Our photography series, Illness & Identity by Amanda Crommett, continues on as we take an intimate look inside the life of Mike Rosen, exploring the ways that illness experiences are influenced and changed by other aspects of our identities.
"Just the idea of being a kid, I very much lived in the idea of a stigma. Like ‘I don't want to be the one kid in therapy. I don't want to be the one kid on antidepressants.’ I remember when I got that diagnosis, hating it, and wanting it to be out, and very much denying it and fighting it for years. It wasn't really until I got the wisdom of 12 Step and acceptance that I was able to find it freeing. It was like, Oh, that explains why it's so hard for me to do X, Y, and Z. I'm just different than everybody. And that was very freeing."
"I just remember feeling like I was super different, like there was something wrong with me. You know we would go on field trips, or wherever it was. If it was an overnight, I would hide my medication in secret, in the hidden pockets of bags. Or like zippers of coats and stuff. How much of that came from me internally versus externally?"
"I'm glad to be seen as the one [talking about mental illness]. I'm over here wearing the brightly colored everything. Look at me. Because I don't want anybody else to have that same conversation that I had when I was in fifth grade."
"I spend a lot of time in my head, convinced of the world is going wrong. For me to get out of my head, to be able to look at what is out there. And then this added bonus of starting to make something of it, is extremely healing. If for anything, for just that exorcism moment of it's no longer just inside me, and it's no longer just me. Even just the paper is enough to let me know I'm not alone."
"I believe that a lot of men are hurting really, really badly. And a lot of men don't have the vocabulary, whether that is taken literally to mean the actual words, or the emotional vocabulary, or the social vocabulary to be able to not just treat, but even explore that hurt. And it doesn't take a genius to see that hurt men are hurting a lot of people. I mean, look at the news, right? It's sickening. It is really, really sickening. It is an undebatable fact."
"I needed someone who was like your dad died and your girlfriend left and you deal with depression, addiction, and anxiety, aren't you fucking angry? That's where I'm at. If I was there, I knew that there were thousands of other people who were there, just by sheer numbers. So I think the short answer to your question is, we haven't quite figured out the right way to access men who are hurting."
"Our whole lives, men have been hurting and we've been told not to. Like we get it. I imagine there's a certain biological component to men needing to show strength. I get that, like from an evolutionary standpoint, but we no longer live in the jungle. And so it gets really complicated. I made a real choice to be fucking real and to the point with my work and that rubs certain people the wrong way. But what is the idea of a real man? And like what is that and how false is that? I have really complicated feelings about it."
"There are two sides to every coin. If you're going to be strong you have to know when to use it. If you're going to be confident, you have to know when to listen. I think that where I was in my life really needed that softness."
"And I say that just as a reminder to anyone who is new to the game that it's going to take a lot of work to figure this out. It's not going to happen all at once . As we do this work, we're not always right. And I'm especially not always right. We're all in this giant fucking learning process it's going to take way fucking longer than we wanted to and it's not going to look like a straight line. And I think the takeaway is great, we all should be talking about this. It's a new conversation."
We'll be joining Mike and a team of incredible artists and advocates at A Night to Remember on April 28th in Brooklyn, NY - a benefit for our fellow stigma fighters over at The Jed Foundation. To support Jed, Mike and our movement, purchase tickets here: https://bit.ly/2EI6gXC