Interview: Johnny Crowder of ‘Dark Sermon’ and ‘Prison’ Shares Struggle with Mental Illness

On November 15th, 2016 Johnny Crowder of Dark Sermon and Prison released a four minute forty-five second video giving some insight on his battle with OCD, Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. That video can be seen https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FUpworthy%2Fvideos%2F1478502922190561%2F&show_text=0&width=560“>here.

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UMM: On November 17th you shared a video you did with Upworthy explaining your battle with schizophrenia, OCD and Bipolar Disorder; What prompted that video?

Johnny: I wrote that script 2 or 3 years before the video ever came to fruition, actually. I really wanted to share with people the way I felt about my diagnoses, and hopefully inspire other people to resist the urge to cower in fear when words like “schizophrenia” are thrown around. But, to be honest, I was pretty intimidated when it came to sharing it with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. It’s one of those things you think you can do until you’re standing on the edge. You just take that deep breath, gulp loudly, and take the dive. Luckily, the reception has been great (although I couldn’t bring myself to read through much of the comment thread).

 

UMM: Can you describe a daily life in your head?

Johnny: Man, this question is impossible to answer accurately haha. I’d say that before, it was filled with thousands of voices all speaking over each other, with no solitary organizing entity. It was akin to watching one of those news interviews where people just argue and cut each other off, asserting their respective points of view, but the closed captioning can’t keep up, so it just says “[Incoherent arguing]” or something vague. Now, it’s much more stable, because I’ve been working on developing the discernment to shine a spotlight on the voice I’d like to listen to, rather than being trampled by them without actually comprehending any of it. I’m living and thinking at a level of clarity that I never thought would be attainable for me. A lot of it has to do with attitude and focus.

 

UMM: As a touring musician can you shed some light on fans on how it was dealing with the hardships of touring and the struggles of battling mental illnesses?

Johnny: Touring exacerbated my mental illnesses to a very dangerous extent. There were days on tour when I would just cry in the van for hours, or go on long walks by myself into the darkness of whatever city we were playing, just to process things. Essentials that we all take for granted like getting ample rest and food fly out the window when you’re on the road. They’re more of an afterthought, which leaves a lot of room for self-neglect. It is very tough to reach the balance of caring for myself without snapping at other people or shutting them out.

 

UMM: What are your views of medication? Recently a lot of people believe that it is issued for profit only and doesn’t actually have any true benefits, what are your opinions?

Johnny: Well, I majored in psychology, and learned a lot about the pros and cons of medicine during college. Even then, I know there are some people who will scoff at that and say that I only learned what “they” wanted me to learn haha. Of course some doctors will just prescribe tons of medication in order to make bank off of the kickbacks—and they are crooked, without a doubt. That doesn’t really undermine the validity of some medications, in my eyes. Greedy, negligent people are everywhere. My personal experience with medication was mixed, with tons of victories and losses sprinkled in, but I can say with certainty that I would not be where I am today had I not sought help all of those years ago. I didn’t think I’d ever turn 20, to be honest.

 

UMM: Mental illness is always something that some people truly believe didn’t exist or it was a part of some trend. What do you think about that?

Johnny: I literally just wrote a song for my new band, Prison, about mental illness not being some sort of fashion trend or train to hop on to get attention. Assumptions like this are dangerous because they leave those who are legitimately struggling with diagnoses out to dry. Some people need the help, and some people want the attention, but even knowing that half of the people crying wolf doesn’t mean the other half are safe. There is an unbelievable amount of ignorance clouding the arena of mental health, and I’m doing my best to dispel it. It’s not easy, but if enough people leverage their platform to chime in, we can make a dent in this collective unconsciousness about life-threatening illnesses.

 

UMM: Any advice for musicians who may be trying to balance a mental illness and the pressures and stress of touring?

Johnny: This is hard to sum up, but I’ll mention a few things: 1) Do not make any attempts to alter your medication regimen while on tour. To make a change like that, it’s best to have the rest of your life and schedule as stable as possible. 2) Self-medication is more dangerous than you realize. None of us are doctors, so we don’t really know the little intricacies of our diagnoses or the medication we take. Please do as your doctor prescribes and speak to professionals before taking anything into your own hands. Even if you don’t agree with what they recommend and you decide to follow through with your own plan, at least you will have consulted someone first to gain some perspective. 3) Use your time in the van wisely. Listen to podcasts and calming music. Read books. Rest, pray, meditate, speak on the phone with friends and family, and just do your best to keep your brain above water. That time is yours.

 

UMM: Any advice for fans who may be struggling with any kind of mental illness?

Johnny: As for fans, all of the above thing still apply. The advantage you have at home is that you are likely arm’s length from someone who cares for you, so please utilize that blessing.

 

UMM: Are you working with any organizations in regards to spreading the word about mental illnesses?

Johnny: I am doing a ton of volunteer work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), including public speaking, as well as teaching classes to families and mental health professionals about what their loved one, or patient, might be wanting or needing in the way of support. If you want me to speak at your event, email me! I am very passionate about spreading the word and putting a human face on the ugliest parts of the brain – personifying the things we all fear. I really want to get out there and show people what mental illness looks like when you dust it off and see what lies underneath all of those preconceived notions and prejudices.

 

UMM: What do you want to those struggling with a mental illness? What about those who aren’t? What has helped you personally?

Johnny: If someone you know is struggling, please listen. Treat them like any other friend or family member you have: with respect, care, and love. No need to patronize or treat them like a patient. And if you don’t “get” it, that’s okay. There are countless resources you can turn to when it comes to learning about these things, but the most valuable one is right there in front of you: the one you love. If you are struggling, please know that you don’t have to lose. You don’t have to give up. You don’t have to be miserable. If your will is strong enough, and your intentions are pure, you will survive and thrive. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a tremendous display of strength.

 

UMM: Whats going on with Dark Sermon now?

Johnny: Dark Sermon is taking a little breather right now. In the meantime, I am working with my new band, Prison. We have a music video and a record coming out this spring, and it’s different from DS in the best ways possible. I have a feeling that it will speak to a lot more people and present a more accessible, personalized embodiment of what I have always been trying to share with the world.

 

UMM: You excited about Warped Tour? Any other festivals that have caught your eye?

JohnnyI will definitely be going to Warped! I have loads of friends who are on the package, and I would suffer through the Florida heat for 12 hours if it meant I could spend the day with them, no question. I’m also trying to go to Rockville to catch Seether, Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, Chevelle, and all the bands from my childhood that I never got a chance to see.


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