Episode 108: Greg Fitzsimmons
The talented writer (The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Lucky Louie) comedian (Comedy Central, Letterman, Conan, Kimmel, The Howard Stern Show) and podcaster (Fitzdog Radio) opens up about his tumultuous relationship with his late father, his temper, his body shame, ADHD and alcohol. He also authored the critically acclaimed book Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons.
Episode 108: Greg Fitzsimmons
Paul: Welcome to Episode 108 with my guest, Greg Fitzsimmons. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour -- ninety minutes of honesty about all the battles in our heads from medically diagnosed conditions and past traumas to every day compulsive negative thinking. This is 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 doesn’t suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. All kinds of good stuff there. There’s surveys you can take. There’s a newsletter you can sign up for. You can buy a t-shirt. You can, umm, have I mentioned the forum? Wow…wow…I don’t even want to know what I’m gonna look like when I’m eighty…that is not good. My wife and I always joke about I’m going to be plowing through a farmer’s market in my oversized Cadillac thinking that I’m…I’m in a corn field…people bouncing off my windshield. Ummm…what did I want to share with you? Uhh…well you know what, let’s just get right into the…these surveys. Ummm…
This is from the Shouldn’t Feel This Way survey and if I haven’t mentioned it before, you can not only take the surveys on the website but you can see how other people have responded to the surveys…and, uh, because they are anonymous it’s fascinating what people will, um, share.
This is from the Shouldn’t Feel This Way survey. It was filled out by a guy who calls himself IndieAstro. Uh, he’s straight, in his twenties, was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional.
What would you like people to say about you at your funeral? He was always there for his loved ones. How does writing that make you feel? Worried that I will have let someone down. If you had a time machine, how would you use it? I would like to go back and see my mother and father before the tumultuous years. I’d like to see both of them happy with each other. I’d like to believe that I was brought into this world by two people who cared for one another.
Of all of the response to that question, that is one of the most common one, uh, common answers. And the other one – and I totally relate to that – um, and the other one is people that were abused as children would like to go back because a lot of times the memories are fuzzy…they want to go back and have an objective view on whether or not they were abused. Um…
What things do you feel that you don’t feel like you should feel? He writes “I’m supposed to feel disappointed about regaining most of the weight I lost, but I don’t, I feel relieved. I feel like myself again.”
I found that one to be fascinating. Um…
Do you -- How does it make you feel to write your real feelings out? He writes “Ashamed. I know I should be desperately striving to be healthy, physically and mentally, but giving up the fight has been like an extended vacation.
That makes it make more sense. Um…so it was the giving up the fight more than the result of gaining the weight back.
Do you think you’re abnormal for feeling what you do? He writes “Yes. A normal person should be able to fight the urge to overeat. A normal person should be so embarrassed by their poor body image that he or she would go to the greatest of lengths to change.”
You know, I felt that way about my addictions for years and then I had to say maybe I’m not normal. Maybe. I think what I experience is common. There’s a lot of addicts out there. Um…but sometimes I think, I wonder what is normal? Is anybody really normal? Why don’t I just focus on what my battle is and decide whether or not I can control it or I need to call in support. Go to a support group. Get therapy. Suck my thumb. That one’s not working out too well.
Would knowing other people feel the same way make you feel better? He writes “It is nice to consider the thought that I’m not alone in this.”
Well, I can tell you, IndieAstro, you are most definitely not alone in that one.
This is from the Struggle in a Sentence…actually these next couple of ones are gonna be from the Struggle in a Sentence survey. This is filled out by Anon. She’s straight. She’s between 16 and 19. About her depression, she writes “My life is a movie that has the sole purpose of showing a person’s demise.” About her anxiety, “I long for the days when there is nothing that worries me but I know that that will never come.” Well, I would say that you’re a teenager. You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you. I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in predicting the future.
Um…This was filled out by a woman…she calls herself Catcher in the Wry. She’s in her 20s. About her depression, she has major depressive disorder, she writes “It’s like waking up with a gross, fat monster on my chest whispering awful things in my ears making it hard to breathe or focus. Sometimes I sleep so I don’t have to wake up and see him.” Boy, do I relate to that one. About her anxiety, she says “It’s like the world is ending but I’m the only one who notices and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.” About her co-dependancy, she writes “It feels like you’re the least important person in the world and this somehow makes you the most important person in the world.” Wow, that’s fucking heavy. I might have to just sit and stare at the moon and think about that one. I love…I love when you guys fill this out in a way that just hits me like a…like a laser beam.
This was filled out by Jack. He’s in his 20s. About his anorexia – yes, men do have anorexia…lot of people filling these surveys out…lot of men that struggle with body image and eating disorders. He writes about his anorexia, “Hoping that one day I will be so thin, I just won’t wake up.”
Dylan, who is in his 20s, about his codependency writes, “Whenever I have a girlfriend, I just want to hide from the world with her.” I’ve had that fantasy many, many times in my teenage years and in my early 20s. I would always picture myself like on an island with somebody so that we would be uninterrupted…and that’s probably not healthy.
About…this is also from the same survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Meh in N.O .– I wonder if that means New Orleans. He is bi. He’s in his 40s. About his depression, his mania he writes “It feels like everyone I ever loved took out an ice cream scoop and took out a part of me and then left me hollow and alone.” About his anxiety, he writes “Feels like there will never be enough time to do everything that needs doing.” About his love addiction, he says “It feels like a must have someone worried about me all the time and if they don’t respond to my texts or emails the panic involved causes me to think they don’t really care.” About his sex addiction, he writes “I jack off daily and have gotten to the point that I use it as a reward for accomplishing something in my life but most times just to have a fucking moment that feels good.” About his codependency, he writes “It feels like I need for someone to need me all the time to do something for them but bitch and moan when they do actually call and ask me to do something. I always lie to them and say it’s nothing to help even though it’s really a pain in the ass to go do something for them from my personal time.” About his ADHD, he writes “It feels like I see all the things that need to be done but waste all my time thinking about how to start a project. It’s like having a fucking Bugatti revving up in my head in drive but it has a busted transmission.” Thank you for those. Those are so…I don’t know what the word is…so articulate.
This is from the Body Shame survey. I should actually call it the Body Image survey because some people don’t dislike their bodies. I love this woman. She’s in her 20s. She calls herself Transeegic. I think that’s how you pronounce it. She’s….about her body image, she writes “I love the unforgiving curves and womanly shape that I’ve spend most of my young life feeling ashamed of and hiding. I’ve learned the hard way to not be apologetic for the inherent natural state of my human self and refuse to apologize for taking up space in this lovely fucked up world.” That’s so beautiful. That is so beautiful.
You know I’ve been having health issues lately and going to a lot of doctors. Getting a lot of different tests done. I shared with you guys a couple of weeks ago that for like 5, 10 minutes a couple of weeks ago I went completely blind in my left eye. And it kinda freaked me out. But I’ve had enough health issues over the last 50 years that I just kind of have this resigned, slumped shoulder feel about my health. Depression…you know, my various health issues. So I’ve been getting a battery of tests. And the most recent one today was going to the hospital and they put in an IV…it’s called an echocardiogram…a 2D echocardiogram with bubbles…they shoot bubbles in your blood stream which I was like ‘isn’t that supposed to kill you?’ but they’re small enough that it doesn’t. It lets them see if there’s a leak somewhere in your heart. And so, I’m laying on this table and they put this big ass needed – cause they want the biggest needle possible so that the bubbles can get in there – and I had this really sweet woman who was doing the ultrasound on my heart. And she’s showing me all the different chambers in my heart. And I was just watching my heart beat. And I was watching…she was showing me the valve open up as the blood moved through it. And just like clockwork, this valve would open and close…open and close…and open and close. And I thought it was kind of beautiful because here’s this part of my body where there’s no questions asked. It knows what it needs to do. And I felt, like, this feeling of love for my heart. Like this fucking thing is keeping me alive. And why can’t I feel that way about the rest of my body? Why do I have such shame about…as I talk about in this episode with Greg…and I shared it on the podcast before…and I apologize…sometimes I feel like ‘oh, god, he’s talking about his fucking cock again…it…I…I struggle with that. I think everybody struggles with accepting their body. And, I don’t know, it… seeing my heart beat on it’s own, it made me feel like…it reminded me that this all comes from someplace else that is beyond our power. And if we can find some degree of acceptance over the things in our bodies that we don’t have power over, good or bad, maybe we can get a little more peace and serenity in our lives. …at least until my biceps get a little sweeter.
[show musical intro]
Paul: I’m here with Greg Fitzsimmons…and it feels a little weird because we’re in his garage using his equipment because I just did his podcast. Fitzdog Radio is his podcast. You probably know Greg from being a guest on Howard Stern’s radio station…or on his radio show. He also has his own radio show on Sirrius on the Howard 101 channel. You know Greg from...mostly from being a stand-up. What else am I missing? You’ve been on Comedy Central. All of the major talk shows.
Greg: Well, I won four daytime Emmy’s for writing.
Paul and Greg: on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
Greg: then I wrote on Louis’ show…Louis C.K.
Paul: Lucky Louis
Greg: …and a million other TV shows and a new one hour special coming out on Comedy Central.
Paul: Oh, awesome. What’s it called?
Greg: “Life on Stage”…simple…I didn’t want it like Demolition… or Termination…like, how about “Life on Stage.” How about that? That’s pleasant.
Paul: Sweet. Greg is originally from New York City.
Greg: Just outside the city, Terrytown, New York.
Paul: …went to school in Boston…
Greg: Boston University
Paul: …is a hockey player. Who’s your team? The Rangers or The Bruins?
Greg: Rangers. But I’ll be honest with you, I play hockey way more often than I watch it. I love watching it. But I got two kids man. I don’t have time to watch sports. I watch the Super Bowl. You know, I’ll watch the NBA Finals. But…just…
Paul: I’m the same way. I just watch the major events…
Paul: …in different sports but I do like watching the individual Black Hawk games. But I don’t have kids so I have that luxury.
Greg: God, Chicago’s great. It used to be the Bulls, now it’s the Black Hawks. Chicago is Black Hawk fucking crazy.
Paul: They are crazy. They’re a really entertaining team to watch.
Greg: They’re amazing.
Paul: You have been really…I’ve always liked your stand up. Greg is a great stand up.
Greg: Thank you
Paul: Every time I see you perform, you know, you’ll do some joke that I’ll just…I’ll laugh at and I’m jealous that I didn’t write it.
Paul: …and the first time that I thought you would be a good guest for this podcast was when I heard you tell a story about experimenting with whether or not you might be gay. Do you remember that story? How it goes?
Greg: Yes. Yes.
Paul: Can you talk about that? I’m just thinking that might be a good place to start.
Greg: Sure, yeah. Ummm…I think I probably had very…um…probably healthy understanding of gender as a kid. I think I grew up very liberal. You know, my father was a very liberal radio broadcaster. And even though I grew up Irish Catholic, we weren’t homophobic. And I think my parents told me at a young age that being gay is not a choice, it’s just who you are and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And I always thought ‘you’re trying to tell me I’m gay’ [laughter]. But then I grew up and, you know, the time period you and I grew up, it was like, you know, David Bowie and Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger and all these guys that played with gay. And it was cool and then I got into college and I was reading Ginsberg , Kerouac, and Emerson…and all these guys that also were… a lot of gay imagery and to me it felt like something untapped because I drank a phenomenal amount starting from a very young age. Did a lot of drugs, smoked a lot of pot and experimented sexually. In every possible…I was…I had sex with anybody. I was a numbers guy. It was not about the quality of the experience [laughter] and so…uh…threeways…everything. And so fooling around with a guy just seemed to me like ‘well, we gotta try that one.’
Greg: And the funny things was I didn’t feel it. I never felt, like, attracted to a guy on any level. Like I never found, like, men to be a turn on. But at the same time, it felt like, well you’re not going to know until you try it. So, cut to like, god…I want to say like junior year…junior year of college. And meanwhile, I took a year off after high school. Traveled around Europe by myself for 6 months. I’d been out in the world. And I was junior year of college, and I’m stumbling home, and I happened to be living in the Fenway, which is the gay neighborhood of Boston, just by coincidence. And there’s a brambles…there’s the…every city has like a small wooded area downtown for no reason except anonymous gay sex. And you know what happens in there. And during the day, you know, you may walk your dog but your dog may end up with a condom in his mouth. You kind of avoid that part of it and so I just find myself…I’m stumbling home and all of a sudden I just hang a left and I walk in. And I don’t know how it works. I don’t know, like, if there’s a signal or one spot. I just sort of start walking around and then this guy pops out from behind a tree, like a nymph. You know like a magic little troll. I’m like ‘alright, I guess this is it’. And he walks up and he…we don’t say anything and he undoes his fly and pulls it out. But not just the penis, but the penis and the balls. And I look at it and it takes me about two and a half seconds to go like…not interested…at all. Like, not like eeeeeew …just like there’s nothing there.
Paul: I don’t feel anything.
Greg: Not feeling it. But now I realize it’s 3 in the morning and I’m alone in the woods and a guy’s got his cock out. So I kinda freak out and I push him. And he…his pants are, you know, half undone. And he trips and falls down and he sprints off into the woods. And I just stumble out of the woods like…uh…welp…there’s that.
Paul: Check that one of the list. But I, you know…
Greg: But that’s it, I never thought about it again.
Paul: Yeah - but I like that …the reason I bring that up is my favorite people are people that are seekers. And are open minded. And to me that was a story that exemplifies somebody who is open minded and a seeker.
Paul: …and those to me make for good guests for this podcast. And I know that you’ve lived with depression and you had a drug and alcohol problem. You’ve been sober now 20+ years?
Greg: 1990, January 1st…so…goddamn isn’t that crazy. 23 years, 3 months, 20 days…that’s amazing…goddamn.
Paul: Yeah…That’s a long time.
Greg: That is…I just realized that is half my life then because I quit probably when I was 24. So this year will be half of my life. That’s a pretty big milestone.
Paul: That’s awesome. Congratulations.
Greg: Wow…thank you.
Paul: What was it like growing up in Terrytown, you said it was?
Greg: Very very weird fucked up town. First of all, my dad is an alcoholic. He died at 50.
Greg: Basically, he smoked three and a half packs a day and drank a lot. You know, lot of alcoholism in the family…everybody…everybody. And, uh, so I think the reason why I quit so young is that I started when I was probably 12 and I just knew where this was headed. I knew that, you know, I didn’t want to end up like my dad. You know, just in terms, just emotionally…I didn’t want to be a guy who had everything – good career, wife, kids, nice car, the whole thing…and unhappy. I knew how sad and depressed he was. I said I gotta give myself a shot. And I know that categorically drinking is going to keep me from ever self actualizing in any way. And it was so funny because, I’m sure you’ve gone to enough support groups, it didn’t matter that one woman was an overweight 60 year old black woman and another one was a little Philipi- like…we had nothing in common and yet everything in common. It just…and it was profound. You know, the first time I went, I just burst into tears when I heard people talking. Just relating to what they said. Not knowing that this was thing that children of alcoholics felt. And you know a girlfriend of mine had me go. She was like ‘you don’t understand. You’re from a system that’s damaged. It’s not just your dad. Like you grew up with it and you are a part of this… mobile.’ You know how a mobile like different parts are hanging and there all out of order but somehow it does hang but you take one piece out and it collapses. And I had to take some time off from my dad…and I know that you are going through that now with your mom…but I went through that situation with my dad. And, sadly, we’d been very close my whole life. Very volatile – I mean, it was, you know, physical abuse. And I took some time off from him. And for seven months, I didn’t speak to him. And then, I get a phone call that he just died.
Greg: …and that fucked me up for a loooooooong time. You know…
Greg: Yeah. So…
Paul: What do you remember when that phone call came through? Thinking or feeling.
Greg: It just felt like all reality…um…you know like when you go into your time machine on Apple and all of a sudden the universe thing pops up and all the calendars start to go off like Star Wars at the beginning? It felt like that. Like I was being pulled back from the whole earth. And everything was out of whack and I was floating and it seemed like a dream. You know? I had just come in the door, literally the phone was ringing, I was coming in from the door we’d just spent like four days down the Jersey Shore. I was living in Boston. I’d just driven all the way back – 5, 6 hours, whatever. And, uh, it just floored me because I hadn’t been speaking to my mom, my sister was in Alaska but nobody could find her. It was just crazy. My brother hadn’t been talking to my dad. And, uh, you know, that’s when I went through some very, very serious depression. And I think I really started going to therapy for the first time. And…
Paul: Were you drinking at that point?
Greg: No, no, I had stopped. That was part of the reason I couldn’t be around him. He really had a problem with the fact that I’d stopped drinking. I was like one of those things like ‘What do you mean you quit? I drink way more than you and I didn’t quit.’
Paul: Yeah – I’d imagine that really highlighted his drinking.
Greg: Yep, and my mother’s enabling it, you know.
Paul: Did you feel like you had made a mistake by cutting contact with him?
Greg: I mean to this day I think on an emotional level – like, I can tell you in my head I did the right thing and I needed that and it was just crazy luck but I think, you know, as an Irish Catholic, I think we don’t believe in luck.
Paul: We believe in guilt.
Greg: We believe in guilt and that that happened to punish me. And, uh, I felt like I’d caused it on some level. And, uh, you know, I never got over it. I still feel really guilty about it. I still don’t deal with it to some degree and I never will. You know, it’s just one of those things in life where you go like there’s certain things I’m gonna work on, there’s certain things I’m gonna come to terms with and that’s not one of them.
Paul: Well, what do you think the odds are that in those seven months you would’ve had nice moments with your dad?
Greg: Very, very little. And I know that in my head. Because it had come to, it had come to a head. Because stand up represented to me not being under his control. You know, he was a very dominating guy growing up. There was a lot of high expectations – and a lot of encouragement. You know, he was a phenomenal, really supportive of my stand up. And, uh, I had spent the summer in New York at his apartment and literally having to carry him home from bars some nights. And, you know, really bad, bad – you know, bringing up a lot of shit around that. And then, he told me that, uh, I wasn’t writing enough in my stand up. He came out to see me. And he made me ashamed stand up. And I had felt like ‘No, stand up’s mine. You don’t get to do that. You’ve done that to everything in my life. You don’t get to do that to stand up.’ And it was really the thing that, that – and I tried to reach out to him. And I looked back and I had this break though in therapy where I realized I didn’t cut him off. He cut me off because I didn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving and he was crushed and I called and he wouldn’t come to the phone. And after years, I thought ‘I DIDN’T CUT HIM OFF! I just made a choice to not come home for Thanksgiving. I would’ve come home in December or whenever.’ And so, um, yeah, a lot of it, its a real head trip. And, yea, maybe it is something I should re-open the files. Maybe it is a cold case I should re-open at this point.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. But it, you know, stuff doesn’t get filed away in our brains neatly and orderly. That the – that’s the thing that fucks us up. I think is we want it to be like OCD clean. ‘Oh, I can put that away now.’ I know that…but there’s…when it comes to…
Greg: It’s not a novel. There’s no clarity at the end.
Paul: Yeah, there isn’t. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. Replaying that over and over in your mind because the sick part of your brain that’s looking for a way to punish yourself…that’s a fucking buffet for it.
Paul: …that’s a fucking buffet for it. But, um…
Greg: Handling death has been very difficult for me. Since then, I’ve had a really hard time. And I’ve had a lot of death in my life. I’ve had a lot of good friends die. And, uh, I just had my uncle who basically took my father’s place when my dad died just died about six weeks ago. And that was really fucking heavy. And, uh, you know I just, when I think about my wife dying…like me and my kids are driving the other day and they said ‘what…’ --- we were playing that game ‘If You Could Have One Wish’ and of course my kids go ‘To have a thousand more wishes’. Like ‘NO! You don’t get that one. That’s a thing. Everyone knows in the game, you don’t ask for more…’ and they said ‘Well what would your one wish be?’ And I said ‘That I out live you two.’ NO! ‘That you two out live me.’ I…cause that is my worst nightmare…to bury a child.
Paul: I can’t…
Greg: My wife…as long as were old, I can live with that. Let her fucking [laughter] clean up.
Paul: How long have you guys been married?
Greg: 13 years. 14 this summer.
Paul: And what’s your…obviously putting you on the spot a little bit asking you to publicly say how your marriage is going?
Greg: [still laughing] What kind of a podcast is this? ‘How’s your marriage going?’ So, how’s your marriage going? You know that life long commitment you made that dwarfs everything and is how people will judge you? How is that? How’s that going by the way?
Paul: [laughing] I guess a better question would be…
Greg: No, no, no. I’ll answer it. I will gladly answer it. And it will annoy people when I say this. But don’t be annoyed because I, like yourself, have put a lifetime into self-help, recovery, therapy, sobriety, and putting my marriage above everything else including my kids. That was in our marriage vows. That we would put each other above everything in life including our own children because if you think about it, the priest told us this, if your relationship falls apart it’s the worst thing that can happen to your kids. So, you don’t want to become one of those parents that ignores the spouse and – well, you had this with your mother…
Greg: …this is exactly…I’m describing it to you – it is the worst thing that can happen to a child. I’m sure you would have much preferred your mother didn’t spend a lot of time doting on you and instead you got to watch a functioning couple that loved each other.
Paul: Would’ve loved it.
Paul: Would’ve loved it.
Greg: So, because of that I am…I just tell my wife I loved her a couple of hours ago in a deep way. I just looked at her and just told her. You know? And then, five minutes later she just came over and just kept kissing me and saying ‘I love you’. And it’s like, it hasn’t always been as close as that but we never had a really bad stretch and we’ve really…I just…I can’t leave the house. You know, as a comic I’m supposed to…I have an office three, three fucking minutes from here and I never go! Cause she’s home! I just hang around like a dog, like, ‘What are you doing? What are we doing?’
Paul: That’s awesome.
Greg: Yeah, it’s really great.
Paul: Do you think that would’ve been possible without the work that you’ve done on yourself?
Greg: No…no, I don’t. I think that we might’ve been…we would’ve still had the fun but there would’ve been a lot of built up shit. We clean it out. You know? If we’ve got something on our minds, we get it out. Deal with it. So I think that humans are capable of being…like…somebody said to me, it’s the opposite of what you just said earlier, is that a lot of couples can vacation well. You know? But it’s when they get home and they’ve gotta pay the bills that’s where you see if the relationship is good. Cause you said before that…
Paul: Oh, when we were doing your podcast.
Greg: …that actually going on vacation can prove that things aren’t going well. It might go either way but I feel like, as an Irish person, I know how to party. With or without booze, I can have a blast. I love being social, being around people, going out, um, you know, exploring, and laughing. That’s all just stuff that I think is in our DNA. But, um, I think that the darkness is the thing that I’ve worked on. It’s bringing the bottom up.
Paul: Let’s talk about that. When did you sense that there was a bottom you couldn’t handle on your own?
Greg: Oh, from a very young age. Very young age. You know, I, um, spent a lot of my childhood reading alone. I used to bring a light in the closet and read in there. Um, I used to lay under a table and watch tv. And I had a lot of really good friends but no best friend and there was always this wall that I wouldn’t get passed with friends. And, you know, anybody’s who ever met me is like ‘you have more friends than anyone I’ve ever met’. And I have a million people who consider themselves close, close friends of mine. But not…I shouldn’t say ‘close, close’. I should say ‘close’. And um, I would get really, really dark. I have ADHD so I didn’t connect well in school and I got terrible grades and I felt stupid. I felt less than. I was a skinny small kid. I felt very intimidated which led me to have a vicious temper -- gotten into fights my whole life. That’s why hockey was a really healthy thing for me. And so I don’t know I think the depression is in there and it might’ve been the cause…I think the ADHD and the depression kept me isolated my whole life. I felt isolated.
Paul: Did you feel like there was something inside you that you had to hide from other people?
Greg: Oh, yeah, very much so.
Paul: Like if they really knew what I feel and think, um, that I would not be accepted?
Paul: Was it…the darkness…was it a thing that was like in your thinking or something your would feel in your body or both?
Greg: Both. I felt fatigue and I felt headaches. And I’d feel like tingly-ness when I got overwhelmed with anxiety. And um you know…exercise…it’s amazing what exercise does for me now. You know? I go to the gym everything single day and when I don’t I have a bad day. And as a kid when I was on a sports team and I was, you know, playing hockey everyday after school. It was great. And when I wasn’t…it was why I was always a very physical kid…you know I’ve spend like from the age of 12 or 13 I used to caddy in the summer and I played as many sports… I was a horrible athlete but I played sports year round. And, uh, you know, it’s just something that I think I found subconsciously that was helping me. But I needed medication as a kid and I didn’t have it. And I take it now.
Paul: And sports are really good for anxiety.
Paul: Did you…
Greg: Just burn it out.
Paul: Oh yeah, burn it out. there’s nothing like the feeling after exercising for a couple hours where you’ve given it everything and you just...you feel spent and really hard to…its almost like after you cum. It’s kind of…it’s hard to be anxious.
Paul: You know, right after you orgasm…
Greg: Right, especially if you’re safely indoors.
Greg: No, so, uh, yeah. Exercise helps a lot. The Power of Now over the last year has been a book that really, really gave me some simple, just cognitive therapy. I mean it is such a, such a like bricks and mortar way of just not going down. Of just stopping and saying ‘I’m thinking this.’ Just observing your thoughts instead of feeding into them. I spent my whole life hiding who I was from people. Being afraid they were going to see me…even physically, I never…I used to go to hockey practice and I would wear my jeans under my pads because I didn’t want anybody to see me in my underwear. This is in high school…all through high school!
Paul: Where did that body shame come from?
Greg: I was skinny and pale and I had freckles. But I think a lot of skinny, pale people with freckles wouldn’t have had that issue but there was like…
Paul: I had the same thing, by the way, but it was because I was on the small side for my age. Very small for my age and I was like…
Greg: Your penis?
Paul: My body, my penis, everything. So I was like, you know, I couldn’t conceive that anybody would have a smaller penis and testicles than, than I had.
Paul: You know, I mean it was a good four foot ten as a freshman and sophomore in high school.
Greg: Yeah, I was tiny and skinny as hell. I was embarrassed by it all and I was so jealous of fat people even.
Greg: I would look at fat people and be like ‘Man! Look at the way his feet fill up his high tops! And he’s got, like, calves!’ and, like, my sneakers I’d have to lace them until the fucking eyes of the laces were touching each other.
Paul: [laughing] Yes!
Greg: And uh…
Paul: And hard finding your size in jeans…
Greg: Right! Right! And the pads! Like, my hockey pads would spin around my legs they wouldn’t even stay in place! Awww god it was horrible!
Paul: And you can’t conceive of a girl being attracted to you when you’re…
Greg: Skinnier than they are!
Paul: …a child! You’re a child!
Greg: And you hit puberty late.
Paul: Yeah, that’s the worst.
Greg: Aw man, I know. I am just…I think I started feeling good about my body maybe less than 10 years ago. And my body didn’t get better, I just finally went…It’s was partly my wife who was like ‘You have a great body.’ Cause I do! I am totally fit! I’m 150 pounds, five foot eight. I’ve been exercising my whole life. And I…I don’t feel great about my body but like, you know, compared to how most people look I should objectively feel good about it. But, yeah, I think there was some shame…there was some shame put on us as kids. I don’t know where that necessarily came from.
Paul: And if you decide you want to start picking your body apart, you know, nobody really looks at another person’s body bit by bit where they isolate a certain thing. We kind of take people in as the whole.
Greg: Right, right.
Paul: But when we look at ourselves, we look at our nose or our lips or our ears or, you know, whatever.
Paul: And we take it out of context.
Greg: What’s your thing?
Paul: I hate how my ass sticks out.
Greg: [laughing] I thought that was a good thing!
Paul: You know, I’ve had women say, you know, ‘You have a nice butt’ but my friends made fun of me when I was in grade school. And my mom would always tell me…she’d slap me on the ass and say, you know, put your…put your butt in.
Greg: Was it that your back is arched or that you have flesh back there?
Paul: Both, I think. Um, the shape of my head…dislike the shape of my head. Dislike the way my testicles look. Um…
Paul: Yeah, yeah. Cause one didn’t descend as much as the other one and they don’t hang as low as most guys testicles. And so, even today when I am…and I’m what you would call a…you know there’s show-ers and there’s grow-ers…
Greg: In the shower? In the locker room?
Paul: Yeah, so when I get…I’m a grow-er. I’m not a show-er. It…when I shower…you know, take my clothes off to shower after hockey I never don’t feel just a twinge of anxiety. Like oh my god your genitals are embarrassing.
Greg: Somebody’s going to zero in on the one thing?
Paul: Yeah…somebody…I’m kind of surprised nobody has made fun of my genitals before.
Greg: No, because that would mean they’re looking.
Greg: No one’s going to admit that cause…I mean, your way beyond me. I could NEVER shower with other guys. NEVER! Still! I mean even now when I change at hockey, the moment my pants come off before my jeans go on is a mad dash where I look around before I take my jeans off.
Paul: Yeah. What is…what is the fear? They’re just going to think silently to themselves ‘Ewww’?
Greg: Right. That they’re gonna…
Paul: ‘That poor fuck.’
Greg: …think I’m not a man.
Greg: I have a big thing about not feeling like a man. My father was 6-1, big tough guy from the Bronx and he made me feel like a pussy because I wasn’t tough. I was a sensitive kid. I had real deep feelings. I knew I was going to be a writer from a young age. And I think he saw us a spoiled suburban kids who grew up with a lot more money than he grew up with. And it’s like ‘Well whose fault is that, fuck face!?’
Greg: You created this situation.
Paul: Isn’t it crazy?
Greg: It is crazy.
Paul: Um, getting back to the body thing, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you don’t feel manly enough. You don’t feel manly enough about your body. There’s…
Greg: Or my voice.
Greg: I have a high pitched voice and it’s…I went to voice lessons recently to try to get a deeper voice. I call information and they’re like ‘Hold for the number ma’am’. And it’s like ‘Wha…wha…bu…bu…I’m a guy!’
Paul: You do not…you do not have a fe…
Greg: I swear to you. I go on the Howard Stern Show and fans call in going ‘He sounds like a pussy!’ I don’t have that deep ‘Hey…’
Paul: I’ve never thought…I’ve heard you many times and I’ve never been aware of your voice.
Greg: Good. Now I feel better.
Paul: I think about how hideous your body is.
Greg: But we just talked about how…
Greg: Now I’m going to put my clothes on now.
Paul: Uh, so, any seminal moment from childhood or adolescence kind of stick out?
Greg: Jesus Christ! Many! I mean, I wrote a book called Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox and my…I got into trouble my whole life and so it’s letters…I found out years later…I went into a basement, my aunt’s basement in the Bronx and I found a box of letters and notes, disciplinary reports, arrest clippings from the newspaper – I got arrested a few times for fighting, drinking – and, uh, my mother saved everything.
Paul: [whispers] Wow…
Greg: Like trophies. Like that’s how the Irish are. Like that’s a trophy. They think it’s cool that you’re rebellious. And so I wrote this book about that rebellion and how it started with my father and as an authority figure he used to beat me and, uh, how scared I was of him and how I ended up very angry and lashing out and going against authority my whole life because of it. So, I mean, I don’t want to rehash what’s in the book too much but, I mean, a lot of the seminal moments are in there. Probably the biggest one, the life turner for me, I mean, and we talked before about how you can’t always wrap things up and neatly file them away. But this is definitely a turning point moment that I didn’t think of that way until years later. But it was very clearly a time when I had changed. Where…I told you I’d gone to Europe when I was 18. And took a year off after high school, I didn’t think I’d go to college. And…I came back and then I went to college freshman year so I’d had some time out of the house. I’d started to actually have some real self esteem. Like college was amazing for me. I lifted weights for the first time in my life. I was going six days a week. And I actually had muscle! I had like fucking tits and shoulders and you know. And so…and I was getting laid. And I was getting great grades because they a special program at Boston University for kids that had had bad grades but good SAT scores and they knew they had, you know, behavioral…not behavioral…like learning disabilities. And it changed my life.
So I’m back that summer and I’m laying in bed and it’s, you know, like midnight or something. I’m reading. And my sister who was probably about 16 at the time comes home and she’s drunk. And my parents are up, they wake up. And there’s some yelling and I hear him hit my sister. And without even thinking about it, I ran downstairs and I got in his face – in between them. And I said, “You don’t hit her. You don’t hit a girl.” I said, “If you want to hit somebody, you hit me.” And he just looked at me. You know, he just froze. And I thought he was going to fucking kill me but I wasn’t scared. It was just this moment. Like this is…this has been happening my whole life? This used to happen to me? This motherfucker did this? And no one said anything? And it took me being out of the house to have this perspective that this wasn’t right. And my sister started crying. She hadn’t been crying because when he would beat you, you wouldn’t give him tears. You just fucking take it. So, she starts crying. I put my arm around her and I start walking her upstairs and I look in my parents’ bedroom. There’s my mother sitting on the edge of the bed quietly, head down, not stopping him. And I come up to the top of the stairs and there’s my brother not saying anything. And she goes in her room and I go into my room and my father came up the stairs about, you know, five minutes later. And, you know, his big foot steps on the stairs and I’m sitting in my room going, you know, car wallpaper up and I’ve got my metal twin bed and he comes in. And I was like ‘Alright, this is it. This is gonna be bad.’ And he just said, “Stand up!” I stood up and he comes over to me and he goes, “If you ever cross me again in this house, you’re out! No college, nothing! Do you understand me?” And said, “Yeah.” And he goes, “WHAT?!” I’m like, “Yes.” And he walked out and I just pitied him. Like I saw it all. In that moment, I saw all that power that I thought he had gone. That it was just this house of cards. That all it took was somebody to turn the lights on and he was this sad, you know, ineffectual, weak guy. You know? Who hits a fucking 16 year old girl?
Paul: [quietly] Wow. That was like a little movie.
Paul: That was like a little fucking movie.
Greg: And it is so weird because it is one of those things you can file away. You can really go… And after that…you know, not that after than I never feared my dad or never had him pull my strings. It continued to happen but it was different. It…our relationship fundamentally changed after that.
Paul: Would it be fair to say that because you now knew that his biggest power or his aggression was not coming from a place of authenticity but from a place of little boy fear?
Greg: Him being afraid that she was out of control?
Paul: Yeah, that he was overwhelmed by his life.
Greg: Right, right.
Paul: I mean is that…is that fair to say? Or…
Greg: I think it was that and I think that he was seeing himself. He was seeing a guy…yeah…he was seeing that he didn’t want her to end up like him. But it was like when he would tell me…he would catch me smoking and give me a lecture and he was smoking the whole time. It was just that he didn’t show us any example. But he told us how we were supposed to live. And so I saw a guy who…who, um, was gonna say this is unacceptable to her. And he knew that if he couldn’t change, how could he change her. You know? And so it was…the beatings never came from trying to teach us. They always came from his own frustration, his own anger, you know. I don’t think too many parents hit their kids to teach them. I think there is those cases of your three year old runs in the street and maybe you slap them on the ass but I think beyond that, I don’t think that you hit a child in a constructive manner.
Paul: Yeah, I always picture that parent as being scared and overwhelmed by their life. You know that they just feel like everything…that things are just spiraling out of control.
Paul: And that’s their kind of primitive way of trying to induce some type of order into their life. Or just that the emotion that comes up is just so overwhelming to them. They’ve never been taught another way to express it other than yelling or hitting.
Greg: And they have an inability to communicate with their kids. They feel like, well, this is one way I know I’ll communicate with them. Which is the worst way, it does the opposite of whatever you’re trying to teach them.
Paul: So you’ve probably never seen your dad get…probably never got to see him be vulnerable really, did you?
Greg: There were times late in his life. I have a picture of him when I left to go to Europe – there’s a picture of him hugging me at the airport and you can see he’s, he’s got tears in his eyes.
Greg: He loved me a lot. I was, you know, really…he was really proud of me. And we made each other laugh a lot. We had a very deep bond. We connected. I think I was always somebody who was…was…I was very emotional. You know, and part of the book is there’s a whole series of letters that I wrote to my dad. I think starting in Europe where I would write to him and they were – goddam were they heart felt. Like, love you and, you know, I know you have a hard time sometimes because, you know, you had a tough life, you know, you deserve to feel proud of… The way a father should be writing to his son! But I always felt like he could never be vulnerable and I knew that there was a guy in there that was hurting. And all through college, you know, and after college, I found…and here’s the great thing, he never mentioned these notes…EVER!...that he’d received them. And then after he died I was cleaning out his desk and I found a bundle wrapped up with string - every letter, postcard, birthday card I’d ever given him my entire life, they were all in there.
Paul: What did that feel like? Did the flood gates open?
Greg: Yeah, that was like…it was like that part of him that I’d always known that was in there. The vulnerable guy – there it was, that guy. And the fact that he could never say it to me, once in a while my mother would say ‘I saw you wrote dad a note. It mean a lot to him.’ I think that he could read them but he couldn’t respond to them.
Paul: Did it, this is probably a stupid question, make you sad that you never got to experience that part of himself that he hid away?
Greg: No, it actually made me feel…it’s one of the things that let me let go of how bad I felt about him dying without us talking is it let me feel like, you know what, I did reach out. This is proof in my hand that I kept opening the door to him.
Paul: Yeah! Sounds like you tried really hard.
Paul: And normally, it seems like it would be the other way around where the parent is trying to get through to the kid.
Greg: Well, I think…I think with our generation it was different. You know, our parents grew up tough. They grew up tougher than us. They had a rougher life. People were less evolved, less…
Paul: Certainly internalized it more than we do.
Greg: Yeah…they weren’t…it wasn’t part of the play book to not…to externalize it. It just wasn’t an option for them.
Paul: You never saw a guy standing over a Model T saying ‘I feel overwhelmed’.
Greg: Right…[laughter]…right! ‘I don’t deserve this.’ Yeah. No, it was like…um… you know…and that was part of the thing were I think I don’t feel like a man is like…that generation did look at us like pussies. And by definition we are! We’re softer. We not as like…you know…I don’t know that I could go in a coal mine and work the way…not that he worked in a coal mine…but like those guys, physically, they went to war! Can you imagine us going to war!?
Paul: [quietly] No.
Greg: Shit! You do those USO tours, right?
Paul: No, I never have.
Greg: Cause I mean, I couldn’t even do that.
Paul: No. I’ve joked about this on stage before but I shit my pants playing paint ball. [laughter] You know, I can’t imagine live fire…
Paul: …whizzing past my head.
Greg: Right, right.
Greg: But people went to war, man! They got a letter in the mail and that was it. They was no calling them and saying ‘hey, uh, can I postpone jury duty?’ It was like, no, you got a piece of paper in the mail and it said report to this place with a fucking bag of your shit! And then we’ll send you somewhere for years.
Paul: The end of a boat is going to open up. You’re gonna have to swim to shore while machine guns rake the beach.
Greg: Right. And you went. You left a wife and a little baby, couple other kids and you just…Johnny’s off…off to war. I mean that’s mind boggling. There’s this museum in Kansas City, the World War I Museum, and like cause that…that was the trench warfare shit…that was the most…probably the most horrific war conditions of all time. And uh…
Paul: And the chemical warfare, there was nerve gas.
Greg: Yeah…and they’re standing in trenches, knee deep in mud that freezes into ice. And guys without boots and rats and you know. But it just makes you realize, like, uh, I guess that humans are capable of doing that but for me to imagine even coming close. I have a hard time…I’d have a hard time even going to France on a vacation.
Greg: I’d be like ‘Aww, this is tough!’
Paul: ‘We got a layover!’
Greg: ‘What!? The hotel’s not serving food after 11! This is ridiculous!’
Paul: Well, you know, I think sometimes about 50 or 100 years from now people are going to look at those of us that live with mental illness and think about it that way. And say ‘You mean you didn’t…you just had to live with it? You had…you had days or weeks or months or years where you had trouble getting out of bed? Where things didn’t bring you pleasure? ‘ And they’d say ‘How did you do it?’ And we’ll say ‘We just did it. We just…you just soldiered on.’ And I’m not saying that is a bad as combat but it’s certainly its own…it’s its own war and it’s its own struggle because it colors everything.
Greg: Well it’s interesting that you say that because I never thought of that. That there will be a cure…well to some degree…
Paul: Or something better…something…
Greg: There will be treatment. Right.
Paul: Something better than this hit or miss medicine.
Greg: You think about what was available a generation ago. I mean some of the drugs were available but they were a small percentage. Most of the shit people were getting was either just speed or just lobotomies or just opiates. And now you got stuff that really understands how endorphins work in your brain and how the frontal lobe functions and, um, but I wonder if that’s not going to be to the detriment of arts.
Paul: I think about that too.
Greg: Where are the creative people going to come from? Because I mean…
Paul: Will all the music then be happy? It does serve an evolutionary purpose. And I…and I know people, scholars, have written about that. But I can tell you, when we don’t feel like getting out of bed, there’s no joy in even the things that used to bring us pleasure, you don’t really give a shit about evolution.
Paul: You just want to be able to find pleasure in something.
Paul: Alright, I want to take a little break here and give a some love to our sponsor, hover.com. If you have never registered your own domain name, I highly recommend using hover.com. You can register in just a couple of clicks. There’s no upselling. And you can get memorable email addresses. Just imagine emailing somebody from Paul@IDontWantToReadYourScreenPlay.com. Nobody’s ever going to ask you to read their screen play after you get an email from that. Having trouble breaking up with your lady? Send her an email from Mike@IThinkWeShouldSeeOtherPeople.org. You don’t even have to say anything. The internet is wide open. Whatever name you can think of, if it’s not taken, its yours. So, go right now – or at least when the podcast is over – go to hover.com/mental and they’ll know that you’re coming from my podcast. Again, hover.com/mental.
Paul: And now back to our interview with Greg Fitzsimmons.
Paul: So what are some other seminal moments from your life that kind of stand out?
Greg: Well, I mean I can think of times when I got beat up as a kid and they still put goose bumps on me because I didn’t fight back. Because earlier in my life, I didn’t fight back. And then I started to. And, uh, I still can’t take the fact that that happened to me. I think part of it was my dad…
Paul: Were these other kids that…?
Greg: Yeah. But you know, I grew up in Tiretown. It was a tough town. There was a lot of projects and there was, you know, kids from fucked up families. You know you had to watch…had to watch your step. And there were times when I lost sight of that. I think it affected me more than it did other kids. And I wish I’d fought and gotten beat up than have taken it. It was humiliating…very, very humiliating to me. And I can’t believe that that nerve is still live; it can still bring it up. I can still get angry just thinking about something that happened in third grade. I was waiting in line in third grade and, um, I was teasing a girl…pulling her pigtails…some fun…typical…and this kid from the grade below me…second grade…black kid…fucking slapped me around for doing it…in front of my class. And I didn’t do anything. And, uh, and I wish I could go back in time and lose that fight right.
Paul: That must have been extra humiliating because he was in a grade below you.
Greg: And black. Nah, I don’t even know why I threw black in there. But I think I was intimidated by black kids too, you know. It was like, even at a young age, black kids were hanging out together, cousins. And white kids felt like, you know, we had more money. I was softer. These kids all lived in the projects and I lived up on the hill in house, you know. Just…I think that that stayed with me for a while and ironically as I get older, like in a high school, I didn’t have that intimidation but I did as a kid. I think I felt very…I felt guilty for having money as a kid. You know, when you grew up in a place where a lot of people don’t, you feel…you feel like…it was one of the things I was ashamed of. I never wanted anybody to know that we had money.
Paul: A through line in a lot of this stuff, you know about your body and about your money, is…there’s like a, um, ‘don’t look at me’.
Paul: ‘Don’t look at me.’ And yet, you become a stand up comedian.
Greg: Yeah, but that’s not me.
Paul: Talk about that.
Greg: Well, the guy on stage is everything that I want to project. It’s everything that I want you to believe about me. It’s the cocky self assured smart guy who is got it over on you. You’re shutting up for an hour and you’re listening to everything I say. And if you talk, you’re getting thrown out. That’s not me. You know?
Greg: That’s my dream of who I am. You know I think when I meet people at a party…I can sometimes go do a gig…you do one of those corporate gigs and they’re like ‘Yeah, well you go have dinner with everybody before the show and you get to know people.’ And I just go ‘You don’t understand what this relationship is on any level here. No, I don’t meet them. If I meet them, I’m gonna be this scared little meager guy who has no social status. These guys are all in suits and they’re, you know, successful and they’ve got a fraternity of success of the guys around…and I’m a guy alone in a hotel room who if he’s not here is masturbating or staring into space.’
Greg: ‘And I’m going to dominate you for one hour and I’m going to get the fuck out of here with a check in my pocket. There’s no mingling cause that…that’s not me.’
Paul: [still laughing] You portray it so well though because when you and I did that Adam Corolla show and we were hanging out backstage, you didn’t feel any differently to me than you did the guy onstage. You seemed self assured. You know? We had conversation. You flowed easily from one subject to the next. You…
Greg: Well, ‘cause I’m around like minded people. I mean being around you guys is like ‘OK, this is life’. You talk about having to scare yourself by skiing down a hill? Like for me like go on stage with you and Corolla and, you know, have to be on my game and think fast. And I go deeper. I go way different places in podcasting than I do with stand up. ‘Cause I don’t feel like I’m married to the joke or having to get a laugh ever once in a while. And I trust that, I trust that being honest and doing…like I love this podcast…I like to communicate this way. I think it’s as compelling…more compelling than making people laugh. So, I think that when I’m backstage and onstage doing something like that, that’s much more comfortable.
Paul: It feels safer to you?
Paul: Like you’re…the real you is going to be understood.
Greg: The context, being with you guys. Now I don’t want to go…after the show I don’t want to be out front shaking people’s hands. I do it and I hate it! It’s so painful for me to shake people’s hands, have them take pictures with me, small talk with them. And because I feel like I have a different energy on stage, I can’t keep that energy going individually with people. I can do it collectively with all of you. But one-on-one, I feel like suck a phony going ‘Oh, thanks.’ All you keep saying is ‘Oh, thanks a lot. Really appreciate it. Thanks for coming out. Oh thank you, thank you.’ And I do appreciate people coming out, it’s just hard for me to express it. And it’s hard for me to engage in that intimacy. It’s not intimate when you’re on stage.
Paul: Your…uh, yeah…I think that’s a great point. There is an energy…because people are so excited when they meet you after their…well some of them, some of them are…very, very…never want to see you again. But some are excited to see you and you feel an obligation to bring your energy up so they don’t think ‘oh, this guy’s pissed off to be standing in front of me.’
Greg: Exactly. You don’t ever want somebody to think ‘oh, he thinks he’s too good to talk to people.’ Which is the problem, I think, with a lot of things in society, is that, you know, what my skill set is is writing and performing comedy. It’s not meeting and greeting and hosting a wedding, you know. Which is essentially what you turn into. I’m not…I didn’t get into this to do, you know, press tours or tweet relentlessly or any of the other things you’re forced to do to have a career. And I think it’s the same with actors. You know, you see people who people who maybe studied acting and they want to do that and they spend half their time doing interviews that they don’t really want to be doing. And so I think it’s something that the public takes for granted…that we’re not being douche bags if we’re not giving you everything that you want on an interpersonal level. It’s just not our strength necessarily. It may seem like it because that’s what we’re telling you on stage. But that’s really a façade.
Paul: It is. And the natural…if they saw what the average performer’s energy is off stage, they would find it either disappointed or off putting or both.
Greg: Or just sad…
Paul: [laughing] Yeah.
Greg: But either way, weird. That’s why musicians get laid and comedians don’t. Because after the show, I think if we could come out and be like ‘hey, how’s it going, sweetie!? Yeah! Like the cleavage! Where you going?’ They would keep laughing right to the hotel room. But there’s a different guy that comes out after the show and he’s not making eye contact. And he’s mumbling. And he wants to talk about his set. The musician, he doesn’t say shit. He didn’t say shit while he was playing bass.
Paul: [laughing] He’s supposed to be mysterious.
Greg: He was playing bass with his sunglasses on! He’s still got his sunglasses on! He’s still not talking. You’re going back to the hotel with him.
Paul: Yeah, that’s so true. It’s so fucking true.
Paul: So, how do you…when your depression creeps in…do you take any meds?
Greg: I take a patch for ADHD.
Paul: How’s that work?
Greg: In the morning, I put it on. It’s like an Adderall. Not Adderall. Um, uh, this is how bad my ADHD is…I’ve been on this thing for seven years. And it’s a Daytrana Patch. It’s Ritalin, slow release Ritalin.
Paul: And so, how does that…does that calm you down?
Greg: Just the opposite. It wires you up. With ADHD, you’re not…you’re not mentally stimulated. And so you don’t engage…your brain doesn’t engage with your body. And so the stimulant allows you to like, again, going back to that skiing thing, you do that…you probably have some degree of that. Like risk taking, the fighting that I talk about, the stand up; those are all things that get me wound up and then I feel alive. The patch is sort of a physiological change that happens to you when you put it on.
Paul: Ok, cause I know that Ritalin is a stimulant but I thought it might’ve be one of those things where ADHD, the person is kind of amped up and it does the reverse and it calms them down.
Greg: Yes, I’m amped up. Like, you know, my whole life, my leg bounces up and down non-stop. The reason why I’m so skinny, I eat everything in the world and I can’t put weight on ‘cause I’m just going. And I can’t not have an activity. I’m just doing shit constantly. And somehow, throwing more energy on top of it, is the thing that calms you down.
Paul: So that is the case with you?
Paul: Oh, ok.
Greg: …keeps me focused and centered. I can’t explain it all. You know, it’s so weird when I try to explain the ADHD thing and the medications for it. I should ask my doctor again. Because it’s worked for me. I mean I…I really wasn’t getting a lot done in my life and then I got on this stuff. I was writing on TV shows much more successfully, started doing the podcast twice a week years ago, wrote a book, on the road 25 weekends a year, did a radio show every Monday night for six years, father, husband…
Greg: You know, just get it done. I couldn’t have ever done all this stuff.
Paul: Wow! That is a lot of shit.
Paul: That is a lot of shit.
Greg: You know, I think with depression…you see a lot of ADHD and depression together. So, a lot of times what treats depression is also something that treats bipolar. You may not have that high end but a lot of bipolar medications work for depression.
Paul: I see. Uh, any other seminal moments from your life?
Greg: Let’s see… uh, yeah. Well this one…you mean internally seminal or externally?
Paul: Either one…either one.
Greg: Well, externally I had a big thing happened. But first, one of my closest friends died from spinal meningitis. And, uh, that was a big deal. Comedian…
Paul: How long ago was that?
Greg: This was back in probably 1998. A guy named Jerry Red Wilson, comedian. And, I started this foundation for spinal meningitis with his cousin and his fiancé at the time. And, uh, anyway so just to set that up…I knew everything about spinal meningitis. And then I was in St. Louis, on the road, and I’m on the golf course with the club owner and my phone rings and it’s my wife and she’s in the emergency room and my nine month old son has spinal meningitis. Which is very, can be very fatal. And if not fatal…can be…brain injury, paralysis. So I’m on the next flight out. And I get there and for 72 hours, they do a spinal tap and they do tests. And you don’t know whether or not your kid’s going to live or die. You just basically hope. And, uh, that was like, you know, I guess it was like me realizing that it can, it can be taken away. And I think I’ve raised my kids like that since. Is that everyday, if I can finish my work and get home and grab an hour, making another memory with them, then that’s what I should be doing. And every weekend I don’t have to be away, every Sunday night I can cut off of that offer I get in Cleveland and just go for the Friday/Saturday, I’ll take the loss of money, be home, you know. I don’t think I would’ve been that way. My father wasn’t around a lot. I think making skateboards with them, you know, I’m reading The Confederacy of Dunces out loud to my daughter now even though she’s nine. I do all the New Orleans accent and all that.
Paul: Such a fucking great book.
Greg: Yeah, it’s the greatest. And she gets it. She already gets it. “Ignatius, you talking to them Communists.” But so…
Paul: “My valve! My valve!”
Greg: “My valve!” [laughing] And so, like, you know, you just…I think that that was something that snapped me out of where I was headed. Because for the first year of his life, I was on the road. I was not around. And I think it was the toughest time of me and my wife’s marriage because she really felt abandoned at that time. And that’s something we had to kind of deal with later. And, uh, I reached out to a couple of friends…Louis C.K. I said, ‘You gotta get me on a show.’ He was writing on Cedric the Entertainer Presents. And he got me a meeting with Cedric and I sat down with him and I gave him a writing sample and I got hired. Got off the road for…you know…I’ve been on and off the road for 12 years writing on shows, like basically half and half…which has saved me. And I wouldn’t have done that, I would’ve just stuck with the road, I think, if that hadn’t happened.
Paul: One of the surveys we have on the website is called the Happy Moments survey and people share happiest moments that they remember from their life. And every single happy moment that people share that has to do with their parents, it is never about some gift that they gave them. It is always about that person’s attention and feeling seen and understood by that parent.
Greg: Hmmm, yeah.
Paul: I’ve never met somebody’s who was fucked up because they didn’t have money but there is so much emotional poverty in this country, we don’t even…we’re so distracted by all the shiny shit, we don’t realize that it is…it’s an epidemic. It is an epidemic. And I don’t know what the word for it, my word for it is emotional poverty. I’m sure there’s some better word for it.
Greg: Well, you could call it material fetish. You know we think that every piece of happiness has to be external. And, uh, hanging out, my best memories are…Brian Vanhorn’s apartment…his mom… single mom she worked at the hospital, we’d come home after school and we would sit in his house, listen to Led Zepplin albums, make prank calls, fucking laugh, you know. College, sitting around the apartment, five other guys, just drinking some beer, playing darts…like those were the best times in life. And with my family, you know playing…we used to play Crazy Eights – that card game. You know, and we would play…we were kids. We’d play ‘til midnight, you know, on a school night. Cause we’d just start playing and laughing. Yeah, those were really great. And I have to say vacations with my family really are, now, like we vacation very well together. We camp. Just the four of us together is pure happiness. We all love it. So, like, even if it’s not a huge trip, just getting away from the electronics and the TV and the phone calls and the other friends and the, you know, whatever, like we really enjoy spending time with each other.
Paul: That’s beautiful, man. That’s really beautiful. I really love…I love hearing…um…I can never hear enough of parents being emotionally invested in their children’s lives and really seeing their children. Not trying to mold them into something they think is going to protect their child…
Paul: …from the world. I think the biggest mistake parents make is they think ‘I have to, you know, discipline this child into something that will survive well in the world.’ While I think there certainly is a small component in that in your job as a parent, the bulk of it is…is just letting that kid know they are ok exactly are.
Paul: That they’re loved.
Greg: That’s 100% right. If my kid has confidence, he’ll figure the rest out. And, the only thing I really struggle with is…could I be motivating them more? There’s way that you can really…cause I do believe we can be too soft on our kids. My daughter right now wants to quit playing flute and I just said to my wife, ‘you know, we live in one of the few school districts in Los Angeles where there is a music program…where they have teachers and classes and they can …’ And, you know, she wants to join choir which is also considered…that’s there music curriculum, they can do that. And I just said…you know, my son wanted to quit trumpet and I said ‘No.’ I go, ‘That’s not an option.’ You got a chance to play an instrument, it’s like math, it’s like anything…we play musical instruments in this family. That’s one of your obligations, you know. He’s got to mow the lawn every week. You know, there’s like…and meanwhile, you can get a gardener out here for like, fucking, 60 bucks a month. But, we got that push mower right behind you. And he pushes that fucking mower and does the grass. But I feel like there’s ways that I could really be, you know, positively influencing them to push themselves harder. Um…
Paul: Is there a fine line that you try to be aware of so that it…it doesn’t…
Greg: Oh, I’m nowhere near it. I’m nowhere near that line.
Paul: Yeah.…end up being domineering?
Greg: I could be a lot tougher and, you know, it’s just so much more fun to just hang with them. But I realize that, you know, part of a parent is that when they leave your house, there’s going to be tough times where, you know, you don’t want them to be satisfied living in an apartment with three other guys when he’s 30 years old. And not, you know, pushing himself to find his potential. I think that part of my job as a parent is, especially at this age now, of…of, you now...not being satisfied with just minimal effort.
Paul: Mmhmm. Any other things you want to touch on before we take it out with fear-off and love-off?
Greg: No, I just, you know, appreciate you doing this podcast. It’s so great when a comedian can, you know, change gears and do something that’s so much a part of you, obviously. And I think it’s something that comedians all have inside of them. So, uh, you probably don’t have all comedians but…
Paul: No, I don’t. I don’t.
Greg: It’s good for a comic to change gears.
Paul: Thanks, it’s…it feels right. You know, you know that when something feels right, you’re like ‘oh, yeah, where’s this been my…where’s this been my whole life?’
Greg: And that’s the beauty of podcasting. There’s no genre. You don’t have to be listed under one genre. You don’t have network executives giving you notes. It’s like, ‘I guess I’m going to do…I don’t know. Turn on the mike! Here we go!’
Paul: I love that my podcast is listed under Health. And…
Greg: Is it?!
Paul: Well, yeah. Cause I didn’t know what other…
Greg: You gotta pick one.
Paul: …Cause I can’t put it under comedy. And self-help and health are the, you know, health and then / self-help seemed the closest to it. I just loved the fact that I have a podcast that’s in the health category and the last time I went to a health club and the woman scanned my card and her jaw dropped open and she went, “You haven’t been here in 700 days!”
Paul: Isn’t that awesome!?
Greg: Did she look at your body? Did she look at your ass? Immediately? Turn around.
Paul: In fairness, I’d had shoulder surgery. But that…700 days. That…there was some…
Greg: Whatever the cancellation fee was might have been the better option.
Paul: Yeah…I cancelled. I cancelled it after that. But…yeah. But…umm…but thank you for your nice words and being so open and honest. I appreciate it. And I’ve always been a fan of your stand-up. I just love it. You’re a really funny guy.
Greg: Well, thank you, man. I appreciate that.
Paul: I like that you go…you bring…your comedy goes deeper than people that just write jokes. And I always like that. That’s always like a little cherry on top of the sundae for me. Is when it’s about something emotional or there’s some vulnerability in it. And I like that. I appreciate that. I think that takes balls to be able to do that in a comedy club.
Greg: Thank you. Yeah, I guess that’s what scares me going there which always makes the comedy better.
Paul: Yeah. I could never get the balls to do it in a comedy club. I can do it in a podcast but in a comedy club…my hat has always been off to the guys that can put that out there. So…
Greg: Thank you.
Paul: So let’s start off with, uh… we’re going to improvise some fears.
Greg: Here we go!
Paul: Well…right now I’m afraid that the traffic is going to be horrible on my way back and I’m going to be late for dinner – I’m supposed to meet somebody – and their going to be disappointed and I’m going to feel like a bad friend.
Greg: Sometimes I have a fear at the end of a podcast that it wasn’t good and I don’t know. And then I listen to it, many times I listen to it and I go, ‘Oh, no! This is fucking great!’ I don’t know if I’m just being hypercritical but no fear there.
Paul: I have that all the time. I’m constantly afraid that I come across…that I’m naturally kind of an asshole inside and that I have to do my best to hide that part of me. Because I naturally kind of…just wrong…you know, just say the wrong thing and I have to be constantly alert for how I present myself. Otherwise, people would be like ‘ugh, that fucking guy.’
Greg: Yeah. I have a fear that my kid is going to be riding his skateboard that we built together one day and other kids are going to see him and tease him that it’s a homemade skateboard. You know, the idea that this thing is so sacred, I think, between he and I, but that it would be seen in a different way among kids that are all about brands and see that it’s not exactly symmetry…the symmetry is a little off and you know, yeah.
Paul: I always think of that guitar that Brian May plays. You know, he and his dad built that when he was a kid.
Greg: Brian who?
Paul: Brian May, the guitarist for Queen.
Greg: Oh, really?
Paul: That red guitar that he plays that has such amazing sound to it.
Greg: He built it with his dad?
Paul: He built it with his dad and it’s the wood from a 200 year old fireplace. But…
Paul: That he and his dad built something together that is so precise and so sonically...good. Uh…who’s turn?
Greg: Yours. I just said the skateboard one. Don’t try to pussy out.
Greg: You must run out! Cause you gotta do it every week.
Paul: I do. I usually go to listener’s fears but I’m too lazy to reach over and pull one.
Greg: That’s alright. I want to hear your fears, man.
Paul: I’m afraid I’m going to need shoulder surgery again and that my muscles are just getting tighter and tighter and tighter and eventually I’m just going to lose all movement and I’m just going to be that stiff guy that everybody pities.
Greg: Wow... My fear is staying in this town too long. I don’t want to be the guy who’s, you know, wearing sweats and walking his German Shepherd in the park looking for anybody who he worked with on a pilot 20 years ago who will have a talk with him.
Paul: I’m afraid that when I go to do the festival in Portland in a month that I’m not going to organize my time there well and I’m going to disappoint myself and other people and maybe do a live show that’s a train wreck and I’ll be embarrassed. Cause I won’t have put enough thought and effort into it. And once again, it will be, ‘Oh, you lazy fuck.’ And I’ll leave there feeling like ‘You lazy fuck.’
Greg: Well, you kind of can’t win that one, can you? Cause there’s no…there’s not line that you will work above that will make you dismiss that fear. You know, cause really performing is about feeling…confident…feeling funny…and all that writing shit is great but it’s so far behind walking out there not feeling afraid of what you just described.
Paul: Yeah… I think I understood what you just said.
Greg: In other words, you getting passed that fear… ‘The only thing to fear is fear itself.’ You getting passed that fear is so much more important than you sitting down for eight hours everyday between now and then and writing.
Paul: I see. I gotcha.
Greg: Cause you know how many fucking hours of you logged onstage in front of a camera, you know, doing this character you do. Like you know it. You can own it. Now if you write some new shit, that’s great. But worst case scenario is you going up there afraid you didn’t.
Paul: Yes, I’m not so much afraid of doing my character as I am doing a live show because I’ve never done a live show of my podcast and…
Greg: Oh, ok.
Paul: …and I’m terrified that it’s not gonna be…
Greg: …oh, that’s good…
Paul: …I’m not gonna…the great idea for how to do it will come to me on the plane ride home.
Greg: Right, right.
Paul: And I will go, ‘Oh, why did I do that instead?’
Greg: Because, for me, it’s always because I get paralyzed with the fear of doing it.
Greg: And then once it’s over, obviously that fear is gone, and the juices come in. It’s always why I like an early show and a late show. You know, the second show your always loose and you got it figured out. But, oh, that’ll be great. Your doing the podcast live that’ll be awesome.
Paul: I’m hoping to. I’ve got some great guests who I think are willing to do it. So…it won’t be because of them. I fear that it will be because of my poor organizational skills.
Paul: Alright…your turn. Then we’ll go to loves.
Greg: Ok. I’m going to Florida for Easter with my family and I am horribly afraid my mother will push every button and that as a forty-six year old man I will be diminished to the same place that we all are that they… The mom still has that power. Some of the stuff you describe with your mom, you know it’s amazing. It’s…how powerful they are. And in reality, they have nothing to do with your life anymore. I see my mom…we talk on the phone every three weeks and I see her three, four times a year. So, it shouldn’t really matter her approval and all that and I’m just afraid I will fly home feeling like, ‘You just spent a week in Florida and didn’t enjoy it because you fed into it and you weren’t…’ The Power of Now’s going to help me. I’m going to see the thoughts. I’m going observe myself having those thoughts and say, ‘yeah, your having those thoughts because it’s your mom and she pushes those buttons and now your reacting to it the way you do. That’s what’s happening.’
Paul: Love Eckhart Tolle. Have you read A New Earth by him?
Paul: Oh, dude, you have to get it.
Paul: It’s so good!
Greg: Like about the environment more?
Paul: I like it…no, no, no, it has nothing to do with the earth or environment or anything. It’s just about consciousness and seeing how the ego injects itself into our daily lives.
Paul: It’s a lot…it’s even more practical than The Power of Now.
Paul: I like The Power of Now but I’m a huge fan of A New Earth. It was his book after that one.
Greg: You know what the best part is? I read The Power of Now and then I’m a big audiobook guy and I listen to them going to sleep at night to kill the voices. And I was so afraid that I was going to hear him and he was going to be this flakey, sissy and so I had to prepare myself. I downloaded it. And I couldn’t listen to it for about a month and I had to keep saying, ‘ok, here’s the exercise…no matter what this dude sounds like, you’re going to accept that it’s the dude who wrote that book that changed your life and you’re going to be ok with it.’ Sure enough, the flakiest long pauses, like, you know, it was done at, like, a retreat up at Marin [sp] or something and you could hear the chicks in yoga pants and I just…and he laughs at himself…and I love him. I made myself love it. No problem, no judgment on Eckhart Tolle live.
Paul: That’s awesome.
Paul: That’s a good thing to segway into our love off for…um…I love seeing a dad be involved in a kid’s life and building shit with them. That makes me extremely happy.
Greg: I love to hear that. Cause I sometimes forget that I have that balance. Sometimes I can feel like my career’s not as far along as I wish it was, not working out enough, I’m not a good enough of a dad, and then I hear that and it’s like, ‘I guess I am a good dad. I guess I’m going alright.’
Paul: I love watching Patrick Cain either make a pass or score a goal after doing a spin around move.
Greg: Yeah, I saw one of those the other night. I love finding a new series on Netflix so when I go on the road, I can go to bed at midnight and stay up til five a.m. watching consecutive episodes of The Wire…
Paul: [whispers] Yes!
Greg: …or Breaking Bad or Dexter or something fucking dark and horrible. It’s the only thing that get…and I can’t…usually at home you watch one or two and it’s like, ‘oh, we gotta go to bed, we gotta wake up early.’ And on the road it’s just an orgy of great tv!
Paul: I completely agree. I did that with Game of Thrones and Walking Dead.
Greg: Yeah, Game of Thrones I have ahead of me still. I haven’t started.
Paul: That’s so good.
Paul: That’s so good. I love the feeling of being in a support group and being able to express what is in my soul in a way that let’s some of the pain and the fear out and it feels like it brings me closer to the other people in the support group.
Greg: Wow…you’re going deep on the last one.
Greg: I love that life gives you opportunities to grow. I’ve always had a bad temper and I fight. And the other day a guy…apparently I cut him off, I didn’t realize it. And I’m in my Prius. He’s in a big F150 jacked up truck. And he starts tailgating me and following me home. Like zigzagging through streets. And I was on the phone with my mom. And I go, “Mom, I gotta go. I got a little situation here I gotta focus on.” And my normal reaction would be to flip him off, slam on the brakes, egg him on, and…uh…or pull over, jump out of the car. And instead I just slowly drove, I pulled over on the side of the street, I let him roll up. He put his window down, I put my window down. He goes, “Hey, you got a problem?” And I said, “Do I look like I have a problem?” And he goes, “You cut me off with your faggoty little car.” And I just started laughing because I had already decided that I was not going to fight this guy and that…I was gonna…on of my…I went to an anger management class and they said ‘you have a choice when these conflicts come up. You either extend this relationship or to terminate this relationship.’ And I took the option of exterminating it by not engaging, by just laughing, and then I said, “You know what? No problem, man. If I cut you off, I apologize.” And he kept egging me. He kept saying stuff. And I just looked him right in the eye, and I didn’t back off because that’s the worst thing to do, I looked him right in the eye and I just kept nodding. And then eventually, he wore himself out and he drove away and I felt empowered all night. I came in the door and I was like, ‘Honey, you should be so fucking proud of me.’ Cause normally I come home and I go, ‘yeah, I just got in a fist fight with a guy at my radio station.’ Which happened six months ago. And so, like, I love that when you think that life gets boring, you don’t have to wait for a bad thing to happen that makes you scramble and feel relieved that you avoided it or got out of a bad thing, but that you actually can challenge yourself to get better. And that you can…I think I always felt like there was a limit on how good you could get because we’re essentially bad. And now I feel like, no, if you trust and you’re vulnerable you can go deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, there’s always room.
Paul: That’s a great one. I love that. What a great one to end on.
Greg: You’re right!
Paul: Greg Fitzsimmons, thank you so much!
Greg: Thank you, my friend.
Paul: Many, many thanks to Greg Fitzsimmons for just being so funny and honest. I really, really enjoyed not only having him on this podcast but getting to do his podcast. And I apologize about talking about my junk again. But he asked! I almost edited it out and then I was like ‘you know what, everybody doesn’t listen to every episode of this show so there you have it.’
Before I take it out with some surveys I want to remind you guys that there’s 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 PayPal donation or, my favorite, recurring monthly donation. You just have to set it up once and until your credit card expires it just keeps giving me a couple of dollars every month. You can do it for as little as five bucks a month. Got some super sweet people out there that give me like twenty bucks a month, even twenty-five bucks a month. Gotta love you. I love everybody that sends me even a buck! Thank you so much! Gets me closer to my goal of being able to support myself doing this show. You can also support us financially by using our Amazon search portal. So when you’re going to buy something at Amazon, enter through our website, right hand side about half way down. You can also, I know I’m forgetting something…who gives a shit. You can support us non-financially by going to iTunes giving us a good rating…boosts our ranking, brings more people to the show. And spreading the word via social media. That’s helps. And sign up to be a transcriber. A lot of you have been signing up to do that. Too many of you to thank. Or I should say, I’m too impatient to take time to thank all of you. I’ve thanked you via email but, um, let me thank you out loud. Cause it…that’s a full day of work, transcribing one of these episodes. Especially the early ones where I say ‘uh-huh, yeah, right, uh-huh’ after everything somebody says. I can’t imagine how annoying that must have been to transcribe so thank you.
Alright, enough beating myself up…let’s get to some surveys. Oh and I am still planning on coming to Portland, April 18 through 20, and hopefully we’re going to do a live show. I’ll give you more details as that comes…as I get that information and if you’re going to be in Portland and you want to see me, definitely follow me on Twitter, @mentalpod, and that way you’ll get up to the minute info on where I’m going to be, if we have a listener get together, or whatever…whatever it is. Ok.
This is from the Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by woman who calls herself Sasha. She’s in her 40s. She’s bisexual. Was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional.
You ever been the victim of sexual abuse? She writes, ‘Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse. I fought off a rapist once.’
You know I’d say if the word “rape” is in there, yeah, that probably qualifies it as sexual abuse.
‘I fought off a rapist once in a deserted part of a hilly area. I was going to let him rape me because I was afraid but then he made it known the rape was going to be anal and that took it to a whole different level in my mind and I fought back even though I was afraid he’d kill me. He slammed my head on the pavement until I saw stars but I kept fighting. Then he threw my purse off a hill and drove away. I had to walk a mile down the hill at night all bloody with my clothes torn to get back to my car but at least I didn’t get raped.’
I don’t know if I have ever read…I’ve been doing this show for two years…I don’t know if I’ve ever read something as fucking intense as that paragraph that you just wrote. Wow. I really hope that you’re talking to somebody professional or some type of support group about that because that is some heavy shit even if you…the act didn’t happen…that…that…that fucking stress…my God.
Deepest darkest thoughts? ‘I wonder if I made a mistake marrying my husband. He’s a wonderful man but he doesn’t make a very good living. For the most part I support us. Our sex life isn’t great either and I wonder if I should’ve been more courageous and paid more attention to my attractions for women instead of brushing them aside and focusing on men.’
Deepest darkest secrets? ‘I’m an upstanding member of society with a respectable legal career and a strong family life but my past was very different. I’ve been to prison three times for opiate addiction. I used to be a prostitute and not a fancy one, but a street hooker who charged as little as twenty dollars when I was desperate. I burglarized houses, stole from stores, and sold drugs to support my habit. Even before my drug addiction, I had lots of sex with lots of different guys just for the fun of it. I value the lessons I learned and for a long time, I enjoyed being wild and an outlaw but if any of my co-workers and friends knew they would be shocked and would look at me completely different.’
Sexual fantasies most powerful to you? ‘I have shut down a lot of my sexual feelings because my husband and I have so little sex. Our sex life is not satisfying and I am not willing to have sex outside of our relationship. So I feel like engaging in a rich fantasy life would frustrate me more and might spark desires in me that are best to leave alone. I had plenty of sex when I was younger with probably over a thousand partners so it’s not like I feel that I am missing out. I kind of feel like it’s a chapter in my life that has ended, at least for now. On the rare occasion when I do fantasize, I think about sex with women.’
Would you ever consider telling your partner or close friend about your fantasies? She writes, ‘Yes, because I’m not ashamed of wanting to sleep with women. My partner and my closest friends know that I am attracted to both sexes.’
Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself? She writes, ‘Just regret that I had mostly male partners and married a man. I thought when I was younger that I couldn’t possibly be gay because I didn’t like women’s vaginas. But I was, and still am, attracted to women. And a woman is composed of more than just a vagina. I wish I would’ve explored my attractions to women more thoroughly before marrying a man.’
Thank you for that.
This next one is also from the Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by…no I’m sorry. This is from the Shouldn’t Feel This Way Survey and this was filled out by a guy who calls himself SW3NGY and he’s straight, in his 30’s, was raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional.
What would you like people to say about you at your funeral? He writes, ‘That I was a kind and generous person who cared about his family and friends.’
How does writing make you feel? He writes that ‘No one gives a shit about me and that my kindness and generosity is always a way for them to take advantage of me and use me for what I can offer. No one will come anyway.’
If you had a time machine how would you use it? He writes, ‘Go back to my childhood. I don’t remember it at all. I seemed to have blocked it all except for the memories of screw ups and being a hyperactive child and family and parents and teachers hating me.’
What do you feel that you feel you shouldn’t feel? ‘I’m supposed to feel good about starting my own business but I don’t. I feel like a failure and no matter how much I work or make, I’m always behind. I’m supposed to feel happy and in love about being a newlywed but I don’t. I feel I’ve let my partner down and brought her into my life of disappointments and screw ups. I supposed to feel proud about what I’ve accomplished in life but I don’t. I hate my life and everything about it. I’m supposed to look forward to the future but I don’t. I want to die and be done it with.’
How is it making you feel writing your feelings out? He writes, ‘I feel angry and anxious. How is this helping anything? I just think about everything I did wrong and wish life didn’t take so long to end. I want to snap and feel I could put my head through the wall right now. But I always feel that way.’
Do you think you’re abnormal for feeling what you do? He writes, ‘I know others feel depression probably in similar or worse ways. ‘
Would knowing other people feel the same way make you feel better about yourself? He writes, ‘No. I just want to be happy or else be sedated from the pain I feel. I’m 32 and don’t remember my past or anything happy. I feel if I live for another 50 years that’ll be living a life of hell and sadness.’
Do you have any comments or suggestions to make the podcast better? ‘I’m a new listener so I hope to get something from it. Pills don’t work and neither does therapy in my humble opinion.’
I would suggest sticking with them and trying to be patient because for a lot of people those things do work.
And this is another…this is a different survey but also filled out by him. And this is the Struggle in a Sentence Survey.
About his depression, he writes, ‘Atypical but I think I feel like killing myself on a daily basis.’
About his anxiety… ‘Extreme. Always hard to breathe or relax.’
About his alcoholism and drug addiction… ‘Stop drinking for three months now. I think it’s better.’
About his OCD, he writes, ‘So I’m told by my wife but I think it can make me productive.’
About his anger issues… ‘Extreme. I feel like I could kill someone for no reason if they even look at me different. I often have flash thoughts of punching or hitting people around me or killing them. I trace my arms sometimes with a knife imaging what the pain would feel like if I pushed harder and would the pain be followed by happiness.’
And then his comment about this one…
Any comments to make the podcast better? He writes, ‘Why the fuck would anyone want to buy a t-shirt for this podcast. Hey, look at me. I’m telling the world I’m depressed and have an illness and my life is fucked up. Support my cause, like it’s fun or something to be proud of. Idiotic.’
At the risk of sounding like I know you better than I do, I recognize so many of the feelings that I feel like you’re expressing and I just want to give you a big hug and encourage you to stay in there because I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by anger and to feel like I’ve been dealt a shit hand and it’s never going to get better. And, your so much more lovable than you think you are…we all are. But a lot of times if we’re dealing with addiction or depression, it masks that light inside of us and it makes it so hard for us to see it but sometimes other people can see it. My wife saw it in me. You know when I apologized to her after I quit drinking, she said…and I think I’ve shared this with you guys before… “I know you think I stuck with you because I have low self-esteem but I stuck with you because I always knew you’d become the man that you’ve become.” And if I’d given up on therapy after a couple of months, if I’d given up on support groups, or trying to find the right meds…which I still struggle with, I wouldn’t get to have moments like that. I wouldn’t get to realize my potential. I wouldn’t be doing this show. So that’s my two cents. Sending you some love.
This is also from the Shame and…well, not also from the Shame and…this is from the Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself My Shame. She is bisexual, pansexual, in her 30’s, raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional.
Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? ‘Yes and I never reported it.’
Deepest darkest thoughts? ‘I’ve had sexual fantasies during masturbation about my family members having sex with my girlfriend. I fantasize a lot about anonymous sex encounters, especially where I’m fucked hard. Every once in a while I’ve had disturbing thoughts about physically hurting my girlfriends when I don’t want to be with them anymore but I don’t have the balls to break up with them. I thought about having revenge sex with the girls my girlfriend cheated on me with and making sure she caught us just to get back at her.’
Deepest darkest secrets? ‘I was molested by a family member for a couple of years when I was very young and simultaneously acted out the same thing with my sibling. I enjoyed all of the experiences and also hated myself and knew I was a terrible kid. I fooled around with my cousin in my teens. When I masturbate I can’t cum unless I think about someone else fucking my girlfriend.’
Um, I would say that you were not a terrible kid. I think any kid that is being sexually molested by a family member is…and doesn’t have any coping mechanisms or a person to talk to about that is going to create some chaos.
What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you? ‘I’ve mentioned this before in some ways. I fantasize a lot about other people fucking my girlfriend where I don’t have control. All of my fantasies involve my control being taken away from me. Tie me up, spank me, yell at me, force me to do things to them, pee on me but I don’t fantasize about being in pain.’
Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend about your fantasies? ‘I would never tell my partner but I might tell a close friend. I’ve never told anyone.’
Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself? She writes, ‘The thoughts about watching other people screw my girlfriend makes me feel fucked up. My girlfriend cheated on me so why it would turn me on to watch her cheating makes no sense to me.’
Well, if you’ve been listening to this show for the last couple of years and hearing me read these things, most people’s sexual fantasies make no sense to them morally and there’s a lot of people believe that that is part of the turn on, that hurdle that our brain creates, often that shame it intensifies it even though it brings us negative feelings and a feeling of emptiness afterwards.
She writes, ‘In real life, it would be horrible but sexually it would turn me on. My fantasies about not being in control just make me horny. It’s this idea in my head that if someone wanted to control me that much, it means they want me a lot more. Control equals desire in my head, I guess. When I masturbate, I think about any of these sexual fantasies, I usually feel really ashamed and empty afterwards. But they’re still there in my head.’
Well, My Shame, as you call yourself, you are not alone. You are so not alone. Go through…go to the website and click on the Shame and Secrets Survey and look at the results of how other people have answered this. And you will see that you are not alone.
Alright. I’m going to take it out with a happy moment filled out by a guy who calls himself Demetri. He’s in his 20’s.
And he writes, ‘A fellow student who I’m secretly a little in love with is doing her bachelor’s thesis and is going through a time of stress and uncertainty. The other morning, I was working in the same room at the university with her. Partly to get work done in a working atmosphere without distractions and partly because I wanted to help her out if she’d be stuck with her work. There was still snow outside but the sun was shining warmly into the large windows of the room. She was sitting at the window watching children play at the playground at the other side of the garden we have behind our university. She suddenly started talking about growing up with her brothers and being around boys all the time, how it may have effected her development of not being able to express feelings properly. I can’t remember what I said to her at that moment. But I remember her long blonde hair when she was sitting on the windowsill, her whole body illuminated by the morning light outside, and that smile on her face full of honest thankfulness for whatever I said. In this moment, I realized that I don’t need to “own her” to make her mine or something stupid like that. The egotistic neediness was gone completely. I didn’t want anything from her at all. It was the perfect moment to be of help to this beautiful human being to share a little of my strength with her when she was in need the most. And it made me so incredibly proud and thankful that we connected in this seemingly small moment of happiness.’
Gah…fucking beautiful. Thank you Demetri. And thank you guys for everything. Everything. I just can’t even imagine what I would be doing without this podcast. I can’t! I can’t. And the love that I get back from you guys is so awesome. It is so awesome. And when I’m having a dark day and it just it really buoys me. I may have never used the word buoy before. And I don’t think I will again.
If you’re out there and you’re stuck, don’t give up. There is hope. And you are not alone.
Thanks for listening.