Seriously, Let’s Talk About Mental Illness

I am a hermit–a home-body–a hobbit. Socially anxious and often overwhelmed by the efforts of going out, I choose to stay in most days. Once upon a time, however, in a far far away land engulfed by Live Oaks and not-so distant songs of the shore, while voyaging the nation as a starving artist, I met a sage–a wizard–a journalist. I met Bill.

The crossroads of intriguing and fascinating is found in Savannah, Georgia, where a long grey-haired man by the name of Bill Dawers lives and works as a writer, professor, unofficial historian, and community-engagement guru. I met him when my folk band was on tour, and from the start, I was in awe. I can’t remember the moment we met, or even which tour it was that I met him on, but I will never forget Bill Dawers as a faithful resource and pillar of support in the oldest Georgian city of Savannah, a beautiful town rich with concealed and even haunting history.

“That is where Tom Hanks sat in Forrest Gump.” He pointed to an empty park bench, and it was obvious he was referring to the iconic “Life is like a box of chocolates” scene. “They didn’t mark it,” he went on, “so you just have to know where it is.” He often pointed out historical gems like that bench. It’s what I loved about roaming the city with him–like following an archeologist as he dusted away the ordinary for the extraordinary.

Fortunately, Bill seemed partial to me as well. He came to every one of our Savannah shows and even wrote a piece about each night. He not only complimented our music, but he noticed and deeply appreciated my lyrics. As any singer-songwriter knows, that’s the way to a songwriter’s heart. Plenty of people can tap their toes to a catchy tune, but it takes a special ear to capture the core of a song–the words–and a divine eye to see the musician’s soul released by the lyrics like a mist over the crowd.

When I relinquished my music career and started writing through Dadding Depressed (as well as other avenues), naturally, I took the opportunity to connect with my old friend whom I hadn’t seen since an Eggs Benedict five years ago. And because we are both die-hard born creatives, I felt inclined to reach out in a quixotic and sentimental way. Facebook Messenger. I asked that he look over my blog and offer some pointers while helping to set a direction. True to form, he replied with a wealth of wisdom, mostly sweet though one piece of advice tasted sour in my hobbit hole as chewed it.

More people than my ego likes to admit prefer to tap their toes; a musician might as well be a juke box. I’m glad that my touring days are over, and I revel in my hole like Bilbo after the defeat of Smog. It was good, I learned a lot, but I’m done now. I wanted to be a writer so that I wouldn’t have to perform anymore. I like staying inside, out of the public eye, and dispatching online articles and blog posts like they’re flying monkeys. Now, Gandalf wants me to go out again?! I mean, Bill. Bill suggested that Dadding Depressed break the bounds of the Shire and host a live panel discussing mental health for the local community. In awe of such a great wizard, and in fear that he might actually be one, I decided that’s the plan, reluctant though I may be.

It’s a great idea, really. I know that. Since Bill and I exchanged words, I have been mulling it over, and while it is still ruminating, the idea is evolving into a reality. I do not know much about the details, but here is what I do know for the sake of a teaser and proactive promotion:

  1. It will be for the purpose of discussing mental illness (primarily in men) in a more public and conversational manner. Anyone and everyone is welcome (and even encouraged) to join.
  2. The panel will feature four to five people with different yet relevant stories/backgrounds. I am aiming for as much diversity as I can muster.
  3. The panel will discuss, and then there will be time for Q&A to welcome the audience into the dialogue.
  4. The event will be hosted in Lansing, Michigan (probably a coffee shop), but there will be a livestream so that anyone can join in…even fellow hobbits.

Please, keep the event in mind, and have some eyes out for upcoming details in early Fall. Obviously, I would love for this to be a success. We should be having real conversations about mental illness in men, not just online dialogue. And what’s a hobbit on another adventure without a band of support?

If you’d like to be on the front lines of communication, sign up for my emailing list! Offer your thoughts to this idea–comment below!

2 thoughts on “Seriously, Let’s Talk About Mental Illness

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