Aparna Nancherla (voted #10 ep of 2014)

Aparna Nancherla (voted #10 ep of 2014)

The first generation Indian-American comedian opens up about her low self-esteem, perfectionism, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, the trap of becoming the “good child” and the constant struggle to not compare herself to others.

Follow Aparna on Twitter @Aparnapkin or visit her website www.aparnacomedy.com

This episode is sponsored by Bulubox.  Visit www.bulubox.com, click on the microphone in the upper left-hand corner and enter the promo code “HappyHour”

 

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Follow Aparna on Twitter @Aparnapkin or visit her website www.aparnacomedy.com

This episode is sponsored by Bulubox.  Visit www.bulubox.com, click on the microphone in the upper left-hand corner and enter the promo code "HappyHour"

Episode Transcript:

 

Welcome to Episode 190 with my guest Aparna Nancherla. I’m Paul Gilmartin, and this is the The Mental Illness Happy Hour -- honesty about all the battles in our heads from medically-diagnosed conditions, past traumas, 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 is not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck.

 

The website for this show is www.MentalPod.com. Go there, check it out, read some blogs -- gotta a lot of guest blogs there. I’ve posted a few blogs of my own. There are surveys you can fill out which I read on the podcast. And you can also see how other people have filled out the surveys. And you can also suport the show financially on the website.

 

I want to read a couple before we get into the interview with Aparna.

 

This is Struggle in a Sentence survey filled out by a woman who calls herself “So Very Tired”. She’s African-American and about dealing with racial bias, she writes, “I know you mean well, but please stop asking questions about my hair.”

 

This is from a woman who calls herself “Dual Diagnosed Marriage & Family Therapist”. About her anxiety, she writes, “My panic attacks feel like I’m stuck in a tanning bed, during an earthquake, and the building has collapsed on the tanning bed with no way out.”

 

This is filled out by a woman who calls herself “Andrea” and about being a sex crime victim, she writes, “I’ve never told anyone. I’ve never cried. I feel numb.” And then a snapshot from her life, she writes, “I’m completely broke and living on unemployment going on 6 months now. I cannot bring myself to apply for a single job because I feel completely unworthy, and I don’t know who I am or what I’m good at or what I should be doing. I’m failing at life. I never had kids, and I’m afraid I will die and nobody will know or care that I ever existed.”

 

The reason I wanted to read this, Andrea, is because there, in my opinion, there is a link between never having processed what happened to you and feeling stuck and depressed where you are right now. And I really, really encourage you to either go to a Rape Crisis Center. Go to the website, www.Rainn.org. That’s Rape & Incest National Network. And you can sometimes find free counseling through there. But if they don’t have it, they can refer to you someone else.

 

You can also dial 211 and find out what services are available in your area. But this person who can’t get out of bed, who feels worthless, it is, in my opinion, completely related to that trauma and I’m sure other traumas that have happened in your life as well. So sending you some love and a hug.

 

This is the same survey filled out by a woman who calls herself “Captain Sarcasm”. About her anxiety: “Like my life depends on keeping a straight face in all situations while being tortured by an invisible individual”. About her OCD: “Life is like a game, and I’m the only one playing by the rules.” About her perfectionism: “It’s the same feeling as I had growing up when I was told that God loves me but only if I’m perfect or I repent perfectly, like there’s no such thing as good enough.”

 

And she is gay, by the way, and I’m sure living in a strict religious household was a wonderful and nurturing experience. Snapshot from her life: “Trying to overcome perfectionism by making a list of things that I like about myself only to realize that there is nothing to put on the list because I don’t embody any of the traits 100% of the time.”

 

Oh my God, I wish I could say that I’d never done that, but I have done that. Well, I’m lying if I’m saying that I’m a kind, compassionate person because think about that time when I was a dick, you know, to that person.

 

This is filled out by “Willie Bean”. He is a teenager. And about his bulimia, he writes: “Stuffing all of my emotions down with food, letting it mix together, then just flushing it all away.” Snapshot from his life: “Looking back at the pictures of me from third grade and seeing I was a skinny kid even though I remember me being big, old, fatty, shy kid.”

 

This one is filled out by a woman who calls herself “Not Sick Enough Jenny”, and she writes, “Struggling with this particular survey because I can’t define anything specific in the boxes above. I’m not diagnosed with anything. I was abused, but that’s as it is. I’m totally blind, and I’m perfectly fine with it. I live in a non-sexual marriage, and I tolerate it. I’m fucking alone, but I’m not ready to look for help. That is the struggle of each day. I’m not sick enough, and I resent the world for thinking I’m such a fantastic person. Then I realize that I’m fucking awesome but don’t have the balls to tell anyone. I want to tell my husband much of this, but he is someone that claims he ‘snapped out of his depression.’ Yeah, okay, sure dude. Listening to an older episode today, I recognized the symptoms of” -- she wrote BP4, but I wonder if that’s not BPD because I Googled BP4, and I didn’t see any kind of -- unless there’s a Bipolar 4 now that I don’t know about. Anyway, she – “I recognized the symptoms of BP, and it clicked with me. Maybe that is something. Maybe I should try to talk to someone. But I’m not on drugs, alcohol, or cut myself. I’m not suicidal. I can do it myself. That’s what I’ve done so far, and I turned out just fine, right? I’m so sick of myself right now.”

 

Sending you some love. God, I get this all the time. People that are like, I’m not fucked up enough to seek help. But the fact that you feel that you’re not fucked up enough to justify the pain and the malaise that you’re in is in fact something that you should go talk to somebody about. How do you like that? How do you like that I turned that around on ya?

 

This is filled out by a teenage guy who calls himself “Eshkall” (sp?). About his depression, he writes, “It’s from chronic fatigue. When the brain fog surrounds you completely, and you can’t tell if it’s the fog or reality.” About his anxiety -- I love this one -- “Like everyone in the room has been briefed on what to do, and I overslept.” That is great. About love addiction “The viscious circle of hating to be alone and collapsing in a relationship.” About chronic fatigue: “A filter for true friendship. There are very few people who believe that you’re not faking it.”

 

I can’t imagine how hard that must be. My heart goes out to those of you that deal with chronic fatigue.

 

About racial bias, he writes, “No matter how tidily I live my life, I remain a filthy Slav.” That’s S-L-A-V not S-L-O-B. And about his anger issues: “I don’t care if you’re older, more experienced or superior, if you act condescendingly to me, I will scream at you.”

 

This one was filled out by transgender female-to-male calling themselves “Hedgewitch” (sp?). About their dysthymia: “The Leonardo DiCaprio of depression -- recognized for having depression but you never win for Worst Depression.” Um, that’s fucking awesome. And they also write “my depression never feels dark enough which makes me feel like I’m not even good at depression. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”

 

Um, that is valid. That is valid for seeking help, and it’s not a contest.

 

And, finally, this one is filled out by -- I fucking love this name -- she’s in her 40s and she calls herself “The Returning College Students Are Young and So Full of Energy and I Hate Them” and her struggle is depression. And she writes, “I think a shower might make me feel better, but thinking about getting the temperature adjusted correctly has just overwhelmed and exhausted me. So, I’m just going to lay here and hope that the TNT Law & Order marathon doesn’t switch over to something lame like reality TV or, worse, a cheerful talk show because my remote batteries just died, and I think it’s the universe telling me that I am, in fact, a worthless loser.”

 

[INTRO]

 

Paul: I’m here with Aparna Nancherla. Am I pronouncing your name correctly?

 

Aparna: Yes.

 

Paul: And, uh, I don’t know anything about you other than that you’re a stand-up comedian. I saw that you were following me on Twitter and that you listen to this show. And sometimes just a little voice in my head will say, “invite this person over and record them.” And just for some reason that -- I just -- little voice in my --

 

Aparna: Oh thank you.

 

Paul: I mean I watched some of your stand-up on YouTube -- really funny.

 

Aparna: Oh thank you. That’s very nice.

 

Paul: But personally, I don’t know anything about you. You may be, you know, completely well-adjusted and totally healthy. But my -- I guess my gut kind of said, she’s a woman doing stand-up and which is not easy -- certainly easier than when my wife was doing it twenty years ago. Um, but, uh, you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce, and I’m sure gets mangled all the time.

 

Aparna: Yes.

 

Paul: And, are you of Indian descent?

 

Aparna: Yes.

 

Paul: And, so I thought, there is probably, I would imagine, some type of dynamic with, um, having -- and are you first generation, second generation --

 

Aparna: My parents immigrated here, so I always forget what that makes me. I think --

 

Paul: First generation.

 

Aparna: First generation. Okay.

 

Paul: Um, so I just thought, there is probably something in there.

 

Aparna: Yes. I think I really -- the podcast really resonated with me. A comic friend of mine is the one that referred me to it. And I think I had been -- I moved to Los Angeles about two years ago, and I think I had been going through a lot of just, uh, anxiety and depression which I’ve had on-and-off my whole life. But I think it definitely flared up in different ways after moving here. And I think it was just really nice to hear other people’s experiences in whatever form that comes with it. And just how people cope with having sort of demons in their head. I know it’s kind of normal for performers to struggle with those types of things, but I think that sometimes they -- the struggle remains in the shadows and then just like whatever filters through in their act comes out. But they might not bring all of it to light.

 

Paul: I participated in an interview last week and the subject of it was -- does mental illness going untreated help comedy or hurt comedy? And some people feel one that it helps it. And other people feel -- I’m of the belief that it might be the spark that lights you to want to do comedy. But it can so degrade the rest of your life -- if you’re one of these people who thinks I don’t want to lose my edge. I don’t want to get treated. And the thing I think it also does if your mental illness is untreated is that the palette that you can kind of choose from is very limited. It tends to be kind of negative and dark, and joy is so foreign. That’s kind of my belief. What’s your experience been with that?

 

Aparna: I think stand-up comedy -- just my interest in it very much started as a way to sort of come out of a depression. In college, I sort of struggled with eating issues. I was running cross country and track, and I sort of got caught up in this group-mind culture of it’s better to just kind of like control your diet and just like be very regimented about the way you live. But it was very much just a screen for underlying depression and just feeling like I was going to get to college and then figure everything out.

 

And then after my first year, I hadn’t really figured anything out. And then sort of falling into a depression after realizing that maybe I wasn’t ever going to figure out any answers. So that kind of funneled into a bit of an eating disorder. But I guess I was -- I’ve always been a very self-aware, sort of obsessive thinker -- like thinking about what my actions mean and like overanalyzing everything. So I immediately was like this feels like dysfunctional eating. So, I was like, I should probably figure this out.

 

So, I took time off from school to actually go to a treatment center for that. And there I kind of learned that I’d been struggling with depression for most of my life. I just hadn’t had a label for it. Or I just thought everyone saw the world that way, and you just sort of think that’s how it should be for everyone. But I realized that maybe my view was off-center.

 

And then, I started doing stand-up just randomly after like coming home from that center and just like trying to find new ways to like branch out of my comfort zone. And, uh, I think I realized that like getting treatment for depression was one of the best things I did for myself because I don’t think I would have been able to really do anything without getting it treated. Like I felt pretty immobile and like -- I don’t know what the word is -- unmotivated to do anything when I was really in it.

 

Paul: And then you think you’re lazy. And then you feel worse because you pile that on top of yourself. And you have no idea that you’re battling against something like a diabetic battling trying to produce insulin.

 

Aparna: Right. Right. And just feeling really like, this is just who I am as a person. And like, there is something wrong with me. And sort of like those thoughts of like why does everyone else sort of have this ability to sort of do everything -- and just like get out of bed in the morning and not freak out about everything

 

Paul: So let’s just go back and talk about where you were raised and stuff like that. Um, you are from Washington DC?

 

Aparna: Yes, was raised in the suburbs, so more Northern Virginia. But, um, yeah. I feel like I had a pretty good childhood by all accounts. Like I had an older sister and my two parents. They stayed together. They’re still together. The biggest thing I think that kind of jumps out to me about my childhood, just after going to therapy and like having to talk about it and stuff is just that there was a kind of a lack of bringing too many emotions to light in my family. We’re just like all kind of guarded and also there was also a lot of emphasis on keeping up appearances, so like if you’re having a hard time, don’t like overtalk about it. Just like kind of ‘grin and bear it’ a little bit.

 

Paul: Is that part of Indian culture or is that just your family?

 

Aparna: I think there is a bit of a stigma in Asian culture about getting help for mental illness and sort of going to therapy or causing scenes in general. Yeah, I don’t think you would want other people in your community to know that like -- oh yeah I go to therapist because I’m like manic-depressive or whatever it happens to be. I think it’s better to keep that very like guarded.

 

Paul: I’ve heard that from friends who are Asian, and first-generation Asians, especially a friend of mine who is Filipino, and she said it’s -- it would almost, you know -- it’s unthinkable to let people know that you go to therapy.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I mean I think a big part of that is that it’s such a group-oriented culture, and therapy is -- in that sense -- can feel very self-indulgent or individualistic, and they’re very more like what’s good for the whole rather than the parts. Even though if one part is broken, it’s probably bad for the whole.

 

Paul: Right. So, you felt as a kid that you were maybe different from others -- that you couldn’t experience …

 

Aparna: Yeah, I just always had sort of this melancholic side to me that I thought was what everyone had, but as I got older I realized that maybe I had it to a bigger degree than other people. Because I’m sure even -- I don’t know how well-adjusted people see everything on a day-to-day basis, but I would assume their moods aren’t always the same, happy to joyful.

 

Paul: Are there any snapshots from your childhood that you can kind of paint to help give us a kind of picture of …

 

Aparna: Well I was a -- I’m the younger sibling. I have an older sister. And definitely like our roles in the family fell into where she was like the more rebellious one and more outspoken. And then I kind of felt like I took on the role of being the good child, and like the one who doesn’t ruffle -- or yeah like make any waves. So, I think I very much like suppressed any issues I was having just in the hopes of like not letting my parents down and trying to like -- cuz they kind of had their hands full with her, so I didn’t feel like it was an option for me to like go crazy or like yeah. So I immediately kind of fell into that role, and in doing that I think I very much like sort of wasn’t aware of what was going on within myself and was just like sort of on autopilot a lot of the times with my emotions.

 

Paul: I relate to that so deeply it’s not even funny. That was the exact situation in my family, and so you grow up not even recognizing what you’re feeling or what your needs are. You just gauge it -- or at least I just gauged it by -- is everybody happy? Is everything okay? And so you become almost -- almost machine-like in terms of how you react to situations. And I think your soul really starts to wither because that just drains your spirit.

 

Aparna: Yeah, and I think I also did it to the extent of not even letting other friends in. And then I grew up not really having a lot of close friends because I didn’t really make the connection that to have friends you sort of need to open up. I just thought it was just like a thing where you just like gravitate towards the people that you like spending time with. But I think that because I was so guarded, it sort of shut off the possibility of having more intimate relationships with people.

 

Paul: Plus, too, if you don’t see your parents talking about their feelings, you don’t have a template to go from. And most people don’t just start doing things in a vacuum. They need a role model to go --- oh that’s the kind of sentence you put together to express that you’re feeling frustrated -- or you feel confused or sad or lonely or whatever.

 

Aparna: Right. I think they -- it’s not that they were robotic about their emotions. But it was very much about sort of like trying to keep the household together even when there were events going on. Like if my sister was having friction with my dad or something like just trying to weather that. So, I was more caught up in trying to shut that out rather than figure out how it affected me or how to process it.

 

Paul: Right. And what did your parents do for a living?

 

Aparna: They’re both doctors.

 

Paul: Oh, okay.

 

Aparna: So, yeah, pretty busy schedules. Like not a lot of necessarily like downtime with them like when I was smaller.

 

Paul: And was there a large emphasis on achievement?

 

Aparna: Yeah, but it’s weird cuz I know other -- I have a lot of South Asian friends, and I feel like their parents were a lot more demanding directly to them whereas my parents just sort of assumed we would maintain a certain standard but weren’t necessarily waving our report cards around.

 

Paul: And did you maintain that standard?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think we internalized a lot of expectations. So, it was like even though they weren’t telling me something, I was like disappointed in myself.

 

Paul: Gotcha.

 

Aparna: Yeah because it was sort of like their behavior reflected that. Work is a priority, so like you shouldn’t sit around and not do anything. Relaxing still needs to be like scheduled in.

 

Paul: Relax from 4 to 5. God dammit, I relaxed for 10 minutes too long.

 

Aparna: Yeah exactly.

 

Paul: Any seminal moments kind of stand out from childhood or adolescence?

 

Aparna: Um, I think I just like as a kid in school, like I had a lot of stress about going to school and like making friends. I had -- I think I have social anxiety now, and a lot of it stems from childhood cuz I had like a few encounters of being bullied. And I think it was more just as -- it wasn’t even like I was really weird or something. It’s just that I was quiet and probably wouldn’t say anything about it that I was a target in that way. Just of like -- maybe like bullies sort of know who to target that won’t like you know ever say anything happened.

 

Paul: They can see in the eyes of another kid who they can get away with. And I think for a lot of bullies, they see that weakness in another kid, and it’s the weakness I think that they hate inside themselves, and it just kind of enrages them in a way.

 

Aparna: Yeah.

 

Paul: I remember seeing a kid -- I was not a bully although there was certainly one kid I was a dick to in my neighborhood. But I remember seeing a kid -- he was kind of a dorky kid -- and he had on a Talking Heads t-shirt. And they were not cool yet. This kid was ahead of the curve. I was still listening to Led Zeppelin and anything that wasn’t Led Zeppelin, you were kind of a douche-bag in my mind. And I remember this kid like proudly wearing this Talking Heads t-shirt. And I remember feeling rage at him. And wondering, why am I so angry at this guy? And I think it’s because it’s like he was, he knew he was a target, and he didn’t care. And that just -- I don’t know why that bothered me. But, um -- sorry about that tangent, but it’s weird that dynamic in high school about what pisses you off and what pisses other people off. What gets you picked on and what doesn’t get you picked on. So, would you just try to blend in?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think I was bullied more in elementary and middle school, and then in high school I just sort of did a lot of extracurriculars, so I feel like I was able to meet people that way. And then I didn’t feel necessarily like a target as much as I just felt sort of like under-the-radar -- like coasting a little bit. Uh, but yeah, when I was little, I just had strange like outbursts of aggression. Definitely just like boys just like threatening me with violence but in a way where I didn’t know how serious they were, but I was a pretty naïve kid so I assume they were intending whatever they threatened. And then just being like having to go home and be like oh I can’t ever go back to school and then just like having to go back.

 

Paul: Aw my God. That’s so sad.

 

Aparna: Yeah, it’s strange to just like sort of have that thing. And then I would cry and not want to go to school but not be able to tell my parents why exactly because I would be too scared to tell them why.

 

Paul: Oh that’s so, so tough.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I feel like kids carry a lot with them. Like you really don’t know what’s going on all the time.

 

Paul: They feel things so deeply. They don’t have that real-life experience to know where things end. So, you extrapolate it out in your mind to death or whatever.

 

Aparna: Yeah, and that’s it. You can’t really like put it in any kind of context at all.

 

Paul: So at what point -- what was the first kind of unmanageable thing popping up? Was it food for you? When did you start running track?

 

Aparna: Uh, high school.

 

Paul: What did you -- did you get a sense of accomplishment or anything from that?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think so because one of the -- I had never been sort of like an active kid. I had been more like of a reader and like someone who was excited to do their homework for whatever reason and, yeah, so that was like something -- that was me just starting to exercise and be like oh that makes me feel good like this is a nice thing.

And I wasn’t even like I have to be the fastest or anything. It was just something to do, and it felt like productive. Uh, and then --

 

Paul: Were you good at it?

 

Aparna: I was actually okay at it. Like I ran varsity and stuff. And it was like -- but immediately like as soon as I felt like I put a certain expectation on it is when I like -- my demons like immediately pop up, like I start comparing myself. And then it’s like I can’t even really enjoy it anymore because it’s so wrapped up in like -- am I good enough? Do I deserve to be doing this?

 

Paul: Isn’t that funny? You know, the ego is just a barnacle that will attach itself to anything, even good things. It’s like all of a sudden, it’s got to compare it to other people. If you get something good in your life, it -- it wants in. At all costs. It wants in.

 

Aparna: Yeah.

 

Paul: So you’re starting to get a sense of accomplishment running track. Does food become an issue for you at that point?

 

Aparna: Not really. I think -- I think any adolescent girl probably goes through some type of food issue. I was aware of what I was eating, but I sort of justified that I had an active lifestyle, so I didn’t need to worry about it necessarily. I was just, you know, I would be aware of like what -- if we went on a meet where we travelled, I would kind of monitor what the other girls were eating and stuff in that way that teenagers kind of like see what other people are doing. But, yeah, it wasn’t until college where I sort of like really started like lived with other people that it became like a lot more overbearing.

 

Paul: The -- comparing yourself to the other kids on the track team in high school. Can you talk about that a little bit?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think I compared in a lot of ways just like how the girls were like treated by other guys and who was more popular and then like how that correlated with like who was the fastest. I feel like I was always like trying to rank people on different scales just to like -- I think I’ve always been like a control person, so it sort of gave me a sense of order to be like this person is here on this scale. And this person is here on this scale. And I never sort of like put myself in that system. But it made me feel like calmer to like organize everyone else that way.

 

Paul: And go like this person is popular because of that & they got this because of this. And this directly relates to that which I think is the most human thing to do, but when it’s out of control, it’s crazy.

 

Aparna: Yeah, right, yeah. And I think a lot of times there wasn’t really an actual order to it. It was a very skewed way of thinking. And I think I would just get so caught up in no, this is the way things are. And not be able to break out of those locked-in beliefs.

 

Paul: And, then, so then what would your dream, your kind of unhealthy dream, for yourself have been back then?

 

Aparna: I think it was like if I just keep practicing, I’ll be a lot like faster. And people will be nicer to me. And I’ll get more respect. And like I’ll actually deserve a place here rather than just like being okay with where I was at. And I feel like that kind of thinking has like continued with me onto like whatever new thing I do. Like now I have it with comedy obviously, but I know that a lot of people have that kind of thinking.

 

Paul: Yeah, and it’s so insidious. And yet it’s -- I think we’re just wired. And I don’t know if it’s genetically that that’s in us or society.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s like a biological drive to try to better oneself. But, yeah, now it’s kind of like gone crazy now that we don’t have to do it for survival but just for social order.

 

Paul: So you get to college, and you start interacting more intimately with other people and seeing how they eat and how they live. Paint a kind of picture for me kind of.

 

Aparna: I think another thing in high school that I felt very left out of was that I didn’t date, and I didn’t have any sort of confidence in the romance department at all. And I justified it by like I’m just way too busy. My parents probably wouldn’t be too happy about it, so I’ll just like not even worry about it. And, in college, it seemed like people used that time to explore their sexuality and explore their limits in terms of like drinking and drugs. And I just felt so -- that I’d been so sheltered that I didn’t know how to handle any of that. I know a lot of people go to the opposite it where they go kind of crazy and try everything. But I was too afraid to try anything. So I felt like very isolated in that sense because I couldn’t really like tell people because I was embarrassed about it. But, at the same time, I was like I don’t know how to deal with this because I feel like everyone else has these experiences and I don’t. And I don’t know what to do about it.

 

Paul:   Was it that you wanted to experience those things but you didn’t know how to go about doing it at your rate that would make you comfortable? Or you didn’t want anything to do with them and you felt left out.

 

Aparna: I think it was more like the former -- that like I wanted to but I didn’t know where to start. And I felt like it was a hopeless quest a little bit. I think I still carried that thing with me from childhood like there was something wrong with me, like I was a little bit of an outsider. So, those things weren’t even for me.

 

Paul: Were you also afraid that you wouldn’t -- trying those things that you would stick out like a sore thumb, and you wouldn’t kind of do it well or smoothly. And then you --

 

Aparna: Yeah, yes like I wouldn’t handle it gracefully, and it would be very apparent -- yeah, my lack of -- sort of --yeah.

 

Paul: As opposed to the rest of college students who handle drinking and fucking with such grace and composure.

 

Aparna: Yeah, and then I didn’t drink for a long time, and I felt like that actually made me feel like more left out rather than --- even though I thought that if I drank it would be more embarrassing. I think not drinking people feel a little self-conscious around you like you’re judging them or something which I wasn’t. But I think I felt like, oh no, this isn’t working either.

 

Paul: So has the issue of -- and this may be an understatement or obvious -- but kind of keeping yourself in control always been an issue?

 

Aparna: Yes. I think it’s been a big thing throughout my life like something I still struggle with daily of like not feeling worthy if I don’t check off certain boxes. I think that’s a little bit of like obsessive-compulsiveness, but I don’t think it’s like to a paralyzing degree. But I do think if I do things in a certain order -- like make sure to do certain things, it feels less -- everything feels a little more manageable.

 

Paul: There’s a survey on the website called Struggle in a Sentence. And there’s a list of things like OCD, depression, sex addiction, alcoholism, and I ask people to try to in a sentence or two summarize what it feels like to struggle with that issue. And the food one -- anorexia and bulimia -- the one that kind of -- I hear over and over again -- is people use the word “clean” -- that it makes them feel clean and powerful when they’re controlling their food, when they’re denying themselves something. It feels like winning and success. Can you talk about that?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think when I -- I think when I was struggling with my eating it did feel very much like if I was able to fit things into certain boxes -- like I’m only going to eat this many calories per day and these food groups, it felt very powerful just to be able to abide by that. And then I guess just like because food is so intimate -- it’s like what you’re putting into your body, it feels like you are very in control of your life. I guess it’s your energy source, so it sort of equates with how you feel and like how capable you feel of doing things. And when you eat something that is “bad” or you have decided you shouldn’t eat, it like very much feels like failure or like -- it’s a very ‘all or nothing’ -- like the whole day is shot.

 

Paul: I would imagine that for somebody who is anorexic or bulimic, your weight then becomes a visible trophy of your proof of how much power you do or don’t have in your life.

 

Aparna: Yes. Yeah and I feel like I’m a little abnormal in that I struggled with it for really just like a solid year. And I think like I picked up on it so quickly, I never really like got caught up in full-blown habits like weighing myself all the time. It was more just like I started going to treatment but still being very caught up in the behaviors. So, like the only time I would weigh myself was when I would have to go to the health center to get weighed to see if I’d gained weight, and then I would feel like happy when I hadn’t gained any. But in terms of on my own time --

 

Paul: The depth of that irony is like to the core of the Earth.

 

Aparna: Yeah, like, I’m getting help, so I’m fine. But really, I was very like not doing anything but what they were asking me to do.

 

Paul: So you were just kind of like going through the motions in your recovery with food.

 

Aparna: Yeah.

 

Paul: And I think that’s an important distinction to make too. Because like sometimes I’ll get contacted by people who have a loved one who can’t stop drinking or can’t stop doing drugs or something. And they’re like, “What’s the best rehab to send them to?” I’ll just say “save your money.” If they’re not ready to get sober or quit, it’s -- anybody can put on the front for 30 days to make it look like they’re with it. But if you really, really aren’t sick and tired of being sick and tired, there’s some meat left on that bone, and you’re going to keep chewing.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think it’s strange because I had that battle in my head of whether I wanted to get better or not. And it got to a point of where I was like, well I’m not doing anything really that they’re asking me to. But I think that if I just take time off of school and only focus on that, I’ll be able to do the right thing. Cuz I think really what it was was that I was being pulled in so many different directions -- like I was still running. I was still taking my classes. It was like the eating disorder was the only thing I could hold onto to retain that sense of control. It’s almost like if I got rid of that, the bottom would fall out, and I would realize how depressed I was about everything. And, uh, that’s pretty much what happened. I took time off from school and immediately sort of sunk into like a deep depression. Sort of flipped from restricting food to bingeing and then went to get treatment. But it was very like easy to see how closely it was connected to underlying issues.

 

Paul: Yeah. That’s the amazing thing about addiction. It’s never really about the food or the drink or the sex or the shopping. It’s about the feeling that’s inside the shell that that provides. So, what feelings did you discover when you began to stop numbing yourself with food?

 

Aparna: I think it was very much all the hopes that I had placed on college of being able to like fit in and figure out what I wanted to do, what I was passionate about. I realized that I didn’t really like school. I wasn’t passionate about it. I didn’t really like running anymore. It felt like in college it was sort of a different playing field. And I didn’t really enjoy it anymore. And I was like what do I have left? I don’t even know what’s left of me as a person to give because those were the only two things I was sort of relying on. So, I just felt completely like lost.

 

Paul: So would it be fair to say then that the thought that you were trying to protect yourself from thinking or feeling by numbing out with food was that “My life is really not going to be fun. There is nothing exciting. Life is not exciting for me. It’s going to be misery until I die.”

 

Aparna: Yeah. It was exactly that. It was like that’s all there is to it, so I better find something that either I can zone out on -- yeah, I didn’t even feel like I had an option of finding a new thing other than something to sort of space out with.

 

Paul: You just felt like you were somebody that just doesn’t enjoy things.

 

Aparna: Yeah. Like that’s the reality. That’s how it is.

 

Paul: I know that feeling. And it’s -- it’s like -- suicide starts to make sense cuz you’re like I don’t enjoy anything. Everything is an effort. Getting up is like -- the only thing that feels not phony is sleep.

 

Aparna: Yes, yeah, I would sleep so long because I just didn’t have a reason to get up.

 

Paul: It’s the only thing I would be excited about is -- okay I’m done with that errand, now I can take a nap. I would be like, okay now I’m myself.

 

Aparna: Yeah, right, right. Now I can relax.

 

Paul: And you don’t know that that’s not your real self you know. That’s your depression in its pure form. But you don’t know that. You think that that’s just you and that’s the cards that you’ve been dealt.

 

Aparna: It was interesting because even when I went to the treatment center for my eating disorder, it’s amazing how -- like people with kind of skewed thinking --- of like comparing yourself a lot -- or just like overanalyzing everything -- like even in that environment where you’re just supposed to be focused on getting better, you’re immediately comparing yourself.

 

Paul: Sure.

 

Aparna: I just felt like a fraud the whole time I was there because there were girls who’ve been struggling with this for years and years, and it’s like I just like saunter in for my 5-week recovery and go back to school. And I just felt like -- judging myself for a lot of time I was there.

 

Paul: Again, the ego. You’re going to the recovery center? I’m going to the recovery center. Don’t leave me here at home.

 

Aparna: Yeah, it’s crazy how that you can never really escape that -- your brain.

 

Paul: It’s amazing -- it’s amazing how powerful and tenacious the ego is.

 

Aparna: Yeah, yeah. So, I feel like -- I mean -- I feel like after that I sort of found comedy. I mean, I didn’t really pursue it until after I graduated from college. But the weird thing is like the longer I started doing comedy, like it helped with so many things I’d been struggling with in terms of feeling like I didn’t fit in and feeling like I didn’t know what I was passionate about. But then it was like replaced by other things. Like I feel like anxiety popped up as this huge thing in my life the more I did comedy which I hadn’t really struggled with as much before. And now it’s like more overpowering than my depression, so I don’t know.

 

Paul: It’s funny because if we think that person, place or thing is going to ease that anxiety, we just find that it’s just like the Terminator. It’s just shape-shifting. It’s just going to take another form. So how do we deal with that very core thing which is usually some version of -- I don’t matter, the Universe hates me, or God hates me? Or there is no God, and this is all just a big chaotic cluster-fuck. What for you do you think is the core message that you kind of struggle with inside yourself?

 

Aparna: Yeah. I think it’s very similar to “everyone does not care for me.” And it’s strange because before it used to be that “I’m invisible,” but once you do comedy you can’t really justify it as I get on stage with a microphone. Like clearly, I’m not invisible. But now, it’s sort of shifted to “I’m just like a space-filler that people need in-between things that they actually care about.”

 

Paul: Aw, that breaks my heart.

 

Aparna: That’s like the latest iteration. And just like I’m not important, but I will fill space so that people can care more about the actual people that they like.

 

Paul: What a -- that’s so -- that’s so --- that’s so mean to yourself.

 

Aparna: I know. I have a very mean inner voice. It’s horrible. Like when I think about the thoughts that I have told myself for many years, it’s very -- you wouldn’t even say that to someone that you didn’t like a lot. But it’s been my inner monologue for so long. I’m like learning now to sort of not go down that path of thinking, but it’s so hard when it’s sort of like in there and solidified.

 

Paul: It’s so good that you’ve identified it though. And it -- I have these moments all the time when I’m interviewing people when that sick, core message that they have comes up, and I say I view you as just the opposite of that -- I view you -- and that’s what I want to say to you. You walked in the door, and you’re like this sweet, charming, nice person who exudes warmth. And I was like, I’m happy she came over to do this. And then I hear you say this mean stuff about yourself. And it doesn’t matter how many times I could tell you that, you obviously ultimately have to feel that way about yourself. But I just wanted to say that out loud because it -- I hate when people are mean to themselves, and I feel the exact opposite way about them.

 

Aparna: Aw, thank you.

 

Paul: You may be a complete cunt when you leave here, but …

 

Aparna: Yeah. It’s all an act.

 

Paul: Your demeanor is so non-threatening, so sweet.

 

Aparna: That’s good.

 

Paul: Why would anybody not like you? Why would anybody not like you?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I don’t know what it is. Because I feel like enough people have told me that’s not true that I can’t keep rationally telling myself that. But I think that it has shifted a little just to that thought of “people like you, but it’s like you’re garnish and other people are the main entrée.” Like you’re not --

 

Paul: You’re good, but you’re not the one that people talk about. Yeah, I know that. I know that. The ego loves to put you in that one cuz that way, it can shit on anything you do cuz it will go -- for me, it was “yeah you’re on TV, but it’s basic cable.”

 

Aparna: Right, there’s always a way to, yeah, shit on yourself.

 

Paul: Right. And I think that’s one of the dangers of making a people, place or thing that’s going to save us is because the brain will be able to think of anything to take apart a person, place or thing and say that it’s -- look at this fault that it has. But if we can -- so if we can get to a place that we think that we’re okay exactly as we are in this moment -- that we don’t need to do anything more, gain anything more, or be anything more. If we can get to that place, then nothing can be cut out from -- it doesn’t have any knees to be cut out from underneath.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I mean, that’s the latest thought I’ve been sort of trying to just wash my brain with which is just like -- be okay with now and don’t put it in any kind of a context or on any kind of a scale. Like it’s just okay. No matter what happens -- like you have a bad set, like a stranger honks at you, like, no matter what, it’s fine. Like everything is just okay.

 

Paul: If somebody close to you dies, that’s part of life. You know, it’s -- but it’s so hard to get to that place, and to stay in that place and believe it. Cuz you can do it intellectually but to feel it. That’s the goal for me -- is to not only think these things but to feel them to my core. And I have experienced that, so I know it’s not bullshit, but it’s work.

 

Aparna: Yeah and sometimes immediately when I have that feeling of okayness, I’ll be like -- how do I bottle this so I can come back to it because I’m not going to have this for very long?

 

Paul: Do you have moments when your depression kind of gives way to an excitement about life?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I have actually not successfully written a bit about this -- but been trying to where -- sometimes I’ll be depressed and not even remember what it was about. And then I’ll be like trying to find a way to like go back into it, like sort of take that exit again for no reason.

 

Paul: Oh my God. I’ve done that a million times in my mind. I’ll have a day where I have vigor about life, and then I will try like you know a fucking pathologist -- going through what did I eat the two days before that? What time of year is it? Was I getting sunlight? And then it’s so tiring sometimes -- not knowing why.

 

Aparna: Yeah, why you need to do that constantly.

 

Paul: And people who don’t have mental illness don’t understand that, you know. If you’re a diabetic or you have some other type of thing that fits within certain parameters and is understood, while it certainly has its own trials and tribulations, you know the box that it fits into. And there’s a logic to it. But mental illness -- it just doesn’t fit into a box. And there’s not an inherent logic to it that makes it so ephemeral & difficult to know where the truth is.

 

Aparna: Right, yeah. Like the lines keep shifting of where -- yeah.

 

Paul: What you were convinced a month ago was true, you now realize that -- no that’s not the case at all, I’m back to square fucking one.

 

Aparna: Yeah. It’s very much like a backslide, and I often just will like pick people to like compare myself to where it’s like -- it’s almost like celebrity culture where it’s like this whole month is about this person and why I don’t measure up to that person. And then I’ll be the next month, it will be like “Oh forget that person -- it’s this person I should be worried about.” And it’s like so arbitrary and it doesn’t -- and if I have the clarity to step back from it -- if I have the clarity to step back from it, it’s like none of this makes sense. It’s so random. But I get so caught up in it that I can’t see that.

 

Paul: One of the things that I catch my ego doing is comparing how many Twitter people follow me -- and then -- and it’s just fleeting. But you have like what 10,000 Twitter followers?

 

Aparna: Yeah something like that.

 

Paul: Now, in my mind, I think that if I have more Twitter followers, there would be a certain sense of safety or peace that I would have. Yet you’re sitting here with 3 times the number of Twitter followers that I have and going through the same thing. So, there is no finish line where the switch flicks on, and you’re like, ahh …

 

Aparna: I know. I’m done.

 

Paul: I’ve arrived.

 

Aparna: I don’t have to worry about this anymore. I’m finished. Yeah, no, it’s so --- it never ends. And I think the longer I’ve been in sort of the entertainment industry, I realize that there is nothing I can accomplish that will get rid of the way I like to destroy myself. And I have to find another way to approach things because there is just no way I can like continue on this path. Because I feel like I’ll end up back where after high school like this isn’t enough. I’m not happy anymore.

 

Paul: How did you treat your depression?

 

Aparna: I went to a therapist. I’ve sort of cycled through a few different meds, and sort of arrived at Lexapro which I’m on now. But I’ve had sort of a weird experience with therapy like I really enjoyed going to it, and I very much support the idea of it. But I feel like I fall into that weird category of people-pleasing where I will go to a therapist who isn’t necessarily right for me and then will be afraid to say “oh I think I need a different therapist.”

 

Paul: You don’t want to hurt their feelings.

 

Aparna: And just keep going & maybe not really be getting anything out of it.

 

Paul: Are you ever afraid to tell your therapist things about your life? Do you hold stuff back?

 

Aparna: Yes. I feel like I have recently gotten a little better at telling them things. But it’s very much like every session is kind of square one where I have to warm up a little. And then will I be sort of brave enough to get into that stuff right away. But there are still some areas where I feel like very sort of guarded and like panicky talking about them and that’s probably from, you know, from childhood.

 

Paul: This is probably a stupid question, but can you talk about any of those?

 

Aparna: Oh, just like, I think a lot around sexuality and like, yeah, I think that’s the main area where I feel most like sort of out of my element. Even as a person, like I don’t talk about that stuff a lot on stage because I don’t think ever my identity has been strongly tied to my sexuality, so it’s really hard for me to sort of open up about it and not immediately feel like I am sort of disgusting the other person -- their idea of me. I think I get infantilized sometimes either because I look young or my voice, so I feel like people don’t want to hear that from me.

 

Paul: It’s amazing how different your take on yourself is. You’re this healthy, vibrant, attractive woman. And you have these thoughts about yourself that …

 

Aparna: It’s weird, but it makes me feel better that it’s like other people also have those thoughts about themselves.

 

Paul: Yeah, there is comfort in knowing that. I was in a support group one time, and we were -- it just happened to be -- there was like eight of us -- and it happened to be these three really attractive people. And all three in a row, they talked about how much they hate themselves. And I suddenly realized “Oh my God, this is something inside us that has nothing to do with what we look like.” There is no weight loss, no pectoral muscles, nothing fixing this. This has to be remedied by something else and I felt -- I felt like all of a sudden I was in this really awesome, weird club that -- that was really special because these people were being so honest and so vulnerable and so emotionally naked and -- I don’t know -- I don’t know how to describe it. Have you ever had an experience like that where you feel a connection, a deep connection to people, like in a support group or anything like that?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think, I think I personally like if I cry in front of another person, I feel very connected to them because I feel very self-conscious about it, so if I’m able to sort of let my guard down in that respect, I feel like they are seeing a part of me that I’m generally so careful about, so I feel a little bit less anxious than I normally do about how they’re perceiving me because I’m sort of able to not worry about it to the extent that I’m just able to feel the emotion and not sort of first filter it through “what is this person thinking of me?”

 

Paul: Right, right. Where -- let’s go into your ego for a second -- if your ego got everything that it wanted, paint the life that you would have?

 

Aparna: I feel like it keeps changing because now I feel like my brain has convinced me that I have certain limitations, and I have to operate within them, so it’s almost like I’ve pared down my dreams a little bit. Ah, but I think --

 

Paul: Is that a good thing, a bad thing, or in-between?

 

Aparna: I think it’s in-between because I don’t know how much of it is being reasonable versus my brain won one of the battles. Or the negative part of my brain won one of the battles. I think ultimately, I mean, I just want to accept myself. Like that’s more what I care about than external things. At least that’s how I feel at this point in my life. I don’t know if I’ll change. I mean I worry very much about getting caught up in all the external trappings of show business, but ultimately, I don’t think any of that will mean anything if I don’t like myself.

 

Paul: Yeah. Do you think you’re lovable?

 

Aparna: I feel like I’ve been called that, but I have such a hard time accepting it. Like a really, really tough time. I’ll immediately think of five people. And I’m like, these people are lovable. I’m something else.

 

Paul: That would be one of the words I would use to describe you.

 

Aparna: Aw, thanks.

 

Paul: When you walked in the door, it’s just like you have this lovable energy to you.

 

Aparna: Aw, thank you. That’s so nice.

 

Paul: It’s true. It’s true, and you know, I don’t say that to everybody cuz I’ll be honest. I’ve bumped into some people, and I can’t wait to get out of the room.

 

Aparna: Oh no.

 

Paul: Not necessarily people I’ve interviewed on this show, but in general, so I’m not just blowing smoke. I mean -- mental illness is a mother-fucker.

 

Aparna: Yeah, it really is.

 

Paul: It is a mother-fucker. And you know what’s hard sometimes is knowing which dial we need to adjust on it. Is it the meds? Is it exercise? Is it diet? Is it support groups? Is it prayer and meditation? Is it how I’m thinking about myself? Am I putting too much pressure? Am I getting too goal-oriented? Am I not goal-oriented enough, and I’m drifting?

 

Aparna: Yeah, right. It’s so many things. And I also feel like I get mad at myself for not doing everything I can to work on it. Like I feel like I’ve sort of fallen into a comfort zone of – oh, I go to therapy, I take my meds, that should be enough -- but not really figuring out other ways. Like I would love to try meditation, but I keep just not making it a priority. And, yeah, I think I fall into that pattern of people who want things very badly but come up with fifty reasons why they can’t do it right now.

 

Paul: One of the things that I think is great about meditation is it really introduces you to your thoughts and what you obsess on because you know the goal of it, obviously, is that you want to try to clear your mind. But 70% of the time, your mind is going to -- oh fuck, what about this, what about that, I need to take care of this, I need to take care of that. And if you’re doing that twenty minutes every morning, after a couple of months, and you begin to notice your thought is always going to this group of thoughts, you then begin to get some clarity on your mental state, where your priorities are, what you think is important, what you think is going to save you. So, then you can look at that thing and you can say ‘oh I think that my career is going to save me. No wonder I’m feeling a little crazy. I need to find some other kind of healthy way to calm myself down other than painting a fantasy picture about walking down a red carpet’ or whatever the fantasy is. So, that’s one of the things that I get from meditation, and it -- to me, it just kind of helps the rhythm of the things I do -- there’s less of an urgency and a kind of ‘I’m late’ quality to things. Like doing the dishes -- like ‘oh fuck I got to get through these dishes because you know everybody is passing me by.’

 

Aparna: Right. Right. No, that’s great.

 

Paul: And it just becomes more of ‘I’m going to enjoy washing the dishes because they need to be done. I accept that. I live in a world where dishes don’t clean themselves’. And, yeah, I think ‘you know what maybe I’ll put on my iPod and listen to some music and try to make it a better experience’. That’s kind of what I get from meditation. It’s easier to get into that headspace.

 

Aparna: Yeah, that seems really helpful. I think, yeah. I think my one --

 

Paul: I love that I’m telling an Indian person about meditation.

 

Aparna: I know, it is a magical moment.

 

Paul: But you’re not technically Indian. Is there any word I could have chosen better than Indian person? That just felt awkward -- a person of Indian descent?

 

Aparna: Yes, that works. Yeah. My mom swears by it though -- she’s always -- she’s always like trying to get my sister and I into it more, and I think that might be where some of the resistance comes from. Just when someone’s like pushing something on you, you’re a little less --

 

Paul: Especially a parent -- especially a parent -- and some of them can’t see that.

 

Aparna: Yeah, it’s always well-intentioned in her case, but --

 

Paul: It is, but there’s all that baggage from the past.

 

Aparna: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

 

Paul: So how long -- do you feel like you’re pretty clean with your food these days?

 

Aparna: Yeah, I mean the food -- I mean I think I get caught up in maybe just like trying to eat healthier, but I don’t think my eating is a manifestation anymore of like my emotions or anything.

 

Paul: Do you feel that there is potential for joy and love in your future?

 

Aparna: I think so. I think I ultimately just want the ability to step back from the sort of hustle and bustle of life and be okay with everything. I think a big thing that I just feel caught up in these days is a lack of time. Even when I only have you know two things to do in a day, I somehow feel like there’s not enough time. So, I don’t know where it’s all going, but, uh, it just feels like there’s just less and less of it.

 

Paul: I’ve got to go to the bank at 1:00pm and bring the laundry in at 5:00pm. How the fuck am I going to get this done?

 

Aparna: I know. I don’t know what it is. It just feels like a lack of being present and just existing. Which is kind of scary if you feel like you’ll wake up, and it will be like fifty years later and you don’t know what happened. Uh, so I just want to be able to experience things and not be just caught up in like a voice of judgment on everything but actually be able to experience things on some level without having a judgment on it.

 

Paul: Yeah, you know, my experience has been that my life prior to having really deep, meaningful relationships with people almost felt like that escalator at Caesar’s Palace where there’s just kind of like little phony dioramas on either side of you and talking statues -- where it just feels very artificial. And then just being in support groups and stuff like that and having much deeper, more meaningful relationships and being able to be vulnerable and cry in front of people and stuff like that, I feel much more like ‘oh, I’m into life now’. Everything is much more alive. Everything is much more real. And, yeah, sometimes it hurts a little more, but there’s also more joy. And I feel like I can finally feel my life instead of feeling numb and just watching it kind of pass and go ‘what am I doing wrong’?

 

Aparna: Yeah. Yeah. I think yeah, and -- I have a big sort of obstacle in my brain surrounding work. I don’t know if it’s that I grew up in a very work-oriented household, but there is a lot of like resistance that has come gradually over the years around being productive and doing work, and like I just have a really bad procrastination habit. I mean, I know a lot of people struggle with procrastination, but I really feel like it’s to the point where I will never get things done that I want -- that I care about.

 

Paul: I can’t imagine how intimidating it’s got to be to have two parents that are doctors.

 

Aparna: Yeah. Yeah. I mean I never really think of it in that way. But I think a lot of it is just a fear of not -- of failure -- and whatever I produce will not be good enough, so therefore it’s just easier never to start.

 

Paul: I watched some of your stand-up. It made me laugh. I looked at your credits. You’ve got a dozen TV credits. Is that not successful? That you’re making people laugh. You’re making your living as a stand-up comedian.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think it’s just easier to say -- to not be satisfied. Or to feel like you can improve in some area. And I think I just fall into that habit of being like ‘well this person is doing this, and I am so far behind’.

 

Paul: Why do those things -- and I’m talking to myself as much as I’m talking to you -- why do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? Why can’t it be – ‘I am successful, and I am still working on improving my craft’?

 

Aparna: Yeah, that’s true. I feel like they are two separate things. I don’t know why I feel like the need to lump them together. I think it’s a fear of being overly proud of myself. And that it will somehow spiral into an ego monster.

 

Paul: Yeah that seems to be something that comes up a lot with people that have parents who were immigrants. There seems to be very much a -- don’t get too big for your britches. You’re fully yourself if you’re proud.

 

Aparna: Yeah, I think like that’s really true. You’re just supposed to be your best self but don’t draw attention to it. It’s a strange -- yeah, it’s a strange --

 

Paul: Keep your head down and work your ass off.

 

Aparna: Yeah. I don’t know what the overall like benefit of that is, but I guess it’s just that you don’t want to like -- you don’t want someone to like to take it away from you or something.

 

Paul: Yeah, certainly I have a respect for hardworking people, but what’s the point of life if we can’t -- I don’t know -- find something other than an incredible work ethic to get up for in the morning.

 

Aparna. Yeah. Yeah. I feel like a lot of immigrant parents put their goals in line with supporting their family and like their children. So, that’s probably a big part of like my parents’ goals. But it’s like, once my sister and I grew up and left the house, they kind of had to like figure out their goals again because it had so long been like ‘be successful so your kids could have a good future’. And now that we’re kind of on our own, they have to like rebuild their identities a little bit.

 

Paul: I also imagine too -- some of the families that have immigrated are coming from places where it was a government that you did not want to attract attention to yourself.

 

Aparna: Oh, that’s true.

 

Paul: So, you kind of wanted to keep your head down and work your ass off. And that was not only morally kind of a good thing to do but in terms of survival kind of a smart mode to get into.

 

Paul: Any other things that you’d like to touch on? Any seminal moments that we’ve skipped?

 

Aparna: I don’t think so. Not that are coming to mind at the moment.

 

Paul: Do you want to do a Fear-Off and a Love-Off?

 

Aparna: Sure.

 

Paul: I’m going to be reading the fears of a listener named Melissa. And I’ll kick it off with hers. She says, “I’m afraid of the gate that goes up and down to let you into parking lots. I always think it will drop down on my car.”

 

Aparna: Oh, that’s a good one. I fear that I am too self-involved to ever be there for other people in a sincere way.

 

Paul: “I am afraid of lightning and storms, like super phobia level. I will plan my whole day around it, and it is still not as bad as when I was a kid.”

 

Aparna: I fear that I will never be able to express my emotions freely.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid people I love will find out a random bitchy thing I wrote about them when I was eleven and then they’ll hate me.”

 

Aparna: I fear that I will never learn to manage my money and will always depend on my parents.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid all the students I teach make fun of me behind my back.”

 

Aparna: I’m afraid that I will never be taken seriously as an artist or person.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid that I am so ugly, and no one has the guts to tell me.”

 

Aparna: I fear that I will never be able to stand up for myself when I don’t agree with someone.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid I will die in my sleep.”

 

Aparna: I’m afraid that I’m a terribly uninspiring dancer.

 

Paul: That’s a good one. We’ve never had that one before. That’s awesome. “My biggest fear is getting Alzheimer’s disease and forgetting everyone and everything in turn making my life worthless.”

 

Aparna: I’m afraid that I will never be able to have kids because I don’t feel like I can even take care of myself.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid of the possibility of nothingness after death.”

 

Aparna: I’m afraid that I’m getting closer and closer to my limitations.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid that I will be alone forever.” And, by the way, I think there is a beauty in learning our limitations because then the number of things that we sit and fantasize and obsess about becomes smaller.

 

Aparna: Yeah, when I wrote that one I thought, ‘I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, but I feel like I’m afraid of it’.

 

Paul: Personally, I think it’s a good, healthy thing.

 

Aparna: Yeah. Because you don’t want to do everything.

 

Paul: Right. Is it your turn or my turn? I can’t remember.

 

Aparna: I don’t remember.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid that I’m such a weirdo that nobody will ever get as sexually-invested in a relationship as I would.”

 

Aparna: Good one. I’m afraid that I’m weird but not weird enough.

 

Paul: That’s a great one. “I’m afraid that I will never have a normal, secure body image and that my obsession with my weight and looks is so pathetic for someone my age.”

 

Aparna: I’m afraid that I’m becoming an angrier person because of an underlying truth that I haven’t figured out yet.

 

Paul: Oh, that’s a deep one. “Sometimes when driving on the road, I get scared I will get in a car accident, and then I think I will get in an accident because I thought of it and get more scared.”

 

Aparna: I’m afraid that I’m not good at the parts of comedy that I love watching the most.

 

Paul: “I’m afraid my therapist and others put up with me because they feel they have to.”

 

Aparna: That was all the ones that I had.

 

Paul: Let’s go to the Loves. I’m going to be reading Loves from listeners and others from a Facebook thread that I started. Do you want to start?

 

Aparna: Sure. I love the peaceful feeling of being in transit when you don’t have to be somewhere on time.

 

Paul: Antonio Fernandez says “I love writing a poem that ends with such beautiful words that they take the air out of the reader’s gut and makes them feel something they have never felt before like a sweet sucker-punch from an older sibling or a schoolyard bully.”

 

Aparna: I love when a friend adds something onto a hangout session like a movie and then going home to watch more TV with them.

 

Paul: Is that like as in a Google Hangout?

 

Aparna: No. A real person hangout.

 

Paul: Oh, okay.

 

Aparna: Yeah, like if you schedule something, but then you guys decide to do something else that you hadn’t planned.

 

Paul: Oh yeah. Those are nice. Like you go out to dinner with a couple or something and then you’re like ‘hey, let’s go do this’. And then I say ‘no’, and we don’t. Katie Hoffman says “I love the butt warmer in my car.”

 

Aparna: I love the feeling of a puppy’s stomach fur.

 

Paul: Um. I love that too. Brian Temple says “I love that I’ve gotten a second chance at a dream job, and it’s just as much fun as I thought it would be.” Lucky guy.

 

Aparna. Yeah. I love when a song you like comes on another radio station after you just heard it.

 

Paul: Kelly Cracker says “I love Kerrygold butter.”

 

Aparna: I love the sound of flowing water in someone’s back yard.

 

Paul: Claire Laffour says “I love listening to Debussy while lying in bed.” Am I pronouncing that correctly -- the classical composer Debussy.

 

Aparna: Yeah. Debussy.

 

Paul: “I love listening to Debussy while lying in bed.”

 

Aparna: I love writing people handwritten letters.

 

Paul: Kimberly Rice Dewart -- I think I’m pronouncing her last name correctly -- “I love when I step away from a party I’m having to go to the bathroom or put my kids to bed and I hear the abstract lively energy of people engaging but no distinct words or conversations.” That is a great one.

 

Aparna: That is a really great one. I love when someone tries to get your name right at a party.

 

Paul: How many -- what’s the worst incarnation of your name that people have mangled?

 

Aparna: Ah, there’s so many. I don’t even know --

 

Paul: Do you have anxiety when you getting ready to tell people your name because you know there’s going to be like a ten-second --

 

Aparna: Yeah, I mean a lot of times they just -- I feel like it’s on me because I didn’t say it loud enough. But then they’ll usually ask for it a few times and then be like ‘ah, I’m probably not going to remember that’.

 

Paul: Whose turn is it?

 

Aparna: I think it’s yours.

 

Paul: Okay. Brigitte Crowder says “I honestly and truly love macaroni and cheese.”

 

Aparna: I love running into someone you know at an event when you didn’t think you’d know anyone there.

 

Paul: Ah, that is nice. I love that. Nicki B. says “I love whenever my roommate’s kids say my name with enthusiasm, excitement, recognition and purpose. Every time I hear it, I feel necessary and alive.” That’s a beautiful one.

 

Aparna: Oh. I love lying on the floor.

 

Paul: That is -- I -- that is such a sublimely nice thing.

 

Aparna: I don’t know what it is. Sometimes I just think about it -- I don’t even do it. It just makes me feel better.

 

Paul: I get it. Rochelle Ellsbury says “I love finding a song that perfectly fits my mood.”

 

Aparna: I love wandering around a new neighborhood by myself.

 

Paul: And hello Rochelle, by the way. Julie Westgate says “I love the feeling of relief when an animal rescue I am part of goes successfully.” That is a good one.

 

Aparna: I love buying people gifts for no particular reason.

 

Paul: Oh that is sweet. You are lovable.

 

Aparna: Sometimes you see something and you think of a particular person.

 

Paul: I’m going to make it your mission to feel better about yourself. And by that, I mean that after you leave, I’m not going to ever do anything. Colleen Coughlin-Taylor says “I love warm apple pie with ice cream.”

 

Aparna: I think those were all of mine.

 

Paul: Then I’m going to close with this last one from Zoe Whitehouse who says “I love smiling at old people. It makes them go all bright and twinkly.” What a nice one to end on.

 

Aparna: Oh, that’s a great one.

 

Paul: Aparna Nancherla. Thank you so much for just being sweet and open and honest and sharing your life with me and the listeners and coming here to do this. I really appreciate it.

 

Aparna: Thank you so much for having me. And thank you for doing this podcast.

 

Paul: Many, many thanks to Aparna. We recorded that a little while ago, so as I like to do with my guests, I send them a follow-up email letting them know that their episode is going up and ask them for an update. And she’s having a pretty rough year depression-wise lately. She got her meds bumped up, but she feels like she’s moving forward. And, she was actually traveling in India as she sent me the email. And I probably should have told her to spread my insight about meditation around India because I think I can help those people. I think I can help that country to be a little more spiritual.

 

Before we get to some emails and surveys, I want to remind you there’s a couple of different ways to support this show if you feel so inclined. Go to the website www.MentalPod.com. MentalPod is also the Twitter handle you can follow me on. But go to www.MentalPod.com, and you can make a one-time PayPal donation or, my absolute favorite, become a recurring, monthly donor which helps keep this show afloat. You can sign up for as little as five bucks a month. It’s super simple. Just do it on PayPal. Yeah, it couldn’t be easier. And, it means the world to me.

 

You can also support us by shopping at Amazon through our search portal on our home page on the right side about halfway down. Make sure your ad-blocker isn’t on. And Amazon will give us a couple of nickels if you buy something, and it doesn’t add any commission to your bill. Amazon pays us.

 

You can also buy coffee mugs, t-shirts through our site with the Mental Illness Happy Hour logo on it. And you can support us non-financially by giving us a good iTunes review -- writing something nice about it. Or spreading the word through social media which actually is a big deal. That really, really helps bring new listeners.

 

All right. Enough of my yakking. Let’s get to it.

 

This is an email that I got from -- she calls herself G. I think she’s female. I could be wrong. But, she writes “I have an unusual request for you. To give you some background, I’m a PhD math student with Bipolar I disorder. Unfortunately, academia rewards the sort of behaviors that induce manic episodes. Then rewards the manic behaviors themselves. You are expected to forego sleep, exercise and pretty much anything else that makes controlling bipolar disorder possible in favor of relentless research.”

 

“This year, I had a severe manic episode that cost me a semester of work which was directly caused by a period of extreme overwork. I’m not sure how to approach graduate school in a healthy manner. To make matters worse, my department and many others is notoriously bad at understanding and accommodating mental health problems. I’m afraid to confide in any of my professors or give them even a hint of what’s going on for fear of losing my funding.”

 

Wow. This sounds a lot like the military.

 

“Yes, it’s theoretically protected by the ADA, but grad students lose funding all the time for a variety of reasons, and I would really have no avenue to protest. I’m also one of the only female math grad students at my university, so admitting a mental disorder would crack the fragile ice I’m already on.”

 

“So, my request is this -- I’m looking for someone with bipolar or other serious mental disorders -- major depression, schizophrenia, etc. -- who has a graduate degree and has been at least somewhat successful in academia. I know it’s a very specific request, but I’m truly desperate to make some connection with someone, and I figured you were my best bet. Thank you in advance.”

 

She says it’s okay to read her email address aloud. And it is bipolargradstudent@gmail.com. Again bipolargradstudent@gmail.com.

 

I hope you get some people sharing their experience and some hope with you.

 

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by -- I’d assume he’s from Seattle -- he calls himself Seahawk, and he’s in his 30s. And in his Awfulsome Moment, he writes, “In my extended family of hotheaded Hispanics, I am known as the quiet one with a level head. I am never one to freak out or lose my cool about things.”

 

“However, one time I was playing paintball with my brother and some friends. We were playing a capture-the-flag game in a large, wooded area. The size of the area was such that there weren’t enough referees to keep an eye on all of the action, so there was a bit of an honor system involved where you were supposed to call yourself out if you got hit and the ref didn’t see you.”

 

“My brother, one of his buddies, and I were making good ground advancing toward the other team’s base. I saw someone on the other team and nailed him with a shot only no referee saw him get hit, so he kept on going as if nothing happened.”

 

“I don’t know where this came from but the injustice (ha!) of it caused something in me to snap. I stood up from my partially-covered position, pointed at the guy, and screamed at the top of my lungs ‘Hey, I got you motherfucker. I got you!’”

 

“At that moment, I could see simultaneously in my brother’s face looks of utter shock that I had lost it, annoyance that I had blown all of our work and cover by screaming like a madman, and utter amusement while he took turns howling with laughter and asking what the fuck I was doing.”

 

“I should probably mention the fact that I was a grown man in his 30s with a white-collar job screaming at some teenager who was probably going to be picked up by his parents afterwards and taken for pizza with his friends. I felt that maybe beneath all that supposed coolness, I could have some rage issues.”

 

Paul: Thank you for that.

 

Paul: This is an email I got from a woman named Kenzie, and she writes “Hey Paulie G, I was sexually-abused as a young kid in a very neglectful family. I have the usual struggles with depression, self-mutilation, body dysmorphia, jumping out of moving vehicles -- all the typical teenage girl activities.”

 

“I was put on Prozac which hadn’t been tested on kids my age for obvious reasons. Because of the neglect, I was responsible for making sure that I took my meds. Of course, I’d miss them two or three at a time and go bat-shit crazy until I just stopped taking them altogether.”

 

“My husband deployed for a year, and I immediately crashed into a deep depression and anxiety. I finally decided to get help since being a listener from the beginning. I was referred for medication -- started with Effexor, then Celexa, on to Prozac, then Prozac with Wellbutrin, then increased Wellbutrin.”

 

“I had a psych checkup yesterday and, despite me saying I don’t feel better and had a meltdown in therapy over Robin Williams and how he was the last thing connecting me to my grandfather, no adjustments were made. See ya’ in two months. I went home and told my husband, and he said ‘I think you just want more meds’. I almost blacked out and roundhouse kicked him in the dick.”

 

“I know these things take time. It’s been roughly 6 weeks on this cocktail, and I feel no change. How the hell am I supposed to muster the energy to continue my monthly psych evals, bi-weekly therapy, prescription costs, etc. when nothing seems to pull me out of the rabbit hole?”

 

“It’s kind of a bitch to be depressed, then finally ask for help, and get more depressed because that highly-anticipated help hasn’t kicked in. I know you did, or do plenty of med-hopping. How the fuck did you find the energy and will to stay the course of being a lab rat?”

 

“By the way, my mother denies my awful childhood with all her might. She used visitation with me as a method of manipulating my family. Long story short, she is a thunder cunt. Does your mom want to have tea with her? Thanks for letting me be a brain dump.”

 

Paul: You would be a great blogger by the way. You are -- you have a great sense of humor and directness. And, oh my God, do I relate to your email. It takes such patience healing and dealing with depression and mental illness. And the meds and waiting for this one to work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited six weeks just praying to God that this is going to be the cocktail that works only to have it not work. And maybe even have side effects -- dry mouth, insomnia.

 

You know, I don’t have any answer to that other than just keep moving forward. Just keep moving forward.

 

It’s just one step at a time. And just try to be compassionate with yourself. And have a support network of people that won’t tell you that you’re being a baby or to just snap out of it or tell you that you just want more meds. Some people just don’t understand so sending you a hug and some love and letting you know that you are not the only one who goes through that. But you are the only one I’ve ever heard call their mom a thunder cunt. You’re a terrible person.

 

My mom is actually a thunder and lightning cunt. I feel terrible sometimes talking about my mom like that. She’s not a cunt. She’s a sick child of God who happens to be a cunt. She’s not a cunt. I’m felling terrible now that I’m saying this stuff. I can’t resist though.

 

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Liz and she writes, “My mom passed away unexpectedly at the end of June, but luckily she had always been open about what she wanted for her “celebration of life” including burning CDs of the songs she wanted and giving them to her friends.”

 

“A close friend was with us during the week we spent waiting for my mom’s heart to finally give out. And my aunt mentioned a blue notebook my mom had been writing in. The day mom passed, a friend of mine had taken the three-hour drive to be with us, and she drove me back to my hometown to see if we could find this notebook.”

 

“We did and I couldn’t help but laugh when I started going through it. Amongst random shopping lists and plans for a fundraiser she was working on was her ‘Plan’.”

 

“This plan not only had what she wanted my sister and I to say about her but who would say what and in what order -- also why she chose the songs that she did. Something that always drove me crazy about my mom was her to-the-minute itineraries for any trip we went on. But this time, it saved us so much stress in planning her service. After all, she basically did all the work for us.”

 

That’s awesome. Awfulsome I should say.

 

By the way, it’s about 100 degrees in my office right now, and I’m drinking hot tea because I am dumb.

 

This is a Shame & Secrets survey filled out by a woman who calls herself “Emory.” She is straight, in her 20s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. She has never been sexually abused, but she has been emotionally abused.

 

Darkest thoughts: “I read a lot of novels where the protagonist has been raped/abused and somebody swoops in to save them because I wish more than anything I had somebody to care for me in that way. I wish the abuse I’ve endured was more than emotional because maybe that way people would take me seriously and care a little more.”

 

Darkest Secrets: “When I was seventeen, I told my male teacher that I was being molested by my father which was a lie. I have always had a problem with lying to get attention because it seemed like it was the only way people would notice me. Anyway, I never quite came out and said that I was molested -- just kind of hinted. So, the teacher got strangely close to me, spending after-hours with me and holding my hand, spending time alone with me, then once kissed me on the lips while laying on the bed together at his house because I ‘couldn’t bear to be at home’.”

 

“I got exactly what I wanted by lying especially from an older male because I’ve never had a relationship with my father. In fact, my father is mentally ill and had been homeless. Of course, eventually the truth came out, and I admitted to lying to him and my mother. My mother has never treated me the same since. Even when I cut myself and showed her the scars to express how sorry and dead inside I feel, she closed the door on me that night and has never opened it again. This was ten years ago, but I think about it every day. What a sorry excuse of a human I am to lie like that and still lie on a daily basis. That male teacher is still in my life. He smiles at me when we see each other but that’s about it. It hurts to see him.”

 

Her sexual fantasies include sex with older men. “In my head, I imagine them being a friend’s dad and/or elder in some way.”

 

What if anything would you like to say to someone you haven’t been able to? “I would like to tell my mom that I do not understand why she had so many children with a mentally-unstable man who kept us isolated as children and that she could have at least let me go to school to get a break instead of home-schooling and even that she didn’t do. It was an ‘everyman fend for themselves’ kind of deal. I would tell her that she cares about the children at the school she teaches at more than her own children.”

 

What do you wish for? “For parents that give a fuck about me and a childhood that was normal.”

 

Have you shared these things with others? “A bit with my husband, but this is the first time I’ve ever been this honest.”

 

How do you feel after writing these things down? “Pathetic.”

 

I’m sorry that one wasn’t more upbeat, but it really moved me because you were so abandoned by -- you know, it’s understandable that most parents freak out about the part of something that isn’t really the issue and they miss the underlying issue.

 

You know, the underlying issue is ‘why is my child lying to get attention’ -- instead of ‘how can I make sure they never lie again’? You see, that’s what your mom thinks she’s doing. She thinks that she’s teaching you a lesson. And that’s so fucked up. Any parent with emotional intelligence is going to go ‘oh my poor child needs more love and attention. That’s what I’m going to give them.’

 

And, I think they should encourage you to deal with the pathologic lying because that’s a disorder or an issue like any other addiction. And that’s where your responsibility is Emory -- is to get help for that.

 

You’re probably not going to be able to change your mom, but you can change the way you feel about yourself and how you deal with the world. And I have the feeling that if you start to heal from that -- that pain of not having a parent give a fuck about you and a childhood that was abnormal -- I have a feeling that that pain will start to ease and you won’t feel weighed down by it.

 

This is an email I got from a guy who -- let’s see what does he want to be called -- I think he wants to be called “Nick.” And he writes, “It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to the podcast.” By the way, love to read that as the first sentence.

 

“It really helped me when I struggled with depression and anxiety but since I’ve been doing better. Anyway, here’s my problem -- my girlfriend has been depressed a lot lately, and the other night she was acting very suicidal when I was talking to her. As a result, I ended up overreacting and calling 911. She’s fine but lashes out at me over the incident. Anytime I try to help or encourage her, I’m met with hostility.”

 

“She also refuses to get help from her college’s mental health services. I want her to get help because I worry for her safety because trying to make her constantly feel better is incredibly emotionally draining. What do I do?”

 

“She’s been really supportive of me in graduating and trying to find a job after college, so I don’t want to break up with her. But it’s hard for me to be emotionally supportive of someone who isn’t going to get help. And how do I help her get the help she needs?”

 

I wrote him back and said, “In a nutshell, you can’t help her if she doesn’t want it. Take care of yourself. If she’s draining you and won’t get help, break up with her. Even if she hurts herself, it’s not your fault. She may have to get worse before she admits she needs help.”

 

“And sometimes the kindest thing people around someone like that can do is distance themselves from that person but let them know why you’re doing it. If enough people do that, they will eventually realize everybody can’t be wrong. People have an obligation to their partners to take care of their health and that includes mental health.”

 

“If you’re not willing to walk away from someone who refuses help, then you should absolutely seek help for yourself because you might have codependency issues. And check out www.NAMI.org for advice and maybe a support group. And NAMI is N-A-M-I dot org.”

 

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by -- hold on, I’m starting to cool off a little bit. Let me take a sip of some boiling hot tea. Mmm, like I’m sitting on a briquette.

 

This is filled out by “Lily.” And she writes, “My boyfriend and I had spent a lovely afternoon together drinking Bloody Marys and reading the newspapers. We got hungry and decided to go for a curry. We had a delicious meal and decided to walk the four miles home to round off our evening. I suffer from some IBS-type symptoms --“

 

Paul: Of course you know where this is going. And normally I’m not a fan of the Awfulsome Moments that involve this but um -- bear with me. I should say bare down with me.

 

“I suffer from some IBS-type symptoms and never know what’s going to set it off. After walking about a mile, I felt the familiar stomach gurgle. I usually have time to get to a toilet, and so we began to walk a little faster.

The gurgles sped up and so did I desperate to get myself to a loo.”

 

“We were all but 300 meters from a pub when I realized that I couldn’t make it any further. Luckily it was dark, and I jumped behind trees, pulled my pants and tights down just as torrents of liquid shot out of my bum.”

 

“It went everywhere including over my underwear, tights and pantyhose. I ended up abandoning those in the bushes and cleaning off my legs with leaves.”

 

Paul: By the way, what a present that was for the homeowner.

 

“The whole time my boyfriend stood on the other side of the trees, and he was only concerned if I was okay. He knows exactly what was going on and he only felt sorry for me. He was really understanding and caring. And it helped me to realize that I can be normal and completely myself and still be loved and found sexy. Totally awfulsome.”

 

Absolutely. Thank you for that Lily.

 

And I’ve gotta say that that person’s lawn right there is probably lush. It probably looks like the Brazilian rain forest right there. There’s probably even a tiny grove of banana trees growing in your little shat ghetto.

 

This is a Shame & Secrets survey filled out by a woman who calls herself “Kai”, and she’s Pansexual. She’s 19. Raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? “Some stuff happened, but I don’t know if it counts. When I was very young, a teenage aunt and I were playing at being mother and baby with myself as the baby. At some point, we ended up underneath the covers of a bed, and she got me to suck on her breast to simulate breastfeeding. I completely forgot all about this until I was sixteen, and she completely denies this happening. I’m not sure if I’m twisting an innocuous childhood memory into something else.”

 

Have you ever been physically or emotionally abused? “Not sure. My relationship with my mother is weird. I feel uncomfortable and unsafe around her, and I’m not able to provide the emotional support she wants from me.”

 

Paul: I don’t know why a parent is looking for emotional support from a child, by the way, unless, you know, that parent is elderly. Anyway.

 

“I probably wouldn’t describe our relationship as being emotional incest, but I’m always drawn to and always relate a lot to episodes of the podcast where mother-child emotional incest is discussed, so I’m not sure.”

 

Darkest Thoughts: “I think about murder and suicide a lot. I definitely fantasize about killing a lot of people or burning down my house with my family still inside. I also have a near-constant desire to self-harm in a really dramatic way. I’m talking about stuff like ripping my veins out. It’s pretty awful.”

 

Darkest Secrets: “I’m not sure. I don’t think anything has happened to me really.”

 

Paul: I don’t think the sexual fantasies really matter for this one.

 

Anything you’d like to say to someone you haven’t been able to? “I’d like to tell my brother he’s a fucking control freak. I’d tell my mom to go to a therapist. I’d tell my dad that while it’s not his fault that my autistic, hypersensitivity really fucks me up, could he please just not touch me ever again because Jesus Christ man, I can’t deal with that shit.”

 

What if anything do you wish for? “To feel like I have independence and agency. To be a healthy weight. And, more importantly, to like what I see in the mirror, to be able to not have to hide or to keep it together all the time, for a real end to the kind of societal shit that’s been keeping me down all my life -- racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism.”

 

Have you shared these things with others? “I’ve shared bits and pieces with my psychologist -- not all of it because she’s been trying cognitive behavioral therapy on me for my depression and anxiety and that hasn’t worked out so well. I wouldn’t tell anyone else in my life right now because this shit is none of their business.”

 

How do you feel after writing this stuff down? “Kind of awkward and scared. I keep thinking one of my family members is going to come in the room and see what I’ve been writing.”

 

Anything you’d like to share with someone who shares your thoughts and experiences? “You have a right to feel the way you do, and you’re probably right to feel the way you do too. I wish I had better advice for you, but I don’t. Sorry.”

 

Paul: I hope you listen to your advice because you have a right to feel the way you do. And I’m going to recommend a book for you to read that I read, and it really blew my mind in helping me understand emotional incest more. It’s called “Silently Seduced” and I highly recommend it to anyone.

 

When we talk about emotional incest, it doesn’t have to have a sexual vibe to it at all. It can be just about the child having to be emotionally supportive to the parent. And a variety -- inappropriate sharing. You get it. I don’t need to over-explain this.

 

This is a Happy Moment filled out by a woman calls herself “That One Girl.” And she writes, “My parents divorced when I was about four or five. I remember it was right around when I was starting kindergarten. Anyways, after the divorce, my mom seemed to take it pretty hard. Looking back on it, I can only imagine what it was like to go to a one-income household with two little girls and being enrolled in college.”

 

“My dad moved out of state and never sent child support or small checks here and there, so basically she was going it alone. Most of my memories from that time of my life were of my mom being angry/distant or not feeling good, and leaving my sister and I with a bowl of mac & cheese or PB&J sandwiches and some Nickelodeon on TV while she retreated to her bedroom.”

 

“But there was always one thing that I can look back on and smile. I remember living in this super-crappy trailer that I’m sure had zero insulation in it, so every time we would take a bath, my sister and I would be freezing when we would get out. My mom would always turn the blow dryer on, and once she’d patted us down with the towel, she would take the blow dryer and let the hot air blow over our bodies to help warm us up as we wrapped the towels as tight as we could around us.”

“She would always do or say something silly to make us laugh while she was doing this. I’m not sure why bath time was something that brought out that side of her, but it was and that I have these happy memories from my childhood that I can look back on.”

 

“Looking back, I know now that my mom’s distance during this time period of my life had a huge effect on my later adolescent years, but that’s for another survey. As an adult, I can see that she was doing the best that she could, and she has since apologized to me for the way she was when I was younger.”

 

“I’ve accepted that the things I’ve done and have been through have made me who I am today, so I can’t hold too much of this over her. But that small, little 5-year old girl who was left to clean up after herself and her sister night after night still holds some resentment, and I still don’t like mac & cheese.”

 

Thank you for that. I would imagine that that was -- you know, one of the things that makes that so touching --when a parent is silly with us as kids, it’s like they’re coming down to our level because it’s like they have to -- it’s an action as opposed to words. And I think that’s what really -- you know you can doubt somebody’s words, and yeah you can doubt their actions too but something like that is just pure. And I just love seeing adults being silly with kids. And kids can’t get enough of that shit. Why? Cuz they’re dumb.

 

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by a guy who calls himself “Mount Kavian.” And he writes, “When my spouse was cheating on me, I started cutting. I couldn’t think straight. I was suicidal but too scared to go through with it (Catholicism). She called the cops stating that I was suicidal, but the police and paramedics left after speaking with me. The next day, I checked myself in somewhere.”

 

“The nurse at the hospital was totally badass. She didn’t bat an eye at what I’d done. She was even cracking jokes in a dark way. At one point, she said ‘So obviously, you’re right-handed’. I said ‘yes’ and asked why she said that. And she said ‘because all the cuts are on the left side of your body’. And she gave me a tetanus shot prefacing it with ‘don’t be a baby -- this will hurt a lot less than what you already did to yourself’. I laughed. It was perfectly dark and what I needed at that moment.”

 

Oh man, I love when somebody can -- when somebody just knows -- when they don’t condescend with their empathy. I think that’s why I like dark humor so much. It just feels like such a real hug.

 

Anyway, I want to end this up -- the show up with some of Herbert’s fears. Those of you who are regular listeners know that Herbert is one of my two dogs. And he is a piece of work -- he is a piece of work. Herbert’s fears:

 

“I’m afraid I look stupid while getting a bath. I’m afraid I’ll never catch the squirrel. I’m afraid I’m not a good boy. I’m afraid I’ll always have fleas. I’m afraid I’ve wasted my life sleeping. I’m afraid I’ve eaten my last good piece of cat shit. I’m afraid I’ll get old and forget why I ran into another room. I’m afraid if I don’t bark, bad things will happen. I’m afraid I use people for their food. I’m afraid that when I run in my sleep, people think I’m running from something -- I would never do that. I’m afraid my obsession with chasing the ball is just a way to distract myself from the pain of being adopted. I’m afraid I will always resent my mom for not having more nipples.”

 

I hope you enjoyed this episode. And I hope that if you’re listening, you feel a little bit less alone and a little more hopeful because you are most definitely not alone.

 

I also want to remind you that LA Podfest is coming up. And I’m recording -- if you’re going to be in LA -- I’m recording Friday night September 26th at 7:00pm. It’s at the Hotel Sofitel, and my guest is going to be Laura House. So please come check it out. And they’re also going to be streaming it, and you can get a pass to see any of the shows -- the night that they’re -- video of it streaming -- for I believe it’s $25, and it’s available for three weeks afterwards. And that’s to see any of the shows -- video of the shows. And they do give us a piece of that. So, think about that -- that Paul G gets a couple of nickels out of that. And the website for that is www.LAPodfest.com, and you can find out how to get a weekend pass & all that other stuff. So yeah go check it out.

 

Thank you guys so much. I appreciate it. Thanks for listening.

 

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