People complain when I share too much. They say I should have a little shame. How can I write so honestly about mental illness, sex, and bodily functions? Am I not couth? Do I even know what the word “decorum” means?
I’ve never had a filter. Even when I was a young boy in school, I challenged the limits of what was proper. In the 3rd grade, the teacher sent me home from school because I turned in a story I wrote about something I was passionate about.
I didn’t understand what the problem was when she said good boys don’t write about how toxic their father’s farts were.
It was a fact of life. Why shouldn’t I write about it?
The other kids laughed at me, because while they were chasing girls on the playground, I was sitting on the bleachers, writing in a notebook about cooties and why girls shouldn’t hold unsuspecting boys down and force Maria Gross to kiss them.
I was a tortured child.
As I got older, I was less naïve, but I hadn’t developed my embarrassment muscles as everyone else had. I was open and honest, and not many people liked it.
I spent my young life in a very strict religion. Young Christian boys weren’t supposed to have an interest in talking about the things they thought about secretly. I’d lost count of how many disapproving stares I received from the members of my congregation.
I couldn’t grasp that people thought certain subjects were off-limits. I didn’t understand why most people got upset when I mentioned things about myself that embarrassed them. They saw the things I was saying in themselves.
People don’t like to be called out. They don’t like to think about the worst parts of themselves.
I thrived on it.
I explored my passion for writing by filling notebooks with my thoughts about things no one else wanted to hear. I knew what people would think if I talked about the voices I heard in the dark at night. Instead, I had imaginary conversations where people cared and made an effort to understand why I was the way I was.
I quit school at a young age, partly because my family needed me to work and partly because I couldn’t bring myself to start another new school. We moved around a lot of the time.
I was popular at work because my coworkers thought I was a few eggs short of a full dozen. In a funny way though - not a creepy serial killer way. I talked about whatever I wanted. It didn’t matter if I was talking to Lila, the college dropout in the drive-thru, or Nina, the older woman who made sure there was always enough kale in the salad bar.
My bosses loved hearing about my exploits with the people I ran with and the substances I consumed.
The rules were a little different back then.
When I was 27, I enrolled in college to make a better life for myself and my family. While I wanted to get my BFA, I convinced myself computers would help me make more money in the future. My dreams weren’t important enough when decisions involved money.
In my college papers and art projects, I explored my mental illness and what it was like to be in an unfulfilling marriage. I shocked everyone by being brutally honest about how screwed up my life was. A few people accused me of making things up to get a better grade.
It’s not hard to prove them wrong when I had the scars to prove it.
After the letdown of graduation and suddenly having free time for once, I couldn’t live with what was going on in my mind and crashed.
The ensuing years were a blur of medications and mental hospitals. I still worked and hustled to make money, but I worked hard to ensure no one was aware of my double life.
I explored my vulnerable side in anonymous blogs and forums. I made a name for myself by talking about the things no one else dared to reveal. Schizo Incognito was a hit because I talked about the brutal side of life and trying to get through life with a severe mental illness.
Some loved me for my honesty, while others tried to have my website shut down. Some people couldn’t handle that I owned what was happening to me. I had the gall to say things that scared them and disgusted them on a level they didn’t want to explore.
One woman even told me I triggered her gag reflex.
I wasn’t going for shock value. I was only being honest about the life I had. Was it my fault that life poked me with the poopy end of the stick? It wasn’t my fault, but I owned it.
I was honest because I hoped that something I wrote would help someone else going through the same things.
I even wrote about IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and how hard it was to leave the house when I was in constant danger of crapping my pants. I turned something that was embarrassing for millions into a lesson in accepting people and all their failings.
After a while, my mental health couldn’t handle all the negativity I was getting for talking about poop. Who knew suburban white women would be so up in arms about something that all of us do every day?
After a few more suicide attempts and trips to the ward, I finally decided to stop letting things happen to me. I started doing things to make my life better. I even stopped treating my stomach like a garbage dump, and my IBS resolved enough so that I could go to the mall without soiling myself.
Life went on, and I kept changing. I moved to the Philippines and remarried. Life stopped sucking so much. My mental illness was becoming manageable enough that I could work again. Even though I still had bad episodes, I moved on and started having some happiness in my life.
Now I write about whatever I want. The only subject I haven’t written about is IBS, but only because I haven’t got to it on the drafts list yet.
I write in the hope that one of my experiences will help someone get through a terrible time. I know the hard times happened for a reason. I want the reason I had so much pain in my life to be because I am meant to help others with the time I have left.
I’m not dying, I’m just saying life is short.
In some ways, I am still that young boy sitting on the bleachers writing about schoolyard injustice. I some ways I am the man sitting in a pale room with bars on the window, hoping I can go home soon. In a lot of ways, I will always be the guy I am now: healthy, positive, calm, and considerate.
I know that I will always be as honest as I can be because the people I love deserve the best. They deserve the person that controls his destiny and takes responsibility for his life. They deserve to love the guy who has lived through some very difficult times but never became bitter and jaded.
My family deserves the man who has lived through hell but still has a sense of humor about it.
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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
He would love to connect with you on social media.