Herpes from Date-Rape: Laura J.

Herpes from Date-Rape: Laura J.

Laura J. shares about contracting herpes by being date-raped and how she has navigated managing it logistically, sexually and emotionally with partners, including her husband. She was raised in an emotionally cold home by a psychiatrist father and image-obsessed mother. Her mother’s response when Laura would say “I love you” has only ever been “thank you”. Laura shares about having Bipolar 2, codependency, fear of intimacy, occasional paranoia, an eating disorder (compulsive eating), multiple stays in psych hospitals, an abortion and always being in the shadow of her high-maintenance and unstable sister.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling. To get your first week free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental  Must be 18 or over.

This episode is sponsored by Young Health’s probiotic Probimune. To get your first bottle free (plus $6.75 shipping) go to www.probimune.com and use offer code MENTAL

This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter. To post jobs for free go to www.ZipRecruiter.com/first

The podcast needs more funding.  Please consider becoming a monthly donor at www.Patreon.com/mentalpod or making a one-time donation via Paypal thru our website.   It also helps if you make your Amazon purchases through the link on our homepage.  It doesn’t make your purchases any more expensive.  Every little bit helps!



Episode notes:

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling. To get your first week free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental  Must be 18 or over.

This episode is sponsored by Young Health's probiotic Probimune. To get your first bottle free (plus $6.75 shipping) go to www.probimune.com and use offer code MENTAL

This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter. To post jobs for free go to www.ZipRecruiter.com/first


The podcast needs more funding.  Please consider becoming a monthly donor at www.Patreon.com/mentalpod or making a one-time donation via Paypal thru our website.   It also helps if you make your Amazon purchases through the link on our homepage.  It doesn't make your purchases any more expensive.  Every little bit helps!

Episode Transcript:

Transcription services donated by Accurate Secretarial LLC. You can find them at www.AccurateSecretarial.com.


Welcome to Episode 321 with my guest Laura J. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. The show's not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I am not a therapist. It's not a doctor's office, more like a waiting room that doesn't suck.

The Web site for this show is Mentalpod.com. Go there, please fill out a survey. We have surveys that you can fill out anonymously. We don't even record the IP address of the person taking, filling out the survey. And maybe we'll read your survey on the air. It helps us get to know each other better when you guys fill these out and pour your hearts and souls into these amazing surveys that you've been providing the show for years.

What did I want to share? Oh. You know, I debated on whether or not to share this with you guys because I'm afraid people are going to go, well, then I'm not donating anymore, but I finally bought a new car. I hadn't had a new car in 10 years. And the reason I wanted to share it is, when I drove it, I pictured everybody that has contributed to the podcast, because, I mean, that is, I support myself doing the podcast. This is my full-time job.

And it was my dream starting in 2011, 2012, when I started doing the podcast, to be able to do this full time and to support myself. And it just blows my mind that the kindness of donors has enabled me to get a new car, and it's just, you know, you enable me to pay my rent, put food on my table. I should really put it on a plate, but I put it right on the table. I take things literally. When I hear a saying, I fucking run with it.

But I just want to thank people who have supported the show. You know, even if it's something as much as telling a friend about it, that brings more listeners, which means more downloads, which means if an advertiser decides to advertise on the podcast, and they're more likely to if we have more downloads, then there's more ad revenue with more downloads. So, every little bit helps, and thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can't tell you how just great it feels to sit in a new car and know that it was from the kindness of people who wanted to give back, and it just, here's the tough part, is when I wreck the car, I will have to blame you for giving me that fucking car. But in the meantime, you have a special place in my heart.

This episode with Laura J. was recorded in 2014, and that happens sometimes. Sometimes I don't air episodes for a couple of years, never for one particular reason or another. Sometimes it's because I have a horrible memory and I can't remember what was talked about, but when I sit down to re-listen, it's, [chuckles] it's nice having a terrible memory because it's like listening to something for the first time.

But in this episode, I talked about being addicted to playing Civilization on my iPad, which was like three years ago, two and a half years ago, and I was so clearly, when I recorded this episode, still stuck in my depression. And it's kind of, it's a bittersweet thing because I look back and I think, oh, God, that poor guy was just napping all the time and etc., etc., but then I, it makes me appreciate the fact that I'm in a good place now.

And, I don't know, it, I still got a lot of work to do [chuckles], but in terms of my mood, my mood has been really good. You know, one of our sponsors, as I've mentioned to you guys, is Better Help, and they do online therapy.

And I really like my counselor, and one of the things that we've been working on, those of you that are regular listeners know, boundaries. Boundaries is like kind of the, you know, I think everybody, when they're trying to become a better person, they just kind of take things one chunk at a time and go, okay, I'm going to, this is the next project on the workbench, and right now, for me, it's boundaries, you know, conversational boundaries.

I would like to think that [chuckles] I'm very respectful of people's physical boundaries, unless you're an opposing team member and you hit me with your hockey stick, but I feel like I have an increased awareness of it now. But not only intellectually, I feel like all of the shit I've been processing through support groups and therapy over the years has decreased the build-up of pressure inside me from not being able to feel like I can express who I really am for fear of either being rejected or hurting somebody or looking like I have needs.

And my support groups have helped me kind of whittle away at that myth that you look selfish if you say, you know, I would like such-and-such. And the therapy that I'm doing with Donna is just really good, and I'm a big fan of BetterHelp.com.

If you are interested in trying online counseling, highly recommend it, go to BetterHelp.com/mental. Complete a questionnaire and then they'll match you with a BetterHelp.com counselor and you can experience a free week of counseling and see if online counseling is a good fit for you. And if, for some reason, you don't like the counselor that you're matched with, they will match you with another counselor, and they have a lot of counselors. You've got to be over 18, and I, I like it. I like the convenience of it, but you also get the face to face because it's video. So, again, go to BetterHelp.com/mental.

I'm wondering [chuckles] if one of the things I can ever be helped with is this habit of eating ice cream right before I go to bed, and not just one ice cream. I usually have like three different ice creams hanging out in the fridge, and I do that lie where I tell myself, I’m just going to have one bite of one of them, and it always turns into four bites of all three of them, and then I go right to bed, because I'm doing this at 4:00 in the morning.

But when that feeling comes over me, the craving for the ice cream or the chocolate is so strong, and here's another thing. I hope this isn't creepy to say. But I, eh, it's not creepy. After I have an orgasm, it's, that seems to be when it's the worst. It's like on nights or days when I don't have an orgasm, there doesn't seem to be that craving for the ice cream or chocolate, and I know that the chocolate and the sex part of the brain are close to each other, but it doesn't make sense to me.

So, if there's anybody out there who is an expert in sex and neurology or ice cream [chuckles], anybody with an ice-cream truck, please weigh in on this.

I want to tell you guys about Probimune. Did you know that up to 80% of your immune system relies on a healthy gut? Well, that's why it's so important to take care of your digestive system with Probimune. It's developed by the people at Young Health, and Probimune, it's a liquid probiotic that promotes intestinal health, with a unique blend of bacteria not found in 99% of other probiotics. Its industry-leading fermentation process ensures the largest number of good bacteria are delivered alive in the gut, because it's not about how many bacteria are in a probiotic. It's about how many survive the digestive process.

Probimune delivers a maximized bacterial colonization that no other probiotic can match. Plus, it's actually, it's the only colonization that I can put my [chuckles], put my support behind. It's easy to use. It's easy to travel with. I can vouch for that. And it's easy to store, no refrigeration required.

So, you guys can get your first bottle of Probimune free when you sign up for automated delivery. That's a $34.95 bottle of Probimune free. All you've got to pay is $6.75 shipping and handling. So, go to Probiume.com, that's P-r-o-b-i-m-u-n-e dot com, and use the promo code MENTAL at check-out. That's Probimune, P-r-o-b-i-m-u-n-e dot com, with promo code MENTAL for your free bottle today.

Okay, I just want to read this one survey before we get to the interview with Laura. Oh, one thing, I made a mistake that, in the interview with Laura, I started talking about a band that I love named UFO. They were a rock band in the '70s. And the song of theirs that I named, I talk about a guitar solo in it, and I said it was the song, what was the song that I said it was? I think I said it was, oh, I said it was Only You Can Rock Me. It's not. It's Too Hot to Handle, is the name of the song that I was thinking of. It has a great guitar solo in it. And I'm sure you're intrigued by this band because those are really great-sounding titles [chuckles] for songs. It's like something out of Boogie Nights.

All right, this is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Aster Says Hi. And she writes, I've been hospitalized for suicide ideation following a previous almost-completed suicide attempt. After a few weeks, a fellow patient and I decided to leave the hospital for a few hours, taking a break from the crazy.

All went well until, on our return, as we were climbing back over the fence, I got stuck and couldn't move either way. It was depressing to think that this was where our lives had taken us, sneaking back into a psych hospital, but we ended up hysterically laughing at the situation, which of course didn't help me to get unstuck. I was eventually able to get off the fence and back into the hospital without being found out. I still look back at that event and it brings a smile to my face.


[Show intro]


PAUL: I'm here with Laura, who is a listener and some of the issues that you struggle with, you have bipolar II--


LAURA: Mm-hmm, yes.


PAUL: You were raised [chuckles] by emotionally unavailable parents and your dad was a psychiatrist.




LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: Fantastic. Awfulsome.


LAURA: [Laughs]


PAUL: You're married.




PAUL: You don't have kids.




PAUL: And you contracted an STD, how long ago?


LAURA: About nine years ago.


PAUL: Okay. And it's herpes?




PAUL: Okay.


LAURA: Which I don't say the word out loud--


PAUL: You hate the word.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: Yeah. What do you call it?


LAURA: I just, I say it starts with an H and ends with an -es.




LAURA: Or however you spell it, so.


PAUL: Does it make it more real for you, or is it the stigma of the way people say the word herpes?


LAURA: I think it's all of it.


PAUL: Yeah.


LAURA: You know, it's just that really uncomfortable, it's just uncomfortable, because so many people make so many jokes about it that, you know, when you have it and no one knows that you have it, then, you know, all of a sudden you're more aware to hearing people talk about it, and then you don't want anyone to know that you have it. So, and then you feel like they're talking about you and they're judging you.

So, it's just, luckily, in the last few years, it hasn't been too much of an issue. I haven't really had it. But it's still there. It's always, it's always going to be there, no matter what.


PAUL: It's like a stalker.


LAURA: Exactly. And just comes out, you know, when he wants, you know, to--


PAUL: When your life gets good [chuckles].


LAURA: Exactly. So--


PAUL: Or does it come out when you're stressed?


LAURA: It comes out, well, it hides in your lower back kind of, in that part of your spinal, or your, whatever your back area, you know, whatever it's called, and when you're stressed, anxiety, if you're eating certain types of foods, it can just come out, you know.


PAUL: Like what types of foods?


LAURA: Usually like salty, stuff that has vinegar in it, kind of like really fatty foods, things like that, greasy stuff, you know, just stuff that's really bad for you, so just not taking care of yourself properly.


PAUL: Does it come out in ways other than your genitals?


LAURA: For me, no. That's where it only, you know, for me, that's the only area.


PAUL: Okay.


LAURA: And it always comes, it always starts in the same spot where it first originated. So, anytime it would come back, I would always feel it coming, and then I would, you know, take stuff right away.


PAUL: What do you take?


LAURA: I would take acyclovir. So, you would take it, depending on the doctor, they'd either give you like 400 milligrams or 800 milligrams, and I would take it usually twice a day. So, you take it for seven days, but there's still a seven-day window period after that, so even though it might be--


PAUL: When you're contagious?


LAURA: Mm-hmm. So, even though when it's gone, after those seven days, you still have another seven-day window period that you can still give it to somebody if you're unprotected.


PAUL: And talk about the moment when you first realized you had it. Who did you get it from? By the way, you're our third guest that has herpes.


LAURA: Oh. Well, okay. Yeah, well, it's one in three women, supposedly that's the statistic, that has it. So, I worked in a salon that had 18 people in there and there was three of us that had it.

I had just moved back from London, and I was in a really bad frame of mind. I wasn't getting along with my parents. Shocking.


PAUL: And how old were you?


LAURA: I was, that was nine years ago, so I'm 32, so 23, and there was this guy that I had seen before I had left to move to London and he was younger than me, and he was relentless to seeing me when I came back. And so finally, I said, fine, whatever, so it was like midnight and I allowed him to come over to my house. I was living with my parents.

So, I met him in the back, opened up the sliding door and let him come in. And we were in my room and, from what I can remember, from what, you know, it was just a bad night, was he kept trying to have sex with me and I kept saying, no, no, no, and there's only so many times you can say no and then he's just, he just pins . . .


PAUL: He pins you down, yeah.


LAURA: He pinned me down, and then just kind of does it. And I kind of just felt like, I’m in my own home, my parents aren't that far away. Like, my mother was in her bedroom. My dad was downstairs in his office. And I felt guilty and bad that I had allowed this person to come into my home, so I was kind of like . . .


PAUL: You felt complicit.


LAURA: Yeah, like I, not that I deserved it, but it was just like, well, this is what you get when you have someone like this come over.

So, and he had sex with me and he came inside me and I didn't, I was kind of just really not paying attention or just being, you know, it was just--


PAUL: Were you dissociating?


LAURA: Yeah. I was just kind of--


PAUL: Yeah. You know that that's really common, that people are, they kind of leave their body and it's like they're watching themselves.


LAURA: Yeah. Well, listening to more of your podcasts--


PAUL: Hold on one second. I want to get you a water.


LAURA: Okay. Thank you.


PAUL: Go ahead.


LAURA: Yeah, but listening to more of your podcasts and understanding more about kind of my situation, you know, I was like, oh, okay, you know, that makes sense. And I just remember getting up and going to the bathroom and all this, not to be gross, but all this stuff just coming out of me, and I was just like, what?


PAUL: Had you had sex before?


LAURA: I did with, with one other person, or, no, I’m sorry. I take that back. I lied. I totally lied. I had a boyfriend and then there was two instances with two other people before him, but, you know, nothing, nothing like this before.


PAUL: And are you, do you use the word rape to talk about what happened?


LAURA: Yeah, I mean, I tell people that I was date raped in my own--


PAUL: Okay.


LAURA: --you know, I, it took me a while to talk about it, and it's, it's, I'm, it's still something I'm still processing, which affects my marriage right now.


PAUL: How can it not?


LAURA: Yeah. So, it's--


PAUL: If you haven't processed it.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: And even if you have processed it, it's--


LAURA: Right. You know, so it's, so, yeah, I mean, it's, you know, it was just very blurry and hazy, and then I remember, I went back to bed and fell asleep and then I got up and I was just like, oh, my God, you've got to get out of here, because he was still there. It was just awful.

That next day I felt something weird was going on with me down there. I didn't quite understand what it was, but I was like, something's not right. And it took about three days to realize, okay, something's wrong. I had gone over to my sister's house at the time and, because her boyfriend and her were fighting, and my parents had to dr-, my dad had to drive me over to my sister's house because it was that bad, I was in that much pain down in my area.


PAUL: Did you tell your dad?


LAURA: No. I didn't tell anybody.


PAUL: Okay. Why did you tell him you needed your dad to drive you over there?


LAURA: I said I wasn't feeling good.


PAUL: Oh, okay.


LAURA: I just said I wasn't, I just wasn't, I kind of blamed everything on, oh, I just moved back from London, oh, it's jet lag, oh, I don't feel good, but also, too, because the next night after this, the date rape happened, my sister threw a party for us, or for me coming home, and then got to the point where she's like, everyone, get out, get out, kicks everybody out.

And it wasn't like a wild, crazy party, but I had been drinking so I had no way of getting home and somebody from my past showed up and said he'd take me home, and he didn't. He took me back to his apartment in West Hollywood and tried to have sex with me and tried to stick things up me.

So, it was like going from the night before--


PAUL: I am so sorry that all this, it's . . .


LAURA: You know, it's kind of like, I feel like when I talk about it that it's like people are like, well, why did you let that happen? Like, I feel weird--


PAUL: They're ignorant.


LAURA: Yeah--


PAUL: They're ignorant, Laura.


LAURA: --I feel weird talking about it, but listening to this podcast, I'm just like, [sighs] oh, okay, because this man was six-six, 300-something pounds, and I was just like, what are you, you know, what do you do? Like you're, not what do you do, but I felt afraid and I felt, you know, we didn't end up having sex but he just tried to force stuff up me.

And then, the next night, I think I tried to, which one of your guests had talked about re-creating what had happened the two nights prior with the same person, and--


PAUL: To convince yourself that you had a choice and you had some control over it.


LAURA: Right, yes. And it was just as bad as the two nights prior, if not worse.

So, those couple days later, when I was at my sister's apartment, you know, I was telling her, listen, I was kind of talking to her about what happened and she didn't really want to talk to me about it because she had her own stuff with her boyfriend. I'm trying to be the mediator. And so then she said, well, let's just go back to Mom and Dad's, not knowing that she had just downed a bottle of Xanax--




LAURA: --and then decided to drive me home. And so . . .


PAUL: This would make a great ABC Family Channel after-school special.




PAUL: A very special . . .


LAURA: It's just, it's nuts. And so, we get back to my parents' house, and I guess she like drove up on the curb, and my mother goes, is she drunk? And I looked at her, I'm like, are you on drugs? No, she's not. Well--


PAUL: Yeah.


LAURA: --yeah. She took a bottle of Xanax, so she wasn't drunk, but--


PAUL: Why did she take an entire bottle of Xanax?


LAURA: Because she had got into a fight with her boyfriend.




LAURA: And he found out that she lied about something, so--


PAUL: That's how you fight back.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: You try to kill yourself.


LAURA: Right. So, that's, you know, and that's what she does. But now, you know, then my parents now have to deal with that, so now I'm just upstairs dealing with my thing.

And then finally, the next day, I went to the doctor and I had, my girlfriend came with me and I remember going into the doctor's room or the, you know, the exam room, and, you know, you sit there and then they're looking at me, because now, there's all this stuff, there's all these like white dots and everything down there, and I was just like, oh, my God, this is like my biggest, like my life is over.

And I was in so much pain. I was screaming because they kept trying to like examine me and touch me, while from the second guy had ripped me so bad, from stuffing, trying to stick stuff up me, that I was just even, it was just on top of the STD and being ripped, I literally thought, I don't even, it was extreme pain. I'd rather be tattooed all over my body, you know, 10,000 times over and over again than have to go through--


PAUL: And you are.




LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: You are tattooed all over your body.


LAURA: --than to have to go through that. And then all of a sudden they said to me, you have herpes. I, my girlfriend could hear me screaming and crying all the way, this is at Kaiser, all the way in the waiting room, that's how loud I was.

And then, I just thought, life is over. Who's going to want to be with a girl who has an STD? Like, and it's the gross one, it's like the one where everyone makes comments about, like, oh, she's dirty, you know. And for that whole week, I had to pee in a bathtub with warm water because it hurt that bad.


PAUL: Oh, my God.


LAURA: And I finally told my father and I said, you cannot tell Mom, you can't tell her, like you just can't. Like, nobody can know.


PAUL: Why?


LAURA: I was embarrassed because my mother likes to look a certain way, likes to act a, you know, like everything, it's like, you know, you talk about closed system, family systems, I mean, mine's like, you know, as closed as possible, like, you know. I always tell everybody, my parents had Christal champagne taste on a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer budget. Like, it's just--


PAUL: Even though your dad was a psychiatrist?


LAURA: He was really bad with money, and he wanted to help everybody, so he said, oh, you don't have money this week? That's fine, I still want to help you, please come in, you know, and I'll give you therapy.


PAUL: Had he ever seen anybody?


LAURA: You would, oh, you mean patients or himself?


PAUL: Himself.


LAURA: Oh, to go to therapy? A little bit. But he's a doctor, so he knows everything.


PAUL: That intellectual block, man--


LAURA: Right?


PAUL: --it keeps so many smart people from ever really, they think that they can process things intellectually--


LAURA: Oh, mm-hmm.


PAUL: --and they can't. It's like you have to put the intellect aside to really access the emotional and the spiritual.


LAURA: Oh, yeah. I mean, he convinced Kaiser for a while that he stopped smoking cigars because they told him to stop smoking. He's like, screw you, I'm going to still keep smoking, so I’m going to convince you. I mean, that's how nuts he is.




LAURA: You know, broke his ankle and said, I don't need to, I don't need surgery. He's a whole other story [chuckles].


PAUL: So, you didn't want your mom to be embarrassed of you, you didn’t want her to feel, help me--


LAURA: I didn't want her to be disappointed. I didn't want her to be shamed. Like--


PAUL: So, it sounds like her love for you was very conditional.


LAURA: It was. Well, I had no love growing up. I never had, I love you. I never had affection. It was always like, you need to be this way in front of these people--


PAUL: So, you were like a thing to them. It's like you were--


LAURA: Yeah. I had to be, because I'm the second child, so my parents were very consumed with my sister. She needed all of their attention, so they basically, when I was born, they were like, here's a manual on life and we'll see you at 18.


PAUL: Was it because your sister had issues or--


LAURA: Oh, yeah. She has a ton of issues, and she's just, she's needy. She's manipulative. And she, they've conditioned her to not, they're very codependent with her. I'm codependent with my parents, but my parents are codependent with her.

So, I had to be the type of child that's like, I’m going to make it, I'm going to do this, and I’m going to be what you want me to be and, you know, and then I felt like I was just failing at it. So--


PAUL: So, the thought of telling her was like--


LAURA: Oh, yeah. I didn't tell her for years. It took me [sighs], I think at least four or five years to tell her, at the very least, if not longer than that. And then all she said to me, well, I knew something was wrong, I just didn't know, and that's all she said.


PAUL: What did you feel or think when she said that?


LAURA: You know, I kind of wish she would have gave me a hug, you know--


PAUL: That breaks my heart.


LAURA: --you know, said, you know, I'm sorry I couldn't be there for, you know, I wasn't there for you. You know, it's just, it's difficult for her to express emotion. I mean, you say, I tell her, I love you, she says, thank you, or she--


PAUL: Are you kidding me?


LAURA: Or she says nothing.


PAUL: Are you kidding me?


LAURA: Yeah. It's, it's hard--


PAUL: Oh, my God [incredulously]--


LAURA: Yeah, it's--


PAUL: Oh, my God.


LAURA: --you know, and that's how she grew up.


PAUL: Thank you.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: Thank you [chuckles]--




LAURA: And I didn't know that, so when I had a first boyfriend and he said, I love you, the first time, I said thank you. And he looked at me--


PAUL: [Laughs]


LAURA: --like I was crazy, and I didn't get it, you know.


PAUL: Why does he think I'm crazy? I'm very polite.


LAURA: Right, thank you [chuckles]. I just looked up at him, I'm like, thank you, like . . .


PAUL: And he's supposed to say, you're welcome.




LAURA: Yeah, I was just, you know, I mean, it's--


PAUL: [Sighs]


LAURA: --you know, that's . . .


PAUL: And, you know, the other thing, something that I want to talk about because there's such emotional illiteracy in our society, and people who are in situations where they can't advocate for themselves, or they can't speak up for themselves, and when they look back in hindsight and they say, well, it's my fault because I couldn't tell that person no.

If you are raised in an environment where you don't know how to express your needs, where you bury them because you're afraid of being shamed or rejected or whatever, there is a greater chance, when you get out into the adult world, that you're not going to be able to advocate for yourself, and it's not a personal failing. It's like expecting somebody, well, why didn't I speak Spanish?


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: Well, because you didn't learn Spanish.


LAURA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: And I just want anybody out there who beats themselves up for having been violated and looks back and says, well, why didn't I do this, why didn't I do that, it's a thing. It's an actual thing--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --that if you don't know how to find the words, you don't know how to find the words.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: That until you've accessed that power of advocating for yourself as a child and an adolescent, you can't just automatically, well, I should say, a lot of people don't know how to begin to do that themselves.


LAURA: Right, right.


PAUL: And I think that's an important thing for people to know, and especially if you were raised as a people pleaser--


LAURA: Mm-hmm, yes.


PAUL: --if you were taking care of somebody, an adult's emotional needs when you were a child.


LAURA: Yes, mm-hmm. And I feel like that's, I’m always concerned, that's my codependency, about, you know, everybody else. You know, like, am I saying the right thing, am I doing the right thing, or I feel like I look at other people's body language and I'm like, okay, maybe I, you know, trying to feed off of them--


PAUL: If they're okay, I’m okay.


LAURA: Right. And, I mean, I would say to me, [chuckles] I would say to my husband the first few months we got married, I'm like, why do you hate me? He's like, what? I'm like, why don't you love me? He's like, what are you talking about? I’m like, I don't know, you're just really quiet right now, and he's like, what [incredulously]? Like, it's just, it was just kind of this thing where I was just like, you know--


PAUL: Silence is like horror.


LAURA: Yeah. Oh, my God, I can't stand silence. That's, it's just so awkward and uncomfortable, you know. So it's, I just have to keep talking.


PAUL: So, you told your mom. She [chuckles], she reacted like a robot, like a good robot.


LAURA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: And then, what, talk about the other things associated with living with it.


LAURA: Well, it was, I remember that first week, I felt like everyone and their mother knew, because Kaiser kept calling me. I was like, is there no communication at Kaiser? Because every day, for the next four days, a different doctor was calling me to say, just wanted you to know, we've confirmed, it's herpes, and I'm like, I just got a call yesterday about it, I'm okay. And then it was like, every day another nurse or doctor was just calling to conf-, I'm like, I got it, thank you, I know I have it.

And I had just started talking to my husband at the time, was just like, you know, it was when we were in the process of starting to date, and I thought, well, he's not going to date me, there's no way. No way. Because when you tell somebody you have an STD, automatically they're like, you've been sleeping around, you weren't careful, you know. And then it's like, do I go into this whole story of how it happened? You know, it's just like you're in this predicament.


PAUL: And a lot of people, too, feel like, if I have been raped, I've got dirt on--


LAURA: Oh, yeah.


PAUL: --you know, I'm soiled.


LAURA: Yeah, exactly. It was just this like, [intake of breath], you know, like how am I going to, how am I going to do this?

So, finally, like a month into getting to know my husband, or the guy I was dating--


PAUL: Then-boyfriend.


LAURA: Yeah. I finally told him, and we were sitting in my bedroom and I said, you know, I've got to tell you something. And I got really emotional and I said, you know, this thing happened, I've now got something for the rest of my life. I mean, I just said it in a very childish like, you know, didn't really use my words properly. It was just kind of like, I've got this thing, you know, and something happened, you know.

And then he just kind of looked at me very quietly, and then I went outside and smoked a cigarette, when I used to smoke, and I came back in and he just hugged me and he said, okay, and then he had to go home, you know, because he lived about 30 minutes away, and then it was just kind of like that was it. We didn't really discuss it again. And you know, obviously we're married now, but we had dated on and off for a couple of years, but it was just kind of like, okay, well, that wasn't too bad.


PAUL: Did you feel more love for him in that moment? What did you think or feel when he said okay? Was it the reaction that you wanted? Was it less than you wanted? Did it surprise you? I mean, it clearly surprised you, but--


LAURA: Yeah. I was kind of like, oka-, you know what I mean, I think I was maybe wanting to have a discussion about it, but he's a man of not many words. He just doesn't really talk a lot. So, I think I was kind of, I think, expecting at least a discussion about it, and it's something we still don't really discuss.

We still don't really discuss, you know, the whole date-rape situation, and not that it's like, oh, let's talk it over dinner, you know, kind of a thing, but it's not--


PAUL: It's something that needs to be talked about--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --between people that are committed to each other.


LAURA: Right. And I think it's hard for him because I think he feels really bad about it. So, you know, but I was also surprised that he was just like, oh, you know, like, okay, like you know, like you're not a dirty person, you're not this or that.


PAUL: He didn't say that, but he said okay, you know, like yeah--


LAURA: Yeah, like, you know, yeah. So--


PAUL: --like, I accept you.


LAURA: Right. But I still always had this fear that--


PAUL: He was withholding what he really wanted to say.


LAURA: Yeah, right. And that, you know, this is going to forever affect my life and then, you know, he's never going to want to be intimate with me, he's never going to want to touch me down there because, you know, I was like, I don't even want to touch myself down there. What if I get it on my hands? You know, it's like I had all these things--


PAUL: Is that, that's not possible . . .


LAURA: No. I mean, you know, I mean, obviously the only real way you can get it on your skin is if you're pregnant and you have an outbreak before you give birth and, which obviously, with women who have it, usually if you do have an outbreak before you give birth, I think they usually give you, I think, a C-section just because the child can contract it.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


LAURA: I think. I'm not, you know, it's just what I've read online.


PAUL: Okay.


LAURA: So, but I just, I was like afraid, you know. And I was just like, I don't want to tell anybody, and you know, I had told two other girlfriends and one girlfriend said something really terrible to me. She's like, after I told her, because she was a best friend that I'd known since I was 13, she literally said to me, I just went to the bathroom and used your toilet. And I was like, excuse me?

Like, I just told you something super traumatic that just happened to me and you're now worried that you're going to get it because you used the same toilet as me? Like, I, at that point, I was just like I don't even want to tell anybody, like I just don't want anyone to know.


PAUL: God, I see this all the time happening, where somebody opens up to someone close to them about something terrible and they, it's just met with a brick wall that--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --re-traumatizes and reinforces that feeling that I'm not worthy.


LAURA: Right. And I--


PAUL: Which is a good opportunity to cut that person out of your life or confront them about it and, depending on how they handle you confronting them--


LAURA: Mm-hmm, right.


PAUL: --decide whether or not this is a person you want in your life anymore.


LAURA: Right. And she is not really in my life at all.


PAUL: But she still uses your toilet.




PAUL: Which is very ironic.


LAURA: So, but, you know, after that, you know, Chris and I were, you know, dating or whatever, right, my husband or whatever, boyfriend then, and when we would break up, because we broke up a couple times, I thought, oh, my God, I'm going to have to go through this all over again.


PAUL: With another guy.


LAURA: Mm-hmm. And I was so afraid that I didn't tell anybody. I didn't sleep with people, but I just didn't let it go that far, because I was so afraid of having that conversation again.


PAUL: And being rejected.


LAURA: Yeah. And then I had friends who were like, who I started getting closer with and did tell, they're like, why tell somebody? You don't need to tell them. They're not your boyfriend. And I thought, oh, my God, you're the people who like, who do have it and you just give it to whoever. Like, I have to tell somebody.

If I'm going to be intimate with somebody, this is like a super-important conversation because I felt like, at the time when I contracted it, everyone I knew was getting some type of STD, everybody, and I felt like I was just like, oh, my God, like this is really bad.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


LAURA: People are being careless, you know, and irresponsible. So, I would, you know, I think I had the conversation with three people. One was to get out of having sex, because I didn't not want to have sex with him and he was trying to, and I, and it was still an issue of trying to say no. I told him and he just looked at me and he's just like, and then he just got off me and fell asleep, you know, because it was, again, I was like, I can't say no, he's inviting me into his home, he took me out to dinner, you know. I was just--


PAUL: It's amazing that you couldn't, that it couldn't, that it had to be that--


LAURA: Exactly.


PAUL: --because you couldn't say, listen--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --listen to me, this is not something that I want, this is the end of the discussion.


LAURA: Right, because even to this day, I still am afraid, I still have fear around men. Like it's just, it's kind of--


PAUL: Disappointing them or being overpowered by them?


LAURA: Both. You know, my very first boyfriend was very verbally and emotionally abusive, and we've worked things out. He's now married. I'm very happy for him. But I notice that any time that I, in years later after all that, if I talk to him or if I see him, I make sure that I look perfect, and I am perfect, even though I’m married and I love my husband, it's just that, you know . . .


PAUL: It's like that's your strength.


LAURA: It's just, it's, I'm just afraid that if I don't do the right thing, you know, something is going to happen.


PAUL: Oh, that he's going to--


LAURA: I don't know. I mean--


PAUL: --verbally or physically?


LAURA: --yeah, or he'll make comments about how I look or, you know, this or that--


PAUL: Oh, I see.


LAURA: --because I'm not to, you know, how I should be.


PAUL: If you feel like you're perfect, then you're protected.


LAURA: Right. But then I go to the thing where I'm not being perfect so then I'm, you know, obsessing about failing at not being, you know, perfect. But every day, I write in a journal every morning, I write, it's okay to not be perfect, and I am a wonderful human being and I make mistakes.


PAUL: That's beautiful.


LAURA: Where I learned to write most of that sentence was a mentor in my support group that I'm in for eating disorders.


PAUL: Okay. It's amazing, man, when we get into support groups, we can learn so much. We can learn to advocate for ourselves. We can learn, it's just, it's limitless, and yet so many of us are terrified to get into a support group because we think it's going to be the end of my autonomy--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --it's going to be boring, it's going to be--


LAURA: Oh, yeah.


PAUL: What have you, what freedoms and power have you learned in being, and we haven't even gotten [chuckles] into your eating disorder. This is fantastic.




PAUL: Let's finish talking about the STD before we get into that. So, you write this thing in your journal every day--


LAURA: Mm-hmm, yes.


PAUL: --that helps remind you that you do have power and you do have choice.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: And continue with that.


LAURA: Well, just it, it helps me be grounded. After I do that, I say a little prayer and pray to my higher power. And I've been doing that now for a couple weeks, and so it, it just, it helps me in that sense where I’m not getting into my head about everything and not being perfect and things like that, so.


PAUL: And remembering you're not alone.


LAURA: Right. You know, and I, and definitely throughout the years of having an STD, I've kind of, not necessarily grown to completely accept it, but I've kind of gotten more into like, okay, I have this--


PAUL: Now what?


LAURA: Yeah, you know, and now know some knowledge that I have of it, I can spread the message out and the word out to people who either, you know, have it or who are not being careful or, you know, so, because a lot of times people are like, oh, how do you know this information? Oh, I took a women's, you know, a women's studies class in college, which I did, but I say I know all this information from that, because--


PAUL: Oh, I see, you don't tell them you have it.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: Yeah, I see.


LAURA: You know, because a lot of people have wrong information about it, and so, that way at least I can, you know, talk about it in a, not necessarily positive way, but just let people know that it's not just, you know, this dirty, disgusting thing, like, you know, a lot of people have it and it's--


PAUL: Do you tell them when they're sitting on your toilet?


LAURA: [Chuckles] I do, with the door open.




PAUL: Go ahead. I couldn't resist.


LAURA: So, you know, I just let them know, you know, about it, so.


PAUL: And what is the reaction generally? Is it that they're like, oh, I didn't know that?


LAURA: Yeah, a lot of times, they are, you know, because they just, you know, they're just so, any time that they see somebody that has something on their mouth, you know, or whatever this, you know, oh, they must have herpes, oh, they're just, you know, they're dirty, they're disgusting, and it's, you know, or they make jokes about it, and it's probably the only STD that really has, you know, jokes.

I mean, I know they all have, people make jokes about them, but you don't really hear a lot of people talking about syphilis or gonorrhea or, you know.


PAUL: Well, you know, and I’m sure I've, I’m guilty of having, especially when I was younger, of making, you know, I made AIDS jokes, never at the expense of the victim. My intent wasn't, but I’m sure somebody who had it didn't appreciate the callousness with which it was used and that it was used as an object to--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --for a laugh. And it's funny, as I was thinking about coming in here and recording, it occurred to me that I had probably used herpes as a punch line at some point in my stand-up career and I felt, I felt bad about it, but I thought, well, you know, it's good that I'm going to have this discussion with somebody about it and help other people become more aware that there are human beings there when you make that comment.

You know, I think of the episode, when Todd Glass talks about growing up and being gay and not coming out because one of the big reasons was the way the word gay was used--


LAURA: Mm-hmm, yeah.


PAUL: --that it was a slam. And I just think it's so easy for us to forget that somebody standing right next to us might be getting a jolt of negative electricity through their body when we say something--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --because we don't know somebody, or at least we're not aware that somebody we know--


LAURA: Right, right.


PAUL: --has that, has that issue.


LAURA: Right, yeah, and I think, for me, it's just more of I don't, you know, want, you know, people who do have it to feel like they're dirty or they're, you know, because in the times where my husband and I, when we were dating, were broken up, and I think the two other people that I did tell, both had positive reactions. It's was just like, and? Was that to scare me? Like, that's how they, that's, because I felt like that's what they, you know.


PAUL: What did that feel like, when they said that?


LAURA: You know, the last time I had told the person, it actually was just like, wow, like, his reaction was just kind of like really loving and just like, so what? You're still a human being and I still really like you and I still want to go out with you, and I was just like, oh, okay. Like, you know, you're not just going to like kick me out?

And so, I was really shocked, you know, because a lot of times I say, oh, I’m an open book, I'm an open book, but it's that defense mechanism where it's like, I'll tell you everything that's bad about me just so I can prove myself right that you don't like me.


PAUL: Did any positive emotions come up for you when you told them, other than you were relieved that you weren't, that they weren't shocked? Like, did you feel felt or seen or . . .


LAURA: I kind of, you know, when I told the last person--


PAUL: Who was sitting on your toilet.


LAURA: Yeah [chuckles]--


PAUL: I'm not going to give, I'm not, I’m holding on to this one, Laura--




PAUL: I'm not letting it go. I'm going to be, even in the car ride by myself on the way home, I'm going to be going, while you're sitting on the toilet.


LAURA: [Laughs]


PAUL: Actually, while they were sitting on the toilet. I’m going to say it when I’m sitting on the toilet. Go, Laura, how you doing?




PAUL: That was creepy, that last one was just outright fucking uncomfortable and creepy. And I apologize to everyone involved who's sitting on their toilet. So, go ahead.


LAURA: You know, I don't think there was anything other than, no, it was just like, oh, okay, you know, they're fine with it, but then I still had that, you know, fear of still having sex with them. Like, it was just uncomfortable, like, oh, God, you know, are they going to, I don't know.

I always, I still have issues around sex, but, you know, like are they going to look at me like I’m this dirty person so they can do dirty stuff and like, you know.


PAUL: Really?


LAURA: Yeah. Like it's just, I don't know. I'm just, I just didn't feel, like the second person I told, he was kind of creepy. His name was Creepy So-and-so, which no one told me. I'm like, why wouldn't you tell me that was his nickname, Creepy Whatever? Like--


PAUL: Are you kidding me?


LAURA: Yeah, like none of my friends told me, and then after the fact, when we stopped like dating, they were like, oh, yeah, his nickname, by the way, was Creepy So-and-so. And I'm like [intake of breath], that's messed up.




LAURA: But anyways, the last guy, you know, I just kind of felt like then it all became about like sex--


PAUL: Sex.


LAURA: --you know. I mean, and he was, you know, extremely good-looking, and so I was just like, all right, whatever, like if he doesn't care, you know, but then it just became really meaningless. So, I don't think that any of the times really when I said it I felt heard or seen. It was just like, okay, well, whatever, like, they're like, okay, yeah, sure, sure, sure, I still want to have sex with you, like, come on.


PAUL: I see. So, it wasn't like a compassionate thing.




PAUL: It was just--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: Have you ever had anybody express, somebody that you were getting ready to be intimate with, have you ever had anybody express emotion, positive emotion towards you, like . . .


LAURA: When I talked about this or just in general?


PAUL: When you talked about it, because how else would they know in general to express emotion towards you about it?


LAURA: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, when I've talked about it other times with my husband, like he's, you know, a lot more compassionate, you know, about it, as, you know, throughout the years, but when he and I broke up a couple of times, I've only slept with two other people. One was that last person that I talked about, and then one random, horrible night person, like horrible night, like scary horrible night, just it was one of those bad, you know--


PAUL: Bad connection?


LAURA: Yeah. Like, they thought they were doing a really good job and you're just like, oh, I just can't wait for this to be over. So, and I will say, I didn't have time to tell him, that one other person. It happened one time, and I didn't have time, because it happened so fast.


PAUL: But you were not in an outbreak so there wasn't--


LAURA: Right, no.


PAUL: I mean, there's always like a slight risk, right?


LAURA: Yeah, there is. I believe, from what I've read, that there is, because like the shedding of the skin and there's like that slight, slight chance. I mean, obviously this person I had slept with that one time, we used a condom, always, always, always.


PAUL: And I could be wrong about that, I don't know.


LAURA: Right, no. I mean, that's what I've read, is the slight, there is, the skin sheds and, you know, there's a slight possibility, you know, but I've never, I've known other people who've had it and have never given it to people, only when, you know, there is an outbreak. And then there's some people who have had it for years and never know because it hides down in your lower spinal area or whatever, and then that's where it remains dormant until it comes out--


PAUL: I see.


LAURA: --you know, like a crazy stalker [chuckles]. So, but yeah, but I've, you know, like I said, that one time, and I felt really guilty about it, that I didn't let him know, but I didn't really see him again after that, so.


PAUL: This is the guy who was the bad lover.


LAURA: Yeah. Oh, God, it was so bad.


PAUL: What was so bad--


LAURA: He was--


PAUL: He put the tongue in the ear? That, nothing grosses me out like a tongue in the ear.


LAURA: [Chuckles] He did stuff like that. He wanted me to like lick his balls and put them in my mouth, and then he was like really big and he left his shirt on and it just kept getting stuck and he was sweating and his sweat kept dripping on me. Ugh, it was just, ulgh, so bad. It was just kind of like, is this really happening? Like--


PAUL: And was this Creepy, Creepy Guy, or was that a different guy?


LAURA: No. This was a different guy. The creepy guy, we never had sex.


PAUL: Oh, okay.


LAURA: It was just kind of, yeah, thank God, but the one-night-stand guy, I was just like, oh, God, like, I had such a crush on you and this is exactly how it's happening? Like, why? You know, sweat, he kept a Fiji bottle of water and he would always keep drinking it throughout moments, I don't know. It was just--


PAUL: Just wasn't your thing.


LAURA: No [chuckles].


PAUL: Might be somebody else's thing, you know what I mean? I'm sure there's women listening, they're like--


LAURA: You know, God bless them [chuckles].


PAUL: --I like guys that are tubby and I like to see him sweat and I like to lick balls and I like to have them in my mouth, but it just wasn't your--


LAURA: No, no. It was not, no, especially like the jackhammer like, you know, I felt like Sarah Jessica Parker from that one episode of Sex and the City where she like, her neck was hurting her after she had sex with a groomsman, it was that. So, so yeah, so I just didn't really have real sexual experiences because of the STD.


PAUL: Right. So, where are you at today?


LAURA: With it? I'm, you know, I think because I’m married--


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


LAURA: --you know--


PAUL: Is it always protected sex with your husband or can you have unprotected sex?


LAURA: While we have protected sex because we don't want to have children right now--


PAUL: I see.


LAURA: --so, and I don't, I’m not on birth control. I don't like, for me, I don't like being on birth control. It makes me crazy and gain weight. But yes, we use protection. So yeah.


PAUL: And do you, I'm sorry if this is indelicate, but when you're having an outbreak, are you able to have sex or is that--


LAURA: Oh, yeah, no.


PAUL: And that's because it's painful or--


LAURA: It's contagious.


PAUL: It's contagious even with a condom on.


LAURA: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, you're not, yeah, no.


PAUL: Okay.


LAURA: That is like a--


PAUL: No-no.


LAURA: Yeah, yeah.


PAUL: Okay.


LAURA: So, but usually when I would have an outbreak, I would start taking stuff right away, so you know, so yeah, no, that's a big no-no.


PAUL: Thank you for being honest about all that stuff and helping shed some light on the emotional aspects--


LAURA: Yeah, definitely.


PAUL: --of that, because when you e-mailed me, I was like, yes, this is, this is an interview that needs to happen because one of the things I really strive for in the podcast is to give voice to things that are misunderstood--


LAURA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: --not talked about--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --and not talked, if they are talked about, they're not talked about in a way that brings some humanity to it and brings some nuance to it and reminds people, I don't know. I just kind of lost my, I'm just really grateful that you--


LAURA: Yeah. And I’m very grateful for you having me be here, because, you know, like I said, so many people that I've been around, you know, talk about it so negatively, not necessarily jokes, just, you know, oh, you know, she's sleeping around, she probably has herpes, kind of a thing. So, so that's why, you know, because not all of us, you know, sleep around.

And not that sleeping around is bad, I mean, because I say to people, if I didn't have it, trust me, I would have slept with a lot of people when my husband and I were not dating or yet together, because I don't think there's anything wrong with that as long as you're protective--


PAUL: And it's not abusive or dishonest--


LAURA: No, exactly. All the people that I dated, I would have, but I also wasn't going to jeopardize just in case, you know. I wasn't going to do that, and so.


PAUL: Let's talk about the hospitalizations. Were they, psychiatric hospitalizations--




PAUL: --were they a result of, you said you have bipolar II. What, so eating disorder, bipolar II, any other things that kind of contributed, parents that were incredibly stoic . . .


LAURA: Yeah. That and I, my sister attributes to a lot of who I am. I have severe anxiety, and now I’m getting older, I have really bad paranoia, which is getting worse. So--


PAUL: How does it present itself, the paranoia?


LAURA: It is to the point where I think that when, for an example, my husband went out of town last week to go to Dallas for work, and last Thursday I was home alone in the evening by myself to go to sleep, I was so paranoid that I thought someone was going to break into my home that I locked myself and my dog in our bedroom, I locked the bedroom door, the bathroom door, the sliding-glass door, and did not really sleep because I kept thinking I was hearing something. I have that type of paranoia, where I think that someone's going to break into my home.


PAUL: Do you go to therapy?


LAURA: As of right now, no. I used to see a psychiatrist who did therapy and medication. He was amazing. He's amazing. He's extremely expensive because he doesn't take insurance. So, I was seeing another therapist, but I realized, when I stopped seeing her, she was making me hate my husband, and since I've stopped seeing her, I don't fight with my husband nearly as much, which is interesting. So, as of right now, no.

I'd like to find somebody.


PAUL: If money is an issue, you can dial 211 and find out what services are available in your area--


LAURA: Okay.


PAUL: --and you being a sexual assault victim, you probably also qualify for free counseling through the Rape and Incest National Network--


LAURA: Oh, okay. Great.


PAUL: The Web site is RAINN.org. That's what I've been told, at least. And you can also Google low-fee therapy and the name of your town or city, and that's actually how I found, about a year and a half, two years ago, a fantastic therapist who actually wasn't even licensed yet. She was still in training, had thousands of hours of experience, and she was one of the best therapists I've ever had--


LAURA: Awesome.


PAUL: --incredibly compassionate. So, you can find, and she worked on a sliding scale, depending on how much income you have. So, just putting that out there for you and anybody else who feels like money is an obstacle to that.


LAURA: Yeah, yeah.


PAUL: And I know there are people in rural areas that it's a lot more difficult for them.

Let's talk about the, what was your hospitalization experience like and what led up to that and how long ago did that happen?


LAURA: The first time I was in the hospital was when I was, I think I was 22. And I voluntarily checked myself in to, at the time, at Kaiser, because I wasn't feeling right. I was in beauty school at the time, and I don't know, it was just kind of like this, if I don't get help and get what I need to get, then I'm not going to be here much longer. Like, I felt extremely out of control, and I thought, I need to, I have insurance right now, so I need to take advantage of it and I need to get this taken care of.


PAUL: When you say you felt out of control, like you were going to hurt yourself or . . .


LAURA: I felt like I was probably going to hurt myself.


PAUL: Was your eating disorder bad at that point?


LAURA: During that time, no, because I did go through a period of having bulimia, but what the support group that I'm in for is compulsive eating, hugely addicted to food, so, at that time, no, I had lost a bunch of weight, actually, yeah, I think I had started losing some weight because I found a new medication to go on. So, it was, I just felt just out of control.


PAUL: I see.


LAURA: And so, I told my parents, I need to go to the hospital. They said, okay. So I just remember going to Kaiser and talking to this really prickish doctor and he's just like, oh, well, you're not textbook case, whatever that means, because bipolar II is, I don't have like a, I don't have a hyper mania.


PAUL: Did you fill the survey out on the Web site?


LAURA: I did.


PAUL: Okay, because I remember reading that one--


LAURA: Yeah, yeah.


PAUL: --where he said, yours isn't textbook, and you were like, you fucking prick, or that's what you thought to yourself.


LAURA: Oh, yeah. I was, I just sat there and I'm like, seriously, like--


PAUL: That's your response?


LAURA: Yeah. I'm like, okay. So, but, because with bipolar II is, I don't have like this hyper mania, where I'm like whoo, you know, like the shopping sprees or lots of sex or, you know, staying up, whatever. For me, I get really hyper, yes, but I'm really irritable and sleeping is an issue, but that's like my kind of mania, but I get depressed and I get even more depressed.


PAUL: And by the way, I just want to say, the prick psychiatrist that you talked to, it's one of the reasons, and there's some great psychiatrists out there, but it's one of the reasons why I encourage people, if you're going to see a psychiatrist, that's certainly great because you need to see them if you're going to get meds. I think they know more about meds than a GP.

But as far as talk therapy, I have found clinical social workers and licensed therapists to be much, much better for talk therapy. They go through much more extensive training to learn how to empathize with people, and I think the doctors sometimes lack that empathy that is so important to help--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --the buried emotions in us to come up and out.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: I just felt it necessary to add that--


LAURA: Oh, yeah, no. I mean, it's true, because he's just like, you know, whatever, and then he's like, well, I'll have to see if we have a bed for you. I'm like, okay, whatever. Like, it was kind of like, I'm here asking for help and you're just going to be like, you know--


PAUL: Yes, the most vulnerable, painful moment of my life and this is how you're dealing with it.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: And a good therapist would have been like, I’m so sorry that you're, we're going to get you help, you're not alone in this, there's hope, don't give up, don't give up hope, we're here for you.


LAURA: Right. And for him, he's just like, [sighs] you know, like, we have another one [in annoyed tone], you know, kind of a thing.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


LAURA: So, they got me a bed and I remember, I think it was like on Monday I got checked in and my mom dropped me off, and it was a very surreal experience because it was down in Chinatown in this huge building, and at the time I was smoking a lot, and they took my cigarettes away, which I felt like, why would you do that to a mental patient, but, and gave me the patch. And they took away, this was the time before, I feel like before like there was really iPods and stuff, so I had my Discman, they took my Discman away--


PAUL: [Chuckles]


LAURA: --and my CDs.


PAUL: I can't blame them for taking the Discman away--




PAUL: They're like, this is going to be obsolete in six days. This is just to protect your self-esteem.


LAURA: So [chuckles], because, you know, they were afraid I was going to use the cord to kill myself or break the CDs to cut my wrists. They took away, I wasn't able to have shoes with laces in them. And if I wanted to shave, somebody would have to watch me.

So, it was just really bizarre, and then it was just kind of like, okay, now what? So, and I had a roommate, and now you're on this schedule, where it was every morning you woke up at 6:30, and then you, you know, you went to, go ready, went to breakfast, then you went to this group, and then you did this, and then now you're having a snack, and then you're going to do this, and now it's lunchtime, and then, and like my whole day was planned.

And it was structure that I had been craving because I had no structure, ever. And it was just kind of like, oh, okay.


PAUL: Were you able to kind of turn your brain off and just say, okay?


LAURA: Yeah, yeah. It was--


PAUL: Like in a good way.


LAURA: Yeah. It was just like, oh, okay, this is what kind of like structure feels like, this is what it's like to be told, you know, because I didn't have that growing up at all. So, it was just like, oh, okay, great.

You know, so then you see the psychiatrist and you see the therapist and you see, you know, the doctors and all these people, and they had put me in like this certain area, and they originally wanted to put me in the drug and alcohol section because another doctor at Kaiser said that I was a borderline alcoholic and I had problems with that, because I said at one party I drank 10 beers, so then that made me a borderline alcoholic.

And I was like, no, I don't have a problem with alcohol, and then it was like, now I’m trying to plead with them, like I don't need to go in the drug and alcohol loony bin. I just want to go in the regular--


PAUL: [Chuckles]


LAURA: --you know, with the other crazies, you know, like please. So, but, from what I remember, it was just really structured, but then it got to the point where I was like, okay, I want out of here now. How do I get myself out of here?

And I felt like I now have to convince them that I'm okay, because I was in there for five days. And I just, at that time, I was just like kind of going nuts, like just being in this, you know, environment, and it was, I was 22 and I was just like, did I make a bad decision, like what am I doing?

And you know, it was just, it was a very bizarre time. And I know that my mother was really embarrassed, because they came once to see me. And, I take that back, they came twice, once during visitor hours and once during family therapy.

And I know she was embarrassed because we had occupational therapy one day, which is like art class, and I made something for her and she like put it away, like, and when I came home, like she just like, just kind of put it under, you know, something, because she didn't want to be reminded that her child was in the hospital, kind of a thing, you know, because that's embarrassing or--


PAUL: Because you were, to her, an expression of her abilities as a mother--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --as opposed to a separate human being.


LAURA: Right. So, you know, so it was, it was hard, you know. But I finally, I got released I think like on a Friday or a Saturday, and so, you know, the first time it was just, you know, it was just very structured and whatever.

Now the second time, I actually was taken not by choice. The second time I actually tried to kill myself, and that was about two years after that, it was when I was 24, and I was in a really bad place.

I had an abortion three months prior to that that I didn't want to have.


PAUL: Why did you have it?


LAURA: I, it was with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and we weren't together but we were still sleeping together. I felt very alone and I had no support. I had one friend who said to me, if you cannot be a good mother, then don't have it. She goes, financial, emotional support, all that stuff, will fall into place, but at the end of the day, if you cannot be a good mother, don't do it.

And I thought, oh, my God, I am not emotionally stable to have this child, like, and it was one of the toughest things I did. And it was, like I said, I had no support. I had friends who were like, oh, you can't have a kid, are you nuts? And then I had friends who were like, do you know that abortion is wrong? You can just have that kid and give it up for adoption.

So, it was just like, okay, like, you know, and then my parents, I went down to see my dad at his job and I told him, and he said, well, I thought you guys were broken up. Well, we were, but we're, you know. He's like, okay. And then later that day, my mother called me and said, well, your father told me, so, and then changed the subject, and that was it.

And it was just kind of like, huh, okay.


PAUL: I'm alone.


LAURA: Yeah. So, Chris took me to the clinic, and, you know, you've got the people outside picketing, which is uncomfortable already, and it was a really bad experience. They did a really bad job. And I had to go back a couple days later because there was still stuff left up inside me.


PAUL: Oh, my God.


LAURA: And so, and the thing is, is that nobody in my family called me to see if I was okay afterwards, none. You know, my family wonders why I have resentment towards them.

But, you know, so, that's kind of, you know, so that just weighed really heavy on me, because I felt like this horrible person, you know, who did this, that's going to live with this for the rest of my life, you know. And it's something that I think about all the time, and, you know, the decision that I made eight years ago.

So, a couple, you know, so now a couple months later, this is now really affecting me, and it was just, it kind of felt like everything since I've been 18, for the last six years, I just felt like it was just falling down on me, you know, this wave crashing down.

And I remember my girlfriend, I just finished doing her hair, she left, and I was in my apartment by myself and I said, I just started crying and I was like, I can't do this. And I was uncontrollably crying and, at the time, that was when AIM was still popular, and I was sitting in my room and messaging Chris back and forth. And I never said to him what I was doing. I was just telling him how upset and distraught I was and this and that.

And the next thing you know, I just took a bottle of Klonopin and I took a bunch of my other medication, Zonegran, and I just remember getting up, sitting down on the floor, and just kind of doing that, you know--


PAUL: Wobbly.


LAURA: --yeah, kind of going in and out. And the next thing you know, Chris busts through my front door and called 911. And then I remember the paramedics came.


PAUL: How did he know?


LAURA: I have no idea. I think he just had this feeling. And I will say that I feel really bad because I know this affected him greatly to see me like that. You know . . .


PAUL: But it's part of who you are--


LAURA: Right, right.


PAUL: --so, in a way, isn't it good that he knows you more intimately, even if it's embarrassing to you or painful?


LAURA: Yeah, yeah. I just think, I just feel bad for him seeing me like that, to experience that.

You know, so the paramedics came and they asked me what my name was and I remember I said that, and then I remember being carried down the stairs and then I blacked out, and then I woke up in one hospital and I said to my mother, where is Chris, and she's like, oh, he's somewhere, he can't be around this because he hates hospitals, he hates needles, it freaks him out. And then I blacked out.

And then I woke up in another hospital. And I remember I got out of bed, I was like, I got to get to work. I have to, I'm like, what are you guys doing? I need to leave. I've got to get to work. And I had a security guard outside of my office, or my office, my hospital room. And I was this crazy person because I guess when you take a whole bunch of Klonopin you become a very violent, angry person.

And then they, and then I blacked out again and then I woke up in Northridge Hospital, and I was there for three days. And being there, I got special treatment because my dad used to work there, so then there was now that guilt and shame, like, ugh, you know, here, oh, his daughter can't even keep her shit together, you know.

So, I felt like I got this special treatment while I was there. Oh, you know, they let me use their phone, you know, because--


PAUL: You didn't like the special treatment?


LAURA: You know, I did, but at the same time I felt like I was embarrassing my father.


PAUL: I see.


LAURA: And, because I showed up with a sweatshirt and pajama pants on, no shoes, no underwear, nothing. I had the charcoal all over my sweatshirt from them pumping my stomach. I mean, I was a mess. And I had already been at two other different hospitals by the time I got there, and it was just like, and I was embarrassed.

And I just felt really shameful. But when I left after three days, I was like, I have a second chance to do all of this all over again, and I said, I'm not, I would never do it again. There's times where I still think about it, but I would never do it again, because I feel like life has so much more to offer, even though, yes, there's times where it's so dark, but I know, still that tunnel, I can see a little glimmer of something, where I have to just keep working towards that, because, if I don't, then what?


PAUL: And is it fair to say that, being in your support group and being through all that you've been through and getting some of the help you have that you now have tools to cope that you didn't have when you were 22?


LAURA: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, especially now, even being 32, it's like, you know, I'm learning more every day because, you know, my 20s were a mess. I mean, ugh, they were awful, and I feel like now in my 30s, it's different. The depression is there, but it's more of an anxiety thing, but definitely being in my support group and now having, praying to that higher power that I never had, that I never believed in really before, and doing these, you know, praying every morning and writing these things out, it helps, you know, because I just, I have this feeling that this has to get better, like, this can't just be it. Like it's, like it just has to, and I know that one day it's going to be better, whether it's tomorrow, five years from now, 15 years from now. It's going to happen, where I'm going to feel that happiness.


PAUL: Have you felt glimmers, moments of reprieve, of the lifting of these things, where you're like, hey, today is a good day, I'm okay with my life and where I am in the universe, or is it still, are you in the kind of . . .


LAURA: I have more moments like, I’m okay at this moment, because with having bipolar it's just like moment to moment. Like, I can be totally happy-go-lucky and then five minutes later I want to rip my husband's head off because he didn't put the toaster back the way that it should have been put back, you know, which I've done.

You know, yeah, there's definitely moments where I'm like, I feel really good right now, you know, and I want to hold on to that, so that's why I know that like somewhere in that tunnel there's that little bit of hope.


PAUL: You know, that's one of the things that I get from support groups is, I heard somebody say this, that it's not serenity from the storm. It's serenity during the storm.


LAURA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: And I don't have as much happiness as I would like in my life, but I have a tremendous amount of peace, and that is worth all the daily work and all the stuff that goes with keeping myself mentally healthy.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: There is, I think peace is much, much more attainable than happiness.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: Happiness has been elusive for, to me. I'll have stretches of it, really nice stretches of it, but the peace is definitely obtainable, because it's, I think peace is so related to surrender and acceptance and those are things that are easy to practice because all you've got to do is let go.


LAURA: Right, yeah.


PAUL: All you've got to do is let go and trust.


LAURA: Exactly. Well, and I always say to people, the opposite of trust is control. So, you know, letting go of that control and trusting the process is, you know, and is what I'm at least learning in my support group.


PAUL: And I find, too, that when I'm pursuing happiness, I think I need to control things. And then it winds up backfiring on me, because I begin to get manipulative and bossy and arrogant, and then I wind up stepping on people's toes.


LAURA: Right, mm-hmm.


PAUL: Any other snapshots from your life that you want to share?


LAURA: I think mainly that, you know, growing up without having, you know, the I-love-yous and the affection, has really now affected me now being married. I've been married for just over a year. And yes, I might have been with my husband on and off for nine years, but actually now we're married, it's different.

I've become a very unaffectionate person, to the point where it's, I feel suffocated, and I feel like I’m turning into my parents. So it's really challenging, and you know, because I never had the encouragement, the validation, you know, when my father would come home from work, you wouldn't, you couldn't talk to him. Leave him alone, he's had a long day, and he would come upstairs and get his food and then go down in his office and then just chain-smoke cigars, listening to music. You couldn't disrupt him. We didn't really do things together as a family.

So, it's something that I crave, that I want really, really bad, to have that connection with family. So, and I, that's a fear, why I'm not having kids right now, because I don't want to be--


PAUL: Smothered.


LAURA: Well, I don't want to create, I don't want to give a child the life that I had. And I'm not saying that I had this horrible life. I just don't want to, I want to be able to be loving and affectionate, and I just don't know if I can because there's times where I can just shut off.


PAUL: I commend you in the deepest way possible for making that decision because it's, it's so important. It's so important.

When you feel suffocated by your husband, don't you find it ironic that it's what you crave--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --and yet, when somebody brings it there, it--


LAURA: Oh, yeah, it's extremely uncomfortable. I mean, I remember being in middle school, and that's when friends started hugging, you know, like hugging people, and I'm just like, oh, this is what we do now? Like, it was just, you know, like even today, when I, when we walked up, you know--


PAUL: We hugged.


LAURA: Yeah, and I thought you were going to give me a handshake [chuckles], I'm just that type of--


PAUL: Did it make you uncomfortable?


LAURA: No. It's more of me, like I'm just kind of like, I'm awkward. I’m so awkward. That’s why I was like horrible--


PAUL: I think it's in your brain because you are not, in the hour and change that we've spent together, it's felt anything but awkward--


LAURA: Oh, thank you.


PAUL: You're very personable and warm and it's in your head that--


LAURA: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.


PAUL: So, talk about the, your feeling smothered by, when it happens, what do you think to yourself, when that feeling comes up of, why the fuck am I feeling this way about this person who's trying to love me?


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: What do you think to yourself? What do you--


LAURA: I feel terrible, because sometimes it's painful. Like it, it like hurts, and I don't, it's like it's just kind of like when he hugs me or, and he wants to kiss me and I'm just, I get anxiety. And I wasn't like that when we would date and stuff. It's just really happened, you know--


PAUL: Since you got married?


LAURA: Probably, yeah, in the last seven months, and to be really candid and honest, like we haven't had sex since the end of January because I’m having--


PAUL: That's six months, seven months.


LAURA: Yeah. And it's, I know he's ready to just like, it's really hard for me. And I say to myself, okay, I'm going to go home tonight, you know, this is what we're going to do, and then it's just like, ah, you know, or even wanting to just like, hugging I'm okay with, but it's just, it's--


PAUL: Do you feel pressure--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --to have sex? Can I say something? I know I can. It's my podcast.


LAURA: [Chuckles]


PAUL: Being the victim of a sexual assault, what you're experiencing is textbook, textbook fear of intimacy, and, in my opinion, my non-professional opinion, I see it all the time. I went through periods in my life before I processed the stuff that happened to me with my mom where it, I just felt completely sexually shut down in my marriage because it, I felt smothered.


LAURA: Right, mm-hmm.


PAUL: I felt, it just, and it had nothing to do with who she was--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --and what she looked like. She's an attractive person--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --you know, I highly, highly encourage you to go see a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: Contact the Rape and Incest National Network and they will probably put you in touch with somebody who can help you process this, and I think you will be amazed at the stuff that will come up and out of you that will help you begin to process this.

Learning how to be intimate when you were raised in an emotionally illiterate environment and then you were the victim of a sexual assault, intimacy without processing that, I think, is next to impossible.


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: And you, you deserve it and your marriage deserves it. And now I’m off my soapbox and on the toilet.




LAURA: Yeah. No, definitely, because I, you know, for a long time I didn't think it affected me, and then now it's really--


PAUL: It's not a personal failing of you. It's a thing that is, that is real.


LAURA: Right. So, yeah, definitely. You know, I try to get better at it, like, you know, cuddle with him or, you know, give him kisses or whatever, so.


PAUL: I think there's nothing wrong, too, with saying to your partner, intimacy is really difficult for me right now, can we be, if you want to, you, Laura, if you want to, say, can we just be physically affectionate without taking it beyond just cuddling on the couch and--


LAURA: Yeah. And, yeah, I've expressed that to him. I've said, you know--


PAUL: Is that something that you like doing.


LAURA: Yeah, and I've said to him, you know, it's just, it's difficult right now and, you know, I mean, in so many other words, I've said to him, so, you know, he definitely tries, you know.


PAUL: Does he understand that--


LAURA: He does to an extent, but--


PAUL: Do his gigantic blue balls understand?


LAURA: [Chuckles] Yeah. I mean, and I should feel, I should feel complimented because he's, you know, really attracted to me, you know, which is great, you know, but I also look at that, because of what happened to me, is in a real negative way, which is why I've had so many issues with my weight, you know, and I've lost some weight, but before, I would keep that as a--


PAUL: Protection.


LAURA: --protection, because if I'm fat, no one's going to want to be with me. Who's going to want to be with, you know, that girl? So, you know, but I've been losing weight, and it's scary.


PAUL: You feel exposed.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: You know, the thing that I would remind you of, too, is, you know, it's great that he's sexually attracted to you, but that is only part of who you are. The part of you that, I think for real healing to take place with a partner, is for them to be attracted to the part of you that is hurting and--


LAURA: Right, mm-hmm.


PAUL: --that is confused and that is lost. And I hope that he can get, once you begin to process this stuff and, with a qualified person, they can bring him in and help him understand--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --what it is that you're going through, and that can be a really good foundation for you guys to kind of go forward from.


LAURA: Yeah. It would be.


PAUL: But it is impossible, I think, on our own--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --to do, to go through that stuff, because we can't fake it. And we don't want to fake it.




PAUL: We don't want to fake it.


LAURA: No, definitely not.


PAUL: You know, as we've talked for the last however many minutes, one of the things that strikes me about you is you've been through these terribly painful things in your life, this tremendous abandonment, these violations, these burdens, and it feels like there's still a wall up, like you don't allow yourself to feel compassion for yourself, like there's almost like the hurting part of you is a separate, is like a neighbor to you--


LAURA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: --like you're intellectualizing these things, that you can't allow them to say that these happened to me, Laura, and here's what I feel about them.


LAURA: Yeah, because a lot of it has to do with because of how my family views me. So, which was, you know, one of, a thing that I have is I feel like no one believes me, like that I'm lying or making it up, so, or I'm not, like it's not justifiable or it's not valid, because with my family it's always like, oh, well, you're so emotional, you know--


PAUL: [Chuckles]


LAURA: --oh, you know, so if I have feelings, it's because I'm bipolar. It's not because I'm actually having feelings. Oh, well, did you, have you been taking your medication, you know--


PAUL: Oh, so that's so angering--


LAURA: --it's kind of, and I've had that not only from family. I've had it from friends. And so, especially with my family, oh, well, you remember things differently, you remember the past differently, that's not how it happened, and if you're not over it by now, well, it's not my responsibility that you're still living in your past or, you know, I thought we already got over this, kind of a thing.

So, as of right now, I'm not speaking to my parents or my sister.


PAUL: I think that's fantastic.


LAURA: And listening to some of your podcasts, I said to them, if you want to speak to me, you can write me a letter [chuckles], and I, but if I didn't listen to certain podcasts of yours, I would not have thought to have said that to them.

You know, I would have just kept going at it, you know. So, I had just recently said to them, this week, if you, you know, I haven't spoken to them in a while, but I finally had sent a text message and it's, whatever, and I said, if you want to, wish to speak to me, you can write me a letter, because it's, just this guilt of feeling like I’m, you know, the outcast and it's, you know, the three of them.

And so, I had said all these things to my mother, you know, and all her response back was, okay. You know, because they usually say, well, I'm sorry you feel that way, you know, it's like the whole psychiatric/psychiatrist kind of, you know, well, why do you think you're feel-, I mean, that's how my life was, why do you think you're feeling this way? Well, I’m sorry that you feel that way or, you know, what's causing you to feel this way? It's nothing like, can you just be my dad and just like love me and say, you know--


PAUL: Hold me and--


LAURA: Yeah. You know, because that's just how my childhood was. I would tell them something and it was not, they didn't believe me or they just kind of dismissed it, you know, like being made fun of or, you know.

Like I remember I was being made fun of and I told my mother, and she goes, well, next time go in the bathroom and cry, don't let them see you cry, not like, no, you know, they're wrong, you know what I mean, nothing like that. It was just--


PAUL: Come here, baby, it's okay.


LAURA: Yeah, yeah. And then my dad like a couple years later said, well, just, you're just going to have to live with it, you're a big girl and that's just, that's just how you are.


PAUL: Have you had any positive experiences that you can remember, because one of the things I really like to stress on the podcast is that people can be both light and dark.


LAURA: Oh, yeah.


PAUL: And, you know, I have some very fond memories of my childhood--


LAURA: Oh, yeah.


PAUL: --and moments together, not a ton--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: --but some, and I think it's, I don't want parents or people to be painted as evil and one-dimensional.


LAURA: Oh, yeah, and I think for them it's, you know, it's how they grew up and it's the best that they could do, you know, because my dad had a terrible childhood and my mother, I mean, I don't really know a lot about my parents, but it's the best that they could do.

But yeah, there's definitely where I had moments where, while, yes, I have a very dysfunctional relationship with my father, I'll always be his little girl, like, you know, where we would have talks together, we would smoke togeth-, not, he would smoke cigars, I'd smoke cigarettes, you know, and have political discussions.

You know, I remember one time he took me to the Sherman Oaks Galleria when it was actually a mall, and we went and saw Star Trek, one of the Star Trek movies there, and, you know, things like that. Very seldomly he would make time for his kids when he wasn't working.

With my mother, those good memories didn't come, those happy, great times probably didn't come until later, you know, in life. She's, I've never had the greatest relationship with her. But, you know, there would, you know, we would go shopping together and I would, you know, she'd ask me my opinion and I'd tell her and then she'd be like, why would you say that, in that kind of, you know, that bicker. I'm like, then don't ask me my opinion, you know, or again, you know, we'd talk politics or whatever. You know, so yeah, there are some good, you know, times, you know, with my family.

My sister, not quite as much. With this last year, up until we stopped talking, was a really great year, probably the best year in 32 years of me being alive that we've ever had. So, yeah, you know--


PAUL: We were best friends until we were dead to each other.




LAURA: Pretty much. You know, so, and that's what makes me really sad about it, is that situation where I feel the guilt and I feel like really just sad about it, you know, that maybe, what if it is me or what if they are right, you know, that I'm making this up or, you know, or it's just, you know. But when I talk about it to other people, you know, they're like, no, you know. So, yeah, so I'm just, you know, I'm sad about that.


PAUL: Feeling sad and guilty about cutting people out of your life is, I'd say, about 99% of people feel that way when they do something--


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: --and ruminate over it and go, am I a terrible person, am I being selfish, am I etc., etc., etc.--


LAURA: Right.


PAUL: So, just know that you're, that that's a part of it.


LAURA: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, just kind of letting it, you know, marinate as that movie says.


PAUL: Anything else before we go to fears and loves?


LAURA: No, I don't, I think that's my life in a nutshell [chuckles].


PAUL: Okay. Thank you. Thank you for that.


LAURA: Yeah, definitely.


PAUL: You want to hit me with some fears?


LAURA: Sure. Oh, I have a fear that my paranoia will get the best of me and I will end up like my grandmother. She was bipolar and psychotic, so she would sit on her front porch thinking that everyone was talking about her--




LAURA: --so, I'm afraid--


PAUL: I love the grandiosity of paranoia.


LAURA: Yeah.


PAUL: It's so awesome.


LAURA: So, do you want me to keep . . .


PAUL: Yeah, give me a couple and I'll chime in if I think of any.


LAURA: Okay. That I am and always will be in trouble, like having this constant fear that something's wrong. That I will, I have a fear that I will get raped again.

I have a fear that my husband will leave me and prove that I have failed as a wife. I have a fear that people will find out that I’m a fraud, meaning--


PAUL: Oh, you don't have to explain that one, but go ahead, if you want to.




LAURA: Well, just that I put on that, you know, to the outside world that I'm, you know, this, that and another, and try to be as perfect as possible, so--


PAUL: How is that going?


LAURA: Oh, it's going [chuckles]. It's going great.

So, that I will never be, I have a fear that I'll never be good enough in any aspect of my life, that no matter what, whatever I'm doing, it's just not enough.

I have a fear that I'm not fun anymore and everyone thinks I'm boring, because I don't really drink and I don't really go out, so everyone just thinks I'm just this boring married lady.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


LAURA: I have a fear of going to sleep at night, because of what's going to come for the next day. So, I stay up as late as possible, to the point where then I just pass out and go to sleep. I've always been like that.

I have a fear that something horrible will happen to my father and I wasn't there, since I chose to cut them out.


PAUL: I have that one with my mom.


LAURA: So, it's, because he's got really bad health, so, but then I think about it, I'm like, but I was there all the other times, so my sister can take care of it.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


LAURA: Oh, I have a fear that when I die no one will have anything nice to say or they won't show up. And so, I live my life of like, I need to do all these good deeds so that people can be like, oh, yeah, you know, she was so great or, you know, like, you know, when you hear about when people pass away, they're like, oh, she just gave herself to everybody and did this and that and never said a bad thing about people, and then I think about all the shit I talked about people and like that's what they're going to remember, that I'm this horrible shit-talking, you know--




LAURA: --person, so I really try and work on that.

And then my last one is that I said I have a fear that just no one believes me or they think I’m lying, like every aspect. Like, it could be like I went to the beauty supply store and I needed, I don't do hair and make-up anymore, but I still have my license, and I needed it to get, you know, to buy stuff and I couldn't find it, and I thought, this guy thinks I'm a liar. So, I had to prove every which way possible that I have a license. I had my husband send me a picture of my license. I looked it up on the Web site.


PAUL: Wow.


LAURA: All the ways to show him that I wasn't, and I don't know this guy. He doesn't, he could probably care less. He's just selling me shampoo and conditioner, like, he was just probably like, all right, lady.


PAUL: Yeah.


LAURA: Leave [chuckles].




LAURA: Just take your shampoo and get out, you know. So, that's all the fears that I have.


PAUL: That was good. Let's do some loves.


LAURA: Okay. I love when my husband laughs at stuff that he thinks is really funny and I don't, but then I laugh because he's laughing so hard--


PAUL: Oh, that's great [chuckles].


LAURA: --and he just get this, and then he like slaps his leg and he's just like thinks it's just the funniest thing in the world, so it's just, I love that. You want me to keep going--


PAUL: Keep going.


LAURA: Okay. I love old cars, going to car shows, because we have a '57 Chevy, so, I love driving around in that, you know, dressed up and that whole shebang thing.


PAUL: Yeah. I love losing yourself in a world.


LAURA: Yeah. So, it just feels different. Like, when we go to, because I used to do very like rockabilly stuff, so now I, I don't do it as much, but I just love dressing up and kind of, you know, being in that kind of scene, so.


PAUL: Yeah.


LAURA: I love going out to eat at restaurants like really late at night, like really good restaurants like Fred 62 in Silver Lake, because it's open 24 hours and like, you know--


PAUL: Have you ever had their dulce du leche waffle?


LAURA: Uh-uh. That sounds delicious, though.


PAUL: It's insane. I split it with somebody one time, and I, they were across the table so it was in the middle of the table, and I, so I stood up, because I had to reach across to take the first bite, I didn't sit down after that. I stood there like a fucking robot and ate probably 90% of it--


LAURA: Oh, yeah.


PAUL: --while everybody was laughing at how I was hogging it--




PAUL: --and I was like, I'm sorry, this is the greatest thing I've ever had, and I don't give a shit if I look like a prick because this is fucking awesome and I'm getting all I can.


LAURA: Oh, yeah. That's how I feel about, at the 101 they have a waffle-brownie sundae, and going there late at night, at like 1:00, 1:30 in the morning and just eating that is just like the best thing.

I love when my puppy like kisses me and likes to, he seldomly cuddles with me, because he's almost a year old, so in dog years that's almost seven, so, you know, he's almost kind of an adolescent, so he doesn't like to be around his mom much--


PAUL: He doesn't like being at the mall with you.


LAURA: Yeah [chuckles].


PAUL: He's very embarrassed.


LAURA: So, so when he likes to cuddle with me sometimes, I just, it's like, I feel love.


PAUL: Yeah.


LAURA: Absolute like just love.


PAUL: And it's nice because they don't smother you, you know what I mean?


LAURA: Yeah. Well, actually, sometimes he does. He's a little crazy.


PAUL: Really?


LAURA: He gets a little too much licky-kissy in my face and it's like, okay, that's a little much, and he's just, we need to get him fixed, so that's probably why, but, you know [chuckles], it's a little uncomfortable.

I love seeing my friends interact with their family and seeing the love and support, the laughs, the hugs, the cries, just because I didn't have that, so it's, I just love seeing it, hearing about it, you know, being around it.


PAUL: It's nice.


LAURA: Yeah. It's just, because it's, I know that one day I can have that.


PAUL: And it's nice to be reminded it exists in the world--


LAURA: Exactly.


PAUL: --that the world isn't this cold place where you're on your own.


LAURA: Yeah. So, and the majority of the people I surround myself have that, so it's just, I love seeing it.


PAUL: I'm going to put in a really obscure love, and it's, I love the timbre of Phil Mogg's voice. He was the lead singer for a fantastic and underrated '70s, they were in their heyday in the '70s, a band called UFO, and God, they are so underrated and especially their ballads. They were the first heavy-metal band, in my opinion, to do a ballad that wasn't cheesy, one of the few that has ever done a ballad that wasn't cheesy. I suppose Led Zeppelin. But the timbre of his voice on a couple of their songs is so authentic and the songs are so beautiful, it just, I could listen to it over and over and especially the song Try Me. If you guys can download it, Try Me by UFO, listen to it, and I dare you to not think it's an awesome song.


LAURA: That's the best, when you can listen to a song over and over again.


PAUL: Yeah. When I'm playing my Civilization game, I've, lately I've been putting all, because it reminds me of my teenage years, I've been putting the like '60s songs I have of theirs on shuffle and just listening to it over and over and over again.


LAURA: Yeah, it's the best thing. I do that all the time.

Oh, I love looking at Zillow, at houses, and seeing what the inside looks like and seeing like what family lived there and imagining what life would have been like if, you know, if I grew up differently, kind of a thing. And then, also then imagining, you know, if we moved into that house, you know, if we had children and what kind of, you know, life that would be and just kind of, it's, I just sit late at night on my phone just looking at houses and it's, I just love it.



PAUL: I'm going to interject one, another obscure UFO one. Their lead guitarist is a guy named Michael Schenker, who is probably one of the greatest rock guitarists ever and rarely gets his due, the tone of his guitar and the fluidity of his solos, especially the solo Only You Can Rock Me, Rock Me, is, I'm not sure if that's the name of the song, but that's the chorus to it, it is, I've probably listened to it 800 times and every time I listen to it I'm amazed at just how fucking awesome that solo is, and especially the tone of it.


LAURA: Oh, that's awesome.


PAUL: Yeah.


LAURA: I'll have to listen to that.


PAUL: There's six people out there right now that are like, oh, yeah, yeah, that's a good song, and the rest of them are like, oh, all right, old guy.


LAURA: [Chuckles]

I guess, oh, the last one is, seeing my husband's niece whenever she comes over, whenever we go over to family stuff, and she dances to Frozen. She's like three and a half, and she can just sing it and she just dances and prances around and it's just seeing her being so carefree and not worrying about anything and just like, you know, just being herself is just like the greatest thing to watch, because she's just so funny and has this whole attitude and, you know, it does matter.


PAUL: That's beautiful.


LAURA: Yeah, so.


PAUL: That's beautiful.


LAURA: So, yeah, so that's my loves.


PAUL: Well, Laura, thank you so much for opening up and sharing in such detail.


LAURA: Thank you for having me.


PAUL: I really, really appreciate it.


LAURA: Well, thank you.


PAUL: What a generous, generous interviewee. I love when we have an episode where somebody goes that deep and that vulnerable, so many, many thanks to Laura J. And this episode will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site. Many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

An update from, and by the way, once again, the correct song of that UFO, the name of the UFO song, Too Hot To Handle. You have to listen to it. It is such an amazing guitar lead. If you don't care about guitar leads, don't listen to it.

This is an update I got from Laura because, as I mentioned before, we had recorded this episode in 2014, and she writes, I'm still married and it will be four years this June. I finally found an amazing therapist who I see pretty much weekly, and what's amazing is it's through Kaiser so I just pay a co-pay.

However, I will say it took me until recently to start talking about being date raped, and that's actually because I filled out another survey on your site and you read one of my things on your podcast and it got me to finally talk about it. It's weird. It's like you think you have processed things, but, man, if you don't, they just reappear all over your life in so many ways. So, it's been a slow-moving thing, but it's finally out there in therapy.

I had a baby last June, and he is the most amazing little guy ever. I couldn't imagine life without him. However, I struggle with postpartum depression and my therapist also said postpartum anxiety. It's crazy because I felt like so together before I had a baby. My husband and I were doing amazing. I was going to meetings. I was working and finishing school. Then I had a baby and it's as if I was in a snow globe and someone shook it up really hard and fast and now I'm trying to keep it all together.

I've been going to some support groups for the postpartum depression, and my therapist helps me a lot, as she has had it, too. I stopped going to meetings for the eating disorder last October. I felt totally abandoned by my sponsor and I wasn't connecting anymore with people in my meetings. It's not a forever thing, and I talk about my eating disorder issues to my therapist, but I think I just needed a break.

As far as my family, well, it was a very tough year and a half after we recorded, which included really mean and hurtful letters my father would send me in the mail. When I found out I was pregnant, I'd just done my fourth step on my parents and I felt I was in the place where I could finally respond to one of his letters and say how I felt and set boundaries. I don't think I would have been ever able to set boundaries if, one, I wasn't in the addiction studies program, which I graduated last year, and two, listened to a lot of your podcasts.

So, anyways, that's how communication started. Both my parents didn't really ever apologize and I just moved on because I finally had accepted them for who they are. It was a slow process after that trying to rebuild the relationship, but after I had my boy, it's become much better. Now, I can't say that for my in-laws, but that's a whole other story, and I've still not spoken or seen my sister in almost three years and I don't ever intend to repair that.

I could pretty much go on and on, but I am still, yes, in Southern California and working through things piece by piece. Thank you for that, Laura.

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All right. This is, da-da-da, da, da, da, oh, earlier in the podcast I was talking about the wonderfully generous people who donate to this podcast. We have definitely leveled off and can always use more donations. Right now I'm so in my head thinking [chuckles] I sound ashamed of having needs. Yes, we need donations.

Go to the Web site, Mentalpod.com. You can donate a single time or become a recurring monthly donor, starting for as little as a dollar a month, and it means the world to me. Give us a nice rating on iTunes, that helps. Spread the word about the podcast through social media. That doesn't cost anything and that helps. There you go. Oh, and use our Amazon link on our homepage if you're going to buy something at Amazon, and then Amazon gives us a little money and it doesn't make the price of what you're buying any more expensive.

This is a What Has Helped You Survey, and this was filled out by an agender person who calls themselves Amoeba, and their issues are depression, anxiety, eating disorder, toxic work environment, and an abusive boss. And what has helped? I take medication and go to therapy. I also try to work out and eat decently. Meds are awesome. And my cats. I can't kill myself or quit work because I have to care for my cats. My precious little babies would be traumatized if they had to eat my face until someone found my body.

Oh, they wouldn't do that. They would start with your thighs. That's, that, to me, that's where I’m going to start, or that, what is that little muscle just above the shoulder blade, I mean, that just seems like the best eating. I'm going to be honest.

What things have people said or done that has helped you? My boyfriend, who has no experience with mentally ill individuals, really has been pretty great. I thanked him once for tolerating my crazy. He told me it wasn't hard because he just never saw my illness as that big of a deal. To him, I was pretty great and just occasionally cried on the floor over something weird [chuckles].

I have never, ever had a man tell me anything other than I was too much to deal with and/or crazy. It felt amazing. When I share how toxic my workplace is and how mean my boss is, people are horrified, like legitimately horrified. My dad said she was a lot like a boss he had once. He lost $100,000 getting out of that job, and he said it was worth every penny. I feel better knowing I’m not exaggerating. My employees notice how nasty she is to me and tell me upsets them because they all like me a lot and think I'm a good manager.

Thank you for sharing that. That has to be, I, you know, I've had stressful work environments, but I've never, I've never had anything where it is just day and day out somebody berating me and abusing me, unless you count me talking to myself. Actually [chuckles], Mean DJ Voice is probably worse than the boss that she described.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Hal. Hal or Ha? No, Hal. She writes, I think I may have commented briefly about this on a previous survey, but while I was playing Division I lacrosse in college, I suffered from a stress fracture. My foot was incredibly swollen and turned black for quite a few months, not characteristic of a stress fracture. Athletes, especially coaches, believe their teammates are faking injuries unless they're gushing blood and/or their bone is popping out of their skin, and even though my foot was visibly black and swollen, I was terrified that my foot wasn't actually going to be broken when we went for an X-ray.

So, in order to make sure my coaches and teammates wouldn't think I was faking or being a baby, I tried running over my foot with my car, more than once. Well, it turns out, this doesn't actually break bones, and my X-rays and MRIs came back normal, quote, normal. I was so terrified of looking like a hypochondriac or crybaby that I tried breaking my own foot, only for it to not even work and looking like one anyway.

I now have permanent nerve damage that I will absolutely never admit to doctors or my family how it actually happened. All I can do is laugh at how stupid I am for letting my coaches and teammates get in my head so much so that I am running over my own foot with a car.

I just hope it was a hybrid. I mean, I am always thinking about the environment. And how in the fuck do you actually carry out running over your foot? I suppose you put it in reverse or, I just, [chuckles] how do you know that your car is not going to run away, because you're going to be laying there, grabbing your foot? I’m very, I'm curious. I want to see a documentary on the [chuckles], what would you call it, Big Foot, One Big Foot?

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself the Truman Show. She's straight, in her 40s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. And I just want to read one portion of this. Darkest thoughts, she writes, I'm paralyzed by the thought of having to admit to anyone that I believe my delusions are real. They are so incredibly, fantastically not possible, yet I spend energy looking for coincidences so that I can convince myself things are really happening. I am too embarrassed to seek help for fear of having to explain what I think is really happening.

People I have talked to who have schizoaffective disorder and I think people with schizophrenia also suffer from paranoid delusions, and I'm not a therapist, I'm not a psychiatrist, but it sounds like it would be something that you should go talk to them about, especially a psychiatrist, because it might be able to be remedied by something as simple as medication.

And especially before you, you know, it affects your life in a real negative way or other people's lives. I think I've shared on the podcast that one of my friends, who was a former guest on this show, is basically homeless right now and she is delusional and she thinks the FBI is after her, and we have pled with her to please take the medication that she's been prescribed, and she won't.

And I had to tell her that I, I’m sorry, but it's too painful to be around you, and I can't be unless you get help. And it's a serious thing, so just please don't, [sighs] please don't let it get to that. Please don't let it get to that.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey. This is filled out by Everything Is Almost Fine. And she writes, her issues are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, major depression, and PTSD. What's helped you? Having enough panic attacks to know now that my awfulness does, in fact, end. Medication has made a world of difference. Finally being honest with my friends and family and bosses that I am sick and what I need to do at times is to take care of myself. [Coughs] Excuse me.

What, if anything, have people said or done that has helped you? One of my major triggers is not being in control of being able to go home, for example, not scheduling my own flights or being the passenger instead of the driver for longer trips.

My boss drove us about two hours away for a meeting and, within seconds of leaving my car, I could feel the skin boiling, hair raising of a panic attack. Instead of asking if I was okay or what was going on, he gave me sunglasses to wear and cracked a joke. He's a recovering alcoholic and has been sober nearly 15 years, which I already knew. He told me stories of his recovery, politely giving me the opportunity to share.

Instead of being put into the position to lie and say I was fine, he created a safe space for me to calm down. The conversation grounded me. The sunglasses covered my tears. I told him I had PTSD and my biggest fear was getting a dissociative attack at work. Just unburdening that fear took so much of the weight off the situation.

We talked about depression and recovery. Just knowing I have someone in my corner made a world of difference. We talked into a meeting in our suits, after I fixed my make-up, and drove home laughing the whole way. That one trip has given me the courage for many, many more I would have otherwise canceled out of fear.

Also, for some odd reason, when I'm panicking at home, having my best friend hold my ankles always helps, usually if I am laying on the couch he's just sitting on. We figured that one out by accident while I was having PNES, which is psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. We figured that one out by accident while I was having PNES shaky-fun times and I'm pretty sure he was just afraid to get kicked in the face. Hey, whatever works, right? Bottom line, letting people help and listen, even by accident. Thank you for that.

Piper shares an Awfulsome Moment, after I have a sip of tea. Piper writes, after a suicide attempt, a friend of mine had me sit in the bar they worked at so I wouldn't be alone. He said his shift was so long, he may kill himself at the end of it. He then proceeded to literally put his foot in his mouth. He is a weird friend to have and surprisingly flexible [chuckles]. Oh, [sighs] I love it.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey, filled out by Stupid Bitch. I think we've read her surveys before. Her issues are anxiety, PTSD, panic, depression, and black-and-white thinking. And what's helped her deal with them? For anxiety, I exercise. If you're at work and you're struggling with anxiety, to just go outside and briskly walk around the block or quickly head to the stairwell and give those stairs hell, that can fix you.

For panic, I deep breathe and focus on colors. I go through the rainbow, so I look at whatever I can see and identify as many red things as possible, then orange, then yellow, then green, etc. Also, if your mind starts moving in a pattern that you know leads to panic and you want to change your mind as quickly as possible, you can do rapid eye movements from one side to the other, just back and forth a few times. It's odd, but it can help somehow.

That's actually how they came up with EMDR. Now I lost my place. Also, you can go through your body and identify any sensations. I try to find the positive sensations because, even if you have pain or whatever, there are always parts of your body that feel fine or good. I just rapidly identify them and it can satisfy my mind that I am, quote, doing something when I'm getting adrenaline.

For depression, I've found that turmeric, vitamin D and B are helpful. For me, these have kept me suspended above the pit. I just need to stay out of the very bottom, where it seems to pull me down and keep me from getting out. Also, once you're able, force yourself to do boring exercises, like walking around the block. If you're at all able, force yourself to do it briskly, even if it seems like work. The nature, trees and sunlight are very good for you, and you can listen to podcasts, not to mention the physiological benefits.

When your mind goes towards one extreme, pause at the moment you notice it and consciously imagine the other opposite extreme, and then the things in between those extremes, perhaps one of those things is more accurate. It has changed things for me. I've noticed real growth.

One tip for noticing black-and-white thinking is when things seem like a contradiction. So, for example, they want me to be honest but they don't want me to be totally honest? Okay, so somewhere in the middle, got it. In the past, I may have gotten upset because it seemed like a contradiction to me because of my black-and-white thinking.

What have people said or done that has helped you? It's good to remember that, no matter how bad it is, your situation is temporary. Think back to when you were feeling much better. Who's to say you won't be that carefree and more seamlessly flowing through your life as you were then.

Being more spiritual is helpful, too. I'm not religious in the conventional sense at all, but it's helpful to me to imagine that I'm part of the universe and there are powerful things that I'm a part of, etc. It can be very personal, whatever works for you. Also, the book The Power of Now and The Depression Cure.

That's funny, I would never pick up a book called The Depression Cure because I am always, and, I mean, I'm not commenting on the quality of the book, but a title that ever has cure in it for anything mentally related, just, eh, I just usually cringe because it sounds, I would rather somebody under-promise the results of something that over-promise them.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Everything Is Almost Fine. We just did one of hers previously. Today, while trying to think up an excuse to leave work because I could feel a full-blown panic attack coming, I got so anxious about the excuse that I threw up on my desk. Thank you, boss, for giving me the, quote, food poisoning idea in response [chuckles].

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey and I'm just going to read part of it. It was filled out by a woman who calls herself Purple Love. She is pansexual, in her 20s, raised in a totally chaotic environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened, but I don't know if it counts.

My brother and I used to touch each other sexually. Is that or was that abuse, question mark. We were a year and a half apart. I'm older and female. Does that make me the abuser? I don't know. All I know is it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I feel so much shame about it. I hate myself for it. I'm disgusted with myself for it.

The first time I remember it happening was when I was about five or six, probably, and it happened off and on, not super regularly, I don't think, until I was about 12. It was initiated on both sides. We would play house and be the mom and dad and that's what would happen. Based on my education, I think that's a sign of witnessing inappropriate behavior but I don't, and this is in caps, don't know. I don't remember.

All I remember is my actions and my feelings, and it haunts me almost daily and all I feel is shame and blame and gross and I wonder how it affects my relationships, how it affects my sexual interactions, how it affects my brother, what are the consequences of it, and will I ever be able to heal or move past it.

Darkest thoughts. I'm ashamed for the sexual contact that happened between my brother and I, and I'm ashamed that sometimes it creeps into my dreams. I'll be having sex and then it turns into sex with my brother or my dad and I’m disgusted. I have inappropriate sexual thoughts at times. I'll be talking to someone and then I'll think about what it would be like to have sex with them, sometimes my boss or a random person.

Yeah, I think that's called being out in public [chuckles]. Yeah, everybody does that. Everybody has, at some time or another, had that image, some more than others, but that is completely normal. And I want to comment on the brother thing after I read two more things.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I want to talk to my therapist about my sexual experiences, but I can't because I'm terrified of her response and that something is incredibly wrong with me. There is nothing but shame and fear.

What, if anything, do you wish for? I wish to fall in love, to meet someone that will listen and hear about the things that I've experienced and still love and cherish me. Someone I can, I wish to fall in love and meet someone that will listen about things and still love and cherish me, someone I can trust and laugh with, someone to share my life with.

I was so moved by your survey because you sound like such a beautiful, gentle person who is beating the shit out of herself for no reason. You were a child. You were close in age to your sibling. It is, it is not an uncommon thing for siblings to do that. And you said that you weren't always the one that initiated it. Even if you were the one that always initiated it, stop beating yourself up for it. You're not hurting anybody presently. You may not have even hurt your brother back then. He may be thinking the same thing about you. Who knows? He may be beating himself up.

But absolutely share it with your therapist. Let her in on this. It's why you pay her. She has heard things so much worse than what you think this is, and this is, it's, it's just, it's hard to see people.

You know, if I could [chuckles], if I could lump all of the surveys into two categories, or all the responses into two categories, it would be people who should be dealing with an issue and people beating themselves up for no fucking reason. And that is a people beating themselves up for no fucking reason, so.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Jill the Minimalist. And I want to point out that Jill didn't use any caps on that, so she is walking the walk. Actually, Jill, if you were really going to walk the walk, you would have used the name JtM with no periods in between, so, I'm actually a little disappointed in you.

But let's get to the survey, where your parents are disappointed in you. Her Awfulsome Moment, when I was 19, I started breaking away from my Christian faith. I began dating a guy my parents didn't approve of. They found out that I was having sex with him and invited my boyfriend and his dad over for dinner.

Dinner proceeds normally. Everyone was nice. We had spaghetti and garlic bread that night, and it was delicious. After dinner, my parents invited everyone into the living room, and that's when the shit started to get ridiculous.

My mom outright asked my boyfriend's dad why he would allow his son and I to have sex under his roof. My boyfriend's dad said that whatever his son decided to do under his roof was fine with him. He trusted his judgment and would rather whatever he does be under his roof. My parents proceeded to lecture my boyfriend, his dad and I on why it isn't right to have premarital sex. They brought the Bible out and everything.

This went on for at least an hour of excruciating humiliation. Then my boyfriend and his dad got up and said they would agree to disagree and left. It was painful at the time, but it's hilarious now, looking back on my upbringing as a Christian. I'm an atheist now and feel so much better off for leaving the faith and being true to myself.

You fucking rock, Jill. You fucking rock. And that guy and his dad fucking rock, because they didn't up the ante. You know, the way they reacted was dignified. They let your parents have their say. They didn't belittle them for their opinions or values the way your parents were belittling them. That's some good shit on your part.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Crazy Rat Lady. I think we've been reading a lot of her surveys lately. And this is an Awfulsome Moment, and she writes, on vacation with my parents and my older brother, I was maybe five or six years old.

One evening, we were having dinner and my parents had a couple of beers. They never drank, but on that evening, they both got a little bit tipsy. It was the happiest and most carefree I've ever seen my mother to this day. It was one of the very rare times that my parents actually seemed to like each other and be in love. My mother was laughing so hard at jokes my dad was making, and at some point she stuck a whole bread roll in her mouth and laughed at how silly she was being. It was a beautiful moment. My family just seemed in harmony.

About 20 years later, this event was still tattooed in my mind but took on a whole different meaning as I figured out the truth of my mother's emotional abuse towards me. I was basically her parent, confidant, therapist and surrogate spouse all rolled up into one tiny little child. One of my earliest memories is comforting my mother in bed as she was having a nervous breakdown while my dad was conveniently working and not knowing what to make, what do to make her better.

Taking care of my mom's emotional needs was a huge weight on my shoulders that robbed me of my childhood. But for that evening, when my mother got so tipsy she stuck a whole bread roll in her mouth, I was allowed to just be a carefree child. It was pretty much the only moment when I felt I didn't have to take care of my parents and worry about them, because they were truly okay. I found out what it would be like to have happy parents who loved each other, and I just felt so joyful, too. At least for one evening in my childhood that weight was lifted off my shoulders.

That is, not only is that awfulsome and bittersweet but so incredibly insightful on your part. I remember a night when I would have been in my early 20s. I think I had just gotten out of college, and we were, it was such a bizarre night because I had, this was the only night in my life that I ever remember my family all laughing together at once, and there was liquor involved. And my grandma was there and my grandma was not a big laugher, she was laughing.

And my brother [chuckles] was on a date with a girl that I had a huge crush on in college but had never even gotten the guts to approach and talk to, and here all, what was it, six of us, yeah, all six of us were at my brother's apartment, laughing. And I remember consciously going, wow, this is, this is [chuckles] unusual.

And those of you that were raised in happy homes, well, for one, you probably don't listen to this podcast [chuckles], but if you are a listener of this podcast and you were raised in a home where there was laughter, you, and this isn't to say that there wasn't ever laughter in my family. It just was never everybody laughing at once, that I remember.

This is an e-mail I got from David, and he writes, I came across your business and want to make an introduction. I have discovered many companies like yours have customers that choose not to pay or back out. What's even worse is those companies choose not to go after their unpaid accounts receivable for these three reasons. One, they believe that they have tried every option and written it off. Two, they fear that going after their client will result in bad PR. And three, they simply don't care.

If you truly don't care, we do not need to work together because I do care, and do is capitalized, which changes everything for me as I read this. I see, I suddenly see, I see passion. I see that this is a passion project for David. Otherwise, I would have stopped right there, but I'm like, this man is on a mission to take care of my unpaid accounts receivables, and there aren't many.

Continuing, that money belongs to you and, trust me, you have not tried everything. David, I trusted you when you capitalized do. In addition, we handle these cases using a proven and tactful method so not to impact your reputation. Too late.

I am not a wizard. That was disappointing to read. I don't know if I'm the only one who opens e-mails and hopes that they are from larger-than-life magical characters, but I have to forge ahead after the news that he's not a wizard.

I am not a wizard, but I have a unique aptitude and hands-on experience for your business that lets me get your debts rapidly and efficient. I think it would be efficiently. But maybe he's saving ink by not putting the -ly on efficient, in which case, even more reason to hire this guy because he, he knows how to save money.

My family of clients love me because I’m a specialist for your sector when it comes to retrieving unpaid debts. And what exactly [chuckles] is my sector? A jackass that reads graphically heartbreaking confessions from people with suicidal ideation and sexual trauma. Well, that is my sector. It, that would be a really big sign at Barnes & Noble if that was a section of books.

So, what I want to do is present you my services at, and this is in caps, no fee. Let me do an unpaid-debt case analysis for all of your unpaid debts over the past year and I can project your likely ROI, I don't know what that means. I think it means, I think it's short for hemorrhoids. Maybe people who aren't able to collect debts scream into the phone so much that they begin to get hemorrhoids.

This won't cost you a thing and, at the very least, you will have one more professional opinion to learn more about your business. The bottom line is this. I can help improve yours. I want to start a partnership with your company specifically for getting you any unpaid debts owed. Are you still contemplating, question mark.

I'm not ready to answer that yet because I'm learning how to set boundaries. Here's what makes us different, David writes. One, our firm has, and this is in caps, no limit of resources, plus a proven track record to stand the test of time. I am seriously concerned about the collecting of debts in the 27th century, and I am encouraged to know that there is no limit on resources because I have often thought the only way to get that $100 is with a tank. So, that is why I'm still reading your intriguing e-mail, David.

Number two, we are based in the U.S. and operate, and this is in caps, worldwide. Parentheses, but we don't, don't is in caps, retrieve any debts from Iran and Papua New Guinea.

I think crestfallen is the word to describe what I am experiencing right now. There is a hut in Papua New Guinea that has owed me $25 since I graduated college. I have tried everything. I've tried throwing coconuts at them. I have tried riding in unannounced on a wild boar. I've tried reasoning. I've tried making up my own ceremonial dance. I don't know if we can continue, David, and this has gotten very long.

Okay, I’m going to read the last thing that he says. My clients adore, that's in caps, that we serve on a no-recovery-equals-no-fee, in caps, contingency method. This means you, caps, get real, caps, lawyers working your case without paying something up front, and then, all caps, wow, dot, dot, dot.

I am intrigued by somebody who is surprised by their own business plan [chuckles]. That you know that you are innovating when you step back in amazement and surprise at yourself, that you are so good at what you do that you catch yourself off guard.

This is a Shame, and if that was boring to you, I cannot give you those five minutes back. They are in the books. But you can try collecting that part of your life lost to that bit by contacting David.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and this is filled out by Always Nauseous. Nauseous, nauseous, nauseous [different pronunciations]? And they are, she is bisexual, in her 30s, raised in a stable and safe environment. I am always amazed that anybody has ever checked that box, any listener. I'm sure there are some.

I think I read one where the person described, in the survey they described their life and I thought, well, if it's, the rest of it is like you described here, it sounds stable and safe. That was one person in 7,390 surveys that I have read so far, just the Shame and Secrets Survey. This one is 7,390.

Anyway, have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. I was given the sex talk by my dad, who decided show and tell was best. So, it started with him showing me his penis, making me hold it when soft and stroke him hard so I could see how it worked. He also showed me how to French kiss in the same manner.

Once after, I kissed my oldest brother like that, thinking it was how everyone kissed, and he freaked out on me, told me never to do it again, but not once did he wonder why. I think more maybe happened with my dad but I don't know what, as I have shut out a lot of my childhood.

Another brother gloats about when we were little and got caught by our mom on a bed with him on top of me. I remember getting yelled at, but I don't know the extent of what happened, but my mom never spoke of it since.

That is so far beyond some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. That is jail material. That is like more-than-a-decade-in-jail-worthy abuse by your father.

You ever been physically or emotionally abused? Not sure. Aside from the thing with my dad, my mom is a guilt master. She loves playing victim and I'm sure has always resented me for being the only girl and my dad's favorite.

Do you know how fucked up that sentence is, my dad's favorite? That's how sick your dad is, is that he convinced you that you were his favorite. Would a father do that to his favorite child? That's, this is such a great example of how badly we want to believe that our parent loved us.

And maybe, in your dad's fucked-up mind he thought he did and he couldn't see that this was some type of sickness in him, justifying it, but [sighs].

She hated me for taking care of my dad while she was out of town, cooking and cleaning, and tried to force me to have an abortion when I was pregnant at 17. Still, to this day, she talks about how good my life could have been if I had gone through with it, then claims she loves her grandson. She always felt it was okay to be naked in front of me and vice versa, because, why not, they did, quote, change my diapers when I was a baby, to the point where at 28 she wanted me to model a bra for her and my dad that they bought me.

We were raised super religious when it was convenient, Hispanic, so spankings were not scarce. My dad spanked both me and one of my brothers because we had friends over who got in trouble for going into the neighbor's yard, not us, them, but we got beat with the buckle end of the belt. If we cry, he spanks harder to, quote, give us a real reason to cry. If we hold in the tears, he spanks harder because obviously it's not hard enough if we're not crying. My mom's way was having me knee in a corner on grains of rice.

My husband tears me down so he can be the one to build me up and be my hero. He is always belittling our oldest, is always right, ignores our youngest, tells me when I'm wrong and why he is always right, talks about all the money he makes now and that I couldn't leave him because I couldn't survive, that I am ruining everyone by trying to save myself, that I am ruining my kids' futures for not wanting them to live in a hostile environment, always tells me what I don't do right.

If he needs someone to talk to, I'll be the first one there, but it's always about me and my wrongdoings. I leave more broken than when the conversation began. Sixteen years together and I was never enough. He knew I was into women, so from the get-go always wanted to have threesomes, which I would also give in to to make him happy. It got us dating another girl that I fell hard for. That showed me what true love and happiness was, and it's not what I had.

Then he broke her down and broke me down. When I asked for a divorce, which he refuses to give me, he told everyone everything dirty about me, nothing about himself. He told our kids that I fuck my best friend, our once-girlfriend, and that I'm leaving him for her.

He threatened suicide because I'm trying to leave him but I think for attention. He once told me he took a bottleful of pills. He pretended to mumble words and be out of it, the whole nine yards. I begged him to forgive me. The next day, I found the bottle full of pills that he said he'd taken. I'm stuck. He won't let me go. I'm suffocating.

I'm really glad that you filled out this survey because there's so many things that I want to comment on it. Both of your parents have committed incest. Your father, it was overt. Your mother, it's overt. If you, if a child tells their parent, I don't like it when you walk around naked, or can you give me my privacy, I don't like being naked in front of you, and that parent ignores that, that is sexual abuse, covert sexual abuse. You would be removed from the home just for that.

What you dad did is unconscionable, and there doesn't have to be penetration for something to be, your dad fucked your wires up so badly because he taught you this is what love is, because he presented it gently, and he brainwashed you into feeling like a favorite and then he used your defenses being down to hurt you in one of the deepest ways a parent can hurt a child.

[Sighs] And then about your husband, it is a textbook example of somebody abused as a child by their parent choosing a partner who bears a lot of qualities of the parent that abused them. You, I don't know what the divorce laws are around the country, but I'm pretty sure if somebody wants a divorce they can get a divorce, especially if authorities know that your husband is doing the things that he's doing to your kids.

The environment that your husband has created, and I am sure that you probably are contributing to some unhealthiness as well because healthy people don't choose people like your husband. Healthy people don't stay with people like your husband. And I'm not blaming you, but this is not all your husband's fault. This is, he has a huge amount of fault, but there's a dynamic here.

That's one of the things that I learned in all the therapy, is that there's never just one sick person in a family. It's usually a dynamic, that there are ripples, and unless your husband is physically restraining you from leaving, you can't say he won't let me go. You're allowing him to have an emotional hold on you.

And I'm not saying it would be easy for you to start a life without him and that it wouldn't get ugly and etc., etc., but don't confuse your fear of confronting your husband with giving him the power over whether or not you stay or go, and that's something that people who have been victimized in childhood tell themselves, I don't have the power to do this, I don't have the power to speak up for myself.

So, I hope what I'm saying comes across in the loving, compassionate way that I'm intending to say it, but I also have to speak what I think is the truth about situations like this, which is find what you have control over in this situation and do your best to extricate yourself from it with as much dignity, strength and support as you can. This is where we're supposed to reach out to CPS, Child Protective Services, or the police or have somebody, get some eyewitnesses to some of the behavior he's doing to your kids.

You know, I don't know what to tell you to do, but I just want to say that you have more options than you think you do. And right now, you are mentally trapped in victim prison and I don't blame you for that. You were raised by horribly abusive parents [sighs].

You can get free of this. You can. And don't give up. Your children deserve to grow up with at least one sane parent. It doesn't sound like your husband has any desire to get better, but it sounds like you might. So, be that. Do you really love your kids? Then be that parent. Walk through that fear. Or if you can't do it, ask people to help you walk through that fear. There are all kinds of shelters and support groups and . . .

Your husband, one of the things you say is, I haven't gotten help for fear of my husband using it against me and taking my kids away, as he has threatened to so many times. If you can document the way that your husband is talking to your kids or the way that he is treating you, the things that he is saying, telling your kids that your wife fucked somebody else, that, I can't imagine a judge is going to say, I think that's the person I should award custody to.

All right, I'm going on too much, but I just felt really, really strongly about that because, you know, to get through life and have a shot at peace, we have to sort out what we have control over and what we don't and surrender the parts we don't have control over, and then look at the parts we do have control over and ask, how can I do this in a way that is principled despite the fear, despite the anger?

You know, like the father and son that walked out of that lecturing by the Christian couple, they didn't try to change that couple because they knew they didn't have control over that. They didn't try to argue with them. They politely got up and agreed to disagree. That's what they had control over, and they didn't yell, because they didn't get sucked in to the insanity of thinking that they could change somebody. And they had compassion, it sounds like, for your parents and their religiosity.

This is a Vacation Argument Survey, rarely filled out, filled out by M, and she writes, every single one of my family vacations, or at least every one including my parents, which are all of them, usually included a giant bottle of vodka mixed with hot-tub confessions.

That one might have been funny if it hadn't followed the previous survey and now that we're in a covert incest pit of sadness [sighs]. I've got to, I'm fading. I'm fading. Let's get to some positive stuff.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey, and Rays of Sunshine, what helps her, friends sending short text messages of support and love for no particular reason. This made me feel loved and connected. Friends insisting they help me when I briefly could not drive due to a health issue. Thank you for that.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Married With Cats. She writes, last summer my husband and I decided to rent a cabin in the mountains for the Perseid meteor shower, I think it's pronounced Perseid. The air was cool and we sat side by side in deck chairs, holding hands and sipping mugs of tea, wrapped in blankets, watching the sky go from dusk to pitch black.

As the sky grew darker, the shooting stars became more visible, like watching a play curtain rise and lights go up on stage. The moment was perfect, sitting next to the person I love more than anything in the universe, watching this naturally occurring show from outer space. We sat outside for hours watching the sky, telling each other stories and talking about how much we adore and appreciate each other and feel thankful for every minute together.

No one makes me feel as loved, seen, understood, nurtured or cared for as my husband does, and I cherish moments like that, where we can share those feelings alone together and know we are both experiencing the same thing.

He talked about how when he gets, when he thinks about our sad childhoods, he feels that moments like this feel like glimpses of do-overs for the moments we never got growing up. Thank you for that.

And what a great reminder, too, that, you know, just because we had a shitty childhood, it doesn't doom us to repeating those patterns, but fuck, man, we got to get help, at least I know I did, still do. Okay, I can't read another dark one.

This is filled out by Zach, and he, this is What Has Helped You. He struggles with bipolar II with extreme hyper-manic episodes, also PTSD, ADHD, OCD and he's a mental abuse survivor. And what has helped him? Acoustic covers of popular songs, specifically during a manic episode. I recently discovered while having the beginnings of a manic episode a playlist of acoustic covers and it somehow calmed me. Your brain recognizes the song but not the melody or tune, so it confuses you but in a good way. It distracts your mind.

Wow, it's amazing the shit I find out doing this. This one's too dark. I am going to end on this one. This is, it's an Awfulsome Moment but I, I don't know, I consider this more of a Happy Moment. I guess, yeah, it could be considered awful, and this is filled out by a guy who calls himself [chuckles] Shitty McShitstain. It is so unfortunate that with McShitstain as your last name, your parents callously named you Shitty.

He writes, I had always had a tenuous relationship with my dad. He was an alcoholic as I was growing up, nothing horrible as a result of his condition, but things were confusing and neglectful to an extent.

When I hit my 20s, I distanced myself from him because he was still drinking, still a personal mess. My dad eventually got sober, though, through the 12 steps and did a lot of hard work to make himself better. After a few years, our relationship became closer and closer, and he became one of my very best friends. We were able to trust each other and I valued his opinions and he helped me through some very rough times with my depression and anxiety.

He always kept faithful to his program and worked on himself daily. Finally, I had the father that I had needed growing up. This was the awesome part. Then Dad was diagnosed with cancer, and even before he passed away, I was devastated because I knew I would be losing the father that I had missed out on for most of my life.

My brother and I cared for him the last few months of his life, and we made peace dozens of times, shared our fears and our loves with each other, and for each other. We were both at his bedside when he quietly slipped away.

I had a huge hole in my life and in my heart and feared I would spiral back into crippling depression. Awful. When we had his memorial service, his support group of 18 years reached out and said that they would like to hold a special meeting at the end of the service when the non-group members had all left after paying respects.

We sat in a circle with about 25 people who all talked about how Dad had impacted them in some way over the years, how he had sponsored many of them, what a kind and giving person he was. We all cried, we laughed, we told stories about him.

I had never been to a 12-step program of any kind and had no idea what it was about, but I realized that it had changed my dad forever and that his memory will always live on, not just in me and my brother, but in all those he touched.

Thank you so much for that survey. I think that is such a great example of what a support group can do for somebody who puts in the suggested work. And it sounds like your dad just really, really embodied the change that support groups were created for.

You know, I always have this image when, you know, somebody is a really hard person to be around, abusive or whatever, and then they kind of transform, they get help, and when I began to be a person that I wasn't as much ashamed of [nervous chuckle], it's hard for me to say a person, you know, a good person, I'm a good person, it, it's so uncomfortable to say that.

I had always thought that to be a better person I needed to, I needed to do more, I needed to be busier, to know more information, to take on more things, and what I found is, while that's true in some cases, for the most part, because fear tells you that you're not enough, you channel reality through that fear filter and you react to reality based on that fear, and you usually wind up overreacting to shit. That's what I did for so many years.

You know, for example, if somebody used to cut me off, I would want them to know that I thought that they were a piece of shit. I would either follow them or I'd pull up alongside them and argue with them. I would drive incredibly unsafely, right on their bumper. That was insanity, to think that that is how you react to that.

And I couldn't see, until I'd been in support groups for long enough, that I was doing that because I was afraid. They had cut me off and they had triggered a fear of being hurt, because I almost went off the road.

And then, with that adrenaline in me, because I didn't have any tools to cope because I hadn't been taught them, I let the adrenaline and the fear tell me what to do, which was for this fear to go away you need to feel more powerful.

Now I know, when somebody cuts me off, I can't change the way they think. I can't change the way they drive. The only thing I have power over is how I react. And what I usually do is I thank God that I am not the guy that I used to be when somebody would cut me off, and I think, that person is probably in a hurry, probably in fear, and I'm grateful that I'm not them right now. I'm grateful that they didn't actually hit my car or I didn't actually hit somebody else's car.

And the point of all of this is to say that the person I'm becoming, and I've got a long way to go, but the person I’m becoming has been a process mostly of letting things go, not adding things, but by reacting less. And yeah, there are times when efforts involve being of service and apologizing to people and things like that, but for the most part, it's not giving in to that fear, not overreacting, not making a situation worse, not trying to dominate.

I hope you heard something, oh, my God, we're four minutes away from three hours. Oh, my God, Herbert, bring in your butthole. He's not actually here right now because I'm in my apartment, but let me, let me break Herbert's butthole down for you.

For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, maybe just turn this off because the next three minutes are not going to make any sense to you, but Herbert's butthole is, it is, as I've said before, it is not unlike the Hope Diamond. It shines bright. It can light up a room that is completely dark. It can light up a dark room in a vacuum in outer space.

And you say, well, why, why is that? Why is Herbert's butthole so magical? I don't know. If I knew that, I wouldn't be in therapy. I wouldn't be in support groups. I would be selling whatever it is that makes his butthole magical [chuckles]. I really hoped this stretching of this three minutes was going to go smoother than this is, but . . .

What am I going to miss most about, Herbert is 12. His butthole is not going to be around forever. And what am I going to miss most about him when he's gone? Not his butthole. His little baby-corn teeth, especially the bottom row, where like the bottom row, where like every other little baby-corn tooth of his is missing, I'm going to miss how when he poops in the backyard it almost looks like he's making a failed handstand [chuckles].

I am going to really miss when he gets his hair cut and he looks like a completely different dog and you can suddenly see, not only his little baby-corn teeth, but his plump little lower lip and how it shines. That, that I'm going to miss.

But back to his butthole. I have tried to find representation for his butthole, because, being here in Southern California, you would think that would be a natural for a production company to want to produce something about his butthole, maybe an after-school special, maybe a made-for-TV movie. That is what an after-school special is. Listen, I'm three hours into this fucking thing. Cut me a little bit of slack. We have one minute left.

I was hoping an agent or a manager would bring Herbert on board. They know how to sell buttholes because they are, most of them are assholes [chuckles]. This is really winding down very badly. I think I need to call Dave from the debt collection and have him bail me out of this one.

Listen, I hope you heard something tonight that helped you. We are at 179 minutes and 32 seconds. Thank you so much for your support, for helping me get my first new car in 10 years, and feeling loved and supported and, if you're out there and you're struggling, you're so not alone. There's help if you're ready to get outside of your comfort zone and ask for it, because help is everywhere. And we were all scared when we first asked for help.


[Closing music swells]


And never forget that you are not alone. And high-five to Herbert's butthole, and thank you for listening.


[Closing music]


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