Please meet Nina Elcao..

Sometimes life introduces you to some amazing people. One of these people is definitely Nina Elcao, founder of “The Struggle Club”. Best part of “The Struggle Club? – it’s brutally honest.

The first rule of The Struggle Club? – You talk about The Struggle Club. Nina describes it as: The Struggle Club is a space that is safe, cool, and NORMAL to chat about experiences in the mental health world–whether or not you are struggling. Look out for sassy (but honest!) entries discussing my mental health balancing act and personal advice for those who love someone who is struggling.

After her suggestion we should collaboration, how could we say no? We asked her some questions, she answered them, what a great start already! Please feel free to read away:

Nina, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Most importantly, how are you?
Anytime! I’m doing alright, which is totally okay to be. Wouldn’t you love if you asked that question and someone said, “Ya know, I feel like shit, but thanks for asking.” It’s REAL. I think it’s silly when people always reply, “I’m good, thanks!” Most of the time, they aren’t. We aren’t happy robots all the time. So, for today, I am only alright.

You are the founder of “The Struggle Club”, a website dedicated to work against the stigma of mental illness. What inspired you to start “The Struggle Club”?
It started with the below Instagram post (@ohheyynina). I look a mental health leave from my job at The Walt Disney Company this past summer—which they were very supportive of—and after “recovering” (I put that in quotes, because it’s always a struggle), I posted this caption. Some of my friends kept saying, “YES! STRUGGLE CLUB, FOR SURE,” so the gears started turning. I realized there wasn’t a community out there that is outspoken about mental illness like we are with social media (i.e embracing our opinions to the fullest), so I am working on combining the two. I want to make it easier for someone to post about their OCD, or their depression, and now be treated like they are a taboo. They’re only a human being.

The main part of your website is a blog on which you release new posts every Tuesday. Does writing equal liberation to you?
ALMOST every Tuesday! (Ha!) I’ve been dealing with my depression coming back, so it’s been hard to find ultimate motivation every week (on top of moving to Nashville and working full-time), but my post on depression is coming soon (stay tuned)! I think it was Bukowski who said, “You either write it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.” Writing is more than liberation, it’s survival. You gotta get those feelings out there, even if no one reads them. I still keep a private, online journal, where I just WRITE to myself, and it’s extremely healing. Hopefully the blog will serve as my public journal where others don’t have to feel so alone in their mental struggles if writing isn’t their thing.

What do you think are the difficulties nowadays surrounding mental illness as society started a conversation, but the impact is still at a minimum?
Ya know, it’s fascinating to me how we can spill SO MUCH about politics, breakups, who pissed us off, but we are still afraid of being open about mental health. I haven’t cracked the code as-to why, yet, but I believe society characterizing mental illness as “crazy” for centuries has not helped us. With social media comes QUICK backlash, so I believe as much as we want to post about ourselves, no one wants to fully submerge into the water of vulnerability and talk about who they REALLY are.

As you work in the entertainment industry, how do you think the industry is adapting to cultural changes surrounding mental health?
Yes and no. The Walt Disney Company has an entire department dedicated to mental health and medical leaves, so they get it. Everywhere else, not so much. I read a great article about the music industry affecting mental health. Entertainment is a beast, man, and in order to stay afloat you still have to do WHATEVER it takes, which, we all have a limit. Again, we’re not robots! Unless the entertainment industry can realize they aren’t curing cancer and calm down on how they treat their employees, less anxiety-driven individuals will permeate in media (because, trust me, there are A LOT of us).

As our website is focused on the importance of music, do you remember the first memory you have that is connected to music?
Aside from listening to Sinatra and The Doobie Brothers when I was little, my uncle took me to my first live concert when I was 15yrs old: Poison (we love 80s hair bands). I remember feeling so fulfilled as I watched the colors and lights and felt the crowd swell with energy as Bret Michaels was dancing around in tight jeans. It was the best feeling, and my gut never wanted to live without it. Hence why I aim to work with musicians, one day.

The mission of our website is bringing people together with the power of music and letting them share a story to a song that is connected to something special in their life as a song that helped someone might be able to help someone else too. Is there a specific song that helped you and would you mind sharing the story?

Hands down it’s “Sam’s Town” by The Killers. It’s a song about finding your solace when times are tough. My favorite line is, “I see London / I see Sam’s Town / Holds my hand and lets my hair down / Rolls that world right off my shoulder…” I always envision Brandon Flowers, a Las Vegas native, desperately rushing home and feeling a sigh of relief when he sees the Sam’s Town [Casino] sign after driving through hours of desert. I hope we all have our own Sam’s Town and can feel relief when we need it the most. The title is tattooed on my wrist as a reminder.

It seems like on the one side there are people who say: “music saved my life” while on the other, people deny that music itself has the ability to save someone. Would you mind sharing your opinion on that?
The former, for sure. I can give you a list of bands who have saved mine. Music is universal, it’s powerful. You can’t deny its connection to the human brain.

Before we come to an end. Is there anything you would like to say to people who are struggling at the moment?
If you’re struggling (which is okay, nothing to be ashamed about), take it one day at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you’ll never get better. Talk to someone—a psychiatrist, a therapist, a best friend, a parent. Don’t keep the pain to yourself. No man—or woman—is an island.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time!
Thank YOU.

NOW, please go and follow The Struggle Club everywhere: Facebook and of course the official website!

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