Patreoning it Forward: The Mental Illness Happy Hour
For a long time I would joke that listening to depression-themed podcast represented both therapy and the entirety of my spiritual existence. As is generally the case, this was less a “joke” than a sad statement of face about the true state of my crumbling psyche.
While I love Wrestling with Depression, it has been on hiatus for a while and my first, and deepest love, when it comes to depression-themed podcasts, will always be Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Illness Happy Hour.
I discovered it relatively early in its auspicious run, when I needed it the most. The year was 2011 and I was going not so slowly insane from the pressure of writing two books simultaneously (You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me) while serving as head writer of The A.V Club at a time of great upheaval, drama and tension. I was at the height of my career professionally and falling apart at the seams. Like Gilmartin, I knew all too well what it felt like to look dazzlingly successful from the outside and feel like an empty fraud from the inside.
It meant the world to me to be able to slip on my iPod and listen to Paul Gilmartin and his fearless guests talk so powerfully and candidly and engagingly about their struggles with mental illness, depression, anxiety and despair. To paraphrase the podcast’s motto, it made me feel less alone.
I was comforted by Gilmartin’s voice, both literally and metaphorically. But I was even more comforted by the idea that so many people wrestled with pain like my own, and managed to find a way to not only survive but thrive. It was weirdly revelatory hearing someone like Paul F. Tompkins, whom I naturally assume is perfect, and has led a perfect life, wrestles the kinds of formidable demons the rest of us depressives do.
I had the honor of being a guest on Mental Illness Happy Hour. I haven’t listened to it since it “dropped” as the young people say, and probably never will, on account it’s deeply painful for me to listen to my own voice for longer than a few minutes, but if you want to hear a dude you’re probably at least familiar with on an amazing podcast early in its run you can find it here.
I also originally wrote my essay about getting sued by American Express on the Mental Illness blog before Gawker asked to re-run it. It’s a good one! Boy, I have been writing about being broke nearly as much and as often as I have been writing about being depressed. I wonder if there’s some manner of connection between the two?
In the intervening seven years I have listened religiously to Mental Illness Happy Hour. Like many Mental Illness Happy Hour listeners, I feel like I’m part of a virtual support group with its host. When he got divorced, I mourned the death of a semi-stranger’s marriage. When his beloved dog died, I was even more distraught about the death of a dog I had never met and did not know.
Like me, Paul Gilmartin had a steady, high-profile job in entertainment as the host of Dinner and a Movie for 16 years before embarking on the scary but exhilarating adventure of making a depression-themed podcast his career and life, just as I wrote for The A.V Club for 16 years before deciding to venture out and fail on my own.
Like me, Gilmartin is funded through Patreon these days. I cannot recommend his page or his website highly enough. If you wrestle with depression the way I do, it’s not just entertaining and diverting: it’s cathartic and sometimes even therapeutic. Gilmartin is doing important, even invaluable work with his podcast. He deserves to be able to make a good living at it and build his podcast into an even bigger cultural force for good in the universe.
So please do contribute to the Mental Illness Happy Hour here https://www.patreon.com/mentalpod
and, of course, to the Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place because I’m trying, man, and some days it’s tough over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace