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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,

Phillip

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.

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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.


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