I find myself obsessed with watching YouTube videos produced by Jacob Bowman on his well-received channel, “ I have Schizophrenia.” Jacob Bowman has quite a following. One commentator praised Jacob for his charisma, calling him the” Schizophrenic James Dean.” This viewer finds him so cool he could listen to Jacob for hours, even if was he talking about something as boring as paint drying. I, for one, agree because Jacob is extremely cool in an almost retro way, even when describing “schizophrenia on a bad day,” or hygiene—relating, of course, to the subject of mental illness –or how he believes that no one, whether schizophrenic or not, should ever give up hope. I am grateful Jacob does not talk about paint drying, although I’m sure he would make it fascinating. Rather, he connects with people who have mental illness and to the people who love and care for them. His insight into his own illness helps me to understand what the hell is going on.
Understandably, Jacob Bowman manages to win the hearts and minds of many who search their way to his channel—some have mental illness themselves. Not only is he beautiful to behold even “on a bad day,” but he’s honest. He also smokes like an anti-hero from the 50’s, loves Stephen Hawking, which makes him charmingly intellectual, and knows exactly when to inject expletives into his presentation. His large YouTube following is from my point of view, entirely well-deserved. He helps to educate through his honesty and he helps to de-stigmatize mental health disorders through bravery and unabashed transparency.
“There’s a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life… We who struggle with these disorders can lead full, happy, productive lives, if we have the right resources.”
– Elyn R. Saks
Now, why would I be a subscriber to his channel and one who offers frequent likes on his videos? I do not have a mental health diagnosis and consider myself simply a garden variety neurotic with my share of issues and dysfunctions. I find listening to Jacob helpful because my adult son has been living with me for eight months and he has taken up residence on the living room couch. I have had to up my Wi-Fi gigabytes to the speed bump level because the streaming goes on 24/7 and I am not exaggerating. The television is on day and night as a distraction to the constant unwelcome commentary in his head. I’ve come to except that he will not make use of his bedroom for the time being and I’ve come to except that he may not bathe for a week or more at a time and that he does not like to talk. He has been diagnosed. Now, I have to go places I have never gone before, like in Star Trek, and be willing to venture into outer space for understanding.
“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”
― Philip K. Dick
My support group has been amazing—my God, these people actually get it when I complain, “He is still on the couch.” Or, “He refuses to take a shower.” They understand when I complain that I am sick of people saying, “I don’t like to label people,” or “Medication is bad for you. What about herbs? What about diet?” As a society, we need education on mental illness before rushing to judgments or offering advice. There are no easy answers, or perhaps, answers at all.
Thank you, Jacob Bowman, for being real, for putting a face on schizophrenia, for being out of the closet, for your bravery, and for telling us all to NEVER GIVE UP HOPE.