Mental illness in another person we all admire.

You will not find a more perspicacious, able, and kind person in the atheist movement than Amanda Knief of American Atheists.  Combine that with a heavy dose of humility and you have pretty much the most admirable person in the biz.

I’ve asked Amanda if I could share her facebook status from the other day and she said I could.  Here it is:

So here is an example of my social anxiety rearing its ugly head.

My book, The Citizen Lobbyist, officially comes out on July 1. I want to have a “launch party” at a local restaurant. Just celebrate the day and thank lots of people who helped me do this.

BUT anxiety tells me no one will come, anxiety tells me I don’t know how to host a party, anxiety tells me I am arrogant and narcissistic for thinking of doing this, anxiety tells me it will be awkward and no one will have fun, anxiety tell me to just forget about it and stay home. In less than 10 min from when I thought of the idea, my stomach is now in knots, I have shortness of breath, and I feel panicky.

I understand that the anxiety is not rational, but it is very real–emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

Not sure yet if my braver self or anxiety is going to win this battle.

The presence of mental illness bears no relation to one’s personal fortitude.  Zero.  It is present in people both admirable and contemptible, the same as any other physical condition.  Frankly, it makes what people like Amanda have been able to accomplish all the more impressive.

The point is that there is no shame.  Our society conflates weakness of character with mental illness, insisting we should just “toughen up” and get over it.  Sadly, most members of the human race are prone to making narrow-sighted assessments based on an enormous vacuum of knowledge, and that is precisely what is happening here.  But when those with mental illness, especially the best of us like Amanda Knief, start announcing that we are sick, not weak, but sick, then that stigma will begin to melt.

Good for Amanda.

Also, speaking of her book, Amazon has had to re-order Amanda’s forthcoming book The Citizen Lobbyist 21 days before it’s official release due to pre-orders.  Brick and mortar stores are increasing their orders as well.  Methinks we have a ground-breaker with this one!

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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.