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Podcast: Can People With Mental Illness Be Happy?

Those of us with mental illness are asked many questions about our feelings. For a lot of us, the most difficult one to answer is, “Are you happy?” It’s a difficult question to answer because happiness isn’t an easily defined concept. Most people assume that in order to be in recovery from mental illness a person must be happy. But is that really the case?

Listen in to this episode to hear our thoughts on happiness, regret, and even a side story about Gabe’s first marriage.



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“People just want to be happy and normal, but there is no actual definition of either.”
– Michelle Hammer


Highlights From ‘Happiness’ Episode

[1:00] Gabe & Michelle discuss happiness and mental illness.

[3:30] The most annoying questions we have ever been asked.

[5:00] Gabe’s story of never being satisfied with his life.

[10:00] What makes Michelle unhappy.

[12:00] What makes Gabe unhappy.

[17:00] Do people try to ruin our happiness? – A discussion.

[19:00] Michelle says she has confidence – but does she?

[23:00] Dealing with mental illness and negativity.

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Can People With Mental Illness Be Happy?’ Show

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

Announcer: [00:00:07] For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: [00:00:19] Welcome to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. My name is Gabe and I have bipolar.

Michelle: [00:00:25] I’m Michelle and I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:00:27] You are straight up schizo.

Gabe: [00:00:29] Apparently I am. That’s what the doctors say.

Gabe: [00:00:31] Michelle, one of the questions that people living with mental illness get asked, pretty much ad nausea, is, “Are you happy?” Do people ask you this?

Michelle: [00:00:40] Yeah. I think so, yeah.

Gabe: [00:00:41] There’s a bunch of them. “Are you OK?” “How are you feeling?”  “Are you doing OK?”.

Michelle: [00:00:45] I hate that one. “So how are you doing? Like on a personal level? Like, how are you personally?” You know.

Gabe: [00:00:53] They’re asking if we’re happy. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad question. I mean, they want to know if we’re OK.  And the way that we, as a society, gauge “okay” is if we’re content, if we’re happy, if we’re not sad. I mean, it’s not an unfair question, right? I mean, do we really want to get mad at people for making sure that we’re content?  Or that we’re happy?

Michelle: [00:01:13] I feel like people have ulterior motives sometimes when they ask you if you’re happy.

Gabe: [00:01:18] Like what?

Michelle: [00:01:19] They want to see if you could actually be happy.

Gabe: [00:01:22] So you think it’s like a gotcha question?

Michelle: [00:01:23] Sometimes.

Gabe: [00:01:23] Really?

Michelle: [00:01:24] They’re like, “Are you happy?”

Gabe: [00:01:26] I feel like maybe you’re hanging out with mean people. Nobody has ever asked me if I’m okay or if I’m happy so that they can trick me. I mean how would that go? “Gabe, are you happy?” Yes. “Aha! I have fooled you, you none-bipolar liar!” That’s kind of weird, you have to admit.

Michelle: [00:01:41] Whatever.

Gabe: [00:01:42] One of the reasons we want to do this episode is because, 1) there’s, like, 5 questions that people with mental illness gets asked constantly.  You know – “Have you taken your meds?”  “Are you doing okay?” “How are you feeling?” “Are you happy?”  The “are you happy?” one handcuffs me.

Michelle: [00:01:56] Why?

Gabe: [00:01:57] Because, I don’t know. I mean, how do you define happiness? You know our “Define Normal” initiative?

Michelle: [00:02:03] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:02:04] Where everybody gave a different answer for what “normal” was. Yet it’s something that’s thrown around by our society constantly.

Michelle: [00:02:13] Mmm-hmm.

Gabe: [00:02:13] I think if we asked a hundred different people what it means to be happy, we’d get 100 different answers. So when people say to me, “Are you happy?” I have no earthly idea.

Michelle: [00:02:24] Good point. And do you think anyone would actually say, “Yes, I am happy” and feel like they’re telling the truth or feel like they’re lying?

Gabe: [00:02:33] This is something that kind of keeps me up at night. Allow me to explain: Let’s say that you said right now, “Gabe, are you happy?” I would say, “Yes. My friend Michelle is here and our podcast is doing very well.” And then somebody would say, “Well, but I mean, how could you be happy? I mean, you have a debilitating disease and there’s so much suffering in the world?  And I mean really! You’re happy with the homeless people that might die from coldness? And what about all the hungry children?” “Oh. Well, I’m not happy about that.” “Really? You’re not happy!?! Your friend Michelle was here!” Where does this end?

Michelle: [00:03:10] The never ending nonsense circle.

Gabe: [00:03:14] Michelle, how do you define “happy.”

Michelle: [00:03:17] How would I define “happy?”

Gabe: [00:03:19] Yes, that’s the question. Why do you keep repeating the question?

Michelle: [00:03:21] I’m thinking of my answer for defining “happy.” Well, how would I define happy? Not being able to get rid of a huge smile on my face.

Gabe: [00:03:32] Okay, so you’re never happy. You’re never smiling. You always look constantly pissed off. So I don’t think that’s true. I really don’t, because I know that you’re not constantly pissed off. You just have resting angry face.

Michelle: [00:03:45] I don’t have resting angry face. That’s just around you.

Gabe: [00:03:48] Okay. Well, you have Gabe angry face. Oh my God! You have GAF!

Michelle: [00:03:54] Shut up.

Gabe: [00:03:55] See, now you’re mean to me. So I’m clearly not happy now.

Michelle: [00:03:58] Good. Are you happy?

Gabe: [00:03:59] No.

Michelle: [00:04:00] Did you take your meds today?

Gabe: [00:04:03] One, yes-

Michelle: [00:04:03] How are you doing?

Gabe: [00:04:04] I’m good, I’m fine.

Michelle: [00:04:06] Are you sure? Are you well?

Gabe: [00:04:08] Well, there’s another one. Now hang on a second-

Michelle: [00:04:10] How’s your work? Do you have a job?

Gabe: [00:04:11] Ugh…okay.

Michelle: [00:04:12] Wow, you have a job? Are you able to work?

Gabe: [00:04:14] Oh, you’re killing me.

Michelle: [00:04:15] Are you on disability?

Gabe: [00:04:16] You’re killing me.  No. No. Not that there’s anything wrong with that-

Michelle: [00:04:18] Do you live with your parents?

Gabe: [00:04:19] No.

Michelle: [00:04:20] Do you have any kids?

Gabe: [00:04:21] No.

Michelle: [00:04:21] Do you plan on getting married?

Gabe: [00:04:23] I am married.

Michelle: [00:04:24] Really? Wow! Does she like you a lot?

Gabe: [00:04:29] No, I’m bipolar. I think happiness has, like, moving goalposts. My Uncle Jack was a really cool guy. He passed away many years ago, but I really liked him a lot when I was younger. Because he talked to me like an adult. He recognized that I had intelligence beyond my years. So here’s this old guy, and he’s talking to a 14 year-old about, you know, adult subject matter. And a lot of adults were uneasy about this, but he wasn’t. And one of the things that he told me is that when it came to money, the perfect amount of money to make was 50 dollars more than you were currently making. And his point was that it didn’t matter how much money you had, you were always fifty dollars away from having something else. And when he said this to me, I thought, “You’re nuts.” If I have, let’s say, fifty thousand dollars. Now this was 30 years ago, but I thought, if I made fifty thousand dollars a year I would be happy. I would be perfectly happy with that kind of money. And then, when I made that kind of money I wasn’t happy with it. And then I made eighty thousand dollars a year, and I wasn’t happy with that. And then I made a hundred thousand dollars a year and I wasn’t happy with that.

Michelle: [00:05:39] All that’s coming through, Gabe, is that you need to give me some money.

Gabe: [00:05:45] That’s the takeaway?

Michelle: [00:05:47] That’s it. The takeaway is that you need to give me some money.

Gabe: [00:05:49] I think the takeaway is that I think that’s how happiness works.

Michelle: [00:05:53] Well, happiness comes with money.

Gabe: [00:05:54] No. No, I think that-

Michelle: [00:05:56] Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

Gabe: [00:05:58] Well, mo’ happiness, mo’ problems.

Michelle: [00:06:00] What? Continue your story.

Gabe: [00:06:08] Thanks, Michelle. When I was really, really, really sick –  I mean really sick, like not showering for days at a time, laying in my own filth, not leaving the house, planning on dying, trying to will myself to death – I would lay there and I’d think, “If I could just get out of bed I’d be happy.” And I meant it, I wasn’t lying. It wasn’t a joke. I just thought that if I could just get up, if I could just take a shower, if I could just wash my hair, then I would be happy. But that’s not the mark of happiness. Now I get up every morning, I take a shower, I wash my hair, I get dressed, and I leave the house, and that doesn’t make me happy.  That’s the lowest bar possible. That’s just an expectation at this point. But every time I achieve something – like remember when we started the podcast? We started the podcast and I was like, “Michelle, I’ll be happy when we have X number of listeners per week.” Do you remember that?

Michelle: [00:07:08] Uh-huh.

Gabe: [00:07:08] You were there, and I said, “That will make me happy!”  Well, we surpassed that months ago and I’m still unhappy. I’m unhappy that we didn’t grow month to month. I’m unhappy that one episode dipped. I’m unhappy that one whatever.  So, happiness is just this nebulous concept that you can’t put your finger on, and all of us are chasing it like it’s meaningful. Like it has meaning. We want to be happy, but none of us can define it. And even when we define it, once we get there we just redefine it.

Michelle: [00:07:41] It’s just interesting that people just want to be happy and normal, yet there’s really no such thing as happy and normal. Nobody is happy and normal.

Gabe: [00:07:53] I think that nobody is happy or normal because, again, there’s just no definition for it. I think that, depending on what the definition is, either nobody is happy and normal or everybody is happy and normal.

Michelle: [00:08:06] Yeah, I mean, there’s always, like, things that can make you happy.  But it’s not like a lifelong happiness.

Gabe: [00:08:12] You know what makes me happy?

Michelle: [00:08:13] Your dog?

Gabe: [00:08:14] When you’re ready to record on time.

Michelle: [00:08:15] OK.

Gabe: [00:08:15] And my dog. I really like my dog.

Michelle: [00:08:18] Yeah. I mean, your dog makes me happy, but I mean I don’t like and when he cries and stuff. It’s sad.

Gabe: [00:08:24] Why does he cry? Wait, why are you making my dog cry?

Michelle: [00:08:26] Your dog cries all the time! We walked in the house, and your dog was crying.

Gabe: [00:08:29] Because he wanted you to play with him! Did you play with him?

Michelle: [00:08:33] No.

Gabe: [00:08:33] So you just walked in the house and ignored him and just went about your business.

Michelle: [00:08:37] Yes.

Gabe: [00:08:37] Wow! You ignored a crying puppy.

Michelle: [00:08:40] He was in his crate.  I didn’t want to let him out of the crate.

Gabe: [00:08:41] You left him when he was trapped in a crate.

Michelle: [00:08:44] You let him out of the crate, so shut up!

Gabe: [00:08:47] I did let him out.

Michelle: [00:08:48] You’re not funny.

Gabe: [00:08:48] I’m a little bit funny.

Michelle: [00:08:50] No.

Gabe: [00:08:51] I’m not?

Michelle: [00:08:52] Your jokes make me unhappy.

Gabe: [00:08:55] Can you define “jokes?”.

Michelle: [00:08:56] Nothing you say.

Gabe: [00:08:59] That’s actually an excellent question, though. Because “jokes” has a definition. The word joke has a definition. It’s something that makes people laugh. Right?

Michelle: [00:09:07] Uh-huh

Gabe: [00:09:07] OK cool. So if I tell a joke and you laugh, but John doesn’t laugh, does that mean I told you a joke? But I didn’t tell John a joke? Even though I said the same thing to both of you at the exact same time?

Michelle: [00:09:23] Well, maybe John didn’t think it was as funny.

Gabe: [00:09:25] So it’s still a joke?

Michelle: [00:09:27] It was a joke, but it wasn’t funny to everybody.

Gabe: [00:09:32] So you can be happy with something but maybe somebody else who had the same thing wouldn’t be happy?

Michelle: [00:09:37] Right.

Gabe: [00:09:38] Is it possible that people like us, people with mental illness – especially people with depression side of it -, is it possible that we are happy? We just trick ourselves into thinking that we’re not?

Michelle: [00:09:49] I think maybe we dwell too much on the things that make us unhappy.

Gabe: [00:09:53] What are some things that you dwell on that make you unhappy?

Michelle: [00:09:56] Oh goodness! Past experiences with people that just did not go well. Arguments, fights embarrassments, that just go around in my head. Where I wish I did things differently or I wasn’t sure what was going on. Basically just things I wish I could have changed but that I can’t change now just get under my skin.

Gabe: [00:10:22] So you live with a lot of regret?

Michelle: [00:10:24] Mmm-hmmm

Gabe: [00:10:24] And you think that that regret is making you unhappy?

Michelle: [00:10:28] Yes.

Gabe: [00:10:28] Now, the things that you regret happened in the past. So clearly time travel is not a thing?

Michelle: [00:10:34] Mm hmm.

Gabe: [00:10:34] So you can’t go back and fix it?

Michelle: [00:10:36] Right.

Gabe: [00:10:36] So it’s ruining your present even though it happened in the past? And we’re going to assume that it’s going to ruin your future, even though it happened in the past?

Michelle: [00:10:44] Right.

Gabe: [00:10:45] So you’re literally wrecking your entire life because of something that you regret, that happened a while ago, that you cannot change or fix?

Michelle: [00:10:50] Well, how do I get it to go away?

Gabe: [00:10:52] Well, that’s a fair question. How do you get it to go away? Could you make amends?

Michelle: [00:10:56] No. No.

Gabe: [00:10:57] Like, not ever? You’re just stuck with it?

Michelle: [00:10:59] Yeah. Yeah.

Gabe: [00:11:00] What about radical acceptance? What about like thinking, “Look I accepted that I did this, I accepted it was wrong, and I accept it that I won’t do it again.  And therefore I forgive myself?”

Michelle: [00:11:10] Some things weren’t really my fault.

Gabe: [00:11:11] Then why do you regret them? And why are you unhappy about them?

Michelle: [00:11:14] Because things sometimes are just unfair.

Gabe: [00:11:17] So you’re upset about things that aren’t fair?

Michelle: [00:11:20] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:11:21] So you’re unhappy about something that’s unfair, that you had no control over at the time, and you certainly don’t have any control over now? Because, again, time travel is not a thing?

Michelle: [00:11:29] Yes.

Gabe: [00:11:31] That’s nuts! Hold that thought, Michelle.  We’re going to step away to hear from our sponsors.

2nd Announcer: [00:11:37] This episode is sponsored by 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 and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you.

Gabe: [00:12:09] And we are back discussing happiness.

Michelle: [00:12:12] Well, we just got to all the roots of my problems.  Gabe, thank you so much. And I can’t change the past and it won’t get out of my head.

Gabe: [00:12:22] I feel the exact same way. I’m still upset about how my first marriage ended. And I’m still upset about how my second marriage ended. I am now worried constantly about how my third marriage will end, because all marriages end. I mean, they either end in death or divorce. So there’s not good odds either way.  You’re kind of SOL there. But the things that I did in my past, some of them I was able to make up for. As you know, my second wife and I – you know she’s my bestie. She’s my BFF, and I’ve apologized to her, and I’ve told her I was sorry. And we still fight about this stuff, because we’re very immature as people. But, I think there’s a level of forgiveness there. But my first wife will not forgive me. She  – flat out.

Michelle: [00:13:09] What did you do to her?

Gabe: [00:13:09] Well I married her. That was bad.

Michelle: [00:13:12] It was bad to marry her? That’s what she said?

Gabe: [00:13:14] It turns out that women don’t really like being married to untreated bipolars. I had no idea.

Michelle: [00:13:20] Was it your fault for marrying her? She said yes. She said I do. How is that your fault?

Gabe: [00:13:28] I…

Michelle: [00:13:29] Didn’t she know that you were an untreated bipolar?

Gabe: [00:13:31] No.

Michelle: [00:13:31] She didn’t?

Gabe: [00:13:33] None of us did.

Michelle: [00:13:34] Oh.

Gabe: [00:13:34] I didn’t get diagnosed with bipolar until after she left. That was one of the things that led me down the suicide path, her leaving. I wrecked my job, my marriage, my house, my home life, I was an embarrassment to my parents. She picked up and left and I was just like, “Fuck it! I want to die!” And I got lucky. I know that sounds weird, but me being suicidal and instituting a suicide plan and being so depressed and so messed up, that’s what led somebody see how sick I was and take me to the emergency room.

Michelle: [00:14:07] She should forgive you, though. Don’t you think?

Gabe: [00:14:10] I would like to think that she would, but she believes that I’m faking bipolar in order to con people for money.

Michelle: [00:14:17] Are you serious?

Gabe: [00:14:18] That’s not something you can make up.

Michelle: [00:14:22] Okay, I don’t really like her that much anymore.

Gabe: [00:14:24] I can’t feel that way. It would be easy if I could say that. I do think that she should consider everything that I went through, and should consider that I was in a psychiatric ward, and on, and on.

Michelle: [00:14:35] Here’s what I don’t understand-

Gabe: [00:14:36] I don’t know why she doesn’t believe in mental illness but she doesn’t.

Michelle: [00:14:38] If she was with you, and she saw you acting like you were acting, so much that she left, and then you happen to end up in the psych ward, wouldn’t she have said, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense!”?

Gabe: [00:14:53] No. She thought that I was faking because she believes that mentally ill people look a certain way. She believes that mentally ill people can’t be intelligent, they can’t hold down jobs. They rock back and forth and they drool. She believes in a very stereotypical version of mental illness.

Michelle: [00:15:06] She’s a bitch.

Gabe: [00:15:07] No, she’s not. And that’s the thing, I did hurt her. Do you know how many times I flew into a blind rage and just started screaming? I would be up for two, three, maybe four, days at a time and not come home. And I would just go out and fuck everything that moved. That not something that you can do to somebody and not give them long lasting emotional scars. I was her husband, and I let her down. I broke her trust, and we can discuss until we’re blue in the face that I did this because I had bipolar disorder, and some of that is true. But the bottom line is, she doesn’t want to forgive me. And that’s up to her, and I have to live with that. I would love to take your tact and just thin, “Yep, bitch!”  But I can’t. I wronged her. The end.

Michelle: [00:15:50] Do you want her in your life?

Gabe: [00:15:54] No, I want her not to be mad at me. It would alleviate alleviate my guilt if she was no longer mad at me, because I feel like I have caused her pain and unhappiness that is going to span her lifetime. Because she spent five years married to me, and that’s a lot I would hate to think that because somebody knew me, their life was worse. And that’s what we have. Because she knew me, her life is worse. That’s hard. It’s hard to know that I made somebody’s life worse. And that makes me unhappy.

Michelle: [00:16:32] I mean, I think I’ve given people challenges while they dealt with me. But I wouldn’t say I’ve made people’s lives worse. Maybe made it more interesting at times, I don’t know.

Gabe: [00:16:47] I have certainly made people’s lives more “interesting” at times, as well. But the big regret I have, and something that keeps me from being happy, is the way that I treated other people. And while it is true that bipolar disorder played a part in it, it wasn’t all bipolar disorder. It factored in, but I was an asshole.

Michelle: [00:17:09] I mean, at least now you know to apologize.

Gabe: [00:17:11] Yes. Yes.

Michelle: [00:17:12] You know, at least you’re not still on that track, yelling at her.  Being a horrible person. You know to apologize.

Gabe: [00:17:19] Yes, I was an incredibly bad husband.

Michelle: [00:17:21] Do you ever think people are trying to ruin your happiness?

Gabe: [00:17:24] That’s an interesting one as well, because, 1) yes, I absolutely think that people are trying to ruin my happiness.  But I also think, just as strongly, that I am not happy. So that’s kind of messed up. How can somebody both be trying to ruin my happiness and I’m not happy at the same time? But yet in my brain that completely tracks.

Michelle: [00:17:43] I feel like it’s very high school. Like when people try to ruin your happiness. Like, you might come in and you have the coolest shirt on and cool shoes. “Hi, guys. How are you doing? I like my new stuff here.” And everyone just kind of looks you and says, “Oh, okay, you got new clothes and new shoes? Oh, yeah. OK. Good for you.” Like they’re jealous. People get jealous of things. You know what I’m trying to say? 

Gabe: [00:18:03] I do.

Michelle: [00:18:03] High school stuff. Like you when I get a new haircut and then everyone just has to say it’s ugly, you know?

Gabe: [00:18:09] I mean, your hair is not great.

Michelle: [00:18:11] I’m just saying.

Gabe: [00:18:11] And also, that’s not a really cool shirt. And your shoes are kind of dollar store, but whatever, you do you.

Michelle: [00:18:18] That’s what I’m trying to say, though. That’s my point.

Gabe: [00:18:20] But does that pettiness bother you?

Michelle: [00:18:22] People do sometimes try to ruin other people’s happiness to make themselves feel better.

Gabe: [00:18:26] You buy new shoes and you are happy with the new shoes and then somebody says, “I hate those shoes.” Does it take any of your happiness away? I mean, honestly?  If you’re being honest? Does Michelle Hammer get sad or lose happiness if somebody calls her shoes ugly?

Michelle: [00:18:40] Me now? No way. Me 15 years ago? Absolutely.

Gabe: [00:18:47] But there’s still stuff that people can say to you that hurts your feelings?

Michelle: [00:18:52] Yes.

Gabe: [00:18:52] I just find that incredibly hard to believe. Because when I see you, I see somebody with so much confidence. You have guts that I can not quantify into words. You once yelled out “cock ring” in the middle of a crowded hotel lobby. Dude, do you know how much guts that takes? Like, for real? It was just a ballsy thing to do. You were loud, and brash, and amazing, and I remember when we met, I thought, “Oh my God, she needs to a) stop and b) continue.” And that just, like, wrestled in my brain. And it’s one of the reasons that I wanted to work with you, because it was just so incredibly engaging. But the more that I get to know you, and the more that we talk, and the more we prepare for shows, do shows, write, travel etc.. You know, I’ve gotten to know you. Know the softer side of Michelle.

Michelle: [00:19:47] The softer side (singing).

Gabe: [00:19:48] But you actually kind of have a confidence issue, don’t you?

Michelle: [00:19:53] I don’t have a confidence issue. I just don’t like when I feel like people are just giving me unsolicited advice.

Gabe: [00:20:01] Well, but that’s what I’m saying. Iff you were 100 percent confident in your actions, you would just tune all of them out. It hurts your feelings, the things that people say. Sometimes people post comments on the Internet. Literal strangers, and you call me up, and you’re upset. You’re angry or you’re just like, “Well, what is wrong with them? Why are they saying this? Why do they say I’m not schizophrenic? How would they know? Because I have purple?” You were really really bothered by that. When that lady said, “There are too many colors. So you can’t be schizophrenic.”

Michelle: [00:20:31] Because that just annoys me so much! Because then it makes me seem like a liar. And the last thing I want to be perceived as is a liar. I am not a liar. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m a liar, and I don’t want anyone thinking that they can’t create art like mine because it is “too many colors.” That’s just a weird stereotype, or, you know, that’s a stereotype or that person just made it up.

Gabe: [00:20:54] Are you really not going to admit that your feelings were hurt?

Michelle: [00:20:56] I was just baffled and then my feelings were hurt. It was just kind of like, “Who is this idiot trying to say they know more about schizophrenia than a person who has schizophrenia!?!”

Gabe: [00:21:06] Allegedly.

Michelle: [00:21:08] Oh, yeah. Allegedly. It just, you know-

Gabe: [00:21:12] Who hurts your feelings, Michelle? Like, whose opinion is so important to you that if they are negative toward you it ruins your whole day? For me it would be my wife. My wife, and my friends, and my mom. There’s like five people that what they think of me matters so intensely, that if I am happy and they say something mean to me it wrecks my whole day. Who in your life can do that? Who can take your happiness and just flip it upside down?

Michelle: [00:21:40] No one.

Gabe: [00:21:41] Really? So you’re telling me, that if your phone rang right now and your mom said, “God, you suck at podcasting!” You would just be like, “whatever” and it wouldn’t bother you one iota?

Michelle: [00:21:52] I’d just tell her to stop listening.

Gabe: [00:21:55] You lie. You lie so much. It would hurt your feelings.

Michelle: [00:22:00] Does your mom say that to you?

Gabe: [00:22:03] No! God, no! We have a great podcast. But, I’m saying if she did, it would hurt my feelings.

Michelle: [00:22:08] Hmmmm.

Gabe: [00:22:08] If my mom told me my podcast sucked, I would be sad. I would be upset for the rest of the day.

Michelle: [00:22:12] I mean, she’s insulted me way more times than that. So it’s really not that big a deal.

Gabe: [00:22:16] And it hurt your feelings! Admit it! Admit that it hurts your feelings. It’s OK that your mother can hurt your feelings. She’s your mom. I’m just trying to say that there are people in our lives whose opinions are so important to us that they can turn us on a dime. And I wish that those people would be more careful with our feelings, because we’re struggling with a lot. But we can’t control them. And that’s really what I’m trying to say – we can’t control their behavior. You can’t make your mom, and I can’t make my mom, or my friends, or you, or me, be nicer to us. We just can’t. So what I try to do is control my own emotions. I wish that I could be like the person that you’re pretending to be where I just don’t care that somebody insulted me. I don’t care. Fuck them. But I’m not. I’m not that guy. When people insult me, when people say mean things, it hurts me it hurts my feelings deeply and genuinely. And I will ruminate on it for days, it means that much to me. And I wish I could make that go away. And that’s what I work on every day. If there was something that I was still working on in therapy, it would be that. And I’ve gotten a lot better. We’ve gotten a lot better at cutting toxic people out of our lives, which we’ve discussed in previous episodes. I’ve gotten better at asking people follow up questions, so that way when they do hurt my feelings, I make sure that that’s what they meant. And I give them an opportunity to explain, because sometimes I just overreacted. And then I work really, really hard on just thinking, “OK, they didn’t like it, but that’s OK.” There’s a lot of different people in the world and just because they don’t like it, doesn’t mean that it’s not good. But mostly, I just curl up in a ball and cry. But I’m working on that, and I think a lot of our listeners feel that way too.

Michelle: [00:24:02] Gabe, I think we need to understand that we have to learn how to make our selves happy before we try to be happy for other people. How happy are you right now?

Gabe: [00:24:17] I am content. I’m content with my life. I feel safe. I feel secure. I love my wife. My family is good. I have a great show. I have a good career and my dog is nice. I would not say that I am happy. I would say that I am content and I think that’s the thing. I think from the outside looking in, a lot of people would be like, “Wow, if this guy isn’t happy with all the stuff that he has, he is never going to be happy” And that’s really my point. I think that a lot of us are really unhappy because we make ourselves miserable trying to get to some other mythical level. Or we need our medications changed and we need to work with our doctors. But I think that people with mental illness could be happier. I think we sabotage ourselves and I don’t know how to get out of the rut except by talking about it honestly. And I would venture to guess that a lot of our listeners feel the same as we do. They feel miserable, and they don’t know why, and that’s the point. If you don’t know why you’re miserable, then you’re probably not. You’re probably OK. You’re probably sabotaging your own happiness and that’s really messed up. Stop it there. We’ve just fixed all the depressed people Michelle, tell ’em to stop it.

Michelle: [00:25:27] Stop it. Just just stop sabotaging your own happiness, I guess.  According to Gabe, you are sabotaging your happiness.

Gabe: [00:25:35] I think that it is something to consider.

Michelle: [00:25:37] I think that I am happy. I don’t think I’m sad or angry. I don’t think anything like that. I mean, I know I’m not 100 percent happy all the time. But in my life, I’m much happier than I was five years ago ,for sure.

Gabe: [00:25:53] Michelle, I always love debating happiness with you. So thank you, everybody, for listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Remember to review us on iTunes. Leave a comment. Share this episode. Make Gabe and Michelle famous because that is just so important! And we’ll see everybody next week.

Michelle: [00:26:13] Happy!

Announcer: [00:26:16] You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself. Head on over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe, go to To work with Michelle, go to schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to The show’s official web site is You can e-mail us at 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


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.

Podcast: Can People With Mental Illness Be Happy?

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APA Reference
Podcast, N. (2019). Podcast: Can People With Mental Illness Be Happy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Jan 2019 (Originally: 10 Dec 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Jan 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.