Literally Pulling Her Hair Out From PPD – Jennifer Tracy

Literally Pulling Her Hair Out From PPD – Jennifer Tracy

It wasn’t until she began to literally pull chunks of her hair out she knew she might be battling something out of her control; postpartum depression. She talks about her battles with cyclical depression starting at an early age, being an only child with depressed, anxious and angry parents, not feeling seen or heard and being a high-bottom alcoholic who finally sobered up instead of self-medicating. She also touches on her body issues and how it was exacerbated during her few years as a model.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. To see if online counseling is right for you, and to get your first week free, go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire. Must be 18 or older.

This episode is sponsored by BlueApron. To get your first 3 meals free with free shipping go to www.BlueApron.com/mental

Support the podcast and get free, donor-only stuff from Paul by becoming a monthly donor -starting for as little as $1 a month- go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod  It really helps!

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Thanks to Accurate Secretarial & @WebCaptioning 4 donating their transcribing services. They're so dependable!

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. To see if online counseling is right for you, and to get your first week free, go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire. Must be 18 or older.

This episode is sponsored by BlueApron. To get your first 3 meals free with free shipping go to www.BlueApron.com/mental

Support the podcast and get free, donor-only stuff from Paul by becoming a monthly donor -starting for as little as $1 a month- go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod  It really helps!

Episode Transcript:

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

 

Welcome to Episode 324 with my guest Jennifer Tracy. 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. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I'm not a doctor or a therapist. This is more like a waiting room that doesn't suck.

The Web site for this show is Mentalpod.com. Please go check it out. Browse the forum. You know, wear whatever you want. Wear a loose-fitting pair of pants. Wear a tight top. Maybe you wear a halter top. Maybe you put on some clogs. My point is, it doesn't matter who you are [chuckles] or how you look, go browse the forum. Fill out a survey. Maybe we'll read your survey on the show.

You know, for those of you that are new to this, if this is your first time listening, about half of this show is an interview with a guest, really more of a conversation, and then the other half of it is me reading surveys that have been filled out by listeners anonymously on our Web site. And it really helps to keep the show going, if you haven't filled a survey out yet, to go do that. And it's a really, really big part of this.

I'm going to start off by reading, this is an e-mail that I got from Panda, and she writes, as a psych student, I learned that there is a diagnosis in the most current DSM for, quote, gender dysphoria, where one does not identify with the gender assigned at birth. Transphobic people use this as ammunition, saying that people who do not conform to their birth-assigned gender are mentally ill.

Being gender-fluid myself, I asked my therapist about this because I felt so angry at that being considered a mental illness. We talked about how homosexuality also used to be diagnosed as a mental illness in earlier versions of the DSM. He said that mental illness, like anxiety and depression, occurs from dysphoria, but that being able to be one's authentic self relieves that.

I feel the APA is being harmful in this inclusion. Oh, the psychiatric, American Psychiatric A, [chuckles] whatever the last A is for, is being, maybe association, is being harmful in this inclusion of diagnostic criteria and hope to see it removed from the next manual that gets published. I couldn't agree more. Thank you for weighing in on that, Panda.

This is a response I had to an e-mail I got from a woman who is struggling with a child who has some type of mental illness. It hasn't quite been diagnosed yet, but he's been acting out a lot, very manic, and she is kind of at her wits' end and she is in therapy, and I suggested, she was asking me, is there anything more that I can do, and I said, well, you know, your therapist is certainly more qualified than me to guide you on this, but if you want some of my thoughts, I said, first of all, I'm so sorry that your family is struggling. It sounds really overwhelming.

In addition to keeping up therapy, a suggestion that I would make is to maybe seek support for the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness. And NAMI, or NAMI [different pronunciation], I'm not sure how you pronounce it, would be a great place to start, and the Web address of that is NAMI.org, and it's the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and it was founded for the loved ones of people that suffer from mental illness.

And another great place to go as a resource is HelpGuide.org. They have a big list of resources. I said I wished I had something profound to say that could help, but I don't, other than take a lot of deep breaths, don't project into the future, just focus on what is right in front of you in the moment so that you can bring as much consciousness to that moment instead of splitting your focus into fear-projected scenarios that may never happen, and even if they do, the context and your tools to deal with them may be different than they are in the present moment.

There's just too many moving parts in life to try to predict how everything will turn out, which is why being present is the only real solution. We can't change people. We can only change how we react to them, and that begins by working on ourselves so that we bring the best of ourselves into the decisions that we make.

I have mentioned to you guys that BetterHelp is a sponsor of this show, and I have been working with my own personal BetterHelp.com online therapist for a couple of months, and I like to give you updates every week, and things are going well there.

She's helping me with my boundaries, and something I'm going to talk with her about tomorrow is, I was going through the surveys, preparing for today's show, and somebody suggested that when you are about to go into your therapist's office, or talk to them, you ask yourself, what is it that I want to say and to differentiate that from what is it that I want to project, because I do, you know, as much as I like to preach to you guys, let it all hang out, don't be afraid to share everything with your therapist, there's some times that I don't.

I don't hold, like I don't hold big things back from my therapist, but I think sometimes I hold back how I'm feeling. Like, I don't hold events back. I hold the week-to-week, like, for instance, this week I felt this really intense wave of sadness come over me around the break-up of my marriage. As many of you know, my wife and I were together for 28 years, and we split up about six months ago.

And I didn't want to feel it, so [chuckles] I reached for Pop Tarts, which I think any therapist would say is the perfect solution, but make sure you eat them right before you go to bed, and I've been doing it every night, and I'm pretty sure it's because I don't want to feel sadness. I don't want to mourn that this relationship doesn't exist anymore, or I should say, it's just taking on a new form because we both do, it's amicable and we both do want to be friends.

Anyway, I should have contacted my therapist. I should have maybe texted her through the site or, you know, I know that she would have been fine with having a quick conversation before our weekly appointment, but I didn't because I think sometimes I want to pretend that I've got everything under control, unless it's so obvious that I don't, and then I can be really honest about it.

But I guess it's the, seeing that survey woke me up to the fact that I'm not very good about the in-between shit, and along with my boundaries, I think that's something that I'm going to ask her to help me work on. And she's a big CBT person, and I had never done CBT before, so it's kind of interesting working on that, coming at it from that angle. CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of BetterHelp, and, as I said, they're a sponsor for the show, and if you want to try a week of online counseling to see if it's right for you, go to BetterHelp.com/mental. You'll complete a questionnaire and then they'll match you with a BetterHelp.com counselor and see if online counseling is right for you. So, you have to be over 18, but it's great. I love it. There's something really nice, too, about not having to leave your apartment to go to therapy. I love it. I do the video one. You know, you could also do phone or text or whatever you want. Anyway, I'm a big fan. Go to BetterHelp.com/mental.

Blue Apron is one of my favorite sponsors in the last two years that we've had, because they so perfectly embody one of the things we talk about all the time on the show, which is how do you love yourself, how do you practice self-care.

And when they first advertised on the show about a year and a half ago, they sent me a week of their meals so I could talk about them, and I fell in love with it immediately, and I continued to do it, paying on my own, because I realized that I had gotten into the habit of just always going out to eat or, if I did cook [chuckles], it was some me standing over a sink shoveling food into my face as fast as I could, and I realized, you know, if I do this every week, it's a really good way for me to practice self-care, slow down, be present, and treat myself well.

The ingredients that they use for Blue Apron are really good and really fresh. Basically, the way Blue Apron works is they ship you, once a week in a refrigerated box, everything that you need for your meals, three meals, for the week. And they give you a card with pictures, showing you how to make the recipe, and all you really need is olive oil and cookware, and I love it.

When I make it, I consciously don't have the TV on. I listen to some music that relaxes me, and then when I sit down to eat, I don't distract myself with anything and I just concentrate on enjoying the flavor of the food and trying to be present. And it's honestly a big part of my recovery.

So, I can't recommend it enough. It's only, it's less than 10 bucks a meal and here's some of the upcoming meals. Spinach and fresh mozzarella pizza with olives, bell peppers and ricotta salata. Ooh, salata. Sweet-and-sour salmon with bok choy, carrot and ginger fried rice. Parmesan-crusted chicken with creamy fettuccini and roasted broccoli. And baby broccoli and Fontina paninis with hard-boiled egg and arugula salad.

So, go check out this week's menu and get your first three meals free with free shipping by going to BlueApron.com/mental. You will love how good it feels and tastes to create incredible home-cooked meals with Blue Apron, so don't wait. That's BlueApron.com/mental. Blue Apron, a better way to cook.

It is so windy here right now in Los Angeles. I think the wind is about maybe 30 miles an hour, so if it sounds like angry neighbors are throwing rocks at my window, it's the wind. Well, actually, there's also angry neighbors out there. But, I don’t know, can you hear that? It's a little scary.

The thing that's kind of freaky, too, about living in Los Angeles is, when it gets really windy, the dead leaves on palm trees, which can sometimes be, you know, like 60 feet up in the air and are pretty heavy, will come crashing down and they're everywhere [chuckles], and every week, when the garbage, or the street sweeper comes through, they kick it up onto the lawn and, or the sidewalk or wherever, and then when the people do the lawn, they put it back in the street, so it, it has just been piling up because it's been pretty windy lately, just like this, it's like you're trying to park on top of bushes. There's worse problems to have.

I want to read, this is a survey that I read, this is a Happy Moment Survey filled out [chuckles] by a guy who calls himself Pavlov's Dog Shit. And he writes, my wife and I were caught in the grips of meth addiction and fighting daily. Several times it became quite physical. After a particularly long period of no sleep over three weeks, we had a huge blow-out, which resulted in the cops showing up again and my subsequent arrest. It was a beautiful sunny day in May. Neighbors were planting flowers. Children were riding bikes, and birds were singing. This was the first time I had been outside during the day in two months.

As I sat in the back of the police cruiser, 165 pounds, unshowered, shirtless and covered in cigarette burns, self-inflicted, all I could think of on the 20-minute ride to the county jail was, it's over. Tonight I don't have to put a needle in my arm, and I can finally get some sleep.

A smile crossed my face and didn't leave until after I had been booked in and sent to my cell. It was the first real joy I had experienced in over a year. And then he quotes Jerry Garcia, once in a while you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right. And then he adds, I'm still clean, man, I'm still clean. That's so awesome.

And then this is an Awfulsome Moment that Corey shared with me via Twitter. When I told my father why I was no longer going to speak to him or see him, he told me I was blocking the TV.

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I'm here with Jennifer Tracy, who was recommended to me by Dr. Jessica Zucker, and, before we even started recording, there's so much stuff that we have in common, so I'm glad, I'm glad you're here.

 

JENNIFER: Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be here.

 

PAUL: It's up to you to ruin it now.

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: That's likely.

 

PAUL: I think one of the reasons that Jessica put us together was you experience depression, you experienced postpartum depression, and you're also a sober person. You've been sober for how long?

 

JENNIFER: Fifteen years.

 

PAUL: That's fantastic. Yeah. Where would be a good place to start? And how do you know Jessica?

 

JENNIFER: She is my therapist.

 

PAUL: Oh, you're so lucky.

 

JENNIFER: [Chuckles]

 

PAUL: She and I talked about maybe her being my therapist briefly, but we both decided, no, we've already done the show together, it would be weird, but I always think, man, that she would be such a great therapist--

 

JENNIFER: She is amazing. When I called my OB/GYN, when my son was three and I finally figured out, gosh, I think I might have postpartum depression, and yes, it did take me that long, she said, oh, my gosh, you know, here's this woman, she's incredible, and I went to see her a week later and she, she really is, she's very gifted.

 

PAUL: Yeah. And she's so compassionate.

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: She makes you just feel like . . .

 

JENNIFER: You're okay [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah, like you're okay, like you can collapse--

 

JENNIFER: Yes, yes.

 

PAUL: --you know, and the best therapists, I've found, are the ones that are just, you feel seen and felt and heard and validated.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, absolutely.

 

PAUL: Yeah. And you trust that, wherever they're going to lead you, they know what they're doing.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: That's so important.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, one of the most important.

 

PAUL: Do you get those feelings in therapy sometimes, not necessarily with Jessica, but where you're like, now, what the fuck is this about, that they're asking--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: --or what's this road they're leading me down, and it, you know, I’m to the point now where I've been in therapy so long where I'll say it out loud to my therapist, and she knows--

 

JENNIFER: Right.

 

PAUL: --that it's not me criticizing her. It's that negative part of my brain that needs to be expressed.

 

JENNIFER: Right.

 

PAUL: Like I'll say, well, that's a bunch of new-age horseshit.

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: You know, and we'll both kind of laugh about it.

 

JENNIFER: What does my mother have to do with this?

 

PAUL: Yeah, right, right.

So, getting back to, where would be a good place to start with your story?

 

JENNIFER: I'm not sure.

 

PAUL: Where are you from?

 

JENNIFER: Well, I have my list. Does that come later?

 

PAUL: Which list, of the fears--

 

JENNIFER: My fear-offs and my list--

 

PAUL: We can do that later or we could open with it if you wanted to, whichever you'd rather.

 

JENNIFER: I think it just might be a good touching point to start with.

 

PAUL: Let's do that.

 

JENNIFER: Okay.

 

PAUL: Let's start with your fears.

 

JENNIFER: I worked really hard on it.

 

PAUL: Did you?

 

JENNIFER: And I will have you know that I have half as many loves as I have fears, which is very appropriate. Okay, so I'll start with my loves. Is that okay?

 

PAUL: Let's start with fears.

 

JENNIFER: Start with fears, okay.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: Fears--

 

PAUL: I like to end the show with loves--

 

JENNIFER: Oh--

 

PAUL: --because I like to end on an up note, if possible.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, right. That's good, okay, because it is the happy hour.

 

PAUL: Yeah, and, you know, who wants to say, you know, and the last thing I want to mention was I was beaten in a dark closet. Well, thanks for listening, it was great having--

 

[Laughter]

 

JENNIFER: Sweet dreams, everybody.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: Okay. I am afraid that I will ultimately be defeated by my depression and that it will drag everyone I love down with me.

Number two, I am afraid a crazy homeless person will jut out from somewhere and bludgeon me to death with a frying pan or other household objects that have been discarded on my street.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles] That is awesome. We have a survey on the Web site now called Awfulsome Moments, where I ask people to share moments that make you want to laugh and cry at the same time, and that is awfulsome, what you just shared.

 

JENNIFER: [Chuckles] Yeah. I live in West Hollywood and, you know, it's very densely populated, very urban, so . . .

 

PAUL: Yeah. And mental illness is running rampant in--

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: --especially in areas like that, and I think there's a lot of, I think the locale there, there's a generosity for people that are different or struggling or whatever--

 

JENNIFER: Definitely.

 

PAUL: --you know, there's not, it's like, oh, God bless you, you know.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, yes.

 

PAUL: Like, look at you. So, I think it's kind of understandable that--

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: --like Santa Monica, what does Harry Shearer call it, the home of the homeless?

 

JENNIFER: Oh [chuckles], right, yeah. Well, I remember walking with my son, he was an infant and I was walking on Sunset Boulevard, up by where Crunch is and Tower Records used to be, and this woman walked by me and she was talking to herself and she said, bitch, bitch, you crazy bitch, and she looked me in the eyes and I was just like, [intake of breath] I have my son and he's facing out in his stroller [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Yeah, oh, no.

 

JENNIFER: And then, another guy came up and said, why don't you teach your kid how to break a toenail off in his face, or something crazy like that. I was like, where do I live?

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

JENNIFER: But I do live it there. I'm happy living there. Should I--

 

PAUL: Yeah, continue.

 

JENNIFER: I am afraid of things falling on me or my son. When he was an infant, I always imagined him falling, him falling or other things falling on top of him and squashing him, furniture, books, glassware, etc.

 

PAUL: From what I understand, that's super common--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --especially for women with postpartum depression. We just did an interview with Listener Amelia--

 

JENNIFER: I listened to that. It was amazing, the pond.

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

JENNIFER: God, that was so haunting, just that imagery--

 

PAUL: That hit home, huh?

 

JENNIFER: Oh, definitely, definitely. Yeah, she was great.

Okay, I'm afraid of being invisible and unacknowledged by other people, strangers and family alike.

 

PAUL: I relate very deeply to that one. I have a fear of my life being forgettable, of me just being, you know, who?

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: You know, oh, yeah, you know, that.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I heard somebody say in my support group one time that, you know, if you don't go consistently, you know, and you're an isolator and you don't let people get to know you, you can kind of be that, you know, because we've had people like that in the group die from overdoses and they came maybe three times a year. They didn't let anybody get to know them.

And it was like, and, you know, my friend put it kind of bluntly. He said, you can either be, oh, my God, you know, I’m so devastated, you know, we've got to get a memorial together, you know, I've got his mom's phone number, let's call her, let's talk to his brother, or it can be, who? Oh, yeah, yeah. Hey, where are we going to lunch?

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, so true.

 

PAUL: Yeah, but I definitely relate to that one. I think that's a really human feeling to have. It's like we want to leave some type of mark. We want to be special in some way, and not, you know, not necessarily in a, you know, celebrated way, but to know we meant something to people.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. Left something important behind, tangible or non.

 

PAUL: The people that you help in your support group, clearly from your energy you help people--

 

JENNIFER: I'm sure I do [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah. Does that bring a lot of meaning?

 

JENNIFER: Oh, definitely. I mean, I think anytime you can be of service any community and get outside of yourself is so important, I mean, especially because, for me, I mean, having had what I term cyclical depression from a very young age, so my postpartum wasn't the first time I had experienced depression, which is even more interesting that it took me, you know, three years to figure out, hey, maybe this is postpartum depression.

I mean, my doctor actually termed it, it was postpartum depression that spun into just regular old depression, because I had stopped breastfeeding, so there was a hormonal element that, you know, I don't really understand the science of that piece, but--

 

PAUL: It almost sounds like you should have had a magician's showgirl unveil it for you, like--

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: --and like said, is this your depression, at the end, throwing the card out into the audience.

 

JENNIFER: Well, it felt like I was being cut in half, so that part was there.

 

PAUL: So, service helps you with that--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, oh, yeah, just because having had cyclical depression and just also, you know, being, having addictions, is that I often tend to think about myself a lot [chuckles] and that is a huge part of the problem. And so, when I can focus on other people, it's just immensely helpful.

And that's why I love, one of the many reasons I love your show, is that it brings people together. It really brings people together. Even, even in isolation, it brings people together, because they can listen in and really feel like, oh, okay, I relate, there's someone else out there who has had that pain, and that means that I'm okay.

 

PAUL: Yeah, and, you know, that's, I like what you said about the wanting to think about yourself more to get out of it, which then digs the hole deeper.

 

JENNIFER: Yes. You said something on a recent, or one of your recent podcasts that I listened to, said, you want to un-warp your thinking with the thing that warps it, and I'm paraphrasing--

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: You said it so well, it was, I thought that was really interesting.

 

PAUL: It's true. You can't think your way out of a thinking problem when the--

 

JENNIFER: [Chuckles] The thinker is broken.

 

PAUL: --the thinker is broken or unhealed or warped or whatever--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah, we need that third, that second point of view of, you know, somebody from the support group or something.

So, go ahead.

 

JENNIFER: Okay. Yeah, so, oh, I’m afraid of becoming quadriplegic. My sophomore year of college, I watched this young hockey player at BU, I went to BU, get--

 

PAUL: I remember that.

 

JENNIFER: --get checked and he sustained irreparable spinal injuries and he was quadriplegic, this beautiful young boy, 18, freshman, you know, was starting on the hockey team, and seven seconds into the game and quadriplegic.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: I mean, ugh, and also just that obviously, or maybe it's not obvious, but that powerlessness. Ugh, yeah, that is, that's a big fear.

 

PAUL: And you can tell his very dream completely snuffed out.

 

JENNIFER: Yep.

 

PAUL: You know, if you're starting as a freshman for BU--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --you're a hell of a hockey player.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, but, and, you know, the amazing thing about his story is that he was so resilient. He stayed on campus. I mean, after I'm sure he had several spinal surgeries, but then he got a wheelchair, moved back on campus, regained movement in his right hand and was able to continue on with his education and like became this inspiration. I mean, that just always baffles me--

 

PAUL: I saw a piece on him, I think it was between periods of some hockey game that I was watching, where they did a piece on him, and it's, clearly he had a really supportive family and--

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: Yeah, they interviewed his dad who was there in the stands. Oh, I can't imagine. I can't imagine.

 

JENNIFER: I remember his family walking down onto the ice and there just was this hush over this huge hockey rink, you know, with all the fans. It's a big deal in Boston, it's a big, and, you know, everyone just was literally holding their breath as he didn't move, didn't move, didn't move. And then finally, I think 20 minutes later, they brought him out on a stretcher and everyone just thought, oh, no. It was horrifying. It was horrifying.

 

PAUL: I'm actually surprised it doesn't happen more often--

 

JENNIFER: Oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: --because those, the boards are very unforgiving, and especially the end boards, you go in there sometimes with such a head of steam. I had a teammate fall, and fortunately it was feet first, but by the time we got over to him, his ankle, his foot was pointing 90 degrees in the right, you know, it was making a right-hand turn, and the bone was poking out through his sock--

 

JENNIFER: Oh--

 

PAUL: And I know it's hard to think that somebody could be lucky in something like that, but I just remember thinking thank God he didn't go headfirst, but he had a full head of steam and I’m surprised it doesn't happen more often.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: And I get, I play hockey, and I get super pissed off when anybody, like if I'm going full speed towards that, if anybody like tries to stick out or push me from behind, I get super, super pissed--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. Not cool, dude, not cool--

 

PAUL: That's like nudging somebody when they're on a, you know, on a bridge. It's like, this is, this is not the middle of the ice.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Anyway.

 

JENNIFER: Oh.

 

PAUL: Back to the list.

 

JENNIFER: Okay. There's only a few more. I am afraid of dying young, and I put young in quotation marks--

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: --and leaving my son without me. That's a big one. He's an only child.

 

PAUL: How old is he?

 

JENNIFER: He's four and a half. And I'm an only child, too, so I have, there's a lot of that piece of my story. So, yeah, leaving him without a mom is a big fear of mine.

I’m afraid of failing my son as a parent. Every decision I make for him as his advocate sometimes seems scary to me, and like, who the hell am I to be making these kinds of decisions for someone else?

 

PAUL: It's got to be overwhelming some days.

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: Especially when it's a really gray, nuanced decision.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, yes.

 

PAUL: And I would imagine for you, as somebody, you know, who is an alcoholic or an addict, we struggle with nuance. We don't do five. We do zero or 10.

 

JENNIFER: Exactly, exactly. There's no gray, ever.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: I am afraid I will never contribute anything truly meaningful to the world.

I am afraid one day I will fart so loudly in yoga class the teacher will have no choice but to acknowledge it.

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: I think that might be the thing that keeps me from going to do group yoga, is just the thought of being around all those people farting, because I, from what I hear, there's quite a bit of it.

 

JENNIFER: It happens. It happens. And I have, well, no, I have done it once--

 

PAUL: Audibly or--

 

JENNIFER: Yes [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: --is everybody audible with it, or is it just like, oh, that one stunk?

 

JENNIFER: Both, I've experienced both, but never has the yoga teacher acknowledged it. I mean, it can be the loudest thing in the world, and they'll just keep teaching the class [laughs], and I'm always like, keep it together, don't laugh, don't laugh, don't laugh.

And one time I remember this guy next to me farted really loudly and I walked up to my teacher after class and I said, I just, I really need you to know that that wasn't me.

 

[Laughter]

 

JENNIFER: And she said, I know, I know. I know it wasn't you. No, I was like, no, but really, it really wasn't me.

 

PAUL: [Laughs]

 

JENNIFER: It was that guy, you know [chuckles].

 

PAUL: That's awesome. I have a huge fear that I'm going to far in one of my mixed support group meetings, and then I'll never be able to go back there. And I plan out what I will say if it happens, is I, even if it's in the middle of somebody else sharing, I will say out loud, I'm going to own that, that was me.

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs]

 

PAUL: So I can make fun of me before anybody else can.

 

JENNIFER: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You know, because that's the only way I would ever be able to go back there. I would never be able to go back there if it was everybody knew I did it but I didn't acknowledge it--

 

JENNIFER: Right. Right, right, right. You've got to stand proud in it.

 

PAUL: I've got to, got to plant that flag in my own butthole.

 

[Laughter]

 

JENNIFER: Oh, my God. Nothing breaks the ice like farts, I'll tell you that.

 

PAUL: Nothing, nothing. Well, you're the first person to break the tissues out for something that's not sad.

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs]

 

PAUL: Congratulations.

 

JENNIFER: Yay. Yay, I win. Oh, my gosh. So, that's my fear list.

 

PAUL: That was great. Thank you.

 

JENNIFER: I'm sure I could have added many, many, many, many more, but--

 

PAUL: No, that's good. That gives us--

 

JENNIFER: A little starting point.

 

PAUL: Yeah, a taste of what's going on underneath.

So, where were you raised? You were an only kid. What was your relationship with your folks like?

 

JENNIFER: Raised in Denver, in the suburbs of Denver. Only child. Very introverted parents, so they didn't have, I mean, I don't know where I came from because [chuckles] I am extremely social, maybe as a result, partly because of being an only child, but I always wanted to be with friends and doing stuff.

And, I mean, I guess I also like my alone time, too, and I know how to be alone, which is really nice, but yeah, my parents, my mother, both very sweet, very loving parents. My mom definitely has anxiety issues.

 

PAUL: And you picked up on that early as a kid?

 

JENNIFER: I did, but I didn't know what it was. I mean--

 

PAUL: Did you think, oh, the world really is unsafe?

 

JENNIFER: Scary. No. I think, well, I think at about, oh, puberty, maybe, I started realizing, or I started the arrogance of thinking, ach, Mom doesn't know what she's talking about, you know, it's fine. And so, thus, I began on a spree of undesirable behavior, you know, drinking and smoking and hanging out with the cool kids and, you know, whatever I thought was--

 

PAUL: What did that feel like?

 

JENNIFER: It felt like it was mine, like I could own it and it was mine, and it was my secret, because I kept it a secret from my parents. They had no idea. And I remember when I told them, when I was 23, when I got sober, and I was like, yeah, you know, I’m an alcoholic, and I got help and I'm in recovery and, what do you mean? What do you mean? What are you talking about?

You know, so it came as a real shock to them.

 

PAUL: So, were you kind of a high-bottom drunk?

 

JENNIFER: Definitely. Well . . .

 

PAUL: To the visible--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, to the visible world. I never got a DUI, although I could have many times over.

 

PAUL: Me, too.

 

JENNIFER: And never lost a job because of it. Lost many, many relationships because of it, friends and boyfriends alike.

 

PAUL: Because of the personality traits of being an untreated alcoholic or because of the drinking itself?

 

JENNIFER: Because of the personality traits.

 

PAUL: I think that's an important thing for people that don't understand alcoholism and drug addiction or any type of addiction to understand is, that is really just the symptom that other people see. The real problem--

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: --as you know, are the underlying fears and angers--

 

JENNIFER: Causes and conditions, yeah, absolutely--

 

PAUL: --resentments, character defects, those are the things that ruin our lives.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And it's funny, when we roll into a support group, you know, looking to just stop drinking or using, we don't understand. We think that a support group is just to show us how to stop drinking and using, and then we'll be this fantastic--

 

JENNIFER: All your dreams will come true.

 

PAUL: Yeah, without having to do any kind of work or investigating or seeing where, you know, where we have a part in things. But I'm glad you mentioned that because I think most addicts and alcoholics have no, untreated, have no idea how they are perceived by other people.

 

JENNIFER: Oh, not at all. Not at all. And I certainly didn't, and I think, again, it goes back, for me, to that just sort of unwittingly selfish and self-centered point of view, even though it wasn't, it wasn't from an ego standpoint of like, I'm hot shit, you know, although sometimes it would be. Most of the time it would be like, I am a piece of shit [chuckles] but just, it would always be I am. That's how it'd be--

 

PAUL: Either better than or less than, but never one of many.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, no.

 

PAUL: It's almost like an inconceivable idea to an addict/alcoholic, is that we're one of many. And do you think that's because that's a terrifying thought because it means we're not special?

 

JENNIFER: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, I remember hearing someone say, I don't want to be a blade among the grass, I want to be the daisy. And I thought, oh, that is just me, I want to be the daisy, and it links back to my fear of being forgettable or being invisible. Like, I feel this deep need to be seen and heard, which, again, is, I think, as you said, a human need that everybody has, but I have it so much more than most people [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yes. And I think there's this myth that to be one of many means that there can't be deep meaning in your life--

 

JENNIFER: Right.

 

PAUL: --and that is the biggest myth in the world.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, yes. Yeah, because I, yeah, and we celebrate in our society, we celebrate celebrity and wealth and fame--

 

PAUL: The daisies.

 

JENNIFER: The daisies.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: You know.

 

PAUL: So, you start acting out or whatever you want to call it in your teenage years. How does that, and what was your relationship with your dad? Your mom was kind of an anxious person. What was Dad like?

 

JENNIFER: My dad was, I mean, you know, I'm not a shrink, but to my estimation, depressed. He had depression and rage. But then he'd be really funny. But neither of them are addicts. Well, [chuckles] neither of them drank or used drugs. You know, I mean, they have other -isms, I’m sure, but, so my dad, it was always like I wanted to get close to him but I couldn't, just always this yearning for, you know, a deeper relationship with him. And so I would sort of--

 

PAUL: What was the fantasy in your head that, if you could have picked, you know, a day where you would have the ideal relationship with your dad when you were a kid, what would that day have looked like?

 

JENNIFER: Being seen and heard by my dad.

 

PAUL: Like how?

 

JENNIFER: Like, honestly, something as banal as him just asking me questions about something that I was interested in and trying to understand it, like my dance class or, you know, why do you think that the ancient Egyptians, I remember having this ancient Egyptian mural I had to paint in eighth grade, why do you think that they painted on the wall, just engaging with me more.

And probably to his mind he did, but it was always about like grades or, you know, money or some kind of measurable success.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

JENNIFER: And only now, he's 68 and he has cancer. He's had cancer for 14 years, but now it's gone into his bones and he's just, it's really [chuckles], it's really changed him. He's just more accessible in that way, and I think he's able to pause and really sort of see me more, but he still asks me about like, you know, money and numbers and bank accounts and what do you think of this and--

 

PAUL: It's such a dad thing--

 

JENNIFER: It's such a dad thing, it's such a dad thing. It's such an arm's-length thing. And subsequently, I always chose boyfriends that were like that, just not really interested.

 

PAUL: What would it be like, or would it have been like, to have a guy who you were dating that saw you and was it just, did it make your skin crawl? Was it just too foreign and weird? What, because I'm sure you had guys like that, where you had some dates with them, that were present and interested and wanted intimacy, what--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. Well, I'm married to one of them now.

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: I’m happily married to one now, but that took years and years and years of work and therapy. And, but, you know, when I remember the guys, those guys, those nice guys, the good guys, I just, it was like, ulg, I'm not attracted to them. They're just, they're too nice or they're too open. Like, I didn't use the word open in my mind. I just thought, they're not interesting enough because they want to be with me [chuckles].

 

PAUL: It's almost like there's no treasure in there. There's nothing to dig for. There's nothing, there's no mystery.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, which, again, is that false idea of that it's boring if it isn't painful.

 

PAUL: Yeah. That makes sense. That makes sense.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: So, Dad wasn't really as present. You start drinking in your teen years. What's the arc of that?

 

JENNIFER: Pretty quick. I mean, it was like fun and, and look what I can do and I’m still making good grades, and I had it all figured out, but the anxiety was always building, like, I've got to keep this all together, I've got to like hang out with my cool friends and, you know, still be senior class president and maintain all the areas of my life to look good [sighs].

Oh, and also, I had started modeling for local department stores, I mean, nothing fancy, but just like, so I had this sort of modeling career, I'm air quoting, for those of you who can't see me at home. So, there was that pressure of like, you've got to stay thin and you've got to, so it just, it felt like, as it often does today, actually, that there's just so much pressure from all angles.

But I was able to control and enjoy my drinking through about college time, and then quickly after I graduated from college, actually, I moved to France to study for a semester and I failed a class because I just stopped showing up. And I, I think I gained 30 pounds. I was eating pastries and bread and cheese and drinking every day, and I was so depressed.

And I was dating a bartender that I was sure that we were going to like elope and live in France and, you know, he was just like, what are you talking about, you know--

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: Like, no, no, no, this is it. And he's like, no, you're going back to the United States and have fun. So, after that, I really started hitting a bottom with my depression, which I was then treating with alcohol.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm, which I think is super common.

 

JENNIFER: Yes, for sure. So, and then really, it just, I [sighs], it's one of those things, and again, I guess you could consider me a high-bottom drunk because just one day I was on this job in Denver, and this woman happened to be there, I was shooting a commercial, and she was talking about drinking and going out and she said, well, I don't drink. And I said, oh, I could never do that.

You know, and she said, do you think you might be an alcoholic? And I was like, oh, yeah, yep, I know I am. I didn't even miss a beat. So, and that's when I got help and got a support group and started on my journey to wellness.

 

PAUL: What did that feel like, the first time you went to one?

 

JENNIFER: Awkward.

 

PAUL: Yeah?

 

JENNIFER: I mean, I remember it took, it took a while. It took me about three months to actually get sober.

 

PAUL: Did you know anybody in that first--

 

JENNIFER: No. No. And then I, well, then I moved to L.A. So . . .

 

PAUL: Where there's a support group on every corner.

 

JENNIFER: Exactly. Exactly [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Thousands of support group meetings every day. It's--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, for any kind of thing that you possibly need--

 

PAUL: Any kind of thing. It's the mecca of recovery.

 

JENNIFER: And if there isn't one for some reason you can make one.

 

PAUL: You can make one and there will be people that will show up the first night--

 

JENNIFER: There will be people that show up.

 

PAUL: Yeah. It's pretty awesome.

So, what changed in you going to that support group? How did it start, were there any seminal moments in it becoming a home for you? From a place where you were the outsider, I would imagine, sitting in the back row with your arms crossed--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: --judging.

 

JENNIFER: Sure. Yeah, it just, again, I just listened, and every kind of person who shared their story I related to in some way, and it could have been, you know, an 85-year-old man to a middle-aged woman to, they all shared sort the same pains and struggles, and were laughing about it. You know, like, isn't it funny, and it just, there's this sort of unity in the laughter and, you know, which is, again, why I love your show [chuckles], because there is this sort of, it bring this levity to it that, while maintaining the groundedness of this is a real thing and it's something serious that we need to look at, I'm okay, you're okay, we're in this together, like we can actually laugh about--

 

PAUL: And when you get on the other side of something, or at least are heading in the direction of getting on the other side of something, it's so cathartic to be able to laugh about it, but when you're stuck and you're hopeless and you don't even see a pin light of hope, it's really hard to laugh.

 

JENNIFER: Yes.

 

PAUL: Which is why it's kind of shocking when you're early in a support group to hear somebody talk about, then I drove off the bridge and I, you know, and I lived, and everybody's howling with laughter--

 

JENNIFER: Yes, yes, yes [chuckles].

 

PAUL: --and you're . . .

 

JENNIFER: In no other place on Earth would people be laughing like that.

 

PAUL: Yeah, and I had no idea that that was the kind of, that that would be the place where I would laugh the hardest and cry the hardest in my life.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, me, too. And really just get real, and really be seen and heard, and really--

 

PAUL: Really.

 

JENNIFER: --really see and hear other people that I hadn't, in a way I hadn't before, and that took more time because I was still, you know, so self-involved and self-conscious and everyone's looking at me, and no one was looking at me.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles]

 

JENNIFER: Or they were-, you know, they were, but they weren't like the way I thought they were, so. Yeah.

 

PAUL: So, fast forward to what?

 

JENNIFER: We got married, and three years after we got married, I got pregnant, and, on purpose [chuckles], and my pregnancy was awesome. Like I had an awesome pregnancy. I was performing my sketch comedy show with my partner.

And up until like the last, I think I was eight and a half months pregnant and we were doing comedy festivals, and I was just, I just remember feeling so elated, going to prenatal yoga, didn't have any, I had some anxiety. I remember staying up late online looking at like different cribs and obsessing about what kind of crib to buy, you know, that kind of thing--

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: Like, you know, what's the safety rating on this, and just that kind of thing, so I did have some insomnia and some anxiety, but nothing that even at all adequately foretold what I was about to experience.

So, I had a wonderful birthing experience. He came really quickly. I went into labor at 8:30 at night and he was born at 1:39 in the morning, so it was a really, it's actually called a speedster birth, I learned. There's a word for it.

And brought him home a couple days later, and I remember he wasn't latching on properly and like my nipples were bleeding, and so, I called my husband, who was working, because he couldn't take any time off and, and he called [chuckles], he called this older man who's like a grandfather to us and he brought me these nipple gels that you put in the freezer and then put on your nipples.

 

[Laughter]

 

JENNIFER: And he came walking up the driveway and opened the door, and he looks like, I mean, he's just, he's like an older Irish gentleman, like with the white hair that's combed and the newsboy cap and the, you know, the Members Only jacket, and I opened the--

 

PAUL: Did he have a stack of newspapers? Did he say, extra, extra?

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs] Read all about the bloody nipples.

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: And I just burst into tears when he came in the house because I had, I mean, this was like five days into it and I was just like, [imitates sobbing].

 

PAUL: That's got to be terrifying. I mean, your fucking nipples are bleeding.

 

JENNIFER: My fucking nipples were bleeding. Oh, and then my son was coughing up blood because he was ingesting blood, and I was like, my--

 

PAUL: Why were your nipples bleeding?

 

JENNIFER: Because he wasn't latching on properly, so he was like rubbing the skin off the tip of my nipples.

 

PAUL: Oh, my God. That had to have been incredibly painful.

 

JENNIFER: It was painful.

 

PAUL: And then you feel like, but I've got to keep nursing--

 

JENNIFER: Right.

 

PAUL: --because I want to be the perfect mom--

 

JENNIFER: He'll starve, yeah.

 

PAUL: Oh, my God.

 

JENNIFER: So, I went to this place called the Pump Station and I got a private tutorial on breastfeeding, which was immensely helpful. And they had shown me at the hospital. The woman, the lactation specialist came by, and she was lovely and she showed me, you know, in 15 minutes, oh, you just do this and pop him on like that and da, da, da, and I just thought, okay, sure. But I couldn't, I mean, I had had no sleep for like 36 hours when she showed me this thing, so I was like, I forgot.

So, anyway, I got the help that I needed, and then he was fine after that. And then when my son was 18 days old, my husband, he's in the film business. He does production stuff. He had to leave town and he was gone for almost two years.

 

PAUL: What?

 

JENNIFER: Usually three to four months at a time, and the first thing, the first thing he worked on was in Boston, so I flew with my son, who was seven weeks old, to visit him for a few days, and that was crazy. I couldn't believe how unhelpful the airline people were. Like, flying with a newborn and like just, they just were not helpful to me, and it made me feel more isolated, like, really? I've got this newborn and this ergo-thing and I’m trying to wrestle with 18 diaper bags and the stroller, and I just, they just look at me like, I wonder how she's going to figure that all out?

So, the anxiety, the depression, and really I was angry, I was so angry at my husband. And that's, I think, part of why it took me so long to figure out, oh, this is postpartum depression, because I kept thinking, it's because my husband's out of town, it's because I'm not getting to my support groups enough, it's because I'm not, you know, doing my meditation enough, or I just, I kept thinking it was all these external things, and it wasn't. It wasn't. But I was so angry.

And Jessica told me later, Dr. Zucker, that that anger and like rage is a big part of the postpartum, it's a side of the coin--

 

PAUL: Hm.

 

JENNIFER: --having that, because, you know, and I never felt disengaged from my son. I never felt like, I don't love my son, or I'm not connected to him, so that piece, I was like, well, I don't have that. And I just think there's so many colors to the postpartum depression, that it's not always just one thing and, I don't know if I'm making sense [chuckles].

 

PAUL: No, you are. You're making perfect sense. So, what's the arc of the postpartum?

 

JENNIFER: [Sighs] Let's see. When my son was two, we moved to New Orleans with my husband for this show that he was on, because I said, I can't be separated from you anymore, I think that's the problem, we're going to move with you, in the summertime, which is--

 

PAUL: [Laughs] Say no more.

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: I mean, awful, hell-on-earth awful. It's like walking around inside of somebody's mouth. And I got to the point where, well, my son would always wake, he's an early riser and he would wake up crying every morning at 4:30 or 5:00, every morning, no matter what. It didn't matter what time I put him to bed, it didn't matter, and that part, oh, and that was the other thing, and I heard many of your, the people on your podcast say, many of the moms say, I wasn't sleeping, and I wasn't sleeping either.

I would put him down for a nap or put him down at night, and it would be like, okay, now I'm going to have my time for me, I'm going to like get the laundry done, I'm going to, you know, write e-mails, like I just, I wouldn't sleep. Everyone said, sleep when the baby sleeps. I never could do that, never could do that.

 

PAUL: And I love that that is your me time, you know, doing the laundry is your me time--

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: I know.

 

PAUL: Like if I, if I get laundry done during the day, I'm like high-fiving people, like yeah.

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: Yeah, now I get to have my me time, now I get to play my video game, you know.

 

JENNIFER: Right, right, right, right.

 

PAUL: But, yeah, that just, that's, I have so much respect for people who do stuff like that or people that go through college while holding down a job--

 

JENNIFER: Oof.

 

PAUL: --and paying for it, I just think, I don't have the constitution for that. Where does that, I suppose when you're in it you rise to it because you don't, maybe don't have a choice or you don't feel you have a choice--

 

JENNIFER: You don't think you do, yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: --but, oh, my God, that's making me want to curl up into the fetal position just thinking about that.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Being in New Orleans--

 

JENNIFER: Ugh.

 

PAUL: --not sleeping, and your free time is you get to go do laundry.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Oh, God. How did you not drink?

 

JENNIFER: And all my family members, my husband is from Louisiana, so they were an hour away, but they were like, when are you going to have another one? Are you going to have another one? Are you going to have another one?

I found, there were support groups down there, so I was able to find that, too, thankfully, but, you know, it was hard getting to them. And so, luckily, I could listen in to podcasts and, but I remember kind of the breaking point for me and realizing, okay, aside from the fact that I had bouts of--

 

PAUL: And this was just a year and a half ago, right?

 

JENNIFER: Mm-hmm. Yeah. No, yeah.

 

PAUL: He's four and a half now and--

 

JENNIFER: It was two and a half years ago.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

JENNIFER: Because he had just turned two. I had had a suicidal ideation, which I had had previously, previous to having a child, and I had been treated for that as well.

 

PAUL: Did you have a police sketch artist come in and render it in charcoal?

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That's how you usually know.

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: She just hit her head into the microphone.

 

JENNIFER: I just hit my head on the microphone.

 

PAUL: That's a first.

 

JENNIFER: That's so me.

 

PAUL: Two firsts, I love that.

 

JENNIFER: Oh, I’m so lucky. You're so lucky [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Well, how did the suicidal ideation present itself?

 

JENNIFER: Well, I wanted to die because I just couldn't, I just felt so depleted. I felt so full of anger and anxiety, and was, I had absolutely zero joy in my life, even though I loved my son and I wanted to be with him and he was amazing, but I just, I couldn't function. I wasn't eating. I wasn't feeding myself. I would, you know, I just, I would eat horrible frozen dinners and it just was a really sad existence.

And while in New Orleans, I remember like taking my nails and scratching my arm, and it was the first time I had ever done self-harm stuff, and then I took some scissors and I started doing it, just a couple times. But, and I realized and I knew that I was trying to physicalize the emotional pain that I had. I knew that that's what was happening.

And then, I was clipping my son's fingernails, which don't ever try to do that to a two-year-old who isn't letting you do it.

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: And I snipped off just the very, very, very tip of his finger pad, and he didn't even really, he kind of cried a little bit, but I went into a rage. And I went into the bathroom and I literally pulled my hair out. I literally pulled chunks of my hair out. I just kept pulling it and pulling it and pulling it.

And I remember just thinking in that moment, it was, everything was in slow motion in a way, and I thought, I am cracking up, like, I am, they're going to take this kid away from me. Like, I need to--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

JENNIFER: It was so scary. It was so scary. And I’m sure that he was scared, too, even though I had kind of gone into the bathroom, but, you know, and I often think, I'm often afraid that, [chuckles] that just my energy that whole time period had adverse effects on him, that we'll never know, you know, because, but my therapist always says, no, but did you tend to his needs, did you feed him, did you bathe him, did you come when he called you? And I'm like, yeah, but I was just miserable.

And so then we got back home after that trip ended and I still let a couple months pass, because it would still cycle down, like then I'd be okay, but not great. And finally, I called my OB/GYN and I said, I think I have this, and she talked to me about it for a while and she said, oh, well, definitely let's get you some help, and she said, because you're missing out, you're missing out, and I’m so sorry that we didn't catch this sooner.

 

PAUL: What did that feel like when she said that?

 

JENNIFER: [Sighs] So nice to feel like someone cared and just validating like, of course you have this thing.

 

PAUL: And that it's not a personal flaw on your part.

 

JENNIFER: It's not a personal flaw, it's not--

 

PAUL: This is a thing.

 

JENNIFER: You're not a bad parent. You don't have less love for your son than other moms do for theirs.

 

PAUL: You're not incompetent.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: That had to have been really soothing.

 

JENNIFER: Very soothing, very soothing. Yeah, I mean, I'm almost relieved now [chuckles] just remembering it and just, because it was just such an intense time. And when people do ask, like, are you going to have another kid, and I don't plan to have another kid, but that is a big piece for me, it's like, I can't, I don't think I would go through that again because I have a team in place now that there would be a very watchful eye over it, but it's just, I just, you know, as you just said, [chuckles] I don't have the constitution.

And, you know, my sister-in-law has five beautiful girls, and I just look at her and I'm like, wow, that's just--

 

PAUL: How loud is that house?

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs]

 

PAUL: How chatty? How chatty is that?

 

JENNIFER: Oh, it's, yeah.

 

PAUL: Oh, my God [chuckles].

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, and they're all Southern, so it's all, it's very like, y'all, c'mon, y'all.

 

PAUL: I was at my friend's yesterday, who I love, her and her husband are, my wife and I, they're our best friends. They've got a little boy who we love, and they've got two dogs and, I was there yesterday and they got a little puppy and we're playing with the puppy, and then the son and the husband come home, and it's just too much chat, and I'm like, I got to go.

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs]

 

PAUL: And I just think, I can't even handle 20 minutes of that. I can't imagine--

 

JENNIFER: Oof.

 

PAUL: --being a parent with kids, you know, like families that I know that have seven kids and four dogs, I'm like, you're from another planet to me.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah. So, take me through the arc, then, of understanding your postpartum depression and how that spun into the other depression and what you did and how you began to change and what you learned and tell, fill me in on all of that.

 

JENNIFER: Wow. Let's see. So, once I got help for it--

 

PAUL: And the help came in what form?

 

JENNIFER: Medication. I went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed by him, and went on Prozac.

 

PAUL: And did it help?

 

JENNIFER: Immediately. And I had been on Prozac before, years before, and it had helped before, and then I just weaned myself off of it because, you know--

 

PAUL: You felt okay?

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. I was like okay, and then I was okay for years, honestly, I was. And that's the tricky thing about it, is that, you know, it can be this cyclical thing. So, I had that treatment in place, and I was in therapy immediately, and I felt better almost just right away.

Just again, just being acknowledged, you have this, it's a real thing, other women have this, and learning from my therapist and my psychiatrist, whom I love, he's very, he [chuckles], he's very technical and he tries to explain to me the brain and different parts of the brain and, you know, how medication, taking, what does he say? I want to do it justice. He says, if you, because, you know, sometimes people have this aversion, and I used to be this way, to taking meds.

 

PAUL: That it's going to make you inauthentic, it's not going to be the real you.

 

JENNIFER: It's going to make you inauthentic. You're not going to be, you know, it's not a spiritual, I don't know, whatever they have--

 

PAUL: It's cheating.

 

JENNIFER: It's cheating.

 

PAUL: Ugh, that makes me so mad.

 

JENNIFER: It makes me really mad, too. So, just because it's usually people who have no experience with it that are saying this.

 

PAUL: None.

 

JENNIFER: And it's like, dude, no. If you were in the hole that I was in, you'd be begging [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Yeah. Go pull your hair out in front of a mirror in New Orleans--

 

JENNIFER: [Chuckles] Yeah.

 

PAUL: --and then get back to me.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. So, he really, oh, this is what he said. He said, if you had nausea and you took nauseation, nausea medication and it made you feel better, would that be okay? And I said yeah, and he said meds are the same thing. They affect the brain. Nausea medication affects the brain.

And I never knew that, and it was just like one of his examples that he used to just say, this is just, you know, it's your brain, it's your brain chemistry, we've got to shift it around, and he explained all about the serotonin and it, I'm terrible at retaining information like that, just terrible. That wasn't a fart. That was your chair--

 

[Laughter]

 

JENNIFER: See? See, the chair, it was the chair. I can duplicate it. It was not a fart [chuckles].

So, I really did start to understand, again, and again, because I had already had this before, but my denial of my depression can be so strong, nah, I don't need that medication, I'll just meditate more or I'll exercise more or I'll eat green drinks, I'll drink green drinks or, and it's just like, you know, I will probably need to be on some form of medication until I die, and great, because I can be a better mom, a better wife, more present, enjoy my life more. Like, why not?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

JENNIFER: Why would I not do that, just to be prideful?

 

PAUL: Yeah, I always say, what are the side effects of not being on medication?

 

JENNIFER: Exactly, yeah.

 

PAUL: Listlessness, lack of vigor, isolating, hopeless. You know, I'll take, you know, slightly decreased libido or--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah [chuckles], weight gain.

 

PAUL: --yeah, maybe a tad bit of restless legs or insomnia once in a while, I'll gladly, gladly take those, make a little bit of weight gain, yeah.

 

JENNIFER: Absolutely, yeah.

 

PAUL: So, where do you feel like you're, are we missing anything?

 

JENNIFER: No, I think that's about it. And so, you know, I've been in treatment for my depression, this round, meaning the postpartum and spiraled into the regular, about a year and a half, I guess. Yeah. And it's--

 

PAUL: And what are you taking now, Prozac?

 

JENNIFER: Still Prozac, yeah, a low dose, and, you know, I still, I still have my moments, but I just don't feel like the bottom drops out.

 

PAUL: Right. Yeah, I think people think that if you go on meds you're not going to experience the range of emotions that you feel.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And while that may be true for, you know, super-powerful antipsychotic medications. They may have a numbing effect. But if they're well prescribed and they're dialed in, you know, the typical SSRI, you still feel sadness--

 

JENNIFER: Everything.

 

PAUL: --but it doesn't become a hole that you can't climb out of.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Andrew Solomon had this TED Talk that was fantastic, and he said, the opposite of depression isn't happiness. It's vitality.

 

JENNIFER: Hm.

 

PAUL: And I was like, yes.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, that's it.

 

PAUL: That is it.

 

JENNIFER: That's exactly it.

 

PAUL: Absolutely.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And you can be sad when you're vital. You know, you can be bummed out when you're vital, but you're resilient when you're vital.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah. One of your readers had this, I quoted one of the surveys they took about, Struggle in a Sentence, and she wrote, depression feels like being in the most majestic, pristine and peaceful natural place you can imagine and having to view it all through a black hood with one tiny, pin-sized hole in it that you aren't quite able to focus through, and being asked by everyone, it's it beautiful here? Aren't you grateful you get to experience this?

 

PAUL: Yeah. I definitely know that feeling.

 

JENNIFER: And what that reminded me of, and this happened again recently, I was talking to another mom at the preschool and I mentioned my postpartum depression, and every time I do and I'm around a group of moms, at least, you know, four out of five will say, oh, my gosh, I had that, too, and they want to talk about it. They want to talk about it. They want to, you know, unite about it.

And she said, do you have anger issues still now? And we all have kids about the same age and we've all kind of been in the same [chuckles] amount of recovery from it, amount of time, and she said, do you have anger at the people who are around you who didn't get it? And I was like, wow, yeah. And I didn't even realize it at the time, or it, this just happened a couple weeks ago, and I thought, I do, I do.

And I remember talking to my therapist about that and saying, you know, even my husband, God bless him, he just didn't get it. He just still was like, why don't you take care of yourself? And it's like, no, I can't, I don't even have legs to stand on to like walk to the health-food store to take care of myself, you know what I mean, metaphorically speaking, but I think that's a really common thing, too, to just feel like the people around you who don't understand what you're going through, don't know what it is, they don't know what to think. They don't know how to handle it.

I had friends who, dear, dear friends who just, you know, couldn't, and they would say things to me like, well, you know, you're just so lucky, you're just so lucky. Or I remember [chuckles], I remember my mom, I was talking to my mom, one of the few times I went to the hardware store for milk and talked to my mom about something emotional like this, and I said, and she said, well, it's better than being told you have cancer, isn't it?

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: It's like, yes, Mom, it is, it absolutely is better.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

JENNIFER: So, anyway.

 

PAUL: And how do you feel today? Do you feel pretty vital?

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I definitely have areas that I need to work on. I would love to exercise more [chuckles], and I, for the first time ever, I have belly fat. It's like real belly fat. So, New Year's resolution is to maybe take a spin class or something, I don't know.

 

PAUL: And what if you couldn't get rid of your belly fat, what would that be like?

 

JENNIFER: [Sighs] I don't know. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

 

[Chuckling]

 

JENNIFER: It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay. It's not an obsession as it has been in the past of I have to look a certain way or, you know, I just, I can't, I don't have time to think about that stuff.

 

PAUL: Did you have any experiences when you were modeling where your relationship with your body changed?

 

JENNIFER: Oh, [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: I guess that's an understatement.

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs] Oh, my gosh. Oh, absolutely. I mean, I remember being 15 and my local modeling agent in Denver was having me meet with these people from Japan and, you know, I was supposed to go to Japan but then that job fell through, so I was meeting with other agencies, New York and this London agent, and I came in and I was, I was dancing. I was a dancer, so I was in dance class five days a week, like hard-core, and I had started menstruating, and I suddenly had hips. And he was like, where did those come from? And I remember him saying, you can't eat the way you've been eating.

And that was really the jumping-off point for me for a series of various eating disorder try-outs [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

JENNIFER: And you know, again, it's one of those things, my eating disorder was never really like, I wasn't so anorexic that someone would say, oh, my gosh, she's anorexic, although I was five-, almost five-11 and 117 pounds when I, I moved to New York to model right before college.

 

PAUL: That's sick. That's sick.

 

JENNIFER: But it looked normal compared to all the other girls. That's the weird part.

 

PAUL: That's so fucked up.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: That's so fucked up.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. And I was eating, you know, and this is 1993, so it was the Kate Moss, waif, heroin chic, you know, Eddie Vedder, or not Eddie Vedder. Maybe he was later. What's the one, what's the, Kurt Cobain.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

JENNIFER: And there were, yeah, I mean, there were girls that were just living on cocaine as their diet, so that they could stay skinny, taking diet pills. I mean, it was just, it's a whole other [chuckles] universe.

 

PAUL: You know, I just wonder, where is the, where the line between what they want, in the fashion industry, in their mind, when does somebody, when has it gone too far, when they collapse? Is that, anything short of physical collapsing--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, probably.

 

PAUL: --is doable to them. How do they, how does some--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. Like as long as you don't have a heart attack on the runway, we're good [chuckles].

 

PAUL: How do some of those people sleep at night? I mean, encouraging that, it just--

 

JENNIFER: Oh, I think they're all in denial. I really do. I think--

 

PAUL: About how this impacts people's lives.

 

JENNIFER: Oh, yeah. And the girls are not seen really as human beings. They're just, you know, I remember going to the models' apartment where I was going to live, I ended up living in this Woman's Christian Union. It was like a Bosom Buddies-type hotel.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

JENNIFER: It was great, because I was with girls that were from all over the world, doing all different kinds of things, and, but if I lived in the models' apartment, I think it was three bunk beds in one room with these girls, some of them were 13 and they're in New York by themselves, with a, quote, unquote, chaperone living in the apartment with them.

And you, I thought, if I sl-, if I live here, I don't want to go to sleep because I'm afraid one of the other girls will like cut my hair off in my sleep or like--

 

PAUL: Why?

 

JENNIFER: They were all so vapid and competitive at the same time. There was just no, there was nothing there behind their eyes, and they just, all they cared about was winning the game of getting modeling work.

 

PAUL: Hm.

 

JENNIFER: And being skinny.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

JENNIFER: And I doubt that that much has changed in 20 years, since I was--

 

PAUL: Probably not.

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Wow. Hm.

 

JENNIFER: And I had body issues for years. I mean, I, I still have body issues. I don't really know a woman that doesn't have body-image issues, just . . .

 

PAUL: You know, it just struck me, as you were talking, after I asked you that question, you know, how do those people live with themselves, and I realized, you know what, I'm as guilty as some of those people are because, you know, sometimes I look at pornography, and that's completely objectifying people.

And there are, yeah, while I know, yes, there's some pornography that is, has a good vibe to it and, you know, people aren't being exploited, you know, much of it is and many of the people involved in it were, you know, probably experienced sexual trauma. And I just felt the need to kind of call myself [chuckles] out on that--

 

JENNIFER: Hm, mm-hmm.

 

PAUL: --because I think, I think we all, to some degree or another, objectify other human beings, but I think it's easier to see, and I never knew that women objectified men until I got into some of my support groups and I heard, like the women that are addicted to the romantic comedies, they objectify men that, you know--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --they put these fantasies into them that, they don't see them as real people. They see them as this person that's going to rescue them, and that's every bit as, you know, unhealthy as thinking that, you know, this person--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah. And it's, well, we're surrounded by it. I mean, you know, especially living here in L.A. [chuckles], where there's a billboard, you know, in your face, and there's just every kind of airbrushed advertisement of, I mean, yeah, it's just constant, it's constant, and it's hard to differentiate what is a real person versus what is the airbrushed image of somebody and, yeah, it's everywhere.

 

PAUL: I feel very lucky in that I've gotten out of the game by physically letting myself go.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That's like, when the SEALs ring the bell that they're done with Hell Week and they're giving up their quest to be a SEAL--

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs]

 

PAUL: I looked at my pants, they were getting too tight. I looked at the next-size pair of pants in the department store, and then I went and I rang the bell and went, I'm moving up.

 

JENNIFER: Yep--

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: I give up, I give up.

Is there anything you'd like to touch on before we wrap up?

 

JENNIFER: I don't think so, just thank you so much for having me.

 

PAUL: Let's do your loves.

 

JENNIFER: Oh, yes.

 

PAUL: I might throw a couple in if I think of any.

 

JENNIFER: Okay, cool. All right, I love the smell of my son's morning breath, even though it's a little stinky.

I love it when my husband is home from work and he can help me with all the various tasks of our operation, entertaining our son, garbage collection, laundry and dishes.

I love it in yoga when someone farts and the teacher doesn't even acknowledge it and I have to really focus on my breathing to keep from laughing out loud.

And I love it when my son sleeps until sunrise and waking up doesn't feel like I'm being shot out of a cannon.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles] That's an awesome one. Shot out of a cannon, that's a great way, I hate that panic in the morning, like when you've got a lot of stuff, I literally feel like, almost like my heart is out the door and it's grabbed me and said, come on, what the fuck are you doing?

 

JENNIFER: [Laughs]

 

PAUL: It's going, ba-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum.

 

JENNIFER: Let's do this.

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah. Jennifer Tracy, thank you so much for coming and sharing your story with us. I really appreciate it.

 

JENNIFER: My pleasure.

 

PAUL: If people want to get a hold of you, do you have a Facebook page? Should I forward their e-mails to you?

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, forward their e-mails to me, absolutely. I'm totally open to that.

 

PAUL: I know there's a lot of moms that really need to hear and connect to each other around these issues--

 

JENNIFER: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

 

PAUL: All right, thanks.

 

JENNIFER: Thank you.

 

PAUL: Many, many thanks to Jen, who has a novel coming out soon, just got an update from her. We recorded that episode you just heard quite a while ago, about three years ago. I record way more episodes than I can ever possibly air or edit, so, but I checked in with her.

She's doing well, still sober, and her depression is manageable and good to hear that. And the name of the book I was trying to think of was Eleven Seconds. That's the book with Travis Roy, who sustained the injury, the hockey player.

Before I take it out with some surveys, I want to remind you guys there's a couple of different ways to support the podcast if you feel so inclined. One way is, use our sponsors. Even if it's just going to the Web site address that we give to check it out, a lot of times that's enough for them to continue advertising because they'll say, oh, okay, well, you know, his listeners aren't fast forwarding through the ads so let's keep advertising.

You can support the podcast by making a one-time donation to the podcast, either through PayPal. Actually, PayPal is the only way you can do it. Or you can do a recurring monthly donation through either PayPal or Patreon, and I prefer Patreon because then I'm able to give you guys stuff for free.

And I just put it out to the monthly donors things that they would like me to post occasionally, and they came up with some great ideas, some donor-only episodes. Some people want to see stuff from my personal life, like a video of me playing guitar or playing hockey, which makes me [chuckles] kind of, a little self-conscious, like, oh, no, am I becoming that YouTube person that thinks it's fascinating to have people watch them clip their toenails. But they came up with some great, great suggestions, so I'm going to start posting some of that stuff on Patreon. Anyway, getting off track.

A huge way that you can help the show is to donate frequent flyer miles. There is, I've set a page up on the Web site, and it explains how you can go about doing it, and I, one of the things I want to do with the podcast is to interview more than just local L.A. people and just Americans. I want to travel around and record a variety of cultures and voices and experiences, but I don't really have the budget to do it.

I am going to Europe in about a month to record some people, but it, it's expensive. It's expensive, and the budget isn't really there for it, so it's, I'm going to be cutting it kind of close and frequent flyer miles would definitely, definitely help, all that kind of stuff.

You can also support us non-financially by going to iTunes, giving us a good rating, writing something nice about the podcast. Or spreading the word about the podcast through social media. All of those things help. And filling out surveys, that helps as well.

Okay, let's get to, and the links for all of this stuff that I'm mentioning will be on the show notes for this episode.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and this was filled out by a woman who calls herself [chuckles] Froggy Tits Mickelson, and she's in her 20s. She is bisexual, raised in a totally chaotic environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and reported it.

She writes, I was molested by my cousin at five over a summer vacation. I believed we were in love, so I kept the secret for him for many years, even after he tried to drown me in our grandmother's pool. At 13, I was raped while a, quote, friend watched. She later told everyone I wanted it. A month after that, I was raped again by a guy my friend wanted to hook me up with. I begged him to stop, bargaining oral sex instead, and he finally consented. While I was blowing him, my grandma burst into the room. I never felt so ashamed and relieved at the same time.

Wow. Wow. She's been physically and emotionally abused. My mother hit me on several occasions, once with a belt over my arms, torso and legs, and almost twice with a car.

By the way, I've probably said this before, but I have yet to read a survey where someone shares about not being able to set a physical or sexual boundary with somebody, and the relationship with them being either emotionally abused or emotionally neglected in childhood, the relationship between that is so consistent, and I guess the reason I mention this is, if you're a parent, please validate your children emotionally. Tell them how to ask for their needs, how to set boundaries, because in later life, this is what happens.

People don't have a shield to reach for, because they haven't been taught. They don't have a shield, because all their life they've been taught what you're feeling is wrong, don't feel that, so they've stopped trusting themselves. They don't know how to advocate for themselves. And then they blame themselves, you know. It's like, you know, being thrown into a pool when you've never learned how to swim and then blaming yourself for, you know, not doing the backstroke.

Anyway, continuing. My mother hit me on several occasions, once with a belt over my arms, torso and legs, and almost twice with a car. She called me a little bitch all the time and we argued terribly. I hated her for a long time.

Later in life, I was abused by two different partners, both physically and emotionally, but the physical abuse was never long term. The thing that resonates the most with me is being slapped to the ground by my ex while he's screaming in my face, now I understand why people hit you. He used to emotionally abuse me in front of his kids, and I still feel so guilty for being part of that terrible example for them. I'd say that's on him. I would say that is on him.

Any positive experiences with your abusers? Yes, of course. My mom is bipolar and has the capacity to be the most gentle and empathetic woman. She's accepting of many things other people aren't, but she alternates between angel and demon. I also care deeply for my ex and sometimes miss the constant attention he gave me even if it was often negative or controlling.

Darkest thoughts. I am currently in possibly the first healthy relationship I've ever had with another human being, and I have fantasies of cheating on him and of going back to my abusive ex. I believe I would never act on these things, but feel so guilty because I know how much it would hurt him.

Darkest secrets. I've had a tumultuous relationship with my best friend since we were young girls, but she has proven herself to be one of the few people who truly cares for me, truly is in caps. The fucked-up thing is, I can hardly stand her most of the time. I ignore her calls a lot and don't invite her to things. She gets on my nerves and the nerves of other people, so I try and dedicate time to do things alone with her. I'm a terrible friend.

You know, that more than anything is one of the reasons why I wanted to read this survey, is I'm just going to take a wild guess that there are, I'm not doubting that your friend cares about you, but somebody who gets on the nerves of everybody, you know, there might be some boundary stuff there. There might be, and again, you were raised in such an emotionally invalidating environment, you don't trust your right to say, I don't, it's okay for me to not want to be around this person, and I, I don't know. People are so complicated that, how do I explain this?

Sometimes people on the surface seem to care, and maybe they do, but there's also sometimes a motive for them to be able to pull you in so that they can unleash the unhealthy or super-needy part of themselves, and those of us who haven't been emotionally educated, including myself, get drawn in because we think if somebody does something nice for us that we forfeit any right to be annoyed or to call somebody on something and say, hey, you know, when you do this, it bothers me. It's all about, for me, it's about picking the right shield, the right-sized shield.

I used to have one shield in my collection, and it was gigantic and it just, wow, did you hear that wind? It blocked everybody out. And as I started going to support groups and getting healthier, I realized, oh, it's okay to let some people in, and so then I added, you know, a boundary or a shield, whatever you want to call it, that was a little, not as all-encompassing.

I'm already hating this metaphor, but my point being that it's, there's so much gray area in dealing with people because people are so fucking complicated, and it takes a lot of emotional education and experience and being around healthy people to understand how to react and listen to your body in a good way.

 

[Sounds of wind]

 

PAUL: Oh, my God [chuckles]. I wouldn't be surprised if the roof blew off my apartment before this was over.

This is an Awfulsome Moment shared by Conversion in Converse, and he is a trans male, and he writes, last month I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation, escalating self-injury and conversion disorder. The CD caused my whole body to contort, shake and twist uncontrollably. I was taken by stretcher from the ER in my hometown to an open bed an hour away.

Although I'm five-foot-10 and weigh 140 pounds, I felt like I was a foot tall. Sometimes I felt like I weighed a thousand pounds and sometimes as light as a football. I got off the stretcher and was placed in a chair so that the intake nurse could ask me questions and take my intake vitals.

I curled into a vibrating ball, kept my head down and answered questions as best I could. Then someone from the administrative office came over, showed me a piece of paper and asked me if this was my name. I said, no, that's not my name. It was my name 15 years ago, before I transitioned from female to male. And then she kept saying my old female name over and over, trying to understand what my, quote, real name was.

I saw her go back to the office and the arc of her discussing my, quote, situation with the other staff. I heard muttered phrases like, we've never had to deal with this before, and I don't know how to fix this. It all got sorted out. Then two men, who looked eight feet tall and were dressed as security guards, told me to come with them.

I shuffled behind them into a small exam room. They handed me two gowns, one to cover my front and one to cover my back. Then they told me to take off all my clothes and hand them over. I stopped breathing and felt that I wouldn't be able to start again because my throat had closed up. I asked, all my clothes? Yes. Can I keep my underwear on? No. We have to check your underwear to make sure there's nothing in them. They paused and then looked at me suspiciously. Is there anything in your underwear we need to know about? We don't want any surprises.

Paul, there was something stashed in my underwear. It was my penis. My underwear is modified so that I can wear a silicone prosthesis called a packer, that gives me the feeling of having the genitals I wasn't born with. I wear it all day and night, every day. It's conformed to my body over time. This might be too much, but hell, it even smells like me.

I explained it all to the giants in front of me in a jumble of confused, embarrassed, exhausted, depressed words, and I begged them with my eyes for them to understand what they were asking of me. Silence. Then they said, sir, we're not all about that. We just have to make sure you don't have anything that you're not supposed to.

They said this with such openness and kindness about the uncomfortableness about my predicament, and theirs, they didn't want to see or touch my penis any more than I wanted them to. I slipped off my underwear and penis and handed both over to the two guys, who see confused and depressed people all day every day.

I didn't watch what they did. They handed me back my underwear, my penis and the blue scrubs I'd wear for the next six days. My experience in the hospital was awfulsome because every staff member handled me being transgender with as much understanding, kind curiosity and openness as they know how to at the time. They didn't always succeed, but I could tell they wanted to. Also, I had to hand over my fucking penis so that someone could check it for contraband.

Yes [chuckles], that is, that is awfulsome. Thank you for sharing that. And it also says that he is pursuing becoming a peer-support specialist so that I can increase ways to help others and I've started EMDR and I think it's going to help. That's fantastic. Thank you for sharing that.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Liz. And she writes, I recently got myself to visit my university's counseling and psychological services after what I could tell was a few days of a downward spiral driven by anxiety, panic and general hopelessness. Luckily, I was able to recognize this from previous experience with my own messed-up thought patterns and, with the encouragement of my mom, was able to sit down with a counselor/social worker to have an initial assessment.

The fact that I was able to verbally tell someone how I've been feeling lately felt amazing because my usual method of operation is to bottle everything that I feel and it allowed me to, my usual method of operations is to bottle everything that I feel, and it allowed me to feel like my emotions were real and valid.

The social worker/counselor that I talked to gave me the faith that mental health support for college students actually worked. He completely understood and helped me better verbalize my general anxiety with a sprinkle of depression and understood that my being a student-athlete meant that my schedule is absolutely crazy busy. Although they usually match students with other counselors, he personally worked me into his schedule so that I could have a chance to meet with someone within the next week.

The best part [chuckles] is that his mannerisms and sense of humor reminded me exactly of you. Yes, you, Paul. Yes, let's pretend that I am writing this directly to you right now. This made talking to him so much more comforting and I left the office feeling so much better knowing I'd actively done something good for myself and for my anxiety. I know that this is a minor mental health issue, but the empathy and kindness gives me motivation to continue to get help because there are people out there that are willing to give it.

That is such an important survey, because it is about the little things, and it is about getting that energy back that makes it easier the next time. There's a momentum to recovery, and there's a momentum to sickness, and it's pretty rare that we are just balancing in between the two. And that's also an important survey because it mentions me. Let's never forget that.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by JF, and he's straight, in his 30s, was raised in a totally chaotic environment, where he had a narcissistic mother, a sadistic Vietnam vet stepfather, plus covert incest. He was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it. And he's been emotionally abused.

He writes, my stepfather was an emotionally abusive con man who took his hatred of my dead father out on me very often when I was younger. When I was 10, he took me to Toys "R" Us and told me to pick out $50 worth of toys, his treat. I spent a half an hour before choosing a video game and, once I chose it, he took it from me, put it back and told me he wasn't buying me anything, that I was spoiled and was an idiot for believing him in the first place.

My mother was not great either. When I was eight, my cat died. I cried so hard and felt the loss so greatly and she yelled at me to stop crying and told me if the world didn't end when my father died it wasn't going to end over a stupid cat. My father died when I was six. My grandmother, her mother, had died three months before. To this day, I can't cry in front of anyone without tremendous shame and guilt.

Any positive experiences with your abusers? Though I'd never admit it to her, it was nice to dance with her at my wedding. For once in my life, there was something between us that was about me and not her. I assuming he's talking about his mom.

Darkest thoughts. I'm so compulsively moral and always force myself to do the right thing, partly out of fear of becoming like my family, often I think about just letting go and embracing my darkest thoughts, to cheat on my wife with her best friend, who I'm horribly attracted to, to go on weeklong benders or use my charm to grift money from people or to physically punish those who have hurt me.

Darkest secrets. My secrets are in thoughts and feelings, not actions.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. I often fantasize about having a harem of women that are subservient to me but adore me at the same time.

What, if anything, would you like to say someone you haven't been able to? I'd like to tell my mother how much she fucked me up, how my one and only suicide attempt was in response to her, how she should have gotten an abortion the moment she found out she was pregnant with me, instead of raising me to take care of her and not giving a shit about me.

What, if anything, do you wish for? I wish for inner peace and to feel loved. I am loved. I have a wonderful, loving wife, but I have no idea how to feel loved or accept someone's love.

That is the journey, man, and for me, it was practicing self-care, which included support groups, which included getting vulnerable, which included trusting, and doing things that often scared me but turned out to be really fulfilling and, bit by bit, those things have made it better. Obviously [chuckles] I still have a lot of work to do, but that, that's been my experience and the experience of a lot of people that I know, and inner peace is definitely doable.

You know, I may hate on myself, I may want to pull away from people and isolate sometimes, but the one thing that all of the work that I've done has given me, by work I mean therapy and support groups and stuff like that, is a sense of peace. Even in the middle of drama and unknown stressors, there is a peace that is worth all the work, all of the support group meetings.

This is from the I Shouldn't Feel This Way Survey, and one of the questions is, how would you use a time machine, and this person says, I'd observe my mother's and father's childhoods. I don't fully understand why they are the way they are. And that, by the way, in conjunction with I'd like to go back and see if I really was abused or what I was like as a kid or if I'm making up what things were like, those are the two most common responses to this.

Another person says, I would watch my sister and my mother interact when she was younger to get a better idea of what went wrong in their relationship. I would watch Darwin discovering different species on the Galapagos Islands. I would watch early humans having sex. Reckon they did it the same way or had some fucked-up tastes, question mark [chuckles]. I wonder if they did reverse cowgirl in 10,000 B.C. [chuckles]. You never know, never know.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Avoid. She's in her 20s, pansexual, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts.

When I was a six, a boy one year older started, quote, fooling around with me. This is where I learned what sex was. I gave him oral sex and he tried to have sex with me. He also got his younger brother, who was only four, to go down on me. I don't know if this is abuse. All I know is that this is how I learned. This went on for years. I feel uncomfortable, anxious, embarrassed, ashamed, and now I often feel disgusted with myself.

I don't think how you classify this is as important as the fact that it changed you, it hurt you, it has wounded you, and if you are going to call it sexual abuse, the abuser was, I believe, who taught that to a six-year-old, which I'm going to guess was probably an adult.

He's been emotionally abused, or she's been emotionally abused. My mother is a narcissist. I feel left out.

Any positive experiences with the abuser? I thought I was in love and I enjoyed what we did, but I was six and I don't understand how he knew what to do.

Darkest thoughts. At times, very randomly, I will see a young boy and sexualize them. I think about them with me but like young me. That's also a pretty common thing.

Darkest secrets. I maintain a complete façade of togetherness, yet I'm often having suicidal thoughts, which come out in self-harm by burning myself.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Fucking in public while people watch. Masturbating in public or role reversal, watching someone get fucked or masturbate in public. It makes me feel perverse and gross. You are not perverse and gross.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? Was the pain of your suicide close to what you must have been feeling at the time, because I hope in some sense that it was. I’m still angry with you.

What, if anything, do you wish for? I wish for a different story. Have you shared these things with others? Only a therapist because I'm embarrassed and I'm a fraud. How do you feel after writing these things down? Sad.

Is there anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? Get a therapist and ask yourself before every session, what is it that I actually want to say, not what I'm trying to project? Yes, this was the survey that triggered those thoughts in me and helped me. And I just want to send you some good vibes and send some love your way, and just remind you that you're not alone and it fucking sucks, what you're having to go through. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry you're in pain.

These are some more of the time-machine questions. This person writes, I'd want to see Nirvana live at the Paramount, the Beatles' rooftop show, Beethoven's Fifth and Third. They're talking about Beethoven's beers, he had six beers, and, [chuckles] it's such a stupid joke and yet I love it.

Pink Floyd European tour in '73. I would want to see the Pink Floyd tour, I don't, it was the Animals album, which is one of the most underrated albums ever, but they had a gigantic floating pig that I remember driving past Soldier Field in Chicago and seeing it and just wondering, because I was too young. I wasn't getting high yet or doing any of that, but you just kind of knew, oh, something's going on in there that my parents would hate [chuckles].

This person would also like to go to the beginning of time to see what this Big Bang thing everyone is so interested in. Would you plug your ears for the Big Bang, or would that be diminishing the experience?

Another person says, I would go back to 2010, when I overdosed, and find out what actually happened.

Another person says, I would go back to when I was in middle school, being bullied. I'd tell myself to talk to my parents, who were extremely supportive about my problems instead of internalizing and cutting myself. Wow, that one touched me. That one really touched me, I think because this person discovered that they are, that they are there, you know, so there's, while it didn't happen at the time, what a beautiful thing to know, that your parents had that in them all along.

This person says, I'd want to go back to biblical times. I'm an atheist and I have a genuine curiosity at the thought process that went into the writings, meaning good mushrooms or something to that effect [chuckles]. I'm not sure what that means. I'd view it from many, many perspectives, and I suppose any of them are possible, but I'd like to know which is correct.

This is from the Young Male Abused By Older Female Survey, and this was filled out by a woman who calls herself What Pieces Do I Pick Back Up, and she writes, I sought out the comfort of high school boys through Facebook during an extremely painful time in my life. I sent a few inappropriate pics and ended up being found out. I thought in my head that this was my way out of my life.

Did you ever tell anyone? Did you think it was normal? Do you believe it had any effect on you? Yes, it's known. Normal? No. And it has affected me to insane degrees.

Remembering these things, what feelings come up? I don't remember much of the conversations or all of the details of how I felt. Mainly, it was a release of pain, longing to maybe influence their life for the better. And then in parentheses, my boyfriend committed suicide when I was 17. I'm not sure if this was why I sought out that age, but I felt like it was right and valid at the time I did it.

Do you feel any damage was done? It damaged everyone around me. What is innocent and natural, where do I find that? Because the question was, do you feel any damage was done, that it was innocent and natural, or somewhere in between that.

If you have never experienced one of the above situations and it's only a fantasy, how does that fantasy make you feel? Do you feel it's something that might happen someday? I’m disgusted in myself. I do feel ashamed and scared of where my mental health is headed.

She was raised in a totally chaotic environment and was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.

As a child, my mom would have random men around me and my siblings. I was touched but don't remember to what degree.

Thank you for sharing that and being so honest, and I hope you're talking to somebody about that, because that stuff that you experienced, you know, you can heal from that stuff, and I'm not a therapist but I would take a wild guess that some of those things you experienced as a kid might have influenced the stuff with the high school kids.

This is a time-machine survey again, and this person writes, I would try to identify times when I was happiest and to identify what made me happy because I often struggle to create situations in which I can be happy.

You know, I wanted to read that one because I have found the pursuit of happiness to be a mirage and the only way that I can really, truly get there is by letting go of my expectations of how I think things should be, and to just try to find what's interesting in the details of whatever it is, be it a situation or a place or emotions I'm experiencing inside myself. I don't always do it, but I find that when I do, I feel I guess what you could call happiness.

So I guess all of that is to say, maybe try letting go of what you think you need, how you think people should act, where you think you should be in your life, just in that present moment, just let all of that go. Let go of all those judgments and just be, and that, I find, is a pretty big doorway into serenity, which has a small bathroom off to the side where happy likes to go take a shit.

This person writes, I don't know, I'd probably use it to witness the experience I had with my dad when I was young before he had dementia, when we were both living with optimism and joy, probably the moment we were sitting in the blow-up raft with our picnic lunch in the middle of a body of water when a sea lion jumped up and splashed water all over us, ruining our lunch. That was the best sunburn, the best soggy sandwich. I loved that moment.

That's also when I learned you aren't supposed to stare at the sun. But the sun is beautiful, why not stare at beauty? It'll blind you. I think I got sunglasses after that.

What a perfect example of how that person surrendered to the moment. You know, her dad, or maybe it was his dad, was being present, and there they are, both present, letting go of expectations, of, oh, now our clothes are wet or our sandwiches are soggy, and all of a sudden this happiness, that is with them years later, comes because they just surrendered to the things that they were powerless over in that moment, and it totally changed their perspective.

I was at a zoo one time, I think I was about maybe nine years old, and there was a walrus and there was this big fence around it, so you couldn't get closer than like 15 feet to this pool that this walrus was swimming in, and I'd never seen one in person and I couldn't believe how big their tusks were and really just kind of how ugly [chuckles] I thought they were.

And I just kept laughing about how ugly this thing was, and, I kid you not, from like 30 feet away, this walrus spits a stream of water directly in my face. And my family and some of the kids that were with us laughed so fucking hard. Eventually I think I started laughing, too, but [chuckles] it was so, I’m not kidding when I say 30 feet, like shot out of a hose, right at my face.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Crackers for Dinner. I love that name [chuckles], what a great name. He is gay, in his 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.

I was in college and in the nascent stages of understanding my sexuality. It's a long story, but I got very drunk, underage, of course, and a friend of a friend who was considerably older than me proceeded to give me unwanted oral sex. I tried to change the narrative, I told myself, thinking I had gone along with it when I hadn't and I couldn't come to terms with what had happened.

If there is a positive outcome, it's that the event had happened at the house of my then-best friend who immediately afterwards I felt the need to come out to. I can remember how shaken I was and how this was my first real coming out. He then told me he was bisexual and, at risk of sounding cliché, he then became the first person I felt that I could be, quote, myself around.

He's not sure if he's been physically or emotionally abused. I tend to avoid thinking about these things, but I grew up the youngest child of a divorced couple who played tug-of-war with their children, seemingly for spite. That's emotional abuse, yeah.

Yeah, my father bitterly resented my mother, and I can remember being a child in a booster seat, hearing my father complain about my mother being the cause of his failures. Incredibly abusive.

Darkest thoughts. And honestly, if I had a say in it, any adult who complains about their marriage to a child in that family, that adult should be removed from the fucking home and replaced with a walrus [chuckles].

This is his darkest thought. My darkest secret is my self-loathing, which I hide behind a positive personality. I spent all of high school and college being rail thin, not realizing until very recently that I was and am anorexic. I hated looking at myself in the mirror and couldn't accept compliments. Post-college, I still feared sex and, though I craved a relationship, I never went past date one with a guy for fear of being pressured into sex.

Once I realized I was the victim of a sexual assault in college and not to blame, I was able to place trust in other men. I met my partner a couple years ago and it was wonderful in the beginning. Sex was always for him. I gained little satisfaction from it but enjoyed knowing what it meant to us as a couple.

I was laid off from my dream job and had some other bad personal stuff happen in quick succession recently, and as I slid into depression, I also put on some weight. My partner and I had an interrupted sexual encounter recently. When I asked what was wrong, he rather sheepishly admitted that he no longer found me attractive. I was in such shock that I could only stare at the dark ceiling. We then didn't speak for a week.

Automatically, I began to over-exercise and find myself unable to eat meals. I was able to catch myself and try to eat on schedule, but for the first time in years, I can't look into the mirror without feeling disdain for a person who has squandered all of his life's opportunities.

I pretend everything is okay with my partner because I can't risk losing him. I appreciate his honesty in admitting that he finds me unattractive and I know he feels terrible about the situation, but I can't see the sustainability of a relationship where one party is repulsed by the other, who in turn is repulsed by himself.

You wrote, I can't risk losing him. I don't think it is ever possible to have a healthy relationship with that thought is in there. I just don't. I don't, because you are giving away your boundaries. You're giving away your needs. And there can't be true intimacy without boundaries and needs, and I think your partner was a fucking dick for saying that. I think that's something he should have kept to himself.

And fuck him, and, you know, he doesn't have any control over what he's attracted to, but he has control over who he shares that with, when he shares that, and how he shares that, and he did a fucking bad job of that. I don't know why this is making me so mad, but . . . I'm sure it's tapping into something in my personal life.

Darkest secrets. My diagnosis of bipolar I came at age 19, after a severely manic episode in which I received oral sex from another college students through a hook-up arranged on Craigslist. I convinced myself that the result of that hook-up was that I had become a product to be bought, traded or sold and I couldn't look at my reflection in the mirror.

I then convinced myself that I had HIV and my mania filled my heads with thoughts of having ruined my life and I would soon die. I started medication after several sleepless nights, but had occasional relapses during college. I was hesitant for some time, but Lithium has been a game-changer. Though I've had some depression on occasion, the brutality of the disorder has been severely restricted. I have been more or less healthy for a while and have no STIs whatsoever, and despite having a minimal sex life, get tested twice a year.

I have told the story of this sexual encounter to a handful of mental health professionals and not even my partner knows I'm bipolar. I just don't know how to tell him.

This is a huge red flag, that you don't feel safe enough. Imagine saying, I don't feel like I can tell my partner that I have a broken leg. Imagine. Why should your bipolar disorder be any different? Why? You're treating it as if you, as if it was the same as, I chugged three bottles of vodka and drove his, you know, brand-new motorcycle off a cliff. Well, then, actually, you wouldn't be alive to [chuckles], to see the disappointment on his face.

You know what I'm saying. You deserve so much more than this. But the real question is, how do you get to the point where you feel that? That's where the work is. That's where the self-care is. That's where the opening up and being loved unconditionally, once you find what unconditional love feels like, you will recognize conditional love and you will say, oh, I've been fucking eating garbage, and just accepting it because, you know, it's better than nothing.

Well, I personally believe nothing is better than conditional love. I would rather have no relationships than relationships that were only conditional.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. I have none, only that I make my partner happy. I find the idea of a complete lack of control to be highly satisfying.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? My family knows I'm gay, I know they know, but I've never told them. I want to be able to bring my partner to Thanksgiving dinner the way my heterosexual siblings bring their significant others.

What, if anything, do you wish for? That I had the energy to do basic chores, that I could get out of bed on weekends, that I wouldn't feel disgusted with myself, that my partner still found me attractive and that I didn't feel pathetic.

Have you shared these things with others? I think the big issue right now is that my partner finds me unattractive. He said that there are more things to me than my looks. I don't know how I should feel.

What a head fuck your partner is putting you through. You know, the question is, if there's more to you than just your looks, why did he find the need to stop during sex and tell you that he's not attracted to you physically? He does not sound like--

 

[Sounds of wind]

 

Oh, my God. Can you hear that?

 

[Sounds of wind]

 

I don't know. Is there anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? How do I not hate myself? How do I convince myself that I’m a good person, not a burden to others? I just need to know that I’m a good person and things will get better.

You are a good person. Ninety-nine percent of the planet has a good person inside them, but a lot of us, if not most of us, have had it masked through the years by being abused or neglected or given false information, you name it. So, it's usually not a matter of becoming more. It's usually a matter of letting shit go, letting old, unhealthy beliefs about us go. But, you know, you're undoing years of brainwashing, and that doesn't happen overnight.

This is from the Being Hospitalized Survey, and this was filled out by Summer Sucks, and she writes, I was hospitalized at 15. The unit was for children and adolescents. This was for hallucinations, both visual and auditory. The second time was when I was 18. This time I was in an adult unit. My abuser, a family member, appeared at my doorstep on my 18th birthday. Therefore, I numbed it out through dissociating and suicidal behavior.

Describe your experience. Being a patient was helpful at 18, but I know I need to go back. However, in the UK, and being unable to afford private care, I cannot just go back into a secured unit without showing that I'm suicidal. I don't want to be alive, but I'm terrified of dying.

One of the reasons why I wanted to read this is, I’m wondering, is there a way that you can phrase that, because when you say, I don't want to be alive, isn't that suicidal? You know, waiting until somebody's not afraid to die to provide help is like saying, you know, oh, you're lost at sea? Well, okay, call us when, you know, the raft is leaking. Why? Why would you wait until then?

So, I don't know if it's a matter of, if it would help if you could find a way to express it, but maybe contact some mental health professionals in England, you know, maybe on a message board or something and find out exactly, maybe you could even call the place itself and say, what are some sentences that you would need to hear a person say for them to be admitted? And then wait more than five minutes [chuckles], call back, in a slightly different voice, or maybe not. Maybe they just need that.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey [chuckles] filled out by The Dingo is My Baby. God bless you. And I love, too, that he didn't use the dingo took my baby. He wrote, the dingo is my baby, a nice twist, a nice twist on it. He's straight, in his 30s, raised in a totally chaotic environment. He's never been sexually abused but he has been emotionally abused.

Darkest thoughts. I teach high school and I'm often attracted to my students. I know I'd never act on it. I've been given the chance and didn't. But I can't help finding some of them so beautiful or sexy, and I hate myself for these feelings because they are children and my job is to help protect them, not objectify them.

Darkest secrets. One weekend, my wife was out of town on business. I bought a bottle of whiskey and a 12-pack of beer. I drank non-stop all weekend, passing out for a while, waking up and pouring the next round, regardless of the time. I'd do this every day if I could, but I'm too functional to jeopardize my job and marriage.

Right now you're too functional, but if you are an alcoholic, it is a progressive illness and that will progress to the point where it will affect your ability to function, and maybe even your ability to respect that boundary with your students.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Ones involving my students. Often it's very tender experimentation, but other times it's more aggressive. I am always the dominant partner.

What, if anything, do you wish for? To find a way to be happy, to get rid of my horrible desires and my even more destructive love of alcohol.

You don't need to get rid of your desires. We can't, I don't believe desires are anything that we have control over. We have a desire, whether or not we act on them, it's what we do with our desires that matter. Your destructive love of alcohol, that is something that there is help for, and that, to me, is the burning building, not your desires.

And you shouldn't feel any shame about the fact that you are attracted to these students, as long as you are respecting the boundaries. I mean, you seem to be very clear-headed about this. You recognize that they're children and that you're there to protect them and not objectify them. Case closed. Stop beating yourself up about that and focus on dealing with the alcohol.

How do you feel after writing these things down? It's good to put it in words, as I never have, but I'd do nearly anything to stop feeling lust or getting crushes on those I'm supposed to help.

Let it go. Let it go. The lifetimes people have wasted hating themselves for what turns them on. It's about the actions, not the feelings.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey, filled out by [chuckles] Sad Saggy Titties. Good to hear from her again. She's done a couple of our surveys. Her issues are unwanted thoughts, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

What's helped you deal with them? I had a therapist a few years ago that gave me a few ideas for coping with the unwanted thoughts and social anxiety. The first one is hard to explain but I'll give it a shot. She called it a butterfly hug. You put your right hand on the left tricep or outer arm and the left on the right tricep and outer arm, and you alternate tapping/patting yourself.

She explained that it forces you to engage both sides of the brain, since you are using both hands, and there are pressure points in your arms that help to calm the brain and nervous system. I've used this method on numerous occasions to great benefit. You can do it in front of people without them realizing what you're doing.

The other technique she taught me was four-seven-eight breathing. You breathe in a for a four count, hold for a seven count, and breathe out for an eight count. This is to help re-set the parasympathetic system. This has also been a big help for me, and I can use it in public to a degree, not while holding a conversation, but, for example, in a waiting room or on a plane, to help calm my anxieties.

That is great. I am so excited when I read a new thing in this What Has Helped You, and I can't wait to break that out.

What have people said or done that has helped you? I have an amazing group of friends that are capable of listening, and that has been one of the biggest benefits, just being heard. It's amazing how simple sometimes the solution is.

Same survey. This was filled out by the J Bird of Crappiness [chuckles], and her issues are depression and weight issues. What's helped you? My dogs. If it weren't for them, I don't know what I'd do.

What have people said or done that has helped you? It sounds dumb, but when someone notices what I like or how I take my coffee, it makes my day. Pathetic how something like that makes me feel like I matter. I don't think that's dumb at all. I think that's beautiful.

Any comments to make the podcast better? I know you're hurting, Paul, but your humor lately has gotten a bit mean. Of course, I can't think of an example right now, but I've actually winced a couple of times. Hang in there, bud.

Thank you for sharing that. I'll keep that in mind. I can't think of any particular instance, but I'm sure you're probably not too far off, although I guess everybody, what one person finds mean, another person [chuckles] may find not mean enough.

This is the same survey, filled out by Scooby's Assembly. And her issues are, I was raped six months ago and struggle with anxiety, depression and rape trauma syndrome.

What's helped you? Honestly, boxing has been a hundred times more helpful than therapy. It makes me feel less powerless and lets me work out my anger issues at the same time. It keeps me out of my head, if only for an hour.

What have people said or done that has helped you with your issues? My lovely, empathetic friends have been invaluable to my healing process. I find it so hard to have empathy for myself because I compulsively self-blame. I was recounting all the ways it was my fault and my friends stopped me and asked me, what would you tell me if this was happening to me? I couldn't feel sympathy for myself but I could for her. This was when I was able to start working through my self-blame.

I also have good days and bad days in terms of admitting the severity of what happened to me. I know you've talked about struggling with this, too. On bad days, and that was, I think, for me, on bad days, I start to think that maybe it wasn't rape after all, maybe he was confused, maybe I'm remembering wrong, maybe it was a miscommunication.

When I started down this line of thinking, my friend asked me, would you have ever done what he did to you to anyone else? This made me realize that, no, I would never have done what he did. No one, let alone someone I work with, has ever had to tell me multiple times they don't want to sleep with me. If they had, I would never in a million years force myself on them when they were black-out drunk. I know better, and he should have known better. I hyper-fixate on what I did wrong, and my amazing, supportive friend has helped me understand that I wasn't raped because of anything that I did.

That is so perfectly articulated. That's so, [chuckles] I like that I'm having trouble articulating how wonderfully articulated something was. Thank you for that.

The same survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself Rocking the Quad Cities, and he writes, his issues are codependency, love addiction, workaholism, anxiety and OCD. Oh, he got the five-pack. He went with the five-pack. You can save money. A lot of times if you're just going to get codependency and love addiction, it's a little more expensive, but if you get the five-pack with workaholism, anxiety and OCD thrown in, you can save a couple bucks.

What has helped you deal with them? Hot yoga. The sweat purges my bad feelings but also allows me to sit with them. The mirror confronts me with myself and teaches me not to run away from emotions but let them pass like weather patterns.

What have people said or done that has helped you? I once told my therapist about my stress and he asked, how are you at loving it? That question changed my life.

It's true, man, so much of it is just about letting go and accepting what is. We've been so brainwashed to think that that is weakness. It's not, not when it's something that we don't have complete control over.

[Chuckles] I love this name. This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself, Yes, 911, I Can't Stop Listening to Sad Show Tunes. That might be top 10 pseudonyms ever. She's bisexual, in her 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.

When I was about five or six, my brother molested me, but for 20 years after that, I was under the impression that my brother's friend was my abuser and not him. Last year, my brother confessed that he had planted the idea in my head that it was his friend and not him.

Since he has confessed, our relationship has gotten even better, as we were best friends before. It was difficult to deal with and it still is, but it helps that he owns up to everything.

The power of apologizing is amazing, especially when the apology doesn't contain the apologizer having a hidden motive of wanting to look good. When it's done purely from a I have placed myself, I have imagined myself in your shoes, try to imagine how bad it must have been to experience what I did or said to you, and then expressing that to another person can be profoundly cathartic for your relationship. But at the very least--

 

[Sounds of wind]

 

[Chuckles] It is so fucking loud. It sounds like there is a giant with a fork just raking it against the building.

Thank you for sharing that. She's been emotionally abused. I don't know if there are any specific scenarios that I can think of right now, but my dad has always been emotionally unavailable, narcissistic and abusive. I'm convinced that the term unconditional love was created because someone saw the fucked-up conditional love that my dad was showing my brothers and I. He recently tried to sue my brother, yeah, his own son, for leaving my father's business that he has worked at for years. Basically, my dad is a straight-up dick.

Darkest thoughts. I don't think I have many deep, dark thoughts.

Darkest secrets. I find it so easy to lie that it scares me. Years ago, when I was in high school, I convinced people that I had tried to kill myself to the point that I believed it myself. This week, I told my professor, with ease, that the reason I had missed so much class was because my three-year-old brother had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I even started crying.

What's even worse is that, while part of me is deeply ashamed of myself for creating these lies, there is another part of me that is impressed with my improvisational and acting skills. The only relief I get out of all of this is that I at least know I can't be too fucked up if I still feel guilty about it, at least I am not a sociopath. Thank you for sharing that.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Don't have any real sexual fantasies. I'm coming off birth control that left me with little to no sex drive.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? Dad, could you just fucking think about someone besides yourself for once? I have never met someone that creates such a disaster if they could just get a little but hurt. If you weren't financially supporting my entire life right now, I would never speak to you again.

Have you shared these things with others? My mom and brother understand how much of a dick my dad is, so we share that. I have never told anyone about my, quote, fake suicide attempt, and I have told a few close friends about my brother's fake MS diagnosis. I've never shared with anyone just how easy it is for me to lie, though.

How do you feel after writing these things down? A little better. I feel like I can't be the only one that has troubles with lying, at least I hope that I am not the only one. You are not the only one. You are not the only one. You know, I think everybody's coping mechanisms are different, and it, you know, I wonder if it's just sometimes formed by the first thing that relieves our discomfort as a kid, and maybe something gets wired, you know, rewarded in our brain, and so that wiring begins to develop, and so we just then reach for that thing.

You should listen to the episode with Mark T. and he, it's one of our earlier episodes. I think it's in the first year. And he talks about lying and confronting his lying and how it was starting to unravel his life, especially his friendships with others.

This is from the What Has Helped You Survey, filled out by a person who calls themselves Tiny Dot, Big Universe. They're gender-fluid, and their issues are generalized anxiety, social anxiety, chronic depression and complex PTSD.

What has helped them? Positive nihilism. Is it nihilism or nihilism? The thought that life is absurd, devoid of any greater meaning, and I don't exist for a purpose or on purpose. This really calms and grounds me because it makes me think that perhaps just to exist is enough, and I'm not failing to become some sort of person I, quote, should be.

My mortality comforts me because I know that even if things get really rough and I fuck it all up there will be a final release and I won't know pain or struggle anymore and nothing will matter.

What have people said or done that has helped you? Sometimes the most helpful thing people can say is, that's fucked, and I'm sorry it's happening, but I'm here with you right now and you don't have to go through this alone. That is so fucking awesome. That is so awesome. Thank you for that.

And then finally, this is a Happy Moment filled out by a woman who calls herself My, What a Beautiful Fucking Day. And she writes, I hope this isn't too long-winded, Paul, but bear with me. I've been almost eight months at my new job and it's taken me about that long to become comfortable in this new situation.

I've gone from a horse and farming lifestyle to working in a factory, surrounded by metal, robots and intimidating control panels. Having social anxiety compounded my discomfort, as I'm in a team of about 12 people, mostly guys, with whom I converse daily. As I learned the job, my self-esteem grew, and I am now on friendly terms with all of them. We banter, joke, casually flirt, and have even had deep and meaningful conversations. I have never felt so accepted and part of something in my life.

The casual flirtations even make me feel beautiful, after being single for so many years. I truly believe that people are pleased to see me every day. There's a guy I like who works in another department, who expressed a strong interest in me not too long ago, but he's been somewhat cryptic and flippant with his intentions.

It brought me down a notch and I've asked a few of the guys for advice, from a guy's point of view, and they've all been very empathetic. Yeah, empathetic. One guy I've been conversing with on the subject the most said to me, I'll tell you one thing, if he hurts you, I'll kill him.

I don't think I've ever had anyone say something so beautiful to me. I've gone from feeling so lonely and isolated for much of my life to being liked, respected and even protected by my peers. My friends have always been there for me, too, and would kindly kick some ass if need be, but this is different.

The realization hit me today, and I was actually moved to tears. Laughing and crying at the same time, like a lunatic, at the joy that has finally come into my life. It doesn't matter what happens now. I am loved, always will be, and I am definitely not alone.

That's so awesome. It's so easy to forget that we're not alone. It is so easy to forget. Well, I hope you enjoyed this episode, and thanks to all of you who support the podcast in whatever way you can, and never forget that you're not alone and that everything passes.

 

[Closing music swells]

 

I like that one thing that somebody said about they just look at it like a weather pattern that's just going to blow through, and yeah. You're not alone. Thanks for listening.

 

[Closing music]

 

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