Thriving is a whole topic, but essentially, we now know the truth. We already are everything we are trying so hard to be. That’s it. If we truly lived our lives in service of feeling that, we’d suffer less and know we already have all we want. But we listen to the mind and thoughts which contradict that truth. Meditation is the foundation for knowing this truth. Without a meditation practice we either stumble onto happiness and then success or we keep trying and trying and nothing happens. We’re addicted to our minds and so we’re addicted to our suffering. We already have everything we want. Until we know that, nothing changes. It stays the same. As for burn out we must get ahead of it! Burn out is too late. I give clients endless practices for mind, body and soul. We must do the practices before burn out or we’ll burn out. It’s inevitable. Especially at the pace many of us are going today. We must learn to touch down into that inner oasis.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Michael C. Bryan. Michael is a writer, performer, actor, filmmaker, TV personality and not his mother. He swears. He has a successful practice where he mentors professionals from all walks of life. He specializes in people who (like him) came from abusive childhoods and are coping with mental health issues. He has a new unscripted TV show he created called Out & About with various outlets where he talks to people from all walks of life about mental health, gender and sexuality. His new podcast Stripped is dropping September 25th, 2019 and the teaser is out now on iTunes and Stitcher. His funny, raw and outrageous new memoir Creepy Kid about his surviving his abusive childhood has won numerous contests and is with publishers. He writes TV shows, films and essays. He performs on TV, stage and screen. His most recent role is in HBO’s The Plot Against America from David Simon. He’s thrilled and extremely grateful you’ve taken the time to take a gander at his bio and finds it very odd to be writing about himself in the third person.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Michael! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in a small town in Washington State. As a kid, I wanted to be a star. Stage, screen — I didn’t care. I was a star in my backyard so why not the world? I wanted to soar around the globe and see amazing things and become this amazing person. But something held me back. Something I battled the effects of for years as a child and adult. I had a secret life where I was being abused by my best friend and nemesis, my mother.
My mother was severely mentally ill. She suffered extreme sexual, physical and emotional abuse as a little girl at the hands of her schizophrenic mother. My father was a shrink and allowed my mother to do what she did to me. When I was 11, I had a secret sexual relationship with a man who was 23 which resulted in me being raped as a child. At 16 my parents found out I was gay and said I couldn’t live with them (they couldn’t share a house with a homosexual) so I was kicked out. I was homeless and alone on the streets of Seattle where I became a prostitute to survive.
After one very violent encounter with a john, I knew I had to get out of The Life. I went back to my parents after a year and they said I could live in a camper by the side of the house. When I turned 18 I left home forever and moved east.
I’m often asked how I survived those years given how far I’ve come. I tell people something within me told me I was going to be okay. I’ve been told it was God aka The Universe aka Archangel Michael. Today I like to call is consciousness to keep it simple. I also call it The Light that never went out. It lit the dark days of my youth and never, ever left me. It’s still with me.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I hit my mid-40s I realized my life was headed down my mother’s path. Bitter, resentful, refusing to use moisturizer. Always feeling alone and not liking the direction my life was going and blaming the world for it. Because of my wildly dysfunctional and crippling relationship with her, and feeling so alone without the insights to help myself, I battled suicide attempts, depression, anxiety and bipolar and massive mood swings. I used food and drugs to self sooth. Nothing was working out, nothing was happening for me. I was unhappy and I had to figure out why.
For years people had been coming up to me and telling me their struggles. I’ve always been shameless in talking about my past and when people read my work they would reach. I’m never shocked anymore at the numbers of people who lived secret lives behind the fake smiles. As Thoreau once wrote, it’s very true that most people do indeed lead lives of quiet desperation. Even worse, in today’s social media driven culture, they mask their desperation behind false bravado and ego.
I found I was able to help people figure out their emotional shit, which in turn helped me to get my emotional shit together. Over the course of 8 years I studied ardently, went to therapy, listened to psychics. Studied all facets of Jung and Freud and spirituality, work which my father, the ironically unaware enabler of the abuse, introduced me to as a child.
I began a strong meditation practice in my mid-40s which I’ve kept up on a daily basis to this day. I began to work out like never before to sooth over the anxiety and mood swings, hung up my virtual shingle as a professional mentor (never loved the term life coach — feels like I’m telling you how to dribble a ball and then selling you a Bissell). The work has changed my life.
Today I have a thriving private practice, a TV show selling, a very strong and funny heartbreaking memoir being published, a new podcast launching and two fictional TV pilots in development. I also wrote, produced and directed a short autobiographical film to promote awareness of my book and the terrors of bullying that’s everywhere.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was asked to be part of Deadline Hollywood’s pre-Academy Award party in NYC last year. It was an event where a few dozens of Hollywood’s biggest stars were being honored, including Bradley Cooper, Lin-Manual Miranda, Paul Schrader and Ken Jeong. I struck up a conversation with Rami Malek and a number of people when I found myself in a passionate and heated convo with Ken Jeong about breaking out beyond the age of 40.
I told him about my creative projects and my mentoring work. He told me he used to be a physician and that he left his practice for work as a comedian and film actor because he realized he couldn’t continue being a doctor when all he wanted to do was perform. He told me that after shooting his last scene for the movie The Hangover he went back to his practice. He was so depressed in the role of a physician he knew he had to follow his true calling as a creative.
Jeong’s story inspired me to blend my performing with my mentoring. That was last November and since that time I’ve taken his advice and now all of these projects are being realized. My trajectory has been forming for a number of years now. Talking with Ken was the turning point. He helped me to realize while I’m my mother’s son, I’m not my bitter mother. That was huge for me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m gonna go way back to when I first came to NYC in 1996. I arrived on an Amtrak from Boston where I was going to school at Emerson having just moved east from Seattle. I got off of the train and was met by an old friend who had moved to New York years prior.
I told him when I got off the train, “New York doesn’t seem that big. I’ve got this.”
I strolled into a cab he had waiting for us and we went down to the World Trade Center, rode the elevators to the top and went to the observation deck. When I got to the top and looked out at the city sprawled before us I said again, “What’s the big deal? It’s not that big.”
My friend smiled at me in a slightly sardonic way and said he wanted to take me to Times Square. I said with a nonchalant shrug, “Whatever.”
We got into a cab at the base of the World Trade Center and we got out at Times Square and I remember the moment my feet the pavement at 42nd and Broadway I felt this shudder as it coursed through me. I was floored by the feeling of the energy of the city. The way it seemed to pulse all around me. The enormousness of it. It wasn’t just a big city. It was worlds upon worlds.
My friend looked at me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Yeah, that’s the look I was waiting for.”
I never again took New York for granted. It still amazes me. I’ve been a New Yorker for 30 years and still am awestruck every time I leave my house. It’s a true wonderland unlike any other.
What I learned was humility, good shoes and a sane cab driver can take you far.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
What I’m most excited about are three projects that are keeping me very busy. The number one project is a new TV show that is being shown about town that’s called Out & About. It’s an unscripted show where I talk to people from all walks of life about depression, anxiety, general mental health and gender issues with humor and warmth in a game-show format. It was created between me and a veteran producer in the industry and edited by the Queer Eye team. We recently shot and edited the promo which is a dynamic 5-minute proof of concept. It’s very emotional and right in the pocket of the zeitgeist for the discussion with celebrities and people from all walks of life about answers for millions suffering from depression and anxiety. We’re very excited about the discussion we’ve been having. It’s the show everyone is looking for and we’re very proud of it. We expect to partner with the right people soon. What I love about this project is I spent years behind the scenes in TV assisting others and now I’m not only producing it but being where I belong, which is in front of the camera.
I also have a new podcast that just dropped called Stripped. It’s with myself and another professional life coach Jennifer Ho. We get down and dirty about how we made it through incest, depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, self-harm, sexual trauma, financial ruin, and gender madness to become the fabulously outrageous, successful and living large New Yorkers we are today. It’s recorded in NYC and it’s the best of New York. Heart, raw language and real insights to help people everywhere. We have a number of sponsors circling us who understand why our messaging is so important and very now.
And my memoir Creepy Kid. It’sis a hell of a wild book. It’s being read everywhere and the feedback is amazing. People are so moved by my story because it validates their story. It helps them to take back the power of what they once thought held them back.
All of these projects, and all I do, is to help others find healing specifically from mental health disorders. I was in the grip of them for years. It’s time we all experienced the power that is born from our pain. The grit, the tenacity, the determination to be who we truly are. There is so much shame and so much fear in talking about these worlds and it’s time we knew we are already everything we are trying so hard to be. We are it already. Everyone is open about it. From celebrities to everyday moms the world over. We are ready to move ahead.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Since we are all in this together, it’s important for all people of all walks of life to be represented because it demystifies the idea we are remotely separate. We are all one. Once we feel that, then everything else falls in line. It’s not an intellectual understanding but an emotional one. While I know the question asks for three reasons this reason, I’ve come to learn, answers all other concerns because it’s the only answer that works for all questions about this as a whole.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
- “Find your true self and learn to love your true self with your entire being.” I was taught at an early age I didn’t matter. That I was broken, a nuisance. Being abused teaches you you’re invisible and that nothing you do will make a difference. I couldn’t thrive in life because I barely survived. When I was born I was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive Syndrome. It’s where an infant doesn’t want to eat, sleep or be held. From birth, I wasn’t sure if this life was for me. I had to choose as an infant to live, and that early start has been with me ever since. I have to fight to live every day of my life because my mother taught me to see the world as she saw it. Dark, dismal and futile. Thankfully she had a great sense of humor, so that got me through but that wasn’t enough. I had to learn to remind myself to choose every day of my life to keep going. To live. That process has made me the man I am today and it’s why I can work with people who have been abused. I know how hard it is to choose life when you were taught to believe nothing you do will matter or make a difference.
- “Accept your body” — I got very fat in my 30s/early-40s and I had no idea I was! I wish someone had told me. People loved me so they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, which is sweet…but still. ☺ I got into amazing shape in my late-40s. I ended up with some fabulous transformation pics. Trauma as a child puts you out of touch with you body so it took me years to get back in touch and feel safe in my body. I learned that meditation put me in touch with The Light within me. It was home for me. The feeling of safety and love and that I already have it all. Yoga was a huge influence on my transformation. The way it worked the trauma and emotion out of my body and made me feel so clear and balanced and lucid afterwards was spectacular. I found by mixing meditation with yoga and more Cross Training I was balanced, fluid and felt good and strong. In addition, I used to cook for a number of years so I’ve learned how our emotional connection to food influences how we eat and what we eat.
- “Don’t take it personally.” For so many years I chased so many people down to be friends and lovers. I finally learned their unwillingness to extend an olive branch wasn’t personal. Not that it didn’t have anything to do with me, it simply wasn’t personal. Would have saved me years of grief if I knew that earlier. Everything from my strong spiritual practice psychotherapy helped with all of this.
- “You’re crazy — but in a good way.” My fear was that I’d go crazy like my mother. My biggest fear was that I was her. It haunted me for decades until I finally realized I wasn’t her but that I did have a bit of her crazy…in a good way. That changed my entire way of being. As a boy I used to say to people all the time “I don’t know how to be” and everyone stared at me as if I was mad for saying that. But now I see I was trying to find out who I really was! I had the words but no practice to find the solution.
- “Be of service first to yourself, then others.” For years it was hammered into me my job was to be of service to the world. I tried to do that and I ended up learning I could never please people, I could never know what they were thinking and until I learned to do things for me, I could never do anything for anyone else. It’s like the oxygen mask story when a plane is going down. I wish someone would have reminded me to make my mental, spiritual and emotional health the only priority. Instead of such an action being selfish or narcissistic, I wish someone would have told me it was healthy to make sure I knew my worth, my value and who I was before I tried to help anyone else. We have nothing to give if we give everything to ourselves first.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Thriving is a whole topic, but essentially, we now know the truth. We already are everything we are trying so hard to be. That’s it. If we truly lived our lives in service of feeling that, we’d suffer less and know we already have all we want.
But we listen to the mind and thoughts which contradict that truth. Meditation is the foundation for knowing this truth. Without a meditation practice we either stumble onto happiness and then success or we keep trying and trying and nothing happens.
We’re addicted to our minds and so we’re addicted to our suffering. We already have everything we want. Until we know that, nothing changes. It stays the same.
As for burn out we must get ahead of it! Burn out is too late.
I give clients endless practices for mind, body and soul. We must do the practices before burn out or we’ll burn out. It’s inevitable. Especially at the pace many of us are going today. We must learn to touch down into that inner oasis.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The feeling, not the idea, that we have all we want right now. We have it all. It’s the secret to the secret of manifestation. When we know we have it all and we truly believe it, and feel that, then it all comes. Not before. Not really.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My sister. She saved me. It’s not ironic but she has a Ph.D. in child psychology and can’t remember her childhood. That’s how traumatic it was for her. And I can’t stop talking about it!
I remember when we moved east and she and I were living in New Hampshire at the time. I was a mess having just left our parents. The effects of my abusive childhood were rearing its ugly head and I was in a tailspin. I couldn’t stop crying. My sister saw how upset I was and told me to get into the car with he one day.
I did and she then took us on this amazingly beautiful scenic drive in our favorite part of New Hampshire. Trees and lakes and stunning scenery everywhere. She drove as I cried for an hour in the car. She said nothing.
She did that thing we call which is ‘hold space’ for someone else’s pain. She made me feel safe, and allowed me to feel. So often we give people advice and tell them what to do when all they want is for us to be there and listen and shut up and let them be. It’s a rare quality when people can do that. I do that for all of my clients and friends. She taught me how to do that 32 years ago. It saved me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelo.
It’s ironic but I always felt at the mercy of my wildly oscillating emotion, but emotions are our currency. Ms. Angelo knew that. It’s not what we say. Words mean shit. Emotion is everything.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The dream has always been to meet, have lunch, and just be able to sit down and talk with Elton John. I saw him recently in New York in concert. He’s a consummate musician. As a boy I didn’t think I was going to survive. I was terrified and gay and alone. His albums, especially Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, helped me navigate that early painful time in my life. It got me through the darkest of days as a boy. It told me to hang on. That there was an Oz waiting for me. All I had to do was believe. As Elton and Bernie Taupin once wrote “Somebody saved my life tonight” and honestly it was Elton and Bernie’s music that I listened to far, far into the night that got me through.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@mikeycbryan, @mcbhappier @strippedthepodcast & @mikeycreepykid
@mikecbryan, @mcbhappier @strippedthepodcast & @mikeycreepykid
@mikeycbryan, @mcbhappier, @creepykidmemoir, @strippedthepodcast
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!