Jeremy Fischbach – THE SEEDS OF A SUPPORTIVE CULTURE
Jeremy is the Founder/CEO of Happy, an app that provides 24/7 emotional support on demand. Happy the App is a national supporter of the American Heart Association’s Support Network.
The year was 2015. I was 37, living in New Orleans. The most accurate characterization of my life is that it was the opposite of everything I had dreamed of. My marriage was disintegrating, and the company I was dedicating the rest of my life to was also disintegrating. Despite being eternally optimistic, it was hard to see hope through the wreckage.
I was sufficiently desperate that I committed the cardinal sin of an American adult: I moved back in with my parents, who live in Indiana.
While returning home brought relief in the form of genuine human connection and emotional support, it catalyzed a brutal audit of my life, punctuated by my mom’s exclamation at dinner one night when she asked: “To clarify, you don't have a marriage, you don't have a home, you don't have a city, you don't have a job, and you don't have a career?”
She was right. I felt lucky to have food on my plate and a roof over my head.
I could have stayed indefinitely in my parents' house, but it’s equally true that I couldn't stay indefinitely at my parents’ house. Three weeks after arriving, I departed, tracing the Mississippi back to New Orleans.
Typically, the crushing sensation one experiences exiting the New Orleans airport is humidity. When I exited the airport in early February 2015, I felt crushing loneliness.
Over the next year, I discovered two things:
First, I discovered that my primary support system of family and friends was either broken or imaginary. Every few days I reached out to my ten “favorites” hoping for someone who would listen to me. On a typical day, 7 out of 10 calls would go to voicemail, 2 of the last 3 would pick up and immediately have to go, and if someone actually picked up and had time to give me, it was almost impossible to ask for what I was looking for. It was hard to say, “Dad, can you drop everything you’re doing for 45 mins and give me some compassion?” Or the person who had time for me was terrible at giving support. Many people who loved me demonstrated that love by telling me, “I told you so.” Time and time again, I couldn't find a single person capable of giving me their time, comfort and encouragement. As my attempts to reach friends and family repeatedly failed, the emptiness inside of me expanded until it felt like there was nothing inside of me.
The second thing I discovered was that the easiest way to escape from the pain of loneliness was to smoke cigarettes. Unlike my friends and family, my cigarettes were always there for me. They filled me up, spent time with me, listened to the thoughts swirling around my head, and were an intimate witness to my sadness. Soon I went from a cigarette a day to a pack a day. Eventually, I had a hard time breathing.
One night in December 2015, in a moment of isolation and clarity, I decided it shouldn't be this hard to find emotional support. Over the last few years, I have dedicated myself to doing everything I can to promote a more supportive society — a society where people can access the emotional support they need, whenever they need it and are inspired to better support the people around them. I have met thousands of kindred spirits along the way, and I am increasingly hopeful that, despite the many challenges we face, we are heading toward a more compassionate and supportive future.
Happy the App is a national supporter of the American Heart Association’s Support Network. For every individual caller referred by the American Heart Association from June 1, 2019,to May 31, 2021, Happy will donate a free first call valued at $24 to the American Heart Association’s Support Network, for a minimum donation of $50,000.