"Is this thing on? Can we talk? Can we talk Crazy? Who then?"
This past weekend on the “Weekend Update” portion of Saturday Night Live, comedian Pete Davidson did a mock commentary segment. He has made his own mental illness very public and periodically does similar bits on the SNL “news”. In this particular segment he responded to NBA Power Forward Kevin Love’s article about a panic attack he experienced during a game. The article’s point was that no matter who, no matter how famous or rich, and no matter what circumstance, nobody should be ashamed to seek mental health treatment. Davidson’s bit was to mock Love – not so much his panic attack, but rather his article itself. The fact that Love got praise for being courageous galled Davidson. He saying half joking, half seriously said Love should leave unstable (i.e. Crazy) to “the big boys.” He felt an article like Love’s would water down authors with a bit more mental illness chops. And in the end, Love was still an NBA star and nephew of one of the Beach Boys (“Sure he was the worst one but he was still a Beach Boy!”). “Oh sorry about your FREE THROW PERCENTAGE!” Pete was “on” that night and very funny. I, as the youth would say, laughed out loud.
At first I agreed. It sometimes feels unfair that a celebrity leading a charmed life can just waltz in, write an article explaining their brush with mental illness, then be lauded as a brave advocate for the mentally ill. “Let us have just this,” Davidson pleaded on camera. By this he staked a claim: Let the Crazies speak for the Crazies. Because yes, it might “water down” the message of all Crazies if someone with a less debilitating illness made claims of being “one of us Crazies”. And let’s face it, yes, we Crazies can’t help but compare each other’s Crazy. It can be like that scene in Jaws when Quint and Hooper are comparing shark bite scars. Yes it’s a competition, but it’s one of mutual respect.
And that’s the rub. Sure we Crazies might try to out-Crazy the other, but in the end? Crazy respect Crazy. And really, who is to decide who “wins” such a contest. Who decides when one Crazy is *Crazy enough* to speak for other Crazies. How bad does Kevin Love’s life have to be? How crippling do his panic attacks have to be? How bad is Pete Davidson’s life that he can vie for the title, Speaker for All Crazies? I mean do you have to have attempted suicide or is just thinking about suicide enough? Is it a matter of how many meds you’re on? Or how many years you’ve been sick? Or maybe it’s how bad your childhood was? My childhood didn’t involve child abuse, sexual predation, molestation, bullying or poverty. Does this disqualify me from writing about Depression? Do I need more shit in my life to validate my mental illness resumé? My Crazy cred? My looney bone fides?
My point is that, as humorous as Davidson’s bit was (and I get that it was just a bit), it still ends up criticizing someone for wanting to shine a light on a problem that doesn’t get enough light. And should we begrudge Kevin Love simply because, as an NBA star, he has a large platform, a very bright light? Even if his mental illness experience is one that only affects him from sinking a three-pointer, does that make the message any less true? He didn’t write it just to talk about his on-court panic attack. He wrote also to say that mental illness should be outed, exposed without shame, treated like a “broken hand or a sprained ankle” as he wrote.
It’s hard enough living with mental illness and expressing ourselves openly. The last thing we need is to be Crazy-shamed because our personal Crazy isn’t “Crazy Enough”. Like I said in my last post, there is now a mission for me. For bringing mental illness out of the shadows. To let us heal in plain sight. If Kevin Love’s article helps this mission, I wouldn’t care if his illness only limited him when he’s cashing multi-million dollar paychecks. Pete Davidson does a great (and hilarious) job of doing just this. He does illuminate how incredibly hard his depression has been since childhood. But even if it has only been a minor inconvenience, his work would still be valid. And hey, am I at fault here for shaming his bit? What if I were to complain, “Hey Pete. At least you got a gig on SNL!” Wouldn’t that be just as hypercritical and hypocritical? Yes it would. So I only criticize a very specific comedy bit of his. Call me a heckler, not a Crazy-shamer.
I’ve mentioned I’ve lived a charmed life, a life of privilege, a life of wealth, and even some power. If I had completed my suicide as I once (and sometimes still) desired, it would have been no less tragic. It matters not where we fall from (sorry, poor choice of words). It does matter if we’re too ashamed to seek the help to prevent falling. Shine your light, Kevin Love. Use your platform. The NBA is now taking notice and do you know who notices the NBA? Kids who look up to you as their heroes. Kids who might be suffering. And Pete? Keep making us laugh about mental illness, Mr. Davidson. Use your comedy and your own SNL platform to shine your light on the shadows and the shame. All methods can be done. Bravery. Sportsing. Comedy. These things are not mutually exclusive.