful. We don’t talk past details but we do talk hope and healing… and we even joke a bit. We’re just two blue collar guys from the Jersey/Philly area who are looking to help some people, live a good life, go down the shore once in awhile, and have a good laugh. 

Matt is crushing it with his blog, podcast, and foundation Surviving My Past and he’s helping men, women, and children all over the world with his words of wisdom and the safe space he provides. His website is Oh, and he also interviewed me on his podcast HERE, and he’s a writer in our second i’Mpossible book 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Escaping Darkness, Choosing Light

“If you can’t see the good in the world, you have to be it,” is a direct quote from a 16 year old young lady, Shannon, who has become a mentee of me and my wife—a person who has been through hell and back; bullied, a survivor of suicide loss, multiple mental illnesses.

Only a few years ago, Shannon knew she was struggling with some life events and undiagnosed mental illnesses; took a risk by opening up to her parents, and started reaching out for help. The good in the world that she sought was only a speck of light that was nearly extinguished. 

At the present moment, Shannon still struggles at times (as we all do), but has won an award for her advocacy in suicide prevention, will be off to college soon, and will be co-presenting with me doing a talk on anti-bullying at a middle school in Beverly Hills, California (she’ll be flying in all the way from Kentucky).

I interviewed Shannon on the podcast and learned a lot, laughed some (how is a person in high school marching band terrible at walking? haha), and found the need to share this interview with you. 

I share this episode (embedded above, also downloadable, also available on iTunes) because choosing health over comfort, progress over pain, being the good instead of wishing for it—these aren't easy things to do. Shannon is a great interview and has some big thoughts and ideas. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

From Foster Care to Yale University—Overcoming the Past to Create a Better Future

How do you come back from some big obstacles or major trauma as a young person? What happens when no one believes in you, they underestimate you, all the while you’re constantly put in harm’s way.

Tough circumstances for anyone to overcome.

But what happens when someone finally believes in you, challenges you, and causes you to challenge the core of everything you once believed—a mentor. This mentor also tells you that you have to embrace your past and not run from it, you have to go back and acknowledge when life changed for you, and you have to forgive the perpetrators in your life—not for them but for you—and you have to become curious and learn as much as you can about yourself and the world every day.

I interviewed my friend and colleague, Rodney Walker, who talks about all this—his traumatic upbringing in the Chicago foster care system, his abuse, his first mentor at the end of high school, and how he went from nearly dropping out of school to making his way to Yale and then Harvard, and how he uses his past to help young people.

This one is incredibly powerful and challenged me to rethink some of how I viewed the world and interact with the people in it.

I share this episode (embedded, also downloadable, also available on iTunes) because embracing our past isn’t something we typically, willingly embrace—but when we do, it can have life changing effects. Rodney is a great interview and has some big thoughts and ideas when it comes to mentorship and self development. I hope you enjoy!