Hope & Healing Podcast


John Moe on Openness, Honesty and Jokes


John Moe is a podcaster and speaker based in Saint Paul, Minnesota and the author of The Hilarious World of Depression. He believes that open and honest conversation about mental illness is one of the best paths available to removing the stigma around the issue and helping society find some healing. He also believes that humor definitely has a place in discussions of mental health. In this interview with Children’s Center’s Matthew Butte, John tells of his own journey and what he’s learned about helping himself and helping others.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Matthew: Well, John, first of all, it’s really good to see you again. And thank you so much for all you’re doing for us as Children’s Center. We were delighted to have you join us for our fundraiser in June and then your kind invitation to work with us on this podcast. So thank you very much. And of course, if we were, as you know, if you were here in person, I would put the kettle on as is our custom in my homeland and offer a cup of tea to you.

But as you’re not here. I am curious, what is it that you’re drinking?

[00:00:30] John: I just got done with a big cup of coffee, my, my afternoon fortification of caffeine. But I switched over to the mango flavored bubbly seltzer water.

[00:00:41] Matthew: Well, no surprise, I’m here with my Earl Grey tea. You know, you talk in your, in your podcast and then in your book about the funny side effects.

Depression. And most of us really don’t think about depression as being very funny. And so maybe as we get started, perhaps that would be a great place to start. What’s, what’s funny about depression? To me,

[00:01:04] John: it is this mysterious force within A mind that serves no purpose other than to make you feel terrible.

I just don’t see the, the evolutionary point of depression, but there it is. And anytime a comedian can kind of bend reality a little bit, can kind of point out what’s ridiculous in the world what’s ridiculous in human behavior, you know, the, the foibles of family life or dating or whatever. That comic concentrates on, it’s sort of your world reinterpreted a little bit.

And I think that’s what depression does. Like it, it Dick Cavett had the famous analogy of it’s like, there’s something on the table that you could take to get rid of all of these bad feelings and all of this bleakness that you have, but you just can’t reach over to the table to pick it up.

Because you’re too depressed. It’s kind of a, an inherently comic situation to me. Was

[00:02:06] Matthew: there a moment where that That perspective came to you or particularly funny or maybe one of the people that you interview what

[00:02:13] John: yeah, I’ve just comedy has always been a really important part of my life when I grew up in, you know, the 1970s and 1980s I grew up with older siblings and getting to stay up to watch Saturday night live the old, you know, original cast version of Saturday night live was about the most exciting thing I could think of.

And then my family would gather to watch. The Carol Burnett show and all these comedies, Monty Python, when it was on PBS we would just gather around to, to watch these things. And I think, I think again, I associated with some escapism, like where, however bleak the world might be due to the depression or due to family issues that you might be having.

Here is this reinterpretation of the world through comedy that I found really refreshing. So it was this sort of escapism, and for me, tied with this family bond that I had. We had alcohol in our family. My, my father had a substance use disorder. And so there was a lot of things, a lot of connections within the family that were strained, I think, as a result of that.

With the person, you know, at the head of the table not being really a reliable figure due to the alcohol, due to the disorder that he had. But we could gather together to watch you know, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We could gather together to watch Even like happy days or some of the taxis, some of these situation comedies.

And so that, that was a really strong thing to me. So I, I kind of always felt like humor can protect me and it could, it could get me noticed, which I really craved, you know, when I could make some jokes that would get laughs I was able to, to kind of, to find an escape there too. So as I grew older and my depression developed in middle school and on to high school and beyond I always kind of kept comedy close to my heart.

It was so much more than entertainment to me. It was this a legitimate kind of alternative universe that I could visit.

[00:04:22] Matthew: You also describe in the book Depression is this close friend that’s trying to kill you, which is just not a very good friend. But how, what have you done in his comedy given what you’ve just said is what have you done to make this friend less dangerous?

[00:04:40] John: Well, I think part of it is recognizing that the, the distortions that something like a major depressive disorder can create these contradictory thoughts of nobody knows who I am, yet everybody is saying horrible things about me behind my back. The, the ridiculousness of, of depression, you know, the, the the bleakness that you can mistake for the reality of the world.

But but then you have to know that it is a distortion. It is a, a, a fake world that’s being painted onto the real one. I deal with that, that friend who wants to kill me by, by recognizing that, that it’s wrong, that, that he’s incorrect about. What he’s presenting and that, you know, he is trying to kill me and, and, but in a kind of inept way for the time being, ideally through cognitive behavioral therapy and through just a lot of kind of working on myself.

I can see when the distortion start forming. I can see when the, the bleak worldview starts emerging or when the, the self incrimination begins, I can kind of, it’s a matter, it’s time consuming and it, and it takes a lot of work. But I can stop. I can say, okay, that’s a distortion. Let’s reroute that.

Let’s check in with reality. You know, does everybody really hate you in the world? Well, that seems unlikely. You know, the evidence suggests otherwise. And then I can kind of neutralize the depression and, and recognize it for the, for the unreal quality that it actually has.

[00:06:21] Matthew: Given your reference there to cognitive behavioral therapy, it seems that therapy has had a significant role in helping you.

Team that friend that wants to harm you. As you know, you’ve been in our building. I’m in a, in a building with a whole host of therapists, and of course, we deeply believe that therapy has a very important part in bringing about healing and recovery and hope. Can you talk a little bit more about your experience of therapy?

[00:06:50] John: Yeah, I mean, I, as I talk about in the book, I tried a lot of therapists over the years, and some of them, I’ve compared it to dating. I mean, I’ve been married for 28 years, so I don’t remember dating very clearly, but from what I, from what I recall the analogy kind of works. Sometimes somebody’s a perfectly nice person and you just don’t hit it off.

So I’ve, I’ve had some of those therapists where I just didn’t feel like we were on the same page. I didn’t feel like they, they understood on a, a kind of deep level what I was going through. But I’ve also had therapists earlier on where I wasn’t really prepared. To do the work. I kind of thought of therapy as something that was done to me.

Like, I would go in, answer a few questions, and then this therapist would say, Well, here’s what’s wrong with you. Here’s what you can do to fix it. I kind of saw it a lot like getting your car repaired. And, Only in the last several years even after I had started talking making podcasts about mental health, I finally found a therapist and headed off with them and was prepared to do the work, was prepared to go in each time and do some hard thinking, some hard connecting and some hard work that goes along with it.

And only then did I start to get A real benefit from it, and I’ve been with that therapist now for, gosh, four or five years, and it’s, it’s been a really great relationship.

[00:08:23] Matthew: Excellent. Was, was that this therapist that helped you understand that, hey, John, you can’t just come into the room and I’m going to fix this for you, or, what, what kind of brought about that shift in your thinking?

[00:08:36] John: It was, it was interviewing people, really. I interviewed a lot of people who some of the, some of them were really still deep in the mud of trying to fight this thing and other people had moved on to a, a better place. But what I, I noticed is, is that by having some of these conversations and really concentrating on what people were saying and making the connections between, Oh, okay, this, you know, this is some trauma that happened earlier in your life.

And then this is how it’s manifesting later in your life. Once I could see that in other people, I thought, Okay, I need to do that work on myself. I need to, to figure out how this, how this thing operates. I mean, to, to return to the car analogy, it’s a matter of figuring out how How this car works, you know, where is, where is the ignition, where are the brakes, where’s the, the accelerator you know, applying that same way of thinking to your mind.

Like if I’m going to be walking around with this mind for the rest of my life, I should know what triggers it into depressive thinking. I should know what triggers its anxiety and panic responses and, you know, what, what issue does a sense of abandonment play into all of this? What, what role does a need for recognition play into the decisions that I make?

And where does that need for recognition come from? And it’s, it’s not necessarily a matter of realizing what the issue is and then solving it, but at least knowing how, how you operate. And navigating your way around the world with that knowledge is extremely helpful to me.

[00:10:23] Matthew: In interviewing other people that you began to realize that you can’t just show up to therapy, that there’s the work is involved.

And it just resonated with me that that importance of community. in bringing about hope and healing and curious if you can say a bit more about that. What does your community look like now that continues to support you in the path to recovery and wellness?

[00:10:48] John: Yeah, I mean, it all starts with my family.

And I have three I’m married, as I mentioned, and we have three kids. Two of them are grown. And We’ve, we’ve made no secret about what mental health is and the fact that, that I am somebody who deals with depressive disorder. We’ve been very open with the kids from, from the beginning about that.

To demystify it and to make it not not scary, make it kind of a routine thing. You know, my, my wife gets migraine headaches and the kids know that that means that sometimes she’s out of commission for a little while. She needs to take certain medicines. She has ways of, of dealing with it. She’s still mom and she’s going to be fine, but it’s just something that she deals with.

So they know that, that I deal with a depressive disorder. They know that I take medication. They know that I see a therapist and I tell them, you know, that’s, that’s how I manage it. And they’ve asked me, well, what happens if I grow up and I have that too? I’m like, well, then we make a plan. Then we come up with some treatment ideas.

We try them out. We see what works for you. And then we go forward from there. So The most important community to me is my family. I’ve also, through the work that I’ve been doing, especially with the podcast there’s been a lot of community showing up online around the efforts of the podcast. We have a Facebook group that, it’s funny, you know, we have all these people, hundreds and hundreds of people in this Facebook group, and sometimes they talk about what they heard on the show, but a lot of times they’ll say, you You know, I’m having a real problem with with my anxiety when it comes to going to the dentist.

Does anybody else run into that? And someone will say, Oh yeah, I run into that. Here’s something that I’ve tried that really helps. And so it’s this community of people supporting each other by way of the show, but not even directly about the show. And that’s like seeing that I’ve. I’ve engendered that community that I’ve, I’ve created this space for people to be supporting each other is, is a really wonderful thing to see.

[00:13:03] Matthew: Impacting so many people, John. Was that, was that the vision all the in your work as you kind of started to talk and write about this?

[00:13:11] John: Well, you know, I as I, I talk about in the book and I talk about in lots of other places, so it’s not, No need for a spoiler alert, but I lost my brother to suicide and he died in part because he was dealing with a substance use issue with, with drugs and with depression and he had found sobriety.

from his substance use issue. He was, he volunteered on a Narcotics Anonymous hotline. He, he was very open with talking to people about his experience, but he couldn’t apply the same thing to depression. He thought that he was doing something wrong. He thought he was disappointing people as if it was a choice, as if it was a A choice anybody would make to feel that way.

And after he died, I kind of at his memorial service, I had a revelation where I thought if he had found more people to talk about this with, then he might. not have died that day. And if he didn’t die that day, maybe he could have made it through some other days and maybe there could have, he could have strung enough together to start getting more help and maybe he’d still be around.

So if we talk about it, there’s a better chance that people will be around. If we don’t talk about it, we’re just enabling that loneliness and that isolation and that despair that leads to the most horrific of outcomes. And, Standing there in that church lobby at, at that memorial, I thought, well, I’ll talk about it.

You know, I, I’m not a politician. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a therapist. But I can put sentences together and I know where microphones are and I can start talking about it as much as I can. So yeah, that became, that became a real mission that day. Not, you know, too late to save my brother, but perhaps not too late to save somebody else’s brother or sister or mom or dad or kid.

[00:15:12] Matthew: Your book does have a lot of humor, and we’ll talk about that, but it is very, very difficult reading at times as you bravely, courageously talk about your brother and his experiences, and we’re just so sorry for what happened, and thank you for trying to save more lives, and in our state, as you know, suicide is the leading, second leading cause Thanks.

of death for ages 10 to 24, it is, it’s a crisis in this country and we see more and more of the, the youth that come into our center struggling with suicidal thoughts. What is it do you think that prevents people from?

[00:15:52] John: I think it’s scary, you know, I, I think it’s a really terrifying topic. And that’s why people don’t talk about it. I mean, it doesn’t have to be. And I, I certainly with the work that. That you and I are doing, we’re trying to take away that, that fear element. But here’s this thing that is that doesn’t show up on an x ray or an MRI.

It’s not like a broken leg, you know, where you can see, Oh, that’s where the, that’s where the fracture occurred. You can’t see where the fracture occurs in the human mind. And. It can, you know, knowing that it can be severe and it can, it can really be disruptive. I think it doesn’t help that we live in a society that does so much othering of people with mental illness.

I mean, traditionally, you think of You think of cultural portrayals of mental illness, you think of Anthony Perkins in Psycho. And, you know, I grew up, I wasn’t allowed to see that movie, but I didn’t really want to because it looked really scary. But I thought, oh, okay, if you’re mentally ill, that means you’re going to murder people.

And that’s, I mean, obviously we know that somebody with a mental illness is infinitely more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator of a violent crime. But you know, it’s, it’s this idea that that you might be like, like Norman Bates, or you might. Be strapped into a straight jacket and put in a padded room all these You know cliche outdated cultural portrayals that are still very much in our consciousness I think that puts people off.

I think that frightens people and and I think that can That can keep people away. And it’s also a vulnerable thing to do to, to talk about what’s wrong, you know especially, especially for, for young people, especially for men, you know, all these people in minority groups you know, anybody who needs, has this need to, to appear strong.

You know, it’s, it’s a, it’s a scary thing to do to, to come out and talk about a mental health issue.

[00:18:11] Matthew: And the more, I think you mentioned just moments ago in the introduction to your book, the more we talk about it, the more people are likely to get better. And that’s what we hope to do here that you’ve been doing for a very long time.

Speaking of talking about it, if the, you talk about yourself at junior high, this lad, Struggling with what you can see now is depression. What would you say to him, knowing what you do now, if you were to meet that chap again?

[00:18:41] John: Well, it would be an awkward conversation, I think. But, But I think, the thing that I wish I knew when I was that age, is that this thing has a name.

Because I didn’t know anybody else who was going through what I was going through. Everybody else seemed fine. And so I thought, well, This, these swirling thoughts, this bleakness that I’m feeling this inability to concentrate, this weepiness that I’m experiencing, that has a name, and you’re not the first person to have it.

The old expression that the, The best thing you can tell somebody with a mental health problem is that you’re not so special, you know, and anything that you’re going through somebody else has gone through it and You know friend of mine Maria Bamford the comedian says not only is somebody else going through it They’ve probably written a book and you can maybe go see them on their book tour to talk about the the very issue that That you’re that you’re dealing with.

I mean I would have brought the diagnostic and statistical manual with me to meet the junior high me and explain, here’s what a major depressive disorder is. It’s funny cause I’ve, I wrote this book, the book came out and, and there is a lot about my junior high years. And I’ve started hearing from people who I went to junior high with and including this one woman who, who I knew, who was a cheerleader in junior high.

And, and she said, well, I didn’t think that you were going through anything like that because you were always so funny. You were always, you know, a performer and, and you know, class president in eighth grade and all these things and, and getting up in front of audiences. You seemed really confident. You couldn’t have something like depression.

And I said, well, yeah, I, I did. And, and she says, well, I, I did too. And I said, but you were a cheerleader. You were, you know, you were always smiling, you were always jumping around and, and so positive. And we both kind of realized, oh, okay, that that’s not necessarily something that makes it impossible to have something like this.

You know, anybody could have this regardless of how they spend their day. Yeah.

[00:20:54] Matthew: And if the two of you could have talked about it, then what difference that may have made that you are not alone.

[00:21:01] John: Yeah. I don’t think we had the vocabulary. You know, which is why, I mean, I am so inspired by my kids and by their friends and how openly they’re able to talk about it now.

I mean, as I see the, the very bleak suicide rates and, and the, the damage that something like COVID did on the mental health of. Everybody but especially our most vulnerable groups I, to me, that’s where the hope is, is that that openness is something that we didn’t have when we were young and they have that now.

They have an awareness. They, they know what these things are. They’re taught in schools in many cases which makes me extremely hopeful that, that we can start heading in a different direction.


[00:21:48] Matthew: Yeah. That the, the tools that. We did not have in school. They, they now have more of them for sure. And in our instance, some therapists actually on the side of schools, which makes that access to treatment even easier.

You talk about in the book to a lot about not just junior high for you, but you put your family and particularly it’s the trauma. that existed then, or, or the trauma that existed. As you’ve grown in, in awareness around kind of the meaning of trauma, or experience of trauma, how’s that helped you in your own journey to wellness and recovery?

[00:22:24] John: It’s seeing where problems might have come from. I had a lot of anger with my dad for, for being somebody who struggled with, with alcohol, with a substance use disorder related to alcohol. It didn’t

occur to me that

[00:22:41] John: That comes from somewhere you know, either it’s, it’s genetic and there might be a genetic component to it, but also he grew up from ages nine through 14 under the Nazi occupation of Norway during World War II.

He was born in 31. His father, my grandfather was a printer and would print the underground newspaper, the resistance newspaper, one of the resistance newspapers and at his print shop. And then they would roll the newspapers up really tight, put them in the handlebars of their son’s bikes, and then their sons would bike around Oslo delivering these papers.

And, It’s a beautiful story and it’s, you know, the visuals are, are so striking. And my dad used to tell this story of how he, how he did this. And only later after he had passed away, did I think that was trauma. Like your country is overrun by Nazis. People are disappearing left and right, and you don’t know how long they’re going to be there or if they’re going to be there forever.

And then you do this. This move to deliver these papers that could easily have gotten him killed, you know at when you’re 10 years old And I I think in in Wartime Europe and in post war Europe, they didn’t have access to a lot of therapists. There wasn’t the friendly neighborhood cognitive behavioral therapist available, but there was vodka.

And if you are dealing with trauma, something like, like alcohol can make it go away for a little while, can numb you up for a little while, can take away the feels. And that developed into a dependency with them. And so I think there’s, I think if you trace back a lot of problems, I used to be more of a believer that 50 percent of a mental health problem would be genetic, 50 percent of the cause would be environmental or experiential.

I, I, after talking to so many people. Over so many years now, I tilt way more towards the environmental experiential side and to trauma to, to traumatic experiences that people have had, whether it’s a, a simple trauma, you know, the, the death of somebody close to you or a car accident that, that happens, or if it’s a kind of complex trauma of like many, many years, of neglect growing up from a parent who’s having problems of their own.

You know, these are all I, the, the trauma that, that can be spread out over a long period of time or connected to a lot of different reasons is still trauma. And I think that can still cause a lot of problems.

[00:25:37] Matthew: Thank you, John. It sounds like that allows you to have a lot more grace for those. Your father and others who, who are struggling when you, when you know that trauma has that level of impact upon people.

[00:25:52] John: And I think we’re, you know, it feels like even a few years ago we didn’t talk about trauma as much as we do now, and I think it’s again, it’s Possibly because it’s a really scary topic that that people don’t want to talk about but I think It’s starting to open up more and I think there’s more awareness of it now than there used to be and that’s a good thing

[00:26:13] Matthew: And appreciate John again you leading the way in being willing to talk about these difficult things and certainly not talking about them Hasn’t worked for us So it is good to see that we’re, we’re learning that lesson and, and having good role models in you and others who are willing to share, to share your story.

And speaking of sharing your story, you have this wonderful story, many wonderful stories, but one of the funny stories in your book is your time at Amazon. And I wonder if you could just share that with those that are listening, because you worked on a secret project, if I remember, while at Amazon.

[00:26:50] John: Yeah, I worked for for a little while, Amazon offered electronic greeting cards that were free, and so there was no way to make any money off them, so it was a, a sort of bizarre project within, within Amazon. And this was in the, I started there in the very late nineties. So the company had existed for a little while, but it was still pretty new.

And I was hired on with very little qualification and no experience to run a electronic greeting card store. I was bad at it and and it was a an overwhelming kind of place. And, i, I kind of had my first, as an adult, my first real experience with a kind of bleak depression because there weren’t any rules to what we were doing.

There wasn’t a way of doing things. We had to kind of invent our jobs as we did our jobs, which was extremely stressful. I had I had a, a very demanding boss who, who wanted to. Wanted the site to succeed and there wasn’t any clear metric on how to make it succeed. And so I would take the bus down, downtown.

My office was in downtown Seattle and I would take the, the bus downtown. And one day I just had the thought of, well, maybe I should die. And it, it came, I remember exactly where on first Avenue I had this thought in Seattle. It was right by the, the art museum. And it. It struck me as so, such a strange thought to be, you know, and I didn’t know what the term suicidal ideation was at the time, but to have this thought over electronic greeting cards, which are the things that you send when you really don’t care much about somebody at all, you know, when you can’t be bothered to text you send an electronic greeting card and and it, it was such a It was such a disproportionate thought.

To the reality of the situation that I remember laughing out loud, just on the bus, just, you know, just at my own thoughts that I had, it was the first indication that what I had was a stress responsive depression. And so. That always would flare up in a kind of pressure packed, deadline driven situation where, you know, when the going got tough, I got bleak and I was able to finally learn that about myself and kind of safeguard it like, okay, now, you know, you’re working on.

A project you’re working on a, a greeting card site or later a radio show or a podcast and you’re really in crunch time be, be ready for the depression because it’s going to, it’s going to show up and so then I’m ready. I look for the distortions, I correct them with a recognition of reality and then I’m mostly okay.

[00:29:57] Matthew: You mentioned those trigger points that cause the thoughts as you describe as you’re, you’re on the bus and another. Aspects of depression so you watch for those and then what what do you do?

[00:30:10] John: Like I’m self employed right now I’m I’m I work for myself. I do a lot of different projects And so when you’re when you’re self employed you think well, what if nobody else wants to work with me ever again on any kind of project Meanwhile, I’ve got a lot of projects that I’m juggling in.

We’re here for you.

[00:30:28] Matthew: John. We’re right here. Thank

[00:30:30] John: you thank you good to know and You know, but the But like, Oh, if nobody else wants to work with me, then, you know, I’m going to, I’m going to run out of money and then I’m going to lose my, my house and my family won’t, won’t want anything to do with me. And I’ll, you know, and you start spiraling into these into these distortions.

That’s when I stop and I say, okay. Over the last several years, have people wanted to work with you consistently? Well, yes, they have. So is it more likely that that will continue? Yes, it is more likely. Is it likely that everything will just go away suddenly? No, that is unlikely. Okay, then let’s, let’s proceed with that recognition of reality.

So it’s, it’s, again, it’s time consuming sometimes because, you know, I sometimes just have to like, stop staring to the middle distance, get my thoughts in order, and then I’m able to continue. And and that helps a lot.

[00:31:32] Matthew: Is that process, I’m curious because you’re a writer. Do you, do you write that out? I mean, you.

journaling that, or what’s, I guess, curious as to what

[00:31:42] John: you I should, I should do that, that journaling. I . I’m not suggesting

[00:31:47] Matthew: you should, John, I’m just curious. , if you do. Yeah. Well, it’s clearly working. Whatever you’re doing, so

[00:31:54] John: yeah, I mean, it’s. It’s mostly a thought process that happens, you know, much quicker than that.

Like all I can stop, I can get the kind of corrective thoughts in order and it can only, it can sometimes only take a second or two. It’s like wobbling. If you’re walking across a narrow surface and you wobble like it’s that it’s the. mental equivalent of, you know, you stretch out your arms, you balance yourself, you stop, and then you can continue.

Like that, that’s, it’s an instinctive thought process that, that I can get back on.

[00:32:32] Matthew: I I’m curious for You mentioned the kind of mental process you go through when, when those acts of depression or those triggers of depression are coming, the symptoms of depression. What about, given your work and you’re self employed, you’ve got so many projects going, what, what do you opt to do?

What, what helps the most? Is it working on the podcast and the radio piece, talking to other people, or is it going to your writing and working on the next book? Where Where’s the best place for John to be at those times?

[00:33:06] John: When you mean when things are getting a little sideways? Yeah. Yeah. I, to me, to me, those are the times I need to get away from work.

And so. It might be a long walk with the dogs. I have two very demanding dogs that that don’t understand why they can’t go for walks all the time. And so I’ll indulge that. I actually try to get away from my work as much as possible in those times. Like sometimes I’ll, I’ll take a, an interview or something that I’m editing and put it in my headphones and walk around and kind of work on it.

Mentally that way, but more often than not, I’ll put on a, a fantasy football podcast, or I’ll put on something about, you know, music history that, that has nothing to do with the work that I do to kind of take a little vacation and then come back fresh. It’s a little bit like if you’ve ever done a difficult crossword puzzle, like sometimes you’re just stuck and you don’t know.

You know, there’s a handful of words that you just can’t figure out, and then you, then you go away for a while and you come back and you figure them out really quickly. It’s I, I try to apply that approach to a lot of different things in, in my life and in my work.

[00:34:21] Matthew: And dogs do have this amazing gift of distracting us from lots of things that are going on.

They are

[00:34:28] John: only in the moment. They, they cannot be in anything other than the moment. So it’s a, it’s a good, good example that they’re setting.

[00:34:37] Matthew: So, you, you, I’ve never seen this word used before, a title or name used for individuals who are suffering from depression, but you describe yourself as a sadie and that depression causes the sadie to lose hope.

Would you still describe yourself as a sadie?

[00:34:58] John: Yeah, I was trying to kind of build a little community through people dealing with depression by giving us a fun nickname. So, you know, yeah, I’m still somebody who deals with depression. It’s, I feel like I’ve got it Mostly managed. There are times where it flares up and it’s, it’s a bit of a battle.

But, but it’s, I think it’s like having diabetes or having some other chronic condition that, that just needs to be managed, you know, and I manage it through medication through therapy and through Things like walking the dogs and, and playing music and, and other things that I, that I do that I’ve found that help.

You know, and I always tell people, especially when I, on the occasion when I talk to someone who’s just been diagnosed, I say, well, you know, you’ve got a journey ahead of you because, If there was one thing that everybody could do to fix this, we’d all do it. And it would be super easy. There is no mental health equivalent of penicillin.

You know, we can’t, there isn’t something to just kill all the problems. And so you’re, you’ve got to go through a long trial and error period and find what works for you and what doesn’t. And it’s fascinating. You know, when I hear from people about the different things that they do and I mean, for me, like I talk about in the book, one of the things that somehow makes me feel better when the depression is acting up is YouTube videos about Bigfoot.

I don’t know why I’m from the Pacific Northwest. Maybe there’s like a memories of childhood cultural thing going on. It makes no sense to me. I’m not even necessarily a believer in Bigfoot but I just. I, I find a lot of comfort in those videos. And so I think there’s plenty of weird things that, that you can do, but, but yeah, it’s still there.

Like I haven’t, I haven’t found a way to cure the depression, but just a way to manage it.

[00:37:01] Matthew: Part of the reason that gives you hope is the people that you’ve spoken to, the, the next generation are much more willing to talk about mental health issues, that they have the vocabulary, the language for it. And you use this metaphor when you came and spoke to us in June of the litter problem of kind of the 1980s and early 90s.

Would you mind just kind of share a little bit about that because I think that gave us a really hopeful image of what,

[00:37:29] John: what direction we could go with this. Well, when, when I was, when I was really young in the, in the seventies there was a big problem with litter. People just threw garbage all over the place, threw it out of their car windows and all over the parks.

And we kind of collectively as a society got together and decided. That that needed to stop, you know, we created Woodsy, the owl, we created different public service announcements and it didn’t eliminate the problem, but everybody kind of shifted their thinking to the idea that you shouldn’t litter like it’s one of these sort of core beliefs that we have in society.

Now you shouldn’t throw garbage all over the place that maybe we didn’t have as much before. And so. You know, you look at something like that, you look at smoking and the, the efforts against smoking, you look at the efforts against drunk driving, where it doesn’t solve the problem, but it shifts the thinking to, you shouldn’t drive drunk, you know, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t smoke.

I think we’re coming up on a similar thing with mental health, where everybody’s in on, in on this idea of. fighting stigma of being open about mental health, having open conversations about it, taking care of yourself. It’s a, it’s really heartening because I think mental health finally got on that same docket where our, our thinking has shifted and, and it can get better.

And, you know, in, in the years since some of those efforts got made, littering has gotten better. There’s been statistics. There’s, there’s less smoking, especially among young people, then there used to be a lot less and drunk driving fatalities have gone down and still, they still happen, but not as many.

And that’s that’s really hopeful to me to think about that in terms of, of mental health going forward.

[00:39:30] Matthew: In the midst of this crisis knowing that things can get better they have done and they can With us continuing to talk about it working together Provides us with that. Hope I am curious as kind of as we Begin to wrap up.

How are you doing now? How are you doing today?

[00:39:50] John: Today I’m doing pretty well. I’m, again, being self employed is nerve wracking. But I’ve got a pretty good grip on my business side, which makes me feel, which makes me feel secure. And with that lockdown, I can be more creative, and my creative side can have a little more elbow room.

So, So the work I’m doing is good. My, my kids are in good health. Well, one of them has a cold, but it’s only a cold. And and so all the factors are, are there to do pretty well. And and I’m really making a lot of breakthroughs in, in therapy lately. It’s funny, I’ve been with, like I say, the same therapist for four or five years.

And in the last several sessions I’ve, I’ve been kind of unlocking a lot of tendencies and making a lot of connections between things that happened long ago and things that are happening now. And it’s, and it’s not a matter of blaming anybody in my past or being angry about anything, but just about making those connections to, to figure out, you know, how I’m built.

So it’s it’s like, it’s like reading the plot of a really good novel. But it’s my mind instead of a novel. So so the depression is, is in check. You know, it’s, it wants to get out, but I’m not going to let it get out. It wants to drive the car, but I’m keeping it in the back seat because it’s a terrible driver.

[00:41:14] Matthew: I’m pleased to hear that, John, that you’re doing well. And, and thanks for, for sharing that too, that. But therapy doesn’t just, it’s not, breakthroughs come at different times, progress comes, but, but you’ve got to do the work, got to keep the car in the shop or keep bringing it back to the shop as to use the metaphor used earlier.

[00:41:36] John: Yes. And grab a wrench yourself and get it, get under that hood. Cause cause you know, you’re the mechanic as well as, as well as the car.

Podcast host Matthew Butte

Meet the Host

"We make this podcast in order to bring you hopeful stories and to introduce you to people who inspire hope. They’ve inspired a lot of hope in me and among people here at Children’s Center and I hope you feel the same."

Hope & Healing with Children's Center is hosted by Executive Director Matthew Butte, produced by John Moe and Jennie Hoheisel, and features original music by Concert Rock Violinist Aaron Meyer. Our mission is to provide honest and positive stories of hope from the world of mental health.


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