Living with Bipolar: Strategies, Coping Mechanisms, and Lessons Learned – Gabe Howard


Sometimes it takes years for someone with bipolar disorder to get diagnosed or treated. In today’s video, we’re going to address how to manage living with bipolar disorder and how to get treatment.

Welcome to the mindful space, your trusted sanctuary for recovery and mental health healing. I’m Michelle, your host. Today we’re thrilled to have a special guest, Gabe Howard. His journey from a late bipolar disorder diagnosis to success is truly inspiring. We’ll discuss his mission as an advocate for mental health and how he balances personal experiences with increasing public understanding of bipolar disorder. Despite the challenges, many individuals with bipolar disorder lead fulfilling and successful lives. There are aids, treatments and support. Gabe’s story is a testament to the goal of improving mental health and we’re excited to share it with you. Welcome back to another episode of the mindful space. Today we have Gabe Howard. How are you today?

I am very well. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

I’m so excited about this conversation too and excited that you’re able to join today.

You know, technology is everything, right? I mean, just how would we have had conversations about living with bipolar disorder, mindfulness and mental health in general 50 years ago? And the answer is we weren’t. But even if we wanted to, this technology did not exist. Exactly.

No, and I love that now we move forward to do more virtual. So it opens up opportunities for people like you, you know, not in Florida.

Not people not in Florida. That’s very true. Although I’d love to come to Florida.

Oh, please. We’re always here. Everybody loves Florida, but it’s so hot sometimes. Like we wake up with 80 degree weather.

I mean, I gotta tell you, somebody from Ohio, right? When I wake up and it’s like negative three, that is not the barrier that you think it is. I imagine wherever you are, that weather pattern is the one you hate the most. I think it’s a grasses greener thing.

That’s true. I would definitely live with seasonal depression if I woke up to negative three degrees. But that’s just, you know, personal. Okay. So as you mentioned, today we’re going to be talking about bipolar disorder. And this is not just talking about the topic. This is something you’ve gone through, you lived with. So for those who might not know you, do you mind introducing yourself?

My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder. I’m also the host of a couple of podcasts, the inside mental health podcast and also the inside bipolar podcast, both for health line media. I wrote a book called Mental Illness as an asshole. And yes, my grandmother is okay with the title.

I was very worried that she wouldn’t be, but she’s like, no, that’s a good name that people are going to remember. Yeah. Yeah. Granny’s have it. I’m always worried about her opinion and she’s always like, look, I’m not thinking about you as much as maybe I let on that I’m thinking about you. And I’m like, oh, grandma, I just sitting around thinking about me. She’s like, no, no, I have a whole life.

That’s amazing. So tell us a little bit about your journey. When did it start? Maybe your childhood, when did you start to identify the symptoms or if there was something odd?

These are always such extremely difficult questions to answer because the real answer is of course, I was born with bipolar disorder. I always had symptoms of bipolar disorder and nobody noticed. But that makes people sound bad. You know, it’s like, what do you mean your parents didn’t notice?

Teachers didn’t notice and how come you never asked for help? And a myriad of complicated reasons. And so many people, myself included to start the story off and and make it sound a little more palatable. They’re like, oh, well, I was diagnosed in 2003 and people are like, OK, the story starts in 2003. But that’s a little problematic too, because it makes it sound like everything was perfectly fine. And then I woke up in a psychiatric hospital. One does not find themselves in a psychiatric hospital if everything previous to that commitment was going well. And then finally, of course, trying to sum it all up.

I mean, we’ve got I was 26 years old when I was admitted. So it’s it’s a quagmire. The story is a quagmire. Bipolar disorder is a quagmire. Understanding it is a quagmire. And I think this leads to just a lot of confusion out in society and for people like me trying to make sense of it all internally and then explain it externally. Well, I made a whole career off of it. So the good news is, is it’s not simple. And I can talk about this for years to come.

Amazing. Well, we have a full hour to talk about it.

I’m going to need it and I’m going to use it.

OK, great. When you mentioned, obviously, there were signs before nobody noticed. Can you guide us a little bit through that? Like now looking back on it, what are some of the signs? Why do you think your parents ignored it or teachers? Do you feel that it was just something not talked about, discussed, stigma or just you know, people are just not educated on this topic.

All of those things, one, yes, all of those things. People aren’t educated. People don’t talk about it. People don’t understand. People believe stereotypes. So first and foremost, when I say people, I’m including myself and people. I think that gets lost when we talk about stigma. That it’s always like this external force pushing down on people with mental illness.

But it’s also internal. So I thought about suicide as far back as I can remember. Ten years old, five years old. I thought about suicide since birth, but I didn’t know that was unusual. I was born this way. I had symptoms of bipolar disorder as far back as I can remember.

You know, definitely in my teenage years, this is I was moody. This is how my brain worked. This is how I processed information. None of these things were abnormal to me. It’s not like suddenly I woke up and I thought, why am I doing this?

Why am I thinking this way? This is unusual. This isn’t how other people think. You it’s if you think about it, that that would be you were used to it. Right.

How how would anybody process information in this way that they could compare their processing of information in the world to other people’s processing of information in the world? And even when we can, there’s always reasons, right? So if I feel that I’m extra moody, ah, it’s hormones. It’s my teenage years. It’s boys will be boys. It’s well, he’s going through something. It’s it’s right. It’s the phase. It’s it’s always something. And you ask why my parents didn’t pick up on it. Well, let’s there’s many, many reasons.

Like I said, it’s a quagmire, but let’s pick out a couple. First, let’s look at the symptoms of bipolar disorder. You’ve got mania. It’s where you stay up all night and there’s grandiose thinking. So you think you know everything. How are any reasonable parents supposed to look at a teenager who doesn’t want to go to

bed and say, you know, everything is mentally ill? Isn’t that all teenagers? So that, of course, handcuffed my parents. Also, you’ve got to go back and think we’re not we’re getting better. When I want to say we’re getting better, but we’re not there yet. But we weren’t even started on the journey of not blaming parents, specifically mothers for mental illness in the 80s and 90s.

And that’s when I was coming up. So in order for my parents to think that I was mentally ill, they would have had to think that they were bad parents. Specifically, they would have had to think that my mom was a bad mother. And I’m very fond of saying that my story never zags to the left. My my father didn’t beat me.

My mom wasn’t an alcoholic. You get this. I’m going to give you a glimpse into the Howard household in the 80s. Please do so. OK, we all sat and ate dinner together as a family.

It was brutal. But I mean, like we were doing all the right things. My mom was even a stay at home mom, which which I know plays into toxic masculinity and and and sexist gender roles. But they thought it was a protective factor. But my my mom was one of the last. You know, we were one of the last generations where women were still fighting over this idea of whether going to work was bad or not. And my mom was like, going to work is bad. I will be home for my kids.

I have to be there for them. So in order for her to think that I was in harm’s way, there was this unfortunate byproduct of that meant that my mom did something wrong because that’s where they believe that mental illness came from. And she didn’t do anything wrong. My dad didn’t do anything wrong.

My teachers didn’t do anything wrong. I just had a mental illness and they had a base misunderstanding of what to look out for and how to help me. And because of that, all of my symptoms were put in other pockets that were incorrect, but nevertheless, that’s where they put them.

Did you ever before you were hospitalized? Did you ever think to get, I don’t know, go into a therapist or get any type of help or do you were just oblivious to, you know, you having any type of diagnosis?

We were oblivious. It’s not that my parents didn’t talk to people and like I thought I was a jerk.

Something’s off. Yeah, they but I also want to point out I’m the oldest. And I think, again, understanding these things are really important because I was the first teenager my parents raised. So it’s not like they could compare me to their other teenagers and think, I don’t know, that’s weird.

We didn’t have this problem with his older brother and no, I was the first one. So what’s the joke? Oh, the teenage years, the teenage years. There’s nothing worse than a teenager, except maybe a teenage girl.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. So even as my teenage years were coming, all of my parents’ friends are like, yeah, as soon as your kids become teenagers, it’s going to be awful. Well, I became a teenager and it was awful, right? That it’s that reinforcement that, yes, it’s terrible, but everybody told him it was going to be terrible.

So this is the terrible they were looking for. There was there was no way that they could understand it any differently. And the people did give them advice, but the advice was always you’re too lenient with him. You know, to spare the rod, spoil the child. It always went back to the parents.

Oh, it was always that my parents needed to do something more. And then finally, and here’s here’s the thing that that definitely handcuffed me, handcuffed my family and handcuffed everybody watching. Bipolar disorder is a spectrum disorder. See, people think that that it’s highs and lows.

Highs and lows like you’re either manic or you’re depressed. Right. Those are the two choices. Bipolar disorders right in the name. And that’s that’s just that’s just such a deceptive description. Mania, hypomania, mania, that’s the highest point of bipolar disorder.

And suicidal depression is the lowest point of bipolar disorder. But here’s the magic. Everything in between is still present and visible.

And here’s what this looks like to the untrained eye. One minute I’m symptomatic. I’m sleeping all day because I’m depressed or I’m staying up all night because I’m manic or I know everything because of grandiosity. Right. Those are problems. Those are symptoms. Those are symptoms of bipolar disorder that my parents perceived as problem behaviors. But if my parents had done absolutely nothing, meaning they just zero interventions, I’d have cycled right out of that.

I’d have cycled right into the middle, the stereotypical, the average. And so. But they didn’t know that. So they thought their punishments were working. That’s number one, because if I cycled into the middle, anywhere in the vicinity of a lecture, a punishment, anything, they were like, aha, it worked. And then also that when you’re in the middle, when you’re in the stereotypical, when you’re in the average, that’s that’s when you do the things, right? That’s that’s when you start dating. That’s when you make the team. That’s when you you get the good grades.

That’s when you make your parents. Yeah, to the normal groove of life. Right.

It’s it’s when everything is going fine. And then the right in the way. Yeah, then the symptoms, they they they shoot you left of center. But in your parents’ mind, they know you can be good. In the in the mind of my teachers, the neighbors, the society, my parents’ friends, they know I can be good. And why do they know this? Because they saw me do it. I they they’re just like, well, we know you can be good when you want to be.

We’ve seen it. So that means that I believed. That I could be good when I wanted to be. So as much as everybody else thought that I was just acting out, acting up, disobeying, being disobedient, whatever phrasing you want to use for your kids.

A jerk. I believed it, too. I didn’t know why I couldn’t do it. I just thought, well, my parents, who I do love and trust, are telling me that I’m bad. So I guess I’m bad. So it’s very reasonable.

And then at what point, you know, it’s teenage years. What about your 20s and your mid 20s right before getting hospitalized? Like at that point, you know, there’s a difference.

Yeah. So here’s the thing about good parents. They don’t run around bragging that they’re good parents. They don’t run around like showing you all the interference that they ran, all the things that they did. You know, mom’s not screaming, I bought food today and it cost seventy eight dollars and nineteen cents. And your dad had to work overtime to get it. And I gave up new pantyhose and they’re ripped and I had to wear two.

And I didn’t know any of this was going on. There was food in the refrigerator. Mom loved us. There was no sacrifices. They had they had all the money. Anyways, they don’t good parents don’t burden their kids with this. They just they just parents.

They just provide stability and foundation. And they they do for you because they love you.

And they don’t tell you about it. I don’t I don’t have any other words to explain. And especially when I was a kid, I didn’t see it. Mom and dad knew everything, had everything and were frankly jerks for like ruining my good time. And they got me through high school.

And this was no easy task. I dropped out of high school. They I had to go back to high school. My grandparents got involved. It was it was a whole big mess. But the key word there is you got diagnosed in your mid 20s.

Right. I graduated high school at nineteen. And then my parents were like, look, we did it. We did the thing.

All right. You’re an adult now. We’ve given you all the lessons. We’re sending you out in the world. And whatever you do at this point, buddy, is on. Figure it out.

Yeah. I’m not saying that they didn’t love me. I’m not saying that in talk to me. I’m not then just the level of involvement that you have with your children, your minor children is going to be much more intense and and and much deeper than the amount of involvement you have with your adult children. At some point, your children have to leave the nest.

And for my parents, that was when I graduated high school. So yeah, I left and all of a sudden that safety net is gone. Things. How was that?

Different. How was that on you? I mean, it wasn’t great. But in some ways, it was great.

Like, like there’s the again, trying to tell this story in an hour is so difficult. On one hand, it was fantastic because I went out in the world and I got a good job. I this was this was the late 90s, mid to late 90s. And back then, if you could spell the word computer, tech companies would take a dump truck, fill it with money and dump it on your lawn. That this was before the tech boom. This is when the internet was brand new.

This is this is I just this is when Silicon Valley was just printing cash. And I understood networking. I understood the internet. I understood computers.

I was getting job after job after job after job. And that’s fantastic. You’re like, well, that’s great, right? Yeah, there’s but there’s this problem. You can’t really give an untreated bipolar unlimited money. It’s a really bad idea. I did get married right out of high school, which was also problematic. That relationship didn’t work for any number of reasons.

But the primary reason is because it turns out that women don’t like to be married to untreated bipolar. Who knew? But surprise. Yeah.

Yeah. Shocker. But all of these things were shocked because see, mom doesn’t leave you. Dad doesn’t leave you.

Wives leave you. So it just the jobs would fire me, but I would get other jobs. So that helped move that along for a while because I was a really hot commodity who is constantly being recruited. But I was getting fired a lot and I was quitting a lot. Like that’s the other thing.

And people would say, well, Gabe, did you get fired? I don’t know. I just kind of stopped going, I guess. Well, that means they fired you.

Well, or I quit. I don’t know. Whatever.

Unfortunately, this is not a. And then when you say, well, did people notice you were sick? No, they just thought that I was a jerk that got a better offer and just no called no show. Back then, this was very common of people getting poached and leaving their jobs without giving notice. And frankly, the industry just took it because they were so desperate for people who understood what now every five year old understands. But there was a period of time where the five year olds didn’t understand it.

I remember this is back in the days for your younger viewers. This was back in the day when a computer cost five thousand dollars and five thousand dollars is a lot of money in three thousand dollars back in nineteen ninety eight. These were extreme amounts of money. Not everybody was wandering around with a computer in their pocket back then. Most families didn’t even have computers. That’s how expensive they were. So you can you can see why not many people understood them. But all of this coalesced. So then at that point.

Yeah. So then at this point, you keep getting job offers, kind of quitting, kind of leaving, relationship fails. So how did it get to to the peak point of the hospitalization? Like what had to happen for you to really understand what was the there was something else going on and this wasn’t normal.

So one of the first things that the divorce was a big deal and it was a big deal because this was the first time that I realized that I hurt somebody.

It wasn’t it penetrated for whatever reason. I was aware that my behavior and actions hurt someone that I loved. And this this sort of woke me up to it. This I this idea that I hurt somebody so badly that they don’t want to be around me. I didn’t I didn’t either notice care, understand that hadn’t happened.

I don’t even know that that really. impacted me very, very greatly. The second thing is my family is very stereotypically Catholic and and telling my grandmother that I was getting a divorce was was was not something I was looking forward to. You know, she’s she’s proud of me. She loves me.

I’m I’m I’m her favorite. And I didn’t I didn’t want to. I just I just didn’t want to do it. I want to disappoint her.

I didn’t. And and to a lesser extent, I didn’t want to disappoint my my mom and dad either. But they were easier because they had both been divorced and my mom got pregnant with me in high school. So I felt like we had a little bit of like, hey, you you screwed up and I’m aware of it.

So you can’t be super mean to me. And but the the depression set in really quickly. I I I was I was selling my house.

I was I was moving and when the depression took hold, I convinced myself that my grandmother and my mother and other members of my family would be happy if I took my own life. Not that they wouldn’t care, just that they would be like actively pleased. Like they would review my decision and be like, I gave finally got it right.

He weighed the pros and cons of life or death and he chose appropriately. Like I really thought they’d be thrilled at my funeral because again, I did think you feel like a burden. I felt like a burden. Number one, two, I untreated bipolar disorder, right? I’m it’s it is scrambling your brain to think things that aren’t true. That’s what depression and mental illness is.

But remember, I thought about suicide as far back as I can remember. It it was a stereo. It was a normal thought to me.

It was just normal. So just imagine if one day you woke up and you said to somebody, I’m going to order a pizza for delivery and everybody around you freaked out. And then almost inexplicably, they gave you these extraordinarily compelling reasons that you should stop this behavior immediately.

And and you you looked at it a little bit, you’re like, oh, my God, you’re right. I had no idea that pizza delivery was so dangerous. And you’re thinking that that that sounds crazy. Yeah, because it is pizza delivery is fine and everybody should do it.

But I thought about suicidality in the same way that people think about pizza delivery. It’s just a choice that you make. It’s a reasonable choice and everybody’s doing it.

The difference is is not everybody is thinking about suicide every day for their lives. And I was. And it was it was stunning to me. And there’s there’s sort of a domino effect of things that happened. I put together a suicide plan and and and I started trying to get this and somebody noticed right that that’s long story short, you know, too long. Didn’t read somebody noticed that I was planning my own death and interceded. And that person took me to the hospital.

And obviously, something was very, very wrong. I was committed to the psychiatric hospital. I was given my first diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And and that just began the journey, right?

That that’s everything up into that point was essentially just this blur of mental illness. I can’t even be sure. I mean, I can be more sure now because I’ve asked the right questions.

But I got to tell you, Michelle, the number of times that I was like, well, Michelle, remember that time you and I went parasailing and you’re like, Gabe, we didn’t go parasailing. Yeah, we did. Remember, we got in the car and we drove there. You’re like, yeah, yeah, we got two hours there. And I threw you out of the car and you had to call your mom to come and get you.

And then I went on parasailing. Like, no, no, no, no, I don’t remember that at all. I here’s what I remember. And you’re like, none of that happened.

Here are the pictures. And because I’m well and because we’ve made amends and because I’m like, oh, my god, in my in my mind, in my heart, in my soul, we went parasailing. But you’re right. I’m not in any of the pictures. And you’re right. I believe you. Like you’re you’re my good friend. I trust you.

You’re not lying. How did this happen? And now I’m trying to piece together what I believe happened, which is we had a great weekend parasailing with what actually happened, which is you left me on the roadside and my mom had to come and get me. So now I’ve got to make decisions on how to move forward with that. Do I go with how I feel internally, which is you and I had a great time.

And I’m a great parasailer. Like that feels good. Or what actually happened. I really hurt my good friend and got left on the roadside and my mom had to come and get me, which is extraordinarily embarrassing. And you and I didn’t talk for years, I might add. So what do I do? Do I go with what I believe or what reality is?

And of course, just just to just to make it a little more complicated. How much can I trust you? I mean, after all, Michelle is telling me that she kicked me out of the car because I did something wrong. But while I don’t think that Michelle is lying, maybe I didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe Michelle overreacted.

It just because you have bipolar disorder doesn’t mean that it’s OK that people kick you out of the car and leave you on the roadside for your mother to come and get you. And you’re thinking, Gabe, this is so convoluted. Like I’m not even following the analogy anymore.

Right. I do that on purpose. It’s convoluted. It’s a quagmire. It’s messed up.

And nobody should be able to follow this train of thought on this podcast right now. But now imagine that you have to. There will be a test and the rest of your life is determined on you getting the answer correctly. How many times will you listen to this over and over and over again to try to figure out the thread so that you make sure that you pass the test of this podcast or Michelle is going to fail you?

Michelle is really mean at failing people and kicking them out of the car. I must I must say I must say. But you can see how just incredibly messy this gets. Quickly. Yeah.

And that’s like the thought pattern that you go through when it comes to certain scenarios or all the time or before.

It’s this is this is what it’s like reflecting backwards. I just OK. I. There’s kind of a thought pattern or phrase or idea that I have in my head, which is is my past real like how much of how I feel is true.

There’s a certain part of this that everybody can understand, right? We all at some point in our life hit about, oh, I don’t know, thirty five, forty years old and romanticized high school. Suddenly, no matter how much we hated high school at the time, it becomes the best days of our lives.

Everybody hasn’t happened to me. Remember those good days? Oh, I loved it. And your parents are like, yeah, you you hated it. We fought every day through hell.

You couldn’t wait to get the hell out of this house. Like they’re just like, yes, no, no, I had such a good time. Remember, I had my friends and I went to prom and I was homecoming queen.

And I just and I and everybody does this, right? It’s the if you if you go to any thirty five and up and ask them when the best days of their lives were, they all say high school. And really, the best days of your lives were when somebody else controlled you. You want to go back to that? There’s plenty of people out there who will control you and take all your money and tell you what to do. And they’re like, no, no, no, I don’t I don’t want to do that again.

It’s definitely romanticizing. Right.

But you just said those were the best days of your life. Look, there’s cults on the Internet right now that will take all your money and tell you what to do if those were truly the best days of your life.

That is it. And like, no, that would not know. I want my own house. I want to make my own rules.

I want to be in charge of my own career, life, family, choice. No, it’s not. So we don’t actually think that high school is the best years of our lives. But twenty years later, we only remember the good things.

So how much of that is that? I’m still a human. But some of the things that happened and some of the ways that I remember them are so clouded by mental illness that I don’t know how to use my past to make good choices for the future. Now, the older I get, the easier it gets, right? Like I’m forty six now, I can definitely use thirty to forty five. That’s good data there.

But lessons I learned when I was going after a diagnosis, they might be real. They might not be. It’s a mess. They might not. What were some of your initial emotions when you got diagnosed? Like what went through your mind?

It’s a little bit twofold. First, there was some relief, like, OK, there there there might be a path forward. I I I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t even content. I was I was I was desperate and miserable. And I felt very strongly that I belonged here. And I believed the doctors that something was wrong.

But the second thing was hopelessness. I really thought that mental illness was, you know, violence. I was I was I was terrified, like, oh, my God, thank God, they caught this before I heard anybody. And I thought that I was going to have to liquidate my assets and move into a group home, because I thought that all mentally ill people were institutionalized. I didn’t know that mentally ill

people were allowed to walk among us. I I just I.

I didn’t see anything good. I want to be super clear. It took it took a long time to think that I could just be boring. And and by boring, I mean, like, get married, have kids, have a house, get a job. You know, go grocery shopping every morning. Yeah, I just I I

didn’t think that’s a socially acceptable

standard. Yeah, I didn’t think a quiet normal life was available to me. I thought that a supervised, institutionalized life was all that was available to me. So you can imagine that that feels very hopeless.

I mean, who wants to look at themselves and be like, OK, the best I can hope for is that somebody takes care of me and tells me what to do until I die. That was it. That’s that’s what I thought would happen. Can only imagine.

So after being institutionalized, getting diagnosed, you started to get the help. What kind of help did you get?

Oh, I got so much help. Kind of resources. I just first off, I I I I I I I do have medication. I was prescribed the right medications, which takes a very long time. Right. I would I would love it. Took it took years to get the right combination of medicines, right, to find the right medicines, the right cocktails, the right doses, the right amounts, right, that that takes years. And that’s that’s like one band, right? Then we’ve got to go to coping skills. Then we’ve got to go to, you know, introspection. Then we’ve got to go to understanding. Then we’ve got to go to relearning life skills.

Then we have to deal with all the trauma and existential crisis that happens when you’re like, hey, remember all those things you thought. Turns out most of them aren’t true and on and on and on and on and on. And and then there were, of course, all these layers of, OK, well, what’s real and what’s not? OK, well, OK. But now with the stuff that’s real, did I think about it correctly?

Like I’m remembering it correctly, but I remember Michelle as being wrong. OK, let me reevaluate this. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I can I can see she didn’t kick me out now.

Yeah, she should have kicked me out of the car. Like it turns out that, you know, choosing to open up all the sodas and dump them on you while you’re driving was a was not a good thing to do. But in the moment, I felt so right in doing it. Why did I think that? And and I use these extreme examples on purpose because you’re thinking, why would anybody do that?

Right. And now you’ve got to wrap your your mind around the idea that you did. And you can’t just say, oh, well, Michelle, I was bipolar and that’s why I did it. Oh, well, really, that just you’re just like carrying around to get out of jail free card. All bad behavior was just because of bipolar. You have to be accountable.

Exactly. And how do I become accountable? On one hand, I am right. Bipolar disorder did make me do that. But you know what? Just that doesn’t that doesn’t resolve your issue.

Right. You had your friend like dump soda on you while you were driving. That’s messed up.

You’re not going to just be like, oh, you were bipolar. Great. Thanks. Yeah. You didn’t ruin my suede blouse or nothing.

Yeah. I don’t know if blouses are made of suede, but if they are, I’m sorry that I ruined it. So then I have to like start moving forward. Well, it’s it may not be my fault, but it’s my responsibility. What can I replace? What can I do? How can I earn your trust? How can I show you that while there was this mechanism that was outside of my control, which is bipolar disorder, I accept that that mechanism is my responsibility and here is what I’m doing to fix it. How can I show you that? And how can I show you that when you’re like, look, dude, I haven’t talked to you for five years.

I know that when we were in high school together, we were super close. What do you want? But you know what? I just I’m just fine with you being this weird dude I went to high school with. And so sometimes I have to accept that, right? Like, like, hey, I’m I’m I’m glad that when we grew up in the neighborhood, we were friends. But yeah, I don’t I don’t want to make up.

I wish you know. And now I’ve got to like process that without you. But then like when it’s your sister, your brother, your mom, your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, like those family members are like, yeah, I would kind of like to make up with you because we love you, your family.

But at the same time. And then it’s making them understand as well what you have, because they don’t know about it.

Well, exactly. And so it’s educating everybody. But I got to say, I get not to go too far of attention. You know how sucky it is to both be the one who is sick and like the public spokesperson for the illness inside your own friends and family? It’s it’s really hard to be sick. Forget about mental illness, just sick.

It sucks to be sick. But now I’m the elected spokesperson for it. Like, I have to answer all these questions. I have to explain everything. I have to get people on the right page.

I have to help. It’s such an incredible burden. And there’s no. I mean, there are other ways, but it’s an understandable burden. But it’s still a burden. So I have to process that as well. So there’s just so much. And I haven’t even scratched the surface. It took me four years. Let’s let’s wrap it up in a nice little bow there.

Four years. Four years to reach recovery. That’s a long time. OK, it is. And so now after recovery, after going through all that, now you’re a mental health advocate, now you speak, you have your podcast. What led you to start this? Is this something more for you? Like, what’s your mission? I.

It was an accident. I want to be. I want to be. You asked it. That I’m going to answer the question from the what led you to start this perspective when my family joined or joined or went to or use the services of a national nonprofit, a national mental health nonprofit. And I did not know this at the time, but, you know, they were they were going to to to support groups and participating in things and getting education and getting the support that they needed. And at one point when I was nearing recovery, my my grandmother said, well, you know, this is a national agency, so it might be available in your neck of the woods.

You should look it up and see if you can help or anything. And I thought, OK, well, I’m looking for volunteer gigs. I volunteerism is something that’s big in my family. We’re really big on the you should you should dedicate some amount of your time to giving back. And now I’m getting healthy and I’m remembering these lessons.

And I’m I’m trying to get back to the values that I was raised with that that I respected and got away from when I was sick. And so I just called up this charity and offered to help. And they were like, sure, we we use volunteers. We’re we’re a nonprofit. That’s what nonprofits do. And and they gave me some volunteer jobs. And and one day the executive director in one day, like a couple of years later, I don’t want anybody to think this was like a day one assignment. But a couple of years in, she said, hey, we’re having this event and we want you to speak. You’ve got five minutes.

We want you to tell your story. What do you think? And I was like, OK, you know, if you think I can do it, I have a lot of respect and faith in you. So sure. So I went and gave this speech, a little five minute speech, and I got a standing ovation. And I was like, nice. OK, this is nice. Like I really like this. I like this feeling. Yeah.

And of course, I was expecting it to be awful, right? Like telling, you know, living with bipolar disorder, talking about being diagnosed, you know, just some of the stuff that I went through and little things like that. I I was really expecting like a like anybody know where our kids are, like keep them away from him. So the fact that there was thunderous applause, people were on their feet and that people were so happy. I was like, huh, this has not been my experience when I tell people I have bipolar disorder. This is interesting to me.

So that was sort of working its way in my brain. But there was a lot of people in that audience and they were like, hey, will you will you come and do this at our event? Will you come and do this at our support group? Will you come and do that over here? Will you come over here?

And I was like, OK, yeah, I started getting booked for events.

Well, I know booked is a strong word, but I started being able to. OK, requested, requested and requested. Yeah. And I did that for a number of years. And and that sort of grew a little.

You know, people would ask me to write like guest blogs and and, you know, share my story online, do do do little like smaller level things like this. And and and one day what sort of happened is I realized that I was just spending a lot of time and money on my volunteer job. And it was expensive. And I wanted to take it to the next level. And I didn’t necessarily know what that looked like, but I I had a basic idea. So, you know, I created a website and and and you know, I created a key note that when you started the podcast.

Well, that’s when that’s when I started what I just called Gabe Howard. You like a job. Yeah. And I wanted to just be a straight up speaker. And that led me to a company called Psych Central. And Psych Central hired me to write and to do some other public facing events, right, their website. So, you know, if you go to like a mental health conference, they wanted to have a booth and stuff like that.

And this is where I’m always super clear that things are just accidental in my life. While I was at a public event for the website,, a podcaster came up to me and said, hey, we’re doing a podcast about this conference. It’s a big mental health conference and we’re just like interviewing people and getting sound bites.

Would you be willing to be interviewed? Because we like Psych Central. And I said, well, I don’t own it. I just work here.

I’m not sure I’m authorized to speak publicly on this. And he said, well, how about this? I’ve got the room time right now.

Why don’t I record you? I will email you the file. You email it to whomever you have to at Psych Central and they give an upper or down. They say yes or no.

If they say no, I won’t air it. And I said, OK, that seemed like a really good deal. Obviously, we did that.

I sent that file off to the owner of Psych Central. He immediately approved it. He said it was fantastic. And to email him when the real episode came out and he would put it on Psych Central and promote it because obviously we were mentioned and that’s a collab. And while this was all going on, he said, you know, we’re not in the podcasting space. Would you be interested in hosting a podcast?

And me with no journalism background, no broadcasting background, no radio background, then definitely no podcasting background said, sure. Because why not? I’m dumb. Why not?

I’ll try it. So then I spent the next six months from from from from that conversation to the time the first episode released, I spent the next six months designing a podcast that I thought could survive in the space. And that was eight years ago, almost nine years ago now. And that is what its original title was, the Psych Central podcast.

It later morphed into Inside Mental Health podcast and obviously now has spin offs. And that’s how it happened. It was it was I I did not think we would get here. But we did. And so you have this wonderful podcast. And I know you’ve interviewed a couple of celebrities and big people.

I like celebrities. They’re fun. They’re fun. OK, they are. What kind of insights have you learned from these podcast episodes? Well, you are required to say that celebrities are just like us. That is, I you have to take a class when you interview celebrities.

Or if anybody asks you about interviewing celebrity, you have to say they’re people too, and they’re just like you and me. So I have now met that standard. But OK, I’ve I’ve learned it here. Here’s. Here’s the thing. No matter how hard you try, sincerely, no matter how hard you try to see everybody’s point of view, everybody, 100 percent of people have blind spots. You just can’t help it.

Right. I I try to see things from as many perspectives as humanly possible. But in order for that to work, one, I have to be willing to listen. Right. That’s the part I can control. But there’s a second part. And this is the part that people struggle with. You have to find good people to explain things to you.

So if I want to learn what it’s like to be a woman CEO for a Fortune 500 company, the best place for me to learn that is from a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who is a woman. Well, right now, that’s a problem because there aren’t any. And even a few months ago, there’s at any given time, there’s a couple.

Right. It’s a largely male dominated space. So people have a hard struggle with this because they want to know what those challenges are. But there’s these barriers and these blockage. So people have to kind of fill it in from journalism, etc. And journalism can be very problematic.

Right. If you learn about being a female female CEO on on certain talk shows, you’re going to learn a very different. Yeah, misogyny is a real problem. And it’s but I have access. I have access that a lot of people don’t.

And while that doesn’t mean that I have no blind spots, I want to be very, very clear. I have been able to interview people like the medical director for the National Institute of Mental Health. The average person who desperately wants to learn from the medical director of the National Institute of Mental Health is just not going to be able to schedule an appointment with them.

They’re just not. I got to talk to Dr. Phil about the conservative response to the pandemic about how they vilified how conservatives largely vilified science and were afraid of of the vaccine. And he was one of the few at the time prominent conservatives who was saying, no, no, we we we we should not politicize this. We really need to. But I was able to ask him not, you know, the liberals are talking about, oh, they’re not they’re stupid.

They’re not taking it. And those became the talking points. But here was a prominent conservative who was desperately trying to say, stop the name calling, stop the bipartisanship.

We have people who are dying. And here’s what I want to say to my fellow conservatives. Here’s what I want to say to my fellow liberals. Here’s what I want to say to.

Yeah, you have the opportunity to have that conversation. I got to be part of that conversation. But here’s the thing, the whole world was part of that conversation.

But I got to interview Dr. Phil. And that said, there’s so many other people I would have loved to interview on the subject. Right. So so I want to be clear.

But you asked me specifically what my takeaway was. And, you know, long story short, I really gained access to people that no guy with bipolar disorder living in Ohio should have access to. And I have learned.

Definitely very fortunate. So much, so much. And not for nothing to be able to bring that to the masses in any small way. You know, look, I’m not mainstream media. You know, I’m not network television. I’m not CNN. I’m not national news. I’m a little podcast on a health website.

I’m bigger than the average podcast, but it’s smaller than television. And OK, but you’re right in between. Right.

But to be able to play some small part in helping people understand mental health issues is. It does kind of keep me up at night because I wonder, like, is there somebody better? Like, should I hand the reins over to somebody else? Would somebody else do a better job?

Am I the right person for this? And that accomplishes two things. One, a lot of sleepless nights and anxiety. But two, I do think that it drives me to make sure that I do as good of a job as I can. I feel very strongly that I’ve never rested on my laurels. And if I find out that I am, I hope strongly that the people around me kick me in the ass and tell me I’m squandering the opportunity.

Well, I think you’re doing a great job. Oh, thank you. So keep doing it.

As long as people will have me, it’s a hard space to be in. And it’s getting harder every day. So I which was a good thing. It’s a good thing, right?

I mean, a rising tide raises all ships. So I’m I joke nine years ago when I started, I would say I’m starting a podcast. And the number one question I had to answer was what’s a podcast? Now, all these years later, now everybody’s doing it.

Yeah. Now. Now all these years later, I’m like, I host a podcast and I’m like, Oh, you live with your parents? No, no. It’s like, no, I’ve been doing this since before everybody else.

Yeah. Yeah. Like, like I started it. They’re like, oh, you started podcasting now. OK, no, that’s not that’s not what I meant.

That’s it’s it’s just listen to my podcast.

Just listen to the podcast. You’ll you’ll see I don’t suck. I just that’s the best I have.

Now, what advice would you give for someone that might be struggling with bipolar disorder?

The here’s where it’s difficult. The I am not a doctor, so I can’t give medical advice. So I’ve got to give advice from like one person with bipolar disorder to the other. And probably the biggest piece of advice that I feel that I did not have was how hard, difficult and long this was going to take.

Everybody when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they’re like, well, listen to your doctors and be med compliant and you’ll be fine. And I believed that messaging. So as weeks turned into months and months turned into many months and many months turned into years, I thought, well, I’m doing something wrong. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not trying hard enough.

I am somehow very, very deeply flawed in this process. And when I reached recovery and I started looking at the available data that’s out there, nobody gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder on Monday and is fine by Friday. That’s that’s just the stuff of pop cultures, movies and frankly, stigma, discrimination and a lot of misunderstanding of the illness. I really wish somebody would have told me when I was diagnosed hunkered down, buddy, this is going to take some time.

This is going to take a long, long time. And the next thing that I’d want to say is when you’re hunkering down and when it takes a long time, be open to the idea that one, you can be wrong. So be willing to try a lot of things, but also be open to the idea that the people giving you advice can be wrong. And everybody assumes when I say that, that I’m directing that at like, oh, your doctors can be wrong.

And I want to be honest, I am. Your doctors can be wrong. Doctors, therapists, psychologists, et cetera. Those folks can be wrong. But I’m also very clear that this means the people on the Reddit threads at 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep that tell you that nature bathing is going to cure bipolar disorder and that the evil big pharma companies that only care about making money and not about patients are evil. Yeah, those people can be wrong, too.

The reality is, is a lot of this is very nuanced. Nobody is saying that doctors are perfect. Nobody is saying that pharmaceutical companies don’t have things to answer for. But this whole idea of black and white thinking that because I live with bipolar disorder and you live with bipolar disorder, my advice is good. And the medical establishment advice is immediately suspect. I think that you should evaluate all data in the exact same way. Yeah, all the all your options as well. Yes.

Yeah. Yeah, really get to study.

Don’t blindly follow anyone. The reality is, is if you’re blindly following your doctor, this means you’re dependent on your doctor. This means that when your doctor goes away, how will you be able to make decisions?

How will you know? And that makes it very, very difficult. So I really look to make critical thinkers and to help people understand that they are in charge of their illness and they are building a team. But make no mistake, it doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are. If you build a bad team, you will not make it. There is no Super Bowl winning football coach in the world that is going to be able to take a group of soccer players and win the the you know, the National Football League Super Bowl because those soccer players don’t know how to play American football. So it doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are if you’re selecting the wrong players. And I think more often than not, I talk to a lot of people with bipolar disorder who aren’t getting better because they’ve selected a poor team.

And I feel that it’s a very empowering statement to say, all right, you you just need to get back to basics, back to fundamentals. Who’s on your team? Who can you replace? Who can you improve upon?

Who can you sit down and have the come to Jesus talk with? And I believe that self directed and self led recovery is the key to making it work. And the key to making that work is not to say things like, well, all doctors just care about making money and building tennis courts. That doesn’t work either.

And now that’s not true. No. And so now, obviously, you’re managing with medication and all of this. My question is, do you still have episodes of the ups and downs? How do you manage them? And what are some maybe coping skills that you use at home that other people can maybe use as well? Yeah.

So just because you’re on medication doesn’t mean that you don’t have symptoms. It’s kind of a bummer, right? Like, wouldn’t it be great if you just take a magic pill and you lived happily ever after? It’s done.

Yeah, that would be fantastic. But the reality is, is unmedicated. You’ve got like a, you know, a spectrum that’s 100 miles wide and medicated. You’ve got a spectrum that’s 20 miles wide. And we’ll say for the purpose of the analogy that the normal spectrum is 15 miles wide. So you’ve still got you’ve still got room for symptoms, even under the medication that maybe the stereotypical person won’t have under ordinary circumstances. Right.

Analogies are hard. So that helps, right? Because obviously, if you’re not so moody that you’re all over the place, if you don’t think that you’re God one day and garbage the next, it becomes much easier to do things like learn coping skills, to gain introspection, to set boundaries and obey other people’s boundaries. And when it comes to coping skills, here’s a couple of things that I want to talk to people about coping skills. Coping skills are extraordinarily difficult to learn. And people say, well, give me an example of a coping skill. And I’m like, OK, well, for example, if I get overwhelmed and I’m in a group, I tell, I stand up and I say, hey, I have to go to the bathroom and I very quickly move to the bathroom and nobody stops you. Because if you stand up and declare that you have to go to the bathroom and start moving rapidly, nobody’s messing with you. Works works for everybody. It’s fantastic. And like that that took you a year to learn.

Nobody can say no. Don’t write.

Nobody’s going to say no. And in fact, they’ll help you get to the bathroom and they won’t ask follow up questions. It’s a fantastic coping skill. And I highly recommend it. And people are like, well, I don’t understand.

Why did that take you two years to learn? OK. So I’ve just given everybody this idea, right?

Now, everybody’s got this coping skill and they’re like, well, yeah, that’s easy. OK. But now here’s where implementation becomes becomes the issue. Right.

So now you’re you’re out in public. So the first thing you’ve got the coping skill in your head, right? It’s right there.

Right. Now, the first thing that you need is an opportunity to use said coping skill. You’ve got to become overwhelmed in public. Well, that’s not going to happen the next day. Most of us avoid the things that give us panic attacks, not steer into them.

So eventually it comes up, right? You’re overwhelmed in public. OK. Now you’ve got to remember that coping skill, right? That you get to now you’re panicked in public and you’re like, OK, I’ve got to remember to use that coping.

This is the first time you’re ever going to use it. So you stand up and loudly declare, I have diarrhea and run. OK, well, clearly that’s not. Oh, my God. Now you’re embarrassed. You’re like, I don’t know why I said that.

Yes, and now you’ve got all this. Right. So some people are like, well, that coping skill didn’t work. It turned out very poorly. Ah, all right. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You just messed it up, right? So now you’ve got to wait to become overwhelmed in public again. And this time you stand up and say, hey, where’s your restroom?

I just I need to run there very, very quickly. And the person says, didn’t you just go 10 minutes ago? And then you freeze and panic and you’re like, what?

Well, you go to the bathroom a lot. I want I don’t know I’m going home and then you run home. And you’re like, OK, well, now that didn’t work. I wasn’t expecting follow up questions.

Gabe said on the podcast that it would work very, very quickly. OK, so now the third time you’ve got to wait again to become overwhelmed in public and you’re overwhelmed and you stand up and say, I need to go to the bathroom. You use the bathroom a lot. Yep.

Where’s the bathroom that doesn’t change anything? Oh, I’m sorry. It’s over this way.

Ah, now it now you’re firing on all cylinders and it’s working and it works. You stay in the bathroom. You use your phone. You you and you’re like, OK, this one finally worked. And when you walk out, everybody immediately says, are you OK? Are you OK? You were in there for a long time. Are you OK? You’re like, oh, so now you start to panic again because everybody’s asking what you were doing in the bathroom. And you.

Yeah, it’s not as easy as just saying exactly.

And listen, I’ve got like 18 more layers of this. But eventually, I’m sure you do. Sincerely, Michelle, one day you stand up because you’re overwhelmed in public. You say, where’s the nearest restroom? They say it’s over there.

You walk over there. You’ve calmed yourself quickly. So nobody asked why you were in there for a half an hour. And nobody’s banging on the door to check on you.

In fact, you’ve even changed your friends to say, oh, well, Gabe, you know, we we told him he can’t eat that much sugar, but he just really likes cake. Oh, right. So they’re running interference for you. You’re in there for 10 minutes. You come out. Nobody wants any part of this and you just go.

Nobody ask. And it works. Like gangbusters. And then you do that again for the rest of your life. But again, somebody somewhere who’s been using that particular coping skill will show up on a podcast and say, oh, yeah, if you get overwhelmed in public, just say you have to go to the bathroom and everybody hears it. And they think, oh, this is so easy. This is such an easy to manage.

I mean, it’s something simple for me. Obviously, I don’t have panic attacks, so I don’t have anybody question me. So when you said the first time, it made complete sense. And then the more layers that you add or like scenarios, right? I’m like, oh, well, I can see how if I’m having a panic attack, people asking me why it took so long or where you going or why, like that would just accelerate it even more. So when you break it down in those steps, then it definitely makes sense. How it would take you two years.

And this is every single coping skill. The biggest thing is in order to practice a coping skill, you have to be in the situation where you need the coping skill. And those don’t happen on the regular. Those don’t happen on a schedule. So you’ve got to learn this coping skill. But before you can practice it, it’s got to randomly happen to you.

And like anything in life, Michelle, anytime you do anything for the first time, you don’t do your best at it. People hear about these coping skills from people who have mastered their coping skills, whether it’s the therapist who’s teaching them, whether it’s people like me who have who are on podcasts explaining them. And I really think it creates the misconception that, hey, just grab a couple of coping skills and go on about your day. It can take years to master all of the coping skills that you need to get through life. And I want people to hear that so that way that good coping skills are being left by the wayside because they didn’t work once. Could you imagine if everybody quit, if they were not instantly successful at whatever it was they set out to do?

I we’d have nothing. I don’t care how good you are at whatever you are the greatest at. The first time you did it, you had room for improvement and you needed to practice and you got better and better and better and better. Yes, coping skills work exactly the same way. But I really feel like we just we speak about them in such simplistic terms. Oh, we’ll get a coping skill and you’ll be fine. And I really, really, really

want to be my part to explain. Oh, yeah, here you go. It’ll be fine. If it were the misconception is there, the misconception is there. And again, it’s easier said than done. But there’s so many others like what other misconceptions have you gone through? What other stigmas have you gone through with the bipolar disorder?

I lost my about a year after diagnosis, I lost my job, which is very, very problematic because your job gives you health insurance. So I lost my health insurance. I had to buy my health insurance, which I was forcing enough to be able to afford my health insurance. Not everybody is, but it really came down to I didn’t hide it and I should have. And I hate to say that, but I should have gone back to work after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital when people said where you’ve been for the last six weeks.

I should have made something up. I felt on the steps. My grandma got sick. I broke my ankle.

I don’t know. I just should have lied, right? I just I took a vacation and I went around the world. It was unexpected.

I want a television show. And then everybody would have been like, OK, whatever, I’ll give back. But instead, I told them that I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features and everybody freaked and over the next year, the behavior of the people around me just got worse and worse and worse. And my employer decided, well, we can either get rid of Gabe or everybody else.

Well, yeah, they’re not going to fire the whole department. There was like 30 of us. So this vocal minority was able to get the company to frankly break the law. But I worked for a very large company and I was a dude who was sick with bipolar disorder. So it’s I had no chance to fight them. And people always like, well, why didn’t you call a lawyer?

I did. And a lawyer said, yeah, yeah, you’re not nobody sympathetic. There’s no definitive test here. You’re you’re you’re going to be the the the you’re just going to be the dude who doesn’t want to work who’s trying to get a settlement from your company. No jury is going to give you a dime and they know that.

And we’re not taking your case. So that’s all. And that was that. Some of that has changed. It is certainly much better now that we’re in 2023.

And we have a much more nuanced understanding of mental health issues. But, you know, back in 2008, when it happened to me, they were just like, good luck proving it. They’re they’re they’re going to say that they didn’t fire you because you had bipolar disorder.

You’re going to say that you did and you’re just going to be the young guy who doesn’t want to work and they’re going to be the poor company who you’re trying to steal from. And as you know, not to get on too big of a political soapbox, but whenever there’s a disagreement between a company and a member of the citizenry, we always, for some reason, side with the company. We never really side with the aggrieved party. And we hear this constantly whenever somebody brings a lawsuit against a company. We always assume that the person bringing the lawsuit is greedy and evil and that the multi-billion dollar company is the one in the moral and ethical right. So you can imagine where if you put bipolar disorder, something is misunderstood and something with as much stigma as mental illness on top of that line of thinking, I just didn’t stand a chance.

What are you what do you think or in your personal opinion? What are some strategies or initiatives that we could do as a society to help reduce the stigma related to mental health illnesses?

I the first thing that I think we should do is stop separating physical health and mental health. Mental health is always over here. I just it all lives in one body. But for some reason, it’s talked about completely separately, right? Like you have your physical health and then you have your mental health, right? And you’ve got to treat them separately. And that’s that’s bizarre.

I one drives the other. So I’m not sure why we do that. But and I’m asking from a medical standpoint, I’m not sure how that is the most scientific of that, how that is the best scientific approach to treating people as to treating people’s medical needs. But let’s forget about that for a moment. When you separate them out like that, you’re creating this misunderstanding in the community that mental health and physical health are separate, they’re two separate things there. And once you’ve got two separate things, you can start to layer them. Well, clearly, your physical health is more important, right? Because it’s more important.

I mean, you have this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this. And mental health is just mental health, right? OK, well, one, mental health has this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, we just don’t talk about them. So everybody just calls everything mental health. Could you imagine if we talked about physical health, the way we talked about mental health? So we just line everybody up who’s sick in a room and whether you have terminal cancer. Or a headache. We just say you have physical health. All the same. These two people have physical health. Yeah.

And and what would happen is, is let’s say that Gabe is the one with the headache, right? So I’m loud, I’m gregarious, I’m charismatic. So I’m like, yeah, I have physical health. Oh my God, I have physical health. Yeah, I take a couple of aspirin and I treat my physical health, physical health, physical health, physical health. And they’re like, OK, well, this physical health thing doesn’t sound like much of a big deal at all. And then after I’m done, you go to the terminal cancer patient, he’s like, look, I need this, this, this, this, this, this. What a drama queen.

She wants chemo. You know, we met physical health Gabe. He’s a physical health advocate.

And and he said, if you just take your aspirin as prescribed, you’ll be fine. This whiner, she wants all that just fire her. And then on and on and on and on. You know, finally, we say things like, and I understand it’s convoluted and it’s messy. Suicide is a very, very complicated issue. But one part of suicide is that is what we call dying from mental illness. And but, you know, look at that.

Look at that. I I have bipolar disorder. I have psychosis. I think that Elvis is chasing me. I am so sick that I end my own life. And it’s my fault.

I mean, isn’t that pretty amazing? I am both crazy and not to be trusted and insane, but 100 percent culpable for my own death. Could you imagine if you died of cancer and somebody’s like, I guess she didn’t want to blame.

Do I mean, he he committed cancer side. I just I can’t believe that. You know, he had a family. He didn’t have to do that. He could have lived with cancer if he wanted to. But, you know, cancer side, lazy.

And we just this happens over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And again, I really do think that it all stems back to mental health and physical health are talked about completely differently. And in in many schools, it is getting better.

I know it’s getting better. Please don’t write me angry emails. But in many schools, we don’t even teach robust mental health. But we do teach robust physical health and we’re talking about physical health. And I would bet you almost anything, Michelle, that if you and I left the studio right now and walked up to the first person over the age of 18 that we saw and said, how do you treat a broken leg? I would bet you almost anything that person would get it largely right.

They’d be like a cast crutches, right? They got to set the bone. Yes. Just and and and we could do that a hundred times. And I bet we couldn’t find somebody that would say, I don’t know what do you do with a broken leg? Anybody know what to do with a broken leg?

But yeah, everybody knows when we are another.

Oh, yeah. And the vast majority of people will never break a bone. So that’s a pretty good amount of knowledge for something that’s really not important to you. In the grand.

Yeah. But then if you ask them how to treat depression or how do you treat bipolar disorder? That’s when they just I feel like now the answer would be we’ll seek therapy. Yeah, I do.

Again, I very general. I do think we’re getting better. How do you treat mental illness? See a doctor? OK, that is an improvement.

But ask them which doctor somewhere.

But yeah, you know, the I’m. I’m desperately trying not to fall down a rabbit hole, but that’s problematic as well. Because people are like, well, if you have a mental health issue, you just go to a doctor. OK, do you think that doctors for mental health are available for everybody? Well, yeah, they are. Right. Yeah. Oh, no, no, no, no.

Yeah. And then they don’t see the difference of psychiatrist and psychotherapist and and different theories treat different disorders or are better for evidence based, not evidence based. It’s there’s definitely more education that needs to come out.

They don’t see waiting lists. They don’t see not enough beds and on and on and on and on and on. They’ve got this idea that, oh, you have bipolar disorder, just go see your doctor. Oh, right, they’re just sitting there waiting on me. I mean, my doctor is just like waiting for Gabe to walk in. It’s really easy. There’s just all these walk in clinics for mental health. Oh, wait, there’s not. Hmm.

It’s the same ER that treats every other thing. Right. And it’s a small psych ward.

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s the same. You know, except they prioritize physical health and they try they triage. And look, I’m not a doctor. Please, I understand that it’s on a podcast, you can make anything sound simplistic. And I’m certainly not saying that if I go in because I want to, you know, if I’m having suicidality because of bipolar disorder, that I think that I should go before somebody who just got in a massive car accident and is bleeding internally, right? Triage is always an issue. And I understand it’s not this simple, but I got to tell you, mental health issues are almost always at the bottom and in a triage.

And one of the problems with that is somebody walks in and says, look, nobody cares about me and I’m going to end my own life. OK, go sit in there and wait. And two hours later, the person’s like, I told you, I’ve been sitting here for two hours and nobody cares. And then they get up and leave. And you’re like, well, that’s their fault for leaving.

Really? It’s their fault. You I just told you that that person is not taken. I’ll tell you, but yet they’re also 100 percent culpable for the decisions that that broken brain makes. It’s the literal equivalent of saying, well, she came in with internal bleeding and we asked her to wait and then she bled to death. She didn’t have to do that. She could have waited. No, she couldn’t. She’s not in control of that.

But yet she would be in control of getting her brain to convince her to wait. And it’s it’s just such a base level misunderstanding. And all of this needs to be fixed with just a complete reimagining of how we teach people about mental health, how we train doctors in mental health, how we medically help people with mental illness, how we meet people with mental illness and on and on and on. It it it’s so incredibly.

Yeah, it still has a long way to go.

It really is the example of a long way to remember. Henry Ford, Henry Ford once said that if I gave people what they wanted, I would have invented faster horses. What people wanted was to be able to travel faster. And what they wanted were faster horses because they that’s how they travel. They wanted horses to go faster. And that’s how you went from like riding a single horse to getting two horses to getting four horses to getting six horses to getting stronger horses so that the horses could go faster and faster and faster.

And somebody said, you know what, I’m going to throw away this whole horse idea. I’m going to invent a car. And that was a completely reimagining of how we travel. And then they tried to get the cars to go as fast as they could, etc., etc. And then somebody’s like, huh, train, right?

And then after that, they’re like, you know what, airplane. I just so it’s a complete reimagining of each mechanism. It’s not trying to figure out how to make the car go 800 miles an hour. It’s inventing something completely different to meet the needs of where we are and to figure it out. We need to see this in mental health. We need a complete reimagining of how we do things built from the ground up. And we’re just not seeing it.

Yeah, I completely agree. And I feel like one of my goals at least is to keep talking about it so people keep understanding of all these different topics. And you do the same. So we’re in this together.

I think it would be a miracle to get me to shut up. I am well suited for my job. But but you’re right, Michelle. But the more people talking about this, the better.

And I want to give a shout out to younger people. I mean, everybody, you know, it hates social media. Social media is the problem. Social media causes everything. And look, I’m not saying that social media doesn’t have things to answer to. But here’s what I love about social media.

I follow people of all ages on social media because of my job. And I got to tell you, it breaks down by generation. You know, the younger kids are like, hey, I’m going to see my therapist. Young adults, you know, 20 year olds are like, I saw my therapist today and they told me that, you know, I’m I’m unpleasible. And I thought, well, I’m not unpleasible.

But then I talked to my best friend of my best friends like, well. You know, you say you have high standards, but you don’t have high standards. And they’re like, you know, and I really thought about that. And then like people like their friends will post underneath like you do have high standards, but also they can’t be met.

So they’re too high. And that personal right back, you know, that’s a really good point. It’s not that I think it’s a bad idea. It’s that I read these things and I don’t I don’t contribute to them. This is this is voyeuristic at best.

But yeah, whenever I look at the picture next to these really great conversations of things that happened in therapy, people going to their friends and asking them for advice on their careers, their lives, dealing with romance, parents, relationships, et cetera. The vast majority of these conversations are not being held by Gen Xers. They’re not being held by boomers. They’re they’re not even really being held by millennials, although millennials are kind of on the cusp.

I got to tell you, Gen Z, Gen Y, they’re having these really open public conversations about mistakes that they’re making about going to therapy, about going to support groups, sharing articles. And that makes me really happy because I’m a 46 year old white guy from Ohio. And I know that my social group is not on the front lines of having very needed emotional conversations that, frankly, we should have had 30 years ago. And I’m excited that the the generations that are younger than me are not falling into the same traps. And that gives me just an incredible amount of hope that, you know, that maybe in a hundred years, this won’t be an issue anymore.

I what I see is that younger generations are all about it. And then the older ones are like, oh, well, now everybody has a mental illness. Oh, now everybody has ADHD or now everybody’s sick. We didn’t have that when we were growing up. It’s like, well, no, it’s not that we didn’t have it.

We just didn’t talk about it or we didn’t know what it was. There’s a difference. So I definitely agree with you. I think it’s being more talked about by the younger generation. And I’m also excited to see what they’re going to bring to the table.

I want to say to all of the people who are my age and older, stop that. I don’t stop that. First off, isn’t that a fascinating? Well, everybody has ADHD now. Where’d you get that stat? I’ll just we’re so smart. I mean, you should be able to quote that stat. I mean, you just criticized an entire group of people. So clearly you have something to back that up. Otherwise, and I don’t I don’t want to call anybody out. If you’re slinging around insults with no facts, that makes you a drama queen. I’m like, no, I’m not. No, I’m not. I’m the adult in the room.

Really, just rolling up on a bunch of people and insulting them for no reason makes you the adult in the room. Does it? That’s fascinating. I don’t want my generation to be this. I I understand the concern, right? We sincerely don’t want to pathologize everybody as I am very fond of saying not every person that pisses you off as a narcissist.

Right. We did not ever person that tells you something that you disagree with is gaslighting you. We need to understand that. But when we start making claims like, oh, well, I guess everybody’s mentally ill now.

No, not everybody is mentally ill, but everybody does have mental health and everybody always did. And I think we need to get on board with that. I think we need to be part of the solution and having good conversations that are helpful and rolling up on a bunch of people talking about their feelings and emotions and telling them that they’re idiots. That’s I don’t want my generation associated with that, because I like to believe that Gen Xers are awesome, but I might be biased. No, and it’s hard, too, because our generations are now the parents. So they’re getting schooled by their kids about mental health and they have no idea. Like, what is this?

What do I do? That wasn’t my concern. Going to see a therapist for crazy people. So like, there’s this huge gap of mental health education that it’s clear, you know? And so I think if we bring that gap down and make parent and child kind of meet in the middle, at least, then we can have a lot more benefits in this field. And you really can have a whole the family to participate and instead of the kid being identified patient all the time. Yeah.

And Michelle, you are so right. It just there is such an incredible opportunity for both sides to learn from the other. And again, all I can ask is people my age, sincerely, you have a lot to learn from the younger generation. And it it bothers me that we lost this message because I remember when I hit my early 20s and I remember when I hit my mid 20s and I remember when I hit my 30s and my parents were giving me advice. I’m like, that advice doesn’t work. I’m I’m listening to you, mom and dad, because I love and respect you.

But that advice doesn’t work anymore. That was, you know, my dad was like, you need to find a good outfit. That’s what he called working an outfit. You need to find a good outfit.

Go apply there and stay there until you retired. My dad meant it. Oh, yeah, with the suit. Yeah, yeah, I don’t even know. He apparently outfits are like companies.

I don’t even know. He’s just his advice to me was to get a job and write it out to retirement because that job will take care of you. And I learned very quickly that that may have worked in my dad’s age, but it will not work in mine. There’s no and he’s like, well, you got to find a job with a pension. I was like, dad, those don’t exist. I I know your job has a pension, but nobody’s offering a pension anymore.

It’s like, well, you’re not looking in the right place. Dad, I’m telling you, pensions are not offered anymore. And I honestly, I still don’t think he believes me.

I think he thinks that like I refuse to negotiate a pension. You’re lying. But that’s where the generations need to talk to each other because things shift. And there’s lots of examples of that.

There has to be a lot of acceptance, a lot of acceptance and understanding.

And for any advice to work, you have to believe that the person who is giving you the advice has heard you out. And I do think that people my age missed that a lot. We’re really, really quick to give the younger generation advice, but we’re not quick to listen to them.

And the younger doesn’t know any better. Attention. Yeah. And and I’m guilty of it, too. I don’t I don’t want anybody to hear that I’m some sort of like mythical unicorn that no, are you kidding? I say stupid stuff to the young. No, same all the time, constantly.

And I’m going to do it again as soon as we’re done recording this. But you’re right. If we’re not listening to each other, then you’re just talking. Yeah. And at least consider, consider it and not dismiss it, you know, just because they’re younger.

Partnerships are what work best. And if we tie this all back to mental health, you asked me how I thought people get better the best. It’s when they form those partnerships. If you just show up at your doctor, your therapist, your support group, and they tell you what to do and then you leave, that’s not going to hold up in the long run, because eventually they’re not going to be there. And then you’re not going to know what to do because nobody taught you what to do.

And if you’re not sharing your experience, your hopes, your fears, your your challenges, your successes, then after a while, you’re going to start to question that advice and then you’re going to stop following it all together. And while that can be a good thing, right? And obviously, nobody wants to be told what to do for their for a living, right?

I mean, just that that would be horrible. All you ever did was what other people told you to do. But some of that advice is really good and you’ve now dismissed it all. And that’s my challenge to medical providers to say, well, I don’t have time.

I just tell them what to do. But what you’ve decided that all patients are created equal and you don’t need to get to know this one, that doesn’t hold up either. And again, this is this is the word of the show. It’s a quagmire. It’s all a quagmire that needs so much, so much to change. Yeah. And we’re we’re getting there.

But frankly, it is. Well, I love that we hit a little bit of everything. Right. Like you said, we could talk here for five hours if you really want to dig deep. But thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being on the other side of the podcast for once.

Thank you so much for having me. I like this. I like being on this side. This is a good side to be on. I like it. I like it.

Experience Mental Health without the Stigma

Michelle Chaffardet hosts Mindfull—the podcast and channel creating a safe space for viewers exploring topics like addiction, recovery, mental illness, and resilience. Building relationships with local providers and diverse experts, Michelle brings her warmth, training, and curiosity as a therapist to every educational, engaging guest episode.

More and more, Americans seek answers to mental health trouble and treatment puzzles. Last year, billions of searches sought symptoms, local recovery, and wellness practices. People are ready to dig deep and find support. Through Mindfull, Michelle supports these seekers looking for help with real worries about themselves, their loved ones, and their community.

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