Episode 36: Quentin Vennie, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Wellness Expert
Quentin Vennie is a celebrated wellness expert, motivational speaker and author of the bestselling memoir, Strong In The Broken Places. His work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Entrepreneur, Fox News, MindBodyGreen, and others. Quentin has been recognized as one of Black Enterprise magazine’s 100 Modern Men of Distinction and by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for his contribution in raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices [00:00:31] This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:36] Hi, everyone, and welcome back to you. Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host. Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety. operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Quenton Vennie, a celebrated wellness expert, motivational speaker and author of the bestselling memoir Strong In the Broken Places. His work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Entrepreneur, Fox News, Mind, Body, Green and others. Quenton has been recognized as one of Black Enterprise magazine's 100 Modern Men of Distinction and by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for his contribution and raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. Quentin, welcome to you matter.
Quentin Vennie [00:01:41] Thank you so much. I'm honored to be here.
Karen Ortman [00:01:44] The inside cover of your book, Strong In the Broken Places, reads in part, “Quenton Vennie shouldn't be alive. He has walked a path that many don't live long enough to write about. Haunted by feelings of abandonment and resentment, he struggled with chronic anxiety and depression and battled crippling prescription drug addiction.” At what age were you diagnosed with anxiety and depression? And what led to that diagnosis?
Quentin Vennie [00:02:21] Well, when I was 14, I was originally diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression, and that came from, you know, just having what I thought were episodes of difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest tightness. [00:02:40] I didn't know at the time that they were anxiety attacks. But so my mother took me and talked to a therapist. They said that I had acute anxiety and acute depression and that I should be on Prozac. And my mother. You know, she denied that, she rejected that idea. But then I was 26 when those episodes became a bit more pervasive and more problematic and that's when I got the official diagnosis of severe generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and mild to severe major depressive disorder.
Karen Ortman [00:03:17] So when you were 14. [00:03:19] How long prior to you and mom going to the doctors to address this were you symptomatic?
Quentin Vennie [00:03:30] I would say a few months, you know, factoring in I was raised by a single mother, my father was addicted to heroin, and I was born and raised in Baltimore - to this day, still one of the most dangerous cities in America. I have seen and experienced a lot of things that people only read about or watch in movies or TV shows. Right? So I think a lot of what I was experiencing at the time also had to do with the fact that I was living in a community where poverty and food insecurity and food deserts were pervasive. I would also go into schools that were populated by people who didn’t look like me. Right? And experiencing and being subjected to racism and prejudice, you know, and all of those things. So, trying to live in, you know, a balance of some sort between both worlds, I think would be challenging for any adolescent brain.
Karen Ortman [00:04:23] Yeah, agreed. Can you speak to some of the things you mentioned, which you describe as exposure to things that nobody should experience, let alone at a young age of 14 or younger? [00:04:42] What kind of things did you observe or witness?
Quentin Vennie [00:04:51] I mean, for myself, I was shot at before I was 12 [00:04:56] just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I witnessed people overdose on drugs. I witnessed male drug addicts beating up female drug addicts because they were arguing about drugs or money, you know. So, I'd seen that level of extreme violence. But then I also experienced, what it felt like to be molested. I was molested at seven by a neighbor's son. So you've been through all of these things and throw into the mix, while still you know, having to live life in some level of normalcy. I think it just became a bit too much.
Karen Ortman [00:05:37] Yeah. Wow. [00:05:40] Knowing what I know now about you, after having read your book and hearing you speak, you really are a true survivor, which makes me even more grateful that you're here today talking to me and our listeners. [00:05:57] So, you spoke of being 14, and then spoke of the age of 26 where you were diagnosed again. [00:06:11] What happened between 14 and 26 that enabled you to manage a life because at 14 you had acute anxiety and depression and that diagnosis, excuse me, changed when you were 26. How did you manage the life between 14 to 26?
Quentin Vennie [00:06:35] That's a loaded and interesting question. I think, you know, it boils down to survival, right? [00:06:41]
Karen Ortman How did you do it?
Quentin Vennie [00:06:44] …You know, being black and being black in America we have we have to learn ways to survive because society often, you know, the life expectancy for us isn't long. [00:06:56] I was told by administrators and teachers that I'd be dead or in prison by the time I was 21. And so when you're faced with limited expectations, we have the choice of either acquiescing and becoming that or fighting hard to prove it wrong. And based on society's standards there wasn't much out in this world waiting for me. So, from the time I was a youngster, a teenager and then a young adult, I had to do nothing but survive. I can't really pinpoint any one thing or another. Survival is an instinct. It's something that, you know, when placed in unfamiliar territory or placed in a position of danger or harm it's our innate ability to be able to maneuver and push beyond any perceived barrier. Some of us choose to allow these moments of difficulty to defeat us, while others, like myself, you know, use these moments of difficulty to kind of to trigger some kind of progression and work ethic and that's essentially what it was. I've always been huge on self-education because I felt like, you know, the education system that I was exposed to at the time was very counter what I what I knew to be true. [00:08:23] So I did a lot of self-study and I made the conscious decision to persevere regardless of what a diagnosis or title or category people chose to put me in.
Karen Ortman [00:08:37] So would you say that between 14 and 26 you were in survival mode [00:08:43] or did there come a point in time, in that time period, where you recognized I got to help myself, I have to make changes in my life in order to survive. Is there anything notable that you could share that occurred in that time period that could help somebody else that feels the way you are expressing yourself as feeling during that 12-year period.
Quentin Vennie 0:09:22] The interesting thing is that there really are no specifics until I was 30 years old. I'd been in survival mode because I didn't know how else to be. [00:09:33] It wasn't until after I had gone through my two-year addiction to prescription pills after my diagnosis at 26, and you know, surviving suicide attempts and surviving an accidental overdose that I learned the difference between living and surviving. [00:09:50] I realized that up to that point all I had been doing was surviving in survival mode. To me, it was nothing more than doing the absolute best you can and just barely making it, right? [00:10:03] Like, you know, it wasn't finding a way to be better than your perceived limitation, it was really just making it through the limitation as best you could, as best as you perceived that you could. So between the ages of 14 and 26 I just continued to push forward in life and live as I would any other thing. In the black community, primarily, especially when you deal with males [00:10:34] we don't talk about mental health. We don't talk about our feelings. We don't talk about our vulnerabilities. That's often looked down upon and looked at as weakness and softness. And, so we were raised to shield all of it and keep pushing forward. I've been fortunate that, you know, I've never been one to live up to the standards of society. I create and live up to the standards of myself. I wanted to despite, you know, everything that I had been faced with, I wanted to persevere and prove everyone that doubted me wrong, but also prove that to myself that I was worthy, that my life was valuable, that I had purpose. And so, I've never been one to allow fear to keep me held back from something that I wanted to do. By the time I was 26, I moved out from the city, I had my own apartment in Baltimore County, I had a kid, you know, and I was running a successful personal training business. I was doing all of the things that society and teachers and administrators told me that I couldn't, not I wouldn't. And really, it was no more than just having the wherewithal for myself to not allow myself to become a number or to become a statistic based on other people's expectations. I firmly believe that my value is not predicated on someone else's expectations or their inability to see value in me, it's predicated on my ability to see value in myself.
Karen Ortman [00:12:06] I love it. [00:12:07] So you had a proverbial rock bottom. [00:12:15] I don't know which event you would consider to be your rock bottom. [00:12:19] I know you spoke of failed a failed suicide attempt, addiction and an accidental overdose. I'm not sure where in proximity to the other or to each one they occurred. If you could speak to those events and the impact they had on your life [00:12:40] and what positive changes were made as a result? [00:12:47] I think that listeners would be really interested in hearing that.
Quentin Vennie [00:12:52] Absolutely. I don't think when it comes to rock bottom, that it's really one thing or another. I think rock bottom is the state of mind. [00:13:02] I think you can have people that come from, you know, monetary means and still want to commit suicide. [00:13:11] I don't think that it really equates to, you know, one specific event or another. I think it's a combination of events that took place. The night my overdose, my accident, my accidental overdose, my suicide attempts, they all happened within a year of each other because my mindset had gotten to the point where I was just surviving and living to die but I wasn't fighting to live. I was living to die. [00:13:43]
Karen Ortman How old were you?
Quentin Vennie [00:13:46] I was 28.
Karen Ortman OK.
Quentin Vennie [00:13:53] Yeah I was 27/ 28 when all of that took place. [00:14:00] And, you know, it was feeling like my life did not have value. It was feeling like I was constantly being beaten and battered at every turn in my life. The interesting thing; my second suicide attempt wasn't really about me at all. This is something that I didn't really describe or go in-depth about in the book [00:14:25] but my second suicide attempt wasn't that I didn't feel like my life had value, it was that I was tired of other people not seeing value in my life. So it was like, OK, well, you know - you want to hurt me - how about I take my own life and I hurt you in a way that you can never come back from. [00:14:46] And I could never come back from. So it had less to do with me not finding value in myself, it was me just being tired of how everyone else's view and how they were treating me. What I realized was that I was putting so much stock, so much value in everybody else's opinion that they had won. I wasn't living my life anymore. I was living the life that they wanted me to live. And that's why their critiques and criticisms felt so harmful and so hurtful to me. Right? So it was after that failed suicide attempt, the second time, that I came to grips with myself and said, listen, you know - God, you win because even left to my own devices I can't kill myself correctly. So what am I doing here? That is the first time that I started to question. What is my purpose on this planet? I have more friends that have been murdered and gone to prison than graduated from college. One of my closest friends was shot five times the night that I was supposed to be with them. I made the conscious decision not to go because I was tired. So it's like, yeah, why am I here? Like forget everybody else for a moment. Why am I here? And that's what I needed to figure out and discover because so many other people that I was close to that I was hanging out with on a day to day basis, that they're not here and I am - that means something - that means something greater than my own limited perception and my own limited way of thinking. And so my recovery became less about my addiction and about my anxiety and more about my purpose - why am I here? And in order for me to realize what my purpose was I had to get through all of the darkness. [00:16:37] I had to get through all of the fog and this dark cloud. And as a result, just like our body, where we heal one area of our lives, everything else begins to heal as a direct result. [00:16:51] That's what happened. My recovery wasn't primarily just like, OK, I don't want to deal drugs anymore, I don't want to have anxiety, [00:16:58] I don't want to have depression, I don't want to feel suicidal - it was like, if I'm going to be here in spite of my wanting not to be here, I have to figure out why.
Karen Ortman [00:17:09] So how did you get through the fog? How did you get to a place where you saw that so clearly?
Quentin Vennie [00:17:18] Well, it was a process, really. You know, the first thing that I did after? I went back to my doctor and I told my them that I was addicted to these pills. [00:17:28] He told me that I would still need to be on some kind of medication. He wanted to put me on Xanax as opposed to the Atavism that I was taking. I realized at that moment that I had been duped. My doctor wasn't my doctor; he was my dealer. Then as a kid in high school, in elementary, middle school they always taught me to look out for the drug dealers on the corner with the Timberland boots and the hoodies. They never told me that the dealers that I had to be careful of we're the ones with lab coats and PHD, right? [00:17:58] So at that moment I was like, OK, I'm alone. [00:18:02] Everything that I know to be true up to this point is a lie. So now what? What do I need to do in the first step with investigation? I had to because I was ready. I was willing to acknowledge and admit that I had a problem. Now I need to figure out what did a solution look like? Who else, you know, what other human beings have gone through some sort of medical or health trial and the medical system failed them the same way the medical system was failing me. That became my first level of research. After I started to research everything that I could about anxiety, and back then the information was very limited because only 40/50 years ago anxiety was misrepresented and called stress. Stress and anxiety were different back then. [00:18:54] So a lot of information wasn't readily available about anxiety. So instead of me going on based off of some medical definition of what anxiety was, I then had to realize what anxiety was to me and defined it for myself.
Karen Ortman [00:19:08] So you did this research and this this self-education on your own, [00:19:16] not in partnership with any medical professionals or anyone else?
Quentin Vennie [00:19:22] No, not partnership with anybody, it was on me. I had to make this decision for myself. [00:19:30] I’ve always been an introvert, you know, a recluse; and because of how my anxiety and my addiction caused me to respond and react a lot of people had fallen back and stepped away from me but I felt very alone anyway, right? So I'm not going to go. I'm not going to put my healing in the hands of people that have caused me pain; that would be counterproductive. I'm going to put my healing in my own hands and put it in God's hands and tell God to lead me and guide me in the direction that God wanted me to go and let me be a vessel for that. [00:20:03] And so I started finding things, documentaries like Fried Chicken Nearly Dead with Joe Cross, who was an Australian guy with an autoimmune disease and was able to cure his autoimmune disease and lose weight during a 60-day juice fast. Up to this point I had no idea what juicing was, the only juicing I was aware of was steroids, that was the only juicing that I knew about. Then I saw a documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer with Chris Carr who had been Stage 4 incurable cancer and was going through all of these medical treatments and it wasn't working. Then she changed her diet and adopted a vegan diet and started juicing and meditating and doing yoga. She was able to thrive in the face of cancer. So, I was looking at these cases even though my mental health disorder and my addiction were completely separate from anything that they had been doing. I understand the strength in the possibility of the human body [00:20:58] and I was like, hey, I've already tried to kill myself how much lower can I go? Right. I don't have anything else to lose. What do I have left to risk except the life that I already contemplated and attempted to try to take? So, let me try this out. So I started trying different things. I started trying juicing and I hated it at first, but I was like, I have to figure it out because obviously it's working. [00:21:20] Then I started reading other sources of information about the human body. I discovered Dr. Sebi and how he was healing people of certain ailments and diseases based off of diet. [00:21:32] I started to read about Hippocrates than the Hippocratic Oath and all of these things of like food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food and all of these things that we know of today but we have a difficult time following, I was just discovering for the first time. As someone who's been, you know, a large academic, not, you know, society's academy, but my own academy, I loved the idea of learning; [00:22:00] I was enthralled, I loved everything about it. And everything that I read and discovered, I tried it and all of a sudden I started to see the difference. Things started to change. At that time, I was smoking up to a pack of cigarettes a day, all of a sudden, I didn't want to smoke anymore. I don't need to take so many anxiety pills. You know, I started to taper myself off on it because when I first started, I stopped taking the pills altogether and ended up in the hospital and realized that was interesting moment for me too, because I also realized that the things that were killing me, which were the pills. Right. If I just stopped them completely, I would die. So the things that were killing me were also keeping me alive.
Karen Ortman [00:22:41] When you stopped taking the pills altogether, was that after you went to your doctor and said, I don't want to do this anymore? And your doctor said, you know, you have to continue at least a different prescription than the one you had been taking. So. So that's when you started taking and then you just decided to stop all on your own.
Quentin Vennie [00:23:04] That day, I stopped taking everything, I was like, you know what? [00:23:08] I was behind curve. Sounds like BS, you know, like I'm not doing this. Yeah. And I completely stopped everything all together. And then I ended up getting lost to the emergency room. Oh, my God. And so, [00:23:22] when I spoke to the doctor in the emergency room and explained to him how many pills I was taking, what pills I was taking, and how long I been taking them, the doctor pretty much told me, like, you can't just stop. Your body is so reliant and dependent on them at this point, you could literally die. (00:23:42] And I was like, wow. [00:23:44] So, you know, I was willing to deal with the discomfort because I would rather deal with discomfort than have to then have live by somebody else's rules and guidelines and expectations. But the idea that I could die from it, I thought, I have to figure out another way. And that's when I started to taper myself off.
Karen Ortman [00:24:08] So you started to taper yourself off of the pills. Did you do that with the guidance of your doctor?
Quentin Vennie [00:24:18] I didn’t do anything with the guidance of a doctor.
Karen Ortman So you just..? OK.
Quentin Vennie [00:24:21] I did everything on my own. The interesting thing is all of this happened. [00:24:28] You know, I was about 29 [00:24:31] and I didn't see another physician until I was 34. I celebrate seven years of sobriety in September this year.
Karen Ortman [00:24:40] Oh, that's great. Congratulations. I'd love to hear that.
Quentin Vennie Thank you.
Karen Ortman So I've heard you speak in the past of a wellness trinity. What is a wellness trinity and how is that meaningful to you and meaningful to anyone who's listening?
Quentin Vennie [00:25:03] For my own, my wellness Trinity is yoga, meditation and fruit and vegetable juices. [00:25:12] They were the things that I practiced on a day to day basis, as well as prayer and other things, those were the three main modalities that I practiced every single day. That helped manage my anxiety, helped manage my depression, got me off of cigarettes and got me off of medication. But interestingly enough, I stopped smoking cigarettes and stopped taking pills in the same year. You know, nicotine by itself, next to sugar is the most addictive substance on the planet, you know. So, you know, to be able to stop both of those in a year was powerful. And in a lot of it had to do with what I was feeding my body spiritually, physically and mentally. And so yoga, the physical practice of yoga, Asana, it helped me to get physical in my body to challenge myself. Right. To actually be able to focus focus my mind set on something that I was doing physically. You know, meditation, once I figured out what that was, that it was a way to really, like, help me to calm myself down, to take a pause, to separate myself from the environment that I was around, you know, having the power and ability to do that whenever I wanted was empowering for me. The fruit and vegetable juicing; it provided my body with the necessary nutrients and vitamins and minerals that I was depleted of and wasn't getting. I wasn't treating myself, you know. I was drinking a lot of juice. I would start my day with 32 oz of orange juice. You so like the amount of fruits and vegetables that it takes to make a 32 oz juice most people only get in a day now. [00:27:06] And I was drinking it in an hour, you know. [00:27:10] My body was just feeling rejuvenated and all of a sudden it gave me the strength, both internally and externally to really fight against all of these issues and these disorders and these addictions that I had picked up over there.
Karen Ortman [00:27:28] So you don't consume sugar?
Quentin Vennie [00:27:33] I mean, I do now but in moderation. I don't eat a lot of, like, starchy carbs. I don't eat a lot of candy. I mean, sometimes I go on my binges but for the most part, you know, my sugar content comes from vegetables generally and fruit. [00:27:51] Yeah, I'm a huge fruit fanatic.
Karen Ortman Yeah, but that's a good sugar.
Quentin Vennie [00:28:00] Yeah, unless you have too much of it right in your pancreas, can't really differentiate.
Karen Ortman [00:28:07] So you previously spoke of changing the relationship that you had with your anxiety. Can you speak a little bit to that? [00:28:18] I know personally, so many people who suffer from anxiety, some of whom are taking medication, some of whom are not and are trying to manage it in similar ways that you are. But I also think that the subject of anxiety is something that is spoken of in whispers. [00:28:39] And to the extent that I can take it out of those sort of, soft speaking voices to louder voices so that everyone can hear that [00:28:52] this is not exclusive to any group of people, that a lot of people have anxiety and it's OK to talk about it. [00:29:01] So to the extent that you were able to change your relationship with anxiety and it has been successful for you, I would venture to say. Can you speak to that and what sort of guidance you could give others who are attempting to do the same?
Quentin Vennie [00:29:26] Absolutely, I think. I think the easiest way to really illustrate this is to think about the fact that we all have one person in our life. [00:29:36] Some of us have more than one person but generally, we all have one person in our lives - a physical person in our lives - and every time they call us, they reach out to us it's almost like we're making a life decision as to whether or not we want to pick up the phone. It's like we know that there's going to be some kind of drama, they’re going to be angry, they're going to be mad, they’re going to be pessimistic, they're going to be negative. they're going to drain the energy out of you No matter what is happening. Right? [00:30:02] But with that person, we've never excluded them out of our lives. We figure out a way to deal with them. [00:30:10] We figure out a way to communicate with them in a way that it doesn't drain us, that it doesn't permeate every area of our lives. That it doesn't bring us into the dark space that they're in. The same way that we've been able to do that with the physical person is the same way we are able to do that with anxiety.
Karen Ortman [00:30:30] I love that analogy. I just I love it.
Quentin Vennie [00:30:35] You that when we separated from ourselves, anxiety as a manipulator, anxiety will make anyone believe that they are anxiety and anxiety is them. [00:30:45] And it's false. It's a lie. Right? It's like having a person in your life telling you that everything that they're going through is your fault. It's all a lie. Right? So we need to be able to separate ourselves from it and treat it as if it's that relationship where some days anxiety will be there. [00:31:05] As soon as you wake up in the same way, you have to figure out how to I deal with that person that's going to be pessimistic if like. Okay, anxiety. Good morning. What do you want from me today? [00:31:17] Right. The other side of it, things like the fact that I used to look at my anxiety like a curse. Like this is a curse. [00:31:27] I'm like, you know what? Why the hell do I have it? Why me? And anxiety is a form of communication. It's our bodies way of communicating something to us. It's telling us that something needs to be changed. Something needs to be addressed. The unfortunate part is that anxiety is not the greatest communicator. [00:31:46] Anxiety communicates in extremes which create these anxiety and panic attacks; these physiological reactions because anxiety communicates to us in an extreme. [00:31:58] And so before we allow anxiety to get to that extreme, we have to be willing to be in communication with it. [00:32:07] We have to figure out what are you trying to make me see? What am I what am I not addressing? And avoiding that I should be? [00:32:17] And this is why I love meditation because meditation takes us away and allows us to be honest with ourselves. If we really sit down and we're honest about the things that are driving us crazy in our lives - it could be a relationship, it could be a subject in school, it could be a professor, it could be your job, your manager, your coworker, your diet, your parents. [00:32:40] It could be anything when you really take the time to sit back and self-assess what's driving you mad in your life that you know you want to change but it's uncomfortable to change, [00:32:56] that's when you identify what anxiety is trying to get you to do. Anxiety is only trying to get you to do the one thing that's probably the hardest thing for you but the best thing for you. And so it's like, what are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to experience? Are you willing to experience the discomfort of anxiety or the discomfort of doing the thing you’ve been putting off?
Karen Ortman Very interesting. [00:33:22] I love your perspective and meditation. (00:33:26] We could probably do a whole other show on this. I am one of those people that would love to say I love the idea of meditation. [00:33:37] I don't know how to meditate. I don't. (0:33:46] I don't know the best resources to figure it out. If you could speak to that
[00:33:54] in the short time that we have to help someone like me or somebody who's listening regarding meditation and the best way to sort of investigate it and make it part of your life, I'd love to hear it.
Quentin Vennie [00:34:11] The thing I love about meditation is that it's so accessible. The problem with it is that media and social media and Google images has made it so challenging to make people feel like and believe that it's this impossible act [00:34:33] and that you have to have such discipline in order to do it right. [00:34:38] It goes back to my idea that life is easy, we as people make it hard. We as people make it challenging. You know, when we're hungry, we eat. When we're thirsty, we drink. When we're sleepy, we rest. Right? Like, that's life. You know all of the other nuances are what makes it challenging. So what I like to do, because I'm not a super complicated meditating guy and I didn't go and study meditation in the hills of India. [00:35:05] I believe if you can breathe, we can meditate. The purpose of meditation is not to clear your mind completely. It's to slow down your thoughts and minimize your thoughts. [00:35:17] Try not to eradicate them from existing.
Karen Ortman OK.
Quentin Vennie That's the point [00:35:22] and that's the purpose that we're missing. So what I like to do and what I would tell any person is [00:35:32] take a minute, lay on your back in whatever position is most comfortable for you. Your feet can be on the ground, the hands can be on your chest folded. Then, you can just lay down and just let your body rest where it is. [00:35:44] Close your eyes. All right. [00:35:46] And you can count. Count your breath. Count your breath for five count. Inhale in a seven count. Exhale. And every time you start thinking of something else, you welcome that thought. Oh, what am I going to have for dinner? These two sounds very well. [00:36:00] Wait a minute. I don't want to talk about beef stew right now. Go back to counting. [00:36:06] Just get rid of it as quickly as you got it. Set a time for yourself. Maybe it's five minutes, maybe 10 minutes, and you just focus on your breathing. If all you're doing is counting, multitasking is impossible,
[00:36:21] it's a myth, it's something that no one can do well. Everybody tries it right? But it's not reality. It’s not the way the brain works. If all you have is ten minutes focusing on your counting and you're counting your breath [00:36:36] you are meditating. And as you continue to do it, right, all of a sudden [00:36:43] your thoughts will start to expand. The things that you are thinking about becomes a lot more expressive. So whatever you're thinking about - beef stew - you might be thinking about my intention for my life for the week. My intention for the day. [00:36:56] How I need to show up differently. What are the things that will better me? What are the things that make me feel good? I've always wanted to try painting and now I'm seeing these beautiful colors of, you know, blue and purple and yellow and red and orange. And I'm not even thinking about colors.
Karen Ortman [00:37:15] Wow. You make it sound so wonderful.
Quentin Vennie [00:37:16] No wonder your brain and your mind starts to expand. It is a beautiful experience, but it's meditation practice, not meditation perfect. Got it. Just like its yoga practice, not yoga perfect. [00:37:30] So the idea is to calm the fluctuations of your brain. That's what yoga is supposed to do. That's the state of yoga, right? That's what meditation should… the Asana, which of the last pose, corpse pose, [00:37:43] that's what that's supposed to do for you, to calm the fluctuations of your brain. So if you're laying down in that same position, like when I meditate, I start seeing colors. [00:37:55] I don't know why [00:37:56] but those colors that I'm seeing, they helped me. They helped me to relax. They help me to feel alive, like they give me whatever - the human brain and body knows what it needs. It's our it's our limited understanding of it that prevents us from getting it.
Karen Ortman [00:38:15] Wow, that was a great explanation. Thank you so much for that. You make me feel like I can do it.
Quentin Vennie Of course.
Karen Ortman Yeah.
Quentin Vennie You can!
Karen Ortman Well, I'm going to. Starting tonight.
Quentin Vennie Oh, I think you should.
Karen Ortman I will.
Quentin Vennie [00:38:35] And I'm excited to hear what your experience was.
Karen Ortman Yes.
Quentin Vennie And don't do it like once and say, OK. I've thought about this for 5/7 seven minutes… because even if you didn't think about it for three minutes, that’s a 3 minute start. That’s 3 minutes of meditation that you didn't have earlier today.
Karen Ortman [00:38:51] Oh, I will follow up with you for sure. I'm going to do it. So why do you think there is such a stigma associated with talking about mental health?
Quentin Vennie [00:39:03] I think a lot of it is driven by the idea for control and the idea for power. Right. Like most people want to be in positions of power. And, you know, society tells us, like I often say, that, you know, we as a culture and a society and we focus on building good business, but we don't focus on building good people. [00:39:28] And so I think it's the same thing when it comes to mental health, because people will make you believe that in order for you to be successful in business, you have to be hard. You've got to be power. You have to be a jerk. And you have to be nonconforming. You have to be all of these things. And so that takes away the humanity and the humanness that exists with us as people. Right? So, you know, if you acknowledge that you have a mental health challenge or a disorder or you have anxiety or you have depression, the rest of the world will look at you as weak now. And if they look at you as weak and they know your anxiety is that weak button and they can push you to the place of anxiety, then they can see you in your weakest state [00:40:09] and nobody wants the world to know that they have a weak. Nobody ever. Right. [00:40:15] What I'm trying to do and what people in the conversations that I've been having, it's shift. The idea that vulnerability is weakness is false. [00:40:24] I mean; vulnerability is a strength.
Karen Ortman [00:40:27] Yes. Acknowledge vulnerability. Right? Yeah. I agree absolutely right.
Quentin Vennie [00:40:35] Society doesn't want you to understand that your vulnerability builds connection [00:40:43] because if it builds connection, and enough people are connected, then you can change societal standards and rules. [00:40:50] Why would society want those things to be changed when there's a certain percentage of society that benefits from it?
Karen Ortman [00:40:59] Understood.
Quentin Vennie So why do we want to talk about mental health and share healing modalities when Big Pharma is a multibillion dollar industry? Why would that happen? And no one wants that to happen. Right. So let's bill it as if you have mental health issues to keep it quiet. If you have mental health issues, that makes you weak. [00:41:24] That's a power structure that many of us have agreed to subconsciously.
Karen Ortman [00:41:31] Well, not I.
Quentin Vennie But what we can't deny as human beings is when we hear the story of another person that is reflective and we can readily identify with ourselves [00:41:49] we feel empowered. [00:41:52] That only comes from that individual sharing being vulnerable.
Karen Ortman [00:41:58] Absolutely. I agree. [00:42:02] So did you ever answer your own question that you posed earlier in our discussion where you asked yourself repeatedly, what is your purpose in life? Do you know?
Quentin Vennie [00:42:21] I love that. I'm still answering it every day that I wake up, I am answering that. I know that. [00:42:30] I know a portion of it is for me to be of service. Is for me to be a vessel and something different and a beacon of hope and a cause for change. [00:42:41] How that looks, what that looks like, I learn and discover more every day. So I think I will only know my true purpose on this planet when I no longer own it. Because then at that point, I will know that it has been served.
Karen Ortman [00:43:04] Fair enough. Is there anything else that you would like to add that I have not asked you already?
Quentin Vennie [00:43:15] No, nothing specific. [00:43:19] The other two things that I I've only realized recently that it really helped with my anxiety. And these are things these are practices that I was engaged and involved in that I wasn't really aware of until recently. [00:43:35] And that's, you know, the health benefits of drinking teas. I'm a big herbal tea guy to the point where I've just recently started my own herbal tea company. It's an independently owned herbal tea company focused on wellness centered blends.
Karen Ortman That’s awesome. Congratulations.
Quentin Vennie [00:43:56] Thank you so much. It's called Greenhouse Tea Company. The website of the greenhousetea.com. We're looking to start launching and selling our teas online in the summer this year. [00:44:11] And again, it's just is focused on wellness. So that is very much wellness centered. It's not just for pizzazz and for and for flavor, it's for the greater benefit of our humanity. And the other thing, you know, for me is gardening and, you know, that's been one of the largest contributors to minimizing and decreasing my anxiety. My garden is often the place that I escape to, it’s the first place that I visit when I wake up in the morning, I get up and go right into my garden. [00:44:45] I'm talking to my plants and I doing the whole thing.
Karen Ortman That's great. [00:44:54] I think that's awesome. [00:44:55] I think that you are an incredible human being and I'm really honored to have had the opportunity to talk to you today. Your book is outstanding. [00:45:08] And I think you're doing some really great work that will help so many other people. So for that, I thank you.
Quentin Vennie [00:45:18] Thank you so much. I'm grateful that you created this platform and created an opportunity and space for people to have these types of dialogs and conversations for people to be able to listen to. [00:45:33] I mean, I think a shared experience, you know, is the first step. And that healing as a collective. I’m grateful for you for the work that you've done and being able to create that.
Karen Ortman [00:45:45] Well, thank you. I'm so happy to be able to do it and have the support of NYU to do it. The pleasure's all mine, really. [00:45:53] So thank you to my guest, Quentin, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter. If any information presented today was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212.443.9999 or NYU’s Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212.998.2222. [00:46:19] Please share, like and subscribe to You Matter on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Tune In or Spotify.