Episode 155: Andrew Donnelly
The 46 year-old comedian talks about the frustration and shame of battling ADD and depression while trying to be a good husband and father. He and Paul talk about how to deal with anger when feeling overwhelmed and the bright side of living with mental illness. This episode is sponsored by DailyBurn. To get a free 30 day trial membership go to www.dailyburn.com/happyhour
Welcome to episode 155 with my guest Andrew Donnelly. This episode is sponsored by Daily Burn. Get the first 30 days free when you go to dailyburn.com/happyhour. Daily Burn, the best fitness anywhere. I'm Paul Gilmartin, this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour or two of honesty, well, closer to two hours, now I'm judging myself for always saying that. Spiral right out of the ta--I'm not going to reset. I'm gonna plow ahead. I'm Paul Gilmartin, this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, two hours of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically-diagnosed conditions, past traumas, and sexual dysfunction, to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I'm not a therapist. This isn't a doctor's office, it's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. The website for the show is mentalpod.com, that's also the name you can follow me at on Twitter. Go check out the website. There's a forum, there's blogs you can read, you can take surveys, you can see how other people responded to surveys, you can support the show financially there, you can shop for t-shirts, coffee mugs, coffee, and all help support the running of this show.
Let's get to it. And by the way I've been feeling really good lately. I think neuro-feedback is starting to kick in and it's really, really nice to feel some of that vigor returning. I also started taking some more magnesium and I'm told that helps with--'cause my muscles were feeling super, super tight, like I was constantly feeling like I needed to stretch and it was really aggravating. I was having trouble sleeping at night, so I started taking magnesium 'cause that helps not only with neuro-function--is that a word? Neuro-function?--it helps with your brain. It also helps with your muscles, helps your muscles to relax, so there you go. There you have it. I hope you wrote that down and flow charted it.
This is from the Struggle in a Sentence survey, filled out by Elizabeth Oz. About her anxiety she writes "You are always selfish and missing something." About her anorexia "I am curling up in the only safe place, but it's on a fault line and I could be killed at any moment." And about her OCD "I on a path that keeps feeding into the same maze, never leading to the exit." Thank you for that.
Brittany writes about her depression "Like being locked in a car trunk and screaming and pounding to get out." You know, when I read that one I was like 'I think I'm the opposite.' When my depression is kicking my ass, the inside of a car trunk sounds really good. It just sounds womb-like. I always just want to womb out. That's right, that's a new verb.
Stuff's Tough about her depression "Bipolar II, I just stop caring about everything and then hate myself for that, at the same time every little thing wounds." I really relate to that one. About her anxiety "When planes fly overhead my heart pounds and I wait for the nuclear bomb to fall." Wow, that's gotta be intense.
Little writes about her anxiety "Like I'm constantly walking in two feet of water, pushing along, and then the tide comes in. I'm in over my head and I can't breathe." About her love addiction "Please tell me I'm beautiful. I try to tell myself that, but I know what a liar I am." Wow. That is deep. That is profound. About living with an abuser "A thousand paper cuts."
Little Red, about her love addiction "I get very high off the endorphins created by love and sex and feel huge crashes of disappointment or hangover the day after a very romantic evening, or when I'm without a romantic partner. I also become less focused, more agitated, and frustrated." I bet a lot of people, a light bulb went off in their head when they heard that.
L'esprit compulsif, I think I pronounced that right, about her OCD "Like worshiping a god you know is fake but going to church just in case." Wow, that is a good one.
And then I wanted to read an email I got from listener Katie, and she writes "I looked up counseling and free services through RAINN--", that's the Rape and Incest National Network, rainn.org, "--and I'm starting with my first counseling session next week and it's in my neighborhood! I live in Chicago, so the fact that this service is available in my neighborhood is incredible. It's been a couple of years since I was able to get counseling because I lost my job, and after COBRA ran out--", Cobra was her boyfriend. I couldn't resist. "--after COBRA ran out I couldn't afford to pay for it out of pocket. So thanks for putting the word out there. I'm going to see if I can try group as well. Thank you so much, I love the podcast." Thank you for that, Katie. Oh, and then she sent me a quote. Apparently in a book The Good Life, the author McKay writes "The idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is a fear of sadness. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for, and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure. All of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice things that also happen to us, but they don't teach us much."
Paul: I'm here with Andrew Donnelly who is a fellow comedian. We worked together at Bumbershoot, the arts festival in Seattle in the summer of 2005, which was an interesting time for you because your wife is from New Orleans and that's right literally when Katrina hit.
Andrew: That is the weekend it hit, I guess Labor Day weekend. Yeah, we were all happy at Bumbershoot, partying and doing comedy shows, and occasionally turning on CNN like 'Oh, that's neat, the hometown, it's water now. That's fantastic. Let's go to another party! Let's go to the after party for Deathcab for Cutie, and then we'll go see...' And they're like 'Let's go have some fun!' Like 'No, no, no, my parents' house is filled with 12 feet of water, maybe we should--'
Paul: Oh I didn't know that your folks are from there also, I thought--
Andrew: I'm sorry, her folks, what she was saying, oh sorry--that was me doing my wife, an impression of my wife. Yeah, it was pretty good.
Paul: Was she with you at Bumbershoot?
Andrew: Oh yeah, she was, and that's why it was kind of...She was on the phone, and like...We had no idea that it was that much, obviously...
Paul: Did you refer to her as the hurricane buzzkill?
Andrew: Yeah, there was a bit of that. People were like "Hey, how are you doing?" She was like "Oh, I'm okay...". I'm like "Let's not get into it..."
Paul: 'Wah, wah, wah...My hometown.'
Andrew: Yeah, and again, we had no idea at that point. It was like she left people on roofs. And she's in Mississippi, actually her whole town, she's from Pass Christian, Mississippi, which is 40 minutes due east along the coast from New Orleans, so it just sat and it wiped out the entire town, like leveled it to the foundations. It was completely destroyed and the only thing left was 100+-year oak tree stumps and everything was just twisted. And we were there three weeks after and it was as you had seen it and way, way worse. It looked so bad that it was like 'Oh, there's been a set decorator here.' Like the best set decorator.
Paul: Like Stanley Kubrick's about to shoot something here.
Andrew: Exactly, it was like it was too perfectly miserable and horrible. So yeah, that's when you and I met, we did that show. And you did the benefit show that my wife set up for rebuilding houses in that town. You were hugely helpful, by the way.
Paul: Oh, you're very nice. I think back to that week that we were at Bumbershoot, and all the comedians we work with whose careers exploded after that.
Andrew: That's so funny. Howard Kramer's told me the same thing. He actually has a whole list...He remembers who it was and when...
Paul: It was Patton Oswalt, who people knew of before then but his career hadn't exploded, Flight of the Conchords, Aziz Ansari, Demitri Martin, the list goes on and on.
Andrew: Yep. Absolutely. Actually that's the first time I had heard Aziz and I had never met him, and I was backstage but I was hearing his voice on stage and he had this rhythm in his voice that was very staccato and it was reminiscent of Hedberg, I'm sure he was an inspiration at the time, and everyone sounds like somebody in the beginning and he sounded just like Hedberg but he had good jokes and I was like 'Who's this guy?'. But obviously he's found his own way and his own voice and his own career. And I don't even know him that well but I know that he's prolific, like apparently he's remarkable with his work ethic and changing jokes on the fly in between shows and full-on well-thought-out jokes, not just ad-libbing and improvising. But yeah, people took off, it's pretty hilarious.
Paul: I think we all knew Flight of the Conchords were pretty special and something big was gonna happen for them. And what sweet guys they were.
Andrew: The amazing thing about them was their sensibility. You see so many guitar acts and you see so many stand ups and whatever. But sometimes a good guitar guy is like 'Oh there's a guy at the Promenade in Santa Monica'. And these guys, their sensibility and their fearlessness about different goofy, silly topics is amazing.
Paul: Fully formed, knew who they were, knew what their voice was. Yeah. Well, enough about them, let's talk about you?
Paul: Where were you born and raised?
Andrew: I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised there and pretty much--
Paul: Did you feel like an outcast being Irish?
Andrew: I did. Irish need not apply. It was very difficult fitting in as a white, Irish guy in, in essence, an all-white Irish--
Paul: Pale-faced and freckled.
Andrew: Absolutely. It was very difficult. I felt like Eminem. The candy. Not the musician. Did I not say M&Ms?
Paul: So Boston, Mass.
Andrew: Yeah, Boston.
Paul: And what was the home life like?
Andrew: It was fantastic. I lived in Wellesley, Massachusetts, it was perfect. We weren't insanely wealthy but we lived in a very wealthy town. It's like where all the rich, white, the Irish and the WASPs, would live. It's like 20 minutes west of the city. Beautiful. All you do is worry about which back yard you're gonna play whiffle ball in or football, or which driveway for street hockey.
Paul: Were your parents wealthy?
Andrew: We were well-off but we were not like...Members of the Celtics and athletes and the Red Sox lived in the town, and big CEOs and everything. so we were not of that, we had a nice house on the block but it wasn't this ridiculous...
Paul: Would you ever see any of the famous athletes around town?
Andrew: Oh yeah, yeah.
Paul: Like who?
Andrew: Yeah, you'd see...I remember at the time, this was hilarious, it was during when the Red Sox were miserable when I was a kid, but we had season tickets, and you'd see this guy Mike Torrez, he pitched for the Yankees but he also pitched for the Red Sox, but when he was with the Yankees he was fantastic and amazing. And when the Red Sox got him it was like now he's done. Or it's like 'Oh, he's a plant and they've hired him to go ruin the Red Sox while we go play and destroy.' But he lived down the block from us and we'd see him and we would egg his house every, you know that night before Halloween, in that part of the country we called it Cabbage Night for some reason, which was ridiculous, but whatever that night is before Halloween. We would egg his house, we would just go throw eggs at his house, like every kid in the neighborhood would do it and he's this professional athlete being paid whatever millions at that time, or whatever the cost--
Paul: And was it because he was bad?
Andrew: Yeah, it was because he was horrible at his job! Which would be great if it was the marketing guy next door. 'He's horrible at marketing. We're gonna go throw eggs at you 'cause you're awful at your job and we know it and you're a bad person at marketing.' But yeah, there was one incident in that town to give you a sense of Boston, the history of race relations or lack thereof, it's segregated.
Paul: Chicago's very similar, where I grew up.
Andrew: Yeah, that's the thing, there's ignorance and then there's people who are like 'I've never known any black people, I've never lived next to anybody of any ethnicity and/or minority.' And then it's like 'But then you get beyond, you learn.' But I remember at one point Dee Brown was a player for the Celtics, he had just won the slam dunk contest in the NBA all-star game. He was building a house in Wellesley, he was getting his mail at a PO box at the post office. But he came from a Celtics practice in a sweat suit, big tall black guy, but to an old lady in a Mercedes that's a scary man. So he fit the description of someone that had robbed a bank an hour before. He's handcuffed face-down on the floor of the post office.
Paul: Welcome to Wellesley!
Andrew: Welcome to fucking Wellesley. And that's pretty telling. Again, this was years and years ago but still. That's no excuse. I don't know what it's like now, was my point. I would imagine it's exactly the same but with bigger houses, McMansions. But yeah, for me it was a sweet...
Paul: What was your emotional life like? What was your relationship like with your siblings and your parents?
Andrew: Well I had an older brother and a younger brother and all pretty good. I definitely had...the older brother would take me out at times but--
Paul: What do you mean, take you out? Beat you up?
Andrew: He would light me on fire. That's what take me out means, right? Yeah, he didn't beat me up, there was never fist to face kind of...there was a couple of those kind of situations, but...
Paul: Sounds like typical older brother/younger brother?
Andrew: Yeah, it wasn't atypical, but there was Catholic, Irish, Boston...There wasn't a tremendous amount of hippie-dippie feelings. There would be like a lot of stuff repressed. It's like one of those great acting exercises where you can see in the eyes there's so much behind there but it's all being kept in, and everyone's stuff is being kept in.
Paul: And Catholicism is so good for that, it's like the greatest emotional Tupperware.
Andrew: Oh, absolutely, and we weren't even that religious but we fit that model. We went to church on Sundays but not all the time and we went to Sunday school but it was never--
Paul: But it pervades the community, you know what I mean? If the group of people you're hanging around aren't talking about their feelings...And boys at that age, they don't talk about their feelings anyway.
Andrew: No. And we were heavily into sports and that culture. But there definitely was a sense of...We were very well loved and cared for. My parents went to every single game that we played, and every play, and everything that we did. They devoted their entire lives to us and it was pretty amazing in that way. Having said that, they had us when they were in their early 20s. There was one Dr. Spock book and that's it. So it's not like it was super-progressive or hippie-dippie. I remember hearing a lot "When you have your own kids you can parent the way you want." And it's like now I have a four-year-old so now when I'm with my parents I'm like 'Yeah, it's very different. Yeah, we listen to our kid.' And again, there was no abuse, none of that, we had it good.
Paul: And Dr. Spock later came out and said that he recanted most of his theories about how children should be parented. One of his big things was if they're crying, don't go pick them up, let them cry themselves out, which now I guess they believe is like really--
Andrew: Yeah, actually it's the opposite of that. We have a four-year-old and we're actually raising our child in a pretty progressive fashion where it's basically leading with empathy. In other words, you go to her when she cries, when she was a baby, and now she's almost four in April, but the idea is that you go and they feel secure and they know that someone's going to be there for them. Versus that whole tough love kind of scenario.
Paul: So when do you trick her and push her down?
Andrew: Trick her and push her down? That's funny you say that, 'cause sometimes you wrestle and we were running around and stuff like that, and it's weird 'cause as a little boy we would wrestle all the time but it's weird with a little girl 'cause you don't...--
Paul: And you're an adult.
Andrew: Oh yeah, that's right, I'm an adult. But I wear a pinwheel hat when I'm with her. But that's a little weird because I think 'Oh yeah, I'm gonna roughhouse.' Not really, she's...But.
Paul: I'm sure she loves it.
Andrew: She loves it, yeah, but you can't...
Paul: And it's so good for kids to have that physical, just the electrical contact of the person who's supposed to care for you just feeling their body and them against you.
Andrew: Yeah, she loves it. She's almost four and she's still in that sweet stage of loving and caring and hugging and just sweet.
Paul: That's such an adorable age.
Andrew: I forget, do you have...?
Paul: No, no kids.
Andrew: You should get some. You should rent some.
Paul: My wife and I are thinking of abducting.
Andrew: Oh good! That's great, that's fantastic. I have a mini-Cooper at home that you could--
Paul: We can't get enough in the mini-Cooper.
Andrew: You just wanna get one good one, you stuff 'em...
Paul: We're gonna try to find a used Econoline, we figure we can pack about 30 in that, then we can figure which ones we want and then just drop the rest of 'em off.
Andrew: I always thought if I had one of those custom vans with the window treatments I'd get those little window curtains that draw back, and I'd have a little mantle and put hot pies out the window. You know, make it very, very appealing. But yeah, that'd be good for the kids. Kids love pie.
Paul: So let's talk about your...The things that you're battling with right now is ADHD and depression. When did those begin to rear their heads and were there any kind of seminal moments, any snapshots from childhood that kind of stick out to you and go 'Oh yeah, that thing started to become an issue then.'
Andrew: Yeah. ADHD and definitely depression, it's like this mélange of the two that I've left untreated for all these years, and I'm 46 now and it's one of those things where they feed each other and they manifest in low self-esteem. And my big thing now is reactivity, because ADD is somewhat of a misnomer, it's not just about being distracted although I--
Paul: Do you get hyper-focused when it's something you're passionate about?
Andrew: I do, I get hyper-focused but I also am completely unable to prioritize, so everything is important. Cleaning out a closet is just as important as an audition that's in ten minutes.
Paul: So you must feel easily overwhelmed when there are multiple things on your plate.
Andrew: Very easily overwhelmed, 'cause I just found out about this maybe a year ago now, I forget the timeline on it. The remarkable thing is, and I'm actually gonna do a stage show about this, my friend Brendan--you know Brendan Small?
Paul: I do, plays guitar?
Andrew: Yeah, guitar, and he's a comedian, he's great, he's gonna direct it and I'm working on it now. But finding out about this now when your life is literally half, or more than half, over, it's unbelievable because it explains every fucking moment of my life. I think back to seminal moments and it's like 'Wow.' And to answer your question further, sixth grade is when I sort of gave up academically and just was like 'Okay, I'm not gonna be an A student.' But never even tried, because the self-esteem was so low but then masked. My parents, they don't even know, by the way. I haven't even told them. I will tell them, probably on this podcast. No. I'll get to it, but it's still this crazy thing I'm processing. But yeah, I remember I was not able to read and remember what I read, and I still can't.
Paul: Do you find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again 'cause you don't absorb it?
Andrew: Yes, or not at all. Like the number of books I've read I could probably count on one hand and may not even remember if I've read them and don't remember what they're about, it's that acute. But now my reactivity is the real thing, 'cause the fact that you're unable to regulate your nervous system, and I just hit the roof, get pissed off at little shit. And with a toddler you're triggered constantly, and she's adorable and awesome as toddlers go, and as kids go, so she's sort of the best case, but she still has a 3.5-year-old brain. But then sometimes I feel like a fucking 3.5-year-old and I forget that she's 3.5 and not 30, and I hit the roof and have to repair. Never has it been a weird, crazy dangerous thing, but the way in which we're parenting that's not the way we do it.
Paul: Is it that you get impatient and terse? Or is it there's an outburst of yelling and then she cries?
Andrew: All of that.
Paul: What does it feel like after you have an outburst and she cries?
Andrew: It is devastating.
Paul: What do you say, what do you think, what do you feel?
Andrew: I feel as worse as I've ever felt in my life. You don't feel worthy of anything. You feel like being alone, I've acted like I shouldn't be in this--I shouldn't be married, I shouldn't be a father. 'Cause that's the other thing too, I found this out after she was born and I almost wanna go to some Virgin of Passages that just goes "Get healed and repaired," and then I come home and go 'Okay, I'm okay now,' which is ridiculous as a thought goes, but you almost wanna be alone with this and fix that, but that's the way I feel. But in those moments, when I have horrible moments as a father, I just feel like a little kid again. I feel like a horrible, sad individual. You feel like a piece of shit, you feel worthless and I look at her...But in the moment when you feel rage and you just wanna be somewhere else, you wanna leave. That's the other thing. I have these moments where you wanna just leave, and you entertain the thought and you start making plans to leave. And I'd never leave her alone in the living room but just in terms of leaving, like 'I can't be with my family, I've gotta leave my family,' and it becomes very real.
Paul: And by the way that's a super common thing for parents and spouses too. There's a survey we have on the website called Shame and Secrets, and people share so frequently about being a parent and fantasizing about another life, leaving everything behind, even maybe changing their name, just starting completely new and leaving everything behind.
Andrew: Yeah, it's wild. I've always been a late bloomer to everything and I think to myself, now that I found out about ADD, I'm thinking 'That's why...I knew all along. That's why I should just be alone. I shouldn't even be in a relationship, I should just be around and having occasional sex with women and then doing stand up and being on my bicycle and playing drums and that's all I need,' which is exactly what I don't need. Everyone needs love in their life, but I have those moments where...And it's funny because I used to live in this studio apartment in New York and it was a great studio as they go and it was in the West Village in this beautiful little neighborhood and it's where I met my wife. And I kid to her like 'You destroyed all of that! You ruined this by getting married, we have this beautiful child and a house...' but I'm always like 'You destroyed that!' 'Cause I had it all planned out, I was living in that studio and there was a nursing home around the corner and I was all gonna be alone for the rest of my life, just, eating the same fucking turkey burgers from the diner and I had all the same dry cleaning, all figured out, I drop my laundry off and I move over there and I just shit myself to death in a bed in hospice...But I'm like 'You ruined all of that. All of that. A rent-controlled situation.' But I do have those--
Paul: And there's a little part of you that is kind of serious...?
Andrew: Oh, absolutely. Sure. There is a thing where because of my reactivity and because of the way I am, and I'll tell you how I'm working on it, my wife has been insanely patient but we also have incredible amounts of strife and struggle and conflict, and I've discussed many, many options including leaving, including divorce. How would that look? How would this feel? We've done it in a kidding fashion, we've done it in a serious fashion, most of it is heat of the moment during a fight where we go to that horrible place and then we fucking calm down and realize--
Paul: By the way, I've always done that as well. I struggle with ADHD and when i get into an argument with my wife-- much less now but I used to-- I'd go nuclear. It would be like 'This isn't meant to be. Maybe we shouldn't be together.' And she'd always say "Why do you have to go to that place?" and I think it's because I feel overwhelmed and every single thing is of equal importance and--
Andrew: Yeah, it's that all or nothing thinking.
Paul: All or nothing thinking.
Andrew: I did that on Jane Street, in New York, I did that all the time. At one point I threw everything out in my apartment. I was left with a futon bed-thing, one of those futons that had a cow pattern futon, the super collegiate version of a futon, and my desk, my loft bed, and my clothes, my bike, and that was it. I pulled the TV, yanked cable, I put books in my oven. I wasn't reading the books so I put the books in the oven. I shut the gas off 'cause I didn't cook, so I had books in my oven. I had maybe watched one show about a monk on PBS, and I'm like 'That's me, I'm gonna be that guy.' And also a comedian living in the 2000s.
Paul: And that made sense to you, like 'I just need to pare it down.' And in a certain way I agree, 'cause I think there can be something really sweet and nice about simplifying your life, but it sounds like yours came from a place of maybe a little drastic and a little impulsive?
Andrew: Yeah, and I wasn't reading enough, I had all these books, and I was watching too much TV 'cause it was the babysitter for you when you live alone, it was just an escape mechanism, the TV. Sports was sort of my drug for that, being from Boston, grew up with sports and playing sports and it was a big part of my life. So yeah, it's been unbelievable, what I've learned about myself. The thing is, too, having a kid, you can't hide anything because everything gets served up back to you about your own childhood and about your parents' parenting, 'cause there's nowhere to hide. And she doesn't miss anything. Some kids do miss stuff; she doesn't miss anything. And the way in which we're parenting is a way in which we're leading with empathy. We're teaching her to be in touch with her feelings, not to be corny, but--
Paul: I don't think that's corny at all, I think it's beautiful.
Andrew: It is beautiful but some of it gets too...I get too much of the Boston Irish, I'm like 'Fuck that shit, what the fuck.' But overall the approach is working. I mean, yes, she's gonna be four, but she talks about her feelings, she knows when I'm upset and she says "Poppa, you can't talk that way to me." She's incredibly verbal. And my fear is that she's peaked, this is it, this is all we're gonna get. But it's kind of amazing so far, which is even more reason why when I erupt and have my horrible moments where I feel so fucking miserable because she's unbelievably sweet and--
Paul: Does she get scared?
Andrew: Yeah, she does. She'll get scared. And again I've never done anything where I'm like 'I better call somebody, remove myself.' I've removed myself from the room, which is what they've said to do, you go to your room and you hit your pillow and your bed, but you don't show her that 'cause you'll scare the crap out of her. And I've done that. The biggest thing is repairing, that's the biggest thing. To let them know that 'It's not your fault,' because that's what they--
Paul: It's not their fault.
Andrew: Yeah, it's not their fault, it's not the child's fault. That's what we all had as kids, we always thought that when someone gets mad it's our fault, and that's why we're all in fucking therapy and everything. But it was never discussed, like "Oh, by the way, that huge eruption before the ski trip? That had nothing to do with you. That had to do with something 30 years ago and things at work, and, you know." But I was never told that as a kid, 'cause they didn't know to tell you that.
Paul: They didn't even know themselves.
Andrew: They didn't know themselves. And it's devastating. My dad's mom, when he grew up, she died at 11. His dad died when he was 18, the week he graduated from high school. My dad was in college when he had my older brother, then three years later me. They didn't have the tools. It's kind of amazing, 'cause growing up in a rich town where dad's doing this, there's a lot of that stereotypical behavior where it's like dad's not around or on a business trip or busy, and some of them are like "That guy's a CEO." Like, he's a busy man, his schedule's pretty brutal. Other guys, you know. I've looked around my childhood and I think 'What were the parents like?' and relatively speaking I was very, very fortunate within that model.
Paul: Give me some more snapshots from your childhood. Actually, before we do that, share some of the things that you've said, like when your daughter says "Poppa, you can't talk to me that way," what are some of the things that you've said to her that have made her say that?
Andrew: Well, it's my voice, my tone. The biggest thing is tone, when I forget that she's three and I think that she's 30, I talk to her like a 30-year-old, or 13 or 23. And it'll be--
Paul: "When are you gonna make something of yourself?"
Andrew: Yeah. 'You get a job, instead of sucking your mother and I dry.' It's probably something to the fact of trying to reason with her and her cerebral cortex isn't developed at all to the point where she understands that. She's 3 1/2. At two years old I'd say stuff to her like 'Why don't we just put the pajamas on. Look, we're doing pajamas, then we're gonna do teeth, and then we do diapers. Now, I don't care what order that is but..." Like fucking flip my lid. You can't talk that way. You can, but it's not gonna get you anywhere and it's gonna be upsetting and it's gonna be intense.
Paul: And she's gonna shut down.
Andrew: And she's gonna get scared because I've gone from 'Hi honey', and reading books and Frere Jacques, to 'What the fuck??!'
Paul: And then she's gonna be on edge because "When's Dad gonna explode? I don't' know what sets him off." She can't read your mind.
Andrew: She can't' read my mind. And she's seen someone who she...in that capacity. It's a 180 for her. But also too the amazing thing is when she does a 180 on me and it's developmentally appropriate where everything's all great and we're eating pancakes and we're having fun and I'm like 'Want some milk?' and then for whatever reason I give her milk and she's like "That's not milk!" even though there's milk in there, and it's like dealing with a third world dictator where you bring baubles and "These aren't--", 'No, they're clearly diamonds'--"I asked for diamonds!"--'These are diamonds'--"They're NOT DIAMONDS!", like off with the head. It's fucking crazy like that because she will snap like that and it's either because she's hungry or tired or she's three or whatever it is, it doesn't matter. But my problem is I get into it and try to reason through that, which is ridiculous.
Paul: What tools have you learned to get out of that mode? What's the healthy mode to get into? To extricate yourself from the room and take a deep breath, or to change the way you're dealing with her in the moment?
Andrew: All of those things. I've been doing a lot of--I shouldn't say I've been doing a lot of meditation. I'm SUPPOSED to be doing a lot of meditation, but a lot of that stuff is just trying to stop yourself in the moment and take a deep breath and to realize that she's a maniacal individual who's not maniacal, who's just a three-year-old but seems like that, instead of getting pulled into that energy. A lot of times now I'll just shut down, just go neutral. There's a thing called stay listening, and again some of this stuff gets New Age-y and whatever, but it's all based on pediatric neuroscience. A lot of stuff is out of UCLA in the last 10 years so it's kind of amazing, but stay listening is just the fact that you're there. 'Cause she's gonna go, she's gonna do what she's gonna do, she might throw something, she might scream, she might yell, it's that classic tantrum, and they refer to it as big feelings, which is pretty hilarious. "I'm having big feelings!", which I don't like. Some of the language I have a problem with, as a comedian, as a man, it gets very...I'm like, am I gonna have to put a scarf on around my head to say big feelings? I don't wanna do that. I feel like I should be at a drum circle. But at the same time that's what it is, 'cause "tantrum" is a negative, like it's her, like "You're acting up, she's trying to get attention."
Paul: She's fucking four!
Andrew: She's four! Of course she's trying to get attention. How else would she do that when you don't have the verbal capacity to get attention? You flip out. I lost my train of thought, I forgot where I was going with that. Yeah, stopping. The big thing is not forgetting that--
Paul: Stay listening?
Andrew: Yeah, stay listening is the fact that you're there for her, you put a hand on her back and sometimes she'll shake it off. "Don't touch me, Poppa!" And you just say, literally 'I'm here for you if you need a hug, I'm here if you need me sweet pea.' I call her sweet pea. That'd be rad if her name was just Sweet Pea. 'Yeah, we named her Sweet Pea.' "Well, that's probably the problem. You don't name your kid Sweet Pea. That's from a fucking cartoon." Yeah, so less is more in those instances, instead of trying to fix it. That's the big thing with the parenting we're doing, you're not trying to fix stuff. You're not trying to avoid the so-called tantrum, the eruption. You just navigate them through that because those are gonna happen and they're so natural and they're important for her to erupt and to get her feelings out and a lot of what you say most of the time is 'Yeah, I know it's hard.' And "I want this, I want that," and 'I know you want that. I wish you could have all that.' And it's kind of going with all those things. So if it's a cookie, whatever it is, we don't give her a lot of sugar because it's the worst fucking thing ever, as it turns out, but if it is a cookie, she's like "I want that," and I'm like 'Yeah, I wish you could have 50 cookies. I'd like to have 500 cookies right now, I'd love to, but my body can't do that, we need other foods.' So it's that kind of going with it versus fighting like 'No cookies!' And there's no like 'If you do this then you get a cookie,' there's none of that shit.
Paul: What did it feel like when you first did that and you got through that moment without losing your temper?
Andrew: It's unbelievable. You feel like Obi Wan, Dalai Lama times ten. It's remarkable because you're calm and you never get into that red level--
Paul: And it passes.
Andrew: And it passes and it feels remarkable. Me personally, I just feel really good about myself, which is important.
Paul: It reminds me a lot of what I've heard about DBT, which is a thing that people who live with Borderline Personality learn to use as a coping mechanism, which is about expressing what you're feeling and often the desire that they have to be heard; their fear often comes from feeling abandoned and not heard, and they learn to express themselves and their loved ones learn to listen to them and express that they're listening and they hear them and they feel them, and it does a great amount of soothing , the overwhelming feeling that the person who lives with Borderline Person feels--although now it's called Emotional Dysregulation Disorder. It calms them down because they're assured that they're being heard and felt, which on some level I think everything comes back to that, we feel like we're separate, we're--
Andrew: That's exactly it, heard and felt is the thing with my daughter. As kids, we were heard to a degree, we were able to feel to a degree. Most of that is "Life is hard, tough shit. Suck it up and deal."
Paul: and put the problem-solving aside and just let somebody know that you hear what they say, you understand what they're saying, and it doesn't have to mean that you agree.
Andrew: Right, absolutely. And in this instance, they just wanna be heard. One of the amazing things I learned too was the fact that you know when kids will touch a plug or they do something, and they do it again and again and again, people used to say "Oh, he's just getting a reaction, just trying to get a reaction out of you." And they are getting a reaction out of you, but they're not doing it to get a reaction out of you. They're doing it because the way their brain works, especially little kids, is they're like little scientists, and in order to form a hypothesis you would never do it based on one experiment. You would do it again and again and again to prove that this keeps happening, so they're touching something or going at something to see what it's like. Is it really bad or is it good, or to literally feel it out. And they'll look at you because you're responding to it. They look at you and they touch it and it looks like they're going "How about this? Fuck you. I'm gonna touch it again. Fuck you. How about this? Oh, you're getting even more mad?" In other words they wanna see, and that's how they figure stuff out, versus--
Paul: So do you let them touch it again? Or do you say 'Let's please not touch that.'
Andrew: It depends on the thing. If they're in danger of any kind, like if it's a plug or whatever, you just put a hand in front of them and say 'That's not safe to touch.'
Paul: What about hosing them down so the shock is bigger?
Andrew: What we like to do is take two cymbals, marching band cymbals, and I come right up behind her as she's about to--
Paul: Sousa can be so instructional.
Andrew: Yeah. Actually, the best thing, we have this new house and it the code now, it has these three-prong plugs that you actually have to put something metal, like two prongs of a plug, into it to activate anything. So you can actually touch it with your hand, you can even lick your hand, I like to lick my hand, and put your hand and get no charge out of the thing. But it's hilarious because parents have come over with their kids and the kid goes, and I'm like 'No watch this!' and it's like "No!" and I'm like, 'No, watch Adele..' But it's pretty hilarious. But yes, if they're in peril then absolutely 'That's not a toy' or 'That's not safe.'
Paul: When did you realize that your ADHD and your depression had become unmanageable and clearly you didn't know that's what it was then, but when did it reach a boiling point? And are we missing any snapshots along the way in your youth, your teens, your 20s, your 30s? are there any snapshots you can give me that are...I'd like to use the word snapshots one more time.
Andrew: Yeah, are you sponsored by snapshots?
Paul: I am. Snapshots.com, go visit it now, they're a tremendous sponsor.
Andrew: Not .gov? Yeah, I mean, I remember being very depressed and never wanting to go to school every day during my high school years.
Paul: You would wake up with dread?
Andrew: Yeah, and I would do everything to pray for a snow day. In New England, you're from Chicago so you know, and I would always plan homework according to the weather so if it was miserable weather coming I'd be like 'I'm not gonna study for that fucking test.' And I couldn't study anyway and I didn't have any self-esteem so I was like 'I'm not gonna get an A anyway, I'm just gonna...' I'm the good athlete, I'm a good kid, but I'm Cs. I'm a hockey player, I don't fucking get As, there's no need.
Paul: I didn't know you play hockey.
Andrew: Oh yeah, I played in college and that was my whole life until after college and then I realized I'm not gonna be in the NHL so time to...
Paul: I had no idea. I play hockey.
Andrew: That's right, I remember that.
Paul: Where did you play college?
Andrew: Lake Forest, in Chicago.
Andrew: Yeah, Division 2, small school, like 1200 students. We were good, we had a lot of guys from the Midwest and a bunch of guys from Massachusetts and Canada.
Paul: You strike me as a center.
Andrew: No, I was a defenseman.
Paul: Really? I love defense. I like to say the bastion of the talentless.
Andrew: Yeah, well that's the thing, I was pretty quick. I'm not big but I was actually the smallest defenseman on my team.
Paul: That's why I figured you were center.
Andrew: No, I know. I was probably 20 pounds heavier, I was about 185 of muscle.
Paul: So you were puck moving, you carried the mail?
Andrew: Yeah, I was quick but I wasn't that physical. I think I saw myself as a hockey player and there were hockey players getting As, there absolutely were, in fact my roommate was smart and he got As. But I had identified myself as 'I'm a C student and a hockey player,' which was self-fulfilling.
Paul: So you were giving me some snapshots. So in high school you retreated into hockey, that was something you could pour yourself into that you were good at?
Andrew: Yeah, I played soccer, hockey, and baseball and that was definitely a source of happiness. I was a really nice kid, very well-mannered, if my parents taught us anything it would be how to conduct yourself, you know? How to treat a lady, how to be cordial. Decorum was very important. It wasn't like old English decorum but there was...
Paul: You enjoy laying your jacket down for a lady over a puddle.
Andrew: All the time. And in New England, how many jackets you'd go through in a year, 'cause you'd leave the jacket there, right? That's what you do? You don't go back and get it.
Paul: No, no.
Andrew: So the kids in my class, I'm sure they're all nice and wonderful people, but at the time there was slim pickins. There were 37 kids in my class, all boys, Catholic high school. And some of them were a lot tougher than I was, and despite the sports I just wasn't a tough kid. Some of the kids acted tough but they were from a rich town. They were trying to act, it was hilarious. And some of the kids were just tough. But I wasn't really like that so I didn't really fit in but I had sports to save me. If I wasn't a good athlete I'd have been kind of fucked, I would have been with the so-called nerds at the time. Which, by the way, it's awesome that nerds rule right now, and they have for several years, but it's pretty awesome. You're like 'Oh, I remember you. Oh, now you have your own TV show. You're fucking amazing and you're--'
Paul: 'And your own corporation.'
Andrew: 'And your own corporation and you're fucking everything in sight and it's kind of amazing! Good for you!' And it's great. So it was a hard time during that, and the thing is my parents never knew. I hid it very well, and I realized that later on. I never got beat up but I was in one major fight that was kind of like an old Western fight that was kind of classic and people talked about, where I reluctantly fought this kid, we were friends before and after, not tight friends, but we were both like 'What the fuck was that all about?' It was peer pressure, literally the old cutting in line, taking my milk money kind of thing. "What are you gonna do, you gonna listen to that? You're not gonna do anything about that?" But it was like he cut me in line, we all sat down and ate, he sat at a separate table, we ate our meal, then later on in the student lounge, he was on the phone in the student lounge and people were like "Are you gonna fucking take that??" and I go up and I push him and he literally was like "I'm on the phone," and I'm like 'Oh, okay, I'll wait 'til you're off.' And then I pushed him again hard, forcing him to punch me, but I wasn't gonna throw the first punch 'cause I was frightened. But when he hit me in the face, we both had braces, you never felt any pain like that. I fucking snapped, and he snapped too, but I really snapped. It was like a Western, literally he tackled me over a table. I'm not sure but somebody might have broken a chair over somebody's back at one point, it felt like that. But we pounded away at each other for a good amount of time as those fights go.
Paul: Did it end with a whore at the top of the stairs shooting a gun?
Andrew: Yeah, exactly, with her--what do they call that, with her leg, with her dress up?
Paul: Her garter?
Andrew: Her garter, right. It was Sissy Spacek. But it was one of those things where we beat the shit out of each other and there was blood everywhere 'cause the braces and the lips and the cut...but there was no teacher for quite a while, and we were in ties and jackets, Catholic high school, literally sitting in the principal's office and he's like "What the fuck, why'd you do that?" and I'm like 'I don't fucking know, whatever, I don't wanna talk right now.'
Paul: So give me an arc of your struggles, how it began, because clearly it must have gotten worse for you to say 'I gotta go see somebody to deal with this.'
Andrew: Yeah, I think my biggest issue has been the self-regulation aspect of ADD for me, because that ability to put everything on the same level of importance, and 'Who moved my shit?' and being in a relationship, to the point where my wife was just...We were in therapy together, I've been in therapy for a long time individually, and we were going together--
Paul: What made you go to therapy on your own, originally?
Andrew: Because I didn't know what I wanted. One of the things about having everything at the same level of importance is also not having any self-confidence that the decisions you're making are good. It's like 'Should I do that?' or 'Who's going to that party? Should I go to that party?'; there's that decision, and then there's like 'Should I be dating this woman or should I not be going out with this woman?'
Paul: So decision making was agonizing.
Andrew: Yeah, like 'Is she the right one for me?' Totally agonizing. Buying hockey shin pads and having the guy go to the top row at 7:00 on a Friday night in a snowstorm, that's a true story...everything. It takes me six months to buy a pair of sneakers on the internet. It was all those things, but being in a relationship with my wife, girlfriend at the time, I went because I wasn't sure if I was going to lose her or if I should keep her or if I should try to fight...
Paul: So almost every day you had a battle in your mind of 'Is this relationship right for me?'
Andrew: Right, absolutely. 'Is this turkey burger right for me? Are these sneakers?' Everything was self-doubt, at times crushing self-esteem...
Paul: Did you ever get confused and try to fuck the turkey burger and...?
Andrew: I once tried to fuck a mailbox.
Andrew: Yep. But yeah, you do get confused, but I'm also intensely loyal, I've never been a cheater in a relationship, so I didn't wanna do that either, I've always been with one girl then move on. There's been a little gray area in some stuff but not in most of them. And I haven't even had that many girlfriends. I had a couple girls in college then after that it was always monogamy.
Paul: So what brought you to therapy originally was just your agony over making decisions and not having a clue as to what's good for you and you wanted some guidance.
Andrew: Absolutely, and also career stuff, too, just wasn't going the way I wanted it to, and I was starting stand-up, and the big thing was trying to figure out, too, I never liked myself as a kid. I always wanted to be another kid. There was an Eddie Vedder stage, and a Lance Armstrong stage, and a Bobby Orr stage and a Ray Bourque stage...Whatever it was, the artist or athlete du jour. Now it's a Tom Brady phase.
Andrew: Well, somewhat, not really with Brady but I'm enjoying seeing Brady and Belichick while it lasts, but I never really wanted to be myself. Always wanted to be someone else because I wasn't confident in myself and that's why I went to therapy, 'cause I felt like I was gonna lose my girlfriend. So that helped me. The lady in New York helped me keep her. And then we moved out here and I was so hard to live with. That's the thing, I always lived alone, I lived with my brother for a while in New York and then lived alone for many years, so I got very, very accustomed to that and there was no reactivity because all my stuff was where I wanted it.
Paul: Yeah, I would imagine you get comfort from regimentation and sameness.
Andrew: Right, absolutely, which is why I threw everything out of my apartment, got rid of all of my belongings and basically just had the bare essentials, 'cause I knew where everything was and there was a lot of order. But we started going to couples therapy 'cause we were living in a small apartment, which was even worse, actually a little house--
Paul: And she's moving your shit.
Andrew: Yeah, and she was very respectful, has been, by the way, insanely patient and understanding.
Paul: I think that goes without saying.
Andrew: But I became insane because it was also when we were getting married and I was crazy about that and in a little bit of denial about that, to the point where I didn't even want to have a wedding, I just wanted to have a party and not get any religion involved and there was religion involved, a light religion thing because of the family and all that stuff, and I was so opposed and fought and then was just like 'Let it go'--
Paul: Because that's more decisions and more variables?
Andrew: Yeah, and more like my childhood with the Catholic stuff and it wasn't even Catholic, it was more Episcopalian or whatever, Protestant, but I was having none of it.
Paul: I just assumed you were Catholic, that's hilarious.
Andrew: No, I was, but she wasn't, but it was one of those things where I was really difficult to live with and I think back now, knowing what was the cause of all this, who the fuck would want to live with this person? But at the same time I was a loving, caring individual but I was impossible and still can be.
Paul: Was it difficult for you to see your good qualities, what she loved about you?
Andrew: Oh yeah, the voice inside my head is the karate sensei from Karate Kid, the blond guy, "Sweep the leg!" That's the voice inside my head about myself after a bad comedy show.
Paul: "You're weak."
Andrew: Yeah, I'm the worst. That voice is not even my parents, it's a crazy monster that's--
Paul: Where do you think that got implanted? Was there anybody that talked to you that way as a kid?
Andrew: I suppose it's an amalgamation of my parents and coaching, although I had good coaches. I don't know, I just felt if it originated in family it was left untreated and then I took it to a different spot. It just fed itself. I remember never having compassion for myself. I'm still learning more about that in the last couple of weeks, been talking about it in therapy about I'm just so hard on myself. And when you're like me and you don't get anything done, you don't do your job...It's one thing if you did your job and then you're hard on yourself, like 'Oh, I'm gonna learn from this,' and there are times when I do that, absolutely. But when you're not prepared in some way and then you do a horrible job, I beat myself up so hard that I have to climb all the way back up about a lot of different things, not just a bad comedy show or a bad hockey game, everything. That's where it's been so hard, and that's the secret in terms of high school and college, it was brutal. It still is brutal when you have that feeling.
Paul: Nobody has ever grown by telling themselves they're a piece of shit. And yet we do that because we think 'This is the discipline I need, this is the way out,' instead of self-reflecting with self-compassion which is the way to go, and to not dwell and to not obsess about it, but to just say ' How might I have handled that differently? Was I disrespectful to myself or other people? Was there dishonesty somewhere? Did I not stand up for myself, or did I unleash my anger on somebody else?' That's healthy self-reflection, but to tell yourself you're doomed, you're fucked, you're stupid, you're lazy, that's never been helpful to anybody and yet for some reason that's where we go.
Andrew: Yeah. One of the problems too is the fact that I don't work for anybody. I haven't worked for anybody since 1998 or 1997, in terms of going to an office, and I'm the best boss in the world and the worst fucking boss in the world. My company should not exist at all.
Paul: You're talking about your stand up career?
Andrew: Just my whole career. It's unbelievable how I give myself so many breaks and so many outs and I don't make myself do things even though I know that I'm supposed to do them, within reason, I've gotten much better over the years. But homework-wise, I always get bailed out and I'm my own worst enemy and what it does is, when I found out about the ADD, I realized that why I've kept myself from excelling in many, many areas where I want to excel, stand up being one of them, I have the hardest time sitting down writing new jokes. I think of stuff during the day but even then my mind goes elsewhere, gets distracted, so it's been very hard in recent years. It started really well and then just sort of sputtered in terms of where I wanted...I talked about the Bumbershoot thing, there was a point where I could have...but I haven't progressed the way I wanted to. At the same time I'll go up on stage and ad lib, fuck around, do great stuff in the moment and everything and do really well and kill, but it's left there, people are like 'It's wonderful, it's great.'
Paul: But it evaporates.
Andrew: It evaporates, it doesn't go beyond that room that night, as you know. And I've been doing that a lot, I'm riding that a lot, and I still do. And I'll do it tomorrow night because I don't have newer stuff that I'm happy about. And I can get away with it to a degree but that's not an album, that's not a special.
Paul: Let's get back to the ADHD and the depression. Who diagnosed it?
Andrew: My therapist now.
Paul: This is separate from the therapist you were seeing with your wife?
Andrew: Yeah, this is a new therapist that I've been with for the last couple of years now, and we started going to couples therapy and she pinpointed it. She was like "It's a lot to absorb but read up on it and look at this and this, but I'm gonna bet my career on it." And it turns out all these things have lined up and the big component is the reactivity and the lack of focus and discipline. It was the lack of the compassion and the self-worth, because ADD is so many other things that aren't described in that acronym. There are so many elements to it. And combined with depression, that just feeds into it. I just couldn't believe it, I mean I totally believed it, but I couldn't believe...Check this out. Do you know who Edward Halliwell is?
Paul: Hmm mmm.
Andrew: His Driven to Distraction is the bible of ADHD. He wrote this book and he's one of the foremost dudes on this. So as it turns out the fancy school that I went to as a kid, in grammar school, he actually worked at that school as the official doctor of the school, of psychology. He was getting his career going out of Harvard. He worked at the school. At one point, years ago, my parents told me--'cause we've always thought there was something going on with me--and casually in conversation my mother said "Oh yeah, they wanted to put you on Ritalin but I wouldn't let them at the time." And more recently that came to light and I was like 'Holy shit.' And chances are this guy Halliwell was in the same room as me, talking to me, diagnosing me. At first I was insanely pissed off about that because I was like 'They could have helped me,' beyond Ritalin. Now my parents didn't know any better, I don't blame them at all, I'm glad they didn't put me on Ritalin. As my wife has pointed out, "If they put you on Ritalin you never would have become a comedian."
Paul: Do you take anything now?
Andrew: Nothing. I don't want to. I suppose if I need to at some point, if push comes to shove and all that stuff, then I will, but what I'm doing is meditating and on my bicycle. My therapist was like "I want you to ride for 45 minutes a day, build up a sweat, and meditate." And I'm taking a bunch of supplements, fish oil and omega 3.
Paul: And are you feeling a difference doing all these things?
Andrew: I do. The bicycle makes perfect sense, because when I don't do that I'm kind of fucked. I've actually read about several people who've used cycling specifically, because of what it does for the body when you're riding, the intensity of it and the exertion level and the decision-making of the brain while you're on the bike and being in the moment. That, and running. And stabbing a guy in the face too, that's the third thing.
Paul: Is that like a hot fudge sundae?
Andrew: Absolutely. But in more acute cases, with hyperactivity and stuff, that can bring all of that brain chemistry to where it needs to be to be able to function well and getting off meds and using cycling. There's a guy who was a category three pro rider who got off, and he was in high school and diagnosed early. I've also read that 90% of the people who have adult ADHD go undiagnosed and untreated, which is kind of amazing and explains pretty much everything that we see and experience all the time. And it's true. When I describe my symptoms to people, some people are like "Well I do that," and it's like yeah, but does it interfere with your marriage and your job and your self-esteem every moment of every day? 'Cause it needs to do that. If it does that, you got it. But if it doesn't, like it's occasional--
Paul: You're just human.
Andrew: And you have a coincidental symptom, sort of. But mine's acute and to answer the question, formally, I wanted to save my marriage and be a better father and I had no choice. There was no question I had to get more and more treatment and continue to, because I would lose everything. I would lose my wife and child and home, and that's certainly not what I want even though when you have those moments where you want to run away and drive into the ocean--
Paul: You know that's not the answer.
Andrew: Yeah, it's miserable. And I've never been to the point where you get so low where I felt like a piece of shit father husband and piece of shit comedian, of like killing yourself, I've never gone and entertained any of that, but I get to the point where I see where you could go...When you don't have this in check or address this--
Paul: Or you think it's never gonna get better, there's no solution.
Andrew: I can totally see. So it was a whole new level of empathy for that group of folks. Like when you feel like there's no way out. And you also see where there's those calls for help when someone takes too many of this or drinks too much, a call for help, and you really do want help and you have an episode of some sort where the law is involved or a health issue. I've thought about all that stuff and you read about it and I've seen too many TV shows and movies about that stuff and you read about it and you see it in the news. But I look at that little four-year-old face when she comes in in the morning and she hugs me and it's cliché but you see that and how could I even think about ending my life or not getting treatment, not trying to help myself? Look at how much of an effect you have on this little life, it's unbelievable. When she says something like "Poppa, you can't talk to me like that" and she's goddamn right. Or 'I did and here's why I did it. Poppa's frustrated about work. Poppa's upset because he's not sure if he's gonna be able to work more or do the right things for you and take care of you...' Whatever it is, explain to her the reasons why I'm upset. Because it's fine to get upset in front of her, it's a matter of repairing and letting her know what it is that I'm feeling. That's the most important thing. And she understands. It's kind of amazing.
Paul: It sounds good, too, that she's getting an example of how somebody deals with their flaws.
Andrew: Absolutely. She sees how you are when you're upset and how you deal with it. You see how you repair and come down from it. She witnesses how you cope and that hey everything's not always great, sometimes you're pissed, sometimes you're unhappy, and if you are, what are we gonna do about it? How can we feel better. And the cool thing is knowing it doesn't last, even when you're miserable and so freaking sad, it doesn't last. You're gonna be happy again and get through it. The other thing is...I lost my train of thought.
Paul: I'd like to berate you right now for losing your train of thought, and shame you.
Andrew: You should. Sweep the leg! The cool thing I learned about meditation is the fact that when you're meditating and your mind wanders and you come back to the breath and your mind keeps wandering and back and forth, that exercise of training your brain in that way, helps you to train your brain to focus, which is unbelievable to me. The simplicity of that mental exercise. I used to think when I first started meditating that you've gotta just clear your mind. It's not about that at all. It's all about coming back to the breath, which is fucking amazing to me.
Paul: Yeah, there's no mistakes in meditation.
Paul: Is there anything else you wanna share before we hear your fears and your loves? Did you get a chance to do fears and loves, or did I not...?
Andrew: I didn't do that, but I forgot to say that I have a penis and a vagina.
Paul: Oh. That's okay, that's not important. Anything you wanna share before we wrap up?
Andrew: What do I wanna share?
Paul: You don't have to share anything if you don't have anything. Is your vagina bigger than your penis?
Andrew: Oh yeah, much bigger. It's like Staples Center.
Paul: If it was overgrown with trees.
Andrew: Exactly. And filled with Kobe Bryant. There is something I wanna share, I can't remember what it is 'cause I have ADD, but...Here's the cool part, the amazing part, is the fact that now that I know that I have this you can use it for good rather than evil, 'cause we talked about the down stuff and this and that and woe is me, 'cause really I no longer feel 'woe is me', I just understand why it is I do the things I do and to be able to stop myself in my tracks when I'm on ESPN too long, or Huffington Post, reading about some nonsense that I shouldn't be reading about and don't need to fill my head with. Just knowing it is unbelievable, that I can use it in those hyper-focused moments. That's the thing I've been doing on stage, too, despite saying I don't have new material, you can kind of unleash it onstage and be all over the place and be off-kilter in a controlled fashion and it's been working well because they don't know where I'm going and neither do I, and it looks like I'm making it up on the spot and I am, but even if I'm not it looks like I am, and it's an interesting energy that I know that I'm up to now, and didn't know why I was doing it, but I can focus it more and go with it. It's kind of nice. And it's a different offset of my comedic voice which I'm excited about. We'll see. I'm still learning more about myself than ever, it's kind of amazing at 46, it's bizarre. In some ways I wish I had done this earlier but it's awesome that I'm learning about it now.
Paul: Well, I hope any parents that listen take comfort from your honesty and your example that you don'[t have to be a perfect parent, you just have to let your child know that you're human and you're trying and you hear them and you feel them.
Andrew: Absolutely, that's the biggest thing. I could say on that point, too, this is heavier and broader of a topic, but in terms of having children...People always say "Are you gonna have another one?" and I'm like 'I wanna do one well.' You know? I didn't realize the importance of all this. You just have to love your kids, but we don't need any more repressed individuals on the planet. We don't need any more people on the planet. If we stopped making people right now it'd be fantastic. We don't need any more emotionally stunted people. So I think a lot of stuff that we're doing now, when you start seeing it on The Today Show, it's like 'Good. Finally.' I think you see more of it, and I don't do it all, but it's fucking revelatory.
Paul: I think you should have 12 kids and then you improve the chance that one of them is gonna be okay, and then you just cut the other 11 out of your life. It's a loss; treat it as a business.
Andrew: Absolutely. It is unbelievable. I don't get how people can have that many kids. Obviously I know why, but this day the resources alone...Different topic, but you look around and you're like 'Really? 'Cause we're gonna be out of water in 10 minutes and you have six fucking kids in a mini-van.' It's like an addiction, you know? One or two, yeah.
Paul: Hey, if you can handle it and you enjoy it, and the kids get nurtured, it's all good. Well, Andrew, thank you so much for coming and sharing your life with us, and being honest about your struggles as a parent, I really appreciate that.
Andrew: I appreciate you having me on, I didn't know what to expect and it's good stuff to talk about, it's cathartic. I haven't talked to a lot of people about this outside of therapy and my wife and close friends, this is the first time I've really talked about my ADD in this kind of a forum. I've mentioned it on stage a few times but I don't even know if people believe me.
Paul: If I didn't force myself to get out of the house and go to a coffee shop once a day, I wouldn't have bumped into you at that cafe and this wouldn't have happened. So, I encourage people to do things that are healthy for themselves and you never know what good things may come out of it.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely.
Paul: Thanks, buddy.
Andrew: Thanks, man.
Paul: Many, many thanks to Andrew. Before I take it out with a bunch of surveys, I want to remind you guys there's a couple of different ways to support the show, if you feel so inclined. You can go to the website mentalpod.com and make either a one-time PayPal donation or a recurring monthly donation for as little as five bucks a month and it means the world to me. It's super easy to fill out and then you can just leave it and donate that amount every month and you don't have to do anything until your credit card expires or you get sick of my bullshit and decide to cancel and send me into a funk and have me staring at the wall for four or five hours a day. You can also use our Amazon search portal, it's on our home page about halfway down, right hand side, and that way when you buy something at Amazon they give us a couple of nickels and it doesn't cost you anything. Not to be confused with the search for our site. There's two on the right hand side of the homepage, one is to enter Amazon, the other is to search for keywords within our site, so certain episodes will come up. If you want to know about ADD, put that in and it'll usually list blog pieces that are about it or episodes where that's touched on.
This is from the Babysitter survey, which doesn't get filled out too often but I find endlessly fascinating, and I wanted to read this one because one of the things that I hope to accomplish with this podcast is to talk about issues that fall into a gray area, because they often leave us with the same feelings as things that were clear cut but we really struggle to process it because we feel like we're being overly dramatic or making too big of a deal about something, which is exactly what over-dramatic is but I felt the need to repeat that. This is filled out by a woman who calls herself Barfala and she is straight, in her 20s, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. She writes "We were both female. Second, we are still friends to this day, and both in committed, long-term hetero relationships. I was between 8-10 years old and my baby sitter was between 11-13." Actually, the more I read this the less I think it was a gray area because I forgot she was being babysat and when that other girl was 13, and she was 10, even though that's only a three year age difference, that older girl was probably already developing and I think that's a delineation that...'Cause that happened to me, the kid that lived next door to me was 3-4 years older than me but I had the body of a child and he had the body of a man. Anyway, "There were several occasions where we acted out things of a sexual nature, whether it was laying on top of one another and grinding on each other, and touching each other with our fingers under a sheet at a sleep over. I can't say that I wasn't into it, but I do feel there was a slight element of peer pressure, since she was a little older, and has always had a large personality....but so do I." By the way, and I'm not saying this was the case with her, but a lot of people that manipulate or do things that are abusive can be very charming and have large personalities and really lure you into letting your guard down. Anyway "It didn't feel like it was abnormal. We both shared it with our current partners at some point in the last three or four years ago. I can't say that this incident in particular affected me, but I did reenact the grinding and 'play sex' with another neighborhood girl (also older than me) a few years later. I also feel like I was maybe over-sexualized inadvertently as a child. Side note: as I am writing this, I am listening to the Erica Rhodes episode and you just read a shame and secrets survey from a listener wondering if the same type of child on child circumstances is qualified as abused. Coincidence? I think not. I would just like to share with that individual that you can come to terms with this. I used to be ashamed as well, but there was no mal-intent, and so I can only feel like we were both exploring our bodies as kids often do. It's nice to hear, as I'm addressing it yet again, that I am not alone. In addition to what I just wrote above, I wonder what she really thinks about it. I also wonder if it at all contributed to the brief but substantial girl on girl porn watching I did in high school. It's hard for me now I get off without some kind of penis in the picture." I like to put my penis in the picture of family portraits, it just spices them up a little bit. But anyway, I would think that that definitely contributed to the girl-on-girl porn watching. I don't know. That's my thought. Do you feel any damage was done? "I think that perhaps my parents would have murdered her at the time if they knew, but no, not really." Thank you for sharing that. Here is another thing she wrote: "There were a couple of times in my late teens that I met a couple unsavory fuck buddies on the internet." By the way, on the internet you can go to unsavoryfuckbuddies.com and that's your home for unsavory. "All were around my age, but that isn't make me feel any less grimy when we were done. There's one in particular, where I even caught him telling me a fake name, and I didn't care because I wanted so badly to be out of myself, that even though he was a scum bag, I let him fuck me anyway." One of the things that makes me think that this has affected you more than you think it has is abandoning yourself in a situation like that, not caring about yourself, which is a really common thing for people who have been sexually abused or had something somewhat traumatic happen to them. And as I always say, it doesn't matter what the intent of the other person was as much as what it was that you felt.
This is an email I got from a woman who wants to be called Calliope, and she writes "Tonight was really tough. It was Valentine's Day and my boyfriend and I, we just celebrated six years together, we had a really big fight. We never fight. I'm not sure what will happen between us and frankly I feel like I don't have anyone to talk to who will really understand. He's been my best friend for the past six years and although I do have other friends, it is hard for me to share these feelings of frustration with other people. Basically, the whole fight had to do with my feeling taken for granted and his admitting that he has promised he would do better about appreciating me, though he has still done nothing to remedy this." And I wrote back to her and said, basically in a nutshell, that this is a really common thing with couples, and my wife and I have gone through it many, many times. Shocker, I'm the one that was taking her for granted. And I think the question that you have to ask yourself is how much is he taking you for granted and are there enough moments of him trying to not do that before slipping back into it that you feel like he's listening? Because there's a fine line between giving someone room to grow and respond to your needs, and living with someone who is all talk. And I have gotten better at that with my wife and I think that's one of the reasons why we're still together, among other things. So that gray area would be a good thing to process with an appropriate person, like a therapist or a friend who has a lot of emotional intelligence.
This is from the Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself Rigori Gasputin, and I just want to read an excerpt of it 'cause I just found it kind...actually, I'm gonna read the whole thing. She is bi-sexual, in her 20s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. Never been sexually abused but was emotionally abused and not sure if she was physically abused. "My grandmother and mother are both very narcissistic and emotionally volatile, although they've backed off a bit these days now that I've gotten old enough to take care of myself, as well as old enough to outsmart them." And that is a sad word to have to use with a relative, somebody who's supposed to care for them, is that you have to outsmart them. "Throughout my childhood, I learned that to keep the two of them happy, I had to remain perfect at all costs, which included presenting myself in a way that would best benefit them, always agreeing with whatever they said and did, and never voicing any concerns, needs, or wants of my own. Essentially, I made myself into an android that catered to their demands without question and could also make itself invisible when necessary. Whenever I strayed away from these guidelines however, I was viciously criticized and made out to be a horrible person for simply wanting to do things my way, no matter how harmless my choice was to begin with. I really don't know how to feel about the treatment I received growing up. Sometimes I want to blame myself for not doing exactly what I was told to avoid their anger, and sometimes I also want to empathize with them as I suspect that they may also have mental disorders that have gone untreated, and that their hostile behavior was just a result of this. But even with that in mind, I just can't make myself let go of the things they've said, done, and helped to internalize within me that I'm now having a difficult time unlearning." I don't think it's mutually exclusive, having compassion for them and understanding what they did, and having to say 'This was a big deal to me.' I think you can hold both of those things in your mind at the same time, 'cause they are separate things. Any positive experiences with the abuser? "They made sure that I was fed, clothed, and had shelter." By the way, they should do that. "They also acknowledged my birthdays, brought me presents on Christmas, took me on road trips, and all of that. And yes, this does complicate my feelings about them further - many people may have had it much worse than me, and knowing that I was shown kindness from time to time even when the relationship between us wasn't ideal makes me feel very guilty." Darkest thoughts: "I think about beating certain people within an inch of their life constantly, especially family members that I can't tolerate. It kind of scares me a bit." I would really, really encourage you to take a break from them, it can really help give you perspective and give you room to process it. Deepest, darkest secrets: "I've never told anyone about a fellow student who used to touch me inappropriately on a daily basis in first grade. When I think about it years later, I excused it as him being a child who was possibly exposed to pornography by a family member and was just copying the things he'd seen while not really knowing exactly what it was that he was doing. But what really disturbs me most about this is that, while I did try to fight him off during most of these incidents, a couple of times I found myself allowing him to do it, even enjoying it. And mind you, myself and this boy were SEVEN YEARS OLD at the time." That's so normal, to dislike the emotional context of what's happening, but enjoy the physical aspect of it, so you're not alone in that and that doesn't make you weird or different and I'm sending you a big hug. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: "Most of my sexual fantasies involved myself dominating a man, preferably someone who's a lot bigger and stronger than I am, yet is willingly placing himself in a submissive position for me to take advantage of how I please. And sharing this doesn't bother me at all - I'm more turned on than ashamed, really." That's awesome. I love when people aren't apologetic and confident in what their sexual fantasies are.
This is from the happy Moments survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself Letting Go, and she writes "I joined my first ever support group and on the first night I told my story. I just started talking and before I knew it, I was telling them all about my childhood trauma. All of my pain was flooding out and even though I was blubbering like a baby I could not stop talking. They were all so compassionate and I felt so protected, even thought they were strangers. I have individual support outside the group, but I had no idea the level of healing I could gain from one night of being vulnerable, with a group of people I had no connection with until that very moment. I am so thankful my therapist found this group for me. I am so happy I decided to go to a support group." Well, I don't' have to tell you how much I loved that, but I will. I love that, and that was my experience in support groups and it changed my life.
This is from the Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a woman named Spiro, and I just want to read an excerpt from it because it touched me. Darkest thoughts: "I've thought about doing a public suicide. Give people a show. I could go out with a bang, and then everyone would remember me. I've thought about killing some of my friends; killing my parents in their sleep with a knife; pushing strangers on the street into traffic, pushing little kids in front of buses or down storm drains. Setting people on fire... It's so strange because in real life, I'm such a pacifist." I actually think it makes sense because you're a pacifist. It just seems like wherever conflict within ourselves can exist, those two seeds just seem to grow together, and that putting on a show made me think, is a magician's suicide ever punctuated by his assistant's hand flourish? Get back to me on that one.
This is from also another rarely filled-out survey, Young Male Abused by an Older Female. This is filed out by a guy who calls himself NoTrauma, and he writes "A fifth grade girl repeatedly molested me by fondling my privates while walking home from school when I was in second grade. After the initial shock wore off, I actually began to like it and look forward to it. She went to middle school and we didn't reconnect until high school in a typing class when she was a senior and I was a freshman. She continued to dominate my submissiveness by having me dress up like a girl wearing her panties, bra, and dresses. I never became a cross-dresser but I did like it submitting to her fetishes. I told a friend or two about her once I was an adult but never as a kid or teen. I think it fueled my fantasies about being sexually submissive to someone, whether a guy or a girl." Oh I forgot to read that he is bi-sexual, bi-curious, but only around being submissive and he is in his 50s. The feelings that come up as he remembers this are fondness, sexual excitement, and longing, and no shame. "Looking back, our innocence was part of the attraction. I have fantasies about some day recreating that situation. I wish I could afford to pay someone." Thank you for sharing that, sending you some love.
This is an Awfulsome Moment survey, filled out by KarmaWillGetMeForThisOne. "During Hurricane Sandy I was living in an area of Manhattan that wasn't in a lot of danger of power loss. A guy I slept with in college was in town, and ended up coming over for a hurricane hookup. I knew he had a girlfriend, but he had also had a girlfriend in college, and I knew he wasn't exactly committed to physical monogamy. Plus I was bored and starting to get cabin fever. We fucked all over the apartment, took a break to go downstairs to the bar (which by the way was so busy the bartender didn't remember to charge us for our drinks), then came back upstairs and fucked more. Down at the bar he talked to me about picking out engagement rings for his girlfriend and how perfect she was, all while keeping one hand on my upper thigh. Back upstairs after another round, he called her to say goodnight and tell her he loved her while I sat naked next to him on the couch. I woke up next to him in the morning, and in the clear light of day and without a whiskey haze I remembered how obnoxious I found him on a personal level. I moved over to the couch to get a few more hours of sleep alone at which point he called out, "Where are you?" I responded, "I'm awake. I don't want to keep you from sleeping." He called back whinily, "But I liiiiike you." A few hours later I made us breakfast, and tried not to gag when he declared from across the table that he just wanted to carry me around in his pocket all day. I vaguely recalled agreeing the night before to spend the next day with him, a now-horrifying prospect. I told him that instead I was going to go volunteer at an emergency shelter near my place. We got dressed, walked out of my building and down a few blocks, then parted with a kiss, he on his way back to the place he was staying, me on my way to the emergency shelter. I walked down to the avenue the shelter was on, turned the corner, walked down to the shelter, and walked right past the front door. I continued my path around the block back to my apartment, went upstairs, and put myself back in my bed, ecstatic he was no longer in it." That is awfulsome.
This is an excerpt from Shame and Secrets, filled out by a guy who calls himself Super Friend, and he writes "I think about people I love dying. I think about being alone forever. I think about being violent with strangers, completely unprovoked. I remember walking in a parking lot and I had a perverse thought about a father holding his daughter's hand. I wondered if the father would chase me down or help his daughter if I were to kick the shit out of the girl. Like, if I punted her like a soccer ball." I think a lot of people can relate to having those kind of intrusive thoughts and I hope you don't judge yourself for that. And if you do punt her, I hope it's good and you get three points. Although you wouldn't get that for a--I hope a Hispanic guy screams "Gooooooooal" when you do punt her.
This is from Happy Moments, filled out by a guy who calls himself Keagan, and he writes “A little over a week ago—," and this one, it’s kind of a bittersweet happy moment but it’s definitely a happy moment. “A little over a week ago, over 10 years after it all happened, I called the police department for the city in which the 8+ years of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and rape I experienced began and filed charges against the person who did it to me. I always told myself that filing charges wouldn't change or make anything better for me, and I couldn't have been more wrong. Every person I spoke to, from dispatcher to officer(s) to detective(s), treated me as though it just happened. Yes, they asked me why I waited so long, but beyond that did nothing but the most they could do for me. They made no assumptions that the case would go nowhere. They asked me if I needed resources for help. They apologized on behalf of all humanity and engaged with me as a human, rather than a "subject." They took me more seriously than anyone ever has. Irrespective of the outcome, taking this step alone was one of the happiest moments of my life. I will never forget every single sensation I felt in those moments. And, actually, though immediately reporting certainly would've been logistically better, waiting this long has allowed me to be fully aware of just how tremendously healing the act of reporting to authorities is in and of itself.“ Thank you so much for that, Keagan. Wow, that just really, really moved me.
This is from Shame and Secrets, filled out by Donna. She is bi-sexual, she’s 18, raised in a totally chaotic environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts. “This happened when I was a freshman in high school. A friend, who I thought was genuinely cool, asked if I wanted to hang out at around midnight. I snuck out and got really high. We were in his car. He suggested that we move to the back seats. He kissed me and things started to get weird. I started "bad tripping" and I didn't know what was going on. He unzipped my pants and started to touch me. It was really hard to process everything that was going on because I was having a really bad trip. I opened the car door and tried to leave but he pulled me back inside, closed the door, and said he wanted to "finish." He unzipped his pants and tried to make me give him oral sex but I forcefully got out of the car. He apologized after and took me home.” That definitely sounds abusive to me. There’s a fine line, too, between guys being persistent who I certainly was in my teenage years and in my 20s and it makes me cringe to think how…But there’s a fine line between that and not taking no for an answer. For me it was always about the demeanor of the woman, because if a woman ever said ‘No,’ then that was clear, this wasn’t going to happen. But there were sometimes where it was done coyly, like they were torn and as I look back on it, it's hard to not feel shame because I wonder how many were afraid of not being liked, being dumped, or whatever, or just being raised in that environment where girls "Don't upset anybody, keep a smile on your face." But I think it's important to talk about these things because so much of life is in that gray area, but it really sounds to me as if your demeanor was one of "No," and I think I want to say this to guys, and some girls, even if that person isn't saying no, what is their demeanor and don't ignore that, 'cause some people have a problem saying no. Now I'm beating myself up for how long-winded that was and I'm afraid that people are gonna judge me. Not about being long-winded, but think that I'm an apologist, which I don't' think I am. I'm not apologizing for that guy or--but I think I am apologizing for what I did. I am. And I've said this before on the podcast but it stays with me to this day because I wonder what feelings I left. I know for a fact that I left women feeling used and objectified, that I know, but I wonder how many feel violated. And I think that that leftover memory in me is one of the things that keeps me from being able to fully love myself. There was more to that but honestly I didn't expect to talk about this or to have this stuff come up.
This is from the Happy Moments survey--and I wanna send her a hug, that woman, and she had an abusive upbringing...Donna is her name. I wanna apologize on behalf of guys like me that were and are like I was. Alright, let's get to some fucking happy shit. Now I'm thinking about going back and editing all of that out but no, I'm leaving it in. I find that the stuff that I wanna edit out is often the stuff that connects me to you guys more and I know you don't judge me, and if you do, fucking keep it to yourself. This is a happy moment, filled out by a woman who calls herself I Love This Kid. " One of my cousins has a three year old on the autism spectrum. I'll call him E. When I saw them earlier this year he wasn't verbal and mostly treated other people as little more than furniture. At Christmas they were over at my parents' house. I knew that E had been building his vocabulary and behavior through specialized education and therapy. I didn't know his new obsession with microwaves. My mother was heating up appetizers, and when the microwave beeped E looked up from the living room, then made a beeline for the kitchen. He walked up to me, took my hands and led me to the microwave, looked right up at me, and said "up." This was the first purposeful contact the kid had ever made with me, so I was obviously ready to do anything he wanted. I picked him up and opened the microwave. He reached over and closed it, then said, "Shut. Thank you." After that, he even let me smother his beautiful cheeks with kisses." That is awesome.
This is from the Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself McDuck. He is straight, 21 years old, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? "Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. "Some mutual 'experimenting' with a boy my age when I was around seven or so. Never felt like it was particularly abusive, or anything." That doesn't sound like abuse to me, that sounds totally normal and healthy. Darkest thoughts: " I was in a weird toxic friendship with someone I was emotionally dependent on for a while, and that friendship has ended. I often think about really dark stuff involving her -- raping her, murdering her, etc." Deepest, darkest secrets: "I've purchased multiple pairs of used women's panties off the internet. It's not hurting anyone, but I still feel a distinct 'wrongness' and guilt when I do it." Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: "I fantasize and masturbate to lolicon pornography. I don't have any feelings towards actual underage girls (in fact, they kind of disgust me), but I can only receive any sexual satisfaction from masturbating to drawn underage characters. Often it even goes into the territory of darker, "rape-y' depictions of them as well." Have you shared these things with others? " I was open about this with the one friend I mentioned earlier in the survey, because we met in a very strange way that allowed us to be open about that. It never felt weird because she was into the same stuff, but I had a weird on and off crush on her that made things weird in the end. I've also told my closest male friend after he sort of questioned me about it, and he took it surprisingly well and wasn't as judgmental as I thought he'd be.” Oh I see, she was the dark thought person, not the childhood person. How do you feel after writing these things down? " I don't know if I feel particularly different about it, because of the anonymity of it. It doesn't feel like I'm really confessing anything if my real name isn't involved, and it feels just as shameful." Well, I'm sending you some love, McDuck, and I know the listeners are too.
This one, I just wanted to read two excerpts from it, it's from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by Emma, who writes "Pardon my English, I'm from Europe." Ever been the victim of physical or emotional abuse? Yes to both of them. "My mother became physically and emotionally and mentally abusive after her and my father divorced. She locked me in the dark closet, pushed me down the stairs, cut off my hair when I got it caught in this special hairbrush. She kept me in constant level of alert, always scared of doing something that would set her off. She was very verbally abusive and often told me I was insane, stupid, and idiot and that I'd end up in a mental institution. For a long time, I believed her and I worked towards that goal; of becoming crazy, because I thought, maybe then she'd finally be pleased with me and show me some kind of proudness. She was always emotionally shut down. To this day she does not own up to the damage she's caused and I moved far away from my relatives a few years ago to finally start living my own life for me. That feels so good, I've started to work on these issues for the first time in my life because an online relationship with an American triggered all these emotions when our relationship ended sadly. Not because we didn't like each other but because of distance. At least I think so. ANYWAY, I'm going through a lot right now and I'm thankful for getting in touch with my true feelings, thank you to that American handsome gentleman." And this is the thing that really touched me. If you have been abused, are there any positive experiences with the abuser? "The abuser was my mother, as I'm sure you understand, you want to please them and make them proud and happy over you so you try to be a good person and do what they ask. I recall one time overhearing her calling me 'my daughter' over the phone to someone, and I felt like a princess. That little word meant so much to me. Daughter, it was as if I got evidence at that moment that 'yes, she does consider me her child' because I didn't feel like she treated me like one of her own, someone she loved." Thank you for sharing that. That was so moving.
This is Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself A Person. He's straight, he's in his 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused. Not sure if he was physically or emotionally abused. Darkest thoughts: "I often wish horrible, horrible things on people that have committed crimes." Deepest, darkest secrets: "I'm pretty normal when it comes to doing things. Masturbating in my car I guess. it was at home though." We call that a driveway load. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: "I think I like transsexuals with penises better than regular women. I only have romantic fantasies about women with penises. and when I do think about "real" girls, I only think violent things. Like killing, beating, impaling, or feeding them to things during sexual acts. I hate these thoughts. I wish I could have the nice thoughts about regular girls. And the trans thing makes me feel bad cause I have always considered myself totally straight and I used to have better thoughts." I don't think there's anything bad about that. There are no bad thoughts, there are no bad fantasies. You can be straight and still be attracted to trans women, so embrace who you are and stop beating yourself up. You are lovable exactly as you are. What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? "I would tell my mom to keep trying to comfort me when I cry. But because I used to be unruly, she stopped trying. I am no longer unruly and would like the odd sad hug. Now and again." What about sharing with her? What about just reading that exact sentence to her? Yeah. Thank you for filling that out.
And finally, I want to read a Happy Moment, filled out by Scott. He writes "I recently endured a lengthy and very ugly divorce, and it definitely took a toll on me. Simply getting out of bed and facing the world each day was a monumental task. One day at work, surrounded by my coworkers and friends, I felt the darkness creeping in. That all-too-familiar tightness in my chest, the clench in the jaw, the sting of tears welling at the corners of my eyes. Being the tough, manly, non-crying individual that I publicly pretend to be, I tried to keep up with the conversation, joke around, put on the 'normal' face, and not let anyone know that I was absolutely fucking falling apart. One of my coworkers, from across the workstation, looked at me. Really saw me, and what was going on inside. She asked me to show her a piece of equipment in the other room that we had spoken about earlier. Gratefully, I left the conversation and walked to the next room. As soon as I got there, I turned around to thank her. Before I could even speak, she put her arms around me and gave me one of the biggest, most fulfilling hugs I have ever experienced. She gave me a small, very platonic kiss on the cheek and looked me straight in the eyes. She said, 'You are a good man. You have many people in your life who love you so, so much. All of this will pass soon, and you will be amazing.' I can't think of a time that I felt more intensely cared for and instantly hopeful than in that moment." God, that is so beautiful, and that is like the mission statement of this podcast in a single paragraph. Thank you so much for that, Scott, and thank you to your co-worker. What a beautiful human being.
Well guys, thank you so much for supporting this show, and I hope if you're out there and you're feeling stuck, after these two hours you know that there's no way you're alone in any of the stuff that's going on with you, and thank you so much for listening.