While depression is a common mental health issue, it’s not even close to being the most common. Listen in to hear our hosts discuss how loneliness can make a person feel unwanted and uncared for – even if they are standing in a crowded room.
“People think you can’t be lonely if you have people in your vicinity.”
– Gabe Howard
Highlights From ‘loneliness’ Episode
[0:30] Loneliness kills more people than depression.
[3:30] Michelle explains loneliness she has experienced.
[5:20] Gabe explains loneliness he has experienced.
[8:00] We always bring up our moms – so why stop now?
[16:30] What can help people feel less lonely?
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Feelings of Loneliness’ Show
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Narrator: [00:00:05] For reasons that utterly escapes Everyone involved. You’re listening to A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic and A Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer. Thank you for tuning into A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic and A Podcast.
Gabe: [00:00:08] Hello everybody and welcome to a Bipolar, a Schizophrenic and a Podcast!
Gabe: [00:00:21] My name is Gabe and I live with bipolar disorder.
Michelle: [00:00:24] My name is Michelle. I live with schizophrenia.
Gabe: [00:00:27] And today we are going to talk about loneliness. It seems to be everywhere right now because there were some landmark study done that said that loneliness kills more people than depression and heart disease. And I’m brutalizing it you know. Please go look up the study it’s available to find but it turns out that loneliness is actually a health condition.
Michelle: [00:00:50] I don’t understand. Would you say that if you’re depressed your lonely or lonely, you’re depressed?
Gabe: [00:00:55] We’re not going to devolve into explaining the study the Psych Central Show podcast which I am the host already did that. So there’s no reason to kind of you know just repeat the episode we’ll put the link in the show notes for this podcast. But there’s all kinds of different types of loneliness. And one of the reasons that we wanted to talk about it is because people with mental illness often feel lonely and people fire back immediately. Well you’re not lonely your parents love you or you’re not lonely you have all these friends or you’re not lonely you have a rich life you go to Starbucks every day and get coffee and they always say hi. And there’s this idea that the only thing you need to combat loneliness is another breathing human being in the vicinity and nothing could be further from the truth.
Michelle: [00:01:42] To me loneliness is just really really frustrating. You want to like go somewhere if you want to go to the bar but you don’t have a friend to go with there you want to go to the museum but you don’t have anyone to go with you kind of just feel alone. You have no one to do any of your things with. That’s what loneliness kind of feels like to me, when you have no-one to share any of your joy with, you’re just alone.
Gabe: [00:02:07] And that is kind of a better way to define it. Once again somebody can say to you “Oh Michelle you’re not lonely Gabe’s your friend,” but the way you described it is that you want somebody to share your joy with. You know we’re business partners we share our podcast we discuss business things etc. But I’m not your romantic partner I’m not your BFF, and I’m never gonna go to a museum with you.
Gabe: [00:02:32] The only joy that you share with me is work related it’s business related. I’m not saying that I’m not happy when you have personal dreams come true. I’m not a jerk but that’s not what you mean by sharing. And that’s what people misunderstand. They think that anybody who has a job can’t be lonely because after all you have all your co-workers.
Michelle: [00:02:53] Yeah because co-workers are such great friends all the time right.
Gabe: [00:02:56] Well exactly. Exactly. Again people think that you can’t be lonely if there are other humans in your vicinity. So the only people that can be lonely are people that are in the middle of a field a thousand miles away from everything. So you know that character that Tom Hanks played in Castaway.
Michelle: [00:03:12] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:03:12] That guy’s allowed to be lonely.
Michelle: [00:03:13] That just makes no sense to me because you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room of tons and tons of people. Yet I felt nobody understood me. Nobody here wants to talk to me. If I even try to go up to someone, they are just going to shut me out of the conversation. I was too nervous or anxious or I was just too in my head or I was just too paranoid. But I felt alone and it didn’t matter if anyone maybe even said “Hi.” I thought maybe they were just saying hi because they felt bad for me. So being with people that’s not really what loneliness could always look like or being completely like the dude in Castaway.
Michelle: [00:03:59] Even though he had a friend that was a volleyball.
Gabe: [00:04:01] Well and that’s why he created the friend that was a volleyball because he felt lonely and he wanted somebody to talk to and he created this this thing and that’s how he combated loneliness because he would tell Wilson everything. And as you saw as the movie went on him as a great movie. What 15 years ago were totally aging ourselves out but at one point I *spoiler alert* he gets off the island. But in the process of getting off the island he loses Wilson.
Michelle: [00:04:29] I know how i it’s devastating exactly.
Gabe: [00:04:32] Even though Wilson wasn’t real this meant something to him because it’s it was a representation of somebody else that he could share his life with.
Michelle: [00:04:40] Yeah basically Wilson dies.
Gabe: [00:04:43] Yeah. And that’s how he felt about it. He was screaming and yelling and his beardedness.
Michelle: [00:04:47] We’re getting really passionate about castaway right now.
Gabe: [00:04:49] I really miss Wilson.
Michelle: [00:04:50] I know Wilson should have come back. He should have been a new Wilson.
Gabe: [00:04:54] Everybody deserves a friend like Wilson. He just listens. He sits there he understands.
Gabe: [00:05:00] You know some people have said though that like Wilson jumped. Wilson’s like you know you never ask me about my day.
Gabe: [00:05:14] A long time ago when I first started writing my book that may or may not ever get done I wanted to call it alone in a crowded room and several of my friends and family members were like that is the dumbest fucking name we’ve ever heard. Because you can’t be alone in a crowded room.
Michelle: [00:05:27] They’re their wrong.
Gabe: [00:05:28] They’re completely wrong.
Michelle: [00:05:29] 100 percent wrong now and so wrong unbelievably wrong.
Gabe: [00:05:33] And I tried to explain to them Do you have any idea what it’s like to be the only person with mental illness in our family.
Gabe: [00:05:43] It’s devastatingly lonely.
Gabe: [00:05:46] It’s awful to this day to this day every Christmas or Thanksgiving whichever one is the turn with the spouse. I sit in a room of my entire family and I look out at all of them and I think I have something that none of you do and you know they’re good people.
Gabe: [00:06:06] I love my family. They’re not bad. They try to understand but they don’t. And I think people can maybe can understand it better this way. Imagine if my entire friend group were women who had children. And I’m a man that has no children. So I’d never been pregnant and I’d never been a parent. It’s not that they’re not good people.
Gabe: [00:06:28] It’s not that we don’t share things. It’s just that part of their bond is this pregnancy part of their bond is motherhood. And here I am childless and not pregnant. So I can never connect with them on that level. No people are like Well but that’s cool because you have things in your life that you know maybe they envy like you know not having periods or something I don’t know.
Gabe: [00:06:48] The analogy is falling apart relatively quickly.
Michelle: [00:06:51] Yea I know you just pee anywhere.
Gabe: [00:06:53] Yeah. I mean that’s that’s a real benefit to manhood. I completely agree.
Michelle: [00:06:58] Yeah. You don’t understand gave it really is I.
Gabe: [00:07:02] Listen I’m not debating.
Michelle: [00:07:03] You don’t understand. You don’t understand. You can pee anywhere you want to pee.
Gabe: [00:07:08] I I’m I’m on board. It’s wonderful it’s fantastic.
Gabe: [00:07:14] But what I’m saying is when I look out at my family they don’t know they they’ve never experienced major depression. They’ve never experience psychosis. They’ve never been in a psychiatric ward. They’ve never had their life reduced to an illness they’ve never seen it.
Michelle: [00:07:32] I don’t understand why you feel so different. Same thing happens to me like go to family things.
Gabe: [00:07:37] Exactly. And that’s why we’re friends and that’s why our friendship combats loneliness.
Michelle: [00:07:42] I don’t really think it’s that big a deal.
Gabe: [00:07:45] Let’s touch on that for a moment because you’ve said to me numerous times and on this podcast as longtime listeners know that your mother doesn’t understand you well why not. I’m serious. Why not. She has known you your entire life. She gave birth to you. She is also a middle-class Jewish woman just as you are. So why do you think she doesn’t understand you.
Michelle: [00:08:07] My goodness did she send you an email.
Gabe: [00:08:11] She gave me 50 bucks. I’m just kidding. No she didn’t.
Michelle: [00:08:15] $100.
Gabe: [00:08:16] She gave me $100. Yeah. Yeah. The first offer was 50. But I Blanched it up.
Gabe: [00:08:24] No I I’m serious. This isn’t the pick on your mom. I feel the same way about my mother. Let’s reverse it on me.
Gabe: [00:08:29] I have said that my mother doesn’t understand me. I actually wrote an article once that sort of bothered my mother she said that I quote threw her under the bus and the title of the article was my mother doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.
Gabe: [00:08:42] I wasn’t trying to be mean. She doesn’t she doesn’t understand and that sucks. I wish that she did because I feel that that would let her be closer to me which would mean that I was closer to her. And I think if you thought about it you would realize that your parents do not understand what it’s like to live with schizophrenia.
Gabe: [00:09:02] There’s a barrier, there just is.
Michelle: [00:09:05] Recently I visited our good friend Anne-Marie Otis and she has a ton of kids1w and her youngest child is bipolar. And I realized when I was there is that Anne-Marie knows about mental health. She knows that her child is bipolar. She you know, has him on medication if anything goes wrong with anything. She’s always there for him you know. She knows things are rough. She’s getting him the help that he needs she understands how to treat him what to say to him. She’s educated on the topic. I grew up with schizophrenia. My mom had no idea that I had schizophrenia. She didn’t know how to handle a girl with schizophrenia. She was never educated on the topic because I was not medicated for anything, she had no idea it existed. So, if we had both known that was the issue if I was medicated if we were both educated on how to treat a person with schizophrenia if she knew the right way to treat a child going through those issues I think we would have a better relationship today. And I think it is unfortunate that we did not know the problem way back when because we didn’t know the exact issue so we weren’t educated. My mother wasn’t educated and how to bring up a child with schizophrenia that is my answer to your question.
Gabe: [00:10:26] So that made you feel pretty lonely right.
Michelle: [00:10:28] I guess so.
Gabe: [00:10:29] I would like to point out we love Anne-Marie on the show you should check her out at stupiddumbbreastcancer she is a breast cancer advocate. Her son does live with bipolar disorder and he is a complete badass. We want to give him a shout out as well. He will join our ranks no doubt when he turns 18. Probably start his own podcast and Michelle and I will get cancelled because his will be better but I would also like to point out that that is an excellent point that you made but Anne-Marie lives with depression so she does understand mental illness.
Michelle: [00:10:57] I said Anne-Marie understands mental illness.
Gabe: [00:10:58] Right.
Gabe: [00:10:59] So my family and your family have no mental health problems. I mean they’re crazy but they have no mental health problems. And it does make me feel lonely because of all the reasons that you just said I completely agree with everything that you said 100%.
Gabe: [00:11:17] I would have a better relationship with my parents if they understood mental illness. If I got diagnosed younger and if I didn’t go through so much trauma. We have built up from the ground up as adults after like I don’t know my 13th divorce.
Gabe: [00:11:32] But why do we have to do that?
Gabe: [00:11:33] You know who has a great relationship with my parents?
Michelle: [00:11:37] Who?
Gabe: [00:11:37] My sister, and you know why my sister has a great relationship with my parents.
Michelle: [00:11:42] Why?
Gabe: [00:11:43] Because she’s a woman who is cheap and clips coupons and is a mother like my mom and she’s a stubborn bad-ass like my father. So they basically on the third try. Got the right kid. And they’re like super close because they’re basically all three carbon copies of one another.
Gabe: [00:12:03] And then there’s me, the gigantic redheaded stepchild.
Gabe: [00:12:10] I do. I feel lonely and that is what I think people a lot of people with mental illness. I think they feel lonely and their families get really really upset. They do. They’re like Well I don’t know why you’re lonely your father and I are always there for you. I don’t know why you’re lonely. I’m always there for you. We talk to tons of people that live with mental illness and their families are always really really defensive about the idea that they can be lonely because they’re like Well we always come when you call. That’s not what loneliness is. It’s not about you coming when I call.
Gabe: [00:12:45] It’s about you understanding me. Don’t you often feel misunderstood Michelle?
Michelle: [00:12:52] Yeah definitely.
Gabe: [00:12:53] I always feel misunderstood. I don’t feel like my wife understands me and she’s my wife and she’s trying so hard.
Gabe: [00:13:01] So hard. She’s taken every class read every book listen to every podcast read every article. I think that in her brain exists PsychCentral.com like if PsychCentral.com ever breaks my wife could recreate it from scratch.
Gabe: [00:13:17] But you know what she’s never been mentally ill. There is a big difference between somebody describing the Sistine Chapel to you and standing in the Sistine Chapel.
Michelle: [00:13:31] We’ll be right back after these messages.
Narrator: [00:13:34] This episode is sponsored by betterhelp.com secure convenient and affordable online counseling. All counselors are licensed accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to betterhelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. Betterhelp.com/PsychCentral.
Michelle: [00:14:05] And we are back talking about loneliness.
Gabe: [00:14:08] The best thing we can do to a lot of our friends and family is describe what it’s like to be bipolar and schizophrenic.
Gabe: [00:14:14] There’s really no way to let them live in our head for a day and I think that’s why there’s so much bullshit in the world about you don’t need antidepressants. Go for a walk in the woods well you’re lonely because you don’t come to more family functions. Well why don’t you join a book club if you’re lonely.
Gabe: [00:14:31] Oh my God. I just came up with an idea.
Michelle: [00:14:34] A book club in the woods!
Gabe: [00:14:35] No. Now I’ve come up with two ideas. A book club in the woods! Thank you, Michelle. Number two a book club for mentally ill people! Oh my God. I’ve just invented support groups.
Michelle: [00:14:48] Book club support groups.
Gabe: [00:14:51] Oh my God! Book club support groups. But let’s not read the book.
Michelle: [00:14:53] I don’t want to read a book.
Gabe: [00:14:54] I don’t want to read a book either.
Gabe: [00:14:55] Let’s start a book club for mentally ill people where we get together and we share our issues we learn from each other.
Michelle: [00:15:03] That’s called that’s called group therapy.
Gabe: [00:15:05] I really think we’ve just invented therapy. We did it like we invented support groups. A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and A Podcast is on the front lines of support groups. We did this.
Michelle: [00:15:17] Are you lonely? Are you sad?
Gabe: [00:15:20] You don’t have to be lonely at mentallyillonly.com. Remember the dating site for mentally ill people?
Michelle: [00:15:27] I think I’m still on it and every once in a while, I get an email.
Gabe: [00:15:31] However the date’s gone.
Michelle: [00:15:32] I haven’t replied to a single one.
Gabe: [00:15:34] Really.
Michelle: [00:15:34] I haven’t even logged in. I forgot my username and password.
Gabe: [00:15:37] I remember when we did that episode I logged in and there was a couple of people that suffer from agoraphobia. And I was like listen this going to work. Also it’s really not a good place for people with obsessive compulsive disorder, because like all of the things don’t match perfectly. Like some people wrote two paragraphs some people were one paragraph that’s not okay. How you’re gonna line that up I’m just saying.
Michelle: [00:16:03] I mean it was very weirder that I got the message from the guy that owned it.
Gabe: [00:16:06] I think he still wants to date you.
Michelle: [00:16:08] He wants to be on this show.
Gabe: [00:16:11] If we ever have guests on the show, I think there are several people who might be contenders.
Michelle: [00:16:16] Peppy?
Gabe: [00:16:18] For those that don’t know Peppy is my dog that Michelle is enamored with because she’s never seen a schnauzer before.
Michelle: [00:16:25] He woke me up this morning.
Gabe: [00:16:27] You left your door open.
Michelle: [00:16:29] He jumped on my bladder.
Gabe: [00:16:31] You left your bladder open.
Gabe: [00:16:35] We’ve talked about loneliness and of course we’ve talked about a volleyball that came to life for 20 years ago Tom Hanks.
Gabe: [00:16:42] But a lot of people in our community feel lonely. What some practical advice that we can give them to help kind of get out of the funk.
Michelle: [00:16:50] We can realize that loneliness is just more a feeling and it’s not really a fact.
Michelle: [00:16:56] You’re not going to be lonely for the rest of your life.
Gabe: [00:16:58] And it’s so much like a lot of the other things that we feel you know living with mental illness you know depression isn’t a fact either it’s a feeling. Mania isn’t a fact either it’s a feeling. You know paranoia isn’t a fact either it’s a feeling. And we have to try to find ways to use our brains to kind of escape that.
Michelle: [00:17:17] Yeah, another good idea would be to put your attention into something else you could just ask people if they need help or you can try to volunteer with something.
Gabe: [00:17:27] Joining groups is also I think a good idea.
Michelle: [00:17:29] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:17:29] I don’t know it’s sort of counterintuitive. It’s like when people say so when I’m lonely the solution to loneliness is to go out with people and not feel lonely. It’s not a bit like saying when I’m depressed. The solution is to not be depressed. Listen kind of. I mean I understand how that kind of sounds but Michelle is dead on.
Gabe: [00:17:47] I mean if you’re sitting at home feeling lonely go find some people in whatever way is meaningful to you.
Michelle: [00:17:54] Yes something I always did was join sports teams. That’s how I got out of.
Gabe: [00:17:58] You don’t say.
Michelle: [00:17:59] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:18:01] And one of the things that I do is every morning I get up and I go get a soda at the local fast food place. I don’t even eat the food but I just kind of sit there and people watch and I see a lot of amazing people.
Gabe: [00:18:14] And it’s just I don’t know something about connecting with them even though I’m kind of sitting in the corner and I know everybody’s got their like wait there’s a mentally ill man in the corner watching families come in and get their food. But seriously I just I sit there with my phone I drink and I watch.
Michelle: [00:18:28] Which brings me to the next point of go run an errand and make a point to be nice to people wish them a good day hold doors show kindness which is something that you do because everywhere we go you have a full conversation with everybody. It’s like everywhere we go they know you already, and they know you’re going to get a pretzel or they know you’re going to get a Diet Coke. You know everyone.
Gabe: [00:18:57] I mean yes. And the reason is because to ward off loneliness and to find meaning in my life, I really do spend a lot of time. I am that guy in line that turns around and asks you how your day is.
Michelle: [00:19:09] Yes. And stranger danger.
Gabe: [00:19:11] No it’s not stranger danger if you don’t want to talk, I don’t press. I mean I’m not an asshole about it but I say hello. I say hi. I ask people how their days are. It makes me feel better. And you know I could be like curmudgeonly about it because almost nobody asks me how I am. But I ask like 20 people a day how they are. But I don’t care because I get to kind of connect with them just for a moment. And it does make my life more meaningful.
Michelle: [00:19:35] It does actually do well. I would say because when I worked retail and I was a cashier when I would say Hi how are you and they would say I’m good how are you doing. It always made me feel better because not every customer would say How are you doing. They would say, I would say How are you. And they’d be like fine in a rude way. Okay great. You’re just rude. That’s not nice.
Gabe: [00:19:54] It is nice to connect with people. And I think that again people build things up in their mind. They think that a connection has to be like Uber meaning for you know it has to you have to meet your future spouse or meet your new best friend. But you know connection can come in little couple of second bites. You can say hey and the person can say hey you can say I like your hat. Well I like your hat too. I hope you have a good day. You too. And that whole thing took like what five seconds but I’m telling you it’ll put a little extra spring in your step.
Michelle: [00:20:24] Absolutely 100% agree with that statement.
Gabe: [00:20:27] Wow. I think it’s the first time in the history of man that Michelle is 100% agreed with anything that I have ever said. Could this be the start of something new for Gabe and Michelle.
Michelle: [00:20:36] Yeah, we’re gonna get married.
Gabe: [00:20:37] No no no. But tune in next week to find out.
Gabe: [00:20:43] We don’t have a lot for you to do but we do have a couple of things one rate and review us on iTunes Google Play Stitcher or Spotify.
Gabe: [00:20:51] Go on to social media until all of your friends about us don’t make us the best-kept secret in the world. And finally, you can head on over to store. It’s store.psychcentral.com and buy the Define Normal shirt. It helps support the show and of course, it starts many conversations. So, you won’t be lonely. We’ll see everybody next week on a bipolar schizophrenic and a podcast.
Michelle: [00:21:12] Wilson! Wilson! No Wilson!
Narrator: [00:21:17] You’ve been listening to a bipolar a schizophrenic kind of podcast. If you love this episode don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe rate and review to work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups. Head over to PsychCentral.com Show’s official Web site PsychCentrald.com/bsp you can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening and share widely.
Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts
GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.
MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.