Mentally Ill on the Mic: How Paul Gilmartin Brings Us All Together

Gilmartin's inquisitiveness comes through largely during his conversations with guests (other comedians, artists, friends, and even doctors). The reasons why humans are the way they are is a question that has driven him during his entire  career. "I remember just being fascinated by why people did what they did," he said. "I realized at a young age that you don't just hit a certain age and you're okay. This never ends." Every one of the guests -- from fellow comedian/podcaster and best friend Jimmy Pardo to Adam Carolla to an ex-con he befriended years ago named Murph -- prove that insecurities last throughout life. It's the manifestations that are very different. Some lash out in anger, some ebb back and seclude themselves, and some use the act-as-if method, but they all demonstrate that no matter the amount of fame, money, or riches, nothing of substance can happen until you are happy with yourself. "It's not about what other people think of you. It's what you think of you," Gilmartin told me. "Why do we want to be rich and famous? Because we want people to love us. Well, you don't to be that for people to love you. You just have to stop trying to be the stuff that's not the authentic you. And that's what the podcast is I think. I show how I'm peeling away these layers that I think I need to in order to be loved. And by saying here's this layer, I do get love."

Vulnerability, emotions, connecting with others -- these are the foundations of ultimately being happy with yourself and living a life of peace with minimal issues from your mental health, according to Gilmartin. While he's aware there are different remedies for various people (Gilmartin admits to taking prescribed anti-depressants), he's a staunch believer of therapy and support groups acting as a first step. "You ease into them, and get to know people in there. All of a sudden you don't feel like a stranger, you feel a little more part of it," he said. He also praises vulnerability in overcoming issues. "If everybody in the room becomes vulnerable or at least enough of them, it's amazing what can happen. I probably say I love you to people five or six times a day," Gilmartin said. "I'm constantly on the phone with friends and people from support groups. It's become a part of my vocabulary now. If I feel positive about a person now, I tell them. I don't wait until they die in a hospital to tell them."

Having been diagnosed with depression many years ago and overcome alcohol and drug addiction, the comedian claims that ultimately his wife saved him. "In 2003, I was thinking about suicide probably every hour. And what made me want to do it even more was the fact that my life was good. I had a great job. I had a wife that loved me. Had financial success. And so my wife, very gently, suggested that I go see somebody. So I thought I should because something was wrong with me," Gilmartin said. "I came to find out that I had a drug and alcohol problem. I knew I was a heavy user but I didn't know that I had lost the ability to quit. So I began connecting."

If The Mental Illness Happy Hour proves one thing it is that we are not alone. From teenagers to adults, insecurities and mental issues affect us all. But by putting ourselves out there and finding help we are becoming more vulnerable and more open to the possibilities of living happily, authentically. It's only when we let our ego get the best of us that those insecurities inflate and take over. "I think the soul and the ego are always pointed in completely different directions," Gilmartin said. "And our society is ego-driven. We think we know everything. Generally there's a lot of arrogance and not a lot of responsibility."

Taking the first step to get help is a difficult one, but an essential one. "People think the feelings they have are from their situation and not a manifestation of what's going on inside of them," Gilmartin said. "Their soul needs that energy of connecting to somebody else in a way that is about the vulnerability and not about trying to impress one another."

"To me, there is no more intimate medium than podcasting," he added. "When people say the show is so real, I love it. It's what I was always trying to get to with my stand up but I never could because I could never feel safe enough in a comedy club to feel vulnerable. And vulnerability is the first step to connecting to other people. For me it was at least."

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Kyle Dowling is a writer based in New York City. His work has also appeared in PlayboyCOED Magazine, Psychology Tomorrow, and The Smoking Jacket, among others. 

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