Is it ever OK to joke about living with bipolar disorder? And what about people who live with bipolar — are they welcome to jest about their experiences, or is it considered inappropriate? While mental health circles often advocate embracing humor as a healthy coping mechanism, there’s also the acknowledgment that bipolar disorder is a serious condition and should not be trivialized.

Today’s episode delves into this nuanced topic, inviting listeners to consider various perspectives on the matter.

“We’re not going to stop jokes about living with serious and persistent mental illness and bipolar disorder. I think we can use our time better; that will make us feel a lot better about the assholes who are mean-spirited. For me, I want to know the intention behind the joke. If it’s to be funny, I’m a lot less offended than if it’s to literally insult people.” ~Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard

Our Host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website, You can also follow him on Instagram and TikTok at @askabipolar.

Dr. Nicole Washington
Dr. Nicole Washington

Our host, Dr. Nicole Washington, is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions. Find out more at

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.

Gabe: Thanks for listening everyone. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist.

Gabe: And today we are going to joke about bipolar disorder. And once again, this episode came because of emails that we received. And I want to tell you, many of the emails are like, hey, we like that. You cover it in a way that’s light. We like that you add humor. We like that. You’re not super serious. But there’s another set of emails that are like, how can you joke about bipolar disorder? It’s really offensive that you’re joking about these things. This is really serious. Has a 15% death rate. My family has suffered, I have suffered. And those emails, they they’ve started to kind of they’ve started to speak to us in a way where we felt like perhaps explanation was necessary, but also to open up a larger conversation about how, look, we’re not going to get rid of joking surrounding bipolar disorder. So what can we as people living with bipolar disorder or loving someone with bipolar disorder do to better understand the societal phenomenon that is making fun of things like bipolar disorder and Dr. Nicole, I want to ask you, did you look up a whole bunch of jokes for bipolar disorder so that you can do a tight five on mocking people who are living with bipolar.

Dr. Nicole: You know I did not. You know that. That is not. That is not my lane. I choose not to engage in those kinds of things. But if that’s what you want to do for the next five minutes, you go right ahead. I’m here for.

Gabe: Well, it should come as no surprise to anybody that I do, in fact have a tight five making fun of living with bipolar disorder. I’m going to spare the audience that type of abuse though. But you mentioned that it wasn’t your lane. Now do you feel that it’s not your lane to make fun of bipolar disorder because you yourself don’t live with bipolar disorder?

Dr. Nicole: Yeah, that’s part of it. I mean, I don’t have that experience, so I don’t think it’s mine to joke about. But also as a person who has dedicated her career to treating people and taking care of people, that would also be very inappropriate if I were out here joking about that. People with bipolar disorder and making jokes about people.

Gabe: Now you are a psychiatrist. In fact, I believe you are a board-certified psychiatrist.

Dr. Nicole: I am indeed, I am indeed.

Gabe: Do you have a tight five about being a psychiatrist?

Dr. Nicole: I [Laughter].

Gabe: Do you have do you have some good psychiatry jokes?

Dr. Nicole: I do not. I absolutely do not. But I feel like that was a setup. And that you do.

Gabe: I do. I do. I love that look you’re giving me right now. I got I looked for a whole bunch of psychiatry jokes, and I found what I believe is my favorite one.

Dr. Nicole: Okay,

Gabe: Are you ready?

Dr. Nicole: Okay. I’m not. But you’re going to do it anyway, so go ahead.

Gabe: How does a psychiatrist change a light bulb?

Dr. Nicole: How, Gabe, tell me how a psychiatrist changes a light bulb.

Gabe: They don’t. The light bulb has to want to change.

Dr. Nicole: Gabe. That

Gabe: [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: Is that is that is terrible. That’s horrible.

Gabe: I it is horrible because chances are the light bulb doesn’t have insurance.

Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]

Gabe: I mean, so you’re probably not even going to see the light bulb. The

Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]

Gabe: Light bulb is on a huge waiting list. So, the light bulb goes out and it’s going to be six months of darkness before they can get in. It’s a mess, isn’t it? Just a mess.

Dr. Nicole: And I’m a psychiatrist, so I’m definitely not touching the light bulb. So I mean,

Gabe: Yeah. Don’t touch the light bulb.

Dr. Nicole: I’m not touching it. So there you go. That one is terrible. Probably the best joke I think I’ve heard, like, cute joke was a kid who said why? Why can’t you hear a psychiatrist go to the bathroom?

Gabe: Okay, now I, I’m hoping because you shut the door.

Dr. Nicole: Because the P is silent.

Gabe: Oh my God.

Dr. Nicole: That was so cute. It was a little

Gabe: Oh my God. [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: Because the P is silent. That is just I love it, I see, I love it, I love it, I love it.

Gabe: I’m still laughing at the P is silent.

Dr. Nicole: The P is silent.

Gabe: That’s terrible. It’s a terrible joke, but I, I, I, I still have to say, I do understand a little bit of this idea that if you’re joking about something, you’re not taking it seriously. Now, I want to state that I understand it. I don’t agree with it. I think that there are many things that people take very seriously, that they embrace humor as healthy. Now, again, if you don’t want to make fun of living with bipolar disorder, nobody is telling you that you have to. And in fact, you shouldn’t. And if you don’t want to hear jokes about living with bipolar disorder, and somebody in your life is constantly tracking you down to tell you the latest joke about bipolar disorder, you should set a hard boundary that what they are being is offensive because you have asked them not to. So I just I want to make sure that this context is framed. Not that Uncle Jim is allowed to come every Thanksgiving and make fun of your bipolar disorder. That makes Uncle Jim an asshole. But what I am saying is, is as we move through society, there’s going to be jokes about living with bipolar disorder or mental illness on our favorite television shows in our favorite movies. We’re going to hear it on drive time radio, or just in a podcast about sports where somebody says something like, oh my God, the quarterback is bipolar. Last week I thought he was a Super Bowl contender, and this week he sucks. And you’re thinking, well, that was mean. Why did that come up? And all of that is how I want to frame that conversation, because we can’t control what pop culture does. And I have some good news about this. I really, really do.

Dr. Nicole: We can’t control it. We don’t even. We don’t have to like it. But yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I, you know, I don’t even know if I count that as joking. That’s just I’m dumb and I’m just saying stuff and I don’t know what I’m saying. Like the people who just throw bipolar disorder out as a reference, I just think those people just aren’t very smart and bright. I think what rubs people the wrong way, and the feedback that we’ve seen is that people think that we are just making light of this very serious illness, like we don’t take it seriously. That’s the part that I think made us even do this episode is because it’s like, absolutely, we take this seriously. I mean, you live with bipolar disorder. Who could take it more serious than you? You know, I have walked with people on their journey through managing their bipolar disorder, through the deepest depressions and the most disruptive manias. I know how serious this can be.

Gabe: Dr. Nicole, I want to build off what you said. This is this is the good news that I was alluding to. Society makes fun of everything. They really, really do. And society makes fun of things that have that have reached a tipping point, something that nobody’s heard of, like, oh, I don’t know. Nobody was making fun of podcasting 20 years ago. Podcast existed 20 years ago, but this wasn’t represented on pop culture. Nobody’s job was a podcaster on on any sitcom you were watching. Nobody was listening to podcasts on any movie or nobody because nobody had heard of it. It was this, this, this, this small little fringe phenomenon that you either knew about or you didn’t. And frankly, nobody did. So in a way, the fact that people are making fun of bipolar disorder in pop culture shows that bipolar disorder, education and misunderstanding and all kinds of other things. But bipolar disorder itself has reached a tipping point where more people have heard of it than not. And I think that we need to embrace this as listen. Yes, it sucks that, like you said, they’re ignorant, they’re getting it wrong. Right?

Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.

Gabe: But they’ve heard of it. Correcting somebody based on something that they’ve heard of is much easier than trying to explain to them what it is in the first place. So as an advocate, I’ve seized on this because I feel that this shows that we’re further down the road. I see this as an excellent marker, that we’re making progress, and that this is just part of the inevitable growing pains of that progress.

Dr. Nicole: You’re absolutely right. And to me, anytime we’re talking about it, it’s good because it gives us the opportunity to correct the myths, correct the things that are wrong. It gives us the opportunity to get it out there. More people are going to listen because the people who need to hear it, they may be more open to hearing the light side, the jokes, the, you know, chuckling a little bit. It may open the door and soften them a little bit to even learn more about it in the first place. So I’m all in for whatever it takes to get people engaged and talking about it for sure.

Gabe: So let’s talk about that engaged in talking about it. Because there is a there are a few things that, that, that, that raise the hairs on the back of my neck and make me kind of like crunch up and just clench my jaw and, you know, like mentally say to myself, Gabe, Gabe, Gabe, if you open your mouth right now, anger is going to come out. And this next one is one of them. So I’ve rehearsed saying it gently and nicely ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Everybody from, from the government, like the National Institute of Mental Health to charities like Mental Health America, the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, these are national charities social media, my my therapist, my Dr. Nicole literally Dr. Nicole everybody that I talk to is like, Gabe, you need to be open with bipolar disorder. You need to talk about bipolar disorder. You need to share your feelings about your illness. You need to be open and unashamed and unafraid. And I’m like, I love that message. I was feeling so crazy this morning. Not that way. Oh, what did I do? You don’t say crazy. Okay, well, well, you know, I just thought I was going nuts. Nope. Not that way. Oh, okay. Well, I, I just felt, like, disconnected. Like my whole life was just this, this, this, this, this giant cyclone. And I felt like it was the Wizard of Oz. Like, you know, Gabe, I don’t know that I would compare it to a cyclone because, you know, the definition of bipolar disorder isn’t going around in a circle.

Gabe: It’s back and forth on a spectrum. And I’m like, what is happening here? How many times are you going to correct me in this open and honest and unashamed conversation that I’m supposed to be having? And then I tell a joke. Now, I love gallows humor, dark humor, gallows humor. It’s it. It got me through. Just so you know how much I embrace this. When my father was attacked and beaten up, we used gallows humor while he was in the hospital awaiting his brain scan. It’s okay for us, it may not be okay for you. And that’s the point that I’m really, really trying to make. If you overhear something that’s not okay for you, just don’t participate in it. I don’t know that we have to stop it.

Dr. Nicole: That is a good point. So I will say, earlier on in my career I was very uncomfortable with people’s humor, especially the dark humor folks like you. People are a whole different breed of people to this day. People will say things to me and I think, oh, like I don’t. I viscerally feel something when they’ve said something that was like super dark. But I have learned over the years to kind of let people do what they need to do, right. Just kind of deal with things how they need to. But it is very uncomfortable for people who are not used to that kind of expression of how they feel. It is very, very uncomfortable for them to have to sit and listen to that. And it does bring about, I think, an initial like physical, visceral reaction. And that’s where that comes from. The whole like, oh, I like I don’t I don’t think you should be joking about that because they felt something very, very physical and wrong about it. But you’re 100% correct in that we, we can’t just go around people like us who are who are feeling things that feel very odd and strange when you make a joke like that, we can’t just go around telling you that you can’t. So there is a difference. I may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t stop you from having the ability to be able to express yourself in the way that you need to, because in that moment, that’s how you were coping with that. With that situation, I’m sure you were terrified. You know, your dad had gotten attacked, he’d gotten beaten up. You were getting ready to figure out, like, what? What actually happened. There are a lot of emotions swirling and everybody doesn’t get anxious and cry. Some people crack really dark jokes that are uncomfortable for other people in the room.

Gabe: I do understand why it’s uncomfortable and I’m okay that it’s uncomfortable. And the thing that I always like to let people with bipolar disorder know, and of course, all of our loved ones and family members who are listening is, you know, when it comes to managing bipolar disorder, do you honestly think the jokes are the most uncomfortable thing about it? Like, like for real? I thought demons were trying to kill me. And then when I got to therapy and I started getting medication and the demons started to go away, I was positive that the demons were leaving me to attack my family. Do you know how terrifying that is? First, I have demons which are causing me lots of problems. Now the demons are finally starting to go away. My Dr. Nicole was really good and got rid of the demons for me. But now I was positive that the demons were going to kill my mom and my grandma and my friends and my family. It it’s utterly terrifying and it but you’re right, you’re right. It’s the jokes that are causing the problem for people living with mental illness.

Gabe: I feel like it’s just one of those, hey, we don’t know how to we don’t know how to fix, like the access to care problem. We’re struggling to lower the suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder. We don’t know how to open up more beds, or to not have a six-month waiting list to see Dr. Nicole. So you know what we’re going to focus on. There’s this pizza chain that has crazy bread and that’s not okay. So we’re going to make that our advocacy effort. And everybody like claps everybody’s like so proud. And people are like dude is that happening? Yeah it really is. And you know the big one that’s happening haunted insane asylums. Every single Halloween. Everybody’s like, we’re putting a stop to this shit. We are not making light of insane asylums being scary. We’re doing something about it. For my money, I think that insane asylums are scary, especially during the time period that they’re portraying them, which is back when, you know, you could do whatever you wanted to a mental patient. So I’m kind of aligned with them, portraying them as terrifying. Do you want them to portray them as fun?

Dr. Nicole: Is that a thing?

Gabe: That is a real thing.

Dr. Nicole: Haunted insane asylums around Halloween. I’ve never heard this before. Like, is that is that an. Is that an actual thing?

Gabe: Oh, they’re everywhere. they’re everywhere. They’re everywhere. Especially if you have an old hospital or psychiatric hospital that is closed down and is abandoned. They open it up for 30 days and let you tour it. And I think it’s fantastic because I want to tour it. But the, the, the, the line is, is that you’re making fun of people with mental illness by using this as an attraction. And look, look, I want to take a moment here. I do want to take a moment. I get it. You’re not wrong. You’re not wrong. The the terrifying and sordid history of living with mental illness is now being used as entertainment.

Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.

Gabe: And there is a lot that can be said about that. But I’d like to point out that we can tour prisons. We can tour concentration camps from the Holocaust. We can tour cemeteries. There’s all kinds of things. There’s the murder tours where you go on a tour of famous murders. Did you know the house where Lizzie Borden killed her parents? She literally killed them with an ax. Is now a bed and breakfast. Once again, I understand that this. This should conjure up some questions inside us, but I’m just letting people know that it’s not specific to bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: We do this with lots of things.

Dr. Nicole: No, we I mean we do. You bring up great points. Those are all things I had not thought about, I don’t know. I mean, I guess it just makes us so uncomfortable because we just don’t know what to say. I think that’s it. Like, you don’t know what to say next because it’s really our response that we’re uncomfortable. Like, do we laugh? You know, if we laugh, is that okay? If you make a joke, do we do we laugh? Yeah. I remember I had a patient who had gotten themselves into quite a legal pickle during a manic episode. And so that person comes to me and they are talking about everything that’s gone on. And then randomly, out of the blue, they asked me about roller skating lessons and roller derby, and I was like, what is wrong? So immediately my brain is like, oh my God, this person’s psychotic. They are randomly talking about roller blading. And I’m like, what do you mean? And they said, well, I probably won’t be able to finish getting my teaching certification because of this. So when I was little, my second, you know, career was always going to be roller derby. I was either going to be a teacher, I was going to do roller derby, and I it took me some seconds.

Dr. Nicole: I had to pause before I got like, oh, this person is joking. You know? It’s a joke. I did eventually get it and I was like, oh, I got you. But I still didn’t laugh, right? Because this person had just gotten into so much legal trouble because of a manic episode. And yeah, they were right there. Aspirations of completing their becoming a teacher were probably a wash at that point, and this person had worked really hard to get to this point. But in that moment, it’s not that that person didn’t know how serious it was that they were close to graduating with their teaching degree or education degree, and were not going to be able to even be a teacher because of what happened. They were very much aware of it. I think just in that moment, the heaviness of it all hit them in a way that all this person knew how to do was crack a joke about it, because what’s the alternative? And I was just stuck in this very, very uncomfortable space of what? Because sometimes, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t even get the joke. Like, we don’t even get that it’s a joke. We don’t

Gabe: [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: Even get it. Like we’re sitting there and we’re thinking, what I mean. They joked about the look on my face as they were going on, and I was like, what? Like, I mean, I just couldn’t even I couldn’t even bring myself there. And by the time I got there, the joke was on me because they were laughing at me because I look like a deer in the headlights, confused, like I had no idea what was going on. But I think that’s where we find ourselves all the time. Like we don’t know what to do. Do we laugh? Do we? Do we just sit there and look at you and go, oh, like, what do we do? We don’t know what to do. We don’t know what to do. So what do we do? You crack a joke that’s highly inappropriate or very dark or like, what do you want the person on the other end to do?

Gabe: I can absolutely see Dr. Nicole where from your perspective as a board-certified psychiatrist, that would be very difficult because every single word out of our mouth, you’re trying to determine what we mean by it. Is it proof of a symptom? You’re trying to read between the lines. You’re not a good audience for humor. But that said, we are describing our world the way that we best see fit. Which means we may joke about it if we’ve got that kind of personality. The reality is, is you’re just a terrible audience, and I don’t mean that in any way. You’re not.

Dr. Nicole: Thank you, thank you Gabe. Thank, thank you.

Gabe: You’re very welcome.

Dr. Nicole: I’m a terrible audience. Thank you.

Gabe: But here’s why you’re a terrible audience because you’re trying to get more.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: It’s, humor is surface, right. You know, why did the chicken cross the road to get to the other side at the end? We don’t need to think it more. Right? You you’ve got the setup, you’ve got the joke. You’ve got the laugh. Right? If somebody’s thinking what kind of chicken they’re doing humor wrong, what kind of road you’re doing humor wrong, everything that you should need to get. The joke is contained within it,

Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.

Gabe: Right? But obviously when we’re in our psychiatrist’s office, we could be using humor. And this is really important as a deflection. Meaning we’re we’re trying to evade your question. So obviously and I don’t want anybody to hear humor is bad. I want people to hear humor has a time and place and potentially your Dr. Nicole’s office might not be the place for it. So, you know, for the purpose of this conversation, though, I still want to say this idea that humor is, quote, good or humor is quote bad is problematic

Dr. Nicole: Right.

Gabe: Because humor is just humor, and it has a time and a place.

Sponsor Break

Gabe: And we’re back discussing joking about bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole: When you were talking about the time and the place and humor is neither good nor bad. Both of those things are 100% accurate depending on the time and the place. It can be bad or it can be good depending on where we are. And that is. And that is an important thing to think of. When you said I’m a terrible audience. So yes, I agree the psychiatrist, the therapist may not be the best audience, especially when you’re just getting to know them, especially in the beginning when I don’t know a person and they say things like that, it I have to think about it. I have to pause, I have to a lot of thought goes into your one joke about your bipolar disorder, a lot of thought once I’ve known you for a while, and I have lots of patients who will share with me up front, they will joke about something, and obviously it is my facial expression that makes them say to me, I’m sorry. I sometimes deal with serious things with inappropriate jokes and I, I’m sorry, like I apologize and I just tell them, thank you for sharing that with me. Like, I appreciate you telling me that. I appreciate you letting me know that so that I know going forward that I just need to listen to you, let you get it out. But I’m also listening to what’s underneath that because that’s what’s important to me. What’s underneath the joke. You’re joking about this thing. My patient who was no longer going to be a teacher. That’s huge. Like that person. Their whole life trajectory changed with one manic episode that was huge. So I had to know that that was. Oh, that’s something that’s bothering them because they’re joking about it. Once you get to know people, you can you can understand it a little bit better. You can receive it a little bit better. But you’re right. Time, place, nature of the relationship like it all matters. But let’s talk about Uncle Jim again.

Gabe: Let’s go back to Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim always comes up.

Dr. Nicole: Let’s go back to Uncle Jim. Because you know what? Uncle Jim may also just like the person with the bipolar disorder jokes, because they’re coping with this thing and don’t know what to do. Uncle Jim might also be having a hard time coping. It could be that Uncle Jim is a butthole because we all have those in our family, right?

Gabe: This is the difference between Dr. Nicole and I.

Dr. Nicole: Hahaha. You know.

Gabe: No, no, Uncle Jim is an asshole, Dr. Nicole.

Dr. Nicole: He could. He could very well be. But Uncle Jim might also not know what to do. And Uncle Jim is uncomfortable and really bothered by the fact that you were in the hospital and almost killed yourself and have this very serious illness, and Uncle Jim realistically just may not know how to interact with you. Now that everyone knows you have bipolar disorder and everybody’s talking about how we have to be careful with this person because, you know, they’re sick and we don’t want, you know Uncle Jim just may not know what to say. So he just ends up saying dumb stuff because he also uses humor as a coping skill and the defense mechanism, and he doesn’t know what to do. So I, you know, I think it’s important not to necessarily pass judgment, but maybe we need to have some serious conversations about how these things make us feel, because really, we all use humor however we see fit. And that that may be Uncle Jim’s thing to.

Gabe: I absolutely love how you brought up the other possibility for Uncle Jim. And the reality is, I say the other possibility is if there’s only two. Right. Uncle Jim can both be an asshole and uncomfortable. Right. He can both be an asshole and not know what to say. And on and on and on. But you’re right. Dynamics within our own families, friends and social groups can be very, very difficult. There’s a there’s a saying that that I live by and it’s never assume malice when ignorance will do. It’s Hanlon’s Razor. And I always take this when somebody says something that offends me, I always stop and think for a minute mean or stupid? Mean or stupid? Are they being mean or are they stupid? But as my job as a public speaker who routinely takes questions from the audience or gets feedback from the audience and reads all of your emails, it is smart for me to keep this in mind because especially depending on my mood or if I’m feeling low, if I’m depressed, if I’m anxious and I read this. You use too much humor, right? I could read it like this. Gabe, you use too much humor and it makes me uncomfortable. And I’m just curious as to why. Or I could read it like this.

Gabe: You use too much humor. It makes me uncomfortable and I have no idea why. And it just one has a very different connotation than the other, but they’re just words on a screen to me, so. So I can read it however I want. I always read it as curious, non-judgmental and curious. I am not assuming malice until it’s the only thing left. I think for people living with and managing bipolar disorder, hearing a lot of these things out there, you know, I brought up the crazy bread. You know, most people aren’t concerned by this, but there are, in fact, people who believe that. Is it a malicious attack on people with bipolar disorder, people with mental illness? They believe that just the word crazy alone is offensive. And whether it’s crazy bread or crazy sale or crazy prices or you know, we’re doing buy one, get one free. I must be crazy, right? People are just like that word, that word. But again, I, I don’t think it’s coming from a malicious place. And that’s why it doesn’t bother me. I think that the English language is difficult and that crazy has multiple meanings, some of which have nothing to do with mental illness at all. It just means something off kilter or abnormal. Like all of these cars are normally this price, but my car is so low priced it’s crazy.

Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.

Gabe: That is in fact the correct usage of the word crazy, and has nothing to do with the pejorative to people with mental illness. And figuring out that context, that intent, I think, is super important. And again, this is a show just talking to people with bipolar disorder. So yes, I’m putting the onus on you to figure it out. If it was a show for the people making the jokes, I would give different advice, but I don’t think they’re tuning in. So I just got to help you.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah, but.

Gabe: That’s what we’re doing here, right, Dr. Nicole?

Dr. Nicole: Yeah, but there was there has been an email or two that I think was full of malice towards you that said, you joke too much. Bipolar disorder is not funny. You joke too. I mean, that was the whole I mean, there was no other meaning to me when I read it. I was like, oh, this person. Okay. So they I mean, they were coming for you. They said, bipolar disorder is not funny and you shouldn’t be joking. That’s just a very dangerous take to have to tell somebody how they should not be on their show. First of all, if you think that Gabe jokes too much, then just don’t listen. It’s fine. Like it’s totally okay if you don’t like it and you think that he is.

Gabe: Wait a minute. When did it become. If you think Gabe jokes too much? Dr. Nicole jokes too. How come she gets left out of these emails?

Dr. Nicole: Oh, Gabe. You are much more offensive than I am. Let’s face it. Just in general,

Gabe: Oh, thanks. [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: In life. In life, you’re much more offensive than I am. Let’s just let’s just not pretend that about that. We’re just not even going to go there. You are much more offensive in life than I. It’s fine, it’s fine.

Gabe: I prefer gregarious.

Dr. Nicole: It’s. Okay. Okay. Gregarious. You’re much more gregarious than I am. That is fine. Just

Gabe: Fair enough.

Dr. Nicole: Take that. But if you don’t like it and this isn’t the place for you to get what you need, then that’s totally fine. That you’re not the one who’s going to keep tuning in and listening, because maybe this platform is just too much for you, but I can guarantee you there’s somebody out there for you to listen to who is going to give you what you need. So you find your space. Everything is not for everybody. And that is totally okay. I am totally okay with everything not being for everybody, but to tell someone how they should and should not react to something they’re dealing with is very dangerous. And somebody might do the same thing to you and your bipolar disorder and say, well, you should be doing this or you should. You would be very offended. So I think we have to be very careful about how we are judging other people for what they do. And please know, I mean, we’ve talked about hmor is a defense mechanism. We you know, my grandma used to have this saying, you got to laugh to keep from crying. Basically, that is what people are doing. You laugh to keep from crying. If you don’t think that teachers joke about the outlandish, sad things that their students come back and tell them about their home environments, not because they think it’s really funny, but because the alternative is just to sit with it and be uncomfortable and not know what to do, and on the verge of tears about it.

Dr. Nicole: If you don’t think that people that work in the health care setting or in the criminal justice system, if you don’t think that they find humor in their jobs, you have to, because the alternative is to sit and wallow in it. And so using humor to kind of protect us from, from that discomfort is very common, very normal. And I, you know, humor is a mature defense mechanism. It is it is a it is up there in the order of defense mechanisms. It is a mature one. Almost kind of a way to say like middle finger to the fact that I have bipolar disorder. Right? Like you joke about it because it’s like I have this thing and my choices are to sit every day and wallow in all the negative and all the stuff. Or I can make lemonade out of lemons, and I can kind of give a big middle finger f-you to bipolar disorder. I’m gonna figure out a way to laugh and have joy in my life either way. And people do that with cancer and they do that with physical disabilities. We, you know, amputees make jokes about themselves. Stevie Wonder jokes about the fact that he’s blind, like, people do this all the time, and we just have to have to respect that as their coping mechanism.

Gabe: It’s not surprising, as somebody who makes their living as a as a podcaster and a and a writer and a speaker that that I’m very protective of words. I am very protective of words because I think one of the problems that we have in society is that people are afraid to say things. But here’s the thing they’re not afraid to think them, and they’re not afraid to make decisions based on those thoughts. So what I see happening, especially in the bipolar space, is that that people are afraid to ask these questions for fear of offending me. They already have the belief they’re already saying this to themselves and to their trusted confidants or friends, but because they won’t say it out loud for fear of being offensive or a fear of seeming like they’re making light or joking, I don’t get to participate in the conversation, and we have seen time and time and time again throughout America’s history where marginalizing the people impacted so that the core group can discuss it behind their backs has not turned out well. If we people living with bipolar disorder want to participate in the conversation, we’re going to have to be willing to put up with some intolerance, with some ignorance, with some joking, with some insults, with some whatever.

Gabe: But I do think that it benefits us. And this is this is advocacy hat on Gabe. I do think it benefits us for people to feel comfortable to say it to us, because then we get this moment. You know, I hear you. And I understand why you think that. But have you considered or let me tell you about my experience or. That’s really interesting that you see it that way. Not living with bipolar disorder. Let me tell you how I see it. Living with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole: Things make us uncomfortable. We all handle stresses. We all cope with things in different ways. We just sometimes have to take a step back and just take a deep breath, and just listen. Just take a step back, take a deep breath and just listen to what the other person is telling you, whether it’s covered in humor or anger or whatever it’s covered in. They’re telling you something. And if you can figure out how to just hear that and then do what you need to do with that, I think we’d be a whole lot better off.

Gabe: I always hate it when we have like, the more, you know, moments, right? And like, it’s like we were having so much fun. And then Gabe and Dr. Nicole got all serious. So. So I want to take us. I want to take us back to. I want to take us back to the nonsense that people who listen to this show are used to. Are you ready? I have a bipolar joke.

Dr. Nicole: I don’t. Okay, okay. It’s fine. Go ahead.

Gabe: All right, all right, are you ready?

Dr. Nicole: Go ahead.

Gabe: All right, all right, here we go. Here we go. I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder, which is weird because I can’t pedal that fast. In fact, I don’t even own a bicycle.

Dr. Nicole: Y’all, this is what I

Gabe: You could at least give me a stage laugh. You’re a professional broadcaster.

Dr. Nicole: Listen, I’m not. I’m not even going there with you, Gabe. I’m not doing this. Y’all have no idea what I have to put up with every week in week out with this man.

Gabe:I think I’ve got bipolar disorder. I’m about 50% sure.

Dr. Nicole: I don’t know, I don’t know. That one was pretty bad, Gabe. That one was.

Gabe: That it was bad. No.

Dr. Nicole: That one was pretty bad.

Gabe: Okay. Hang on, hang on.

Dr. Nicole: Give me something else. That was pretty bad. Give me something else.

Gabe: All right. Why did the bunny go to the psychiatrist?

Dr. Nicole: Why did the bunny go to the psychiatrist?

Gabe: He was unhoppy.

Dr. Nicole: Now that was kind of cute. I do like that one. It is kind of cute. See, I like the ones that are that are simple, you know? You know, like the P is silent. I mean, you know, I like those kind of. They’re kind of cute. Who’s gonna get offended by that?

Gabe: What do you call a scared psychiatrist?

Dr. Nicole: A scared psychiatrist? I don’t know.

Gabe: A Freud.

Dr. Nicole: Gabe, these are cute, though. I can handle cute.

Gabe: I noticed that you keep laughing at all the psychiatrist jokes,

Dr. Nicole: Because they’re cute.

Gabe: But you’re not laughing at the bipolar jokes.

Dr. Nicole: That, it wasn’t. It just wasn’t funny. That rapid cycling thing. It just wasn’t. It wasn’t funny. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t funny.

Gabe: You didn’t, you didn’t. You didn’t like the bipolar joke?

Dr. Nicole: No, I did not, I did not, I did not.

Gabe: Oh. All right, all right. I have one more. I have one more bipolar disorder joke. All right, you ready?

Dr. Nicole: Okay.

Gabe: I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I have mixed feelings about it.

Dr. Nicole: Gabe, see again. Again. Again. I don’t. I don’t know.

Gabe: But if I tell a psychiatrist joke, you will laugh.

Dr. Nicole: No, I have. Okay, okay. I’m. Okay. So we’re okay. We’re going to hear some. Here’s one I don’t think this one is funny though. This is a psychiatrist one.

Gabe: We’re having a joke off.

Dr. Nicole: It says, I know this is kind of fun. We should definitely do that. What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Gabe: Well, a psychiatrist went to medical school.

Dr. Nicole: All right? No. I’m sorry. I’m gonna do that again. Do you know the.

Gabe: Did you tell the joke wrong?

Dr. Nicole: I did tell it wrong. Do you know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? If not, congratulations. You’re doing great.

Gabe: [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: See, I don’t like that. I don’t think that’s funny, Gabe. It’s not funny, because listen.

Gabe: You brought them together.

Dr. Nicole: But it’s not funny.

Gabe: That’s both a mental health joke and. That’s awesome.

Dr. Nicole: But it’s not funny. But you know why? And you know why. I don’t think it’s funny, because people are always like

Gabe: [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: Oh, you’re a psychologist. I’m like, I’m a psychiatrist. Not. See, I don’t think that’s funny. I don’t think it’s funny at all.

Gabe: [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: I do not think it’s funny at all. I don’t, I don’t,

Gabe: Why am I gasping for air?

Dr. Nicole: I don’t know. And you are over here red and giggling. A psychiatrist finds a man lying by the road who has been robbed and beaten senseless. The psychiatrist says, My God, whoever did this needs help. Also not funny, not funny, not funny.

Gabe: [Laughter] But I. I knew we were in trouble when we started googling, Dr. Nicole

Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]

Gabe: I as we as we wrap up the show, Dr. Nicole, I really just want the audience to understand that there’s not necessarily good or bad about humor. And even sometimes when you’re just like, look, I don’t like this humor, I don’t like these jokes, and I wish that they wouldn’t do it. I do think we need to take into account that this is how our society is structured. We make fun of everything, we go to murder Mystery Theater. We pay money to be fed while trying to solve the death of, no doubt, a woman. You know, just. And it’s you can you can play this game to host a murder. This is murder, people. The number one genre of podcasting is true crime. There are people out there right now who say, I’m so stressed out, I just want to hear something comforting. Like how a woman was drugged out of her home and beaten to death. I and I just over and over and over again. We use murder as entertainment. I think that’s a group of people who love someone who was murdered. I think that’s a group of people that has a real complaint about the, the, the fetishization and the entertainment and the joking that is surrounding something. And I think many of us living with bipolar disorder, we really need to take a step back and say, you know, some of this is just the culture of America, and unfortunately, we have to live there.

Gabe: And finally, the last thing that I want to say is this is happening to other marginalized groups. And we have to ask ourselves, do we get is up in arms when we hear a racist joke, a misogynistic joke, a joke about young people, you know, to bring it to something, you know, not as not as big as murder, racism and misogyny and just to bring it down to a regular level. You know, my, my wife is a millennial and there is a group of people who just get insulted for everything. I, you know, just not a day that goes by that we don’t just blame everything on millennials. And she’s just like, look, I was just born like, that’s like I am in this generation because of when my parents chose to have children. I there’s nothing that I can do about this. And yet millennial jokes persists and there’s nothing that she can do about it. And she’s just learned that, hey, this is just something that our society has decided to do. And she’s not going to rage against the machine because she has better things to do. I really think that all of this means something to us with bipolar disorder that that a lot of this, this joking, a lot of this being uncomfortable, a lot of these conversations are really just a byproduct of living in America and really have very little to do with bipolar disorder itself.

Dr. Nicole: Well, Dr. Gabe Howard, that was great advice. And I’m just gonna I’m just gonna sit back and then let you close this thing out.

Gabe: Dr. Gabe Howard might be the best joke of the entire episode. Thank you everybody for tuning in. We have a stack of favors to ask you. One. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show because you don’t want to miss a thing. Two recommend the show sharing a support group? Share it on Reddit threads. Share it on social media. Send somebody a text message. Bring it up in support groups. Because sharing this show with all the people you know is how we are going to grow. My name is Gabe Howard, and I’m an award-winning public speaker. And I could be available for your next event. And I’d even bring Dr. Nicole with me if she would come and you would hire us. I also wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon, but you can grab a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me by heading to my website, You can also follow me on TikTok or Instagram @askabipolar.

Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole. You can find me on all social media platforms @DrNicolePsych or at my website,

Gabe: All right. We will see everybody next time on Inside Bipolar.

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