This might be the strangest post that I’ve ever written, and that’s probably saying something. I’m not fan of reality tv. You’re not going to find me binge watching KUWTK during quarantine or any other time. Just not my cup of tea.
A few weeks ago, when I was in Nashville, a situation occurred in the room next to mine that was pretty triggering for me. I’m going to talk about it as I dive into triggers and abuse over the next few weeks, but before I do that- I first wanted to write down my thoughts and feelings about the very public meltdown Kanye West is going through, which has also been pretty triggering to me as someone who has watched many instances of public meltdown in someone I loved. I’d also like to offer an olive branch of comradery to anyone who may be in a similar situation watching this all play out.
You might wonder what the mental health stigma has to do with my blog about codependency, narcissistic abuse, and associated unhealthy relational styles. I’ll get to that.
If you’ve not seen the news, Kanye West has been in the middle of what is believed to be an extended manic episode. He suffers from bipolar disorder, and has indicated publicly that he is off medication because it stifles his creativity. West, as you probably know, is married to Kim Kardashian and they have four children together. He has been living at the couple’s property in Wyoming during most of the quarantine while Kim and the kids have been in Los Angeles.
Kanye is no stranger to… antics. He famously accused President George W Bush of being a racist on air in 2004. He accosted Taylor Swift in the middle of a VMA acceptance speech to advise the audience that Beyonce should have won in 2009. He endorsed Donald Trump for President and gave a bizarre interview with him just last year from the Oval Office.
Over the last few weeks, Kanye has engaged in some increasingly troubling behaviors. First, he launched a campaign for president, just five months before Election day, which garnered support from the likes of Elon Musk (although later retracted) and a lot of condemnation from just about everyone else. He gave a mind-boggling and meme-worthy four hour interview with Forbes where it seemed no topic was off-limits, triggering dozens of wild headlines. He hosted a kickoff campaign rally, where re ranted about everything from his wife considering an abortion to Harriet Tubman not really freeing slaves to everyone that has a baby getting a million dollars and ended up crying on-stage. He has posted a series of troubling social media posts during this time, most of which were subsequently deleted and nearly all of them seemingly desperate cries for help.
I have to tell you guys, and this was unexpected, but I’ve felt extremely triggered watching the downfall of Kanye West play out in front of all our eyes. I cannot tell you how much I relate to, of all people, Kim Kardashian.
What do I mean by triggered?
A trigger is something that sets off a reaction in a victim that reminds them of the abuse they suffered. That’s precisely what happened with me when I was in Nashville and again as I’ve watched Kanye West unravel in the national spotlight.
Again, I’m going to dive into this in the coming weeks but for today, I want to focus on the importance of the narrative around mental health.
The stigma around mental health in the United States is incredibly real and incredibly serious. It’s crippling and it prevents people from getting help when they need it most. It causes loved ones to remain distant, friends to abandon ship out of frustration, and everyone involved to be isolated when there is arguably no better time to band together and fight for something. And more often than not, to fight for someone.
Some estimates say that up to 20% of Americans are living with some type of mental health condition. And more than half of them might not even be aware of it, or aware of it and unable to do anything about it for fear of what the label of having a mental health condition might do for them- personally, professionally, emotionally, or even physically.
I cannot tell you how many people that I know associate those with mental health conditions as “weak.” Let me tell you from firsthand experience, there is nothing weak about someome that is living with a mental health condition. Those that I know afflicted with various conditions are some of the bravest people that I have the pleasure of knowing.
Let me tell you, there is nothing weak about someone that is living with a mental health condition.Tweet
I know how easy it must be to look at Kanye West and use the “c” word – his actions are being described by many as crazy. May I kindly ask you to not use that word to describe what appears to be, by all accounts, a legitimate manic episode? The word crazy, after all, perpetuates the mental health stigma, and perpetuating the stigma causes people to shy away from treatment.
Because Kanye West is such a public figure, his life invites criticism and scrutiny. But, like other celebrities that have had breakdowns in the public forum, that doesn’t mean that mental health issues attack them any differently than the rest of us. They are entitled to the same level of compassion, care, and privacy as the rest of us.
Here’s a few things you can do to have more productive conversation about what is going on with Kanye West or others in your lives:
- Be conscious of your language choices.
- Show compassion.
- Boldly walk away from shame.
- Talk openly about mental health or issues that are traditionally “private”
- Educate yourself.
- Be honest about treatment.