Let This Man’s Courage Open Your Heart about Mental Illness

I recently saw a video of a brave man who recorded himself at the tail end of a panic attack. I’ve included it below if you’d like to see it. Please note, there is some vulgar language (one instance of the F word), and the volume is very low so you’ll need to turn it up quite a bit:

As an empath and someone who deals with anxiety myself, I could feel deep into his heart as he shared his experience. I was heartbroken for him, scared with him, and incredibly proud of his courage.

To no surprise, there were some comments online about this guy being weak (I’ll spare you the actual word that was used) and a crybaby.

<start rant>

I’m guessing these ignorant comments were made by people who haven’t a clue what it feels like to experience an anxiety or panic attack. Don’t you think if he could “man up” he would? Do you think he enjoys feeling this way?  He made a profound statement in his video: “Asking me to suck it up is like asking a blind person to see.”

The term “mentally ill” has such a stigma to it, and it sparks images of psychotic killers or people in padded rooms, drooling on themselves (thanks, Hollywood). While those circumstances can occur, my guess is they’re in the extreme minority.

Those who live with depression, anxiety, panic, bipolar, PTSD, or schizophrenia have enough to deal with. The last thing needed is judgment and ridicule. It’s no wonder so many suffer in silence. If you don’t “get it” and are incapable of practicing compassion despite that fact, then keep your mouth shut (or your fingers off the keyboard). Don’t add to someone’s pain.

</end rant>

According to the latest statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year. That’s a pretty significant number, yet the taboo-ness of it makes many feel alone. Maybe if there was more understanding and less ridicule, more people would seek help and support.

It’s so nice to talk with someone else who has experienced anxiety or panic (in the true clinical definition of those words. I hear lots of people loosely say, “OMG, I totally had a panic attack,” when what they experienced was not even close. That’s a whole other blog post!). To not have to try and explain the feeling, and instead, just be supported and reassured is such a gift.

So my challenge to you this week is to practice compassion toward someone with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. If you have a loved one who struggles with these conditions, listen to them. Even if you can’t comprehend at all what they’re feeling, just be a loving space for them to sink into. I know it’s not an easy job because you just want to fix things for them, but you can’t. What you can do is reassure them that they’re safe and loved.

If you don’t know anyone personally, send love to the guy in the video above. Trust me. He’ll feel it. Maybe even write a supportive comment on his YouTube post.

It’s time to open our collective hearts and raise our voices to put an end to the bias and silence.

If you’d like to join this conversation, share your thoughts in the comments below. Trust me, I’ll keep this a safe place. If you’d rather share privately, you may email me at kerri@kerririchardson.com.

Until next week, keep taking those steps to Live Out Loud.

4 replies
  1. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Thank you for your caring thoughts about persons with mental illness. For over 40 years, I watched my husband struggle with bipolar depression. Unless he was on the correct “cocktail” of prescriptions, he suffered terribly. For years, before he got on the right meds, I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t be “happy” in our life. I really didn’t get it. Now I do. But now, he’s also much better. We are lucky that his prescriptions are partially covered by his insurance because they are expensive. But worth EVERY penny.
    Most members of his family struggle in one way or another with mental illness.
    Thanks for bringing this topic forward.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for sharing, Virginia. I have friends who have bipolar as well. It’s a tricky one to treat as you do need to find that right combination of medicine. So great that your husband (and you!) persevered. As the spouse, I’m sure, at times, you wondered what you were doing, or not doing, to make him so unhappy. It can be challenging to remember that it’s not you. It’s the illness. I’m sending you and your husband lots of love, and wishes for years more of happiness and health. <3

  2. Pat
    Pat says:

    Hey, Kerri

    In my opinion, the people who respond to this man’s courage and vulnerability with put-downs are at least as mentally ill as he is — probably more so. Maybe they don’t seek constructive help for their inability to empathize because they are getting a temporary fix by “leveling” and inflicting pain on someone else, but that’ll come around to bite them in the end. Behavior like that destroys relationships, and eventually these Macho types will find themselves alone, miserable, and desperately in need of the understanding they have been denying to others. Karma can be a stern taskmaster. Another test of compassion, then, will be when the Macho types find the courage to reach out — if they ever get lucky enough to realize that they need to. Perhaps the man in the video has traveled this path. He says he has always been the type to say “You’ve gotta man up . . . ” I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I just had surgery yesterday, so maybe I’m still feeling the anesthesia 🙂 Blessings to all who have struggled with metal illness, and to all who have been injured by the cruelty of others. Pat


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