Benny Lewis Opens Up About Mental Health Struggles & Helping Others
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Sounds good. And go back to something you mentioned just there about some struggles that you’ve had over the years. I watched again, I actually watched this video when you first recorded it I think around six months ago, a video on your YouTube channel, where you share, uh, your struggles that you’ve had over the years.
Um, I think, I just want to commend you for posting it one, because it’s very honest, very open. And I think… first off, I’m very sorry that you’ve been going through these struggles. I think though, for someone like you to post this kind of video, where, you know, you talk about burnout, you talk about debt, uh, divorce, depression, you know, it’s really honest.
Uh, it it’s great that someone like you is, is doing this because, you know, mental health issues are issues we all struggle with. And now is an especially difficult time for everyone in the world. So thank you for posting it. Um, It’s a video that I see is video, one in a series. Uh, can you tell us a bit about that?
Are you going to, is this going to be a series where you kind of share your journey and discuss it, will you have guests on? Interviews? What’s uh, what’s the plan for that?
Benny: Yeah. So essentially, like you said, I went through just some very difficult things all at once and that completely zapped my energy.
And it’s why I’ve essentially had to take a, a break from language learning, which very fortunately I’ve been able to get back into in recent months. Um, and what I’ve found, people really appreciated sharing that because I think one of the difficulties with people who make content online, like myself, is there’s a tendency to share the ideal moments.
So the the most stereotypical version of this is you imagining someone posting on Instagram and only posting the happy highlights of their life. And especially in the pandemic year, that’s been very difficult for a lot of people. It can feel like everybody else is doing better than you, everybody’s lives are happier.
Everybody, uh, has no struggles that they’re going through. And realistically, as I’ve opened up before I made the public YouTube video, as I opened up to friends, I started to see more and more that a lot of them are going through their own struggles that I was just completely unaware of. And it’s just the, the stigma that, you know, sharing that life is difficult, it’s very hard for a lot of people. So in starting that on YouTube, a lot of people have said they really appreciated it. And they’d like to hear, because right now I’m in a much better place in a lot of ways. I’ve, uh, I’m about two or three months away from completely clearing a debt that was a six figure debt that
I managed to get myself in, in New York. So there are practical things about that. Um, I was, uh, diagnosed with clinical depression and I had to actually take medicine for it. Whereas right now I’m in much, much better spirits. Not, I’m not exactly all the way back to where I was before, but I’m in a much, much better place.
And there are techniques that have helped me with that. And there are life philosophies that I’ve learned that I think I can, I can share in a, in a public space in a way that may help other people. And especially in this last year, I know a lot of people are… because my struggles were completely, they have nothing to do with the pandemic.
The worst year of my life was 2018. So before any of this hit, so I’ve kind of been ahead of this curve of the world. All going through this collective suffering. And I’ve been able to work through it to, to a place where I’m much happier in my life. And I’m much more honest with myself and others, because for a very long time, during those struggles, I was putting on a brave face.
And that is very unhealthy for a lot of reasons. But for people listening to the podcast, obviously the most direct thing is I was a bad language learner for several years because I just did not have the energy. I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the motivation. I didn’t have the confidence because so many things were going wrong in my life.
And I’m gaining that back now. So I want to share that experience with other people who’ve maybe gone through something like a major heartbreak like I did, or something along those lines and seeing how can they get their mojo back. And, um, at the moment the plan is to, uh, to just share each aspect cause there’s, there are multiple major life challenges I went through.
So kind of separating them out and saying, well, here’s how I dealt with this one. Here’s how I dealt with that one. And also being transparent with the fact that I’m still in a part of the process. Cause I don’t want to, um, also fall back to what I said before of being just another guy on Instagram saying, Oh, life is amazing and I’ve solved all my problems and everything’s perfect now.
I think part of this, which is going to be a learning process for me as well, is to also be transparent about what I’m still dealing with and to show people that that’s okay. And that life is never just about a black and white, either you’re in a bad place or you’re in a good place, but there is a process.
And then if people see, as I share the, even the current struggles I’m still going through that maybe that can help them feel like they’re not as alone. And I’m absolutely not the first person to ever do this on YouTube, but I think the more people normalize talking about mental health issues and going through tough, tough life struggles, then the better it can be for everybody.
And then of course, uh, at the underlying side of all of this will be that ultimately my goal is to get my mental energy back, so it can be a better language learner. So that theme is always going to be there that, you know, this long-term goal for my, um, my mental ability to focus and things will help me become a language learner.
Cause I know a lot of people followed me initially because of that. They want to, they want to hear my language learning advice. And so that’s kind of my plan. Maybe eventually I’ll bring people on to interview and such, but I think for the moment, the most important part is sharing the personal story. So that’s just going to be taking the series of like here’s how ident dealt with financial challenges.
Here’s how I dealt with, uh, having very, very low spirits. And I think, uh, for, you know, part of that is problems. I can’t solve people just need to have, um, professional help with dealing with something like depression, but it may be a lighter version of that. People are just feeling low motivation. I can help them to get to a better place.
Elle: Excellent. Well, I am really looking forward to and will be following this series and I’ll also pop a link in the description for anyone else to your channel and your website and everything too. Congratulations on almost clearing that debt. That’s, that’s huge. That’s a huge, that’s a huge milestone for sure.
And isn’t it just the way, everything seems to happen all at once, but, um, Like I said, it’s, I think it’s fantastic that, that you’ve been so and are being so open about it. And, uh, I was reading the comments too, and yeah, people are, people are ready for this conversation, you know, you’re kind of championing this.
Let’s get rid of the stigma. That’s that’s great. Um, so apart from that series, uh, any projects, any events for the rest of the year?
Benny: Of course it’s, it’s difficult this year to, um, to be planning for events, but very fortunately, at least in the States, the rollout of the vaccines have made it a lot easier to begin making plans.
And I’ve started to see the hints of, uh, larger events forming, but ultimately I’m going to take most of the next year to continue my own personal mental health recovery. And then when it comes to languages, uh, at the moment, I’m, uh, trying to see if I can get my mind to back with a single language first.
So I’ve decided to make that the Irish language and I, if I can, it’s bee, uh, it’s come in waves, that there are some weeks that I can do several days in a row where I I’m fully motivated and I’m able to push forward with, uh, doing plenty of study. And I have a language lesson that goes very well and maybe I’ll even upload a video in the language.
And then other weeks where I don’t have that same momentum. So I’m trying to see if I can find something that’s more sustainable in the longterm. And once I’ve been able to do that successfully with one language, then I’ll be able to reactivate all my languages at that same momentum and have this longer term project of like, I’m mostly, and I think this is one of the issues I faced
while times were hard was you, you tend to be a lot more short-sighted and I just really wanted all my problems to be solved overnight if there was ever a solution for that. Whereas now I can be a lot more long-term focused and thinking, you know, I’m not going to be the polyglot I was by tomorrow, but maybe I can be the same level of polyglot that I was before all these problems hit me a year and a half from that.
And if that’s the plan, what does that look like? And that for, for me right now, it looks like getting my Irish, um, momentum and scheduling and like, uh, um, how to distribute my energy throughout the day. So I’m definitely able to use this language and then move on to other languages. And then, uh, hopefully sometime next year as the world is opening up again, I can start to consider going back into travel mode because that’s been something I’ve truly missed is living in those other countries, experiencing those cultures.
And of course, before I would do that, I would have the language learning project because learning a language ahead of a trip has always been a better experience for me. Cause I don’t, I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be studying flashcards or something when I’m in the country. I want to be just out and enjoying my time with people there.
So I would, I would share that experience like I did originally on the blog and get back into travel mode and, um, that’s kind of my, my long-term plan. And of course, um, um, finding my energy with creating content again and making that mental health series and just making videos I enjoy making that are multi-lingual and using special effects and all these other cool tricks that I’ve picked up in the last couple of years.
Elle: So fun, I love your YouTube videos. They’re really fun. Especially the last one, the Aladdin one was lots of fun. So yeah, you can really see that, uh, you you’re enjoying it too. So, um, I am looking forward to following your progress, your journey. And as I said, I will pop the link to your YouTube channel and also your website in the description for anyone else who would like to follow along too. Uh, Benny thank you so much for joining me today.
It was a pleasure.
Benny: Thank you very much for having me. I hope I hope it was helpful to those listening.
Elle: Thanks, Benny bye-bye.