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Podcast: Value of Personal Mental Illness Stories


Openly sharing our personal mental health stories can help others know they’re not alone, especially when it’s a rarely-discussed or taboo subject. In today’s Not Crazy podcast, our guest Rachel Steinman, a podcaster, writer and mental health advocate, discusses what it’s like to host a podcast where she shares her family’s mental health secrets.

By talking openly about her family’s four suicides, mental illness, substance abuse, family affairs, and more, Rachel is changing the narrative and replacing it with love, compassion, and understanding.

(Transcript Available Below)


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Guest Information for ‘Rachel Steinman- Value Mental Illness Stories’ Podcast Episode

Rachel Steinman is a Los Angeles native who received her Masters in Education and has taught every elementary school grade, K-6. She’s even been the school librarian, a job she adored. Rachel never set out to become a writer, a podcaster, or a mental health advocate but that is exactly what she proudly calls herself after discovering her beloved grandfather’s unfinished memoir 24 years after he jumped from his high rise. Rachel is sharing her family’s story to rid the shame and stigma that come with family secrets and generations of mental illness. By talking openly about her family’s stories of four suicides, bipolar, depression, substance abuse, family affairs, and more, she’s changing the narrative and replacing it with love, compassion, and understanding. She’s also cutting generational trauma so she doesn’t pass it onto her precious daughters and to inspire others to share their stories openly.

Rachel is a lead presenter for NAMI speaking about ending the silence to discuss mental health warning signs and offer resources and hope to middle and high schoolers as well as their parents. Rachel hosts and produces the Dear Family Podcast celebrating our complicated families and overcoming obstacles to find mental wellness. She lives in Studio City with her husband of 20 years, two beautiful, bright, and musical teenage daughters, and her adorable rescue puppy. 

 

About The Not Crazy Podcast Hosts

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 Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

 

 

 

 

Lisa is the producer of the Psych Central podcast, Not Crazy. She is the recipient of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Above and Beyond” award, has worked extensively with the Ohio Peer Supporter Certification program, and is a workplace suicide prevention trainer. Lisa has battled depression her entire life and has worked alongside Gabe in mental health advocacy for over a decade. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband; enjoys international travel; and orders 12 pairs of shoes online, picks the best one, and sends the other 11 back.

 

 


Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Rachel Steinman- Value Mental Illness Stories’ Episode

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

Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a psych central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts.

Gabe: Welcome, everyone. You’re listening to the Not Crazy podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m your host. And with me, as always, is Lisa Kiner. Lisa.

Lisa: Hey, everyone, today’s quote comes to us from Ryunosuke Satoro, and he said, individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.

Gabe: I like quotes like this for so many reasons, but there’s lots of quotes like this, right? You know, just like.

Lisa: It translates nicely into a poster.

Gabe: Yeah, yeah, we do have the kitten doing the hang in there thing.

Lisa: I love that one. That’s my favorite.

Gabe: But isn’t it so overdone?

Lisa: Yeah, but it’s a kitten.

Gabe: But isn’t like the stronger together thing overdone as well.

Lisa: Together, everyone achieves more.

Gabe: Together, everyone does achieve more, and what makes me sad is not the glurge-y nature of the quotes or the simplicity of it or just the ughhhh of it. It’s the fact that we don’t know this. Like, do we really need a poster or a quote to tell us this. Is this not just like basic common sense? Like why don’t we have a quote that says, hey, if you hold your breath, you’ll die? 

Lisa: Good point, I never actually thought about that, why do we have all these quotes and the answer is because, yes, people do actually need it. 

Gabe: We also need a place for kittens hanging off stuff to get work.

Lisa: Good point. Otherwise, what jobs are they really qualified for?

Gabe: They could just be our little cuddlies. I don’t

Lisa: Good idea.

Gabe: I don’t know why.

Lisa: Good idea. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Gabe: I think it’s a good idea. You know, Lisa, we get mail. We get mail, comments just. 

Lisa: And we appreciate all of it.

Gabe: We do. Thank you, everybody. And one of the things that keeps coming up is they ask us why our guests never share personal stories. And in fact, they referenced us saying, hey, we don’t have guests on to share personal stories. We’d rather debate a subject or discuss something or share their point of view. And the question specifically came up, so are you saying that personal stories are bad or are they stupid? Do you not like them? And first, I want to say unequivocally, if I couldn’t share my personal story, I would not have a podcast.

Lisa: Good point, you’re sharing your story constantly, it’s a job description.

Gabe: So there’s this little piece of me that thinks, hey, we made the decision because I don’t want the competition. That is not, in fact why I made the decision. The reality is personal stories are extremely valuable. And I encourage all of you to share. They’re just so well represented in the space. But you know what’s not well represented in the space? The opinions of people living with mental health issues and mental illness. I want to tell people what I want. I don’t want to tell them my story and hope that on the strength of my story, they get it. You should not treat me like shit. Why not? Because I am a person and deserving of respect. Rather than you should not treat me like shit. Why not? Hang on. Let me tell you a story of when somebody treated me like shit and it made me feel bad. We wanted to get into why we developed these opinions and how we want the world to follow us.

Lisa: So, you don’t want people to have to infer what you mean, you want to just tell them.

Gabe: Oh, yeah, that’s a much faster way of saying that.

Lisa: Yeah, well, if it were up to me, it’d be a lot shorter show.

Gabe: So, listen, I decided that we would invite our good friend Rachel Steinman over to discuss the power of storytelling. Rachel is the host of the Dear Family podcast. She’s an awesome mental health advocate and she knows a lot about getting people to share their stories and, of course, the value of that. So, Rachel, welcome to the show.

Lisa: So nice to have you here.

Rachel: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.

Gabe: As I just mentioned, you are the host of the Dear Family podcast, can you briefly tell our listeners what that is?

Rachel: Sure, it is a podcast where we celebrate our complicated families. We find mental wellness, and I interview inspirational people who have overcome obstacles and we talk a lot about family members that have mental illness or people that have mental illness and how they’ve overcome it or how they’re dealing with it. And we also talk about family secrets and the importance of just sharing stories and having open dialog to rid stigma and shame and find love and compassion and understanding.

Gabe: And, Rachel, that’s exactly why we wanted to have you on the show. We’re all mental health advocates and in this case we’re all podcasters, which is kind of rare for us. It’s a unique occurrence, right, Lisa? We don’t have a lot of podcasters on our podcast.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh, so meta,

Gabe: I just wanted to set you up to use meta.

Lisa: I know. I have to use that at least once an episode.

Gabe: But, Rachel, we’re all mental health advocates, but we go about it very differently. Lisa and I believe very strongly in people with lived experience, sort of viewing the world and translating it for people who haven’t been there. And you believe very strongly in people sharing their stories and talking about what happened to them. And what I really like about your podcast is you really, really dig deep. It’s not fluff. It’s like you said, it’s no secrets. You dig into the family. There’s just a lot of debate about which one is right. And I kind of think it’s a stupid debate because I think they’re both right. 

Rachel: Well, I definitely appreciate your platform and I can see why it’s so important, but I’m coming at it from a daughter whose mother has bipolar, whose grandparents both died by suicide, whose brother was addicted to crystal meth and ended up homeless. And all these years of shame and no one really talking about mental illness. I wanted to change that narrative. I wanted to openly talk about it because I don’t want to pass this on to my daughters. I don’t want that generational trauma continuing. If we don’t talk about it, then that shame may continue or they may not feel comfortable speaking out. This really all began when I started writing and I wrote an essay called Grandpa and Anthony Bourdain, and it was after Anthony Bourdain took his life by suicide. And I talked about my family and so many people, private messages or publicly came out of the woodwork that I had known from high school and on and said I had no idea that you had that family. You hid it so well, I have something similar, or my mom or my brother or my husband or myself. And I realized literally everyone has a family member dealing with the mental health issue or they themselves are dealing with it. And let’s talk about it. 

Lisa: How specifically do you feel that telling these stories of other folks living with mental illness is helping people who do not live with mental illness?

Rachel: I think it’s hugely helpful. I have heard and I love hearing this and I’m sure you hear this, that it really helps others find compassion for those that are suffering and maybe even find compassion for themselves. And that there’s no shame in asking for help or seeking therapy or talking about it. The more we talk about it, the more others talk about it. Right. Truth begets more truth. And my mom has bipolar. She was not diagnosed until her mid 60s. And for all those years, I was ashamed of my mom. I was embarrassed by her eccentricities and her vulgarity and her swinging moods. And now that I understand that it truly is a mental health disorder and it affects her brain, I have so much more compassion. And it’s made my mom and I so much closer.

Lisa: And then how does your mom feel about that, how does she feel about you telling her story? Is she OK with that?

Rachel: Well, at first, she was not at first, actually, when I started writing essays, because that’s how it began. She was not thrilled about it. She also saw things differently. And I think at one point it pushed her into a manic episode, which did not help. And then I felt guilty and there was definitely some tension because of course, here I am sharing her story publicly. Is it really fair for me to do that? Maybe not, to be honest. But then after my mom started reading them and realizing that there was value in sharing the story, she actually came to me and I’m so grateful. And she gave me her blessing and she said, you’re doing what I wish I could have done. If our story can help one person, then you have my blessing. And I have to say what a beautiful gift. 

Lisa: How long would you say that took between the time when you started and when your mom came around?

Rachel: Not too long, I would say about a year, and I wanted my mom to be my first podcast guest because my podcast’s called Dear Family, and she said absolutely not. I don’t like my voice. I’m not interesting, all of these excuses. But I didn’t push it. And I ended up having my brother, but my mom ended up being my fiftieth episode. And it was so special. She was so open. She’s come so far. So in a way, I think me having this platform made her realize the importance of her voice and the importance of sharing her story.

Gabe: Thank you for being so candid about telling your family’s story, because this is something that I struggle with, not with my family, because they’re OK with it. We apparently just have no scruples whatsoever. But the other people around me, I am surprised that sometimes I’ll see things on Facebook or I’ll get emails from somebody that I knew way back when. And they’ll be like, I heard this on the podcast or I read this in a blog that you wrote and I knew you were talking about me and I don’t like it. Take it down. Now, I don’t mention people’s names. I remove identifying stuff. But even though nobody could possibly figure out it was them from it, they knew it. And that was enough to really make them anxious or fearful or angry. How do you get around that with other folks? Because with your family, hey, you’re a member of your family and you’ve made a decision. But what about like a friend or if you saw your mom interact with somebody else and you’re like, well, this is a story that’s worth telling what my mom did to the store clerk, for example. And I’m just literally making stuff up because while you’re OK telling your mom’s story, are you OK telling the store clerk’s story and does it still have value? Is it just hey, these are paparazzi rules? It happened in public.

Rachel: I want to answer your question, but I have a question first for you. Did you end up taking it down?

Gabe: No,

Rachel: OK, good.

Gabe: No, I never did. No, of course not. And thank you for asking that follow up question. I didn’t take it down because hey one, I made sure that they couldn’t be identified. And plus, this is just life. And three, they did it. But moving all of that aside, where does that end? I mean, how much ret-conning of the past can I possibly do? How much editing and how much revisionist history? I mean, if I can start revising my past, I mean, I’m going to take aim at other things. Yeah, but I did feel bad. I guess that is the part that I want to say. It did make me feel uncomfortable. This idea that I was drudging up unhappiness for this person, I chalked it up to collateral damage. But how reasonable is that?

Rachel: This all began when I was 40 years old, and it was twenty four years after my grandfather had died by suicide. My grandfather was a big real estate mogul in Manhattan and he had to, you know, the outside world, a perfect life. He had kids. He had grandkids. He had money in the bank. He was traveling. He had his physical health to still golf and play tennis. And yet he jumped out of his 14th floor balcony, actually, and died by suicide. I was 16 at the time. Twenty four years later, when I turned 40, his third wife passed away and I was allowed back into this high rise and I found his unfinished manuscript. His father died by suicide. His brother died by suicide and his wife. So that would be my maternal grandmother.

Rachel: My mom’s mom also died by suicide when my mom was just 14 and no one ever talked about it. I found this manuscript and it blew me away, but it was incomplete. There was a lot that was never said, especially, the really important things. There was a lot of business acumen and all of that talked about. But what I was really searching for was missing. It set me on this journey to become his ghostwriter. And I started finishing his story and I realized I had a story to tell. And I am still working on this double memoir that spans five generations. But as I was writing it, I’m digging all this dirt. I’m talking about my family like you cannot believe, right? Talk about opening up a can of worms. I’m talking about my uncles, my mom, my dad, my childhood, my life, things I did that wasn’t right. But if you want to be authentic, you have to tell the truth. And this is my truth. I ended up writing this essay. Well, my family on the East Coast got back to me and were very upset, very angry with me. How dare you talk about Grandpa or my dad that way? They were very, very upset with me. Fortunately, Medium has it’s kind of like an RSS feed. You can change it and it updates. I was able to just say grandpa and get rid of the last name and that appeased them enough. But that was an awful feeling, knowing how upset my family was with me. And yet I totally stand by that essay to this day. I mean, if it’s my truth, it’s my truth.

Lisa: So how does it turn out with your family now, are they still upset about that or have they also come around?

Rachel: So, I’m an open book, so is my mom, some of the other family members are not. I also just recently my cousin was upset about how I mentioned her dad. And yet I know deep in my soul, I can sleep at night because it’s true. And that’s just kind of what I go on. I don’t know if all of them have come around. Maybe it’s selfish of me to say, but I’m OK if they haven’t.

Gabe: How do you feel about the concept of it’s true to you? I think about how I see people and, you know, Lisa and I have this constant struggle and this constant debate about how Lisa sees her parents and how I see her parents. Now, they’re not changing for me, for her. The difference is, is I knew her parents only as an adult. And, you know, obviously they don’t like me very much. I divorced their daughter and there was a lot of turmoil. But in Lisa’s case, they raised her. They birthed her. So when I say, well, you know, your parents are mean and she’s like, no, they’re mean to you. So if I wrote.

Lisa: They’re showing loyalty to me.

Gabe: Right. So if I wrote an article called The True Story about Lisa’s Parents, I wouldn’t have to tell a single lie to make them look bad. But the reality is, is it’s incomplete. Right? I’m only telling the things that they did to me that I don’t like. And I’m therefore and I’m making air quotes, guys, speaking my truth. Do you think that people understand that? Do you think that when people read an article or listen to a podcast by Rachel or by Gabe or by Lisa, they understand that that is that person’s take and that it’s certainly possible, and in fact likely, that somebody else has a completely different take?

Rachel: I love this question so much, because I think that that’s one of the things that writing taught me that helped me in podcasting, is that you have to make the person you’re interviewing a round character. They can’t be flat. That if someone read my article, they would find sympathy for my grandfather. It has to show both angles. So, Gabe, if you’re writing an article about Lisa’s parents, you need to include that part about how great they raised their daughter. And otherwise, it’s not, again, that word authentic. It’s not authentic. So one of the things that writing really helped me do is look at my grandparents, look at my mom, look at my brother, and not just see them as, oh, they just did this and they suck. It helps me look at the past. It helps me see how they were affected. My grandfather, his dad was a narcissist. He learned that from him. His dad died by suicide. So looking at someone as a three dimensional character, finding compassion for them, understanding the history, understanding from where they came is such a better story. Like some of the best storytellers, there’s a villain, and yet you can find sympathy for them.

Gabe: Darth Vader, you’re describing Darth Vader,

Rachel: Right.

Gabe: Right? I just this

Lisa: It was so sad when he died.

Gabe: He terrorized people for three movies, but then

Lisa: Well.

Gabe: We saw him as this flawed character that got, I don’t know,

Lisa: Redemption.

Gabe: Just. Well, I mean, yeah, I guess it’s a redemption arc if we’re using fiction words. I like what you said there, Rachel. You know, the reality is this is an advanced life skill. People can be two things. I was very much angry about the divorce. I was angry that I had caused more problems. And then, you know, here’s this. These other people, they’re coming in and they’re essentially shedding light on their truth, which is that I was a bad husband, so I didn’t like that. Then in reality, you know, I learned that, hey, they can be two things. They can both not be very nice to Gabe, which is, you know, they’re right, I guess. And

Lisa: Loyalty to me.

Gabe: Exactly. And of course, they can be exceptional parents. That gave me my best friend and the woman who saved my life. Well, now what do I do with that? And I think that people struggle with this. And I think this is, to your point, Rachel, why these stories are so important to get out there, not because of our versions of it, but because of the discussions that come up around them. See, right now, when it comes to, you know, bipolar disorder and mental illness, especially in families, it’s never been discussed. I actually think that it is a real bonus that the whole family is emailing you and calling you and telling you that you got it wrong, that you mess this up, that you’re making us look bad, because while that discussion may be aggressive or even angry and hostile, it may well be the first discussion that any member of your family has had about these events in potentially their entire lives. And I think that gets us to a good place.

Rachel: I totally agree. The moment that happened, I thought this might be the first time they’re all discussing this tragic event kind of with open eyes. What you said about the two sides, I actually think sometimes there’s three sides. I think there’s your side, their side and the truth.

Gabe: I like that, I like that.

Rachel: And the other thing that I will point out, I think that is a huge saving grace is forgiveness. By seeing the true picture and being able to step back, you are able to look at your family members’ past and find forgiveness. And that is so healing taking that weight off your shoulders. I was able to forgive my mom first for things that she did because I was able to understand that was her bipolar. My mom was able to forgive me for separating and pushing away from her because that was my coping mechanism. Having these conversations and being able to find that compassion leads to forgiveness. And I think if you can forgive, it’s your gift.

Lisa: We’ll be back in a minute after these messages.

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Lisa: And we’re back discussing the power of personal stories with podcaster Rachel Steinman.

Gabe: Let’s talk about the next step in the evolution of open discussions or let.

Lisa: I have a question. 

Gabe: I haven’t asked mine yet.

Lisa: So do you feel that this has been beneficial to your family?

Rachel: Absolutely by me kind of opening up the can of worms and forcing some discussions, like I said, my mom and I have never been closer. I was ready to kick my mom out of my life. She was just so erratic. And then once I started really digging deep, that helped me find that compassion and that understanding. It was almost like I put on new lenses and saw clearly for the first time. And I’m talking about going back multiple generations to my grandparents and to even their parents who I never knew, and seeing how this generational trauma can get passed down, how if you don’t talk about it, it can fester. So, yes, I’m so glad that I went on this journey. And if nothing else comes of this, which I don’t believe is true, it saved our relationship.

Gabe: I like what you said about seeing things clearly, but I still worry about how clearly change is. And I again, I think about my own life and I have probably the most ridiculous example of this. Are you familiar with the TV show King of the Hill?

Rachel: Yes, I don’t watch it, but I’m familiar with it.

Gabe: Yeah, I loved King of the Hill. I loved that when it was on, I watched every episode when it was brand new. Now, when it was on, I was you know, I was young. I was I think it premiered when I was like 17 years old. And, you know, it ended probably when I was around twenty three, twenty four. And, you know, now with COVID and we can’t do anything, I decided to pop open Hulu and literally watch it from scratch. Now, for those who don’t know, you know, King of the Hill is about this conservative Texas family. This guy, his name is Hank Hill. He sells propane and propane accessories. And he’s this real quiet guy who likes football. And his son, who’s 12, is named Bobby Hill. Now, Bobby is the exact opposite and he talks a mile a minute. He’s a chubby kid. He hates sports. And he’s just a weird, funny little kid. And when I watch it the first time, I very much related to Bobby Hill. Right. He’s just trying to be who he is and make his way in the world and live his best life. I’m 43 years old now and I watch the exact same show again.

Gabe: It didn’t change one iota. And I’m watching it. And I just completely related to Hank Hill. You know, here’s this guy who’s trying to live his best life. He has a kid. He’s got this idea in his head of what being a father is. And he doesn’t know how to connect to his son, who’s the exact opposite as him. And he’s just desperately doing his best. And nothing seems to be working. It’s the exact same show, Rachel. They didn’t change anything. The only thing that changed is I got twenty years older. I think this is why openly discussing our stories and talking about them and keeping them in, whether it’s the public consciousness or the family consciousness, is so important because as Lisa and I have discussed a million times, our parents were dumb as shit when we were kids. And then the minute we turned about 35, we realized they were geniuses, that nothing changed

Lisa: So what you’re saying is then part of the benefit is that you’re able to reinterpret it with new eyes at a later time? I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, Gabe.

Gabe: I think the benefit is that age provides perspective. I could not see things the way that my parents saw things because I was not under the pressures that they were under the reasons that my parents made, the decisions they did when they were raising me is because, well, they had other children to think about. They had a mortgage, they had jobs, they had other responsibilities. Gabe had no understanding of that. I just thought that my dad thought that I was weird and didn’t want to connect with me. And that’s why I liked the Bobby. Well, once I became older and I had my own struggles with managing work and making friends and connecting to the children in my life, I realized that, oh, hey, it’s not that my dad thought that I was a weird little kid that he didn’t like. It’s that my dad just had no idea how to connect with me either. And that’s what I saw in Hank Hill. We often talk about things right when they happen because it’s fresh and the crisis is right there. Can you believe mom did this? Can you believe Gabe said that? Can you believe this bad thing happened? And then we take the whole thing and we ball it up and whatever age and place we were in the world is the only way we ever think about it for the rest of our lives. So, however, Rachel saw her grandfather’s death at 16, becomes how she sees her grandfather’s death for the rest of her life. But by discussing it, by seeing that manuscript, by talking to other family members, you start to realize that there were things that 16 year old Rachel didn’t know. Now, again, I’m speaking a lot for Rachel all of a sudden. What are your thoughts on that?

Rachel: So I interviewed a woman named Dani Shapiro, she is a New York Times best seller and she’s incredible and she’s a memoirist, which it stayed with me. She talked about how when you write about trauma, you can’t write about it right after it happens. The only people that can do that really are poets. You need time and space to look at things. And I definitely agree with that because if I had just thought about my grandfather the way I did when I was 16 and didn’t understand why somebody would take their life, when I thought they had everything, then I would still be stuck in that place of, in a way, feeling like he was selfish. And now, of course, I don’t think of that at all. I understand how somebody could take their life, that there’s so much pain that you wake up every morning, you feel like, what’s the point? And I never could have understood that at that age. Now, again, talking about how we change with age and how there’s that wisdom as we grow older. I remember looking at my parents, too, and thinking like they’re [beep]. Sorry. That they’re idiots. 

Rachel: That they’re idiots because they don’t, they don’t know. And I never want to be anything like them. And now I have teenage daughters and they will say things to me that I just laugh at. Like you don’t know or you’ll never understand or things like that. And I know that in 15, 20 years, they’re going to change the way they look at things. But yes, there is something really amazing about looking at things after having more experience. And I have to say being a parent definitely changes things. I’ve talked about this. I was a kindergarten teacher straight out of college who used to judge parents because they didn’t have time to read to their kids, or they would bribe their kid with candy. And I remember thinking, I will never do that. And then cut to I have my own kids. And so and then I feel guilty for judging them. But I think that, yes, the importance of storytelling is to see different views from different ages, also to talk about it. So, for example, my mom now has a label. We know she’s bipolar. Well, my girls know she’s bipolar. She’ll grow up looking at things differently than she would have had we not been able to talk so openly about it.

Lisa: Ok. Uhm, 

Gabe: Hold up, let me say thank you real quick. 

Gabe: Thank you so much, Rachel, I really appreciate that.

Rachel: Of course.

Lisa: Oh, I didn’t know that’s what you were going to do, OK? I thought you were going to say thank you for being here. I thought, why would you do that when I have a question. But I understand now, never mind.

Gabe: Rachel, I love so much that you don’t have a co-host like that, that’s how you set that up. You got to

Lisa: See how much her life is lacking. Poor thing, I feel so sad for you.

Gabe: No, her life is great. I’m just teasing, Lisa

Rachel: Although, you guys definitely seem to have fun together, and I love that, it’s impressive.

Gabe: I owe her a life debt, like I’m

Lisa: Like Chewbacca,

Gabe: I keep trying to get away from her, but I’m not allowed. I’m

Rachel: She pulls you back in.

Gabe: I mean, that part is kind of true.

Lisa: I try.

Gabe: In a way. We’re joking, right? But as you know, Lisa and I, we are divorced and that is unusual. They’re like, well, if you’re still friends and you like each other, why couldn’t you be married? As if as if

Lisa: We get that a lot.

Gabe: Marriage and friendship is are identical things. But in a way, Lisa knows my whole story with mental illness. That makes her extraordinarily valuable. I think it’s why people want to stay connected to their family so much, because your family knows like your entire childhood, like that’s a lot of bonding. I I’m not trying to say that Lisa and I are only friends because she saved my life. But I think Lisa and I might only be friends because she saved my life. That’s like an incredible thing to connect to people. It’s hard to break. I mean, she also likes Star Wars and that’s pretty bad ass. And we like the same restaurants. That’s

Lisa: No, we don’t,

Gabe: That’s true. We hate it.

Gabe: Us. Trying to pick a restaurant is

Lisa: No, we just go there because you’re too picky,

Gabe: You will only eat at, like these weird restaurants that even Yelp won’t review.

Lisa: All everything you pick is so boring.

Gabe: And yet popular.

Lisa: Any who

Rachel: I love it, I love it.

Lisa: Question for, a question for Rachel, question for the person here. So you’ve talked about the importance of sharing your story publicly on a on a large scale, on a podcast or online or in an article. What about do you feel there’s any value in maybe something on a smaller scale, like sharing with your coworkers or talking to the person standing next to you at McDonald’s?

Rachel: Absolutely, I mean, that’s probably the most powerful right face to face, one on one, that’s like a true connection. And sharing your story by being vulnerable, by opening up yourself, it lets other people take their guards down and open up to you. I say this all the time, but by showing how people can overcome obstacles, like I love highlighting people that have hit real low points whether they were homeless or addicted to crack or whatever it is, and how they were able to ask for help, which feels weak but is actually the strongest, bravest thing you can do and then turn their life around. It’s so inspirational and all you need to hear is one story that can move you into action. So, yes, definitely. I think that’s so powerful that one on one connection.

Gabe: Lisa, I really liked your question and Rachel, I did like your answer. I think that sometimes people believe that things only work on a grand scale. You know, if you can’t have a podcast like Rachel or a podcast like Gabe and Lisa or if you can’t have a huge following in a newspaper or. But that’s like so sad, right? I mean, could you imagine if Lisa would have seen something wrong with Gabe and instead of telling me her story or discussing with me, she would have just let it go and written a blog like that that wouldn’t have found me where I was. I wasn’t searching out this information. So in that way, Lisa is one on one conversation was infinitely more valuable than even the most popular podcast, because I wouldn’t have searched for it. I wouldn’t have read it. I wouldn’t have listened connect it. I thought that was for other people and not for me. And Lisa is one on one conversation with me connected to me where I was. I sincerely think in this age of, you know, how many likes do we have, how many followers, how many hits people forget that one on one conversations have just a tremendous amount of value, especially to the person that you’re having it with. 

Rachel: You talking about the connecting one on one, it just made me think of a story about my husband, who is a entrepreneur, and he’s been in the business world since college and has had some success. And I’m just very proud of him. And someone asked him who his mentor was and who he looked up to. And I would have come up with 10 other people and he mentioned his mom’s friend, this man named Myron, who he’s had multiple conversations with quietly. And it really kind of blew me away that that this one person made these connections and it was those the separate phone calls. And it just goes to show how reaching out and having those conversations one on one is so powerful. And I sometimes get private messages from people. And I have to say, look, I am not a therapist. I just have lived experience, but by me connecting one on one with them privately and making them feel like I do care about them and that they are important and that they can find help has been so impactful for me.

Gabe: My sincere question is it really seems like every single person who has a mental illness or knows somebody with a mental illness immediately thinks that they need to start a podcast, write a memoir or a blog. And I don’t want to stop anybody from following their dreams or putting their information out there. I’m just wondering if some of those people are doing it out of obligation or because they think that’s the only way and are missing out on other ways for them to share. One of the examples that comes to mind is, is somebody hosting a podcast right now that would much rather lead a support group. And instead of leading the support group, they believe that they have to reach more people. And therefore, even though they’d be an incredible support group facilitator, they’re sitting behind a microphone and editing software miserable because after all, they’re reaching more people.

Rachel: There’s probably countless podcasts dealing with mental wellness, I will say the fact that Lady Gaga and it’s every celebrity now is talking about their anxiety or just look at Tic Tok and the teenagers. I mean, it’s almost like

Gabe: It’s very popular,

Rachel: Cool to talk about

Gabe: Yeah.

Rachel: That, what you’re dealing with and struggling with, which, by the way, is fantastic that our kids are talking about it. But does everyone need to be have a podcast? No, probably not. And that was partly why I wanted to make sure that my platform highlighted other people’s stories, because it is important to get stories out there. But, yes, I totally agree with you. I think that there are other platforms that people can share their stories without having to start a podcast. And yeah, absolutely. We do need more support groups and we do need more probably like therapists, especially people of color. We need more cultural sensitivity training. And I would encourage that for sure if you are considering getting in the field and wanting to help.

Lisa: Well, Rachel, thank you so much for being here today, where can our listeners find you

Rachel: So my website is WriteNowRachel.com, that’s write, with a W and I am on all the social media platforms and my podcast is on all the podcasting platforms. Just search Dear Family.

Gabe: It’s an awesome podcast I highly recommend it, and I hope you will check it out on your favorite podcast player or head over to WriteNowRachel.com. And remember it’s write. Like you’re writing.

Rachel: Exactly, and I’m so excited because I’m having Gabe as a guest on my podcast coming up very soon, and we’re going to talk all about him and his family.

Gabe: Yes,

Rachel: Yes.

Gabe: Turnabout is always fair play. Rachel, thank you so much for being here and listeners, stay

Lisa: Yes, thank you.

Gabe: Tuned, because now we’re going to talk behind Rachel’s back.

Rachel: Awesome, I can’t wait to hear it, this later.

Gabe: Of course, again, you can always tune in.

Lisa: Again,

Gabe: In. I don’t. It’s like our favorite joke. You know, we’re going to talk about your behind your back. It’s

Lisa: It’s not our favorite joke.

Gabe: It’s my favorite joke.

Lisa: Why is Rachel interviewing you on the show and not me?

Gabe: Well,

Lisa: Aren’t we a package deal?

Gabe: No, no, no, we’re divorced.

Lisa: Fair.

Gabe: The package deal part of the Gabe and Lisa relationship has long since ended by rule of law. Could you imagine this poor woman? Like she already spent a couple of hours in the studio with us to do this interview, and then we

Lisa: She did.

Gabe: Show up again on her show? For, for real?

Lisa: Ok, there’s a point. She was very patient with us,

Gabe: Do we dislike people 

Lisa: Very good sport,

Gabe: That much?

Lisa: Not her specifically

Gabe: I’m the Star.

Lisa: You are. You’re the Star.

Gabe: Hey, Lisa, we went back and forth a lot when we were designing our show about the personal stories, and I know that I felt a little hypocritical not letting the personal stories on it, because that’s literally my career. I share my story for a living. It’s, that’s my keynote address. It’s literally called This Bipolar Life. And it’s about my life living with bipolar disorder. So I felt a skosh hypocritical. But at the same time, we looked around and there just wasn’t any shows where people were just tackling life or the subject matter through the lens of people living with mental illness. I just want people with mental health issues and mental illness to tell people what they want, advocate for it and fight for it and not be ambiguous. I think that has just as much value as sharing our stories.

Lisa: Of course it does, but why does it have to be one or the other? The whole point is we can have two approaches to this problem.

Gabe: This is the most fascinating thing that we deal with on this show, where people hear that you advocate for one thing and they immediately believe that you are against something else, could you imagine this playing out in the real world? Gabe, what do you want for dinner? Pizza. Oh, you hate spaghetti? You anti-spaghetti? You marching against spaghetti? No, I. I just wanted pizza. I’m not giving any thought to these other things, nor am I trying to push them down or not pay attention to them. And when appropriate, I like spaghetti. I like spaghetti a lot.

Lisa: You just want to make clear that just because this is not something we’re focusing on here; we don’t have anything against it and we support others focusing upon it.

Gabe: Yeah, we also don’t talk about Marvel movies, which I’m obsessed with, but it’s not the space for it.

Lisa: Gabe, your point is that promoting one idea or one approach does not mean that you’re bashing another one.

Gabe: That’s exactly what I’m trying to say. We coulda saved the whole hour. 

Lisa: Yeah,

Gabe: This show could have been 10 minutes.

Lisa: Yeah.

Gabe: Hey, you’re listening to the Not Crazy podcast. This is Gabe. I’m here with Lisa. Lisa gives a quote. Hey, just because we promote one idea does not mean we’re bashing another. There’s room for multiple pathways to recovery. We need to be open to things. Yay! All right. Hey, everybody, thank you for listening to The Psych Central Podcast. Shit.

Lisa: That would be a very odd show for us to have.

Gabe: Yeah,

Lisa: Yeah.

Gabe: This is what happens when your host more than one show, but sincerely, sincerely, all I want people to know is that personal stories have incredible value, as Rachael established better than we ever could. The power of getting in touch with your past, of sharing it with like-minded people, of, she didn’t use these exact words, but of finding your tribe, of making amends with family members. Like this is what openly discussing our stories can do. And it was sad, Lisa, when we got the emails where people were saying, oh, so you’re saying that these stories have no advocacy benefit or that these stories are not a good idea, that you don’t encourage people to promote their stories? I was very bummed that people got that message. The reality, Lisa, is we need them both. Remember when I testified in front of the General Assembly and

Lisa: Mm hmm.

Gabe: Here are all these senators, and if I gave them a fact, their eyes glossed over, if I told them about something bad that happened to me because of these laws or lack of resources, then all of a sudden, their eyes widened like, oh, my, how could this happen to a person? And you and I learned very quickly that the marriage of fact and personal story, the personal story grounds it, the fact gives them an entry point of something to fix. So I am fascinated by this idea that the two things would ever be at odds given how intrinsically connected in my mind they are. Facts are valuable, saying what we want is valuable, advocating for ourselves is valuable. But the reason we do it is always connected to, frankly, something bad, traumatic, or awful that happened to us in the past that we want to ensure doesn’t happen to anybody else ever again. And I think that’s worth discussing.

Lisa: Well, the personal is political.

Gabe: Exactly, I just don’t think it’s worth discussing on the show, not in a bad way.

Lisa: [Laughter]

Gabe: Thank you, everybody, for listening to this week’s Not Crazy podcast. Wherever you downloaded the show, please subscribe. Also rate it, rank it, review it use actual letters to form words to tell people why they should listen as well. I am Gabe Howard. I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations. You can, of course, get it on Amazon, but if you go to gabehoward.com right now and buy the book, I will sign it and I will give you a whole bunch of Not Crazy podcast stickers absolutely free. Don’t believe me? Lisa will hold me to it.

Lisa: Lisa will actually be mailing the books, so no worries, there’ll be stickers in there.

Gabe: Stick around for the outtake at the end of the credits, and we’ll see you next Tuesday.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy Podcast from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. Want to see Gabe and me in person?  Not Crazy travels well. Have us record an episode live at your next event. E-mail show@psychcentral.com for details. 

 

 

 

Podcast: Value of Personal Mental Illness Stories


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Not Crazy Podcast

Not Crazy is the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts. The show is designed to explore all facets of our mental health -- without all the psycho-babble. New Episodes Every Monday on your favorite podcast player.


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APA Reference
Podcast, N. (2020). Podcast: Value of Personal Mental Illness Stories. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-value-of-personal-mental-illness-stories/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 27 Oct 2020 (Originally: 27 Oct 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 27 Oct 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.