This week, we talk to Bryan Piatt. Bryan is the host of the Take What Serves. Leave the Rest podcast. Bryan is also a former TV news anchor in the Twin Cities who now serves as a mental health advocate as both a breathwork Facilitator and meditation guide. Bryan is currently enrolled in grad school to become a therapist so that he can continue supporting the wellness of others. Bryan is here today to share his mental health journey as well as speak to his experiences with both medication and meditation.
We ask Bryan:
--Your podcast is called “Take What Serves. Leave the Rest.” That’s such a great title, so I’d like you to share the idea behind that title.
--On your podcast, you openly talk about your mental health concerns, so we’d love for you to share your story with our listeners as well.
--How has your mental health journey influenced your decision to become a therapist?
--What are you learning about yourself during this time, what are you noticing about the clients you’re seeing at this time, and how do you navigate the potential desire to project your own experiences onto your clients?
--You talked about the role medication has played in your mental health journey. Can you elaborate on that for us?
--One thing you talked about on your podcast is the stigma around medication, and if Brian and I are being honest, we have spoken out against the use of medication. I think for the two of us, it’s more of a personal experience kind of thing (and for me I believe that medication is too often over-prescribed or used before truly assessing the whole picture of the patient), but one thing you said in the podcast that I really liked is that it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” scenario, and you’re an example of that because you both use medication but you also practice meditation and yoga. In what ways do these all complement each other to serve your wellness?
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Bryan Piatt: Every day now, I can, if I’m having a really tough mental health day, which I still do all the time, I mean, not that like by sharing all of a sudden I don’t struggle with it anymore, it’s still a daily thing that I have to maneuver, but at least I think can almost gather up the lessons that I learned and like transform it in some way into a way to give back to other people and I think it just gives us some purpose. It’s like, hey, this really tough day that I’m having right now, I can try to just reach out and hold somebody else’s hand who might be in the midst of that, and I think when you really do struggle, it teaches you how to show up for other people and it makes us more empathetic and, in a very weird way, I almost wish it wasn’t this way, I think it’s the hardest things that we go through in life that help us connect with other people ultimately, like it’s what cultivates compassion and empathy and it teaches us how to be a better human in many ways.
Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life’s second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and, as always, I’m joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I’m prodigious today, Billy.
Billy: Prodigious. Like a child prodigy?
Brian: No, more like wonderful or marvelous, prodigious, marvelous, like it contains such volumes it’s marvelous. Like you contain volumes, I also contain volumes.
Billy: Oh, you’re so flattering. You know what? Just stop that in a half hour because I can’t get enough of it. I really appreciate that. Well, I’m glad you’re feeling so prodigious today because we actually have a guest on the show that’s going to set the two of us straight based on some things you and I have said in the past about using medication for mental health purposes. And here’s the thing, like we’ve said in the past, if we say something on the show and you’re like, “I don’t know if I agree with what those two are saying,” and you’re knowledgeable and you have personal experiences that contradict what we say, we actually would really love to hear from you. You can always message us on Instagram at @mindful_midlife_crisis, you can email us at email@example.com, because, the reality is, Brian and I don’t know everything yet. We’re getting there. We’re on the precipice of knowing everything. But we’re not there just yet and today’s guest has both the knowledge and the personal experiences and he’s going to share those with us today to help us better understand why medication can be a valuable tool to have in your mental health toolkit. Today’s guest is Bryan Piatt. Bryan is the host of the Take What Serves, Leave the Rest podcast. Great name for a podcast. Bryan is also a former TV news anchor in the Twin Cities who now serves as a mental health advocate as both a breathwork facilitator and a meditation guide. Bryan is currently enrolled in grad school to become a therapist so that he can continue supporting the wellness of others. Bryan is here today to share his mental health journey as well as speak to his experiences with both medication and meditation. Welcome to the show, Bryan Piatt.
Bryan Piatt: Thank you. How are we doing, my friends?
Billy: We’re absolutely wonderful. Thank you for asking. We appreciate that. I’ll tell you what, you already got this therapist thing down because I don’t know if anybody ever asked us how we’re doing.
Brian: This will be the first time in, what? 40 episodes?
Billy: I think so, I think so, so that’s very — we appreciate that. Thank you very much. So, Bryan, we like to have our guests tell us the 10 roles they play in their life. So what are the 10 roles that you play in your life?
Bryan Piatt: Yeah, that’s a great question and I wrote them down here before the episode and it’s always so fascinating to actually take a few moments and be like, wow, there’s a few things that I do in my life. So what I wrote down, in no particular order, I would say, brother, I have siblings who I care deeply about. I am a son, love my parents to death. Friend. I’m an uncle. I have a beautiful, wonderful, amazing nephew, Noah. Boyfriend. I’m an advocate, I am a podcast host, I am a meditation guide, I am a breathwork facilitator, and I am a grad school student. That last one has been taking up a lot of my time recently.
Brian: I bet.
Billy: Where are you going to school?
Bryan Piatt: I go to school at St. Mary’s University here in the Twin Cities. So they have a campus in Winona but then also a campus here in the Twin Cities. That’s where I’ve been going. We’ve been all virtual up until now. I’m in my third semester, but next semester, we actually go back in person, which I’m really looking forward to.
Billy: We’re going to come back to being a grad school student in just a second because that’s going to tie into what we’re going to talk about in this episode. You said that one of the roles that you are most looking forward to in the second half of life is being a brother so talk to us about why you’re looking forward to being a brother in the second half of life.
Bryan Piatt: I feel like the older that I get, I just recognize the importance of family, like when my siblings might be going through some tough things or maneuvering this thing called life, I feel like being able to lean into each other and support each other and be there for each other is just something that, really, especially as of late, I’ve just been recognizing how important that is. And I’m lucky enough, I have — my sister lives here in the Twin Cities so I get to see her and her family a lot. And my brother lives out in California, he’s back here for a little bit right now, and I really am realizing more and more the moments where I feel like the most grounded and the most content a lot of times are just when I have my people around me. So I’m excited for us to just be able to be there for each other as we take life on one step at a time.
Billy: And it sounds like this focus and importance on family would explain why you’re also looking forward to being an uncle in the second half of life as well.
Bryan Piatt: Yeah, yeah. My little nephew, Noah, is just the best. He brings so much joy to our family and for any of you out there who are uncles and aunts, it’s the best thing ever to be able to go spend time with him and then not have to get up at 2 AM when he’s crying. I can just leave that to the parents.
Billy: That was my favorite part about education is that I got to work with young students and then I got to just hand them back to their parents and say, “Here you go. Really appreciated the time we got to spend together. I’m out.”
Bryan Piatt: Yeah.
Brian: Do you guys know anybody I can just hand my kids to? This sounds delightful. It just sounds wonderful.
Bryan Piatt: You can pay somebody for that, right?
Brian: I don’t want to pay.
Bryan Piatt: Yeah, that would be too much.
Brian: I just want to hand them.
Billy: I think you can just give them a bus ticket somewhere and say, “Bye, boys.” Someone will take care of them on the bus, I’m sure.
Brian: Good luck. I’ll see you when you’re 18.
Bryan Piatt: Wish you all the best.
Billy: How many nieces and nephews do you have, Bryan?
Bryan Piatt: So I just have one little nephew right now. Yeah. And I’m sure more to come at some point but, yeah, he’s a pure joy and he’s such a reminder like I could be going through like some of the most stressful things in my life and in my head about whatever and I can go spend time with Noah and it’s just such a — so present, like just guides me back to the present moment. And I think the biggest thing like moving forward being an uncle, I just want to create a safe space for him to be whoever he is, that’s like the biggest thing. You see kids, they’re just so innocent, they’re still so full of joy, they’re so present, and then the world kind of gets a hold of us along the way and starts telling us who we’re supposed to be and all the programming and stuff that comes along with that. It’s like I want to just keep nurturing for him this idea of, “Just be you. Be you, man, to the best of your ability.”
Billy: I think that’s really beautiful because my three nieces and my nephew are all college age now. My oldest niece just graduated. My nephew is a senior in college. And my plan right now is to go to Italy because he is singing at the Vatican with his college choir and the Vatican is the last performance of his college career so I think that would be amazing to share in that experience with him. So I’m trying to figure out if that’s the route I’m going to take, just because I’ve been on these travels here for a while and trying to figure out how much more I can stomach solo traveling. I think people romanticize solo traveling, which is something I’m going to talk about later on. But, anyway, I all of a sudden made that about me. So, it sounds like as you’re fostering who he wants to be, who your nephew, Noah, wants to be, that that really ties into this passion as well for being a therapist so can you talk about how that passion for letting people just be who they are plays a role in being a grad school student who is on his way to becoming a therapist?
Bryan Piatt: We talk a lot in grad school about all the different modalities and approaches to being a therapist and there’s a lot of different lenses that you can look through when it comes to how do you best show up for the people that you work with and I have to say a lot of the ones that really deeply resonate for me are the ones where it’s less about trying to tell people how to maneuver what they’re going through and really more about just like holding space for people and not trying to fix them or try to change them, like really just providing a safe space for people to be sad if they’re if they’re sad or be frustrated if they’re frustrated.
Brian: I find that the act of talking about something, even with just somebody else, is cathartic. You know what I mean? So I know where you’re coming from on that. Just sometimes it’s easier to organize your thoughts when you’re speaking to somebody else so that in itself, I agree with you. It’s more about the listening when you’re a therapist rather than that fixing or employing — there are tools to employ, of course.
Bryan Piatt: Yeah, and I think there’s always — I think with everything in life, there’s that balance of, of course, we’re going to bring things hopefully to people that give them some tangible things that they can work on and things for them to implement, but I really do think that at the core of whether it’s working as a therapist or it’s just trying to be there for the people in my life, I try to always remind myself that this is not about me having the answer to anything, it’s more just how do I let people just be experiencing whatever that is that they are experiencing. And I find that to be really helpful just for me too, like when I go to people and I’m having a hard time, I don’t really always want to be told. To me, that’s kind of a turn off, almost, if people are trying to fix or tell me how I should be feeling about something or diminish when I’m going through, “Oh, that’s not that bad, you’ll be fine,” like all of those kinds of things. I think they’re very well intentioned but I find a lot of times when I’m having a hard time, I just want a safe space with somebody that’s just willing to listen and kind of let me maybe if I have to talk through a story 75 times before I’m able to like move through it. And so, yeah, I just think like letting people be wherever they’re at in a compassionate way is very much at the core of what I feel like I believe in. We’ll see if it works. To be determined.
Brian: I think you’re on the right track.
Bryan Piatt: I hope so. I hope so.
Billy: I agree. And one of the things that you talk about in your podcast is providing people with more tools to add to their mental health support kits. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a quick break and then when we come back, we’re going to talk to Bryan about his podcast and about his mental health journey.
Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Bryan Piatt. He is the host of the Take What Serves, Leave the Rest podcast. He is a mental health advocate. He is a therapist in training right now. It’s wonderful to have him here today.
Brian: Really quick, great name for a podcast. I gotta say it too. It’s just really great.
Bryan Piatt: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, as I was trying to put it together, I think there’s so much information out there right now that, again, I think is very well intentioned but it’s very, I don’t know, I feel like it can sometimes come across a little bit superficial and disingenuous, like do these things and then you’ll be happy. I don’t think that path is like a checklist that we necessarily check off and I think everybody’s experience is a little bit different than maybe the person next to them and so, yeah, that was kind of why. I was trying to infuse that, I guess, in the title of just like, “Hey, we’re gonna talk about some things and, hopefully, something resonates for you.” If it’s one thing that resonates for you and you take that with you, then beautiful. It’s not always going to be everything that’s discussed that people really absorb.
Billy: Yeah, and on your podcast, you talk openly about your own mental health concerns and your own mental health journey so we’d love for you to share your story with our listeners as well.
Bryan Piatt: Yeah, it’s always such an interesting question. I get asked this question all the time, how do you share your journey and your story, and I always find every time I share it, something else comes out so we’ll just see where this goes. But I worked in broadcast journalism for a number of years so that’s my background was in TV journalism, most recently at one of the TV stations here in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, in Minneapolis. And with that work, I was very lucky to have the platform that that job provided to reach a lot of people and then, through that platform, I had the opportunity to open up and talk about some of the things that I had experienced when it comes to mental health. We all have our own things that we’ve experienced in that realm and I’ve been very blessed to be able to share it here locally to hopefully help some people out. When it came to my job, I was struggling with panic attacks on live television. That was a very tangible thing that was happening for me. And a very, yeah, very not ideal setting to have panic attacks when you’re trying to —
Brian: I can relate though. Same thing happened to me, granted it was not on television but work. Same thing. Yeah. I’d be in meetings and I’d have to leave meetings because of it. So I can relate.
Bryan Piatt: Yeah, it’s terrifying, and I’ve talked very openly about the first time that it really happened to me on the air was I was doing traffic on the morning show and I was transitioning from a traffic report to interview somebody and my heart was beating out of my chest, I felt like I couldn’t get the words out. I was like literally almost like gasping for air on live television. And if anybody out there has experienced a panic attack, you know that, very often, once you have it once, it becomes this almost like fear of, “Oh my gosh, when is it gonna happen again?” and then you’re always —
Brian: Which adds to it.
Bryan Piatt: — which adds to it.
Brian: Yeah, it snowballs.
Bryan Piatt: Yep. And so the TV studio was basically transformed from this place where I used to feel very in my own element, very much in the flow, it was something that I really enjoyed doing, it turned from that to this place that I feared stepping into every single day. It became really, really hard to do my job because I was always scared that it was going to happen again. And it did. It did happen a number of times after that and so I’ve tried to share that piece of myself because you turn on the news, you turn on the TV, whatever it is, you turn on the radio, we’re always seeing everybody’s kind of pulled-together version of themselves and we never really know what’s actually going on on the inside. So that was a big piece of what I was going through. I’ve also been very open about struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder and really never had a very good understanding for a long time that it was OCD because OCD tends to be a very, very misunderstood diagnosis. We always tend to look at OCD as this having things be neat and orderly or being fearful of germs and that sort of thing and that is for sure the way that sometimes that stuff can manifest but it also can manifest in the form of these intrusive thoughts that that become very shame inducing, becoming very hyper aware of like why am I having these certain thoughts that are going on in my mind and trying to analyze and figure out our thoughts and getting caught in that rumination cycle constantly, and I started struggling with a lot of those things when I was in middle school and traces of it through high school and through college so it’s been this real journey of anxiety and mixed with OCD mixed with just like being human, going through breakups and just trying to let people learn a little bit on some of the struggle that I’ve gone through just to really, hopefully, let others know that they’re not alone.
Billy: I think what a lot of people fear is that when they share their story with others, that they think that other people are going to judge them or other people aren’t going to know how to act when they’re around them. So, I’m curious, once you shared that with other people, how did others respond? Did they respond and supportive? Were there some people that were like, “I don’t know how to be around you,” and that sort of thing? What was your experience?
Bryan Piatt: I have to say, I was really lucky. Overwhelmingly, it was supportive. And I always — what I found most interesting about sharing is that I had people that I interacted with on a daily basis, very surface level, that came up to me and said, “Thank you for sharing your story. This is what I’ve gone through.” And people that I never would have guessed that are having a hard time with a lot of these things and with their mental health. And so it was kind of this little like portal or like look behind the curtain in many ways, because I feel like it gave others permission to feel safe. telling me about some of the things that they’ve gone through. Yeah, I mean, I’ve been blessed with wonderful people in my life who have been very, very supportive. I really don’t know that I had any like adverse reactions to it. It was overwhelmingly positive. I still, to this day, have people reach out all the time and just say, “Thanks for sharing, it helps me feel a little bit less alone.” I think that’s what keeps motivating me to do the work.
Billy: I remember after we did episode 3 where I talked about my struggles with my mental health, I got a lot of messages and a lot of them were really supportive and just saying, “Hey, thank you for sharing that,” and then they shared their struggles with their own mental health and it just opened up conversations with other people and I think that’s something that I want our listeners to really hold near and dear to their heart is that if you’re struggling, let people know. People are going to really support you. People really are going to be supportive. And if someone says, “I don’t know how to act around you,” tell them. Tell them how to act around you. Tell them what you need. It’s just we need to be clear and we need to communicate and when we finally do those things, I don’t know about you, I imagine, but, for me, it was just a weight off of my shoulders once I was open and honest with myself about some of that stuff and going into therapy but then having conversations about it actually rejuvenated me because I like presenting, I like being in front of an audience, and I like talking about things that I’m passionate about and that was something that I was passionate about because I wanted my story to help other people and I imagine that’s what your purpose is here too. I imagine that’s why you’ve transitioned into wanting to become a therapist.
Bryan Piatt: Totally. I just had somebody on my podcast, one of the recent episodes that I put out, and we talked about this idea of like turning our purpose or our pain into our purpose or like our message, I’m saying it backwards, our mess into our message. Every day now, if I’m having a really tough mental health day, which I still do all the time. I mean, not that like by sharing, all of a sudden, I don’t struggle with it anymore. It’s still a daily thing that that I have to maneuver. But at least I think can almost gather up the lessons that I learned and transform it in some way into a way to give back to other people and I think it just gives us some purpose. It’s like, hey, this like really tough day that I’m having right now, I can try to just reach out and hold somebody else’s hand who might be in the midst of that, and I think when you really do struggle, it teaches you how to show up for other people and it makes us more empathetic and, in like a very weird way, almost like wish it wasn’t this way, I think it’s the hardest things that we go through in life that help us connect with other people ultimately, it’s like what cultivates compassion and empathy and it teaches us how to be a better human in many ways.
Billy: What are you learning about yourself during this time as you’re going through grad school and you’re learning about the various mental health disorders that are out there? What are you noticing about, I imagine you’re seeing some clients or practicing with some people at this point, what are you learning about them? And how do you navigate the potential desire to project your own experiences onto your clients as well?
Bryan Piatt: For sure. Yeah, that’s a lot. And I should clarify, when I say therapist in training, I’m still in school so I haven’t actually started working one on one with anybody yet. So that’ll be a little bit later on down the road when we do practicum and that sort of thing. I’m inching closer to that but still just kind of in the classroom phase. But I — yeah, and that’s a huge concern, not concern but it’s something that I think about all the time, like I’m a mess some days when I wake up in the morning, how the hell am I going to hold space for another human and be there for them? And I’m sure that’ll be something that I keep learning as I go but I think it really comes back to — what feels comforting to me at the end of the day is that I don’t have to have all the answers or I don’t have to have it all figured out to hold space for other people. I think a lot of the work is probably doing the things in my life that help me ground and help me feel whatever emotions are going on or just be honest with myself in the moment about what’s coming up and when I can do that, I find that that’s when I’m able to be present with other people. And so I think those things are going to be really important moving forward and even like before I hopped on this podcast today, it’s like doing a little bit of breathwork to get myself into a place where I can be enough out of my own head to be present with the two of you. I think a lot of those same skills are probably what we have to do as therapists.
Billy: We had a great conversation with Anna Schlegel and Kolin Purcell back in episode 48 and 49. Go check out those if you want an in-depth analysis of how breathwork really, really affects us and can help regulate our emotions. As a breathwork facilitator, what do you do, how do you incorporate that into your own life? What’s your plan to incorporate that with the people that you’re working with in the future? How about the people that you’re working with now? What does that look like?
Bryan Piatt: I really, really, really want to, ultimately, have breathwork be part of the therapeutic process in some way, because I think what I’ve noticed, I mean, I’ve done a ton of therapy in my life, like I’ve done a ton of talk therapy, I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of therapists and it’s been deeply helpful, very important part of the path, part of the journey, very grateful for that. And I think sometimes talk therapy can only get us so far, like there’s things that we’re literally holding on to in our bodies, like emotions and tension and things like that, that I find things like breathwork can get in there and shift around and help us release in a way that not a lot of other things can. So I’ve done years and years of therapy, I always noticed that I couldn’t I never would really cry, like, for me, to cry in front of another human being takes a lot, like I’m not really good at letting that out. And what I noticed when I started teaching or doing breathwork and practicing it myself was I’d be doing breathwork for 10 minutes and I’d be like bawling my eyes out, I’m like releasing this emotion that was in my body clearly that needed a way to get out and get released. And so I think that blend of talk therapy and working through things in that way mixed with some modalities that can truly just get us away from our minds a little bit and into our hearts and into our bodies to release, I think that blend is a beautiful thing that I want to try to find a way to weave that in. I teach breathwork now so I hold space in group experiences where we do this breathwork technique that I’ve been trained in and it’s been amazing. I mean, it’s been amazing to share this thing that I know for me has been really, really helpful with other people.
Brian: I’m truly shocked more therapists don’t incorporate that.
Bryan Piatt: Yeah.
Brian: I mean, after going through it myself and learning what I’ve learned, I’m shocked because it does, it grounds you. The breathing exercises really do ground you and set a stage for the next thing that’s coming.
Bryan Piatt: What I find is it gets me to a place where I can meet myself a little bit more gently, like these things that are day to day constantly maybe going on in my mind that feel really scary and feel really overwhelming and hard to maneuver, the breathwork, I find, helps me like — it’s not that it takes that thing away but it just maybe lands a little bit more gently and I’m in a space then where I’d probably be more willing to then talk about that with like a therapist or somebody. It’s almost like a guide to get me to be able to go to some spaces that normally I wouldn’t be willing to go to. So I think that dynamic of maybe doing breathwork and then diving into a therapy session or something like that, at least, to me, seems like that would be a really beautiful thing.
Billy: How has breathwork helped you better understand your own somatic experience, especially as you are trying to manage anxiety attacks that it sounds like you’re still having, like I still have them but I know that my breathwork has cued me into where in my body those anxiety attacks are beginning to develop so that when they get to a certain level physically in my body, I’m able to manage it and not push it down but sort of keep it at bay. So, for you, how has your breathwork enhanced your better understanding of your somatic experience?
Bryan Piatt: Yeah. I think kind of what you said, where it’s keeping it almost a little bit at a distance. So I’m a big believer in, for me, personally, if I try to get anxiety to go away, so if I step into the world and I’m like anxiety doesn’t get to be here and I’m going to do everything I can to not feel anxiety or to not be like ruminating in my head for whatever to surface, that’s kind of setting me up for failure in a way. I lived a lot of my life doing everything I could to get anxiety to not be there and then it would surface and that’d be like, “Shit, that’s not supposed to be here.” And so the real game changer for me was when I started approaching it as not trying to get anxiety to go away but how do I make space for it and how do I make room for it to be part of my experience. And so I think breathwork is one of those tools that when I do it, and I maybe do a few rounds of like Wim Hof breath or I whatever style of breathwork it might be that day, it’s almost like I can just observe that stuff a little bit more and I just feel grounded and those somatic experiences that come up just don’t feel as all consuming, like they’re still there but there’s enough distance between them and me where I can maneuver it with maybe just a little bit more ease. And that sounds all like great and wonderful, I know like some days that just doesn’t happen and it’s messy as hell and it’s tough, but I just find that breathwork moves me in that direction of being able to observe whatever experience I’m having a little bit more.
Billy: Well, you’ve shared with us how breathwork and how meditation are all part of your mental health toolkit so what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a quick break so that you can talk to us about how medication is also part of your mental health toolkit.
Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you’d like to contact us or if you have suggestions about what you’d like us to discuss, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Instagram at @mindful_midlife_crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we reference throughout the show. Oh, and don’t forget to show yourself some love every now and then too. And now back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Bryan Piatt. He is the host of the Take What Serves, Leave the Rest of podcast. He has been talking to us about how he uses breathwork and meditation as part of his mental health toolkit, but he also talks about how he uses medication and, Brian, you had an episode recently about the role medication plays in your life and like we’ve mentioned before, Brian and I have spoken out against the use of medication a bit. So talk to us. Let us know how has medication helped you during your mental health journey?
Bryan Piatt: So I always resonate with this idea of looking at having a mental health toolkit, having as many different things in that toolkit day in and day out that is going to help me, again, not getting anxiety to necessarily just never be there but how do I kind of ride the wave of anxiety as I step into my day with a little bit more ease so I can show up for my life, and I have a lot of things in that toolkit. For me, breathwork is there. Getting good sleep is really, really important. Making connection with the people around me as a priority is in the toolkit. Therapy, moving my body, meditation, and medication, for me, has absolutely been in that toolkit for quite some time. I know that medication can be kind of this like hot button issue that people have very strong opinions and feelings about and I totally get that. I’m not here to say medication is the way, that’s not at all what I’m saying. What I am saying and what I really try to be very open about when sharing my story is that if you feel that medication can help you ride some of those waves, there’s nothing wrong with that because I think there can be a lot of shame that starts to happen for people around taking medication. There’s this kind of idea out there of if I’m taking medication to help me with my mental health, I’m cheating or I’m doing something wrong or I’m taking the easy way out or I can’t be spiritual, I can’t be mindful if I’m doing those things, and those are all things that I wrestled with big time at several points in my life where I’ve been trying to decide do I go back on medication. My personal experience with medication and important to note, obviously, I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m strictly talking from lived experience and what I’ve gone through so if you’re on that journey of trying to figure out meds, obviously, you need to be talking to a doctor about these things. But I started medication when I was in college. I was on it for a number of years, I was on it for a really, really long time, and then I started working with a therapist and I thought, you know what, I think I’m going to wean myself off of the medication and I’m going to stop taking it because I don’t really think it’s doing much for me. Stopped taking it and landed in a pretty dark place, like landed in a pretty tough spot, and I really went from almost thinking, “Yeah, this medication isn’t really doing much for me,” but then when I stopped taking it, it was like, “Oh my gosh, maybe it was really helping me with some of the things that I was struggling with,” and so I ended up going back on medication and I’ve been back on it ever since. And I’ve been in a much better place since I went back on it. It’s helped me, like it’s absolutely helped me. It doesn’t take away all my anxiety, it doesn’t take away the rumination and some of the kind of OCD things that I struggle with. I always describe it as it just helps. It’s like a little nudge. It’s like when the things that arise in the past always kind of pulled me in and sent me down really like into some pretty dark places, it’s like this little nudge that almost like nudges me along and gets me through that maybe just a little bit quicker is always how I’ve kind of described it to people. I just want anybody out there to hear that if medication is a part of your toolkit, there’s nothing wrong with you. You can still live a very, very beautiful, spiritual, connected, mindful life while you’re on medication. Because I used to always think it had to be this like all or nothing thing, either I’m taking meds or I’m going to meditate. Either I’m spiritual and I believe in that stuff or I’m going to do a more Western approach like medication. And I’m finding that the beauty happens when I can meet myself in the middle and I can pull things from those holistic approaches that resonate and I can pull things from maybe some of the Western approaches to mental health that resonate and those things can coexist together in whatever way I see fit.
Billy: That was a big take away from that episode for me is that it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. And I think in my head, that was one of the reasons why I objected to medication for me personally because I told my therapist right away, “I’m not doing medication.” I think part of that was because I also was nervous about how it would make me feel physically. I didn’t like the idea that, in my mind, I was going to be tethered to this medication if it worked. I wanted to do something that felt a bit more natural, because, in my mind, it was all in my mind. So I just needed to navigate through it in that way and, luckily, I found mindfulness and was able to right the ship in some way. But I do think that I have approached it in this either/or in that if I’m using medication, then I lose control of who I am, and I’m a control freak, so why would I turn myself over to that? And I got an email from an old high school classmate of mine and she said, “Hey, listen, be careful what you’re saying about medication because medication has really significantly improved my mental health,” and then when we talked to the boss bae, Tandra Rutledge, like whatever Tandra Rutledge says is gold and she absolutely put us in our place when we talked to her and it really has opened my eyes to a new understanding of when applied and when used and when prescribed appropriately, it really can have a significantly positive impact on somebody. I want to be careful when I ask this question. What were you using? What have you used in terms of medication? What has worked well for you? What hasn’t worked well for you? And I want to stress that “for you” so that when people hear this, they’re not like, “Oh, that’s a bad medication.” No, no, no, no, what worked for you, maybe what didn’t work for you?
Bryan Piatt: And I appreciate that because I always like hesitate sometimes even on my own podcast, like do I actually talk about what medication I was on, because everybody’s different and I don’t want people to hear like, “Oh, I’m not on that one so I should probably switch to that one because it worked for him,” that’s not at all what this is. But I was on Lexapro from college until just like a few years ago. That was one that I was on for a really long time. And then I ended up, actually, when I — so I went off medication for a while and then went back on it, started working actually with a functional medicine psychiatrist, which was a great fit for me because I really do resonate with kind of that holistic approach to mental health and I feel like she was able to have that and then also the ability to prescribe medication and so I was so grateful when I found her and started working with her. And we did a thing that’s called the GeneSight test. I’m not sure if anybody’s heard of that. It’s like this, again, not a doctor, but like my understanding of it is that it’s essentially like a DNA test where they get some more information about how your particular body and your own DNA structure might interact with certain medications. And so, through that, I ended up on Prozac. So I take fluoxetine, which is like the generic version of Prozac, and that’s what I’ve been on for a number of years now. When I was struggling with panic attacks, I took for a little while, let’s call them propranolol, it’s a beta blocker, which scared the hell out of me when I initially heard, I’m like, “I don’t wanna take something that’s gonna influence the way that my heart functions,” but it’s essentially a lot of people take it with like performance anxiety. When your heart beat starts getting above a certain level, it kind of like minimizes that a little bit so that I could do my job on the air. So I did lean on that from time to time when I would have a show where I felt like I need a little extra support, like stepping into the studio and doing this newscast, I would take propranolol and that for sure helped me ride some of those panic attack things that I was going through. So if I was only taking medication and not doing anything else for my mental health, I wouldn’t be in a good place. That’s been a very helpful addition to how I ride the waves every day.
Brian: Personally, for me, medication, I don’t like any medication. I don’t care if it’s for — I want to take as little as possible so that’s where my aversion to meds just comes in. So whether it be for mental health or for my ankle being swollen, whatever it is, I don’t like taking it and I take as little as possible. That’s just where my personal perspective comes on. But I agree with you. If it’s another tool in the toolbox to be used appropriately, hammer away.
Bryan Piatt: For sure.
Billy: Brian, have you always been that way about medication? Like were you — you said, “I just don’t want to take it,” or — you know where I’m going with this, right?
Brian: No, I haven’t always been that way. No, I was always the guy like, “Give me the pill, make it go away.” No, this has only been like the last probably seven years, I’m like, “No, I don’t need to take that. I wanna take less stuff.”
Billy: How much of your addiction to alcohol and pills before that do you think plays a role in it?
Brian: I think a big role, actually. It’s probably the root cause of it. Yeah. I don’t like taking stuff because I don’t like being outside of what I have now, which is a lot of inner peace, actually.
Bryan Piatt: Beautiful.
Brian: So I don’t have to take anything to get there, you know what I mean? I do that now through my activities and the way I live.
Billy: I think that’s important too for our audience to understand, like now that we’ve sort of done a deeper dive into who Brian on the Bass and I are, like now you understand why we’ve been critical about medication in the past. But that’s why we want to have someone like Bryan on to talk about, “Hey, no, this is — I’ve had good experiences with medication.” So, Bryan, I’m curious, when you were younger, what did a bad OCD day look like for you? What’s a bad OCD day look like for you now? And what do you use in order to manage when you’re having bad OCD days?
Bryan Piatt: So, OCD for me — what’s very confusing sometimes for me even to this day is that there can be this almost overlap, I find, sometimes between anxiety and OCD, like those things can get kind of intertwined sometimes in my mind. When I go back, and I look back at my own story, like what was OCD? What was anxiety? And at the end of the day, does it really matter? I don’t think it really does. I think a lot of the tools that I use to treat each one are probably very similar. But when I first remember OCD tangibly showing up for me, we had just moved from Denver, Colorado, to Fargo, North Dakota, for my dad’s job, it was like the summer before I started middle school. And so huge time of change, huge time of transition for me. And I remember I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom in our new house and this was like very shortly after we moved and there was a knife sitting on the table and the thought for me popped up, “Gosh, what if I took that knife and I like hurt my mom with it?” And as a sixth grader having a thought like that was, I remember it just shook me to my core. It absolutely terrified me. Why am I having that thought? What does that thought say about me? Does that mean that I want to actually do that? I love my mom, why would I ever do something like that? And that was the first time that I really remember having a very vivid intrusive thought followed by a lot of like rumination and kind of obsessing about it. And that’s the type of OCD that I kind of mentioned where our society likes to project this image that OCD is strictly about being fearful of germs and wanting things to be orderly, but for a lot of people, that’s how OCD shows up, like intrusive thoughts that are very scary and very — we call it kind of like ego dystonic, like it’s not something that you would ever do but you’re having these thoughts about doing it and then just the fact that you’re having the thought scares you to death and then you’re spending endless hours trying to figure out the thought, trying to get to the bottom of the thought, trying to like put a nice, tight, tidy bow around the thought and be able to move on from it. I always say that people who struggle with, I guess, don’t struggle with OCD, like have — like we all have thoughts, like all of us as human beings, we have thoughts that are just kind of all over the board as we step out into the world every day and if you don’t struggle with things like OCD, you might have thoughts, they might kind of come into your awareness and you might just be like, “Oh, that was kind of an interesting thought,” and then you can kind of just move on with your day, like they don’t really take up too much time. Generally, people that are more prone to things like OCD and a lot of anxiety stuff, those thoughts get stuck, like we have sticky minds and it sticks and then we’re like trying to figure things out and doing all of the things that I talked about. So that was like sixth grade, I remember, was the first time that I remember having that experience. I had no idea what I was experiencing. I had no sense back then that there was this thing called anxiety or there was this thing called OCD and that might explain what I was going through. And then it just took on so many different forms over the years, health anxiety, checking constantly like if I have a bump on my body that must mean that I have cancer and obsessing about having a heart condition. I used to go into college, I went into the hospital to get like EKGs done on my heart because I was convinced that there was something wrong with my heart when it was really just like anxiety going on. So it shows up in relationships, getting really, really, really, really in my head around relationships of is this the right person for me and literally not being able to turn off my brain around trying to find the right partner, like that’s been an extremely tough thing for me to manage. Latches on to things around sexuality and sexual obsessions and so it’s a pretty intense topic to talk about, you should hear some of the things that we talked about at like OCD conferences that I go to where everybody’s just very open about a lot of the nature of their intrusive thoughts, but it’s a very debilitating, tough thing for a lot of people to maneuver who especially have no idea that it’s even OCD. That’s why I kind of get into that uncomfortable space of trying to share at least pieces of my story to reach people out there.
Billy: Thank you for getting into that uncomfortable space with us. We really appreciate your openness and sharing that. So, we’re going to get you out on this. You listed advocate as a role that you play and it’s March 7th today so, yesterday, March 6th, you were at the state capitol as an advocate for the LGBTQ community. Can you talk about what you were doing there and why that’s passionate for you?
Bryan Piatt: Yep. So I am gay. I openly — I came out when I was 22 and so that’s for sure a big piece of my story. And my heart has just been kind of breaking about a lot of the news that’s been coming out around bills making their way through certain legislatures in states like Texas and states like Florida that are, through my eyes, really trying to go against what I think is so important and I think that is creating more safe spaces for kids and whoever to just be whoever they are and let people know that there’s nothing wrong with them. And so I went out to the — actually, through an interview that I was doing for the podcast found out that there was a rally going on at the Minnesota State Capitol yesterday to support and really show up for trans kids and then to show our support around that. And the first rally that I’ve really ever attended. When I worked in news, I couldn’t do that kind of thing, like we kind of had to — there’s like an ethical dilemma there of really going out there and rallying and publicly showing your support for anything that might be politically related, although I don’t think this is political, I think this is a human rights issue. But it felt very empowering yesterday and very emotional, very, very — I found myself like tearing up many a time hearing people talk and, obviously, I’m not in the shoes of somebody who is trans or non-binary but I’m really working on trying to believe people when they tell me what their experience is and just meet people with compassion and openness and we need more safe spaces for trans and non-binary youth to be loved and supported and so it felt like my little way of doing whatever I can to just at least publicly let people know that that’s the side that I stand on as we maneuver this stuff.
Billy: Bryan, you are just a kind human being and I am really excited —
Brian: And a cool person.
Billy: Yeah, yeah.
Brian: It’s been great to meet you.
Billy: Yeah. And I really am excited for you and your journey as you continue on to be a therapist. I think anyone who works with you, whether they’re just doing breathwork or they’re doing meditation or they see you as a client or just gets an opportunity to interact with you like we did, I just think that their world and their space is just going to be better. So thank you for being the human being that you are. We really appreciate it. I think you add so much value and joy to this world.
Bryan Piatt: Well, thank you.
Brian: Thank you for sharing.
Bryan Piatt: Thank you, Billy, and thank you, Brian. It’s been an honor to be on here with you.
Billy: Absolutely. You can check out Brian’s podcast, Take What Serves, Leave the Rest wherever you get your podcast. You can follow Brian on Instagram at @bryanpiatt. We will link all that information in the show notes. Once again, Bryan, thank you so much for sharing your story on the show. We really appreciate it.
Bryan Piatt: Thank you.
Billy: So for Bryan, for Brian, I’m Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.
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