You’re no different than me
Howie has lived with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for as long as he can remember and for years, struggled with rituals and self-taught coping skills just in order to have a productive life.
I remember being six years old and walking home from school with a weird limp because I didn’t want to trip on my untied shoe laces. I couldn’t retie them because that would require me to touch laces that had touched the ground.
For Howie, the fear triggered by the thought of touching his dirty shoelaces signaled the beginning of what would become a lifelong struggle with OCD and depression.
Howie kept his illness a secret until one day, while appearing on the Howard Stern radio show, he was forced to admit that he lived with overwhelming anxiety. As a comedian and talk show host, Howie thought his career was over and that no one would understand.
He was wrong.
I left the studio and almost immediately a man came up to me to tell me he too had OCD. It was the first time that I understood that I wasn’t a freak. That I wasn’t alone.
Far from being shunned, Howie is one of the most recognizable and beloved stars in Hollywood, seen by millions of viewers weekly on America’s Got Talent. Though OCD is still a presence in his life—most notably, his fear of contamination prevents him from shaking hands, which has led him to adopt his now famous fist-bump greeting.
I’m no different than everybody else. These people—the people with mental health issues are everyone. If they don’t have a mental illness or a need for mental health care now, they will. Everyone needs or could use mental health care sometime in their lives.
Using his fame to highlight the needs for greater mental health care, Howie has become a strong advocate, both in the United States and Canada—even speaking before Congress.
Not being mentally healthy is an epidemic that is sweeping the world. If you have a toothache, you can tell your coworkers, and they’ll encourage you to take time out of your day to go to the dentist. The same cannot be said if you needed to take time out of your day to see a psychiatrist. Why is mental health so shameful? Why doesn’t mental health get the same support as dental and physical health?