Rick Clemons is a globally recognized professional speaker, a published author (Frankly My Dear I’m Gay – A Late Bloomers Guide To Coming Out), successful podcaster (Life (UN)CLoseted and 40 Plus: Gay Men, Gay Talk), globally recognized professional speaker (including a TEDx talk), and highly regarded public speaking coach. Like more than 15 million other Americas, he also contends with the challenges of depression on a daily basis.
In this episode, Rick speaks with Nikhil about his struggles with mental health, and what it means to live an unapologetic, uncloseted life on your terms. It was a long and often painful journey – coming out of the closet at 36, and stepping into entrepreneurship at 43 – but ultimately a very rewarding one.
To learn more about Rick, and discuss collaboration opportunities, please visit rickclemons.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Hi, this is Nikhil coming to you from Chicago with The Shelly Story. My wife Shelly and I wrote a book and are currently working on a movie about our journeys with mental health, specifically bipolar disorder. As an offshoot of that, we’ve developed a podcast called The Shelly story, where we speak to people from a broad variety of backgrounds about diverse issues, most notably mental health. Very excited to speak to today’s guest, Rick Clemons.
Shelly and I met Rick through an amazing program called The Speaker Lab, and he’s helped us navigate the challenging world of public speaking circuit. He’s got an incredible story to share. So I’m so glad he was able to find time in his incredibly packed schedule to talk to us, Rick, it’s great to have you on the show. Thanks. Thanks again for your time.
Of course, man.
I’ll go ahead and tell the audience a little bit about you.
Rick Clemons is a well-known culture disruptor (in a good way), closet buster (coming out coach), and bold move strategist – inspiring people from all walks of life to live a no excuses, no fears, no apologies life. Tapping into his 25+ years’ experience in personal development, Rick leverages his status as a late bloomer – coming out of the closet at 36 and stepping into entrepreneurship at 43 – to lovingly kick other people into high gear to thrive in their own lives without apologies – professionally and personally.
He’s a published author (Frankly My Dear I’m Gay – A Late Bloomers Guide to Coming Out), successful podcaster (Life (UN)CLoseted and 40 Plus: Gay Men, Gay Talk, professional speaker, world record holder, father of two young women, and husband to one guy. Oh, and he’s bald, loves teaching spin, and drinking wine – not doing the latter two at the same time.
So Rick, thanks. Thanks again. So one of the things that I know you had mentioned, I think it was on a podcast, but you say that one of the exercises you like to do every day is to say who are you sort of look in the mirror and be reflective? So maybe if you can go ahead and answer that question for us, beyond what I had secured is, who is who is Rick Clemons?
Well, given that it’s early morning, and we’re recording this right now, Rick Clemons is tired…oh actually I’m not that tired. But it’s after a weekend. So we’re it’s a Monday morning, right? But yeah, who I am, is, I feel like, I tried to truly show up as just a guy who’s like, whatever I need to be I show up as I, I read for many years, so many things, not just my coming out. But like, even what I wanted to be professionally I hid and I kept and now it’s not time now it’s not time. And at this stage, I feel like I’m the guy who refuses to hide, no matter what it is this is what you get. And that’s really at the core of how I tried to consistently live my life. It’s just be here. This is who I am. And why Hi, you know,
Can you take us through a little bit of your journey? Because I think it’s, it’s, I’m very familiar with it. You and I are good friends. And we’ve talked quite a bit. And as I mentioned, when we were talking before, you’ve got the probably one of the biggest digital footprints out there. Anyone who wants to know Rick is literally an open book. But could you give us a 30,000 foot view of your background like in terms of growing up, what your your career path looked like, and kind of how you ended up being the unapologetic guy?
And when I really stepped back and look through everything, every step of the way, I held myself back and I apologized, in my own way about everything I did, from starting young school and alive to up through high school and into college and everything. I ended up with a college degree that I’m like, this isn’t really what I want. But you know what, just let’s get it done. Let’s do this. Right?
What was your What was your undergrad degree in?
Nutrition and Dietetics. I started at one college and like, it was a college, my parents said, this is where you got to go, because this is where we need you to be and drive at church College, all this sort of stuff. And I defaulted into something and I’m just like, this isn’t what I want. So I took a year off and kind of got my act together and stood up. This was probably one of the very first times I stood up to my parents in a very strong way and said, Here’s where I’m going to school. You’re not helping me pay for this. So I’m going where I want to go and they weren’t real happy, but I’m like this way it is, you know?
Yeah. My time I got that point. How old were you?
At that point, 21 or 22, somewhere in that range. And I was just like “I’m done you know, I’m gonna go be who I want to be.” I wasn’t happy because it’s like, wow, all these credits are already here like, great. But I did I did manage to get a double. You know, I got Hotel Restaurant Management and Dietetics, and had no in interested in being a dietitian. I kind of launched my career and every step of the way, I’m so glad what happened. Because even as I sit here today, it’s like, wow, I can remember back to those first jobs. I was a food and beverage person to colleges and universities, and then I was a food and beverage director at my own university at one point in time.
And then I went to work for Marriott. And then after that, I moved to California with my now ex-wife, and like, “okay, well, hotel restaurant really wasn’t where I wanted to be.” And then I ended up with a smaller company that was a hospitality to her company. And I went, “Okay, that works.” But it’s so interesting, though, because every step, every step, got me where I sit today, or there’s things that I do in my own business. I’m like, Yeah, I learned that because of what I did back then.
And I learned that because of what I did, I wouldn’t be in that marketing branding space that I now use with so many of you guys that have come through the speaker lab program, to help really brand and get you focused on stuff. And I wouldn’t be where I am today, my own private practice of helping people really live unapologetic lies and like, just learn that mindset and take on that no fears, no excuses, no apologies mindset.
If I hadn’t gone through what I went through in so many different places from coming out of the closet to finally getting laid off and saying, That’s it, I’m done. I’m gonna go start my own business. Every bit of it has contributed to it. And it still continues. I mean, you’ve seen through my coaching with you that even that unapologetic stuff shows up in that coaching, even though I’m coaching you more around the speaking and stuff that we do on the speaker lab. And it feels really good to like, wake up every morning and go, What do I get to do today? I get to have somebody else like unapologetically show up and be who they are.
Yeah, and I think one of the really admirable goals of your program really is to help them live that unapologetic lifestyle and not have to go through what would you had gone through. Because it’s helping have that – I always hesitate to use this word – but that “Come to Jesus” moment where it’s like, “okay, yep, what I’m doing is not working what I’ve been doing, I’ve been living according to this template that was handed to me.” How did you get to that point? I mean, because I’d like to hear more about your journey to becoming uncloseted in the literal and figurative sense.
Sure. And it’s, it’s partially through a lot of pain you have been through your own pain, and you know, oh my gosh, I don’t want anybody to know, this is what’s going on with me. If somebody had told me in 1999, when I came out of the closet, like, came out, said, “Okay, finally, I hate to say I’m surrendering.
But I kind of did. I’m surrendering to be myself, right? That I would take all of this and turn it into a business, I would have said, You’re absolutely freaking crazy. If somebody was saying, I would write a book about this, if somebody told me, I would have two successful podcast and I would have spoken on stages all over the world. And I’m like, No, this is who I am. But then as each little thing started to unlock, and go through the pain of divorce, and trying to fit into the gay community as a guy late in life coming out and, and trying to like re engineer what my career looked like, after that last layoff. I’m like, every step of the way, here, I’m unclogging, myself to be more closer to who I truly am, even though all of it resided within.
And this is one of the things I work with clients on all the time is, it’s all within us. We just tend to hide it. And one of the most impactful things that happened for me was when I was working with my branding strategist at the time, who happened to be helping me kind of do some stuff on my own speaking. We’re kind of like trying to re engineer everything, because I’m like, I don’t want to just be known as the coming out coach. Nothing wrong with that.
But I was starting to see there was a bigger footprint that was starting to happen, right? Sure. And then we’ve been working together a few months. And she’s like, Okay, well let’s erase everything. Like, are you kidding me? We’ve been doing this for months, right? But she’s really smart in that, that thought, because what came out of it was a few questions. She said, so before all this happened for you, like from coming out to changing careers, all this sort of stuff.
She goes, what was one of the things that you were really getting tired of? I said, I was tired of apologizing for wanting to be who I wanted to be in the world. And I said, and that started when I was in college and followed a career path that really wasn’t what I wanted, but to please my parents, I kind of went down that path. She was okay. She has but why didn’t you do that? Why was that the path you chose? And I said because I was afraid. Everything was about fear.
I was afraid to come out. I was afraid to change. You know, my academic pathway. I was afraid to step away from a career that was paying. I mean, I literally thought about being a coach and doing all this. The year that I switched into my life Ask big corporate job. I had just landed that job. And son who helped us do a merger. And in that merger, I hired an executive coach to slay the egos in the room. Like literally, there was a bunch of leaders. And I’m like, okay, not…
I’m sorry, I think we might have gotten cut off. You said there was a merger at the company?
So yeah, when I got hired, I had never been in technology. But I had worked for a hospitality company that was using this particular technology. And the guy who was training all of us on it, he goes, so are you looking for a job? I’m like, No, he goes, really? I’m like, No. And he goes, because you’re really good at what you did here. I’m like, Oh, thank you. And he goes, Are you sure? I’m like now, okay, here and he goes.
Well, not even two days later, later that afternoon, I get this call from the Vice President marketing at this software company that I ended up going to and she’s like, I’m looking for a director of marketing. I heard you were really good at this. And I think you might be really good. I’m like, okay, but I’m not really looking. She was just having lunch with me.
Well, the rest was history. I got hired. But the moment we got in there, we were actually merging three companies. I’m like, “y’all didn’t tell me this was part of it.” And I hired an executive coach to help us through that. Well, as soon as I met this executive coach, I’m like, this is kind of interesting. This is like the third coach that was really present in my life. I wasn’t coaching for me, but I’m like, I’d really like to do that. Well, I did. And then a few years later, when I came out, it’s like…
Okay, I’m done here. I took a golden parachute from the company, not because I came out of the closet, but I helped get that merger done. And then I helped start the next merger. And then I’m like, I’m out of here see it right. And I’m like, actually be a coach. But then, now I’m go through divorce. And I’m trying to manage this. So again, I’m making excuses and apologizing for everything I can’t do. Yeah, I only when I got laid off the next time, I’m like, Okay, no more apologies.
And that was the first time I actually said that in my own head, it didn’t verbalize, then roll forward to when this whole new transition of I don’t want to just be known as the coming out coach, I don’t just want to be stuck in this space. As we unpack that will, you didn’t want to apologize anymore, you’re afraid. And she finally asked the question, “well, what kept you….you know what kept you apologizing and afraid. I’m like, because I can come up with every excuse in the world why I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.
And she got really quiet. And she goes, so I think your brand is about helping people work through their excuses, get rid of their fears. And something about being no more apology. And I said, Hold on. She said, Wait, I said hold on. I said, what if it was no, no excuses, no fears, no apologies. And she goes, Could be unapologetic. And I’m like, that actually works. Because I was changing the podcast, I wanted to change the podcast name from just being the Coming Out Lounge to something that was broader.
And suddenly, it’s like, well, the podcast could be Life (UN)closeted. And then we have the brand of no fears. No excuses. No apologies. And suddenly, we just like domino effect, like everything started falling into place. And we’re like, wow, this is a solid brand. This is something I could do. She says, “you could do this with a lot of people.” I said, I think so she goes what you’re going to just use a metaphor of coming out of the closet, she goes, it might be a little hard sell in some audiences.
But she goes, You don’t have to sell it that way. You could say, “how do you build an unapologetic team?” What are the things you got to do and uncloset your team to be more productive, more innovative, that it ended up? What do you need to do to help someone talk about being bipolar or depressed or what? I’m like, “Okay, well, now you’re speaking my language because I have suffered with my own journey of depression.”
Yeah, even though I didn’t know it for a long, long time. And I was I was made jerk about this for so many. Yeah. So yeah, that’s kind of how everything started the topple together. And hey, all I can tell your listeners is as it topples together, it actually is what starts to build you back up, you got to let it all topple down seeing like see the rubble, right and, okay, now, that doesn’t mean you got to go dive into darkness per se. But I believe in honoring the journey of let the stuff crumble that needs to crumble so that you can, like literally kind of be the phoenix and rise out of it.
That’s an incredible journey. And I mean, I can apply this to my own life. I mean, I’m married, I have kids, but I do feel that Shelly and I with our journey, there was a bit of an uncloseting because we were living in this closet, which was the template of the house in the suburbs, the career and financial services, the MBA from a top school to kids just everything picture perfect.
But as you know, there was a lot of trouble brewing underneath the surface. It was because I was living this lie, which was denying that I had bipolar disorder, and having to live with the implications of that, which is just basically pushing things down and not going to get the right treatment.
You know, because I was in therapy, I was taking medication, but it’s important to find the right therapist. And for me, what I was doing was I was, I was going to find therapists who would basically stroke my ego. And as I’m losing a job, it’s like, I’m talking about writing a blog post, or speaking in a conference, even though you know, like, practically speaking, I was doing everything in complete violation of what I would need to do to provide for my wife and kids. So I was on this journey to destruction.
So can you talk a little bit more about just different forms of like, this uncloseted life, because I’d say mental health is another good example for me. But maybe for people who want to understand the analogy a little bit more, because I think once it clicks, it can be so powerful.
Well, I’m gonna start by saying, it’s actually when you start to look at what’s going on in your life. Yeah, through a series of detours. And so that’s the reason why companies detour. Well, okay, I’m gonna do a confession to your audience. I was drinking wine one night, and like, I need a company name. I’m tired of going to these conferences where they’re like, let your company name. I’m like, Rick Clemons. Oh, okay. And then they print my badge, Rick Clemons, Rick Clemons. I’m like, “Okay, that looks pretty stupid.” So finally, yeah, I literally was drinking wine at a wine bar.
When I saw this other wine ball that said, left detour. I’m like, oh, that’s an interesting wine name. And suddenly, like, Wait, what if my company was called perfect detour. Because everything that’s happened in my world has been the perfect detour to get me where I’m going. And you asked me at the top of the conversation, like, what is something I kind of live by? I live by like, everything is a perfect detour. It’s guiding me to the next thing and it gives me that hope that you know, a lot of people say what’s happening to you is happening for you. Yes, I get that too.
But I like to look at it through the perfect detour space. So as everything started to move, that’s when my own personal depression started to rear its ugly head. Sure, this is not something I’m proud of either. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff I’m not proud of, but not proud of being the guy who cheated on his wife for pretty much the entire marriage. I’m not proud of a lot of things about coming out. I’m not proud of yelling at people like just for can accept me and you know, go pound sand and not proud of any of that.
And in the midst of it. I was not proud of telling my now ex-wife, “get over it, go get some help.” I was not proud of telling my mother the same thing. And then it was probably a good 12 years or so. Yeah, probably was 2012 or 2013 that suddenly I’m like, “something’s not right here.” With me, I have always been Mr. Happy. Do this, do that.
But underneath you’re taking this “stiff upper lip” approach? Oh, yeah, totally.
Like just because I’m that guy that like, okay, just tell him Okay, let’s go. Let’s go. I still am that guy. I’m like, hey, what do we need to do? Go? Right. And then suddenly, I’m like, I tried testosterone, not because, because I was having any problems downstairs. But I was just like, I wasn’t feeling myself. And then I finally talked to someone. While my physician then referred me to a therapist that actually didn’t like this therapist at all.
What was your experience with therapy? Like before that? Had you taken a dismissive stance?
No, I was very supportive. In fact, the irony of the whole therapy journey out of the closet was so my ex-wife and I started working through therapy, kind of in a weird way to like, what can we salvage here? I knew there wasn’t anything to salvage because I’m gay. I’m gay. That’s it, but I did want to salvage was how do we create a relationship that works, not staying together, but all that. And so we had a really good therapist until it wasn’t a good therapist, because me and the therapists, like could really connect and I could take in what she was helping us do and, and to my wife, my ex-wife’s journey. She’s bipolar.
And so that wasn’t that didn’t show up till years later, either. But in the midst of that therapy, she got upset and said, “I’m done. You all are against me, blah, blah, blah, blah. Was it true if that was just perception? So then I continued, and ironically, that therapists female. I finally said to her one day, I said, “You really seem to get me, like you really get this.” And I said, “is there a particular reason why? And she just kind of laughed. I’m like, why are you? Why are you laughing at me? Yeah. And she goes, because I’ve been on this journey, my ex-husband’s gay. And I was like, “Okay.” So that helped.
And I’ve been through my own journey with therapy and stuff, right? And I’ve hit some that I’m like, doesn’t work, because it was too much. Well, let’s just talk it out. Let’s just talk it out. I’m like, talk helps, I’m not gonna say does that definitely is something you need. Even in coaching. They’re sometimes just coaching you gotta like, okay, so you said this. Now, what do you want to do? You got to tease it out, you got to teach you how to tease it out. Whereas in therapy, I realize it’s a lot more stepping back, like, let’s unravel things.
And I’m so glad that I did unravel a ton of stuff. And then I hit the one therapist, like, there was no match. And I’m like, I think the reason for me that it wasn’t a match, is I could sense that this person wasn’t completely on board with me being gay. And I’m like, okay, to each their own. When I finally got the therapist around the depression that I’m like, he really gets me. The moment for me was when he said, you’re holding a whole lot of stuff in. And he goes, we were going to work on getting that stuff released. And as a coach, I’m like, Yep, I get that. And then as we started working through it one day, during session, he goes, because I would like for you to entertain the concept that you might actually be suffering from depression.
Okay, at that point, you didn’t have a diagnosis.
I did not have a diagnosis, and I got really pissed off in that session. I’m like, nope, sure. I mean, yeah, because here I’d been bashing my mom, I now ex-wife – all this sort of stuff. And literally, the next day they go, I couldn’t even get out of bed.
Because I’m like, “well, this was this was after he, this was after raising the flag, right. And I was like, Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. This is, this is my truth.”
And I went, I went saw him while I saw him. And then he referred me to my back to my doctor and said, let’s get you on some meds. I was really fighting that. But I did it. I took a really low dosage. I couldn’t even tell you what I was on. I immediately got back into super like exercising. I mean, I was already exercising. I was teaching spin class and all that.
But I got really super dedicated to like, walking away from work, being fresh starting to really speak my mind. To my husband’s detriment. Sometimes he’s like, Okay, enough of this speaking your mind, man. It taught me a huge lesson of eating my humble pies, not only as a person, but especially as a man. Yeah. eyes were like, nope, let’s go, we can make this happen. We can do this we can be and yeah.
And then, in my own gay community, it helped me really begin to understand so many, so many people and even gave me insight to some of the guys that I was coaching at that time. Like, wow, this is, this is like a prevalent thing. And then, about that same time, my ex-wife got diagnosed as bipolar. And I’m like, “hey, gang, do you think this is what’s going on with me?” And you know, it wasn’t. But it gave me a huge, huge respect.
So you asked the question, how do we get to the closeted thing with like this becoming a whole part of the sequence, I changed the name of the podcast to life on closeted from the Coming Out Lounge, because I knew there was a couple of people I really wanted to interview. Chris Brogan being one of those that…
I’m speaking with Chris, tomorrow actually.
I met Chris through a series of things. And we were at an event once and we were talking, I said, “I know this would be kind of crazy. But I think it’d be kind of cool for you to talk about who you are, and how you can closet yourself to be this really amazing social media marketing expert, blah, blah, blah.” He’s like, totally. And then he goes, Yes I have a kid that’s trans and all this I’m like, “Really?” And he goes and then some other stuff. And since then Chris and I have talked about his own journey on depression and everything. And it started opening doors, because then the next few guests, I’m like, “well, I’m gonna stay true to my community. But I think my community needs to hear some of this too.”
Like, we don’t own the market on being in the closet. And then I started having other people on the show, and like one of the people that was on the show, she was the last survivor pulled out of Oklahoma City. Bombing, and it changed, obviously, yeah. And then suddenly, other people started showing up in interesting ways. And then part of my circle of influence. You know, I started having some pretty cool people on that had nothing to do with being LGBTQ.
And I’m like, I love this because now we’re telling lots of interesting Stories and coming from lots of different directions. And I just did a couple of interviews with some people about coming out about how to use functional nutrition in your world and how that that particular interview, she’s actually very folk she’s, she’s a straight woman who is a functional nutritionist, and she’s very focused on helping the trans community, like really navigate their transitions, making sure that they use the right nutrition. So I feel so blessed, I feel like I’ve opened a new channel. Yes, I stay true to the community. But when I really look at what are the kinds of conversations I am blessed to get to have, it’s amazing, because everybody’s closeted in some way in their life. Right, they just don’t see it through that lens,
What you’re doing is really incredible. And I love the fact that it’s a very inclusive platform that you have here. Because it doesn’t necessarily have to be specific to what your experience was, I mean, this can, this can really be a universal thing.
On your podcast you’ve got some really great insights on there, you were talking about fixing a microphone or something and you accidentally superglued yourself to the microphone. And I like the concept that you alluded to there about superglue in your life. Can you talk to me a little bit more about sort of how you address that, and maybe just on supergluing your life or getting unstuck, maybe for people who are struggling with that problem?
Sure. It’s so interesting, because as anybody comes in, does this work with me and a lot, mostly a lot of gay men are men coming out of the closet, but I’ve coached a lot of women, not women coming out of the closet, and then even as I coach, okay, so even coaching speakers, so let’s kind of go there.
So I can really demonstrate this. So interesting to coach speakers as they’re building their business. And they’re like, all excited, and okay, we help them figure out who they’re going to speak to what they’re going to speak on. And the adrenaline starts pumping. And then, okay, let’s go build that first, second or third talk they like, so you have something to sell, right? And then we get to go do the fun stuff of like, let’s get that website.
And then as soon as the website gets done, and oh, we have to, we need a demo video. I don’t really like myself on camera. I don’t know how to do that. But speaker, and you want to be a speaker, and then suddenly, like, Okay, so now we’re going to start reaching out to try to get gigs and literally screeching halt. Because it goes from being fun. And fantasy to reality. And everybody’s journey.
This is where the superglue like oh, this, I had it all super glued together. Oh, I’m so excited to go be a speaker and do all this stuff. And now it’s like, we got to move to the next thing, we got to move past it. We got to take some risks, we got to put ourselves out there and like, Why me? Why am I the person that somebody’s gonna listen to?
And back to that analogy, I’ve used that in lots of different ways. In fact, I use it a week or so ago with a student in the other program. And I said, you’ve got things so tightly glued together, you don’t even know how to relax into being a speaker. Because they want this, they want to slap me through the zoom. I’m like, let me tell you why I said that. Because as long as you’re that glued up, so to speak, and I’m like, literally, it is super glue that’s holding you together right now. But until you release a little bit and go, let’s relax into it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to, you don’t have to make this your first time out. You don’t have to have the biggest audience. As soon as you relax into this and start having fun with this and realize, yes, this is work.
There’s nothing about being a speaker or culture. There’s not about doing anything we do in life or our career that isn’t worth right. And suddenly she’s like, Oh, you’re right, this is going to be work. I’m like, Yes, but it can be fun work. Because the payoff is you get to be on a stage, you get to look out at 25 to 5,000 people and tell and share something that’s going to have impact, even if it only has impact with one person.
Even what we’re doing today, if only one person listening walks away, and like that changed my world. Yeah, I’m going to do the happy dance. Yeah, because maybe for them seeing it through this lens of oh, I never thought about it. I’m in a closet and I’m not letting myself come out of the closet to go start a business or go lose weight or go run a marathon or I’m gonna come out of the closet that I just don’t feel good and I’m actually depressed.
These are all different ways to unglue yourself from the thing that you need. And I even said to somebody probably about a month or two ago I’m like, you have superglued yourself into this closet and you’re not coming out? It’s not happening because that glue is so tight. Well, what do I do? Then? I’m like, I want you to imagine that super glue doesn’t exist, then what? Yeah, they got really quiet. Yeah. And it changed.
I don’t I don’t know the exact studies, but they say like, a lot of times prisoners, they get released and the recidivism rate is very high, is because it’s like you’ve been living in this locked down world, and you’d have no freedom in anything. But in essence, it can almost be comforting, because it’s routine. And it’s, it’s structured, and it’s the known. And then it’s like, you’re cut free, and you have a world of possibilities that that light, that glaring light can be very overwhelming. And so that’s why the recidivism rate is so high. That’s why people you know, end up going back to jail.
Well, this is why so many people second guess everything. I have students in the speaker lab who second guessed being a speaker, once I get to a certain point, I have people who have like, “Okay, this is the this is the week, I’m going to have that big conversation with a spouse that I’m gay and I need to come out of the closet,” and then suddenly, they either get to it and they’re like not happening, or they have it. And then oh my gosh, what did I do? My whole world turned inside out upside down. I had a student not this year, last year, who like okay, this is the week I’m resigning from my job I’m doing I’m going full tilt into being a speaker. I’m like, “cool, are you sure you’re ready?”
And like literally two weeks later, she’s like, I wish I hadn’t done that. And we worked through it. We worked through it. And she’s now amazing. But it’s not uncommon. The moment you commit to like, I’m going to come out of the closet, and I’m going to go commit to everyday doing some form of exercise. Two weeks from now, I’m not saying it’s gonna be exactly two weeks from now, but that’s pretty typical. About two weeks from now you’re gonna be I’m so over this exercise routine. Yeah, then what do you need to do, you need to change it up. You need to like I’m not going to lift weights today, I’m just gonna go take a walk.
Or maybe your lifts, you’re taking walks in, you’re like “today, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go. I’m gonna go swim.” I haven’t swam in years, but I’m gonna go swim, find something that changes it up when people get to this space, like, like guys who’ve just come out of the closet. And they’re like, I wish this hadn’t happened. I’ve been trying to date I’ve been trying to like, meet guys. I’m like, then take a week off. Like, literally take a week off. And don’t even worry about Finding Mr. Right?
Yeah, because as soon as you can change and break the pattern, which is really I mean, this is what I feel like I do in my own mental health when the when I know that depression is starting to come in. And I don’t take any meds at this stage, I pretty much have learned to self-manage it.
Yeah, I’m glad you’re bringing this up. Because that was actually where I was gonna go next is, going back to the depression’; what does it look like for you? I mean, in terms of day to day, and like, how do you manage it?
So when I get to that space, the first thing I do is like, “Okay, what do I need to do differently today?” Because it’s easy for all of us to get into a routine. I mean, I can be sailing along for a month, 60 days, I went through a little bit well, just recently, I went through a small dip, because my oldest daughter moved from California to Seattle, Washington. So she’d been in the state close enough for us to like two and a half, three hour drives all the time. And I was like, “okay, cool.” I knew it was happening. I’m, like, totally supportive of it. And I went and like helped him pack up their truck and everything. And I even watched him like drive out and I didn’t know tears or anything, and then driving home. I’m like, Okay, this really happened. Started a hitch. Yeah, it started to hit me. And so the next day, I was like, “Okay, here’s what I need. I need just have some quiet time.” I need to like go do something completely different than I would normally on a weekend because it was a weekend. Normally, I’d go hike or something like you know what, maybe what I just need to do this weekend is instead of go Hi, go get out and just get out and go anywhere doesn’t have to be physical. And so we did we just kind of got out and I didn’t really talk a whole lot about it with my husband because I’m like, I know sometimes what the best way for me to manage it is to not talk about it at the time. Like if I feel like Hey, I gotta talk this through, then I will talk about it.
Do I always go to my husband? No, there’s other people I will go to and lean into when these things happen. But part of the help for me is a I know exercise will always help me. I always watch what I eat at that point. Like really like Not like don’t eat this but there are certain things I know if I if I like I don’t eat a lot of sugar these days. But if I were like, hey, it’s my one day that I’m going to have like some good chocolate. Okay, yeah. Sugar free chocolate. It’s like okay, that can have an effect. I know alcohol can have an effect. So if I feel that coming on,
I don’t not drink but I definitely like okay, instead of like drinking I really like I don’t drink cocktails a lot. But I do love my bourbon every once in a while, definitely wouldn’t drink bourbon on those days. Probably wouldn’t drink a big red wine. I’ll drink like a like Chardonnay or Rosé and call it good. Well, I drink more than I’m probably not, because I can feel what’s happening. And to me, anything that I can put into my body, I can also take out of my body by just not putting it in.
So do you feel like you’re listening to your body a little bit more now than definitely in the past? Maybe?
Yep, yep. Yep. You know, I can, I can feel it coming on. So as I shared with you before we started recording, we’re getting ready go on vacation to Costa Rica. And I love travel. I’ve been trying to like, trying to find some swimsuits. And I’m getting really frustrated because I’ve lost some weight. But uh, yeah, can’t seem to find thing that isn’t still like, okay. The big guy. I mean, I’m a big guy, 6’4 like, right at 300 pounds. I mean, I’m big guy. And I reached the point a week ago, like, “Oh, my God, I’m, I’ve got one swimsuit for this entire trip, which isn’t bad, but it’s like, seven days and you’re in the ocean, then you’re in the pool. It’s like my suit. My suit is gonna just be toast. Right? Right.”
And I could feel the like, pressure start and I’m like, okay, but you got one suit. As soon as I changed that, like, you got a suit. Yeah, it’s okay. And you will find something I learned to like, I’m not gonna say quickly get out of my own head and out of my own way. But I also learned, like, breathe and slow down. Sure. Ask yourself, is this really something that needs to take you to this space? That’s a biggie for me is like, like, do you need to really be going into that headspace?
And then like I said, physical watch what I’m eating, getting some good sleep, or not getting some good sleep too. Sometimes I’m like, when my head’s gone. I’m like fine, lay in bed and watch some stupid Instagram videos or watch video, not what you should probably do on a regular basis. But I give myself permission to break the pattern. And to me, that’s a big thing. How can I break the pattern? And get me out of that headspace? So those are my assumptions.
If you don’t mind me asking, are you in therapy right now?
Nope, nope. No therapy. I’m not on any medications right now. I’m lucky that I live in a really beautiful area of California we’re right on the coast not on if I had to the ocean view I have a feeling that with that would be the best therapy for me. But I also like that I if I need to get out and I mean, the average temperature where I live I know that make a lot of people jealous right now. Or just temperatures. degrees year round.
What’s the temperature right now?
70 degrees. And we’re literally I can be to the beach in minutes. If I got off this call right now. I could be to the beach five minutes from now. So yeah, that that helps. And I know those are those things that help I have a Peloton bike I know that getting on my Peloton and doing a quick spin ride because I used to teach spin. So that’s a thing.
So I’ve found my mechanisms. But if I ever felt like I could see that today, if I knew by five days that it’s like this is it, I would be back on those meds immediately. Just because I think it would be it’s the thing that I know to do for myself, I have a great relationship with my doctor where I can say, I am leaving doc a mess. I think I’m going to go get on my meds for a bit. I just want him to know that if there’s any cautions around that. He would probably say cool, because we’ve had those conversations. He’s like, yes, if you do, but if he says if you’re gonna get on, stay on them for at least 30 days. Check in with me how you feel and what you do.
And because he goes, “you got to build up, you got to build up the base.” And again, so yeah, that’s the way I do it. I’m not saying that’s gonna work for everybody. But I tried to like eliminate things that like not saying don’t watch the news, but I only watch the news, like once a day and yeah, I don’t let myself spiral in this stuff.
You mentioned one thing that I really loved and maybe you can talk a little more. You said that “depression is my superpower, not my shame. And I love that analogy. Because in our society, I know we’re getting better but it’s depression is often seen as a weakness, especially in my culture. And you and I have talked about that where it’s just this is just something that it’s all in your head. You just gotta have some PMA positive mental attitude and it’ll all be over with. Can you talk a little bit more about like, how is depression like your superpower?”
For me? It’s the thing that keeps me humble. Sure, because I was such a I was such a jerk. I mean, I honestly, was an a**hole to a lot of people about that in my life. And once I realized, okay, this is something for me. And once I got the humility of this is what can wake me up? Like he can literally like, Hey, you’re, you’re trying to go too hard too fast, you’re letting too many things get under your skin. It’s It is literally the thing that empowers me, even though it’s okay, I’m not lying. It can take me down, right? Yeah.
But the moment I can be taken down, it’s also is the thing that I’m like, “this is my signal, this is what you need to do. This is how you need to start showing up in life.” And that’s why I call it my superpower. Because without it, I mean, and I’m a guy who has already had a stroke in his life. So three years ago, 2019, almost four years ago, now, I had a stroke. And I was really lucky. 24 hours later, I walked out of that hospital. But knowing those sorts of things, I would much rather use depression as an empowering experience rather than life ends when you have depression.
I’m not saying it’s easy to work through it. Never gonna say it’s easy to work through it. But now that I’ve discovered what’s within my arsenal of superpower when this hits, I can truly make a difference in my own world in my own life. Because I choose and I know for a lot of people listening to that may sound really hard to do. I’m not saying it’s easy, because you got to keep saying to yourself, but what if you did this? What if you thought this? What if you looked at thing? What if you just embraced it like, sometimes it’s just let’s embrace, this is where I am.
In fact, I have a client that I work with, where we talk about this a lot, because he suffers from depression and anxiety, and all this sort of stuff. And I feel one of the most humble things I’ve been able to do in his world, which again, serves me is to help him embrace his mental illness. Like just embrace it. And he’s gotten so much less shame around being on men’s about how he shows up about not losing his stuff around people. It’s been amazing to see that. And that’s why I see it as a superpower for me, I can be in one of my spaces. And some of my trigger people can trigger me.
I just let that whole thing empower me to like, I’m not going to react. I may not even respond. Most of the time, I will respond. But I’m not reacting. It’s to me, that’s a big thing, when you have any kind of mental illness to really like, understand what’s going to cause you to react versus how do you respond? You know? And that’s why I call it my superpower. It’s got Yes, so it’s taught me so much about who I am. And helped me humble into, okay. When this hits for me, lean into it, let it live in let it light me up versus take me down.
Yeah, and then a little bit of what we talked about before, because you talked about with exercise and eating right and stuff, I think and we found this in our life, relationships can be so important. Have you how has that played? In your experience? You had a great piece about your relationship with your father, sort of putting that on the shelf? Can you talk a little bit more about some other how relationships have played out in terms of like, how you’re been able to manage your depression in terms of setting boundaries, or putting a line in the sand, that type of thing?
Well, one of them is admitting where you’ve been a jerk to other people who’ve been through this. So like really being honest with my, my mom and my ex-wife being open to saying, I mean, my husband knows like, Hey, I’m feeling depressed today. Yeah, okay, give me like, based, right? I’ve had, I’ve been up upfront with my kids, because obviously, I’m concerned of what genes genetically we have passed down to our girls, since both my ex-wife and I have this in our own DNA. I have friends. I’m very open about this at work in The Speaker Lab arena.
Everybody knows this is something that Rick contends with. I’m not afraid to be that. And I guess to kind of bring this somewhat full circle, it’s because I realized I hid in the closet about one thing in my life. That taught me the lesson about never hiding anything about who you are. Now, that doesn’t mean I like so let me tell you why I’m special. You need to hear no, right. But I find the ways to like open up when I feel like this is going to help me and it’s probably going to help the person who’s sitting there. This helps somebody see me. I try and sometimes I don’t do a very good job of this. I try not to be someone who grandstands I’ve been some people have called that out and I’m like Well, that’s actually about you not about me.
Because sometimes when I talk on stages I trigger people think, “oh, you’re such a cheat and all this sort of stuff. You don’t care about your ex-wife on…” Oh, actually I did. And you know, you’re taking one slice of what you just heard, that could be a really triggering thing that could push me into depression like that. But I learned if I manage, so you brought up boundaries, if I manage the boundaries, if I set the boundaries, if I manage my own perception of what’s being said to me, I am much more able to be how I want to show up and be who I want to be in the world.
Is there anything you want to say, in conclusion to wrap things up about your journeys, living your unapologetic life and also your journey with mental health and depression?
I think the biggest thing is to own your truth. I mean, one of the things I say at the end of every one of my talks is the truth of who you are, is far more powerful than the false truth you’re pretending to be. So show the world who you are. Not everyone’s going to embrace that. But I think hiding of any type is actually one of the worst things you can do for your own mental health. Even if you’re like, “Okay, I’m cheating on a spouse.” It may mean the end of a marriage, but there’s a reason you’re cheating. There’s a reason this is happening. So why hide it and put yourself through that anxiety and that angst. And it doesn’t have to be something as big as cheating. But whatever you’re hiding is actually contributing to how well you’re managing your mental health.
Thanks so much for so I’ve put your information down here at the bottom. RickClemons.com is the best website to get a hold of you. You’re also on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Thank you for inviting me here and letting me again speak my truth and I hope someone listening is like “okay, I can do this. I can be here,” whether it’s bipolar or depression or any of them spectrums of mental health. Go be you. That’s the biggest message and do it unapologetically. So, thanks again for having me.
Thanks so much, Rick. We really appreciate it.