Episode 96: Escort / Prostitute Lillith
“Lillith” (not her real name) opens up to Paul about why she chooses to moonlight as an escort/prostitute, even though her day job pays the bills. She talks about living with a rapid cycling form of BiPolar type I, childhood sexual trauma, how her mania helped her excel academically and the myths and truths about having sex for money.
PG: Welcome to Episode 96 with my guest Lillith. My name is Paul Gilmartin and this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, 90 minutes of honesty about all the battles in our heads from medically diagnosed conditions and past traumas to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling, it’s not a doctor’s office; it’s more like a waiting room that’s filled with conversations you’ve always wanted to have but didn’t know how to start. Whaddya think? You like it? I think we might have found a new waiting room metaphor. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. That’s also the Twitter name you can follow me @mentalpod. Please follow me on Twitter, especially monthly donors so I can let you know when I’m raffling off a cutting board or something like that. Or I can let you know when there’s a good article in the newspaper about stuff like that. A couple of things I wanted to mention: I got a great email from a counselor in Texas who told me that if you’re struggling to find affordable mental health care, if you’ve ever been a victim of sexual abuse you may qualify for free counseling at a rape crisis center and for more information go to the Rape and Incest National Network website – that’s RAINN.ORG – so that is very helpful to know. I also want to encourage you guys to go to the Forum if you haven’t gone there. A lot of people connect deeply with each other and finding comfort knowing they’re not alone with their story so I encourage you guys to check that out.
Happy New Year! Huh! 2013! Did you lose weight 2013? Something looks different about you. I’m going to kick things off with an email from listener Anders.
“I’m from Sweden and I’m sad to say that in our socialist utopia politics and stuff has made the mental care insufficient and overburdened. And people wonder why there are crazy people in the street. Fortunately, I had people around me when I’ve gone through tough times struggling with mental illness when the mental care hasn’t provided anything but obstacles. If I weren’t lucky with caring people around me I’d probably be dead or just homeless.”
I don’t read stuff like this just to bum people out. I read it because my goal with this show is to paint an accurate portrayal of where mental illness is, in this day and age. I’ll get comments sometimes from people who'll say “yeah, I’ve had to stop listening to your show for a while because it was just too much of a downer,” or “it was just too …” I understand that. But understand the reason is I’m not trying to bring people down; I do it because the people that are in that dark place when they get to hear a story of similar darkness, that is light to them. At least it is to me. Last week I was experiencing a day of really kind of flat and just not feeling great. And I saw that there was a documentary about the band Joy Division and I got excited. That is it in a nutshell. Who the fuck gets excited about… You could be interested that there’s a documentary about the band Joy Division but to get excited about it because I knew it would be comforting to me. Those of you who don’t know Joy Division was a seminal band in Manchester England in the late 70s that the lead singer took his life and not the most upbeat of stories but that’s why this show is sometimes that way. I’m not trying to manipulate people into feeling badly; I just know what it’s like to have that comfort come in the form of dark honesty.
I’m going to kick things off with a survey that was filled out. This is from the Shame and Secrets Survey. This was filled out by a woman who calls herself lynjam. She’s 19, bisexual, raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional… ever been the victim of sexual abuse: she writes “Yes, and I never reported it.” Deepest darkest thoughts: “I’m a recovering heroin addict and whatever I get romantic, sexual feelings for someone or do get romantically sexually involved with someone I sometimes masturbate to a fantasy of injecting said person with heroin and having them really enjoy it.” Deepest darkest secret: “I was brutally, anally raped by my boyfriend when I was 16 with his penis and other objects. I haven’t been fully honest with anyone about this.”
[PG: I encourage you to talk to a therapist about that. This is way too big of a thing to try to process on your own]
Sexual fantasy most powerful to you: “having a male lover really turned on and wanting to have sex with me when I don’t feel the same. He continues to try to turn me on and touch me and make advances while I keep telling him no. Eventually he pins me down by my throat, lightly choking me, while touching and fingering me. I’m still struggling slightly but am not able to speak. Then he penetrates me and I start to enjoy it.”
[PG: I say this every time I try to read somebody’s fantasy that is like that… For those that are new time listeners. Those that are old time listeners, you know what I’m going to say but those of you that are new: Do not misinterpret that as women want to be raped. The fantasy in something like that, especially somebody who’s experienced sexual trauma, is they want to go back and re-experience it but have control because the pain of having been sexually violated is the lack of control, being helpless. When someone fantasizes about that, they are choosing to give their control away so in other words, they’re taking control back because they choose to fantasize about that. It is the last thing they want to happen in real life. I’m sorry if I’m repeating that to those of you who are long-time listeners but I would feel irresponsible to read something like that and not say that. ]
Would you consider telling your partner/close friend your fantasies? She writes, “I would consider telling my current partner but not close friends.” Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings toward yourself? She writes, “It generates feelings of weakness and a sense of having minimal control. Also feelings of confidence to some extent due to my partner wanting me so badly that they don’t respect my wishes.”
One of the common things I see, especially in the Shame and Secrets Survey, and we’ve had almost 3000 people take that survey so far, is very often people who have been the victim of sexual abuse or trauma have two main fantasies. One is some type of fantasy where they choose to give their control away; and the other fantasy they have, separate but equally as powerful, is to be loved and cherished and deeply desired and cuddled and protected.
This next survey I’m going to read is from a guy who calls himself kwatts. He is straight but adds “I’ve been the victim of male sexual abuse multiple times and this has left me questioning my sexuality.” He’s 18, was raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse: “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse. A neighborhood kid was abusive to me and went through the whole scale of sexual abuse but he would tell me every time that I wanted it and that I was asking for it. To this day, I don’t remember what exactly happened.”
[PG: I don’t know why he would check “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse.” That sounds to me like all the hallmarks of serious sexual abuse.]
Deepest, darkest thoughts: “Life is just a waiting game until I can get the courage to end it.” Deepest, darkest secrets: The abuse previously mentioned, the fact that I went to rehab at 15 but still haven’t improved my condition. I’m going to school to become a therapist but haven’t been able to conquer my own demons. I attend a 12-step program. I think I might be bisexual. I live in a Christian environment and this fact would have me immediately disowned.” Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: “A good-looking man who not only satisfies me sexually but acts as a protector toward me and takes away my fears and insecurities.” Would you consider telling a partner/close friend: he writes, “I live in a town with more Christian churches per person than anywhere else in the world so telling anyone about me fantasizing about guys would be a no-go.” Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feeling toward yourself: he writes, “Absolute shame and self-hate. I’ve carved the word “fag” into my flesh. I’ve prayed rosaries for days and cried myself to sleep constantly.”
[PG: To those of you who think that gay marriage is going to harm society I would ask you: What do you call that? That your attitude creates? How could gay marriage inflict anything like that?]
Any comments/suggestions to make the podcast better: “Not to sound elitist, one of the most pathetic things possible but I feel like once in a while the guests aren’t mentally ill enough. As a psych major, I truly believe we all have a bit of illness in us but it’s hard to relate to guests that come across as not having gone through much or having dealt with mental illness.”
I get that. I understand that. But sometimes I feel like I’ve got to mix it up a little bit.
I don’t have any profound quotes to read so I’m going to open one of my favorite books from Pema Chodron called When Things Fall Apart. Let’s see if she’s got a good one. “The point is not to try to get rid of thoughts but rather to see their true nature. Thoughts will run us around in circles if we buy into them but really they are like dream images. They are like an illusion, not really all that solid. But they are as we say just thinking.”
PG: I’m here with Lillith. That’s the name that she goes by. She is a listener that contacted me. She lives locally here in Los Angeles and I’m not sure where to begin with your story. I suppose the big identifying parts are that you moonlight as an escort. You have borderline personality…
L: No, I don’t.
PG: Oh, you were just interested in that?
L: Right. Uh, no, I’m manic-depressive.
PG: Oh, manic-depressive, ok. This interview’s over, then.
L: Very short! Shortest podcast ever!
PG: Where would be the best place to start? You had emailed me and so we met, grabbed a cup of coffee. I wanted to be sure you weren’t a nutjob and you certainly were not and we had a nice conversation and at a certain point I was alright, stop, let’s save it for the interview because I like hearing things for the first time. Why the name Lillith?
L: The name Lillith is… I thought it was a good pseudonym. I mean most of the pseudonyms that escorts go by are things like Bambi, Heidi, you know… It’s ridiculous.
PG: You got to hide the name Crystal.
L: Well, now you found me out. That is my real name. That is my secret. Crystal with a “y” and a little heart instead of the “a”. I liked it because I like what the original deity of Lillith represents. She was Adam’s first wife. She was into sex. She was not into big on the “obey” gig and Adam got fed up with her. Lillith got fed up with him and she got expelled from Eden. Her mythology got overlaid a lot with many misogynistic things that happened when Judaism became extremely misogynistic and became kind of a scapegoat for everything that was negative about female sexuality. She represented power. She represented assertiveness. She represented self … what would be the word… self-determination, which was not a popular thing in Bronze Age, goat-herding Middle East. But I liked it and I also liked that it actually became a really good way to winnow out my clients. The ones that got the name and understood and thought it was a kick, those are the ones I generally had a really good time with and we got along.
PG: so then it’s fair to say there’s an intellectual component to the relationship between you and some of your clients. It’s not just physical.
L: oh, very much so. I would say it’s almost completely intellectual and/or emotional. The physical is a very very small percentage of the interactions we have and the time we spend together.
PG: Can you expound on that more? Because I know that there are people listening that probably went “WHAT? It’s all about the sex. You’re fucking kidding yourself so that you can feel better about what it is that you do.” And I do agree with you, by the way.
L: Yeah. Most men that come to see me… because I don’t look like your standard porn star, which is a misnomer about a lot of escorts, you know we’re supposed to look like porn stars and strippers and most of us don’t. People come to see me because they’re looking for connection and they’re looking for guilt free connection. And that’s something they feel like they have to pay for, which is kind of sad. It’s really sad that they can’t get this in a regular relationship. You know, let’s say I spend an hour with somebody, 40 minutes of that hour will be talking to them. Only about 10-20 minutes is actually sex.
PG: And is the talking usually before or after?
PG: And is that part of the turn-on for them?
L: I guess so. They just want to be heard and they want to be listened to. It’s really more therapy with some sex at the end than it is just sex.
PG: I’ve heard other people say that before and you know they say that everything is about sex …
PG & L: Except for sex!
L: I know, that’s really, really true.
PG: Let’s talk about your childhood. What kind of environment were you raised in?
L: Oh, really dysfunctional. Let’s see, first my dad and my mom met and I was an egg… No, both my parents are in academia and very bright people. I was very close to my father growing up, used to go with him to his classes. He taught at a west coast Ivy and so did my mother. They taught at different schools, though, which is probably a good thing. He was in the sciences; she was in the arts. I was extremely, extremely close to him, followed around with him, sat with him on committee meetings. When he taught in his office hours, I was extremely close. And he was a narcissist, which you don’t realize this when you’re 6 years old but I was his source of narcissistic supply. And I was happy to do; I mean, he’s my dad, right? So he and my mother eventually split up. She could not take his cheating. He was a very good father but a really lousy husband. They split up when I was 8. He took off and I didn’t see him for a year. I didn’t know where he’d gone. He just disappeared.
PG: Wow. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been.
L: It was really rough watching him walk out the front door. At the time, I thought I’d see him again. It was really rough as they explained to me that they’re going to get a divorce. I got it. Even then, I knew it was a good thing they were getting divorced. They were throwing things, yelling, screaming; obviously the two of them needed to live apart. When my dad got back in touch about a year later, he’d taken up with another woman who had 4 kids of her own. She was pregnant with his child so he had this whole substitute family. That was hard.
PG: Oh my God.
L: It was crushing. Yeah, I felt like I had been replaced.
PG: Oh my God.
L: And it was so traumatic for my younger sister. She’s about 3 years younger than me. She didn’t grow for a whole year, like her growth just got stunted. And my little brother who’s 8 years younger… luckily he’s an infant while this is going on so he doesn’t really remember any of it. But it was pretty devastating. I mean to adjust, you’ve got 4 new step-sisters that you’re supposed to get along with and a step-mother.
PG: I imagine his attention was hard to get with all that on his plate.
L: It was. It was very divided so that was a big change for me. Really big change.
PG: How often did you see him then?
L: At that point, once he got back in contact, I saw him every other weekend and during summers and then a week during the Christmas break, Easter break, you know, the normal joint custody arrangement that was so popular in the 70s and 80s.
PG: If someone hasn’t named a band “Every Other Weekend” yet, they should because every divorced kid on the planet would get the name of it.
L: I think “Every Other Weekend” should be the album name and “Joint Custody” should be the band.
PG: How do you remember coping when that pain…
L: I remember losing myself in books. I’ve always been into reading. Always, always. I mean, I don’t remember not reading. I taught myself how to read and so I just lost myself in books and threw myself into school. Puberty hit really closely after my parents split up. They split up when I was 8. When I was 9, all of a sudden I had reached my adult height,
PG: Oh my God.
L: Yeah, my voice was this deep, and I had breasts, oh yeah. It was gnarly. I looked like I was about 17 years old when I was 9.
PG: Oh my God!
L: Yeah. So I got lots of attention from men and my parents were constantly in a position of having to take these guys aside and say “She’s 9”, “She’s 10”, “She’s 14.” It was overwhelming. I really didn’t know how to deal with it.
PG: Was there a part of you that enjoyed it?
L: Well, yeah, it was attention from men. At the time I had a teacher, who was male, who was really a great and nurturing figure and I was able to displace a lot of the emotions toward him, you know all the things I wanted from my father, onto this teacher. That was good because he was very appropriate, able to set the boundaries but was still loving and nurturing in a good way. I really think that if it hadn’t been for him, I would’ve become, I don’t know… more warped.
PG: Oh yeah. My God, if that guy had taken advantage of you…
L: Yeah, that would have been horrible.
PG: Do you think that if he’d made a move on you, you would have fallen for it.
L: Oh, completely. I was just so desperate for attention. In a way, that’s what led to my being raped when I was 9. There was a guy in my mother’s church who paid a lot of attention to me and I was just so desperate for attention I … and I didn’t have a good sense and wasn’t very wise… I didn’t have a good sense of what was appropriate and not appropriate and he and some of his friends raped me.
PG: There was more than one person?
PG: How does that happen? How… how… and in a fucking church?
L: Yeah, yeah I know. It was really funny.
PG: What the…
L: I know, the hypocrisy of organized religion is… [laughs]
PG: You know that doesn’t speak for all organized religion but…
L: No, that’s true, very true.
PG: I don’t want to pain you by going in to too many details about that. What do people say to each other to get something like that …
L: I have no idea. I have no idea what synapses fire for that one.
PG: That just… you know I’ve been doing this show for almost 2 years now and I’ve heard a lot of shit.
L: Yeah, I’ve listened to some of the podcasts and yes, you’ve heard a lot of shit.
PG: But… But… (whispers) Oh my God.
PG: I don’t even know where to go from there. How do you cope in that moment? Do you just leave your body?
L: Oh yeah, yeah. I just totally left my body. There was… Because I still fairly tall, big, and strong… I don’t remember much of what happened. It’s very fragmented, which is extremely common. But there was a gun involved and I’ve had an extreme fear of handguns ever since. They just make me freeze. And so I just went someplace else in my head. Just had to hunker down and say “ok, I’ve gotta live through this. I’ve got to… I’ve got to stay alive.”
PG: Was the room it happened in small?
L: Yes, yes. Very small. Very dark.
PG: That’s so funny… not funny. Funny is a terrible choice of words but before we started recording…
L: It was funny. I was so glad there was a window in here.
PG: Yeah, we’re in a little sound booth and she said if there wasn’t a window in here I don’t know if I could have done this.
L: Right. Yeah.
PG: How could that not make you claustrophobic?
L: It does, yeah. It does for sure.
PG: Did you tell anyone?
L: Oh yeah. I told… had to tell my mother and I told the priest at the time. And he was… the priest had been an ex-cop who did not… he did not take kindly to this news. The guys involved got the shit beat out of them. One of them had his car mysteriously stall on the train tracks. So that was fun. He was kind of this big… he’s like you imagine Friar Tuck to be this gigantic, gigantic ex-cop of a man and so I did feel like, ok, an adult had heard me and validated that this was really pretty fucked up. But…
PG: How many men were involved?
L: I think 3, to the best of my knowledge it’s 3.
PG: And so, one guy gets killed…
PG: What happens to the other ones?
L: They left. Um, they left.
PG: They got the shit beat out of them and fled?
L: Yeah. Yeah they just stopped showing up. But…
PG: They didn’t want to go to the police because they didn’t want you dragged through…
L: We went to the police and as I’m making the report I’m looking at my mother’s face and I’m looking at the female officer who’s taking my report, I couldn’t go through and report all of what had happened. I looked at my mother’s face and she seemed so ashamed. And I just… I couldn’t go through with it. I could not press charges. I just didn’t have it in me. Because there was still this thing… what did you do that encouraged this… why were you hanging out with these guys... why were you, you know, why were you happy to get that attention? And I could not cope with that. I didn’t like, I didn’t like the way everybody looked at me. Now as an adult, my God, why didn’t I… why didn’t I have the strength to come forward and say all of what happened…
PG: You were a child, that’s why
L: But I still think I should have done that because then maybe the other guys wouldn’t have done it again. I don’t know if they did but I think God, I should have put a stop to it. I should have been strong enough to come forward and say all of what happened.
PG: Because stuff happened again after that?
L: I don’t know if it did or not. I suspect it did. I suspect they did with other girls.
PG: Oh, I thought you meant with yourself.
L: No, no, not with me. After that, it was all over. They got the shit kicked out of them. But I did feel bad.
PG: And you never saw them again?
L: No, never. Which was good. Which was really good. And then I went to therapy and tried to work through it but after that I was pretty suicidal for a long time.
PG: Have you ever cried about it?
L: Oh my God, yes. Yes, I have. I cried a ton.
PG: It’s surprising how many people will process it in another way, like they won’t allow themselves to feel the full pain because then that means surrendering to the fact that they were helpless and powerless. So their brain will come up with all different kinds of ways to say “I enjoyed it; it was my fault; I shouldn’t have been there, etc., etc., all these things to avoid… this is my dime store opinion… to keep us from that horrifying thought that we live in a world where we can be that helpless and that powerless.
L: No, the fact that I got into therapy right away, right away, within like within a week, helped a lot I think.
PG: Was your therapist good?
L: Yes, yes they were very good, although, being so young, I don’t remember exactly what techniques they even used but I do remember that was really helpful. I definitely cried a lot. Cried a lot.
PG: Where would be the next place to go in your story?
L: The next place to go would be that after my parents had split up my mother had been completely shut down. She went through a depression that was bad enough that she got sent to bereavement counseling. She would go to work, come home, lock herself in her bedroom and cry. I had to take care of my siblings. She was unavailable during this entire… like 3 years after she and my dad split up. Trying to deal with rape, she’s not emotionally available. My dad wasn’t emotionally available; he wasn’t around at the time. She’s the child of a borderline and developed a lot of coping mechanisms that worked at the time when she was kid but didn’t work so hot when she was older.
PG: just shutting down
L: Just shutting down. Her depression was really great. She resisted going to therapy. She resisted getting on any medication. She decided to try to just gut it out. She was not a nurturing figure at all. One really good example I could think of to show where she was at: She was teaching and it was like the last day before winter break and I was 10. I was running a fever, didn’t feel good, and my mother was very big on ok, you’ve got to go school no matter what. And I said I really don’t feel good; I really don’t think I can go to school today, which was unusual for me. I’m not… I mean look at me today I’m doing the podcast with a voice that’s trashed… and she said “suck it up and go.” So I go and I faint passing from class to class and get sent to the school’s nurse. I’m running a fever of 103. They call my godmother, who comes and gets me, puts me in a bathtub full of ice. My mother can’t get out of class until she’s done with class. She then has to take me out to the hospital where my fever has risen to 104. Had to have a spinal tap to make sure I didn’t have meningitis.
PG: Oh my God!
L: Yeah, fear of needles, that will do it too. And I spent the next two weeks in the hospital. Turned out I had a kidney infection and it had completely backed up and I needed to have surgery. But just that kind of … You know what I’m saying… hey, I don’t feel good and she’s like “buck up buttercup.” That’s a really good example of how she’s not nurturing she was. And you had to be so sick. I had to be at death’s door to get some attention and some help. That sums up my mother in my early years.
PG: So then what would be the next seminal moment or period of your life?
L: Let’s see… In school I was pretty well liked. I was always picked first for a team. I got along with everybody. I’m an artist so I think that excused a lot of my weirdness. People say “ah, you’re just an artist, whatever that you wear, those crazy clothes” that you draw on, that’s cool. I was able to hang out with the jocks and the geeks and the stoners and pretty much everybody. I didn’t have a really bad high school experience that so many people have had. But I had debilitating acne. My face looked like the planet Io. It was…
PG: It’s amazing. You don’t have any scars on your face.
L: Only through rigorous dermatology applications. I have a lot of scars on my back.
PG: Oh, ok.
PG: That’s amazing.
L: Oh man. I worked at it like it was another job.
L: Yeah. Putting on Retin-A, taking tetracycline.
PG: I remember doing all those too, yeah.
L: I remember being so jealous of the boys because they could take Accutane and I couldn’t because I was a girl… you bastards. I never dated in high school. Never dated in junior high. Never got asked out to a dance. None of that. Which really upset me, you know, and when I was, say, out at the beach with my dad and a boy came over and did start talking to me, all of a sudden, you know… I got to know this look on a guy’s face that meant my father was standing right behind me. He worked out. He was a body builder as well as being a professor. He’s this huge, huge guy and all of a sudden every boy I talked to had to go like, alphabetize their hot sauce collection. There was no dating. Till I got to college. Then it was a whole different story. Of course I’m not living at home. I’m away from my parents. My face is cleared up. I’m thin. Suddenly all the things that I was, was cool. I was smart. I was hot. This was like, oh my God, this is fantastic. So I set about making up for lost time in a rather spectacular fashion. Although I didn’t know it at the time, that was the onset of my manic depression. It was just the right age to have that start happening and the way… one of the big systems of my hyper mania is hyper sexuality. I was like, wow, I have all these guys that are interested in me. Ok, I’m going to go have sex and I’m going to have sex the way I want to have sex, which is a very common thing with women that have been raped. You want to repeat this but you want to have it come out well.
PG: And you want to have control.
L: Yeah, and you want to have control, yeah. What would this be like if I was in control of it? After that, I thought, oh my God, this is fantastic. How much more of this can I do?
PG: And what ways would you have control of it? You would dictate the frequency or the manner of the sex or what…
L: I would just initiate. I was very forward, very direct. I mean, it’s like, you know the joke “nice shoes, wanna fuck?” That was pretty much my pick-up line and guys were like, “yeah, sure.” I mean come on, when you’re an 18 year old guy this is not really a tough call.
L: It was something I enjoyed a lot.
PG: Were there drawbacks to it that you could feel?
L: The drawbacks were that because the reputation I got spread pretty quickly. I was doing really well in college. I went to my school, another west coast Ivy, on a full academic scholarship. I mean, I paid for my books, parking fee, student health, whatever, I was very lucky in that respect. But it was almost inconceivable that someone could be good looking and bright and doing well in class so the rumors began that I was sleeping with my advisor. That was a big fucking hassle to try and straighten out and you know, having to explain to the Dean that no, no I really did earn this grade and I earned it legitimately, not because of my tits. That was a problem. That was definitely a drawback.
PG: How did that affect you, these rumors that you were fucking your professors?
L: I came to just laugh it off. I knew what was going on. They knew what was going on. Eventually it became clear – you know it was a small school – so it became clear that no, no I did deserve the grades. I was not just on full scholarship and in the honor society, I would get trotted out whenever they would have a visiting scholar, a big name, come. I had dinner with Kurt Vonnegut. I was one those students who got trotted out to go sit with these…
PG: How cool was that!?
L: He was pretty much an asshole!
PG: Was he really? [Laughter]
L: He was a total dick! [Laughter]
PG: What did he do? [Laughing]
L: Oh man, he made this poor freshman girl cry. He just leveled her when she asked him if he was happy. He was like, “What kind of fucking question is that? No, nobody who thinks is happy. Are you insane?” She was just in tears. And when he would sign his name in books that people brought up to him he would draw little assholes, little stars, little puckered assholes. Let’s see, who else did I meet… I’ve met Pema Chodron.
PG: Oh really?
L: Yeah, she taught me how to date. She came to one of my classes, friends with one of my professors…
PG: She’s got a great book, well, many great books but the one in particular that I’m reading called When Things Fall Apart.
L: That’s a fantastic one.
L: She is just so down to earth and so in her energy. You know she came in the room, and here’s this tiny woman, shaved head, in the robes, and we’re all like… this is back in the days before the internet so we have no idea who she is… and he’s like, “This is my friend Pema and she’s here to teach you how to meditate…”
L: Yeah, one the one hand, what a great opportunity and on the other, fuck, what I wouldn’t give to have that time back. Oh, yeah, now that I’m 40 and I have all these questions that when I was 20, I didn’t have.
PG: Why do you shave your head? [Laughter]
L: Well, it wasn’t that bad [Laughter] It was that life hadn’t beaten me up enough, I guess. Well, I guess it had, but, you know…
PG: You hadn’t maybe had the perspective that you’d been through stuff that needed healing.
L: Yeah. So I’ve met a lot of famous people because of that, because I was a star student that got trotted out to go sit through these dinners and it was really tedious. I’ve had a real loathing of black tie events where you have to sit there and make polite conversation…
PG: Me, too. It makes my legs tired.
L: Oh God.
PG: When people dress up, something about me just wants to go inside myself because it just feels like, it’s almost like they’re hiding what they don’t like about themselves.
L: Yes! Yes!
PG: I’ve just… I don’t know…
L: There’s this pretense.
L: The whole thing is pretense.
PG: Yeah. You feel like “Now I have to be a different person”
L: Right. Now I must be… you know we have me and Me, Incorporated. That’s Me, Incorporated who shows up at those black tie events.
PG: Yeah. Where would be the next place to…
L: The next place would be when my manic depression really began to set in in my second year of college. My mood swings began to cycle so rapidly to the point where at noon I could be on the top of the world; at 2:00 I’d want to kill myself. At 4:00 I’d be back on top of the world, by 6, I’d want to kill myself.
L: I was becoming, in my manic phases, it was swinging into psychosis. It was really not good, and very delusional. I had a lucid hour at a stretch: This cannot be normal. The problem with mania, especially in academia, is that it’s encouraged.
L: You go to college …
PG: People take speed to achieve that!
L: Nobody thinks anything of staying up all night to write a paper. I once wrote this 50-page paper on the Egyptian ruins at Karnak, complete with 10 watercolor illustrations, in the space of 8 hours. [PG laughs] and nobody thought this was unusual. Nobody at all said “You know, I think there’s something wrong with you…”
PG: You could be a professor, that’s what they were thinking!
L: Yes! Yes, you could mask those symptoms really, really well. But things got bad enough I went to student health and I told them what was going on and they said, “Yes, you are likely bipolar type I. You need to get to a hospital now. “ They had given me a choice. They said Well, you could do outpatient treatment but that’s going to take about six weeks because the drugs we want to give you, they’re going to take about six weeks to work. If you’re in the hospital, because we’re going to be monitoring you, we can give you much higher dose much more quickly and get you stabilized. I was like, I don’t have six weeks; I’m not even sure if I have six hours, so, yes, off to the hospital we go. That was pretty embarrassing having the ambulance come and they put you on the stretcher whether you want… I was like “I can walk.” They’re like, “No, no, you go on the stretcher.” What the fuck? All of sudden I was Oh, this isn’t good that I’m being helpless. This is not cool. Not cool. Not digging it. Luckily, the EMTs who showed up to take me to the hospital… of course they’re used to this, they do this every day… and they were pretty good but I was freaking out. I was like, Oh, this is a really bad idea. Got to the hospital, had to check in. Then I had to call everybody to tell them where I was… Student health, notified my professors, they called my mother, they called my father… that was really embarrassing. In fact it was quite humiliating to have to admit “I can’t handle this.” Of course, people had known there was something wrong with me. I hadn’t shown up to more than three classes all semester. The scary thing was that I was still pulling an A.
L: Yeah. [Laughs] Being in the inpatient setting in the hospital was… I did not like it. But because I had voluntarily checked myself in and I was pretty fucking motivated to get the fuck out. They put me on lithium, which at the time was a life saver. Really was a life saver. But the doctors were very upfront with me. They said, “You know one of the consequences of this drug is that you will gain weight. You will gain a lot of weight.” I was like, “Hmmm, okay, how much weight are we talking?” They said, “Oh, anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds.” I ended up gaining 150 pounds so that was rough. They also said “You’re not going to be able to have children because it causes a birth defect called Epstein’s Anomaly where the valves of the heart don’t form correctly in the fetus. So if you do get pregnant, you have to have an abortion because there’s no way it can live outside you at all.” So I thought well, I was 19 at the time, I don’t want kids, that’s fine. Looking back, I realize that was really a life-changing decision that I was kind of… I don’t know if I was cavalier about it, but when you’re 19, you’re a woman, “Ah, I’ll have plenty of time to have kids or sort this out later…”
PG: So you could have kids afterwards if you went off it? Or it bars you from ever…
L: It depends on how long you were on lithium for. I was on it for 13 years and at a high enough dose where there’s still residual lithium in my system apparently so I’m really reluctant to try and have children.
PG: What are you on now?
L: I’m taking Lamictal and Buspiron.
L: Yeah, Lamictal came on the market about three, nearly four, years ago to treat BiPolar Type I. I switched to that immediately.
PG: It’s less side effects than lithium?
L: One of the misnomers about drugs is that they have side effects. No, drugs have effects, and you pick the effects you like. [Laughter] You put up with the ones you don’t like. But it’s weight neutral so since I switched to Lamictal I’ve lost 125 pounds.
L: Yeah. Yeah.
PG: So you make this decision: I’m going to go on this; I’m not going to have kids. How does being on lithium at that point affect your life?
L: It affected my life immensely.
PG: Positively? Negatively?
L: Both. On the one hand I was able to function; on the other I had to completely retrain myself in how to think because it felt like I was thinking through mud. Once you’ve been manic, then you take a mood stabilizer like lithium and you go like, oh my. I’d read a page, and not remember what it was I just read. That was horrific for somebody like me that I don’t remember reading. I’d retrain myself. I had to retrain myself how to work more consistently instead of waiting till the last minute to get everything done in one gigantic rush. I had to retrain how I dealt with other people. I learned some really bad habits about dealing with other humans and had to go therapy to try to undo that.
PG: What were some of the bad habits?
L: Things like just being an arrogant bitch. [Laughs] I was so used to being the smartest person around and I had a real disdain for people less intelligent than I was. I was arrogant. It was not a good quality in myself.
PG: Funny, people that have been emotionally damaged that are very, very bright, it’s like their intellect can become their greatest enemy because it becomes like their god and their badge and their sword and their shield all in one and you don’t realize that there’s also an emotional intelligence. And there’s a spiritual intelligence. And because they get so wrapped up in their intellectual, scholastic intelligence, they think that is going to solve all their problems.
L: Oh yeah, well, you’ve used it to analyze and unravel every other problem in your life, why not just apply the same tool to everything else? And then you realize, wait a second, I’ve been using a screwdriver when I really needed a blowtorch. [Laughter]
PG: Exactly. Exactly.
L: It was a struggle for me learning how to re-think everything. At the same time, my father and I had become estranged. He had become involved in a very cultish, non-traditional Christian sect. This group was actually on the FBI’s top ten cult list.
L: He could not countenance that I did not believe the same things he believed. At all. At all. And we would have horrible arguments about religion. It didn’t go well. His mania was untreated. When you go into the hospital and you do the intake or even when you go to therapy they ask you, “So, any history of mental illness in your family?” I was the first person that admitted it and then I went back through and started asking around. It turns out my dad’s sister is a manic depressive. My dad’s brother is manic depressive. My mother’s depressed. My grandmother’s depressed. You uncover all this stuff. I opened a can of worms. And I said to my father, “You know, we cannot have a relationship until you get some help. Some serious therapy and help. He was so far gone in his mania he believed he was a prophet. He believed he could cure people through prayer. He believed he could re-grow eyeballs. I said, man, until you get some medication to get both of us on the same planet, there is no relationship possible between us. We still have not spoken since 1993.
PG: That’s got to be really hard.
L: It was hard. Our arguments became physical. He would just get so enraged… yeah, that was hard. Really hard.
PG: So where do we go from there?
L: After getting estranged from my father, and I got a lot of pressure from my family to patch things up with him. They all thought, it’s just a phase. It wasn’t just a phase. They were like, well, you should be a good daughter and you should talk to him. You should try to make nice with him. I said No, it’s not possible. And it took my family about 15 years to really figure out a) he’s not coming back, he’s not reachable. I was right.
PG: He’s still untreated?
L: He’s still untreated. He’s still busy trying to re-grow eyeballs in the name of Jesus Christ. Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah, so he’s off doing that. The parent that was my major source of support when I was a young child is now just completely out of my life. My mother was very ashamed of me and told me as much, that she was very disappointed and ashamed and embarrassed that she had this kid that was manic depressive and ruining her life. Of course, my mother’s version of ruining my life: I’m still on full scholarship at school; I’m still graduating magna cum laude; I’m still going to graduate school; I still won an award that was basically I’m the smartest person in the university; I’m still holding down two jobs. This is a ruined life in my mother’s point of view. But, at the same time, to cope with all this I’d go on lithium and then think, I’m fine, I don’t need it anymore. Then I’d go off it. Then I start drinking. Then the mania would start. Then I’d start sleeping with everybody in sight. Then I’d go around dope and think God, I’m breaking my life again. All right, back on the meds we’d go. That cycle would perpetuate itself for about three years. So I was like, perhaps this is not working. [Laughs] I’ve screwed with every variable in this equation and yeah, it looks like I’m going to have to knuckle down and take the meds and go to therapy and actually mean it when I go to therapy instead of just sit there for an hour and shine the therapist on, which is what I’d been doing. That was hard. That was a rough three years.
PG: Yeah, if you go to therapy and you are not willing to be fully open and honest and vulnerable, it can be really hard for that therapist to do their job.
L: Yeah, I made it very hard for the therapist to do their job. I was, okay, we need to skip to the back of the book because I’m like yeah, yeah, yeah…
PG: I got it all figured out.
L: I got it all figured out.
PG: I’m a smarty pants.
L: Totally. It took me a while to come around to the idea that people could be more emotionally intelligent than I was. And to respect that.
PG: Do you remember a breakthrough in therapy? Or any revelation? Or any kind of sea change in how you felt or thought?
L: No, I can’t say that I do. I don’t remember any one point where it was just a landmark.
PG: So it was kind of gradual?
L: Very gradual. It was a very gradual lifting where life became easier. I could look back and say, hey this doesn’t hurt as much anymore. We spent a lot more time trying to help me figure out a different way to be as an adult. How to control my moods. How to control my temper. How to control, how to self.., soothe myself, learning all the tools in the coping toolbox.
PG: What were some of the…
L: Oh man. Meditating regularly. Exercising regularly. Eating a decent diet. Making sure I got decent enough sleep. Because that is a big trigger for me with mania if I don’t get enough sleep. My body will function on three hours but if I do three hours too many nights in a row, it kicks over into full blown mania and then I’m not sleeping for like four days. That’s with medication. Learning how to think before I speak instead of just flying off the handle. That was a big one. Learning that perhaps doing anger management, you hit a heavy bag instead of screaming at other people. Looking back at the person I was in my 20s, oh man, I’m so ashamed of that person. I was not easy to be around.
PG: You know you didn’t live your 20s unless you look back in horror.
L: [Laughs] I guess so. I guess so. Yeah, I have a few friends of mine I’ve had since I was 16. They stuck with me when I was in my 20s and oh my God, I owe them a lot. I’m not sure I would still be friends with me. [Laughs] Ah… Trying to think what next. I think next I got married. That ended up being a very abusive marriage which I didn’t know it because the guy seemed so different at the time but he was a replica of my father.
L: Shocker, I know! [Laughs] He became very abusive. He fell into.. He was from another country. When he came here, he fell into a deep depression. At first I thought, God, it’s a big adjustment. He’s lost his friends, his family, his whole support group – of course it’s natural to be depressed. Believe me, I knew depression and so I was there for him. I nurtured him. He became very subtly, very gradually, very emotionally abusive. That took me a long time to figure out, until “why do I feel so fucking horrible about myself?” I mean, I would dread him coming home.
PG: Most emotionally abusive people, their success stories in getting away with it are that they are supremely manipulative and they play the long con. They may not even realize it themselves but they are in for the long haul and they can be incredibly charming up front.
L: Oh yes.
PG: And so they draw you in and will have things in their lives that they can point to that justify why they did this, or they did that. So you don’t see the pattern as a whole. They convince you these isolated incidents, there’s a reason for this. And then one day, you look at the pattern as a whole and say “oh my God!”
L: Exactly. Exactly. It’s the frog in the pot, right.
L: That death by degrees. Every little tiny step you go oh that’s not that big of a deal. But then you look back at where you started and you go “oh what’s happened to my life? I’m not the person I was!” I was miserable when I was married. Absolutely miserable. My ex-husband managed to find a lot of my hot buttons about my looks and he would do things like he would be very sexually withholding, which was just unthinkable for me. I’m like, isn’t this the point of being married? And I never had a problem being faithful to him. You know, once I was married, I was married even though I had this past. And I was candid with him about my past. But he would hold that over me. He was constantly accusing me of going out and sleeping with other guys and I’m like, you know, that’s just not me. I made a vow; I gave you my word. I did not look left. I did not look right and only had eyes for him. That didn’t matter to him. On his planet, I was busy sleeping with everything that moved when in reality it was him having the affairs.
PG: And your past, for somebody who is manipulative and living in that sickness, that’s power to them. Anything, any weakness, on you and that is… I mean, it’s obvious to state it, but I’m going to anyway, it’s the most wobbly foundation you could build any relationship on is where your vulnerability is used against you instead of something that brings you closer to somebody, which is what vulnerability is supposed to do. When it does the opposite of that, it’s doomed.
L: It was doomed. Yeah. It was doomed. He was very hurtful about the way I looked. He used to do things like… this is back in the day with porn when it took forever to download, you know you’d be waiting line by line for the image to load. He had a subscription to Hustler, Playboy, whatever, that’s never bothered me, but what did bother me was that he’d leave post-it notes on the magazines with “This is what a real woman looks like.”
L: Yeah. He wanted to sleep with other women and he wanted me to watch so that he said… how did he phrase it? So I could see what fucking a real woman was like. He was really hurtful. That took me a long time to get over.
PG: Obviously a part of you must have believed it because you stayed with him.
L: Totally! I did stay with him. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine took me aside and said, “You know, what are you doing?” I wasn’t very candid about what was going on in the marriage. I was like, oh God, I don’t feel like I can tell anybody. The one friend I did tell said, “You’ve got to get out of this. You have to get out.” I wanted to try to make it as long as I could. I did believe in honoring my commitment. But there was this whole meltdown where a good friend of mine who’d been like a sister to me, her father had committed suicide. And he was like a surrogate father. He committed suicide. One day after I found out my husband had been seeing strippers and getting lap dances from them. Watching a stripper, cool, lap dance, not so cool. So you violated this boundary I specifically asked you not to violate, my friend’s father just committed suicide, I said “That’s it, we’re separated. We’ll stay married on paper until the green card paperwork comes through and then we’re done. But I want you out of the house. We’re absolutely done.” That was like that whole perfect storm. I was like I don’t know what’s on the other side but it’s got to be better than this. It has to be better than this. Then followed a month of he would come home, we’d have screaming matches till four in the morning trying to pressure me into staying married. That was a really rough month. It got so bad that I flew out of town to go visit a friend that lived in Oregon, just so I could sleep. I was so sleep deprived. He eventually moved out, which was fantastic. It took about two more years for the divorce to get finalized. Never try to divorce an attorney. It doesn’t go well. [Laughs] Yeah, it’s a whole world of suck. It took me a long time to put myself back together after that. Then I started going on what I like to call the year of 100 bad dates. Because it really was a hundred, I counted. These dates where I was very candid about my weight online, recent current pictures, the whole deal. But then I’d meet these guys in person and I could just see their face “uh, this is not what I expected. This is not what I wanted.” One guy, we met at Starbucks and he looks at me, “You’d be really pretty if you weren’t so big.” I said, “If your dick was as big as your mouth I might be interested,” dumped my latte in his lap and stormed the fuck out of that Starbucks. But there was something in my vibe where I just could not attract anybody. It was probably a sign from the universe that I should work on myself and stop trying to frantically find somebody to validate me. It was after that a friend of mine suggested, actually this is a friend that had used an escort service, he said, “You know, you’re really good at sex. If you’re going on all these bad dates anyway…
L: Seriously! That was pretty much how he put it. I was like, Okay, let’s give this a shot. You know, let’s see how this goes. So I did. I did. And it was amazingly gratifying for my self-esteem.
L: Yeah. Oh I’m not. Finding out there’s guys that find me attractive and they find me attractive enough to pay for my time, oh sweet, you know. It was very fulfilling.
PG: What do you remember about your first time doing it?
L: I remember that I had that dissociative feeling where I began, I just slipped outside my body. It became very compartmentalized. It was almost like I had to come back to myself after that hour was up, which I had not expected. I had not expected that at all.
PG: Are there clients where you don’t have to do that?
PG: So every client you have to kind of leave yourself.
L: Pretty much, yeah. We talked about me and Me, Incorporated. It’s Me, Incorporated that shows up for that.
PG: And is it from the door opening or is it just the physical act?
L: Pretty much from the door opening. Yeah, because I can no longer… It’s an interaction in which I’m not myself. I being paid to play a role which is generally therapist.
L: And so, what I want is not even entered into the equation.
PG: Right. To which I would say, well, a regular therapist doesn’t have to leave their body.
L: That’s true! [Laughs] Very true! Regular therapist doesn’t get paid $300 an hour either.
PG: Uh, some of them do!
L: Some of them do!
PG: Yeah, a slim majority of them do. Let me go to some of the questions that I’ve posed. I put a question out on Twitter and I said I’m going to be interviewing a woman who moonlights as an escort, aka prostitute. Are you uncomfortable with the word prostitute?
PG: [Reading] “Would a union or legalization help her?”
L: I think it wouldn’t necessarily help me but it would help a lot of other women that don’t have the autonomy. You know, if that’s their only job, they definitely need a union. You know they need health care benefits. They need some kind of protection to make sure they’re not taken advantage of. You know, I’ve got the advantage of I could do this, I could not do this.
PG: You have a day job.
L: I have a day job. Yeah, I’ve got a whole professional career and so I’ve got the luxury of saying “No, I don’t want to do this” or I do it when I want to. That would be very different if I was trying to pay the bills doing just this.
PG: So why do it if you have to leave your body and you have a day job that pays the bills?
L: Because I think it does actually help people. It definitely coincides with the phases of my mania. You know, when I’m depressed it’s the last thing I do. I don’t work then and there are long stretches of time where I’m not working but I think when done right, it can be really validating for the other person you’re with. And it makes me feel good to help people. I saw somebody just a couple of nights ago. All he wanted to do was to curl up in bed, be naked, cuddle, and he started sobbing about how much he missed his ex-girlfriend and how he’d blown that relationship. He’s sobbing to the point where you rarely see men weep. He’s blowing his nose and there’s snot in my hair and he’s clinging to me like I’m a life preserver and he’s drowning. And I felt like, okay, I’m doing something worthwhile here. You know, this is actually helping this guy. That was not about sex at all. He wanted that connection. He wanted that intimacy but that's the only way he knew how to ask for it.
PG: And he know you’re not going to leave for those 45 minutes so he can be as needy...
L: I ended up spending like four hours with the guy. Because I’m like, I’m not somebody that watches the clock, oh this is minute 56 and we’re done now because I think that’s just a fucked up way to be.
PG: So you didn’t charge him for the extra three hours?
L: No. No.
PG: [Reading] “What’s the impact your job has had on your mental health?” Somebody asks.
L: Hmmm, that’s a good one. I would say in one way it bolsters my self-esteem. You know every time I begin to feel like “Oh God, what if I’m really ugly. What if I’m really not attractive” I can say “ok, well, wait a second, here’s some concrete evidence that shows I am. However, it has had the effect of making relationships more difficult.
PG: How could it not?
L: Yeah. Yeah. How could it not? Although I was in a very long term relationship and when I was in it, I did not work as an escort. Didn’t feel the need to. Didn’t feel compelled to. I was candid with my ex-boyfriend about having been an escort and at the time he said it didn’t bother him but then after we split up, we were talking a few months later and he admitted that it had actually really bothered him a great deal. It’s the main reason he couldn’t stay with me. He just couldn’t get over it. That really was rough.
PG: [Reading] “What do you get out of the experience? My assumption is that it’s only for the money but I could be wrong.” I think you kind of answered that.
L: Yeah, I mean it’s not for the money. It’s to do something… It’s to help people. And it’s to feel validated myself. It’s an ego stroke, for sure. But it’s also that if someone sees me and then they leave feeling better, that’s really good. I feel like I have done something worthwhile. But there are some guys that are even more depressed when they leave than when they showed up and I feel terrible about that when that happens. But no, it’s definitely not the money, not the money at all. If it were the money, I’d be the kind of person that does watch the clock.
PG: How often do you show up and it’s a guy that you look at and “I can’t have sex with this guy.” There’s a repulsion there.
L: Not very often. And in every case the repulsion has been not because I find the guy unattractive, it’s because I’ve gotten a bad vibe like, ooh, this guy is a great way to end up on the 11 o’clock news. It’s the danger, spidey-sense, not “I don’t like his haircut.” You can’t do this job and not be able to find something attractive about men. You can’t. You’ve got to be able to find what’s attractive in every single man you run across. You’ve got to just look for that. And that’s your key to the interaction. I’m pretty good at that. I think it goes with being an artist. You have to see who people really are pretty quickly.
PG: “What’s your favorite type of client?”
L: My favorite kind of client is the kind I see a lot. He’s usually in his 40s. He’s a geek in IT or another professional and has a sense of humor. Doesn’t take himself too seriously. And we laugh a lot. There’s a joy, a great positive energy in the interaction. Usually it’s the kind of guy where… what’s the Charlie Sheen quote? “I don’t pay to get sex; I pay to get the woman to go away” They’re almost all really attractive men where you would never suspect, oh, this guy has got to pay for sex. Well, no, he’s not paying for sex, he’s paying to have this a very clean boundary.
PG: What are some of the things men have requested you to do? Have you ever had a female client?
PG: What are some things men have requested you to do that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do?
L: I don’t do anal sex. Not my thing. Also, it’s a massive health risk. Massive, massive health risk. I won’t have unprotected sex. Because again, that’s just fucking stupid. I will not see married clients. Will not. A couple of guys have managed… I’ve got a pretty good sense of who’s married after I talk to them on the phone before we make an appointment. A couple of them have slipped by me. I can tell because they’re the ones that feel horrible when they leave. They feel worse at the end, than better. I think that’s just a fucked up thing to do. It’s one thing if you’re both single; there’s no ties. Then, it’s like, alright, we’re doing something that… this may sound like a rationalization to some people but honestly, look, a guy takes you out to dinner. Dinner and show, he’s spending quite a bit of money. You really want to tell me that you’re not doing almost exactly the same thing by acting interested in what the guy has to say and paying attention and flattering him and making him feel important for the duration of the date? No, this way’s just more honest. It’s a lot more honest.
PG: Predicated on the assumption that the woman going out on that date is not into that guy.
L: Yeah. But a lot of them aren’t. You know there are women: I don’t really like him but I want the dinner.
PG: I had made a joke on an episode. I read some poll about how crying and sobbing, how crying leads to sobbing and I cracked some joke about sobbing leading to masturbating or master-sobbing.
L: [Laughs] Oh my God, master-sobbing, that’s perfect!
PG: Then somebody asked “Do you ever have guys where they’re sobbing while they’re having sex?”
L: At the very end. At the end when they’re close to coming or right after they come. Then they’ll sob. Or before. But there seems to be something in men where in that beginning of arousal there is no crying. It’s like urinating. They can’t do both at the same time.
PG: What type of role playing have you engaged in?
L: I most often get asked, I get put in this maternal role. Men want their mothers and I guess it’s just because of my looks. I have very big tits so that’s, so if you’re drawn to that, you’re drawn to me. People have asked me to be a dom. People have asked me to be a sub. I can switch back and forth pretty easily. I don’t have a lot invested in either one. But mother, I would say. Mother in a nurturing way. They don’t want to be fucking their mother, they want to be cuddled.
PG: Do you ever orgasm?
PG: How frequently? What percentage of the time?
L: I would say 80% of the time.
PG: Do you always pretend to orgasm if you’re not?
L: No. I figure the whole point is to be honest with each other so let’s really be honest.
PG: Do you envision getting out of this at some point?
L: Oh yeah.
PG: I mean, obviously you’re not going to do this until you’re 100 years old.
L: Oh God no.
PG: Is there a game plan and what is that game plan? Is this open ended? Are you just going to go until you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore?
L: Yeah. Until I feel like I don’t want to do it anymore. Or until I’m in a serious relationship again. No I didn’t have a game plan like I’m doing this to put myself through law school. I will just do it until it stops being fun.
PG: Do you ever worry that there’s an injury to your soul when you were 9 years old that might not be fully healing because you’re doing this?
L: Hmm. I’ve definitely been worried that there is something in me that broke irreparably at that point. I don’t know if this is making it worse, or not making it worse. I’m not sure.
PG: I’m a big believer that emotionally very, very, very few people are ever broken. It is amazing that the horror stories that I’ve seen people heal from. It’s amazing so I really believe… I don’t use the word “broken” because it kind of means it’s irreparable. That’s why I like the word healing. That just occurred to me that I hope this isn’t something that is standing between you being the full you that you can be. Maybe you are already that person because I don’t you know that well. You seem very well adjusted, [Laughter] you’re articulate, fun to talk to but I’d be lying if I said I don’t think that or I’m concerned about that for people that are in prostitution and you in particular. That stuff, that sexual abuse is a tangled bowl of spaghetti.
L: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. I don’t know that you can ever really pick through all the threads and untangle it. I think the metaphor that comes to mind when I think about it is it’s like having your legs shattered and then pinned and glued back together with metal plates and pins. You’re always going to have a limp. You can walk, but you’re always going to limp. That’s what it is. I’ve learned to get around with it. I’ve learned how to live my life with it. It’s not crippling. It’s not debilitating. But it is still there. It would be foolish of me to pretend it isn’t.
PG: What do you say to a client when you show up and say like, “I can’t do this.”
L: I just say “I don’t think this is going to work out. We’re not going to be able to do this.”
PG: And do they ask you why?
L: Yes, sometimes they do and I’m just very… I use the broken record technique: “This is not going to work out for me. This isn’t going to work out for me. I’m sorry this isn’t going to work out for me. This isn’t going to work out for me, I’m sorry.”
PG: Have you ever had to flee?
L: No. No. I’ve had to flee when I was just simply dating. [Laughs]
PG: That doesn’t surprise me. [Laughs]
L: Yeah I had to flee when I was dating. I had to flee when I discovered the guy I was sleeping with, his girlfriend was coming home. There have been some exciting escapes through windows and that kind of thing. My life would be a really bad comedy. French sex farce is what my life would be.
PG: What, to somebody out there, what do you think is the biggest myth about what you do? Or, what is something about what you do that people don’t realize?
L: Perhaps it’s something we already touched on. That it’s just about the money. Or it’s just about the sex. That’s not true. It may be true for somebody who’s working the corner. That may be true for someone who just signed up with an escort service but once you get into the tier of an independent provider where people have autonomy, that’s not the case at all. I’m not doing this to buy crack. I’m not doing this to give my money to someone else. I’m doing this for me. I think people don’t understand, and it’s so sad, that men feel like they have to pay in order to overcome the guilt they feel at not pleasing women. A lot of men just really want to please women and if they pay the money then that gets taken away. Then they can ask for what they really want. Then they can be who they are. And they don’t have to worry. It’s also somebody to listen to them. Most men don’t open up. They don’t have close friends they can confide in. If they confide in anybody, they confide in their wives or their girlfriend but sometimes they don’t even do that. I would say to guys considering this: Try to see if you can get this need met another way.
PG: I love that! I love that somebody is recommending they try something else before they come to you. I love that.
L: Sometimes it really is straightforward like there was a client I saw who was married but his wife had cancer. I know this is a trope but his wife did have cancer and it was in the terminal stages and he had not been able to have sex with her for 2-1/2 years. He came and saw me. Now that’s a very straightforward thing. That’s a guy that just needs to have sex with no strings attached in a fairly caring environment. That's fine. If that’s the position you’re in, go find a sex surrogate, go find an escort, meet that need in a healthy, safe way rather than say, getting involved with your best friend’s wife and ruining a whole bunch of people’s lives. If all you want is that connection go find somebody else to do that with. This is really fucking expensive. [Laughs]
PG: Anything you want to add?
L: I can’t think of anything.
PG: Go ahead, you wanna start? Let’s start with our fears.
L: I’ll start. Do you have your fears?
PG: I’m going to be reading the fears of listener Kim.
L: Okay. Shall I wait for you to get them out?
PG: Go ahead.
L: Okay. I’m afraid I’m too ugly and fat to be loved.
PG: I fear having to claw my way out of a Styrofoam box.
L: That’s a random one. I’m afraid my tits are my only good feature and once they start sagging no one will be interested in me.
PG: I fear not graduating or getting into college and six months from now during prom I will hear all my friends’ names being announced with the colleges they’re going to and they will say my name and then an awkward silence will follow and they will say “yes, well” in a condescending way and hurriedly say someone else’s name.
L: Oh oh oh, poor Kim. Kim, I’ve been to a west coast Ivy. College is overrated, honey. I’m afraid no one wants me, just the things I can do for them.
PG: I fear my spelling and grammar are disgusting and you will read this thinking yes, you very much might fail in school.
L: [Laughs] I’m afraid I’m unlovable.
PG: I fear I will sink completely into depression and people will forget how I really was, how I was when I was okay.
L: I’m afraid I will lose a hand or an eye in an accident.
PG: I fear this is all in vain. I’m fooling myself. My therapist and psychiatrist are lying to me and no matter what I do I will go crazy and die.
L: Well, we’re all going to die no matter what. [Laughter] I shouldn’t laugh at Kim’s fears. I’m really sorry. You’re probably throwing things at the radio now. I’m afraid my famous friends merely tolerate me now that they’re famous.
PG: I fear I will never give up my sick addiction of self-harm. I fear forgetting to wash the razor and someone seeing the blood on it.
L: I’m afraid I’m not cool enough to make it or to hang with my cool friends.
PG: I fear that the lifeguard saw me take photos of myself at the pool last week and think of me as a vain, conceited stuck-up.
L: I’m afraid I’ll never be successful.
PG: I fear I will be afraid to just let myself be still without the fanfare, lies, and anxiety, deference, and anticipation.
L: I fear I’m irreparably broken in some fundamental way.
PG: I fear the only way to help people is to have money and I will never be able to without money.
L: I’m afraid I’ll give in to my suicidal impulses someday.
PG: I fear the emptiness I feel inside will grow and one day nothing will matter to me and I lose my humanity and personality.
L: I’m afraid someone listening to this podcast will deduce who I am.
PG: I fear singing with my family, ruining the melody of beautiful voices with the croak of mine.
L: [Laughs] I’m afraid I don’t matter to anyone and never will.
PG: I fear letting people down, that one screw up will reveal I’m not as good as they think I am and they find out I’m a fraud.
L: I’m afraid of confined spaces.
PG: I fear never finding a country I can call home. Moving from country to country, I think I’ve lost the experience of growing up in a place called home and I fear I will never experience this.
L: Mine’s so mundane after that. I’m afraid of electricity.
PG: That’s it for Kim’s fears. Do you have any more fears you want to add?
L: Oh my God, I have a lot more. Do you want me to stop?
PG: Just give me, pick a couple of highlights.
L: I’m afraid of being the only woman in a group of men and failing at something so then it becomes about my gender and me failing.
PG: That’s a good one.
L: I’m afraid I’m not interesting enough for this podcast.
PG: You couldn’t be more wrong about this. This was such a fascinating interview.
L: I’m afraid I’ll never accept a man or I’ll never find a man who’ll accept my past and not be intimidated by me. I’m afraid of disappointing the people I love. I’m afraid I’m not desirable. I’m afraid I’ll never feel real passion again. I think that’s it for the fears.
PG: Let’s go to loves. “I love being outside when the sun rises feeling fear at being in the dark then watching the sky light up moments later. Reminds me that if you just wait things will clear and there’s nothing to be afraid of.“ That’s beautiful!
L: That’s very good. I love being able to make a man come.
PG: I love furry socks that make my feet look like I’m being a muppet on a cold day.
L: Is that Kim’s loves? I just want to Kim a hug!
PG: Yeah! She is… yeah, she’s just a … yeah. Just a lovely person.
L: I love the sound of men’s deep voices.
PG: “I love the feeling of stomping down on my trucks in victory when I’m landing a flip on the skateboard.” She’s accomplished!
L: Yeah! I love my first bitter, sweet cup of coffee in the morning.
PG: That is a good one. “I love running so fast that I feel limitless.”
L: I love the orgasm you have to struggle for.
PG: [Laughs] Oh, that’s a great one. “I love kisses on the shoulder.”
L: I love reading and losing myself in a good story.
PG: “I love when my little sister’s hand tightens around mine when we’re walking together because she wants to make sure I’m not too far ahead.”
L: Awww. I love videogames.
PG: “I love the retarded, ridiculous, happy frenzy my dog goes into when he sees I’m holding his leash and he knows we’re going for a walk.”
L: Aww, that’s the best isn’t it? I love the paintings of Caravaggio and Rembrandt.
PG: I do love Caravaggio.
L: Have you see the LACME exhibit?
PG: No, but I want to go see it.
L: You’ve got to go.
PG: I want to go see it.
L: You’ve got to go!
PG: I remember taking an art history class in college and just being like snooze, snooze, and then seeing one of his paintings and being like “WOW!” It was… the subtlety and use of light and shadow, it’s like this guy came out of nowhere! It’s, it’s…
L: They are stunning. When you go to the exhibit and you see his paintings, his paintings stand out. There’re also paintings by his peers but you can immediately pick out which ones are Caravaggio’s.
PG: The subtlety of the expression on people’s faces and their body gestures it’s almost like a photograph.
L: It is and it isn’t because when you look at these paintings up close of course they’re very large and so the brushwork is very loose. It’s not tightly rendered like, say Durer. Durer would be very tightly rendered. Or…
PG: I’ll pretend like I know who that is…
L: Caravaggio’s brushwork is loose but when you stand back it looks phenomenal. I recommend that exhibit.
PG: “I love singing worship songs to God and lifting my hands up with the others and feeling pure love wash over me.”
L: I love eating bloody rare meat.
PG: “I love talking on Skype, calling with my friends who’ve left for other countries and knowing the distance seems so little when they mean so much.”
L: I love sushi that melts on my tongue.
PG: Oh, I’m going to re-read hers again. It’s longer than that. “I love talking on Skype, calling with my friends who’ve left to other countries and knowing the distance between seems so little when they mean so much. I can’t believe they love me enough to stay in touch. Those people who said we’d lose touch are WRONG.” And wrong is in capital letters. [Laughter]
L: I love the smell of fresh cut hay.
PG: Oh that’s good. We get grass a lot but hay, we’ve never gotten. “I love when I’m unable to make it to something and my friends text or message me later wishing I was there.”
L: I love the smell of fresh sweat on a man.
PG: I love the amazing and inventive flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has created especially the classic chocolate chip cookie dough flavor and the Canadian tree hugger flavor.
L: There’s a Canadian tree hugger flavor?
PG: I guess.
PG: Festivus is my favorite Ben & Jerry flavor. It’s seasonal. I haven’t seen it in a couple of years.
L: I haven’t either.
PG: Oh, it’s like cinnamon and pumpkin and oh it’s fucking…
L: I love the one made with Guinness.
PG: I’ve never had that one.
L: Oh, that was good. I love being touched and cuddled for hours and hours. I can never get enough of that.
PG: “I love that note my big brother left me when he leaving for the Army. I love this sentence he wrote: “Your mind is capable of dark things but never forget it’s capable of even more healing and light. I love that he sees through my faults.” That is so beautiful.
L: Wow. That is awesome. I love starting fires, building fires, and enjoying the heat and light of a fire that I made.
PG: I love when something I’ve lost turns up unexpectedly.
L: I love having my hair brushed and played with.
PG: “I love taking a bath, submerging my ears in the water so I can hear my heartbeat.” That’s a great one. She’s poetic!
L: [Laughs] She is poetic! I love challenging myself physically.
PG: I love the curly hair Frodo and the Hobbits have in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
L: She likes the wigs?
PG: I guess.
L: I know some folks at WUDL. I’ll pass that on. [Laughs] I love sparring with an opponent.
PG: I love the first time my best friend, it happened after I was raped, she stroked my back, touched me in a completely different way than he had. The opposite. And for a while, I felt safe and loved.
L: Oh, man.
PG: Does that break your heart?
L: It does. Wow. Yeah. That does break my heart. Ah, now my love sound so stupid.
PG: That’s ok. What would you say… Kim was a rape victim. You were a rape victim. What would you say to Kim?
L: [Sighs] I would say “Don’t let it define you.” If you paint yourself as a victim then you will always see yourself as a victim. Don’t let that happen. Take agency, take control over your life. It’s something that happened to you and you can never undo it but turn that into a strength. Know that no matter what else happens to you in life, you lived through that. And you can live through anything. It makes whether or not you’ve been accepted to college trivial. It makes your bad day trivial. If you lived through it, you’ve got a core of strength inside you. Dig down deep and find it.
PG: You know what I love about her, and what I love about you too is that there is so much light inside you that it didn’t get snuffed out.
L: Well, what’s the alternative? Right?
PG: The alternative is people walking around like zombies that are unable to find any light inside themselves and they’re just kind of stuck in a loop in their head and they don’t know how to get out of it. I think most of those people aren’t asking for help, or aren’t …
PG: I’m sure there are some that are asking for help and they’re doing a lot and still happen to be stuck.
L: They’re still struggling. Yeah, that a face. That’s a totally natural face to be struggling and trying to work through it. I did a lot of work at one point in my professional career with Holocaust survivors. Meeting those people, it was so interesting how they fell into two camps. The people that it embittered them, and my God, rightfully so. How could it not.
PG: How could it not.
L: If anybody has a right to be bitter and angry and hate and …
L: …Untrusting, it is them. But then there were the people that even though all this stuff happened to them, this light just shone from them. They were a beacon. You just wanted to be around them. You wanted to talk to them. You wanted to touch them. There was so much kindness in them. And I asked them how did they get through that. They said they just had to really dig deep and find who they were inside. And hang on to that because nobody can take that away from you. They can do things to your body. They can try to do things to your mind. Your soul is always there. Always, no matter what. That’s what I wish for Kim. Hang on to that.
PG: Well, Lillith, thank you.
L: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me on.
PG: Many, many thanks to Lillith for being so open and honest and illuminating. I took a lot out of that conversation with her. So many thanks. Before I take it out with a survey and an email from a listener, I want to remind you guys that there are a couple of different ways to support the show. You can support it financially by going to the website mentalpod.com and making either a single Paypal donation or my favorite, sign up for a monthly recurring donation. You set it up and you don’t have to worry about it. Every month Paypal gives me a million dollars. They give me a million dollars per person. You can afford it. You can do it for, I don’t know, I don’t know what that voice was that just came in there but I hope to never hear that voice again. Deeply disturbing. You can do a monthly recurring donation for as little as five buck a month and that may not seem like much to you guys but it means the world to me because it adds up and it gets me closer to my dream of being able to support myself doing this. Slow the fuck down. Why am I rushing? Not going anywhere. You guys are sitting there on the treadmill or the couch or stuck in your car. This is something I got to work on, feeling like I’m monopolizing your time. Whew. What if I read it really, really slowly and did monopolize your time? I think I’d probably turn it off.
You can support the show non-financially by iTunes, giving us a good rating. Write something nice about it if you feel so inclined. And you can also support it non-financially by spreading the word through social media. That I would really, really appreciate. I think that… I feel like I’m forgetting something. I do this every time.
First thing I want to read is a survey from Shame and Secrets. Filled out by a women who calls herself sophie. She is in her 30s. She’s straight, was raised in an environment that’s pretty dysfunctional, was the victim of sexual abuse, and never reported it. “Deepest darkest thoughts: I wish my mother was dead. Deepest darkest secrets: My brother made me perform oral sex on him when I was around 5 or 6. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: (by the way, so many survey respondents have experienced sex between siblings so if you’re out there and you are feeling like you’re a freak because a brother or sister did something to you, it is quite common. Quite common. I don’t know that eases your pain at all but I just thought I’d mention that.) Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: I fantasize about masturbation, watching my boyfriend as he masturbates while thinking about me. I used to fantasize about hundreds of men waiting in line to pleasure me orally. Any man that was able to bring me to orgasm with his lingual skills would be my lover.” Now that’s a good fantasy in theory but eventually those hundreds of guys are going to want to unionize. Then they’re going to need a break from eatin’ that pussy. And then they’re going to force you to choose the guy who’s going to be your lover because the other guys’ feelings are getting hurt. Then you’re going to have to go before a board and explain why certain guys eat better pussy than the other guys. Maybe I’m over-thinking this. “Would you ever consider telling…” by the way I have that same fantasy too but obviously with women but I also imagine it happening during the auditions for A Chorus Line and somebody is… ah, I’m bailing on that riff. “Would you ever consider telling your partner or close friend your fantasy.” She writes, “yes, he knows.” That’s awesome. There’s nothing, nothing like sharing a fantasy with a partner and having them still accept you for it or not look at you like you’re weird. If you are the partner of somebody who shares a fantasy with you that you’re not into, be diplomatic with them. They are looking into your eyes. They are looking as much at your facial expression as what you say. That is the time to really love your partner. Unless of course they’re fantasy is that they want to go actually chop people’s heads off. “Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings toward yourself?” She writes, “I suppose they make me feel in control, wanted and loved.”
Alright. I’m going to take it out with an email I got from a listener named Dan. There was much more to this email than I’m going to read but I’m just going to read some highlighted parts. He prefaced it by saying “This is going to be a long email. I hope you can find the time to read it. I hope it doesn’t bore you. Right now I’m listening to the second Dr. Zucker episode and so far it is just as good as I expected. It calms me and motivates me. The surveys are great. They have helped me continue expressing my feelings through writing. I love that you talk about spirituality and that you bring up Eckhart Tolle. The first thing he says is “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the thinker.” The first time I heard him say that it blew my fucking mind. Throughout my life I’ve had some pretty powerful spiritual experiences and definitely have felt the feeling of synchronicity at points. One of those points was last night. Maybe a month ago I got some books from the library (libary? That’s the place where they only rent out books to children who can’t pronounce the word library) and one of the books was The Artists Way. It sat under the coffee table for a month building a small overdue fee until I then renewed it online along with the others. But still it sat until I heard it mentioned on the podcast. After finishing the episode I took the book into a bath and started reading. Today after listening to this episode I will start my first writing exercise from it, the free form writing that she recommends to do every day. I’ve been diagnosed with major depression which I think could be the title of a movie about a melancholy Army guy. Give me 20 pushups, or 10, I don’t know, I’m going to lie down. Anyway, I’ve been in the hospital twice after very near suicidal attempts. I had no physical injuries as I never took the final step but I spent a lot of time standing on a ladder or a space heater with a noose around my neck. I wanted to let myself go. At the same time, being so scared to do so. One time I drank half a bottle of Nyquil and stood there trying make myself drowsy so I would lose my balance. The most recent time I mixed bleach and nail polish remover to try and make a homemade chloroform. Luckily, the mixture made the rag turn a horrifying red color and that scared the shit out of me. I called my mom. She then called the cops and there I was in the hospital again. Being in the hospital was really a great experience both times and I am so thankful that my mom allowed herself to react and call the cops. Sigh. I’m afraid that I’m going on too much but I’m going to continue anyway. Thank you for creating the space for me to feel at least comfortable enough to write to you even though I have anxieties about it. Thank you for showing me that you don’t have to be perfect to help yourself or help others. It is heartwarming to know that someone even as fucked up as you [PG Laughs] can be so damn helpful and giving in a healthy way. And I use the term “fucked up” in the warmest way possible. One of the main problems with my depression is that I have trouble keeping therapy appointments. I get depressed or anxious or my sleep schedule gets messed up so that I am too tired to get up. Not sleeping enough is a form of self-sabotage. I live with my dad and I asked for his help getting up in the morning or whenever to make it to my appointments. He is not very good at it and I blame him for not being able to get me up rather than taking on the responsibility. I hope to change this. I believe that he would take me to an appointment if I felt really needed him to but if I don’t even get out of bed to have him drive, there isn’t much he can do. I have plenty of problems with my parents but I will save that for another email. The point is that I want help and I’m going to make my goal to get it. Anyway, I have a lot more in my head. Hopefully doing the free form writing will help get some of it out. But for now I just want to sit back a listen to the podcast. Thank you for encouraging me and the rest of your listeners to never give up seeking help. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And now, some of my fears and loves. (PG: And I’m just going to read some of his loves and we’re going to go out on that:)
I love the sun. I love the light it gives and its warmth.
I love birds.
I love my fingers.
I love making others laugh.
I love sitting in front of a fire.
I love healing.
I love that there is help out there.
I love that I feel motivated to get help.
I love the idea that I can forgive myself and live a healthy life.
I love sneezing.
I love crying.
I love good therapy. When I go in feeling like collapsing and leave smiling and looking up at the sky.
I love when you say “You are not alone.”
PG: Well, Dan, you are not alone. Thanks for listening.