Episode 42: Rob Delaney (Voted #4 Ep of 2012)
Twitter superstar Rob Delaney opens up to Paul about his hilariously horrifying alcoholic bottom, his crushing bouts of depression and how he has adapted to live with what might have killed most people. How can you resist a story that involves nuns, toothbrushes and jail?
Paul: Welcome to episode number 42 with my guest Rob Delaney. I’m Paul Gilmartin and this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads. From medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive negative thinking. Feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy, and that vague sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. Give us an hour, we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky.
This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional, medical, psychological, psychiatric advice. This is not a doctor’s office, this is more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck. Um, some of you have asked where is a good place to get help. I don't have a definitive answer for that, but I did find a website that I think is kind of cool. And, they’re not an advertiser of ours, I’m not promoting them or anything, I just stumbled across their website and they seem to be a decent resource, uh to maybe find a psychiatrist or therapist in your area. And it’s called psychcentral.com and that’s spelled p-s-y-c-h-c-e-n-t-r-a-l.com and you might give that, give that a shot.
What do I want—oh uh our interviews today with Rob Delaney is a little uh, on the short side for this show. Probably for a lot of shows it wouldn’t be considered short, it’s about 45 minutes, I would’ve liked to have spent more time, with him, but he’s a super busy guy, and we had to kind of squeeze this into his busy schedule. But I um, uh, I think it’s a great interview. And uh, I’m really happy he was able to come by, and us talk with us, he’s got a really interesting story and a great perspective.
Many thanks to the people at the Onion AV Club. They pick our podcast as one of the top ten of 2011. And they’ve uh, given us great support along the way. And um, I really appreciate that. I feel really honored to be put on that list with so many other great podcasts, and uh, I want to thank all of my guests who helped make, uh made that possible for the last year. You guys know who you are. Some of them uh listened to the show, so if you’re listening, thank you thank you thank you.
Um as I’ve mentioned, there is a, the website for this show, mentalpod.com and there’s a survey that you can take on there. There’s two surveys actually. The basic survey and then there's the shame and secrets survey. And I feel myself really drawn to reading the, and you guys can not only, take the survey, but you can see how other people filled out the survey. And uh I find myself really drawn to the shame and secrets survey. Because I relate to so much of what people write. What people feel shame about in that one. And um, I want to read one that um, I don't necessarily relate to, but um, it I relate to the feelings that this guy has.
He name is ‘Caged Lion’. I have people, kind of, put a nickname down because they uh don't want to be referred to by their actual name. He is straight, he’s in his 30’s, he uh, the environment he was raised in was totally chaotic. He uh was the victim of sexual abuse. He uh reported it and he writes he was terrified that he was at fault.
He um, what are your deepest darkest thoughts? Not things you would act on, but things that you are ashamed to admit you think about. He writes sometimes he thinks that an abortion would’ve been the best for everyone involved. That’s pretty fucking harsh. We, we get some harsh thoughts on this uh, on this podcast and uh, that’s right up there. That’s some deep self-hatred.
What are your deepest darkest secrets things you have done or things that have happened to you? He writes I was sexually abused by my older siblings starting when I was a pre-teen. After several years one of them became pregnant. When this was discovered social services intervened. I felt that I was to blame for all of it. One day a state police detective and social worker came to my house and looking for my parents. I was home alone and I just knew that they were there to arrest me. They said they would return later. I closed the door and started to shake uncontrollably. To this day I get nervous around police. After much chaos I was living in the same home with the same people ostracized and helping to raise a baby that I resented for the first year and loved dearly from then on. The secret was very poorly kept in the family. He puts in parentheses, not at all. Uh, outside the family, everyone suspected and school was hell. I was the uncle for several years, until I was sued for paternity and child support. I’m raising my daughter on my own now. I have no contact with my family. I got married, had more children, got divorced. I’m in a relationship now.
Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself? He writes, I always feel that I am guilty of something even when there is nothing to feel guilty about. I feel like I’m a poor parent, I feel overwhelmed most days. I am terrified to move forward with anything in my life.
Um, ya know, I, I encourage, I don’t have answers for 90% of this stuff, uh, on this show. Um, what I do know is sometimes I’ll hear somebody’s story and the one thing I do know for sure is that person could benefit from talking to a professional and talking about what is going on and letting some of that steam out. Uh and you sound like a prime candidate uh, who would benefit from going and getting some help. So uh, I encourage you. You know one of the things that comes up so much in the survey is sex between siblings, which I would imagine of course people feel secretive and shameful about it. But I think it happens a lot more than people talk about. And um the other thing, I think the reason I wanted to read this uh, survey respondent too was uh, sexual uh, I don’t know what the word would be, molestation, by females, is so much more widely uh, it’s happening so much more than people think that it is. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine were molested by a female babysitter. And I don’t say that to um, to try to take women down, or um, make them look bad, but I say it because I think a lot of men minimize it because they think, oh if you had an erection that means, that you wanted it. Um and that that’s not the case. Your body can be turned on, and your soul can be um, violated at the same time. And I think that, this guy, I think that’s what he’s experiencing, is you know, he’s blaming himself because he got an erection and had sex with his older sister. That doesn‘t make what happens right. Uh his letter, is a little vague so I can’t really, I’m assuming it’s his older sister. I don’t know if, why he would've been arrested for that, its but, I don’t think we need to know really any of that stuff to know he could benefit from going and talking to somebody about this and getting some help. You know the one thing I, if I’ve taken one thing out of all my years of therapy and support groups and psychiatrist visits is the things that I assumed that were broken and irreparable about me were not, they were just unhealed. And never underestimate the power of talking and connecting to another human being. Especially a professional to help you turn a corner and to help let a little glimmer of light into that darkness.
Paul: I’m here with Twitter monster Rob Delaney. Do mind being called ‘Twitter monster’?
Rob: Uh, you can call me any kind of monster you want.
Paul: Uh, Rob and I met briefly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater probably, what, three, four years ago? We were on the same show
Rob: Yeah, I think around four years ago.
Paul: And, uh, me, uh, having a pot-addled brain, uh, could vaguely remember meeting anybody, so uh, Rob had to remind me when I asked to come to do the podcast. Uh, one of the reasons I wanted to come have you come do it is, uh, uh, when I heard you on Sklarbro Country, you had mentioned, you had talked about um, quitting drinking ten years ago, you had been, was it a car accident?
Rob: Uh yeah. I uh, drank into a blackout as I often did and I woke up in, not woke up, I mean I physically got up, but I didn’t get back up into consciousness, but I drove, I went for a drive and I drove into the Department of Water and Power, by the corner of Pico and Fairfax, and no one else was involved in the accident, but I broke both my arms very badly. But they, I had to have surgery on both of them and my legs were damaged. They weren’t broken but they had to be in stabilizers which were these like kind of ankle to thigh Velcro steel enforced socks that, so you can’t bend your knees, ‘cause they had to kind of, they were open to the bone, and so they sewed ‘em up none of my limbs worked and I was in a wheelchair in jail and uh...
Paul: Oh, my, god.
Rob: And I would uh periodically since I, since my arms didn’t work I couldn't hold onto the armrests of the wheelchair and since my knees couldn't bend they just sort of stuck straight out and they periodically, just the weight of my body would pull me down gradually out of the wheelchair and I would fall onto the floor of the jail. And my hospital gown would come up and expose my private parts to everyone there and the, you know, whoever was around, you know, guards or uh, other folks would just pick me up, put me back in my chair nicely, and uh, it was then at that moment that I thought it was time to probably make a lifestyle change.
Paul: That may just be the greatest opening to the show that we’ve, that we’ve done so far. Uh, how long were you in jail for?
Rob: Oh not long. Under 24 hours—
Paul: Oh, okay.
Rob: A day. I would’ve been in longer, you usually are in LA if get a DUI, but uh, they were like, ‘we can’t take care of you. We’re just gonna bring you home’. And then, and then, so two cops brought me home, uh to my apartment, and uh, I remember my landlady was outside of the building when I got dropped off and she saw the cops take me out of the back and I’m in a bloody hospital gown in the leg stabilizers with arms that don’t work, and I’m 6’3” and—oh and my face is bloodied from the airbag, and uh so bruises and stuff from that and she’s looking at me just stalk still with her mouth open and there’s cops on either side of me leading me back in my apartment and I looked at her and I go, ‘everything’s fine’. So yeah, that’s how that uh, unfolded.
Paul: I love the, the ‘everything’s fine’ bit when the elephant is just shitting all over the room. That is its own particular brand of sickness. Um, were you raised in a household where, emotion and fear and pain wasn’t kind of discussed?
Rob: Not really. I can’t point to any of my behavior with booze and say ‘oh, pin that on, you know, any bad habits that I was taught by my mom and dad’. They’re pretty good people, um, everybody has their, um, hang-ups, you know. But, but no, you could say what you were thinking or feeling in my house and it wouldn’t be crushed but you did bring up an interesting point. My saying, ‘everything is fine’ I had been trying to quit drinking for years before that, and—
Paul: When did you first know you had a problem?
Rob: Um, early high school. Like probably around 15. I got suspended at a young, at age around 15 or 16, uh for being drunk in school, and then the guidance counselors and vice principal were like ‘you should get help. You shouldn’t be drunk in the day, as a boy’. And I thought, ‘ya know, relax’, but then a few months later I got like blackout drunk again, and then I thought, ‘I don’t want to be like this’. And I remember thinking, ‘I probably shouldn’t drink, or I shouldn’t drink so much’ ya know? I started to kind of wrestle with it. But one thing I want to say is that, it’s funny that uh, my saying ‘everything’s okay’, um that was like, I knew clearly it wasn’t okay, but it’s good because as I said, I had wanted to quit for so long but it took getting to the point where I was so messed up that on sight you could see that this was a person, who needed real help, you know? Like I couldn’t, there wasn’t no way to hide it anymore.
Paul: Yeah. I always, I always say that alcoholism is the best, uh prosecuting attorney in, ever because it makes such a convincing case why you should have that next drink, why you’re a piece of shit, why you should be in anxiety and doubt and fear et cetera.
Rob: For sure.
Paul: Any you will believe that voice because it warps reality to, to make you believe that and until you are presented with a counter argument as powerful you will continue to drink.
Rob: Yeah, I mean I’m really lucky. I kind of symbolically, I had my arms were broken, both of them, ya know? So I was quite powerless and I needed that, you know? I needed people to look at me to be able to see me from across the street at night in the rain and go, ‘that guys a fuck up’. Like I needed, it had to be just an open to the public, like, you know, indisputably, ‘this guys a disaster. If he drinks, we’re all in trouble’.
Paul: Was the obsession to keep drinking, was that still there even though you had known, game over?
Rob: No. Because, ‘cause I had wanted to quit. It’s like you want to quit and then finally you’re like, ‘oh, I get it’. I mean really got to the point where, you know, especially with somebody who drinks a lot, you can be like, ‘oh well sure I might die, who cares?’ but when I realized, ‘oh wow, my drinking will kill other people if I keep drinking’ the I was like, ‘ugh, I don’t want to drink that bad’, you know? I was like, ‘cause you get to the point where you don’t care about yourself anymore, and that’s no, nobody’s going to write about that in the paper.
Rob: ‘Oh really, that drunk guy drank until he died?’, who cares? But if you kill other people, you know, I didn’t want to be that. I liked everybody else. So...
Paul: Um, we were, we were talking before we started rolling, uh you were saying that uh, you, you’ve battled, uh depression—
Paul: For uh, for a long time. Can you uh, can you talk about that, and how that manifests itself?
Rob: Sure. Um, I think the tendencies existed uh, in the past. I can remember a couple dark episodes uh, in my college years. Um, but then after I quit drinking and had been sober for about a year, I think like the fight or flight syndrome kind of powered me through that first year of not drinking, and then once I finally, you know, months into uh sobriety, after all the court stuff was settled which took months, plus I was sentenced, to uh, I would’ve had to go for to jail for quite a while because my, I drank, um, the blood alcohol level that they got out of me was 0.271
Paul: Oh, my, god.
Rob: Which it’s 0.08 is illegal in California, so a 0.271, that’s three and a half times the legal limit and uh, once you get over 0.20, they just double whatever the sentence would’ve been for a normal drunk, like 0.15 or whatever. So, so I had to go to classes for six months and I, for four and a half months I was in the care of the State of California, uh I had the choice of, uh jail or uh, jail for a while, or uh a month in rehab and three and a half months in a sober living halfway house. I had not enjoyed jail in the brief time that I was there, so I chose the other stuff—
Paul: But did you give it a chance, Rob?
Rob: Did I give jail, I gave it, uh a college try—
Paul: A lot of people don’t give jail a good chance—
Rob: You have to, uh...
Paul: They judge!
Rob: And uh, I figured, well you know what it was? Is even when I was in, uh, rehab was totally pleasant, but the halfway house I was in, there were people there who were just getting out of prison and stuff, and there were tough guys and there was fighting and I, both my arms were broken so I really had to rely on, like I had to shore up my mental defenses because I would sometimes have to, like talk people out of beating me up.
Paul: Oh my god.
Rob: And so, I had to be like, ‘ well here’s lets think of some reasons why you shouldn’t do that’ and uh, they’d be like, ‘uh, oh, whatever’ and go beat somebody else up. But like, so I, I forgot where I was going with that, but I uh...
Paul: We were talking about depression and how it manifests itself.
Paul: Your history of it.
Rob: Any uh, so I, uh anyway. I’m sure it will all come back to that. So, so for, about a year into oh, right right right the flight syndrome was what I was saying. So, it, several, it’s almost six months in living in places that were not a house or a home or an apartment and then also all the classes that I was sentenced to and then all the court stuff and then all the surgeries, ‘cause I had to have surgeries on both my arms and uh, they did them one at a time so that I would have use of one arm at a time. So it was almost a year before I was like a regular dude working again and all that and living in an apartment and um, so after that um, then my mind kind of fell apart and went into, you know, what would be called, like major depressive disorder unipolar. You know, very bad suicidal depression, uh where I thought all the time of suicide, even though I was going to, you know, talk therapy and exercising and eating well, and working out and not drinking and everything. I mean doing, living life reasonably well, you know? And uh—
Paul: Everything that you had control over to improve your mood you were—
Paul: You were doing.
Rob: Yeah, and uh so yeah, so then I got uh depressed and it was uh, it was a lot worse than jail. I, I think about it this way. It’s uh, jail, you’ll get out, eventually, ya know? Broken bones will mend but depression or other mental disorders and stuff are that, huh, that’s the worst. That’s the worst kind of, ‘cause that’s the, like a prison cell that you can carry around with you, ya know, and uh, so after a while—
Paul: You just need to not feel sorry for yourself Rob. Don’t you love that one?
Rob: I don’t, I try not to judge people who say stuff like that, you know? They don’t understand and that’s fine and, and, I’m glad that they don’t. I would want people to, you know, my ultimate wish, uh when I was going through that, um, and it happened more than once, um it, I had two major like smack-downs in the last ten years, the most recent being, like three or four years ago. Around when we met. I think you and I first met I had been fine, but just even looking into your eyes threw me into a spiral and uh... (both laughs)
Paul: Were you on meds at that point?
Rob: No I started going, I started, my psychologist said you should see a psychiatrist and I did and, and uh...
Paul: How did out get out of the first suicidal, did it just...
Rob: Medication. Oh each yeah, first one—
Paul: So you started medication?
Rob: It was so bad. I mean I couldn’t sleep at night.
Paul: Describe some of the thoughts and feelings that, that you had for, ‘cause, I know there are listeners to this program that had never experienced depression and want to understand it better, or at the very least be entertained, by other people's battles.
Rob: Yeah I know and its funny ‘cause as a comedian I generally try to be entertaining, but right now I think it would be more useful to be honest about this. Um basically the symptoms for me of depression, and I can only speak to my own case, were uh, quite physical. Uh, I couldn’t sleep at all and I normally sleep pretty well, um, but no sleeping at all I would wake up uh and, in the morning and have diarrhea immediately.
Rob: Yep. I would go to brush my teeth and when the toothbrush, when the bristles on the toothbrush touch my tongue I would vomit. I—
Rob: Oh yeah. Um I felt physical pain uh constantly, like a thrumming physical pain throughout my body and my thoughts were just, ‘kill yourself’ on a loop. Um and thought of different ways to do that, why I should do that, how the world would be way better if I did do that and um...
Paul: What, what kept you from, from doing it, ‘cause oh my god, the picture you paint...
Rob: Right, yeah, I did, it did very much sucked. Um what kept me—
Paul: Did you have any support system or family or—
Rob: Yeah, yeah. I would talk uh, I would talk with my family who, they live in Boston and I would talk with them um, regularly, because, the funny thing was, is that even though I had been a drunk, um, for a long time before that, I was always like intellectually curious and I, you know, read a lot, loved to exercise even when I was drinking. I liked to do new things. I like to travel, um, and, you know, be creative in various ways. So there was sort of, it was almost like there were embers inside of me. I’ve, I’ve always been an optimistic person and even though the physical symptoms of depression were unadulterated horror, um, there was somewhere there, where I felt like—first of all let me say this. I, I would write down the way that I was thinking and I’d be like, ‘let’s pretend that you’re not you, for a second’, and I’d look at them and I’d be like, ‘ uh that’s crazy what you’re writing’, you know what I mean? Like even though I might envision my head being blasted apart by a shotgun or, you know, drowning, I would think, you know, what I kinda am reviewing my life and people and at no point can I find people being like, ‘you should definitely kill yourself’, you know? Or were like ‘oh, I wish you were dead’, you know? It wasn’t, there were people who didn’t like me, but there wasn’t like a large lobby—
Paul: And this wasn’t on a continuum. This was just kind of a...
Rob: Yeah, periodically, now and again someone would be like, ‘oh, fuck I really wish you were a corpse’, no that, no, so, so I kind of was like, ‘alright look let’s, because it can be good, because we, get, I still do everybody does, we think, we, it’s hard to step out of ourselves, you know, but ourselves in others shoes and look at ourselves. And of course, I thought ‘this seems crazy’, why don’t I put it off and I’ll try, I’ll do what these people are saying which are, stay in regular communication with the people you care about, you know, eat food, even though I don’t want to, even though, I may throw it up, eat it anyway, you know, um...
Paul: You literally had no appetite?
Rob: Oh not at all. And like, and like, sexually, I didn’t even think about sex, like, you know, not that I was attractive to women at that point. Like, I was like, I weighed 40 pounds less, I’m not kidding, and uh, like, just, you know, sunken eyed, had just—I remember when they took one of my arms out of the casts it was so skinny, and where they had put in a big plate in my forearm bulged out and they took the, they took the cast off and I just started to cry. I was like, ‘I don’t have a normal looking arm’. Now it took like two years to like put muscle back on it. To be able to do a pushup again, but now my arms, as far as I know, don’t make people cry. I don’t cry when I look at them, and so I mean, it just was awful and but anyway, so yeah. I went to a psychologist, I went to uh, talk therapy and you know what? It would be good at this point to also mention that uh, I lost my health insurance after the car accident, so I had to, I had to apply, I applied to three wonderful organizations that were just amazing. There was uh, MAP - Musicians Assistance Program, MusiCares, which is like, affiliated with the Grammys, both of them are actually. Then the Society of Singers and each of them, because I didn’t have health insurance, afforded me, uh, a little bit of dough, to pay for therapy and I even paid for my surgeries on credit cards. My second surgery I paid for with three credit cards and it would take me years to pay this off so I just mentioned that because—
Paul: Were you, were you a musician before this?
Rob: I sang, that’s what I studied in college, I did a lot of musical theater afterwards and stuff and there were, and I had made money, making music, so, so they, that was enough for them, you know?
Paul: I see. But they wouldn’t necessarily take anyone applying?
Rob: No, they wouldn’t. But there might be some. For example, I’m in—and this is not a joke—one of my, my emergency room bill, uh, was huge, of course uh, ‘cause it wasn’t just like a ‘yes, sew up his things and send him on his way’ it was like, lots of cops um, multiple limbs being worked on, all kinds of crazy x-rays and stuff, so that was a huge bill and I remember bringing in—I was like, ‘I can’t pay for this’ or if I do it’s gonna take years so there were like ‘well...’, they had a special office for people who have no money that you could go to and I went to them in the hospital and I brought, and this was like a year after the accident, when I’m still negotiating with all my, and I know this, I know this is boring, and you’re probably like ‘I wish he would die’—
Paul: No, no it’s not. Because one of the things that contributes to the depression and hopelessness sometimes is that you don’t know a way out and you believe there is a no way out, so this is perfect.
Rob: Exactly, right.
Paul: This is great. This is exactly what people need to hear.
Rob: I just need to mention this because, if like you hosted this podcast ‘cause you care about people and you’ve been through things yourself, you know—It’s funny for like a person like you or I and I’m sure lots of other people, you would much rather be caught in a bank robbery where bullets are flying then have to pay, like a stack of bill, you know what I mean? Because, like, ‘oh hey, gunfire, that was neat, serotonin, BRRP, I enjoyed that’, but a stack of bills, you’re like ‘oh my god, it’s gonna take all day’.
Paul: It’s like, I always liken it to, you lifting anvils, if lifting anvils also felt phony.
Rob: Exactly right. So, so I’m just, I just say this because of the quagmire of all crap you have to deal with you know, and it’s good, it’s like, if you get a DUI, you should be tied down and and and poked at with a stick. And there should be many levels of unpleasantness.
Rob: But it is also is accompanied by alcoholism and mental illness and stuff, you know? There’s just ways to deal with that, you know, one ingredient is patience. Some days you should do nothing. If you’re like ‘maybe I should go to my creditors house and blow it up with a bomb’ or just do nothing that day, would be a good thing to do. Anyway, so, I’m mentioning this long, boring drawn out story because I went to—
Paul: It’s not—
Rob: And I brought three years worth of tax returns to this office at the hospital and they were like ‘wow, you very much are broke’. So there’s this group of nuns in Kansas, how insane is this? And they paid the bill for me.
Rob: Now, the way that they had found out about his, is it’s just like, this philanthropic group that was looking for people to help and they had contacted this office, so I mention that because that’s insane, right? Any you would never think, ‘oh, maybe some nuns in Kansas will pay my bills’, you know? But, sometimes things like that happen, and so like, it can also be in depression you’ll be like, ‘oh, nothing good will ever happen to me’, you don’t know. Maybe nothing ever good will, but also maybe nothing bad, nothing bad will, or bad ever will. I’m not at words. But you know what I mean? You can’t see the future—
Paul: You can’t predict it, you can’t and the universe is so complex.
Paul: Trying to predict how it’s going to unfold, it, is not only illogical, it’s the height of arrogance.
Rob: It is arrogant and ridiculous and it’s wrong.
Rob: And so, you never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. There’s gonna be good stuff, bad stuff, they’re both gonna happen so chill out asshole, and you know—
Paul: Yeah maybe try to focus on the good stuff.
Rob: Yeah, you know. Because we have magnifying minds and what we focus on grows, so—
Paul: And then you extrapolate it out into the future and uh, you know, there, there is few things worse that the combination of imagination and pessimism.
Rob: Oh good god. No, and pessimism just doesn’t make sense you know, I don’t proselytize, I don’t try to convert people to my way of thought, whatever it is, because it’s not like I have some big, elucidated belief system, but you know, pessimism just doesn’t work. Doesn’t make sense ultimately in the final analysis.
Paul: Yeah it may feel cool, especially when you’re in 20’s because you don’t risk anything by being pessimistic.
Paul: It’s ultimately a dead-end street, and it, and it just kind of uh, somebody had, one time uh had, had an analogy for like hitting you, your bottom uh, smoking weed, and they’re like ‘it’s like getting kicked to death by a rabbit’. And I feel like pessimism is kind of that way to—you don’t lose a big chunk immediately, but in just like, sandpaper wears away at the joy of life.
Rob: Yeah, I’m not a fan.
Paul: Yeah. So, so you’ve had this, you were diagnosed then as being what?
Rob: Uh, I think major depressive disorder, or unipolar whatever.
Paul: Uh huh. And they put you on meds?
Rob: Yeah they did, yeah. They put me on SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and uh—
Paul: Did that work?
Rob: Yeah it did. It did work, um—
Paul: Can you, can you talk about what before, we’ll, we heard before, can you talk about what you began to feel when the meds started working?
Rob: Um, it, you know, it’s funny is like, the only like, for me there’s not side effects to these drugs that I’m really aware of, um that, that I don’t deal with um, but one weird thing that happened. I remember like after like a day, after like the first or second day I remember I felt like I got struck by lightning and I had a memory uh, of walking to catch the bus home from middle-school and uh, it was, I was, it was like, ‘BTZOO!!!’ and I was there, walking down Village St. in Marblehead Massachusetts and like all the smells and sights and everything, and like ‘whoa, something’s happening up in synapse town’ and uh—
Rob: And it only happened once, but it was, that was one, that was like one of three major weird things that have ever happened in my brain, you know? That that could’ve been a small stroke, I don’t know, but uh, then I remember very slowly after that un I never noticed anything weird again after that other than I very gradually felt better. Um, my poops began to become more solid, uh, less diarrhea—
Paul: Always a fan of less diarrhea.
Rob: Always, I would, I vomited less and less brushing my teeth. The physical pain in my body slowly went away—
Paul: By the way, I love the catch-22 of vomiting brushing your teeth.
Paul: You vomit, then you need to brush your teeth again.
Rob: I know, I know. I’m not a model, you know? I was skinny at that point too, so I didn’t need to be vomiting. Um, but so that happened. Oh and I noticed women again. I remember jerking off for the first time after like, six weeks of something.
Rob: And being like, ‘oh yeah, this is awesome’, and uh, you know, I hope I’m never depressed again because I love to masturbate. Um, but uh unless you live in a monastery and are actively meditating towards enlightenment, you know, like in this life or something then you should be sexual if you’re a person. There’s nowhere to stuff that down. If it’s not, that should be healthy. It’s kind of like a canary in a coal mine type of thing. Like you should want to fuck people. You should want to jerk off, not all the time. It shouldn’t dominate your life, but like if your sex is off, you know, people need go get their fuck on and so I do think it is, sort of, a litmus test—
Paul: My mom has that crocheted on the wall.
Rob: Yeah, hehe, you need to get your fuck on, and, and that’s beautiful. Is that on Etsy?
Paul: It is. Uh, so fast-forward to the meds are working—
Paul: Uh you’re sober.
Paul: What then is the next battleground on Rob’s head?
Rob: Um, I mean after that it’s uh, let’s see...
Paul: Or is there none?
Rob: There was one, there is a second depressive episode several years later, uh...
Paul: Even though you’re on the meds?
Rob: Well, I went, we dialed it down. And uh, so I was on less, because there’s the thing where, like look, I wish I didn’t have to take pills each morning, you know? Uh, and so, you know, so ego will come in and I’ll be like ‘hey, I’ve been feeling good for a while, why don’t I...’, you know?
Paul: Is there anybody that doesn’t go through that, that’s on meds? Everybody I think does that.
Rob: Not that I’ve met or spoken to.
Rob: No no, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t know anyone. I’m agreeing with you.
Paul: Everybody at some point tries to go off.
Rob: Right, and uh, and it didn’t work, you know, I, it, we, and then the second episode that I had was as bad or worse by a little bit than the first. And uh, it was interesting because I after, I needed health insurance, right? After these surgeries I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, United States of America, I need health insurance’ so I had, I got a shitty job that had benefits and I started working at a company. I got a job as an accounting temp, right? And then I got hired to be some ad sales guy’s assistant, um at this company and then they wound up creating MySpace, so it was working in the dot com world wackiness. I had health insurance and I gradually just kind of failed upward in this company. I would get pushed around from department to department. I wound up being uh, I think the director of business development for a division of the company so, I was buying and selling ads and making a lot of money, and I had an office in a skyscraper and it was crazy and I didn’t like it.
Paul: Yeah, no enjoyment?
Rob: No, I hated it a lot. And um...
Paul: What did you, did you feel like you should be doing something creative?
Rob: Yes. Yeah. I mean I went to college, I mean I had been, my first professional acting gig was when I was 17 so at this point, um, 26, 27, 8, 9 so I kind of in the wildness as far as, my life path viewed from now would look like I’m glad it all happened. During that time I got married, which was awesome, and you know, lot of good things happened, but professionally I fucking hated what I did. And uh, so around four years, a little over four years ago, now, I was like ‘fuck it’, this one company, I was now at a makeup company, left that company and two companies later, I’m director of business development for a makeup company. And kind of like, took them online, and so that was didn’t enjoy it, and so I decided when that company folded and they laid me and a bunch of other people off I was like, ‘I’m a comedian now’, and so I had been doing lots of improv and stand up and I was like, ‘this is all I’m going to do’ and—
Paul: And you had enough money saved up that you could, that you could make a living?
Rob: Yeah, and I went through that very quickly, so I had money, and it was great and my wife was like ‘give it a shot’ and uh, then after a little while we were like, okay, I’ve spent all the money that we’ve saved um and it sold, like, yeah. I was like ready to, I was getting my real estate license, I took all the classes but then kept pushing the test back I was taking investment classes at UCLA extension. I read probably 30 books on uh, all kinds of investing and real estate investing. I was looking at like duplexes and triplexes to buy and stuff. Crazy stuff that now I look back I’m like, ‘I’m so glad that didn’t happen’ anyway so I started doing comedy and um going and doing shows every night and writing and trying to get hired on shows and stuff and putting together the packet and all that and um, and it was hard as it is of course, you know, and I was fortunately to kind of be able to rely on sort of, I sort of hit the ground running in the sense that I had performed a lot in the years past across a variety of, you know, formats. I had been on TV. I had been um, cut out of movies. I had done, you know, hundreds of improv shows in Hollywood. I had done, uh, toured the country in doing musical theater and stuff. So I was very comfortable on stage, you know, but I had to still, you know, shortcuts, so it took a lot of work and after uh, a while it just, and reducing my medication then I was just like, ‘whoa, what’s happening here?’ and I, I went, got into another depression. So we adjusted the medications uh, and added, did some experimenting which was incredibly painful and then—
Paul: That’s the worst, being between meds, that’s the fucking worst. As you’re going through the withdrawal of the one that you’re trying to get off of, and you’re experiencing side-effects of the new one, ‘cause a lot of drugs you will acclimate to, but there may be months of sleeplessness, or a month of sleeplessness with the new one.
Paul: And, and on top of that, you’re not even sure either decision is going to work, and you may be back at square one, two months after that.
Rob: So, you gotta, yeah, you gotta be patient. An you gotta take care of yourself during that time. I just flashed to during the first depressive episode that I had, um, I read the book, when I couldn’t sleep, because if you can’t sleep, I don’t know if people know this, if you’re lying in bed and you can’t sleep, fucking get out of bed, you know? Don’t, plus you don’t want to associate your bed with sleeplessness. So I would go read and I remember one book I read that really helped me a lot was uh, called Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. About was this magician around the time of the last century. It was so weird and good and detailed and beautiful , I remember that book. That book is like a good friend to me, it was like a book that held my hand when I was having a really tough time.
Paul: Isn’t that awesome when you find something like that? The Beatles anthology book was that for me.
Rob: Yes, it’s funny. By, on the the the flip side of that coin, I would also like to add, is like if you do deal with depression and this also happens I know to victims of sexual abuse and stuff like that there are some things that you should take care of yourself by just not absorbing and not paying attention to. Like you know, I don’t really want to spend, I don’t want to, like make the deposit into my mind reading too much about like, suicide and other stuff like that. I try to fight it, I might say the words ‘suicide’ a lot, but it’s always in the goal of trying to help people not do it.
Paul: So, so what you’re saying is the thing that you find to distract or entertain yourself to be good to yourself make sure it’s not kind of feeding what you’re trying to get away from.
Rob: Exactly. For example, like William Styron wrote a book called Darkness Visible about depression and I’ve heard people who’ve read that be like ‘oh yeah, wow, really paints a picture’. I don’t think you should read that if you deal with depression I really would like to go back and unread it.
Paul: Read something lighter, like Sophie’s Choice.
Rob: Exactly. Except it’s funny that you say that because like, literally read Sophie’s Choice instead because, although there might be some people who commit suicide in that book, it’s just about other stuff. It’s not just about depression so like you can consume enough writing and film and whatever about depression if you have depression you can reach your limit and so I would say be careful with that stuff.
Paul: Yeah, because while you do want information to help you understand what it is that you’re going through, you you also need something to kind of escape—
Paul: Escape from it. Um you, you seem to be a person that uh, doesn’t do five, you do zero or ten, with things.
Rob: Yeah, I often wish that wasn’t the case in certain things. You know I have to be a comedian who is very grateful to be making his living from comedy. I, I have done some sort of self analysis and I have character traits that are responsible for putting me where I am. Some of which are positive, uh, and some of which are negative. You know, an obsessive and weird.
Paul: I, I heard you on Sklarbro talking about when twitter first came out, um, you have how many twitter followers?
Rob: Uh, right now I have like, 260-something thousand I think.
Paul: That’s fucking amazing.
Rob: It’s ridiculous.
Paul: Any you built them up the hard way. People didn’t know necessarily who you were. It’s not like you were celebrity that people followed. You, you just tweeted funny shit consistently every single day.
Rob: Well thank you for saying that, um, I , I will say, yeah whether you like or don’t like what I tweet, and there are certainly plenty who don’t I, I did build that house myself as it were.
Rob: Um, yeah so, and I do that too much, and I still do it too much, you know? My wife will be like, ‘put that fucking phone down’ and she’s the correct one. I don’t hear that and I’m like, ‘oh you nag’. I’m like ‘oh you normal human, you’re correct’, you know, ‘thank you for saying that’.
Paul: How often do you say the right thing to her and recognize that she’s right?
Rob: Uh, I’m getting better at it. I mean there’s great things about being married and being in a relationship with somebody for a long time, where you do get better. Things about the other person that you’re like ‘oh, if that were a physical part of them I would cut if off with a bone saw’. You literally are grow to realize that, that’s actually the person you must need to be with because they have a lesson that you could really use. You know? So my wife is fucking awesome and uh, if we come to um, you know a disagreement about something, she’s very frequently the correct one. I mean I am too sometimes. That’s not, I’m not like some mouth breathing idiot in the corner, being washed by her with a hose and brush being like ‘UGH, be fit for the world’. You know, I mean she’s a person too but I’m, she’s been very helpful, even in things that are shitty about her that’s what’s so great about marriage. It’s like everything you do for each other can be a gift even if it’s awful.
Paul: Can you talk about, uh, and I don’t know if this is a a difficult thing to discuss but, um, what thee, for somebody out there who lives with somebody who has depression do you have any, any advice?
Rob: I would say, uh—
Paul: Or any type of mental illness.
Rob: Yeah, I mean anything you know, patience in this time is gonna be very very helpful. You know, you’re not—
Paul: Patience with that person.
Rob: Patience with that person. Uh, you can’t fix them, you know? So you owe it to both of you to encourage them to talk to other people. You owe it to them to leave for eight, 12, 24 hours at a time if you want and go hang out with your much more enjoyable friend to be with Suzy. You know, you definitely, you have to take care of you at that time because the person living with the depressed person is going through a very difficult thing. So you have to be good to you. You have to kind of go through the sort of finances of your relationship and look at all the good deposits that depressed person might have made in the past and then be like ‘oh yeah, that time we went to New Hampshire, that was fun’, you know what I mean? ‘That time he surprised me at work with flowers’. I mean like you literally have to be like, ‘oh yeah, even though this person is tremendously unattractive, just repellently awful right now’, uh, you have to sort of take the long view and realize that uh, this is one of these difficult times that you knew you would go through when you signed up for a human relationship and uh, so yeah, patience, love, and—
Paul: And and know that you are dealing with someone whose reality is being warped and, but believe that, that is reality what that warpness—
Paul: And and so give them a little bit of try not to try not to judge the fact that they are seeing everything through a fun-house mirror.
Rob: Yeah, and, you know, but, but the same token, much like you would deal with an alcoholic or whatever, they still have to adhere to normal human standards. They might be, quote, sick, they might be hurting, but they should still eat the fucking meal that you made. They should still bathe, you know what I mean?
Paul: They should. They should do what they have control over to try to better themselves. If they are just gonna sit on the couch for years in self-pity—
Rob: Then get out.
Paul: Then fucking absolutely get out. Um, but a lot of people don’t know where, I’m not saying I know where that line is, but you know, there is a line somewhere between when you stick with somebody and when you don’t. Uh, but if you’re not talking about it with somebody, you’re not ever going to find where that line is.
Rob: Right. And do you see that forward motion in them? Do you see them wanting to get better If you do then, you know, stick around for as long as you feel like it, really. You know?
Paul: So, what, what uh are the battles, that you’re uh, dealing with nowadays? If you have any.
Rob: Uh well I mean, I’m a dad uh, and a husband, and those are the most important things, you know? So one thing that’s weird about having a kid is like your capacity to love another thing is violently stretched out, um, and that’s uncomfortable. You know, like you literally, I wish that I love my son less sometimes you know what I mean? Because it’s like, ‘are you shitting me?’ Like the amount of feeling that you can feel towards another person. It’s true what they say.
Paul: That’s gotta make you feel really vulnerable because, you’re like, ‘what if something happens to this person’, I have all this emotion.
Rob: Oh exactly. No, literally like my wife and I are like, we have to have more now, you understand why like settlers had 12 kids, because four of them were going to die. Like and I’m kind of not, I’m not kidding. You know, it’s sort of funny to say that, but it’s very much like, ‘oh fuck, we’ve got to have more now’.
Paul: How many kids do you have?
Rob: Yeah, so—
Paul: Plans for more?
Rob: Yes, we would like to have more and uh—
Paul: And your career has taken off, since you’ve uh, I think, you may be one of the first examples of somebody having a writing career, kind of take off from twitter.
Rob: Yeah I’m very lucky because of that, because like I was trying to get hired on every show you can name. I was submitting to and you know, I’d go through. I’d get to different levels with each of them, and some of them would be like, ‘hey, fantastic’ or ‘we’re not hiring now’ or ‘we’re not whatever’ or ‘fuck you, you suck, get out of here’, but you know, the different things, and uh, so I was like, you know what, I’m gonna just write anyway. I’m gonna write for me, if other people like it, great. My kind of motivator was like, ‘you don’t have to think that I’m funny but if you say that I don’t work hard then I’ll punch you in your figurative face’.
Rob: Not literally, ‘cause I abhor violence, but I will draw a picture of you face and punch it. So I, your work ethic had to be there. The funny, hope so, you know, and so that’s, so yeah. So gradually that did turn into jobs yeah, I did because of that get hired to write on different television shows and um, and magazines and stuff so...
Paul: And you’ve uh, currently employed right now?
Rob: Um, I well, I, it’s kind of weird I nominally yeah. I just delivered a pilot to Comedy Central that I shot and, you know wrote and produced.
Rob: So that was great. Um and them I’m writing a book under contract right now.
Paul: That’s fantastic.
Rob: Yeah, so I’m very very lucky and happy, uh, because part of those things, um but you know the nature of this podcast I found out about the book deal and pilot deal both, I found out about the pilot then a few days later my, no I’m sorry. I found out about the book deal, then literally , not a week, but three days later my son was born, and then three days after that sold the pilot.
Rob: So my life changed very dramatically uh in the earlier part of this year and I am glad that it all happened around the birth of my son because the, he’s more important than any of those things you know? They’re absolutely great and very important, but speaking of like depression and alcoholism and stuff you know people need that, people like me can freak out over good news too, you know, um and so I’m glad that I had that, that my son was born.
Paul: When you say people can freak out about good news how do you mean?
Rob: Like you can be, like go nuts, you know, you can get high, you can do on a spending spree, you can—
Paul: Because you want more of that?
Rob: Yeah, you can screw it up. You know, I mean so easy to screw up opportunities um, so that’s cool, oh and then another thing that I was gonna say about when my son was born, I remember being at the hospital and being like, ‘holy shit I am definitely going to die’, because you realize you just like saw a life begin and you kind of get in touch with beginnings and endings since you’re in a hospital. And I’m like so super definitely going to die, and that was comforting. No I mean like, I mean like it isn’t and I know, and I had even, you know like, flirted certainly with death in the pat but, uh, knowing seeing a life start, was like, ‘whoa, life will also end’, and so enjoy it while you’ve got it, you know what I mean?
Paul: Well I think that is, I think that’s a great note to end on and I think uh, are a great example of what can happen if somebody decides to face their challenges head on and say to themselves, ‘what do I have to that can make this better? What do I have control over? Well I’m going to put the best effort forward I can over those things and then hope that the universe is going to help me with the rest’.
Rob: Well thanks. You know, I try to look at it, I try not to be a victim of dualistic thought. Things aren’t good or bad. That I really shouldn’t drink alcohol, that’s not good or bad, you know. Well let’s call it alcoholism to have it be simple. Alcoholism isn’t bad, accepting it or not accepting it is where bad can come in. You know, I have it, so don’t drink. You know depression, you got to treat it, you know what I mean? I don’t want to hate it, I don’t hate alcoholism. I don’t hate depression. You know they’re powerful forces. I respect them, you know, but I gotta listen to ‘em so I can be of use, you know?
Paul: And ultimately I think that’s really the best peace comes from feeling of use. It, that I found.
Rob: Yeah, you gotta work. You know, I think Chekov said like ‘why are we here?’ and he was like, ‘oh, too work’. And I agree with that. We’re not here to relax or eat pie. You should eat pie, but we’re here to work.
Paul: Yeah, well uh, Rob Delaney, thanks. Thanks, thanks for coming by. I appreciate it, I uh know you got somewhere you gotta go to, but uh, thank you.
Rob: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me Paul.
Paul: And I’m going to go get the door. Well many thanks to Rob Delaney for the great interview and uh, in case he doesn’t have enough followed uh, all five of my twitter followers uh, go follow Rob @Robdelaney.
Um, a couple of things before we take it out with one more survey respondent, um, the website as I’ve mentioned for the show is mentalpod.com. There’s the forum there. There’s the surveys you can take. Um, you can also support the show there. Uh, there’s two different ways. You can buy stuff through Amazon using our search box that way Amazon give us a couple of nickels and doesn’t cost you anything. And you can do a PayPal donation right there as well. And uh, thanks to those of you that have given me, PayPal donations. They’re very very much appreciated. Um, and the third way that you can support the show, non-financially is going to iTunes and giving us a good rating and a good review. That boosts our ranking and gets more people to the show. And the show has been growing a little bit every week. And uh, that’s that’s really cool. It’s really nice to know that people are enjoying what we do here. It really brings a smile to my face especially on the days when I’m feeling a little down. And I uh, have to say it since I’ve started, I’ve gone back on Solexa, and the last show I kind of mentioned, that I was in this really dark place where suicide wasn’t becoming a reality but it was uh, I was starting to fantasize about it a little bit. And I knew that that was the darkness talking and I uh so, I went back on Solexa, I’m feeling great. I just had a really good week of feeling like I am enough, and that’s really such a great place to be. Um, it takes work, it takes fucking work sometimes to get there and to stay there. And I never stay there, I always slide back. But knowing that I can get to that place is so comforting. To know that it is possible, to have moments, even days, even weeks or months of feeling like I am enough, I have enough and I‘m doing enough. And I know that sounds sort of new-agey but, that’s the, fucking truth.
Um, so let’s take it out with a survey respondent. His name is Jimmy. He’s straight. He’s in his 20’s. The environment he was raised in was a little dysfunctional. He’s never been the victim of sexual abuse.
His darkest thoughts that I will, it says, you know not that you would act on but that you’re ashamed to admit you think about, he says that I will kill my pets, that I will hurt my wife.
What are you deepest darkest secrets, things you have done, things that have happened to you? He says, um, when I was a teenager I masturbated a lot, often in inappropriate places.
And then, do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself? He writes, that I was stupid and that someone had to of seen me. Uh, maybe it’s just my take Jimmy, but I wonder how anybody can get through their teenage years, not masturbating in inappropriate places. I’m just gonna list some of the places I remember jerking off. Not that people could see me, uh you know, it was usually dark, it was usually at night. Sometimes during the day, when nobody was around but. Uh, backyard, driveway, beach, uh, into Lake Michigan. Sorry anybody that’s drinking Lake Michigan water, there’s filters. Um, I wonder how many listeners I’m losing right now. And maybe the one that comes closest to making me feel a lot of shame was, in a van of friends uh, coming home from skiing in Colorado in high-school. Everybody, was asleep and it’s just, it’s just those teenage hormones were raging and uh, you know, I had a bunch of blankets covering me, so nobody could see anything, and everybody was nodded out anyway, but there you have it. It, you know what it might be easier to actually list the places I didn’t jerk off as a teenager. Uh, church, Ridgley Field, and the Hoover Dam.
If you’re out there and you’re feeling stuck, you’re feeling ashamed, you’re feeling self-hatred, let it go. And if you can’t let it go, get some help, cause there is help and there is hope, and you’re not alone. Thanks for listening.