Illustration by Ari.
Everyone already knows that the pressures of society are dangerous and even deadly, pushing people to their limits in order to try to fit in. But when someone is already struggling with addiction, these prejudices have an even stronger effect. Such opinions like “People can will themselves out an of addiction if they just try!” or “Addiction is not a real mental disorder like depression,” can deter people from seeking the help that they need.
It can make it more difficult to convince insurance companies to help pay for therapy or doctor visits to test health. These stigmas are obstacles that make an already difficult road even harder, and they must be stopped at all costs. The best way to kill any pest like this in a society is to destroy it at its source through conversation.
Talking to family members about addiction may lead to discoveries about past struggles by other family members, which is something that can be used to find strength or to help someone feel less alone. If the conversation is among friends, then even though one person may not know anyone in need of intervention, someone else might. In both situations, internalized ableism comes out, and it can be stopped dead in its tracks. Although if it cannot be stopped out of shyness or other circumstance that is okay. Helping someone to overcome this is not going to be easy, and may not happen quickly. But these small talks, little bits of awareness throughout, will indeed help the problem. As long as it goes on, it counts, no matter how slow the process may be.
Even though the solution is right there, that does not make the conversation any easier to start. But music can help bridge this awkward gap. Fairly new to the rock scene, the Texas-based band Nothing More has started a way to talk about mental illness in the wake of their new song “Jenny.” Based off of events in lead singer Jonny Hawkins’ personal life and named after his aunt, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was in college, the song details the anger and frustration felt by families of the mentally ill. Drawing from his past, he uses his late aunt as an example of the tie between mental disorders and substance abuse. In fact, over twenty percent of those with mood disorders end up victims of drug abuse and dependence, and about seventeen percent of those with anxiety disorders abusing substances as well. The song starts off with a slower tempo, and then quickly goes into an intense, faster, fever-pitch metal pace. In this respect, the song reflects addiction or any other mental illness with its unpredictability and fast change. It is an angry, impassioned song that can be relatable for the one-third of Americans that deal with alcohol addicted people in their families. (This does not even include the number of people who have people with drug addictions, so it clicks with a lot of people).
However, the band goes even further. Partnering with organizations such as The International Bipolar Foundation and To Write Love on Her Arms, they began the #iknowJenny project as a way to encourage people to talk about bipolar disorder and end the stigmas surrounding mental illness. On the official site one can also find stories that people have shared about Jenny’s that they know under the tag #iknowJenny, as well as a link to the official video. (A word of caution: the video is very flashy and violent and can be triggering for multiple reasons, some being blood, hospital beds, statistics, and flashing lights. With respect to that, here is a link to stream the song on Spotify). For instance, user Alexis Ann wrote on Nothing More’s official site: “…I KNOW JENNY. She is me, she was me, she is fighting every single day. This is my story. I WAS JENNY. I may have severe depression, severe anxiety, stimulate psychosis, anorexia, mood disorder, and several addiction[s], but I am STRONG and I am a FIGHTER. Thank you Nothing More for being the push to stay clean, to change I AM JENNY to I WAS JENNY.” Their blog as well as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook tags tell of more stories still.
There is help for those with addictions, and there are ways for other people to help, too. Nothing More is selling band merchandise to help raise money for their partners to raise awareness for all that they stand for. Likewise, a smaller way to help is to call out bigotry, out loud and in public. Nothing teaches a lesson quite like humiliation.
The ending of ableism, even in one person, makes the world a friendlier place for those who cannot find friendliness even in their own minds.
Sharing stories, with the permission of all involved of course, helps people feel less alone and helps strengthen others.
Help end it for the innocent Jenny’s of the world. Do not be afraid to talk about this. Do not be afraid of calling people out. Do not be afraid of sharing personal stories. The only thing that should be feared is a society that is afraid to do so.