Stigma Reduction — 18 August 2015

“I’m very lucky that in general it’s very manageable”

Bestselling author, video blogger and all around ‘teen whisperer‘ John Green has never held back from being honest about his struggle with mental illness. In March, he took to Twitter to shed light on the stigmatization of antidepressants with a Tweet that was shared more than 5,000 times.

Like millions of others, I take medication to help treat my mental illness. Treating chronic medical conditions must not be stigmatized. – @johngreen

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Thursday, Green answered a question about how he manages his anxiety disorder while doing press junkets. Most recently, he was on the road for Paper Towns, his latest novel to be adapted into a movie. His answer to the question reveals the nuances of living with mental illness.

In a word: Poorly.
(I have OCD and a lot of problems with anxiety.) So I’ve known that I have this mental illness for a long time, and I’ve had a lot of therapy and learned a lot of strategies for dealing with my illness. I know the benefits of exercise and meditation and medication and CBT strategies and etc.
And I try to treat my mental illness the way you would any chronic illness, and I’m very lucky that in general it’s very manageable. But it’s hard to describe just how extreme and overwhelming press junkets are. (I mean, I realize these are the first-worldiest problems possible; I’m just trying to be honest about my experience.)
But I was very lucky to have Nat Wolff with me almost all the time. Nat is a very close friend of mine, and I also trust him a lot. Whenever I got overwhelmed, he would take most of that interview, or he would find ways to distract me. (“Try to get the word ‘Arkansas’ into this interview,” for instance.) But there were a few moments when panic just really took hold of me. Nat and I always joke about this one time in Brazil when I literally lost consciousness for a few seconds (or at least awareness) and asked for a question to be repeated and then said in a small voice, “I’m sorry but I’m having a panic attack,” and then Nat answered the question for me. There were a few moments like that, but mostly I was able to get through it.

CBT refers to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of therapy that helps patients use creative methods to understand and work through emotional issues. The comments on Reddit show that Green’s honesty goes a long way with his fans. One user replied, saying “people do not seem to understand how hard it is,” while another thanked him for his openness, writing “I can’t tell you how often knowing that someone successful is suffering the same conditions that affects me helps me carry on.”

His openness is helping his legions of fans recognize there’s no shame in having a mental illness and even more so, no shame in talking about it.

This article first appeared on ‘Time’ on 13 August 2015.

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