This week on No Restraints with Rudy Caseres my guest is Eleni Gogos. Eleni is a 4th year student at Rochester Institute of Technology and is studying to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. After struggling with her mental health, Eleni started volunteering for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and became an “Ending the Silence” presenter to share her story with others. This past June, she received the 2018 National Young Leader Award at the NAMI Convention for “outstanding work to ensure that young people living with mental illness live full lives in their communities”. She serves on the Board of Directors for NAMI Rochester in New York, being the youngest to be nominated and elected at 20 years old. Eleni, now 22, is also involved with legislative advocacy and suicide prevention, and has spoken at many events, panels, radio shows and more. Eleni was the youngest guest I've had on No Restraints so far. At 31, I'm glad I didn't come off (much) as an old crufter.
You can learn more about Eleni Gogos at egogos.com.
See you again next week for an all-new No Restraints with Rudy Caseres. Wednesdays 12pm PT/3pm ET.. Watch live at Facebook.com/RudyCaseres and, of course, watch all past episodes at NoRestraints.net.
Because it's for your own good.
Rudy: 00:01 Hey everyone, welcome to a brand new episode of No Restraints with Rudy Caseres, I'm Rudy Caseres, duh. It's great to be back home in my apartment and I have a guest on Eleni Gogos. Eleni Gogos, I appreciate you coming on because this is the first time we've ever met virtually and that is amazing. And if you're watching this live, show some support for Eleni because like I said, this is her first Facebook live interview and she deserves some love and appreciation and let us know where you're from. If you know Eleni, if you're in the NAMI Rochester family, let us know that you're here and it's glad to be back. Like I said, past few weeks I've been out and about doing on location Facebook Lives. Uh, last week I wasn't able to do one because of the Great Facebook Outage of 2019. So sorry about that. I got to do a Facebook Live for The Mighty that's even no longer even there, but that's totally fine. Without further adieu, tell the whole world the whole No Restraints universe... Who is Eleni Gogos?
Eleni: 01:15 All right. Uh, I'm Eleni Gogos. I am a fourth year student at Rochester Institute of Technology. Uh, that's in Rochester, New York. I am studying to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. That's my end goal. And last a year I was awarded the NAMI National Young Leader Award, which is kind of my, my best thing that I've kind of accomplished so far, which really means a lot to me. And so far, um, the most thing that I enjoyed doing and sitting on the board of directors for NAMI, Rochester. And that's been, um, kind of a very, I think integral part of the youth moving forward. I'm having board members that are youth, so I think that's very important. So that's, that's what I've been focusing on.
Rudy: 02:10 Yeah. You know, I actually discovered you because I was nominated for that same youth award and I was trying to find out if they had announced it because I was like really, really thought I got, I had this on lockdown, no one could touch me. And I just happened to be searching through it on Facebook and I saw something about you and I was like, "who is this person that's stole my award?"
Eleni: 02:37 (Laughs) That's really, that's really funny.
Rudy: 02:38 Yeah. I actually, I actually did go to the NAMI national convention just for one day just to snoop around. I didn't get to meet you. So it's glad to finally see you and get the chat for a while.
Eleni: 02:50 Yeah, that's really awesome. I know . it was really interesting to me all the other people who got different sorts of awards and to see the variety of awards. But it's interesting to see all the youth. I wish there was more youth presence there. Um, but I know it's growing slowly, so that's kind of what I've been focusing on as the youth presence with, uh...
Rudy: 03:15 Yeah. I've been to the NAMI national convention three years in a row. I won't be able to go this year. I've been to the state conference for two or three of them as well. And every time I go, it's just, I can count the number of young people under 30 on
Eleni: 03:31 (holds up left hand) One hand (laughs)
Rudy: 03:32 Maybe it's maybe one hand
Eleni: 03:35 Me as well. Yes. (laughs)
Rudy: 03:37 Yeah. I mean, I, I'm, I'm surprised people aren't there pinching my cheeks and patting me on the head. So how are you, how are you going to change that?
Eleni: 03:49 Well, we have tried to, I know NAMI On Campus has been a big thing that we have been trying to kind of raise the bar, but um, I've been trying to do this for two years now, at least in my current campus. Um, but it has been on hold. Um, NAMI national has placed a hold on the process, so that's kind of left us with a, a little bump in the road. So whatever we can do kind of outside of that realm of college students, uh, pretty much anything else we can do to get them to get involved with these state conferences or just any events in general. Um, come to the walks. And make, you know, college teams for the walks, things like that. Um, to get them engaged because we don't have a platform for, you know, a campus affiliation. Um, things like that. It's slow, it's very slow and very limited in numbers. But I would really like to see more engagement because I really am one of the many few people that I see there. And I'd really like it to grow. Um, cause I think it's really beneficial. That's how I kind of got involved with all of this. So I think it would, it would skyrocket.
Rudy: 05:09 Yeah. NAMI is pretty much known and it started out this way as a support group and resource group for parents. Yeah. And it's very much that today. I mean you got the NAMI Family to Family, they have those like every single week of the year, at least where I am at in Los Angeles and Peer to Peer is just kind of just there and it's just, it's, it's kind of sad. I mean because you have peers on the national board. And on my state board as well, but it seems often that we're just the token member and we're just really not treated seriously. And that's why you have other groups that spread out like Mental Health America and even more radical groups and recovery groups, groups that they don't even identify with the mental health movement because they feel so alienated by it. And I can totally understand that. So if someone comes up to you and says, you know what, screw NAMI, like they don't represent me. What do you as a peer who's on a state board and who's got to like fly the flag proudly, what do you say to them?
Eleni: 06:12 Right. I've actually had this conversation before and it's, it's on my mind, um, that, you know, I'm not me at least NAMI Rochester was founded unlike these, we call them "NAMI Mommies," the familes. So we obviously don't want to discredit them, or, you know, for their work and their time and efforts. But at the same time, you know, most of, at least my Rochester Board is compiled of family members and other professionals and things like that. And here I am this very, very young person who is total lived experience. And that's about it. I'm like the only person pretty much. And to me, I think that's very essential. You know, I came in and I'm, I'm saying like, there's a piece missing here. I understand family is a very essential, but you're missing an, a very important piece that we try to address is the, you're, you're relating to someone with that lived experience and I think that person needs to be involved, you know, um, that's kind of how I started connecting to people with reaching out to my story and people were disclosing to me and you know, asking for an many resources because I was a relatable here. So I think that's the piece that was missing. And over the summer I was approached by NAMI New York State. I was already on the NAMI Rochester Board. NAMI New York State approached me for a state board application. So that was another step in the road. Um, because again, you know, they kind of saw what NAMI Rochester was doing with, you know, the youth and the peer, um, lived experience and they thought, you know, that's going on the right direction. Um, and they kind of know we're looking to follow that. Um, I was away in Europe so I couldn't complete the application in time. Nonetheless, but I did think that was a really good idea. So I think it could be kind of like a chain reaction for other affiliates. Um, and state affiliates of NAMI if they keep on kind of doing the same thing because it's a new thing, you know, not a lot of affiliates are doing that right now. Um, but I think it's essential to have that cause it's kind of what part of our mission, you know?
Rudy: 08:33 Yeah. Me Personally, I don't think I can be on a board. I just don't like getting involved with the politics. I like to just go out there, do my own thing. I partner with organizations, but not necessarily having to be an apologist or having to fly any one flag. That's just me. Um, let's get to comments. Let's see, Joelle Marie says, "how did the family members you work with feel about the term "NAMImommy? [Which is a term I'm very familiar with, by the way. haha.]" And feel free anyone watching this to ask questions, even if it's not live. I totally get it. People got things to do during the day. I see you people in the, in the (inaudible) who are just watching. I call them "lurkers." Uh, I see Natasha as well. Natasha West. Big shout out to you, former guest on No Restraints with Rudy Caseres. This is I believe episode 38 if you count the two bonus episodes with Gabe Howard and Zima Creason. Answer that (laughs). Let's put it back up just so it's been so long. Family members feel about the term "NAMI Mommy."
Eleni: 09:38 Okay. Yeah. Um, it's not definitely like a term that we use quite often. It's just kind of a slang, you know, jokingly term that we use for the people that initially, you know, built the foundation of the organization back then. Um, cause I know sometimes once we introduced some, when we introduce someone who is young and who is a peer and wants to bring these new ideas to the table, um, the other people who have like founded these, um, ideas who are, you know, um, family members or I guess as you could say as they would say, NAMI Mommies might get a little offended because they feel as if their work has been almost, I dunno, discredited or not respected. Or I've had this conversation with other board members and to me I kind of, you know, try to keep it like respectful as if, no, I'm not discrediting and like all the work you've done to grow this organization, but you know, we are trying to bring in change from youth and lived experience as well. So, um, I don't know exactly how they would feel about that term, but in particular, but I think that, um, those particular grassroots people have family, um, definitely have some sort of.. umm I don't know if I would call it a bias, but, um ... Definitely feel a different sort of way towards the new peers youth kind of jumping in, I believe. At least that's how I felt initially when I joined the board. Yeah.
Rudy: 11:30 Right. And before my next question, I want to make sure to give a shout out to Deanna Ruston who is coming from Canada. "You are studying to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner." Thank you for paying attention to the caption. "As your, as your goal, what is your planned educational pathway to get there?"
Eleni: 11:48 Well, interesting question. Um, so it took me a long way to get to that point and figure that out. As many of us have stumbled in our mental health areas to get there. Um, so right now I'm finishing my bachelor's in psychology and then I will be doing hopefully a 12 month fast track program to get my RN, uh, hopefully at the University of Rochester and then followed by a, uh, a psychiatric nurse practitioner program. I'll start at the University of Rochester hoping to open up my own practice.
Rudy: 12:29 Now you mentioned your lived experience and some people might be watching this thinking like, "oh, everyone's got lived experience. What makes you so special now?" As comfortable as you are? Um, would you mind sharing that?
Eleni: 12:41 Yeah, of course. This is something that I quite often share very publicly, so it's, to me it's really not anything much special. Um, my lived experience is, um, the variety of things. I guess in a nutshell, I would say to keep it short. Um, I struggle with bipolar two disorder. Um, I have been through, you know, various treatments, various medications, very, very low points, very, very high points, a lot of turmoil, struggles, emotional rollercoasters. Um, anything that I'm sure someone with bipolar could very much so relate to, um, that kind of twist and turn, um, that could bring turmoil to myself, family members, friends, loved ones, um, things like that. Um, so it's kind of the lived experience that I would, um, say. I've also lost, um, three people to suicide, uh, quite recently. So that's also something that I would consider close to me regarding mental health. Um, that would be it in a nutshell. You know, keeping it short.
Rudy: 14:02 Now say you were just to wake up tomorrow and have a manic episode, what would that look like? How would you react to that?
Eleni: 14:09 Uh (laughs) yeah, I, uh, sometimes when I, uh, I'm doing these presentations for, um, the kids, the youth, uh, with NAMI in schools, I try to explain, you know, what a manic episode would look like, but in lighter terms, you know, sometimes I tried to make it funny like laughable, you know, so they kind of understand, but it's not too serious. And, you know, I'll tell them about the time where like, I would rearrange my basement or like attic at like three in the morning and I'm like, yeah, this is what I did. Or, um, just like the idea of like that instant, um, that instant need. If the instant gratification I'm like, needs to be done now, there's no other way, um, at least that's how it would be for me. Um, excessive drinking, definitely for me, very excessive spending or you get them to a lot of trouble with that. Credit cards are not good for me. (Laughs) uh, let's see what else? Um, very, uh... Before psychology I used to be a design student. Um, so I, I tend to be very on the creative spectrum. Um, I do a lot of things at once, so I would just never ever, ever sleep. And I would just have scribbles like everywhere and papers all over the room. And it was just very overwhelming and I would have maybe like six different projects going on at once and I would never finish them, but I would just, I'd wake up one one day with this amazing, brilliant idea. I was like, this is going to save the world. And I would start writing and writing and then I would get depressed and I wouldn't finish it. And then I'd get more depressed because I didn't finish it. And it would just, you know, kind of cycle through back again and again and again. So that's kind of how would explain to people and the easiest terms.
Rudy: 16:22 Yeah. Yeah. And I'm bipolar too. So. So a lot of what you say I can relate to, I haven't had a manic episode in over two years now. As for you, do you fear being manic again or do you think you have this, you think you could take it on?
Eleni: 16:39 That's a good question. I like that question. Well, I don't, I don't fear it. Um, I don't think that obviously causes me a lot of turmoil and distress, but I don't, I haven't seen myself, um, gone to such an extreme that it has been so completely like terrible that I have, you know, like landed myself in jail, you know, so I'm like, I'm not fearing it, but I, I'm, I feel like I might be able to handle it, but I want to be a stable level, you know, so I'm not trying to put that fear in myself. I'm trying to, you know, take it one day at a time and, you know, keep going with my treatment and not try not to be fearful of what's to come and just take it one day at a time and... yes.
Rudy: 17:41 Yeah. I mean, I deal with mostly depression and anxiety and every now and then I wish like, "Oh, if I could just have one day of hypomania where I'm just like -
Eleni: 17:51 (Laughs) I have thought that. Oh yes. (Crosstalk) Especially, yeah, in the midst of the depression, you do kind of, I do feel, I feel guilty sometimes for thinking, you know, you know, if only I had some yypomania, you know, this would really be a lot better. But -
Rudy: 18:07 Yeah, I do think that even hypomania can be managed. I mean, if you're not hurting anyone, if you are hyper productive and you're creative and you just got a lot of positive energy going on, you feel euphoria. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. As long as it's not negatively affecting others. I know other people, even if they're not being hurt, they can still be weirded out by that and think it's like, "oh, you're sick. You need to be locked up, blah, blah, blah." So I hope in the future, less and less people will not be so afraid or weirded out by people who are hypomanic, who are doing their best to live their best life.
Eleni: 18:47 Oh yeah. And that's why I was misdiagnosed. I did not see a problem with hypomania. I didn't know what it was. I thought I was just like being so productive and I was doing so well, so I totally missed that whole part of it. Um, and that's kind of where the problems came in with wrong treatment, wrong medication, you know, things like that. Um, so that's kind of where I went wrong there.
Rudy: 19:16 Yeah. Joelle Marie says "At some point it can get exhausting." That's why it's good that we have like a one day mania.
Eleni: 19:22 I wrote that actually in a paper I wrote about um, bipolar highs and lows. And I wrote about how great it was for productivity. But my last point was that I can get, you know, it can be a burnout after all, at the end and it can get exhausting and that's where it can be problematic.
Rudy: 19:40 Yeah. Like we all want to be hypomanic until we're hypomanic.
Eleni: 19:43 Yes, yes, yes.
Rudy: 19:47 So Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Nurse, like I - some of my best experiences have been with psychiatric nurses. I've had almost all bad experiences with psychiatrists. And even therapists, like I had to -
Eleni: 19:59 I've heard this, I'm surprised because I, I've only had experiences with nurse practitioners. I've just started seeing a psychiatrist now for the first time and I'm just skeptical. (Laughs)
Rudy: 20:13 Yeah. I mean, I (crosstalk) I had one nurse who was like, basically he's my therapist. I think he actually got in trouble because we would be like speaking for like an hour and all he had to do was give me a shot. (Laughs) But yeah. And it's, it's funny how that works out. Like was that your first goal of being a nurse practitioner? Did you think about becoming a psych psychiatrist or a therapist or anything else?
Eleni: 20:37 Um, I wasn't looking to be a therapist. I definitely, I love the biological aspect of it. Um, my tracks in psychology are, um, bio and clinical psychology, so I love that whole realm. I love pharmacology. Um, I love how the brain works. Um, so I definitely was geared towards that way. But between, you know, nurse practitioner and psychiatry, I definitely felt more compelled towards nurse practitioner. I know there's a need for them and I definitely also would be less schooling and less loans. That would be a plus side, but I just, I feel more compelled. But I've had better experiences with nurse practitioners and I feel like that's the right thing for me.
Rudy: 21:31 Yeah. My main question that I wanted to ask you, we talk about the youth. The Youth Revolution. And like changing the world. But say, say, there was a NAMI board that was all young people. What would that look like? What would you actually want to accomplish?
Eleni: 21:48 Hmm. That's a great question.
Rudy: 21:51 So two good questions in one interview, that's all I ask for.
Eleni: 21:56 Oh, let's see. What would I want to accomplish? What, are you talking like nationally. Are you talking like per affiliate?
Rudy: 22:07 I would, I would say nationally. Let's, let's say like -
Eleni: 22:11 Wow!
Rudy: 22:12 All NAMI boards were just taken over by youth, people with lived experience and you all band together in saying, "We're going to change the world for the better." What does that look like?
Eleni: 22:23 Okay. All right. Um, well, anytime I talked to really anybody who has struggled the first thing they tell me, it's the one thing that helps them is hearing from someone. Um, and it's usually the youth. Uh... At least I know when I do the presentations, I always get the evaluation forms back and I go through them and I read them and you know, I see what they have to say. And they're all like, we don't care about the slideshows. We don't care about the presentation. We don't care about the lady who spoke up there. You know, we don't care about this. We care about the woman who sat up there and like gave us her real and raw experience. Like she went through chronologically what happened in her life and she told us what happened to her, how she got through it, her recovery and her hope afterwards. And like, that's what they wanted to listen to. And I see it, you know, in the classroom, you know, they don't really pay attention to what the presenter is saying. You know, the slides and statistics. Um, and like even like educational parts of, you know, suicide prevention and mental health. But as soon as like me or another partner, we'll go and introduce themselves as like, not even including like a diagnosis. I'll say, you know, I like to paint, I like to do this. And then I'll go into saying, um, my story and then I'll tell them like some really like interesting in graphic and the broad details and there's literally like looking at me like this and like they can't like it. Not a sound, you don't hear a pin drop and it's amazing. So I think that is like one of the most powerful things that any youth could bring to any, any program, any board, anywhere you go. I really like recommend doing that.
Rudy: 24:31 Yeah, I agree. One of the most rewarding experiences of my speaking career, I was actually doing an Ending The Silence presentation and the parent she was doing her PowerPoint slide show and they were brutal to her. Like I thought she was going to give up and this was like only the first of like four presentations we had to give that day. Just completely, completely rude. And then I get up, I do my thing. I'm only speaking for 10 minutes. Boom, boom, boom. They all shut up, they all listen, and they all give good evaluations. Some people are writing the evaluations like, "You inspired me to talk about my own eating disorder or my own self harm. (Crosstalk) I'm going to see a therapist now. Yeah. That was amazing.
Eleni: 25:13 Yes. It's wonderful to see that for kids actually write like "You inspired me to have confidence to talk about my mental health." It's like boom, you just saw change right there. Or I'll stay after class and the teacher will tell me like "this student right here, he has bipolar disorder and that's why she was asking you so many questions and that's why she wants to talk to you after class." I'm like, "this is wonderful." You know? So I think that's like a really important aspect of making any sort of change. Yeah.
Rudy: 25:47 Yeah. No, I agree. And I'm glad you mentioned that. Deiann - Deanna says, "Do you identify with lived and living experience when describing yourself." I believe you did. You did say that. Um, but just for the benefit of Deanna, who is a loyal viewer, do you agree with that? You identify with lived experience?
Eleni: 26:07 Oh yes.
Rudy: 26:09 Do you prefer any better term?
Eleni: 26:11 100 percent.
Rudy: 26:11 Do you have any other ways of identifying as?
Eleni: 26:14 Uh, I usually say "lived experience" or "live with a mental health condition." That's pretty much how I would say it. Yeah.
Rudy: 26:23 Now, do you ever go somewhere and scream from the rooftops, "I have a mental illness!?"
Eleni: 26:28 You cut off there. I couldn't hear you.
Eleni: 26:31 Do you ever like just go say out loud to people, "I have a mental illness?"
Eleni: 26:36 I've said it sometimes. Yeah. I mean, uh, in my speech, uh, at the NAMI national convention, it's like all over YouTube. I said in front of, uh, the CEO, the board, a couple of thousand people. It's online everywhere. I was just like, "Hey, I'm bipolar." (laughs) You know. And I'm just like, you know, like I shouldn't have to be like hiding that I'm saying that, you know. I think it's perfectly okay. That describes my lived experience. So.
Rudy: 27:09 Cool. Um, one more question from the audience and then we'll bring it home. Joelle Marie again says "When doing psych courses, I had similar reactions when sharing my own experiences. People would pay attention instead of screwing around on their phones -
Eleni: 27:22 Oh, yes. (giggles)
Rudy: 27:23 [like during presentations?]. I mean, I've done presentations in front of doctors and they're all on their phones too. So it's not just the kids.
Eleni: 27:32 It's true. People are naturally drawn to the more personal and raw and emotional pieces that they're going to listen to other than the textbook. The - those are things that you can't really hear anywhere else. Um, they're more valuable. Uh, so I definitely agree with that and I've had the same experiences.
Rudy: 27:54 Yeah. I mean, that's one of my number one goals when speaking is to get people off their phones.
Eleni: 27:58 Yes.
Rudy: 28:00 Get people off their phones, uh, inspire to share their own story, and, um, not leaving early. (Laughs)
Eleni: 28:09 Yes (laughs)
Rudy: 28:10 Those are, those are my three goals. So the next, next speech I'm going to do like, as long as I can accomplish those three things, or at least two of them, at least people don't walk out. That's all I care about. So and I will link to your speech. I'll go look that up on Youtube and I'll post that in the comments. I appreciate everyone who asked questions or just said, hi, I see you, Barbara. I appreciate you. I see you Shirley as well. If you're watching this later on the day, later on the week, later on in the month, I appreciate that as well. Feel free to share because that's what gives us a bigger audience and inspires me. There goes that word, inspiration, to do more of these, this is already episode 38. This is going on year two. So thank you for all the support and I appreciate you, Eleni. So feel free to talk about whatever you want to promote, anything you want. So final words, words of wisdom. The floor is yours. I'll give you the whole screen.
Eleni: 29:10 All right, very cool. Well, I would just say that, let's see, reading some of the comments back here. Uh, greetings from Barbara. Alright. Hello Joelle. All right, so I would just say emphasizing the lived experience. I would put that anywhere I possibly could. Uh, engaging youth. So, so important. I have lost, um, all the people I've lost to suicide have been youth. Uh, so I think that is extremely important. Um, youth intervention and suicide prevention is extremely important. Um, and it's a chain reaction. You might be a little hesitant to speak up. I've had people telling me that they're nervous to speak up and so I kind of pull my strings a little bit and they start speaking and then they'll start speaking and it just allows a more comfortable doorway for someone to open up to you. And you'd be surprised how much they're going to come back and start openly speaking and having a conversation. So I encourage you to speak whenever you can or just, you know, check up on someone. So if anyone has any questions about NAMI or anything else, feel (inaudible) feel free to contact me and... (laughs) Got a little, a little mess up there. But yeah, this is wonderful and Rudy is wonderful, wonderful resource and I'm really glad to have been here on the show today.
Rudy: 30:49 Thank you. I appreciate you. And like I mentioned before, you are the, you're the youngest guest I've had on No Restraints. Um, I appreciate that for coming on. Like we'd never met each other. I could have been a complete weirdo and thank you for sticking with me. Like we actually started about 12 minutes late because we could not, I could not get my camera and mic set up. So thank you for hanging in there. I appreciate it. I appreciate all of you (the viewers). And I'd love to have you on like a year from now, five years from now. I'm, I know you're not going anywhere. Sometimes I have guests on and then like two months later they disappear off the face of the earth. So please hang in there. Self Care, self care, self care.
Eleni: 31:29 Oh, yeah!
Rudy: 31:29 I hope you keep sharing your story. I hope you keep leading the way even when you're an old crufter like me and you look on the youth the Generation like Z Minus Plus and look at them like, "Oh those kids don't know anything." I hope you hang in there. Hope you keep sharing your story and I hope you keep being a mental health advocate. And as for next week, you know, I hate announcing guests ahead of time, but I feel so confident about this. My next guest, I'm actually traveling again to San Diego, California to interview mental health advocate extraordinaire Melody Moezzi. That'll be amazing because I've been following her for quite some time. She has also bipolar as well, and wrote the book Haldols and Hyacinths, which is a memoir talking about her experience as a Muslim woman as well. So look out for that next Wednesday, 12:00 PM Pacific. 3:00 PM Eastern Time. (Pauses) Because it's for your own good.