The Mental Health Breakdown I Still Can’t Figure Out

The therapy I’ve done that involves understanding how events in my life are connected and the role they play with each other in my mental, emotional and even physical life has been invaluable, but there are still things that are anomalies. This is one such story that I still can’t completely figure out.

This takes place almost immediately after The Suicide Story, but I don’t think there’s any connection. It was the first or second week of 2014 and unbeknownst to me, I was only about 12 weeks away from being arrested and my life forever changing.

Despite the fact that my magazine was falling apart, my addictions were running rampant and I was heavily involved in coordinating the next version of the large film festival I helped create, I decided to take a course at the local college.

The offer was too good to pass up. I was essentially handed a scholarship to take the class and all I had to do was give a speech at a “Return to College” event that was held annually in the area. I’d never finished college – barely got started, actually – and did dream of one day finishing. I figured even if it was only one course, it would put me that much closer to getting a diploma at some point in the far future.

I had a tremendous amount of anxiety walking into that classroom for the first time. I’d quit college three times to that point, although it had been 15 years since my last attempt. I was now one of the older students I always felt bad for in a sea of 19- and 20-year-olds. I liked the idea that these people didn’t run in the same circles as me. I wouldn’t be the magazine guy or the city councilor. I’d just be the old guy (37, but still old comparatively) in class.

It was an ethics class, and after the instructor introduced the idea of ethics vs. morals, she opened things up for discussion. I remember sitting there aghast at the naivete of the students. I knew they were young, but they really had no clue how the world worked. Instead of speaking up, which is my natural reaction, I kept quiet, observing what was going on around me. Later on, we were put into the groups we would be working with toward a massive final project at the end of the semester. They seemed nice enough, but I still felt so out of place.

When the syllabus was handed out, I saw the presentation for projects was to be done the first night of the film festival. I was not going to miss that, but didn’t want to tell the teacher right away for fear I’d be given an ultimatum and she’d get pissy I didn’t pick her course.

The class met once a week and in the six days in between, I didn’t do any of the reading in our textbook. I could make excuses I didn’t have time, but if I had time to cruise chat rooms in the middle of the night, I had time to read a couple chapters about ethics.

The following week, I pulled up to the building, walked in and proceeded to walk right by the classroom. I couldn’t force myself inside. I walked to the end of the hall and sat in a chair in a lounge area to catch my breath. I psyched myself up to enter the room, got out of the chair, walked down that hall and…walked right by the classroom again, out the front door of the building and into my Jeep.

I couldn’t quite explain it, but the anxiety and fear I felt was overwhelming. I decided to go back to the office and try to forget about what happened. On my way to the office, I got nabbed for speeding. I’m not a speeder and in 30 years of driving have only been stopped one other time.

The officer came to the car, asked if I knew why he stopped me and I immediately burst into tears. He knew who I was and wasn’t expecting that response. Looking back, I think it really threw him. He asked what was wrong and I didn’t get into details, but just said my life was falling apart around me and all I could do was watch. I think it was the first time I’d said anything like that out loud to someone. He asked me to gather myself before I kept going and just to drive safely.

I didn’t do any of the reading that week either. I believe I sent the teacher a note with some BS excuse why I didn’t attend class.

I got myself ready for class the following week, spending a little extra time beforehand on the mental side of things. I was going to walk through that door, put last week behind me and become a contributing member of that class.

I couldn’t even get myself out the Jeep. I was sitting in the parking lot, crying as hard as I did when the cop stopped me a week earlier. I probably sat there for 20 minutes before deciding to call it a day and just head home. I didn’t have these outbursts other times during that time period. Just when the cop stopped me and when I was in the school parking lot. A few days later, I called the organization that awarded me the scholarship and told them that my schedule wouldn’t allow me to continue with class and offered to pay them back.

To this day, I still don’t know what happened there. I have a lot of theories:

  • Going back to school conjured up memories of never finishing
  • I was simply too scared to be in a room where I stuck out like a sore thumb
  • My schedule was too full and this was just an involuntary reaction – it was the straw that broke the camel’s back
  • I’ve always disliked school and felt vulnerable not being in control of the classroom the way I was in control with my professional endeavors at the time
  • I feared it would be all for naught if I wasn’t there to give my final project presentation – I’d fail
  • I had some sixth sense that my life was about to come crashing down – in reality I never would have finished the class after my arrest

Truthfully, I have no idea what happened here, but my reaction was way over-the-top considering the situation. Granted, I wasn’t healthy at the time, but I wasn’t having this reaction to everything happening in my life. I don’t know if I threw in the towel before I started, after that first week, when I couldn’t get through the classroom door of the second week or when I couldn’t even get out of the car in week three.

This incident still leaves me scratching my head. I don’t know that it would have any profound effect on my life today figuring it out, but it’s one of those things I’d still like to understand.

 

The Suicide Story

Major trigger warning on this one. I’ll be discussing suicide casually, perhaps too casually for many. You’ve been warned. And don’t commit suicide. Please don’t. Hopefully this story shows that it can be a misinterpretation of what’s happening around you. Don’t kill yourself.

 

I don’t remember where I first heard it; maybe it was on TV or at my doctor’s, or perhaps even my first therapist visit, but I took it seriously. The message was something to the effect of “we have totally confidentiality unless I feel that you’re a danger to yourself or others.”

The “others” part I understand. If my wife goes to see her doctor and says she’s going to murder me, I say please intervene. When it comes to myself, I can read through your state board of health mandated language: If I tell you I’m going to kill myself, you have to tell them to take me away.

Now to me, this is counterintuitive. If somebody actually is suicidal and you want them to tell you, you can’t first threaten them with involuntary hospitalization. The serious ones are going to keep their mouth shut.

I was always afraid to ask the question: “How far do suicidal thoughts have to go before they actually become dangerous?” I thought the men with the jackets would come and get me just for wondering that aloud.

I think since I was a kid I always wondered how I would kill myself if I was going to do it. Would I have the guts to hang myself or would I try something more passive like carbon monoxide poisoning? Could I slit my wrists or even in my last moments, would that pain be too much to handle and I’d just swallow a fistful of pills? It’s dark, but I figured everybody had those thoughts.

I can’t quite explain this, but when I was 19 years old, I went to Amsterdam and when I managed to pull myself away from the Red Light District, I visited the Van Gogh Museum. It instantly became my favorite museum on Earth. Something happened within me that just connected. Maybe it was that we shared red hair and a beard. Maybe it’s that we are both destined to never sell a painting while we’re alive. I can’t tell you what it was, but a feeling washed over me that told me like the great artist, my life would come to an end at my own hand at 37 years old.

This plagued me for a while. Suddenly, I was convinced I knew when I was going to die. I didn’t know how, but I knew that it was suicide. I brought up the “have you considered how you’d kill yourself?” question to a few people over the next decade and found that they have never asked themselves that question. I started to keep my mouth shut about it and never mentioned it to a health professional.

Wouldn’t you know, my personal and professional worlds started crashing not long after I turned 37 years old. I couldn’t figure a way to save my businesses or relationships with those around me. The addictions exploded. Bad memories came flooding back. It wasn’t a good scene. I was falling fast and nearly circling the drain.

On Christmas night 2013, about six weeks before I was to turn 38 on February 8, after everyone else had gone to bed, something washed over me. It was a feeling of calm warmth that I’d never felt before and it came with a message: Now is the time to kill yourself. There was no debating how to do it. No finding pen and paper to write a note. I knew it was time and it would be by hanging in my garage.

The only thought of worry was if the beam would hold me. I walked out to the garage and looked up the beam when I realized that both cars weren’t in our driveway. We’d only taken one car that day to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner. If I was going to hang myself in there, I’d have to move the car. If I did that, the garage door would need to be opened and the car moved. I’d have to then shut the garage door so nobody passing by saw me. All of that would have been too loud and woken up my wife and kids.

And then, like air shooting out of a balloon, that warm feeling left. I was cold, in the garage, in my pajamas. I knew how I got there, but I suddenly felt very removed from the out-of-body experience I just had. I didn’t want my kids to discover me and I didn’t want them to grow up feeling like they lost the DNA lottery because their dad couldn’t handle things. I left the garage and went back to the living room, scared that I was capable of having such a clear message to take my life. If that feeling is what people have before they commit suicide, I can see how it happens.

Thankfully I’ve never had that feeling again, in my last few weeks as a 37-year-old, or otherwise. Keep in mind, this was about 12 weeks before the police showed up at my door. Even during the entire legal ordeal, I never felt this way again and hope it never reappears. There was a calmness and finality to it that is scary in retrospect.

Fast-forward about two years to 2015 and I’m between the time I was arrested and sentenced, becoming mentally stronger every day, starting to understand how I became an addict, and learning how to live a life of recovery. I finally decided to share this story with my therapist because I wasn’t having any suicidal ideations, almost for the first time, in my life.

“I think you were about six weeks off predicting the end of your life,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You turned 38 on February 8. You were arrested March 20 and let’s be honest, that life, the sick life, came to an end. I don’t think you subconsciously planned anything, but it’s interesting that nearly 20 years ago, you knew something was going to happen when you were 37. You just got the fine details of timing a little wrong,” she explained.

I liked that conclusion and have adopted it. The rush that my life was going to end didn’t mean my physical life. It meant that the illness of addiction that was enveloping me came to an end. I have pictures and plenty of memorabilia from that other guy’s life, but I’m not that other guy anymore. He died, and every day, I make sure he remains dead.

 

 

 

Random Thoughts, October 2019: Weird Podcast Experience, Suicide Prevention, Halloween Dangers and More

I haven’t done a random thoughts article in months, and there’s just too much bouncing around my brain lately, so I’m going to throw it on the page and see what happens.

****

I’ll do podcasts with anybody, regardless of who they or their target audience are, as long as I, or porn addicts, are not made the butt of a joke.

I taped one yesterday and when it is available, I’ll have it on the front page of the website and on the appearances page as I do with all of them. This was one of those appearances that was far less about my story and more about pornography in general.

What was really out-of-the-ordinary for me was that this gentleman hosting the show was trying to draw a lot of conclusions about what he felt was the disintegration of our society and porn’s role in it. That’s not an objective viewpoint, and the world is misinformed about pornography enough that it doesn’t need me making stuff up off the top of my head.

My view of society is that it changes and evolves. As individuals we can interpret whether those changes are good or bad, but there is no correct or incorrect answer. It’s all subjective. Was society better in the 1950s when the woman stayed home with the 2.5 kids and the man was the breadwinner? I don’t know because both of my grandmothers had jobs, so my parents weren’t raised in that environment. I know there is a segment of society who feels the world was better with that as the stereotypical family dynamic. So, which culture is better? I guess it depends on your personal opinion of a lot of factors.

As the questioning moved forward, I shared the true statistic that straight women watch more lesbian pornography than straight men watch gay porn. When he asked why, I shared an expert’s opinion I’d heard and agree with, but since I had no hard data, it was really only a guess, and it had nothing to do with morality. That opened the floodgates to questions about homosexuality and its place in today’s society, and the questions started with wording like, “Wouldn’t you agree…” instead of “Why do you think…”

He was a good interviewer in clearly trying to get me to say something I don’t believe, but I’ve been interviewing people professionally since I was 17. I’m not easy to trap. I’m very curious to see how this one turns out.

****

Screen Shot 2019-10-22 at 6.15.21 PMCheck out this congratulations logo I got from WordPress during the day yesterday. Why the heck am I congratulated for this random number? Why not 1,400 or 1,500? It’s very peculiar. Thanks to everybody who has liked what I’ve written over the last two years. I’ve really felt a deeper sense of connection over the last few weeks since I’ve started writing almost daily than at any other point.

****

Sometimes the search terms that people use that lead them to my site are downright cryptic. I have no idea what “resentment porn on Tuesday” means, but I hope they got their answer. The other day, somebody visited the site after searching for “I’m a porn addict. Is life over?” I’m hoping the person meant in the hypothetical sense of if they have no possibility of having a “normal” life, however they define it.

If they meant the idea that their life should come to an end, that makes me sad. I hope that nobody who is struggling with porn addiction – or any addiction for that matter – thinks their addiction is an unwinnable battle that should end in suicide. I’m proof that there’s plenty of hope. I know there was a strong possibility I would have gone down that road had the police not intervened. I had seriously considered it once, but thankfully woke up from that haze before I went through with it.

If you’ve got an addiction of any kind, or think you’re going to commit suicide for any reason, take 10 minutes and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There is nothing that you can go through that can’t somehow be made better. And I understand seeing it as an option, believe me, I really do. It does feel like things will never get better. Just give them a call.

****

Ashley L. Peterson reviewed my first book today at this link. I think it’s a very fair reviews, as I wrote in the comments. It’s always harrowing when somebody gives a review because I feel like since it’s my story, it’s almost passing judgment on who I am. I walked away relieved.

****

While I abandoned my re-entry to the Facebook world, I have entered the world of LinkedIn for the first time. I’m still not totally sure how to use it, but at least it’s a place where I don’t have to read how blessed, psyched to go to the gym or ready for the weekend everybody claims to be. If you’re on there and want to connect, just send an invitation to Joshua Shea. I’m the one who is getting tattooed in the photo. Yeah, maybe it’s not professional, but I am who I am, and that’s a guy with nine tattoos he likes wearing far more than a suit and tie.

****

As Halloween approaches, you may get the typical media hysteria in states like Maine, Kentucky or Indiana where there are no laws about convicted sex offenders (with either hands-on or hands-off offenses) passing out candy. These are actually the forward-thinking states.

Did you know there is not one confirmed case of a sex offender abducting or harming any child they did not know in the history of our country as result of a visit to their door on Halloween, yet dozens of states have laws against sex offenders of any kind handing out candy? The reality is 90% of hands-on sex offenders know their victims, with about half being family members, and the vast majority are groomed over time without force.

And while we’re talking about Halloween misconceptions, did you know that there have been less than 10 verified cases of candy tampering in 60 years, with only one happening since 1999 and of those cases there was only one death? Almost every reported incident (about 80 between 1959 and 2010) has been proven to be a hoax. So, there’s another thing to not be so scared about on Halloween. The media is good at hysteria because hysteria sells.

Guest Blog: How Men’s Mental Health is Completely Ignored

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

With the recent news on suicide of high-profile public figures such as Anthony Bourdain and Avicii, it may be difficult to wrap our head about the fact that mental health for men is very underrepresented. Whether it’s because women often speak out, or there is generally more women who suffer from mental health issues, this is not an excuse to ignore the other side of the spectrum.

 

The facts about mental health problems in men

Also known as the “silent battle”, many men often fear coming clean of the issues they are facing because of the stigma about mental health. Often, it is easier for women to admit that they are facing these issues because there is no double standard when it comes to talking about emotions. Many men suffer in silence for two main reasons: they don’t want to be thought of as “weak”, and they don’t want to be labeled as someone with a mental health issue.

However, this problem is only making the situation worse. According to recent statistics, 75% of the total population who commits suicide annually are men. In simpler ratio, a man attempts to take his own life every 20 minutes in the United States. The stigma isn’t helping–and the silence is aggravating the situation either way. Often ignored, men may even suffer more severe symptoms of mental health problems when untreated. Some of the common conditions include:

Depression

A total of 6 million men in the United States undergo depression every year. Since men may be less attuned with their emotions, some of them have less awareness that they might be suffering from a condition. Male depression is much less diagnosed compared to female depression. Some of the telltale signs of depression in men are:

  • Fatigue – general exhaustion, lack of physical energy to do usual tasks
  • Irritability – easily angered, annoyed, displays negative moods which are far from the usual self
  • Aggression – threatens to hurt others, hurt oneself, or shows physical or verbal signs of abuse
  • Loss of interest in activities – lack of motivation in work, hobbies, and relationships

These signs are quite different from those of women, as women often report feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Since men’s minds are wired differently, depression may manifest differently.

Anxiety

Aside from depression, men are also prone to developing anxiety problems. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Extreme sense of worry – loss of judgement over things that may cause actual harm vs. those that shouldn’t be thought about too much
  • Physical manifestations – nervous breakdown, panic attacks, cold sweats
  • Loss of function – in some cases, anxiety may be severe to the point that a man may refuse to even avoid daily activities to suppress feelings of anxiety

Another hidden problem that has lately starting to gain attention are men diagnosed with social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Some men isolate themselves to the point that they never go out of the house for years, as seen in Japan’s epidemic called Hikikomori in men.

Bipolar Disorder

Over 2.3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, half of which are men usually around the ages of 16-25. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings which have two opposite poles: manic phase and depressive phase.

During the manic phase, a man may feel a sense of invigoration, similar to feelings like “he can conquer the world”. This results to sleeplessness, heightened senses, and even engagement with reckless activities. This might be very draining as some men experience manic episodes even during normal times of rest. During depressive phase, men may feel sluggish, unmotivated, and restless to seek another “high”.

A lot of men who suffer from bipolar disorder couldn’t sort out their emotions clearly, making them resort to unhealthy ways to cope such as drinking alcohol and taking in drugs. As a result, bipolar disorder can be accompanied with problems in substance abuse.

Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and psychosis is a very debilitating condition that affects how a person views reality and their internal thoughts. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre ways of thinking. People with schizophrenia may even be acting on things that appear on their minds, having mistakenly thought that it was appearing in real life.

Other men who have schizophrenia have reduced feelings of happiness, may have a flat affect, or have trouble remembering past events.

It is shocking to know that most schizophrenia patients are men over 30. This is an alerting statistic that professionals should be taking mental health for men more seriously, as early diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia disorder is key.

 

Why are men’s mental health often ignored?

To understand the reasons why men’s mental health is not given its due attention, we must take a look at the problem in many angles.

There are double standards for men in mental health.

Looking at a sociocultural perspective, the stigma on men has always been there–they are perceived as emotionally tough, mentally strong, and does not break down with the slightest challenges in life. This is often portrayed in the media through Hollywood’s superheroes, soldiers, and other men of valor who did not let their “feelings” get in the way.

As this stigma is embedded in men’s minds, it has become difficult for them to open about what they are going through because men are supposed to toughen up. This double standard to be “emotionally strong” has caused lesser men to seek help from mental professionals.

There are many organizations that support mental health for women, but rarely for men.

A lot of mental health organizations are created specifically for women, such as those related to eating disorders, postpartum depression, and anxiety. These organizations run programs that speak specifically to women’s issues, and it is for a good cause.

However, the emphasis on these programs for women strikes a loss of balance for organizations that are specific to men. Thankfully, this has been called to attention and there are now new organizations meant to address some problems commonly faced by men such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression.

Mental health is often overshadowed by a substance abuse problem in men.

Men are known to be problem solvers. Whenever something isn’t right, they don’t want to talk about it–they want to do something about it. This is why in moments of depression, anxiety, or loss of control, men often resort to whatever could seemingly “fix” the problem–whether it’s consumption of drugs, alcohol, or any other form of addiction. Men are more likely to try out different kinds of illicit substances than women.

The problem now appears to be more of a substance abuse problem and the underlying causes that brought about the abuse are often ignored. Although mental health issues are still more common than women, it may be possible that statistics for men are higher if only they sought help instead of turning to substances.

 

What should be done to help increase awareness for men’s mental health?

Given that men suffer as much as women when it comes to mental health, what are specific steps that communities should take to bring awareness for mental health towards the other gender?

Equally promote gender-targeted programs for men.

Just as women have campaigns on their own, men should also be given the same privilege. There should be more programs open to men who are looking to solve mental health problems–campaigns for PTSD, drug rehab for men, and other gender-specific programs to help them feel that they are not alone in their battle as men.

Men should be assured that it is not only women who seek help for mental health. Having more gender-targeted programs make them feel secured that there are other people who may be going through the same problems as them.

Re-program stigmas through media.

The idea that men shouldn’t be talking about how they are feeling should be removed the way it was introduced–through media exposure. Advocates can lobby in media companies and pitch advertisements, campaigns, and programs that would help increase mental health awareness in men.

Additionally, they could also spread the message in other forms–through social media campaigns, contests, and short films. It is okay for men to share their feelings. It is not a form of weakness, rather, it’s a way to unload and to let others understand your mental and emotional states. When men say that they are okay even when they’re not, others might just believe it. Re-programming the stigmas can completely change how men see their mental health.

Strengthen advocacies related to suicide.

Three-quarters of suicides in the United States are done by men. A lot of these men go through bouts of depression, and a recent study shows that men have consumed alcohol over the last hour before their decision to take their own life. This all links back to the tendencies of men to alcoholism, drug intake, and other dangerous addictions as a way to cope with depression.

The thing is, these suicides could have been prevented if the problems in depression was addressed initially. When men suppress their feelings, they tend to deal with their problems in the ways they think would give them satisfaction–through temporary, yet dangerous highs. By cutting the root of the problem, it is easier for men to succumb to problems of addictions and abuse, and ultimately suicide.

There should be more advocacies to help men who are undergoing depression. It would be helpful to see more male high-profile personalities coming out and testifying about their struggles on depression and thoughts of suicide, to help other men understand that they are not facing the challenges alone. When more people talk about it, others muster enough courage to get help.

Check on all the precious men in your lives.

Government programs and non-profit organizations are helpful–but they can only reach as far as those who ask for their help. As citizens, we can always do our part to help men succeed against mental health problems.

The first thing is to understand the signs of common mental health problems in men–whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or something else for that matter. Trust your instincts and talk to a professional right away if you notice some signs on your male loved ones. They might be able to give you some ways to encourage the men in your lives to get a definitive diagnosis and treatment.

The second thing to do is to be an encouraging person in times that these people in your life show signs of their mental health problem. We can’t truly, fully, walk in their shoes and understand their struggles, but we can empathize with them. By letting them know that we are there, and we care, they are more likely to be motivated to get help for their issues.

Lastly, it is also important to be an encourager through your actions. Perhaps your husband may be suffering from substance abuse due to depression. You can be an encourager by inviting him to try jogging outdoors. Maybe your brother exhibit signs of bipolar disorder. Give him motivation by presenting thoughtful reminders about his medication. These simple acts of encouragement makes the men in your lives feel that they matter, and for that they would want to be better.

 

Men deserve help as much as women

When it comes to mental health, men deserve all the help they can get as much as women. Men can also affected with psychological factors as much as any other type of person. However, they might be discouraged to open up due to the lack of support and stigmas in society.

The purpose of this post is to spread awareness that men can also be victims of mental health problems. By understanding why they might be reluctant to seek help, we might just be able to find ways to reach out to them.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Brody Stevens Made Me Feel Better About Myself When I Needed It

Lost in the news of the oversexed (R. Kelly, Robert Kraft) on Friday, there was a small celebrity news item that if you blinked you missed it. A minorly famous comic, Brody Stevens, took his own life in Los Angeles at the age of 48.

In early June 2014, I was only two days out of a 70-day stay at a Palm Springs rehab center for my alcoholism when my brother, who lived in L.A., suggested we go to The Comedy Store to see that night’s showcase.

One-by-one, the comics (including Marc Maron and SNL’s Leslie Jones) did their sets. Brody Stevens came on as the last comic of the night. I knew him from The Hangover and little things he’d done on Comedy Central, but mostly from having read about him recently having had a meltdown on a Twitter, scaring those in the comedy world for threatening suicide via social media.

I knew the tradition at The Comedy Store was that the last comic was allowed to go as long as they wanted. By the time he took the stage, probably only 40 people were left in the crowd. By the time he left the stage over an hour later, shortly after midnight, about 10 of us were left.

He did the most non-traditional set I’d ever seen in that he didn’t tell a single joke. I don’t think I laughed in that 70 or 80 minutes once.

Instead of telling jokes, he acted as a sort of group therapy facilitator for those of us who were left in the crowd, asking questions about people’s lives and providing feedback.

I was one of the people who he talked with first, when I hesitantly raised my hand after he asked who was on medication for their mental health. In most scenarios, opening yourself up like that to a comic on stage is license for ridicule.

Instead, he shared what medication he was on at that point and how it was affecting him. After learning I was from Maine, he asked what I was doing in L.A.

Now, keep in mind, I’d just done 70 difficult days at rehab, having left home after getting arrested in a major scandal. To say I was fragile and still processing things was an understatement. I didn’t know if I wanted to open myself up, but I figured they preached living an honest life in rehab, so I should do it in front of this small group at a famous L.A. comedy club.

“I just finished two months at a rehab in Palm Springs,” I said.

“Congratulations! That’s awesome, my friend! My mom lives in Palm Springs!” he said, excitedly. “I’m going to visit her on Thursday and get a massage at Massage Envy while I’m there. You see, we have more connections! That’s what this is all is about. It’s about connections.”

After another minute he moved onto others, playing a game of invisible catch with one young audience member and counseling a fellow comic who was having a rough, drunken night to name but two of his other interactions.

When the show was over, my brother and I agreed it was the most unorthodox, yet extraordinary set we’ve ever seen. It has stuck with me like few other performances I’ve ever seen, even to this day.

Brody Stevens was right about life being all about making connections. He was able to make a connection with every person who stayed in the room that night. It didn’t matter there was only 10 of us around at the end. It was something special to behold.

While I now am pretty much an open book to people who ask about my story, I wasn’t back then. I didn’t know how to deal with my issues in a public forum or what I should tell people. Brody Stevens was the first person who made me realize I didn’t need to be afraid to share my story.

It really made me sad to see that, according to reports, he’d told comics he’d pulled himself off of his meds not too long ago because it dulled his creativity. It clearly also reawakened the mental health demons he wrestled with. He hung himself on Friday, unable to cope any longer.

I was struck by how many very famous comedians told stories about Stevens in the day or two after his death on social media. Despite not making it to those levels of fame, he clearly entertained and touched those who did get lucky in a way few of their fellow comics can.

I’ll never get to see Brody Stevens perform a second time. I’m just grateful I got the first.