Episode 23: Beth Littleford (Voted #9 Ep of 2011)
The former Daily Show correspondent, tv and movie actress, wife and mom talks about postpartum depression, a childhood tragedy, and not liking her boobs being touched, possibly because of a relative. Paul muses on his recent wet dreams. Ick.
Paul: Welcome to episode #23 with my guest Beth Littleford. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour. An hour of honesty about all the battles in our head, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive negative thinking, feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy, and that vague sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour, we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky. But first a few notes. The website for this podcast is mentalpod.com. Mentalpod is also the name you can follow me at Twitter on, and you can Skype me at mentalpod, and if you don’t have a Skype account, you can just call (818)574-7177, and leave me a question, a comment, or a fear, or a list of fears. That would be great. The forum has recently been overrun by spammers and I’m doing my best to try to keep them weeded out, but if anybody out there would like to take over and be a moderator for the forum, that would be great. Thank you for continuing to take the survey which you can access going through the website. We’ve had about 1,100 people take it so far, and I’m just never not amazed, entertained, heartbroken, moved by the things that people fill out on the survey. I thank you for taking the time to do that. It really does help me get to know who you guys are. So, thank you thank you thank you.
The air conditioner just kicked on so hopefully that noise won't be too distracting. I don’t know any other way to get into this so, I’m just going to launch into it. In the last two, three weeks, I’ve had two wet dreams. There you go. I bring it up, ‘a’ to brag, and ‘b’ to say, what the fuck? I’m 48 years old. I haven’t had a wet dream since I was in high school. And here’s the creepy part, it’s still the same. It’s some girl who's couldn’t be more bored that my penis is near her vagina, and and in the dream, I always sense that boredom in her, and so in the dream, I think to myself, ‘I better get a couple strokes in before, you know, she makes me clock out here’, and with the next stroke, always comes the orgasm. And the weird part is, a wet dream, and I don’t know if this is just me, feels like I’m peeing on myself. It feels kind of good orgasm, but it also feels like, ‘oh, I’m, did I just wet the bed?’, so, and it kind of half awakens me, so it’s kind of pleasurable, and it’s also kind of like, a fire alarm going off, ‘you might be peeing on yourself’. It’s such, it’s like three really intense emotions at once. And it, I guess that’s the human brain in a nutshell, is a lot of different shit going in different directions, and you better latch on and try to enjoy one of them. And that’s what I did. I tried to enjoy the orgasm part of it. And I don’t know, it just made me laugh.
I want to read an email that I got, maybe I should just take a brief moment and let the creepiness clear. Okay, creepiness is cleared. This is a, an email I got from Shelly, and she writes, ‘Dear Paul. Thank you so much for this podcast. I have to share with you the experience I had yesterday. Normal grocery trip, normal banter at the checkout. Did you find everything? Nice weather. I forgot my canvas bags. Normal. And then I thought about putting myself out there, being vulnerable. Being real. Being human. So I shared with my checkout person what I was going to make with what I was buying. Just a little thing. I’ve done this before with varying results. But it’s just a way to connect maybe. And her face lit up. And she said she loved that idea and went on to say that she is in culinary school and is always looking for ideas like that. And when she gave me my receipt she said ‘thank you for sharing that with me’, and she was very genuine. I made her day with just an idea. And she made my day by letting me know she appreciated it. On my way out the door, I said to myself, ‘thanks Paul’, and sent you a little good mojo. I hope you felt it. Thanks again for all you’re doing’. And I wrote her back and said, ‘Shelly, you just made my day. I swear I was just sitting here thinking about how lazy I am, and how I hate that I can’t get up the energy to exercise or work even though it’s going to make me feel better, and then I read your email. Thank you for reminding me I might mean more to this world than I think I do’. Of course I should mention that I went back and added ‘might’ to that last sentence because I was afraid that if I just said ‘I mean more to this world than I think I do’, I would sound arrogant.
Yeah, there is something about connecting to people. And yet my brain always always tells me that it’s going to suck, and that I should just isolate. And yet everytime I do reach out, I always, I always feel better. I did the SklarBro podcast a couple of hours ago, I look at Jason and Randy Sklar, and I think to myself, ‘I wish I could have it together like those guys do’. They’re constantly working, they’re funny. They’ve got this great podcast, a great give and take. They’re prepared. They’re raising kids. They’re traveling around. They’re doing club dates. I literally, if I looked at their schedule on paper, I would have to take a nap, it would make me so tired and I would feel so overwhelmed. And so I went in their kind of feeling really less than, and we were talking about my podcast, and I mentioned I do this thing called the fear-off, and they said, ‘oh, well let’s do one here’. And so we did a little mini fear-off on their show, and they revealed some of the fears that they had, and it felt so good. Because they talked about feeling overwhelmed. And I realized it’s so easy to judge somebody’s life from the outside, and think that they don’t go through any of the shit that I go through. But when I connect to them, and we compare notes, I feel so less alone. And I feel connected to the world, and I feel okay, and I feel like I’m enough. And then I got home and I realized, I do have a decent work ethic. In the last three weeks I’ve produced two wet dreams.
Paul: I’m here with Beth Littleford. And you may know Beth, she was a correspondent on The Daily Show, from 1995 to —
Beth: 96 to 2000.
Paul: 96 to 2000.
Beth: Yep, started in 96.
Paul: I wouldn’t say the glory years, because it’s still a great show, but you were there when the show went kapowee.
Beth: Well I was there when it started and we were a tiny, little, like ‘I’ve got a small corner in the PBS building, let’s put on a show’. Everything seems really cable access-y.
Paul: Craig Kilborn was the host.
Beth: Kilborn, and then Stewart came in, and Colbert came in, and the Carell came in, and so yeah, it blew up. You know, and then I left for network sitcoms, and it won a Peabody and it’s first Emmy—
Paul: After you left?
Beth: Yeah, it was right after, right as I left.
Paul: Did that eat at your very soul?
Beth: Well, because the sitcom got moved out here, which I think is a wonderful blessing. Because I got moved out here, and it’s lovely out here in Los Angeles. And I was, I have seasonal affective disorder I think, because the New York winters really got me down. And it had been eleven years in New York, and I’m a Florida girl, and I got so blue every winter. I had the light box, and—
Paul: I did it too.
Beth: And I would go on the Prozac, and you know, I had a shrink coaching me through it. And I had said to my husband, ‘not another winter’. And so it was nice and serendipitous, that I got moved out here, but the sitcom didn’t turn out to be all that it should. And there was this kind of like, ‘oh god, now The Daily Show’, I was done, I was tired. I was tired of being on the road, and I was tired of making fun of people—
Paul: Being on the road doing standup?
Beth: No. Being on the road doing The Daily Show. As a correspondent especially in the early days, it was less sketchy, and more like you go around like a news correspondent and you find the story, and you make the story, and you make the story funny. And you kind of do that by making fun of people, which I’ve never been that morally comfortable with. I’m kind of a wuss. And really sensitive myself, so it was a little bit of selling my soul to the devil, to even do it in the first place. And then as I became more senior and a little more spoiled, I stayed in the studio more. And had the writers write for me more. And that was certainly more fun, and then I was told by Carell that ultimately became more John controlled and written. And less of that sort of renegade ‘we’re out in the field, grabbing stories where we can’—
Paul: Yeah, it seems like the point of view became more focused on—
Beth: John’s voice kind of. Yeah, and so, but I was exhausted by it, so I was ready to be done. But it did feel like, ‘oh shit, well do people even know’. Sometimes people will be like, ‘oh, you were on Jon Stewart’s show?’. And I’m like, ‘well you know, a decade or more ago’, so that’s kind of sad. But you know, I have a nice life. I have a really nice life out here.
Paul: You have a lovely home. You’ve got a husband. You’ve got a child—
Beth: I love my home. I love my husband. I love my kid. I mean, I love my pool. I love my car. I love, does that sound shallow? I try to be really grateful. I try to be really grateful for the blissful elements.
Paul: I think if you love it because it brings you joy, as opposed to loving it because you think it impresses people. I think there’s a difference there. People can also see you in Crazy, Stupid Love which is at the theaters right now and getting lots of great reviews.
Beth: Maybe that will impress people. No I’m not interested in impressing people, but I am so proud of that movie, just so proud to be a part of it. I think it’s so lovely. And such a lovely treatment of all kind of love, so I would say run don’t walk. Boys and girls will enjoy it.
Paul: Cool, cool. Well I got your phone number or email from a mutual friend of ours, Annabelle Gurwitch. And—
Beth: Because I was fans of you guys at Dinner and a Movie. I loved that.
Paul: Oh thank you. And I have some female friends, but I’ve burned through them all, being guests on the podcast—
Beth: Oh, you’ve burned through them on the podcast, not that you’ve burned up the relationship.
Paul: So you and I literally met ten minutes ago, yet I watched a clip of you online, doing standup talking about getting into a twitter beef—
Beth: It was my first standup—
Paul: Was it really?
Paul: Well, it was great because I got a sense of who you were from that little clip of the stand up, and it was after you had agreed to come and do the podcast, and I watched that little clip, and I thought, and I know I’ve said this before, so I hope it doesn’t sound insincere, but Beth feels like a friend to me. Just the way you were honest about your depression in your standup thing. You were honest about wanting to be morally genuine with this twitter beef with this person. But you also didn’t want to roll over and be fucked by this person, it just. I so related to what you had to say, so I’ve been looking forward to coming and doing this because, you feel like a kindred spirit.
Beth: Yes, and when I found out about the podcast, I was like, ‘this is a kindred spirit. I should be doing this myself’. I’m so glad to be a part of what you’re doing. I really love what you’re doing. And I think that you, and thank you on behalf of the rest of the world.
Paul: My people. I am really starting to feel, this kind of community coming up out of the lagoon, as I do this show. I don’t know what to call them other than my people. People that suffer, that have been suffering their whole lives like me, that have this great life on paper and yet so many days you just feel blank.
Beth: I think there’s a lot of us. And I think that’s why I’m always trying to get the word out. Remove the stigma. You know, any time I see someone who's pregnant, I’m like, ‘talk to me about postpartum’. Because—
Paul: So you had that?
Beth: Sure, sure—
Paul: Oh great! I’ve actually put a little call out to listeners to get a mother who had postpartum—
Beth: I’ll talk about it right now. We can talk about it later—
Paul: Well let’s start from, let’s start from the beginning—
Beth: Let’s start from the beginning because I really like being an open book in terms of just, let’s all share people. Because who doesn’t? You’re either in some crazy denial, you’re self-medicating, which of course we all find a way to do at some point. And maybe hopefully at some point we get over that, and we take healthier approach to treating our wounds. Because who's not wounded? A very very few people. A very lucky few. I know we, all of us with kids are trying not, but the world is a little bit wounding, it’s also glorious. You know, the dark and the light. But we’re starting at the beginning which is—
Paul: You were raised in Tennessee—
Beth: Well no, I was born in Nashville, so you’d think I’d be sort of hillbilly, but then when I was two we moved to central Florida. Suburban Orlando, kind of a punchline in and of itself. But actually to a small conservative town called Winter Park, which is in the preppy handbook, and is really very, right-wingy and small and religious—
Paul: Don’t some of the baseball teams workout there?
Beth: Oh yes, there’s that too. Although there’s a Winter Springs too, and a Winter Haven, but yes, Winter Park is known to some as Rollins College, home of Rollins College. It used to be known as the home of a sinkhole that ate a Porsche dealership and it’s also the home of some baseball, what do they call it? Winter training, spring training?
Paul: Spring training.
Beth: Yeah, that’s what they call it. Not a sports lady right here, sorry. And—
Paul: Yeah, one of my former co-hosts, Claude, used to say, ‘I tried baseball but they always wanted to rehearse’.
Beth: Who’s got the time? So, but it’s in the preppy handbook, and I say that because it was such a tiny conservative town. When I finally got to New York City, that’s when I was like, ‘oh, my people. Oh, I can let my freak flag fly’. That was a great relief to me. Because I always felt a little bit like the misfit toy, and I finally found my way back to the island full of misfit toys, in New York City a little bit. So, my parents are very religious. My dad got especially religious. They were both son and daughter of men of the cloth. But my dad had spent some time as a missionary, a doctor, when he did his mission in Belgian Congo, right around the time of the Poisonwood Bible stuff that was happening.
Paul: The what?
Beth: There was a book called The Poisonwood Bible, that might as well be a story about my dad. Which is where, the Belgian Congo is a big revolution, and I don’t know, people were being killed and it was just a lot of upheaval and it was—
Paul: This was in the 70’s or 60’s?
Beth: This was in the 60’s.
Paul: Yeah, African independence was—
Beth: It was just bloody and with corrupt leaders. Was that Idi Amin? I can’t remember. But anyways, that was my pops. And he was a brilliant man, and there was a lot of darkness to him too. And then, and that was very religious and then my family kind of exploded and my dad was having an affair, and then broke up. And was like, ‘well are we people of God or not, because you’ve been living a lie’. And then—
Paul: And how old were you when the affair came—
Beth: That was about 12, 13, 14.
Paul: Oh, such a tough age. Any age would be tough, to feel that—
Beth: My mom and I didn’t speak for a long time. I lived with my dad, and went away to boarding school by choice because I was like, ‘well this is just hellacious at home’—
Beth: Yeah, to an all girls boarding school, which was also hellacious. You know, and people ask like, ‘how was your childhood?’, and I’m like, ‘oh, shitty, how was yours?’. Because isn’t if often, and especially adolescence, because it was a super tough adolescence and then to the cherry on the sundae here, is that kind of out of nowhere, my dad and brother, he was doing the divorced dad guilt trip, and he took my brother who just turned 12 when I just turned 16, and he took him on a hunting fishing trip to Alaska, and then, and they were in a pontoon plane that sunk with a guide and a pilot. And the guide and the pilot just barely survived, but my dad and my brother did not, and were not found. Were basically lost in the wild—
Paul: Oh my god—
Beth: Because he stayed behind with my brother really, and there was a riptide, and it was like, the Alaskan waters, and there was searches forever, and not one of them was ever found. So, that was, so that was—
Paul: And that was when you were 13?
Beth: No, I had just turned 16. My brother had just turned 12, my sister is, she was 17, and so I really shut it down at that point. I was like, I’m a junior in high school, and I need to go to the school dance, and I need people not to talk to me about this, and to not cry to me about this, and not shake my shoulders and tell me to cry, and interestingly, someone said to me after the memorial service, like a teacher mentor said, ‘you’re gonna want to drown your sorrows in alcohol, you need to be really careful’. And I, looking back I realize I never had a taste for alcohol, but I did have a taste for alcoholics. And I proceeded to get involved with just the most screwed up alcoholic, greasy, delicious, commitment-phobic, you know, just, cheaty, Kurt Cobainy, just, years of it, years and years of it. Years and years and years of it. And so, I know a lot of the ladies will be like, ‘oh those bad boys they are delicious’, and they are. And they’re very irresistible to me, and there was a lot of dad stuff in there, and there was, like that was kind of my drug of choice. So, yeah, there was that, and then, there’s always the journey of healing. Which I’ve been trying to do since adolescence, and I’ve been lucky enough to have good girlfriends, and people, older women come into my life to help, and I have a really, I have a bad boy with a heart of gold husband. I have a reformed bad boy husband who really is interested in taking the journey with me. Not nearly as new agey as I am, and not nearly as comfortable with emotion. He comes from a blue-collar Long Island family. And he’s brilliant and he’s, you know, whatever, he’s a man. My instruction booklet is three pages long. Rob like. Rob don’t like. Fire hot. You know? It’s just like, very basic, but the truth is, is that he is interested in like, taking the journey with me, you know? It’s just, we’re just like okay. We’re trying to make ourselves better, we’re trying to make our marriage better. We’re trying to be good parents, we’re trying to be good people.
Paul: Well let’s backup. Let’s not get that far forward yet—
Beth: I know, I’m wrapping up my one woman show with a happy ending—
Paul: You were just about to tap dance.
Beth: Big musical number.
Paul: So the childhood, what are some snapshots from your childhood? Obviously losing your father and your brother, would be a major one. What are some other things that stick out from when you were....sometimes guests on this podcast will remember just little, a seemingly innocuous moment from their life, where they remember feeling something, or having a moment of clarity, or, do you have any of those kind of moments where, where you just, why is that sticking in my brain? Or why—
Beth: You know what’s interesting, is the moments I have, you know, they’re, I know why they’re sticking in my head. The moments I have, they may have been the grooves have been worn in there, where I’m like, ‘oh yeah, great’, when I was at the Born Again camp, where they like, whipped you. Or—
Paul: Tell me about that.
Beth: I spent eight years at a backwoods Florida baptist camp. The final year I ran away. I brought a friend with me—
Paul: From what age to what age were you there?
Beth: Six to 14.
Paul: Six to 14. And it was just summers or what?
Beth: It was a month in summer. Parents could visit you at the halfway point—
Paul: Well if you’re going to get beat, get beat in the Orlando heat. That’s my—
Beth: Oh, well it’s Zellwood. That was a suburb of Apopka, which is a suburb of Orlando. And it was in the orange groves. It was really, it was an old estate, and they ran, and it’s banded now, but they ran a Christian Academy, probably where they beat them, during the year. And then they ran a really hardcore baptist camp during the summer, where they beat us. And we went to church two times a day, and it was a lot, so there was that, there was a choice to visit a darkness to the born again stuff—
Paul: Can you talk more specifically about the beating, because—
Beth: I actually got beat at home. I didn’t get, you know what I got? I had to drink Castor oil. My brother at some point got, my little brother, who started going when he was four, at some point, in some part of a hazing ritual, where they let, you know, adolescents as counselors make up the discipline—
Paul: Oh that’s a good idea—
Beth: That’s a good idea with the boys, and the creepiness. He got hung up by his underwear, stuff like that. Like that the kind of thing now that, I have a six year old, and I starting crying—
Paul: Thinking about him having to go through that?
Beth: Yeah. That just breaks my heart. Yeah, so there, I have just sort of creepy memories having to do with intense religion, and sort of shame around sexuality. There was that. I think I was a little oversexed as a kid. And I remember—
Paul: By whom?
Beth: Well I was oversexualized by my pops, but I actually think, I remember hearing in an adolescent psychology class, there were supposed to be per Freud, there is this intense sexual period where children are sexual, and then there’s a latency period, and I was like, ‘oh, I didn’t have that’. And then at some point I wonder if I didn’t have because I was sort of sexualized by my dad. And I use that phrase because you mentioned in an email to me, that you felt like that with your mom. And I do think that, you know, we’re all, again it’s a lucky few who are not carrying some scars of some like disturbing something. Some wounding something in the course of our sexual development.
Paul: And often times is may be a, I don’t know if I’m letting people off the hook here, but it may be a figment of our imagination, but generally I think children are a little too, I don’t think they imagine that kind of stuff. There’s a—
Beth: I think you can let people off the hook by saying there’s a lot of grey areas. There’s a lot of friends who are playing with friends, and this ones older, and this ones getting on top of that one, and pushing themselves on that one in a way that’s not cool, and is violating a younger one, or a cousin or a sister of the friend, or whatever it is, I mean, there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of sexual play. But then there’s also stuff where you’re like, who was abusing that kid, that that kid turned around and did it to that kid. You know, there that—
Paul: Oh boy was there a family on our block like that.
Beth: Yeah, well just my little nephew just had it when he was like four, he had a friend try to, I mean, how dark are we getting here? Do people want to hear this or not? Is this like, are people going to go vomit and run screaming from the room?
Paul: No, but I think it’s, this is the stuff that fucks us up, and I think this is the stuff that, that this podcast talks about, and hopefully not in a way that’s exploitive, but a lot of the people that listen to this feel like they’re the only ones, that experience this—
Beth: Alright, then let’s go ahead. Because who hasn’t had the experience. My little nephew recently, so in, with a little bit of an older friend down the street, he came home and said, ‘well he tried to put his weiny in where I poop, but my poops were too hard and it wouldn’t let it in’. And it was like, well how, so my nephew was four, so how did the seven year old I guess, know about anal sex between boys? Like, what?
Paul: A kid in my grade school tried to do that with me when I was, I remember we were playing in my basement and he said, ‘do you want to buttfuck?’, and I remember I was like, ‘what?’. He said buttfuck. I put this in, and I said, ‘no’. And we kind of left it at that, and I think we were in like third or fourth grade, and I remember then in high school, and the other thing that was weird about this, was one of the other kids from that family, when he was an adult, drove his car off a cliff and killed himself. And it just makes me think—
Beth: Yeah, there was a family when I was going to a very religious school, where the one friend was teaching me about like, you know, maybe this is why I was oversexed in my latency period, but she was teaching me about like getting off, and let’s rub our this together, and rub our that together, and put our butts together, and blah blah blah, and it’s because she had been doing it with her older brother. And it’s like, okay, maybe that’s all in innocence and that’s all in exploration, or maybe somebody was doing something to the older brother. And I remember this dad, was so religious, and this dad was so scary, and abusive, that if you smacked your food at the table, he would slap you. And I’ve always been a loud eater, so I was terrified to chew, if you smacked your gums, I don’t know how to not be a loud eater, so he was a terrifying man, and later it occurred to me like, sometimes it was really terrifying, like it’s a cliche that we see reflected out there in the media sometimes, like the military guys, or the religious guys or the repressed guys, there’s like a darkness eeking out, or oozing out somewhere—
Paul: Yeah and—
Beth: Like they’re using somebody in a way that it’s like just, oooh not cool—
Paul: And you just feel like, you just want to shake them and go, ‘go to therapy, stop continuing the cycle’—
Beth: Stop continuing the cycle, like right. Like Hitler was abused, that’s what, so just let’s stop it. My mom had a really bad mom. And my mom sort of did the best she could. She wasn’t great, but she did the best she could. I’m trying really hard to do better.
Paul: What was your mom like?
Beth: You know, I would say, I would say I have empathy for my mom now, I didn’t when I was growing up. We were just not close and there was that classic sort of we’re in competition for my dad. But I would say she was like the starving plant. She just had no love, she needed love. And I think she was a daddy’s girl with a mom who was completely cold to her, and my mom tried to go away to college, and she said, ‘oh you’re too big for your britches’. My mom did great stuff. You know, she was on her own in Baltimore working in an all black church before civil rights, then she was going on these freedom rides down in the south, even though she comes from the midwest. And she was going down there and doing good work in the world. She was a teacher, she took classes in a seminary even though they didn’t let women in, but I think, I mean I didn’t even really know my mom’s mom because she was so cold, and I don’t know agoraphobic or shut down or whatever, that my mom didn’t get any love from her mom, that her dad had died sort of young, and then she didn’t get any love from my dad. So, she had no love for me, and then they were into sort of the ruts spare the child sort of thing, which was unfortunate because there was a lot of physical discipline. And then there was a lot of just out and out, we were combatants over my dad’s attention. We’d full on—
Paul: You and your mom?
Beth: My mom and I just hardcore. And then after my dad and brother died, then we just, ah, it was just so bad.
Paul: The two audience members left and there’s no show.
Beth: Oh yeah, so, right—
Paul: Or I suppose the two performers left and there’s no audience.
Beth: Well, the audience, she’s calling the police on me, and they show up and threaten to take me to Child Protective Services like, you’re being a bad girl, and I show them the bloody scratch marks on my arm, and they’re like—
Paul: From your mom?
Beth: Yeah, from the scratch fights. Cat fights. Literal cat fights.
Paul: You must have felt trapped.
Beth: Yes, so I’m there like, can I go stay with a friend? So I literally, after my dad and brother passed away, would spend every night with a friend. And that’s why I’m grateful to those few families and those few friends, those few best friends. Like, you know, I’ve been told, and I do try to feel like, okay I did the best I could. I made family where there was none. I found friends and families to take me in. And then my mom and I, we worked our way back in denial, but there was also like, we went to weekend workshops, and we did a little bit of therapy, and she was like, ‘well, you were a monster’, and I was like, ‘I was a teenager, I’m allowed to be a monster, you were a monster and you’re the mom, and you’re supposed to love me’, and she was like, ‘I was hearing all this bad stuff about you’, and I was like, ‘it wasn’t true’. Because I lived alone with my dad for a period, and they would, but I was never a partier, people just said I was—
Paul: Had your parents, your parents had gotten divorced at what age?
Beth: When I was 14 and I lived alone with my dad for a year, then I went to boarding school for a year. I can’t even keep track, so I don’t expect your listeners to—
Paul: Oh that’s okay. Can you go back to the, because this part of, the parent child relationship fascinates me, is the sexualizing of your own children. Can you be more specific about what it was, how he did that.
Beth: Well, I would say—
Paul: Because I know that sometimes—
Beth: In a way he just was to comment on on our bodies and our physicality, my sister and I. So it was like, I’d be very pretty except for my nose, so then he got me a nose-job. Then he made comments on my outfits and stuff like that, and then there was, you know, sort of dressing me, and letting his girlfriends wear the dress he got me, and saying people that people thought I was his girlfriend when I lived with him. And then there was a little bit of inappropriate touching that I sort of blocked, until like college. And then I tried to check it out with my sister once 20 years ago, and she kind of confirmed it but then said, ‘don’t be neurotic about it, he didn’t mean anything by it’. And then I sort of brought it up again, because I was like, ‘I can’t let Rob touch my boobs, and so you really have to help me out here, and confirm for me what I can’t remember’—
Paul: Your father touched your boobs?
Beth: Yeah, when he was asleep. But, not really asleep, so it was—
Paul: Do you feel like he was pretending he was asleep?
Beth: I feel like he was drowsy, my sister confirmed that this happened to her too. So, I feel like—
Paul: That had to fuck you up—
Beth: It’s very grey, yeah. I mean, I feel like so much of this stuff is so grey. You know, I feel like there is a lot of people who are like, ‘well I wasn’t raped by a stranger behind my school’, so, but what about all this stuff that was violating?
Paul: And that’s, we talk about that on this show, and how sometimes you can’t give yourself permission to feel something, because it doesn’t meet your dramatic criteria for ‘I should feel something’, so you minimize it—
Beth: It’s supposed to play out like a Lifetime movie in your head, with—
Paul: Yeah, and one of the things that my mom used to do, until I made her stop, is she would grab my butt, I mean literally, you know, not a pinch, sometimes a pinch, but sometimes a fistfull of my butt and tell me how cute I was—
Beth: Okay, how old were you?
Paul: This was into my 20’s. From a child into my 20’s.
Beth: Oh, because you know, I have a six year old boy, who's so cute, but wants his privacy, but who is also very into, so I try to give him his privacy. But I feel like have such poor boundaries of where are the boundaries, where are the boundaries? He wants to kiss me on the lips, he wants to kiss my husband on the lips, he’s just wants to love you up. He’s a lover not a fighter. He’s really, but you know, but the babysitter’s teenage daughter is like, ‘kiss my cheek, kiss my cheek’. My husbands like, ‘kiss my cheek’, but I’m like, ‘alright, here’s my lips’. And I wonder like, when does that stop? Does he stop it, or do I stop it, and can I stop it without shaming him? I think I can, just like, ‘here’s my cheek’.
Paul: That’s a good question.
Beth: I’ve definitely stopped the like, these are my privates up here, like my boobs, listeners you can’t see, but I’m doing the boob area, um the bra area, like where the bathing suit goes. This is my private area, I used to nurse you yes, but not too, not into any creepy age. Had respect for—
Paul: Once you started standing up and stretching, we eased out of it—
Beth: That’s actually what Rob said, I had to go to a friends, one of my friends that saved me in high school, was getting married in France, so I had to wean him, but indeed, it wasn’t one of the like, ‘you’re as tall as I am, come over and lay across my body and suck on my nipple’, no so, but there’s still sort of that desire to paw on me a little bit, or snug up into me and like make baby noises. We’re looking to adopt, so there’s definitely sometimes a little bit of, if there’s baby talk he’s going to, I mean if I talk about a baby, he’s going to go into baby talk. And I always just want to be like, a therapist once said to my husband about me, ‘you’ve got to let her be, like they say about children, you have to let her hug until she let’s go, don’t push her away’, and that’s what they say about a parent. Let them hug until they let go. Let them get their needs met. If you can, obviously, come on relate. But I liked that idea—
Paul: Let the child hug until—
Beth: Let the child hug until the child lets go. And that way it’s the child’s job to run off and go be independent, and then come back and get the hug, and it’s your job to sort of be present there as much as you can.
Paul: I think that’s a really important feeling for a kid to have, is that being, because I always had a fantasy as a child, of an older girl doing that to me. Comforting me, and I never understood what it was about, and then I realized I never, never really got that from my mom. She wasn’t a very physically, the only physical form was the butt grabbing, so it—
Beth: Isn’t that fascinating. I almost thought it was the part of a really affectionate mother—
Paul: No, no, it wasn’t a hug, it was more, she would kind of grit her teeth when she would say it, like there was almost and anger under it, and—
Beth: Yeah, that can get like Chinese water torture and icky—
Paul: And I never liked it, but I wouldn’t say anything, because my mom was often miserable because my dad was an alcoholic that didn’t pay attention to her, and I felt like it was up to me to make her happy.
Beth: Oh that’s not too much, were you an only?
Paul: No, no I had an older brother but they didn't get along at all, and so I always felt like I’m her last, I have got to be her savior—
Beth: Yeah, that is a lot to put on a boy, that would have been on my brother had he survived—
Paul: But I want to get to, back to your story, so when you went to live with your dad, did you feel safe when you were, when it was you and him living together?
Beth: He was my everything, so I would say I felt safe. I was, I would say I was crazy about him. I would say he was my everything. Which is so confusing, it’s all so confusing—
Paul: That’s what’s so fucked up about stuff, is—
Beth: I mean, I wasn’t speaking to my mom, my sister was on my mom’s side, she was very angry at my dad, although then when I went to my boarding school, she moved right the fuck in, and started having parties, where they partied very hard, like because he was always gone, so this was like the party house. But, yeah, and then my brother was young, and then he was also my mom’s pet, and I think her comfort, and so I really felt very alone, except for my dad, so I clung to my dad and he was absent a lot. And distracted a lot. I mean, I have a husband with ADD, it’s so interesting. I’ve decided that—
Paul: Are you bored by people that give you the attention that you want?
Beth: Yes, it’s just perfect that Rob, my husband can’t really stand still next to me and stroke my face, which of course I had to read the Twilight books and got all caught up in as embarrassing as that is, the truth of the matter is, if I had an Edward Cullen sitting there stroking my face, I would be like, ‘get off, you’re a barnacle’. Like, Rob, has to walk away, he has to loop, but he always comes back. He loops back, he’ll come up on me, and then he’ll leave again, and it’s a little dopamine hit everytime he comes back. And so here’s a man who goes and comes back, and goes and comes back, with great, with very much a dependable regularity like—
Paul: It’s perfect for you.
Beth: It’s sort of perfect because otherwise I’d be like, ‘you’re crawling up my ass, get off!’, so it’s really kind of perfect. You know, it’s interesting, the way we make our lives work. And you know these things are a mistake the way we find each other, of course we’ve had to recognize all the unhealthy aspects of our relationship and try to work on those, and have a sense of those, which is super helpful—
Paul: I want to go back to something you talked about, the conflicting emotions, when you were living with your dad, something that I heard when I was in therapy one time. A therapist was saying, that somebody can be molested and this wasn’t the case with me, but somebody can be molested and have it be arousing, and—
Beth: Oh yeah, Oprah’s talked about it—
Paul: Very confusing to the person, because then they think I deserved that—
Beth: And my dad added to that a little bit with you know, I think is really common too, which is either direct or indirect, you’re in your father’s bed, kind of thing, so certainly Oprah talked about it, and talked about that we think, again we think that the molester is the creepy guy down the street who lives by himself, and is flashing the young girls that walk by, and yes that is everywhere and in every neighborhood, and it’s a danger, but what I think is much more common and much more insidious and much more hard to unravel, as you’re growing up, is the favorite uncle, or whatever or the older cousin, or the guy you loved down the street, or the guy that babysat, or whatever, I mean, boys have their own version of this too with the inappropriately older woman or—
Paul: It’s so funny that you mention that, I actually was talking on the phone with somebody today, who is torn because they want to, his uncle wants to report, his mother, her, his sister—
Beth: The uncle’s own sister—
Paul: As a predator. Because she molested him as a child, and molested her, and is doing inappropriate stuff with the son, but is having some, a surrogate do it. She is having a friend that is her age date her kids when they’re like 13, 14 years old. It’s so, and this guy is so fucking torn up, and it’s, and I think that’s one of the worst parts of the molestation process, is the manipulation. It’s not even necessarily the—
Beth: And the seduction—
Paul: And the seduction, and the manipulation—
Beth: That’s been talked about only recently, is how seductive, how much I worshipped my dad. And it meant everything to me, to be like the apple of his eye, however I got it. So and, like again, to evoke the big O, Oprah, she talked about, like, you know, I guess an uncle or somebody saying, ‘you liked it’, she’s like, ‘I was 12’. Or somebody saying to her, ‘well you ran around naked’, which it feels like that kind of thing was said to me, but yeah, but I was a child. I was a child. You’re not allowed to say that a child running around naked is an invitation for me, to start rubbing on them, and having their body betray them in a way by turning them on, or even just needing whatever attention they can get. You know, we all need whatever attention we can get, and if it’s negative, sexual, whatever, I mean what do you do? You don’t know better. And so, and often times it is so murky, so murky, and not that kind of, ‘I was violently raped by a stranger’, and that’s messy enough, I’m going to prosecute, that’s messy enough. But this stuff, like I don’t know what that uncle slash brother is going to do.
Paul: Yeah, and to anybody out there that is listening, I wouldn’t wait until you have something clearly set in your mind that you’re going to, do something about it, I think it’s important to just go to a therapist, or go to a friend and just start talking about it, because sometimes you don’t know where the truth is, until you start talking about it. It’s just this layer or ick that you don’t want—
Beth: It’s just a layer of ick, just don’t touch my breast, don’t touch my breast. I started seeing somebody recently, a hypnotherapist type, and she was like, ‘this trauma is all right here, and you’re just, it’s just right, like behind, there’s this thin layer just kind of holding it back’, and she said, ‘what’s the problem, of sort of coming out with it?’, and I was just like, well what if I’m making a big deal out of, what if I’m making it up, what if I’m exaggerating, what if what my sister said, which is stop making a big deal out of it—
Paul: That’s what most siblings will say.
Beth: And she was like, and I said, ‘what if I’m, creating it in my mind’, and she goes, ‘I’ve never had this happen, but what if you are? What if you are creating it? It’s standing in for something else. There is trauma here, there is sexual trauma here. I’ve never had someone make it up, and whatever, but even if you are, go on with your bad self, make it up, and like let’s get to what is shutting down in your body, you know, as a result of some kind of violation, and we pretty much know what the violation was’, and by the way, I’m still kind of in the midst of like, I’m not ready to go there. I’m not, I’m like, ‘let’s just make a comforting hypnosis tape so I can go to sleep to it’, you know? Let’s not do the, let’s not do that here. So I’m right in the middle of it, but you know, so I guess it’s a good time for me to be talking about it, into a microphone, and beaming it out into the universe, holy shit! Oh boy.
Paul: It’s funny, the podcast episodes that people respond the most positively to are generally the ones that when people leave after recording go, ‘what the fuck did I just do, oh my god’. So far I’ve actually had two people ask me not to air, and I’ve honored their request to not air it—
Beth: Can you say why?
Paul: Um, one was, they actually both were they didn't want their mother to hear what they said—
Beth: Right, let’s just trust that my mom doesn’t know what a podcast is—
Paul: That’s what I’m trusting too, and one of my fears, is that somebody is going to play stuff for her, and she’s going to take it out of context, and not hear the good stuff that I say about her, because I do love her, and there’s parts about her that are great, that really instill great things in me, but that fear, it’s like, you know what I’m talking about.
Beth: Yeah, here’s the thing, I can have empathy for my mom because I see that she didn’t, you know that’s some of the gift of the self helpy stuff is I’m finally getting there. I’m like, I’m easing up on myself, and other people, like okay, I’m doing the best I can, so I can stop with the whipping of the self, the self flagellation, and also my mom did the best she could. And my dad did the best, I mean I’m still unresolved about my pops, but you know, my husband is doing the best he can. We’re all doing the best we can. With what we’ve got—
Paul: Sometimes it’s just that people's best really fucking pisses you off.
Beth: Yeah, it’s just sometimes it can be really damaging. And there’s this interesting thing that is happening in parenting these days, you know, well if you feel like, as I do, we were raised by wolves, there’s this swing to the other side where you’re helicoptering, you’re up your children’s ass, you so want to put a protective bubble around them, that they then, the incoming, the admissions officers at colleges are calling this generation the teacup generation because they’re too fragile. They’re not met with any adversity or obstacles.
Paul: I’m glad you brought that up because I’m hearing that a lot too. And it’s like, are you afraid that they’re going to make mistakes and get hurt?
Beth: I’m, you know, it’s so interesting that I’m ADD enough and sort of distractible enough that my son, you know, my son does bump around, and you know, get’s disappointed, and fends for himself and is really independent, but he is emotionally as sensitive as I am. And can crumble, not super easily, and then to have someone, to have a boy that was bullied this summer at camp, I don’t think he was as traumatized by it as I was. I, you know, somebody calls him a baby or, ‘you’re gay’, or whatever it is, I want to take to my bed and cry all night. So, that’s the stuff, and my husband’s like, ‘no what it’s important that he learns to deal with it’, you know, buck up! We talk to the counselors, and I do say to him, I was so panicked, that I said, ‘you’re surrounded by a bubble of love and light, nothing can hurt you, names are bouncing off’, and he was like, ‘no I can still hear it and it still hurts’, and I was like, okay, busted on the bubble theory that I was trying to, you know, but I was so panicked for him, that I was so panicked for the hurt. So there is a little over, you know, yeah—
Paul: But the hurt is also I think ultimately, one of the things that makes us interesting people, because if you’re not hurt, if you’re not hurt, you don’t get philosophical generally.
Beth: Yeah you know a friend said this to me, a friend who had her mom commit suicide when she was a young teen, and she actually doesn’t talk about it at all. I tried to talk to her about it once when I had two drinks, because I’m a lightweight, I don’t drink. And she basically had to shut me down with a smile on her face and, ‘don’t criticize my mother’. But she did say to me, and I appreciate this, that the people she feels closest to, and loves the most, are the people who have the depth of feeling that comes from some tragedy, some, you’ve had some shit, you’ve had some shit in your life and you come out the other side, and you have an empathy and a big heart, and acceptance, or I don’t know what you have, but you have stuff.
Paul: And the question is how do you get out the other side, that’s the 64,000 dollar question. Because a lot of people can’t get out the other side and they’re stuck and they’re stuck in their heads and their life is miserable—
Beth: I’m a big believer in you know, as help in any way you can get it. I’m a self-help grouper. I’ve been to therapy on and off my whole life, I’ve been to all different kinds of therapy from psychoanalysis to really new age stuff. So, and then, I don’t know what specifically do, I really am a fan of getting on the right medication. I know it’s hard to find a good shrink, but I do feel like so many people, you’re like, ‘oh, you’re a pot smoker?’, anxiety disorder. Oh alcoholic is a good treatment for short term depression, long term you are in a black hole my friend. So you can start seeing people’s damage, people’s pain. And how they’re choosing to medicate it—
Paul: The big dull tool. It’s like your toolbox early in life is so primitive, it’s just like a Fred Flinstone hammer, yeah this makes the pain go away for an hour—
Beth: Right, so I’m going to distract myself with like really bad fucked up boys who treat me poorly, and you know—
Paul: Talk about that for a little bit if you would, the period when you were—
Beth: It’s so interesting. Well you and I were talking when the mic was off about, oh yeah, I was talking about how then at some point I just started being kind of overly promiscuous—
Paul: And this was from what age to what age?
Beth: Well luckily I had been so born again, and so raised so conservatively, that I kept my legs closed til I was about 17, and then I actually lost my virginity to a nice boyfriend. But then I started just really, ‘here, I’ll take off my bra for you, here you go’, like fucking anything and everything, and then there were these guys that I wasn’t attracted to, and they liked me, and I would just sort of have sex with them, and then I would feel attached to them, and then they’d turn commitment-phobic all of a sudden and then turn their back on me. And I’d be like, ‘wait a second motherfucker, I’m hotter than you are, you’re overweight, and you came up to me like a pathetic puppy’—
Paul: But because you’re into them, you’re no longer attractive to them. I went through that for years and it’s the most fucked up thing in the world. It’s like, a death sentence for your cock, because you’re like, two weeks ago, I was so into you, and now I want to slap you. You’re annoying me—
Beth: Oh dear, is that how they felt? Because I still resent those motherfuckers. But the fact—
Paul: But it had nothing to do with you, it had to do with them hating themselves, and most people probably know that anyway, I think it’s—
Beth: Or, one of these guys, who really like did it like a number on me. Where he played the pathetic guy that was kind of overweight, and I really did just sleep with him out of sympathy, and then it did turned around and was like a commitment-phobic cock the next moment. I ran into him years later, and he had been a fan of The Daily Show, and was like, ‘you’re the one that got away’, and I was like, ‘you don’t know me. You don’t know me at all. You didn’t know me then, and you certainly don’t know me now. And you think that you do because you saw me on TV, and whatever’, but I still was like, no, ick, boo. I’m still mad at him. I’m still mad at him, because I’m like, you did a number on me, and that’s the kind of thing, oh my god, like weeping in the middle of the night, lonely and vulnerable—
Paul: And that’s so scary to a teenage boy—
Beth: We were in our 20’s, in our early 20’s—
Paul: Especially, well yeah, let’s call them young men—
Beth: Yeah, well young men, weeping in the middle of the night to a young man is not going to keep him around—
Paul: Especially Young men that felt emotionally overwhelmed by their mothers. There is nothing less attractive than a needy woman to a guy that had a needy mother.
Beth: That’s interesting. That’s interesting, because I certainly was very needy—
Paul: Yet you’re drawn to them, because you know they’re not going to reject you, but then once they need something from you, so you go there, you’re drawn there to get the victory, but once the score has been tabulated, you want to get the fuck out, get the credit for charming somebody—
Beth: It seems to mercenary, but now I have a tiny bit of sympathy then for them, because, you’re right, it’s a dysfunctional needy mom thing—
Paul: That’s my dime store, I mean, as I say often, what do I know? I’m a jackass that tells dick jokes, but sometimes I think I might—
Beth: No, I think it’s a good point, because I don’t, yeah, I don’t see it enough from the guy’s point of view. And you know, like the mother of all the bad boys who would just regularly cheat on me and then beg his way back in, he came from just an alcoholic cheating dad, he was just playing out the same shit, like we all play out.
Paul: You don’t learn how to be a good person in a vacuum. You need somebody to show you how to be a good person—
Beth: I’m sort of proud, like I say I’m sort of proud of my husband, and certainly myself. Like we are, we are improving upon what we came from, and again, I hope my in-laws don’t listen to podcasts, so there we go. We’re safe.
Paul: Awesome. You feel like doing a fear-off?
Beth: Just barely. That I, one of my fears is doing a fear-off. Will that count?
Paul: Good. That will count, that will be your first one. I thought I was going to have to go to tweeters, and emailers, but I sat down for about 15 minutes today, this is was a fraidy-cat I am, and came up with this fear list. I’m afraid that my anemia is going to keep getting worse.
Beth: Oh, now do I go? I’m afraid that I’m not really that talented.
Paul: I’m afraid I’ll never find a good primary care physician that is covered by my insurance.
Beth: I’m afraid that I am solipsistic.
Paul: What is solipsistic mean?
Beth: Self-obsessed. This is a five dollar word.
Paul: I went to Indiana University.
Beth: It was one of those where like, I think in high school, me and my smartypants friend thought we were smartypants for using that word. It’s a good one—
Paul: It is a good one—
Beth: And I’m going to use it as a noun in the next sentence, go ahead.
Paul: I’m afraid I will lose my health insurance when I most need it.
Beth: I’m afraid that people talk about my solipsism behind my back.
Paul: I’m afraid that my wife and I are drifting apart.
Beth: Oh yeah, that’s hard. Marriage is hard, good but hard. I’m afraid that people talk about me period behind my back, like talk about me badly behind my back, and I don’t know it. Like if I can cop to it, I’m a little more comfortable, like, ‘ah you know, sometimes I can be a little cheap’, but if they’re saying like, ‘ah fucking Beth is so cheap’, it would kill me.
Paul: Yeah, that’s a common one. People worry that people are talking about you behind your back. I’m afraid that ants are going to overrun my house. We’ve got ants, and in my mind now, they’re going to be taking food out of my hand and kicking me with their little—
Beth: Hey, it’s going to become a Hitchcock movie. I’m afraid that I am essentially unlikeable, and that I know that’s rooted in like an incredibly bad bullying period, where I had to like leave the school, where I was popular, and then everybody just like turned against me and it was like, ‘well they must have a reason’, so yeah.
Paul: Yeah, that core message of like—
Beth: That core message of like, you really deserve a lot of hatred. You really deserve to have a ball thrown at your face. And to have your books spit on.
Paul: I’m afraid that we’ve got a couple of trees dying in our yard, and I’m afraid that more trees are going to die in the yard, and then we’ll have no shade, and we’ll roast in the summer, and the only thing to look at will be brown grass and electrical lines, and it will make my depression worse. I don’t think that one was specific enough.
Beth: I got a very very vivid image. I’m now afraid for you. I’m afraid that I don’t reach out enough to others, to friends. Like I don’t keep in good enough touch with some friends, to justify when I need them to have them like, come and be there for me.
Paul: I’m afraid I will be become cheesy and not know it.
Beth: Yeah, or solipsistic and not know it, or be a taker and not know it. All those things, become whatever and not know it, terrifying. And then have people be like, ‘oh man, here she comes, she’s really cheap’—
Paul: ‘Oh, here comes douchey’—
Beth: ‘There goes douchey-bags’. So I’m afraid, I’m very afraid that one misstep and the relationship is ruined. And I’m so afraid of that, that I am ready to thrown away a relationship if I even sniff that something is going wrong. I’ll be like, okay just fuck it. Just fuck it then—
Paul: You don’t want to be there when—
Beth: I don’t want to be there when I’ve done the misstep—
Paul: When the bottom falls out—
Beth: When I’ve done the misstep and they’re like, ‘you know what, no, you’re not for me’. So consequently I don’t trust people until like ten years into a relationship. I don’t really trust that they’re not going to walk away.
Paul: That’s fantastic. I have a fear that there’s a great idea or opportunity right in front of me and I can’t see it.
Beth: I don’t have anything more written down, but I am afraid about this like, touching my boob stuff, I’m afraid both that my husband will never be able to touch my boob, or that he will touch my boob, and that it will be like, I don’t know. That I will have healed and it will still be something I don’t want him to do.
Paul: That’s a good one. That’s a very honest one. I’m going to jump to one that is similar to that, so you don’t feel—
Beth: Like I’m hanging out to dry here with the boob touching—
Paul: Yeah, I’m afraid that if I ask my wife to try something sexual, she will secretly be turned off by it, but do it anyway, and it will make me less attractive to her and we will drift apart until we have no choice but to divorce.
Beth: That’s interesting because, you know my husband occasionally asks me to do something that I don’t love, and he knows I don’t, so we just, it’s a bit like that southern phrase, although this is not what it is, but it’s like, what do you call a blowjob in the south? A birthday present. It’s a little bit like, he gets it for his birthday present, and I like begrudgingly do it, and like, I’m not a huge fan, but I’m like, you do most of it, and you know, so whatever. How long have you all been together?
Paul: We have been living together since ‘88, we’ve been married since ‘95. And she is a wonderful woman, incredibly open minded, it’s all in my head. The fear of being judged—
Beth: Because it’s so interesting, that you, that I would be a little tiny bit grossed out by the sexual thing, but it’s not really going to make a difference. I mean ultimately I still, here’s the thing, I guess it is a valid fear. People do grow apart, and sort of sex is a place where you first see that, but yeah, but we keep it going I guess. I guess the begrudgingly part...
Paul: Do you—
Beth: You can keep going and I’ll see if I think of anything more.
Paul: I’m afraid that I have bad karma coming my way.
Beth: I’m afraid that, oh we want to adopt. And I’m afraid that we’ll try so hard to adopt, and then we’ll force it, and then it will disrupt what is our, like I really love having a family, which is why I want to have another kid, I love it so much. But then I’m afraid that I’ll be like why the fuck did I disrupt this. It is so, everything is so out of balance now, we’re so stressed. We’re fighting. The kid has special needs. I’m not afraid I’m not going to love the kid as much, but i’m afraid that I’ll have pushed so hard for something that I didn’t—
Paul: You’ll disrupt a good balance—
Beth: A good thing. Like, shut up, you’ve got a good thing. What do you want more for?
Paul: I am afraid that I’m burning bridges in my profession and don’t even know it.
Beth: Yeah the professional thing is hard. I’m afraid that they’re talking about me and they’re deciding that I’m, mediocre at best. I mean that goes back to the talentless, you’re a fraud, you’re okay but not good enough for—
Paul: I think they all, boil down to one version or another of, I’m not good enough, I don’t have enough, I don’t do enough.
Beth: Yeah, the I don’t do enough is so interesting because I finally have realized that no, I’m not lazy. I’m like kind of wildly distractible, and I’m constantly on my own back to do more, like, give myself a fucking break. Like my to-do list is always way too long every day, so I got to give myself a break. Like, live a life of leisure a little bit. You know? I do plenty—
Paul: Absolutely, if it makes you feel better, and this is no joke, my to-do lists have yearly anniversaries, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not exaggerating.
Beth: That’s good. So when do you let some of the stuff go? Like, I’m never going to do it.
Paul: Um, I still kid myself. There’s a ditch we have in the backyard, a drainage ditch I started to dig that is about three years old, and there’s boards on top of it, and I just stare at it, and just hate myself.
Beth: We’ve all got those.
Paul: I, whose turn is it, mine or yours?
Beth: It’s yours because I don’t have anything else, so keep going.
Paul: I am afraid I will never get enough recognition and will always feel forgotten.
Beth: Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing, I’m afraid that I’m going to keep plugging away, and never, never get where I want to get. Now here’s the thing, I know, that you can never get where you want to get. It’s this business, and it’s this outside validation shit, and it’s this like, it’s an inside job here people. This is why people win Academy Awards, and then, go into incredible depressions and destroy their families, and you know, turn to alcohol and drugs and try to kill themselves—
Paul: Can I try, can I try though?
Beth: I know, we all like to try though. Give me the award, let’s see what happens. So I’m, I’m kind of afraid too, that I will keep on toiling in relative obscurity, yeah, I’m more afraid of that than actually getting, than having not fill the hole.
Paul: Isn’t it funny because I looked, I was looking at your resume and thinking, ‘god, if I could just have that many credits, I would be okay. If I could have been on The Daily Show for five or six years’—
Beth: You’re so sweet. That’s what’s so fucked up is that I feel, I then look to people and go, if I could just have a podcast, or if I could just have that, a pilot, or well it’s really—
Paul: We think some switch is going to turn that’s going—
Beth: Yeah it’s kind of mean. I like the idea of trying to become a good parent to yourself, and just to try to stop the mean shit that goes on in your head. And it’s a little bit mean, it’s like a parent that you wouldn’t want to come home and go, ‘hey look at what I did, look at my picture’, and go, ‘oh, but, Jenny’s is better’, and I’m doing that in my own head—
Paul: What are, let’s end the fear off and go right into what are some of the things, the beating yourself up thoughts?
Beth: Well, honestly all I do is look at Jenny’s better picture, and go, ‘umm, you’re not doing as many things as Jenny is. Jenny is more talented, and’, I said to my husband, ‘is it my looks or my talent that’s holding me back?’, and he was, god bless him—
Paul: I hope he laughed—
Beth: Well he laughed, he had that scared laugh, he was like, ‘huh, oh shit, are we really going to talk, do I have to answer, ah’, you know, he actually that’s my panicky laugh, he doesn’t panic like that. He made a good joke. Which was basically, I tell him this is my husband, the other, I, we had some bad news, there was I show I love, I was doing that was cancelled, and we had an adoption be derailed, and I was blue. And the good news is, I can kind of tell my husband I’m blue, and I can be like, and there’s that little childish like, make it better, which you can’t do, but I can go, okay, well try to make it better and tell me some loving things, and tell me some sweet compliments. And he gave me a couple, and then I go, ‘um, one more?’, and he said, ‘you’re a competent sewer’, you gotta love Rob—
Paul: That’s awesome.
Beth: I’m a competent sewer, I’m going to put that on like, that’s going to be in his eulogy, or that’s got to go down somewhere—
Paul: Here lies his competent sewer, Beth Littleford. The last thing that I wanted to talk to you about it, you experienced postpartum depression—
Beth: Oh right, so I actually, here’s the first time, and like I said, I dabbled in like the SSRIs and all that stuff, but here’s the first time that I realized, oh, you can’t tell someone who's really chemically depressed, to have an attitude of gratitude and turn that smile upside down. Or like, you tried so hard for this child, and now you have this perfect child, why are you upset? You should be grateful, you should be grateful. You have this perfect child that you tried so hard for, you know. Just be grateful and concentrate on how hard you love this child—
Paul: Did you have difficulty getting pregnant?
Beth: Oh yeah, yeah we did. And it was, and it was an incredible blessing, and I mean, my god, if there’s one gift of infertility, it’s that you’re like—
Paul: Fucking all the time?
Beth: Oh no, we had to go to the doctor, so it was no fucking at all. That’s like cup and porn and shots and all that horrible operations, no, that you’re like, parenting is so great I love having my kid, maybe it’s different with twins or maybe it’s different with some people, but my husband and I, we’re like, we’re better parents than we are anything else I think. I think we’re—
Paul: I don’t think there’s anything more important to be good at—
Beth: So we love it, we just love it, so that is a gift, that we just, it wasn’t like, oh shit, there’s other things I wanted to do, and did this happen too soon, or like, we wanted it so bad and it’s great. But, what happened then is and it’s different for everyone, and I have so many friends that are like, ‘no, it wasn’t postpartum, I just had some post traumatic stress from my surgery’, or ‘no, it was postpartum. Yes I had vivid of images of violent things happening to my daughter’, but like everyone kind of wants to deny it, but I’ll tell you for me, it was a feeling of incredible fragility. I couldn’t sleep. I thought if I did that he would be dead when I woke up. I thought that I had to listen for his every breathe. I thought, I mean, he was tough, and I was sleep deprived, and that was tough, and I just think it’s a little bit shitty, I think it’s a little, like not pregnancy, not labor, not birthing not, but what really afterwards you are so slammed against the rocks, physically and emotionally and chemically, biochemically and then you’ve got like a squaling protoplasmic blob that you feel like is going to die and you don’t know how to take care of it—
Paul: And you yourself are not feeling good.
Beth: And you yourself are not feeling, like you can barely crawl to do, to tend to this baby, and you don’t know how to tend to him. I would just cry, and he would cry—
Paul: Is it because you were physically weak, you were depressed—
Beth: I would say it was total chemical. Total chemical. I mean I would say it doesn’t help for anybody to be really tired, and really physically beat up and bouncing back hormonally, but I’ll just say that after talking to, and I continued to nurse which was great, but so I did want to talk to the breastfeeding lady, the ped, the shrink, and the shrink was like, ‘well, you know you’ve done well on Lexapro, and we don’t have long term like, but you know’, he was basically like, you might be a little tired, but I’m much more concerned, because it does somewhat pass through breast milk. There are SSRIs that don’t, by the way, ladies out there, look into it, but and some women stay on, I had one woman stay on, said never got postpartum but I asked because I had done my anecdotal research, and I was like, yes, come on now, a touch? Like something because I never went off my antidepressants in the first place. But for me, at five weeks I decided to go on a pediatric dose of Lexapro, because five weeks is different than five days, he’s more like, virile like he can live. He can survive, he can get a little sleepy and it’s going to be okay. He’s getting his nutrition, he’s getting his sleep, he’s good. That lift was so immediate that now I was like, ‘oh okay, that’s what that was’, and I feel that way now with, if I forget to like take my pill or something, or I’m a little extra slammed by life, that I react, I’m such a sensitive reactor like a day of being, getting up on that medication. I go, ‘oh for god’s sake, that was just biochemical, that wasn’t that I’m a bad mother. That wasn’t that I don’t know how to do this’—
Paul: That breaks my heart to think there would be women going through that and thinking that it’s there fault—
Beth: Oh yeah, like I don’t love my son, or something, or maybe I’m just not comfortable being a mother or I don’t know what to do, or of course you don’t know what to do, because you’ve had this like, little life put in your hands, and it’s terrifying, and it’s a big learning curve. And it is heartbreaking that I think women, well I mean and there’s very serious, we get all on these women, like Susan Smith whose husband kept making her have kids and wouldn’t let her have antidepressants, and then she killed them all, because that’s like postpartum psychosis—
Paul: Oh I didn’t know that he didn’t let her go on antidepressants. So, you had been on antidepressants before—
Beth: And was off for the pregnancy—
Paul: And was off for the pregnancy, did you get off them just for the pregnancy? So, is it fair to say that is might not have been postpartum depression, it was just untreated depression?
Beth: Well, except for that I was on bedrest for part of the pregnancy and I was depressed, I was bummed. That sucked, I was a little blue. I was a little down, but it never had I felt what I felt postpartum, and never had I felt such a wild shift, this is why I say I know it’s postpartum, because it went above and beyond what I’d ever felt before with the seasonal affective stuff, the like, I’ve been on and off. Oh I got kind of beat up by my career, and I’ve had some loss, so let me just look into going on something. Not that I believe in playing around with drugs, but I just, if something, like Wellbutrin I had, but it kind of hurt my libido, so that kind of stuff.
Paul: Did you feel rage, because I got an email from a woman who experienced postpartum depression and she said everybody always talks about the feelings of sadness and this, and she said that I get this feeling like I want to gut my husband.
Beth: I have that feeling sometimes, I don’t think it has anything to do with postpartum, no I can go really, I do it to a much less, the more I feel like the more I kind of grow up, the much less I do it, but that used to be kind of a drug for me, that blinding, like that reptilian brain leaping into rage, and I’m like a cricket, I’m going to chase you with a knife, and really just my husband, and like my sister, it’s just those, I’ve never done it to my kid. I would say we had bad fights, but I would say it was more, but it’s different for everyone, and that’s why I’m, there’s such a, it’s all normal right? Like sex, it’s all normal and let’s give ourselves a break, and if it is biochemical, let’s try to get help, or regardless let’s try to get help in some way, like let’s get as much help as we can. My husband and I did a lot of like, I have not slept for two days, like, you were out for five hours, it went tit for tat which doesn’t help, like you’re not guilting someone into like helping you out—
Paul: You think that the answer is to win the argument—
Beth: To win the challenge of the who's had it worse, and it doesn’t work. So we finally like, a year, two years in maybe, realized oh shit, if this is going to work, we’re going to have to be a team, and I see some marriages they just do this, where they’re like, you’re struggling with those suitcases, let me help you. And we do more of that now, let me give you a break, because that’s going to benefit me. And I actually, I’m a big believer in that, but it doesn’t come super naturally to—
Paul: No, and especially if you’re depressed because my years of being untreated with my depression, I couldn’t for the life of me, you could tell me, ‘Paul this is what you need to do to be a better husband’, and I would be physically, mentally and emotionally unable to do it, because if you don’t have those good vibes to give to motor across the room and think about somebody else, it’s just—
Beth: That’s why I’m a big fan of talking about postpartum. That’s why I’m a big fan of talking about depression period. And that’s why I’m also a big fan of like, get help, women out there. Get help with as much as you can, with like farm it out, with like whatever you can that’s exhausting you, and you hate your husband. Get help, get support, I mean I know that’s easier said than done, people don’t have the luxury that I do of like being able to hire help like right now my kid’s with a babysitter, you know, but there is certainly, I think women also do feel like there’s a lot of, oh my god, I have to do more, I’m not doing enough, I need to, oh the fucking house, and, it becomes overwhelming—
Paul: I can’t imagine—
Beth: And then yeah, then you would start to resent the hell out of your husband, you do. It’s very natural, it’s very common. And that’s why some people say, like foreplay starts with the dishes.
Paul: It’s been my experience, that the first stage of getting help is finding out, talking about what’s going on inside you, even though you don’t know what’s going on inside you, you’re just flapping your lips in front of a professional, then you can find out what you’re feeling, and then once you find out what you’re feeling, if you have a partner, the next phase is learning how to express those feelings to the person in a way that doesn’t put them on the defensive. That brings you together rather than forces you apart—
Beth: That’s a big one. It took so many years for me to learn that coming at my husband with an attack of ‘you don’t, I don’t feel loved enough’, that wasn’t going to win me anything. That was not going to get me what I want, and it took me years, and I still fall into it, quite easily, it’s like the definition of insanity right? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result—
Paul: And I think it’s fear of vulnerability. Fear of just saying here’s what I’m feeling, I’m sad, I feel overwhelmed, I feel like I’m not enough, it’s so much easier to go, ‘what the fuck, why do I have to go get this’—
Beth: I don’t know what it is, but that rage, but it’s just like, I don’t know what it is, but you know, that he can take, it’s one place for me to go and yell where it’s safe? I don’t know—
Paul: Sometimes it just feels good though—
Beth: Well it feels good like a drug feels good. I don’t know what it is, but rage, or that just, it’s just that, I don’t know what it is, that he can take it? There’s one place for me to go and well and it’s safe? I don’t know—
Paul: Sometimes it just feels good though—
Beth: Oh well it feels good like a drug feels good, and then there’s that emotional hangover, and I say that not really having been a drug user, but also like recognizing that pattern in people, that it’s like, whether it’s a drug or a behavior, it feels really great to unleash some rage. The hangover from that is ugly, but what I was going to say too, is that you just, some friends I’ve had where you might suggest that they’re, ‘hey it shouldn’t be this hard, it does feel like you’re struggling’, and they’re, they’re really loathed to, ‘no I don’t, listen, I don’t need’, I mean, it’s really so hard for them to recognize it and certainly god it’s anathema that they would even go to a professional and consider meds, and I just want to say, there’s nothing wrong with it. And I think when you are depressed, you don’t see how depressed you are. And your friends see you struggling, and you just want to say, ‘it doesn’t have to be this hard’.
Paul: It doesn’t, and that’s one of the things, one of the benefits of having friends and somebody who can hopefully give you the truth is to accept that there may be a different perspective on what you’re experiencing than just your own, because that’s the Catch 22 of depression, is—
Beth: Is you’re just in that whole—
Paul: Is it’s telling you you’re not depressed, it’s telling you that life isn’t good because you’re not doing something right—
Beth: Right, and that’s what some friends said to me about postpartum, which again, you know, easily to say than to really, take into my body, but they said, ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, this is not you, this is a coat you’re wearing, this is a wave you can ride, and take you to shore. This is not you’, that helped a little bit. But, there’s still that insane fragility that I had, or whatever, the rage that this lady had, or the violent images that that lady had, or the sleep that none of us could get, or whatever it was, that I felt like for me I felt like went away like that, with this little bit of help from, but then I found interestingly because I heard you talk about in another, in your depression being sort of like not getting out of bed maybe, and that’s so common, so then for a couple of years, I was enjoying being a mom, but I was always really, I’ve always been kind of a sped up, spazzy gal, that I felt very bovine, and like kind of malaise-y, and I was always a little sick, and I could never get enough sleep. Now there’s just a part of parenting that you’re never getting enough sleep, but it lasted for a couple of years, then I was kind of getting into a little mild, and then people get scared by this, ‘oh you’re depressed?’, and then you flip into a little mild mania. It’s called a little hypomania where it’s not—
Paul: Are you sure you’re not thinking of a Def Leppard album?
Beth: It’s not like Jesus is talking to me through the TV, but it was a little like, ‘I’m going to buy a house and fix it up and be my own contractor’, and I did it. And I was like, I got all my energy back, and that was when I was in New York, oh my god, I’m really, ooh, I’m buzzing. But I crashed, and it was all mild enough that, and it’s so like a creative flight right? It’s so how—
Paul: It feels so fucking good—
Beth: It feels so good, oh my god, you don’t want to like medicate that away, but it was interesting to see like, oh that was a long period of kind of just a physical depression almost, that I wouldn’t say that I had really, I was really blue, or I was really had that black hole loneliness that can sometimes creep up on my that I feel is a product of my upbringing, that old darkness. But I felt like, oh that was a really physical, and then I was just real flippant to my old energy, and then there was a crash again, so I was like, oh okay. So what is that? Bipolar two? I don’t know, but I actually am on a kind of like a good med for that, not that I have them too hardcore, but that’s like the right medication for me, so I’m a fan of, it was, it was a process to find, which I’ve heard you say too—
Paul: It is, it’s finding a med that works for you, then dialing in the dosage of it, and then sometimes your body gets used to it, and you have to readjust the dosage of it, that’s been my experience with it, and there’s sometimes when it’s just, it’s just not doing what it does, I’ve been in this funk for about three months now, where that vigor is just not there, and everything, it’s not the effort that it was when my depression was completely untreated, it’s just everything is very dull and nothing really is exciting and laughter just is not—
Beth: That’s sad. So and then the shrink says, a little more?
Paul: Yeah, we fiddle with the dosages, I try to make sure, a lot of times it’s not getting enough exercise or something like that—
Beth: I have to say that there is a truth to that. I started dancing and it’s given me a new lease on life. I used to dance when I was younger, nothing professional, and I have danced, and I’m like, ‘I am so hot’, not hot to anybody else, I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I look in the mirror, and I’m like, ‘I am hot!’, and I had someone say to me, oh it’s so funny, she’s kind of friendly to me, she’s trying to be funny, it wasn’t funny by the way, she’s like, ‘you think you’re so fly, but you’re so white’. And I was like, ‘yeah okay, you’re not going to kill my buzz, because I may be white, but I am hot, and I will dance like I’m fly, and I don’t care what anybody thinks’, and I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been. And I get really high off it, I get really high off it.
Paul: And I think that’s a great note for us to wrap up on, is what, how awesome it is to get to that place where you are, where you’re the one who feels good about yourself, and you’re not trying to run around collecting everybody’s opinion—
Beth: I know, because boy that’ll kill you—
Paul: Because it’s good for five seconds to have somebody—
Beth: But what if it’s not a good enough opinion? It doesn’t last—
Paul: Or it’s a backhanded compliment—
Beth: God forbid it’s fake praise, you know. I mean right, that’s not enough, so it really is an interesting thing. Because lord knows I want everybody’s opinion and I’ll go in, people say if you look yourself up on the internet you deserve what you get, and it’s true. And I think that I, I’ve said this before, but I’ve been burned a few too many times from that, but the good news is at least about dancing, and also kind of about mothering, a few things in my life, nobody is going to tell me, no one can tell me that like I’m, just okay. Or maybe I am just okay, but it doesn’t matter. I think I’m, I think I’m pretty great.
Paul: I do to.
Beth: I don’t mean it in a, god forbid I sound like a fucking, like a horrible egotistical, I just mean in a—
Paul: Accepting of yourself and who you are, that’s what I mean.
Beth: It’s good, because it’s just this nice mothering of myself, finally god finally. The way you love your kid, or the way you want, certainly your spouse, don’t be mean to my child. Don’t be mean to my friend, don’t be mean to my husband or wife, so I finally have tried to stop being mean to myself, and started being like, ‘oh good for you Beth’. So there’s a few places at which I’m mean, not everyplace.
Paul: Well thank you so much for giving me time in your busy day to open up with somebody that you don’t even know, but I really enjoyed this, and I think somebody out there listening, especially a mom who is maybe being too hard on herself, I think they’re going to get something—
Beth: I hope, I hope they don’t go talk about what an asshole I am behind my back. That’s my fear—
Paul: Just don’t go on the internet—
Beth: Don’t go on the internet people, please don’t. God help me. Do they do that on your site? Do they comment?
Paul: There’s a forum—
Beth: About how my voice is annoying? Or how—
Paul: No, you’d be amazed, the comments are 99 percent nice, because we don’t shit on anybody in this podcast, so it’s like the internet vibe is a whole lot sweeter than it would be with typical internet stuff. That being said, let the shitting begin.
Beth: No don’t, please I’m very sensitive, I’m a very sensitive girl, give me the backhander, don’t even give me the backhander. She can insult my dancing and it didn’t bother me, but it did, because I’m still talking about it.
Paul: But it didn’t, it didn’t wipe away how you felt about yourself, and I think that’s what I like about what you said, because I do have moments where I get to that place, and I’m totally okay with who I am, and I just want to get back to that. I don’t hate who I am, I’m far from that, but I want to get to that place where I feel it in my bones, it’s not just intellectual—
Beth: Yeah, it’s a great relief, it’s a great relief. To just accept.
Paul: Well thanks Beth, and you can go to Beth’s website, bethlittleford.com—
Beth: I don’t keep it up, I’m trying to keep up my Facebook page, which is a public page so you can like me on Facebook. And then I try to tweet. Here’s what’s funny about tweeting, the more I don’t tweet, the more followers I get—
Paul: How the fuck do you do that?
Beth: I mean I have some people be like, ‘ah you fucker I found you!’, like they’re fans and they tell people to follow me. You know, I don’t have a grand following, but I almost feel like if I start tweeting too much people might drop away. I don’t want to deal with it frankly I’m going to tweet a little bit—
Paul: Maybe it’s all those high school boys then once—
Beth: What, the ones that were mean to me?—
Paul: No now that once you connect to them on twitter, then they're going stop following you because you’re giving them attention—
Beth: No, it’s all, you know. It’s a, as Rob, my husband says, it’s a vortex of narcissism, so I try not to dip in too much. But the fact is, I try to keep up with the Facebook page to let people know what I’m doing, and I don’t understand how to get into my website. So when I understand how to get in, then I’ll be updating that and telling people what to watch me on.
Paul: Okay, well thank you, thank you for your time. I think the listeners are going to get a lot out of that—
Beth: They’re going to say I’m a spazz, but that’s alright, I accept that. I’m okay with that.
Paul: I think you’re fine. Thanks Beth.
I also want to thank Stig Greve who does the website, for free and he does a great job. You can visit his website if you want to hire him, it’s chromadile.com. There’s a link on our website if you want to go there through that. You can support the show if you care to, a couple of different ways. Financially, you can donate through PayPal, there’s a link on our website, mentalpod.com. You can support it non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating. That helps boost our ranking and that helps bring more people to the show.
And finally I want to recommend a documentary, that I saw, a couple of nights ago, called Encounters at the End of the World. And it’s by Werner Herzog, who is just a, he to me is the definition of an artist, man. Every movie or documentary he does is completely different from the thing he’s does before, but the one thing that they all share in common, is he has this ability to hone in on the pain of being human, that feeling of disconnection. Of being alone of needing to get away from it all. Of overcoming great odds. Of taking on insanely huge projects. And this documentary, focuses on the people that live at the McMurdo scientific station in Antarctica, and there’s so many fascinating interviews in it, and one that I found particularly interesting, was he was interviewing this professor from the University of Hawaii, a physicist who measures these newly discovered subatomic particles, called neutrinos, and this guy was talking about these neutrinos that, I guess, he said they flash this brilliant blue light that lasts like one two hundred and fifty billionth of a second, but he said it is the most brilliant, beautiful blue light you’ve ever seen. And he says, ‘we can measure, these neutrinos, but there’s a quality to them that we can’t capture, it’s like they exist in another realm of the universe’, and he said there’s almost a spiritual component to them, that when you witness them, it hits you in the gut. And the other, which I found very interesting, because I just always feel like there is something out there, in energy that is coursing through my life, and other people’s lives that, we can’t quite grasp, but we have these moments of grace where, where we feel it and we sense it. And it’s so beautiful when those moments happen.
The other thing that this documentary had, this other moment, that just, stuck with me. Is he was interviewing this guy who studies penguins, and this guy was saying that this group of penguins, hang out kind of near the coast, and they’ll get up from lounging around and walk to the water to feed, but sometimes, one or two of them will break off from the pack and they will just walk towards the mountains, away from the water, away from food towards certain death. And he said, ‘we’ve tried intervening in the past. We pick them up, we bring them right back where they were, and they will immediately just start heading towards the mountain again’. So they don’t even try to intervene, and they showed this little penguin, just walking to it’s death. And it made me so sad, and then in another part of the documentary, they were interviewing somebody 70 kilometers away from where that penguin had started, and that same penguin comes walking past them. And the rule there apparently, is when these penguins come by, to not interfere with them, to just observe. And so everybody freezes, and you let this penguin walk past. And watching this penguin with purpose, knowing that it was going the wrong way and walking to it’s death, was so fucking sad. And it, it hit me on a level that I knew went beyond my love of animals. And I know it’s sad that animal is going to die, and the next day that it, the next day I was thinking about it again, and I thought, you know what really makes me sad about that is, I was that penguin. I was trying to treat my depression through getting loaded and isolating and I was heading towards death, and it didn’t matter how many people kind of picked me up and said, ‘you need to get help, you need to do this, something is wrong with you’. Something clicked in me one day, and I realized maybe they were right, and maybe I was heading the wrong direction, and I feel so fucking lucky that somebody was able to get that across to me. So, if you’re out there, and you’re a penguin, you might be heading in the wrong direction. And I’m sure it looks like you’re walking to the sea, but if enough people tell you, you’re walking to the mountains, maybe try turning around and connecting to people. Because it just sounds dramatic, but it might be true, it just might save your life. Maybe you, maybe you need help, I know I did. And, hopefully that wasn’t too long winded. So, if you’re out there and you’re stuck, don’t give up hope, there is help, and thanks for listening.