Lauren Ashley Bishop (voted #2 ep of 2014)
The comedian shares about the three traumas that led her to finally seek somatic therapy for her disassociating subtype of PTSD, how she’s healing and the tools she uses to cope today.
The comedian shares about the three traumas that led her to finally seek somatic therapy for her disassociating subtype of PTSD, how she’s healing and the tools she uses to cope today.
Welcome to Episode 204, with my guest Lauren Ashley Bishop. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour—honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas, and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show's not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. Oh, for Christ's sake! It ain't no doctor's office! I ain't no therapist! It’s a waitin' room that doesn't suck! I don't like—I don't care for what I'm doing right now. I'm not a fan of it. I will not subscribe to the newsletter, and I wish to be unsubscribed from all future mailings by this character that I just went into.
The website for this show is mentalpod dot tom—com. I'm gonna blame it on Santa. Santa is fucking with me. The website—who gives a shit what the website is for this show? Let's get to some surveys.
This is from the Struggle in a Sentence survey—oh, one thing I wanted to mention before that is, we've been having some issues with the forum and I was trying to fix it and I deleted about a third of the forum. Yeah. Threads of posts that people have been going back and forth on for years, gone. Ugh. That... I apologize. I'm talking to our web guy and seeing if any of it can be retrieved, but it looks like a lot of it has been lost so I'm going to stop beating myself up and just apologize. We do what we can here on a shoestring budget and sometimes...the guy without the electrician's license is the guy that has to rewire the house so... That's that.
This is from the Struggle in a Sentence survey and... Let's see. This one is filled out by a guy who calls himself "Not Quite Drowning." And about his depression—I really like this one. He says:
"Depression is having to serve everyone you meet a cup of your energy from a bucket riddled with holes."
Oh, that is so dead-on. About his love addiction, he writes:
"Please see me, so I know that I am real."
A snapshot from his life:
"I'm such a fucking people-pleaser that standing next to anyone resets my opinions and preferences to factory default."
Thank you for that.
This is from Jenny O., and she writes about her depression:
"Not strong enough to really live: failure. Not strong enough to kill yourself: failure."
About her sex addiction:
"I'm a horrible fucking person, watching rape porn the second my significant other leaves the room."
About being a sex crime victim:
"Truth stalks me day and night, waiting for the moment I slip up and stop minimizing. If I look directly at it, I know it's going to devour what's left of who I am."
Thank you for that.
This is from a guy I think I could definitely be buddies with. He calls himself "Fat Piece of Shit." Just right to it. No mixing words, no mincing words, no dancing around the topic. "Fat Piece of Shit."
About his compulsive eating, he writes:
"I just ate a whole box of Strawberry Frosted Mini-Wheats. A whole fucking box. I feel like such a weak, worthless turd."
Snapshot from his life:
"After getting sick on the cereal, I stopped at McDonald's on the way to work. I cried when I pulled away."
Buddy, I just wanna give you a hug and let you know that you are so fuckin' not alone in that. Anybody dealing with an addiction feels that same way. It's like they're watching themselves drive to go engage or go to the room where they do whatever it is that they do, or pull out their razor or go to shoplift or go to the liquor store, whatever it is. And here's why—especially wanna give those of you who compulsively overeat a fucking hug, is because you have to wear the wreckage of your addiction on your body. A lot of us—I was able to throw my empties in the garbage can. A lot of people that shoplift, people don't know that the stuff they have around their house is stolen. But you have to—you can't hide it as easily as we do and... Try to be compassionate with yourself, because hating yourself is only gonna make you wanna overeat more. And make sure you're talking to somebody. Do not try to deal with this just on your own. It's just too—addiction is too fucking insidious. But we're sending you some love, buddy.
This is filled out by a guy who calls himself "Currently Binging," and he writes—his—struggles with a mental handicap, dyslexia and dyspraxia. He writes:
"I feel like how I experience the world must be fundamentally flawed. I feel like I will never have the experiences most people have: stable job, partner, shelter."
Highlight—snapshot from his life:
"A shop assistant asked me if I needed help with anything and I desperately wanted to respond with, 'Do you have anything that will make me want to not kill myself? Thanks.'"
Thank you for that.
This is filled out by a guy who calls himself "Olfar," and about his compulsive shopping and hoarding, he writes:
"Fuck you, Goodwill. I have no reason not to buy a bag of used pens for a buck-fifty."
Oh, that one made me laugh.
This is filled out by a girl who calls herself "Blah Blah Blah." She's a teenager, and about being a sex crime victim, she writes:
"Someone has taken my identity and given me a riddle to try to understand life."
And then, a snapshot from her life:
"I was driving on back roads. There were hailstones and sleet and torrential downpours. For the past two weeks, I have been feeling great, openly talking to people, but in the moment I took a corner too fast and I could no longer feel the car, I let everything go. I let go of the wheel, took my feet off the pedals, and took a deep breath, thinking, This is it. When the car eventually stopped and there was no damage, my adrenaline pumping, I had to do it again. Three times, and not a single scratch on the car. Luck or fate, I couldn't care. Once the adrenaline faded, all my energy did, and here I am."
Thank you for that.
And then, this one is by a woman who calls herself "Herp Derp," and about her anxiety:
"Like Jaws music is always playing, but the shark never shows up."
About her anorexia:
"I cry all day if the scale is above 115."
And a snapshot from her life:
"When I was eight years old, my grandma told me I should give up crying for Lent."
Paul (PG): I'm here with Lauren Ashley Bishop, not to be confused with the designer Laura Ashley.
Lauren (LB): I would love to be confused with the designer Laura Ashley. I feel like Laura Ashley has much more money than me. Shittier bedspreads, but...more money.
PG: You have less flower prints per inch than she does. That's the only thing I know about her, is her stuff is all flower prints, right?
LB: That's it, too. She's probably a lovely person. What if she's goth secretly and was just like, "Flower prints are what sells, but secretly I go to Gwar concerts."
PG: Gwar. Nice pull.
PG: Nice pull.
LB: I like to get Gwar in under five with every podcast.
PG: Are they Canadian, Gwar?
LB: I think so, yeah? I don't know!
PG: There's... Yeah. Anyway—
LB: Do they really belong to any country?
PG: Let's—they're—they belong to the world.
LB: They do, they do.
PG: Let's talk about you.
PG: You're how old? People give me shit for asking women how old they—
LB: Yeah, that's such a weird question!
PG: But I feel like it's so important for other people to hear, 'cause this is so not an industry podcast. This is so much more about—
LB: Yeah. Oh, I'm so beyond my age mattering in the industry anyway. Like, I'm way too old for an age that you'd lie about, you know what I mean? Like, if I was, like, 28, I could lie about being 23 and that might make a difference, but no one gives a fuck once you're 37, which is what I am.
PG: There's no way you're 37.
LB: Oh, God bless you!
PG: I would have absolutely thought that you were in your 20s.
LB: Oh, see—oh, so that would have been even worse! Go ahead, gut your career! No.
PG: Yeah, and if I have offended guests by asking that or made them feel uncomfortable, I apologize, but I feel like it's important, when we're talking about mental illness, to kinda understand how many years people have been dealing with this shit.
LB: Yeah. Yeah, well, I—
PG: And how they feel about getting older and all that other stuff—
LB: Well, I mean, when I talk about stuff that, like, "Oh, that happened at college," like, it didn't happen yesterday. I mean, that happened 15 years ago.
PG: Yeah, you had one of those big—one of those bicycles with the gigantic front wheel.
LB: Oh God, I sure did! Ah yes, I sent telegrams. I've—I have sat on a plane—we were just talking about this. I have sat on a plane where there was a smoking section. I do know what that...
PG: Me, too.
LB: Isn't that crazy, to think about that?
PG: It is. It was—it seems like another world.
LB: It does.
PG: It really was, in a lot of ways.
LB: Yeah, absolutely.
PG: "I can't wait 'till I get back home to choose from my three TV channels! And dial my best friends with a rotary dial!"
LB: Oh, I miss—I was walking—I got—where was I? Beverly Hills, I guess, like, but through one of the residential neighborhoods, and I heard a house phone! And I was like, "Oh, I never hear anybody go"—
PG: I haven't heard—
LB: "'Mom!' in so long!" Like, that's something that, like, kids growing up now will never get—
PG: "It's for you!"
LB: Yeah. They won't get that at all, which is—was constant in my house. "Mom! Phone!"
PG: So, let's talk about your childhood. Where'd you grow up? What was your childhood like?
LB: I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and...
PG: I think it's pronounced "are-Kansas," isn't it?
LB: Oh, what have I been doing the whole time? It's actually pronounced "Arkinsaw," so we're both wrong. If you're saying it right, it's "Arkinsaw, thank you very much." Yeah, I grew up in Arkansas and I have one younger brother. He's a couple years younger than me. And right now, I have—I mean, like, as of today, I have a phenomenal relationship with everybody in my family—everybody—actually, my extended family, like—my parents were really good about making sure that we went to both grandparents' house and know all of our cousins. Like, when I meet somebody now who's like, "Yeah, I got a cousin over there I don't know," I'm like, "That's so crazy to me," 'cause that's one thing they really did right, was make sure that we knew our extended family, kept up with cousins, and so, like—and we do that now. Like, we're all still really close.
PG: I don't think I know even a tenth of my cousins.
LB: Are you sure you're not from Arkansas? How many cousins do you have? You made it sound like a mess of 'em.
PG: Well, my dad's family had—he had five sisters, I think? And they were Catholic, so then they had—
LB: Oh, Catholics. Fair enough.
PG: Multiple, multiple kids. But they all stayed on the East Coast and my dad moved to Chicago, so the only ones we really knew were the ones from Pittsburgh that would come to visit.
LB: Wow. I guess—
PG: And one was raised with us.
LB: Oh, really?
LB: We drove up to Cincinnati, like, once a year to go be with my dad's side of the family. We still do, actually. Like, we still—even though my grandparents are dead now...
PG: It's fun when you—when there are relatives whose company you enjoy. It's nice.
LB: Everybody's kick-ass. I mean—yeah. I mean, I've—we're all very different, but everybody's great, yeah. So... Yeah, childhood was, for the most part, like, for the big—for the first part of it—like, there was some, as you call, "seminal moments" that will be important for us to talk about, like, early, early on in childhood, but for the most part growing up, until I was, like—I don't know, like, 12, it was pretty much okay. We were middle-class—like, some years—my dad's a lawyer, and so some years, like, we'd—really good year and get to go to Disney World. And other years, we would eat plain noodles, so it just all depended. My mom stayed home for a good part of my childhood, and then when we got—when I got into, like, junior high, she went back to work as a guidance counselor. But at the second half of my childhood, there's a lot of chaos. My grandmother was really abusive and...
LB: My mother's mother.
LB: My dad's parents were saints. Just saints. Like, and then to—he married my mom, which was a family full of just fucked-up-edness. Like, my grandfather was fine, but he would just let my grandmother run the show and she was—she drank and was a mean drunk, like, she would chase around my mom—chase her around the house with a loaded gun. Like, shit like that, like, beat the shit out of her. And so my mom—
PG: Sounds to me like she enjoyed a good time.
LB: I mean, it's... "That's just Thanksgiving! Hello!" But then there were also times where she was, like, a wonderful mother to her and a wonderful grandmother to us. So there was a lot of inconsistency in her—
PG: That's so scary. That's so hard for kids.
LB: It's so hard!
PG: It's hard for adults, too. It's like—
LB: Yeah, when you don't know when the other shoe is gonna drop. And so, my mom was really traumatized and I think still, to this day—I think that she has PTSD and I know she has co-dependency and all those, and it's stuff that's just never been processed. But, so she started to drink when I was—well, I mean, I think that she had probably started to drink before that, but my dad and her just—real opposite. I mean, they got married when they were, like, 20, because of the Vietnam War. They were gonna—my dad wanted to get married so he didn't have—
PG: So he wouldn't be drafted.
LB: Yeah, exactly. And then the war ended and so he wanted out of it, I think, and my grandmother was like, "No fuckin' way! I bought invitations already! You guys are getting married." So that's how my parents got together.
PG: What, so they did not get along—they were not compatible?
LB: No, no, no. I mean, they waited, like, eight years to have kids, you know what I mean? So they—they just didn't know each other.
PG: So they weren't forced to stick it out.
LB: They weren't forced... I don't know that my—I mean, nobody put them in a vise and said, "You've gotta do this," but my grandmother was a crazy loon. Like, there was her way and then there was death, so you were gonna do what she did—what she said. And it terrified my mom to not get it done, so I think my dad was like, "Yeah, okay, fine. Fine. Fuck it. We'll just do this," and... Yeah, so they spent eight years together and they travelled, and I think they had a pleasant time—
PG: Are they still together?
LB: Oh God, no. No, no, no. They've been divorced for—oh my God, 20 years now? Almost. Yeah, no, no, no.
PG: So how old were you when they got divorced?
LB: I was a freshman in college when they got divorced, yeah.
PG: I didn't mean to fast-forward, but...
LB: Oh, no. No, no, no. Yeah, but they're not together at all. But they get along. Thank God for us, it's really nice. So yeah, so they had us when—my mom had me when she was 28 but she—when I was in junior high is when it kind of all started to fall apart.
PG: Is that when she started drinking?
LB: Yeah, that's when she started drinking really heavily, and that's when I noticed it.
PG: Would she drink during the day?
LB: Well... Like, I would come home at night, like—I remember the first time I noticed it was in eighth grade, and I think it was because it was—this is just maybe when I started drinking that I started noticing, and I was like, Oh! 'Cause my friend Amber and I came home one night after hanging out or whatever, and my mom was up. It was, like, midnight or something, and she was just acting goofy as shit. And we were like, "What's going on?" And she was like, "I've just had a lot of Kool-Aid with a lot of sugar!" And it was that. And I was like, Oh, that's not true. Like, you're drinking. Like, I see. So, like, immediately, I was like, Oh, that's something to lie about. That's something to do in private and to be ashamed of, and I don't know, I don't like this. So it just kinda started—
PG: But you didn't say anything to her. You just thought those thoughts.
LB: Well, we were just like, "You're crazy!"
PG: Oh, okay.
LB: Like, we were like—Amber was like, "I think your mom's drunk," and I was like, "Yeah, I think she is, too, but like, whatever." She wasn't even able to talk to us about it, you know what I mean? She was—ahh! There she goes. So that started many years of a really co-dependent relationship between my mom and I, because for a long time, that kept happening and my dad didn't believe me. Like, things had eroded between my father and her so quickly that he just went to work and he just didn't come home, which—it happens a lot. Because he grew up in this perfect household with Ozzie and Harriet, had never seen anybody with any issue to drink over. Like, he just didn't comprehend it and still, to this day, has a hard time understanding it, honestly. And so... And he just didn't wanna deal with it so he just—he was like, "I think you're lying," to me. And I was like, "No, I—it's a thing! Like, it's not good!" And it eventually evolved into, like, she would accidentally erase my papers, or we would drive around and she would drive around drunk and I'd be terrified in the seat of—the floor of the car, like, begging her to stop. Shit like that. There was one night when she ended up—oh God, this was the worst. I... She called me all the way upstairs and I was like—so I went all the way upstairs from my room, all the way upstairs, went to her desk where she was paying bills. And she was like, "I need the remote." She's watching the TV, which is, like, right in front of her and the remote is literally right behind her. And I was like, "You know what? You're acting like Deedee."
PG: That's her mother?
LB: And that's her mother. And that is the angriest I've ever seen my mom get. Like, you talk about, like, a trigger to end all triggers. Like, she screamed at me and was like, "I'm gonna fuckin' kill you!" and, like, chased me all the way down the—
PG: That's a good way to prove she's not like her mother.
LB: I know, right? I was like, "Look at you, just doin' all sorts of proof here." Yeah, just ink it. So I locked myself in my room and, like, barricaded myself against the door and she's, like, banging and trying to get in. But then she realizes, like, Oh, shit, so she's—now she's bawling and pleading with me and it just went on like that until my dad came home, and then nobody ever talked about it. And even still, to this day, she's like, "I barely remember it." And she's horrified 'cause we have the best relationship now.
PG: Did she quit drinking?
LB: Mm-hmm, she quit drinking. Eventually, in high school, it got to the point where I finally convinced my dad that it was happening. 'Cause I would come home and there—I would be—"What was that, Mom?" The oven door closed. "Nothing, nothing."
PG: Oh, is that where she hid the booze?
LB: I mean, that's fuckin' vodka in the oven! What are you—that's flammable! Like, what the hell? So eventually, like, I don't know how he—we ended up—I ended up proving it to him, but we were going to family therapy, and our therapist was like—this is my mom's therapist, and she was like, "Well, see, what's happened here is there's a family dynamic, like, a triangle." And she's like, "The parents are usually the ones on top. And it's flipped, and you've become the parent in this household and you have been for years, and you've been taking care of your mom and protecting your brother, and you were 12." And so, I grew up really fast. Like, and that's about where I stopped being a kid, was then. And my dad was like, "Eh, that's bullshit," but we had a really close relationship that was not okay. And I don't mean in that way, I just mean, like—
PG: With your dad?
LB: Yeah, he would, like, confide things in me that a parent should—they should handle—adults should handle that shit themselves.
PG: For example?
LB: We would sit down and, like, make a plan and he would be like, "Well, what do you think we should do about this?" Which... I got homework, you know what I mean? It's like, I got huge projects and stuff and I didn't wanna think about, like, where to put my mother away and... Or, like, stuff like that. But he would, like, talk about, like, "Well, we..." I don't know, just things that, like, romantically that I shouldn't have known, you know what I mean? Like, things I just shouldn't have been privy to.
PG: You know what that's called?
LB: What? Mm-mm.
PG: That's called emotional incest.
LB: Don't care for it. Don't like it.
PG: I don't either! I didn't like it.
LB: I don't like those words!
PG: I didn't either.
LB: I don't care for it.
PG: And it felt like it was overly dramatic when somebody...
LB: I saw you dialing those words up over there and I was like, "Mm-mm. Stop it."
PG: It's an icky name for an icky thing. It's an icky thing.
LB: Well, I mean, the way she put it was not so icky. The way our therapist put it was just, like, "Yeah, you became a parent too early," and all—I had a lot of decisions that were up to me that shouldn't have been. And I was just privy to a lot of information and the... So she—we finally did an intervention for her and she was like, "Okay," and I think she just knew. I think she—and she was ready. She was tired. She was tired. And then—
PG: It's so tiring being an untreated alcoholic. It is one of the...
PG: But you don't know any better. You don't know anything else, you just—
LB: You need help.
PG: Yeah, it's the only thing that numbs your pain, is drinking, and you don't believe that you are help-able or worthy of help.
LB: And you can't do it by yourself.
PG: You cannot. You cannot.
LB: But you have to have people who—here's the thing, is that, like, my dad really doesn't have the—and I love—I really wanna say this. Like, I love both my parents and they have always done the best that they could and they have both been put in positions that were shitty. So I just wanna say that.
PG: And it sounds like that. It sounds like you're coming from a place of love.
LB: Oh, completely. A hundred percent. But one thing that my dad did before I left for college, and I think—I can't remember. This might have even been after the intervention and then, like, nobody believed—I know I didn't. I was angry. I didn't believe that she was gonna quit drinking. I still didn't believe it, even after a year, and now I feel horrible about that, but—'cause I—
PG: You know, that's super common.
LB: I know, yeah. I'm very well-aware.
PG: Because your trust has been betrayed so many times. Because the addict and the alcoholic really believes that they're going to change. They're—most addicts and alcoholics are very well-intentioned people, but the power of addiction warps reality. And what you feel one minute suddenly is the opposite of what you feel the next minute, and you're unable to have your actions follow your intentions. And that's why we need help, those of us that are addicts and alcoholics.
LB: All of our realities were warped. Like, it took all of us for a ride. Well, I—
PG: A lot of ripples.
LB: Oh, it must have—well, this was my senior year of high school. I had gotten into Northwestern and I was—
PG: Smarty pants!
LB: Thank you. I don't think I would get in now. I would like to say that.
PG: It was hard to get in when I was going to college back in the 1890s, so...
LB: With your big front-wheeled bicycle.
PG: My big front—I rode to go apply.
LB: To give them your application.
PG: I tipped my stovepipe hat—
LB: "Say, I've got an application for Northwestern, see?"
PG: "I have filled out my application with my fountain pen. I bid you good day, sir!"
LB: "Here's an owl!"Toot! Yeah, he—we were driving one day and I must have already gotten in, and even—I know how expensive it is now, but even back then it was, like, I think, like, 30 grand a year? Thank God for scholarships.
PG: It's one of the most expensive schools.
LB: It's ridiculous, and I thank God for scholarships every day. But my father said, "If you would stay home and not go to college and take care of your mother for me, I would pay you the cost of going to Northwestern."
PG: That is so fucked-up on so many levels.
LB: I know. And he—but it was—he had the best intentions. He didn't know what to do and I can see that now. There were years that I was—
PG: Was this before your mom went into rehab? Was this after the intervention?
LB: I think it was—I think—I don't know. It's hard to say.
PG: It sounds like it would be before an intervention.
LB: But I don't think it was!
PG: That's so fucked-up.
LB: Because he—they weren't divorced yet. I think he knew—he already knew he was about to divorce her and that she would probably start drinking again. And so, it was gonna be me to take care of her because he never had. He never had. He didn't know how! Like, he literally didn't know how, didn't know—never encountered anything like that. And I'd always be—been the one to take care of her, so I think he was like—it was worth it to him. He knew he was gonna have to leave—
PG: How could he not see, though, how damaging to your life that would be? To set you back in terms of your achievements and your training—
LB: Because I never would have let anybody see what that stuff did to me. Like, I was... And I continue to work on being co-dependent now, but I was very co-dependent, which also means, like, I will never let you know how I feel because everything is always fine and I will always, as my survival mechanism, is I will always adapt to whatever life throws at me. That's how I—that's how you survive in situations like that. So, I didn't even, like, freak out when he said it. I was just like, "I'll think about it," even though I know, like, this is my chance.
PG: What do you remember feeling in your body when he said that?
LB: I have... And this is—this will bring us to the seminal moment in my childhood. At that time, I had such a disconnect with my body that I would go through things and not know that it was connected to a feeling—I didn't—
PG: You were numb.
LB: Very. Like, I went through—we went through this whole process where I was so sick all the time, like, during this time. Like, they tested—did every allergy test and they were like, "Well, she's kind of allergic to milk and chocolate. I guess that's probably what it is." But I couldn't, like—it was horrible, especially for a kid. It happened again as an adult and...for—during my adult trauma, I went to go see a GI doctor. And I mean, we ran every test because still, as an adult, I was pretty disconnected from my body. Not until I did all this trauma work recently have I kind of come into my own. But I mean, they did, like, colonoscopies, endoscopies, they were doing blood tests. They were in every fuckin' hole I had, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. 'Cause I was, like, jogging and—I mean, I know it's common for people to, like—this is great if you're thinking about dating me, here. Here's your out. You'll be disgusted by this.
PG: I've done it, by the way, and I know what you're gonna say, but...
LB: I know! Of course, I know. And I've heard you talk about it. But I mean, it was happening all the time, and I was like—
PG: Making visits to people's front lawns.
LB: Are you—I was, like, jogging with somebody who was romantically interested in me and I was—had to pretend like I was about to puke and I was like, I'm gonna—it's daylight. I'm gonna have to shit on someone's front lawn. And I kept jogging—we kept jogging and he was like, "Are you okay?" I'm, like, sweating. "No..."
PG: That's the worst, the pre-shit sweat is—
LB: And I'm, like, dreaming—I'm, like, having this weird, crazy fantasy that we're gonna jog by an apartment that's gonna be like, "It's an open house," which is like, get the fuck out—
PG: "Come, sample our toilets!"
LB: Exactly! So, I finally was like, I'm going to die, and I went up to this—I saw these—I just went up to these bushes, like—I was like, "Keep—go that way, I don't want you to see me puke! I'm too girly!" Which is, like, hilarious 'cause I'm such a tomboy. And right then, these two workers went up to the door, and this guy—the manager comes out and I stuck out my distended belly and I was like, "I am so sorry, but I am pregnant. Do you..." And he was like, "Oh, well, we're showing this apartment! Would you like to use my bathroom?" And I was like, "I would love to!" I guarantee you, they never fucking rented that apartment. Like, I guarantee you.
PG: You gave it a good beating.
LB: Oh, that poor thing. But I was like, I can't believe that that was just, like, everything I fantasized just happened to come true. And I was just like, "I don't know what you want me to do, but I'm gonna be nice to everybody now!"
PG: Did you affect a southern accent, or is there—
LB: Oh yeah, no, no, no, for sure. Anytime I need something, I want something, or I'm being—
PG: What's that about? You're just trying to make yourself more vulnerable and...
LB: Absolutely. "You mind if I sit there right now?" It's just a—I used to have a southern accent, probably not that bad, but like, you just—it's a default. It's a default when you're, like, wanna—want somebody to know that you're very kind and polite and innocent.
PG: I get—having talked to you, 'cause we met for coffee and we talked for about an hour or so, and...I get the feeling that there are so many masks that you feel that you have to wear, especially, like, the humor and doing accents and stuff like that. And I know we all use humor to try to lighten things, but it feels like it's almost, like, compulsive with you, like you're afraid of silence or somebody feeling...sorry for you or empathy or...God forbid, pity. I know nobody likes to feel pity.
LB: I won't accept that. No way.
PG: But it's—I guess it's like... Are you terrified at the thought of being vulnerable?
LB: Yeah, for certain, and I'm working on it. Here's something that... Like, even growing up, I would be—and still, to this day, I'm—like I said, I'm able to adapt to, like, whatever needs to happen to make—
PG: "Who do I need to be to survive this situation?"
LB: Yeah, very much so.
PG: And look good.
LB: Yeah. Exactly. And leave this conversation unscathed, or if I—you—I leave it, you think something positive about me. I had one kid called—unfortunately now, his name is—I mean, his name's always been Chris Brown, but I'm like, Oof. Tough name to have now. But I remember specifically one day on the bus—it must have been—I think it must have been in high school or something, but he, like—kids just call each other out on shit. Like, they just—no filter. And he was like, "You're, like, whoever people"—I mean, he, like, nailed it. He was like, "Whoever people—you, like, hang out with every single group. Why don't you pick one?" And I was like, "'Cause I don't wanna pick one. I want everybody to like me," which seemed completely rational to me. He was like, "Yeah, but like, you kinda act punk when you hang out with the punks and the skateboarders. And then you also hang out with the smart kids and you talk about smart stuff." And I was like, "But why can't I be all those people?"
PG: Why can't I be everything to everybody?
LB: Why can't I be everything to everybody?
PG: How's that gonna backfire on me?
LB: Never. Never.
PG: How could that possibly go wrong?
LB: Wait—and so even now, I'm like, Have I been podcasting wrong? Am I a terrible person?
PG: Right now? Is that what you're thinking?
PG: No, not at all!
LB: 'Cause you're like, "I can see all your masks."
PG: No, I wear 'em. I remember thinking to myself in fifth grade—like, I would study the way, like, more popular kids walked. And I would be like, I need to walk like that.
LB: And it wasn't being—it's not about being popular. It's like—I was never popular and—that would cause way too much attention, if I was popular.
PG: For me, it was about not sticking out and being weird or different.
LB: Yeah. Like, let me just—let me be able to, like, morph and travel between groups unscathed, where I'm not an outcast anywhere. And I don't have to defend anything, because I'm not sure who I am. Don't ask me that question. I like whatever you like. If you wanna ask me what I like, and that has been—God, even in, like, treatment, like, they do this, like, resource project where they're like, "Why don't you make a collage and it's all the things you like," and I sit there with a thousand magazines. It's like, "I don't fucking know what I like!" Like, "I like dogs!"
PG: My opinion is, all of that—people who've experienced emotional incest—and maybe I'm just projecting my own stuff—
LB: You never do that!
PG: But I would just numb out. I would just go to a place in my head, I would either go into fantasy or I would pretend what was happening wasn't happening. And so, I would just shut down. And I think we share that, in that we don't know what we like, we don't know—we're so used to just finding a way to check out, so that we don't have to go, Oh my God, my parent is telling me gross details about their fucking marriage.
LB: Yeah. Well, here's the seminal moment, which—by the way, I'm such a perv. Every time you say it on this podcast—
PG: You think of semen.
LB: I do, and I'm sorry. I just wanted to acknowledge that.
PG: I think of it sometimes when I say it, but I'm like, Whatever.
LB: It's—no, it's not. It's just—I was like, "Good." It's just—it's not me, then. Okay, good.
PG: I was gonna call 'em jizzy moments, but I thought seminal sounds classier.
LB: Grow! I feel like you can grow into jizzy. Jizzy hands! So...when I was either three or four, something happened that affected and has continued to affect me, and now it's one of the things that my adult traumas has triggered. And I was like, Oh, that did happen, and the more work that I've done, I'm like, Oh my God, that was super important and I didn't—nobody acknowledged it. They acknowledged it some, but nobody knew to acknowledge it enough. So when I was either three or four, I started getting recurring UTIs.
PG: Always a bad, bad—I mean, that is as big of a red flag as there could be.
LB: Well, I mean, here's the thing. We—my brother's a doctor, fuckin' half my family's doctors—sorry, I'm trying not to swear so much.
PG: You know I don't care.
LB: I know, I know. It's more of a personal thing.
LB: I gotta dial that down.
PG: All right.
LB: I never fuckin' can, though. And I've talked to my brother about it and he was like—he's a pediatrician. Pediatric oncologist, real asshole. Just a real jerk.
PG: Oh my God, I can't imagine. I can't imagine what a bad day at their office is like.
LB: I've talked to him sometimes and it's really tough. There needs to be more psychiatric care for those guys, or psychological. And he was like, "If they're new—you had new parents. It can happen if they're wiping wrong or something."
PG: Oh, that's true. I never thought about that.
PG: I like how I just cast aspersions that, Oh yeah, that child's being raped. Anybody that has a uterine infection is...
LB: It's called—but that is a big red flag for that, and that's part of the confusion.
PG: A urinary tract infection, not uterine.
LB: So I started having them so often that they thought—my mom brought me to a hospital because they thought it might be some—I don't know what it is. That experience was so traumatizing that it has stayed with me to this day, even though I was three or four. Like, they—and one of my counselors has said, "Back then"—this is where age is important. "Back then, they didn't know how trauma affected kids and how deeply it wounded them if it wasn't taken care of in the correct way, if it wasn't dealt with psychologically, with delicate hands." And I remember it so distinctly, like I was floating above myself, which I now understand is like, Yeah, that's a feeling—
PG: When you leave in a neighborhood you can't hang in.
LB: Yep, exactly. Like, that was the first time I completely disassociated and—but there I was, just completely naked, and they put me on a silver—it was, like, a silver tray and on my back, and then they had two male doctors in there who were basically just coaching me to pee, which I knew I wasn't supposed to do. And they wouldn't let my mom in, and my mom said she just heard, like, an hour of screaming. Just screaming.
PG: That makes me so angry that they...
LB: And it's like, what we know now about trauma and what we know now about the psychology of children, what they understand and what they don't understand and how they process things—yeah, that's shitty. I don't know what they knew back then. I know that they were trying to do—this is me, like, being like, "It's all right, everybody!" They were doing—maybe they were just doing the best that they could with the information that they had. Like, "Hey, a three-year-old's never gonna remember this. She's young enough."
PG: And kids yell about getting shots and stuff like that.
LB: Of course, yeah.
PG: And we're so focused on the body, I think, and forgetting that there's a soul in there—
LB: I think they have to, a lot.
PG: Yeah, I would imagine, like, cops—if you stopped every day to think about the soul inside the—some person that's breaking the law—
LB: Oh God, you'd be crushed!
PG: You'd be crushed.
LB: You'd be crushed. But it really... That really traumatized me, a lot. And so now—and I remember that so distinctly. And they ended up blowing up one of those rubber glove hands and drawing a face on it, so not having any idea—like, nobody really thought about it. My mom put it up—or my dad, I don't know. One of my parents put it up next to, like, my favorite doll, and so I just had to sit and look at it in my room.
PG: Reminding you of the trauma.
LB: Reminding me of the trauma. And so that doll became part of a recurring nightmare that I had, and I would have panic attacks, like, every day. There's a recurring dream that I have with that doll in it, and I sometimes have it as an adult—not so much anymore 'cause I have other dreams that have replaced it. Yay. But I would remember—I could tell when I was going into it, like, when I was trying to fall asleep, and I would scream my way out of it sometimes.
PG: Oh my God.
LB: And sometimes I couldn't, and that's a really young time to—and so now we, like—we know for certain that that event was traumatizing. Was there anything else that caused the UTI? There's literally no way to know. I have to operate from, like—with my therapist when we've worked on it—I have to operate under the thought process of, It doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. Because I know something—if that's what—if that's all it was, great. If there's more than that, tack it on, because I know what that did to me.
PG: You don't need to wait for an answer there—
LB: I don't.
PG: To start processing the pain, and maybe a memory as you start to process the pain—and especially if part of processing the pain is refraining from any addictions that you have—a lot of times, that really allows the trauma and stuff to—
LB: And it has.
PG: To surface. Yes?
LB: Oh, yeah. We'll get there.
PG: 'Cause I had a similar—I'm not gonna go into detail about it 'cause I've done it before on the podcast, but I don't know if you've ever heard it. But I had a similar medical experience that was horrifying that—where I was naked—
LB: Oh, I have heard you talk—I think so, and I was like, "Yes, yes, medical trauma," like...
PG: Yes, felt myself leave my body and my mom was there and didn't do anything. Didn't say anything.
LB: And see—and my mom would've done something, but as a three—you don't know that. You don't know—all you know is that you've been handed off to these men who are groping your naked body. And like—in art therapy, I've painted it and I can't see their faces, you know what I mean? Like, I can't see their faces, they're just too... But in—so growing up, in adolescence, like... As a child, you're really resilient. Like, your brain is—it's amazing, like, how your brain can take trauma and be like, I'm gonna compartmentalize this, albeit incorrectly—
PG: 'Cause you gotta be—our ancestors had work on the farm to be done. No sitting around the—
LB: Yeah, they couldn't sit around and watch Bravo and feel sorry for themselves, no. Which is too bad, 'cause it's pretty great. But there were two moments in my adolescence where that memory got triggered, where I had no—you have no capacity for understanding. Like, no one ever mentioned PTSD. I don't even think, back then, that they knew anybody but war veterans got it.
PG: And then the—when you get triggered, you just think, I'm weird, or, I'm weak. Pile that—add that to the pile!
LB: I mean, these two events were so—they were crushing. One was—how old was I? I don't remember. Maybe I was in, like, eighth grade or something? But—no, that's definitely when it was. I was in eighth grade and my parents had left—they were—we were all at the lake and they were with another couple, and the other couple had three boys that were older. And they left my brother and I with these three boys to babysit us while they went out to dinner. Three boys, perfectly nice, I'm sure. But they left and they started playing cards or whatever, and they're just being stupid, dumb boys, but they turn around and they're like—like, I remember this very distinctly. They're like, "You wanna play"—I was like, "What are you guys playing?" They were like, "Poker. You wanna play strip poker?" And they just looked at me and they thought it was hilarious. And I... I didn't know what—I had no understanding of what was happening to my body, but I knew that I'd been violated in some way. But it's that, where...
PG: By them saying that or that something happened after that?
LB: No, no, no. Nothing happened. That's all that happened, but in my body, I felt—it reminded me of that sensation, and when you get triggered—when you have PTSD and you get triggered, sometimes you have, like, the somatic reaction—the physical feeling of what it felt like. But I had no understanding of, like, how to verbalize what had happened. And I tried to tell people, and I just didn't know, like—I knew that I felt horrible and horrified, but it didn't equate with, like, what happened, and so I was confused and I thought I was wrong, and so—
PG: Why would you think you were wrong? Just for feeling so intensely about somebody just making a "joke?"
LB: Yeah. Yeah, and I didn't—because... The horror that you feel is like you're back in that moment. And it is so alarming. It came out of nowhere and you're like, What is wrong with me?
PG: What did your—can you describe what your body felt in that moment?
LB: Well, I think it felt like—it's hard to say 'cause I checked out. Like, I just checked out. But I know it arrests. It arrests and it becomes completely, like, heavy and overwhelmed and then... And then I have—I don't even have any memory of what happened after that. Like, I have a very clear memory of where everyone was in the room when he said that, and then, poof. And when I tried to talk to people about it, they were like, "So did the boys—you can be honest. Did they molest you? Did they rape you?" And I was like, "No!"
PG: It's a trigger.
LB: Yeah. And—but—you've never... What kid has ever heard the word "trigger?" What kid has ever heard—I didn't even know what I was upset about, and it happened one more time in high school where... Oh, this poor girl. I hope that she hears this one day. We were in high school, it was, like, right before my senior year, I guess. And my friend Jim was having a party and he had a hot tub. His dad, whatever, was out of town. And everybody's drinking, we were party kids, and there I walk out. I've had a couple beers or whatever, and there's this girl who was a sophomore and she was naked in the hot tub with a bunch of guys. It fucking sent me. And immediately I was so angry—irrationally angry at her. I don't get angry at people—like, I don't like conflict, I don't like anger, so it was shocking to me. I was like, Where is this coming from in my body? But I didn't have time to think about where or what it was, I was just fuckin' mad. And I was just like, "You fuckin' whore!" Like, "You're just"—so not my personality. Like, I don't say those things to anybody, was just shocked. So later on, I was just like, I don't know why, and it didn't stop for, like, a year. Like, I would see her in the hallways and she would, like, walk away from me. I'm mortified! I've never had that behavior since, never had it before and... I came back after college and saw her at some bonfire party. And her friends were like, "She's leaving!" And I was like, "No, no, no, please tell her to come here." 'Cause I'd had time away, from everything or whatever, and I wasn't so... And I was just like, "It was not your fault. I am so sorry." I was just like, "If there's ever anything I can do... I'm so sorry. And that was me, and I still don't understand it, but like, it was not your fault." And she—poor girl.
PG: How did she react?
LB: I think she was just like, "Thank you so much. I was so scared. Like, why were you mad at me?" And I was like, "I don't know, but it was my fault." And I'm so happy I was able to, like—
PG: Good for you.
LB: See her. Oh God—because it was so not me! Like, anybody who knows me would be like, "You did what?" Like, "You, who hugs every dog they see?" I'm like, "Yeah, I know." Like, it was so uncharacteristic and I was just mortified. So that has carried over, but that got buried, and I kinda compare—I don't know, it's very difficult to talk about PTSD because it's hard to explain to people what exactly it is that happens, but the way that I kind of explain what happened to me is that, like—is to compare it to, like, a teacup. So it's like, okay, like, you're a kid. Like, somebody's making a new teacup and, like, it gets chinked, you know what I mean? It gets a chink in it and it's like, Oh, okay. Well, it's pretty brand-new, so now you just have some character. It's a little crack, but you'll be—like, it's okay. Now you just have some character. So I had some character growing up. I had some character, where I wasn't always comfortable—I'm never comfortable with my body. And if I was having sex with somebody, I was playing a role. I'm like, Oh, this is what they do on TV. This is how girls kiss on TV. This—I never had a really personal connection because I was way too afraid of my own sexuality, of my own body, for a long, long time. And then, when I went through—
PG: Was there more to the teacup thing, or was that—
LB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When I went through trauma as an adult, I got really, really, really hit hard again. And it was like, Okay... Okay, like, we gotta really do some repair work 'cause this teacup is fucked now. And then right when I thought I had, like, gotten it—like, duct taped it and super glued it enough to where it was, like, shitty but whatever, then I had another trauma and it just shattered it. Just shattered it, and it shattered my brain, it shattered my life. And it was like, You have had too much. You have to start over now. Like, you have to completely start over. There's no repairing this.
PG: Like, in what way did you tell yourself you had to start over?
LB: I mean, this is not something that I realized until I'd gone through a lot of therapy. I didn't tell myself I had to start over, my brain just started over.
PG: I see. In what way?
LB: Well, the—when I went through trauma as an adult, that is when my brain started disassociating with amnesia. And it was terrifying. It just couldn't take it anymore. Like, it just—there were enough—
PG: Amnesia in the present moment, not amnesia about the past, before the trauma?
LB: Mm-hmm. Correct. Yeah, yeah.
PG: Or both?
LB: Yeah, no—in the present moment—I think I'm answering that correctly. I reserve the right to come back and say that I was confused. Yeah, I had a really abusive relationship right when I came to L.A.
PG: Is this the adult trauma that you're talking about?
LB: Yeah. I had a really abusive relationship that lasted a while. It was various kinds of abuse, and once I was finally able to get out of that, I was stalked for a good while, even through a restraining order. And once that finally settled down and I, like—this is a—after, like, three years, I guess, maybe? I was, like, finally like, Okay, I'm putting my life back together. I have, like, PTSD symptoms, but I'm okay. I'm okay, I'm not disassociating, I'm just...Then my neighbor sexually assaulted me, and my brain was like, That's it! We're done! And it just started checking out on a regular basis.
PG: God, I'm so sorry that you've had to experience all of those things. That is such a—
LB: Well, thank you.
PG: That is such a plate load. That is such a plate load. I mean—
LB: I mean, it—and you know—
PG: You have endured so much.
LB: It's where I'm—it's—I guess it was supposed to happen because—and I know this sounds super cliché—and so fuck off if you're listening and you're like, ""That's cliché!"—but I'm so happy with where I'm at right now that I'm like, Okay. That's what I had to go through. And so, that's kinda what I—when I talk about the teacup analogy, like, that's kinda what I mean, like, I had a lot of cracks in there, but I was okay. And now I'm just clean slate. I have—like, it actually—I was—I've been told not to name my first book Thanks for Raping Me, although I really would like to. I was like, "Can I at least name it a chapter?"
PG: Before you go further—
PG: Expand on what it is that you're grateful for.
LB: Here's what I'm grateful for.
PG: And I completely agree with you. I just said the same thing yesterday, that I'm—
LB: Oh, really?
PG: Yes. I was speaking to a group of people who were struggling and basically said—
LB: Oh good, you got more speaking engagements! That was your thing I just listened about.
PG: And I said, "I wouldn't change anything that happened to me." I certainly don't want to experience them again, but I wouldn't feel empathy the way I feel it. I wouldn't be able to connect to people as deeply as I do. I wouldn't be able—
LB: Empathy's a big deal. Like, I have—there's nobody that I can't—and sometimes it's to a fault, but I mean, I've sat down with some people that have done some terrible shit and I'm like, I can see—even people who've hurt me. That's how I've been able to forgive them, is... I mean, it's incredible. And people say that, but the emotional and mental clarity that I have right now, like, sitting here is—I can't compare it to anything else in my entire life. Like, I could've, like, idled along and kept doing this and kept making these decisions or whatever, but as I set here—as I sit here right now, like, I have the best relationship with my family I could possibly have. And it wasn't until—'cause I kept them out of this, the adult trauma. Like, I kept them out of it for a couple of years.
PG: They didn't know it happened.
LB: For two years, I didn't let anybody know. My aunt was kind of like my surrogate mother for a while, 'cause my mother and I just weren't close. Like, I always say, I feel like I met her in college—
PG: Even though she was sober when this happened?
LB: Yeah. And that's what I mean—
PG: Has she gotten any help for her drinking?
LB: Yeah, oh yeah, y-yeah. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And she'd been clean for a while, but it just—we never had that relationship and then I was in college. So my aunt lived—her sister lived right outside where I went to college, so we—and we are still very close, but when I needed something, if I needed to ask a question, I would call her. And my mom got it. And so my mom was building herself back up and figuring out who she was, 'cause she'd never been alone. She'd never—she married my dad when she was 20. And then, all the sudden, here she is—I mean, she just gave up in the divorce, too. And then my dad married a crazy person and that's an entirely different podcast. That would be a whole 'nother hour. But—and so—but my mom and I just really, like, didn't have a chance. Like, see her at Christmas and stuff. And we got along and we got to the point where it was okay, but this was the first time that she was able to—and both my parents were able to come back and have another shot at being parents for me. And that was such a gift! And now we have, like, the right relationship and we love each other like crazy. But they've been able to take care of me like I always wanted. There you go. There's the mask off. Are you fucking happy?
PG: I am.
LB: I know.
PG: I live for those moments.
LB: Yeah. But like, I might never have gotten that. I might never—like, my mom has flown out to L.A. several times to be with me, because I was like, "I literally..." When you are disassociating, it is so terrifying. And I was like, "I need to come home, I don't feel safe, I can't take care of myself, and I can't get on a plane." And she has flown out on a Thursday morning and flown out—back out with me on a Thursday night. Like... And it's her chance to redo everything, too. And it's all happened, like, really beautifully. And I wouldn't wanna go through this ever again, but if there's anybody that understood what I was going through, it was her. And I was able to call her and she's like, "I know." And I was able to say like, “And you know what? You have this, too, and you haven't dealt with it, and you're co-dependent and you have no opinions.” Like, I wrote a huge open letter to her a couple years ago—I got so mad at her 'cause we were talking about politics or something and she was just like, "You know...whatever!" And I was like, How can you have raised such an asshole opinion daughter? Like, it's—I did it in defiance of her. But I'm like, "I want you to have your own opinions! I want that for you!" And so I just wrote her this big open—she was mortified because it was so public, but it got her to go, "You're right. I am dealing with trauma." All of this has made her look at some of that stuff. And she's like, "I'm too old to do all the stuff that you did," like, the intense treatment and stuff, but...
PG: Which I disagree with but—
LB: I do, too. I was like—
PG: It's never too old. I know people in their 70s that come in and get sober and turn their lives around, and even if their—the financial part of their lives don't necessarily turn around, the way they relate to people completely turns around and they're able to appreciate what they do have. Talk about—if you can remember—the moment or moments when you began to feel like your parents were parenting you. And what did it feel—what were your thoughts and what did you feel? I'm a big—I always wanna know what people are feeling in their body, 'cause for the longest—for 40 years of my life, I was numb, and I know there are so many people out there that are disconnected from their body and I want them to...
LB: Here, let me talk about this, then. Not to brush off that question, but let me talk about breathwork, because that is how I came to feel my body again.
PG: Breathwork, that's the influential German band that—
LB: I can't even—
PG: Synthesized a lot of sounds. I'm sorry, that's Kraftwerk.
LB: That's Kraftwerk.
PG: I always get those two mixed up.
LB: Oh, they were great! When I went to... I was like, "treatment," then I was like, "the last treatment." When I was in treatment the last time, I went to a place that specifies in trauma. Like, it is—we call it sad camp. We call it—
PG: That's fantastic.
LB: Yeah, 'cause everybody there is dealing with trauma. And it is basically like going to college for your self, and it is the best thing that I've ever done for myself. But one of the ways that they—one of the therapies that they use—it's called somatics, and so it's all within the body. And they're—the philosophy is—philosophy? I don't think that's the right word. But it's theorized that all trauma is trapped within the body and your mind can forget—like, your mind can compartmentalize it and fracture it and compartmentalize it incorrectly, but your body doesn't forget.
PG: I completely believe that.
LB: It is so true and... But going into this, I'm like... It's hard 'cause I'm still my father's daughter, where I'm like, Yeah, that kinda sounds like a lot of horse shit. And a lot of this therapy is, like, cognitively, I get what you're all saying, but I can't go there. Like, I can't make myself go there, but cognitively I know—I get it, but that sounds like...
PG: It's a disconnect between the mind and the body and the spirit.
LB: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Ooh, God, the spirit. That's a hard one for me. But it just sounded like horse shit, to be perfectly frank. It sounded like a lot of froufrou—like, are you gonna, like, do an Indian dance over my head? Like, what, are we gonna get some crystals out? Like, it just sounded like crap.
PG: "Can we cup the buttocks of Mother Earth?"
LB: We could do cupping. God, cupping. Not to insult people who like to cup. Please don't hate me! Please like me! You hear it? I just like to call myself out on it when I do it—
PG: I do it. I'm like—you know those radar installations they have, looking for incoming planes? I'm that for criticism from listeners.
LB: Oh, God.
PG: "Oh, I left myself open! My flank is open! My flank is open!"
LB: I'll do it in the—listen, I'll do it in the car when no one's there. I'll turn the radio station and be like—if it's a song that's really popular that I don't like, I'm like, "Just not in the mood right now!" Like, no one's even listening, Lauren. No one cares. No one would even care, but that's how much I care. So anyway, they—there are different somatic therapies that they use in this place, and the one that my therapist chose for me was called breathwork. It sounds like nothing, when I'm gonna describe it to you. What you do is, there's a trained—a licensed therapist that is with you, and you lay on the floor. You can have a blanket, you can not have blanket, it's whatever's comfortable for you, and there's—it's a guided breathing session. And at the beginning, there is, like, a way that you get into it, kind of like a pattern of breathing. It's short and it's fast and it's hard, and then you get into this very slow, rhythmic breathing. It's in your nose and out of your mouth. And it takes a while. Like, and you're—I'm doing it for like—I mean, I feel like you can do it for, like, 20 minutes sometimes, and you're like...trying to focus. Like, you're—it's a meditation almost, but you're trying to focus on the breath and let everything else sift out. When you meditate, you've gotta let all that other stuff sift out.
PG: And your brain wanders and you bring it back, and your brain wanders and you bring it back.
LB: Exactly. And you bring it back to the breath. Something happens right at, like, the 20-minute mark that is so earth-shattering that it is hard to describe. It is a sensation in your body—I started to... When you're in trauma, your breath moves from—I think I'm gonna say this correctly—from the belly up into the chest. You become—you have short breaths and you're panicked. And so, what you're doing is, you're taking it back to that origin state, and you're really getting into your physical cells, because the body remembers trauma that the mind doesn't. And it gives access—this kind of breathing gives access to it. And you—it's like your body—it's like the door starts to flutter open, and it gets kinda like that, and you're like, What the fuck is happening to me? And you start—almost kinda like... And it's just—and she's guiding you the whole time.
PG: What's she doing or saying?
LB: She's talking and she's very...
PG: She's talking on the phone to somebody else.
LB: She's on her cell phone. She's got a great plan. She's sending pictures of you under the blanket, usually. "Look at this fuckin' asshole! She thinks I'm doing something for her." She's got a whole Pinterest board full of dumb fucks willing to give over their money. No. I started to sob. And I mean, like, I had no idea where it was coming from. And then the sobbing—all the sudden, it takes over—it took over my whole body and I was scream-crying, and I scream-cried for 40 minutes, and it's getting—
PG: Did she hug you or anything?
LB: Yeah, there is—I mean, there's not like—she doesn't, like, bear hug you. Like, she's got her arms and there's—it's almost like reiki in the sense that—and I don't mean, like—it's not reiki, but it's in the sense of how she touches you, of, like, holding your shoulders so that you know—or like, holding your head—
PG: So you're aware that she's there and she's supporting you.
LB: Exactly, she's supporting and guiding—
PG: Are your eyes closed or open?
LB: Closed. Yeah, they're big—yeah.
PG: And you're supposed to have them closed.
LB: Yeah, they're closed, and...
PG: And is she wearing a Halloween mask?
LB: She's wearing an astronaut suit, in case you puke, so it doesn't get all over her. And I go to a real—all the sudden, sober, I completely disassociate, and I am a very, very young person and it is fuckin' trippy. It is so weird that something—that you can access that. I was blown away, but I wasn't blown away until much later 'cause I was not somebody who was capable of being blown away right then. Like, I was very much, like, cry—like, I would talk to her like a—but I was mostly scream—just scream-crying, and she's just letting me get that out. And I had—one of my friends I didn't even know was in the next room, like, doing, like, some sort of, like, therapeutic massage—he was like, "We heard you." He was like, "We were crying, 'cause we were like, what"—
PG: Oh, wow.
LB: I know. And I was, like, mortified but... Also, I was like, Oh, I was witnessed, and that's so powerful to be—like, you're like, Oh, you heard me. Somebody heard me. It's like... Like, the power of that—you don't even know that that's a possibility. You don't even know that that's an option to be heard. But that's a lot of what getting that out and breathwork is, is being heard and having that child inside of you be heard, or that adult inside of you that has been blocked off. 'Cause that's what your brain does. It fractions off because the emotions are too much and you can't handle them all at once, so it just fractions them off, so you only have to deal with a little bit at a time. And so I probably did breathwork four or five times while I was there, but after breathwork, you stay disassociated for a while.
PG: Now, when you say disassociated, are you going—are you just—completely feel like you're that three-year-old girl, or do you emotionally feel like you're three years old and there's also an adult part of your brain that's like, I know I'm not a three-year-old girl, but I feel like I just wanna wrap my arms around somebody's leg and—
LB: That's right. Second one, yeah. I mean, like, consciously...you know—you're aware of what's going on. Like, I know that, like, the dining room is up there. I know, like, my cabin is over here.
PG: I know I'm in treatment.
LB: I know I'm in treatment—at the same—and this is what's so—this is what you cannot explain to somebody who has not done—who has not experienced this, and I never could have explained it before, but you are concurrently also feeling like you're three and you have those terrors. In fact, like, every time after the first time, the kitchen would fix me buttered noodles and would just have it ready. Like, they just had ginger ale and buttered noodles—
PG: 'Cause that was comforting to you.
LB: Mm-hmm. That's all I wanted.
PG: Is that what you loved as a kid?
LB: Mm-hmm, and—
PG: What would you feel when you would eat that?
LB: Well, it's funny, they—the first night, they brought in—like, I was in my bed and—when I disassociate, I isolate. I don't—very afraid of other people, like, I just wanted to—I was under the covers and I'm... And so they have somebody to come sit with me—
PG: And I imagine, all this time, they're letting you know, "This is normal, this is"—
LB: No, they—
PG: "What you're experiencing," or they didn't know that you were experiencing this?
LB: Oh no, they know. They're very experienced. They're very experienced at, like—this is what they do. They work with people who have experienced trauma so severely—
PG: So they know, even though you're not saying, "I feel like I'm three or four years old," they know, Okay, she's regressing.
LB: I'm not acting like me. I'm not talking like me, I'm not acting like me, I am—but I am acting like me and talking like me. Does that make sense?
LB: Great, 'cause I just said completely opposite...
PG: No, I think I know what you...
LB: Yeah, I mean—and it's something that they see all the time. And, like, that's why you go there, is to get this out in a safe environment. Like, the real, extreme parts of it, to exorcise that out of your body and it—you can't do it all at once. Like, you have to do it—you can't even do it, like, two days in a row. Like, you've gotta emotionally recuperate. You've gotta rebuild those neural pathways so that you're experiencing that in a positive environment. That's a lot of what trauma work is, is to go back and relive some of those moments and say like, You're safe now. You're not in harm's way anymore. You don't have to feel bad anymore. You're here, you're an adult, and you can take care of yourself. You can take care of that little girl. But it takes a while for that to wear off. Also, part of what—oh, so they brought me dinner in, and she was like, "I'll fix you a plate if you're hungry." "Yeah, okay." So she brings it in and—I don't remember, but I remember that there were green beans on the plate and I remember looking at them, being like, "Why would you put those on there? God!" Like, I would eat everything—she's like, "Oh, of course you wouldn't want green beans." And I was like, "No," like—which, of course, I love green beans now. I'm like, That's a healthy vegetable. I enjoy eating them. I feel good about myself at—I might as well have knocked 'em off the fuckin' plate then. So, they just started making me noodles because I was—that's what I wanted. Like, I just—I needed, like, I needed that. And the ginger ale would settle my stomach, 'cause that anxiety—that's where you carry anxiety. Like, ugh. When I was a—as an adult, when I went to go see my GI doctor, after they had done all—this test and they were testing stuff for cancer and all this shit, he sat me down in the office and I was so nervous. I was, like, positive—'cause I was just, like... Ugh, disgusting, blood, blah, everything was horrible, my stomach was always a mess. I was, like, ready for him to tell me that I had cancer, 'cause it was that bad. And he was like, "Are you stressed out about anything? Because I think you should maybe do yoga." And, like, in my head, it cut to, like, me, like, shoving everything off and, like, throwing the table and being like, "You fuckin' better be—I'm gonna—fuck your yoga!" And I just sat there and I burst into tears. Like, just—and I was just like, "Yeah," and that—'cause that's where I carry it. Like, I carry all that anxiety in my stomach—
PG: And was this after the trauma work or before the trauma work?
LB: This was before the trauma work, when I was at—but like, he was just like, "Because all of this is—you're like"—
PG: That's where we hold a lot of traumas, in our belly.
LB: Yeah, he was just like, "That's where you're carrying it." So they would always have ginger ale for me. It's why I have it here tonight, in case this triggers me.
PG: Have you been triggered since we've started talking?
LB: Mm-mm, no.
LB: No, I'm pretty well able to ground myself and like—just the fact that I was able to become emotional is a good sign that I'm not disconnecting, so... So keep those hard questions coming! Yeah, but they'll have ginger ale and noodles for me. And then, the thing that—
PG: Are you comfortable sharing the name of the place that you went to for the trauma work?
LB: Yeah, Life Healing Center. It's—
PG: Life Healing Center?
LB: Mm-hmm, it was in Santa Fe. Yeah, I mean, it was—
PG: 'Cause I like—when somebody finds a good place, I like to spread the word.
LB: It was a godsend. I mean, to—and I'm still close with people that I was there with. I mean, it was exactly where I needed to go. And I really mean this—it was like going to college, finally, for trauma, and understanding that, like, none of this would've been broken out—broken open if I hadn't experienced as an adult what I did. But it's like, you're not gonna open somebody up, like, for surgery because they have, like, a cyst on their neck for cancer and be like, "Yeah, this is gonna be a problem." Open 'em up and be like, "Well, there's cancer everywhere else, but we're really just in here for this cyst in the neck, so good luck with the rest of it." Like—
PG: That's a great analogy.
LB: No, when you open it up, it's like, "Let's just, like—we can see it all." And like, that's when I could look back and be like, Oh, I know what—those were triggers in my childhood. Those moments, to me, are understood now. I can put them in context. And like, growing up co-dependent, a lot of people were like, "How could you possibly have stayed in that abusive relationship?" Worst question to ask somebody who has stayed in an abusive relationship, because oftentimes, they don't know, and it's a really hard cycle. But I think—
PG: You don't think adding shame is good to somebody who's...
LB: I mean, it sure makes the convo more interesting! I mean, at that point, just fuckin' put it in the basket, y'know? Pile it on. But I can understand now—I can look back with compassion at myself and say like, Yeah, you were co-dependent and you wanted to help fix that person, and that gave you purpose. That's what I did with my mom, was—and when you have trauma growing up, you get calibrated differently. It gets calibrated at a higher level, so you're always like, Nothing feels—this feels right! This feels like I have a purpose! I sure as fuck don't know who I am.
PG: Yeah, because lack of drama feels boring. It feels like—you're bored by healthy people.
LB: Using that word, boring, I wanna just make this clear. Like, it's not like I was like—it's not like you want, like, an adventure, like, "Man, everybody else sucks!" It's literally like there's not enough bad stuff to solve. That's where you feel correct. Like, I'm helping—
PG: It feels familiar.
LB: It feels familiar.
PG: And like you said, the sense of purpose, it also—it distracts you from your pain.
LB: It does.
PG: 'Cause if I can focus on your pain, I don't have to think about what I'm going through.
PG: What I want—a question that I really... It's well-meaning when people ask it, but I fucking hate it, is "How are you doing?"
PG: Because so often—
LB: Like, I don't know!
PG: I was like... When I'm playing my video game, I don't have to think about that!
LB: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
PG: But if I have—go meet you for lunch, I might have to think about that. And on certain days, I'm ready and willing and able and love talking about what I'm feeling, but when I'm not, when I just wanna go lick my wounds in the corner—
LB: Black and white.
PG: I fucking hate it!
LB: Yeah, it's black and white. I can either—I'm either doing great or don't ask. And there's no—it's—and that's part of therapy, too, is to try to start to live in that gray area and see, like, what does that feel like to sometimes feel feelings and walk through them. And one of the most difficult things to hear at sad camp was—they talk about self-harming behaviors as a way to numb out, and there's drugs or drinking and some people cut, and then they threw in disassociation. And I was like, "Hey. Hey, hold on. I don't have any control over that."
LB: I get triggered and then suddenly, I am possessed. And they were like, "This is the work, because yes, you can." And I was like, "I don't believe you. I think that that's bullshit," and I was angry because I was like, you're—there's no way I could have controlled these episodes that I've been having, that have really dominated my life for four years on a regular basis.
PG: Well, previously you couldn't have, but it sounds like they believe, if they give you tools, you could.
LB: And they're right. And so now I have the tools and now I get it, but getting to that point meant doing some really, really hard work with me, because I was so resentful that these things had happened in my life, and I was mostly—I was resentful... First, I was resentful at the people that had done it. But you know what? That went first. I was pretty much able to forgive and forget and tuck that away. And then, I was like, It's still happening. I'm over this. Are you shitting me? So then I became resentful at my own body. And I would already—I had already grown up resentful of my own body, and so then you just start to punish it more. And it's a horrible, horrible cycle.
PG: In what ways were you resentful at your body?
LB: Like, one time I woke up driving. That'll ruin your day! And I—
PG: How is that resentful at your body, though? Oh, because you would do that.
LB: Yeah, yeah.
PG: Like, What the fuck is the matter with me? I'm wrong.
LB: Yeah, and I would be like—and then I would wake up and be like, "Who went out and got corn dogs? Who—I'm on a—I'm trying to look good!" I gained so much weight. Like, I mean, probably 30 pounds, just because I would disassociate—
PG: Do you have—did they...label you—or what's the word...
PG: Diagnose! I'm so sorry. Diagnose you with—
LB: It's late for adults.
PG: With DID?
PG: Dissociative identity disorder? That's something that's completely different?
LB: Yeah, and in fact, that's important. Let's talk about that, because disassociation is for people who don't under—yeah, we haven't even defined that. Like, disassociation happens on a pretty wide spectrum, and everybody—everybody—has kind of disassociated. We've all disassociated a little bit, like when you're driving your car and you start thinking about Rhonda and that dress that she was in and the Coors Light that you'd like to have when you get to see her and—oh shit! You're already two exits past where you're supposed to be. That's a low level of disassociation.
LB: Yeah. A high level, on the other end of that spectrum, is—what was that show that Diablo Cody did that was so great, where she has multiple personality disorders? Tara... Help.
PG: United States of Tara?
LB: United States of Tara! She has multiple personality disorder—or DID is what they call it now—and that's where you have personalities that come out that are wholly—they are all different from each other, they all have their own definitions. I'm, like, in the middle. I'm, like, smack in the middle of that, where, like, I'll disassociate and I have... It's a subset of—I'm gonna say the wrong word.
PG: So it's like you're cookie dough and she's fully baked.
LB: Yeah, there you go. There you go. And I'd love to—I'd much rather be cookie dough. Eat me raw! That's—no, don't do that. Don't say that. Don't say that line. Don't say that out loud. Oh, you did it. So I'll—my mind will fraction off and I—it will allow me to not feel whatever or not experience whatever trigger that I have, and I will have amnesia, basically. It's basically like blacking out sober. But what complicates that is that when I disassociate, it's so overwhelming that I would numb it with alcohol, I would numb it with food, and I would isolate. I would numb it—I would watch, like, eight hours of Netflix at a time and just whatever I could to get through that feeling... Whatever I could, because I knew it would just be a matter of time before it would come back, and so—
PG: So you were self-aware that that was happening?
LB: Yeah. And that's what—
PG: So there's kind of a—
LB: That's what I mean. It's kinda like—
PG: Kinda like you're watching yourself, I guess.
LB: Yeah, yeah. A little bit. And I mean... Like, there were, like—the amnesia—the real bad amnesia is when it gets really bad, and that doesn't happen all the time. But—
PG: Is there a name for the type of amnesia that's related to that?
LB: It's called dissociative amnesia. It's like a—oh, I should look for—I have, like, what it's actually called. But yeah, there's a type of PTSD—some people call it complex PTSD—subtype, that's what it is. It's dissociative subtype of PTSD, but like, a lot of war veterans or people with sustained domestic abuse and—that will happen, and so that's what happened. And that I will just check out, and it... Like, it—and I don't wanna get into too much of, like, what happened with the abuse, because when I—
PG: I don't think it's that important.
LB: No. But I can say that, like, there were times when I would start to disassociate, and I would think about—I can—like, I would start to float above my body—not really—
PG: Was this with the partner who was abusive?
LB: Mm-hmm, yeah. So it started like—I would do it on a really low level there, 'cause I already had PTSD then, so I would do it on a really low level there, where, like, my memory of it is, I can watch myself. I can watch what's happening from above, kind of like I did when I was a kid, and would—and then, I would just be at our wedding. And that's what I would go to, because that was—that would be what would help, to be like, If I could just get there, we'll be fine, which is so sick.
PG: Being at your wedding in the future? Thinking about—okay. Yeah, fantasy.
LB: Yeah. If I could just get there, it'll be fixed. And that's where my—which is so sad, but like, again—in treatment, being witnessed by other people, they were—other women—'cause I was in a women's group, and they were like, "Yeah, that's what happens. That's normal." And I was like, "I thought I was crazy!"
PG: Isn't that the best feeling, when you find out that you're not a freak?
LB: I can—I mean, that's the thing about, like, when we talk about, like, what heals this kind of trauma and, like, what's been the most beneficial to me, it's being in a group of other people.
PG: Thank you for saying that.
PG: It's the most—for me, it has been the single most healing thing.
LB: It's—just to hear and be witnessed is—
PG: Where they have nothing to gain by witnessing you. They have no reason to lie to you.
LB: Nothing. No, no. They—and they have been through similar—but everybody's experience is their own. Like, nobody gets to walk out feeling like they went through something more fucked-up—like, there's not a competition. Everybody is there because they need to heal, and that's the only reason why they're there. And to be isolated—so much of abuse and trauma—like, you isolate yourself because you're like, I don't wanna bother anybody else with this, or, This is wrong. This was my fault.
PG: Or, What happened to me wasn't bad enough.
PG: God, that's so common.
LB: Big time. Oh, I'm not, like—
PG: If you're even saying that to yourself, go get help.
PG: Go get help.
LB: And I said it to myself for a long time, because I was told by this person, like, not only, like, "You're being a"—
PG: A drama queen.
LB: A drama queen, but also like, "Nobody's gonna believe you." Like, "I'm gonna run you out of town before anybody else...will believe you." And so to sit in a room with people who were like, "Not only do we believe you," but like, "No, that's horrible. Don't minimize that, because when you minimize things, it just exacerbates the shame." It really does. And so to have it—to have that minimization be lifted off of you and to just let it be what it is, so much shame left me—leaves my body and you feel—then, you start to feel it light—
PG: You return the shame to where it belongs, which is on the abuser.
LB: Yeah, and that was one of the awesome things that we did there, too, was we did a lot of art therapy, which is something that, like—again, I would be, like—
PG: Eye roll.
LB: That sounds—I—my eyes rolled out of my head, around the world, and then thought twice about getting back in my eye sockets. They were just like, "How about you fuck off for a living?" But one of the things I did was a shame project, where you write down anything that you have shame about, and you can make it whatever you want it to be, like, whatever your, like, vessel or basket or whatever it—you need it to be. But anything that you have shame about, that you think that is your fault or whatever, write it down on a piece of paper. And I made mine—I had—I found, like, a pencil box and painted it to look like a Raffallo's Pizza box, 'cause that's what I used to do—Raffallo's will be the—is the place that will let you order wine and pizza. Those people probably feel worse for me than—more than anybody else in the tri-state area. We're not in a tri-state area, Lauren. I know, but you already said it. But so I would put it in there, and then you just fuckin' burn it, and it is the best feeling. It is the best feeling to get rid of that. But yeah, art therapy is something that I never thought...
PG: What... Two questions—I wanna find out, what's some of the other tools, are you—use to cope when you get triggered, and the other thing I wanna know is, have you been triggered by the stuff in the news lately—the domestic violence?
LB: Yeah. Yeah, actually.
PG: What are your thoughts and what feelings come up for you? Because you would qualify, what happened to you is domestic violence, right?
LB: Very much so.
LB: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's really hard to—you have to really ground yourself when you're reading that stuff. There's a lot of grounding tools that I've been taught. Some of 'em are really simple, like—well, the first one is to really practice being aware of your body and being aware of your body sensations, because there are clues—like, I will start to tunnel vision. That's one thing, like, that therapy has done, is that you have to be able to slow the process of disassociation down, to go frame by frame—how does it happen? Where can we stop it? So, doing things like yoga and learning how to be aware of my body and what sensations are coming has been a big part of it. So, in practicing that, then I can read them, when before—
PG: Am I balling my fists? Are my palms getting sweaty? Does my gut feel tight? Is my labor—is my breathing shallow?
LB: Do I have nail marks in my hands because I've balled my hands so tight? Like, what are—do you—because if you're reading that and that's happening, you need to take a walk. You need to call somebody. You need to count backwards. You need to try and say the alphabet backwards. A big grounding technique is just naming things in the room. I can't wait for the date I'm on one day, or, like, interview I'm on one day, when I get triggered—because sometimes it's, like, a smell or, like, a sound. Like, there's—the sound of a BlackBerry will fucking send me.
LB: Because that's—
PG: Your abuser had a BlackBerry.
LB: Yeah, and it was just text, text, text, text, text your...whatever, all the terrible things that he would say, and I would just bury myself. And so sometimes, when I hear that sound, I have to ground myself. But I can't wait for that interview where he's like, "So tell me something you don't like about yourself," and I'm like, "Bic pen! Apple! Computer! Table! Your toupee!" Fuck, fuck! I did not get this job! But I mean, there are those basic things, that you have to go—that's what you have to do. But I also make myself read them, and then when I start to get triggered, I'm like, You have to pull back. And sometimes I haven't. Sometimes I've just been, like, kinda sent by them and it was overwhelming. Like, you get flooded. That's what we call it, is you get flooded, and I am better at that now. But I tell you one—like, Gone Girl was actually—I've—
PG: I haven't seen it yet, so don't ruin anything for me.
LB: Don't worry.
LB: Trigger warning for you.
PG: For me?
LB: I don't know, for you. I don't think, for you. I was shocked, because there was some stuff in there that I never expected to see acted out that happened to me, sort of, kind of, in a way. I don't wanna be too graphic because I think it'll be triggering for people, but there was something that happened in the movie that made me go—I really wish I'd actually read the book in book club, instead of just the first eight percent of the book, so I would know that this happened. And it fucked me up for a week. Like, a week. On the way home from the movie, I tunnel-visioned out and I was—I could feel myself going into it, and I was like, Okay, this is where you're going out—going—and I had to force myself to turn around to the person I was with and be like, "This is happening." And he was like, "Yeah, I know. I can tell." Like, "So we'll get you home." And then, one of the tricks that they taught me is to have an ice pack, which is why I have it here.
LB: Yeah, there you go. Full circle!
PG: Yeah, an hour and a half later.
PG: She walked in with an ice pack, and I wondered, "What's that?" And she said, "We'll get to it."
LB: Yeah, because if you give yourself... I forget what it's called, but it's like a bodily sensation, like a heightened sensation, that can pull you out of it. And that is one of the tricks that they taught me, that they would come bring me bags of ice and they'd put them on my feet—like, in my cabin in Santa Fe—and put bags of ice on my hands and on my feet, and it kind of shocks your system back into the present. But yeah, so that was—and it kind of... It took my anxiety up a level 'cause I just wasn't expecting it, and that's gonna happen.
PG: In the movie—oh, yeah.
LB: That's gonna happen, and so, it's about—a lot of that is about, like, having—setting up your life so that you can be as supported as possible, so when those things happen, it doesn't rock the boat like it did for me. Like, it really did because I just—I wasn't doing everything I needed to do. I'd been a little bit lax, y'know? So, it's something that I have to be aware of every day, and it will—it is so much better now than it has ever been, and I think they say, usually, like, four or five years for that kind of trauma to be worked through. So we're almost there, so I think—
PG: How long ago were you in treatment?
LB: Two months? Three months, two months? But it's not—
PG: No, how long ago.
PG: Oh, okay! Now, how long were you in there for?
LB: Three weeks.
PG: So when I met you, you had been out, like, three weeks.
LB: Mm-hmm, yeah. Absolutely.
LB: Yeah. But listen, that was, like, the last in the end of the road. I've also been hospitalized three times in the last two years. And it was—
PG: We haven't even—
LB: We haven't even—I mean, I'm telling you. Sorry. Yeah.
PG: We did an episode with Nadereh Fanaiean. It was a two-and-a-half-hour episode and we never even got to talk about her being a psychiatric nurse.
PG: That's how—that is how much stuff she's lived through in her life, and I think your story sounds very similar to hers.
LB: It's creepin'. Yeah, we haven't even got—
PG: It's a Thanksgiving dinner of trauma.
LB: My whole step-family is dead. Like, my whole—like, two of them committed suicide and my sister had cancer. Like, we won't even get there. We won't even get there. Like, that's what I was saying. That's a whole 'nother podcast.
PG: But these are—but this is the...
LB: This is—that has nothing to do with this.
PG: Yes, this is the—your primary thing.
LB: Yeah, exactly, which is why I was like, "Eh..."
PG: And it's where all the hope is, which is—
LB: It's where all the hope is. And there's so much, like—
PG: There's so much.
LB: I mean, that's the thing, is that, like... I had to lie to a hospital last year and tell them that I was—I hope my insurance isn't listening. I had to lie to them, to tell them I was suicidal so that they would take me, which is horrible for our—
PG: I know a lot of people who've done that, and I don't—I actually—I don't see anything wrong with that. I really don't. I think the shame should be on our medical—on our health care system.
LB: Can you believe? I mean, I was so confused about what was happening to me because, like, before you get that diagnosis, you just—I was like, there's—I wanted to go to the hospital and just have them transfuse my blood and just say, "I don't know what's in here, but something's wrong with me." Like—
PG: "Help. Just please help."
LB: Yeah, and no one—everybody was like, "Eh..." So I basically—they were like, "Are you a suicidal?" And I was like, "No." "Oh, okay. I don't think we can take you." I was like, "I will fucking be suicidal if you don't take me. How about that? Will that work? Will that work?" "Oh, we have a bed free! How about that?" "Great." Yeah, 'cause I was just, like, I—and on top of that, part of why this trauma—part of why I was triggered so often was—I can't believe we haven't touched on this. I've always had issues of, like, depression. Like, I did not come into—obviously. My mom has always said, like, "Just so you know, we are hormonally sensitive, the women in our family," which is, like, a saying from, like, whatever, the 1700s. Like, what does that medically mean? No one knows. "We're just hormonally sensitive." Like, I had no concept—
PG: Does that mean, "When we get our periods, we freak out," or what?
LB: It was—I was left with that, and she just smoke-bombed out of the conversation. Like, I didn't know, because she won't get into it—"What does that mean?" "Well, just that—just so you know." "Okay." So when I was—yeah, like, when I started—when I was 13 and I got my period, it was horrible. It was just horrible and the mood swings—
PG: It wasn't a fantastic time, like the other girls?
LB: Well, yeah. I took a lot of Darvocet for it, so that was fantastic, 'cause my mom had that laying around the house. I was like, "Fuck your Midol, man! I got Darvocet!" "What's that?" "No, no,no, you can't have—I don't know what it is! I just take a lot of it!"
PG: It's a sweet, sweet drug. That's what it is.
LB: Yeah, which is now, like, banned, I think.
LB: Yeah, I'm proud. So yeah, it was horrible and I would have really bad mood swings. Not until I got my period and started going through that, did my dad finally go, Oh, maybe this is a thing.
PG: Maybe this isn't just your mom being annoying.
LB: Yeah, exactly. And that was a big—he was like, Oh. Well, too late. Marriage is already done. And so, as I got older, I would—I've always been the kind of girl that would just be—like, randomly cry in the shower sometimes, for no reason. Like, if you've dated me in my 20s, like, sometimes I just—"What's wrong?" "I don't know. Like, I have no idea." It wasn't time for PMS, either. It was, like, on an off-week and I was like—but when I had PMS, I was very sad. And then it always got better. It always got better. So it's just like, Whatever, man. I guess I'm weird. So, when this all started happening, I was—I started... I guess, after the assault, it took me about four months—it took me four months to go to the rape crisis center, and then it took me, like, two more months to get into therapy, and then, like—and then, maybe like, I don't know, a couple months after that to meet my psychiatrist—a new psychiatrist, 'cause I'd had one in Chicago that I would just see when I was on the road doing shows and stuff, and always convenient. But she was like, "This is big. Like, you need somebody there to work with." So, I started to work with somebody who they said was, kind of, hormonally, a specialist, and after we did this, like, two-month chart thing, she was like, "You know, you have PMDD." And I was like, I can't take any more fuckin' letters. Are you serious with me? I cannot—my basket is full. I don't want any more letters!
PG: I need a smaller font if I'm gonna cram all these in.
LB: I was like, I have mental flair. Like, this is not okay.
PG: And what does PMDD stand for?
LB: Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. Basically it's a very fancy way of saying, like, not only am I affected during the week that my hormones shift for PMS, but also—I think it's the luteal phase? So I get it twice in a month, where I don't get my period twice in a month, but I get all the fun mental, emotional sadness that goes with it, and it's all ten times as worse as most people—as most women, that they go through. Like, it's just more—it's just more extreme. And so, I was like, Well, that makes me feel better—
PG: Is that sponsored by Red Bull?
LB: It's sponsored by Red Bull. Red Bull—we're gonna fuck you up more! I hope you edit that part out. That was terrible. But it was triggering my PTSD. So every two weeks...
PG: Oh my God.
LB: Every two weeks, without—because it wasn't being treated. I wasn't taking birth control, like, I wasn't—'cause you're—PTSD—you're not fuckin' anybody. Like, you can't. Like, you just can't—I hate it.
PG: By your choice, you mean.
LB: Yeah. I could—I was—
PG: That must have been terrifying, the idea of being physically...
LB: The first time I was, it was with a guy who's—
PG: Or the opposite, which is being super promiscuous. That tends—
LB: I did not go that route, thank God, but I did not go that route. I was horrified and—but I did try to date somebody and he's still a really good friend of mine. But the first time that we had sex, I mean, I cried. And I turned my head away and just quietly—like, I didn't want—how awful is that? He would've had—like, he had all the compassion, knew what was going on—he would have been so wonderful, but I was like, I don't wanna bother him right now.
PG: I'm not worth it.
LB: I'm not worth—like, I didn't wanna let him know this makes me feel like I'm being raped again. Ahh, that's annoying to people, especially people that care enough about me to have sex with me! Like, the mindset that you're in—like, I have so much—like, I grieve for that girl, that she didn't get to have—that she didn't—she wasn't able to take care of herself in a way that was helpful—like, that she had to re-experience that all over again. You just don't know how to ask for help. You don't know what to ask for.
PG: And you're carrying shame that shouldn't be yours.
LB: Oh God, so much of it! And yeah, so I couldn't be with anybody, and so I definitely wasn't—I definitely wasn't on birth control, which ended up being—and the right birth control ended up being an integral part of fixing all of this—
PG: The hormones.
LB: Because we had to get that leveled out—like, the biological part of it leveled out so that I wasn't constantly being triggered, because my life became this yo-yo, where it would be like—I would just be out for four days. I couldn't talk to anybody, I couldn't communicate with anybody, I couldn't look at anybody. I would hide in my room and only go to the bathroom when my roommates were asleep or out of the house. I couldn't answer the phone, I couldn't look at the phone. Sometimes I didn't even know how to operate my phone. Like, that's where we got. And... Now I lost my train of thought.
PG: The—getting the birth control—leveled everything out.
LB: Oh, right, right, right. Yeah, so once that finally—and so, that's what I was saying. So you would—I would be out, and then after, like, four days—at the end of it, you just don't sleep. You don't—there's always a day that you don't sleep. And then you just suddenly feel like yourself again.
LB: You slowly feel like yourself again and you just start to put the pieces back together. You're kinda, like, looking around and you're like, Ah, corn dogs again. Motherfucker. Well, I want to start putting the clothes up, whereas if I had tried to do that—like, moving through space when you're in an episode like that—moving through space hurts. The only two places I could be were in my bed, in the bathtub, or on my closet floor. I spent a lot of time just on my closet floor, which is crazy.
PG: It's so—being in a closet is so—
LB: I've come out of the closet, everybody, which is...
PG: It's so—I think that's why I loved to go into closets when I was on shrooms. Because it helps—
LB: Did you really?
PG: Yeah, it was—it felt so safe.
LB: You know what's crazy? My mom was like, "Lauren, that's what I did when I was little. I would get into the closet after Deedee had been raging, and just—that's where I felt safe." And I was like, Well, that's another thing you passed down! Hooray! But yeah, I could only—I would get in the bathtub and I would be there for a while and I—
PG: Would you be taking a bath, or just being in the tub?
LB: No, taking a bath.
LB: The water felt like—I was surrounded by something that was—it was comforting. Like, I felt held by something. At the time, you're never like, Boy, I really feel held by something right now.
PG: You're just like, This doesn't feel awful.
LB: Yeah, this—that's exactly right! Everything feels awful—this feels less awful. And then I could be—and then I would have to get in the bed again—
PG: You never think about it being nurturing.
PG: You're just like, This doesn't make my skin feel on fire.
LB: Yeah! Oh boy. So it would be, like, a ping-pong, and then I would have to scramble to be like, What do I need to fix? What do I need to, like, put back in order? What do I need to prep? 'Cause it's gonna happen again. And so, like, your anxiety level is so—because it's—
PG: You never let it down.
LB: Never, because the shoe—other shoe was always about to drop. And in this entire time, I'm doing the best acting of my entire life.
PG: You got a nice collection of masks to choose from.
LB: I have an Academy Award closet full of masks because...the people who—like, my very, very close friends, the people I live with—they knew. But almost nobody else did, and I was amazing at it. I was—that—I will really give myself that, because I was like, I will not—there was a part of me that was like—it was that part of me when they were like, "Are you suicidal?" I was like, "No!" Like, why would I be working this hard and trying to go to hospital if I wanted to kill myself? If I wanted to kill myself, I'd just fuckin' kill myself! I know how! I'm smart! I am trying to put my life back together, and I don't wanna live—I know that if I could just figure out what this is, then I can fix it and I can—oh, I'll go back to normal. Which is not happening. I mean—
PG: Did the rape crisis center—were there—were they the ones that led you to going to the Santa Fe place?
LB: No. God bless them, and I want—
PG: Was it not a good experience at the rape crisis center?
LB: I wanna speak really carefully here, because they are a place that...if you have been sexually assaulted, you should absolutely contact immediately. They were very helpful and I'm very glad my doctor—my doctor referred me to them and I went. I was not able to do their group therapy, because I was on the road and they were like, "It's a closed group. We need you to be here for the entire time." And I was like, "I can't commit to that, but I'm desperate for this." And—but they were the ones that recommended the therapist that I have now, and she's the ones who recommended Santa Fe. But the rape crisis center was—I saw them—I had a regular standing appointment with them, and I'm laughing because I have a joke based on this. God bless 'em. There was one time when she was—they were doing some project that involved T-shirts, and girls would, like, make T-shirts and they would be held up, and I know—I understand the concept of it. It's like, hey, your—it's being displayed and your trauma's being witnessed by other people, and like we've talked about, that's so important. But I was not ready for that at the time. I needed a lot more, because I had such concurrent trauma that it just was like... And the poor woman was like, "Maybe you should make a T-shirt." I was like, "I'm fuckin' outta here! Fuck you!" So... And I mean, best meaning, best meaning. It just wasn't enough. Like, I needed more—
PG: It wasn't what you needed right then, for you. But you recommend that if somebody has been assaulted to go to a rape crisis—
LB: Absolutely, because even if they're the best landing place to go—it's the UCLA Rape Crisis Center, where I went. They're an amazing landing place and they have resources. If they can't get you what you need, they will find you help.
PG: And I'm glad to hear that.
LB: And that was essential for me.
PG: And the Rape and Incest National Network is also a great resource. R-A-I-N-N, dot org. And it doesn't matter how long ago the trauma happened. It could—you could be 70 years old and it happened when you were two—they will treat it as if it happened yesterday, from what I understand.
LB: Yeah, it took me, like, four months to even admit it, that it had happened. Like, I was just in shock for two days. And then I finally got my doctor—when I finally got myself to my doctor and I told him what happened, he was like, "You didn't come in immediately to, like, get checked?" And I was like, "I don't know how to explain." And he was just like, "Yeah, you need to go." But I'm—I was laughing because I have a joke in my act that I couldn't ever tell anybody where it came from, but where I talk about the fact that, like, people should have more fun. And, like, I walked out and got a parking ticket and this other guy got a parking ticket. And he got really mad, and I was just like, Oh, you should just fill a parking ticket with glitter, and that's how—and send it in. Instead of being mad, just fill your parking ticket with glitter. And that came from a day where—that's not the whole joke, so don't fuckin' judge me. I hear you. I hear all of you judging me right now. It's much better on stage. Come see me live. @SBelleLauren. Jay-kay. It was my birthday—I don't know, two, three, four years ago, whatever it was. It was my birthday and I went to the crisis center—that was the T-shirt day. It was the T-shirt day. And I was just like, Man, this fuckin' sucks. I walk out and I've gotten the fucking ticket. And I was like, Are you kidding me? Like, who gets a ticket at a rape crisis center on their birthday? Fuck you, God! Fuck you! Are you kidding—and I was so—but I sat there and I looked at it, and I was like, This is—I can either get really mad and go act out. And I was like, No, that's what I wanna do. I wanna fill it with glitter. I'm so mad that this is hilarious to me. Like, of course this happened to me, and I'm not gonna be mad about it because then they win. How about that? Then they win, then he wins, then the other he wins... And when you go through this kind of trauma, you always have those voices—that's the committee in your head, is the people who abused you. And they're, like, watching. They're like, Yeah, see? You are a piece of shit. You deserve this. That's all you hear, is like—and you have to fight that and be like, How about that? There was a time when—during when I was being stalked—that I was... One of the things that happened, just to give this a tad bit of backstory, was that he either had a computer—like, a screen sharing program on my computer or—we're not exactly sure, but my lawyer was like, "We don't know if he has"—
PG: He knew everything you were doing.
LB: Yeah. It was insanity. Like, I would go to get on a website to see what time, like, the Dodgers' stadium opened for tickets, and before I could even, like—like, I would get on the page, I would get a text that said, "They open at 10." I mean, in my apartment—in my own apartment, and you're in complete denial that something like that could even be fuckin' possible. So there was one night when I was—I was just real depressed, I think, about that, and freaked out, in denial, trying not to think about it and wanted to numb it out. So I was, like, watching TV on my floor and drinking wine and just by myself, and little Lauren here—charming, classy girl that she is—woke up with her head resting in a pillow of hummus. Like, I had just passed out in the whole tub of hummus, and woke up—and it was just on my head, which I'm sure was a lovely picture. I should recreate that for my album cover. But I sat there, almost like, Oh my God. Like, I wonder if he can see this. That's a real fear that I had.
LB: Was—and I lived with for a long time—was, I wonder if he can see this. Everywhere I went, everything I did online. I still have it today, where I—
PG: Did people think you were crazy, that you would say that to?
LB: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Well, I mean, if they—
PG: 'Cause you know I don't. I a hundred percent believe you, but when you have all this surrounding stuff that you're dealing with and the mood swings, then you bump into somebody who doesn't understand any of the complexity of mental illness and trauma—
LB: I had to not care. Here's what I had to do. I had to save my life and I had to not care. Because it's like—sure, I had mood swings where I was, like, depressed. Now I know—now that I've met enough comedians, everybody does that. Mine was no worse than anybody else, before I met this guy. And it's—I got depressed just like everybody else, turns out. Just more often, and I cried in the shower about it. I don't like to let people see that. It was very private. But yeah. Oh, and whatever he told people—I mean, I've heard some real choice things. But what happened that day was, I was like, I can either flip out about this, but that would mean admitting that it was a real possibility, which I just wasn't ready to—
PG: That he saw everything you did.
LB: Yeah. Which I was like, It's much more likely that there's a computer screen sharing program, because he had hacked into everything I'd done. Everything. Every—my phone account, my MySpace, my whatever, all that—posted terrible stuff. And he'd been, like, monitoring me. He would—well, we can't get into it but—I mean, we could, but it's boring. But I made a decision—my brain made a decision right there, of like, You know what? I'm gonna own this. And that's something I didn't do. Like, you grow up in the South, you're just like, Everything's private, I'm not gonna put anything out there, I'm not gonna be vulnerable, which makes for a great comedian. But I was like, right at that very moment when I woke up in the hummus, is I was like, I'm gonna get to it first. How about that? How about, I'm gonna make fun of myself first. And so you can go back, I mean, and look at, like, the first tweet that I had like this, where I just started being like, I'm stupid. How about this? Like, sometimes you wake up—I can't remember what it was, but something wake up with hummus, and that's just fine. And I felt so much better! And that is where my Twitter voice came from. And before that, I was a moron. I mean, I was like everybody else trying to figure out—"Missing good Chicago people today!" "I like pizza. Do you guys like pizza?" Like, stupid stuff and—but right at that moment, that's where my voice shifted and I found—and all the sudden, people would identify with that. And so this incredible positive came out of something truly horrifying, where I was like, Oh, I'm gonna run with this. Like, If I'm more open about stuff like this, then not only do I not feel like somebody's gonna find out about it—
PG: You were living an awfulsome moment!
LB: I was! I really, really was. Yeah, and—
PG: By your own choice, yeah.
LB: And that's a—and that one moment has changed my entire career. Like, I have gotten jobs and job offers and met people and had opportunities I would have never had, had I not had Twitter to—as an outlet.
PG: Beat 'em to the punch.
PG: To beat 'em to the punch.
LB: That's exactly right. And so, I was—and then I—and then it became not about him. It became about me, and I was like, Oh yeah, this is my—this is great! And I would have people identify with it. And then, when I would have these—started to have these dissociative episodes, that was my lifeline, was like, that was how I let—like, nobody knew that I was—except—unless you live with me or you were my close friends. My family didn't even know for a long time that I was disassociating and isolating, because I was still able to use that voice, whereof like, I could just post these random thoughts that were funny. I could still do it throughout all of this, even though sometimes it was coming from a much younger place. And that was how I kept this front up of—and I—it's still me, I'm still writing those jokes. It's just... And then people would—
PG: It sounds like you're now doing it because you choose to, though, not because you had to.
LB: Absolutely. Yeah. That took its own life pretty quickly, you know what I mean? I don't mean "took its own life," like pow! I mean—
PG: Took on a life of its own.
LB: That's the word! Not suicide!
PG: I love how, in all of the hurdles that you've had, you have found what you have control over and what you don't have control over. And you've educated yourself and processed all this stuff, and you've come out of it with a big-ass fuckin' tool belt.
PG: A big-ass tool belt.
LB: Well, what's the other option? Y'know, to—I had—
PG: Live a small, fuckin' sad life and—
LB: Well, what I had to do was learn how to replace resentment with responsibility. And that's real tough.
PG: I am so using that as a sound byte for the next... Seriously!
LB: Yeah, I mean—and that was tough. Like, I mean, I had to learn how to say like, Yeah, I'm mad at all these things, I'm mad at myself, I'm mad at my own body, but I gotta do things—like, you know what? Alcohol's off the table right now. It's off the table. It's not—and I'm—I was mad about it, but when I drink, sometimes it's fine. When I drink and I get triggered, it's twice as bad. So, like, I can go out and have a couple glasses of wine with my girlfriends and it'll be fine, but I can also go out and have a couple glasses of wine with my girlfriends, and someone will say something or something will come up and I'll go home and—the guard is out of the guard house. And so—and that's what alcohol does, is it takes the guard out of the guard house and you're just open. You're wide open—you can't use any of the tools that you've been given, y'know?
PG: Is alcohol an addiction or do you consider yourself an alcoholic? Do you have any addictions?
LB: Oh, well...
PG; She shook her head no, that she's not an alcoholic.
LB: Well... I'm open to the fact that—I mean, here's the thing. When I was younger, I went to—I did outpatient to quit coke when I was, like, 22. We partied in college and then, all the sudden, I was like, Um, I'm doing this a lot, and I don't like that. Like, it was pretty easy for me to get into, but I pretty quickly was like, Nope. Not gonna do this. Don't want this in my life. Wanna make sure that I get the help that I need, and did outpatient for, like, three weeks and nipped that in the bud. And it was great. And it's...
PG: You don't find yourself obsessing about drugs or alcohol?
LB: No, but—well, for alcohol—for this I did. That was why I—
PG: But I mean today.
LB: No. No, no, no. I'd—while I—when I have an episode, then I would drink. But in the end, it's like—I know people who are like, "Oh yeah, well, I had to have a drink every day," and I was like, Yeah, that's not me. But I'm open to that possibility—I'm not like, "I'm not a this or that!" Like, I'm not—
PG: If that rears its head again, you'll...
LB: Absolutely. But right now, it's out of the question, you know what I mean? It's just—it's so important to... 'Cause what this does is, it changes your neural pathways. The trauma changes your neural pathways, and you have to do a lot of work to change them back, because you can build new ones. One of the joys of being hospitalized in a variety of time zones and regions in the country—I'd like to have a punch card—is that you get things explained to you in different regional ways.
LB: So, when neural pathways was explained to me in California—yeah, in California—they were like, "Okay, so here's the deal. When you get—when you're traumatized, your neural pathways change and they go in this other direction that makes you numb and disassociate, because that's how you need to survive. But it's so severe that—the trauma's so severe that it makes such a mark that anytime that you come into something that triggers you, it's very easy. Your brain automatically goes back over there and thinks it's re-experiencing the trauma again, even though it's not, even though you might just be seeing a guy with—a normal guy with a beard, your body goes, Oh God, it might be him! And then it disassociates or it needs to numb." And that makes sense to me, so you've gotta do the work to build new neural pathways, to say, No, there's another way, and we don't have to feel those—feel that fear and re-experience that fear anymore. When my parents hospitalized me in Arkansas this year, I got to experience a different explanation! I had a pretty bad episode at home and they took me to the ER, and when I was spending my time there, I was in a group where they were explaining that to everybody. And there was, like, eight or nine women in the unit, and they were like, "All right, so here's how this works. So there's neural pathways and they get dug in, and they're"—and she just looked around and everybody was like, "Huh? What're you talkin' about?" So she kinda doubled back and she goes, "Okay, okay, all right. Think about it like this. Y'all know when you take your four-wheeler and you go through the mud and it makes those real deep divots?" And everybody's like, "Oh, yeah!" She's like, "That's a neural pathway!" They're Iike, "Oh! Well, shit! Why didn't you just say"—like, no exaggeration. That's exactly the conversation. And I mean, it makes—they're like, "Oh yeah, 'cause it goes right in there," and it makes complete sense to an Arkansas—and I was telling my aunt about this and she goes, "Lauren, I didn't actually understand it until you said the four-wheeler." I was like, "Okay! Well, there you go." It just—some people...
PG: That's awesome.
LB: Yeah, some people. It's... It makes more sense that way.
PG: We all have to have it explained in our own way.
LB: Yeah, I mean—you know.
PG: There's so many things that I didn't understand until I could experience them, and then I was like, Oh, that's—I mean, that's one of the reasons why I wanted to do this podcast, is 'cause it's so fuckin' hard to talk about! It's so fuckin' hard to understand.
LB: This podcast—
PG: I was not saying that for you to begin to—
LB: No, I know, I know. But I mean, I think it's like—like, one of the things—changing those neural pathways is so hard because those divots are so deep.
PG: So deep.
LB: So deep. Trauma burns them in, and you have to do so much work to get out of them, and so much of what you do defeats the work that you've done. So it's like your whole life is "fall down seven times, get up eight," and the "get up eight" part is the only part that is important. And there were some days when there was nothing I could do and there was nobody I could talk to, but I could listen to this podcast and go, Oh—like, there are elements, like we were talking about being witnessed—there are elements in somebody's story that I would be like, Oh, oh, okay, that sounds familiar. You know, it's really difficult when people are like—I know that you've experienced this when—with depression and stuff, when people are like, "Why don't you just go for a walk?" And you're just like, "Why don't you just kiss my fuckin' grits?" And I always say—like, my therapist would say something like, "We've gotta start—like, I want—if you just start healing, it's gonna snowball."
PG: Like I haven't tried to do that on my own.
LB: I'm like—you know what it's like? It's like being... It's like I'm in a deep well and somebody throws you a rope, and they're like, "Why don't you just climb out of it?" But you're in handcuffs, and you're like, "I'd love to!" And they're like, "Here, I'll throw you this tool!" And you're like, "Still can't get it! Handcuffed! Do you understand? I need help getting out of the handcuffs." "What about this tool? I'll throw you down a wrench! I'll throw you down a bolt cutter!" And it's just like—
PG: And you don't even know how to say that you're handcuffed.
LB: You don't even know how to say—
PG: You don't even understand that you're handcuffed. You just think, It works for other people, but the shitty hand I was dealt in my life applies to this also, and most of us are wrong, that that—our shitty hand also applies to whether or not the chances of us getting better exist. I don't know if that made any sense, but...
LB: No, it did. And you sit down there and you're just like, Everybody else has access to these tools. And if I was worth something, I would be able to access them, too. And I guess—why would you move? Why would you even try? Why would you even try? It's much better to sit in a ball—and this is where I got a couple of times, where people kept throwing down tools, and I was like, I don't know why I can't access them. And I got to a place where... My therapist in Santa Fe, she was like, "Oh, wow! What you're describing—you have gone past hopelessness into a place called apathy," where I literally had gone so long and worked so hard—and I just said, You know what? I don't even know why we're here. Like, I got there. I got to a bad place, where I was like, I can't access—what am I doing? Why don't I just wait to die? And so I was just waiting to die, because there was no tool for me to pick up and use. And that is such—it's exactly like she said. It's not even a hopeless place, because hopeless implies that there might be, somewhere, hope to gain again.
LB: And I was like, No, even if you gave me hope, what's the point? What's the point? And that place... I mean, there was a time when I did try to kill myself. That's—this is... I can't do it without flair! When my parents took me to the ER—and I don't remember this because I was completely disassociated. I remember flashes of it. But my mom had been driving me from the lake house to the—and she was just driving me straight to the ER, and she was like, I don't know—I don't even know who I'm talking to. Like, and I was just like, "I wanna die!" You're very lucid when you're talking—you're not like—it's not like you're a slurry drunk, when people are like, "Blah-lah!" I was just like, "It's okay! I wanna die. That's all I wanna do. I think you would understand if you were in here." And she was like, What the fuck?—'cause that's never been me. But I finally got to that place. So she and my dad drove me to the ER and they let me go to the bathroom—I was like, "I wanna go to the bathroom," and apparently I'd found some pill bottle. And I'm only saying this because I want somebody to hear this and be like, I'm not so bad. Because this is horribly humiliating to say what I did, and I will probably never work again. But I went into the bathroom and ended up taking this bottle of pills with toilet water. Like, that's how bad—that's where I was, was—I was like, I'm doing everyone else a favor, because this is too much. I'm like a pet out of control that can't be trained, like a dog that's been too abused, where you're just like—
PG: We just need to put it down.
LB: You just need to put it down. And I—man—and I wasn't... I meant it. There was no, like, "I'm going to the bathroom! You guys aren't gonna believe what I'm gonna do!" None of that. I was just like, "I'll be right back!" Apparently—
PG: Was the bathroom in your house or at the hospital?
LB: No, this is in the ER.
PG: In the—how did they have a bottle of pills in there?
LB: I had it in my person.
PG: Oh, you brought it.
LB: I guess so. I mean, I don't—
LB: Yeah. I mean—and my mom was so cute! She got under—I had locked the door in the bathroom, so she got underneath the bathroom door and crawled on the floor to, like, come knock it out of my hands. And then, of course, they go and take me to the—whatever, emergency room—I'm already there. What am I talking about? You know, to do whatever they did to get it out of my stomach, but later on—I mean, this is, like, a month later. She was like, "You know, I never told you this, but I want you to know I really love you." And I was like, "Well, I know that! I'm not confused." And she's like, "No, Lauren. I mean, I really love you. Do you not know how much I hate bathroom floors? Lauren, I was so mad at you! I just thought I was gonna throw up down there, and I thought, God dammit, why'd she have to commit suicide on a goddamn bathroom floor? I thought I was gonna throw up." I was like, "Oh, from the bathroom floor, not from me!" And she was like, "Well, I just—that's not what I meant!" That's just so cute! Yeah, but like, that's where I got, and...that was, like, May? And to be where I'm at now is, like, Ahh! Like, I can't—
PG: This is late October.
LB: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It's a—I did a lot of work. And I do a lot of work every day. But like, I finally got to that place where I'm like, Oh, I have clarity, I have hope, and like, I can work, y'know? Like, I can achieve things, and that feels so great. I was—'cause I remember the very first day—'cause I stayed with my family for a while after that. There was no other option. And I have all this finance stuff that I needed to catch up on, all this stuff, and it had just been laying on my floor. And I just kinda laid in my bed for a while. And I remember the day that I woke up and was like, You know what? I think I remember when I finish something, that I feel really good about myself. I think I'm gonna do that. I think I'm gonna do that today! Like, I remember feeling that. And it was such a shift. Part of that is—if you have PTSD, hear me now. Part of one of the—I can't believe we've not talked about this. One of the biggest things that helped me was prazosin.
PG: What's that?
LB: It's a PTSD medication.
PG: He's a rapper, right?
LB: He's a—that's Lil' Prazosin. That's Lil' Prazosin. It's okay! It's okay, you've been out of the rap game for a while, Paul. Prazosin was something that—like I said, like, the birth control was part of, like, figuring out the puzzle pieces all coming together, so that was part of it. So I'd gotten back on it then, and they were like—the hospital in Little Rock was like—so, for all their...
LB: Four-wheelin'! They got one of the biggest pieces right. And they said "We're gonna start you on prazosin," and I was like, "What is that?" And they said, "It's what we give to war vets." And the way that they figured it out was—it's one of those, like, off-brand meds—not off-brand, I'm saying it wrong. Somebody listening is going, "I know it!"—that started out being used for low blood pressure, started out being used for something else.
PG: Oh, right. One of the beautiful accidents of meds, like Viagra was used...
LB: What was that for?
PG: I think it was for balding or something.
LB: So men started growing hair and dicks at the same time? Amen! It's a beautiful day! Yeah, so they were treating vets with—for high blood pressure, and the vets started saying, "You know what? My nightmares started going away." And so they started doing more testing, 'cause they didn't—it was a total accident. And they were like, "My nightmare's going away, my flashbacks are better," and now that's what they give to war vets to treat, like, specifically for PTSD.
PG: Wow, that's fantastic.
LB: It... The night terrors that I have had were so disruptive to my sleep. You—I wake up in a panic attack.
PG: Why do you gotta be so dramatic about night terrors?
LB: Sorry! I mean, they are kinda fun—should I warm them up? "You know, when I wake up with night terrors, it's so great to have a blanket of fear!"
PG: I can't imagine how bad night terrors must be.
LB: They're really real. Like, you feel like... Sometimes it's hard to, like—you're like, Did that happen? Like, you wake up, and there's a period of time where you're like, Is that something that happened? Like, Did I see my abuser again? Did I see this person again? Because it's like that's part of it. It's like...
PG: So real.
LB: It's so real.
PG: And the thing that's even worse about it, to me, is that's your sanctuary. Your bed! The place that—
LB: It's your body.
LB: That's your sanctuary, and you can't get out of that. And that is part of the resentment that you feel, that you're so frustrated because—that's what I meant when I said I wanted to transfuse it out of my body. I was like, whatever this is, can you just take out the trauma? Because it's, like, coursing through my veins. And I'm over all this shit, you know what I mean? Like, I am—I don't give a shit about any of these people. I'm not emotionally attached to any of these things. I don't even care what happened. Cognitively, I don't care. But it's in your body, so you wake up and you wake up—even once you've realized that you know—it's like, Okay, that's not real. I'm not experiencing that. It doesn't matter—your body has reacted, so, like, your blood pressure shoots through the roof, you're sweating, you're panicked. There are times—
PG: You're playing it over and over in your mind.
LB: Yeah. Listen, there was a time when I was actually pulling my hair out. Like, look at this. You can't see this on the podcast, but—I don't think I showed you this. But like, that's new. Like, 'cause I was so... 'Cause you're in a state of, like, complete confusion, and you're just like, I don't know how—I don't know where to put this. That's the big—I don't know where to put this. And you think, like, It's seven in the morning! Like, I don't know where to go. I don't know what to do. And so, you either just check out because it's so overwhelming or, like, when it starts to get really bad, you're just like, I guess I'll have a drink and hopefully I can go back to bed. Or like, I guess I'll go eat something, but I don't want—like...
PG: Go make a pillow out of hummus.
LB: Mm-hmm, yeah. It's real comfy! That's the beyond part of Bed Bath & Beyond. That's the secret beyond part. "We don't talk about it very often. I'm very rich now, thank you."
PG: Is there anything else before we—you hit us with some fears and loves?
LB: No, people are bored by now.
PG: They're not bored.
LB: They're so bored. They're like, "Oh, I can't wait to tell my friends all this shit." No. One thing I would say, though, is that... When you brought up, like, "Do people think she's crazy?" Like, did people think that—the only people that thought that were friends of my ex. And it's because of shit that, like, he told them. But it was really painful, like, to try and talk to people about it. And I would have people call people I was dating and be like, "Don't date her." They would be like, "What are you talking about? She's wonderful. She's wonderful." And that was super hurtful and it took a long time to forgive those people, because I was like, I'm sure if they—if I heard the things that he told me he told them—it was awful. He was like, "I'm gonna run you out of town." And that's exactly what he told me. He was like, "I will run you out of town. I can't wait." But I am completely comfortable in the fact that, like, I really had to just not care about what those people said. And I don't like that word, "crazy." I really don't. I think it's such a disservice to people. Like, people have trauma. Even people—even the person who abused me... I met somebody in treatment that helped me forgive him, in a gross way that I really didn't want to. There was a priest who was in there, and he had just been horribly sexually abused. Horribly sexually abused. And I—poor thing. And I...
PG: As a child?
LB: Mm-hmm, yeah. And all throughout his career, like, as a—
PG: As an adult, he was being sexually abused?
LB: It had continued. Like, as a young adult.
PG: I see.
LB: As a young adult. And so, we were in the—in this hospital together and he was just dear and so sad and... And then after some time, I found out that he had abused people, too. And I, like, really—like, we had talked and, like, I had so much sympathy for him. And then I was like, Oh my God, you abused somebody else. And I was like, Ugh, I do not wanna learn this lesson right now. I do not wanna learn this lesson! But that's how I was like, anybody who could do that to somebody else had to have been traumatized themselves, and that's how I look at it. Like, anybody... And that's how I look at my parents—like, my mom. Like, she never did any of that stuff. She was abused, herself. My grandmother, I know was abused. Like, there's a terrible, terrible cycle. And so, rather than call people crazy—like, and rather than call him crazy—'cause I wanted to, for a long time, just be like—I mean, that was his nickname, was "Crazy"—was just to say, like, somebody probably hurt him, too.
PG: I'm sure. I'm sure.
LB: And that's how I forgive him. And I forgive those people. If somebody did think that, it's okay. Like, I just wanna say like, "It's okay. You didn't know any of this shit that happened." And I know if they did—I know if they had known, that they would have been a bit more sympathetic and not said those things, so... I don't know.
PG: Well, thank you for saying that and sharing that. I think that's important.
LB: Is it?
LB: I don't know, I feel like I just—
PG: Because I've heard people say, "Resentment is when you take the poison and wait for somebody else to die."
LB: Yeah. And I had to—yeah, I mean, I was really upset with a lot of those people.
PG: You can't get there intellectually. It has to—in my opinion, it has to be done through some type of being witnessed, having some type of emotional processing, and increasing our capacity to be empathetic. Because...it's an emotional thing. It's not an intellectual thing. It's like... Why do I feel sorry for—why do I feel empathy for serial killers when I watch a documentary about them? I'm abhorred—I abhor what they did, but a little part of me can see the sick child in them, and that's who I feel sorry for—
LB: Even in horror movies—like, and I love horror movies, and I'm like, Oh, I see how they got there. 'Cause—but we also have to learn how to set boundaries—
LB: And go, "I'm not gonna let you in my house!"
LB: "I'm never gonna let you in the same..."
PG: "You tell me you're hurting somebody, I'm calling the fuckin' police!"
LB: Absolutely. "But I can see how you got there." Yeah, that's delicate.
LB: No, let's be done with me. Even I'm bored.
PG: Lauren Ashley Bishop, thank you so much. And if people want to contact you, they can find you on Twitter at—
LB: Yeah, @SBelleLauren. It's like "southern belle Lauren" It's S-B-E-L-L-E-L-A-U-R-E-N. And I mean, yeah, that's pretty much my handle everywhere. Instagram. You can just Google my name on Tumblr. Don't Google me, actually. Don't do that. Just look up SBelleLauren. Thank you so much! This is such a privilege.
PG: I like how you said that with confusion on your face, like...
LB: No, I just... It's a real privilege.
PG: Like you're afraid that I don't feel the same way.
LB: I am, I'm always—
PG: This is a very special episode.
LB: I wake up feeling like I failed, so...
PG: No, this is—we would not have gone 138 minutes—139 minutes—
LB: Oh God, I'm so sorry!
PG: If I didn't feel that you had something to share.
LB: Oh, boy. "Next episode: my stepfamily! Good night!"
Many, many thanks to Lauren. You would think, this show now being at the two-hour-and-twenty mark, I would say, "We're not gonna do any surveys"—no, I'm gonna do some fuckin' surveys and I'm gonna do some emails. 'Cause I'm finally starting to believe that the length of the show... If you don't wanna keep listening, you can pause it or you can erase it or whatever, and enough of you have reached out and said, "We like the long episodes," so... So suck on this!
Before I do get to that, I want to remind you there's a couple of different ways to support the show. You can support us financially by going to website mentalpod.com and making a one-time PayPal donation or my favorite, a recurring monthly donation, which helps greatly to keep this show going. It's a bit of a shoestring budget and I would love to be able to expand the show, bring some more money in, and be able to pay people to do things, and maybe to travel and do some—record people in other cities or even other countries. So, I've got lots of ideas but we don't have much of a budget for it, so any bit helps. You can also, if you're gonna buy something for Christmas through Amazon and you haven't done it yet, enter through the search portal on our homepage. It's on the right-hand side, about halfway down. And they give us a couple of nickels and it doesn't cost you anything. And you can support us non-financially by spreading the word through social media and writing something nice on iTunes.
All right, let's get to these. This is... This was an email I got from a woman who calls herself "J," and she writes:
"I'm writing you this"—actually, I'm gonna edit some of this, just to shorten it a bit. She's a lesbian and her partner has borderline personality disorder, and they do go to therapy. And she said:
"She asked me a few questions"—not her therapist. This is when they were home. She'd just come home tired from work and she—her partner was—wanted her attention. And so she writes:
"She asked me a few questions sporadically, and as I was tired and spacey, they didn't register for me at first, so I said, 'What?' By the fourth time this happened, she was visibly annoyed and accused me of being a bitch and ignoring her. This infuriated me because I feel like I give so much of myself to her, to support and take care of her, and she knew I'd had a long day. We proceeded to have an argument that made me even more upset, and I said I couldn't deal with it right then and was going to go to the living room for a bit. She proceeded to block the door and refused to let me leave, despite my pleading. I feel—I felt a sense of suffocation... I feel a sense of suffocation when we're fighting and she doesn't give me space. And at this particular moment, I was so upset about the argument itself and that she was physically trapping me in the room that I grabbed her and shoved her out of my way. She was pushing back with all of herself and I still wasn't able to get out of the room. We both acknowledged and apologized for our wrongdoings, but I don't know how to feel about this. I've been crying on and off all of last night and this morning. She forgave me for it and says she deserved it, but she also says she's scared it might happen again, which breaks my heart, considering she has a history of being abused by her parents. I don't want my girlfriend to be scared of me. I wish I could go back in time and react differently. I told her she didn't deserve it and that shoving your partner is never excusable. I do wish she respected my space more and didn't make me feel trapped, but I don't think that excuses what I did. I feel so bad about it. I feel like a monster."
And then she goes on some more, beating herself up. And I wrote her back and I said:
"I think what you're forgetting is that her trapping you in the room is every bit as much of a physical violation as pushing her out of the way is."
And I asked, has she ever tried dialectical behavior therapy, that she might get a lot out of it.
"Your partner has no control over having borderline personality disorder, but she does have control over seeking tools to manage it as much as possible. And you deserve that from your partner. You should both forgive yourselves and use it as a moment to realize that you both need to develop more tools to communicate. All couples do, so don't feel shame. You're not alone in that. I didn't start developing any until 15 years into my fuckin' relationship, 'cause I didn't know any better or I was too clueless to realize I needed help."
So she wrote back and said that her partner is actually about to start a six-month intensive DBT program that includes group and individual therapy, "so hopefully that'll be helpful to her and us." I fuckin' love reading that. It doesn't matter where you've been as much as where you're—what you're committed to do to try to make the future better.
This is a Struggle in a Sentence, filled out by a transman who calls himself "Trans G Emily." I'm sorry—trans female. Male to female, who calls herself "Trans G Emily." And she is bi, in her 30s, and about... Let's see. About her depression:
"My bones are made of iron and my muscles have dissolved."
About her anxiety:
"I'm going to vomit a neutron bomb of shame on a stranger's cock before they get the chance to orgasm."
I'm not even sure what that means, but that is one of the...most unforgettable sentences I've ever seen typed up. "I'm going to vomit a neutron bomb of shame on a stranger's cock before they get the chance to orgasm." About her anorexia:
"Feeling my bones through my skin fills me with a paralytic lust."
About her love addiction:
"Please just take care of me forever."
About her sex addiction:
"There are no depths I won't sink to, so long as I am yours."
That is so fuckin' powerful and profound. "There are no depths I won't sink to, so long as I am yours." Wow. About being a sex crime victim:
"Sometimes I see her laughing at me in the corner of my eye."
About experiencing sexual bias:
"Nearly all boys are untrustworthy pieces of shit. Fuck 'em."
Snapshot from her life:
"I'm drooling from the drugs. That thing feels far too large to be inside me. I'm not special anymore. I deserve this. My blood is where her semen would have been if she was a boy."
That is so heavy. That is so heavy. Sending you some love, Emily.
This is a Happy Moment filled out by "Peter's Mom," and she writes:
"I was at Toys 'R Us and my son in a wheelchair asked a tall black man if he was Michael Jordan, and he responded, 'No.' So my son, age 3, started to cry, so he responded with, 'For you today only, I am Michael Jordan.' His big heart made me so happy."
Thank you for that.
This is an email I got from a listener named Tobin, and she writes:
"Writing again. Sick of me yet? I want to comment on your discussion of abortion. You said you didn't know how you feel about abortion, then it seemed like you excused yourself for not being an ally of the pro-choice movement or having a view in this issue because you are a cisgendered man. While you always treat women, transpeople, and genderqueer people who have had abortions with respect when they disclose it on your show, I was disappointed you didn't come out swinging for the reproductive rights of people who can get pregnant."
And then she—there's more to the email, but she closes it saying:
"Much love. Keep doing what you're doing. You're fighting the good fight and I cannot express my gratitude enough. If I read your views on abortion incorrectly, please tell me to go fuck myself."
And I wrote back and said—I guess I should have clarified that I am pro-choice, but I was speaking as if my partner were pregnant, I wouldn't know what my opinion would be. I would be very torn. But I am pro-choice. So...there you have it.
This is a Struggle in a Sentence, and this is filled out by a woman who calls herself Jane. I love this one. About her depression:
"It feels like a filter has been applied to all your senses and only allows things to pass through if it makes you feel worse about yourself."
That is fantastic. That is awfulsome! That is awfulsome. About her PTSD:
"Like I will never be safe, and if I do let my guard down, something bad will happen and I will have deserved it for my lapse in vigilance."
Snapshot from her life:
"Last month my PTSD flared up so bad, I started having nightmares. Had auditory hallucinations that woke me up and convinced me someone else was in the house. Heart racing, fearful for my life, I would leap out of bed. After searching all the rooms and turning all the lights and realizing my brain was playing tricks on me, I would break down crying. This happened every night for two weeks straight. I thought I was going insane and was gonna die from lack of sleep."
Wow. That is so, so intense. I'm so sorry that you have to experience that. Sending you some love.
This is filled out by—I don't know if this is supposed to be pronounced... I guess it's pronounced "wiener." "Wiener" is genderqueer and writes—this is an Awfulsome Moment:
"My friends and I had driven three hours to get to the show. Several artists were playing, and while only the headliner was really famous, one of the openers in particular had been very impactful in my life. I had a strong emotional connection to his music, and seeing him live meant a lot to me. His set was wonderful, and afterwards he was standing by his merch table, talking to a few people here and there. I planned everything out in my head because I wanted to make sure I didn't embarrass myself. I went over the plan again and again. I would walk up, shake his hand, and say, 'Hey, I really love your music! It's an honor to shake your hand!' And then I would walk away before I had a chance to do anything stupid. It was a simple and perfect plan. I walked up, I put out my hand, he took it into his own, I panicked and shouted, 'I really love shaking your hand!' I turned and ran."
I tell you, a good awfulsome moment is fucking Christmas to me. If you guys have awfulsome moments and you—and happy moments and you haven't shared them yet, please, please go fill those out. You go to the website, you click on "Surveys," and then click on "Take the Surveys." There's about a dozen you can take, but those just—they're Christmas to me. That's another way you can support the show, is go take the surveys, especially those two.
This is an email that we got... Let's see. How does she want me to refer to her? Okay, Kristin. And... Let's see. Okay. It's a very long email and I'm not gonna read the whole thing, but she writes—I'm just gonna read you, like, one-tenth of what she shares:
"I'm 21 years old. Since I was in middle school, my mom has been belittling me, speaking to me as if I am an idiot, saying I'm good for nothing, I know nothing about nothing, and always speaking to me in a condescending tone. I've always been—I've been raised in an environment where I was essentially expected to impress people rather than just do my best and be myself. I'm mixed-race. My mother is Hispanic and my father, who is pretty much out of the picture, is black. Racially, I'm black."
And then she goes on to describe how her mother makes jokes about blacks and...on and on and on. And then she mentions that her mom breaks into her sister's room by twisting the doorknob until the lock gives way. It's now broken and her mom will often just open the door, walking in without knocking. Her friends will talk about how lucky she is to have a mom like hers, and her mom will use comments like that...and the good things she does as a parent and use it against them whenever her sister or her are being "ungrateful," in her opinion, "when we try to express our negative feelings towards something that is happening." And she has one friend who is, like, buddy-buddy with her mom, and the two of them kinda team up and pick on her. And the very first sentence of her email that I wanted to hold off on reading till now, which is:
"I hope this is the right spot for messages like these. I'm contacting you because I'm slightly confused on whether the way my mother treats me is emotional abuse, or if I'm just being overly dramatic."
Let's just let that soak in. Let's just let that fucking soak in. I did write her back, and you can imagine what I said, so... Sending her some love. You know, it's our normal, when we're raised with a parent who is a textbook narcissist like that. It's... Gaslighting is a motherfucker. It is.
This is a Struggle in a Sentence, filled out by a guy who calls himself "Shepherd," and about his love addiction, he writes:
"Looking into your eyes and seeing you really looking back into mine is the only time I feel complete."
About his OCD:
"If I don't chew the same number of times on both sides of my mouth, I will probably choke and die."
About having celiac disease:
"No, I can't just pull the fucking croutons off the salad. Twenty parts per million of contamination will still make me sick for days. It's not a fad. It's survival."
And then, snapshot from his life, he writes:
"I have a brain disorder called non-verbal learning disability. It's mild autism, in the same family as Asperger's. My issue is that I misread people all the time. Whether it's a friend or the dude behind me in line at the grocery store, I think everyone hates me, is mad at me, and that I've done something everything wrong. It's frustrating because there's no medication specifically for this brain issue. I just have strategies to use. I don't make new friends often because I worry about saying something that is wrong. Teachers used to think I had a stutter because I would get stuck on one syllable, but it was because my mind was racing to work out every contingency for the backlash to what I was saying. It's better knowing what it is, but it still sucks to be hypersensitive to everything."
Sending you some love, "Shepherd." Am I being cheap with the love tonight? Am I being a whore with the podcast love? You can tell me! You can tell me if I've become loose... If the podcast love has been cheapened.
This is an Awfulsome Moment from a—"Peter's Mom" again, and the awfulsome moment:
"I was with all my extended family in a hospital coffee shop huddled together, waiting to hear if my 14-month-old baby boy was still alive, when a neighbor came in and started chatting about how her son got something in his eye and may need surgery. Then she looked around, realizing that my whole family was there, and asked why we were all there, and I responded, 'Waiting to hear if mine is alive or dead.'"
That might have to go in the awfulsome hall of fame.
This is...Struggle in a Sentence, filled out by a woman who calls herself "World of Noise." And—yeah, this is a heavy one. This is a lot of really... I have to read all of these, because I've—all of the issues that she has, because—(a) because I just wanna give her a fuckin' hug, but (b) because so many times these things are just interrelated, and you can't just pull one thing out, and I think this is just a great example of the interrelatedness of mental health and trauma and addiction. About her depression—and she's in her 20s. Her depression, she writes:
"A black, rotting hole where my heart used to be. Emptiness. I do not know who I am anymore or what I like. I'm scared."
About her anxiety:
"A soul-corroding, unsettled energy that I can't shake."
About her drug addiction:
"Mind-numbing needle infatuation that makes existing just tolerable enough."
About her anorexia:
"Rules. OCD. You must obey. One second of exhilaration for days, weeks, months of work. Ninety pounds, 87, 85, 82, 75. Not good enough. Obey. Just get to 55 and it will be okay. The trauma will fade. Starve it away."
About her OCD:
"Even numbers. Word-associated numbers. Anorexia's best friend. Obey the number system or something bad will happen. I am your security."
About her co-dependency:
"She is co-dependent on me. I allow it because I'm exhausted and numb."
About her PTSD:
"Darker than the darkest dark. Hyper-vigilance. Suffocating fear. Body memories. A monstrosity that has taken residence inside of me that I cannot evict, only shut off temporarily by starving or using IV drugs. Hopeless. Scared I will never feel safe or free."
About being a sex crime victim:
"My fault. Shame. Unclean on the inside, disgusted by the outside. I want to sew my vagina shut and cut off my breasts. Filth. I am filth."
About having a physical handicap:
"Complications and health consequences from anorexia."
About having a mental handicap:
"Prison. Misunderstood. A loneliness that I feel in the pit of my stomach."
I'm not sure what the mental handicap is. About living with an abuser:
"At times, it feels like I exist solely for this person's pleasure. Disassociate or die. I am fucking pathetic. Anorexia is my only true friend. Weak. I deserve to be treated badly. I don't deserve to kill myself."
"Angry at the inhumanity that exists."
And she writes that she will not leave her house for months at a time, and scared that she will never be okay around people again. And then, this is a snapshot from her life—and I hope anybody who works in the hospitals or has any kind of control over—I never realized—well, let me read the snapshot first:
"Pulling out my G-tube and IV in the hospital in the middle of a flashback becomes the only thing I could think of to do to try to ground myself. The nurse I had didn't understand what was going on and I ended up getting restrained to the bed and deemed a danger to myself, which resulted in fighting through flashbacks for what seemed like fucking forever, because I essentially couldn't move my arms or legs. It was the only time I wasn't afraid to kill myself, and if I wasn't cuffed to the bed, I would have just—I would have, just to make reliving everything fucking stop. The level of loneliness and lack of control I felt at that time was excruciating, like being raped all over again."
It never occurred to me that... I've learned so much in this episode today about PTSD and flashbacks, and I really hope to God that there can be more education for non—for mental issues in situations where some other issue is being treated, so people—it's—we're fuckin' complicated.
This is an email I got—I love this email. This is from a guy who calls himself "Invisible Dan," and he writes:
"I listened to your latest episode and the email from 'Fuckface' with a kind of bemusement."
"Fuckface" was a teenager who was afraid that she was never gonna get laid. And if I remember correctly, I wanna say she was around 16 or 17, and also she felt very alone because she was not cisgendered and was wanting to dress more masculine, but didn't really have the money to buy the clothes that she wanted. Anyway, he writes:
"If she's listening, I want to tell her that she'll be all right, and that it's more important to be comfortable with yourself than trying to live up to some ideal concept of romance. Killing yourself when you're 30 because you haven't kissed anyone or lost your virginity is something that I could have believed in when I was a teenager, but at 40 it just makes me chuckle. Yes, at 40 years of age, I've never kissed anyone, never had sex, never even held hands in a romantic manner. I do want to, but things just have never worked out like I wanted. A combination of bad luck, crippling shyness, and a complete lack of self-esteem have kept my right hand busy all these years. But after years of loneliness, I won't kill myself if I never have sex with a girl. Maybe it's that 'fuck it all' attitude that comes with age, but I've found that I don't worry about it too much anymore. I don't think life is just a list of things you're expected to do on some imaginary schedule and then you die. My life will be spent trying to do the things I want when I want, and if some of those things remain undone, well, so be it. If someone had told me at 16 years old that I would be 40, a virgin, unemployed, and living with my parents, I probably would have shit myself out of fear. But these past few years have been spent taking care of my family, learning, reading, writing, and enjoying what I can, so they weren't wasted. I still have hope that someday I might experience romantic love before I die. After all, I see some ugly motherfuckers with girlfriends, so I think I have a chance."
One of my favorite emails, ever.
And then finally, we have a Happy Moment from Jane, and she writes:
"I'm still coming to terms with the fact I was recently diagnosed with PTSD and depression. I was at the VA clinic and had just finished speaking with a psychiatrist, which brought up painful memories. I was sitting in the lounge and waiting for my name to be called for blood work, fighting back tears and feeling lonely, sad, and at an all-time low. The night before, I'd only gotten three hours of sleep, and those three hours were filled with nightmares. As I sat there, tired and miserable, a group of special needs children came through and handed out handmade Christmas cards, randomly walking up to veterans and thanking them for their service. I was so overwhelmed and touched, everything just came out at once and I started crying uncontrollably, feeling happy and wonderful and all the other things previously described. I only recently started listening to the podcast, and hearing other people be open, honest, and brave in sharing their struggles inspired me to post what had transpired on Facebook. It was a moment that just had to be shared. Up until that point, only my husband and mom knew anything was wrong at all. I was too afraid to tell anyone else my internal struggles. In an emotionally charged moment of not giving a fuck and giving all the fucks, I made the post. Within hours—hours—I was receiving emails, phone calls, and texts from friends, family, and acquaintances, pouring out their love, support, and just the sweetest, kindest messages. I could barely handle all of the positive energy coming my way. It was simultaneously one of the worst and best days of my life. My mental illness had warped my opinion of myself. I was feeling broken and worthless, but here was irrefutable evidence that I am loved by so many. I would never have had the courage to share that experience with others if it wasn't for this podcast, so thank you so much."
Just really wanted to read that because I look good at the end. Don't really give a shit about her. That is such a beautiful moment. That is just... That is just... I just—I love the moments on the podcast where I just don't even...where silence just seems like the most appropriate thing, and thank you so much for that, Jane. And thank you, Lauren, and thank you, all the people that help keep this show going and... Hang in there. The holidays are hard—I know I've said this on the podcast before, but my feeling about the holidays is, kinda wish it was like the Olympics, that we did it once every four years and in another country. But...if you don't care for 'em, hang on. There's not too much of 'em left, and if you do enjoy 'em, have a great time. And just remember you're not alone, and thanks for listening.