Within minutes of meeting advocate and author Gabe Howard, I was wearing a huge smile. The way he approaches his life with bipolar disorder and mental health is unique to who he is as a person. Unfiltered, humorous and genuine. Recently Howard published his book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole” and I had the privilege of asking him some questions about it.
What inspired you to write the book?
I never wanted to write a book or publish a blog which is why it’s funny that I’ve somehow managed to do both. I really feel like everyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness is prescribed a blog and those of us who are “sicker” get prescribed a book. I say that tongue in cheek, but sometimes I feel like the market is oversaturated and there is no oversight. I didn’t want to contribute to that. . . is what I tell myself. In reality, I just thought I wasn’t good enough. What on earth could a guy from Ohio with bipolar disorder have to offer the rest of the world?
I’m glad I pushed through because it’s been really amazing. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about living with bipolar, and I’ve met so many people. I can’t say that I was ever inspired to write anything, but by forcing myself to write, I’m inspired to keep trying and so far, it works.
The title of your book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole” stands out. How did you come up with it?
Once upon a time, someone wrote a viral article for HuffPost called “3-year-olds Are Assholes,” and that inspired me to write an article called — you guessed it — Mental Illness is an Asshole. People loved it.
The analogy, the comparison, the snark, it resonated with people. At the time, it was the most popular first-week article I had ever written. People came out of the woodwork and complimented it which felt good. I never forgot that feeling. It’s like the first standing ovation for a speaker. It sticks with you and is a milestone to have something you’ve written connect with readers. When I decided to collect a stack of my articles in a book I decided to put that particular article first because it’s my favorite. It will most likely always be my favorite. One thing leads to another and just like that. . . I’m the author of a book titled, “Mental Illness is an Asshole.”
What will people take away from reading this book?
More than anything, I think they’ll take away that mental illness is a terrible illness that can be managed. Some articles have humor — where it’s appropriate of course. I do try to balance education versus entertainment. I don’t want people to be bored — bored people learn nothing. I believe people will laugh a little, cringe a little, but ultimately understand what it means to live with mental illness.
Living with mental illness is different for everyone, and different people will take away different things. The main thing I want people to take away is hope. Hope for a better life, for their loved ones, and for society as a whole. Mental Illness is misunderstood, scary, and unfair. It strikes people when they are young and immature and unprepared to deal with life. I didn’t get through this because I’m better or smarter, I persevere because the people around me convinced me I was capable of doing so. The belief that I could get better is one of the main reasons I’m doing so well today.
Who is going to benefit from reading this book?
It has something for everyone-serious, snarky, inspirational and educational articles. It gives people a glimpse into what it’s like to live with mental illness and answers basic questions that everyone should know. I really don’t think there is anyone on the planet that won’t take away something. That said, it’s intended for people who are newly diagnosed with mental illness, struggling to reach recovery, or for people who know someone with mental illness. I believe those individuals will get the most out of the book.
What is one word to describe this book?
Unorthodox. I really think I broach the topic of living with mental illness in a way that is uncommon or unusual. Not to say other people’s approach to mental illness is good or bad. I just think my approach isn’t typical!
Can people without a mental illness gain something from reading your book?
Without a doubt. Everyone should have basic mental health and mental illness knowledge. Everyone.
“For years, Gabe Howard’s entertaining articles and essays have been educating people about living with mental illness. His observations cover everything from practical advice to family relationships to the fears that people with mental illness experience. In essays such as “Anxiety Says Everyone Hates Me,” “I Have Bipolar and I’m a Hypocrite,” and, yes, “Mental Illness Is an Asshole,” Gabe makes mental illness less scary and more understandable.”