MTV Celebrity Ben Nemtin talks about his demons. Based on a radio interview by Carmen Cruz and Mikael Honzell. Listen to the podcast on deltabreakthesilence.org
It’s easy to feel discouraged when things don’t go as planned. This can cause one to perceive things differently, see life as black and white. Even people who seem to have things figured out on the outside struggle on the inside.
Ben Nemtin, co-founder of the MTV series Buried Life, has dealt with depression on and off throughout his life. Nemtin dropped out of college when his depression worsened and started taking a toll.
“I had this crippling depression in college,” he said. “Where it forced me to drop out of school. I was immobilized. But out of that darkness came hope and this light, which ended up being this project with two friends and manifesting itself in this journey.”
Not long after Nemtin dropped out of college, he headed toward a direction that would change his life. He did a television series on MTV called Buried Life, a show in which Nemtin and his friends cross seemingly impossible things off their bucket list, like playing basketball with former President Barack Obama and crashing the Playboy Mansion.
On Buried Life, Nemtin talked about his depression and tried to help others. “When we did the TV show, I wanted to do a story on helping someone overcome something that is related to mental illness. We didn’t know what it was going to be, but we ended up finding a girl in Rochester, Minn,” Nemtin said.
The girl was a cutter living in a town where there was hardly any talk of mental health. She wanted to change that.
“She cut herself, and she was working through it, but she didn’t have anyone to talk to, she didn’t feel she could talk about it in her small town,” Nemtin said. “I told Lexi (the girl from Minnesota) that I struggled with depression growing up. And I knew, not what it was like to struggle with self-injury, but what it was like to struggle with your demons. And I knew I had to do that in order to connect with her and to help her get the courage to talk about it, because, when people you’re surrounded with are opening up and being vulnerable, you feel like you can be vulnerable.”
Nemtin said talking about mental health makes people realize that depression and anxiety aren’t isolated issues.
“I’ve talked with people, and people that you never would’ve thought struggled with something, come back and say, as soon as I say it, ‘Oh, yeah me too,’” said Nemtin. “People that are hugely successful, that are charismatic, that seem to have it all together. No one has it all together, right?”
It’s common for one to experience depression a few times in their life. In cases when depression is not attributed to an external source, like a break-up or losing a job or losing a loved one — an external source — it can lead to feelings that life has no meaning or purpose.
“A lot of people feel anxious and have feelings of depression because they’re not doing their true purpose, they’re not doing their unique ability or doing what they feel really fills them up,” said Nemtin. “Because how could you feel happy when you’re doing something that you don’t believe in? You work, you know, so much, you spend so much of your time in life working, more so than anything else that you’re going to do. Well, you might as well like it, or else you’re setting yourself up for mental failure.”
Depression doesn’t care whether one has friends and family or is alone, or whether they’re rich or poor. This daunting feeling can affect anyone, and it can be dealt with. But it’s unlikely to ever go away for good.
Nemtin, for example, has done things he never thought possible, like having a television show and crossing outrageous things off his bucket list. Yet the depression he experienced back in college still makes itself known. He explains:
“I got hit with depression the beginning of last year, the beginning of 2017. Like I said before, nobody is perfect. No one has it figured out. If they say they have, they’re lying. I definitely go through ups and downs. I went through this down period and I had to change my life. I literally had to change what I was doing, and that’s hard.”
Nemtin said people get stuck in tough places because it is hard to alter their lives, leaving behind what they’re comfortable with. He made the effort to change his life again, and now is doing speeches on depression to shed more light on the dark topic.
“You can learn from your struggles, you can hope that you come out of it, and ultimately you start to realize that what you think are your greatest weaknesses are actually your greatest strengths,” he said.