I remember the day like it was yesterday. Glenn Holsten and I met in a coffee shop in Queens, NY. He invited me to meet with him that day to discuss me being part of a film for a website he works on called OC87 Recovery Diaries.
Glenn had a warm, calming energy as we sat down to enjoy our drinks. He let me know that he had learned about my work online, watched several of my videos, and thought that I would make a good candidate for an OC87 Recovery Diaries story.
Although I have hundreds of videos featuring me online, the idea of being part of a formal film project had never crossed my mind. The thought of it was a bit terrifying at first. I felt a hint of anxiety in my chest, but did my best to remain calm.
When my anxiety becomes overwhelming, I don’t feel safe. It doesn’t matter whether or not the perceived threat is real or imagined. I don’t feel safe.
As we continued to discuss ideas for the project, I began to feel safe with Glenn. Before I knew it, I had committed to moving forward with the project. I was ready to step out of my comfort zone.
Our next meeting was a brainstorming session. We sat at my dining room table and dreamed together. We discussed all the things that I was hoping we could tackle in the film — issues of manhood and mental health, how I wrestle with my depression, and what it feels like to have a self-critical voice inside my head competing with the persona that I project in my everyday business day as I pursue my career as an entrepreneur.
As the session progressed, I began to feel a connection with Glenn. Like me, he did his best to approach art with an open heart and an open mind. We left that meeting with some good ideas to ponder.
Before he left my apartment, he gave me a copy of Hollywood Beauty Salon, a movie he directed and produced. Hollywood Beauty Salon is a documentary about life in a beauty parlor that is part of a mental health recovery community in a Philadelphia neighborhood.
For several weeks prior to the filming, I spent time thinking about the purpose of the work. I asked myself questions like, “Why am I doing this?” or “Is this just another promotional video to help my career?”. It’s tough for me to watch myself on film or video, and I am still in the process of getting comfortable with the many promotional videos that I have filmed to date.
As I continued to listen to my internal conversation, I came to two realizations:
1. Something about this project was different.
2. Something about this project would help others.
After discussing it with my therapist and meditating over it, I decided that my goal for the film was to be vulnerable enough to deliver the most authentic representation of what is going on in my head. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had shown up for me. Through showing up for myself, I would improve the likelihood of being successful in connecting with others.
I know that many people who don’t live with mental health challenges have difficulty understanding what’s going on in the mind of someone who does. And though all of us on this journey are all unique, there are many similarities to our experiences.
A few weeks before we shot our film, I watched Hollywood Beauty Salon. Within the first few minutes, I felt connected to the characters. It was immediately apparent that I had things in common with many of the men and women in the documentary. This film touched my heart, hit home, and reminded me about the responsibility that I had in delivering my project.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” Uncle Ben from the movie Spider Man.
Working on the films with the OC87 team allowed me to see myself from a unique perspective. Opening my heart to do this was scary, awkward, and painful. However, each time that I watch the films that we created, I learn something new about myself. It’s a rare opportunity to see an open view of myself from a distance.
Through the encouragement of Glenn, I’m sharing a part of me with you in these films. It’s a part of me that can be confusing, frustrating, and dark. You may even identify with me or my story may resonate with someone in your life.
My story is unique, and it is one of many. I’ve encountered fewer obstacles than some and more than others in this life. Stories are important because they touch our hearts and stay with us forever. My story is simply a window to peer through.
I don’t know if my depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder will ever go away. I don’t know what mental health challenges I may encounter as I age. One thing that I am sure of, however, is that this journey – the one that I am on — will continue to teach me about life and about myself.
The topic of mental health seems to get more and more popular by the day. As a person who has lived with mental health challenges his entire life, I encourage you to learn more about the work OC87 Recovery Diaries is doing. Though working with some of the greatest talents in their world, they giving people films and stories that capture the unique perspectives of individuals who struggle.
As you finish reading these words, I am writing to you from a coffee shop. Please take some time to watch, comment, and share with anyone who may benefit from this.
Right now, I invite you to use this opportunity to connect. Connect with me, connect with OC87 Recovery Diaries and connect with yourself.
It’s time to talk, reflect, and grow.
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