Dear Young Rocker, a binge worthy break from the Coronavirus

 

Chelsea Ursin, of Boston, saw her younger self as wild but fragile. She’s the creator of the Dear Young Rocker podcast a memoir about her adolescent rage and angst and how she channeled these feelings through music—rock music. Her fave band as a teen Smashing Pumpkins. Ursin, when asked, said three words to describe her podcast would be “fierce,” “deep,” and “loving.” The podcast was first written as a memoir for her graduate creative writing thesis at Emerson College. But when it came time to find a publisher for it, she discovered she needed a platform. So being a musician who played in the her own band Banana, she decided to produce a podcast of her story.

Dear Young Rocker is the story of how Ursin self-healed her traumatic teen years through music. “Boys are given outlets for their anger, “ said Ursin. “Girls who present aggression are seen as abnormal.” Ursin, now 31, grew up in the early part of the 21st century.

Ursin picked up bass at 12-years-old and had few friends in junior high and high school so she gave music her all.

Ursin admits to being ADHD and has social anxiety, which is apparant throughout her memoir podcast.

This is the best podcast loaded with high doses of adolescent angst, anger, questioning how one should act as one’s gender, and self-insight. Ursin’s writing is relatable to not just teens and young adults but those of other generations seeking to understand their own teendoms. Not just a memoir, Ursin also interviews other adult rockers and asks them to write a short letter to their younger selves.
She hopes that along with the podcast, the book version will be published—now that her podcast is her platform.

She’s had a lot of response from fathers who understood their daughters better

To manage her own mental health, by exercising to a morning Youtube video, sees a therapist every other week, practices mindfulness meditation training among other things that keep her anxiety in control.

Hear her podcast on iHeartRadio or Apple podcasts. BTW She wrote the theme music too.

“I don’t know” An answer to a question or a conversation stopper

It was 1980-something, I was 12-years-old. We live in Simsbury, Connecticut—a very heterosexual, WASPY town in New England. My parents always told me to never tell your religion to anybody, not even to talk about the subject of religion.

It is Sunday and I am in Granby, the next town over, at a friend’s house. I don’t know this friend well. We are playing with dolls and then her mom tells us it is time for them to go to church. I am supposed to go with them since they are responsible for me for the day. We pile in the car with her brother and sister and on the way we go. I have never been to a church. Her mom makes conversation with the kids in the back seat. “Do you go to church?” she asks me. “I answer “No.” I remember what my parents taught me. “What religion are you?” she asked innocently. Just then, I saw Nazis marching my family to the death camp, hysterical laughing German soldiers shooting the people I loved in the face in my head all for answering this woman in the affirmative. So, I said, “I don’t know.” Good old, I don’t know. The answer you say when you want to hide who you are and not make an issue of it. The best answer off of someone’s anti-Semetic crack pipe. I don’t know. It would never open minds and hearts, it would never help the world embrace all the diverse religions and races and ethnicities. I said, “I don’t know.” “How do you not know your religion,” she asked quizzically. “I just don’t,” I said. And, at that, the conversation led someplace else. I breathed a sigh of relief. I dodged another one. But did I dodge it well? I missed an opportunity to educate and open minds, take people out of their comfort zones.

I am in high school in the mid-nineties. I attended an alternative private day school a few towns over in Hartford. We are in gym class, hanging all over the weight lifting equipment. Lisa, a girl a year older than me, starts asking kids what their sexual orientation is. All are answering her straight. When she comes to me, I am not sure how to answer. I really don’t understand her question. Whatever I said would permanently label me throughout my school years and perhaps my life. I quickly searched my mental file for some answer. I shrugged at her and said, “I don’t know.” I expected her to laugh at me and ridicule me. But all she said was “That’s okay, you have plenty of time to find out.” I let out a sigh of relief. But from that moment on it brought out the question why is sexuality so important to people. It forced me to research different sexual orientations and realize the prejudice there is out there on the GLBT community. Looking back on that gym class afternoon, I realized that many of the students whom she asked could have answered one way because they were hiding who they really were. While I experimented with both sexes in high school and college, today I am happily heterosexual.

I bring up these examples because as a mental health advocate I am forced every day on whether to hide who I am with people or to use conversations as teachable moments. When I tell people what I do, that I am a writer of a blog on mental health issues and a mental health advocate, it always scares me because the stigma is greater. But a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that the phrase “I don’t know” no longer applies to me. My battle with mental illness has shaped who I am as does my rich Jewish heritage and my early experimentation of my sexuality has allowed me to accept the diversity of all people. To me, erasing stigma is about changing how we have conversations with people and opening the door for teachable moments. My business cards have my blog’s logo on it and from now on I will talk about my past proudly because I can change minds.

Fitness Builds Self-Confidence and Adds to Mental Health

sneaker

John Zvonek has been in mental health recovery for 12 years since he was age 25.

“I had to find healthy habits,” he said. “I had to take my recovery seriously that meant no drinking, drugs and be as healthy as I could possibly be.”

He gained 80 pounds in one month because of his psych meds and so he began a journey into fitness. His first goal was to lose weight but after awhile he began to love it, making it his career by becoming a certified personal trainer. He discovered ways to let negative energy out through workouts and now helps others learn this trick.

“Exercise became an outlet. I do it for sanity not the vanity,” he said. “My goal is not to have a beachbody, my goal is to be mentally well.”

“Getting strong physically builds your mental health and your confidence,” Zvonek said.

Zvonek who is involved in youth mental health first aid, a NAMI peer facilitator and recently spoke on a panel for the NAMI Connecticut statewide conference in 2017, is a trainer at Body Temple Fitness in Wallingford, Connecticut where he works to get at the underlying reason people are in poor health in addition to giving them new exercises to do. He also teaches a candlelit yoga class, which is a warm safe place where people can find peace.

Using exercise to combat fears is another thing that helps him stay well. He did an Ironman with running, biking and swimming to combat his fear of water that he had since he was a child. Zvonek was afraid to stay up overnight that the lack of sleep would trigger his mental health. So he decided to combat this by hiking 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail. At certain points in the hike, he stayed in touch with a family member by walkee talkee and completed the hike beating his fear.

“I stayed healthy through that. There is nothing I can’t do because of my mental health issue. I just have to find a way to do it safely,” he said. “Fitness builds my self-confidence. I don’t feel I have something wrong with me and I feel like a million bucks.”

Zvonek hopes to climb Mt. Washington in New Hampshire this winter and Mt. Rainier in Washington state by summer.

“I hike to inspire clients by being a power of example of a healthy active lifestyle,” he said.

At home, he has a wife and 2-year-old daughter, who encourage his fitness endeavors.

“I try different things with my clients like biking, tennis, boxing. The biggest thing is to make someone leave feeling better than they walked through the door,” he said.

Zvonek says there are bodyweight exercises that you can do from home if you don’t have access to a gym. Push-ups, sit-ups, squats and pull-ups are all good. Using a stepper or just marching in place while watching television is great too.

“I started my fitness journey walking 15 minutes on a break from work,” he said. Today, he runs, does tai chi and yoga, weight lifts three times a week, hikes, bikes in the summer, and attends an occaisional Zuumba class when his schedule allows.

A Talk with Rabbi Steve Leder about Pain and Transcendence in his new book

 

There are very few books you can turn to again and again. More beautiful than Before is a gentle tome with a powerful lesson about overcoming pain. You will want to buy two copies of this book: one for your shelf and one to pass on. You will find yourself reaching for Rabbi Steve Leder’s wisdom many times during your life.

A publicist for Hay House contacted me about reviewing Rabbi Steve Leder’s new book More beautiful than Before. So when the tiny tome arrived I sat down with a cup of tea and read it. This book is about understanding pain so we can trancend it. Leder writes, “Pain cracks us open. It breaks us. But in the breaking, there is a new kind of wholeness.” Leder is a Senior Rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and has been a featured guest on CBS, ABC, NPR, PBS. Wendy Wasserstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright blurbed the book as well as Tavis Smiley and Pastor Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life.

I sat down with Leder over the phone and asked him why he wrote this badly needed book. “I wrote the book because I spent my entire life helping people endure suffering. I wanted to help far greater people than the couch of tears in my office,” Leder said. “This book is for anyone who has endured pain…so you can say it is for everyone.”

He then went on to talk about how this book will improve people’s mental health. “I want to let others know they are not alone, that others walked this road and came out with lives more beautiful.”

The book is divided into three sections Surviving, Healing and Growing. The message of this tomb is pain is a chance to examine your life. This little book is inspiring not depressing. It is a chance for us to allow the negatives in life to make us whole again. “We are not really whole until we are broken,” said Leder. Leder said it is important to be still and sit with the pain or we will fail to learn the lesson it wants to teach us.

“Like death, pain strips away a lot of the nonsense of life,” he said. We find out who our friends are by who sticks around when we are hurting. “Pain is an invitation to be kind to one another, show up and be present.” For the sufferer himself, pain is an invitation to change your life. “And, this book is also an important guide for those who have caused pain and need atonement,” he said.

His web site is www.steveleder.com.

Living in the Hunger

Some people with mental illness blame their meds for making them fat.

Hunger is about an internal yearning of the heart not about collecting more and more of that substance you yearn for. Hunger is about sitting with the yearning, longing, pain for just how long you need to be moved to action. Putting ones dreams and hungers into action is what life is all about. It’s a long journey but there is a completion.

So sometimes you just have to sit in the hunger. Don’t feed it with food or anything else. Just see how it feels to be your hunger. Find out what you truly are hungry for. I started seriously meditating again. This time I didn’t need to go to a meditation center. I sat cross-legged on my yoga mat. I also joined a gym and started seeing Brian, my personal trainer. Brian taught me how to exercise and gave me advice on healthier eating strategies. The meditation and the exercise helped shape a new rhythm to my days. I was making better mealtime choices, every so often slipping up and having a treat. This new rhythm involved planning my activities in a planner each week. This new rhythm forced me out of my every day duldrums. Suddenly I could feel my hungers and I didn’t want the extra food.

***

What do you hunger for? Do you stuff your hungers down with physical things?

The Valley of Everyday Peaks

In the valley of everyday peaks, we deal with the depression, the pain, the hurt, the betrayal by loving the everyday. The little stuff like fresh flowers, a good book or television program, a broadcast on NPR that stirs us, the sunset, fireflies in the park, these simple things must console us, then work to heal us. We must fight the fire in the soul with the everyday knowledge that the everyday must sustain us.

The Valley is dark and dreary, though this can be deceiving. The valley has a river in which to drink fresh water, lush green trees and shrubs, flowers. You are surrounded by beauty in the valley yet the clouds over your head are thick and black. Ugly things happen to us in life. Things that test our resilence. Things that make us breakdown. Things that make us scar. Things that make us bleed. These are the things that show us we are human, show us we are real. If we didn’t have the pain, we’d miss the view from the valley.

Sometimes our peaks are standing in the low lands.