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Podcast: Is Mental Illness Trendy Now?

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Podcast: Is Mental Illness Trendy Now?

By Gabe Howard
February 01, 2022

“Have we gone so far that the actual definition of mental illness has been lost and it has been sort of retconned to mean different?”

~Gabe Howard

“Hauntingly beautiful,” “ride the lightning,” and even famous quotes like “we’re all mad here” are often used to positively describe mental illness. It’s the “every cloud has a silver lining” mentality.

But is it true? Does mental illness have a positive side that is used to create things like incredible art and great literature? In this episode, our hosts push back against the idea that mental illness is anything other than a awful disease that doesn’t contribute to a better life — but keeps us from living our best ones.

This podcast is proudly sponsored by Betterhelp. Save 10% on your first month with the discount code “BSP22” or by clicking here.

About the Hosts of A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and a Podcast

gabe howardGabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and activist living with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness.

He’s the author of Mental Illness is an Asshole and Other Observations and a popular podcast host. Learn more at gabehoward.com.

michelle hammerMichelle Hammer is a Schizophrenia Activist and spends her time passionately fighting stigma. She is an NYC native featured in the WebMD documentary Voices, which was nominated for a Tribeca X Award at the Tribeca Film Festival 2018.

Founded and run by Michelle, Schizophrenic.NYC is a clothing brand with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health.

Transcript for Is Mental Illness Trendy Now?

Please Note: This transcript was computer generated. Please be mindful of errors. Thank you. 

Announcer: So, what did the bipolar say to the schizophrenic? You’re in the right place to find out. . .

Michelle Hammer: Welcome everyone, my name is Michelle Hammer, and I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe Howard: I’m Gabe and I’m bipolar, and let’s give our sponsors some love. BetterHelp. Get 10% off your first month just by going to BetterHelp.com/BSP22. I was thinking the other day.

Michelle Hammer: That’s a lie.

Gabe Howard: No, no, but I am asking about an update on the two truths and a lie contest.

Michelle Hammer: We have a ton of guesses, some lies, some truths. No one is sure.

Gabe Howard: For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about, shame on you. For real, for shame, you can’t just listen to episode five, you’ve got to listen to all the episodes. What you need to do is go back to listen to the first episode of this season because at the end of that show, we announce a contest where you can win cool stuff simply by emailing show@thisemotionallife.org because we’re cool like that.

Michelle Hammer: But are we cool because we have a mental illness?

Gabe Howard: No, that’s the. Listen, I’ve known you for a while, and that is the single dumbest thing you have ever said.

Michelle Hammer: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m serious. People think mental illness is cool now.

Gabe Howard: No. What do you mean, like people think mental illness is cool now because they have this like pop culture like brooding artist or tortured soul kind of deal? Or like are people like, hey, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe depression, suicidality, that’s real bad ass.

Michelle Hammer: I can tell you a story.

Gabe Howard: No, no.

Michelle Hammer: My brother’s friend. My brother’s friends that have kids in high school, they told him that having a mental illness is actually a cool thing to have when you’re in high school now, like you want to have that.

Gabe Howard: That I.

Michelle Hammer: Is that the dumbest thing?

Gabe Howard: It makes me think that they don’t understand what mental illness is. Have we gone so far that like the actual definition of mental illness has been lost and it has been sort of retconned to mean different? Because I think being different is cool, right?

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, quirks.

Gabe Howard: Have we decided that mental illness now equals different? Because having actual mental illness, it’s not cool. Like people are dead. Like the 15 percent are dead, are they cool?

Michelle Hammer: Just go on Instagram and look up #depressed.

Gabe Howard: Right now?

Michelle Hammer: Just try it and you’ll see like, oh, all these like people with sad quotes, Oh, I’m so sad all of this, but I think really is kind of a cry for help because if you’re posting on the internet, how sad you are, how miserable you are, all these sad quotes and everything, I’m thinking, you want somebody to see it and you, you might need some help. And that’s like the new cry for help to me. And that’s what I think it might be if you’re posting that stuff on Instagram. But no, people are romanticizing mental illnesses, and they honestly think that it’s cool to have a mental illness now because of all the pop culture around it.

Gabe Howard: I should not have pulled this up while we’re recording. There’s like 12 million posts. I’ve noticed some trend here. There’s a ton of black and white like art house photos of people looking all sad and crying and depressed. Again, I’m just I’m scrolling here while I’m talking. I guess everything eventually becomes porn because there’s just a ton of beautiful young women looking all sad at the camera, scantily clad like writing stuff in lipstick on themselves. And they’re smoking. There’s a lot of smoking. Oh, that that one’s not even cigarettes. I know what you mean by it’s a cry for help. But some of these photos, I’m not trying to talk about the photos because they’re pretty women. I’m trying to talk about the photos because this isn’t a snapshot. Somebody went through a lot of effort to light, take this picture, photoshop it. This is beautiful photography in order to show what is essentially desperation. I mean, I see it as desperation. I remember being suicidal. I don’t think I would have had the energy to take that picture or be a model in that picture.

Michelle Hammer: So you think they’re faking being depressed to show they’re being depressed, to be cool, for being depressed?

Gabe Howard: I don’t think it’s that simple. I don’t know that anybody is like super jolly and happy and thinks, Ooh, I’m going to pretend to be depressed, but I think that teenage angst is a thing, right? Feeling uncertain, feeling nervous, not knowing your place in the world. I think those are normal human emotions. I think that maybe people are taking normal human emotions, like the nervousness about graduating high school or moving out of their parents’ house or leaving the town they grew up in or starting their first job. And they’re changing that nervousness to severe depression or suicidality. And I don’t think anybody’s doing this maliciously. I think there might be a large contingent of people that honestly believe that being nervous about your first day at work is now serious and persistent mental illness.

Michelle Hammer: Do you think that’s serious and persistent mental illness?

Gabe Howard: No, I think it’s normal. Michelle, you and I have bipolar and schizophrenia, right? Whenever somebody says to you something like, Oh my God, I start work tomorrow, I could just die. We look at them and think, Well, that’s nonsense.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: You’re not actually going to kill yourself because you’re starting work. We understand that it’s just like a colloquialism, right?

Michelle Hammer: Right, but starting a new job is one of the most stressful things that you can actually do, so it makes sense that you’re stressed out and anxious about it,

Gabe Howard: Right.

Michelle Hammer: But I wouldn’t call that persistent mental illness. Because everybody goes through anxiety when you start a new job. I would know that for sure, because I’ve had about 15 jobs.

Gabe Howard: Just just just just a few. But you hit the nail on the head right there, right? We’re starting to literally medicalize normal human emotions. Again, this is all a theory. I just, I just want everybody to hear that it’s a theory. First, I want everybody to understand this is a theory. Michelle, have I said this is a theory enough?

Michelle Hammer: I think you said it was a theory, maybe one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times,

Gabe Howard: Maybe.

Michelle Hammer: But I think what you’re saying is that people are just taking nervousness, a little bit of sadness and they’re turning it into a bigger mental illness when they’re really just feeling these feelings about one certain thing.

Gabe Howard: Exactly, and it’s not surprising because the mental health education in this country is garbage. Again, I’m still on the Instagram thing, it’s just fascinating to me. I’m reading some of these stories and they are clearly suffering. Just please, I don’t want listeners to think that I’m being, that I’m being dismissive. There is something going on. That something is just not severe and persistent mental illness. It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to be nervous. It’s OK to be afraid. You know, my wife, who has no mental illness whatsoever, when her father died, huge grief. She was knocked on her ass for a year, but we understood that that was not serious depression. It was not severe depression. She didn’t need, you know, medication. She. But it was grief. We understood that there was a separate word for what was going on with her. She didn’t have depression like Gabe and Michelle have depression. She had grief and not for nothing, our fathers are still alive, Michelle. We have serious depression, right?

Michelle Hammer: Mm-hmm.

Gabe Howard: But we’re going to go through grief when we lose our loved ones. Meet me when my mom and dad die and you and your dad dies because you don’t care about your mom.

Michelle Hammer: My mom thinks she’s going to get COVID and die. That’s her new thing.

Gabe Howard: So, apparently you and your mom are getting along right now. Is that what I’m hearing?

Michelle Hammer: She was drinking whiskey the other night.

Gabe Howard: So you only get along with your mom when she’s drunk?

Michelle Hammer: She wasn’t drunk. She had one, one little whiskey.

Gabe Howard: This is an excellent segue, though, because people have romanticized drinking for years, literally our entire lives, drinking has been romanticized. I mean, even James Bond, the coolest spy in the world, has to be associated with his own alcoholic drink. That’s how, that’s how much we love alcohol in America. And we now understand that that romanticizing alcoholism is really bad because alcoholism is really serious and people die and families are ripped apart. I think we’re seeing this trend now with mental illness, where people, like you said, are romanticizing mental illness because they have this misinformation in their head, just like they thought that drinking was just like this cool thing, that cool people did, and they didn’t really bother to do any deeper dive into the pain of alcoholism. I think they think that mental illness is cool and they don’t really do a deeper dove into the pain and suffering of serious and persistent mental illness.

Michelle Hammer: Well, also also pop culture about mental illness right now is much different. Remember, it was a few years ago, that 13 Reasons Why show?

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: They think that show made people more suicidal. And what I think about that show, I liked it. I thought it was interesting. But the whole thing is, I don’t know about you, Gabe. Any time I was suicidal and I thought, Oh, I’m ending my life, it was like, I’m doing it now. I’m going to do it right now. I’m doing it now. And this biddy on that show spent all this time making tapes, making a plan, doing the whole thing, and then she decides to end her life and she’s successful on the first time. I was like, That’s just so intense.

Gabe Howard: So you seem upset that this is not an accurate portrayal of suicidality.

Michelle Hammer: It was very inaccurate and it very romanticized the whole thing. Oh, I’m going to end my life and I’m going to leave like a trail of letters for people, you know? I just don’t really think that show was very accurate at all. But it did increase the suicide rate in 2017 for teenagers, so that’s one thing it did.

Gabe Howard: There’s so many things that I want to jump on here, first and foremost, you know, history is told by the winners. Mental health advocates, by definition, have to be alive. We can’t interview people who have died by suicide and asked what they think of any of this. When we talk about well, mental illness makes you quirky, cool, fun, interesting, you see the world through a different lens and all of those things that we hear. I point out that the dead people, they don’t do that, they don’t do any of that.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Let’s take Robin Williams for example. When Robin Williams died by suicide, everybody was like, Well, but it was his mental illness that made him so creative. He made us laugh, and it was that brilliant, beautiful soul entwined with mental illness that made him amazing. Do you think his kids care?

Michelle Hammer: No, no.

Gabe Howard: I mean, really. Do you think its kids are like, yeah, that was totally worth it? I am glad my dad is dead so that you could laugh. No. His family, his friends are horrified that he is gone. Many of his fans, myself included, are just really kind of traumatized by this. He was a multimillionaire. He was famous, he was hilarious. He was surrounded by people who loved him and he still couldn’t beat those demons. This is not an example of where mental illness made him better. This is an example of where mental illness killed him, and you can pluck out the name Robin Williams and add Van Gogh. You can pluck out Van Gogh and add just this endless parade of people who died from their mental illness. But the discussion always is around the people who are alive and who have done amazing things. We never, ever want to talk about the people who are dead.

Michelle Hammer: But what about the other celebrities coming out? Bruce Springsteen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Adele, Leonardo DiCaprio coming out with like saying they have OCD or postpartum depression. Do you think that’s a good thing that like celebrities are coming out? Oh, I have a mental illness. Oh, I have mental illness. Oh, I have a mental illness. Do people, like children or teenagers, whatever, they want to be like these people that are celebrities with mental illness? Or maybe they just see, oh, it’s more accepting to have a mental illness just like these celebrities. I need somebody to look up to. So they’re a good person to look up to because they live their life successfully, and I want to be successful like them. So I have a mental illness just like these people do. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Or maybe they’re like, I want to be like them, so I’m going to say that I have a mental illness like them? What do you think is going through people’s heads? I want to be like them, or I feel accepted, they have it just like me?

Gabe Howard: I have actually quite a few thoughts on this, but I’m going to I’m going to tell a story because it’s a podcast and I can do that.

Michelle Hammer: Ok, you tell that story, Gabe. This better be the best story, Gabe, because you go, you tell stories and you just go and go and go. This better be a good one.

Gabe Howard: You’ve just spent 20 minutes telling me to tell the story faster, I would have had more time to tell the story if you just shut your damn mouth.

Michelle Hammer: Because you just keep talking all the time, Gabe,

Gabe Howard: It’s a podcast.

Michelle Hammer: You just keep talking.

Gabe Howard: You’re supposed to talk on a podcast.

Michelle Hammer: Is it about Adele? is about Leonardo DiCaprio?

Gabe Howard: Me, me, me, me, me

Michelle Hammer: Jack, I’ll never let go, Jack.

Gabe Howard: Me, me, me, me, me

Michelle Hammer: You know, she loved Jack.

Gabe Howard: OK, so Stephen King.

Michelle Hammer: And she let him go.

Gabe Howard: Stephen King.

Michelle Hammer: She let him go.

Gabe Howard: I’m going to tell the story now.

Michelle Hammer: He could have saved.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: He could have been.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: He could have been on the door.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: They both could have been on the door.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: They both could have been on the door.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: And she left him.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: In the freezing ocean.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story.

Michelle Hammer: And let him die.

Gabe Howard: It’s time for the story. Are you talking about Titanic?

Michelle Hammer: She let him die. Do you think Rose was ever, was ever like, I could have let Leonardo DiCaprio live if I let him on the door? Do you think that Rose Dawson was like, No, I’m sad now that Leo is dead and I’m not on the door with me. Do you think that made her depressed in Titanic?

Gabe Howard: I’m just trying to tell my story. Well, how did you get on Titanic?

Michelle Hammer: Just tell your story, Gabe.

Gabe Howard: OK.

Michelle Hammer: Tell your story, fine. Tell your story. I’m talking about Titanic.

Michelle Hammer: And we’re back and I’m awesome for having a mental illness.

Announcer: This podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp. BetterHelp is not a crisis line, it’s not self-help. Instead, it’s professional therapy done securely online. BetterHelp will determine your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist in under 48 hours. You’ll get timely and thoughtful responses plus you can schedule weekly video or phone sessions, so you won’t ever have to sit in an uncomfortable waiting room as with traditional therapy. Visit BetterHelp.com/BSP22 and get 10% off your first month. Join the over 2 million people who have taken charge of their mental health. That’s BetterHelp, H E L P. Go to BetterHelp.com/BSP22.

Gabe Howard: When you talk about when people see all these celebrities, how do they relate and how do they feel and what does it put in their mind? And the story that I want to tell is Stephen King. He’s a wildly successful writer, and he’s been a wildly successful writer for generations, literally decades. His first book came out in the 70s, and here we are in 2022 and he’s still producing New York Times bestsellers. That is an amazing career by any stretch of the imagination.

Michelle Hammer: I’ve never read a single book of his.

Gabe Howard: Of course not. You’ve never read a book Michelle, that’s not even surprising. That one’s the truth.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, I definitely didn’t read your book either

Gabe Howard: Duh. So Stephen King comes out and he admits one day he’s like, Look, I used to have this really bad cocaine problem. He was really up front. He was really honest about it. He said that it hurt his family. It almost cost him his marriage. It almost cost him his life, his career. He’s a pretty blunt guy and he doesn’t have any scruples to just say whatever the hell is on his mind. And I know you haven’t read his book, but those who are familiar with even his work in movies. No, this guy doesn’t have a problem screwing everything up and dropping everybody in the pits of hell and walking away. And he was like, Yeah, I, I was, I was doing cocaine. And then somebody asked him like, Well, how long were you doing cocaine? And he said, like, like a long time, I don’t remember. But it was multiple years and then somebody put together like, Well, wait a minute, that means that you were doing cocaine when this book and this book and this book came out. Really popular Stephen King books, right? High end bestsellers, famous books that have been turned into movies. And he was like, Yes, I was doing cocaine when those book came out and people were like, Oh, that’s where he gets all of his ideas. He gets them from cocaine. And people started working in their brain this idea that if you want to write like Stephen King, you need to do cocaine.

Michelle Hammer: That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. Stephen King was like, no, you are missing the point of this story. First off, Stephen King is a great writer with a great imagination because he is super talented and works super hard. Mostly, it’s the super talented thing. The hard work is probably a close second, but yeah, he just has this innate writing ability that the rest of us, no matter how hard we try, will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever have. There is no drug, mental illness or anything on the planet that will make us as original and as an imaginative and as good of a writer as Stephen King. But somebody saw a shortcut. All they’ve got to do is do cocaine and they can write Carrie, Christine, Pet Semetery, Needful Things. Yeah, you can’t. It doesn’t work that way.

Michelle Hammer: You know what, I’m going to do some cocaine and then write a book.

Gabe Howard: What’s the book going to be called?

Michelle Hammer: You’ve inspired me. It’s going to be, it’s going to be, it’s going to be Michelle Hammer: Mental illness is a butthole.

Gabe Howard: No, you can’t steal my book title, but Michelle, I guarantee any reasonable person listening to this was like Michelle thinks she can do cocaine and be a good writer? That’s stupid. But yet so many people believed this.

Michelle Hammer: I have a similar story kind of people see my artwork and they think I’m such a good artist because I have schizophrenia

Gabe Howard: Don’t you hate that?

Michelle Hammer: That makes me so mad.

Gabe Howard: You know why that makes me mad, because you worked hard, you have drafts that you threw away, you had to learn your craft, you had to.

Michelle Hammer: I was an art major in college.

Gabe Howard: You spent years to become as good as you are. And like every artist, some pieces are better than others. I’ve seen like your scrapbooks that you don’t publish, you know, like, yeah, I was working on this. I didn’t like the color, so I changed it over here. So you had to keep progressing and growing and you had to make mistakes and learn from them. And you had to have some that were very good, some that were mediocre and some that you thought sucked and everything in between and you, Michelle Hammer, went through that process and somebody took that and just dispelled it all down to you have schizophrenia, so you’re a magic artist and they just negated your personality, your hard work, your soul, your effort. They just took it all away from Michelle Hammer and gave it to a deadly illness that kills people, breaks up families. It really is like stealing from you and giving it to your worst enemy.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, so I guess it’s great that I have a mental illness because I can produce art. That’s great, that makes it cool.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, I guess it’s worth it.

Michelle Hammer: You want to be cool like me? Just be schizophrenic and then you can be an artist.

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, wasn’t it worth it, Michelle?

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, yeah, totally, that’s why.

Gabe Howard: You know that time you spent thinking your mom was going to kill you?

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, yeah.

Gabe Howard: Aren’t you so glad that you thought your mom was trying to murder you so that you could paint some pretty pictures?

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, totally, that was all worth it all that time in the psych ward,

Gabe Howard: Oh, yeah, that’s totally worth it.

Michelle Hammer: All the, all that time trying all those meds. And ending up in the hospital bleeding and throwing up. Vomiting up pills. All that stuff. Drinking charcoal.

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: All worth it.

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: All worth it.

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: So I can make art that people buy.

Gabe Howard: So when we talk about celebrities, so many people are so quick to say about these celebrities that oh, the reason Adele can sing is because of a mental illness. First off, Adele didn’t have mental illness. She had a mental health issue. She had postpartum depression, which is different. We really need to understand the difference between mental illness and mental health issue. We just lump everything together. Could you imagine if we did this with physical health issues? Like you come to me and you’re like, Gabe, I have terminal cancer and I say, I have a headache. We’re the same. Because we both have physical health issues.

Michelle Hammer: Oh, yeah.

Gabe Howard: Everybody would think that’s ridiculous. You’re comparing terminal cancer to a headache? Well, why not? They’re both physical health issues.

Michelle Hammer: Well, Gabe, I just don’t know why you don’t want to think that you’re cool for having a mental illness, don’t you want to be cool?

Gabe Howard: I do want to be cool, but here’s the thing I want to be cool because I’m cool and because I’m decent and because I love people and because people love me. I don’t want people to love me from some external factor that I can’t control. Could you imagine if I said that the only reason that I loved you, Michelle, is because you had schizophrenia? Wouldn’t that hurt deeply? Because I’m basically saying that I don’t care about you as a person, I only care about your diagnosis.

Michelle Hammer: That would be just so strange.

Gabe Howard: Well, I mean, yeah, that’s I don’t understand how people can think this way.

Michelle Hammer: That is really weird. But I do like that Gwyneth Paltrow came out with whatever mental illness she had because that whole Goop thing is just crazy as can be.

Gabe Howard: Well, and then we get into that, let’s talk about that for a moment, we talk about how mental illness is cool. Some people take this way too far. See, Gwyneth Paltrow is like, hey, look, I’m quirky and neat, and I see the world different. And that has allowed me to bypass research, science, common sense and facts and invent this really expensive bullshit that does nothing. But people believe it’s true because she told a good story.

Michelle Hammer: She sells like a golden egg you put up your hoo-hoo.

Gabe Howard: She sells a candle that she says smells like her hoo-hoo.

Michelle Hammer: She sells a dildo, a golden one for like hundreds of dollars or maybe a thousand dollars

Gabe Howard: And people believe this.

Michelle Hammer: Like you have to be mentally ill to buy that.

Gabe Howard: That leads me to the, you said something there, that’s very interesting. You said you have to be mentally ill to buy this now, you know that that’s factually untrue. People make stupid purchases all the time.

Michelle Hammer: That is factually untrue, but that is the dumbest, that is just so, just so dumb.

Gabe Howard: It is incredibly stupid, but that’s not mental illness.

Michelle Hammer: It’s nothing special. It doesn’t even do anything.

Gabe Howard: It doesn’t.

Michelle Hammer: It’s just expensive.

Gabe Howard: It might feel good.

Michelle Hammer: Go to Babeland,

Gabe Howard: I don’t.

Michelle Hammer: Go to Babeland.

Gabe Howard: You can get one plastic for like 20 bucks.

Michelle Hammer: No. Babeland is like the high and sex shop in New York City. It’s classy, it’s nice, it’s amazing. I think it’s better than the Museum of Sex in New York City. You can get anything there you want.

Gabe Howard: Are either of these people sponsoring our podcast?

Michelle Hammer: No,

Gabe Howard: Why are you giving them a shout out then?

Michelle Hammer: Because Babeland is awesome.

Gabe Howard: Now that’s it, we’re going to have to make some phone calls here. When it comes to celebrity, sometimes I think that they do a disservice because they say I have X and then people start to hear, Oh, well, every single person that has X can then be a famous Hollywood artist. Famous whatever they want to be. Singer, actor. Well, I don’t even know. I just it pains me so much because if you meet Michelle, you have met one person with schizophrenia. That’s it. That’s all you know about schizophrenia is how Michelle and schizophrenia essentially coexist. If you meet me, you’ve met one person with bipolar. So if you meet Gabe and Michelle somewhere, you don’t get to walk up to all the other people with schizophrenia and bipolar and say, Hey, where is your podcast? Hey, where’s your clothing line? Hey, have you written a book? Hey, do you like movies? Hey, do you listen to this music? And when that person says, No, I don’t do any of that well, then you don’t have bipolar. This is just an illness that’s on top of their otherwise good or interesting or awful or whatever personality. Get to know people for who the hell they are.

Michelle Hammer: You did a good segue into some music there, Gabe, because you know that Lana Del Rey song Dark Paradise?

Gabe Howard: Oh.

Michelle Hammer: YouTube has four million views and she has the lyrics. Your soul is haunting me and telling me that everything is fine, but I wish I was dead.

Gabe Howard: Listen, as Halloween is my favorite holiday. It really is. I understand this, this haunting that comes from death and suffering. It’s extraordinarily popular. Forget about mental illness. True crime is like the number two genre of podcasting. People love this shit. It’s fascinating. I’m fascinated by it. When I was a kid, I used to read true crime books about serial killers.

Michelle Hammer: How did we get into true crime?

Gabe Howard: I love true crime.

Michelle Hammer: Why are we talking about true crime?

Gabe Howard: Because people are fascinated with it, but they understand that murdering people is wrong. They don’t think that it leads us to anywhere. They think that it’s voyeurism. It’s fantastical. It’s like a guilty pleasure. But deep, deep down, probably not even deep down. I don’t even know why I said deep, deep down, they understand that murder is wrong and they don’t want to be serial killers. I don’t understand why people can’t hear lines like that or mental illness and think to themselves, wow, that is haunting. And maybe it’s hauntingly beautiful. It can be. It can be hauntingly beautiful. I don’t know. Cemeteries are hauntingly beautiful. But why do people then have to jump to the conclusion that that means mental illness cool or desirable or awesome? Why can’t it just exist where it is? A cemetery can both be beautiful and some place that you don’t want you or your loved ones to go.

Michelle Hammer: I mean, when I was growing up listening to like music, maybe I was sad or anything, there was one song where it had a part that it said, I just need a friend in this crazy world of mine. And that’s what I would listen to because I wanted a friend. I wasn’t listening to I wish I was dead. And then there was another song where it was like, Overprivileged kids keep crying. And then I related that to myself because I was crying and I was privileged enough. That’s what I listened to. It was nothing like, I want to be dead. I want to be dead, I want to be dead. It was just like, I’m sad and this is sadness. And I wanted friends and I was like crying. And I had, that’s what I heard.

Gabe Howard: Our lives influence our art.

Michelle Hammer: I didn’t want to die. I wasn’t trying to listen to music about dying. I don’t want to hear that. That’s like not a good message to send. But you can say that about a lot of music and history. People are always saying how music is bad for the kids. This music is bad for the kids. Marilyn Manson is bad for the kids. Eminem is bad for the kids. This rap music is bad for the kids.

Gabe Howard: Elvis is bad for the kids. The Beatles are bad for the kids. The Rolling Stones are bad for the kids.

Michelle Hammer: Bad for the kids. That TV is bad for the kids. It’s all sending bad messages.

Gabe Howard: The Simpsons is going to screw us all up.

Michelle Hammer: Everything is bad for the kids.

Gabe Howard: Bad.

Michelle Hammer: This is, this is bad for the kids.

Gabe Howard: Save the children.

Michelle Hammer: Now, the kids. Those kids think that mental illness is cool. This is bad for the kids. Everything is bad for the kids. The new generation. Everything’s going to be terrible. Everything’s everything is bad for the kids. And now the kids don’t even know what’s right or wrong anymore. And if mental illness is good or bad and the kids, they don’t even know what they’re doing.

Gabe Howard: Once again Michelle stumbled upon an interesting point. Is the answer just to let them go? Should we just leave them be? Is this just part of the learning process? Are we doing to these kids what we see like helicopter parents? Do you know when a kid walks up and goes, B C A D, they’re like, No, no, no, no, it’s a b c d. And you’re just like, Look, let the kid sing the alphabet wrong. They’ll fix it later. Like are we doing that?

Michelle Hammer: Or like you got a 98 on your test? Where’s my two points?

Gabe Howard: I knew your mother was going to come into this someday.

Michelle Hammer: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: I knew your mother was going to come into this somehow, but I’m serious. Sometimes when kids make mistakes, the best thing to do is just to leave them be. I know we’re mental health advocates. But are we being too judgmental on kids who think that mental illness is cool? Will they figure this out on their own? Are we just being helicopter advocates? I mean, really? Maybe they know deep down, do maybe they not understand? Maybe they’re still learning. Are we just picking on them for no reason and setting up the situation where they’re like, Fine, I’m going to go talk to somebody who doesn’t make me feel like an asshole for the thing that I just learned about last week? Are we doing that?

Michelle Hammer: Well, there was, remember that band, My Chemical Romance, there was that song, I’m not OK

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: And it just yells, I’m not OK.

Gabe Howard: I love that song.

Michelle Hammer: Yes, right, they had that back in the day.

Gabe Howard: That was a good song.

Michelle Hammer: That was a good song.

Gabe Howard: What was, remember, the match? I think it was Matchbox 20? Unwell. I’m not crazy. I’m just a little unwell.

Michelle Hammer: Or Jumper. Remember Jumper? I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend. So there was those songs back in the day.

Gabe Howard: We can cut ties with all the lies you’ve been living in.

Michelle Hammer: For the life you’ve been living in.

Gabe Howard: Yeah.

Michelle Hammer: If you do not want to see me again, I

Gabe Howard: I will understand.

Michelle Hammer: I will understand. Yeah, yeah,

Gabe Howard: We are terrible singers.

Michelle Hammer: We are so old, Gabe.

Gabe Howard: That’s why we are podcasters.

Michelle Hammer: We are so old.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, we are, we uhm.

Michelle Hammer: We are so old, singing Jumper, oh my God.

Gabe Howard: But you’re right, though. We grew up with all of this and we turned out OK. I mean, I know that’s kind of a bold statement to say that gave him Michelle turned out OK, but seriously, we grew up with Remember Robert Downey Jr.? Everybody knows him now as Iron Man, he drug rehab.

Gabe Howard: So many drunk driving arrest. He had so many problems. Everybody thought the world was going to end when rap music and hip hop rose to prominence. And yet here we are. Remember, heavy metal is going to turn everybody into Satanists, and maybe the correction is no correction. Maybe we just need to let people have conversations surrounding mental health and mental illness and get it wrong. And if we give them that space and we don’t jump all over them and call them assholes for getting it wrong, maybe they will educate themselves. I mean, obviously shows like this do a good job and Michelle and I are going to continue to, you know, politely nudge people in the right direction. But you know, I hear so many advocates that are just like, You’re stupid. That’s dumb. Don’t do that. And it really does remind me of all the controversies surrounding Elvis shaking his hips.

Michelle Hammer: I was just going to say that I think what people need to do is just learn from people who actually have the illness. Watch videos, listen to podcasts like this one or YouTube and just learn what mental illness really is. And if you’re saying that you have a mental illness, how about you actually see what it is?

Gabe Howard: I agree with all of that with one caveat. You need more than one source you asked me earlier what I think about celebrities. I don’t know. I do have opinions on them. But ultimately, if you’re only learning about mental illness from pop culture, that’s a problem if you’re only hearing stories from celebrities. That’s a problem. If you’re only hearing stories from people your own age or who look like you or who are from your town. That’s a problem. I think we really need to dig deep and diversify. I learned so much from Michelle because Michelle is 10 years younger. She’s a woman. She has a different diagnosis than me and she just she grew up in New York City, and I grew up in Ohio, and listening to her experience versus mine was illuminating. And in my life, I am very lucky. There are hundreds, probably thousands of Michelle’s, and they’ve all taught me something different. If I only listen to other white middle class people from Ohio, I’d have a very different opinion and it I don’t think it would serve me, and I don’t think it would serve others, and I don’t think it would have given me the best chance to recovery. The bottom line is Michelle, and I do not subscribe to the mental illness is cool. However, we do subscribe to the gave him Michelle are cool, but we’re cool by our own merits. We’d be cool whether we had mental illness or not.

Michelle Hammer: I’m cool. I don’t know about you, Gabe, but I am pretty cool.

Gabe Howard: You don’t think I’m cool? All right, Michelle, if you can find somebody cooler than me, you can just go host a podcast with them. And I’d like to point out we both tried to host podcast with other people and we failed miserably. You and I are like star crossed mental health advocates. We’re stuck with each other, whether we like it or not.

Michelle Hammer: Maybe it’s because we’re not cool and we’re both losers.

Gabe Howard: Oh, my God. We never even considered going the other way.

Michelle Hammer: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: Maybe the whole world is like, we like them because they’re so pathetic and sad and they make us feel better about our own lives. We thought it was because we were bad asses.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, maybe we’re just pathetic.

Gabe Howard: [Laughter]

Michelle Hammer: Maybe we’re not cool at all, we’re like the biggest losers on podcasting, whatever it is,

Gabe Howard: But listen. But, Michelle, if we’re going to be whether we’re bad asses or biggest losers, don’t you want that decided on our own merits? Do you really want mental illness factoring in to people’s opinion of you?

Michelle Hammer: That’s true, if you like me, then be my friend if you don’t like me. Don’t be my friend. But if you’re going to like me, you don’t just like me because I’m schizophrenic, because that’s a pretty strange reason to like me.

Gabe Howard: That is a very strange reason to like somebody.

Michelle Hammer: I think I’m pretty cool, but some people don’t like it, then that’s your problem.

Gabe Howard: Mental illness can influence you in the same way that a death of a loved one can influence or losing 15 jobs, or the way that your parents raised you, or what section of the country. . . influence is by far different than all of these other things. So if you say, Well, Gabe, you have been influenced by bipolar disorder. Absolutely. But if you say that I am the way that I am solely because of an illness, I think that’s lazy. And I really take a dim view of people that don’t want to bother to get to know me and give credit for all of my success, all of my hard work, all of my talent and give that credit to a disease that’s trying to kill me. That’s messed up.

Michelle Hammer: Yeah, I’m going to take that disease and destroy it.

Gabe Howard: Well, you know how I feel about mental illness. I think it’s an

Michelle Hammer: It’s

Gabe Howard: Asshole.

Michelle Hammer: An asshole.

Gabe Howard: You’ve been listening to a bipolar, a schizophrenic and a podcast. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please subscribe or follow. It’s 100 percent free. And hey, do us a favor and tell someone about the show, whether it’s word of mouth text message.

Michelle Hammer: Share the show if you’re interested in the first clothing line started by a schizophrenic girl, go to my online store at Schizophrenic.NYC.

Gabe Howard: And if you’re interested in my book Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations, just go to gabehoward.com and grab a signed copy with free swag and listen, Michelle and I both travel nationally as speakers. You can find out more information on our respective websites. And hey, do you want to save 10 percent on your first month of online therapy? It’s really easy. Just go to BetterHelp.com/BSP22

and check out BetterHelp. They sponsor the show. They are the reason we are here. We will see you next week.

Michelle Hammer: Not cool.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast, Season 2. Previous episodes can be found on your favorite podcast player or by visiting ThisEmotionalLife.org/BSP. Have comments or show ideas? Hit up the show at BSP@ThisEmotionalLife.org. Gabe and Michelle are not medical professionals. This podcast is not a substitute for medical advice and is for entertainment purposes only. If you need help, please call your doctor, emergency services, the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741. Thank you for listening.

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and activist living with severe bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness. Society often sees people living with mental illness at their worst and he works to add a more balanced view. Gabe Howard is the recipient of the 2014 Norman Guitry Award, given by Mental Health America to the person who shows exceptional leadership in promoting mental illness awareness and prevention in the community.

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