Modifications to my Skepticon 5 name tag.

At Skepticon 4 I gave a personal account of my struggle with anorexia, depression, and hallucinations.  It took quite a bit out of me and I’ve declined to give it again every since (though now I think I’d be willing again).

But it was very worth it.  Everywhere I speak now I have people give me huge hugs and tearful thanks for how it changed their lives.  Emails like this one make me so glad I did that.

Dear JT,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while now, but I just finished watching your Skepticon IV talk, and I suppose being teary-eyed and emotional can be a powerful motivator. I’ve read your blog for a while now, and have always been inspired and invigorated by your writing and your attitudes toward life, atheism, skepticism, et cetera. Your coming-out about your mental illness came at a time when I was finally coming to terms with my own depression and anxiety. I started to undergo treatment in large part thanks to you.

You’ve long been a hero of mine, inspiring me to be open about my atheism with my friends and family (and with my Catholic high school teachers) and you’ve further inspired me in my recognition of and my struggle with my mental illness. You’ve taught me, inspired me, and helped me through some very difficult times.

Thank you,


At Skepticon 5 I’m going to be switching back to my usual fare of “these are the arguments you’ll hear for god’s existence and here’s why they suck.”  However, I want to keep the mental illness subject alive at Skepticon, which will undoubtedly be full of mentally ill people just like me (as would a church or a football game, mentally ill people are everywhere).

So this year I will make some additions to my name tag so that it reads…

JT Eberhard
(Recovering anorexic, treated)

If you are in attendance, I invite you to do likewise.  If you want to join with me, list your mental afflictions so that they stop being an invisible disability.  Like coming out as a gay person or as an atheist, showing the world how many of us there are can change not only society’s perception of mental illness, but also our own levels of acceptance and shame – and there is no friendlier arena for this than at Skepticon.  If you’re a mentally healthy ally, put that on there (or maybe write “Depression?  That’s so cool!” :P).

And then let’s have the best time ever, regardless of how sick we are.

MENTAL ILLNESS & PERSONAL: Pictures of my brain.
APPEARANCES: I’ll be at the American Atheist convention this weekend.
PERSONAL: I’m in Memphis.
PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://www.lolalouboutin.blogspot.com LolaLouboutin

    JT, my darlin’, I was so proud of you last year at Skepticon and have shared your video with friends & family. I super-duper can’t wait to see you (and all my other heathen friends!) at Skepticon this year! = .D

  • http://jonvoisey.net Jon Voisey

    I know it’s a small bit, but your talk last year inspired some of the material in a recent talk I gave regarding the use of Quantum Mechanics in pop-culture. When discussing Deepak Chopra and his ilk, I brought up that such “mind over matter” philosophies have deleterious effects when treating legitimate mental illnesses and as such, can cause real harm.

    It was a minor point in the talk, but one that wouldn’t have existed at all if it weren’t for your talk.

  • Kate Donovan

    Kate Donovan,
    [anorexia, recovering]

  • iknklast

    JT, I had to leave before your talk because of our long drive home, but I appreciate you calling attention to this issue. It amazes me how much of a social stigma there still is for people who have been or are mentally ill. Most people are taught to be scared of mentally ill people, even though most of us are only a threat to ourselves. I don’t know if I’ll be at Skepticon, but if I am, I’ll be more than happy to make additions to my name tag.

  • Ashley Price

    I’m so glad that you are able to stand up for those with mental illness and fight against all of the stigmas it brings. It makes me somewhat glad to have depression, social anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, not because they are easy to cope with, but because I don’t feel nearly as ashamed and embarrassed about them. It’s not so scary to have a panic attack or break out into a ritual in public. I’m not ashamed to go to a therapist, my regular doctor, and a psychiatrist on a regular basis. Your name tag and Kate Donovan’s name tag make me smile because someone is able to announce their skeletons to the world.
    Ashley Price
    [OCD, GAD, depression, managing]

  • http://brutereason.net Miriam

    This is so wonderful I don’t even.

    I will be:
    Miriam Mogilevsky
    [depression, coping]

  • http://consideredexclamations.wordpress.com Andrew Tripp

    JT, you are the fucking man. I am going to give you the biggest goddamn (consensual) hug next time I see you.

  • Ellen Lundgren

    Ellen Lundgren
    (anxiety, medicated)