“Go from Depressed to Refreshed in 60 minutes”

An Evening with Paul E. Jones

Posted In:   From Issue 733   By: Robert E Martin

29th September, 2011     0

HealthSource Saginaw and Saginaw Valley State University have teamed together for an innovative approach at presenting issues involving bipolar and mental illness to the community. On Thursday, October 13thnoted comedian Paul Jones will address the topic in at appearance at SVSU's Curtiss Hall/Malcolm Field Theatre entitled Go From Depressed to Refreshed in 60 Minutes'. 

Paul explores the many sobering issues surrounding mental illness while simultaneously using his gift of humor as previous professional Stand-up Comedian to make the gravity of this often serious topic both educational and entertaining.  Moreover, the community is invited to experience the impact of this powerful speaker at no cost with free admission.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Paul about the insightful ways that he manages to approach such an increasingly common and serious condition that permeates all levels and strata of society. 

Review: Can you please give me some background in terms of how you became interested in pursing comedy as a professional career and at what point did your own mental health concerns start to surface?  

Paul Jones: Doing stand-up was kind of an accident. The short version is one night while playing music in a bar a patron decided to get ill on my equipment. I informed my partner that this was the end of my music in bars.  I was told I should go and do an Open Mic night at the local funny-bone, so I signed up, did the Open Mic, fell in love with it and ended up doing about 190 shows my first year. 

Review: How did these mental health issues manifest themselves and at what point did you become concerned enough to see treatment? 

Paul Jones: I can trace my depression back to about the age of 11, however I really did not start to have major issues with it until about the age of 25. By the age of 33 I found myself stuck in a depression that I was unable to get out of. It was at this time that I knew in my heart I was not going to be able to stay alive much longer and that I had to reach out to a doctor for help. 

Sadly, I found out fast that I had been hiding for no real reason for most of my life from something that can be handled. You start to feel pretty stupid when you realize that all you really needed to do was ask for help. Hindsight has always been 20/20 now, hasn't it? 

Review: Bi-polar disorder is a relatively new segment of psychiatry and I suppose it can be argued that everybody is bi-polar to some degree. Indeed, when you look at some of our most famous comics, a case can be made that being 'crazy' is part of the game. How would you define the line between madcap and madness? 

Paul Jones: I define it as a 'fine' line and how were you able to get your own bi-polar issues under control?  It's funny, I really do not look at is as my brain illness as the issue as much as not knowing I had a brain illness. See what some folks do not understand is for me the fact I could not explain the high highs and the low-lows is what caused the majority of my problems, not the brain illness itself. I had no clue because I was hiding and would not ask for help or even admit that I had an illness. I simply thought I was crazy and/or that I had a flaw in my character. It's scary to think that I spent 25 years thinking I was just 'whack'. Do you think a diabetic goes that long before getting checked? I don't. 

Review: Do you believe in using modern psychiatric drugs & medications as a tool in combating this type of illness, or prefer more natural alternative approaches? 

Paul Jones: This is a very personal question because everyone will be different. Let me answer this the best I can for me and understand it is not going to be the same for all who read this. As stated earlier, to me this is a brain illness. My brain has a chemical imbalance that helps to cause highs and lows unlike most people. Because of this I do use medication to help balance that which nature has left sub-par. If I had high cholesterol I may be prescribed a natural regiment to control it, I may be given medication to control it, or maybe both depending on my situation. This is no different. I know what works for me, I stick to my plan, and when I feel that I need attention to this plan I seek it from my doctor. 

Review: Well, do you feel that drugs often eliminate the highs & lows and consequently impact the edge that many comics find critical in terms of being able to make people laugh? 

Paul Jones: There is not one single doubt that I personally have had to adjust the way I write and or create. I am ten years into my re-birth and have learned tons. Look at it like this - anytime you change the makeup of your brain you are going to have to make adjustments. The difference between me and many with a brain illness is that I control it, it does not control me. I educate myself and do not sit back and wait for a doctor to tell me how I feel. 

Review: What do you feel is the biggest challenge that people diagnosed with bi-polar disorder face? 

Paul Jones: This could be long, but I will be as short as possible. Themselves. How's that? By getting past the past and looking to the future. People with this brain illness are not unlike most people with any illness or any health issue. Until you face it you got nothing. Until you make the decision to take control, you got nothing. Until you decide to take the responsibility yourself, you again have nothing. I have found that most people who tend to use their brain illness for all their problems will generally never get better. I have a saying...It's easy to be fat, weak, stupid and lazy so are you living the easy life? 

Review: Tell me a bit about the show that you will be presenting for HealthSource? What can audiences expect? 

Paul Jones: What can audiences expect? First off the people at HealthSource must be thanked for once again bringing me up to the area. I think the one thing people can expect is first off to have a Fun and Entertaining time. Face it - talking about Mental Health is not generally considered comedy. I try and mix my real life situations with real life solutions. One thing for sure is if people are easily offended, they need to stay at home. Political Correctness is barred from all my shows. I am an equal opportunity offender and I will get around to everyone eventually. 

Review: Tell me a bit about your book. At what point did you decide to write it and was working through it and chronicling your journey the best therapy that you could carve out and administer for yourself? 

Paul Jones: Well depending on which book you are talking about will depend on the answer. Dear World A Suicide Letter (2003) came about because 2 years after being diagnosed I determined it would be best to simply give up. This is really not now, nor then ever meant to be a book. It is my exact Suicide Letter as it was written the day that it saved my life, edited only for spelling. It is what it is, and it truly did change my entire life forever. 

The Up and Down Life; The Truth about Bipolar Disorder, the good, the bad and the funny (2008) is truly a wonderful book. I enjoyed writing it and honestly I enjoyed reading it. I personally have never read "Dear World" I am really not interested in visiting that day again. But back to the Up and Down Life, I tried as hard as I could to paint the picture for those who do not understand and at the same time provide those who have a brain illness with some insight as to how I managed and or tried to manage. Let's be real here, everyone is different. Situations are different, lives are different, and there is no single correct way in dealing with life. There is no set way that a person with this Brain Illness should act or be. You have got to get personal with your treatment and success will come. For some it will be easy and for others a struggle. 

Review: Any other thoughts you might like to share? 

Paul Jones: The bottom line I think is that in the United States we have a major mental health issue. According to the CDC and the World Health Organization plus a bunch of other really smart people 1 in 4 adults over the age of 18 in the United States have a diagnosable Mental Health Issue. 1 in 4, 25%, 1/4 of the people in this country are a tad off their cracker at any one given time.  

Sitting in Washington, DC right now are 535 people deciding how to fix our country - this means 133.75 of them are nuts. That explains a ton does it not? Even more scary is according to these same really smart people 50% of our population will have a Mental Health issue in their lifetime...50%, 2 in 4, 1/2...are you hearing me?  

That means of the two of us 1/2 of us is off their cracker at some point in their life. Now I ask this: Why on earth is something that is so prevalent in our country, Mental Health, treated like it does not exist or worse, treated as though it is the black plague?  

We are an incredibly violent country and people wonder why? I don't... We completely ignore one of the number 1 health issues we have in this country simply because we are afraid of it. I have come to embrace the fact that my Brain needs to be cared for. Am I perfect at it? No. But just by understanding how very important it is to care for my brain the best I can I am heads above the rest. Brains that are not well make bad decisions every single day. Many of them could be avoided just by simply understanding. 

Mental Health - it's not just for crazy people anymore. 

For more information on this special appearance by Paul Jones, please contact Lynne Price at Healthsource Saginaw at 989-790-7741.  

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