I’m sick and tired of the stigma surrounding mental illness in our culture.
I think we all talk about supporting the numerous mental health causes, but deep down (or not so deep down) we think it’s weakness. We think we’re being weak when we go through some period of depression or we find ourselves crippled by anxiety. We think we should all have some kind of inner strength of mind and spirit that is going to magically conjure itself from within to rally us to “snap out of it.”
Well it’s bullshit.
If you don’t know how chemicals like cortisol, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine work in our bodies and how to regulate such chemicals within our bodies, then you really aren’t qualified to speak on the subject. No offense. Most of us aren’t.
I’ll freely admit I have little knowledge of how these chemicals work. I try not to get to down on myself about it because that puts me in the came category as 99.7% of the US population. The other .03% are called doctors. This small portion of Western society seems to be in agreement that medication and psychotherapy are the best way to treat these chemicals when they get out of balance.
My life experience and research leads me to believe that these chemicals get out of balance rather easily. Have you ever flipped off somebody in traffic? Ever cussed out a customer service agent over the phone? Ever felt yourself paralyzed by stress after getting attacked by your boss? Been so bummed out over a breakup that you just want to stay in bed? Your chemicals have been out of balance. There’s a lot of chemicals in our bodies and they tend to go out of balance pretty often. This means you’re human.
If a one of these emotions persists, then it means these chemicals are staying out of balance. This might be a temporary condition or it may be an indicator of a mental disorder. Either way, you can find a mental health professional who is familiar with how these chemicals work and can offer the right kind of assistance.
If you’ve taken such action, then you’re one of more than 40 million Americans that have been strong enough to identify a problem within themselves and seek help for it. I’ve read that it’s 1 in 5 Americans, but again I call bullshit. I think it’s way more. Again, there is a stigma attached to this condition.
If the stigma of mental illness is stopping you from seeking help, then you’re choosing the path of weakness. You may be keeping your pride intact but you aren’t fooling everybody.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with paying tribute to Travis Weiss, then you should know that he in fact suffered from clinical depression and anxiety in his life.He also dealt with addiction throughout periods in his life.
I’m lucky enough to say that I knew him as a brother. When he introduced me to other people, he would often say “I’ve known him my whole life.” Here’s proof.
He tried to take what I’ve called “the path of strength.” He had an issue with depression and anxiety, but he wasn’t able to follow through. He sought help from mental health professionals but he had a weakness for prescription drugs from his teens that he never did quite get over. Pills were a quick fix when he felt pain, sadness, or stress in his life. This led to an opiate addiction that ended up taking his life at the age of 34.
There was a pretty sharp decline the last two years of his life. I try to tell myself that I could have done option A or option B to keep him alive but he was unreachable. I suspected he was dealing with an addiction but he wouldn’t admit it. Eventually he did admit to being an opiate addict but he also said that he didn’t want any help for it. That was one of the last few times I saw him.
My last interaction with him was a phone call. He was playing a show the night before and fell down and sprained his ankle. He was calling to let me know that he couldn’t come over for our mother’s birthday party that day. His speech was slow and slurring. I hate to admit that this conversation was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I didn’t want anything more to do with him anymore until he got help. He died two weeks later from a Fentanyl overdose.
Most of the wording on our “About” page for this website came mostly from his hastily thrown together obituary. During the experience of organizing Travis’ memorial, a few shellshocked family members sat in a conference room at the funeral home and filled in blanks on a sheet of paper that served as the outline to his official obituary. Then we approved a final draft that left off some essential surviving family members. The whole experience ended up being a disaster but we did the best we could.
“Travis Weiss was born April 7, 1978 in Houston, TX to Donald and Karen (Cook) Weiss. He was a musician and bass player for Austin bands Duke and Broken Teeth. He shed his earthly form at the age of 34 on September 23, 2012.”
The flowery “shed his earthly form” description came from yours truly because it was way easier to stomach. At any rate, that description has probably been changed by the time you read this. I’ll keep it in quotes for the sake of posterity.Often when we hear of a person dying at a young age, in our most base thoughts, we wonder why he or she died. If we find out drug abuse was involved, then our next instinct is to think “there goes another junkie.” Then most decent people will correct those thoughts to something along the lines of “I feel so terrible for his/her family” or “God rest his/her soul” or “I hope he/she is at peace now.”
I’m sure that anyone else in my position would say the same, but this wasn’t another junkie. Travis had an infectious personality. He might have been the funniest guy that I’ve ever known. He loved kids and animals. He loved being “Uncle T-Bone” to my daughter. He loved life and was loved by others. His departure has left an empty void in my person and my family that will never be replaced.
The main positive that has come from this tragedy is we (the Weiss family and some close friends) have started an annual benefit show in Travis’ honor called the T. Party in 2015. We try to keep it as close as we can to his birthday on April 7. To date, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have Amplified Heat and Travis’ former bandmates in Broken Teeth as headliners. We are currently in the very early stages of planning the 2017 T. Party.
Our cause is the SIMS Foundation. They offer mental health services at reduced costs to people in the Austin music community that would normally not be able to afford such help. We love this organization because they actually have boots on the ground when it comes to fighting mental illness.
Having said all that, we need help if we’re going to continue the event. Both years have been moderately successful in raising funds for the SIMS Foundation, but we are far from professional promoters or savvy fundraisers. In all honesty, we’re just a few people trying to throw a party for a good cause.
If you would like for this event to continue, then please consider helping us out in whatever capacity you think you can help. We need planners, organizers, performers, videographers, volunteers, consultants, and all-around cool people to come to the event.