Today’s letter is by Gabe Howard, an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders.
The only time I ever saw my father cry was at my grandfather’s funeral. I don’t remember ever seeing him scared. I grew up believing fear and tears were unmanly.
When I was in a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was terrified. I didn’t understand what was happening, nor how to explain it to my family. My mother handles news distribution, so I left it to her to break the news of my failure to my father.
After being released, my parents and grandparents traveled to visit and help me move out of the house I’d shared with my now ex-wife and into an apartment. “Helped” is an understatement. I mostly sat in the corner holding back tears while my family packed, cleaned and loaded the truck.
Watching them do all the work reinforced that I was a failure. I couldn’t succeed as an adult without mommy and daddy rescuing me. I knew my father was ashamed and only helped out of obligation.
But I was wrong. My father was helping because he understood. He told me he’d been down before. He’d failed and had to rebuild. He never mentioned my crying, just helped me pick up the pieces so I could move on.
And move on I did. In addition to my many successes as a mental health advocate, I host a popular podcast ― A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast ― available on 1800 outlets internet-wide. The show has a mature rating because Michelle Hammer, my co-host, likes to swear and because we talk about subjects people like to avoid: sex, drugs and sometimes I cry on the air.
My dad listens. And he’s never been prouder
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