David Castagna

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

With StayWhole's logo being a spiral and originally just a circle. Its safe to say that with one look at David's Instagram and website I immediately was drawn in to his vibrant and abstract paintings. His work embodies the energy and completeness StayWhole wants to spread across the world. When reaching out to him I didn't expect such a genuine response to talking about mental health with me, but you guys will find that David was able to dive deep and give us exactly what we all needed to hear.. and that's HONESTY.

David is a software engineer with a great personality full of dad jokes, which stems from being the father of three beautiful children! He is a huge fan of the Sci-Fi realm and loves everything about Star Trek, he even attends the conventions for it ! What really captured my heart was how he is really working on himself so that he can stop the generational mental health issues that have plagued his family. He is so proud of his children and want them to grow up healthy and happy in a world where there is no shame in asking for help and he is doing just that by sharing his thoughts and stories about mental health. Thank you for you pureness on such an overwhelming topic David! Hope you guys enjoy this interview and go checkout his paintings!

What is your perspective on mental health?

Like most others I feel mental illness in our society still comes with some very shortsighted and potentially damaging stereotypes.  The brain is given immediate medical attention when there are physical abnormalities that require it.  Not so with mental illness.  The brain is unique in the human body in that it ties all other organs into one unified being.  And that makes it a hundredfold more critical.  As a society we must push for full and broad acceptance of mental health to the end that it is seen as just another part of health and not stigmatized, shamed or hidden.

Without a good base of mental health support from peers, professionals, friends and family our brains shift us from happiness, vitality, self-acceptance and inner peace over to sadness, depression, self-doubt and negative self-talk.  The world around us is a community of social beings and is diminishing as a whole when one of us suffers.  It does not matter if that suffering is physical or mental.  The diminished is still felt by all. Even as our society is diminished that same society must also protect itself.  It must learn the compassion, skills and knowledge to understand and heal itself.  It must also advocate for those who are not able to advocate for themselves.  As individuals we need to: Take the time to learn and understand and talk about mental illness.Ask what you can do and then provide it unconditionally.Share your experiences to help break down walls of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness.Listen to those who are not heard and really try to hear them. Show compassion to those who cannot feel it of themselves or do not show it to others.Demonstrate gratitude to show an alternative to the negative self talk.Demonstrate gratitude and praise when it is duly earned by those that have never known what that is like to receive it. Be the helping hand to those who are in such pain that they believe there is no way out or no way through. Be consistent in support for those whose world is falling apart around them. Be strong for those that cannot lift up their heads in pride.Intervene when you see abuse and stop it from happening.Teach and demonstrate basic respect for all life and love your fellow man as you would want to be loved.Expose the parts of our society that need education and shore them up.

Above all understand that we all have this organ in our heads and any one of us can fall victim to any one of countless maladies.

All walks of life. All races. All religions. All countries. All people everywhere. And that includes you and me.

Who is David Castagna?

A long time ago I started feeling... wrong.  I bounced from doctor to doctor never getting a clear understanding of what my issues might be.  I ultimately ended up in an emergency room having chest pains and a full-on panic attack and was admitted for observation.  That is when my journey through my mental illness began.  I eventually got diagnoses of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression.  And through talk therapy and support groups I have explored many other aspects of my mental health including Eating Disorders, Emotional Neglect and Addiction.  I am slowly coming to terms with the person I have become and trying every day to say goodbye to the parts of me I want to let go of.

For so many years my "purpose" was to make others happy - or more accurately to not make them angry :(  I have, through a lot of self-examination, learned to let my own needs drive me.  My actions are driven by a desire to help because through helping others I learn more about myself.

How do you feel your creative community is effected when it comes to mental health?

Art in all its forms is fundamentally necessary to the advancement of the human condition.  Science, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, physics, you name it - all of it has been advanced in incalculable ways by the creative spark of art.  When one of us suffers we all lose out.  When depression brings us down or negative self-talk convinces us we aren’t worthy or anxiety cripples us or panic sends us running one creative impulse is snuffed out.  Each creative creative spark we lose this way is one lost opportunity for human growth and enlightenment.

What are some things you do to stay balanced?

I speak with a CBT therapist on a regular basis and I attend two support groups weekly.  One group is specifically for eating disorders held out of The Awakening Center (www.awakeningcenter.net) in Chicago, Illinois.  The other group is conducted by an organization called SMART Recovery (www.smartrecovery.org) which holds meetings (and hosts online forums) primarily dealing with substance and process addiction.

I am working on establishing an on-line community via the app GroupMe for support among the members of my in-person support groups so that we have a place to talk throughout the week and when support groups cannot be held.  I feel it is very important to maintain open lines of communication to keep each other supported and validated and to provide tools to one another.

My art is probably my main, non-therapy-based tool.  Channeling my emotions through to the paper is a wonderful tool for me to decompress.  But I also find the quiet time excellent for pondering questions that occupy my mind.

I also listen to podcasts voraciously.  I some of my favorites include:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour (www.mentalpod.com).ID10T Podcast (www.id10t.com) - You'd be surprised how often mental health comes up in a pop-culture podcast.The JV Club (www.thejvclub.org) - Same thing as above - a lot of mental health discussion.  It also has an emphasis on adolescence and is a very pro-woman podcast.Food Psych Podcast with Christy Harrison (www.christyharrison.com/foodpsych)

Beyond these I find a bunch of other podcasts I listen to generally very relaxing and interesting.

Music is also very important to me.  I have a special playlist on YouTube that I built from songs I find uplifting.  They always help me to feel better.

  David Castagna    Chicago, Illinois

Social Media Handles Instagram:    @david.castagna.7 Web:  https://www.davidcastagna.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Art-Of-David-Castagna-1568244399960283/


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