Kelli Rae Powell: Hope & The High Road

I left Facebook one year ago, and have spent the better part of my time since trying to figure out what the fuck just happened.

Pre-pandemic, I worked at a high-stakes, high-pressure job at a company under scrutiny, in an industry under duress, on a planet on fire. I was on the road and in the air – away from home and my family – nearly half of my time.

To cope, I was medicated with a battery of SSRIs, and Xanax to make it through white-knuckle flights. 

Worse, I was self-medicating: day-drinking on Amtrak between my dingy west side apartment and suburban cul-de-sac where I could put away a six-pack a night. I gobbled edibles and snuck one-hitters when everyone fell asleep.

I was constantly conflicted, and always wrestling with meaning. Why am I here? What difference am I making? How am I helping to repair a society under inordinate strain even before lockdown, before losing six million of our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. 

So I stopped moving, got myself into therapy (again), and began, as Fred Rogers always encouraged us, to look for the helpers. 

I started Friends & Neighbors because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I had to find the people who wouldn’t look at me funny, roll their eyes, or call me crazy or lame. I had to find my people, and ask for help.

I found Kelli Rae in a Brooklyn recording studio. Her version of “Feels Like Christmas” is a standout across the 60+ songs we gathered over five “A Holiday Benefit” albums. It’s raw and rough and real. Like the conversation in today’s episode.

Kelli Rae was diagnosed with PTSD shortly after experiencing September 11th and a physical assault within weeks of one another. In the years that followed, she’s parlayed her experience and education to heal herself, to bring healing to others.

So many of us are hurting. So many of our nervous systems are maladapted from experiences like the horror of 9/11 or the tragedy of a global pandemic – to say nothing of individual adverse childhood experiences with divorce, death, abuse, assault, and neglect. 

When Kelli Rae courageously shares her story, she gives all of us the space to do the same. She, as Fred Rogers always encouraged us, makes the mentionable manageable, and helps us find a way forward together. 

So I hope you’ll make a point to listen to this special episode. And if you’re hurting, I hope you’ll reach out the friends and neighbors in your life. Like me. Remember, I’ll always be here for you.

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