Episode 101: Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
The writer (I’m Kind of a Big Deal, Sippy Cups are Not For Chardonnay) podcaster (For Cryin’ Out Loud) and tv host (Parental Discretion on NickMom) opens up about her alcoholism, bulimia, post partum depression, childhood and marriage. Phew!!
Paul: Welcome to episode 101 with my guest Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. I'm Paul Gilmartin, this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, 90 minutes-- actually closer to two hours today--of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically-diagnosed conditions and past traumas to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling, it's not a doctor's office, it's more like a waiting room where we hold your hand and let you cry and then we comfort you with a sweet, sweet dick joke. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. Mentalpod is also the Twitter name you can follow me at.
Those of you that live in Portland, I'm coming to Portland to do the Bridgetown Comedy Festival April 18-21, so I'll be doing my satirical character up there and I might even be doing a live Mental Illness Happy Hour episode but I'm not sure. It kind of depends on what guests are available and what venues are available. Could that be more not firm, what I just said? And I also might be at any other city at some point in the future.
I've been getting emails from some of you guys asking if we could do a little better job of tagging each of the episodes, which makes total sense to me, because I know some of you are looking for episodes on specific subjects like bipolar 1 or sexual abuse or schizophrenia, etc. I could use your help on that, so what I'm going to do is create a thread in the forum called 'Tag the Episodes' and then if you guys would create threads for each episodes, and then you can kind of put what you think the six major tags would be for each episode. I hope that doesn't sound too confusing, I'm a little confused. The other thing I want to give a shout out to is if you're a war veteran and you live in the LA area and you'd like to be a guest on the show, please shoot me an email at email@example.com. I'd like to talk to you because I'd like to get some more vets on this show.
I think that is about it. I want to kick it off with some survey responses from the Struggle in a Sentence survey. This first one's from Dana, she's in her 20s. About her depression she says "I should make myself lunch but instead I'll lie down on the kitchen floor." I fucking love that one. About her anxiety she says "Everything is permanent, so I can't do anything."
This next one is from 0001 Lonely Avenue. He's a male, he's bi, and he's in his 20s. About his depression he writes "Fat ugly sweaty weird awkward dying alone." About his alcoholism/drug addiction he writes "Weed makes a twig of a creative scenario into a giant redwood, for better or worse." About his sex addiction he writes "My flesh light looks like an old woman's neck." Thank you for that. OCD "Inconsistent, but when it kicks in, it kicks my ass." Sex crime victim "Suppressed somewhere deep down, likely to flood back at the precise second I recognize true happiness". Thank you for that.
This next one is the same survey filled out by Ashley M. She's female, she's bi, she's in her 20s. About her trichotillomania she says "Searching for the hair that doesn't feel right out of boredom, out of stress, out of nervousness, feeling instantly better when I hear the satisfying pop of it from my scalp and not being able to stop if I tried."
This one's from Racoonery, same survey. She's straight, in her 30s, and about her depression she says "Feels like swimming through tar." About her anxiety she says "It feels like the monster under my bed is a kid who grew up with me, and now even though I can't see it it's big enough to eat me alive and hiding around every corner." About her hypochondria she writes "It feels like I'm a vulnerable bag full of throbbing organs waiting to malfunction at any second." And about her PTSD she writes "Feels like the world has claws."
This next survey I want to read was filled out by a guy named Mike, he is straight, he's in his 20s, was raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? He writes "Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts as sexual abuse." Deepest darkest thoughts? "I often think of suicide and how to do it. Other shameful thoughts include sex with children, sex with relatives." Deepest darkest secrets? He writes "I've had sex with my older half-sister as an adult at 25 years old. It was consensual, it didn't live up to the fantasy, but we both enjoyed it and on occasion we still have sex. When I was young, five to eight, my full blood sister and I played "games" where we were naked and did some stuff. I don't remember if it was her idea to do this. I don't remember asking to or any memory just preceding one of our games. I've taken pictures of my step-daughter naked without her knowing and I hate myself for this. I'm so thankful she never knew or found out and was thankful for not having the temptation when I left her mother. I never wanted to hurt or scare her, I was just so compelled to do it that I couldn't not. I'm going to regret acting on those impulses for the rest of my life. I feel I deserve every mother and father of a teen daughter to beat me to death." Sexual fantasies most powerful to you? He writes "Sex with my older half-sister and sex with teen girls. I wanted to have sex with my half-sister ever since I knew what sex was. As for the sex with teen girls I think it goes back to when I lost my virginity to a 16-year-old. To this day it was the best sex. I think my fantasies with teen girls is that though I would never do it I'll think about it but I could never have sex with someone that young. I couldn't because no matter the situation it would be me taking advantage of them. I know how I feel about what I did with a camera and I would no doubt kill myself if ever I followed through with it. As for my half-sister, we talked about it one day and agreed to do it since we were both "givers" and neither of us had been with another "giver". We had sex and it was enjoyable but not what I thought it would be. We still occasionally have sex but I still don't really know what to make of it now that the fantasy is real. I know that I don't feel as guilty now that she knows." Have you ever considered telling a partner or close friend your fantasies? He writes "No, never a partner, and the two friends that know only half know that I wish I hadn't told." I think I understood that, I'm not really sure. Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself? He writes "Self-hatred, disgust, failure as an adult, failure to control impulses." Well I hope, Mike, if you're still failing to control your impulses that you go get help, but I hope along the way you continue to have some compassion for yourself. We don't have to wait until we are the idealized version of ourselves to begin to have compassion for ourselves. Easier said than done.
I want to take it out with a Happy Moments survey filled out by a woman that calls herself Tashondra. She's straight, she's in her 30s, and her happy moment she writes "One day in the spring in Civic Center Park in Denver I was reading a book and all of the sudden all of the cherry blossom trees started shedding their petals. It was raining petals like snow. All I could think was 'This is what it's about. This is what life's all about, those beautiful things you can barely grasp.' I've tried to go back every year at the same time, every year for 20 years to no avail, but it doesn't matter because that beautiful memory of knowing life will be with me always."
Paul: I'm here with Stefanie Wilder-Taylor who, as if she doesn't have enough shit on her plate, she needs to come do this podcast. Stefanie and I have known each other for probably 15, 16 years?
Stefanie: At least, yeah.
Paul: But we haven't spent any time in the last probably 12 years...We used to play cards together.
Stefanie: Yeah! We did! Poker.
Paul: Was it Mark Cohen's place that we'd mostly go play at?
Stefanie: Mark Cohen and Mike Platt. Do you remember that?
Paul: Yeah. And for those of you that don't know, Stefanie has a show on Nick Mom--
Stefanie: That would be most people, that don't know.
Paul: It's called Parental Discretion. She has three books out, a fourth coming out right now?
Stefanie: No, I have four books out, working on a fifth.
Paul: Sippy Cups are Not For Chardonnay, Naptime is the New Happy Hour...What's the other two?
Stefanie: It's Not Me, It's You, and the last one is I'm Kind of a Big Deal.
Paul: You know, just from the title alone, it says--
Stefanie: The last two are essay books all about my illusions of grandeur.
Paul: Oh, I can't wait to read that one. I should have read it before this but I was too busy picturing myself in moments of grandeur. You also are a mom.
Stefanie: Yes, I have three girls.
Paul: And you do a podcast with Lynette Carolla called...
Stefanie: For Crying Out Loud.
Paul: For Crying Out Loud.
Paul: Any other things that I'm missing? You used to do standup. Do you still do standup?
Stefanie: Well, when I was getting ready to shoot my show, since it was 26 episodes, and I don't know if you know Hugh Fink?
Paul: I do know Hugh.
Stefanie: He's the EP, it's the two of ours show, and he forced me to go do standup, which I hate. I can't stand performing, but...I know, that sounds weird, right?
Paul: But you used to do standup.
Stefanie: I did, and I never liked it. I don't like it. I love having performed, but I don't like anything leading up to it and I most of the time don't enjoy the actual even being on stage part.
Paul: Do you enjoy--this is probably a stupid question, but-- the crafting of the joke and getting the response you hoped it would get?
Stefanie: Yes, that's the thing that keeps you coming back. But I feel like when I became a writer years ago I was able to quickly let go of the performing part because I was getting filled up by the writing of it.
Paul: And you've done a bunch of television appearances to promote your books. You were on Oprah, Dr. Phil, 20/20, The Today Show.
Paul: That's awesome.
Stefanie: Yeah, it's cool. Some of the things were to promote the books and then later I was on there after I quit drinking and got a lot of attention, weird attention, for that, then I was on the show as being the person who wrote books with alcohol in the title who now doesn't drink.
Paul: Okay, and how long have you been sober?
Stefanie: Three and a half years.
Stefanie: Thank you. How long have you been sober?
Paul: I'm three times better. Where would be a good place to start with your story?
Stefanie: I don't know...
Paul: Where were you raised and what was your family environment like?
Stefanie: Well, I was born in New York, my mother was married to a standup comedian--
Stefanie: Yeah, who was kind of famous in the '60s and early '70s--
What was his name?
Stefanie: Stanley Myron Handelman. He started as a Catskills comic but he was sort of Woody Allen-ish and he was famous for people that would know comedy from that era. He was on Merv Griffin and Carson and all those shows years ago.
Paul: But he wasn't your biological father?
Stefanie: He was my biological father, yes.
Paul: Oh, he was. Okay.
Stefanie: Then my parents moved out here for his career in show business and we lived in a big house in Westwood, then when I was about four and a half they got divorced and then I was really poor and then my mother married his best friend.
Stefanie: Yeah, who was like a friend of the family. It's all kinds of fucked up. And then he became my step-father and...yeah.
Paul: How was it received that your step-father started dating your mom?
Stefanie: I don't know.
Paul: Is that what caused the divorce, or was it well after the divorce?
Stefanie: You know, my mother swears that she was not cheating and that that had nothing to do with it. She tells me that they were friends and that basically he took sides and that they spent a lot of time together and were like very close friends and that maybe my father was cheating anyway. I don't know, you know? She's always been very private about that kind of thing. I don't think she was cheating. I think he was pissed, but I don't really know.
Paul: So what was it like, obviously since most people don't have memories before four, what was it like being raised by your mom and step-dad? And you stayed out here the whole time?
Stefanie: I lived here until I was 12, then we moved to Spokane, Washington, because my mother decided that she wanted to get out of LA, and she was always the breadwinner so my stepfather was kind of this hippie, anti-authority like "Fuck the man" kind of guy, so he just went along with what my mom wanted to do. He considers himself very counter-culture, so, yeah, we went with my mom to Spokane, Washington, and that was a train wreck.
Paul: Maybe they thought "Our child is a little depressed, let's get the sun out of the equation."
Stefanie: That is so true, yes.
Paul: Was it depressing?
Stefanie: Yeah, and I have that seasonal affective disorder, or whatever, so yeah. And I think I was just a sensitive kid, but I had migraine headaches, thinking back, probably from the time my mother was getting divorced, so at five I was getting migraines, taken to doctors. And of course in those days they didn't have real tests for migraines, I don't think they do now anyway, so they thought I was making it up. So I would have these horrible headaches and was told basically that I was making it up. And then when we moved they were just as bad and I just remember wanting to come home, being in the nurse's office and my mom being so mad that she had to come pick me up from school because I had a headache. Yeah. So let's see. So then I didn't really have much contact with my father, then when I was 16 in the middle of high school things were going very badly for me with my family and then we moved to...They moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, which is always what you want to do is move from one shitty, small town to another shitty one right in the middle of high school. So I got to start my junior year in another city with a family who wasn't speaking to me, really.
Paul: When you said that things weren't good in the family, can you be specific?
Stefanie: Yeah. My stepfather and I did not get along. Ever. And I'll never probably really understand why. I've had many years of therapy and pretty much what therapists said is I became the designated problem in the family. You know my parents got along great, they never fought, so any tension I think that was going on was kind of aimed at this person is the problem. So I was selfish and I was a troublemaker. And I remember years later just going 'What did I do?' I didn't get in trouble in school, I didn't have a drinking problem at that time, I didn't get kicked out, I wasn't stealing, I wasn't an actual troublemaker but according to them I was a horrible person and causing all kinds of problems in the family. So, I don't know, my stepfather just didn't like me. He hated me, I would say. So at one point when they were planning to move I said 'Why don't' I stay here?' and I was going to live with my best friend who lived across the street. She was being raised by a single mom, they lived in a big house, the mom was more than happy to take me in for the last two years of high school, and my mom said "No, absolutely not. You're coming." And I remember thinking 'Why? Nobody likes me. You don't want me with you. I don't get it.' I think it was an appearances thing.
Paul: Wow. I can't imagine what that must feel like, knowing that your mom and stepfather don't like you.
Stefanie: Yeah, it wasn't good. Didn't make for healthy relationships. I like leaving the host of the Mental Illness Happy Hour speechless.
Paul: Well it just feels like something's missing--
Stefanie: You've had worse off than me on your show, right?
Paul: Yes, it's not the gravity of it either, 'cause we've certainly had heavier childhood stuff than this, but it feels like there's a piece missing. So I can't imagine what that must feel like when that's your life, that has the piece missing. Where you're like--
Stefanie: I think my stepfather had a lot of problems. His childhood, he was raised in foster homes. And I believe that they had this relationship that...I think it's very dysfunctional, they don't think it's dysfunctional. I think my mother was very co-dependent and I think that he never liked the fact that there was this kid in the equation that was from a past relationship that took away from...I think that he felt that he'd never been married before and he was very dependent on my mother and I just don't think he liked having to fight for her attention. He didn't like it. So I think that he just made teams, you know. So I was the A team, I think, 'cause I was there first. But in his mind...He'll never listen to this. I think he's crazy. I think he was mentally ill and I think that he was paranoid, I think he has a lot of issues and I think he made stuff up all the time that I was doing and told my mom and had her convinced that I was not a good kid. So it was awful for me. I felt lonely, I felt like nobody was on my side, and I kept getting moved so then I would have to start over somewhere else, you know what I mean, and I didn't feel like anybody ever looked at the situation...I look back and I was definitely being abused, emotionally abused, and I remember screaming and crying in my house and thinking 'People know this is going on, they have to know. People on the outside have to know he's kind of crazy.' And I would have these screaming fights with him where I would end up on the front lawn begging for somebody to call the police, and I remember thinking 'No one's ever gonna help me. I'm never gonna get out of this until I can live on my own.'
Paul: Oh my God.
Stefanie: Yeah, it just wasn't good. And it's never really been acknowledged...But here's the good news. I have a brother who's seven years younger than I am. He's awesome and he lives like two minutes from me, and he saw it. You know what I mean? So I have somebody else to validate the crazy, which really helps. It's underrated.
Paul: Yeah. That's...My brother's that way for me and it's really nice, really nice, to be able to have that. Because parents can make you crazy and I would imagine parents say that about kids, they make each other crazy.
Stefanie: Yeah, for sure.
Paul: So you moved to Massachusetts for your last two years of high school.
Stefanie: Yep, and then as soon as I graduated high school I opted not to go to college because I was just unhappy and I remember thinking 'I know I'm supposed to go to college, this is what I'm supposed to do, but that's four more years living in Massachusetts.' I had horrible grades so I wasn't gonna go anywhere but U Mass 'cause it was a state school, so I just said 'Screw this. I'm gonna move to LA and just start over, back where I feel like those are my roots. I hadn't spoken to my biological father in many years, but I knew he lived in LA, so I had this fantasy of moving out here and somehow maybe getting into show business--
Paul: He wouldn't call you on your birthday even?
Stefanie: No, no.
Paul: You must have felt so incredibly abandoned.
Stefanie: I thought you were gonna say "You must have felt so loved and cherished by that family." Yeah, I did. You know, it took a long time to kind of get over it.
Paul: Did you, in the beginning, just think it was you and you deserved some of this? Or all along did you--
Stefanie: Of course, yes.
Paul: Oh you did.
Stefanie: Yeah, I still have that, you know? Still, that's one of my fears, that she was right. You know, that at some point people will figure out how unlovable, that I'm selfish and that I'm difficult, and then people will go "Oh yeah, why didn't we see that before?"
Paul: It's so funny because all the times that I spent around you, and true it was just playing cards and shooting the shit, but you get to know somebody's personality when you're playing cards because there are certain things that people like or don't like--
Paul: --and there are certainly people I played cards with that rubbed me the wrong way but you were never one of those people, not even close.
Stefanie: Well thanks.
Stefanie: You too.
Paul: The rest of you I find off-putting, offensive, tiresome, and a fourth thing that I can't think of.
Stefanie: There's an actual poker hand named after you.
Paul: I know, The Gilmartin. The worst possible hand you can have in poker. The lowest seven cards without there being a straight or a flush.
Stefanie: Right, right.
Paul: I guess I should let the listener know about that. I was very into my drinking when I was playing cards. Not a good card player to begin with, then you add some Scotch and some beer on top of it, a little bit of TV money, so I would stay in every hand and people were very happy when I came through the door. Very happy when I came through the door.
Stefanie: That's funny. I remember getting so high with Brian Dunkelman. We had somehow smoked some medical marijuana, right? And all I remember, we were at...Zoey Friedman's husband? Steve Peckingham? Did you ever play with him?
Paul: No, I didn't.
Stefanie: We were at his house, we were in Venice, and I just remember Brian and I looking across the table at each other freaking out, going 'Are you high? I am so high.' And I couldn't figure out what was going on but I was winning hands only 'cause I couldn't get out of the hand 'cause I would forget what game we were playing. Like in the middle of the hand I would go 'I don't know what game this is, I don't know what wins.' So just keep calling bets and I would lay out my cards and I remember Jennae would go "You fucking won. What is going on?"
Paul: Oh my God.
Stefanie: And I was really scared, I was dating my husband at the time and I had to make him come get me because...
Paul: Oh my God, oh my God.
Stefanie: Oh, drugs.
Paul: Oh, drugs and alcohol. Where would be a good place next to go in your story? Because I definitely want to talk about the drugs and alcohol and bottoming out from that.
Stefanie: Well let's go there.
Stefanie: Well I was a big drinker in high school but it's funny 'cause I wrote about this in one of my books, about getting sober. And when you think back you realize, I mean when I got sober and really hit my bottom and was like 'Oh my God, I'm an alcoholic. There's no denying it.' I could look at the first time I drank and go 'Hello. Hello alcohol problem. How are ya?'
Paul: No moderation.
Stefanie: Blacking out. No, I blacked out from the first time I drank. I would get really drunk, make out with three guys in a night, have to be told the next day. But this was at like 14, 15 years old, you know. Maybe not the making out until I was 16. But just doing things that I wouldn't normally do and just being so drunk and so hung over the next day that at 15 years old I tried to quit drinking. That's like--
Paul: That's not a good sign, that at 15 you're like "I've got a problem."
Stefanie: Yeah. I was like 'God, all we do is drink on the weekends. I have to stop doing this to myself.' So my friend and I decided we were gonna get sober together. I don't know if we called it that in those days, but we were gonna quit drinking and we tried to do other things. Like I think we went to some basketball games, you know school basketball games, and after like three weeks we realized the error of our decision, like 'This is not a good way to go, this is really boring.' So I started drinking again, and I think I just thought that's what people did. I thought it was normal. My high school was one of the top drug and alcohol schools.
Paul: You thought it was normal for people to drink and use drugs?
Stefanie: To drink that much, yes.
Paul: Or to get blackout shitfaced?
Stefanie: Well, I think that I thought that everybody else must get that drunk too. You know what I mean? Because when you're really drunk I think you just assume...And plus when you're in high school there are usually other people who are really drunk too. I don't think I noticed that I had an actual problem until...Around the teenage years I developed an eating disorder, which I'm sure from talking to lots of women, it's pretty typical.
Paul: So you had a double major.
Stefanie: Yeah. Yeah. And I think I really started to excel in the eating disorder aspect of it, which kind of put the drinking back a little bit.
Paul: What was the eating disorder like?
Stefanie: It was awesome. Horrible! I discovered bulimia, so I was eating and then puking. And I started this in high school, started perfecting it, really, senior year of high school, and then I moved to LA and then I was very isolated and it really escalated. And I would spend all this time alone in my apartment, just buying food, and eating, and it was very secretive and it was very controlling behavior, very addictive. Bulimia is very addicting, the act of it and the feeling it gives you, you become addicted.
Paul: Yeah, I've heard people say it's euphoric.
Stefanie: It's euphoric and it's a release, and I have to say that I went to a 12-step program for that when I was only 21. I knew I had a big problem, and it was so much shame. More shame than a drinking problem. 'Cause it's gross. It's like drinking is at least socially acceptable. You don't go to a party and start like 'Hey, let's eat a bunch of food and make ourselves throw up. It'll be awesome.'
Paul: Right. Where does the euphoria come in? After you vomit?
Stefanie: Yes. So there's all this anxiety where all day long you're going 'I'm not gonna do it, I'm not gonna do it, I'm not gonna do it.' And then it's just this tension builds up where you have to. You've got the little angel on one shoulder and the devil on another shoulder, and they're arguing all day long. It's horrible.
Paul: So you might as well capitulate to get the arguing to stop, right?
Stefanie: It's like that thing that I'm sure alcoholics have. I didn't have it with alcohol, but I hear people talk about it and I relate it to the food. Where they go "I just was like 'I'm not gonna drink today, I'm not gonna drink today', and then you just can't stand it anymore and the obsession is so great that you just go 'Screw it, I'm just gonna do it one more time and then tomorrow I'll start over. I won't do it tomorrow.'" I didn't have that with drinking. Because I didn't try that hard not to do it.
Paul: Oh, okay. 'Cause it just sounded like you said that about drinking.
Stefanie: I said I've heard people describe drinking that way and I could relate it to the bulimia. I could go 'I know that addiction from the food thing. I know it from waking up in the morning, being 'Today I'm not gonna do it, I'm not gonna do it', and it would just build through the day and then I had to do it.
Paul: And so the payoff was the feeling after you throw up, or was the--
Stefanie: Yes. It was a calm. It was like a drug.
Paul: And I would imagine though getting to eat as much as you wanted of whatever foods you wanted, that had to be pretty addicting, too. Or was that not even really a part of it?
Stefanie: Yeah, 'cause it's just a substance, you know, like anything else. So it was that feeling of getting to eat that food, but then it was the getting rid of it, that gives you a numb, kind of euphoric but more just numb, and calm. So whatever anxiety's been building up through the day, all of the sudden it's just gone.
Paul: Wow. I've never heard anybody describe it like that. Thank you. Thank you for that, 'cause now I understand it a little bit more. I always thought it was about getting to eat foods that you didn't want to gain weight from.
Stefanie: I think it starts out that way for people, but just as anorexia, it's not about the not eating, it's about the control and it's about the high that people get from starving themselves. The bulimia, it's the same thing but it's the stuffing yourself until you're sick, and then when you throw up it does something to your brain. It changes the chemistry in your brain for a period of time. You're really calm, you can go to sleep. It's like doing a drug, and then you wake up the next day and it starts building again.
Paul: That's what a lot of people that aren't addicts of any sort don't understand, is aside from drugs and alcohol and stuff that are external substances that you put into your body, there are, for instance, people that get high on shoplifting, or people that get high on acting out sexually, or people that get high on something else, whatever. There's a pharmacy in your brain that you can trigger, and a lot of people don't realize that is what makes it so difficult for these people to quit, because that pharmacy is open 24 hours a day. You can access it any time you want. And that's a pretty big cross to bear, if you really truly are addicted.
Stefanie: Yeah. Because I truly believe that there are probably tons upon tons of women who have dabbled in bulimia but it didn't catch on with them because they didn't get that feeling. Just as there are people who drink and they're not alcoholics because it doesn't release that same feeling.
Stefanie: You know, if it hits something in you that you go 'This works!' then you start repeating it because you need something that works and then you can't stop. And all of the sudden you can't stop and that's really scary.
Paul: Yeah. And you know it had never occurred to me that other people didn't feel that beautiful release from three or four beers and a hit of weed that I would feel. It was a rare combination of relaxation and excitement that was inaccessible to me the other 22 hours a day. And I just assumed every other person was like that , so when I would see somebody leave half of a drink on a table I would look at them like a Martian, like 'How do you not want to get to beer number four, where everything gets made okay?'
Stefanie: Right, right. I couldn't understand people in those days that could eat a couple of cookies and not have to eat them all. I mean I still don't understand that, my brain is different, you know? But I got help for the eating disorder, and when I was finally free of that the drinking came back in. See, I didn't know. I didn't know. I just thought 'Oh, well that's how I drank in my teenage years and now I don't drink like that anymore' and it's because I found something else that did it just as well for me. So once I wasn't doing that the drinking got bad again.
Paul: The whack-a-mole.
Stefanie: Yeah, the whack-a-mole. I still have the whack-a-mole, I think.
Paul: So what are the things that pop up now?
Stefanie: It depends. When I first quit drinking, the sugar got bad again and I was like 'What is wrong with me? Like I thought I left that behind so long ago.' All of the sudden I was becoming obsessive with the eating and the bingeing on sweets, you know? Then I had to stop eating sugar because I was like 'I don't feel sober.' And it's so funny because other alcoholics will be like "Don't be so hard on yourself, you know. You can eat sugar." But I knew that I wasn't doing it the way other people were doing. You know what I mean? I didn't feel right about it, so I had to stop eating sugar. Not like I can't eat bread or things that have sugar in them, but I mean desserts. Like I don't eat cookies and ice cream, only because I'll eat 'em all. You know, I'll eat every dessert that exists. I don't have the shut-off gauge.
Paul: What was it that made you know that you needed to quit drinking?
Paul: Or are there any stories along the way that you want to share?
Stefanie: You know, what happened for me is that I did enjoy drinking but it would get me into a lot of trouble, you know? And there were things along the way where people would call me on it but I always thought 'What an asshole.' Do you remember that on Santa Monica Boulevard there was this gay club called Rage?
Stefanie: It still exists, I'm sure you know. There was a contest there, it was called The Gong Show, and when I was first doing standup my friends and I would go and be in this contest and I would win it sometimes. I had like a little following. And I remember one day not getting my name on the list so I went across the street with my friend and we just drank ourselves silly. then I came back and somehow a spot had opened up and so, not knowing how trashed I was, I was like 'Yeah, I'll go up!' So I went onstage and apparently--I don't remember much of this--but I do remember getting booed off the stage. And keep in mind these were my people, like it would take a lot to get booed off the stage, but I guess I did a joke and then did the hand over my head like 'Oh, that's over your heads' because nobody laughed because I was hammered. And they started booing me and I told everybody to fuck off and I got off the stage and the host of the show said to me "You know, I think you need to--" Oh, it wasn't the host of the show, there was a woman who was a booker who happened to be in the audience and she said to me "I think you have a drinking problem. I think you need to look at that." And I for so long had such resentment against her. I was like 'Who the fuck does she think she is, telling me that I have a drinking problem, like you know everybody gets drunk once in a while, what's the big deal? I'm an artist, you know? That's gonna happen.'
Stefanie: So there were little things like that. Another one I got drunk another time onstage, but in my mind I wasn't drunk but the booker wouldn't book me back because she said she doesn't book comics that drink onstage. In my mind I'd had like a couple of drinks and I watched the tape and I was like 'I was not drunk. I was not drunk.', but she was sober, this person who booked this room was sober, so that was another one. There were just things along the way, you know. And then what happened is I would go to parties with my husband, but we were just dating at the time, and I would just get drunk, you know? And every once in a while I'd be like 'Maybe I have a problem. Why do I do this?' And he thought "Well, I think that it's hard for you to gauge how much you've had to drink, so if there's like open bottles of wine and people are just pouring you more wine, you don't have like that shut-off gauge." And I do remember thinking 'That sounds an awful lot like a drinking problem, but I'll go with you on your theory', and so he'd say "If you want, I can let you know you've had a couple glasses". So of course you see where that's going. I'd say 'You're not gonna tell me! You don't own me! I am not drunk, you're the one who's drunk!' You know? My husband is very responsible. You know? He doesn't drink like I do. You know? So that went on a little bit, and then I got pregnant. So we got married, I got totally drunk on our wedding night, I got pregnant right after we got married, like a few days later I got pregnant. I didn't drink through...Well, I remember that I was told you could have a glass of wine a week and I was able to stick with that and had no problem with it and I remember very fully thinking in my head 'Well, look who's not an alcoholic', and thinking that I deserved a little parade for all the not-drinking I was doing while I was pregnant. You know, I look back and I go 'That's troubling.'
Paul: That attitude alone proves that you're an alcoholic.
Stefanie: I know, right?
Paul: Yeah, 'cause most people don't understand that alcoholism is not really about the alcohol. That's just a symptom of the underlying problem.
Stefanie: Right. Well the thing was is the hormones, the pregnancy hormones, looking back, evened me out so I didn't need to drink. Like it changed my brain chemistry a little bit, and for some people it makes them a little crazy, for me it calmed me down so I didn't need to drink. So as soon as I had the baby, though, I had postpartum depression. Full-on postpartum anxiety depression. I didn't know it, though. I just thought 'This sucks! This is horrible. All these people that have told me that having a child is the best thing that's ever happened to them are fucking liars and I hate every single one of them and I wish I could take it back.' And it was awful being me for that beginning part.
Paul: How long did that last for?
Stefanie: Well, for a while. You know, for a while. For months and months and months. And because I didn't know that I had postpartum...I thought something was wrong 'cause I was crying all day long every day. So I went to the doctor and I said 'I think something's wrong because I cannot stop crying and I'm not normally a person who cries all the time.' And he said "Well, you just had a baby, that's to be expected. It makes people emotional." And I was like--
Paul: Not all day every day.
Stefanie: No. So he said "Why don't you see how it goes and if in two weeks you're not feeling better come back in and maybe we can prescribe you something." So I said okay. So a couple weeks go by and I'm feeling just as horrible, if not worse, go back in. I go 'I'm still feeling bad' so he prescribed me Lexapro. So I took a Lexapro and I immediately became manic that night. Went into a full-on manic--
Paul: You're not the first person I've talked to that got manic from Lexapro.
Paul: Oh yeah.
Stefanie: Well, it was not good. So I called my mother around midnight, which shows you that I was manic 'cause I just called her up at midnight and I was like 'Hi! I just went to a book club meeting!' and I think I was talking a lot of nonsense and I said 'I'm feeling really, really fine but I feel like I've had a lot of coffee and I haven't had any coffee' and she said "Well what's different? Did you take anything?" And I said 'Well, I went to the doctor today and I got a Lexapro but I've only taken one Lexapro' and she said "Yeah, and do not take anymore. Stop it immediately." So I didn't go on anything. So long story short, a year later my daughter had to go to the emergency room, she got dehydrated and she was in the emergency room, and I almost had a breakdown over it, it was just the anxiety went through the roof and I became almost non-functional. So I went and sought out a therapist and got on Zoloft and felt better. But the problem is I was drinking. So I was taking Zoloft , drinking a lot of alcohol at night, and started taking not Xanax, what's the other one people take? Klonopin.
Paul: Was that prescribed?
Stefanie: Yeah, he prescribed me Klonopin for the anxiety. So I was taking like a couple milligrams of Klonopin a day and loving it. I was like 'Oh, this is how normal people feel! I feel so much better!' Then I started to kind of like being a mom, but I was doing this balancing act with the medications, you know? So I'm taking Zoloft, I'm drinking, and I'm taking the Klonopin and I started to think 'I don't know if this is a good idea. This can't be good for my body. I think I feel better but I feel like I'm drinking every single night, not really taking a night off', so I was like 'Maybe I need help'. So the one night I got really drunk on Halloween and embarrassed myself in front of my brother, my sister-in-law, some new mommy friend and her mom. I was drunk in front of all these people. A couple of days later my sister-in-law takes me to the mall and says "You know, what's going on with you? It seems like you drink every night, you're kind of checking out", and I felt really ashamed and kind of humiliated and busted. So I was like 'Maybe I need to do something about this'. So I went to a support group and cried and was like 'I think I need help' and I really meant it that day. For maybe a couple days afterwards I meant it and then I thought 'You know what, but I can do this on my own. I just will not drink anymore.' So that lasted six weeks, then I got pregnant with twins and then I was able to not drink through my pregnancy with the twins. So again I 'm like 'Do you see, life? I'm not an alcoholic! This is God telling me "You don't have a drinking problem."' Now I've quit for nine months plus the six weeks beforehand, and so I gave myself permission to start drinking, but moderately. But we all know how that goes. Moderate went down the toilet really fast and then I was drinking every night again, too much. Then I found myself putting myself and my children in a dangerous situation, it took one time of doing that, and I was like 'You know what...'. I've always believed that I would never cross a line. I realized that I was acting beneath my own moral compass when I was drinking. I was like 'If I was somebody else I would be judging myself and going "I would never do that."' And I saw this person that would make decisions when drinking that I, Stefanie, sober would never, ever make. And that's when I just took it in.
Paul: Can you give us any examples of those?
Stefanie: Yeah, I drove. Drunk.
Paul: With your kids in the car.
Stefanie: Yes. And you know, nothing happened, but I came home and my husband was like "What? You were just in the car with our kids? Where have you been and you're drunk!" And it just hit me, I was just like 'He's right. I'm drunk. Where is this going? I just did something that I could have killed my family, could have killed myself, could have killed my kids, could have killed somebody else.' All that stuff, it just hit me. And I was like 'I have to get help. Now. Or this is gonna happen--' The thing was, in my head I said 'I could promise him that I will never, ever do it again and he'll believe me because I'm a good person and he knows I would never do that knowingly.' But I know myself, I know I've made that promise to myself a million times of I'm never gonna do this again, I'm never gonna do that again. I can't tell you how many times I said 'I'm never drinking again.' So I knew on some level that I would drink again and I would--
Paul: Cross that line.
Stefanie: I knew I would. If I'd done it once it was only gonna get worse. So I just knew that I had to get help.
Paul: Eventually all three of you would come in and be drunk, you and the twins.
Stefanie: Yes. Yeah. So, you know, I haven't had a drink since then.
Paul: That's 3 1/2 years ago.
Paul: And what have you discovered emotionally from being sober and participating in a support group? Take the alcohol out of the equation. Walk the listener through what you experience.
Stefanie: Well, the first thing was actually coming to terms with that I had a drinking problem and that's okay. Because I think for so many years the denial was that I don't want to be a person who's an alcoholic. I think it's an ugly word, I think it takes over who you are, and then that's all you are. And I had that image in my head that an alcoholic is homeless, drinking Bushmills out of a brown paper bag and can't hold down a job, and I was like 'That's not me! I'm so high-functioning! Most people would not think of me as somebody who has a drinking problem.'
Paul: I'm still trying to wrap my head around a homeless person springing for Bushmills.
Stefanie: That's so true. See what an alcoholic I am? That's how distorted my thinking is. Mad Dog 20/20.
Paul: That's more like it, that's more like it.
Stefanie: Yeah. So I had to get over that stigma. I think the whole first year was accepting the fact that I'm an alcoholic.
Paul: What was the fear in your mind, you know a lot of times we'll kind of put a snapshot in our head of what it's gonna be like if our fear comes true. What was the fear of people knowing that you were an alcoholic? Was it just you knowing you were an alcoholic? Or that other people would go "Oh, Stefanie Wilder, she's an alcoholic."
Stefanie: I think all of the above, you know? Plus the fact a big fear was how am I going to cope with my anxiety without alcohol? I thought for sure I was just going to have to be an anxious person and I would just be white-knuckling it forever. I don't have a big trust that things will work, be it therapy, be it whatever. I think when I'm really hungry I don't believe that food is gonna make me feel full. Like whatever I'm feeling in that moment is how it is, how it's always gonna be, and you cannot convince me otherwise.
Paul: Yes, that seems so real. The first 18 years of your life weren't exactly a tour of comfort and satisfaction, and having your needs met.
Stefanie: Right. And alcohol and food and substances--Vicodin, sweet, sweet Vicodin.
Paul: Sweet Vicodin. Vicodin and weed.
Paul: I came close to touching the face of God with Vicodin and weed.
Stefanie: I've never understood people who don't like opiates. Like, what's wrong with them? How do you not feel amazing with a couple Vicodins in you?
Paul: Yeah, nauseous? You telling me you don't like Vicodin makes me nauseous!
Stefanie: Exactly! What is wrong with those people that are like "Yeah, it makes me nauseous." I wanna slap those people! And then take the rest of their Vicodin!
Paul: Yes! There have been studies done that show that an addict or alcoholic, there are chemicals released in our body that non-alcoholic addicts don't get released. That our body--
Stefanie: But they have to have some of that amount released, right? Or it wouldn't be a narcotic.
Paul: I guess.
Stefanie: I mean, it's a pain killer so it has to work for everybody, right?
Paul: Yeah, on some level, but--
Stefanie: But I guess it doesn't make some people--
Stefanie: --like just feel like all is okay with the world and they need to call every single one of their friends and tell them what a great friend they are. "I just wanna connect! No, I'm not high, I'm just thinking about what a great fucking time we had the last time we were hanging out and I just wanted to let you know that you're on my mind!' Did you ever see Modern Romance? With Albert Brooks?
Paul: I was just thinking of that movie. "Look at all my friends, Petey. Look at all my friends."
Stefanie: "Mr. Popularity!" That's how I became anytime I was on opiates. 'God, I just have such a great life! How do I not recognize this all the time!' If I could just keep that feeling all the time--
Paul: All the time. All the time.
Stefanie: When I quit drinking I was very afraid that I would never have that...How do you go through the rest of your life without having that feeling again? How do I not ever do Vicodin again? Whoa, the fact that I call it 'do Vicodin' is a bad sign that things are not all kosher with my drug use. But here's the thing though--what helped me is that the last time I had taken Vicodin I couldn't get really high from it. Like I had a hundred of them--I hope my husband never listens to this--but I had gone to the doctor for my migraines and I was taking Imitrex, which is non-narcotic, and I said 'But maybe I need something for breakthrough pain', and the listener can hear the air quotes. The breakthrough pain, you know, that pain which the Imitrex always works, doesn't work for. So he gave me a hundred Vicodin. I thought he'd give me five and he gave me a hundred and I took 'em all in like four days.
Paul: Are you kidding me?
Stefanie: No, because if they're there, I'm gonna take 'em. Why wouldn't I? And you take a couple, you feel good, so I'm like 'Well, if a couple's good I'll take a couple more', and before you know it I'm Matthew Perry. I'm 60 in, in a day, and like 'This is not working, I can't get that good feeling from it.'
Paul: What was the withdrawal like? Did you go through withdrawal?
Stefanie: No, because I took 'em all in a couple days, I didn't have any more. I could never become a pain pill addict because I'm too lazy. I think you have to have a certain amount of ambition--
Paul: You have to have that on your gravestone, by the way.
Stefanie: "Too lazy to become a pill addict?" Here's the thing. How are you gonna get 'em? You can buy them through the Internet, right, but then they're gonna come in a brown packaging and someone's gonna, come on.
Paul: Someone's gonna...
Stefanie: Right? And plus then you're paying what, $2.00 a pill? Then you could try to get them on the street but where are you gonna go?
Paul: And you're eventually gonna need more and more and more, and then eventually you're not even gonna get high from them, you're just gonna need them to not feel sick.
Paul: And you're not gonna shit in a year, right?
Paul: Did you get constipated from it?
Stefanie: Yes, of course! So I was like 'You know, I should just stick with the alcohol which I can just get at Trader Joe's anytime I want, without anybody giving me a weird look.'
Stefanie: So, the thing was I knew I had to quit drinking and I knew that it wasn't feeling that good anyway, so I was like 'Well, how much worse is it gonna be, really?' I don't know if you had that, did you have that? I don't know your sobriety story, but it's a crossroads. It's gonna suck either way. If I keep drinking it's gonna suck, it doesn't feel that good when I get buzzed anymore, if I quit it's gonna suck, so...
Paul: That's why I wanted to die, because it was like 'If I get sober it's gonna suck and continuing to drink, yeah, I feel good for two hours a day but the other 22 hours are unbearable, I'm so depressed and sad.'
Stefanie: And we don't know, I think, when we're actively in our addiction, that alcohol is a depressant and that drugs are a depressant, and it causes more anxiety. But nobody told me that.
Paul: Just not immediately.
Paul: It causes the opposite of it--
Stefanie: The rebound.
Stefanie: But nobody tells you that, so I had a shrink who was like 'Well, if you're feeling anxious, yes, if the Xanax is working keep taking it.' But the problem--
Paul: Were you being honest with him about your drinking, though? Probably not.
Stefanie: Well here's the thing though. I don't think I was drinking that much. I mean, I was drinking enough, I was probably drinking like three...I hear people talk about going through two bottles of wine a night, and I would be dead before I could get through two...I mean, I wasn't drinking that much. It was the combination, you know? I'm on an antidepressant, drinking at least three glasses of wine a night, maybe trying to get to three and a half, but then I'm also taking Xanax, so I'm going to sleep. So it's like the time that I drove, I'd been out at somebody's house and I'd been drinking vodka martinis, and I wasn't used to drinking hard liquor so I got drunk, drunk. But I was kind of maintaining on this 'I just have a few glasses of wine', the problem was I was doing it every single night, seven days a week and I could not take a day off. So I wasn't physically addicted, I was addicted to the Zoloft and I was definitely addicted to Xanax. That withdrawal was horrendous.
Paul: You know, as you're talking about this, one of the points that I wanna make is the importance of recognizing a pattern of things rather than isolated incidents. Because if you are trying to talk yourself out of 'I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not an addict', you can come with a thousand isolated incidents where you're like 'Yeah, look at that night, I only had two drinks' or 'This, look at this.'
Stefanie: I'm the queen of that.
Paul: But if you look at the pattern of things in your life, that is where the truth gets revealed, in looking at patterns of things. And not only with yourself but the way people treat you oftentimes. You know, there could be that friend that something in your gut doesn't feel right. They've never really fucked you over but if you look at the pattern as a whole there's just nothing really there where they were ever there for you. Do you know what I mean?
Stefanie: Yeah, I do know what you mean.
Paul: Or a parent where there wasn't something outright, but you look at it over the years and you're like 'Wow, you know, somebody that really, truly loves me wouldn't have this pattern of activity.'
Stefanie: Yeah, I agree. I also think you look at why...For me, towards the end of my drinking was definitely to quell anxiety. I was self-medicating. I think that the fear of being anxious was so great that I just did not want...There was no way I was going to recognize that I had a drinking problem until it had to become so crystal clear to me. And I'm so relieved that I got to see it when I did. Even though I fought it in my brain for a long time, I would hear people talk and go "I went to rehab 20 times, that's a real alcoholic." And I'd go 'Well there you go, I'm not a real alcoholic.' But in the end I had to go 'Well then why am I here? I'm here because I don't want to drink anymore and that has to be enough at some point.' And then the longer I gave myself permission that that's okay and that's a good enough reason, the more I realized 'Oh yeah, oh yeah.'
Paul: You heard your story told by somebody else. Or not?
Stefanie: I heard my story told and the bottom line is I'm a person when I start drinking I rarely can gauge, I'm a very unpredictable drinker. It's when I put it in my body, yeah, sometimes I have two drinks but I do, I pat myself on the back 'There you go, only had two drinks.' Most of the time I don't. Most of the time I'll keep drinking until either I go to sleep or I don't have any more, or...You know what I mean? I'll try to convince people to drink with me. I was the queen of telling my husband 'Come on, let's just get another bottle. Are you kidding me, you don't want to...?' I couldn't understand people not wanting to drink when they could.
Paul: My wife pointed out I might have a drinking problem when she caught me pounding a glass of wine before we were going out to dinner, because I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but--
Stefanie: Of course!
Paul: --you're watching the bottle of wine, the level of it disappear, and the table, and 'That person's about to refill theirs'. You know, normal people don't play that out in their head and go 'I've gotta get my three glasses in here otherwise I'm not gonna be able to relax.'
Stefanie: Right. And you know I think it's funny now, I try not to judge anybody else's drinking, but to me that's the biggest sign that I'm dealing with somebody who has a drinking problem, when I notice the business going on in their head around the wine at the table, you know? When you're not drinking you can so clearly see the people that are like "So, uh, are we gonna get wine for the table? Do we wanna get.." The person who's going "Should we order two bottles?" Or when the wine is done that person's going "Yeah, so, uh...", trying to be too nonchalant about it.
Paul: But you know it's so important to them.
Stefanie: Oh yeah.
Paul: You know it's so important to them.
Stefanie: Yeah. And then when the other person says "Well, I don't need any more," and you see the panic set in, and they don't wanna be the person going "I just thought we should get another bottle...Well, okay, I'll just get another glass." You know what I mean?
Stefanie: I'm so glad that's not me anymore.
Paul: So what else would you like to talk about? Do you wanna talk about motherhood at all?
Stefanie: If you think that's of interest to anybody.
Paul: What are some things--
Stefanie: I've made a living off of being honest about the fact that motherhood triggers a lot of mental unrest in people. I won't say mental illness but I will say it brings out the worst in a lot of people because, you know, I think most women that are sane want to be a good mom but it's laden with a lot because of our upbringings but how we wanna be different than our parents because that's the worst in a lot of people because, you know, I think most women that are sane want to be a good mom but it's laden with a lot because of all of our upbringings and how we wanna be different than our parents but how that's all we know. I know a lot of women, even normal women who don't have the same stuff I have, that it just undoes them. Especially those early months because there's this whole thing where people say it's so amazing and it's the greatest thing they've ever done and they've wanted to be a mother since they were young, and most people don't talk about just how draining it is, and how hard it is, especially the beginning. So a lot of people have a baby and then are like 'What's wrong with me? If I hate this there must be something wrong with me. I must be a bad person that I hate this and that I feel like I made a big mistake.'
Paul: That has to be so scary and painful, to experience that.
Stefanie: Yeah, it is. But I think that because I've always been an outsider, I don't have the same need to blend in. So I've always been more comfortable saying how things are for me and then being surprised when people are like "I can't believe you just said that!" So the first book I wrote was about that, it was about like 'Let's stop driving ourselves crazy, it's okay if you don't love your baby right away. I think it's normal. I didn't, and now I'm totally into my kid. I love being a mom now, didn't at the beginning, I think that's fine. Here's all the reasons why it's not normal to love your kid right away. You don't even know them, you know?' Seriously! There's all these people that are like "I loved my baby the first moment I saw them." Well, I didn't love my husband the first moment I saw him, it took a while, you know? You've gotta get to know them. They don't have a personality. It's like being set up on a date, that's what I kind of likened it to in my head, like you just have basically a fuzzy picture to go off of, you know? The ultrasound. And you're just supposed to have all these feelings because it's just natural because of the chemical? It's like 'No, not everybody feels that way.'
Paul: You're gonna wait until the first thing they say and see if it's witty or not.
Paul: If the kid says something that's not witty you just put 'em in the basket and just drive them and set them on somebody's doorstep.
Stefanie: Yeah. 'I don't' think you belong here.' I'm lucky because my kids are all funny.
Paul: How old are your kids?
Stefanie: My twins are turning five next month and my older daughter is turning eight next month.
Paul: So, to somebody that's thinking of being a parent, what would you say?
Stefanie: I would say hope for the best but expect the worst at the beginning. It could really suck, you could get depressed, and just know that that might happen but that in the end I don't know a single person who isn't madly in love with being a parent. There's good things and there's bad things, it's not all the women that are sarcastic and negative about parenting. I think the reason why a lot of people, especially moms these days, get such a kick out of being negative about parenting is it's because the unspoken part is we all love it. Like we all love our kids, so we don't have to go around saying 'I love my kids so much', you know, because then we'd sound like a Stepford person. But it doesn't happen for everybody right away, and that's okay.
Paul: But most people come around, but some people don't. Because the surveys that people take on my website, more than a few times I've had people say "I don't like my kids. I don't like being a mom. I don't like being a dad."
Paul: Yeah. There are some people that are that way.
Stefanie: Well...That's sad.
Paul: Yeah. My guess--
Stefanie: But they're listening to a mental illness podcast, so maybe they have some untreated mental illness. Maybe they have some depression or some anxiety that's blocking them from being able to enjoy it.
Paul: Experiencing joy or bonding to other people. That would be my guess.
Stefanie: 'Cause you know what they say, when you're drinking all the time or when you're using drugs or when you're doing things to cope, you cut off the anxiety but you also cut off your ability to experience joy or pleasure or love or intimacy.
Paul: And connect. And if you've grown up kind of mentally fucked-up, you think that excitement is the joy that people talk about. You think that burst of adrenaline that you get when the buzz hits you, you think that that's the same thing as the joy of connecting to another person, but you just don't need people. 'All I need is my buzz', but the joy of connecting to another person is so much more three dimensional and detailed and satisfying than that excitement of something kind of jolting. To me the drinking and the drugs is kind of like candy for the soul, it gives you a big burst that feels really good but ultimately if that's all you put in there you're gonna get sick.
Stefanie: Also, this might be a little off-topic, but I didn't fall in love for the first time until I was 26, which is pretty late. I had a lot of...It sounds so cliché to call it problems with intimacy, but I was not capable of ...The thing is, I equated love with pining. Only the pining feeling. So the second somebody liked me back I got a what my friends and I call the "grossed-out feeling". You know? It was probably very tormenting to a lot of men that I dated because I would like them so much where I would think I was in love with them and then the second...But especially if they weren't sure about me or if I felt like I was trying to prove it or if there was a lot of anxiety and pining and sadness involved in my wanting them to like me and pay attention to me. The second they liked me back, which usually...whatever. The second that happened I didn't want them to touch me, there was things about them that I just found abhorrent, and...you know, wouldn't return phone calls. I was done. Cut off. And I couldn't get over it. I mean I went to therapy and I was like 'Why can I like somebody back who likes me?' And you know it's just something that I really had to work through. But even with my husband I wasn't into him right away until I felt a little bit nervous about his feelings about me and that's when I really like...But the thing is I still know people that equate love with only that feeling of being unsure, which gives you that adrenaline, that rush when they call you, you feel that joy and you never hit that...it just is.
Paul: People think that that's love and it's not, it's an unhealed neediness for validation. If you paint love as how it is painted in love songs and in movies, it is the biggest myth-maker, movies and love songs, because what it's really describing is emotional obsession about people. Real love is about accepting somebody's flaws when both of you are having a shitty day. Showing up for somebody even when you don't want to. And yes, you have the joy and you have the intimacy and those moments...Being able to disagree in a way that is still respectful to each other. These are things that love is made of and so often I think people are looking for that high and it's unreasonable. It's a childish expectation of what love is. That doesn't mean there can't be excitement and you can't get butterflies about that person but--
Stefanie: But do really think you still get butterflies? I hear people say that and I don't buy it.
Paul: Not after a while.
Stefanie: Yeah. Unless the person's making you wonder, why else would you get nervous around somebody that...? I mean I still look at my husband and go 'God, I'm so lucky. You know, I'm so lucky. He makes me laugh so hard.' Or, 'He's so cute.' I'm so happy with him, I'm so happy that we're together, but I don't get butterflies, even if he's been out of town, I don't go like 'Oh, what's it gonna be like when I see him...' You know what I mean? He's my husband. And to me that's better, I'm glad I don't get...I don't want that feeling, I don't miss that feeling of wondering how somebody feels about me. I think I'm a super-needy person for sure, and luckily I found somebody who our neuroses kind of fit together and it is healing if you find the right person, you know what I mean? If you can be your most needy, horrible self and realize 'Oh, that person hasn't left me.' But then it's moving on from there, you know what I mean? It's like once you've been as needy as you can be and the person didn't go "That's gross" and leave you, then get your shit together is what I say, 'cause you can't put that on the other person forever, 'cause they are gonna leave.
Paul: To enter into a healthy relationship I think you should be okay with not being in a relationship. I think that is the best way to go in to something, because I think when we go in there in a place of 'I've gotta find somebody', you're gonna find probably a) you're gonna date somebody who's gonna eventually feel smothered by you and they're gonna break up with you, or you're gonna find somebody who is initially seems awesome but then eventually becomes really controlling and abusive. I see that all the time, all the time. And a lot of people accept that because it's familiar to them because they were treated like shit as children and they don't know how to leave and that other person then convinces them nobody else is gonna love you, you're this, you're that. I read so many emails and survey responses of people that are stuck in that pattern and they don't know how to get out of it.
Stefanie: Yeah. It's hard not to repeat the stuff that we know.
Paul: Really hard.
Stefanie: I don't know how I did it. Maybe it was because I had a lot of therapy, but I don't know. It's so hard. You can do all this therapy and all this thinking about it and analyzing, and I feel like until you are actually in a relationship having to go through it, it's sort of like talking about quitting drugs and alcohol. Until you do it and you just get in the middle of it and get to the other side of that beginning part, you can't know.
Paul: To me, real mature love begins when you are able to tell somebody something that is hard to tell them, that you're afraid to tell them, but you tell them anyway and you're able to tell them in a way that doesn't inflame things, that is kind of couched in love but is direct and honest. That to me is really the underpinning, the foundation of a healthy relationship. Because you're going to disagree about things--
Stefanie: But like what?
Paul: For instance, I didn't like the way my wife--for years I let this fester, for 20 years--the way she would disagree with me. There was a tone to her voice that was dismissive that hurt my feelings. And it wasn't until one of my support groups about six months ago that I realized I should listen to that feeling in my stomach when she talks to me that way. She's super-loving to me in other ways, that just happens to be she was raised in a household that's very Italian, very vocal, very demonstrative. I was raised in a house that's like the movie Ordinary People. Nobody talked about anything--
Stefanie: So was my husband.
Paul: Yes. And so it hurt my feelings. So I was able to come to her and instead of the next time she did it going 'Fuck you! You fucking cunt! I'm so sick of you talking to me that way!' I went to her and said--
Stefanie: I'm glad you didn't call her a cunt. That probably saved the day.
Paul: That time. I can't even remember the last time...I don't know if I've ever called her that.
Stefanie: You'd know.
Paul: Yeah, I suppose.
Stefanie: It would still come up in arguments, trust me.
Paul: She calls herself that a couple of times a year. But I went to her and I said 'I really don't like it when you disagree with me, the tone of voice that you use with me, it hurts my feelings.' And she had no idea, and so that's something that she is working on and she has accepted that. But if I didn't think I was worth sticking up for and if I didn't know how to express that to somebody else, there would be a wall between us, or at least a higher wall than there was. There's still a wall in our relationship, you know, we've been in it 24 years and I am just learning how to...It's a small wall, it's low, it used to be very tall because I wouldn't let anybody in. And I've learned brick by brick how to express myself. And as she has, the wall gets lower and lower, and I think that's what love is, sticking around and saying 'Alright, let's bring this next brick down together.' And she has learned to express to me that I can be emotionally withholding and cold and inconsiderate. You know that's something I've been working on for 20 years but I'm trying to work on it. And I listen to her because she approaches me in a way that is loving when she says "It hurts my feelings that I told you that this is what I'd like for dinner and you brought this other thing that I've told you like four or five times I don't like to eat."
Stefanie: You cunt.
Paul: You cunt. And so we work on it and that to me is love, those moments where you're working together in a partnership to do stuff that's not necessarily fun or comfortable.
Stefanie: Yeah. I agree. I completely agree. My husband and I early on, there were certain things he did in a fight that reminded me of my stepfather and it would trigger me. And I had to tell him 'When you do this...' When he loses his temper, which is so rarely, but when he does he can seem aggressive. I can't really explain it because he's not an aggressive person, but when he'd walk towards me and would kind of be getting in my face I had to tell him 'Listen, when you do that the response you're gonna always get from me is you're gonna just shut me down because I'm done. I won't go there. So if that's your goal then you're gonna succeed. It's not gonna move forward. I'm not gonna fight back with you, I'm just gonna sit down and shut down. And he's told me that I tend to get very global, like when we get into a fight it's all or nothing. I'm mentally packing my bags, even now, we've been together a long time and we can get into a small fight and I could be thinking 'Ok, whose house would I sleep at? Like have I alienated all of my single friends? Who would let me sleep on their couch with all my kids? Jeez.'
Paul: Am I gonna get a studio or a one-bedroom?
Stefanie: Yes! Am I gonna be at the Oakwoods? How does that work?
Paul: Do I need a pool?
Stefanie: You know? And then I'm like already thinking 'Well, I could be single. I mean it's gonna kind of suck for a while, I mean I'm in my 40s. That's not gonna be the greatest situation, with three kids. I've got a lot of baggage. But I'll make it work if I have to. I'll move on.' I used to get in fights with him where I would say 'Well, maybe we should get a divorce. How about that? If I'm so horrible then why are you with me? Maybe you should meet somebody...' I mean, I would go there. And it took a while for him to go "When you do that it's very unsettling and it really hurts my feelings and I would appreciate if we could get into a fight and you would not say we're splitting up, that's horrible for me."
Paul: "Not go nuclear on me."
Stefanie: Yeah. And sometimes the words do come into my brain and I have to go out of respect for him 'I know in my core being that we're not getting divorced over this.' So I have to respect him enough...And we have other rules too...No swearing. I'm not allowed to go "What the FUCK", and he's not allowed to either. It's a respect thing. So that shows me that it's a healthy relationship because I'm able to abide by those rules, even if I'm really mad.
Paul: And the other thing I've discovered is you can...You'll have that ball of rage, or maybe I should just speak for myself, but when you get into a disagreement sometimes and you're feeling that passion come up, you can let it out, just don't let it out at them. Like I'll say 'I'm so fucking angry right now, I can't describe what it is that I'm frustrated about but I'm super fucking frustrated and I just wanna put my fist through a fucking wall!' If I let her know that 'I'm just feeling frustrated and I don't wanna hit you, I am just feeling rage,' then you're able to let it out, you're just directing it in a healthy direction.
Paul: 'Cause there are no unhealthy emotions, there are just unhealthy ways of expressing them.
Paul: You know? And I used to think if I felt something negative, it meant I was a bad person because I was feeling this. Or that other person had to be wrong, when in reality it's a lot more nuanced than that. 'Cause there could be stuff from 10 years ago that we don't even realize. Or for you, the fact that you realized that that reminded you of your stepfather and that caused you to shut down, that's a really nuanced, mature way of dealing with something. That to me is such a beautiful example of love. That is--
Stefanie: I'm not always great at it, though. I will say that my husband sometimes get depressed and that sometimes reminds me of my father. When he gets low I get really scared because my stepfather used to shut himself in his room for like days at a time, and I didn't know it was depression. I mean he would say he wasn't feeling well, or he has a headache or something. But I learned later that it was depression and when somebody is feeling low, it triggers me. I get scared, and that sometimes can feel like I'm angry with them. You know what I mean? And he'll say "You can't be mad at me for feeling depressed, or feeling low." And I will eventually go 'It's not that I'm mad, I'm scared. I'm scared that you're always gonna be this way, or you're not gonna be accessible now for days at a time.' And he'll have to say "I'm not him. I'm a different person and you know that I always come out of this, this is just how I feel and I can't help how I feel." And he's right.
Paul: Does that help ease those feelings, when he says that?
Stefanie: Sometimes. But you know, I've got my co-dependent things where I'm a little bit dependent on his mood and if he's in a bad mood I think it's about me, and then I get mad because I think he's mad at me but he's not even mad at me and if I was to just take the time to say...I used to at the first year of our relationship, it must have been so tedious for him, it was 'Are you mad at me? Are you mad at me? How about now? Now are you mad at me? That last thing I just said, did that make you mad? Is it making you mad that I'm asking you if you're mad at me?' I luckily don't do that anymore.
Paul: My wife, when she's sick, I try to do nice things for her when she's sick, and she gets so wrapped up in her feeling of being sick that she forgets to smile and it took me 20 fucking years to tell her 'It makes me anxious--'
Stefanie: "You're a selfish cunt when you're sick!"
Paul: 'It makes me feel taken for granted', and she had no idea. Most of us don't know the face that we put on when we're feeling certain things but the other person that lives with that face knows it all too well and is reading things into it that may not even be there. And if you don't talk about it you're never gonna know that. And if you don't talk about it in a way that's healthy you're never gonna reach that goal of you both understanding each other because it's gonna be 'You fucking always do that' or 'I'm so sick of your fucking whatever'.
Stefanie: Yeah, I think that a long time ago, in the first year of dating my husband, he told me the thing that triggers him...We got into this bad cycle early on where I would, because of my past, I would take little things that he did as signs that he didn't like me anymore. This is a big fear I have that somebody's gonna change their mind but not tell me, they're just gonna go along to get along because they're too chicken shit to tell me they don't wanna be with me anymore, but they're just gonna do little things to kind of show me that they're not into it and make me break up...I have this whole scenario in my head.
Paul: Oh my God.
Stefanie: Crazy, right?
Paul: Continue, this is awesome.
Stefanie: So what I would do is take little things he did, like if he was late to pick me up I became like Cosmo Magazine and I'd be like 'Well, he obviously doesn't value my time, so now he's on notice in my head.' But I would just internalize it and then be mad but then I'd think 'That's kind of crazy.' I can't just come right out and go 'The fact that you were 15 minutes late tells me that you don't really value my time, and if you don't value my time then you obviously don't really want to be in a relationship with me. 'Cause somebody who wanted to be in a relationship with me would be EARLY.' I'd have all these rules going. So if I voiced 'That's crazy'...But I couldn't get out of being mad about it, soI would just be mad and then he'd have to go "Everything ok?" He had no idea any of this was going on in my head. He'd be like he had a long day at work...He's a chronically late person, to this day he's still late, but I live with him so I don't experience him coming to pick me up late. He's just late to leave. So anyway, I would go 'No, everything's fine.' And then he'd go "Okay, it really seems like you're kind of pissed off though." And I'd go 'No, I don't know what you're talking about, everything's fine', and we'd go and later obviously I'd stop being mad at some point or we'd get into a fight. We had a lot of fights the first year. But eventually at some point he said to me "You know, growing up my mom would get in these really bad moods and be frustrated at my dad all the time. And as a little kid I always thought it was about me and it triggers me when you're pissed off and I don't know why, I don't know what it's about. I assume I've done something wrong, that I'm bad, that you're angry at me and then I kind of shut down. And, whatever. Like, I don't know what this bitch is mad about. So I would appreciate it if you're mad at me, just tell me." And then I said to him 'But I'm scared that I'm gonna come off like a crazy person, and really needy, 'cause the stuff I'm mad about is so stupid that I create...' And he's like "Well, then let's have an agreement. You tell me what it is, no matter how dumb it is, and if it's dumb I'll just go 'That's kind of dumb, I didn't do anything', and if it's reasonable then I'll try to correct it." So oh my God, if that wasn't the most painful thing to have to work through! To have to just be mad and go 'I'm kind of mad about something and you're gonna think it's stupid', and he'd go "Okay, what is it?" and I'd go 'Well, when I called you and you were kind of quiet on the phone and then I thought maybe something was wrong but then I....' You know? It would be craziness and then he'd go "Okay, I'm glad you shared that with me, no, I wasn't mad, and I don't even know what you're talking about, but I wasn't mad at you and I wasn't intentionally..." And then I'd go 'Okay.' And then we could move on.
Paul: That is so awesome.
Stefanie: And I still to this day it's a rule in my head, 'I'm not allowed to be mad and not tell him why, even if it's stupid.'
Paul: That is love. That to me is love, or certainly a healthy partnership. If you can't tell the person that you're committed to when your feelings are hurt or when you're scared, your relationship is doomed. I think it's doomed. And some people don't know how to do that and that's why I think therapy is so great, because it's the first place where it's completely safe to say 'This hurt my feelings,' because that person obviously hasn't done anything to you that you're spilling all of this stuff to, and it's a safe place.
Stefanie: Right. But it's worse if you tell them and it starts...I'll just be so bitchy that it's not fair.
Paul: And it's never about the thing. It's always about five things ago.
Stefanie: Yeah. Or it's just about my imagined 'He's gonna leave me,' especially after I had the kids. Oh my God I had some postpartum paranoia too. I remember I had made a new friend, a mom friend at a mommy and me group and we laugh about this to this day, so I'll preface it by saying she's a super-close friend of mine to this day, so we've known each other eight years. Our fledgling friendship...We'd met at this group, we hadn't really socialized before, I think we had socialized one time, and then we were gonna go for a walk. So she had come to my house, we both had infants, we were gonna go walk around the lake and I had gotten into a huge fight with John where I was flinging around the D-word and he got really mad. This was before we made the agreement we were never gonna do that. But my emotions were going crazy--
Paul: You mean YOU were never gonna do that 'cause you're the only one--
Stefanie: Yeah I was the only one, but before we had that agreement and he had said "Do not, please, unless you're serious, don't ever bring up the D-word, unless you're serious about it don't throw that around..."
Paul: Divorce, right?
Stefanie: Divorce. Yeah. So I was insane. I went on this walk and I was obsessing, going 'We got into this fight and he's gonna leave me and...,' and that never happened again because it was some postpartum insanity that I was going through. But we still laugh about it. I go 'You must have thought I was an insane person,' and she's like "No, 'cause I was kind of feeling crazy too so I thought it was normal. Thank God, I feel the same way. Yeah, our husbands are gonna leave us and we're fat and disgusting and negative and no one will ever love us..."
Paul: Isn't it awesome to get that out, to say that to another person and to feel felt?
Paul: Oh my God, I could feel myself relaxing just hearing you say that, just like 'Ah'. What it must have felt like to have that inside you and then to have that validated either as crazy or not crazy, but just to have another person to bounce that off of and when we isolate, which I think most people that are depressed, we're wired to isolate. Isolate or drain people, one of the two.
Stefanie: This is why I love being honest about this stuff though. When I quit drinking I talked about it on my blog and I was so petrified that people were gonna go "Oh my God, she's a horrible mother. What kind of a person is drinking with their kids?" And I couldn't believe the support. And the people that emailed me constantly, the stream of it day after day of people going "I think I might have a problem too," and I realized that there's such power in being honest in a public forum. I get such a charge out of people telling me "I was so glad you said such-and-such because I feel the same way," or "I have these kind of fights with my husband," or "I have...", and not just the drinking but just the feelings that we all have.
Paul: The reasons why we drank.
Stefanie: Right. I just think that most people don't talk...This is not dinner conversation.
Paul: But it should be. 'Cause I'm so bored when it's just small talk and talking about the local sports team or the weather.
Stefanie: You wanna go 'Who fucked you up when you were a kid? Let's talk about that.'
Paul: Would that be a great dinner party? You just go around each one and you just talk about maybe your most shameful moment, your most embarrassing moment. What are some shameful or embarrassing moments that you can think of, that have happened?
Stefanie: Well, the incident that led to my quitting drinking would be number one. When I came to LA I went and tracked my father down, he was performing at a club, at a jazz club in LA. I found him in the LA Weekly and I went to the club and I had all kinds of hopes about this, he was gonna be so thrilled to see me, and he didn't recognize me. That was pretty embarrassing, it felt humiliating. He saw me, he thought I was a fan, and I said 'It's me', and he gave me this look like "And you are...?" Like "You look familiar." And then I said 'It's your daughter, Stefanie.' He only has one daughter, by the way. He has kids from four marriages but I'm the only girl. And then he was like "Oh, Stef!" But that moment kind of seared a place in my psyche of like 'He didn't even know...' It hadn't been that many years, either. I had seen him briefly when I was 16, so this was when I was 18. It had only been a couple of years. It's not like I was a completely different person or I had shaved my head or something. So that sucked. Waking up after just being drunk in my 20s, especially not knowing where my car is, stuff like that. Sleeping with people, that kind of one night stand shame. Oh, doing coke at like 20. I went off with some guy. I wrote this whole story, too, in my book, so I've kind of purged some of my most shameful things. Um, freebasing cocaine in my apartment. I didn't know that it was freebasing at the time but I knew it was bad, what we were doing, and that we were dealing with some really criminal elements, the people who were giving us drugs, and that smoking it has to be...either we're freebasing it or we're doing something that's very bad. Then I was the only person who was awake, so this guy, this drug dealer who was in our apartment, accused me of stealing some rocks, some coke rocks. I guess they'd fallen into the carpet, but since I was the only person awake I was accused of stealing the drugs, and I really didn't. So that was a really bad moment. He was gonna go out and get a gun, and I remember thinking 'I'm a 20-year-old girl who's kind of a goody-goody.' I'd only lost my virginity at 19, the year before, and I just remember thinking 'Wow, who am I? What kind of a life am I leading?' I stopped doing coke when I was 21.
Paul: There's nothing worse than a coke hangover, coke and drinking, 'cause you can drink so much when you're on coke.
Stefanie: Yeah, I couldn't drink. I would just sit and grit my teeth and think crazy thoughts. Oh one time I went to a club and then went off with some guy who said he had a lot of coke with my friend and I did all this coke. It was like the full-on '80s, just doing mounds of coke off a credit card, and got so crazy high that I think I had a little manic...I came up with this theory about religion and spirituality, how ants can't comprehend us and that how God is...and I had woken my roommate up to tell her about this whole thing and she was like "Just write it down", and I go 'I can't write it down, there's too much' and she was like "Just make a tape recording of yourself." She was like "I can't listen to this, you're fucked up." And I was like 'You don't understand, this is how great ideas...there's a book here. This is real.' So I was literally up all night, and finally I got her to go with me, we had to drive and go find some pot. I'll never forget just being like 'This is bad. I'm so high.' I thought maybe I needed to go to the hospital or something, except that my ideas were too good. Coming too fast and furious and too good, but I needed to come down. So I was awake for a day and a half, just in a coke frenzy. That's bad, right?
Paul: That's fantastic, I love it. Do you feel like doing a fear-off? Love off?
Stefanie: Sure, yeah. I wrote some down. Let's do this.
Paul: I am going to be doing--
Stefanie: Mine are a little bit sad.
Paul: That's alright. I'm going to be doing the fears from a listener...
Stefanie: Do you think this helps people?
Paul: From what they say. I get emails from people that say they do it with their friends now, like at dinner they'll have fear-offs.
Stefanie: I mean the whole podcast. The whole thing.
Paul: Oh the podcast? I think so.
Stefanie: Or do you think it's just a bunch of voyeurs that are like "God those people are fucked up"?
Paul: I think both. I think we get three different types of listeners. I think we get people that find comfort from it, I think we get people that are voyeurs and are entertained by it, and I think we get people who have a loved one that has something that we're talking about and they want to understand it better. I've gotten a couple of emails from people who had a loved one commit suicide and they emailed me and said that they now understand better what that person was dealing with and what it must have felt like, and while they aren't okay with the fact that that person killed themselves, they feel comforted by having an idea of what that person was living with. And then there's probably people that just listen out of spite.
Stefanie: There are so many people in this world that are just angry and like to hate people for no reason.
Paul: I don't get many hateful emails, though, because I think we hate on us before they even have a chance to.
Paul: Alright. You wanna start?
Stefanie: I have a fear of my husband leaving me for somebody much less complicated.
Paul: That's a good one. I'm gonna be reading the fears of LaLa Latte Junkie. And she says "I fear I will never be doing enough for my family."
Stefanie: I have that one too. It's not a competition LaLa Latte. Okay, I have a fear that I'm gonna start eating sugar again and then not be able to stop until I've gained 50 pounds.
Paul: She says "I fear that my autistic daughter will not grow up to live a meaningful life in society."
Stefanie: I fear that my daughter, who is a tomboy to the extreme, one of my ones that's turning five, I fear that she will get teased at school and not fit in and be sad.
Paul: She says "I fear that I will never feel normal, despite being on medication." I have that fear.
Stefanie: I fear driving Route 1, those cliffs. My parents used to drive them stoned and I have such a fear of falling off a cliff and that's how I'll die, falling off a cliff.
Paul: Driven by hippies. She says "I fear I will never fulfill my dream of being a writer. Although I have started a romance erotic novel, I can't find the time to finish it."
Stefanie: I fear reading an erotic novel.
Paul: I read something by Anais Nin, I don't know if I'm pronouncing her name correctly, when I was in my 20s and having all my one-night stands. I took and acting class with a woman who was like 10 years older than me and I think I was her little boy toy and she would give me erotic books to read, I guess to get me...Like a 20-year-old guy needed to be coaxed into being horny. I think that's the only one I've ever read, it was called Little Birds, it was a bunch of little stories.
Stefanie: I have not read that, and I must be the only housewife that's never read 50 Shades of Gray, but I don't really have much interest in that. I'll just read Penthouse forum if I need some porn, you know? Why dumb it down? I have a fear of being broken up with and I have a fear my marriage isn't working and I don't know, I don't see it coming.
Paul: I have that fear.
Stefanie: And all of the sudden he says "It hasn't been working for years" and I go 'Why didn't you say something?'
Paul: Yeah. Latte Junkie says "I fear I'm narcissistic and important in my head but everyone around me secretly laughs at how much of a loser I really am."
Stefanie: I have that one too. I fear people not liking me and secretly thinking I'm selfish and narcissistic.
Paul: And there's some secret about you, a trait that you have that you don't even realize you have, and it defines you, and other people are just rolling their eyes at how obvious it is about you.
Stefanie: Yes. And no one will have the courage to tell me that thing.
Paul: Do you have one, or are you out?
Stefanie: I have a fear of my daughters having an eating disorder or thinking they're fat. They're really fat, so...Just kidding. Just kidding.
Paul: She says "I fear the economy completely failing and America being thrown back into a depressive state we will never recover from."
Stefanie: I fear waking up and having anxiety and not having any method to cope with it anymore.
Paul: She says "I fear anyone who's extreme about religion or politics."
Stefanie: I fear Scientologists.
Paul: She says "I fear child services taking my daughter away from me because they think I am unable to care for her properly due to all of her delays, special needs, and the struggle to keep her weight up."
Stefanie: One of my twins was born small. One of my twins, where she attached, had scarring they found out later, so she has something called IUGR, which is intra-uterine growth restriction, so she was born only two pounds at 34 weeks. So I had a real fear, when I stopped drinking, that people would think that the reason she's small was because I drank when I was pregnant, which I didn't do. But I have tons of fear about her, she's very small still. She's 15 pounds lighter than her twin sister and I have a fear of her health.
Paul: I can't imagine how intense parents' fears of child-related things must be. How many of them there must be and how intense they must be. Latte Junkie says "I fear one day the beast, depression, will win."
Stefanie: These are dark.
Paul: This is the place.
Stefanie: I think I've given you all mine.
Paul: It is amazing the synchronicity. That was her last fear. I can't tell you how many times this happens on the show, there's just these weird moments of synchronicity. I'll kick it off with her loves. She says "I love when my daughter spontaneously says 'I love you Mommy' despite her speech delay."
Stefanie: I love the feeling of being really obsessed with a song and I have to play it until I'm just sick of it. And I love when I get one and there's a tipping point when I go 'Oh my God, now I have to listen to this song until I'm sick of it.'
Paul: I do the same thing, that's hilarious.
Stefanie: It's one of our last things we can be obsessed with, right?
Paul: Right. She writes "I love anything pumpkin-flavored in the fall." That's a good one.
Stefanie: Me too! Latte Lover and I are kind of alike, I think. We were meant to be friends. I love the smell of jet fuel.
Paul: Are you kidding me?
Stefanie: No, I love it. Always have, since I was a little kid.
Paul: Oh, it almost makes me barf on the spot.
Stefanie: Maybe we're not meant to be friends.
Paul: She says "I love when my husband randomly calls me to go out to lunch on my break, like a date." That's sweet.
Stefanie: I love the black jelly bean.
Paul: And the black Chuckle.
Stefanie: I love a black Chuckle!
Paul: She says "I love that my family is absolutely fucking nuts." That's a good one.
Stefanie: Wow. I don't. I love finding stuff on eBay from the '70s, like Wacky Packs or clogs, and buying myself something.
Paul: Nice pair of earth shoes?
Stefanie: Yes. Familares. Do you remember those?
Stefanie: Those are the shoes that they're a rubber bottom and they wave.
Paul: Oh, yes. She writes "I love walking down Main Street in my small town and looking in all the windows of the mom and pop shops, seeing how they put so much time and thought into their window displays." That's a great one.
Stefanie: Yeah. I love it when my daughter tries something new that she was afraid of. I like the look on her face of pure triumph when she goes on a scary ride, or goes somewhere late, when she overcomes a fear it gives me such a rush.
Paul: That has to be cool.
Stefanie: Did I mention my love of Vicodin?
Paul: You did. If you could get a Vicodin-injected black Chuckle, and just eat those all day. Black licorice helps you poop, so it would take care of all of that.
Stefanie: Somebody needs to invent that.
Paul: Somebody needs to jump right on that.
Stefanie: I'm gonna have to ask you to sign a waiver in case I do go ahead and go forward with my invention of that.
Paul: You can have it. Latte Junkie says "I love when my cat Dexter, yes he is named after the fictional serial killer, wakes me every morning by kneading my pillow and purring."
Stefanie: Well I'll jump off of hers and say that I love when an episode of Dateline starts and someone's just been brutally killed. I especially love when it's a two-hour Dateline special.
Paul: I find something very comforting about documentaries about really dark shit. It's like a pillow that I just curl up in, and I go 'Oh, there's darkness elsewhere in the world, not just in my head.'
Stefanie: My husband hates it. He hates it and he will leave the room and he does not understand why I love it so much--
Paul: My wife too.
Stefanie: Law and Order...I'll take anything but if it's based on a real story it's so much better. If it's a documentary, I'm in.
Paul: That must be an alcoholic thing. We're so similar. We're so similar.
Stefanie: This is gonna be an airing episode, right?
Paul: Yes. All the episodes get shelved for a while because I have a backlog of many episodes.
Stefanie: For anybody who's listening who's wondering about the behind the scenes stuff, Paul sends you an email that says "Just to let you know, this episode might not air at all, just putting that out there. Might air in a year, might not air ever. Just know that." And of course you threw the gauntlet down to make this the best episode ever. This is gonna air if I have to kill myself with honesty.
Paul: You were very honest. I appreciate it.
Stefanie: You're welcome.
Paul: And people can catch your show on--
Stefanie: Go to nickmom.com and you can put in your zip code and it will tell you what time and what channel it airs near you. It's a grownup show, by the way. It's funny.
Paul: And they can go to stefaniewildertaylor.com...
Stefanie: Or just Google it.
Paul: Just fucking Google it.
Stefanie: It's not that hard, people.
Paul: What the fuck, you're just laying there depressed anyway, just roll over...
Stefanie: Don't you just get drunk and Google shit? Isn't that what people do? If you're sober, don't do that.
Paul: Thank you so much, Stefanie.
Stefanie: Okay. Thanks, Paul.
Paul: Many thanks to Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. I really enjoyed that conversation with her, she's so articulate at expressing so many things that are not easy to always articulate and I always appreciate when I get a guest like that, and it's somebody that makes me laugh and kicks my ass at cards. You know what, fuck her. Fuck her. I might have just turned on her and it might have been unfair.
Before I take it out with an email I got from a listener, I want to remind you that there's a couple of different ways to support the show if you feel so inclined. You can support it financially by going to the website, mentalpod.com, and making either a one-time PayPal donation or my favorite, a recurring monthly donation. Brings me a little closer to my dream of supporting myself doing this show. You can do a monthly recurring donation for as little as five bucks a month, which doesn't seem like a lot to you maybe but it means the world to me. So much appreciative to the people who have stepped forward and done that. You can also support the show by going through our Amazon search link on our home page, when you buy something at Amazon and then Amazon will give us a couple of nickels. It doesn't cost you anything. That search portal is on our home page, right side, about halfway down. It's kind of small but it's there, and like my penis. It's nice having your own podcast, you can just plow right ahead. You can also support the show non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating, writing something nice about the show if you feel so inclined. That brings our ranking up and that brings more people to the show. You can also spread the word through social media about the podcast, that is greatly appreciated. You can also sign up and be a transcriber, been having a lot of people sign up to do that lately and they're transcribing the old episodes. Many, many thanks to you guys out there, you know who you are, and I really, really appreciate it. I think that's about it.
So I'm going to take it out with this email I got from a listener who calls themselves J. I can't remember if this is a man or a woman, but I'm gonna read their email. It says "Hiya Paul." You gotta love an email that starts out with 'Hiya'. I just love that. "Ever since I can remember I suffered from serious anxiety, then around 13 I started having problems with depression. When people ask me what I remember about my childhood, I mostly remember being nervous. I was nervous about school, friends, siblings, parents, and God. I was convinced I would get leprosy because of sinning and would constantly check my nose and ears to see if they were falling off. Because as everyone knows, those are the first parts to go. I remember not sleeping because I had to go to school in the morning, crying to my parents to home school me because math class made me so nervous, one time crying in front of my class because I couldn't solve a math problem. I was a trumpet player and had a very aggressive band teacher. During pep band season he would test the trumpets by soloing. I was sick every day and used to fantasize about breaking my hands so I could quit playing. That dream was crushed when a fellow trumpeter broke his hand and was forced by the band teacher to keep playing, even with his hand in a cast. What a dick. When I was a senior I was the TA for the school office, and when someone would come to deliver something I would physically hide under the desk. I couldn't answer the telephone or doors. If I had to order pizza over the phone I would first cry and try to prepare myself, then I would write myself a note because I would get so nervous I would forget my name. I couldn't drive. My parents had to force me to get my license. I would have panic attacks driving and I would also get so nervous I would forget how to drive and make dangerous mistakes. I also had serious social phobias. My entire life I felt like people were watching me and judging me. I was extremely nervous in crowds and would shut down. Luckily I became a pretty good actress and people rarely noticed my severe social anxieties, or they just didn't care. I avoided parties at all costs. My parents would try to make me hang out with people. All I wanted to do after school was go home and sleep because people around me all day would exhaust me. Then I was also depressed. As long as I can remember, I remember being alone and knowing I would always be alone. I struggled with cutting, eating disorders, and other forms of self abuse. During my senior year of high school I became anorexic and lost a massive amount of weight. I had always been overweight and it was the first time in my life I was skinny, and I was miserable. Basically I lived in a deep pit of despair and eventually gained all the weight back and then some. A lot of some, actually. After going to college and dealing with more bad things, blah blah blah, I finally started to understand myself. I got a really good therapist, got put on great anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medicines, moved home, pursued a spiritual relationship with my god, opened up to friends, started exercising, and started for the first time in my life treating myself with respect, dammit. I had never valued myself enough to take care of me, and how could I when I hated myself so deeply. Then, I started to love who I was. I realized that this is the body I am in, this is the brain I was given. And these are the obstacles I have to face, and that is okay. No one has a perfect life. Everyone has problems to overcome, and I can overcome mine. Yeah, it takes work, and sometimes I don't do well, but I am conscious for the first time in my life. I think about what I do and what I say. I try not to judge others anymore, and try to put myself in their position first. I've discovered that very rarely people are acting out because of you--they are acting that way because of their pain and their past. And if you treat someone with love and respect, things usually work out better. To tell the truth, I have never been this happy in my life. Yes, I'm still extremely overweight, but I am working on it, and I am not obsessed with how I look. I no longer compare myself to other. I don't feel the need to surround myself with things. I am honest with everyone around me. I no longer hide or am ashamed of my anxieties, and I respect that I have certain triggers that i can stay away from or modify. I actually wake up joyful, can you believe that? Joyful. I know you understand the gravity of that since you suffer from depression as well. I didn't even know that was fucking possible. And I am content. Have you ever felt that? Where you feel good where you are at? It is amazing. My perspective on my life has totally changed and I never want to go back. Some of my friends ask me if I want to get off my medicines because of some of the side effects. I used to go off my meds all the time because I wanted to "fix myself" through determination and shit like that. Now I tell them 'Hell no. Are you kidding me? I don't want to fade away into nothingness anymore.' I am no longer afraid to leave the house. I can go to grocery stores and not flip out. I'm excited about the future. I wanted to say that if you are willing to do the work, your life can change. I know it is hard. Frick. I didn't--" I love when she says "Frick", I think it's a she. " I didn't do it forever, but it is so worth it. Find a therapist. Find out if you need medications or not. Go through all the months of trying meds and going off meds. Start exercising. Do positive affirmations. Be honest with how you feel or what you think with the people in your life. Find your spirituality and that can be anything. Think about what you say and do and why you do them. And most importantly, treat yourself and others with love. Because if you act from a place of love, you will see how your thoughts and actions will change. Man, I sound like a know-it-all, but I don't care. And yes, I am only 24 and don't know much, but I do know pain, and I do know what it feels like to be free of it. So please, Paul, tell your listeners whenever you can or think about it, that their lives aren't going to change by doing nothing. You really have to do the work, but fuck, it is so worth it. It is so freaking worth it." That is so beautiful. And I love how you said "fuck" and then "freaking". That was just one too many fucks for you, you had to pull back on the fucks. I get it. You're 24, you don't want to use all your fucks up early in your life. You wanna save some of them for the retirement home, I get it. But in all seriousness, that is the kind of email that I live for. That is the reason why I started doing this show, and to help myself, because honestly I can be kind of a sad, lonely motherfucker and this show connects me to you guys and I love it. This show gives me all the feelings I've always wanted in my life in a package I never expected it to come in, and it feels really good. So if you're out there and you're stuck, there is hope. You are not alone, and thanks for listening.