Why I Advocate For Those Living With Mental Illness

It is extremely difficult to navigate the world when you have bipolar disorder. I spent my life trying to find a way to live. It can be be very frustrating to find proper treatment. So much is stacked against you. Even after courageously seeking help, getting a diagnosis, finding the right medication, realizing the system is flawed, doctors don’t have all the answers, care can be conditional, and family members may blame you… we continue to persevere.

My career has been in advertising, music and media, but I tried to hide my mental illness from my employers. I lost so many jobs because of my manic episodes. Most recently, I was the editor-in-chief at Popdust.com before my psychotic break. After calling 911 on myself, I was admitted into the psych ward of Beth Israel hospital in April 2019. For over 18 years I fought for my life while trying to appear normal. After this last hospitalization, I told myself, no more. I am officially ‘out’.

Since I can no longer hide, I would like to help those who suffer in silence. I believe there is a therapeutic value in sharing my experience. I want to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. I’m grateful to have an opportunity to use my gifts to help so many who feel alone. Together, there is hope.

Renew and Affirm • Daily Thoughts

A chance to begin again and affirm the beliefs that shape our experience. We live in the present, so our goals must begin presently. The past is over and the future is the unknown, events occur in the ‘now’ which is within 15 seconds of when it happens. We have power over what we pay attention to. I can spend that 15 seconds on nourishment or negativity, only one will feed me.

“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”
― George Harrison

Source of Frustration • Daily Thoughts

Water can taste bad, but I need it to survive. Does water even have a taste? I don’t like to buy it. I like it cold. I add lemon. I distract myself. I make the experience special. I choose to change my perception, so I don’t feel compelled to change what is out of my control.

Smoke detectors beeping are out of my control. The sharp sound really drives me up a wall. (Beep). Why do these little blips get under my skin? (Beep). Address the problem. Change the battery. (Beep). My irritation has derailed my focus, so I go on a rampage throughout the house to find the source of the noise. (Beep). Every time I hear the sound, it is a reminder. I must flip the script. Stop and breath. (Beep).

Am I required to do something or is it an annoyance to ignore? I must walk away or find a solution. (Beep). Internal strife and external distraction are both factors pointing back to me. Acceptance. Close the door. (Beep). Turn the music up. Let it be. (Beep). (Beep). (Beep).

Guided by Bob Pollard

June is the season I was introduced to Guided by Voices. In my mind, they are really more of a live band, with Bob Pollard doing karate kicks, swinging the mic around in one hand and a bottle of Budweiser in the other. I first saw GBV play at Irving Plaza in New York City when I was 19, right around my birthday, June 20th. I never heard of them, but went because my friend dragged me out. I was blown away. Tobin Sprout was still playing guitar, right before Alien Lanes came out. The song that captures me was Over The Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox. I remember the feeling of melting into the crowd when he says “and if you do, I’ll come back and marry you.” After that I was hooked.

Within a week, I bought the Vampire on Titus / Propeller dual album. Then I digested the Lo-fi sound, which was a characteristic that somehow highlighted the emotional sensitivity of Bob’s songwriting. Making it accessible and relatable to the Tascam Porta One cassette 4-track I started out recording with.

I would also spend my 21st birthday seeing them at the Trocadero in Philly. Actually a couple days before, which kept me from drinking at the bar. So my friend and I chugged some 40’s of St. Ides in the alley before the show.

Summer was the season that I realized my dream to rock on stage and expose myself in my recordings, more like a diary than an album. I am 45 this year and so grateful Robert Pollard & Guided By Voices have been in my life.

Guided by Voices in performance. Photo: Gretchen Robinette.

Making music is such a massive part of who I am. In a way, it is my religion, and performing on stage is a spiritual experience. I always thought it was because my father was a musician and it might have been a way to relate because he was often not around. I wanted a language we could both communicate in. But in this moment I realize it was Bob, with the same name as my father, that guided me to the life of songwriting and performing that I cultivated.

This is the season I dust off the GBV catalog (now in my iTunes… always wanted the original box set on vinyl) and celebrate over 25 years of rocking out with this influential band. The club is fucking open.

Guided by Voices at the Social. Photo: Jen Cray.

Lenese Calleea: Black N Fashion • Podcast Review

This installment of The Industry Is Watching podcast features Lenese Colleea, a fashion designer that is sharp with her words and on point with her perspective. Her quick wit is apparent as she decodes the fashion business. Both charming and ambitious, Lenese is a formidable visionary that has overcome many obstacles to get where she is. She is making moves and shows no signs of slowing down.

This has been a life-long pursuit for her. Lenese lovingly credits her grandmother with getting her started, teaching her to sew at the age of seven. Although, she had to prove to her Granny that she was committed. She had to sew a straight line on paper before she could advance to cloth. As a teenager, Lenese ran a lucrative pillow making business with personalized details such as hand-stitched lettering. Her work ethic sets a shining example of what you can accomplish with determination.

Lenese offers a variety of opportunities to young designers looking to break in the business. She established The Black Girlz Designer Club, a non profit organization dedicated to providing mentorship, scholarships, and an array of creative resources to Black youth with a passion for fashion. She is even the host of her own podcast. The BlackNFashion podcast is a forum dedicated to the education and development of Blacks in fashion, from the novice to the professional.

Her excellent sense of humor ignites the non-stop dialog between Lenese and Champ, the host of The Industry is Watching podcast. Their chemistry seems to spark immediately and continues throughout the conversation. This interview is exceptionally entertaining, as well as an informative peak behind the curtain, into the world of fashion.

Fashion Entrepreneur Lenese Calleea created the blueprint on how to get into the fashion industry. From concept to product, Lenese offers education, empowerment and fashion consulting classes on how to bring your fashion dreams to life.

Be sure to catch Lenese Calleea on this exciting episode of The Industry is Watching podcast. You can listen regularly on iTunesSpotify or Soundcloud. Discover if you are an Insider, an Underdog or fall somewhere in between. Because like Champ says, you are only one contact, one call, or one post away from making it happen. Follow Champ on Instagram @champmedia.

Self-Discipline • Daily Thoughts

Advocate for your own well-being. We can train ourselves to be kinder. We are able to program ourselves for success. It may sound like hard work, but that is our mind talking. Our spirit will be thanking us. There is a resistance to change that occurs at first, but after a few days or weeks, we adapt. It’s an amazing human trait.

The first and best victory is to conquer self. – Plato

Once we get in the habit of putting challenges in front of us, the better we can deal with ones that are not by choice. It is this practice that gives us the confidence we need to acquire the ability to achieve. We provide evidence to our subconscious that is difficult for our minds to deny. These are baby steps to big change. Begin with making your bed in the morning, doing the dishes after meals, then you will be teaching yourself things beyond your wildest imagination. Imagine the possibilities.

Together We Stand • Daily Thoughts

( June 2nd, 2020 ) Peace, Love and Unity. Some might say that is idealistic. Others would argue that someone is to blame for our division. The distinction of subtle differences has often been amplified to create a separation between individuals that are more alike than not. We require oxygen to breath. We laugh when we find something amusing. We hold loved ones close when we are affectionate or need comfort when we are sad. All very human traits. Then why do people find it so difficult to unify humanity for a common good?

There is no Us and Them, there is only We. And we are part of a greater whole, which must function as one in order to thrive.

In many ways our society has advanced, but so much remains the same as it has for centuries. Is it in our nature to always be so conflicted? Maybe we are really at odds with ourselves, and project that internal struggle onto others. The more I consider our current situation, I believe healing must begin with a willingness to listen. When we feel that we have been heard and a genuine effort to understand us has been made, mutual consideration can occur, perspectives can change. However, that process can not be accomplished alone.

Photo by DeMarius Champ Kilpatrick
March in Brooklyn – June 1st, 2020
(Photo by DeMarius Champ Kilpatrick)

It is possible to make morality a priority and encourage compassion for every human being. But there are corporations that capitalize on oppression. There are powerful establishments that stimulate confusion for their own gain. Our government has intentionally divided us to make our population more manageable. There is no question that we must work together, as a civil society, to progress past these obstacles. There is no Us and Them, there is only We. And we are part of a greater whole, which must function as one in order to thrive.

When we seek to understand someone else, we can gain a better understanding of ourself. Our diverse culture is filled with so many lovely individuals, all deserving of being treated fairly, no matter who we are or where we come from. Kindness must become a priority. The people of this world are more powerful than its governing bodies. Our numbers are vast. Imagine what we could accomplish if we knew what we really wanted. Because there has to be more that we desire than just an absence of pain. Perhaps we can solve that mystery together, once we begin to heal the suffering that has been endured entirely too long.

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Questions And Answers • Daily Thoughts

( May, 29th, 2020 ) When something upsetting happens, you may ask the question… Why? The questions we ask are not always for the answers we seek. When something happens to someone else, we know it’s the way of the world, yet they may still be angry. There are horrible things that happen that we have no control over preventing or fixing. It can make us feel powerless.

Finding peace within can help us find a peaceful solution, that we could not see in a state of anger. Once your spirit is balanced, you can effect positive change.

Have faith that your question will be answered. It may not come immediately, but a realization will present itself. Then a constructive action can be applied. Be kind to yourself and things will fall into place.

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Doing Nothing Is Really Something • Daily Thoughts

( May 28th, 2020 ) If you refuse to choose, it is still a choice. That doesn’t necessary mean it is a failure to act. Doing nothing can be an effective way to focus your intention. Sometimes, a hard reset to reassess the situation can lend perspective. A tactful technique to step away from a conversation is excusing yourself to use the bathroom. Try it out next time your conversation is going nowhere fast.

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