Category Archives: Mental Health

Mental Health Monday: Maybe Tomorrow by Charlotte Agell and Ana Ramírez González

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

When it comes to crying over movies, books, TV shows, etc, I’m a tough nut to crack. Until a few days ago, only one book had the distinction of making me tear up: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I’m sure it was read to me as a kid. But as an adult? I didn’t stand a chance…

But now, The Giving Tree has a companion this regard. Last week, Mrs. Primary Ignition showed me Maybe Tomorrow, written by Charlotte Agell and illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez.

It sounds odd to call this a “non-spoiler” write-up, as we’re talking about a kids picture book. But I want to be as vague as I can be, as it’s really worth going out and reading the book yourself.

Written for readers four to eight years old, is about a hippo and an alligator. (You know, that old trope…) Norris, the alligator, is perpetually happy. So happy that he’s always accompanied by a cloud of butterflies.

Elba, on the other hand, is very sad. She’s tethered to a big black block, which stays with her all the time. Norris makes it his mission to cheer Elba up. But it’s not as simple as it seems.

We later learn that the block represents a specific kind of grief that Elba is literally carrying around with her. But one of the reasons I adore this block metaphor so much is that it can represent virtually anything. When I saw it, it instantly came to represent anxiety, depression, and Attention Deficit Disorder. But whatever you might be living with, even if it’s not a mental illness, it’s so easy to project yourself into this story and relate to this little pink hippo.

One way or another, we all have our own “big black blocks” to drag around.

Every bit as important as the block, is how the Norris character reacts to its everlasting presence. He becomes a model for how to be a friend to someone in Elba’s situation. He does all the right things.

Maybe Tomorrow? also doesn’t have a cut and dry “happily ever after” ending. It’s not a sad ending by any means. I actually found it pretty uplifting. But the book doesn’t shy away from reality, albeit through its unique and colorful veil.

This book is meant to teach children about bad feelings, and how to help someone else when they have bad feelings. But the sad truth is, there a lot of grown adults in this world who could learn from Norris the dancing alligator and his butterfly buddies.

That might be the best possible praise I can give to this, or any children’s book. It’s lesson is so elementary that even adults, mired in everyday callousness and cynicism, can learn from it too.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

Mental Health Monday: Betty White Bloopers

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Here to add a little humor to your Mondays is the incomparable Betty White.

True story: I’ve actually never seen Hot in Cleveland. I may try to catch an episode next time I’m flipping through On-Demand. But this is really all I need.

Genuine laughter, folks. It’s often the best medicine.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Mental Health Monday: Craig Ferguson and the Cat Joke

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Continuing on last week’s theme of humor being one of the best ways to alleviate mental illness, I present to you one of my favorite clips from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. No disrespect to James Corden, but Craig was my guy…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

World Mental Health Day: The Power of Laughter

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

World Mental Health Day has a special place in my heart. For reasons that, if you know me personally, are obvious. I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, among a few other…quandaries. Quite the resume, eh?

I don’t have any sort of ground-breaking research or insight to present to you here. I do, however, have something to remind you of.

Humor is a powerful tool in the fight against mental illness. You can’t be anxious or depressed while you laugh, right? I’m pretty sure that’s been clinically proven somewhere…

So with that in mind, allow me to show you a video that makes me crack up whenever I watch it. I’m a huge Whose Line Is It Anyway? fan. So I’m constantly falling down Whose Line YouTube holes. Here we have a recent one, presented by 12Medbe. We’ve got Wayne Brady, Jeff Davis, and Colin Mochrie playing a game called Doo Wop, as Ryan Stiles watches in the background, and Aisha Tyler moderates. Turns out, even the world’s greatest improvisors have the occasional brain fart.

Enjoy and be well. Remember, this world needs you.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

Big Cass Opens Up About Depression and Anxiety

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t talked much about wrestling lately, mostly because the WWE product sucks so bad right now. But a new YouTube video from the folks at DDP Yoga caught my eye, as it’s an intriguing intersection of my interests in wrestling and mental health matters.

William Morrissey, who wrestles under the name CaZXL these days, used to perform in WWE as Big Cass. He was abruptly released by WWE last June, reportedly due to behavioral and substance abuse issues.

As it turns out, the situation wasn’t quite that simple.

CaZXL can be found on Twitter at @CaZXL.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Anxiety Talk: Being a Comforting Voice

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As someone living with a mental illness, specifically anxiety, I’m often in the position of having to be comforted or reassured by others. It’s something I try hard to be mindful of. I don’t want to generalize, as everyone deals with anxiety in their own way. But I’ve found that it’s very easy to for me to make difficult conversations about myself, my feelings, and what’s going on in my head. It’s never intentional, of course. But when you’re used to being so open with someone, it almost comes natural. That’s something I really dislike about myself. No one should put others in the position of having to be comforting and reassuring all the time. Having anxiety doesn’t excuse that.

With that in mind, these last few years I’ve really tried to work on my own listening skills, and being that comforting person for the people in my life when called upon. That’s not always easy because of the social aspect of my anxiety. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, it’s good to think about it.

So where am I going with all this? A few days ago, I was put in a position to comfort someone. This is how it went…

My day-to-day job, my “joe job,” involves a drive-thru. A few days ago, the girl I have running the drive-thru asks me if we can call the police. Naturally, that’s a question that makes you snap to attention.

I find a woman pulled up to the window crying, claiming the man in the car behind her has been following her, and verbally threatened her. For whatever reason (no judgment), she feels like she can’t call the police on her own. So she’d like us to do it.

I dial the police non-emergency number. As I’m doing so, the man who’s supposedly following her drives away. So whatever immediate danger is has passed. Still, I hand her my phone, and the dispatcher tells her to come inside with us while she waits for an officer to arrive.

So the woman, let’s call her Jill, comes inside and sits down. Jill is roughly my age. Early 30s, maybe late 20s. She’s not in hysterics, but she’s clearly upset. Understandably so. I don’t want to leave her alone. Not just in case this man comes back, but just out of general courtesy. No one should have to be alone after a traumatic experience like that. Unless they want to be.

We’re sitting at a table together. Jill is crying. And I’m in a position I’m not necessarily comfortable in. Not because she’s upset, but because I don’t usually do well in one-to-one situations. I’m much better in groups. When it’s just me and one other person I stress about awkward silences, keeping the conversation going, not saying anything dumb, etc.

But there we are. Together. In that moment…

Unintentionally, my body is crooked slightly toward the door so I can see if the police officer is coming. I don’t mean to do it. But it’s a product of my anxiety. I always need to have a way out.

I get Jill a drink of water and some tissues. (Paper towels, actually.) We review some of the details of what has just happened. I ask her where she was headed. She says she was on her way to babysit for a friend. She calls said friend, during which I mess around on my phone a little bit. I check on my co-workers.

When I come back, I struggle for something to talk about. I figure it’s not a good idea to dwell too much on what’s just happened, right? She’s already upset, after all. We start talking about my job and work environment a little bit. It seems to ease her a bit.

Jill decides to call her mom. Because sometimes you just need to talk to mom. I go back and check on my co-workers again. It seems like the cop is taking an awful long time to get here.

So I bring up how long she’d been driving beforehand and where she’s from. That leads us into where my wife and I are from, what my day-to-day commute looks like. We actually end up comparing notes on Chicago and Milwaukee, as that was more or less the journey my wife and I took when we moved.

The cop finally walks in. I excuse myself, but stand close by in case they need me. The officer talks to Jill, then escorts her back to her car. I have a quick talk with the officer when she comes back,  then she’s on her way.

I cringe when I think back on my interaction with Jill. It was actually fairly difficult for me to dictate what happened. Not because either of us did anything wrong. It’s just so easy to think back and pick my side of it apart. I should have said this here, or that there, etc.

Still, it feels good to have been there for somebody. To have put myself in that position. In theory, I could have just gone back to my job and let her wait by herself.

Lately I’ve been on a big Fred Rogers kick. I’m sure at least part of that stems from seeing the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary. But I just finished reading the new biography by Maxwell King. I’m now in the middle of I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan. There’s also another documentary, Mister Rogers and Me, on Amazon Prime. One of the prevalent themes that seems to run through all of these is how Fred Rogers had the amazing ability to be totally present and in the moment with everyone he talked to. That’s the kind of thing that seems super easy. But it’s not. Especially in today’s world.

I don’t think I was completely present in that moment with Jill. I don’t know that I’m completely comfortable being present in the moment with anyone, outside a very select few. But I’m working on it.

In the end, working on it is really all we can do. That’s how we improve.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com!