Episode 28: Teresa Strasser (Voted #1 Ep of 2011)
Adam Carolla’s former sidekick comes guns blazing to the fear-off. Holy shit she brings it. This one gets dark. From her being vanquished by a stepmother at age 3 to seriously considering suicide earlier in the year. Touching and funny. She is also the author of the critically-acclaimed pregnancy memoir Exploiting My Baby. Paul made a mistake when he uploaded the first version of this interview. Though an editing error, a reference to another female guest (with a book), sounded like Paul was talking about Teresa. Hopefully this version clears that up! Apologies to T for the mixup.
Paul: Welcome to episode 28 with my guest Teresa Strasser. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. Feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy; and that vague, sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour, we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky.
The advice that we give here is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling; I’m a jackass that tells dick jokes. This is not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck.
First, a few notes before we get to the interview with Teresa, uh, the website for this podcast is mentalpod.com. That’s also the twitter name you can follow me at. If you’d like to support the show, there’s two ways you can do it. You can do it financially by making a donation through, uh, PayPal, there’s a link on the website. And, uh, you can also support it non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating. That boosts our ranking, and that helps bring people to the show, which, uh, which I love. Umm, there’s also a survey you can take that helps me get to know you. The link for that is also on the, uh, on the website.
I owe a HUGE apology to Teresa Strasser. When I put this episode together originally, um, I—a lot of times when I’m editing an episode together, I think I know how something pieces together, and I don’t go back and play it through, and I started to tell a story about somebody I had interviewed; a woman who had written a book. Not Teresa Strasser, but someone else. And, uh, it made—because I had left a piece out that I thought I had edited in, it explained that it wasn’t Teresa, um, it sounded like I was talking about Teresa. And this person, not Teresa, who I’d interviewed, uh, had had, uh, some problems with the questions I’d asked her. They were, uh, um, a little too, too, uh, um, uh, sexual for, uh, her comfort, and, uh, as a result she asked me to edit some of that stuff out of the interview. And it made me feel bad about myself. And, that happened to be the day I was putting Teresa’s interview up. So, I was all caught up in feeling like a piece of shit about myself; so, in the beginning of Teresa’s interview and my introduction to it, I talked about having this rough experience interviewing this person and; because I’d left that piece out, everybody thought that Teresa was the person.
And so everybody—and Teresa’s an incredibly open person who’s willing to talk about any and everything. And, so, people thought I was talking about her. And I am so sorry. So I’ve gone back and I’ve edited this, put this in here and hopefully that clears it up. So, apologies to Teresa Strasser.
This is actually one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. In fact, I think probably my favorite interview to date. She’s open, and she’s honest, and, uh, I couldn’t love it more, and, uh, again, so sorry Teresa.
So here, uh, here is the interview with Teresa without my awkward, confusing introduction.
Paul: I’m here with Teresa Strasser, who I met, uh, well I guess it would have been about six years ago. Uh, you were Adam’s sidekick on the Adam Carolla Show on one of the FM stations here in town, in Los Angeles. And, uh, we just kind of immediately—I don’t know about you, but I just kind of immediately felt an affinity for you—
Teresa: That was totally unilateral. I didn’t—no, I’m sorry (laughs). No, no, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Paul: You were having a rough day when I went in there.
Paul: I think you and Dave Dameshek might have might have gotten into it or something—
Teresa: Was it that day?
Paul: Oh yeah, it was.
Teresa: Oh my God, it was!
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Teresa: Wow. That—I mean, you, you intersected—
Paul: Or, it was within a day of that—
Paul: But, but—
Teresa: That was a rough day.
Paul: It was, it was—and, and you were, you were trying to keep it together, and my heart just went out to you. And I think we had a little conversation in the break room. Even though I didn’t know you, um, I don’t know, we just kind of, we just kind of clicked. Uh—
Teresa: I remember this now. I think, it, it’s a recovered memory. Because that was so traumatic. And now I recall just a friendly face and also a male—
Teresa: Who wasn’t, who wasn’t—there was a bunch of guys there—
Paul: Very, very alpha male environment.
Teresa: There were no, essentially no women. There was producer Angie, and, who’s great, and me. And, so, um, it was really intense. And I worked in all male environments a lot in my career and I, I enjoy it. It just, something about that moment in time felt very much like, um, I felt really vulnerable. And for people who don’t know, which is probably everybody, because who gives a shit by now, but a male coworker on the Adam Carolla Show—who I’m, I’m very friendly with now, that’s all, what is it?
Paul: Water under the bridge?
Teresa: Blood under the bridge?
Paul: Water under the bridge?
Paul: Pus under the wound?
Teresa: Wait, bile under the bridge?
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Teresa: Uh, no, it’s really fine, and it’s just—we had—there was an, there was an unfortunate incident during a commercial break, during a live radio show. And he’s like kind of a bigger guy, and, um, we kind of got into it, and, uh, he told me to go fuck myself. It was very unexpected, and it was—physically I felt a little bit threatened and I, I was scared; but, more, emotionally, when someone yells at me, I just shut down. I just shut down.
Paul: And, and you were the new person in the, on the show.
Teresa: I was brand new. Yes, I was replacing a woman who had been the sidekick so I didn’t really know anybody and, as it turned out, the producer had kind of stirred up a fight between us because that makes good radio, and it worked, right? So there really wasn’t an honest beef between us, it was like, “Did you say this about me?” “Yeah.” “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” And then—
Paul: And he was probably thinking that you—cuz if you say that to, to guys, that’s a game that guys play. That’s—guys, guys do that with each other. That, you know, we let the steam out. We bag on each other.
Paul: And we get verbally aggressive.
Teresa: Yes. I learned that.
Paul: Some guys, not all guys, but, yeah.
Teresa: Well, I learned that on that job. Because, you know, I took a few punches, and at a certain point, a guy who worked on, on that show, Bald Bryan, who was then the phone screener, he pulled me aside and said, “Look. If you weren’t getting shit, that would mean no one liked you. That’s how we do.”
Teresa: And I went, oh. This is you guys accepting me? It hurts a lot but thank you. OK, I’ll take it. And, um, you know, that was rattling because then we, we went on the air and, I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, but I’m a crier. And it, what happens, it’s very physiological, I can be—sort of like, you stub your toe, and you know you’re not still stubbing your toe, but your toe still hurts? Like, I’ll get over something, and my body is still crying about it. And I can’t, I can’t, sometimes I—
Paul: It’s like there’s an emotion that, that lingers.
Teresa: Yes, it lingers. So, I—
Paul: Your crying has a long, delicate finish.
Teresa: (laughs) Like a wine?
Paul: Very oaky.
Teresa: And with top notes of despair.
Teresa: With a strong pathetic finish.
Teresa: Some tannins. Yeah, so that’s exactly it. It has a long, long—like a cheap, um, red wine. So, anyway, that, um that—we went back on the air. And I knew I was gonna cry. Just the way you know anything biological’s gonna happen to your body.
Paul: You can feel it. You can feel it comin’ like a big shit coming on. You’re like, “oh no.”
Teresa: You’re not gonna stop it. You’re not gonna get out of its way. This thing is a locomotive and Denzel Washington and that other guy are on it and they don’t know how to stop it. So, I knew I was gonna cry and in the back of my mind I thought, “I can go in the bathroom and save my dignity and probably save face. Or I can just cry on the air, which is gonna make this a better show.” (laughs) And, and I knew I was gonna cry, so I sort of chose to cry on the air because that was the more interesting thing to do and it sorta changed that show, I think. Because instead of it becoming about gags and bits, it became more about the relationships between the people; which I personally find more interesting and dynamic.
Paul: Me too.
Teresa: But um, so, I couldn’t stop crying. I mean, I think I cried for a straight hour on the air. And then this guy’s mom called in to yell and him for being rude. And then Adam made him broadcast from the bathroom as a punishment, which was smelly, and it turned out to be, uh, an entertaining show. But it was—I was devastated. D-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d. Mostly because I was embarrassed about the crying, even though I did, I did choose to cry on the air, on some level.
Paul: But, but you didn’t fake an emotion, you just decided when to let it out.
Teresa: I, I—
Paul: Which I think is an honest choice.
Teresa: What, was I going to be in the bathroom for an hour crying? I, I mean, once I start, I’m—it’s—I’m gonna, I’m gonna cry a long time, probably. Even after I feel better, like—and, I knew it was OK, and I was fine. I didn’t feel that bad any more, but my body was just gonna keep crying until whatever was out.
Paul: Yeah. And, and I think I was there the next day, because there was a tension in there that, that was, uh, that was palpable—
Teresa: It was so—
Paul: And you were still—you could still—you were still a little—fragile—
Teresa: Yeah, well, I got called into the boss’s office. “Do you want us to fire that guy?” Because they were worried. They were covering their own asses. So they wanted to make sure I was cool.
Teresa: And otherwise they were gonna fire this guy. Cuz they didn’t want me to say that it was a hostile work place, or any of that shit. And I said, “I’m absolutely fine.” And then, I remember the next day my agent called and she said, “Do you want me to get you out? Should I get you out? Should I get you out? Do you want me to…?” No. There’s no way. Like that’s not—I will not be (indistinct)—
Paul: That’s the last person you wanna be is also the person that if, if there’s a problem, clear everybody out.
Teresa: They sue or they go, ‘whatever’, or—if you’re gonna cry on the air, it’s at least gonna be amusing for people from a schadenfreude perspective, fine. But if you can’t handle, you know, taking a punch, then you probably shouldn’t be, um, doing radio, and I, I, I think I’m in a—
Paul: Certainly not on the Adam Carolla Show.
Teresa: Yes. And I’m in a—I’m kind of a, um, I’m straddling. Because on the one hand, I can take a punch. On the other hand, it hurts like fuck. So it’s not like I take the punch and go, “Oh, whatever, I’m Lisa Lampanelli.” No, it hurts. I feel it. But I just keep—
Paul: And by the way, she—her feelings are always hurt after the roasts.
Teresa: Yeah, what am I talking about? That’s, that’s not even a good comparison because she’s actually, um—has a really soft, chewy center.
Paul: Yeah. According to her, she does. Which makes sense to me. I think most people that dish it hard have a—do it because it keeps the, the focus off of them so they don’t get hurt.
Teresa: I think that’s why she can get away with it. It’s because I think it’s—you sense on some level that she’s not a malignant person. I met her a few times because she was a guest on the show—
Paul: Super sweet.
Teresa: Oh, my God, the nicest. And really open about her struggles, you know, with her weight, and, um, you know, going into rehab, and just very open, and I love hearing her as a guest on shows and I think she’s really talented.
Paul: But let’s get to, uh, let’s get to you, Teresa Strasser.
Teresa: Ugh, what a boring—
Paul: Uh, you have a book out called, Exploiting My Baby. Which, when I heard the title, I was like, “I know I’m gonna love this book.” And I just finished it last night and I did love it. It is, uh, it is a great book. It is brutally honest. I can say assuredly there is nothing else like it out there. It is, it is original. You craft some gorgeous sentences. Uh, I had no idea that you were the writer that, uh, that you are.
Teresa: Thank you.
Paul: And, um, you should be really proud of it. I hope you are. I know that you’re, you wish the sales more than they are, but I think—
Teresa: Great reviews. Great reviews.
Paul: Five stars on Amazon.
Teresa: Great sales. Great sales.
Paul: Which almost no books have five stars.
Teresa: That was really nice. And, and, you know, the LA Weekly gave it a good review and Vanity Fair made it one of their top picks. Which for a pregnancy memoir is unusual. So that was really nice, but, um, you know, my heart was kind of broken because it wasn’t a best seller. And, you know, there’s like—the way I was raised, you get an A+, or, you know—
Paul: Go home.
Teresa: Go home. What’s the point? And, even if you get an A+, huh, that’s what I expected you to do.
Paul: Right, right.
Teresa: So, good for you.
Paul: Let’s, let’s talk about that a little bit. Because your, your childhood, uh, was not pretty. It, uh, you, your parents divorced when you were three?
Teresa: Yeah, three.
Paul: And you were left in the custody of, of originally your mother, uh, right?
Paul: In the beginning it was your mother.
Teresa: My dad legally got custody. And that was very unusual then, for dads to get full custody.
Paul: And, and why, why was that?
Teresa: They just gave you to your mom. Because they then, you know, this was in 1974. They just thought, ‘Moms are better. Moms should have the kids.’ That was really the default setting in family court. And my dad got custody, which means my mom must not really have made a great case for, uh, being a parent.
Paul: Which makes sense, uh, as you read more of your book.
Teresa: But my dad gave me back to my mom. So, so my brother and I were split—
Paul: But that was—
Teresa: In an awesome parenting move.
Paul: (laughs) Right.
Teresa: One of their, one of their greatest hits was they thought, ‘You know what’s great for siblings who are a year and a half apart and have never known anything other than being with each other all the time and whose parents are now getting divorced and moving to two different cities? Let’s split them apart!’
Paul: Let’s put them each in a single housing unit. Let’s put them in the shoe.
Teresa: Let’s put them in the shoe. So they can lose that sibling bond forever. And now we’re like cousins. I love the guy, but I didn’t grow up in the same house as he did, so I’ll never really have that. So they—so what happened was my dad got us and then he was overwhelmed. He had two kids, he was running—he’s a mechanic. He was running a garage for, you know, six days a week, and he just didn’t know (indistinct). And then he got involved with my stepmonster, who was a really—she was a monster. She was a horrible monster. And I’ve written plenty about her and I won’t bore people. But she—
Paul: I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it’s boring. I think people would want to know. Um…
Teresa: She was the fairy tale evil stepmother. I mean, she was—
Paul: Give, give us some slices. I always ask my guests, give—
Teresa: How dark do you wanna go?
Paul: We, we go as dark as you got it on this, on this show. The darker, the darker the better.
Teresa: I might cry
Paul: That’s, that’s all good.
Teresa: Ok, here is something I’ve only started talking about recently because it’s really creepy and I get afraid to creep people out. But I told my husband the other day, and he wasn’t that creeped out. He was angry on my behalf, and I liked that. So, my dad hooked up with Carole, who was nine years older, and he was lost. He had two kids, he was 30, with, with, uh, a three-year-old and a five-year-old. Running a business, and he just, he was lost. He meets this woman who’s a lot older, and she’s in therapy school. Which, to the day she died, she never completed. So she was always taking courses in becoming a therapist. So she had some sort of gravitas, because she had taken some classes.
Paul: (laughs) right.
Teresa: And she had read some fuckin’ books. She had a lot of self help books on the, on the shelf. Um, she had three kids. They were teenagers, they were already all fucked up. One of them’s—this, this—
Paul: Were they in the house with you?
Teresa: When they moved in together, yes. Um, the eldest, a real big guy, like 6’5” with schizophrenia; that was just coming on at that time; so that was pretty scary. And then two girls, one of which later became, for lack of a better phrase, a crack whore. Um, and the other one just, um, just, she’s married, lives in the suburbs, and she’s just not, um, not very nice. But can you blame her, because that was her mother. Anyway, she moved in and she convinced my dad that he should give me back to my mom, because, um, she had been molested by her dad, and, she was an expert on, uh, human behavior, because she took a class at community college. And she said, she convinced my dad that, um because he and I were very close, that he was in danger of molesting me and that she could see signs that the relationship, you know, was untoward. And so, for my own good, he should give me back to my mom. And he was scared. He didn’t know anything. Now, mind you, this kind of thing doesn’t come out of the blue in a family, right?
Teresa: A guy that has no history of sexual abuse, like that was never gonna happen. You know? People in my family are really fucked up, buy mainly by bipolar and other kinds of Ashkenazi Jew things, but they don’t molest each other. That’s just not a thing they do, just like they don’t drink. There’s things they do, things they don’t. So, in my heart of hearts, I know, that she, because she was molested by her own father, that to see a father and daughter interacting, together we were really tight, it just was something she couldn’t have. So she had to get rid of me.
Teresa: And that was her way of doing it.
Teresa: She did it. I mean, she, she vanquished a three-year-old.
Paul: It’s not hard to vanquish a—
Teresa: I mean, candy from a baby. So then I went to live with my mom who had, who had moved to Chicago. She moved back to take me when my dad—and it was gonna be temporary, like you’re gonna—let’s try this for a couple months, and then, um, I never, I never went back. Mainly because I didn’t want to be with Carole. But my brother stayed there and I went to live with my mom in San Francisco. And at that time I hadn’t seen her for sixth months because she—I mean, I’d seen her here and there but she had moved away. And she was really, really a stranger. I didn’t know who she was. I felt she was—and she’s kind of just cold, she’s not real maternal, she’s not a hugger. So, all of a sudden, one day she picks me up. And I remember like driving away and my dad always tells this story that it was the most heartbreaking moment of his life, is seeing me look out the window with my pigtails, my freckles, with a tear—
Teresa: Just trying to keep my shit together—
Paul: Oh my God.
Teresa: Because I didn’t want to go with my mom because she was cold and weird and a stranger. And so then, uh—
Paul: And you were leaving your brother.
Teresa: Leaving my brother, you know, who was kind of violent toward me, just because he was a five-year-old boy, uh, but he was all I knew, he and my dad and, um. So, I went with my mom, and, um, I remember very distinctly—oh, she had painted my room, and, you know, she had gone to some effort. And she gave me some hot chocolate with marshmallows in it. And I was very happy about that. And then, um, eating disorder for the rest of my life, so there you go.
Teresa: Here’s some marshmallows. That’s the only thing you have that’s gonna make this go away. You know who loves you? Marshmallow! That’s it! You know what’s warm? Cocoa.
Paul: (laughs) Not mom.
Teresa: You know what you can grab in your hands that’s real? Cocoa.
Paul: (laughs) You know, I, I just wanna back up for a second because this, this, this is—I always like to compare notes and inject myself wherever I can in the podcast—
Teresa: (laughs) Please do. (laughs)
Paul: Because it’s my fucking podcast.
Teresa: No, and that’s what I like about it – when you do that.
Paul: Yeah, but, um, one of my favorite memories of my dad—my dad was, was a cold person. When people would come over to the house, my friends, like when we, you know, eight, ten years old, my friends would always say, “Why’s your dad mad at me?” And I would say, “That’s just my dad’s face.” That’s just—he was at the end of the couch—
Teresa: That’s very dad.
Paul: You know, he didn’t express anger. He was just in his head. He was an untreated alcoholic who just wanted to shut the world out and be with his thoughts and watch the Cubs.
Paul: Um, but, but he wasn’t outwardly angry, he was just a, he was just shut off. Just completely shut off. But one of my favorite things about him when I was kid would be, when it would be time to go to bed, he would carry me upstairs. And we lived in a two-story house and I’ll always remember, he would be carrying me, and I’d, and I’d have my arms around him and as we’d, we’d walk up the stairs, there was this part where the ceiling got low and I would always touch my hand on that part of the ceiling. And it was just a nice ritual. And he would tuck me in, and it was my favorite memory of my dad. For some reason, he just stopped doing that and I never understood why. And my mom told me years later that she asked him to stop doing it because she was afraid that he was going to molest me.
Paul: Because he was, his drinking had gotten worse.
Teresa: Wow. Wow!
Paul: I was like, wow, that’s so fucked up, that, that—why she would extrapolate to that place, just because somebody’s drinking—
Teresa: Where was she coming from, a family where that happened?
Paul: Um, she, I don’t know that she was ever molested. She came from a really, really, fucked up—
Teresa: Because you don’t just come up that idea, like that’s not an idea that would dawn on me about my husband or anybody else, because that’s just not part of my story. However, I think if it is, like “you spot it, you got it”. You start to see it everywhere.
Paul: I think, uh—my dime store opinion is that my mom had—because my dad wasn’t there emotionally, and, I kind of became the savior, the fill in husband emotionally, I think my mom had some feelings towards me that weren’t appropriate. And I don’t think they were ever conscious in her brain, but my mom did, did cross a lot of boundaries with me, um….
Teresa: With the touching your butt. See (indistinct)
Paul: Yes, yes. And so, it, it, but it, it just made me so sad that that one part of my relationship with my dad went away for no reason. Like, the only thing he was doing that was good that was making me feel safe--
Teresa: That was all you got
Paul: Got shit on.
Teresa: And the touching the ceiling. Like, kids needs ritual so desperately. Especially if you’re living in a chaotic, alcoholic household, and I can only assume it was pretty chaotic, so even if it’s just, “I touch this spot on the ceiling every night”—
Paul: Every night.
Teresa: I need that. That’s, that’s, that’s the container that I can bump, you know, bump up against, that’s something that I can depend on. And also, whenever I see a parent carrying a child, there’s just something so beautiful, because the child is just limp, and sleepy. And, you know, you only get carried a certain amount in life.
Teresa: And then it’s over. And then no one’s gonna carry you to bed unless you’re, um, passed out, unless it’s bad. It’s bad after a certain point If someone’s carrying you because you usually have one shoe—
Paul: Yeah, but it’s the, it’s the greatest feeling in the world, feeling completely enveloped and protected by a parent, and—
Teresa: Cared for.
Paul: Yeah, there comes a point where, that, where you need to come away from that and grow up and be on your own and discover how painful the real world is and all that stuff, but it just kind of sucks when that gets needlessly cut short. So I apologize if that was a self-indulgent for me to inject that, but, um, I, I—
Teresa: Would you like me to pick you up right now? Carry you? Because my son’s room’s got a nice crib. I will carry you and sing to you.
Paul: If this were video, I would absolutely, just to watch your knees buckle.
Teresa: I can—you’d be surprised. I mean, my son’s really big. You met my husband, he’s a tall guy.
Paul: Yeah, he’s a tall guy.
Teresa: So, my son’s big for his age. Probably weighs like 37 pounds. I have no problem—that’s why God gave women hips. I just put him right on my hip, I never—he always wants down, he always down because he wants to run, you know—
Paul: Sure, he’s a little boy.
Teresa: You know, I love carrying him. I could him on my hip all—til he’s 25.
Paul: Yeah. And how old is Nate? It’s Nate, right?
Paul: Yeah. Um, so getting back to, um, you went to live with your mom. And you mom was a—she lived in San Francisco, and she was, uh, kind of, uh, in the early feminist—
Paul: Feminist kind of uh—
Teresa: Yeah! It was like, “Let’s talk about vaginas. Let’s be in encounter groups.” And this is how groovy, OK? She owned a coffee shop in the Haight called Sacred Grounds. That’s for real. And we had a beat poet named Max living in our garage for ten years.
Paul: Who was huge.
Teresa: He was huge. The real thing. Jim Morrison was his college roommate and took all this video of Max the beat poet and his girlfriend having sex. And that, for some reason, it’s some sort of famous video. Because I believe Jim Morrison was gonna be a film maker at some point, maybe they were at UCLA? I might be—
Paul: Yes, he was, yeah. I think that’s how they met.
Teresa: Max was his roommate. Yes, yes
Paul: Wow. What a small world!
Teresa: Yeah, so my mom was supporting the arts by having Max live in our garage. But it’s weird when you’re a kid and, you, know, like the garage door would be flung open, and there’s Max on his dilapidated lawn chair. Couple of his teeth missing. You know, like a bad piano.
Teresa: You what I mean, where some of the keys aren’t—yeah. And then always doing the poems. So I’m coming home with a friend from Brandeis Hillel Hebrew Day School, at, where I was like a scholarship kid, and, and I’m coming home with a friend just hoping nothing too weird is happening at my house. And there’s Max, snap, snap, snap (snaps fingers), “Look at you. You’ve got a friend. Two little girls. End to end.” (snap, snap, snap, snap). And it’s just, oh God, let’s go, let’s go, nothing to see here, nothing to see here, keep it moving. And then that, unfortunately, was never the weirdest thing. Cuz my mom never wore pants.
Teresa: Never. Yeah, why should she wear pants just to make you comfortable? She doesn’t feel like wearing pants in her house. She wore underpants, but no pants. Still does not wear pants.
Paul: Just undies around the house.
Teresa: You’d have to ring the doorbell or knock and yell up the stairs, “Mom. Someone’s here. Put on your pants!”
Paul: Oh my.
Teresa: Mm-hm. Hilarious. If it’s a sitcom character, but when it’s your mom, not funny. Not fun.
Paul: The, the, uh—some of the passages in the book that I, I found to be the, the most moving and memorable were you talking—involved transportation. As a child. Can you talk about some of those?
Teresa: Yes. Well, and I—for people who’ve heard this before, I apologize, because, I will get to it on our fear off later, but one of my main fears is people are sick of hearing about my sad childhood, in particular—
Paul: That’s Ok.
Teresa: Cuz since I’ve had a kid, I, it’s been up for me a lot more. It’s been up in thinking about it and talking about it a lot more. But, one of the—I spent most of my childhood on various modes of public transportation. Because my mom just didn’t want to give me a ride anywhere. Just didn’t, she just wasn’t interested in being a parent, and that was inconvenient, and it was a bummer, and there was buses. So here’s your bus pass, or here’s your Greyhound ticket—
Paul: And you’re seven or eight. At this age, taking public transportation by yourself.
Teresa: Oh, earlier. I flew alone at four. Because my mom was in San Francisco, my dad was in LA, so, so I could see my dad I would fly alone, which isn’t even, which is no longer legal. And then, I would take the Greyhound—
Paul: It’s now known as the Teresa Strasser law.
Teresa: Yes! Like Megan’s law!
Paul: Megan’s law. Yeah.
Teresa: Yeah, Uh, because I was too emotionally broken. Um, I have, I have to make it, um, well, uh…. No, I didn’t really know any different at the time. I don’t remember it being that bad. And I don’t even remember the Greyhound. I mean, I was scared when they would—because it was eight or ten hours, whether, depending whether I went to LA or Santa Barbara, where my grandparents lived. And I would get scared at the stops, because that’s where either people were visiting people in prison or get—that’s the serial killer belt of southern California. Where the Greyhound bus goes, and it mainly stops near prisons and stuff. So I was scared I’d get off near San Luis Obispo or Fleenus (sp?). The, the driver would announce, “We’re leaving in forty-five minutes, and if you’re not here, the bus is gonna leave.” So it was a—I’d be pretty paranoid about getting stuck there. But, otherwise, it’s all I knew, so I didn’t realize that, you know, I should be angry or scared and I had a—I mean, I walked on a Greyhound and I knew were to sit. You know, I knew, like, avoid that guy, avoid that lady, I wouldn’t even be kitty-corner to that guy, you don’t want to be in his peripheral. Like, I just knew, you know, I had, had—
Paul: So you had an old soul by the time you were five.
Teresa: I think I was just savvy because I took the city buses around San Francisco. You know, I took the bus to school, I took the bus home from school, I took the bus to ballet. So, I was on the Muni, that’s what they call it there, or the BART, or whatever, um, real young. So, I, so I, I knew, I kinda knew the ropes.
Paul: And, talk about the watching, when it was raining, that—
Teresa: Oh, I would b-e-g my mom for a ride. Cuz sometimes in San Francisco you get a few really rainy days. To catch the 24 Divisadero to elementary school, was up two giant hills. San Francisco, you might have heard, it’s—
Teresa: A little hilly. And, so, and all my book bags. I was all studious and everything. Ninety pound book bag. And I remember just in the rain, begging her just for a ride to school or for a ride just to the bus stop. No, no dice. No dice.
Paul: What did that feel like?
Teresa: Um, you know, just, uh, you won’t catch me on a bus now. That’s for one thing. I’ll probably be giving my son a lot of rides. He’ll probably be annoyed. He’ll probably want to take the bus or the subway even though no one does that here. But, um, you know, it was lonely. Yeah, it was lonely, I think. But on the bus I always—Ok, that was around the advent of the Walkman. So I always listened to the Alex Bennett radio show, which I don’t know if you know who he is—
Paul: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Teresa: But he would have all these comedians on, a lot of whom I ended up meeting doing Adam’s show, like Bobcat, and Bobby Slayton, and, uh—
Paul: Kevin Pollack
Teresa: Kevin Pollack. And he would have Robin Williams, all those San Francisco comedians. And, this, they, they were my friends. They were my friends. You know, cuz I would listen all the way to school, you know, transferring buses and everything, and that really, that’s what I loved doing, and to this day, I love—like when I can’t sleep, or I’m on a long drive, or when I need to relax, I love listening to radio or what are now really podcasts. Just because it’s, it’s soothing, and, I don’t know, it’s just a voice in your ear, telling you a story.
Paul: And then you became an entertainer. Isn’t it funny how a parent’s neglect, while painful to the child, in some ways can often become a gift to society because that person be—because if you look at some of our favorite entertainers, they come from the most neglected, fucked up childhoods. And society benefits from having those people around to entertain them.
Teresa: But if we were all well adjusted, who would write the books, who would do the, um, dark, uh, comedy, who would do the—you’re right, you’re right. Yeah, I know. Pain—years of pain and suffering, right?
Paul: So, so—
Teresa: But it can also kind of hurt, I think, your ability to work. At least for me I, I’ve found that. Because, um, you know, I might have interesting stories and I might be willing to be very open about them, but I also have a lot of anxiety and that can get in my way.
Paul: Yeah. It’s kind of a, uh, a, a double edged sword. You know we’ve talked about that on the, on the, podcast before. What, what an awful combination to be saddled with: cynicism and imagination. You know, it doesn’t get any more lethal than that. Because, it’s wonderful when, when you’re crafting a bit or you’re writing book, but you don’t get to turn that cynicism and imagination off when you choose, it, it—
Teresa: Or, let me present you with this dichotomy, juxtaposition, or whatever: um, how ‘bout, I think a lot of us, or I’ll speak for myself, I think there’s a need for approval, and then there’s paralyzing self-doubt. So how am I going to get your fucking gold star if I’m too fucking scared to go for it? So, like, when I, I was living in New York, and I was working on a morning show called Good Day, New York, where I was a field correspondent, and I would do live remotes, usually outside the studio. Sometimes I’d be in the studio. And for, I, for the year I was there, I became the correspondent for a show called Good Day Live, which isn’t on the air anymore. But, you know, they have Good Day, LA with um, Jillian and Steve Edwards and Dorothy, um, they, I was their New York person. It got to be kind of frequent on their show where every week or every other week I’d get a call, and they’d say, “Oh the Statue of Liberty is reopening, can you go there and we’ll just pick up a live shot?” Or, um, “The American Doll Store is a big thing, so why don’t you go and we’ll shoot, we’ll shoot you at a tea party with a bunch of kids.” Or, “The Apprentice auditions, go interview Donald Trump, and then like try, and, you know, sneak into the auditions.” Or, “It’s the Westminster Dog Show, sneak—try to run in, and…” You know, that kind of thing, right? So, I would have anxiety—I’d see the producer’s phone number on my phone, that would be the beginning of this whole lifecycle of fucking brutal anxiety. I would see the—now, you’re supposed to be happy. Somebody’s calling you because they want you to work. And this was a national show, it was a big deal. And I loved the people on it. But that became part of the anxiety. See the phone number; immediate stomach ache. Immediate stomach ache. And I’d be like, “Fuck. Fuck. I don’t, I wish they’d stop. I mean, I need them to keep calling. I’m so happy they like me. But I’m so desperately terrified of doing this. I don’t want to do this. Please don’t, please…” Oh my God! So, I pick up the phone, I force myself to pick up the phone, uh, because I’ve had a lot of therapy, and you just like, you just walk through it. You just do it. You just do it, and feel horrible. Feel the fear, whatever. But just do it. So I take the assignment, and then, um, for, you know, twenty-four hours, until that live shot, I would feel so sick and I would over-prepare, and, I mean. I remember doing a live shot from the Wax Museum, when they had unveiling new statues, or whatever. And I had jokes about every person in that fucking museum. And I was so scared. And, mind you, technical things do go wrong a lot, and that, I think that fed into it—
Teresa: But, like, you know, your audio wasn’t good, and you couldn’t really—you can’t see them, cuz you don’t have a monitor—
Paul: And then you’re imagination is taking that where it’s going to go.
Teresa: Right, right. But what really made it terrifying—and here’s, I don’t know, I have a feeling you’ll get this, but—what really made it terrifying is that after the first few, they would say things on the air, like Jillian in particular, would say, “Oh my God, I love her.” She didn’t say this, but, “She’s my favorite, she’s my favorite correspondent.” And, and, Steve Edwards, who’s the, you know, male host, would, would say, “Oh, I love her!” And then, as soon as you like me, the idea that I could let you down, or that you’d realize that I’m actually not so great, that is really at the heart of the paralyzing fear. Because after doing, you know, ten remotes, it was obvious that I could do it. I had that skill set to not botch it. That was—so, so it then became, um, irrational. Th-th-th-the, it then became about something different. It became about, like, I needed to keep these people loving me. Because it feels so good, and I, if, if, I, I just wanna leave them—like, I wanted to do, I wanted to do—it would go well, and I’d be on a high, and I’d think, “Great. Now I never want to do that again, because I just want to leave on a high note while they still like me.”
Paul: And I’ll never be able to recreate that. That, that was—
Teresa: That was it—
Paul: I just got, I just got lucky there, because my core message that’s instilled in me is, “I’m not good enough.”
Paul: So I really—it was a fluke.
Teresa: A total fluke! Lightening in a bottle, and, if I never do it again—
Teresa: Then I, then I can, um, prevent failing, and I’ll, and I’ll, and I’ll not lose the—like, once somebody likes me or believes in me, I then—that really intensifies any sort of feelings I have. And I get really nervous doing Adam’s show for that reason. Like, we had a year with, um, Danny Bonaduce, and then, you know, he, uh, ‘didn’t come back’. And then Adam called me at home, and we had a conversation, and it was along the lines of, “You’re really good. You don’t know how good you are. Uh, not many people have what you have.” Blah, blah, blah. Nice things. Ok. As we’re having—
Paul: Coming from Adam—
Teresa: Calling me—
Paul: Who is not, an, an effusive person.
Teresa: Yes! Right? And as it’s happening, I’m like, “Oh my God!”, I’m like, I’m, I’m sweating from my armpits, I’m like sweating, and my head hurts, my eyeballs start hurting, everything is like, “Oh my God. I just want them to bring in somebody else.” Because, I don’t wanna be—and he’s telling me, “You can do this. You can be my cohost. I don’t need Danny Bonaduce or anybody else, I just need you. You step it up a little bit, and fill in the gap”—
Paul: Did you, did you—
Teresa: “And we don’t need anybody”—
Paul: Did you believe him when he said you could do it?
Teresa: I had known him never, ever to lie. He’s an incredibly honest human being. Incred—he doesn’t have—he just is missing the, the piece where you sweet talk people.
Paul: But did you, did you—I believe that you believed him—
Teresa: I believed that he may—I really—
Paul: But did you believe that you could—
Paul: That you could do it.
Teresa: No. No. No, I knew I couldn’t. 100%. I really thought, “No. I can’t do this. I don’t have enough to say. I don’t have extreme enough opinions. I’m probably annoying. I, I, I repeat myself. I don’t—I’m gonna interrupt, or talk too little, or talk too much.” I mean, I, it was a carnival of fucking, of fucking self-doubt. And, um, I was so bummed that Danny Bonaduce left. Which is something that I’ve never really told anybody. Because that whole staff—it was a celebration that he was gone. They really didn’t—you know, nothing personal, but they didn’t feel like he was—they didn’t like his comedy stylings. And they didn’t feel like he was a good fit and, um, people were really happy. I alone was unhappy. Because I thought, “Great. Now this is my moment to let down somebody who shown so much faith in me and who I admire. This is going to fucking suck.” And every day I would do it and it would be fine, and then I would spend a ton—Greg Fitzsimmons, do you know Greg?
Teresa: He had one of the funniest lines ever about this. I was telling him that (chuckling) every day after the radio show, I would drive home, and for the twenty minutes it, uh, the twenty minute commute home, I would just regret—I would go over the things I regretted saying and the things I regretted not saying. And this was every day—
Paul: I so relate to that. I so—
Teresa: I said—
Paul: I so relate to that
Teresa: He goes, “You know what you should do? Move closer to the studio.” That’s a practical fucking solution.
Paul: (laughs) So you’re in the car less, going over it less in your head.
Teresa: I should’ve moved across the street, across the street, and then I don’t have—but just ruminate. Do you do that too, where you—
Paul: Oh my God.
Teresa: Where you’re, “What did I say or not say?”
Paul: Oh my God. Constantly. Every time I’m, I’m, um, I finish doing the podcast or going on somebody else’s podcast, there’s five things I wanna call them and say, “Please don’t air that. It makes me look foolish.”
Paul: Ah, ah, or I sound arrogant, or I sound—because I assume that the rest of the world is not out to love me or accept me. They’re out to take me down.
Teresa: Why do you assume that?
Paul: I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s not in a malicious ‘let’s go get Paul’ but it’s in a—I, I suppose because I grew up in, in a household where there was some love, there was some praise, but mostly there was ignoring and there was criticism. And, and, plus, I—you know, I’m an alcoholic, I, I’m negative to begin with. I’m self-absorbed to begin with. So, I think, you, you know, you, you’ve struggled with food issues, so I know you probably have those, you know, those three hallmarks of addict—of, of, that all addicts have, is: self-centered, emotionally immature, and hyper-sensitive. You know, that’s something that doctors, before, before they knew anything alcoholism or the treatment of alcohol, that’s one thing the doctors could agree on: was that all alcoholics show these three symptoms. And so I think that probably also extends to people that have food issues or other issues.
Teresa: Any kind of addiction. Addictions, yeah.
Paul: And I, and I think that’s just kinda the coping mechanism, um for people that are addicted to—that they’ll want to escape that, that ball of—
Teresa: It’s interesting cuz while I don’t know you very well, you did come into the radio station, not just the one time where I was in the middle of one of my meltdowns, but a bunch of times after that, doing your, uh, character. Wait, are we allowed to say? Are we breaking the fourth wall? That you are Representative Richard Martin?
Paul: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ve talked about the character.
Teresa: Ok. So you, and, and, you know, ok, so you’re one of these guys that everyone likes. Like you have a warm, easy personality.
Paul: And this is news to me, by the way.
Teresa: Really? Cause I always, cause you’re just one of those people that I always—I wish I had that personality like, “Oh, yeah! Everybody loves her! She comes in a room…” I try, I try and make people like me. I desperately try. I’m a lot better at it, just because I’ve, I’ve, I’ve carefully, um, monitored people who have that quality and I just imitate certain facets, you know, I just, I take, you know, I um, I simulate normal human….
Paul: I would, I would disagree. Because it really feels organic, uh, uh, to me. You’re somebody that I instantly felt comfortable around. So, I, I think this is—both you and I are just both in our heads. And, then, but—
Teresa: No, but you really, genuinely are a person that people like.
Paul: (indistinct) Listen …
Teresa: Because I was in the room with all those guys, and believe me, when I guest came, and—people weren’t shy. About like, “Was that guy a dick?” There was a lot of uh—
Teresa: Yeah, people would kind of voice their um, feelings—you know, you get a vibe, what people think of somebody. And everybody always liked you. Everybody.
Teresa: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Paul: Well, that’s nice to hear. But let’s, let’s, let’s not make this, uh, even though it’s my dream, let’s not make this all about me. Uh, so, getting back—
Teresa: You’ve got that warm thing. That warm, open thing.
Paul: You’re, you’re—that, I, I appreciate it. My wife—
Teresa: That’s probably why I felt like I could talk to you that day.
Paul: Thank you. And that means, and that means a lot to me. And my wife would, would tell me that as, as well. Um, but, there were also people that thought I was an aloof dick. Uh, so, I, uh, it depends—
Paul: Yeah. It depends on what day you, you caught me on. But I, I—fast forward to, um, you’re living with your mom, you’re, you’re into ballet, how does the eating disorder present itself? And, at what age did the food issues become…
Teresa: Well, I don’t even remember not having it. And everyone’s got a different story. But in my case, I can’t think of a time when I didn’t binge, uh, or starve, exercise insanely, become obsessed with how I was gonna lose weight and what diet I was gonna go on, feel very uncomfortable in my own body; and then, right back to, “I just wanna get to the refrigerator.” Like I remember being at my grandparents’ and my mom, because it was all hippy-dippy she didn’t have junk food, but my grandparents had, would have rocky road ice cream in their freezer.
Teresa: So, I remember, I would go to their house for the summer, and literally gain 25, 30 pounds. Like I kid—I would just fucking eat, because it was unfettered access to shit. And, um—
Paul: And this was your mom’s parents or your dad’s?
Teresa: My dad’s. And I already had this. Like, so I would remember, I would walk by with a big, giant spoon. And I just, I’d tell myself, “I’m just gonna have this one spoonful.” And I’d have it. And I’d walk back around, sit in front of the tv, and I’d like fight it, fight it, fight it. Next commercial break, “I’m just gonna have one more.” Then, you try to move the ice cream around in such a way in the container that it doesn’t look like it’s been attached by fucking raccoons, right? And, by the way, I spent a lot of my life manipulating food items to look like they had not been attacked. You know, like, I, at one point, I had a job as a temp, ok. But it was a half dayer. So the temp agency called and they go, “This company’s having their holiday party. They need somebody to answer their phones. Can you do this while they’re out at their party. Half day job.” No problem. So I show up there, I’m sitting there, and it’s dead slow, because it’s right around Christmas, no one’s calling, and I notice there’s a giant vase, like up to my waist, in the corner. And it’s huge, and it’s glass, it’s filled with M&M’s. Plain and peanut, ok? Plain and peanut. Both. Don’t have to decide. And so I think to myself, “Well, I will just have one or two. Or a little bit more than that.”
Paul: Do you say to yourself, “I’m gonna have the peanut, because then it’s kind of like a meal?”
Teresa: Oh, sure, it’s protein!
Paul: Yeah, that’s what I always tell myself.
Teresa: Yeah, it’s healthy. Healthy. Go with that. But even then, like I had a, a, a, a very precocious knowledge of calories. Because if you, you know, if you’re one of these people, that’s, you’re an expert. You know a lot of shit about um—but it’s not about that, you know. It’s, it’s a spiritual malady. Which you are treating with food, or starving or whatever. But you know—so I already knew at a very early age that peanuts had a lot of calories. So I couldn’t even really convince myself that it was healthy. But cut to—by the time they get back, I have now, I have actually eaten myself into, like, a coma. I mean, I’m out. I’m passed out like a drunk or like somebody nodding out on heroin.
Paul: Like Miss Blankenship on Mad Men. Dead at the typewriter.
Teresa: Yes! Yes! I was Miss Blankenship, but, you know, like, Miss Blankenchips. I had eaten myself, you know, into a, yeah.
Paul: So they come back and you’re asleep? Because you’ve been eaten so much sugar.
Teresa: Well, I’m on the desk. And the drool is, like colorful, you know, because it’s M&M drool. So I’ve got—it’s hard to hide. And the, you know, the level of the M&M’s in the vase has moved down. So if you CSI it, you’d see the temp’s passed out with the drool, and the M&M vase is down, what the fuck kinda temp? But I was never really, really overweight. Because, I would binge, then I would starve, then I would binge, then I would starve. So—
Paul: Did you ever make yourself throw up?
Teresa: No, I really couldn’t. I’m not a thower upper. If I would’ve—If I could’ve, I would’ve. I think I would’ve been bulimic, but I—
Paul: You would’ve fucked your teeth up. Doesn’t that, the acid from that really screws your teeth up.
Teresa: Yeah. It really messes up your—it’s really hard on your body.
Paul: And bad on your esophagus, and a bunch of other things, yeah.
Teresa: Yeah, and I can kind of spot it now that I’ve seen it enough. Like, on your face, your face gets puffy, cheeks are puffy—
Teresa: Eyes, bloodshot. Yep.
Paul: Just from the …. Oooo (barfing noise)
Teresa: Yeah. Teeth, like you said. Um, and it’s really, it’s, it’s, it’s hard on, on your, your internals. Um, but, no I never did that. I just would, would, would go on binges, and then I would, uh, starve and exercise a lot so that I could stay a normal looking, you know, as generally thinner—at a point, I was probably 30 pounds bigger than I am now. Um, there are points where I’ve probably been about ten pounds less than I am now. But this is kind of a normal weight, which I’ve maintained now for a decade. So, um …
Paul: So your, your, your eating has not been, uh, out of control for, uh, a decade?
Teresa: One day at a time. It has been…
Paul: That’s fantastic.
Teresa: Yes. It has been, uh, you know, I have, I have days that are, you know, imperfect and are sloppy, where I don’t feel that comfortable about what I ate or how I—or my behavior, or with the—how I ate it? But, uh, generally—and that’s amazing. Because, like I said, I don’t remember EVER not having this kind of relationship with food. And, toward the end, there were incidents—and this is—I honestly would feel better if I were talking to you about shooting heroin. Or, um, doing cocaine, or being addicted to gambling. Or any—this is the least glamorous addiction. And even in my own addiction, I would feel better if I were a bulimic or a flat out anorexic. Because that’s more glamorous. Because I thought, “Nobody else”—like on Valentine’s Day, before I, um, before this reversal, ten years ago. Um, I had had—was dating this guy, and I was doing a show, Lover’s Lounge, on the Game Show Network, and the boyfriend put me on, like, a one week hold for Valentine’s Day. It, I mean, Valentine’s Day happened to fall during this one week. So, let’s take a week off. And the guys on my crew went, “What? That’s so fucked!”
Paul: The week of Valentine’s Day!
Teresa: Yeah! What a dick, right? Yeah, so, on my little host chair, they put a giant, heart-shaped box of candy. And I’m dying. I mean, I don’t know what in pounds, but GIANT. So, I was like, thank you, thank you. I’m starting to be a little nervous with it in the car. Take it home. Alone. Pour myself a little glass of wine with it. Although it’s not really my thing, but it’s a good, you know, you—one, you’re, you’re, you’re disinhibited? Is that the word?
Teresa: So, first I think, “I’m just gonna have the caramels.” Like, you see how it goes. I’ve just got—
Paul: Caramels are always the first to go.
Paul: They’re like the black people in a movie. You know, in a horror movie. They’re going down first.
Teresa: (laughs) Yes! Those caramels. They went down, right? They were gone. And then maybe there’s some, like, brittle-y things that might be good, or something nougat-y. Now you’re getting to the fruits, right? But each time, I put the whole heart-shaped box back in the cupboard.
Paul: Absolutely! Otherwise, you have a problem.
Teresa: I know!
Paul: If you don’t put the cover on it—
Teresa: Right, I know I’m not—I can’t possibly eat any more of this. And I’m, I’m alone. And no one’s seeing it. Now I’m into my second glass of wine. And now I’m getting into things that are orange and purple. But here’s the thing – I’m only eating the chocolate around it. I’m not going to eat that orange shit. That shit doesn’t even taste good.
Paul: Sure. It’s not good for you, Teresa!
Teresa: It’s not good for me, it doesn’t even taste good! Why would I binge on something that doesn’t taste good? Cuz only someone who does this kind of shit knows what I’m talking about. I would binge on oatmeal, broccoli, there’s nothing I haven’t binged on. But now I’ve eaten the purple, and the orange, and the cordial? Which is the most disgusting…
Paul: That, that’s your bottom.
Teresa: That’s a bottom. Yeah, and it’s, even as I’m saying this—
Paul: When you hit the coconut, you knew.
Teresa: Oh my God! That is a one step program. Coconut. You’re eating the coconut, really? There’s a hundred pieces of chocolate in here? And you’re down to the coconut? That’s what it’s come to? Sometimes you feel like a nut. Maybe you are! You are.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. So that, so that’s when you knew you, uh, you needed help with the—
Teresa: That, and then there was an incident. So embarrassing, like food. I mean, here people are starving and you have to give up eating.
Paul: You have to see Patton Oswalt’s newest, uh, stand up special because he talks about this exact same thing. He has food issues. And he talks about how lame he feels having that as an issue compared with alcoholics that have great stories.
Teresa: It’s so lame. I’m jealous that I want to be a drug addict. Like a real—you do hear some good stories—
Paul: You don’t, trust me, you don’t. Although the thing that I don’t envy about you is, you know, there’s this saying that you have to open the cage to the beast three times a day because you have to eat.
Teresa: You have to. You can’t just, just put the plug in the jug.
Paul: That, to me, is, is, uh, is …
Teresa: That can be tough.
Paul: That’s scary. That seems really scary.
Teresa: You know what else was weird? Well, I’ll say to Patton’s point, yes, it’s very—it’s a hard thing to talk about. And I feel like, as a culture, when someone dies of this disease, no one says that. And I’m gonna, like—you’re John Candy. Someone who clearly was morbidly obese.
Paul: Morbidly obese.
Teresa: And he ate himself to death, right? That happens a lot and people—no one says it. And I just think, why are we—every, everyone. That person’s morbidly obese. They ate themselves to death. If they drank themselves to death, and had cirrhosis of the liver, we would all say that—isn’t that too bad, and let’s raise awareness. But when somebody, you know—and there are people I know who are 60 pounds, there are people who are 500 pounds, it’s kind of the same, the same thing, really. It’s like I’m gonna control this or I can’t control this. Um, but yes, it’s totally unglamorous. And there are things I’ve done. I’ve eaten food out of the trash. I’ve eaten food that was still frozen. I’ve eaten food that was burnt. I mean, my husband doesn’t even know this stuff, cuz he knows me—he only knows the me that’s, you know, well into recovery.
Paul: And, and, and the thing for anybody out there that’s, that’s struggling with, uh, an addiction, the biggest thing that, that is frustrating – trying to cure it yourself. Trying to, to solve it yourself, the addict that tries to control it directly. Which can never happen because the real issue, as you know, is the anxiety underneath it that drives you to seek comfort by anesthetizing with a substance or a person or shopping or whatever it is. And the only way to cure that anxiety is through the energy of connected to other human beings. And I know people are tired of me, probably, on the podcast talking about you need to connect to other people, but that is, it’s the, it’s the, it’s the truth. It’s the only thing I know that has ever alleviated my pain and my loneliness and my fear.
Teresa: But what else is there? You peel everything back, and, you know, recently, I had, I had an experience where (chuckles), that felt pretty extreme, where I got very, very down. And in that moment, I had, I had clarity – these are the things that matter. Doesn’t matter that, like, my husband and my baby.
Paul: Can you be more specific about this? Because I, I heard the interview, and I know you probably don’t want—
Teresa: On Adam, yeah
Paul: On Adam, yeah, And it was riveting to me. And at the risk of burdening you with repeating the story, I think it’s—
Teresa: I don’t want to bore people.
Paul: But it’s—Teresa, it’s anything but, it’s anything but boring. And I think that there’s a lot of people that have been in that place where you have been and I’m one of them. I’ve been in that place before.
Teresa: It was pretty bad. I mean, I think, uh, like I said—
Paul: How long ago was this?
Teresa: This was, God, I wanna say—I’m terrible with time. But I think maybe it was, let’s see, I think maybe it was 18 months, maybe (indistinct), five months ago something like that?
Paul: Or 1974.
Teresa: Either one.
Paul: One of the two
Teresa: One of the two. They both sound, seem right.
Paul: It was a crisp day. That’s the important thing.
Teresa: It was a crisp fall day.
Paul: In February
Teresa: In February. And, um, yeah. So, and the birds were chirping. Um, well I had been—so, whatever. I’ll, I’ll—to make it concise, I—my sleep was off. Because for one thing—
Paul: You’ve been an insomniac your whole life.
Teresa: Yeah, lifelong insomniac. And doing morning radio. So, getting up at 4:30 and my baby—you know, he, he, he’s in daycare and so he just, they, they get sick a lot. And it was just a, a, a condensed period where he was up a lot in the night. And he sick. And I felt incredibly guilty that he was getting all—I blame myself that he was getting all these colds and stuff. Because I was putting him in daycare because I was working. That was part of it. Part of it was I was simply—my brain chemistry was off just simply from not sleeping. After a few months of not sleeping, you start to hallucinate. Which I did. I would hear him crying when he wasn’t crying. I had auditory—flat out fucking auditory hallucinations, right? So, it started to get bad, and then, um, I really thought, “There’s only one thing that can make this better. Like, I gotta go. I, this is like a party, and I don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna say goodbye to anybody. I will sacrifice my coat in the pile of coats on the bed, I will just sneak out the back. And no one’s gonna miss me. I just wanna go. I just can’t do this.”
Paul: I wanna die.
Teresa: Yeah, well, I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I didn’t want to upset anybody. But, my brain was fucked up from not sleeping. And, um, I just—I started—I remember—and then the day that I—when I kind of came to a head, I was driving to see my therapist. I thought it would be a good idea. Because, having a baby and a job, you know, the amount of time and effort and energy and money that it takes for me to stay sane is a lot, and, you know, that, that was not a priority. And so I didn’t really, I hadn’t been to therapy in months, and hadn’t been going to support group meetings as much and doing the things that were keeping me sane. So, on this day I was driving—I had already gone to see her once that week. She said maybe she’d come back. So on my way back from work, I was listening to Tangled Up in Blue for the 47th time, that’s never—that’s like the coconut chocolate. Things are bad. Things are bad. In fact, your car, after playing Tangled Up in Blue like ten times, I’ll give you a limit of fifteen, if you just drive—they should just 5150 you. Your car should take you to the nuthouse and go—
Paul: They should put a chip in there, yeah.
Teresa: They should put a 5150 chip in your Bob Dylan CD and you’re in. Because you listened one too many times. And you, you didn’t put, you didn’t cut in any other music.
Paul: And, and, uh, you have to add to that chip Adele’s Someone Like You, which I’ve listened to forty times in the last month. Forty times.
Teresa: (laughs) Oh.. so how many times does the chip give you before it 5150’s you on Adele?
Paul: It should have done it on the tenth time.
Teresa: Tenth time?
Paul: It should have said, “Yeah, you know, everybody gets sad.” But, uh, but go ahead.
Teresa: But this is too much.
Paul: Yeah, but this is too much.
Teresa: As I’m driving over from my second therapy appointment in a, in a week, having not slept, and the kid’s sick, and whatever, um, I, I felt my body just shake, shaking. Physically shaking, which I hadn’t experienced before. And I got there, and, um, she said, “You should have your husband probably pick you up. Probably shouldn’t drive.”
Paul: She could see you visibly shaking.
Teresa: Yup. And this is a person I really trust who I’ve known a long time. And she said, “You need a break.” And, so, having worked in radio and whatever, like, I have my—work ethic is something that is part of my identity. I think, well, I’m not great at this job. I don’t do anything special. But I show up on time. And I’m never, I’m never sick. I never miss. I’m always there. So—
Paul: Why is it so hard for you to admit that you do a great job?
Teresa: Cuz I don’t. I’m extremely mediocre. I’m mediocre at this.
Paul: That’s bullshit! (agitated) Why would everybody continue to hire you?
Teresa: Because the competition is not, the bar is low?
Paul: Teresa! You’re, you’re—
Teresa: There are not that many women doing it?
Paul: You’re great! I …
Teresa: For example, I listened to Beth Littleford on your show, and I thought, “Yeah. She—that’s how it’s supposed to be done. She’s very articulate. And she’s likeable and she’s charming. She knows when to shut up and when to talk.” I’m…
Paul: SO ARE YOU!
Teresa: I’m not that…
Paul: You’re crazy! You’re crazy. I want to slap you.
Paul: And that should be the other chip – the third chip in the car – is when you hear a friend slap you. Then it takes you to 5150.
Teresa: It takes you right to 5150. So, um, there was discussion about what would be a good idea for me to do. And she said, “You gotta take time off”. Which, again, I had never done.
Paul: You were doing this, morning radio.
Teresa: Yeah. And I, I took a week off just to be with my kid. Um, I felt horrible that I went to work and was not the first person he saw in the morning.
Paul: Can you, can you back up for a second too, and, do you mind being more specific about the lengths you were considering going to?
Teresa: Ok. Alright. Well, I did call my dad. Because one of the things that was concerning me was that he was gonna take it hard. Because we’re really close. Even though he never bothered to molest me. (laughs)
Teresa: I’m really, really close to my dad. And so I thought, “Meh, now that I’m a parent, I know that would be a horrible feeling.” Because people would look at you with a stink eye. You’re the guy whose daughter killed herself? And you probably were a bad—like, I knew it would be—but my dad is an incredibly sunny person. He could be sunny about stage 5 lung cancer, and there’s only stage 4. You know what I mean? Like, he could make you feel better about anything. So, I called him. And I’d, I’d, I’d already convinced myself that, because he’s so sunny, that he’d be fine about it. But, I just called and I said, you know, “I just, I just wanna go.” “What do you mean? Go where?” He, he’s my dad, you know. I said, “I just wanna go. I feel like Buster would be better without me. You know, Daniel will meet somebody else.”
Paul: Buster’s your nickname for your little boy?
Teresa: Yes. “He’ll be better off without me. I’m not doing a good job. My, my, my husband will meet somebody else. Like, I just, like, it hurts, I just wanna go.” (crying) “I just wanna go. I just wanna leave.” And then I said, “I know you’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” And he, he said, “I’ll never, ever be fine if you go.” And he got in his car and he came down here. It’s a twelve hour drive. (sniffs) It was weird to hear him say that. He just said, “You’re wrong. I’ll never be fine. I’ll never, ever be fine.” And, you know, I talked to my therapist, and she said—I, I explained to her that I felt that Buster would be better off without me because I wasn’t doing a good job. And she said, uh, she said, “Do you know what I did my graduate thesis in? Kids whose parents killed themselves. And, uh, he’s not going to be fine. He’s never gonna be fine.” So, you know, hearing that, was—it, it sort of didn’t, I didn’t really believe her, that he’d be better with me than with, you know, whoever else, someone my husband would marry after me. But, you know, when I literally just needed two nights of sleep. And to be with my child. Because I think not being there when he woke up in the morning, and being the person who changed his diaper, and just being the person—like, I didn’t feel like his mom. And it was, you know, it was a really weird transition for me. I didn’t have post partum, but there was something unreal about it. Like I’d get in my car and see the carseat, and I’d wonder, “Whose car is this? Like, why is there a baby seat in my car?” You know, it didn’t—and I thought, “Why do I feel this way? Why don’t I feel natural?” And obviously, you know, not obviously, I think I was just freaked out that, um, I was gonna be, you know, like my mom. I was gonna greet motherhood with a very weak handshake. I wasn’t gonna like it. I wasn’t gonna be good at it. I wasn’t gonna be a natural. Like, I thought—I think of it like basketball players. You know, like, there are Michael Jordans. Those are naturals. And you see those moms. And then there are Derek Fishers. And, you know, they work hard in the, in the, in the off season. And they, they have hustle. And you want—and there’s people who are just stiff. You know what I mean? And, um, I thought, you know, that because of the way I was raised, and because my mom didn’t like being a mom, that I, you know, I was just scared. And when I had a few days—the other thing is that my mom was living here to help with the baby, and I think having her around—
Paul: She was or was not living here?
Teresa: She was here. Because I would get up at 4:30 and she would come over every morning to help with the baby which was very generous. But I think being around here all the time was, uh, was deeply painful. Because she would say things like, “Well, we’re just not naturals,” about, um…
Teresa: Yeah. And when she’d see me interact with my kid. And during that, um—after I had the incident, after the meltdown, uh, she left. And I felt so much better just not seeing that woman every day. Like, God bless her for helping me. But it was very triggering seeing her every day and thinking that, that I was her. And when she left, I realized, holy fuck, I’m not her! I love being a mom. And I might fuck it up and I might make mistakes, but my child is gonna see that when he walks into a room, I’m fucking happy to see him. And I might screw it up or whatever, but I’m gonna be here in the morning when he wakes up. Maybe I’ll be broke. Maybe we’ll have to move to Koreatown, as I said on Adam’s show, maybe I’ll work at pinkberry, but I don’t care. And, you know, I made a commitment to do that job for a year, and I fulfilled it. So, I, I stayed there for a couple of months. Look! I stopped crying. Remember I said how I couldn’t once I started, but I’m sorry about my nose running. It’s totally gross. Um, anyway, sorry for the sniffling. Anyway, um. So, so, I got some sleep, I spent a week plus a weekend—I added a Monday or a Tuesday. So, I spent about ten days without my mom around, just being with my kid. And I realized, I, I can do this. I’m doing this. I love my kid. I’m concerned about the job I’m doing. It’s important to me. And that alone means I’m doing a good enough job. And I read a lot of books during that time, um, that were really helpful. And one of them actually—
Paul: Most of them were John Grisham novels, but they were still books.
Teresa: The Firm? You’d be amazed—
Paul: A lot of good mommying skills in there.
Teresa: A lot of, like, how to do a time out, um—
Paul: You just have to look at your child as a corporation.
Teresa: Yes. Exactly. And never, go loose when you’re chasing it. I don’t know. I’m trying to remember The Firm now, I can’t make any jokes about The Firm. Um, but, uh, I read a lot of books, and one of them basically said, hover parents or parents that are too involved, that’s actually bad for the kid. Here’s what you wanna go for – good enough. You expose them to enough cultural things, you take them to enough of a—good enough. I thought, “That’s right up my alley. I can do that.” And then, uh, that’s, uh—it was just a life changing moment. But it had to get really extreme, and that’s when it dawned on me—to come back to what you’re saying about the human connection. That the only things I cared about—the things I thought I cared about: whether I was successful, whether I sold books, whether people liked me, whether people admired me, whether I was good at things; I suddenly couldn’t give a fuck about any of that. Or whether I went to Trader Joe’s today or whether I did the laundry, or whether—nothing fucking mattered. I just wanted to be with my husband and my kid. And that’s it. And it’s the kind of clarity that, unfortunately, sometimes get from an extreme experience like that. And, but, you know, I’d been googling gun stores, because I didn’t—I was stumped about how, what, how and, um. But I hadn’t actually gone, like gone, like you have to fill out the forms and wait a week, and take a class, and I don’t think I would have done—
Paul: Which I did.
Teresa: Did you?
Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I had actually, had applied for the license.
Teresa: YOU DID?!
Teresa: Did you go to the one in the valley or downtown?
Paul: I did.
Teresa: Oh my God!
Paul: It used to be B&B Guns on Oxnard and Clovis.
Teresa: So fucking dark. I can’t even believe we’re going here. So you went there? Because I don’t know how to fire a gun, so I was gonna take the class. Did you take the class?
Paul: I had a friend take me to the gun range. He didn’t—and I don’t think I even knew that that’s where I was headed, but I was starting to hear voices in my backyard at night, and this was when I was drinking a lot also. Um, this would have been, um—
Teresa: I was in your garbage looking for chocolate.
Paul: This was like 1999. But, um, I felt like there was—like the world was closing in on me and I didn’t—I don’t think I realized that, that’s what I was trying to do. There was two thoughts in my head. One was that I need to, to kill myself to make this pain end; and the other was that people, people are, are going to invade my home and my backyard and I need to protect myself.
Teresa: So you were having paranoid delusions.
Paul: Yeah, yeah, I think I was. I think I was. But I was also drinking a lot and my depression was unmedicated at the point.
Paul: No problems sleeping. Actually, sleeping too much.
Teresa: Oh well, yeah, that’s the other sign that you’re depressed.
Paul: Yeah, yeah but I, I just like to compare notes when I can, I like to, I like to say “me too” when I can.
Teresa: I can’t believe you, you went down there. And you filled out the form.
Paul: Yeah. I filled out—in fact, I don’t know if it’s still valid, but, yeah, I’m clear. I got a permit to, you know. I took the, I took the course.
Teresa: And then you’re supposed to wait a week, which I think is a good idea.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know why I didn’t, I didn’t buy one. I know my wife did not want me to buy one. She thought it was completely unnecessary. But, I had—we had had somebody, a fugitive, run through our yard, like, uh, a couple of years earlier and it freaked both of us out. So I think in my mind, that was the reason why I was going to buy the gun. But deep down, I had this fantasy every day. Every day. That I’m going to kill myself to make this, this—
Teresa: I found it very comforting, like, in that last week, where I was googling the gun shops and calling my dad, and, uh, where I sort of thought, “This is gonna—this is the way to go here.” I suddenly felt better. I felt relieved and I think that’s common with people. Now, I don’t, I don’t believe I was genuinely suicidal. I believe I was having these fantasies because they were a relief from the pressure I felt.
Paul: You need a plan B.
Teresa: I needed a plan B. And I just—the idea that there—to me, the idea that I was a—that I wasn’t a good mother was—I simply just couldn’t have it. I just simply couldn’t live with that. It was too much. Having had that experience myself, like, and, and, I just—and it was bullshit! Like I was doing fine. I am doing fine. Um, there were professionals around who agreed that I was—more than that, like, they said, you know—my kid goes to this amazing daycare. And the woman, she’s written a book, she’s she’s been doing it for forty years, and she’s like, “This kid is so together. You don’t have to worry about this kid.” Like, but, it wouldn’t get in, because I was paranoid.
Paul: Yes, yes. And when there’s mental illness, it doesn’t matter sometimes what external circumstances are because the brain will twist it to be whatever fact the brain needs it to be to justify its own sickness.
Teresa: I’ll tell you what. There are days now, whatever, four or five months later, Paul, that a part of me misses that moment, because it was so extreme. And I know I keep saying that, but—
Paul: Which moment?
Teresa: Of just crashing, and, you know, emailing my boss that I was gonna have to take a week off, and, you know, it was almost like being totally new.
Paul: This was before or after the moment you knew you needed time off?
Teresa: When I that time off, and, um, you know, everything stopped, and, um, you know, you know, my, my therapist and my husband, and, you know, this was, like, a thing. People were worried. And, you know, we took steps. And we, we, we addressed it. And sometimes I miss that because that, um, because there are times, sometimes even four or five months later, I find myself getting wrapped up in things that don’t matter. And I miss that feeling that I knew that they didn’t, you know? Like, if, if, you know what I’m saying?
Paul: Oh, I so know what you’re saying.
Teresa: I find myself going, “Does Whitney Cummings have to have TWO FUCKING SHOWS?!!” WHY??!! God, you know. I, I met her a couple of times. She’s really nice. And on a good day, when everything’s happy and good, and I like, and, and, and, I’m a leaf in the stream, and you know, and, like God bless. There’s enough to go around. And she’s so hard working and everything. And then, but then there are days where you go, “Why didn’t I amount to anything? I mean why didn’t—why, why..” You know, so when I have stupid thoughts like that that creep in, that, that I know are meaningless. That I know, I know—
Paul: But they seem so real when they come in. That it’s, “I have fucked up. You don’t work hard enough. You aren’t good enough.”
Teresa: Right. “You aren’t ambitious. You aren’t”—
Paul: You aren’t ambitious. And it feels so real.
Teresa: You shoulda. You shoulda done.
Paul: You fucked up. The world is passing you by.
Teresa: You quit this or that job. You’d be here or there. You could’ve been. You would’ve been.
Paul: They’re lies. They are lies. And, and, you know, sometimes that—I, I think that the universe—what feels like, it’s cornered us, and we fucked up. It’s trying to give us something that we really needed. Now your book sale. If your book had been a best seller, it would have just delayed, I think, the inevitable, of you having to have this moment of you realizing what was important.
Teresa: Uh, yeah, I agree. I mean, I think there was so—writing that book, my—there were a lot of, um, there were a confluence of events. You know, like water flowing into one big river that lead to this. But writing the book was SO hard because I had an infant at the time, who was nursing. I won’t bore you with that, but it was very hard and exhausting. And then working, and then promoting the book, so going on Dr. Phil and The Talk and there—all over. And there was so much blood, sweat and tears. And it was the first time in my life as a writer that it didn’t come back to me. You know, like, in my show business career, whatever, on tv, some things are good, some things are bad. Some things fail, whatever. But as a writer, every time I’d written something—and, and I don’t aim that high—but people had, um, felt it on some level and it, it had been received well. And, and this was received well, but it wasn’t a best seller. So I think putting ALL that effort and energy into it, and it not being, you know, like a huge—and, you know, it will earn out its advance, which one in ten books do, so there’s that. But that wasn’t enough. And I do think, yes, had I gotten that, would that have made it all better? No. Because the thing that I had to do, I think, was not get up at 4:30 in the morning. It’s just that simple. And people who work weird hours know what I’m talking about. Because it really screws up your brain. And until you can not fucking tolerate any stressor. You know, until you can’t think straight, and then you’re googling gun ranges. And then you go to the valley, maybe I’ll just be alive. But right after that, I was doing—so, so I was working, still—went back to work and there was a new story about these suicide kits. Well, you know, I should (laughs) I feel like—if you’re suicidal, that’s—don’t—cuz look, I’m, I know I cried and shit, but I’ve never been fucking happier. I’ve never been happier in my life. Because, um, for the most part, I’m still pretty that these human connections I have are all that matters. And, um, and I’m so lucky to have them. So, fuck everything else. Um, and so, that, um, whatever. But there are kits, I found out. That’s what I was getting to. So after that whole gun debacle, where I couldn’t figure out how to get a fucking gun? And I really, honestly, was don’t, don’t feel like I legitimately suicidal. I was feeling, I was fantasizing. But, um, but I was down. Um, these kits. Ok, this old lady was selling them online and I think she was getting prosecuted. It had to do with, like, a helium balloon, did you hear about this?
Paul: uh uh
Teresa: It’s like some kind of helium balloon setup and, um, you know, that she was helping people to gently pass on to, on to the next life. Shuffle off their mortal coils. And I thought—
Paul: With a cartoony voice?
Teresa: No, well this is my fav—ok, so now you’re trying to have—you know, say your last—maybe you’re alone, but then don’t you, don’t you think you say something just to hear yourself? With the cartoony voice?
Paul: Yeah. I, I don’t understand, what is the purpose of the helium balloon?
Teresa: Somehow it kills you. There must be some kind of, it’s like—
Paul: You take a hit of helium?
Teresa: You know, like the plastic bag thing where you get—my aunt did that. And they found—there are a lot of suicides in my family—and my aunt—
Paul: Apparently, she wasn’t an environmentalist. She would’ve chose paper.
Teresa: (laughs) She wasted the bag. I hope they recycled it and somebody else killed themselves with it. Oh, you know what’s funny? Her husband also killed himself later.
Paul: That’s awful!
Teresa: It’s not funny. But he didn’t use the same bag, and I feel like, hey, carbon footprint guys. You know, you could’ve used—but she had the book next to her after she was found—Final Exit. And it explains that the plastic bag is the best thing. So this helium balloon thing must be some version of suffocating yourself but involves helium. I do like to imagine (chuckles) that it’s (high voice) “Goodbye cruel”. You know what I mean?
Paul: Yeah. Oh my God.
Teresa: But now I think maybe ways to kill yourself shouldn’t be readily available because—
Paul: Yeah, I mean, I suppose in a capitalistic democracy, it, it should but, uh, in many ways it, it shouldn’t be. Um ….
Teresa: I do think, right, I believe strongly, that if you are ill, and you would like to go, that you should be allowed to do that with dignity.
Paul: Oh, absolutely. If there’s, if you’re, if you’re, if you’ve got some life threatening illness and you’re in pain, and—
Teresa: Do you think if you’re depressed, you should be allowed to just go with dignity?
Paul: No, I don’t. Well, I think you should be able—you should be allowed to do whatever it is that you want to do; I’m a Libertarian that way, but I think most people—I think 99.9% of the people would be wrong in making that snap judgment.
Teresa: It’s going to pass. It’s going to pass.
Paul: It is going to pass. It is going to pass.
Teresa: But what if you’ve been depressed for, like, then years?
Paul: I was! I was depressed for ten years. And—
Teresa: And it passed.
Paul: It passed. Sometimes it comes back. It’s settled over me for the last couple of months. I’m approaching changing my meds—
Teresa: Where are you today? Ten being, I’m at the gun range, because you already filled out the paperwork, and one is, you’re Whitney Cummings. Cuz I just imagine I’d be really, really happy.
Paul: Um, I’m probably a five or a six. Um, it’s just, everything is grey, everything is flat. I know it’s gonna change, I’m just impatient, and, and, uh, I’m just, I’m—
Teresa: What can I do? To make it better?
Paul: Doing this podcast. That you—I’m telling you, this podcast. People tell me, “I love the podcast, it brings me—it makes me feel less alone, makes me feel less fucked up.” They say it all the time. It—this, this does it for me. That moment when you were—when you said your dad—you were crying and you said, “My dad said, ‘I will never be OK with it.’” I, I felt something within me lift. And I just felt like, there was somebody out there that gets me that I get, that, that it’s OK for me to talk about my pain. It’s OK for me that I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’m, that I’m never gonna be happy and have passion like I used to. That’s, that’s a big fear of mine. Um, cuz it’s been months since I’ve felt any passion for anything.
Teresa: Even about doing this podcast?
Paul: I have moments when I’m doing this podcast. Most of the time, I’m sweating and nervous that I’m doing a horrible job. My shirt is almost completely soaked through.
Teresa: You know what I find really helps? Mounds bar.
Teresa: Yeah. Or a Twix.
Paul: I had a, a big bowl of, um—they did a premiere party for the show that my wife works on, and they it catered. And it was this amazing caterer. And it was this bowl of that hot, chocolate, lava-ey cake, with ginger ice cream.
Teresa: Oh my God
Paul: And, uh, that was like ten minutes of just bliss.
Teresa: I don’t fuck around with no ginger in my shit though.
Paul: It was just—
Teresa: Don’t put ginger in my fucking dessert. No.
Paul: It was good. It was chunks of ginger. There was chunks of ginger in it. It was good.
Teresa: No. No. No! That’s all wrong. But I like the lava chocolate cake. I have not had, uh, candy, cake, ice cream, none in ten year. Don’t miss it.
Paul: That’s amazing to me.
Teresa: Yeah. Don’t miss it. Cuz it wasn’t like one Jolly Rancher, it was, I’m gonna keep a bag of Jolly Ranchers under my bed because that’s gonna be my boyfriend, and my friend.
Paul: That’s what we call “getting into the ranching business”. Do you feel like doing a fear-off?
Paul: Do we have time?
Teresa: Oh, I, yes?
Paul: Are you Ok on time?
Teresa: Yes. Yes. Ok, I’m opening my computer.
Paul: I’m so, I am so happy that you found time to come do this because I know you’re super, crazy busy, but I think a lot of people are, um, gonna really get a lot…
Teresa: I hope so. Well, obviously, you know, you what we’ll do? After the fear-off? Maybe before we sign off? You know what I’m gonna do?
Teresa: You tell me. Maybe we can both do this? Since we like to regret things we’ve said, or failed to say, let’s take a moment—
Paul: Yes, let’s do that.
Teresa: And we’ll address our regrets.
Paul: A regret-off!
Teresa: Yes! And then that way—
Paul: Teresa Strasser.
Teresa: We leave, (claps) we’re clean.
Paul: I like that.
Paul: I like it. Ok.
Paul: Um, I am, I am going to, uh, listeners’ fears, because as I’ve said on the podcast—
Teresa: Aw, Jesus, you’re out of fears?
Paul: Well, I’ve done over, like, 120 on, on the show
Teresa: You start gettin’ …
Paul: And I don’t wanna get—and I don’t wanna repeat, so I’m—and I like, I like the, the listeners being a part of the show. So this one comes from, uh, I’m gonna withhold her name because it’s a very identifiable name, and, um, and I, I don’t know if she wants this to be anonymous or not, but it says, “Here’s some fears from a forty-two-year-old woman in Minnesota.” Uh…
Teresa: So I’m going—I’m facing off against somebody in Minnesota. Oh, oh, honey, oh—
Paul: And then she’s—
Teresa: Uh oh. Look out.
Paul: She’s, she’s crushed, huh?
Teresa: I think so, yeah.
Paul: Alright, uh, her first fear is, “I fear is that I won’t ever look good in clothes again.”
Teresa: I’m afraid that because my mother left at a critical age, I will never truly feel safe or happy. In your face!
Paul: That’s good. That is good. “I fear that SSRI’s have killed my ability to orgasm forever.”
Teresa: (laughs) I’m afraid that I harp on my crappy childhood too often and that it wasn’t really that bad.
Paul: And, by the way, we don’t stop to say how crazy and unjustified your fears are, but just know that 99.9 of them, percent of them, are fucking crazy and unjustified. I’m just not gonna stop and address of this. Uh, she says, “I fear I won’t ever sleep through the night again. It’s two years and counting with insomnia.” I thought you’d enjoy that one.
Teresa: Oh I do. I’m afraid I’ll repeat myself and annoy people.
Paul: Mm-hmm. “I fear I’ll keep getting fatter despite more than seven hours of exercise per week, at least one hour per day, for at least five days.”
Teresa: I’m afraid I say the same thing over and over.
Paul: “I fear I’m older and crustier than my years.”
Teresa: I’m afraid that one day the things about me my husband finds charming, he will find unbearably grating.
Paul: (laughs) “I fear I’m becoming irrelevant.”
Teresa: I’m afraid of being one missed thank-you note or elbow on the table away from being Jodie Foster in the movie Nell.
Paul: (laughs) Oh, God, I love you. “I fear I’m the only one who craves attention in person, face to face, without keyboards in the age of smart phones.”
Teresa: I’m afraid I will always be faking social graces instead of organically manifesting them.
Paul: (laughs) “I fear that I’m losing my mind.”
Teresa: I’m scared that people who think I’m talented will all, one by one, realize that they overestimated me.
Paul: (laughs) Uh, “I fear that I’m the only one who seems to care about copy editing.” That’s a very specific one she had.
Teresa: God, I’m slowly falling in love with this lady.
Paul: Yeah, she’s great.
Teresa: Her fears really paint a picture of somebody I would like. I’m scared of being broke and having to go back to living in Koreatown and having only one bathroom.
Paul: (laughs) “I fear I’m the only one I work with who writes things down.”
Teresa: I’m scared the veins under my eyes are becoming visible and making me look old.
Paul: They’re not, by the way. Uh, “I fear I’ll be old, alone, and mumbling to myself when my kids pass me by.”
Teresa: I’m scared that one especially vitriolic and dedicated internet will follow me and my career, posting nasty shit about me until the day the only thing I’m writing is my will, and the only thing I’m posting is Bingo night at the old folks’ home.
Paul: Oh, God damn it, you are good. I mean, you should literally come through saloon doors with the fear-off. I mean, you are so fucking good. Alright, you’ve already outlasted one, uh, listener. So I’m bringing in another listener now.
Paul: So you’ve already killed one off.
Teresa: Alright. I’m telling you, you gotta double team me.
Paul: We’re going to Kayla now, who says, “My biggest fear is falling and knocking my teeth out.”
Teresa: I’m scared one of my worst traits – being emotionally volatile.
Paul: “I have a fear of hitting an animal when I drive at night.”
Teresa: I’m scared of even voicing any real fears about my son, because they are so scary that it makes me superstitious. But suffice to say, I’m terrified about getting any sort of call about bad news from daycare or any other health crisis.
Paul: Good God. “I fear germs at the Redbox.” I don’t know – what is the Redbox?
Teresa: That’s where you get DVD’s for $1 from the Albertson’s. I’m classy. I’m scared of seeing my child’s blood, even from a skinned knee.
Paul: “I fear losing a loved one.”
Teresa: I’m scared my child will be a social outcast because I was a social outcast. And I won’t be able to show him the secret world of how popular people interact.
Paul: “I fear that I will come home one day and my cat will be dead.”
Teresa: I’m scared that my features are harsh and make me look angry or mean. And that this will prevent me from continuing to work in television. (laughs)
Paul: God damn it, you are so good! Uh, “I have a fear”.. And by “good”, I mean “crazy”. Uh, “I have a fear of getting fat and no one will think I’m attractive.”
Teresa: I’m scared I’ll never be important in any public way.
Paul: “I’m afraid that I will be stuck at my desk job for the rest of my life and never have a career where I’m satisfied.”
Teresa: I’m scared I will never stop grade grubbing from the pass/fail class that is life.
Paul: (laughs) “I have a fear of finding God.”
Teresa: I’m scared I wear too much makeup.
Paul: “I fear the unknown.”
Teresa: I’m scared many of my skirts and shorts are too short.
Paul: Wow, you have now knocked off a second listener.
Teresa: Triple team.
Paul: Wow. We’re getting to, getting to my last—I’m running out. This is my, this is my last listener that I, that I, at least that I brought.
Teresa: I’m just getting warmed up.
Paul: Um, this is, uh, now we’re going into Robert’s fears. Uh, “I’m afraid my therapist will die suddenly. I’ll never find another one with this skill and understanding regarding the baggage I have, and I’ll end up stuck, never growing and unwinding again as I started to when he was there for me.”
Teresa: I’m scared people will realize I’ve been lying about my height for years.
Paul: (laughs) “I’m afraid my stress will eventually give me cancer and end my life early.”
Teresa: I’m scared that my mom will kill herself.
Paul: “I’m afraid I’ll get a stroke when I’m older and not be able to get an assisted suicide and my last years will go on painfully, incapacitatedly, with my brain barely there, and my life a huge drain emotionally, and,” turning page, “emotionally and financially on my family.”
Teresa: I’m scared my dad will keep riding his bicycle despite his terrible eye spasms and crash his bike and I’m also terrified to voice this concern out loud, because God might punish me, even though I’m sure my conception of God includes this kind of punitive bullshit.
Paul: Oh my, I am in the presence of a master.
Teresa: Listen, anxiety is to me what the 100 meter is to Usain Bolt. I own it. I own it.
Paul: You are, you are, uh, I’m in the presence of greatness. Uh, Robert says, “I’m afraid humans have shifted to the—“, and he’s pretty fucking good, I’d like to say.
Teresa: He’s good. And so is Minnesota.
Paul: Yeah, uh—
Teresa: Fats, I like to call her.
Paul: Robert (laughs) Robert—
Teresa: Sorry, go ahead.
Paul: Robert says, “I’m afraid humans have shifted to the unconscious goal of mastering and dominating nature rather than living in harmony with it, and it’s made us more of a cancered earth than a healthy presence and before we get a chance to change, civilization will kill its host, with human life as we know it plummeting from the face of the earth a whole lot faster than we ever realized was possible.”
Teresa: Well, this is germane to his fear. I’m scared that as a writer, I will never quite get to the point, and say exactly what I mean.
Paul: Oh, that’s good. But I can tell you from your book that you couldn’t be more wrong. Your book has so many great, great insights and very eloquently phrased. Um, everything else you did in life is shit, but that’s just—
Teresa: (laughs) That is my one moment.
Paul: Uh, Robert says, “I’m afraid of being alone.”
Teresa: I’m scared I won’t have another child and my son will have no one to play with but me, and drive me nuts.
Paul: “I’m deathly afraid of getting a kidney stone.”
Teresa: I’m scared that in those moments that parenting isn’t totally joyful, that my son will somehow sense I want to be elsewhere.
Paul: You have won, Teresa Strasser. You defeated three listeners.
Teresa: I have, like, ten more.
Paul: Do you really?
Teresa: You wanna hear ‘em?
Teresa: I’ll go through them quickly.
Paul: Let’s go through them. Boom. Boom. Boom.
Teresa: I’m scared I will outlive my husband. I’m scared I won’t be able to afford private school or that I’ll pick out the wrong one and my son will either be a gang banger, or worse, some Waldorf School kid who discovers fractions through the majesty of shaped toys and expresses his feelings through trumpet solos. I’m afraid of using a word incorrectly and looking stupid. I’m afraid of always looking just a little bit pregnant. I’m afraid of getting the same outer thigh spread that is common to all my aunts. I’m afraid that I only understand what’s truly important in life when I have extreme life or death experiences. I’m afraid that all of my epiphanies are Teflon, they don’t stick and they never will. I’m afraid I will text or check email with the baby in the car and will have an accident and police records will show that I was deleting an email from Target.com when I was t-boned by an eighteen wheeler. I’m afraid other moms look at me with my son and think, “What the fuck is she doing? Something doesn’t seem right.” I’m afraid that being really, truly, wildly rich is actually super amazing but I will never know. I’m afraid that I don’t know how to maintain my friendships with women very well. I’m scared that I’ll never be able to sleep like a normal person without any kind of medication. I’m afraid my brother’s cancer will come back or that he is suffering quietly with the symptoms he has and not saying anything. I’m afraid my mother will die without ever seeing my child again because she is so stubborn and I am so resentful. I’m afraid I share too much but don’t do it with enough finesse or lyricism to make it worthwhile. Last one – I’m afraid my bangs were a bad idea. Went for Zoey Deschanel, got Dumb and Dumber.
Paul: (laughs, claps) Teresa Fucking Strasser. Wow. Wow.
Teresa: I thought you were gonna bring it a little harder. With the fears.
Paul: Uh, you know what, I underestimated you.
Teresa: And I stopped her at 46, but I could keep going. This is my distance. Remember when Usain Bolt was running and he took the time to look back? Taking fractions of a second—like, adding and he was like, “I don’t fucking care. Because I’m so fucking fast, I can stop and turn around. And you know what? Maybe I’ll even, like, give a peace sign.” You know what I mean, because he could spare it. It’s that.
Paul: You probably could have riffed on fears while getting a massage.
Teresa: Oh no problem. No problem, like doing something completely relaxing. I could be on nine Xanax and still, in the pit of my stomach, could find a little butterfly.
Paul: Yeah. Wow, that was, uh… So, you wanna go, you wanna go out—let’s fade out on a regret-off.
Teresa: Yeah, things that we will regret—so that we don’t have to worry after this.
Paul: Yes. Uh, I will kick it off. I regret that I injected, uh, uh, uh, too much of myself into the podcast.
Teresa: Oh my God, that’s the best—I kind of, um, uh, that I didn’t let you talk enough and I didn’t follow up on things you said.
Paul: Um, I regret that I will get in the car and realize that I forgot to ask you a question that I absolutely wanted to ask you.
Teresa: Shit, should we do a bonus where you ask me that one question? Is there actually a specific question?
Paul: No, no—
Teresa: Just in general, a little (indistinct). Oh I see, I see.
Paul: I suppose that’s a fear more than a—
Teresa: A fear, yeah, yeah. Uh, I regret, um—a lot of times lately, actually I had this before having a kid, but I think it’s maybe because of the Klonopin I take to help me sleep, when I’m grabbing for a word, when I’m writing I don’t have a problem, but when I’m speaking, I don’t often grab the right word. It’s like I’m on the monkey bars and I miss it. So I regret that I stumble for words—I’m gonna regret, but not anymore because I’m saying it! I stumbled a little today.
Paul: I, I, I didn’t feel that. Um, I don’t have any more regrets.
Teresa: I don’t either. You’d think that I would regret crying and shit, but I think it’s ok.
Paul: I was really touched by that. I was really, really touched. I mean, I, uh, I’m glad—here’s a non-regret—I’m glad I didn’t fuck it up by saying anything. Cuz I wanted to—part of me wanted to, when you were crying, I don’t know, I felt like I wanted to say something. I don’t know what it was that I wanted to say, but I was just so, um, just moved, just completely moved. I, I, you know, the vulnerability when people come on this show and they, and they open up in a really deep, honest, vulnerable way, it is like that feeling you described when, when you suddenly realized where your priorities were and you felt like you were vibrating at the frequency you’re meant to be vibrating at. That moment when you were crying, is just, I just felt that, aahh, just that, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be in the universe. And that to me, to me, life is, I’m just trying to string as many moments together where I don’t question where I am and what I’ve done. And this last hour and a half, this may sound cheesy, this is an hour and a half where I absolutely know this is where I was supposed to be. You were supposed to be my guest and everything that happened was exactly as it should be. And it just—I feel great.
Teresa: Thank you for having me.
Paul: Teresa Stressor. That’s your new name.
Thanks again to Teresa Strasser for that great interview. Thanks to my wife Karla for, uh, all her support and, uh, feedback on the show. Thank you guys for the feedback you give me through, uh, through the website. Um, thanks for the emails. And, um, thanks to the guys that help keep the spammers out of the forum. And, um, just remember, if you’re stuck, you’re not a piece of shit, the world is not passing you by. And, uh, I, I, I hope that you can string some moments together where you don’t question where you are and feel OK with whatever’s happening in your life. You are not alone. Thanks for listening.