Episode 91: Laurie Kilmartin (Voted #9 Ep of 2012)
The NY Times Bestselling author of “Shitty Mom”, tv writer (Conan), standup (finalist on Last Comic Standing) and single Mom talks to Paul about the painful event that derailed her swimming aspirations and defined much of her late teens and twenties, before she eventually sought help. They talk about EMDR (Eye Movement De-Sensitization and Reprocessing) and the difficulty in having a trauma that we’re afraid isn’t valid enough.
Paul: Welcome to episode 91 with my guest Laurie Kilmartin. I’m Paul Gilmartin and this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all of the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday, compulsive, negative thinking. And any other shit that you wanna throw in there that fucks us up. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that has a nice bowl of fruit. Wow, that’s all I got. A whole fucking week to come up with something better than that and that’s all I got. Thank you for your suggestions. People have been sending me suggestions. “It’s more like a waiting room that …” I kind of like—I think two, two-and-a-half years from now we’ll have this locked in. We’ll have the exact verbiage of how this intro should go.
The website for this show is mentalpod.com. That’s also the Twitter name that you can follow me at, mentalpod. And especially if you’re a monthly donor, please follow me on Twitter because when I make a new cutting board that I am giving away to a monthly donor, I will tweet it and then it’s time for you to send in your guesses to me. The way it works is if you’re a monthly donor, let’s say you donate $5 a month, you get one guess, $10 a month you get two guesses, $15 you get three, etc., etc. Email them to me at email@example.com and put your guesses in the subject line and I don’t have to open your goddamn email to look at your bullshit. Wow, an attitude already. Out of the gate, taking down not only the listener but the monthly donor, the very heart that keeps this show moving, going right at your knees. It’s the holidays. It’s the holidays.
And speaking of holiday shopping, please if you’re gonna shop at Amazon, enter it through our Amazon portal on our homepage. It sounded a little creepy, didn’t it? Enter through our Amazon portal. You definitely want to hold your breath when you’re entering through our Amazon portal.
I am gonna kick things off with a letter than I got from a guy named Adam. And he writes, “Dear Paul, I come from a family and background where feelings are not discussed and for ten years I dealt with my depression, anxiety and neurotic obsessing without telling a soul. Listening to such honest, open, and supportive conversations is inspiring. Every time you or a guest describes some aspect of their illness and I have that moment where they’re giving words to such feelings that for me have been inexpressible, I feel a little bit less alone. And I am so alone right now. I recently opened up to my parents and they are completely dismissive. But the worst part has been that I told a woman that I love very much about my illness, because I have ruined several relationships in the past by not being open about this, and she is gone now as well. The sad part is I can’t really blame her. Who would want this when there are people in the world who are ok? I love your podcast, but being open hasn’t worked all that well for me. I think I’ll just stick to what I know – reading books and keeping my mouth shut.” And I wrote Adam back and said, “Adam, thanks for your email. Your family may never understand you but there tons of people, including women, who will. I think it’s great that you found out now that a woman couldn’t handle it rather than five years into a marriage and a couple of kids. Every year the stigma gets less and less so don’t lose hope. I hope one day you will be able to tell anyone about your depression without shame. I’ve gotten to that place and it’s really nice and peaceful. You just have to stop caring what people think. Easier said than done. I highly recommend support groups so you experience people who don’t judge because they’re just like you.” That’s my two cents on that one.
And I want to read—this is from the Shame and Secrets survey—all kinds of good stuff at the website. Please go check it out. There’s a forum, there’s a half dozen different surveys you can take. You can also see how people responded to the surveys. And this is from the Shame and Secrets survey. And it was filled out by a woman, calls herself Lisa Marie, she’s straight, she’s in her 30’s, was raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional. She writes, “My immediate family became a little dysfunctional because our extended family is totally chaotic.”
“Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?” She writes, “No.”
“Deepest, darkest thoughts?” She writes, “I consider committing suicide as a form of revenge towards all the people that have hurt me so they feel the blame for the rest of their lives. However I know that the majority of those people would only be relieved that I finally did it.”
“What are the sexual fantasies most powerful to you?” She writes, “I like the idea of toys and costumes. I like some pornography and am open-minded about experimenting because I think those things help keep a relationship fun.”
“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” She writes, “I’ve told two of my previous partners about wanting to use toys and dressed up for one of them. Neither of them were interested at all and felt as though I was telling them that they weren’t good enough for me. One of them was not very good in bed so I guess he was correct. I will tell my future partners about this until I find someone who wants to play nicely with me.”
“Deepest, darkest secrets?” She writes, “When I was three or four an older girl cousin of mine and I found my uncle’s stash of Playboys. For a while after that we would pretend to take photos of each other posing like those ladies without our clothes on. I’m not sure my cousin remembers that and I won’t ask her if she does.”
“Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” I’m not sure why she put this in—this sentence under that question; I think it should have gone with the other one. She writes, “While masturbating I will watch myself in the mirror and try to make myself appear more attractive.” Well thank you for your honesty Lisa Marie and, yeah, I say keep looking until you find somebody that plays nicely with you. And I’ve masturbated in front of a mirror. I think everybody’s jerked off in front of a mirror at some point. Never seen my cum face though. I don’t think I would want to see my cum face, I think that would horrify me. But, yeah, I’ve done the mirror thing. Never done a funhouse mirror, that’d be a good time. Get it just right, my your dick look like a zeppelin. And as you cum, you can just scream, “Oh, the humanity!”
Paul: I’m here with fellow comedian Laurie Kilmartin who—no relation. How many times did people ask you if you were related?
Laurie: Jimmy Pardo—they seem to always go to Jimmy Pardo and then he—people want him to suss it out. Cuz Pardo always comes up to me and tells me, “People ask if you’re related to Gilmartin.” Although, you know, the name is from the same family in Ireland.
Paul: Oh, it is?
Laurie: It’s—Kil and Gil are kind of like—they mean the same thing, they mean “church of.” So we might be cousins way, way, way, way, way back.
Laurie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Paul: Well then we can’t do this.
Laurie: (laughs) No relatives, is that the rule? I had no idea.
Paul: We’re done. Laurie is a very funny standup comedian, she’s a writer for Conan and she has a book out called Shitty Mom. So you wrote this with some other women as well?
Paul: And I want to read you a little blurb at the top of it from Jessica Seinfeld. Is that Jerry’s wife?
Laurie: Yeah, it is. Yeah.
Paul: I’m a detective. She says, “The most inappropriate parenting I’ve ever read. Loved it.” And cracked the New York Times bestseller list.
Laurie: Yeah, for a week and then it fell back off.
Paul: Way to deflect that compliment. Perfect guest for the show. I complimented Laurie on the nice neighborhood that she lives in, and she immediately deflected that.
Laurie: Well, I had nothing to do with the neighborhood, I just …
Paul: But you live here, can’t you accept a compliment about the neighborhood that you live in?
Laurie: All right.
Paul: I so relate, by the way. It feels weird; it’s like burlap, a compliment. You just want to go, “But don’t you understand all these other things that are wrong with it?” You feel like you’re being phony if you accept something.
Laurie: I live in Burbank and it’s fine, but I can’t accept a compliment because it’s not mine, I don’t love it and I don’t want to die here. Like I just want to live here and get out when I’m done.
Paul: What is it about Burbank that you feel like it’s—people look down on it, or is too suburban or what?
Laurie: It’s too suburban and it’s exactly like my hometown of Walnut Creek, California, and I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and I started with—my kid was born in New York City and I wanted him to be a city kid, like a tough New Yorker. You know, I loved those people when I met them and, you know, I came out here because of a job and, um—which is great, but I was like, “Ah, he’s gonna be a Burbank kid. He’s gonna be like me, ah.”
Paul: And what is that? What does that mean?
Laurie: Just, you know, golly when you see a big building, like, you know, the first time we went to New York like my eyes blew out of my head and I was like 32, you know, I hadn’t seen anything like it and I wanted him to be, you know, navigating the subways when he was 8, and, you know, all that stuff. Just be kind of, um, on top of that and not be so stunned by it at an adult age and, you know. I could take him to visit, I guess but it’s just, it’s just different growing up here.
Paul: So naiveté or a lack of having experienced things is not a good thing – that’s something to …
Laurie: I guess so. You know, I do—I would—I just feel like I was so far behind in knowledge when I moved to New York as a grownup, like I wanted to start as an eight-year-old where I started as a thirty-year-old. You know, like I wanted to let him skip a couple decades of dumbness.
Paul: And the pain of finding out …
Paul: Because people do take advantage of those that are naïve and obviously we’ll get to a portion of life story that you shared with me while we were performing together. But there is—I completely lost my train of thought.
Laurie: New York City, naïve, buildings …
Paul: Yeah, yeah, there is, there is a danger wandering out into the world of people that have more street smarts.
Laurie: Oh my God, yeah.
Paul: What are some examples, before we get to the biggest one in your life, what are some examples from your life that you can think that were kind of especially painful where you look back on it and you thought, “God, I was so naïve?”
Laurie: Well, you know, what I remember wasn’t a naïve feeling, but like being on a train in New York City the first time and I made eye contact with somebody, I’m like, “Oh my God,” like I didn’t—do I have to talk to them now? And I didn’t realize that you could stare at somebody for like ten seconds and then move your eyes to another place and that’s the end of the interaction. And it was almost letting people know, like I see you and don’t touch me. You know? And I think before I would, you know, I would look at someone and I would smile, and I would be like, “Oh, they like me.” And I would just be really worried about what they thought about me, and I think in New York I learned to sort of be kind of an aggressor in a way, like I’m looking at you, and I’m making sure you’re not following me and I’m keeping eyes on you.
Laurie: It’s a shift in thinking, I think. I hope my, you know—I guess didn’t want my son to be you know, um, you know that Darryl Hannah movie where she—I forget—she’s coming to, um—she’s like a prehistoric person, she’s coming to an elephant, right, and she’s got the—
Paul: Is that Clan of the Cave Bear?
Laurie: Yes! Yes, yes. And she’s like in this defensive position and she’s reaching up with like weeds or something and saying, “I’m bowing to you.” And that’s kind of how I felt growing up, like that was my position to people, was like you know, I’m harmless, please don’t hurt me. And I think in New York it sort of switched around to I won’t let you harm me.
Paul: What was the change, do you remember?
Laurie: I really remember it—just being knocked around there, and having people be really aggressive to my face and then walking away. Like someone would be nasty or something and then they wouldn’t kill me, and I’d be like, oh, that could just be the end of the interaction, like …
Paul: It doesn’t escalate.
Laurie: It doesn’t always escalate, right, to something horrible that you can’t understand, it can just be like, get out of the way, and then they walk away. And then they’re done with you. They’re not mad at you, they were just mad for a second; you were in their way. You know, and I just remember a lot of that on the train where people were just mean-mug you, just stare at you, and you’re like, “Oh God, this person’s gonna murder me.” And then they move their eyes to the next person or down, and they give the floor the same dirty look, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s just them, that’s their New York face.” You know?
Paul: That’s so sad.
Laurie: I guess it is.
Paul: It really—I mean, I’ve been to New York, but not long enough to experience it changing my demeanor. You know, Los Angeles, I’m sure you would agree, has its own kind of solitary feel, but it doesn’t have that aggression, it’s more like people avoid eye contact cuz they don’t want to kind of—I don’t know why.
Paul: Do you experience that—do you feel that it’s different here?
Laurie: Everyone seems nicer here, I guess. I don’t—hmmm—I haven’t noticed that.
Paul: Do you feel it’s like Walnut Creek?
Paul: You do?!
Laurie: In a way, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s fine—I’m like, it’s fine. But I guess for me that realization that, you know, you can be tough and that doesn’t mean you’re an asshole, you’re just defending yourself was eye-opening and I didn’t get that until I in New York and I was really emotionally pushed around a lot, like the first year. And then I went out with a guy who was Russian and, you know, grew up in Brighton Beach area and so he was like super, super calloused in a way that I was like, you know, nothing can hurt this person, that’s so amazing and so I copied him a lot. And I ended up living in Harlem, you know, for many years, like—
Paul: Just because you were a prostitute?
Laurie: (laughs) Yeah.
Paul: Or the food was better?
Laurie: Yeah, it pays better than spots.
Paul: “Spots” is a comedy term for—in New York when you go up and perform, do a set, a five or ten minute set.
Laurie: But once I kind of got used to it, I really, I liked it, I sort of liked that I could exist there.
Paul: I could imagine it allows you to relax when you can tap into that part of your—and I’m imagining it because I’ve never been able to experience putting on that kind of tough thing, but I would imagine when you begin to own that, what does that feel like when you begin to get comfortable?
Laurie: I guess like—
Paul: Is it a good feeling?
Laurie: Sure yeah, it’s like you lose the fear of people thinking you’re mean, cause you go, oh, I’m not mean, I’m just owning my space, you know, and I’m—
Laurie: Yeah, yes, yes, yeah, yeah. And I was, for a long time, just way too worried that people would think that I was mean or that I was, you know, rude, and I would spend, you know, a lot of time going over an interaction with somebody in my head and going, “How was I perceived?” and worrying about it. And I think in New York, you know, one thing you don’t have time to go over interactions because there’s so many, because you’re just, you know, you’re bumping into people all day long, you’re just—if you’re out at all, you’re just—people are on the streets all the time, you can’t parse every single …
Paul: Not a lot of searching for the perfect phrase to ask someone to please step to the left.
Laurie: Right, right, right. You know, and then there’s all these different cultures interacting so people are a little more abreast anyway, there’s, you know, there’s some harsher cultures living there too, so.
Paul: I would imagine too because there’s language barriers, that you do get fed up with people that don’t understand what you’re trying to say, so you eventually learn the international language of if I say it aggressively enough they’ll figure out it’s one of two things – get the fuck out of the way, or, you know, something else.
Laurie: Right, right, right. I guess so. Whatever it is, a mix of all that stuff, it felt great. And I felt like, ah, I should have been born here. I wish I was born here. If I was born here—if I’d have started in this place instead of spending thirty years to get here, I would own—I would rule the world. (laughs) You know.
Paul: Let’s talk about that. What were some things in your life that not having that gene negatively affected you—what are some things that come to mind?
Laurie: Well do you want to talk about the thing?
Paul: The thing? Sure.
Laurie: Ok, it’s—and I’ve been trying to figure out how to, like, start the story, I don’t know.
Paul: Laurie, before we started recording, Laurie expressed some anxiety that she wasn’t going to be able to—that you were going to get—misrepresent a fact or do something wrong, and I suggested to you that you just address this anxiety up front so that the audience knows that you are doing your best to try to piece together exactly what went down, when and where. And I assured you the listeners are on your side. They’re not here to try to shoot you down. They know that this—your recounting of this is coming from a good place.
Laurie: Ok. So I was a Jane Doe in a very large case. And I was, you know, there was a couple levels of Jane Does and I was the one—I was in the level that was the least harmed. So I don’t want to, you know, act like I’m this huge victim in this thing because some of my friends are. And I’m not. (hesitates)
Paul: What are you feeling right now?
Laurie: I’m ok.
Paul: Can you describe what you’re feeling? What kind of emotion you’re feeling right now?
Laurie: Uh, tears in my throat. So my swim coach was sentenced to 40 years in prison for 20 counts of child molestation in 2010 and I was contacted about the case in 2008. You know, they were trying to—they were trying to establish a history of abuse. He was arrested for abusing a fourteen-year-old in San Jose and this would be, I guess, in 2008 when he was arrested for that, or, no 2009? I forget, one of those two years. See, that’s one thing – I’m gonna confuse stuff.
Paul: That’s ok, I think the specific years is not that important. What years were you exposed to him?
Laurie: Well, many years. I swam for him from like ’83, no excuse me, 70, no, ’83 was like the year I graduated—’77? Or ’78-’83. It was—I was a swimmer, ok?
Paul: Was this a high school coach?
Laurie: It was an AAU coach.
Laurie: Amateur Athletic Union, like full year-round swimming. When I was a kid we swam—in Northern California, and I think in other parts of the country too there’s like summer rec leagues and it was called rec swimming and it was like really fun.
Paul: Short for recreation?
Laurie: Yes, yeah. And so we would go from like May till September and so I was pretty good in that—in those areas, in that arena. And there’s a second level of swimming that was then called AAU swimming, which is year-round, you know, two workouts a day, you’re just in the pool.
Paul: So like a travel team?
Laurie: Complete commitment, yeah. You know, it totally changes your life, if you decide to go AAU. That was like the phrase we would use, like “are you gonna go AAU?” “Well, I don’t know.” Cause your whole family has to get involved and they have to support you and want to drive you to workouts at 5:30 in the morning and stuff.
So I was swimming rec, his wife was my coach on my rec team.
Paul: And how old were you at that point?
Laurie: Like 12? 12. And my opinion, by the way, is that his was one of his first victims cause she was a swimmer of his and he married her when she was very young. But I don’t know that she would have agreed with that. And she has since passed away. But he was an AAU coach. And so I would swim AAU for—there’s a certain amount of time where a rec swimmer can swim AAU and that’s till December 31st. And if you went to one workout after December 31st, you were officially ineligible to swim rec swimming. So it’s like a big thing of do I leave all my friends on the rec team and go on this hardcore AAU team? And I did two years where I swam for the winter, and then the third year, I think, I decided to go AAU big time. And I ended up swimming for Andy because I knew him the best and I—it just didn’t occur to me not to swim for anyone else, because he presented himself—and his reputation was that he was a great coach and he was going to bring out, you know, whatever you have in you to be a great swimmer. So I sort of picked him. And then, um, you know, I kind of look back at that time as sort of being in a cult in a way because I was completely devoted to him and I really, like, worshipped him. You know, which put me in a bad place—a bad situation—a bad position to be in.
Paul: The first thought that occurs to me, the things that I’ve watched about predators is that there’s a grooming phase.
Laurie: Totally, yes.
Paul: Where they gain your trust, then they isolate you from those around you because then they can begin to distort your reality so that you don’t believe what is happening to you is a crime.
Laurie: Yes, right, right, right, right, right.
Paul: I would imagine that groundwork has already been laid in a situation like this because it can all be couched in terms of you need to do this for the sport. For yourself. This is the best for you, Laurie.
Laurie: What the—I don’t want to say “abuse” because compared to what he did to some friends of mine, it was really minimal and it—
Paul: if someone contacted you and your name appeared in court, how is it—
Laurie: Well, ok.
Paul: Can we talk about what happened to you? Then we can talk about whether or not that was …
Laurie: Well, I was 18 when it happened to me. And I have one very stark memory of something I know that he tried to do. And then I have fuzzier things about, you know—and I hate describing it cause it sounds like the plot of like half of porn movies—the coach rubdown, but, you know, if you’re getting a rubdown from your coach, you shouldn’t be alone in a hotel room with him. You know what I mean? And it’s a weird situation where like a hand goes a little bit too far and you’re like, “Did that just happen?” And, “Well, that couldn’t have happened because that’s Andy, he’d never—it must be me, I must be a pervert or a crazy.”
So I think some stuff like that happened but I don’t’ have clear memories of that. But I have a clear memory of this one incident. But I was 18 so it wasn’t illegal, it was just like, you know, too bad.
Paul: Listen to the emotion that you have and then ask yourself, “Would somebody who didn’t experience the abuse feel the emotion that you feel?”
Laurie: I don’t know. I mean, I’m just saying like legally it wouldn’t be considered abuse in court. (laughs) What?
Paul: Laurie, I know exactly—I know the feeling, because I couldn’t use the word “abuse” that happened to me because I felt like that made me a baby, that made me an exaggerator. But I had the same emotions come up – somebody abused my trust. Somebody tricked me into a situation that felt weird to me. That is abuse.
Laurie: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah, I think—I mean, I just look at it as testifying on a stand or not, it would be like, a lawyer would just say, “Oh, that’s emotional abuse, that’s your problem.”
Paul: You know, my opinion is what is done to your body is separate from what is done to your soul. And if somebody mishandles your soul, that is the thing that fucks us up because it is denying who we are as a human being, and it’s taking away our dignity.
Laurie: Yes, I agree it’s totally wrong. I just don’t want to equate it with what happened to, you know, (voice breaks) some other girls on my team who were, you know, raped at really young ages and I don’t want to act like I’m trying to what happened to me (crying) is equal to what happened to them, even though it affected me quite a bit.
Paul: I understand. I understand. Being tricked by somebody is the part that you guys all share.
Paul: And that feeling of being somebody’s object.
Paul: And can you talk about what your soul feels from what was done to you?
Laurie: I’ll tell you, afterwards I—he tried to have sex with me.
Paul: When you were 18.
Laurie: When I was 18. I came home from college, I was on winter break, I was swimming for UCLA. So I’d come home—this is 1983 going into ’84. So the Summer Olympics are coming up, they’re being held in LA. Like every swimmer is just like—
Paul: It’s their fantasy.
Laurie: Completely obsessed, right. And so he said, “I want you to come by the house.” Because I was stress—I was doing—I was struggling at UCLA. I was doing ok, but it wasn’t—I was so wanting a breakthrough and it wasn’t happening, swimming-wise I wanted a breakthrough. And so I went to his house, and his wife wasn’t home and this point their marriage is unraveling, which I didn’t know. And so he starts, you know, and we’re mapping out me and how I can—what I can do to make a qualifying time for the Olympic trials, which would for me would have been just like, really cool. I was never gonna make the Olympic team, but I could swim in the trials, which would be like something to tell your grandchildren or whatever. (crying) So then he just kind of jumped on me, you know, and I remember just being like so shocked. I couldn’t move and I was like, part of me was like, “Is this happening?” And part of me was like, “Oh yeah, this one’s happening.” Part of me is like, “Holy shit!” All the other times I was able to go, “I’m making this up.” Some part of my brain was like, ‘This is real.” And I was just sort of frozen and I couldn’t believe it. And I don’t know what I would have done. And I was—that’s all that happened. And I was devastated by it. Here’s the thing that saved me.
Paul: What do you mean that’s all that happened?
Laurie: That’s it, but listen, Diane, his wife, got fired that day and she came home. And he leapt off of me and she was upset because she got fired and he’s like, “Oh, you gotta go.” And I left and I just remember leaving his house and I was like, “What did I do?” And I was wearing Dolphin—this was when Dolphin shorts—that was the uniform that the swimmers at that time, you know, just like a shirt and thongs. And I just remember going, “I can’t believe I wore this.” And then within three months I had dropped out of school. Before that, I was bulimic before that, and then it just got really bad. I stopped going to classes from January to like March. I would stop going to classes and I would like just go to morning workout and I would get rid of food all day, in between workouts and then go to workout again. And I was failing classes. And even I, in my denial, was like, “Wow, this isn’t going the way I wanted it to.” (both laugh) So I was like, “Let me just drop out and figure out what happened.” And I never remembered what Andy did. I just totally forgot about it. And so I was like, I’m just gonna go home.
Paul: Do you mean you forgot the event or specifically what he did?
Laurie: Yes, I forgot the event, totally. And let me go home and just work on myself and I actually thought you know what? It’s my coach’s fault, the UCLA coach’s fault, I need to be swimming for Andy. Like I didn’t—I don’t know what happened. My brain just pushed that thing and put it in a box, and I was just like, “Andy’s my coach, you know.” And so I go home and I start swimming again on my AAU team and it’s, you know, at this point I’m gaining weight at breakneck speed, I guess. And just completely falling apart. And I just feel like all the other swimmers, you know, all my class of swimmers that left to go to college, I’m the only one that came back and I’m just—why am I there? It’s like going back to high school, basically. And then I started—he hired me to be his assistant coach at my old high school swim team. He coached my high school swim team too. There’s no getting away from Andy. So I was assistant coaching there, and I was like 200 pounds at this point. I was so humiliated. I was so embarrassed. (crying) I was trying to figure out what happened, how did I fall apart? And then I remember this girl—and I have to change her name because she’s not one of the Does—I’ll call her Pamela—was a swimmer, she was one year younger than me. So she was still on the AAU team, she was a senior in high school. And she said, “Did you hear about Andy and Debbie?” And Debby was—she had kind of gone public with this, like she was on 20/20 interview and ESPN with her full name, so I’ll just call her Debby, but she’s gone public. Pamela said, “Andy—I heard Andy’s having sex with Debby.” And Debby was like 14 at the time, and when I heard that, then I remembered what happened to me. And I was furious.
Paul: Him jumping on top of you then his wife came home?
Laurie: Yes. I’m like, “What?!” And things—you know when your life is blurry and then all of the sudden, things get like sharper, and I felt that sharpening of focus and I told Pamela about this and we decided to go to Debby and tell her what happened to me. And I can’t remember if this happened before or after, but I called three other girl swimmers and I said, “Andy did this to me, did he do anything like this to you?” And one of them hung up on me immediately, which to me—and I look back, I’m like, “That’s a yes.” And somebody said—I can’t remember what she said but it was vague and again, I’m like, you know, 18 or 19 and I’m not a detective and I can barely remember what happened to me so I’m not picking up on people’s, you know, obvious signs. So I was like, “Ok, maybe, maybe.” So I never got a yes from anybody on the phone but I got a really quick hang up from somebody who became extremely anorexic. So anyway, so all the knowledge I had was me. And Pamela and I went to Debby’s house and I said, “This happened to me, I just wanted you to know that.” And I don’t remember everything that happened at her house. She later told me that she remembered telling me that I was wrong about her and Andy. And I remember leaving her house going, “Well fuck everybody, I tried.” And thinking, “I’m done with all of these people. I’m done with everything. I tried.” (crying) And I—somehow I showed up for a swim practice, because I was still coaching at Carondelet, my high school. Andy was the head coach and I was coaching and he showed up. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be there, I forget, but he showed up. And it was at the end of practice so the swimmers were getting out, it was just me there, so I remember it was like, I don’t know, maybe 6:00 at night, so it was still light out, it’s springtime. But he was furious. He said, “What did you tell Debby?” “I told her what you did to me.” And he said—I forget everything he said, but I remember he said, “I’m in love with her. I’m going to marry her. I would dig ditches to be with her.”
Paul: She’s 14.
Laurie: She’s 14 and he’s like 38 or something. And I remember going, like, “Dig ditches? That’s not a job.” But I also remember, like, he looked crazy to me and I remember thinking, “I have to get out of here because I don’t feel safe. I feel like he could kill me, he’s so angry that I blew it, I blew his cover I guess or something.” And then I don’t remember how things wound down, you know, I stayed with the team, Carondelet, the swim team, coaching until the end of the season. It might have happened towards the end of the season and then, then I just sort of left swimming and I left—I didn’t go back to UCLA, I just sort of floated for a couple years and tried to figure things out. And I just remember thinking it was only me, and it was only Debby, and Debby wasn’t admitting to it, and I don’t know—like, ok, bye everybody. And then I just kind of went on my own way and, you know, for a long time just thought I was the only one something messy happened to, like, I guess I thought—I don’t know what I thought with Debby. I guess I thought it was ok with her. And the other thing is like, it’s so weird because I—it’s so obviously illegal but it wasn’t obviously illegal at the time.
Paul: His relationship with Debby?
Laurie: Yes. It was happening openly with other coaches and swimmers in the ‘70s and ‘80s. You know, there’s a famous case with another friend of mine who had a relationship with a coach named Mitch Ivey and everybody knew about it and she was like 16 or 15 at the time and he was also like 38 or something. Which I know is weird because that’s sort of like, guys were like high five, but that’s really not good. You know? It’s really not right. And you know, if you think that’s cool you’re doomed to have a daughter.
Paul: And the other thing too is at that age you think that as long as you’re a sexual being at that point, oh, you don’t have to be 18, we’re adults now, we have pubic hair, we masturbate, you know, whatever, but you don’t understand until you get to be 30 and you see a fifteen-year-old and you think, “Holy fuck! How did I think that was ok?” And that’s what parents try to tell their kids and their kids don’t understand because they don’t have that perspective yet where they can see how innocent they are. They think the know everything.
Laurie: It’s weird, like in the case with Mitch and this friend of mine—and that was also a big story on ESPN—I remember I was working at Spellbinders in Houston and it came on TV before a show, I’m like, “Holy shit – I know her! I know them! Oh my God! This is crazy!” And you know, that’s the only time I knew it was bad, was when—he was eventually run out of coaching for doing that to a whole bunch of other swimmers too. That’s the thing, like if it happened to you once, the person’s probably doing it to other people you know. And I, yeah. It’s weird, like when this whole—when I was contacted in 2008 about this 14-year-old, I was like I can’t believe he’s still coaching, like, from what I understood—
Paul: This was another 14-year-old.
Laurie: Yeah, this was 14-year-old in San Jose, he um—in 2008. And he—the first—I have the court document here, but the first document, with the girl was ’78, 1978 on Aquabears, and thirty years later he’s still coaching and there were rumors. Every time he would quit a team it would be because of these rumors with him and he would somehow get a job on another team and like we wouldn’t get a phone call or, you know, an email, it’s kind of crazy. But I remember just going, “I can’t believe that guy’s still in this business. I can’t believe it.” And then when everybody, everybody kind of came out of the woodwork, not everybody. I still have a couple friends that I swam with that I’m pretty sure were abused. They were so upset they couldn’t even, like, participate in a Doe case, like just tell the story.
Paul: Upset personally about what happened to them?
Laurie: I think so.
Laurie: I think there’s one in particular, a friend of mine, who—I don’t even—she just couldn’t even talk about it—and has had a very hard life. And was before that an incredibly talented swimmer, like an amazing distance swimmer. (sighs)
Paul: You know, the thing that strikes me as you tell your story, the survey that I have on the website, the Shame and Secrets survey, people talk about some of the darkest things that they think or feel, the darkest things that have happened to them, and almost always people that have been sexually abused, the first thing they list on their darkest thoughts is thoughts of suicide. And as I began to see dozens after dozens after dozens of people and see that link between being abused, having your trust abused, and becoming suicidal, it makes me think that that injury to your soul and that injury to your trust makes you view the world as such an incredibly unsafe place. Because if this person, who I put all this trust in, who was supposed to guide me could do this thing to me, what in the fuck is the rest of the world going to treat me like? And who wouldn’t want out of that, of a world like that when you’re feeling down, when you’re feeling depressed, when you’re feeling whatever, and the thing that I would say to those people is, “There are people that will love you and will trust you,” because I get emails from people that feel hopeless, that feel like they’re never gonna connect with people that they can trust or love and they’re never gonna be able to relax, they’re always gonna be cutting themselves, be bulimic, or whatever to cope with that anxiety of I’m stuck in this world where the people that love you cause you the most pain, how can I go forward again? And the thing that I would say is, “Get into a support group, go to therapy,” the same shit I say over and over again. Yes there are people out there that want to hurt us and want to hurt children but there are so many people who have been hurt like you who can help you heal, who can help you navigate the world and bring back that feeling of trust. I have so many friends in my life who I trust with my life and it just reminds me that the world is an extreme place of extreme love and trust and also the other end of the spectrum. And I just wanted to interject that because I have the feeling there’s some people listening to this interview with you right now who feel exactly like you do, that because their case wasn’t dramatic, because there wasn’t penetration, they cannot get to that place of having compassion for themselves and can’t look at those cuts on their soul and say, “This is a real thing that happened to me, this really hurts, and this is valid injury to my soul.”
Laurie: Yeah, it’s embarrassing that it hurts so much. Because, like, you know, I’ve never felt suicidal, I’ve just been fucking pissed. But, uh, you know, the girls who he, you know, at least on my team, just on my team, one was ten years old and one was eleven when he started with them. You know, they’ve had a very hard time.
Paul: They were ten and …?
Paul: When he abused them?
Laurie: Yeah. He started with them—when he started the touching. Like I don’t know when—whatever, things when and where.
Paul: He’d use the massage as—
Laurie: Yeah. Yes, I think Debby said that he pulled over at a swim meet, he was driving her home after a swim meet and pulled over at a park and started kissing her when she was 11.
Laurie: Yeah. So I don’t know when things escalated beyond that, but the kids who were very young when he started with them had a much harder time. I mean, myself and a couple other girls were older when he would do stuff like that. Like he courted another one of my friends, you know, in a really weird fashion and she didn’t know what to do and it’s always been one of those things that’s like this blurry, icky stain but it, you know, it’s not as cut and dried as, you know, like a rape, you know, which is a horrible thing and you know it’s a horrible thing. And so the people, like, I kind of feel like when I look at the timeline, you know, and this might be accurate, it’s just my impression, is that when his marriage was breaking up was right around 1983-84, and that’s when he started kind of dabbling with us and then it got, the next year it kind of fell apart and I think that’s when he started targeting the 10- and the 11-year-old, and the other thing is there’s a whole crew of older girls on the team, we had all gone to college, you know, the class of ’83, class of ’84 went to college, and all of the sudden, I think about this a lot, these two girls Lynn and Debby, were almost left alone. You know, they didn’t like have this pack of girls—just to walk out of the locker room with to the parking lot. If you’re walking with like 12 girls who are 17 and 18 and butterfly your shoulders, you know, it’s just like a different thing than if you’re just walking out by yourself. Although they not necessarily would have been at the same workouts as us, so maybe I’m conflating a few things, but we weren’t there and his marriage was falling apart and he’s a crazy monster, you know, and it seems like they didn’t have protection. Like I feel like when we left, you know, we absorbed some of it. Like I absorbed a little bit of it and the other two friends that I knew got some—absorbed a little bit of his crazy and then we were kind of too old for him and when we were gone, the ones that were young enough for him were there and there’s no one to stop by the office after workout and interrupt, you know.
Paul: Even people that were raped will say, “I enjoyed it because I had an orgasm, so I must have been asking for it. They must have seen something in me.” Not all people, but there—so when you’re saying to yourself, and I’m saying this as much to people out there listening, when you’re saying to yourself, “Somebody had it worse, if something had happened that was verifiably, absolutely illegal, then I would be able to get some kind of relief and feel compassion for myself,” no, no, it is endless. Because you cannot believe the mind control that somebody like that can have, being a parent.
Laurie: In my head, yes, I mean, my—you know, I was in a—and unfortunately, you know, there was a perfect space for him in head, because you know, I was with him at least four or five hours a day, just being in practice. And then my dad was working overseas. He almost left the day I turned 12, like, looking back it’s like—that’s the worst time to leave your daughter, is when they turn—when they start to turn into a teenager, you know. But no one knew that back then, no one knew any of that shit. And it’s almost like textbook – he went overseas, and I needed a dad, and I picked, like, a monster, you know.
Paul: And I would imagine Andy worked overtime to plant the seeds of Andy’s a good guy.
Laurie: Oh my God!
Paul: So that you would be confused. Talk about the good things that he did and the nice things that you would think about him so that people can understand what makes it so cloudy with a guy like that.
Laurie: Well, just when you have, you know, a good workout, he would tell you what you’re doing right and just say, “I see some muscle finally on your back, good back muscle finally.” Just any sort of compliment like that you would live on it for weeks, you know, and he would—he was famous for, at least among swimmers—first of all, we had brutally hard workouts. We part of this—we were in the belief system of the more yardage the better. You know, so the workouts were really hard. Physically you were just broken down that way. And he would stop workout in the middle of it and he would give us these lectures on character and how you can be a better person.
Paul: Oh my God.
Laurie: Oh, they were unbelievable. And you know what the weird thing is, is like, I remember I would be riveted by these lectures, while I’m shivering, but I would be like, “That’s just right, he’s right. We just have to be better. We have to—“ You know, I bought everything he said. And there were a couple girls who would like roll their eyes and flip him off when he turned around, and I’d be like, “That is so disrespectful,” and I would be angry with them, and they didn’t get fucked with, you know.
Laurie: Oh yeah, you can tell you who’d—
Paul: I guess so, yeah.
Laurie: You could see the worshipping eyes and who’s like rolling their eyes and spitting in the gutter and, you know, there was definitely—and they were not fucked with, you know. The ones that thought he was full of shit and were just there because they wanted to be on the swim team.
Paul: That makes total sense.
Laurie: But the ones like me, who were just, you know, believed the whole thing and wanted to be part of that world where if you did what he said, everything would turn out ok, you know, that’s what I wanted.
Paul: I was also struck by, early in our conversation, when you were talking about what had happened to you, the fuzziness of it. That is one of the things that I consistently hear. And I’ve experienced that in my life as well, because I think our brain doesn’t want to go to that place and our brain has this built in safety mechanism to protect ourselves. When a thought that is too overwhelming occurs to us, we have to file it away into some other folder. But it never really gets put away. It comes out in addiction or—
Laurie: Food, I have tons of food issues.
Paul: Or shutting down or becoming promiscuous, you know.
Laurie: I had one incident right after—a promiscuous incident, as an Irish Catholic I would tell you a very terrible promiscuous incident, but it was right after I went back to college after the Andy thing. It was like my first kiss, it was gross. I was like on a purity mission, I was not, you know, I didn’t date, I just wanted to be a swimmer, I wanted to be as pure as the water I swam in, you know, I wanted water to run through my veins, not blood. And I wanted things to be a clear blue color.
Paul: And the gatekeeper to that was this guy.
Laurie: Yeah, and once he ruined it, I was like, “oh, it’s ruined.” So it didn’t like—I feel bad too, I was—like I had a little fling, a very quickie with this guy on the crew team, and he was really nice and funny. And I was so embarrassed afterwards I never talked to him again. And I always wanted to find him and go, “I’m sorry, I was just crazy.”
Paul: Why were you embarrassed?
Laurie: Because I was like, I shouldn’t have been doing—I just felt like I shouldn’t have done it.
Paul: Like you were loose?
Laurie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I went from zero, no contact, to full contact and, you know, some classic acting out or something. But yeah, I don’t know what point I was trying to make at the end of this ramble.
Paul: That’s the other thing too is it comes out in chunks. When that person is trying to talk about something, you may not be ready for it to come up at that point, it has its own timetable.
Laurie: Oh sure.
Paul: It comes up when it comes up and sometimes you can’t force it. I don’t ever think it hurts to talk about it, to be in therapy, because for me that’s what helped loosen a lot of that stuff up - years of support group. It took years of me talking about that, my wife telling me, “Your mom is creepy with you. You have not processed this.” Twenty-four years of that. And in the 24th year it came up. So if you think your brain doesn’t do all kinds of sophisticated things to protect yourself from saying, “I was tricked by a person who should have loved me unconditionally.”
Laurie: I’ll say that 100%, yeah.
Paul: Before I forget, I want to read an excerpt from your book, “Shitty Mom”, which you co-wrote with Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo, and Mary Ann Zoellner, am I pronouncing their names correctly?
Paul: Things you should do—and I just cracked the book open and I was just like, let me just read a random chapter, and this is the one that I just randomly opened to and it made me laugh, so I was like I should read this. “Things you should do in a different city before you go home, doesn’t matter where you are – London, Tokyo, or Cincinnati, it only matters where you aren’t – with the kids. Stop checking in, stop Skyping, they’re fine and your freedom will end soon. If you have even a few hours to yourself, try doing one or all of these things: browse. How long has it been since you’ve gone to a bookstore and heading directly to the fiction aisle then stayed there for twenty minutes without wondering where your kid went or sitting through story time or spending $10 on children’s book that has 40 words in it? How long has it been since you read a book where the protagonist is a person, not a monkey or a dog or a tugboat? Be an optimist, buy a book. Promise yourself you will finish it this year. You know you want to.” And then the next heading is “You know you want to.”
“After you finish feeding your brain, make time to visit a female-friendly sex toy shop. Buy a vibrator. Let that old vag of yours relive her glory days. Come on, what else are you going to do in your hotel room tonight?”
I just love the phrase “old vag”.
Laurie: That’s what I call it.
Paul: It is my favorite British pub. (both laugh) “See an independent movie. It’s not enough to see an R-rated movie at a mall movie chain. You’ll run into kids there. This business trip is your vacation. It should be completely childfree. Go to one of those snotty, independent movie houses that only show foreign films or American ones starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. It feels good to be a grownup again, doesn’t it?” And then the last heading is “A Bar.”
“Shitty Mom has the taste to bring this up, because if you’re the kind of person who needs to be reminded to drink alcohol, perhaps alcohol isn’t for you. But if your hotel has a bar or you’re in a city with cabs, there’s no reason you can’t get yourself buzzed before you take yourself back to your hotel room and put batteries in the vibrator.” I just love that.
Laurie: Oh thanks.
Paul: It’s such a funny way of telling people to …
Laurie: To check out.
Paul: Check out, and remember to have compassion for yourself and don’t forget about your needs. For people that grow up, especially not thinking about what their needs are, then becoming a mom, where your needs are really hard to think about, I would imagine that’s gotta be really difficult.
Laurie: You know, I feel like I’m trying to overcorrect as parents were definitely checked out, you know? Like, a lot, they would just not pay attention. They missed a lot of cues. Like shit was happening and they missed it completely. And so I’m so aware of my son it’s—when he’s gone—like today he’s gone, he’s not here on Saturdays, he’s with his dad.
Paul: He’s kidnapped.
Laurie: Every week I schedule a kidnapping. And I just completely relax. It’s like being in yoga, just not being around my son, it’s like a complete relaxation of muscles, release and all that stuff, it feels really good.
Paul: And then your batteries are recharged when he does come back. You’re happy to see him.
Laurie: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Paul: I’m assuming, don’t let me put words in your mouth.
Laurie: Yeah, he’s six, so it’s like it’s fun now, it’s a lot of fun.
Paul: It seems like a really fun age for a kid to be.
Laurie: Yeah, he’s cool, he’s a lot of fun.
Paul: I think anything – the window between when they can wipe their own ass and they aren’t talking back yet that has got to be just the golden, just the golden window for having a kid.
Laurie: Right, right. Very close to wiping his own ass. He does request an assist every once in a while, but yeah, it’s fun. It’s good.
Paul: Nice. So let’s talk about your experience with therapy. When did you first go to therapy?
Laurie: I went a little bit in my 20’s after this crazy weight gain and all this crazy stuff with food, and I found a therapist that was kind of hooked into this eating philosophy that is espoused by Geneen Roth, she wrote a bunch of books. The first one that was great and meant a lot to me was Feeding the Hungry Heart. And it was sort of just stepping away from all your list of rules and your rituals and just eating whatever you want whenever you want to eat it and eat it till you’re full. And just learning to feel what it’s like to be full and not eat till you’re sick and not to punish yourself or just—whatever eating turned into, like, it’s gotta revert back to I’m hungry and I need to feed myself, you know.
So I went to a therapist for that for a while and that was really helpful and I went to OA meetings and stuff and then as I started doing more and more standup and road work and moving to New York, I kind of, I just didn’t go to therapy or anything like that, I sort of stopped and really focused on standup. And then I went back again in—when I was trying to save the relationship with my son’s dad, which happened at the same time that the trial was starting for Andy King so all this stuff was being opened—you know, cracked open and it was kind of a tough time so that’s when I went back into therapy. I was not able to save the relationship but I stayed with the therapist. And so he’s really, really helped me a lot.
Paul: So you’ve been with him a while.
Laurie: Yeah, a couple of years. Since ’09 I guess. Yeah.
Paul: And talk about EMDR and what …
Laurie: That was—you know I kept going, “Oh, I’m not traumatized, I’m not an Iraq war veteran, and, you know, I’m fine, you know.” And it seems embarrassing to be like I need the same treatment as somebody who has their legs blown off. You know, but you hold these—I guess how it started, and if I’m giving the history wrong, someone can probably correct on your message board, but a woman was walking—a therapist was walking through the woods and she was moving her eyes back and forth very quickly while she was going through something, like some sort of memory, and she realized she felt kind of washed afterwards, and that it was just memory that didn’t have as much of an emotional connection where she had to react to it. And so she I guess, I’m gonna skip 40 steps, now what you do is you hold these two things in your hand, these two pulses and you move your eyes back and forth while, you know, somebody walks you through some experiences that you might have had and walks you through some memories and it seems to like, it like, it’s like unzips them from—the memory from the pain and you can like go back and remember something without, you know, wanting to die or feeling whatever the intense feelings you were feeling and it can just be like, you know, another square on the quilt that is your life, you know.
Paul: That is a great way of putting it. I found a new therapist because my old therapist moved out of state and we’ve done two weeks of it.
Laurie: Oh wow.
Paul: And after the first week, I didn’t know that might have been the reason why I was feeling so fantastic, but I was feeling great, I couldn’t even remember the last time I felt that much vigor an optimism.
Paul: And I was—when I came back to see her, I was like, “Could it be that it’s from the EMDR?” She said, “Yes. It’s very likely. Sometimes it takes weeks and weeks for it to take, but for some people it does happen right away. So I don’t know if that’s what the cause was, but I’ve heard enough people consistently say that EMDR really helped them that I think there is absolutely something there. And my therapist, what she just was she just held her—I just followed her finger.
Laurie: Mine ended up doing that too, yeah.
Paul: Then she had me on a balance board while she did it as well.
Laurie: Wow, interesting.
Paul: And we just talked about—the thing that—this is kind of embarrassing to talk about but the thing that she is really focusing on with me is I had a surgery when I was two weeks old because my small intestine was too small and I was projectile vomiting everything that I was eating and she believes that there’s a lot of stuff stuck there because—and as we walked through it, I was like, you know, as I try to picture a baby starving and in the hospital and getting stitches and not having its mother, I began to feel empathy for that little, that little baby that was me, but my first reaction, which was what you had about your thing, was roll your eyes and go, “Oh Jesus, come on, get over it.” But maybe there’s something there. Yeah, that’s the whole kind of what I want to want to—my long-winded way of saying that is, just go with it, just ok, maybe it is corny, maybe it is futile, what do you got to lose? You know.
Laurie: Oh, yeah, yeah. I had a point and I totally lost it so please continue.
Paul: Talking about EMDR, talking about valuing your story.
Laurie: Yeah well I guess it—this is maybe more of a jokey point, but like you have you know, they tested it on soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder from a war, you know, and so it works for them and the rest of us who haven’t been in a war, our trauma isn’t the same as theirs but it affects your life.
Paul: It disrupts it.
Laurie: It’s almost like porn is a portal to other parts of the web, there’s like, there’s always somebody doing it first, there’s always like soldier or a porn, they’re always leading the way for the rest of us to follow. Something like that, sorry.
Paul: So what would say as a result of being in therapy and doing EMDR work and talking to somebody, what would you say the difference is now with how you feel about your story?
Laurie: Oh, hmmm, I guess I just don’t feel—it feels like, oh, this is a thing that happened. I know I got emotional when I was talking about it, but I do feel a great deal of pain or compassion for these other girls that were on my team that things were happening to that I didn’t know at the time, you know. So that’s—I, you know, I’m fine with that always making me cry. I don’t want to be so cavalier about that. But it just feels like, yeah, this is a thing that happened, it’s just a little piece of my life, you know, and it definitely running away from it, that dominated my 20’s and part of my 30’s, was kind of avoiding it, you know, which, it’s so strange, I think if I’d had gone right after this happened, or if within a couple of years, you know, would I have gone down a different path because I wouldn’t have been running so hard from this feeling of I don’t want to touch that area of my life, you know, so. I don’t know. I would say, you know, if you’re struggling with how—whether you deserve to, you know be treated or something, don’t think about what was done, whether it was, you know, you know, on a scale of one to ten, rape or one or whatever, whatever your reaction to it is, is what you need be paying attention to. So if you’re—if somebody harmed you on a scale of like two and it hurt you deeply and it hurt you more than somebody who got an eight, you know, I have no idea how to figure out which people are more sensitive than others, but it doesn’t matter. It hurt you and it’s getting in the way of you leading a happy, productive life. So, you know, stop worrying about whether it was enough damage.
Paul: And the goal of this is not to then paint yourself as a victim for the rest of your life, this is to move you beyond feeling those feelings.
Laurie: Yeah, and I mean we’re all at the end of our lives, by the time we’re 90 if we get to 90, we’re all going to have been, you know—
Paul: Fucked around by a lot of people.
Laurie: Yeah! So you know it’s just gonna be—that’s gonna be one of the people that fucked you over, was that, in my case that guy, you know, that one.
Paul: And the other thing that I will say that is great about therapy is then it makes your more alert and more ready to stick up yourself should somebody try to do something that’s abusive towards you again.
Laurie: Yeah. In case you’re reliving, you’re trying to put it together, you’re like well I couldn’t fix this situation but I’ll go out with a guy just like this, and then I’ll fix it. You know, you don’t even know you’re doing it.
Paul: I can’t tell you how many surveys I read of people mostly women, who were abused very early and then they get into abusive relationship after abusive relationship and they wind up being raped like five times. And you know, and I’m not blaming them for the fourth and fifth rape but there is a vibe that you give when you don’t heal that a predator can spot from across the room, that you were wounded and they will be able to control you.
Laurie: Yeah. I do believe that pred—that’s how I think how my coach picked his girls, like I think I said before—
Paul: The one that talked back?
Laurie: He picked the ones that won’t tell and the ones that were rolling their eyes and thought he was an ass and all that, they didn’t get touched, you know. And not that—you’re not a bad person because you weren’t sassy when you were eight years old, you know. However you were raised, you know, you were raised. And it’s not your fault and somebody unfortunately picked you, you know. But it’s over now.
Paul: Anything else you wanna add before we wrap up?
Laurie: You know I did remember what I wanted to tell you, is that I had done some EMDR like the second time, and I had a set at The Improv that night, and, you know, my therapist had said, you know, you should walk around the block afterwards and don’t do anything and I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve been a comic for like twenty-five years, I think I can do a little set.” You know, and I was on stage and I just felt like heavy, and dreamy, and I’m like oh my God, just get through the service, just coaching myself to recite my jokes and then I just sort of meandered offstage. It was really strange.
Laurie: I wouldn’t recommend scheduling any sort of performance after EMDR therapy.
Paul: I think one of the things that my therapist said was that it helps rewire the connections in your brain.
Laurie: Yeah, that’s right, yeah, yeah.
Paul: So, yeah, I believe it. I really do. I really do think there’s some truth to it. And what do you got to lose?
Laurie: Yeah. I guess, I was just gonna say money if your insurance doesn’t cover it, you know. But there’s ways to get like—
Paul: Google “low fee therapy” and the name of your town or city.
Laurie: Yeah, yeah, yeah
Paul: That’s a good way to find stuff and I—the therapist I was using before she moved out of state was—that’s exactly how I found her, she worked on a sliding scale with me. She wasn’t even licensed yet, she was still working towards—she had, you know, hours and hours and hours of working with other people, but she was one of the best therapists I’ve ever had. So there are good ones out there. Is there anything else that you wanted to—thank you, by the way, for being so vulnerable, that was really—
Laurie: Sure, couldn’t help it. I’m trying to remember—I just want to make sure i—if I mischaracterize anything, it’s totally due to my memory, but I think I told it exactly as I remember it, you know.
Paul: Do you want to do—did you do a fear list or a love list?
Laurie: Yeah, I did them both.
Paul: Want to start with fears?
Laurie: Sure. Should I go first? Ok. I’m afraid if I ever throw a dinner party nobody will come.
Paul: I’m going to be reading the fears of a listener named Kris. “I’m afraid that I’ll actually get better and be unemployed, no disability benefits, or have to take a job that will be so shitty it will just make me relapse.”
Laurie: I’m afraid I’ll never have a day in my life where I don’t wish I was twenty pounds thinner.
Paul: “I’m afraid that I’ll never get better. That they will never find a good treatment or a cure and I’ll die having lived most of my life in pain.” Oh my God.
Laurie: Wow. I’m afraid I’m either too strict or too lenient with my son’s piano lessons and an error in either direction will have life-long implications in his ability to enjoy things or work hard.
Paul: “I’m afraid that I’m not as smart as I like to think I am.”
Laurie: I’m afraid that managing my life is so much effort that I don’t have anything left to do more like, you know, write a sitcom, which we should all be apparently doing.
Paul: I don’t know how people write all day and then come home and write.
Laurie: I don’t know.
Paul: Another project.
Laurie: I collapse at the end of every day.
Paul: Kris says, “I’m afraid of taking a shower, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s being shut alone in a room with myself.”
Laurie: I’m afraid that waking up at 6AM will always suck and I will have twelve-and-a-half more years of waking up angry.
Paul: “I’m afraid of being alone in the house, having to take care of my own simple needs.”
Laurie: I’m afraid someone will attack my son and I when we’re sleeping and I won’t be able to protect him.
Paul: “I’m afraid of being in a car accident or contracting another illness or anything that will just multiply the pain and mental torture and debt that I’m already in.”
Laurie: I’m afraid I will never finish a book ever again. I will always read them halfway.
Paul: I have about seven books that I’m halfway into.
Laurie: So do I, I’m so mad at myself.
Paul: “I’m afraid of being ignored and getting attention.” That, to me, is the human condition right there, in a nutshell. Afraid of being ignored and afraid of getting attention.
Laurie: Yeah. That tells me he’s a comic. I’m afraid that when I’m 80 I’ll look back at old tapes of my standup and realize that I wasted decades thinking I wasn’t funny enough when I was.
Paul: Your standup is really funny. We performed on a show together a couple of weeks ago and every fucking joke was just so funny and well written.
Laurie: Some of it was old.
Paul: Again, deflecting. “I’m afraid of dying without having fulfilled my childhood dream of writing a novel.”
Laurie: I’m afraid I’ll never get Monty Python.
Paul: “I’m afraid humans will destroy themselves and this beautiful planet and I’m part of the problem.”
Laurie: I’m afraid I’m going to freak out about aging, have plastic surgery, and then look ridiculous.
Paul: Please call me before you have plastic surgery. You’re a lovely woman and it would be completely unnecessary. I think it’s unnecessary on anybody.
That’s it for Chris’s loves, or fears. Did you have any others?
Laurie: Oh, God, yeah. I’m afraid I’m a Salvieri, not a Mozart.
I’m afraid I’ll never be comfortable around people who aren’t comedians.
I’m afraid I’ll always be in relationships that I secretly want out of.
I’m afraid that I can’t make up for the fact that my son is being raised in a single parent home.
I’m afraid the only female comics the industry likes are young ones.
And I’m afraid that one day my son will be on a podcast like this talking about how fucked up his childhood was.
Paul: Do you want to do some loves?
Paul: Ok. I’m gonna be reading Kris’s loves. And I don’t know if Kris is male or female. I’m not sure, Kris.
Laurie: I don’t know, you know what? That’s turning into a male spelling. But it was female for a while.
Paul: Yeah, I have a male friend Kris.
Laurie: Maybe it’s Kris Jenner.
Paul: Maybe it is.
Laurie: Maybe the Kardashian matriarch is starting to soften.
Paul: You want to start?
Laurie: Oh, ok. I love the first five minutes of a hot bath before the water cools down.
Paul: Oh, that is good. “I love waking up and putting on Pandora radio and hearing a great song I’ve never heard before that makes me cheerful about the day ahead, despite knowing how rough it will be. My life is rough. I’m not being pessimistic.”
Laurie: I love watching my son draw and I love how all of his people and inanimate objects have happy faces.
Paul: Oh, that is a good sign.
Paul: That is a good sign.
Laurie: We’re good.
Paul: That’s nice. Kris says, “I love knowing that despite how bad I look because of my illness, there are a handful of people whose love for me hasn’t changed a bit.” That’s beautiful.
Laurie: Did he say what he has?
Paul: He didn’t. Or she didn’t.
Laurie: I love having a new joke to try that night.
Paul: “I love 3AM pancakes with my sister.”
Laurie: I love when a new joke works more than once.
Paul: “I love knowing that I’m strong enough to stand up for myself now, which I used to think was something that was impossible for me to do.” Look at that! On the same episode with Laurie Kilmartin!
Laurie: Sure. I love how at breakfast my son likes to talk about Ironman.
Paul: “I love learning new things, even if I know my cognitive issue will make me forget the details. Learning things gives me a feeling like no other.”
Laurie: I love the idea of reading the entire Sunday New York Times.
Paul: Do you –have you done that?
Laurie: I get it, I get it every week, and I get about halfway through. And I make myself recycle it every Sunday morning before I bring in the new one, no matter what, I’m like, “You have a week.” Otherwise they just pile up and then it’s just, you know, it’s kindling, basically.
Paul: A big fire hazard. That’s it for Kris’s loves but we can do some more of yours.
Laurie: I have a few more. At swim class I love watching my son do somersaults when he’s supposed to be paying attention to the instructor.
I love that I still have my breaststroke. That was my stroke and it’s all timing and I still have it. I don’t know why, I don’t deserve it because I haven’t been swimming enough.
I love swimming in an (indistinct) commuter pool.
And I love curling up with my son when he sleeps and feeling like I would die to protect him.
Paul: That’s beautiful.
Paul: I really enjoyed this.
Laurie: Yeah, me too!
Paul: I know some of that stuff was probably really, really painful.
Laurie: Yeah, I got a little sobby in there, sorry about that you guys. I’m weak. But I’m strong again, I’m back to my old self.
Paul: Get back on the subway and stare someone down. Get your mojo back.
Laurie: The A-train will change your life.
Paul: I think maybe the goal is to be able to have both of those parts of ourselves, to draw on the part that can break down and cry during the podcast, and the part that can mad dog somebody.
Laurie: Yeah, you need both sides.
Paul: I think so.
Paul: I think so. Thank you so much, Laurie.
Laurie: Thanks, Paul.
Paul: Many, many thanks to Laurie for such a beautiful, beautiful episode. I love when people let their walls down. It’s so empowering. And it’s funny because we think it’s just gonna be just the opposite, we think we’re gonna be destroyed but around the right people, there’s—I guess it’s just finding safe people.
A couple of things before I take it out with an email from a listener. First of all I want to thank the people that help keep this show running. I want to thank the transcribers, we got a new transcriber named Ryan who is hard at work. Thank you for joining the team. And I want to thank Manny for keeping the forum humming. He pretty much single-handedly keeps the spammers out of the forum and lets me—alerts me if he thinks there’s something that needs my attention and it really, really helps free me up to do other things like respond to emails or look at surveys or look at my dick in a funhouse mirror and scream, “Oh, the humanity!”
There’s a couple of different ways to support this show—oh, I almost forgot! I’m giving away not only a cutting board to monthly donors, but I’m giving away—a listener has started doing embroidered hoops. It’s about the size of a—I guess it would be about the size of a—a little bigger than a grapefruit, like the size of a huge grapefruit. And she is embroidering different sayings, things that have been said on this show. And one of the ones that she sent me, so I can give it away to a listener, is an embroidered hoop that says, “Crying is just your soul blowing a load.” What a lovely thing that would be to hang up on your home and welcome your neighbors as they come in to meet you for the first time. So I’ve picked two numbers between 1 and 500, one number will be for the cutting board, the other will be for the embroidered hoop and whoever guesses closest to each number wins that particular prize. And this is, as I said before, only open to monthly donors.
Which brings me to the different ways that you can support the show. You can support it financially by going to the website and making a one-time PayPal donation, or, my favorite, becoming a monthly donor. That brings me a little closer to my dream of being able to support myself doing this show. So go to the website and do that if you feel like it, you can also use our Amazon search portal. Remember to hold your breath as you pass through it. And you can also buy a t-shirt or mugs. Go to the website and the link is there for that.
This feels really like I am just stumbling and stuttering and this doesn’t feel good. This does not feel good to me and I don’t know if I’m just in my head or not but I feel, there’s always like a feeling of the audience looking at their watch and I have that feeling right now. And I don’t know how true it is or not, but it helps to say it. It helps to say it, cause then that takes some of the anxiety away. I don’t know what that is about that I so feel like I am testing the patience of people listening. And I know there are people who I genuinely probably am doing that to, but why in my mind, it’s like, you know, all of you with your arms folded, just waiting, waiting for me to wrap it up.
The other way that you can support the show non-financially is by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating. Give us a good review. Boosts our ranking, brings more people to the show. And you can also support us non-financially by spreading the word through social media – Facebook, Tumblr, all the things all the crazy kids do.
All right. I am going to read an email that I got from a listener who calls herself Marlene the Psych Nurse. And she is actually a psych nurse. And she writes, “Hi Paul, I’ve written a couple of times to you and filled out your surveys. One of my fears today is I’m sounding too needy and over-sharing to you. I’m a psychiatric nurse and I’ve finally ‘given in’ to my depression and anxiety and went to my first appointment with a psychiatrist earlier today. I have never sought psychiatric or therapeutic intervention before. I’ve been excited to write to you since the appointment to let you know that I’m going to start my first medication, Pristiq, tomorrow morning. While excited is a little exaggerated, I’m terrified, yet I feel slightly empowered. Since I’ve started working in psych, antidepressant and antipsychotic meds have lost their stigma to me. I’m afraid to say that I’ve met a lot of nurses out there who judge people who take them. Now seeing my patients and seeing how much of change these meds make in them, it’s helped bring me to the point where I am ready to take them myself. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety from as early as I can remember. Sexual assaults from my father, stepfather and grandfather from the ages of five to twelve. Constant and cruel bullying from kindergarten till I graduated high school, and a domestic assault that left me with a broken jaw, broken right ocular bone and a massive skull fracture when I was in the Army from a fellow soldier I was dating. Those instances led me to a couple of suicide attempts in 2001. Yada, yada.” Yada, yada, wow. You get the drift. “Bunches of bad stuff. And I’m here today—“ That was her, by the way, that wrote “yada, yada,” not me. “Bunches of bad stuff. And I’m here today, a barely functioning nurse who ‘helps’ mentally ill patients with their problems. All the while putting on a mask that I’m mentally healthy. My appointment today—“ That was me trying to speed up. Look what happens when I listen to that voice in my head. (slower) “My appointment today has me diagnosed with major depressive disorder with psychotic features due the paranoia and dissociative issues I have. I have to say, it sounds so much scarier than it feels inside my head. Since listening to your show, I’ve started carrying a leather bound notebook with me and the instant I feel a fear, I write it down. When I have a thought about my condition, I write it down. If I have an episode of anxiety, I write it down. I don’t allow myself to edit or to reread it too much. It has been quite helpful. For some weird reason, it helps me feel ‘less crazy.’ I sat in the waiting room today before my very first appointment and wrote the following paragraph. I am copying it unedited, spelling fuck ups and all. I want you and everyone else who may read this message to hear my fears and thoughts in the waiting room, waiting to meet my first psychiatrist.”
And here she starts it:
“I’m sitting at my first psychiatrist appointment and I’m shaking. I’m flushed and I can feel my body trembling. I can hear my pulse in my ears. I hit traffic and was stuck in traffic and behind every stupid, slow driver in Orlando on my way here. I’m extra nervous now because as I was standing in line to check in I saw the lady checking out had a prescription for Xanax. God damn it, I’m in a fucking pill pusher’s office. I knew it! I’m afraid he will insist on prescribing me a controlled substance that I’ll get addicted to. I want help. I just want help. I don’t want to be dependent on pills. The tension in my arm is hurting. I’ve got a death grip on my pen. Please be a nice doctor. Please, please, please. I hope I don’t crawl inside myself, inside my brain when he starts asking me questions and get afraid to tell him what is wrong.”
And that’s the end of what she wrote in her journal. And then she writes, “I know Xanax is helpful in a short term management of anxiety, it’s just got a bad rap with us in the mental health community because we help a ridiculous amount of people who have become addicted to it, along with the other benzo meds. I’m not meaning to step on anyone’s feet about anxiety. Much love, Marlene the Nurse.”
And I wanted to read that for you guys because I thought that was a—just a beautiful peak into somebody’s soul and I love when people do that, like Laurie and like Marlene, like all of my guests who have let us get to know the sides of ourselves that we’re afraid to let people see. And to me I think that’s what it’s all about. So if you’re out there and you’re—oh, one more thing I want to read before we go. This is from the Happy Moments survey. And I like to pick moments that are just kind of, not dramatic, but something about it is just kind of simple and beautiful and this one was filled out by a woman who calls herself Wendy, she’s in her 20’s and she writes, “I was on vacation in Southeast Asia visiting a friend. We left her parents’ house and went to the grocery store across the street and bought a can of cheap beer. Then we sat on top of a bridge and drank it. It tasted awful. But the night was warm and we could see into this beautiful apartment. We pretended that we lived in it and imagined what our lives would be like. It was a perfect moment because I didn’t want anything more – a shitty warm beer and a harmless voyeurism and a feeling of youthful recklessness were more than enough.” I love that, thank you for that Wendy. And thank you guys for listening. And to anybody who’s out there feeling stuck, there is hope. There is always hope if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and ask for help. I’m glad I did. And I hope you will too. So thanks for listening.