Episode 170: Christina Pazsitzky
The standup/actress shares about being the only child of parents who fled Communist Hungary, and after their divorce absorbing the brunt of her mothers mental illness (Borderline Personality Disorder). She shares about the emotional scars and how she’s working to heal them. Christina co-hosts the podcast Your Mom’s House with her husband/comedian Tom Segura. PillPack sponsors this show. For your first month free go to Pillpack.com/happyhour.
Episode 170: Christina Pazsitzky
(note this transcription does not include the surveys at the end)
PAUL: Welcome to episode 170 with my guest Chrazine—(laughs) I can’t say her name right—with my guest Christina Pazsitzky. Every time I go to say her name I fuck it up, including the interview itself. This episode is sponsored by PillPack. They are an awesome sponsor. They’re the pharmacy that delivers convenient, pre-sorted meds right to your door. If you have ever been frustrated trying to get a refill at your local pharmacy, you need to check this out. It takes all of the stress out of refilling your meds. You can support our show by just checking out their website: pillpack.com/happyhour. And who knows, it might be the first pharmacy that you actually enjoy using. And the first month is free so how can you beat that. Visit pillpack.com/happyhour.
I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour. Two hours of honesty about all the battles in our heads. From medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas, and sexual dysfunction, to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show’s not meant to be a substitute for professional, mental counseling. I’m not a doctor. It’s not a doctor’s office, although I am a hypochondriac. This is more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. That’s also the twitter name you can follow me at.
I just wanted to share this with you guys: I had such a great day today. Actually yesterday was pretty good too. I told you I’ve been doing neuro-feedback. And we were just about to give up on it. They said, ‘Let me try one more thing on you.’ And after my last visit, I was singing in the car on the way home. I got home and I was like ‘I think I’m gonna go for a run.’ Today I got the opportunity to go speak at Pierce College here in Los Angeles. They showed the screening of the PBS documentary that I was included in, called A New State of Mind. They asked me to speak after the screening for a bunch of students. I was a little bit nervous cause I didn’t know—do I tell them my story? So I decided to tell ten minutes of my story and then I’ll open it up to questions. It went so well. The students were so engaged. They asked such good questions. Whatever it was that was in my soul that wanted to come out, it just flowed out. It was almost like I was standing watching myself and going ‘Yea, that was a great answer!’ Afterwards, I was talking to some of the students one-one-one and I could see that they had been really touched by me sharing the pain and the confusion and struggle and stuff that I’ve been through. And I just felt at such peace with the universe. And then one of the women who organized it came up to me. She said, “We would like you to give our commencement speech on June 10th.” And I was like, ‘Fuck you bitch. I aint your monkey.’ And I threw the mic down and I started breakdancing. And as I was doing the caterpillar I thought, ‘Maybe I over-reacted.’ I took off my beret and I apologized. I said—(laughs) in all seriousness she did ask me that. I was just like, ‘I would love to.’ So I’m looking forward to a couple hundred students checking their watches on June 10th, and going ‘When’s this fucking old guy gonna wrap up so I can go party?’ I thought I’d share that with you guys cause it meant a lot to me and I like to talk about myself.
Let’s get to some surveys. Huh? How about that? Yak-adee-yak. This is from the Struggle in a Sentence survey filled out by a guy who calls himself WishItWereSimple. About his anxiety: “Horrified to take any of my Xanax because I can’t imagine what I’d go through if it didn’t work.” Snapshot from his life: “I spent twelve hours yesterday with a woman I’m currently love-addicted to. I woke this morning to terrible loneliness, anxiety, and depression—missing her and obsessing about her. She has no clue I’m like this and we dated for four months. I’m thinking the only way I can get through the day is to contact a prostitute to see tonight to force my brain to think of another woman. Why does life have to be this way for anyone? I’ve been to treatments and therapists. It’s just a terrible addiction to manage. When I tried to stop my addiction and be a good husband, I’m so bored with life that I become depressed and then turn once again to my love-addiction ways. I’m confused.”—I think it sounds like he’s married and he’s having an affair with this woman, and then he’s seeing prostitutes on the side. That’s pretty serious, man. I would definitely look into a support group for love or sex addiction or both. Or maybe considering going to a—I hear that there is a really great treatment facility called—it’s in Arizona—The Meadows, which is supposed to be a really, really great place for sex and/or love addiction.
Alright. This is from the Body Shame survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself Laz89. What do you like or dislike about your body? “I hate everything about my body. I am fat and feel isolated because I feel like I can’t trust my body. It does amazing things for me every day but I keep punishing it with food and lack of activity. Food runs my life and I binge and purge to get rid of stress and feel in control. I was in the ER this past weekend because of a panic attack, and the next night I binged and purged. I’m afraid I’ve damaged my body because of my eating disorder and that I won’t be able to fully recover.” And then any comments to make the podcast better? “I’d love to hear an interview with a couple who are both struggling with mental illness.” I think that’s a great idea, so if there’s a couple that both are struggling with it, contact me if you’re in the L.A. area. Some other topics that I feel like we could cover more of on the podcast—if you’re in the L.A. area and any of these apply to you, shoot me an email—binge eating I’d like to cover more of; PTSD, especially people returning from service; I’d like to interview some more college-aged people; people with schizophrenia; any struggle related to racial issues; people living with chronic illness or chronic pain; people who’ve been through workplace bullying or harassment; and guys over forty named Phil. Email me at mentalpod.com—no, email@example.com. I was so lost in whether or not that last joke went over—forgot my email address.
This is Struggle in a Sentence filled out by a guy who calls himself LatinPhrase. I hope he’s in L.A. because I would like to—I think he’d be a good guest. About his anxiety: “It’s like drowning without the comfort of death.” About dealing with racial or cultural bias: “Constantly feeling less-than, like this dark skin is just a chip that I will never get off of my shoulder.” Snapshot from his life: “I think the discrimination I’ve faced throughout my life has really just added another aspect to my struggles. My anxiety has me constantly questioning whether or not what someone said to me was because of my race. My anger has me ready to snap on anyone who might belittle or condescend to me. My mind is continuously racing, thinking of scenarios to dismantle the next person who decides to question my intelligence, or use me as the butt of a joke. I’m just always angry and on the edge.” Well, we’re sending you a big hug.
Same survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Guest. About her depression: “Chronic depression. I would be content to stay in bed all day as the world goes on without me.” About her bulimia: “My binge is my time to feel pleasure over the calories I am not supposed to consume, which then turns into an intense guilt, forcing myself to not eat for five days and punishment for my actions before it repeats.” Snapshot from her life: “I had a binge today. Every time I binge, I know I won’t be eating for almost a week after. Before, I get so hungry that I binge again. The cycle repeats itself over and over. I can’t tell if I love food or hate it.” That is profound.
Then these last three Struggle in a Sentence’s I wanted to group together because I think the issue of perfectionism and the paralysis of perfection is at the heart of all of them. This is from a woman who calls herself Fruits. About her anxiety: “Any moment of peace makes me worry that there is something I’m not worrying about.” About OCD: “Why is everyone trying to drive me crazy by not doing things the right way?” About her co-dependency: “Being strong enough to not be addicted to anything, but not strong enough to control my husband’s many addictions.” About her anger issues: “It starts in my stomach. My fingers go numb. It rises to my head. And all composure is lost.” Snapshot from her life: “Eight years old. My mom was leaving my ‘dad’ and had spent a few days with a new guy. She came home to pick me up. We didn’t pack anything: no toys, no baby memorabilia, none of my books, just a few clothes and we were gone. I woke that night to my mom screaming and this new guy beating her ass. I thought we would go back home but it did not happen. Just more beatings for her. I became invisible.”
This next one is from a guy who calls himself Whiska. His depression: “No desire. No strength. No joy. Little willpower.” His anxiety: “The worry rock that keeps me down.” A snapshot from your life: “I’m turning my life around. After working full-time for six years in a career path I don’t enjoy, I’m finally going back to university. But at the first instance of a challenge—be it an assignment or something social, it becomes instantly overwhelming. I get in the car and park somewhere quiet just to be alone and worry myself. But this makes it so much harder, as I should have used this time just to do the damn assignment. Instead of being proactive I become counterproductive. If I didn’t feel like a failure already, I might actually be able not to stress out at the smallest things. I guess it’s awfulsome. I’m changing my life for the better, but I’m too scared to even try.” Sending you a hug, man. Maybe that thing that Guy Winch and I talked about—about consciously going out and doing things imperfectly, making mistakes, just to feel and be reminded that it’s not going to kill you.
And then this last one from Ginger. About her depression: “Like my brain was steamrolled. And every thought, conclusion, decision, and action was stretched out so thin and long that it takes me light years to find the end of it. And when I do, I’ve done it wrong. So I don’t always try.” And about her anxiety: “I do so many things wrong that I’m not even sure if I’m right about what I’m doing wrong.”
PAUL: I’m here with Chrazine—(laughs) Christina Pazsitzky.
CHRISTINA: Good! That was so good. I’m so proud of you.
PG: She is an actress, standup comedian, but more importantly she’s fucking crazy.
CP: Yes. (laughs)
PG: And she’s here. And she had a crazy upbringing. I didn’t even know that you were an actress or standup comedian when somebody recommended you to me. They said, ‘Yea, she grew up with a crazy mom. You should get her on as a guest.’ And so I just tweeted to you and then found out kind of about who you were and stuff like that afterwards.
CP: So you just—your only qualification for this show is like, ‘Did you have a shitty childhood?’
PG: Or, ‘Have you been through something difficult? Are you in something difficult?’ I get people who had pretty normal childhoods that have nothing that they can pinpoint their depression or their emptiness or whatever to.
PG: Yeah, I have a lot of listeners as guests because they’re—the pool of stories you can draw from them is never-ending. And they intimately know the show and the tone.
CP: I love it.
PG: So yeah, and it’s not about comedy or show business. I mean comedy is certainly welcomed.
CP: Initially when you reached out to me I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ There should be a dialogue about mental illness and there isn’t. People are so ashamed of the stuff they go through. Maybe because it’s not a visible wound—like emotional problems, and they’re kind of downplayed or discredited—like people don’t believe you.
PG: And mistaken for weakness or bad attitude.
CP: Correct. Yeah, you should be able to will yourself out of this thing.
PG: Or you’re just an asshole. I feel so much empathy for people that live with borderline personality disorder because the average person just thinks, ‘Oh, what a dick. What a cunt.’ And they don’t realize that the emotions that this person is experiencing are nuclear.
CP: To them, yes. Here’s the thing: okay, so my mother has borderline personality disorder. And I didn’t know that until four years ago when I started psychotherapy. I just thought that my childhood was like everybody else’s. And everybody’s mom loves them, hates them, kicks them out, pulls them back in. I just thought everybody spent their childhood hiding in their bedroom listening to the Fox in the Hound record, over and over to avoid their mom. Honestly, part of me—I’m a little afraid to share because there’s shame. I feel guilty for hating my mom. And how do I come onto a fucking podcast and go, ‘Hey, I don’t really like my mom.’ Guess what? I don’t like her. Fuck her. I don’t want her in my life.
PG: I cut my mom out of my life two years ago.
CP: You did?
PG: And it’s been the greatest vacation I’ve ever had. It’s not feeling the dread when I see her number come up. Not feeling drained. It’s like a vampire-like thing. It’s exactly what you describe: bring you in with praise and then stick the knife in.
CP: Is your mom borderline as well?
PG: You know, she certainly has the traits of it. But I don’t know. I don’t know. And ultimately, I think the label isn’t as important as our feelings about them. But it’s a great shorthand to have—to be able to say, ‘You know, my mom had borderline personality disorder.’ Cause then to the person you’re sharing it with, they immediately go, ‘Oh ok. I have an idea.’
CP: I was an only child up until my mother remarried to a sociopathic criminal when I was twelve (laughs). They met from a single’s ad in the newspaper in 1991. He sent her a photograph of himself in an Armani suit, a cellphone next to his Mercedes. And a month later, they were married and I had an instant family—
PG: And a Mercedes.
CP: And a Mercedes, which is really worth it when you think about it. I mean, yeah, he’s a sociopath. Yes, our lawn was set on fire. But I got a lot of nice stuff out of it.
PG: And you got to see him use that gigantic, brick cellphone from 1991.
CP: Yes! That’s exactly the picture.
PG: The Pretty Woman cellphone.
CP: With the box, the huge brick—yes. So that was neat.
PG: I believe you carried those around in a coffin. I think that was the carrying case for it.
CP: (laughs) Right, so I grew up with these three stepsisters later. And even now when I go, ‘Hey, you know my mom, like the reason she divided us and split us into good and evil and this and that—it’s cause she's crazy.’ And a lot of them don't validate my experience of it. Like they're still in the cycle of, 'This is normal for everybody right? Like everybody throws plates of food. Everybody experiences the awful shit we did.' Anyway, it's invalidating on a lot of levels, I think.
PG: It's so invalidating. And even if it's just the absence of them giving you the boiler plate stuff that you need as a kid, that will fuck you up. But then on top of it, the abuse and the gas lighting. I think that's the most difficult.
CP: Oh man, let's talk about—yeah, the gas lighting. The crazy making part—I mean, I'm assuming everyone knows what that is in your audience, like we don't have to—
PG: Yeah the reference is from a movie where the manipulative person would keep changing the level of the gas light—the lamp—and saying that they hadn't, so the other person began to think that they were crazy, that they were imagining it.
CP: Right, and that's the experience of growing up with a mother that is a borderline—is that you don't know, what the fuck, like I don't know if I’m right, if I'm wrong. I don't know if I'm loved, if I'm not loved. I don't know. You just don't know anything. And so you grow up with this weird lack of an inner core—which now I'm discovering who I am through the process of stand up and aggressive psychotherapy in the last four years. And if anyone—you know what show I love watching? It’s The Sopranos. And I was like, 'Why am I so drawn to this?'—
PG: The mother.
CP: The mom, yeah, and the darkness. And my parents came from Hungary. They escaped from communism in 1969. They escaped on foot. They were twenty years old and they escaped to Italy where they lived in a camp for a year. You know, they grew up poor. They grew up in—there's World War I. There's World War II. The Russians come and destroy Hungary. There's just this poverty and oppression. They move to Canada. My mother doesn't want children. My father is desperate for a child. Against her will she has me. I ruined her body because she wanted to be a Vegas showgirl. I have dashed her dreams of that.
PG: Oh my god.
CP: Yeah. So like, my parents both came from just trauma backgrounds. And I get that. And I get that intellectually. My dad’s way more functional than my mother, thank god. So I had him as a beacon of what's normal. But my mom, dude—
PG: That probably saved you.
CP: Most definitely. And some American girlfriends that my dad had. Like he dated this Albertson's checkout girl, who's like the most normal, American lady—just to have touchstones of the culture that I lived in. Cause I felt like an alien. I’m an alien from another country. And I'm an alien because what's going on at home I know isn't right. But I'm an only child at the time. And I can't go to school. I knew I couldn't tell the teachers cause I knew that if I did something bad would happen. Like I just knew. anyway, as we know, borderlines they don't—the fear, the essential fear is that 'I will be rejected.' Right, which is why they—they're like porcupines. You wanna put your arms around them and hug them but ‘Ow it hurts’ ‘ause they're deflecting you, whatever. My mother divorces my dad at age four, once we move here to the valley. And now my life gets fuh-cocked up. She threatens to keep me away from him. And then my life with her alone begins cause she gets custody. Cause it's 1980 and moms get custody of their children. And I’ve never really talked about the details of growing up with her cause it’s still—like I cried this morning, preparing. I had to go write notes about what had happened. Cause I blocked it out. And I was in the shower this morning like, ‘I never had a mother!’ (laughs) I cry from time to time over not having—
PG: It hurts. It fucking hurts. You know, when the person who is supposed to be your protector is your abuser, it doesn’t get deeper than that. How is the world not terrifying when that’s your template? It’s like, imagine people that aren’t supposed to like me—how they gonna treat me? It’s so hard to be vulnerable and intimate and trust them. Cause you’re like, ‘What’s their angle? How are they gonna stick the shiv in?’
CP: Well, and then on top of that, to be a stand-up comedian. And to translate that into your gig, where it’s all about approval, disapproval, do they love me, do they hate me. And then they have managers and agents who might resemble people who are their mother—oh it’s sticky!
PG: I remember one time I was upset that my manager didn’t call me on my birthday. And my wife went, ‘He’s not your dad. Fucking let it go. Quit confusing your issues. That’s a business’— you know. And I was pissed at her. But after like a couple hours I knew she was right.
CP: And it is that. And then you go through life going, ‘Oh these are just triggers that this person’—and I even feel weird calling this person my mom. When I say ‘mom’ I don’t want to use her real name in this interview. I never had it. I never had it.
PG: Could you call her the vaj you walked out of?
CP: (laughs) Yeah, I’ll say that. She had a cesarian. My father claimed she wouldn’t open up enough.
PG: So you popped out like a birthday cake!
CP: I did. (laughs) So yeah, where do we begin? God damn.
PG: Well, let’s start with your earliest memories.
CP: Oh ok. Well, my earliest memory—this is horrific too—my first memory is of my father sitting me down on our counter—here in the valley, when we first moved here—and telling me that he’s leaving. That’s literally my first memory from childhood, the first cogent memory that I had.
PG: What do you remember thinking or feeling?
CP: So confused. I didn’t understand as a child—
PG: Did you think it was your fault?
CP: No, interesting I didn’t.
PG: Wow, that’s rare.
CP: Yeah, I didn’t blame myself. I kind of intuitively knew she was the cause. I knew it cause I had a love-repulsion thing with Mom. I imagine you might have too, where you’re like ‘I’m so confused. Do I love you, hate you?’ all the time, my—
PG: Well, the thing that was difficult was her actions didn’t match her words. She would praise me and praise me—and sometimes cut me down. But the actions were always confusing.
CP: Yes, always confusing. Yeah, I was always validated for being pretty or not pretty enough. She wanted me to be an actor so I was in acting class from the time I was like four, five. She wanted me to be the Vegas showgirl that she wanted to become. But isn’t it neat how I took up the torch of becoming a showgirl. Oh, they win!
PG: Well, plus the thing that’s so difficult is the love is conditional. If you can come over to their side and their point of view, it’s love, love, love. But if you disagreed with my mom she would not let it go. Even when it would come to a memory that I had. In my twenties, something that actually happened to me that she wasn’t even there for, she kept saying ‘No, it didn’t happen.’ It was innocuous. It was having fillings replaced in my mouth. And she was like ‘You didn’t have your fillings replaced.’ And I was like ‘No, I was there. I remember it.’ And she’s like, ‘No you didn’t.’ She wouldn’t let it go and there was like a hostility to it that—
CP: Sorry, that’s my dog. He’s rolling around. He’s just mashing his face in your carpet.
PG: What’s his name?
CP: Theo Huxtable. I had to bring him in, I’m sorry.
PG: That’s not a problem. Actually I recorded an episode a little while ago and when I was doing the outro to it, my little dog Herbert was taking exception apparently to what I was saying, and was letting it be known.
CP: (laughs) Not interested.
PG: Yeah, but anyways. So yeah, that’s the thing that is so difficult: is the conditional love. Then it’s like, my happiness depends on you accepting me. So it makes perfect sense to me that you’d become a stand-up comedian.
CP: I hate it. And it’s very fucked now that I understand that dynamic, and how do I continue to doing stand up in the light of knowing my history cause it triggers every trigger—
PG: And how do you shake off a bad show? Cause that means that you’re worthless.
CP: Oh, well, right. Well, and that thing that you’re talking about: the invalidation. My mother took it to the extreme of—I got kicked out about once a month.
PG: Starting at what age?
CP: Oh, from the time my folks divorced. So like, four, five.
PG: What? Get kicked out to where?
CP: Yeah, exactly. So my mother had custody of me. And so things like ‘You have too many socks.’ What do you mean? ‘You’re stealing your father’s socks. You have too many socks. Let’s count these socks.’ And she would count the pairs of socks. Yeah, I had taken from my dad cause I’m a kid, I don’t care. I liked his socks. And that was grounds to kick me out of her home. We just lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment in Torzana. And I never forget the very first time she kicked me out. I was in second grade and she was yelling at me all morning about the socks, and the socks. And then drops me off. It was a Thursday morning cause we had church that morning. I went to a religious school. And I remember thinking ‘Oh I’m late for church.’ Church was the one place that felt okay. I loved Jesus as a small child. I loved the idea of a god watching over me cause I knew that it wasn’t cool at home.
PG: And somebody who you’re told loves you unconditionally.
CP: Right, oh isn’t that interesting? Yeah. So I remember her pulling into the parking lot, in this little Toyota Tercel and saying, ‘That’s it. You’re kicked out. I’m kicking you out of the house. You’re going to live with your father. Go live with your father.’ And I was just bereft as a second grader, just bawling, bawling, bawling. And I went to the church where everyone was already—and I knew instinctually to cover that up. I knew that if I told the teacher that something—I just knew. And thus began the process of like having feelings, sucking it up, and going to perform. Like that’s the beginning of my career as a performer. But then anyways, so I go live with my dad cause she would kick me out for whatever stupid reason. And his house was better—oh my god I almost knocked out my teeth out again—his house—
PG: She has veneers that she said are threatening to pop off. They popped out this morning. I hope while you were crying in the shower was when they popped out.
CP: (laughs) That would be the best! I totally wouldn’t have any front teeth!
PG: Clunk clunk.
CP: I have like two nubbins right now for real front teeth. So I go to my pop’s house and my dad was doing the best he could, you know, an immigrant. But that house wasn’t exactly stable really in all terms either. So I’d call my mom to apologize which is what you’d have to do. I clearly have done something wrong, right? ‘I’m sorry.’
PG: You can’t call them on their behavior. Cause that’s like—
CP: They don’t do anything wrong.
PG: It’s a brick wall.
CP: You’re the one. So I call her and she wouldn’t pick up my phone calls. So it was two weeks of leaving messages on your mother’s answering machine.
PG: And you’re in second grade. That breaks my heart. That breaks my heart. I mean the stuff that I shared with you about my mom, I want to retract it all.
CP: Oh, no.
PG: Because it just feels like, that’s not even in the same fucking league with what you’re dealing with.
CP: You think so? Cause I listened to something you said and I was like, I wanted to cry. Or I listened to Ryan Sickler’s episode that he did. And I literally was in the dentist’s chair with tears streaming down my face cause something. I guess when you’re in it—the weird part is that it’s bad but it’s not that bad. You can tolerate so much as a kid. You can tolerate so much as a human.
PG: And maybe because when you hear the other person describe it, you’re hearing the greatest hits of the abuse. And you’re not hearing the good moments. Cause I don’t know about you but there were good moments with my mom. There were some moments where I felt like this person loves me. And that’s one of the things that makes it so difficult to trust my own instincts or my own—I forget what the word is. But it sounds like there was just nothing good with you and your mom from that reaction you just had.
CP: Well, yeah and I try, like I actively try. I’m in psychotherapy and I’ve been going once a week for four years. And it’s just completely changed my life. It’s been the greatest thing. And I try now to actively go back cause I was angry for a long time. I fucking hated her. And now I’m turning the corner where I’m like ‘Alright, I forgive.’ And I understand that it really wasn’t her fault. She’s not there. It’s like expecting my dog Theo to give me something that he’s just not—he can’t cook for me. (laughs) But yeah dude I mean—
PG: He can lay a steaming turd which in desperate situations can be thought of as a meal.
CP: (laughs) But I forgive her and I—oh sorry, the few good moments, there a few good memories I have. One time we made brownies together. And that was fun (laughs). I wrote them down. Here we go.
PG: (laughs) Cause that’s one of the things that I want to know about relationships between a person and an abuser. Because that’s the things that makes it so easy to minimize it: is to go ‘But what about those good things? What about those good things?’ And it’s so hard to hold those two experiences at the same time and say, ‘This was a complicated person.’ But, yeah, go ahead.
CP: Yeah, well I ‘m trying to. I’m actively trying to.
PG: You got the brownies.
CP: Yeah, the brownies were neat that one time. We made instant brownies. And then the only time my mother was calm and happy and in a good place was when Love Connection came on. 7pm and there’s two episodes. So I was like, ‘Oh good.’ The magic hour in our apartment was 7 to 8pm when Chuck Woolery would do Love Connection. And my mother and I would lay side to—like we would spoon on the couch. And she was so into Chuck Woolery and love. And the irony is that my mother loved love. She wanted that. We’d watch the Love Boat and we would watch Love Connection. And those were the hours that I felt complete and safe and whole, is when she and I would watch television together. And I know that she desperately wanted self-help. We had every self-help book. The irony is that every self-help book on her shelves, like she had Barbara De Angelis: How to Make Love All the Time and I’m Okay, You’re Okay and Dr. Wayne Dyer. I grew up, I read all this. She made me read all this stuff.
PG: So it sounds like she had a degree, a shred of self-awareness where she like knew it wasn’t okay to kick a second grader out.
CP: I think so.
PG: Well, you know people that live with borderline personality disorder, their emotional outbursts are like, it’s like trying to control a raging fire from what I understand. And so she must’ve lived with so much guilt and shame, or certainly moments of it.
CP: Yes, and here’s the thing too is that—yes I imagine that too. And the one thing that saved me is that she worked for a psychiatrist, another irony amongst—right. And this man was wonderful and he helped me a lot and I could go to him. I think he knew that something was up.
PG: Oh, how could he not?
CP: Yeah, but the shame part, and my mother didn’t want to admit that maybe she wasn’t a perfect mom. That was a huge part of it. So what happened with me, this whole childhood of push, pull, you’re out, you’re in, you suck, you’re amazing, comes to a head. Like I turn twelve years old and I have this nervous breakdown because I’m all alone with her too. Keep in mind I’m an only fucking child, dude. It’s me and her so I have no mirror. I have no one to go, ‘Yeah, she is—this is nutty.’ I just go into my room and I play records like I said and hide. I spent most of my childhood hiding in a bedroom.
PG: What did you think when you watched Mommie Dearest and the kid’s name is Christina?
CP: Yeah, I know. And the irony is I just watched that movie like a month ago with my husband. And I was like, ‘Dude, wait a minute. This isn’t this far off.’
PG: What did it bring up in you when you were watching it?
CP: I got it. I was like that’s a lot of my—if my mother were an actress, which is what she wanted to be, that was her. And I—that Christina-thing of ‘Smile! Everything’s great. We’re doing this right. You look amazing. Everything’s perfect.’ By the time I hit twelve the shit hit the fan cause I had become suicidal, depressed. I was cutting. I was—I hated school cause I was getting into fights with people. It was a nightmare for me cause I thought I was crazy. That’s the problem with that gas-lighting stuff is that you start to think it’s your—you are, clearly I’m a bad person because—
PG: You don’t trust your integrity. That was the word that I was looking for that my therapist told me, she said, ‘You don’t trust your own integrity.’
CP: And I struggle—I’m getting much better at that now. Where I go, ‘Oh, I’m allowed to feel mad at my agent right now. I’m allowed to feel like I need a boundary here, okay.’ But yeah dude. So I get crazy. I turn twelve. And I freak out and I try to kill myself in the school bathroom stall. I was cutting myself and I was like, ‘I’m just gonna fucking finish this off.’
PG: Go all the way.
CP: Yeah, and I—it’s been in a spiral for like a year. Actually I was fourteen by the time I tried to do that. And I’m just, ‘This is it. I gotta go. Cause like I don’t know what’s wrong. Something’s wrong. And it’s me. It’s gotta be me.’ And I remember I—the school called her, cause they found me in this bathroom stall just covered in blood. You know, I was a very dramatic fourteen year old girl acting out.
PG: That is dramatic. That’s not a fourteen year old girl being overly-dramatic. You know, cause her boyfriend broke up with her. And I don’t believe any fourteen year old girl that cuts is being overly dramatic. They are—
CP: Ooh, it’s in it. Yeah, you’re in it.
PG: You’re in it. And people that say that they do that for attention, I want to punch them.
CP: I agree. I think to hurt, to harm yourself—and I look at fourteen year old girls now and they’re babies. I was a baby and I was smoking cigarettes, dropping acid. I was in Hollywood every weekend. I was doing bad shit. Why was I running the streets at fourteen? And it’s cause my mother was remarried to this new guy, new family. ‘Oh fuck her, my daughter’s out—she’s not behaving the way I want her to behave anyway. Get the fuck out of here.’ The worst part of is it like I remember being in such depths of despair. I was like, ‘I want to die.’ And they found me at school. They call my mother and she comes to the school. This is my favorite part: she sees my arms, she sees the state that I’m in and proceeds to beat the shit out of me and hit me.
PG: Oh my god. It really was all about her. It really was.
CP: Yes. that’s the pain of it, is I go, ‘Motherfucker, what do I have to do here?’ And I said to her before, I said to her countless times, ‘I need help. You gotta send me to the mental hospital.’ Cause I had friends that were in mental hospitals. And it sounded pretty great. You get to make bracelets and go to group therapy.
PG: And you get to collapse.
CP: Right, right. Wow.
PG: You get to collapse where nobody is gonna judge you. You’re expected to collapse in a mental hospital. I fantasize sometimes about going into a mental hospital and just being in bed. Like going—
CP: Me too, still (laughs).
PG: Like, going into regular hospitals I’ve always—not only do I not dread it, I kind of enjoy it. My favorite moment is right before they put you under. Cause you know a sweet nurse, nurses just have that comforting, motherly vibe to them, and they put the warm blanket on you. And then they shoot you up with valium. It’s like that’s what I wanted to feel my whole life: to feel warm and fuzzy and cared for. So I totally get the wanting to go to a mental hospital. You know, we have a survey on the website where people share their experiences in mental hospitals and many, many, many of them are anything but warm and fuzzy.
CP: Yeah my best friend Jenny who just came on this podcast that I’m starting to talk about—she grew up in mental hospital—actually from age thirteen to eighteen. She was in a series of them. I get that it’s no salvation—
PG: She was in mental home or a mental hospital?
CP: She was in mental hospitals. I guess her mother put her in very—she and I were best friends at the time. And the decision for her was to go into mental hospitals. And the decision for me—my mother decided rather than shame herself and admit to being a shit mother, maybe, right? Or being incapable—she decided the best thing for me was to Catholic school.
PG: (laughs) Your life is delicious. It’s like the darkest chocolate truffle.
CP: You think so? I’m so pleased.
PG: For this show, for this show. It is like a handmade, Swiss chocolate wrapped in a ribbon, given to me, the host.
CP: Can I tell you that coming from someone who only listens to horrible stories, that’s really wonderful. Thank you. Really? God damn it. I’m so used to it. Oh, good.
PG: Oh, Christina. My heart breaks. Because you’re now realizing that it wasn’t you just makes me want to slow clap you. It makes me want to slow clap you in a good way, in a good way. Like I just want to hug you.
CP: Oh, you’re so sweet. Thanks.
PG: I just want to hug you.
CP: I’ll take hugs, yeah.
PG: And I think the listeners right now are—feel the exact same way. Like, your spirit is just fucking beautiful.
CP: I’m so embarrassed. And I get so embarrassed by positive feedback, just so you know. I get really—thanks, thank you for saying that. And here’s the thing about me that I knew at a really early age. When I was four—that was the last time I remember being a child. Like I think four years old was the last time I was a kid. And then I grew up into an adult by the time I was like six. I think I had lost whatever light. But the person I really am is the person I was at four. You know what I mean? Not the suffering, not the bullshit. And if anybody is listening to this and they are tortured by the shit they went through. Know that that’s not you. That’s the physical body; that’s your ego; that’s what happened to something at a stage in your life; that’s not truly who you are. I think I just got out of survival mode like this year, where I wasn’t always panicked. I don’t wake up anymore with that like, ‘Oh what am I going to do to survive? I gotta make money.’ Like that functioning anxiety, right? That running game.
PG: I was just saying yesterday to someone, ‘When the sun rises, I have a personal grudge against it. Like, really? We have to do this again?’
CP: (laughs) Oh, I remember that one.
PG: ‘How dare you.’
CP: Yeah, and also cause we live longer. I was just saying this to someone, like ‘I’m thirty-seven now. I should be dead right in the medieval period. Like I’d just be long dead.’ And you think, ‘Fuck, I gotta do this for like another hopefully another thirty-seven.’ And some days are just like, ‘Why do I do this again? Why am I telling shit jokes to people in Ohio who sometimes don’t give a fuck? Or why am I—why do I do the things I do?’ And I don’t know. I don’t know. And the answer is some days are great and some days aren’t great, right? But, here we go, on the upside of everything those nuns, because I had such a strong foundation in Jesus and I loved all that stuff, the nuns ironically saved my—I say ironically, it’s not ironic at all—they saved my life.
PG: There’s some awesome, fucking nuns out there.
CP: Yeah, yeah there are and I know a lot of people had different experiences. But the school I went to was all girls and we wore uniforms. And I’m blessed enough that my parents had the money to send me somewhere like that. Like that was the blessing. Like I could put my bag down and it wouldn’t get stolen. And that was huge for me. And I did feel safe. And I made great friends. I mean I had problems. I had a Mohawk. I had an orange Mohawk when I was put in that school. And I was seen as the troubled—which I was. I had straight D’s when I applied to this school. I had straight D’s and one fail. And I begged. My mother and I went to this principal nun and cried and begged them to let me into this school. Cause I was, I was on the edge of either failure or something else.
PG: And you were fourteen at that time?
CP: Yeah, ninth grade.
PG: What in your mind was the school going to give you? That you wanted in?
CP: Just the sanctuary. I mean I went to public school. I went to private school. My mother, in sixth grade, decided to pull me out of this nice Christian school because ‘I needed to learn about real life.’ My life was too easy according to my mother and she wanted to ‘toughen me up.’ So she sends me to the school of Core pore tola (sp?), which is actually here in the valley. And at the time they were bussing in kids from like rougher neighborhoods. And on the outside I look like a lot of girls. Like I’m a blonde and I imagine I look like a pretty spoiled kid. But I wasn’t that person. I don’t know. And I was also very angry and I did pick a lot of fights with people. I hated school. So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna stop going. I just fucking, I hate it.’ So I just wanted a place where I didn’t worry about getting my ass kicked every day, and like not having to be goth. Cause I was goth too and like I—it was nice to have to not have to be super gothic. Cause like you know when you’re a kid you identify with that culture. Like, ‘Oh is my shirt cool enough today? Am I cool enough today?’
PG: Plus, I would imagine too there was something alluring about the structure—
CP: Oh god yes—
PG: Coming from such chaos it’s like, ‘Ok, there’s an order to what they have in store for me.’
CP: Yeah and I wanted to go to boarding school. I begged for that one. They found one in Germany. It was too expensive. I was like, ‘Yeah send me to fucking Germany.’ As far away from this, you know—I couldn’t wait to get out. I just had to get the fuck out. Did you move out earlier? Cause I turned seventeen and I was like—
PG: No no. I didn’t even realize that anything was wrong until I went into therapy at twenty-five and my therapist pointed out that it was inappropriate for my mom to be grabbing my ass and telling me how cute I was.
CP: Oh! Now to me that’s, to me hearing that is the ultimate confu— cause that’s mommy. That’s so sexually caught—like how do you? How do you—
PG: When it’s been done to you your whole life you don’t—first of all you kind of shut down because you go, ‘I don’t enjoy this but I’m so used to things being on my mom’s terms and she’s so fragile and unhappy. This makes her happy. So I’m gonna let her.’ I didn’t even know what my needs were. So that was the first awakening that I didn’t have a sense of what my needs were, other than bringing myself pleasure. You know, getting loaded, you know, sleeping around.
CP: Needs? Like emotional needs, I didn’t have those either until in my thirties, yeah.
PG: But that was the first that I realized something might not be as rosy as I thought I was. Cause you had asked me at twenty four what—actually I think I went to therapy at like twenty three. Anyway it doesn’t matter. If you’d asked me before then, ‘What was your family life like?’ I’d say ‘It’s awesome. I’m super, super privileged.’ My parents—on paper, it was. They paid for my college. You know, they helped me financially when I needed it. But as you know there is a difference between what our functional day to day lives are given, and what our soul is given. And I think if you come from abuse you learn to shut down your soul, and not listen to it, and not trust your integrity or your experience. And so then you just think, ‘Oh well I’m sad and angry because that’s just who I am.’ And you’re not that four year old girl who was sweet and hopeful—
CP: And joyful. My core is actually quite joyful. And I know that that ‘s not hip to say as a comedian. But I really do—like I have so much empathy for people who suffer and I get it. Cause like maybe that’s a function of having gone through so much shit, is that you like either you try not to judge people—even like the sour face person at a show. Like never judge them just cause they’re not laughing at you at a show. You don’t know what the fuck happened to them before they stepped into your showroom.
PG: You don’t, you don’t. And I think that’s why I’m so touched by you and your story. It’s your spirit. You do have a hopefulness and a sense of humor about it that to me, I never get tired of hearing. It just reminds me that our abuse and our story is not the entirety of our lives. It’s a portion of it.
CP: Yes and also like, I mean you seem to be pretty functional and happy too and have grown past, obviously because you can talk about this stuff. Yeah and also understanding that my past will not define me. Don’t you dare rob me of my happiness going forward. And that’s like, I think that’s why I wanted to do this show cause just complaining about my mom, and a part of me, I was worried. Like I don’t want to come off as that person that’s like, ‘I’m a victim.’ And I actively choose not to, I choose not to identify that way because it’s fucking lame. You know there’s a point where you go like, ‘Alright this did happen. Now it’s my responsibility as an adult to go forward.’ And I want to have kids.
PG: And that’s such a great point, is once we do realize what had happened to us, it’s then our responsibility, which seems like it sucks but it’s the truth. We have a responsibility to our loved ones and to ourselves to say, ‘Okay, what am I gonna do to process this.’ And you know I always say that hopefully we don’t reexamine our childhoods to make our parents suffer. We do it so we can process the feelings we’ve been running from so we can stop suffering.
CP: Absolutely, I agree with that. And also it’s funny cause my dad—like I love him and we’re very close. And I’m very lucky, all you need is one good parent. I think Ryan Sickler said that too. He’s like, ‘You just need one.’ And I agree. You’re lucky to have two, great. You get one person in your family that you can tolerate, like oh my god. And so my father, you know, we had our shit growing up too. But like, the fact that he’s lucid enough to say, ‘You know what, I’m sorry. I may have fucked up when you were a kid here. I may have not done the right thing.’ I forgive. And I’m like, ‘You know what, you’re right. I still love you.’ But the fact that my mother will never have the ability to say, ‘Hey I’m sorry. I think I may have messed up here.’ That’s the fucker of this, is that I can’t get that closure of, ‘Hey, you know you’re crazy right? You know there’s a reason I don’t talk to you. And it’s not cause I’m an asshole and everyone else is a jerk in the family.’ She thinks everyone in the family ignores her cause we’re all jerks. And I’ve tried to tell her, like, ‘Did you really—you not see the commonality, the thread here? Ok, alright.’ And I’ll never get that. That’s what kills me. I’ll never get validation of that. And she’s gonna die physically one day, which is okay. I’m okay with that because she’s dead in my heart. She’s dead to me already. So the physical death—and I hate to, this is even awful-ler—
PG: I know what you’re gonna say—
CP: It’s a relief!
PG: A relief. I had a moment when—the last time I stayed with my mom was like three years ago. And she was gas-lighting me and, you know, just pushing and pulling and she wanted to wake up one morning and she wanted to read like spiritual passages from a book. And this was like ten minutes after her invalidating and poking at me. And I said to her, ‘Mom, I know you want to be closer to me but I don’t feel safe around you.’ And it got no reaction. It was almost like she was looking right through me. And then the next morning I woke up before she did. And I walked past her bedroom door and she was asleep. And my first thought was, ‘I hope she never wakes up.’ And then I felt like a terrible person. But then I’d been in enough recovery to go, ‘That’s not on me. Those are my feelings. My feelings are fucking valid.’ They may not be based in reality—I think they were in that situation—but I need to give credence to them, at least to examine them and go, ‘Am I filtering my fear through something or is this reality?’ And that was reality.
CP: Yeah. Don’t you wish we could like talk this every day, all day? It’d be so much better.
PG: You know what, I gotta say being in my support groups, I do.
CP: Oh, maybe I should join support. Cause I listen to Hay House Radio a lot. I don’t know if you even know what that is. Louise Hay and Marianne Williamson, like all this self-help—
PG: Ok. Touchy-feely.
CP: God I love it. Yeah, it’s really helped me. Yeah but it’d be nice to do this, not just an hour in therapy. I should do that yeah. I’m sure there’s borderline group somewhere right?
PG: There are support groups out there for children who were raised by dysfunctional parents.
CP: Oh yeah, my mom dragged me to—I remember my mother dragged me to codependence anonymous meetings when I was a teenager like—
PG: Doesn’t it ruin it for you when, like, that person drags you to that meeting? Like my mom pushed me for the longest time to go into the support group that she was in, which was for the loved ones of the alcoholic. And to this day—I went to a few of them and I just, maybe I’ll go back but I couldn’t do it because it reminded me of her. And there were women in there that reminded me of my mom but recovered. But still, there’s still the traits of it that reminded me of it and I think—
CP: Like the physicality of these women? Or just how they—
PG: Like the way they would talk and, you know, kind of overly chatty—
CP: Oh, that high-energy.
PG: Yeah that high-energy, that kind of controlling thing that just—I recoil like it’s a hot fucking flame when I’m around that kind of energy sometimes, where you get the feeling that there’s a fucking rage underneath it. It’s like that 50’s housewife’s face on top of the rage. And you’re like, ‘Ok, when’s the mask gonna pop off and I’m gonna see the scales?’
CP: Yeah, when’s the other foot, the other shoe gonna drop, whatever. You know it’s interesting you say that about, like, I had the hardest time too, being a woman and, like, identifying with traditionally feminine things. Cause I rejected so much of what my mother was that it was almost threw me into existing—they call it in Latin, ‘via negativa’, ‘in negative relation to’. Like I defined myself so—my mother’s materialistic. She married for money. I’m marrying for love. I’m gonna study philosophy. I’m gonna get into Buddhism. I’m gonna do the exact opposite. And then you realize, ‘Oh, she still has control over me. This is still about her. God damn it this is still about her! Fuckin bitch, man!’ And then you go, ‘Ok, who really am I?’ I thought I hated purple. I thought I hated purple. No, my mother hated purple. I thought I hated wearing dresses. No, my mother hated putting me in dresses. I thought I didn’t want long hair. No, my mother didn’t want me to have long hair. And I think that processing in therapy is you go, ‘Oh, who the fuck am I?’ I love unicorns. That was my mother who said I shouldn’t like that stuff.
PG: Are these all real examples?
CP: Yeah. Pink—the color pink, she wouldn’t let me wear pink. She wouldn’t let me order chicken pot pies at Coco’s because she didn’t like chicken pot pies. And you’re like, ‘I quite like them. They’re really delicious. I like that stuff.’ And I thought that was all my stuff. And then you realize it’s not your stuff. It’s her stuff.
PG: I think the saddest thing I’ve heard so far is that there’s somebody that doesn’t like pot pies.
CP: (laughs) Oh she hates anything—
PG: How do you not like a pot pie?
CP: Hates American stuff like that, yeah.
PG: It’s like soup and pie. Two awesome things.
CP: I know. Crusty, flaky—
PG: Oh, come on. A good crust, there’s nothing like a good crust.
CP: I know right?
PG: People that prefer cake over pie, I don’t trust.
CP: I agree. What kind of cake? I don’t like white frosting or white—like those cheap Gelson’s cake—
PG: Nothing should be compared to pie. Pie is just a good fruit pie or is nothing, there’s nothing like it.
CP: I don’t like key lime, though. I’ll throw that on the street, yeah.
PG: No, I don’t—berry, berry pies. Strawberry rhubarb. A good strawberry rhubarb is—
CP: Oh, that’s good. What is rhubarb anyway?
PG: It brings that tart to it, just makes it so complex. It’s so good. It’s so good. How did we get off on that? Oh, pot pies.
CP: Oh yeah. So defining and also kind of like—and I see myself in the last few years like on stage, I deliberately—I do this because I think it’s hard for women in stand-up as it is, and I don’t like to be sexualized when I’m trying to get people to listen to me. But even like how I dress, I’m kinda butchy. And I don’t mind that. Now I’m going, ‘Yeah, I really kinda like flowy dresses. I think that’s who I am. And it’s ok.’ And then I start to incorporate stuff about her in me. Like she wears red lipstick and she has red nails. Cause she’s this blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful woman. She’s so pretty on the outside, my god, it’s so deceptive. That’s the problem too, is that she’s god-damn charming. Ooh, and isn’t that a pisser when everyone wants your mom to be their mom?
PG: Oh my god. ‘Your mom is so adorable. She is so sweet.’ There’s a side to her that is but it’s like, ‘You should hear her just going on rants about the neighbors, going on rants about my dad, going on rants about every relative. I don’t think there’s a relative, with the exception of maybe some cousins, that I haven’t heard her pick apart.’
CP: For sure. My mother would take issue with the waitress, I remember, at the Japanese restaurant. ‘She sat us down next to the toilet because she fuckin hates me because she’s a Japanese—‘ whatever. And I’m like, ‘She’s Asian. She sat us down in an undesirable—how does that make any sense to you?’ ‘Fuckin bitch. I’ll fuckin tell her.’ And then she would kinda like confront the Asian waitress with a racial slur and like—the worst part is when she got remarried to a sociopath. So she marries this Indian guy who’s a fuckin psycho too. Now the two of them are high-fiving each other at the dinner table about who they screwed over that day, like bragging. And then my step-dad would start fights in public, like at the supermarket. Like, ‘Are you fuckin kidding? Your kid’s too loud.’ ‘What? Fuck you, bitch.’ Like would start fights with strangers. And I’m like, ‘This is insanity—‘ like I had to get out. I got out as soon as I could, once I was old enough.
PG: What did that feel like?
CP: Fantastic. Went to college, barely got into college, but I did. But then I had running anxiety about failing cause I was like, ‘If I fail college, I gotta go back home.’
PG: ‘This is my last chance.’
CP: I had hives the first year. Cause you’re like, ‘I gotta get straight A’s cause I gotta make something of myself. Cause I gotta get out. I gotta be somebody.’ And that’s also the sickness too, is I thought that if I just became somebody, if I just became successful then that would cover up the hole. That would fix this gaping wound. And I feel successful in my career and guess what? It didn’t do that.
PG: It can’t. It can’t. You know, no amount of financial success will ever heal a childhood wound. No other person will heal that. They may aid us in our recovery. But you know ultimately we gotta learn how to love ourselves. And that is the fucking Mount Everest.
CP: How do you do that?
PG: Well, I wanna hear how you are starting to do it. What it was like the first time maybe you got a glimmer of that cause it sounds like you’re—you know, the fact that you’re starting to recognize what you like, was that the first part for you, to go, ‘I like that and I’m not gonna judge it.’
CP: Yeah, ‘I like that’ and also ‘Why am I living my life so hard?’
PG: In what way?
CP: ‘Why am I on the road every week?’ What’s that about? Why am I, why are the stakes so high for me? Because I thought that I had to be successful—I have to be number one. I have to be the best. If I don’t do this I will fail. If I fail, I’m a bad person. Mom’s right.
PG: You know that black and white thinking—which I also share—there’s a great article called “Co-Narcissism” by Dr. Allen Rappoport. The things he says, the children who grew up with the narcissistic parents struggle with is nuanced thinking. Everything is black or white. I’m a piece of shit of I’m the king. And boy, does being a stand-up comedian feed into that because you have a great show and you’re like, ‘I’m fucking set. I’m on the right path.’ You have a terrible show and you’re like, ‘I’m a fraud.’
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CP: Absolute, 100% accurate. And I’ve gotten over that cause I go, ‘Oh, well there’s another show tomorrow and we all fail.’
PG: Maybe it wasn’t their cup of tea. Maybe they enjoyed it but they just smiled and they didn’t laugh.
CP: And just realize too, ‘This is not for me. This is someone else’s thing. Who cares.’ I’m over that hump. And this is so fucking embarrassing and I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this. I’m just gonna do it because if this helps somebody out there then please do this too. So Louise Hay, founder of Hay House radio, she’s a wonderful, 80-year-old, weirdly a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman, kind of a maternal figure. Isn’t that weird, Christina, that you would want to identify with—she started this self-help movement. She believed you could heal your body by healing your mind. She helped people with AIDs in the 80’s. she has this book, How to Love Yourself. And she has this exercise—I can’t believe I’m fucking sharing this—okay, do this: go to the mirror and say, ‘I love you’ to yourself. Just try it. And she says, ‘See what comes up.’ And I tried. The first time you do it, ‘Wow.’ I couldn’t believe how much I hated myself. For years I wouldn’t listen to recordings of my voice. ‘God I hate this. I hate it. I can’t watch—‘ that criticism. So my mother didn’t have to criticize me anymore cause I internalized that lovely voice telling me what a piece of shit I was.
PG: That Trojan horse was in. It was in.
CP: (laughs) Alright. And I started doing that and kina breaking those things apart. ‘I love you.’ Say that to yourself. ‘I love you.’ What do you hear? What’s the first thing that comes up? ‘Well you don’t deserve love cause you’re too fat.’ Wait a minute, am I? Where’s that from? And I started to examine the thoughts that came up. ‘How dare you have the audacity to say you love yourself? How narcissistic.’ And I actually went through this phase where I just kept doing this and I’m like, ‘I’m just gonna push through this and eventually I’m just gonna give.’ I went through a week where I was so happy. Cause I’m like, ‘Oh I found this thing. I found this person who’s me this whole time.’ The way I used to talk to myself, I wouldn’t talk to my spouse that way and I wouldn’t event talk to my dog that way. Horrible shit that I was saying to myself.
PG: Give me some greatest hits.
CP: (laughs) I mean, ‘You can’t parallel park for shit. Obviously I’m too fat, I’m always too fat. That wrinkle in your forehead you need to get botoxed. It’s not cute. Your teeth are definitely not white enough. You better succeed otherwise if you don’t you’re gonna be a loser. No one’s gonna love you. You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll be forgotten.’ Blah, blah, blah. I never thought I was stupid. I knew I was smarter than my mother. That really helped me out. Plus I read a lot of philosophy books to make me feel superior to other people. I have a question for you since it seems like you know—why is the ego so negatively bent? Why does it hunt for bad stuff all the time? Why are we programmed negatively?
PG: I think it’s trying to make sense. I think that’s why it’s always saying ‘You’re better than’ or ‘You’re worse than’ is it’s trying to come up with a result. But life is not black and white like the ego wants it to be. So the ego is not subtle, I think. So it's always looking for some type of finality so that we can rest and go, 'Here's the answer. Now I know the truth. Now I can move on to something else.' That's why I think it goes back to self-love cause when I'm in a place of self-love, it doesn't matter what other people think of me.
CP: Isn't that amazing? And I just started praying too, every morning, and meditating and being like, same thing what you're doing: "Take this stuff from me. Take this. Help me see clearly on this and that." And it really helps align you with yourself and with the sense that you're not the end of it, like it can't end in my puny, little, dumb brain. If you can connect with something, someone meaningful, that's really the game. For me the work trumps the anxiety and depression. The nightmare that is the trap of my ego thoughts about the judgment about who I am—I can't do that. I can't bear that anymore. That's why I started going to see a shrink, man. I'm like, "Why am I riddled?" My mother was in the hospital she 'had a stroke' and I went—this is years ago—and I went to visit her. To the doctor I'm like, "Oh, did she have a stroke?" "No, she had a panic attack at Lamps R US and we had to send an ambulance for her." And that's the last time I saw my mother, in that hospital. And I get calls from social workers every now and then, that your mother's not taking her medicine. And I'm like, 'Well, not my problem.'
PG: Good for you.
CP: Well, because I know she's cared for financially, so I don't feel bad. And she sends me cryptic emails—no I'm sorry, she stopped using emails or the telephone because "they're listening."
PG: Oh man, that's deep.
CP: She's really descended, yeah. She used to send me letters to the clubs I was working, which was kind of a nice surprise, like, cryptic things about listening to messages and blah, blah, blah. But the point is I can focus on that sadness and that shit.
PG: And you know that she would try to drag you down with her if you tried to "fix her." Or give her what she needed because—that's the thing with people with borderline personality, I feel so much for, is their ability to trust is—because they were probably abandoned so severely—is it's the thing that stands between you and having meaning and purpose. Cause if you can't get vulnerable and trust, you can't get that human connection. And that's why I'm always on my soapbox about support groups, finding people that are appropriate that you can bond with. Some people can get it through therapy and close friends. But for a lot of people they don't have people in their lives that can talk that language of the heart, where you can get real and you can get at least some of your shame and your secrets and that stuff—
CP: Yeah, cause that's the alienating part of this, is that what you and I went through, it's so extreme to a lot of people. And my husband, he has such a great family and he didn't experience the same things I did. And so I don't feel as though we speak the same exact language, whereas you, here, I'm like, "Oh yeah, you get that," cause you had a similar thing going. I should probably reach out to more that have had it. I don't know. It's still raw. It's still processing. That's why I think I came here to get it out and like, "Alright man. Here it is."
PG: And all the therapy you're doing is definitely moving you forward.
CP: Yeah, it's helping.
PG: I just find support groups turb-charge—
CP: Ooh, I like it—
PG: The experience. It exponentiates—how's that for another nice word? Yeah, they both give me different things.
CP: Oh, I wanted to say about my mom too—and I started to have empathy for people with this thing, with BPD—she had a horrific childhood, just to go on record. Like, mother dies, her mother dies of breast cancer when my mother is twelve years old. Her own father gives her up for adoption cause he's an alcoholic and can't care for her. She's adopted by some relative. The husband's abusive. I'm pretty sure she was sexually molested, my mother, and abused. And then she marries my dad and they leave their country. And then she's abandoned again, in her mind, by my father. I get it. I just want that to be clear too. I get that, like Louise says that, "We're all victims of other victims." My mother could not give me what she didn't have and I totally get that. It's hard for me to see it from her—it's so fucking hard for me to go, 'Yeah, I help people out with BPD,' cause I can't, I'm not there yet, I'm not.
PG: And it's not your burden to carry. You have your own burden to carry. And you can have empathy for somebody without carrying their pain. You don't have to save them. You're not a bad person for not going to "save" someone because you can't. You can't.
CP: Well, if I respond to the letters, if I respond to the wacky-doodle, it's a cycle of—'Okay, so here's what's gonna happen, Mom. I'm gonna show up and now I'm gonna repent, for what?' She didn't come to my wedding, that's the last time I—she didn't come to my wedding because I got married when she was going through a divorce and how dare I get married when she's suffering? So she didn't come to my wedding, which is blessing cause she would turned it to be about her—
PG: Oh, that would have been a scene.
CP: Yeah, oh my god. My mother-in-law and her—okay.
PG: How did you not make me the wedding bands? Why am I not singing?
CP: Exactly, oh my god. God damn it, what a nightmare it would have been.
PG: So, I think the last thing we were talking about was you went to college, you had panic attacks—
CP: As a child, too, I had them. I had a severe phobia of vomiting as a kid. When I would vomit, my mother would overreact to it, is I think what happened. She was very boundary-stepping with my body, too. Right, that's another part of it, is that they're enmeshed in your body—
PG: It's almost like—
CP: I'm an extension of her.
PG: Yes, oh my god.
CP: Like I got my period for the first time and I told her, I go, "Mom, I got my period." And she goes, "Let me see." Let you see? Let you see what, bitch? Like by that time I was like, 'You're not gonna see, like, fuck you.' It was just my body was her body. And to control the vomiting from me or to have that food phobia—I think I might've had an eating disorder, but like, it was almost there. It was right on the cusp of it, you know?
PG: I get a lot of female listeners and survey takers who had that same experience with their moms, where they wanted to inspect their vaginas to make sure everything was okay, to make them see their—look at your periods, and let me see how your bosoms are developing—
CP: Oh yeah, all of that. So embarrassing, that enmeshment thing, yeah.
PG: in my book that's covert sexual abuse. it may not have been sexual to them, but it affects our sexuality. It makes intimacy difficult. Have you struggled with physical intimacy? Or emotional intimacy?
CP: All of the above. I mean, a, b, c, d. My mother was—so being a good European in their minds, both my parents walked around naked for many years. But mom felt the need to teach me about sex very early, like nine years. It's the sex book. It's the, "Oh here's the oral sex creams I use with my boyfriend." And here's "Playgirl" magazine. And I'm like, "Why are you telling me this?" "Here's my douchebag that I keep." and like the old school douchebag with the big red bulb. Like Lenny Bruce, I think, he describes having the same one. Like, Jesus, do I need to see everything that goes into your vagina? So I was so grossed out by that and I had so much guilt around sexuality until I got married. Like I had boyfriends. My first boyfriend was awesome, the boy I lost my virginity to. We dated for a year before. And he was like this still kind person. And I was lucky in that my dad loved me so I had good relationships with dudes. That wasn't the problem. Guilt was the problem.
PG: That's awesome.
CP: But then I got married and the guilt subsided.
PG: What guilt?
CP: Catholic guilt. It subsided when I got married.
PG: Oh, I see. You became comfortable with your—
CP: With sex and sexuality—
PG: Your body.
CP: And I didn't over-sex the way some girls go. I was angry. I was a punker. I was violent, you know, taking baseball bats to mailboxes. I was raged, I wasn't whore-y.
PG: I'd probably do hitting the mailboxes—
CP: It was fantastic, yeah, I love violence—
PG: Give me some snapshots of violence.
CP: Well, me and my friend Jenny we would egg cars in the neighborhood, break windows. Looking back, I was a real asshole. I would hate for someone to do that to my stuff. But I loved it.
PG: Egging was okay in my book. Breaking windows was a little over my line. But egging a car, I loved the adrenaline rush of running, if their brakes would screech, that was like a shot of cocaine.
CP: I used to throw cans of food onto the freeway and then hear the crash, like 'errrr'. Like I was a psycho, I feel bad about that one. God damn it, you all know I'm fucking guilty.
PG: When there wasn’t snow, when winter was over and you couldn’t snowball cars, somebody came up with the idea of, “Let’s throw mud balls at them.” So we were throwing mud balls at cars and this car passed by us. And I saw that the window was rolled down and we didn’t hear anything hit, but its brakes screeched, which I think meant that we had hit them. And this car started chasing us and we were in downtown Homewood. And my friend and I—we all split cause this guy was pissed and he was big. And it started chasing us and we ran down this alley. And I remember we opened the door to try to go into this place and it was a bunch of people—it was like a disco lesson. And we’re like, “Oh, we can’t go in there.” And so we opened the door and we hid behind it and our legs were showing, you know, underneath the door. The car came down the alley, just slowly cruising for us. I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared as I was. And I heard the little kid saying, “Kill ‘em, daddy. Kill ‘em.” And it didn’t see us and it passed by. We never threw mud balls again after that. But that high! We were high for hours after that just talking about it. I was shaking. It was amazing.
CP: See, I like that. And I was a punker, too. And I love that aggression, that punk rock. Punk rock was the best thing that ever happened to me. And then we go to shows out in Hollywood and I would go into a moshpit for, like, five seconds.
PG: Oh, colliding with people is the best.
CP: Oh, it’s so great. And I think because I didn’t want to identify feminine, so I’d identify masculine. My father was the sane one so I always took the boys. I did what the boys were doing. I was more of a tomboy and I liked that. Hey, I wanna ask you something though. So when your mom sexualizes you and you’re essentially, like, your mom’s boyfriend in a weird way, like, did you assume of that—did she have a boyfriend or a husband?
PG: She had my dad but he was so emotionally checked out and, I knew, didn’t like her and, I knew, was annoyed by her. He was just annoyed by being alive, you know. He functioned: he wrote checks, he provided for us, but he was in his own world at the end of the couch. And she would complain to me, I mean, as early as seven years old, about how she wanted to leave him. You know, the whole—
CP: Yeah, yeah, I heard all that shit.
PG: So I’d have to hear these tirades and she would cry. And I’d have to go rescue and comfort her.
CP: You’re parenting the parent, for sure.
PG: Yeah, absolutely, I was the surrogate spouse, which I’m told is super, super common when—somebody is going to make up for that lack of attention.
CP: So she chose you.
PG: She chose me.
CP: And how many brothers and sisters did you have?
PG: I had one brother and a cousin who was raised with us. And she and my brother didn’t get along so I was it. I always felt like I was her last hope for happiness. It was upon me to make her laugh, to cheer her up when she was sad, to listen to her DIATRIBES cause nobody else would listen to her. And in many ways it kinda boosted my ego cause I felt like, “Oh, I’m a good person. I’m an adult.” But you don’t realize you’re robbing yourself of your childhood. It’s like the child that gets into an inappropriate relationship with somebody in their twenties. That child is flattered. It’s a high to them. They don’t realize, at the time, what is being done to them.
CP: So predatory. I know the girls at the school I went to, thirteen-year-olds, fourteen-year-olds dating twenty-one-year-olds. And you’re like, “That’s not cool, man.”
PG: You can’t tell them. You can’t tell them.
CP: It’s so predatory. That’s so crazy, dude.
PG: They think it’s a complement but they don’t realize they’re an object to that person.
CP: Absolutely. It’s disgusting. It’s really uncool. So, do you have—and I imagine by the time you’re an adult, marriage comes around—was the idea, cause I know the idea of me being a mother was very exhausting for me. It was like, “I can’t touch that rope cause I’ve got a bad one and how will I be a good mom?” Like were you exhausted by your wife, or just the idea?
PG: Well, my wife has never wanted to have kids. So we were on that same page. I didn’t objectify my wife the way I did other women in my life. You know, I became a womanizer. In college, I was finally getting laid. And it was just so easy for women to be objects to me. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t listen to them and have nice conversations with them. But it was, like ok, almost like things that I would throw away after I’ve seen. To me it was all about, “I want to know what your body looks like, feels like, smells like.” And once I had done that it was like, “I don’t have any more need for you” because I think there was something terrifying about a woman wanting intimacy from me.
CP: Of course, cause it’s all-consuming. It would ruin you.
PG: Exactly. I’m gonna be overwhelmed.
CP: That’s how I worry with women too. I have woman issues.
PG: Do you have difficulty making female friends?
CP: I did for a while. I do have female friends and I’ve had for years. But they’re more alphas. I have an easier time with those. I found myself hating women. And I go, “Wait a minute, who do I hate here?”
PG: I never realized how much rage I had at women because I think the sexual attraction made me think, “Oh no, I love women!” And I think it wasn’t probably until about three or four years ago that I—I had a couple of female friends that I felt that way about. But it wasn’t until a couple years ago, and doing the podcast, that I really started to connect with women and feel them—that motherly vibe, that softness that really you can only get from a woman. And I was like, “Where’s this been my whole life? Oh, it’s always been there. It just, I never realized it was there. And it came from support groups, from being loved unconditionally in support groups. And once I let that love in, it felt so comforting to me—the warmest, warmest blanket. And so I have some great female friends. And my relationship with my wife has evolved to now where I am able to be a little more vulnerable around her—
CP: That’s huge.
PG: Yeah, talk about my fears and not worry about being judged. Cause she’s not my mom.
CP: Right, right, right.
PG: She wears a mask of my mom when we fuck, cause otherwise I can’t cum.
CP: (laughs) Right, right. Oh yeah. Cray, cray, man.
PG: So you’re able now to have some intimacy and to have some female friends?
CP: Yes, yes. It’s so corny, but adopting Theo, my dog, a year ago really brought out the feminine side to me. Being a stand-up comic, I’ve been a comic now for just eleven years and it’s such a masculine role to assume. When you’re telling jokes you must dominate, you are the alpha. And I think that’s why a lot of people hate female comics. There’s a shift in the power dynamic of what a woman supposed to be in society. We’re still a sexist culture, so (laughs). So I found myself like, “Why am I so hard? Hard, emotionally hard? It doesn’t feel like it resonates with who I am, I’m a woman.” Mothering this dog—as corny as that sounds, like—really brought that out of me. I’m like, “Oh I like caring for stuff. I love cooking for my husband. I love nurturing my dog and my husband.” That role to me, it’s so hard. And why shouldn’t I want to care for these people and this dog.
PG: There’s nothing like talking to your dog like it’s a baby.
CP: Yeah, a boo-boo, a hee-hee, yeah. He’s the best. Theo Huxtable is my boo-boo. Here he is, he’s hanging out. Yeah, so I’ve accepted that I’m a girl, essentially. I was so ashamed of being a girl, or girly my whole life. And now I’m like, “Well, what’s so wrong with that? Is that necessarily?” Just because society doesn’t privilege a lot of things—society doesn’t privilege motherhood. Or because it’s not paid work, right, to stay home, raise your kids. You’re considered less than a man who brings home a paycheck. Still I believe, I don’t think it’s equal.
PG: And yet there’s nothing more important than the future of the world than—
CP: Good moms.
PG: Good moms, good dads, but you know, nurturing.
CP: Yes, good dads, too. And I should say, for the record, men have really facilitated a lot of the movements, changes. Men have come around a lot, obviously, too. So I don’t hate—
PG: And had. Guys had to get on board for it to move any forward, you know what I mean? It’s like the civil rights movement wouldn’t never have got anywhere if black people were the only ones behind it.
CP: That’s true, yeah. That’s so true.
PG: And I think we’re in the middle of that with the gay rights movement—
CP: Oh yeah, for sure—
PG: or the LGBT. And yeah, it’s the dark ages of acceptance for people outside the hetero world.
CP: You know what’s funny, my mother hates gay people, too, so much. When I was a little girl I was like, “Mom, what’s a dyke?” cause I had seen that movie Reformed Schoolgirls. My mother and her boyfriend took me to see that when I was a child. It’s an R-rated movie, just so you know, there’s girls making out. It’s like a cheesy movie. I’m like, “What’s a dyke?” And she goes, “Oh, a dyke? Ugh, disgusting lesbians. I don’t know what women doing to each other, licking each other all day long.”
PG: All day long. (laughs)
CP: And I’m like, “Surely, it can’t be.” And her loathing of gay people, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, she just hates everybody.” Even lesbians, who hates lesbians? They’re fantastic. Maybe she’s gay, secretly.
PG: Who knows. Do you have any other—
CP: Just to make sure I’m not forgetting cause—I hate my mom, we covered that, I don’t feel bad about that. You have your doggies. Do you have an irrational fear that when you’re holding your dog you’ll just drop him for no reason and kill him?
PG: Sometimes. When I bring the water bottles in from the porch, we have the five gallon water bottles—
CP: Like the sparklets things, yeah.
PG: And whenever I carry them in, you know, whenever you come in from the outside, they’re near you and they’re all excited. And I’m always afraid I’m gonna drop that big one on Herbert cause that would kill ‘em. He only weighs, like, thirteen pounds.
CP: (laughs) Oh do you have an irrational fear of, like, when you’re in a meeting, like a formal setting, and screaming an inappropriate word? Like, ehhhh n-bomb! Just dropping, for no reason?
PG: Not so much, but it has crossed my mind before. That’s not a big one with me.
CP: That one’s mine for some reason, that I’m always gonna say the absolute wrong thing.
PG: It pops into my head all the time. What would be the worst thing I can do right here?
CP: Yeah, oh I do that too. (laughs)
PG: Just horrible, mean shit that I would say, that would be like scientifically the most hurtful thing that I could say to somebody. I will think that.
CP: (laughs) I think that’s all I had. Thanks for having and I think this is the beginning of, like, me turning a corner on this. Cause I’m not able to really make fun of her yet, and I would love to make fun of her. I’m almost there, so maybe if I talk about her more, I’ll get to make fun of her.
PG: It sounds like you’re really moving forward with a lot of this stuff.
CP: I’m trying, dude.
PG: You’re just a fun person to talk to.
CP: Oh thanks, Paul. I like you too, let’s hang out. Let’s have our support group.
PG: Let’s start our coffee support group.
CP: Will you come on Your Mom’s House one day?
PG: Oh, I’d love to, yeah.
CP: Okay, we don’t talk about this. We talk about pooping and stuff. Do you talk about poops?
PG: Oh I got some great poop stories.
CP: Please, come over to—
PG: The listeners have heard all of them. They’re probably tired of them.
CP: (laughs) Well our listeners—that’s new to us.
PG: Yeah I’d love to, so let’s set something up.
CP: For sure. Thank you for having me.
PG: Thanks Christina.
CP: Yeah. That was fun, thank you.
[End of interview]
PAUL: Many, many thanks to Christina. Boy, I really enjoyed talking to her. When I was editing the episode together, I had to keep snipping out parts of myself—I don’t know if I had too much caffeine that day but when I emailed her back I was like, “I am so sorry for how much I talked during that.” I was pontificating and there was like no breathing room in that. So I don’t know if that came across to the edited version of it. But thank god you didn’t hear the unedited version of it. And that’s not me just hard on myself. It was really true but not gonna beat myself up. I love how many awfulsome moments and happy moments we have to read in this episode today. Before I get to the surveys, I want to remind you that there are a couple of different ways that you can support the show. You can support it financially by going to the website mentalpod.com and making a one-time Pay Pal donation, or my favorite, a recurring monthly donation. That’s kinda the financial foundation that keeps this show operating, are the donations. And you can sign up to be a monthly donor for as little as five bucks a month. And it means the world to me. So please consider that and you can also support us by shopping Amazon through our search portal. It’s on the homepage, right-hand side, about halfway down. And Amazon gives us a couple of nickels when you buy something. It doesn’t cost you anything. You can also buy t-shirts on our website. You can buy coffee mugs. I think that’s about it. There’s probably something I’m forgetting but it doesn’t matter. Support us non-financially by going to iTunes, writing something nice, giving a good rating. And I’ve noticed we’ve been dipping. We used to occupy almost all the time the top spot in self-help on iTunes and we’ve definitely slipped. I wonder if that’s cause other shows are getting popular or you mother fuckers aren’t going and giving good ratings. You know what, you don’t have to go do that. You don’t have to go fill it out. I’ll be okay, staying awake at night, staring at the ceiling. I’m gonna back and rewind that now cause—Herbet, you getting worked up buddy? Both my dogs have cones on their heads right now. I don’t know if there’s allergies in the air. But it’s pretty fucking adorable and I want to try to get one for my head and get a picture of the three of us. Herbert, chill out. I don’t know why Ivy never bothers me when I’m doing the podcast. But Herbert, Herbert, Herb—rubbing his cone up against everything.
Let’s get to it, huh? Let’s get to some surveys.