Opinion: Having confidence in your message makes silencing comics unneccessary

Stand up comedy and the comics who peddle the jokes are the last bastion of unchecked social insight and unapologetic political commentary. And, more so, stand up comedy is the First Amendment being employed to its full worth.

There are comics whose chosen topics for toppling rankle me something fierce, and wisely, I don’t partake of their wares. Some of these comics are absolutely ignorant of mental illness and offering a counter to their nonsense I see is a useful expenditure of my peer advocacy. Not them specifically with ad hominem intent. I counter their stigmas.

The severe concern I have is advocacy that seeks to silence comics and their insights, that this is the proper way to combat stigmatization. In my advocacy, that is absolutely the improper way to go about things. The proper strategy is to educate communities about these stigmas that are sometimes championed by comics. With my efforts, it’s my responsibility to be more convincing with the message my friends and I champion.

If silencing comics who run contrary to my values is how I contend with their views, that’s saying a lot about how little confidence I have in my own advocacy.

Originally posted to Steve’s Thoughtrimes.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.: Assembly line, rubber stamp prosecution affecting peers.

Guest commentary, reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrines.

Watch this movie, give it some thought.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

This is movie not seen widely enough. This speaks to a truth in criminal justice that goes unspoken because “bargaining” from an “overcharge” is what DAs and defense choose rather than actually doing the work. Keeping the court dockets light is preferable to giving every person their day in court. And people admit to crimes they DIDN’T commit for fear of incarceration for decades, to secure a “smaller sentencing.”

For crimes they didn’t commit.

Add to that DAs receiving “bonuses” for every conviction, say in zero-tolerance domestic violence cases, where in years past “he said/she said” cases wouldn’t even be considered for prosecution. With the funding incentive for every conviction, any police report mentioning anything that can construed as “domestic violence” is charged (a man in Albuquerque was sentenced for throwing a roll of toilet paper against the wall, which never hit his wife), and every charge is fed into the “bargaining overcharge” machine because that’s the way it works.

People admitting to crimes they didn’t commit to receive a reduced sentence.

Again: For a crime they didn’t commit.

And too many of these coerced admissions are peers, peers without the financial resources to build a strong, dedicated defense.

And where are civil rights law entities like Disability Rights New Mexico in all of this? Complicity nowhere to be found.

I worked many years in jail diversion for peers. This is yet another way peers are victimized by a justice system unaware of peer suffering from systemic societal neglect.

Watch the movie, think it through.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2020

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

For those of us who suck at killing themselves and thusly are reading this, EVERY DAY is suicide preventation day.

I’m stoked you’re here. I’m stoked I’m here. Let’s help each other keep it that way.


STS Online Mental Health Support Group – Monday through Friday – COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean we have to be alone.


Support Groups by Peers and for Peers.

All times are Mountain Time Zone (GMT -7)

12:00PM to 1:30PM

12:00PM to 1:30PM

7:00PM to 8:30PM

7:00PM to 8:30PM

7:00PM to 8:30PM

– STS is using Google Hangouts for our online support groups. You will need a free Google account to join the online groups.

– That day’s online group Hangouts link is provided on the homepage of our two STS websites, 30 minutes before group begins.



– The daily Hangouts link is also available to subrscribers of the STS Community Beacon email list.


– Facilitators open the support group 15 minutes prior to group start time.

– You can join the group at any time. You don’t need to show up at the start of group.

We hope to see you! We don’t have to be alone.

What’s it like being crazy?

What’s it like being a peer?

I was asked this question today, less delicately, as “What’s it like being crazy?”

As a peer, I live this as my normality and have done so since I started having symptoms as a teen. So, that’s my basis of comparison, before and after, and this makes it easy to answer what it’s like being crazy.

For years, I could depend on knowing right from wrong, true from false, real from unreal.

Then, I couldn’t at times because a newly malfunctioning brain began lying to me.

Worse, I couldn’t tell my brain was lying. It refused to let me.

Now, I live with always the glimmer that what I’m perceiving might be wrong, false, and unreal. And I wouldn’t know it.

The real question is:

What’s it like not fully trusting your own brain?

There’s your answer as to what it’s like to be crazy.

The challenge of helping fellow peers understand saying “NO MEANS NO!” is the same as saying “Self-Care First.”

I tried to make myself dead a couple weeks ago. However, that’s not really want I want to talk about.

For the past few months a peer has insisted on confronting me about “issues and concerns” she had about me. When I plainly stated my mental health was not in a solid enough place to take on this sort of conversation, her reply was, “Well, let’s give it a try and see where it goes.” I flatly declined to do so, repeating my mental health was my prioirity.

Similarly, at a STS peer support group this year, I had a peer member call me out on expressing my difficulties and challenges. He said, “I’m very uncomfortable, Steve. You’re supposed to be our rock. I don’t think you’re being appropriate.”

The spectre of this demand upon me loomed with everpresence. My ex-gf even pressured me, saying “If you don’t talk to her, you’re going to lose her. You’re strong enough.”

Of course I have strength. I am very proud of myself for my strength. And at this time in my recovery journey, all my strength is dedicated to my wellness. I’ve made this absolutely clear.

Something I’ve recognized over time is there is a misconception I have “my shit together” at all times and in all ways. Proudly, I do carry myself well and present well. I believe people’s misconception comes from the success I have “wearing the mask” to function in society, especially when feeling kind of rough. It’s a fair assumption considering.

Yet, it’s exhausting when already exhausted. What I find most draining and disheartening is not when a Muggle says something like “You should think happy thoughts” or “Have you tried not being depressed”, it’s when peers are imposing upon me prioritizing my mental health and feel an entitlement to encroach upon – or even violate – my explicit boundary of “self-care first.” It’s exhausting.

Fellow peers not listening to my plea of “NO MEANS NO” is a pressure that depletes me and breaks my heart. I take it very seriously and very personally.

Trying to precisely define my emotions borne of peers expecting more of me than I have the strength to muster brings up feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger, weariness, exhaustion, loneliness…

If really expressing myself honestly, my emotions are a great swell of betrayal and abandonment. Betrayed and abandoned is how I feel.

These are my emotions to own and I’m confident I’ll learn ways to successfully manage the resultant symptoms. Still, it sucks feeling this way.

It’s been full-on difficult the past two months. I pushed myself harder than healthy (a constant failing of mine), my med regimen of seven years is losing efficacy, I’m not managing the symptoms of CPTSD very successfully (thank you, Susan, Paula, and MHRAC for this Disneyland of turmoil), and the holidays are simply emotionally defeating since losing my Mom in 2011.

All said, I made a best effort at killing myself two weeks ago. First time in over seven years. I’m here typing this so apparently I suck at suicide.

It’s important to know I firmly stand that it’s bipolar that led me to the (foolish) decision to try to be dead. There are always contributing stressors reinforcing mu brain’s capacity to lie me. It’s my malfunctioning brain lying to me that’s at fault and nothing else.

One crucial element for me, moving onward, is building upon learning how to express myself explicitly when I’m in crisis and learning how to ask my support network for help before the crisis turns deadly… and hoping they’ll understand the severity when I ask. It’s tough to see my distress behind the mask and it’s my responsibilty to reach out make myself understood. Pride is deadly sin for a reason.

Even more crucial is being very clear “NO MEANS NO” and not taking “No, I won’t respect your boundary, I won’t respect your health, and I won’t respect you” for an answer.

My Dad is here to help keep me alive day to day while I work with Deb on new meds, while I confer with my new therapist exploring the wonder of how much CPTSD manifests itself during my daily existence, and while I draw upon DBT skills as strongly as possible.

As for STS peer support groups, although being called out as “uncomfortable” to the group (no member disagreed) was a tough nut to chew, it is fair and useful feedback. We’re no longer a small cog in the bigger DBSA machine. As the founder and proprietor of STS there are different expectations of me and it’s very kind and generous for the members to help me understand this. I’m honored we have a community of trust where members feel safe enough to express their needs to me.

And, to close off, I’m doing much better thanks in large part to friends who are there when I (finally) ask for help.

I was ready to kill myself yesterday. Thanks for noticing.

The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of stickiness, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in mid-August. Wait. I can do better. The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of itchiness, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in mid-August. Hold up. That still isn’t a solid enough comparisson. Give me another go. The magnitude of my depressed mood, if described in qualitative terms of pan-nausea sinus-scorching face-melting (think of skin dripping off the face, like that Sado-Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) omnipresent stench, is akin to the sweat-saturated diseased nethers of a Shanghai rickshaw driver in early-July and not mid-August. That does it there. Nailed it.

I’m full-on depressed.

Now established, my depressive mood is akin to that exotic Asian aroma in stenchy magnitude. Very sciencey. My depression . . . It’s everywhere, and try as I might and calling to arms every mindfulness tool, every coping strategy, and every DBT skill in my trusty depression-annihilating arsenal, I cannot escape this depression. It’s exhausting, it’s depleting, and it’s unavoidable. Mightily scouring my WRAP for any scrap of “something that worked the last time I was this depressed” insight, I found it most useful . . . as tinder in my backyard fire pit last evening. What a useless stack of collated dried pulp. The only good thing about my formerly six-meter-thick WRAP, compiled over the last eight years, is a vast forest of trees covering all of eastern Idaho died so I could compose that valueless “living document” meant to be an archival tome authored by me in order to keep me alive based on my lived experience. It’s worthlessness is almost comical, but isn’t, because I just watched Jim Jeffries on YouTube and that dude is comical. Find his two part presentation on our Second Amendment (Jim is Australian). His observations as an objective non-patriot is beyond insightful, unlike my WRAP which is now ash. If ever I compose a new WRAP, I’m just going to torch an entire national forest and cut out the middleman.

So I made it through to today, Sunday, December 8, 2019. How I just happen to still be here I’ll share with you later if I survive until the end of this article. If not, it’ll be my last and greatest unpublished folk tale. Belay that. I’ve got a smashing unfinished article about Becky’s screechy, pouty, cloaked-sexuality friend who is a peer and who claims no accountability for her symptomatic behavior. It’s all tied up in an My Chem analogy that is exceptionally clever. So, if I survive to the end of this article, I’ll consider finally topping that article off. For now, let me share that the Rolling Stones are not very good and I don’t like them and that’s my choice so, Coddled the Hutt, lay off and attempt adult maturity.

Before moving into a patchwork of circumstance and happenstance that brought me to pecking away at the keyboard, I’d like everyone to take a quick training course in “Own Your Emotions.”

How’s that sound? I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of stories and names might surface. I’m also dealing with the bitterness borne of bipolar symptoms. You know, those artificial emotions. There’s no intent to hurt feelings, and even though some Brown University healy-touchy purveyor of logically nebulous nonsense assures me I’m wrong, without any intent on my part I’m only able to lament inadvertent ouchiness felt. Bits and pieces, and, magic from my hands. Name the song. Point being, we all have our own sensitivities and this is my story.

Disclaimer down. Sigh. We live in a “World of Reaction.”

I’ve been staring at the screen for . . . 20 minutes? I’ve been in a holding pattern for a while trying to pull on just one thread to make my past few weeks unravel into a narrative. Indecisiveness, inability to organize thoughts, even some confussion. T’is uncharacteristic for me to feel so befuddled and . . .

Hey! I wrote a note to Amanda this morning whilst still in the midst of doing a Little Dutchboy on my tears. It’s the perfect framework for expository, emotive, and symptomatic throughput. I’m either clever or lazy, and since I need one in the win column, I’m jacking this in as clever.

My Sunday Morning Message to Amanda

Today, I’m making a choice which way my life goes. It’s been close to a week since we last spoke. I have called twice and neither times have you returned my call. This has been bad for my health.

I hope your communucation silence is because you decided to do as you intended, and that you are healing.

Other speculations have kept me awake. With missing my family, Thanksgiving alone, and SAD, my health is plummeting. In addition, no one has called me or checked on me all week. My dad messaged a couple times, only to check on furnace repair. My furnace froze up.

Absolutely literally, I could have been dead for a week and no one would have noticed. Maybe Turquoise Lodge, but only a quick call to ask if I was coming in. However, they’ve never checked on a missed Laugh It Off gig before, not that I can recall.

I was prepared to kill myself yesterday. I thought “Well, it’s proven. My passion for helping others, it’s not been equitable exhange of support. And that’s had to be okay.” And mostly it is. Remember Chris losing his nut in the middle of group, saying something along the lines of “It’s not comfortable when you talk about you having problems. We count on you to be our rock, Steve.” With comments of that variety, it’s an easy move to feel “I’m only a tool to fix others.” But that’s selfish. I get depressed and I get selfish. Artifical thoughts and feelings. Chris has a good point, I’ve been letting people down. A lot. Inlcuding you.

It’s so cliche. The “I’m a burden, I’m a drag, I ask too much, I should be stronger, people are better off without me” thoughts prevailed. And then, the serenity. There’s the serenity, that resignation and calm knowing I can be gone and that’s okay. It’s always the finest moment where debating myself isn’t necessary. It was 4PM yesterday when I chose to kill myself.

Yesterday, I sat in the parking lot of the Eastside Shelter, ready to take Happy and Roey in so they could have a good home. I sat and waited too long. The place closed. Good thing? I asked a young mother if she would like the rabbits. She spoke only Spanish and I scared her. Dude, I must have looked like Nancy Pelosi’s head on Donald Trump’s body.

It’s hard to ask for help. Asking for help shows I’m unpforessional. I saw this at MHRAC. As soon as I went into that CPTSD tailspin, David Ley was right. I’m despicable and didn’t think things through and cmopose myself. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see the CPTSD symptoms I was having. He justly needed me to pull it together if I wanted to be on MHRAC. Nancy Konenberg the same. She said it was a peronal problem with Paula that I shouldn’t bring to MHRAC. I never know when to ask for help and it’s hard. There’s appropiriate times and inappropriate times and I always trip over the latter.

I want to call you, but you don’t need me to disturb your healing. I’ve never been selfish. It’s hard to ask for help. Still, with you gone, I thought someone might make the effort. This is coming for weeks now, thumb in dike, pressure building. I told a few memebers I spent all of Tuesday group fighting off weeping. Chris was there which thankfully reminded me I had a duty to keep things composed. It felt good saying it out loud but it made it harder yesterday because I couldn’t tell someone out loud again.

And I can’t reach out to warmline and that sucks so bad. I told you I got done with mental health court and emaiiled Mary and she said they didn’t want me “best of luck in all you do.” So . . . I guess I don’t …

Do you know the only conversations I had all week were at group (which was very hard to concentrate hence not much meaningful contact with people) and on Facebook mainly to get a solid social media presence for you and Megan. STS needs to continue. It’s a good idea although I’m not pulling my weight enough.

God, Facebook. One last ditch effort. I can’t be one of those facebook people who say “I need five friends to reply and comment or I’m done.” It would ruin STS and I need to leave something behind

One last try. I posted songs from Youtube instead.

I’m Not Okay – MCR cover

Help! – The Beatles

Adam’s Song – blink 182

Lost Like This – Oingo Boingo

English Beat – Click Click

Numb – Linkin Park

You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

Fragile Thing – Big Country

All Apologies – Nirvana

Not Enough Time – INXS

I sat and asked God, “Let just one person notice. Just one. I can’t ask social media in any other way. Please. Just one.”

One person did ask. And only one. And not from behavioral health. A random ska friend in England. And I’m alive today.

No one from behavioral health noticed. Not. A. One. What is God telling me?

It’s Sunday the 8th. I can’t call you because I can’t take the rejection. I won’t call you. So, I need to decide

Do I move on without you? Do I sit here obsessing? What is best for my health? What will keep me alive? Do I want to be?

I’ve prayed. Let’s see how this goes.

As an afterthought, I can see people in behavioral health saying, “Why didn’t he reach out? I would have been right there. He knows it’s temporary. He’s been so strong. Why didn’t he say something?”

I did say something. I did reach out. For weeks. I haven’t had strength for weeks. I really did and I felt so guilty for doing it.

There is a good question I can ask. You’ve been gone three weeks. No one asked how I was doing with you gone. No one invited me for Thanksgiving. It’s been one week without a phone call or text. From anyone. My phone log is spam. One week since I talked to you.

If people cared, why am I alone?

I prayed. I asked God, “Please, just let one person hear me. I’ve tried. Just one person.”

There was one person and only one person.

Mathew Wright, a man I never met, God sent him.

Mathew understood me asking for help through songs. It’s just like what Clare used to do to express herslf to me when words failed. Did I get the idea while praying?

So, I’m alive. Me and the dumb rabbits.

I miss you.

I was ready to kill myself yesterday. I prayed for one person to notice. One person did. Mathew Wright, a man I never met, two thirds of a continent and an ocean away.

Ahhhhhhhh-ha!!!!!!!! You see what I did there? Set up and pay off. “I was ready to kill myself yesterday. Thanks for noticing.”

You thought it was pained sarcasm. You thought it was a guiltfest. Not so! I’m not filled to the gills with Disney Princess Joy right now. I do feel more in touch with my head and the ground. From 33 years of life experience, the worst has passed.

It’s a happy ending, lads and lasses. Dude, this would actually make a really great screenplay.

I’ve saved the best images for last, screen captures straight off Facebook. Check it. Here are the few texts Mathew sent me. I could tell immediately he heard me. Immediately.

Was I ready to die? Yep. Did I know how I was going to do it? Yep. Was I able to draw upon 20 years of acquired life skills to hold on until today? Yep. Did Mathew’s kindness really help keep me breathing? Yep.

Was Mathew’s Facebook comment the one and only? Yep. He’s exactly how many people I needed to hear me.

Thanks for noticing, Mathew. Thank you for the bottom of my bottomless heart.


A few final words I’ll share. I was close to being done. It wasn’t due to anything explicitly external. While there are always truths running through my thoughts during a symptomatic crisis, the truths and thoughts are badly distorted by a malfunctioning brain. And the organ on the fritz loves to lie to me when in a depressive episode. My brain can be such an asshole sometimes.

I haven’t shared as intimate of article in some time, I think all the way back to the Paula Burton/MHRAC/APD thing. Without question, there will be some irrate words about “You shouldn’t say everything. Learn to edit!” Okay, I appreciate your words. I counter with “Why?

When I launched this site the idea was triple-purposed. First, I wanted an in-the-moment archive of my recovery journey, a reposistory of where my mind and emotions are and quite often when I’m at my worst. Although my WRAP is now ash in my rabbits’ poop box, having the immediacy of somewhere to jot it down for later is prime source material for my WRAP. Much of what I torched I can restore from old articles on Thoughtcrimes.

The second purpose will answer the question “But why make your mental illness public at all?” C’mon. What do I do every chance I get? Like many peers, I openly share my story to help others understand what it’s like to live with bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, and CPTSD. Both for peers and Muggles. Edited material published here is a lie.

And the final purpose… I love to write, the world is fun to take part in, and I like to comment on the wacky little rock and the biotic infestation on the surface. And, as a comic, it’s an easy place to jot down potential material.

Okay, this is a must-do addendum. My very good friend Mat Tibble came by to visit because he was concerned for my wellness and safety, last Tuesday. Mat and I met inpatient at Kamp Kaseman in 2012. We’re always here for each other.

The thing is, he’s got a new squeeze in his life and he was busting to tell me about her. Recall, my dirty rotten liar of a brain had me thinking in “I’m a burden, I can’t get Mat depressed like me, toughen up” terms. So I slapped on “The Mask” and supported Mateo the way he would me. I know, I know. Oxygen mask in a crashing plane analogy. I made things worse for myself. Whatever. It’s who I am.

Of course, all of this is meaningless if I don’t survive until the end of this arti . . . spoiler alert. I survive until the end of the article.

Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes and Stand Up To Stigmabpeer support groups.


In the past STS did some work with The Rock At Noonday in Albuquerque, a center providing those experiencing homelessness with excellent services like two meals a day, clothing, showers, internet access, phone access, laundry, and even pet check ups from a local veteranarian. Our peer support group members would bring donations of clothng and I eventually asked dude-at-the-helm Pastor Danny what items would be most useful. His answer was one item:


His answer was surprising. Explaining, he said that for someone like me, I can keep socks for years because I don’t wear them all day, and I’m not always walking from shelter to meals to services. Plus, being able to wash socks makes a huge difference in how long they last.

Now, our group members bring lots of socks, including mismatched socks.

Stigma this. Stigma that.

There’s this dude on Facebook I greatly respect who shared his thoughts on mental health stigmas and their lack of impact on how he views himself. In better part, I agree fully that how a person might feel about me or how they might treat me knowing I have bipolar and CPTSD doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m very comfortable with who I know I am . . . even with those tiny demons tugging at tiny insecurities inside my mind.

Still, it’s one thing to be affected by others’ personal opinion of those with mental health conditions. The issue with stigmatization comes when these opinions deny peers opportunities and when these opinions define policies and statutes that affect only peers. Hurt feelings versus violating constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties is where confronting stigmatization holds importance.

Sometimes, stigmatization has real-world consequences: renting an apartment, applying for a job, acquiring security clearance, interacting with law enforcement. When stigmatization becomes unavoidable in how a peer lives their life, this is where standing up to stigma is both crucial and essential.

“What group are you with?” Stand Up To Stigma explained

A number of folks I’ve recently met asked “Are you with NAMI?” or “Are you with DBSA?” or ‘Are you with MHRAC?” or “Are you with ____?”

The answer is “No.” I’ve resigned from each board and committee of all organizations where once I held leadership positions and I am focusing exclusively on Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, peer focus groups, and peer support groups. These are the projects important to me and my close friends and to be most responsive to the needs of our communities we must be a fully independent peer collaborative.

What I learned is behavioral health solutions must be innovative and opportunistic. The enemy of innovation is asking someone else for permission to do what you KNOW is right in your heart.

When I was 46 the State of New Mexico honored me with an award for Lifetime Achievement in Behavioral Health Innovation. I’m stoked by the opportinities DBSA, NAMI, MHRAC, APD, BCFIC, and other organizations/acronyms provided me. What I realized is what was being honored was the advocacy stuff I was accomplishing independent of existing organizations.

So, the longer answer is it’s great collaborating with good folks like NAMI and DBSA, and it’s doing stuff as a completely peer-developed, peer-managed, and peer-led organization where I feel most useful in mental health advocacy.

My friends and I work best where growth, community, and innovation are encouraged and nurtured.

We’ll be talking a lot more about STS’s mission as we move forward with our support of our community.