Series 40: For the Love of the Elephant in the Room | Episode 06
Elephants in the Room Part 6: Accepting The Reality of Mental Health Issues And Their Impact with Jamie Tworkowski
In the tail-end of this series, we really acknowledge some of the bigger elephants in the room we all face each and every day. And this week’s elephant is a big one that likely we’ve all experienced first hand or with those we love. Mental health disorders have been around for as long as we’ve been walking the planet, but bringing them out of the dark has been a fairly recent phenomenon. Even as recently as 3 or 4 decades ago, depression and anxiety were rarely diagnosed as clinical disorders, and in previous generations, people with more profound issues that are now treatable were hidden away from society by their families or locked up in institutions. And while there have been huge strides made in the past or so regarding treatment of now commonly diagnosed mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, there is still reticence to recognize its impact and shame taken on by those who deal with it. The time has come to bring these issues out of the dark as we see the growing impact of unchecked mental illness and where it leads for those who don’t know where or how to get help. One of the people that’s leading the charge toward legitimizing mental health conditions in a bigger way is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, Jamie Tworkowski. Jamie founded TWLOHA after guiding a friend through her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. He saw the need for guidance in this space and created a world-renowned organization that offers resources and help to those who need it most. Jen and Jamie talk about the painful process of loving our people when they are hurting, how to give our own selves grace when we struggle, and why mental health needs to be treated as seriously as physical health.
Content Warning: This episode addresses hard topics including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, so it may not be suitable for young listeners or individuals on the path to healing.
Hey everybody, Jen Hatmaker here. Your host of the For The Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. Right now, we are in a series called For The Love Of The Elephant In The Room. We decided as a podcast team that at the start of the year, let’s tackle hard conversations. And rather than continue to avoid them forever, what if we just face them head on? And so we put this whole series together filled with topics that in some ways are easier to ignore, but really do warrant our attention and our investment. And I just knew that we could not have a complete series to give to this community without talking about mental health and wellness.
So I don’t know about y’all, but growing up in my world, we just did not talk about this. Mental health wasn’t even a thing I ever heard. I never even heard that phrase. If someone was struggling, we just assumed they were having a bad day or a bad month. We didn’t even have the terminology to see if someone might be suffering truly from something greater than just like the blues or a rough patch. I think those are probably all the things we would’ve said back then. Now, fortunately, the world is tuning in here in a much bigger way. And I know a little something about all this firsthand. I bet most of you do too because our mental health, if not attended to, will eventually affect our physical health because our bodies are wired to give us these alarm bells when something’s out of whack. So I’m just really grateful we’re not left to our own devices to figure this out anymore and that we’re not alone.
Mental health literally affects every human person. So this requires the same level of attention and care as any physical ailment we experience. And so if this is something that makes you uncomfortable, or scared, or even ashamed, we are here to tell you it is okay to talk about it, it is okay to reach out, it’s okay to admit something is wrong, it is okay to seek help. You know that I did. I shoved my own anxiety down for so long that I ended up in the ER with catastrophic blood pressure. Tears just flowed out of my eyes running down my face. And right that second, I’m looking at my doctor and I’m saying to him things like, “I’m okay. I need you to know that I’m strong. I don’t know what is happening, but I am actually really strong.”
All evidence to the contrary. And so my doctor, bless him, he put his sweet little hand on my shoulder and he was like, “You’ve experienced trauma and your body has just taken you as far as it can go. And now this is your body saying, ‘Please, you need to stop and get help.’” Well, first of all, I tackled my blood pressure issue, but then that’s when I went on an anti-depressant and my doctor prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication for when I was spiking. And then I was in counseling. So this matrix of factors pulled me up from the bottom of the ocean and set my feet on a solid path again until for me, my mental health was strong again. So that’s what we’re talking about today.
We have an incredible elephant confronter if you will, with our guest today. And he’s spent most of his adult life walking his community through mental health concerns, naming them by name and he’ll talk about this. But his initiation to this world was when a friend was deeply struggling with a gamut of mental health crises and he saw the lack of resources for her and wondered if there was another avenue for people to feel, not just safe and heard, but to access the help that they need and get the intervention that they need when they need it. So this led him to creating a mental health and suicide prevention organization that’s changed so many people’s lives. I can’t even imagine how many. He’ll probably never know, but his organization is called To Write Love on Her Arms. I’m so thrilled to welcome my friend, Jamie Tworkowski, to the show today.
So Jamie, let me tell you about him if you don’t already know. He is a New York Times bestselling author of If You Feel Too Much, his book which we’ll discuss here in a second. And then after founding To Write Love, he reached millions of people and provided guidance, and help, and lifelines to people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Jamie is also a two-time TEDx speaker. He’s traveled the world speaking at universities, and concerts, and conferences, and events. And he’s been interviewed by Rolling Stone, and NBC Nightly News, and my personal favorite as you know, CBS Sunday Morning. Jamie’s work has impacted a whole generation of people. And his compassion is really extraordinary. And his understanding of this, after so many years in the field, is really deep and important. I’m just really thankful to know him.
I’m so glad he’s in my life and super thrilled to support everything he does. And so this is a great conversation. I hope that you hear something today that encourages you, or helps you feel seen, or gives you maybe even the next one or two steps forward. I think you’re going to love it. So I am super glad to share this great conversation with my friend, Jamie Tworkowski.
Books and Resources Mentioned in this Episode
If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For
by Jamie Tworkowski
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XO – Team Jen