A Developmental Journey

This is a guest contribution.

My Father and I were never close during my childhood. He was frequently traveling and even when he was home he was emotionally unavailable to me. After he was diagnosed with lung cancer he and I began to connect more and he became a valuable and necessary part of my life and my career. I think that is part of what made his death so hard to deal with; the fact that we just started to get close to each other, and that it was over and I would never get that chance again.

After his passing, music was really the only way that I could express what was going around in my head. I felt so much emotion, but it was comforting to me that the legacy of music that was passed down to me from my father was also the way I could deal with his passing. Even in the midst of our painful separation he was still there with me watching as I tried to wrap my head around losing someone that I loved so much. If I didn’t have a way to express what I was going through I think it would have been a whole lot harder to go through.

Looking back now I see that I was numb and that it would have been incredibly hard for anyone to have to process a loss of that caliber as I tried to do, but being able to express little pieces at a time in music allowed me to save what I was feeling so that I could come back and revisit it when I had more bandwidth. That really proved to be a positive thing in my road back to health because every time I listen to those songs from that time period, I know exactly what I was going through only it makes more sense this side of the pain. That is why I believe self expression and self reflection is so important in the scope of one’s developmental journey.


Written by Chris Levy


LA-based singer-songwriter Chris Levy lost his father to brain cancer. To keep his father’s memory alive, Chris changed his stage name to “Son of Levi” (a play on “Levy”) and now performs music that his father once loved. To listen to Son of Levi’s music and read his full bio, click here:






People | June 14th, 2012 | Comments Off | View post page →

Darkness Visible

Close your eyes for a moment, and then come back…

…How would you describe that darkness?

How do you describe darkness like that when you see it all the time—even when your eyes are open—in front of you, behind you, beside you, above you, below you, and when you feel it is inside of you, filling your lungs, stomach, and heart and oozing from every pore of your body? It is very difficult to articulate that sight and those feelings.

That is the situation a person who is struggling with depression finds themselves in. They are reluctant to reach out from the darkness for help because few in the light are willing and able to understand and reach in to depression’s intangible darkness to help.

To bridge these two sides, there needs to be someone who can piece together the sight and the feelings of the darkness with words which can light the way out and back into the brightness for those struggling, and light the way in to the darkness for those who want to understand and help.

William Styron was, and still is, one of those bearers of such light. William is regarded as one of America’s greatest novelists, having written such novels as Lie Down in Darkness, The Confessions of Nat Turner—winner of the 1967 Pulitzer Prize—and  Sophie’s Choice. Despite early and tremendous success—he published his first novel Lie Down in Darkness at just 26 years old—William battled depression on and off during his lifetime. Instead of keeping it hidden, he became very open about it and in 1990, at age 65, published a memoir called Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. With his openness and sincerity he helped facilitate a conversation between readers who have faced depression and others who haven’t. (Sources for William Styron’s biographical information: and

William died in 2006, at age 81, but his legacy lives on in his groundbreaking novels and honest memoir. Today, Darkness Visible, along with his other books are available in ebook format from Open Road Media and available at the following links (no links below are affiliate links) if you are someone who has seen and lived the darkness or someone who wants to understand it better:

Amazon Kindle

Sony ReaderStore

iTunes Books


To learn more about William, please watch the video below where psychologist Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison describes working with him. And please visit William’s page on Open Road Media’s website here.

Full disclosure: I was offered a free ebook review copy of Darkness Visible by Open Road Media

* Edited to reflect more proper citation of biographical information.

People | October 11th, 2011 | Comments Off | View post page →

The Bloom of Hate and Intolerance Begins with a Seed

In recent years, months, but especially in recent weeks, there have been visible, loud, and frightening events of hate-fueled attacks, hate mongering, bullying that has led to young suicides and general insensitivity and intolerance towards those who are different in this country.

Ideally America is supposed to be a nation of people who are “different” and welcomed despite it and because if it. Yet, still in 2010, we’re a long way off.

We will get there, or at the very least to a place where the bigots and hate mongers are the minority. We will get there because we must reach this point or our country will continue not work correctly.

So how can we move forward to reach this place? And what causes so much of this intolerance and hatred?

It starts at home. It starts small. Both the hatred and the love.

It starts with a little seed planted in the thoughts of those around you; your loved ones, your family members, especially the young.

For hatred, the seed can be a quick, seemingly harmless, joke or remark about an overweight person, a gay person, someone of another faith, or anyone different. At first it might seem like it isn’t going to amount to much, as if the seed isn’t going to grow. But the seed is very much alive. It toils in the soil of the mind. And eventually as the receiver of the seed changes and grows, the seed flourishes and blooms into a strong, deceivingly-beautiful flower of hate and intolerance.

This is when terrible things happen. People are pushed into depression, where it seems like the only escape is suicide. People feel they can’t be who they really are. Dreams are lost and purposely shattered. And the foundation of our nation cracks.

But hope is not lost.

Replace the soil of one’s mind with a different seed, a seed of positive, simple, kind gestures, acceptance, and most importantly love.

And the bloom will be of true beauty.

People will be brought back from the brink and be able to live happily as they are. Dreams will be achieved and our nation will be strengthened.

Photo by pamramsey

People | October 10th, 2010 | Comments Off | View post page →

Walking with new joy

This is a guest post.

A number of my relatives died decades too soon because of polycystic kidney disease, or PKD. People with this condition grow cysts, or pockets of fluid, throughout their kidneys, ultimately preventing them from cleaning the blood. In 2003 complications of PKD took my cousin and good friend Mike Brazell at the age of 35, leaving two young children behind. Mike’s father, my Uncle Dick, affectionately known as Poppy, succumbed to PKD a few years later. I inherited PKD from my dad, as did two of my siblings; at least three of our cousins have it, too. A dominant gene causes PKD, so when someone with PKD has children, each child has a 50% chance of inheriting it.

For years I avoided thinking about PKD (this article from a few weeks ago quotes me on that subject:, but when we lost Mike, I decided to help fight it. I donate money each month to the PKD Foundation ( and serve on its board, as we help the staff follow the most promising paths to a cure. I learn as much as I can about how proper diet and exercise can slow PKD’s progression, practice those habits, and share the info with the hundreds of people I know who also have it. (Although little-known, PKD is far more common than cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Down syndrome, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and hemophilia combined. The humorist Erma Bombeck died of it, the playwright Neil Simon lives with it, and former Today Show fashion maven Steven Cojocaru has already needed two kidney transplants to keep going. I know of two other public figures who remain in the closet, and there are undoubtedly others.) For four years I’ve taken an experimental drug that shows a lot of promise. And each fall, dressed as Kenny the Kidney, I walk as the captain of “Mike & Poppy’s All-Stars,” raising far more money from friends than I can afford to donate on my own. I’m writing to ask you to please add your own quick effort to this fight. We’re very close to a successful treatment. You can help get us over the hump.

Last year’s TriState Walk for PKD, on October 25th, was the single biggest event the PKD Foundation has held in its 27-year history, bringing in more than $270,000. That would be fantastic in any economy, but particularly in this one. Eleven days after last year’s Walk, my lovely wife Victoria gave birth to our delightful daughter Genevieve, whose arrival gives us two new reasons to Walk: (1) We obviously want to make sure that if she inherited PKD from her old man, it will never trouble her, and (2) We’d like to ensure that she has more time on Earth with her old man than her old man had with his old man.

If you can help, please consider giving a donation at my fundraising page: . And if you do make a donation please put “Lyved” as your middle name so that we can know that you’re a fellow reader.

Thanks so much!

Written by Bill Brazell

To learn more about Bill Brazell’s effort to raise awareness and funds for a cure for PKD please visit:

Fall photo by Chris Stromblad

People | October 5th, 2010 | Comments Off | View post page →

Looking to America

I am a young American.

A young, flawed, American.

A young flawed American looking, as I’ve done in the past, to America for guidance, for acceptance, and for strengthened hope.

But what now reflects back into my eyes, mirrors anything but.

It’s an America more flawed than I. An America covering her flaws in a veil. A veil threaded and woven with ignorance and fear for certain groups of her people.

In the past she knitted and wore this veil, only to realize how out of fashion it was.

But in these times of certain uncertainty, she is wearing it again.

Her ignorance and fear is for those who want to enjoy her for what makes her unique, what makes her America. Life, liberty, and happiness.

People who want the right to marry who they love.

People who are trying to pursue a better existence.

And those who are trying to practice their religious freedom.

These three groups of people are exactly who America was created for. But this fact gets lost in the fear.

The fears that same-sex couples will somehow destroy love and marriage for straight couples and American families.

The fears that immigrants are going to come and steal valuable jobs from Americans who truly deserve them.

And the fears that allowing an Islamic community center to be built near the New York City September 11th attack site means that terrorists have won their war and that this will breed more terrorists.

The exact opposites are true.

Same-sex couples aren’t going to destroy the sanctity of love and marriage. They’re going to strengthen it. They’ve been denied it for so long that when they are given the right to marry; they’ll truly understand its worth. And their families will be strong, based on love that’s been tested.

A Mexican immigrant is not going to cross the border and steal the job you have or the job you want. He or she is going to work the lowest-paying, most degrading, and back-breaking job that you can’t even think of, let alone have or are trying to get.

And an Islamic center near Ground Zero isn’t going to breed terrorists. Forcing it to move and showing America to be intolerant of Muslims has a much greater chance of doing so.

Though what I hear and see in the actions and words of many Americans right now is frustrating and disappointing; I’m also excited. Excited for the near future when the veil begins to wear and tear with holes and lose its style.

The guidance, acceptance, and strengthened hope I’ve been looking for in older America may not be there, but that’s because I think I might be looking in the wrong place. Perhaps my generation is where I should be looking.

Generation Y, we’ve been insulted, made fun of, criticized, and branded as spoiled, inconsiderate, and unmotivated since we were born. Now is our time to look to America and guide those who are wrong and right, to accept those who are being alienated, and to strengthen the hope for America’s future.

Photo by ginnerobot

People | August 23rd, 2010 | Comments Off | View post page →