Justin Furstenfeld loves my beard.

I’m here in LA, sipping on coffee in the hotel room and surfing through Youtube, looking for acoustic sets from Blue October or Justin Furstenfeld, the lead singer of the band.  Yeah, I’m in the mood for all of their music after experiencing a very powerful and emotional acoustic concert from Justin last night in Hollywood at the Hotel Cafe venue.

My girlfriend loooves the band and everything Furstenfeld and booked this trip a few months ago.  I’ve seen the band live several times with her and it’s only because of her that I even know who Blue October is.  Last night’s concert was, for me, one of the best yet, mainly because of the intimate setting and between each song he shared some very personal stories and explanations for each song.

But the biggest highlight of the entire night was not running into him in the bathroom or having a quick chat with him before and during my sitting in the bathroom stall.  It’s when he did as promised to me and dedicated a song to my girlfriend Christine during his set.  If the bathroom encounter wasn’t enough to put her in awe, the moment when Justin called us out in the crowd and asked where his “peeing buddy” was at, caused fireworks to explode in her tiny little heart.  She lost it once he made the dedication of “Calling You” to her, and the slow, soft acoustic intro to the song even made me want to tear up.  It was a very powerful moment and something neither of us will ever forget.  He also commented on how awesome my beard was, which I kindly offered to let him touch anytime he wants.  The offer will always stand.  haha.

Christine’s connection with Justin and the music of Blue October goes deeper than just being a fan of the music.  Justin has always been very open about his battle with mental illness and depression and even last night he joked about having been put on Paxil at an early age and how awesome it made him feel.  Christine was diagnosed with Bipolar a few years ago and since then has worked her ass off to stand strong and conquer this illness in her life.  She’s also become a very strong advocate for others and I’m sure will continue to do so forever.

So if this blog post reaches Justin somehow, I want to thank you for what you did last night.  It meant more than you know and even though your dedication brought tears to her eyes, it also brought about a very very huge smile.  Thank you.



His Life Made Us Laugh, His death should make us think.

All of our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds are being flooded this morning with tributes and RIP statuses following the passing away of one of the world’s greatest comedians, Robin Williams.  Reports suggest that his death was due to suicide, but further investigations and an autopsy will of course confirm this.

Robin, who has always been very candid about his battle with depression and alcoholism, is someone that I’m sure many would have never suspected something like this from.  Many who were close to him describe him as one of the nicest, sweetest, loving human beings that you’d ever meet.  The Today Show this morning described him as someone who genuinely loved people and he seemed more concerned about touching people’s lives and hearts than being the huge iconic star that he was.

For decades he made us laugh and cry.  One of my all time favorite movies that he starred in was Good Will Hunting.  It’s actually a comfort movie for me.  We all have our comfort movies, right?  It was one of his more serious roles, but his character was so real, so loving, and genuine, that I wanted to go sit in his office and get counsel from him and get a hug from him.  He was like that caring uncle or grandfather who you knew would have all the right answers and make everything better.

We saw a man that was full of life and laughter.  As with most people, we have no idea what they deal with off camera or away from the public eye.  When we receive news that a person like Robin killed themselves, it shocks us because it’s so unexpected and uncharacteristic from what we all see on TV or in movies.  In all, this man’s life filled ours with laughter.  His death should now fill our lives with thought, and lots and lots of questions about depression and mental illness.  It’s sad that it takes the death of someone like this to get everyone talking, but it is what it is.

Why did he take his life?

This will be a question that no one will be able to answer.  We can all try, and believe me, Hollywood and the E! Channel will try, but no one really knows.  All we know is that he battled depression, which is a mental illness, and with that came a struggle with alcoholism.  You have to hand it to him though, he held on for a long long time.  He was 63 yrs old, a longer life than most sufferers of a mental illness are able to live.

Why didn’t Robin Williams reach out to someone?

Many think that “if he just would have reached out to me, I would have been able to be there for him or talk him out of it”.  The fact is, most people who take their own lives don’t plan on doing so, so there’s no advanced notice.  Mental illness is a machine, a monster, and a suicide attempt is something that most have no control over.

My girlfriend suffers from Bipolar disorder and she’s had a few suicide attempts in her lifetime, all situations that she couldn’t prepare for nor anyone else in her life.  One night, a few years ago, we met for dinner and had a few drinks.  She was on a new medication that probably shouldn’t have been mixed with any alcohol, something we learned from after the fact of course.  We left the restaurant, said our goodbyes, and both headed to our own homes.  A few minutes later I get a call from her and she’s talking very strange and appears to be very aggravated.  After hanging up I make several attempts to call her back, but i’m sent directly to voicemail.  She finally calls me from her apt, and shares that she took about 20+ Benadryl and she couldn’t even remember making a stop at a CVS to purchase the pills.  She also stated that she threw her cell phone out on the freeway.  I jumped in my truck and raced to her apt which was normally a 20 min drive.  I made it in less, doing 90 – 100mph all the way there.  I was able to get her to a hospital fast enough for them to pump everything out of her stomach.  It was a scary situation and very rare that someone has the opportunity to call for help.  Luckily she did and she lives to share this story.

Neither one of us could have expected this to happen, the same way no one, not even Robin Williams himself, thought that he was going to take his life this weekend.  We don’t know if he was on any meds or treatment, but whatever the case, the depression and mental illness took over.

Mental illness is real.  It’s just as real as breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many others that receive so much attention on a daily basis.  Mental illness seems to be the step-child of all illnesses and diseases and people who suffer from it walk around in secret battles, afraid to talk about it because of the stigma that comes with it.  There’s a lack of understanding for the most part and people need to be more educated about it.  I applaud my girlfriend because she’s so real and unashamed about her illness.  She’s very open and has 20K plus followers on Facebook who have fallen in love with that openness and candid talk about Bipolar and depression.  You can follow her at www.facebook.com/peppervintage

Very few of us knew Robin Williams personally, but we feel like we did because of TV and Hollywood. Allow his death to teach us something and encourage us to get to know those around us.  Allow his passing to open our hearts and hunger for understanding about the illness that he suffered from.  If you suffer from mental illness, I hope that your friends and family can help create an atmosphere where you can be open and honest about it.  And if not, seek out others who can, who will encourage you and stand with you.

Rest in Peace Robin.