Mike splits his time between his music, teaching about abuse and mental health stigma, “Surviving Spirit” (a non-profit and also a newsletter), his family, many friends, and fun things, like hiking and camping. As you might guess, he has a lot of energy.
He had an awful childhood that included physical, sexual and emotional abuse from his parents and their friends. What saved him was reading about people who survived against all odds and the Beatles, who opened up another world to him. He became a drummer and joined local bands, eventually touring England for two years with the hard rock band “American Train.” He then spent fifteen years running a small record company and managing an agency that booked 20-30 groups.
At that point, Mike had a flood of memories and came into the mental health system. Here is an excerpt from his blog at http://www.mskinnermusic.com/home/walk-mental-health-awareness-month/
“I came to dread those words (‘mental illness’ or ‘mentally ill’) back in the early to mid nineties, when the horrors of my childhood abuse came back to ‘visit’ me in 1993. I became grief-stricken and overwhelmed by the terror associated with my early life. I was numb with shock and pain and deeply depressed because I was finally dealing with the unresolved sadness, hurt and losses associated with my childhood years. The flashbacks associated with that time frame seemed to roll on in an endless loop – having to ‘watch’ and revisit all of the sexual abuse memories I had worked so hard to suppress was overwhelming and it brought great suffering. Labels were placed upon the experiences I was having now, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] and Major Depression…and yes, within those descriptions came the many treatment providers letting me know that I was “mentally ill”, and life as I knew it was over. My life, as they were prescribing, would be one of over-medication and the belief that I would never be able to work again. Hmm…a person becomes sad, frightened and overwhelmed because of these horrible life experiences and that means you are destined to a life of nothingness? Wow! How sad and oh-so wrong to believe that. Please know, there were some wonderful mental health treatment providers who did not espouse these hurtful views to me, but sadly, many of them were part of a “mental health” system that did believe in these warped thoughts.”
Well, Mike proved them wrong, in spades, and built a whole new career based on helping others.
Because of how he was treated when he was in the first stages of coming to terms with his past, he puts “Please know, I AM NOT A DIAGNOSIS” and “A diagnosis is not a destiny!” all over his websites and newsletters.
Mike writes and performs in two areas, abuse education and fighting mental health stigma, and everything else. Everything else includes his own songs about life, love, loss and hope and cover songs from the Beatles, The Eagles, Cat Stevens and classic rock. He performs in settings ranging from intimate coffee shops to concert halls with audiences of several thousand.
His music of advocacy and education is performed just about any place people want him. Some of the big names that did want him are Oprah Winfrey, the United Nations, and the State Department. He’s on the Board of Directors of dozens of non-profits working to end child abuse and human trafficking and has spoken on Webinars, TV and the radio.
Plus he puts out a monthly newsletter describing about 20 artists and activists involved in healing projects; “Surviving Spirit: Healing the Heart Through the Creative Arts.” It has several thousand subscribers internationally. He’s also active in the non-profit of the same name. You would think he worked thirty-hour days, without sleep.
Now if you are a musician, a writer, a dancer, an artist working in paint, ink, sculpture, fabric (or just about anything else) or a public speaker on child abuse or the stigma of “mental illness,” please remember that Mike is extraordinary in many ways. Try not to compare yourself with him! Each of us is different, each has a different talent and approach. And we need every single person to stand together and give strength to all of us for this long, hard, but intensely rewarding fight.
Use Mike as inspiration to help you start and get through the day. Please write him, let him know what you are doing and ask to be included in the newsletter, so that you, too, will inspire others. You will join his circle of friends and learn of many people doing fascinating work.
You can listen to tracks from his three CD’s, “Train of Tears,” “Waitin’ for a Train,” and “Pirates.” Go to http://www.mskinnermusic.com/home/ and pull down the “Music” tab.