Brett Newski Playfully Explores Mental Health in Art and Song – Muse by Clio

Posted: July 2, 2021 at 1:55 am


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Below, in a conversation edited for clarity, Newski chats about the project and puts anxiety in perspective:

Brett Newski: I've been schlepping American highways as a full-time touring musician the past nine years. That's how I make a living. We fit into that '90s alternative sound, even though we were just little kids in the '90s when Nirvana and all that was happening. Some of those bands have taken us under their wing and brought us on tour, which really helped get going. Some bands we've played with include the Pixies, Violent Femmes, Manchester Orchestra, New Pornographers, Courtney Barnett and Better than Ezra.

I've had anxiety and depression as long as I can remember. I just never knew what that fuzzy brain haze was until recent years. When I felt down, it was like I would stop seeing in color for a few hours or days on end. It's good to have a definition for anxiety. Even if it's just made-up words by humans. It made me realize those moments of existential dread are only temporary, and most other people experience them, too.

When I was but a wee man, I would draw my own sports trading cards in my parents' basement for hours on end. I would create my own sports leagues and play out simulation games by myself all day. I would literally dunk on myself on a Fisher-Price plastic basketball hoop in my parents' basement.

One afternoon I was trapped in my brain, and I started drawing to make fun of my own "disloyal," anxious brain. My brain was attacking me, and I saw drawing as a way out. I posted a few of them online and the response was really friendly warm. So, I kept making them for three years. Eventually I had over 200 drawings and my editor Anna and I whittled them down to the best 140 for the book.

The idea of the book was to share the tips and hacks that help me get out of my own head. It entails everything from specific stretches to going to the driving range to how to escape social media. It uses ham-fisted humor to boost mental health, even if just a little.

Anxiety is fuel. Anxiety is not all bad. In fact, it's the catalyst for my ability to write. Anxiety is that fight or flight in our DNA. There's examples from history. When certain species don't have a fight or flight, they just get clubbed by a caveman and cooked for dinner. Anxiety keeps me alive. When you're in an anxiety "toilet bowl," it's hard to have the awareness to realize you're just bullying yourself. When the clouds part and you get out of that anxiety spiral, you finally realize how 99 percent of your worries were irrational and silly. I find many of my anxiety spirals to be hilarious in retrospect.

It's medicine. Maybe part of it is self-avoidance, but for the most part it's free therapy. You can vent out a lot of your brain toxins through creation. Even if it's just drawing something on a napkin.

It's OK to be sad. I think Instagram culture pummels you with other people's "greatest hits," which is unrealistic. It creates a flawed barometer for how it actually is to be a person. It is hard to be a person, no matter who you arerich or poor or successful or not, or whatever. The brain is a marvel and a beauty but it's also a complicated apparatus that often doesn't work in our favor. It's OK to down sometimes. It's just part of the cycle.

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Brett Newski Playfully Explores Mental Health in Art and Song - Muse by Clio

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:55 am

Posted in Self-Improvement