Podcast: Serious Questions About Life with Bipolar Disorder
“My Mom and Dad didn’t notice anything. My friends didn’t notice anything. It’s not like anybody said to me ‘Oh, my God, Gabe, you have bipolar disorder.’ They all just sincerely thought I was an asshole. ”
The final episode of season three features the host with schizophrenia interviewing the host with bipolar disorder about his life managing mental illness. Confused? No need to be, just listen now to found out Gabe’s biggest regret, whether he would get rid of bipolar if he could, and whether or not he is truly happy.
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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 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 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 Serious Questions About Life with Bipolar Disorder
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. . .
Gabe: Hey, everyone, I’m Gabe, and I’m bipolar. And welcome to the last episode of season three.
Michelle: Hey, I’m Michelle Hammer, and I live with schizophrenia. And I want to tell you about the Society of Valued Minds sponsored by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. This is a new community of mental health advocates building a platform on Instagram for seeking support, sharing our experiences and embracing the self-expression that makes us unique.
Gabe: Michelle and I are proud members of the Society of Valued Minds. And you should be too, because it’s free! To join simply follow @societyofvaluedminds on Instagram.
Michelle: We also want to give a huge shout out to our sponsor, BetterHelp. You can get 10% off your first month just by going to BetterHelp.com/BSP22.
Gabe: Last week I got to interview Michelle and this week Michelle gets to interview me. I’m also the season finale. Ha, ha.
Michelle: Hmm. We are doing this because people emailed us and said they wanted to know us on a deeper level because we hide behind humor.
Gabe: As we said last week, we don’t agree with that. But the first rule of podcasting is give the people what they want. So last week’s episode and this episode that you’re listening to now is a deep dive with honest answers to really serious questions.
Michelle: And to just to be fair, we both got the same questions.
Gabe: Well, the first nine are the same, Michelle. The first nine, the last one is a free for all. Last week, I got to ask you anything that I wanted. And this week you get to ask me anything that you want. And I do not have prior knowledge to the question, but I’ve said enough. Michelle, the show is yours. I am the guest and you are the host.
Michelle: Okay. Okay. Getting to the questions. Getting to the questions. Getting to the questions. Okay, question number one.
Gabe: Michelle is making the drum roll sound on her on her lap. It’s I don’t know if it’s coming through the mic, but it’s hilarious to watch her just like smack herself.
Michelle: Shut up! Shut up. Okay. Question number one, if there was a shot that cured bipolar with zero side effects, worked perfect. No more bipolar. Would you take it? Why or why not?
Gabe: Yes. Yes. Bipolar disorder is an illness. It is an illness. Could you imagine if you took out the word bipolar and put in cancer, gave if there was a shot that cured your terminal cancer and had zero side effects and it worked perfect. No more cancer. Would you take it? Yeah. Yeah, I take it. I just. Okay. And you’re like, Gabe, terminal cancer. That’s like a that’s not a really good comparison. Okay, what about migraines? If there was a shot that cured migraines, would I take it? Bipolar disorder is horrific. All right? It is horrific. It has caused me pain. It has hurt me. It hurt the people around me. I just I don’t this is a question because people debate it and I’m fascinated by it.
Michelle: A master debate.
Gabe: They master debate this because all I can think of is how bad is your illness that you’re debating keeping it? And I know there’s more to it than that and I’m trying to be respectful. But the reason why I would get rid of it is because it’s an illness and it hurts me and it causes me pain. And those who I love pain. So, yes, I would take it and that’s why.
Michelle: You know, I watched a speech of another bipolar advocate that we know. And at the end of his speech, he said, yes, I have bipolar, but if I wasn’t bipolar, I wouldn’t have all of this. And he was talking about making the speech to all the people. How do you feel about that?
Gabe: The expression the phoenix will rise from the ashes is a great way to comfort yourself in the time of tragedy. And it’s well understood. And it’s part of our culture and, you know, turning lemons into lemonade. Right. It’s that same thing. I agree that if I did not have bipolar disorder, I would not have all of this. I wouldn’t have this podcast. Michelle Hamer would probably not be my friend. I mean, we don’t even live in the same state, for Pete’s sake. I have a lot of things around me because of bipolar disorder. Right. But there’s this notion that this is my best life, right? We’re saying that, hey, Gabe, the life that you’re living is your best life. And the reason that you have your best life is because you have bipolar disorder. But if I didn’t have bipolar disorder, I would in fact, have other friends. I would have gone on other journeys, other adventures, and I would have done other things. And it’s reasonable and possible that that journey would have been better. For example, I did not have children because of bipolar disorder, both because of the mental and physical pain that I was in. I was in no position to have children. And also because I didn’t want to pass on this horrific illness to them. If I didn’t have bipolar disorder, I could have six kids, no divorces. I wouldn’t have all that regret, all that self-hatred, and I would have all of that. And somebody would walk up to me and say, hey, you know, if you had a severe and persistent mental illness, you could have been a podcaster. And I would look them right in the eyes and say, That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You want me to give up my wife, kids, family career because I could have been a speaker. That’s dumb.
Michelle: That’s a very, very good answer to that one, Gabe. That’s a very good answer. Kind of comes into question number two of what is your biggest regret that was caused by bipolar symptoms?
Gabe: It’s going to be marriage. It my first marriage was a failure on every level. I was I. I was a terrible, terrible husband. I was. I cheated on her
Michelle: Mm hmm.
Gabe: Like that. That wins, right? I don’t have to convince anybody that I was a terrible husband when I cheated. But I also yelled. I screamed. There was emotional abuse. I disappeared. And I, I comfort myself by saying, look, I had untreated bipolar disorder. I thought demons were trying to eat my brains. I thought they were following me. There was a lot of psychosis. The things that I screamed were out of my own illness. But you know what? Nobody cares, right? This doesn’t comfort her. She’s not like, oh, my husband emotionally abused me and treated me like shit for five years, but it’s okay. He has bipolar now. This caused her trauma, this illness that that I didn’t know I had, that I didn’t control hurt her deeply. And that that is my biggest regret.
Michelle: But can you put any blame on her? Did she trigger you at all?
Gabe: If I take a 30,000 foot view, I can put the blame on her in that she did not realize that I had bipolar disorder either. Right. She never tried to get me evaluated. She didn’t realize I was suicidal. She didn’t notice that there was anything wrong with me. But I really hate to call that blame, right? Nobody did. My mom and dad didn’t notice anything. My friends didn’t notice anything. It’s not like anybody said to me. Oh, my God, Gabe, you have bipolar disorder. You should get that treated. And I told them all, no. They all just sincerely thought I was an asshole. So I suppose, I could blame her for not realizing that I was severely mentally ill and getting me help. But I don’t know. To me, if I didn’t know I was sick, how can I blame her for not knowing that I was sick?
Michelle: I thought this was the wife that you married straight out of the psych ward.
Gabe: No. That was wife number two.
Michelle: Oh. Okay, well.
Gabe: Yeah. I’ve been talking about wife number one.
Michelle: I see. Okay, okay, okay. You and all your wives, Gabe. Let’s move to the next question. All right. So what myth or stereotype bothers you the most about bipolar?
Gabe: There are several stereotypes about bipolar disorder that trigger just a rant, just so many. And I thought about this long and hard because you said bothers the most and here’s what it is that people with bipolar disorder are creative or geniuses or extra smart or have some sort of advantage because of the bipolar disorder. Here’s why I hate it, because bipolar disorder is an evil, awful illness that only wants to take from you. It just it wants to hurt you. It just takes, takes, takes, takes, takes. It just pain everywhere. And one of the things that I love about myself is that I am intelligent. I have I have humor. I am creative in in my writing or in my podcasting or my public speaking. And then suddenly bipolar disorder shows up and is like, hey, I want some of that credit. Well, you don’t get any of that credit. No, you know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of, like, when you start a business, right? And everybody’s like, that’s stupid. Get a real job, you’re dumb, and then your business makes it. And they all want money. Can you give me a job? Can you loan me money? Listen, when I was making -$1,000 a week, when I was sleeping in my car to get this business off the ground, you made fun of me. You wanted nothing to do with me. But then, as soon as something good happened, you showed up with your hand out. Bipolar disorder is that friend. If you are smart, a genius, creative, a good artist, whatever. That’s you. You did it. You, you, you, you, you. That is 100% you. Bipolar disorder is that shitty friend that shows up after the fact that did not help you in any way and was like, it was me. It was. No, it wasn’t. It was not bipolar disorder.
Michelle: I know exactly what you’re . Like my artwork. Oh, yeah. Because you have schizophrenia. Like dumb asses.
Gabe: Oh, that. And again, I always want to take the moment here, Michelle. You can be inspired by bipolar disorder. I would never challenge that. Bipolar disorder has inspired my art, and I’m sure schizophrenia has inspired your art. But the reason that you are a great artist is because you are talented and because you work hard and because you’ve painted and drawn and created thousands of things that weren’t good enough. And you crumpled them up and started over and perfected it. And that’s why you’re a great artist. And whenever I hear people, I don’t, I get angry on Michelle’s behalf.
Michelle: People just love to bring up Vincent Van Gogh. Him being crazy and him making wonderful art, or Picasso’s blue period. That was wonderful art where he was depressed. But there’s tons of other I took art history like, dude, you learn about like one artist who had a mental illness and a zillion other artists who didn’t have a mental illness and how amazing their art is. But people love to bring up Vincent Van Gogh being crazy and being a wonderful artist. And that’s your example that people with mental illness are amazing artists.
Gabe: Not only is that their example, but it’s their justification often that it was worth it. Vincent Van Gogh died by suicide. He wasn’t there for his family. He wasn’t there for his friends. The cutting off his ear story. People forget that, that he cut off his ear and mailed it to a woman. What happened to her? Could you imagine opening up a box one day and seeing the severed ear of a man that you used to date? We love to romanticize these things. But the reality is, is he suffered. He suffered greatly. The people around him suffered greatly. And then he ultimately died. And then he couldn’t create any art because he was dead. And we love to tell the story that it was somehow worth it because his art is amazing. It’s magnificent. But can you imagine if he was mentally healthy? If he was well, if he wasn’t sick, what could he have created then? And you’re saying, well, he would have had no inspiration. You don’t know that. Inspiration is everywhere. What would have inspired him? I, I it’s just, I don’t know. It’s, it’s just such, it’s such small thinking that the only thing that inspires humans is tragedy. I just why does why does great art have to come from tragedy? It’s a great story, isn’t it, that this bad thing happened to you and then you created something beautiful, but.
Michelle: Okay, so we’ve also learned now, if you cut off your ear, don’t mail it to Gabe.
Gabe: Yeah. Don’t mail it to me. I don’t want it.
Michelle: So question number four, Cuatro. The best thing that has happened because you have bipolar?
Gabe: Meeting Michelle Hammer.
Michelle: I love that answer. We’re just going to leave it as that.
Gabe: You know, it’s not even bullshit. I thought about this long and hard. I listen. I love my career and it’s a great career. But if I didn’t have bipolar disorder, I’d have another career that I’m positive that I would love. My personality is not dictated by bipolar disorder. My personality is my personality. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian and tried to work that circuit. But I had a lot of trouble with it because focusing is hard and it just a lot of trouble. But let’s say that I didn’t have bipolar disorder. I may have made it as a standup comedian. I may have made it on AM radio, I may have made it in an MC at a club. I’m sure that I would have had a good life and arguably a better life without bipolar disorder. I know you want to leave it at hey, I said your name and that’s the end. But listen, listen. I have met a lot of people both in my life and both because of this job. And I want to say unequivocally, Michelle Hammer is the most unique person I have ever met. For whatever reason, even though we are oil and water, we come together and create something that people love. And I have never created anything with anybody else that people have loved. As much as this podcast, I’ve created other things that people love. I’ve done other things. But as far as like together. This podcast created by us. People love it and that’s kind of infectious. It’s just kind of infectious to know that like we did that.
Michelle: That’s cool. And I love that you said you would be an MC at a club.
Gabe: Let it be cool. I wasn’t always old.
Michelle: MC at a club where your baby got back.
Gabe: Bom bom bom bom, bom, bom, bom. I know you’re going to go there. We need a different song. We should have picked a Taylor Swift song.
Michelle: Pumps and a bump. Pumps and a bump. I like girls with pumps and a bump. Pumps and a bump. Pumps and a bump.
Gabe: Oh, that’s when MC Hammer needed money.
Gabe: Remember, he went from like, U Can’t Touch This to this is why we pray to Oh shit, I can’t pay my bills. Pumps and a bump, pumps and a bump.
Michelle: Pumps and a bump, pumps and a bump.
Gabe: I like a woman in pumps and a bump.
Michelle: Pumps and a bump.
Gabe: Now the pumps were the shoes and the bump is the butt, right?
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah.
Gabe: I never understood that song.
Michelle: How did you not understand that song?
Gabe: Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know. Moving on.
Michelle: Number five, aside from the obvious medical stuff, what do you think bipolar took away from you personally?
Gabe: I think it took a lot of respect away from me, both respect that I have for myself and the respect that other people have for me. I sometimes people dismiss me and I don’t understand why I’m being dismissed. And it’s certainly possible that the reason I’m being dismissed is because they’re narrow minded or they’re short sighted or they just don’t agree with me. Right. That that’s a possibility. But oftentimes, I find out later that, no, they just they didn’t want to take the side of the guy with bipolar disorder or, you know, they patted me on the head because I was the token bipolar. And I thought I was there as an equal. But I was I was just the token patient. And I’m making air quotes because I’m just like, I thought I was in the room because I was a subject matter expert on living with bipolar disorder. But it turns out they were just checking a box. And that hurts me. It hurts me because I’m not a token. I’m not a prop. Right. You don’t you don’t parade me out to prove that you give a shit about people. I, I, I’m so much more than just a tragic story. I’m so much more than just an inspirational story. I’m just I’m just so much more than the box that is often created for me because of a bipolar diagnosis.
Michelle: Like you’re the patient advocate in the story like they’re they needed to have that patient advocate and it’s you so
Michelle: You’re just there to be there.
Michelle: But they don’t really respect you being there, but you just had to be there
Michelle: Because they needed a patient advocate.
Gabe: Right. That way they could say,
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah.
Gabe: And this is not unique to patient advocacy. As you’ve pointed out before, women have been enduring this for years. Minorities, African-Americans, they’ve been enduring this for years. The concept of tokenism did not start with Gabe Howard. It’s unfortunately been going on for decades, centuries, probably longer. I’m just saying that it hurt me. It hurt me because when I started all of these projects or walked into all of these rooms, I didn’t know. I thought they appreciated me. I thought that they respected my work and my knowledge and my experience. And I thought that’s why I was in the room. And when I slowly found out that, no, no, they didn’t respect me at all. It hurt and it slowly hurt in real time. It was like the stages of grief. First, I would start to suspect it and then I would get angry by it. And then I would, like, start bargaining. No, no, no, no, no. I may be a token, but I’m making change. And I just. And then we’d be back to anger, and then finally it’s acceptance. Or I just realized that no matter how hard I try and no matter what I accomplish, I will always be less than to many people. They will always look down on me no matter what I do.
Michelle: I want to share a story where I was the token schizophrenic on this ad board interview type of a deal. So I was the schizophrenic person. I was that patient advocate and everything’s going fine. I think I’m doing a very good job. We break for lunch. I’m sitting with one of the doctors there and he turns to me and he’s like, you know, you’re just not a very good schizophrenic person on this campaign. And I’m like, excuse me? And he’s like, You’re just not a suffering schizophrenic. You’re not suffering. You know, you’re just not good.
Gabe: You’re not the right kind of schizophrenic.
Michelle: Yeah. It was almost like I was doing too well,
Michelle: So I was too good a schizophrenic. I wasn’t suffering enough.
Gabe: Like with the phrase high functioning.
Gabe: People come up to me and they’re like, Gabe, you’re a high functioning bipolar. And I’m like, I don’t I don’t know what that means, but I guess I’m high functioning today because I’ve had years of therapy. I’ve had years to get my medication right. I’ve had so much hospitalizations and outpatient treatment and coping skills. And I’ve worked so hard to get to this level. But you’re calling me high functioning because I’ve reached recovery. You didn’t know me? I wasn’t doing podcasts in public speaking when I was hiding in the corner of a room because demons were going to eat my brains.
Michelle: Exactly. Right. And I’ve been accused of having a business and selling merch when I don’t even really suffer from the illness that I have. Excuse me. Do you know how many meds I take in the morning? Go screw yourself.
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Michelle: And we’re back and I’m interviewing Gabe about bipolar. Gabe, I think this leads straight into the next question, which is just by looking at you, can others tell that you have bipolar?
Gabe: No, no. And therein lies the problem. The. Right now, I’m just a boring guy walking down the street. Right? I’m just a middle aged man who lives in the suburbs and drinks a lot of Diet Coke and eats a lot of hot pretzels. Right. There’s nothing unique about me. There’s nothing exciting. There’s no physical characteristics. I’m not in crisis. So I’m just I sound and talk and act just like everybody else. So the quick answer to your question, Michel, is, no, just by looking at me, you cannot tell that I have bipolar disorder unless I’m in crisis. If I think that the Coke machine at the local fast food joint is a dragon, and I’m screaming, get away from the dragon and throwing stuff, fighting the dragon. And it’s just it’s just a Coke machine. You’re all like, wow, what’s up with that guy? If I’m hiding in a corner, crying because there’s a demon that is trying to eat my brain or the window washers are spying on me. Yeah, yeah. You can really tell that something’s wrong then. I don’t know if people would realize that it was bipolar disorder, but they’d. They’d sure as hell think, wow, that guy is nuts. So I. I just this is why it dovetails into the last question. When I was actively sick, everybody was like, that guy is sick. That guy is nuts. That guy is scary that that guy needs to get his shit together. And then as soon as I got my shit together, everybody’s like, Yeah, but you have bipolar disorder, so we don’t completely trust you. We don’t like you. So I just when I was sick, you all told me to get better. And as soon as I got better, you keep reminding me that I used to be sick. I can’t win, Michelle.
Michelle: It’s just the never-ending cycle of people just dismissing everything.
Gabe: Yeah. yeah.
Michelle: Oh, no, no. None of this. None of that.
Michelle: No, you’re making it up. Oh, no, you’re just making up stories. These things never happened. Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. Trust me, I know what you’re talking about.
Gabe: That’s why I love you, Michelle.
Michelle: Let’s get to number seven. Did having bipolar stop you from having children? Why or why not?
Gabe: It did. It absolutely stopped me from having children. I believed very strongly that I was not able to take care of kids and that if I could not take care of the children, I should not have them. Which is you know what? It’s kind of grandiose. And here’s why. Because I believed and, you know, I was I was pretty sick during these times. Right. So there is an element of I should not be having children now. I was still fighting for recovery. But the grandiosity in that statement comes in is that the reality is, is no single person is really capable of raising a child 100%. We all need help, whether it’s just somebody to call on the phone and say, you know, my child is driving me nuts. Or whether it’s a hiring a babysitter so that you can go out for a few hours, whether it’s, you know, sending your kid off to school so that you can get a respite and, you know, there’d be a mom, right? I would have to have this child with somebody. So I just decided that the mom was zero. I discounted her contributions completely. I didn’t give any credit to my, quote unquote village. I just decided that I and I alone had to do everything.
Gabe: And since I was incapable of doing everything, I can’t be a dad. That, that was going through my mind. And I decided, yeah, I can’t be a dad. The second thing is, I had to view the world through the lens of bipolar disorder, because, remember, I hadn’t quite reached recovery yet. And one of the things that bipolar disorder was telling me is that the way that I was then is the way that I was going to be forever. I saw no better future. I didn’t see a future where I was more stable. I didn’t see a future where I was in a solid relationship. I didn’t see a future where I was making more money. I didn’t see a future where I had my shit together. I didn’t see. I just didn’t see. All I could see was that I was sick and I was suffering and I was struggling. And that’s how I thought the whole world was going to be forever. And then finally, I was terrified to pass on mental illness. I really was. And the idea that I could pass this on to somebody and they would suffer in the same way that I did.
Gabe: It was a lot to bear. And, you know, there’s probably like a number for here that I should add in, which is I thought that the reason that I was scared to have children was because I had bipolar disorder. The reality is, is now that I’m middle aged and so many of my friends have had children and they all say we were terrified. Of course, we’re scared to have children. We’re scared every day. The kids are here and were terrified. I talk to my sister a lot. My sister has Eva, who is my favorite, and she talks about every day. I’m worried about Eva’s future. I’m worried about her school. Is she on the right reading level? Am I signing her up for the right activities? My sister has zero mental illness. My sister is very stable, very calm, very rational, very levelheaded. And with all of that going for her, even she lays awake at night and wonders if she’s a good mom. I thought that I was wondering if I was going to be a good dad because I had bipolar disorder. It turns out that some of that is just having children is terrifying.
Michelle: That’s true. Yes, I have a friend. He is a tough guy. He gets he likes to tell you how tough he is. He had a baby. What did he do? Cried and called his mom to come over to help him.
Gabe: Exactly. Yes, yes, yes. Children are difficult, period. Children are difficult because you have mental illness. They’re just difficult. I don’t feel bad for me. I love being an uncle.
Michelle: You can un vasectomies yourself, can’t you? Un vasectomy yourself?
Gabe: It’s not as easy as you think. You know, they cut it and snipped it and burned it. They really took one look at me and they really, really, really wanted to make sure that this was irreversible.
Michelle: How much does that hurt?
Gabe: Oh, they knocked me out. I was just. I was out cold.
Michelle: Did you swell to like a grapefruit?
Gabe: What the hell, man? These are personal questions.
Michelle: So? I just wanted to. I’m just curious.
Gabe: First off, my resting level is grapefruit. I swelled like a watermelon.
Michelle: Oh, you have. You got. You got big balls
Gabe: The biggest of them all.
Michelle: That do nothing now.
Gabe: Yeah. Yeah, that’s the downside. They are. They are. They are pointless.
Michelle: You got big empty balls.
Gabe: They’re just in the way.
Michelle: You got water balloons with no water.
Gabe: I feel like there’s another question. Come in. But I’m not sure where you’re going with this.
Michelle: Okay. Let’s go. Okay. Okay. Number eight. Tell me about a time that the stigma of bipolar hurt you personally.
Gabe: There’s a lot. You know, I was fired from a job because I had bipolar disorder. And that hurt and really made me realize how vulnerable I was.
Michelle: Did they say that in the exit interview?
Gabe: Of course not.
Michelle: Did they bring up bipolar?
Gabe: No, no, no.
Michelle: OK, OK, because they can’t say that. Trust me, I’ve been fired when they knew I had schizophrenia. And they make other reasons
Michelle: And they specify the other reasons to make sure that it’s not the mental illness.
Gabe: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re savvy, but obviously losing my job because of bipolar disorder hurt a lot, losing some of the respect of my family. And I think what’s so hard about it is they don’t realize it. They don’t realize that they don’t take me as seriously as they once did. They don’t they’re sort of unaware that they defer to my wife because, after all, she’s the reasonable and rational one and Gabe’s the crazy one. They don’t they don’t realize that they give credit to my success, not to me and my hard work and my gumption. But they give that credit to my wife a disproportionate amount. She clearly deserves credit. The woman had so much faith in me and we scrimped and saved together so that I could go out on this journey back when it paid nothing. But they just really feel like the only reason I made it is because of these other people. And they don’t really give me credit, and they don’t they just don’t look at me the same way as they used to. So I, you know, I just.
Gabe: Maybe the biggest way that the stigma of bipolar disorder has hurt me personally is that I don’t look at me the way that I used to. I have to second guess everything. I have to wonder if I if I’m seeing things correctly. It just it’s very hard to not trust yourself and to not trust the things that you see and hear. And I know I’m preaching to the choir with you, Michel, but for people listening in, having to constantly wonder if the way that you’re interpreting the world is just is just accurate, or if your brain is just messing with you. It’s a burden. It’s so I just I I’ve stigmatized myself. I’ve discriminated against myself. I, I feel that there’s, like, this this low level mistrust of the people who are closest to me. I don’t know.
Michelle: Well, number nine here and we’re almost done. Okay. How did you feel and what were your initial thoughts when you first found out you had bipolar disorder?
Gabe: Hopeless. Hopeless. Michelle, When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I only knew one other person with bipolar disorder. And that was Kurt Cobain, who was the lead singer of the alternative rock band Nirvana Huge in the nineties. And he was rich. He was famous. He was a once in a lifetime musical talent. He had bipolar disorder and he died by suicide. So my initial thoughts were, I was dead. That was my initial thought I was dead. Because, after all, if that guy, the rich, famous once in a lifetime musical talent guy can’t beat bipolar disorder, some schlub from Ohio has zero chance of beating bipolar disorder. Quickly following that thought was, Oh my God, I’m so thankful I never hurt my family. See, I thought mental illness and violence were intrinsically linked. So I, I just, I thought, what if I hurt my brother and sister? What if I what if I had hurt my mom and dad? What if I had? I don’t know. I believed all of the stigmatizing things about people living with mental illness. And I was just diagnosed with one I when I first found out, I felt hopeless. I was misinformed. I thought I was going to have to move to a group home. I don’t know, an orphanage. I mean, I was I was 26, so I guess not an orphanage sanatorium. I don’t know what I thought, but I know that I felt hopeless and lost and that I was just waiting to die. That’s how I felt when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Michelle: What about when you told people? What did they say to you?
Gabe: When I first told my mom that I had bipolar disorder and I explained to her what bipolar disorder was, she says, oh, my God, I always called you my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde child. And I laugh at that now because that’s literally an analogy for bipolar disorder. Right? The
Gabe: Two extremes. So even my mom noticed the symptoms of bipolar disorder, but because of a lack of education or understanding, she didn’t know that, that, that she needed to do anything. She didn’t she didn’t know that there was a medical problem. She thought that this was just a and my dad, too, and my grandma and grandpa, they all notice these things. They just they thought that it was, you know, like a growing up thing. They just thought that they needed to guide me. When I first started telling people, especially like my, my, my, my mom and dad, my grandma, grandpa, my close friends and family, it started to make sense to them. They were like, Oh my God, now, now we know. Now we know what’s happening in your brain. Now we know why you’ve done some of the things that you’ve done. We can explain your behavior in a way that we just frankly could not explain before. It actually gave them quite a lot of insight into me as a person. So I think more than anything, they were sort of excited to be able to explain why Gabe behaved this way. It just it put a real I don’t know, it just it just put a real name to a set of circumstances and behaviors that they could not explain previously.
Michelle: Yeah. You know what I think? Me finding out that I had a mental illness explained a lot for my family as well.
Gabe: It was kind of comforting in a way, I guess.
Michelle: It was kind of like, Oh, that explains a lot. Yeah, I thought it might have been a learning disability, but no, it’s a mental illness. I never thought about that. Yeah,
Michelle: Smart. Smart.
Gabe: Yeah. I mean, in a way, it was it was. It was like that. Michelle, all right, this is a question I’m worried about. This is the one that I have no previous knowledge of. And Michelle gets to ask me whatever she wants. So
Michelle: It’s a mathematical equation, Gabe. That’s what it is. Get out your graphing calculator and your and your pencil eraser and it’s going to be a big, you know, get your quadratic formula, all that, you know.
Gabe: I don’t even know what a quadratic formula is.
Michelle: Well, you should know it if you graduated high school. But I’ve since forgotten, you know, B2 over a square root of a boop. I don’t even remember.
Gabe: Lisa. Lisa is jumping up and down. Remember, for those who don’t know, Lisa is a podcast editor now, but she used to be a physicist in her previous life and has a physics degree and her face lit up. When Michelle mentioned the quadratic equation. She was so happy. She’s sitting here waving that she can solve it. And there’s not a real mathematical equation, is it? Because if there is, we’re bringing Lisa in.
Michelle: No, it’s not, Gabe.
Gabe: No. That was just bullshit?
Michelle: No. Gabe. Gabe.
Gabe: You got her excited.
Michelle: Here’s my question.
Gabe: For nothing.
Michelle: Here’s my question. Gabe.
Gabe: All right.
Michelle: Are you happy?
Gabe: No. No.
Michelle: Why not?
Gabe: I happiness is a I’ve had many therapists told me that happiness is an unreasonable goal. Right. There’s your baseline and happy as above your baseline. Just like sadness is below your baseline. So everybody is really striving for this thing that is above average, right? It’s like saying, are you on vacation? And if you answer no, then you’ve done something wrong. But vacations are not supposed to be every day. Vacations are sometimes. If we set this idea in our minds that we were always supposed to be on vacation, then we would always be disappointed when we were just leading our regular lives. The idea behind this is that if you think that you’re always supposed to be happy, you will always be disappointed when you’re just bored or normal or at your baseline. So that in reality, just like when you’re on vacation, you should be pleased, right? It’s exciting to be on vacation. You should also find comfort and contentment in your baseline. So it’s wonderful to be on vacation, but it’s also wonderful to be in your everyday life. It’s wonderful to be happy, but it’s also wonderful to be content. And at your baseline. I don’t know how I feel about all of that, but I mean, it kind of makes sense.
Michelle: Well, do you ever feel any joy?
Gabe: Sometimes I think I experience joy. I mean, things. Things excite me, I think.
Michelle: You express your sadness so often, but you rarely express your joy. So I’m trying to see, like, are you ever actually happy? Ever? Are you ever like, I’m having a great time, I’m in a good mood? Because, you know, I’m with you. When I’ve gone to Ohio, you walk into McDonald’s, they all know you. I walk into McDonald’s around here. They’re like, What would you like, miss? What would you like? Okay, thank you. Move on. But you they’re like, hey, hey. I mean, you go to Olive Garden, you walk in, the people all know you, you know. So like wherever you go, the people know you. They know you. When you get the pretzel, they know you. When you go to McDonald’s, they know you when you go to Olive Garden like everyone knows you and they’re excited to see you. That would make me happy if I walked everywhere I went. Everyone knew me and was like, liked seeing me there. That time we went to Olive Garden. We’re sitting down and that server just came down and sat with us and had a whole conversation with us. That doesn’t happen here.
Gabe: I think you’ve just explained that I have an eating disorder. I think I think that’s all you’ve really achieved with that that that Gabe Howard has a severe eating disorder. Just is there any place that I go that’s not food related where everybody knows me?
Michelle: Well, not that I went with you.
Gabe: Yeah. Yeah, this is. Man, this this this fell apart. Michelle, I get joy from others, and. And I’ve thought about this a lot. I, I.
Michelle: Like White Castle asked you to be Santa.
Gabe: That is true. They did.
Michelle: See you like. That’s what I’m saying. Like, like people know you and they like you.
Gabe: Do they?
Michelle: Yes. Don’t you get free stuff at [deleted] all the time?
Gabe: But that doesn’t mean they like me. Just.
Michelle: I don’t get free things at [deleted].
Gabe: But that doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.
Michelle: It means that I’m just a person who gives them money and I’m a customer. You are like a jolly customer friend that they know and they like they recognize. If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t give you free stuff. They would say, That guy again, get him out of here.
Gabe: I can’t fault anything that you’re saying. Your logic is spot on. I completely agree that that is one interpretation. The other interpretation is that I do favors for them, they do favors for me, and that the reason people know me is because I’m just I’m just a giant redhead who’s loud. I’ve been told all of my life that the reason people remember me is not for good reasons. It’s because I’m a sad sack. It’s because I’m a giant, loud, fat redhead. It’s just. It’s like how everybody knows the. And I’m making air quotes. The town bum. Right. They don’t. They don’t like them. They’re just aware of them. People are aware of me. They know that I’m here and maybe I don’t bother them. You know, they don’t want me to leave. But that doesn’t mean that they would miss me if I was gone. It is true that many people know me. I’m easily recognizable. But that doesn’t mean that if I disappeared that anybody would care. And I. I think that’s the difference for me. Michel, if you went away, people would notice. If I went away, people would not.
Michelle: I don’t think that’s true.
Gabe: I don’t know.
Michelle: You know, the only reason I wanted to be good at sports is because when you’re good at sports, people on the team like you.
Gabe: I mean, I like you, and I don’t care about sports.
Michelle: But it’s much harder to make friends with girls.
Gabe: All my friends are girls. I literally have no male friends.
Michelle: If you’re a girl and you’re trying to be friends with other girls, make a friendship type of deal. If you’re good at sports on a sports team, then people like you.
Michelle: I’m just saying.
Gabe: Michelle, did I answer all of your questions with enough gusto?
Michelle: So much gusto. It was like Popeye was here.
Gabe: Thank you, everybody, for being here. Before we go, we have to shout out our sponsor BetterHelp.com. You can save 10% off your first month just by going to BetterHelp.com/BSP22. I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon can also head over to my website and get a signed copy with free swag. Just go to gabehoward.com.
Michelle: And you need some awesome T-shirts, artwork, mugs, stickers, leggings, and so much more because I’m the founder of Schizophrenic.NYC. Yep, that’s right. Check out my designs and all that swag over at Schizophrenic.NYC. Go there now and get the most awesome stuff you’ll ever see.
Gabe: Wherever you downloaded this podcast, please follow or subscribe. It is absolutely free and we need a favor. Tell everybody you know about this podcast, email, text message, social media, word of mouth, tattooed on your forehead. If you can just please share the show, because that is the only way that we can grow. We will see everybody next season on A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. 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.