I Am The Worst Person Ever – Mike Levine

I Am The Worst Person Ever – Mike Levine

For most of his life Mike has been wracked with shame and self-hatred, convinced he was the worst person ever and fantasizing about suicide when he was hospitalized at 15. He and Paul talk about where his self-hate may come from as well as his ADHD, emotionally sterile and achievement-focused childhood, body dysmorphia, cross-dressing, kink as a submissive male, and how he finally summoned the courage and self-love to end an abusive friendship. Mike is a great example of someone learning to embrace his uniqueness instead of hating and shaming himself for it.

Follow Mike @BizMichael on Twitter and Instagram

Check out his books: At Least You’re Not These Monsters and All The Feelings

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp To try a week of counseling for free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire so you can be paired with a licensed counselor.

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

To support the podcast consider becoming a monthly donor via Patreon for as little as $1/month (and get rewards for free like donor-only mini eps where Paul reads responses from the donor-only survey) Go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

A great way to help the podcast is to donate frequent flyer miles. For details on how to do it go to. www.Mentalpod.com/donate and scroll down to the Frequent Flyer Miles section.

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Follow Mike @BizMichael on Twitter and Instagram

Check out his books: At Least You're Not These Monsters and All The Feelings

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp To try a week of counseling for free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire so you can be paired with a licensed counselor.

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

To support the podcast consider becoming a monthly donor via Patreon for as little as $1/month (and get rewards for free like donor-only mini eps where Paul reads responses from the donor-only survey) Go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

A great way to help the podcast is to donate frequent flyer miles. For details on how to do it go to. www.Mentalpod.com/donate and scroll down to the Frequent Flyer Miles section.

Episode Transcript:

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

 

Welcome to Episode 325 with my guest Mike Levine. 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 therapist. It's not a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck.

Our Web site is Mentalpod.com. Go there, fill out one of our anonymous surveys. We don't even take your IP address. It is absolutely confidential. We don't have any way of finding out who fills out the surveys. And maybe we'll read your survey on the air, and speaking of surveys, monthly donors, we just created a survey just for you, and a mini episode of me reading some of those surveys that is also just for you. And that is only available to monthly donors who donate through Patreon, because there's not a way to do it through PayPal. The user interface on PayPal is a fricking nightmare.

So, if you're a monthly donor and you would like to start getting access to some of the free monthly donor stuff, switch your monthly donation from PayPal to Patreon, and the link for Patreon, I'll put it on the Web site, but it's Patreon.com/mentalpod, and Patreon is spelled P-a-t-r-e-o-n dot com. And that mini episode that we just released is, I think, about a half hour, about a half hour long.

I was up till 5:30 in the morning last night, looking at pornography, and I’m ashamed, and I know you're not judging me. Well, actually, some of you might be, but I, the funny thing is, I would not judge you if you did, but I guess we hold ourselves, we expect more out of ourselves than we do other people. Maybe it's just me.

But I’m, I think I’m not wanting to feel my feelings, because I've been feeling sadness about my marriage splitting up. For those of you that don't know, my wife and I were together 28 years, and our split is very amicable, but it's, it's painful, and there's a lot of sadness, especially when I go let the dogs out and, you know, while she's at work and I walk around the house and it's just all these memories were made there.

So, I've been talking to my therapist about it and she is encouraging me to sort out what emotionally I'm conflating with what the facts are, and one of the things we kind of got to the bottom of was that, because my thinking is so black and white, I assume because our marriage is over that my relationship with her and, hence, the dogs is over, you know, beyond me letting them out when she's at work, and that's just not, that's not the case.

But when that, and there's still just some mourning what, that that's just gone. And, you know, somebody said a great thing in my support group tonight, and I asked him, I said, can I use that, and he said, sure. He said, I wake up every morning with a little amount of sadness, and he said, it's because life in a way is a series of good-byes, because nothing stays the same. It's inevitable that things go away.

And making peace with that is really the only sane route, and I guess instead of looking at porn for six hours, you know, or eating marshmallow crème out of a jar by the tablespoonful, which I, by the way, I like to do right before I go to bed. I like to think of them as little tiny ghosts scaring my feelings away. I need to do what my therapist said, which is just let the feelings flow through you and don't get too attached to them, but for some reason, in that moment, I have a really hard time. It's like I, I feel like I’m going to, I don't know. Maybe that's it. I don't know how I'm going to feel.

But anyway, my therapist, by the way, is a BetterHelp.com therapist, and love her. I'm a big fan of BetterHelp.com. They're our sponsor, and if you want to check them out, go to BetterHelp.com/mental and complete a questionnaire, get matched with a BetterHelp.com counselor, and then experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is right for you. You've got to be over 18, and I highly recommend it.

Also want to give a shout-out to our other sponsor, ZipRecruiter. Are you hiring? Do you know where to post your job to find the best candidates? Well, posting your job in one place isn't enough to find quality candidates, Mister or Missus. If you want to find the perfect hire, you need to post your job on all the top job sites, and now you can.

ZipRecruiter already has nine million résumés, well, to be fair, that's one guy who's really, really manic. No, ZipRecruiter has nine million res-, I said, no, like somebody actually believed that and I need to let them know that I was just making fun.

They already have nine million résumés that you can search through in their database. You can post your job to 200-plus job sites, including social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, all with a single click. Their Web site shows trending career fields, cities, any kind of search that you can imagine. You can find candidates in any city or industry nationwide. You post it once and watch your qualified candidates roll right in. No juggling e-mails or calls to your office. Quickly screen your candidates, rate them, and hire the right person fast.

And if you run into any issues, ZipRecruiter's friendly and human, very important, human support staff is ready to help. So, find out today why ZipRecruiter has been featured on Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, the New York Times and many others, and I would like to say high-five to them for pulling their advertising from a particular TV show for ethical reasons, moral reasons, whatever you want to say. They pulled their advertising and I want to give them a high-five for that.

So, right now, you guys can post jobs on ZipRecruiter for free by going to ZipRecruiter.com/first. That's ZipRecruiter.com/first. And let's do it one more time. To try it for free, go to ZipRecruiter.com/first.

All right, this is an Awfulsome Moment that was filled out by Xanax, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Oh My. And she writes, over Christmas, my younger sister told our family that she was having an affair and was leaving her husband. Both my grandmother and my mother told me, wow, we always thought it would be you.

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I’m here with Mike Levine, who I bumped into when you, you dropped your girlfriend off to record here, what was it, about a month ago?

 

MIKE: Yeah, it was about a month ago.

 

PAUL: And you mentioned that you listen to the show and you're crazy--

 

MIKE: Yeah [chuckles], I have enough disorders to qualify. It's more than one, right?

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: You wouldn't let anyone with just one on, unless it's an exotic one--

 

PAUL: Oh, no. No. Back of the crazy bus, if you only have one disorder. And you qualify to drive the bus.

 

MIKE: Yeah, absolutely [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Actually, I don't know that much about you--

 

MIKE: That's fine.

 

PAUL: --but just in talking to you, you seem like a warm, open guy, and generally somebody who enjoys the podcast, there's a pretty good chance that we can have a nice conversation.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Learn some stuff about them and their life.

 

MIKE: I'd say we've got like a 70% chance, we're doing good--

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah. So, step to the plate, bitch.

 

MIKE: Yeah, okay.

 

PAUL: Step to the plate.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You are how old?

 

MIKE: I am 31.

 

PAUL: And you were raised in Oakland.

 

MIKE: Oakland, California, with one sister, three years older. And--

 

PAUL: Do you hate her?

 

MIKE: No, I don't. She--

 

PAUL: Come on, you hate her.

 

MIKE: No, I really, she is the protector. She's the badass older sister that like intimidates all my incoming girlfriends. She [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Nice.

 

MIKE: She stepped up to Jenny when she met her the first time and said, what are your intentions with my brother, which just--

 

PAUL: Really?

 

MIKE: Yeah. It just makes me so happy. Like, I love it, so yeah.

 

PAUL: Wow. Wow.

 

MIKE: And it's that perfect three-year age gap where she would be a senior when I was a freshman, so I would like have some connection but enough distance to feel like myself, so yeah.

 

PAUL: And he's speaking of his girlfriend, Jenny Jaffe, who we recorded, I don't know if her episode will be up when this one airs. I'm not sure which one will air first.

So, I digress. Back to, what was home life like when you were--

 

MIKE: Ah, home life was--

 

PAUL: Stop right there, Mike. Give me a broad picture of the issues that you've struggled with, past or present.

 

MIKE: Absolutely, okay.

 

PAUL: And then we'll go back and get details.

 

MIKE: Very much the ADHD, very much lots of depression that institutionalized me at age 15, but I've sort of really wrestled a hold of and am now sort of like a decade past it and now I’m helping like my Jewish teen youth group sort of talk about their feelings. I wrote a book called All the Feelings [chuckles] so like, I'm also like kind of like you, like becoming, like using that emotional acumen to help like, not just keep myself from murdering myself, but--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: --but to actually like live the life that I want, which is lovely.

 

PAUL: That's beautiful. I mean, that's the goal, isn't it?

 

MIKE: Right, yeah.

 

PAUL: Not only do you survive, but you survive and thrive, and I'm already hating myself for saying that, but it, I mean, I think it's really true.

 

MIKE: If it rhymes, you're living a good life. That's how you know.

 

PAUL: That's right.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Okay, so now that we have the broad strokes, let's go back and find out where it all went wrong.

 

MIKE: Sure, oh, yeah [chuckles]. Fabulous.

 

PAUL: Let's do the forensic work.

 

MIKE: Well, I feel like it weirdly, like it went wrong just in my own head because it's, it was a very upper-middle-class like comfortable existence. Like, I had all the support in the world and like my parents are still together, and, you know, just a huge wave of hating myself came out of nowhere in adolescence and like, it's kind of funny to me now that I would like single out myself as someone to hate that much [chuckles].

Like, there are people, there are people who have done bad things, like I sort of maybe felt like kind of a phony, like that was grounds for immediate self-murder, which was like, which is very shocking and kind of offensive, but really clarified for me that it was a chemical like disease.

 

PAUL: So, you even knew back then that this is, I feel like I’m up against something that is out of my control and not necessarily being caused by another human being or a situation.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And it was, and I think a lot of, I mean, I’m sure a lot of these things like sprout at like around 15 or 16 because you have the hormones rush in and just activate anything that's lying there dormant, but yeah, I just, like I remember thinking I was the worst person, which I hadn't--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

MIKE: --I hadn't accomplished enough doing bad things. I hadn't hurt anyone. I hadn't--

 

PAUL: You had a very tiny rap sheet at 15.

 

MIKE: Exactly [chuckles].

 

PAUL: You could fit it into a fortune cookie, that's how small your rap sheet was.

 

MIKE: Yeah, absolutely.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: So, yeah. Like flirted, I think, flirted is not the right word, but I had some suicidal ideation, never really an attempt, but it got bad enough that I was, I couldn't say I wasn't a danger to myself, you know, that moment kind of happened.

`And when I went to the institution, I met a kid who was afraid that there was like robot spiders in the water, and everything became clear in that moment, where I was like, oh, I have like an emotional mood thing. I'm not like crazy-cra-, like all the way disconnected from reality, so it's something--

 

PAUL: It's warped. It's not severed.

 

MIKE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And if it's warped, I can sort of flatten it out. So yeah, it's been a lot of hard work since then, but like this is, I think, the first time I've ever talked publicly about that.

 

PAUL: Is it hard?

 

MIKE: What?

 

PAUL: Is it hard?

 

MIKE: No, but I think it was sort of a thing in the back of my head all day today, that was like [chuckles] just say institution and then like everything's a breeze from there.

 

PAUL: Was it shame or fear that we would think you were being overdramatic for what your issue was, or what was the . . .

 

MIKE: Well, weirdly because I think I was, I was like a fan of the podcast in the early days before you sort of started going to much more extreme cases and people who weren't comedians and stuff, and I was like, oh, my like measly ideation isn't going to measure up to like, you know, whatever thing you were having last week.

So I was like [chuckles], so like weirdly I was like, I'm too like crazy for the normos but I’m not like next-next level. Yeah, I don't know if I can drive the crazy bus, but I'm happy to be a guest. I’m happy to be a passenger, maybe in the middle, so.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I think episodes that aren't dramatic are important.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I think they're really important because I know there's a lot of people out there that minimize their experience, and it doesn't matter to me what made the ripples. It's the ripples.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: That's--

 

MIKE: Yeah, just so you watch where they go, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah. So, you know, when you say that it was a healthy, supportive environment, would that also extend to being, the level of anxiety being pretty low, the level of, you know, perfectionism or pressure to succeed, or other stuff? And the reason why I ask, I'm not trying to sabotage your truth.

 

MIKE: No, no.

 

PAUL: But very often when I get guests who were from upper-middle-class homes, the more I pry, the more I find out that there was really almost no talk of emotions beyond he's happy today, he's sad today, none of the kind of more complex, it's okay, you're exactly as you are, you don't have to do things to be lovable, you're lovable just as you are.

Sometimes I think kids missing out on that message then feel that to be lovable I have to do things. The love begins, in the child's mind, to be conditional. Even though in the parent's mind it's unconditional, that parent may not convey that to the kid--

 

MIKE: Right.

 

PAUL: --because all they talk about is homework and soccer practice and shit like that.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, and it was, I think my parents are very accomplished. My dad is a vascular surgeon and his father was a surgeon, and my mom was a high-level banker. So, I think I had the--

 

PAUL: Wait, which end of the Monopoly board is that?

 

MIKE: High level [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Is that by free parking?

 

MIKE: Yeah, pretty much, yeah. It's between Park Place and--

 

PAUL: Yeah, just far from Baltic, I know that.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: I just like the Scottie dog, that's all I know. Like--

 

PAUL: Is that your favorite?

 

MIKE: I think that's, that's the perfect, I think, metaphor for my family, is they're like sort of excitedly playing Monopoly and I’m like making up an adventure that the dog went on and like a little backstory for him.

 

PAUL: I like the iron. I like its weight, its gravity. It's just, it's very unpretentious.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And then an old boot, who makes those? Who decides these things?

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Yeah, an old boot.

 

MIKE: That's literally the thing in the cartoon where they're fishing and they can't find anything, like just . . .

 

PAUL: If you start dating somebody and you want to find out who they are, play Monopoly with them.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Play Monopoly with them.

 

MIKE: Yeah, because that gets intense. That gets competitive.

 

PAUL: Or a team game, that's another good way to find out how that person deals with competition, crisis, working together, how they accept failure.

 

MIKE: Ooh, yeah. I need like, because I [chuckles], my past like two years have been pretty drastic out here because I was left by the person I moved here with and proceeded to like date for the first time in Los Angeles and do all the dating that there was, and I had to sort of develop the safety sense of determining if the other person was unstable or dangerous in any way, because like, being a teacher, being a feelings guy, being a therapy guy, I'm very used to accepting people fully, like even if there's something wrong with them, but you don't want to get involved with someone who's dangerous for you, so I would--

 

PAUL: Romantically, yes.

 

MIKE: Yeah, romantically, yeah. So, it took a while for me to develop those self-preservation instincts that like no one drills into boys. Like, that's a perfect thing, I think, to like tell your son, is like do something tough with them or like play Jenga and if they like absolutely lose it, like that, no second date, that's it [chuckles].

 

PAUL: I look back to some of the game-playing I did when my wife and I were together, particularly before I got sober, and I was a dick. I was fucking dick. In fact, I think we might have even lost the friendship of another couple because I was such a dick to my wife.

I mean, I suppose it wasn't super overt, but it was, I was needling her because she wasn't playing it the way I wanted her to play it. And after I got sober and got some perspective on what's important in life, I'd look back in horror, and I don't blame that couple for--

 

MIKE: Yeah [chuckles], it's not canasta, you know, you can--

 

PAUL: Yes, exactly. I had such an emptiness in me I was trying to fill through feeling something by winning or whatever--

 

MIKE: Right, because that's a game, is that you have to understand that it both totally matters and does not matter. Like, you need to be able to give someone a mulligan or like look the other way or something like that. Huh.

 

PAUL: Yeah, but anyway, I digress.

So, the emotional kind of environment that you were raised in, you were saying as far as feelings being discussed and stuff like that?

 

MIKE: I think, I think I was just sort of always the more sensitive one and I, it wasn't until like a decade or two later where I'm like, oh, I’m the only one who needs to understand that, and I think I have the general upper-middle-class artist-kid thing where I'm dreading explaining to my mom why I went on this podcast tonight like instead of lining up three full-time job interviews in the morning tomorrow [chuckles]. She doesn't care that Paul F. Tompkins has sat here as well. I care.

 

PAUL: So, there is, fair to say there is just a disconnect in terms of emotions being a priority.

 

MIKE: Yeah, yeah. And I think, to me, it wasn't until like the depression and the ADHD was named that I could sort of be like, oh, I'm not just lazy or scattered or anything like that. And it's something I still really struggle with.

Like a friend did an impression of me that was me looking for like my keys, and I was like, oh, I'm in that mode 80% of the day, like, and that's a very strange way to always exist.

 

PAUL: Describe that mode.

 

MIKE: Like, of like, oh, I must have like forgot something, I must have put something in the other room, just like that sort of thoughtfulness of being in two places at once and like--

 

PAUL: Presence is hard.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Full presence.

 

MIKE: It's really hard. And, because that's also like a giant fear of mine, is I’m just going to sit down and get itchy, like that keeps me from writing as much as I should or connecting with people as much as I should. Like, what if I hang out with this person and then I want to leave? Like, what'll happen then [chuckles]?

 

PAUL: So, stillness and commitment to a moment is kind of hard for you.

 

MIKE: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

 

PAUL: Where do you think that comes from?

 

MIKE: I think it's the ADD all over the place, yeah, which one of the things that's been helpful for that is I started like bouldering, like rock climbing, because you can't not be present when you could fall [chuckles].

 

PAUL: It's the best.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And there's problem-solving in it--

 

MIKE: Exactly. It's kind of different, yeah.

 

PAUL: Physically you get a rush. You get endorphins. You get--

 

MIKE: No counting.

 

PAUL: You get some pride for when you pull off a move. Yeah, that makes total sense.

 

MIKE: Yeah. There's got to be like constant accomplishment and reward and stuff, but I can like legitimately reach something I couldn't reach last week, and that feeling is really good.

 

PAUL: I was watching a documentary about some of the guys that climb without ropes, and they say it's not the threat of death that is the reason they climb without ropes. It's that they have to be so focused. They enjoy the presence of the pressure that puts on them, and so it's not like I want to look like a badass by climbing without ropes. It's just, I want to be so in the moment--

 

MIKE: You have no other choice.

 

PAUL: --so I can fully enjoy this experience.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And that's, that's a very hard thing to do.

 

PAUL: Climb without ropes or be present?

 

MIKE: Or just, no, be present, yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: So, did you find that, when you started, you said bouldering or rock climbing?

 

MIKE: Like bouldering, yeah.

 

PAUL: Did you find when you started doing that that any of it had payoffs outside of bouldering?

 

MIKE: Yeah. I think it was like, well, because I did the whole like break-up, depression, like hit the gym, and I'd never, my family has always been athletic, but I've always not seen the point of swimming to the other side faster or like [chuckles], we were talking about sports earlier and that doesn't compute for me.

But to just feel steadier and to feel a vague emotional release instead of like a specific one, because I think, like my MO is usually to be like, oh, okay, I’m sad, I'm going to listen to the saddest song and feel the most sad, and then sadness is done but, like, just that general restless tension that you have.

And I also went back on ADD medication about six months ago, so that sort of inten-, like low-level intensity buzz that drives me, like makes me feel like I’m going forward even if I'm not doing anything, like I could sort of let that out and physically exhaust myself.

 

PAUL: So, maybe even the questioning of, am I in the right mode right now, isn't as intense.

 

MIKE: Yeah, exactly.

 

PAUL: You know, because very often it's, the thinking about your depression is as corrosive as the depression itself.

 

MIKE: Absolutely, yeah. Well, and it's, because I think when it gets to the worst, like I think about my inner monologue and, because of the depression, the ADHD, I'm just thinking of like self-hating half-sentences, so it's like--

 

PAUL: Give me some examples.

 

MIKE: --if I could just, why won't I, and it doesn't finish. It's just like the beg-, like I don't follow it through because if you did it's like, oh, sometimes I am late for things and I feel as if I am disappointing people [chuckles]. Like, once you get through that sentence, it doesn't sound that bad.

 

PAUL: That's called shit-head shorthand.

 

MIKE: Yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah. It's a school, there's actually a school you go to--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I love that you don't even get to finish, your ADHD is so bad, you don't even get to finish beating yourself up.

 

MIKE: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: That is so [chuckles] fantastic.

 

MIKE: I have an old joke that I've never finished a flip book, like--

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: I don't know if the dog does the full back flip, but like--

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: Yeah, to not engage fully or to think, oh, other people can sit down and finish a whole sentence, or even with the sentence I’m saying right now, I’m sort of searching for where I thought I was going to go a half second ago, which is completely gone. I don't--

 

PAUL: I do the exact same thing. Do you also find that when another thought enters into your mind while you're trying to be present with one thing, the reason you get distracted by it isn't because you're necessarily bored with the first thing. It's just that the second thing has a compelling nature to it that seems more kind of, like it needs to be dealt with right now, otherwise you'll forget it, or what drives you to do--

 

MIKE: Sometimes if it has like an emotional anchor to it, like that's where I will follow it. Like, the practical, I have to e-mail someone back for something that's coming up in two weeks, there's no emotional currency to that, but like, what if this one friend is mad at me, like I got to check in with them, I've got to make sure everything's cool, and so, yeah, that is kind of how the new thought comes in.

 

PAUL: Okay. So, just to go back and pick up the thread, we were talking about how bouldering helps you in other areas of your life. Did you, do you feel like we kind of fleshed that out?

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, I, it's actually weirdly led to some mild like body dysmorphia, because now I have like muscles, which I've never had before, and so like I, I'm not comfortable with my reflection in the mirror because it's too hunky [chuckles], which is--

 

PAUL: Really?

 

MIKE: --which is so weird, right. But like, my body looks drastically different than it did two years ago, and, at one point, like I almost went to the doctor because I had a lump on my arm, but it was just a muscle. Like, it was just [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: That might make it into the opening montage next year. That's pretty fucked up.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That's, you are driving the bus, my friend.

 

MIKE: Okay, good.

 

PAUL: You are driving the bus.

 

MIKE: I’m fully qualified.

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: Congratulations, and I'm sorry.

 

MIKE: Oh, it's okay, it's okay. Well, it's also weird to sort of, to talk about my issues knowing I’m coming from like a place of male privilege and white privilege and whatever mix of Jew privilege is in there, so yeah.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Yeah, that, again, it's the ripples, not the thing.

The place where I feel like privilege matters is when you are engaged in a group discussion about something and somebody is talking about, you know, maybe a struggle that, where at the key part of it is the, it was caused by the absence of any type of privilege or an oppression in their life, and then, you know, a straight, rich, white, good-looking male would pipe up and say, you know, there was a year at summer camp where I didn't--

 

MIKE: I had it real rough [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: --I didn't win one of the swim races, and I still think about it. That, to me, would be like an example where--

 

MIKE: Right.

 

PAUL: --okay, your privilege is, this is maybe not the place for you to bring that up because--

 

MIKE: Right, and this is my episode. Like, I can't worry about what the other guests have or what that stacks up, yeah, it's . . .

 

PAUL: That being said, I do that all the time. I do that all the time--

 

MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

 

PAUL: --my abuse wasn't bad enough, I'm being dramatic, why can't I get over it, etc., etc.

 

MIKE: Well, that was something, too, where I sort of, I suffered some emotional abuse and had to end a friendship for the first time this year, and it took me so long to identify it because I was like, oh, no, this is a guy friend, like those things don't happen. Like, it's not a husband who is, like I’m afraid of or anything like that, but, you know, you go down those checklists of the behaviors and all of them light up, and you see there's a problem, so.

 

PAUL: What a great opportunity for you to practice having uncomfortable conversations or saying, walk me through it. Walk me through it.

 

MIKE: So, the situation or like . . .

 

PAUL: Yeah. Yeah, just kind of give me the what, what were the things that you began to realize were unacceptable, and then how did you express, if you did to this person, that this isn't working?

 

MIKE: Well, it was sort of one of those things where I realized I was constantly on the defensive, and I, my friend had like a list of like five incidents that had occurred in various months ago that kept being brought to me and I kept being asked to apologize for.

And me and this guy were working on a project together, and we had one of those nights where like we have to e-mail our bosses by like 5:00, and he kept bringing up me asking for his girlfriend at work a few months ago, which he saw as a minor boundary violation, and I was like--

 

PAUL: Asking for her what, to do what?

 

MIKE: Just to say hello, like I wasn't supposed to like say that she had worked there or something like that, and it was, it was just, I looked around, I was like, none of my other friendships are like this, and it was in a time of like big emotional growth for me.

And it took me a while to realize I, I had him around as that familiar voice of doubt and hating myself. Like, while I was making these big gains, he was the friend who was making fun of me but with the nasty edge. Like, because I have, my sister makes fun of me. Everyone I know I love makes fun of me, but I don't doubt that they actually care or they actually like me. So, when I was like that far off base, I was like, something is very, very wrong here. So, I quit the show that we were working on together and ended the friendship, just in one go.

 

PAUL: And how did you do it?

 

MIKE: It was over like a very uncomfortable Gchat where I was like, no, like, you know what, you have so many, [chuckles] it was one of those things where I realized, because it started feeling like relationship fights, and I was being accused of the things that he did not like about me. I was accused of being too sensitive because he had a problem with how I reacted to what he said, and like all of this--

 

PAUL: He sounds pretty narcissistic.

 

MIKE: Yeah. It was, it was, in a year where I dated many women and had my heart broken and fixed and everything like that, it was the friends, like the knife from the friend that like really hurt me so much.

And so I threw away like one of the bigger opportunities I've had because I saw ahead to it, I was like, even if this show is successful, it's going to hurt me to deal with this person. And if I have anything, it's my sort of self-regard and sanity, which took me a while to get to like, it took me like 10 years to get to, I'm not a bad person [chuckles] and then like five years to I'm an all right person and then another five for like, oh, I’m pretty, like I'd hang out with me--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You are so full of yourself. You sicken me.

Wow, that is such incredible emotional intelligence, to navigate your way through that, especially to say, this is going to go to a place that is going to really suck emotionally.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And the toll is going to be big, and I am confident enough in myself that this isn't the only opportunity I’m going to have in my life.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And that my sanity was the most important thing, and that was, you know, in my first few years in L.A., like really looking for opportunities and things, I was like, oh, no, I'm not going to kill myself for something. Like, I'll take mediocre success and sanity over wild success and horrible chaos, so yeah.

 

PAUL: I’m going to take a wild guess that you felt peace after you made that decision.

 

MIKE: Immediately, which was really, really interesting.

 

PAUL: Somebody said one time in one of my support groups, I know I've made the right decision when I feel peace after it, and that has always stayed with me.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And it wasn't, it wasn't anything super new, but it was just very new to me, like you were saying, with the ripples, where it's like it doesn't matter how many other people have had to end friendships or more abusive things, like, once I identified it as that, I was, it was very freeing.

 

PAUL: Yeah. Sometimes it's so hard to see that we're making a decision out of fear.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, and it's so hard not to put the burden on yourself, too, where like he has problems, too, and I was like, oh, I’m failing my friend with mental illness, and I, but no.

 

PAUL: It's not your job to save him.

 

MIKE: Right. And it's, what it also came down to was like, you know the tone that a good friend takes with you when you've done something wrong?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

MIKE: This person couldn't even manage that for me. It was like just constant hectoring and I was like, I know I do things wrong, and now, now I sort of have the post-trauma of like anything that I do that lines up with a flaw that he found in me, I'm like, oh, I'm proving him right.

 

PAUL: Oh, yeah.

 

MIKE: And I came full circle with that the other day, where I was like, no, I know that there are problems with me. He agreed on some of them, but I know first. Like, and I know if I’m working on them or if I care, and that's it. That's all I'm going to do.

 

PAUL: And I think narcissists have a great way of seeing the chinks in our armor and using them to manipulate and gain power and control--

 

MIKE: Absolutely, yeah.

 

PAUL: --control that person.

 

MIKE: And that fine line between like an ongoing funny bit and something where it's like, oh, no, like I've asked you to stop in a way that's not ironic or funny or, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah. Sometimes my mom would say cutting things and she'd say, well, I was just making a joke, and so I started saying, okay, show me where the joke is, because it really just looks mean.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And I'm as guilty as anybody else--

 

MIKE: Where's the fun twist? Where's the little bit of surreality to it?

 

PAUL: And I'm probably even more guilty of having done that in the past. I'd like to think less so now, but it's very easy to fool yourself that you're not letting hostility out, that you're just being charming or witty.

 

MIKE: Right.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: But it's, like it's the nicest of guys or the gentlest of guys who I find are some-, like sometimes the most angry, because we don't always have those outlets, so things fester and build and stuff--

 

PAUL: It's the scariest.

 

MIKE: Oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: The explosion of the people-pleaser, look out.

 

MIKE: Right, because that, yeah, because that was building for 15 years.

 

PAUL: And it was a great movie in the '50s.

 

MIKE: Yeah, the people-pleaser [chuckles]?

 

PAUL: The Explosion of the People-Pleaser that came down--

 

MIKE: The one-armed, one-horned flying purple people-pleaser?

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: And all of the people-pleasers, you could tell that they were from the other planet because they were all bowed and they had hunched shoulders to show low self-esteem.

 

MIKE: And then they became The Blob and that was the sequel, yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: It was such a boring movie because everybody just said, we would really like it if you weren't on our planet, and they thought, I don't want to upset them, we should leave--

 

MIKE: They just backed out and they're tugging at their collars--

 

PAUL: Yeah, it was like a two-minute movie--

 

MIKE: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: Did horrible at the box office.

 

[Laughter]

 

PAUL: It's amazing, you know, as you talk about your friend and how they kind of worked their way into your life because they sounded like the mean voice in your head, how often we find ourselves surrounded by people who are saying the same thoughts as our, the mean part of our brain, and we don't even see it.

Do you think it's because we think that maybe they're telling us a truth about ourselves and that it's healthy for our ego to be brought down to size, or that it feels familiar, or that we're just clueless? I mean, do you have any thoughts?

 

MIKE: Yeah, well, that's what I thought, like, at its best, I was like, oh, I have a friend who can put me in check. Like, I have a friend who sort of knows what's wrong with me. And it was also very much a, like the same with the body stuff, like feeling good about myself is very new and I didn't know how to think or how to, like how to walk around with not only baseline self-regard but positive self-regard, and so I just like, you can't go around thinking, oh, I'm strong and great [chuckles]. Like, I still haven't gotten it, but like, but yeah, but what do you think, you know.

And like endlessly positive people can feel like the opposite, where you sort of want to argue them down, where if someone's telling, like, oh, you're doing great, like to pump up a friend just because you know you can pump someone up and maybe it's not coming from anything, and that's suspicious. And negative thoughts are deep and familiar.

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah. And that's interesting, too, about the friend who is nothing but positive, because yeah, that, to me, the friendships that I value in my life are the friendships where we find a diplomatic and compassionate way of saying the difficult thing that occasionally needs to be said to the other person.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Whereas the surface one always avoids it or the mean one may speak that same truth but in a frequency that doesn't seem healthy or a tone that seems unnecessarily uncompassionate.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And with the positive people, too, if I don't hear them complain about anything in their life, like maybe it's a Jewish thing, but I get very suspicious--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: I'm like, there must be something so deeply wrong if you're like, oh, everything's like super great, like it's weird.

 

PAUL: I'm the same way. I'm the same way. Yeah. If I walk into somebody's apartment and I don't see the outline of a fetal position in their carpeting, I know I can't be friends with this person.

 

MIKE: [Chuckles] Yeah, no, no--

 

PAUL: It's got to be a little more worn, you know.

 

MIKE: Right, yeah.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: So, let's go back to the, when you went to an institution at 15.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: How did that come about?

 

MIKE: That was [sighs] . . .

 

PAUL: And I have to say, a terrible idea for a prom theme.

 

MIKE: Yeah, just the [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Awful.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: And I managed to like come out for prom, but I’m like, that's, like I want to tack a, like the happy ending is that I'm here today. Like, the happy ending is that I exist [chuckles], where like, yeah, prom was nice.

Yeah, was there a question about that or we're just back there--

 

PAUL: Walk me through--

 

MIKE: Oh, yeah, what happened, oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: --what led up to it.

 

MIKE: It's, I, [sighs] . . .

 

PAUL: Did you have a social life at all?

 

MIKE: Yeah. I had good friends. I was in a play that was, and that's another very weird depression thing, is when you look around and objectively your life is sort of where you want it. Like I had a fun starring role and was allowed to put my little quips and bits into the school play and stuff like that, was the miser, it was a lot of fun.

But I just felt like the worst person on Earth, and there was a day, and I don't know if my memory has made it very simple or like maybe it was that simple, but I was going to leave for school and I was late and I was angry, and I think, I think my mom just saw something in my eyes that like deeply worried her and she took the keys from me.

And then I remember my dad showing up and us sitting at the kitchen table and like kind of opening up a little bit about really how much I hated myself, because I think it's something, like an instinct you have as like a teenager, and this happened in college, too, because I was still pretty depressed through that, but I would be a little bit performative to my parents in terms of, if they're as worried about me as I’m worried about me, then like everything's going to go crazy, so I need to let them know I'm okay, or that like college phone call where I would be very peppy because, A, I was sort of faking it, and B, I was talking to my parents, like I was talking with someone I loved and having a good connection.

 

PAUL: And sometimes you don't want to talk about it.

 

MIKE: Right, yeah. Absolutely.

 

PAUL: Like, I just got a break from thinking about this. The last fucking thing I want to do is try to put this into words again.

 

MIKE: Absolutely. And it's, I feel like, in terms of the family emotional tone, I feel like there's so much support but not so much understanding, which I think depression and ADHD is a hard thing to explain.

 

PAUL: It's really hard for people that have never experienced it.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And it's like I've tried again and again where I'm like, well, I'm sort of, with the ADD, I'm everywhere at once so I’m kind of nowhere, so I shut down.

And, but like to [chuckles], to my mom, who like wakes up in the morning and checks off, wake up in the morning, on the list that she made last night, like that still doesn't make sense to her, and to be working sort of in entertainment, where she's like, she doesn't see a clear path and that bothers her constantly. And even if I--

 

PAUL: So, she's a very linear person.

 

MIKE: Absolutely. And I remember [chuckles], at one point, it's so weird that this chills me, but I was having trouble with like a math problem and I just remember her saying, you know, I love math because, you know, there's just one answer and once you've found it you're done. I was like, that's the worst [chuckles].

Like, I want to have an opinion on something. I want to like, if it's an essay question, I want to draw a picture. Like, why wouldn't you want to go against the thing and break the thing and examine the thing?

 

PAUL: I agree with your mom. I find comfort in science, because then I can just not have that battle in my head. I mean, obviously I love art as well. I wouldn't be happy doing math for the rest of my life, but when I do have to engage in science, I love the absolute, the things that are clearly absolute.

Like, when I took inorganic chemistry in college, I loved it. I got straight A's. And then I took organic chemistry, which is they teach you the rules, and then you spend the rest of the time, they teach you the exceptions and you have to picture them in three dimensions interacting with each other in space.

 

MIKE: Wow.

 

PAUL: And I couldn't do it, and I became like despondent. Like, I, I thought I was smart until now, and now I have this enormous blind spot and, what the fuck? Yeah, so I, I, I’m on your mom's side. Fuck you.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: Shut up, Mom. I went on the Mental Illness Happy Hour, I'm doing great.

 

PAUL: Your old friend told me to say that.

So, continuing, you sat down at the kitchen table and, that's so beautiful that your mom saw something in your eyes, that she was that attuned to you to be able to see that. That's . . .

 

MIKE: Yeah. And it's not something we've talked about since or anything like that, but yeah, and I don't know how much I'm simplifying it, but I also, I know once I got in, that was the cold water, where I was like, okay, I need to take whatever steps possible to deal with this. And then got a few mediocre therapists and then got some really good ones that I've just been like honored to have.

 

PAUL: Just pause for one second. I'm still kind of struck by the importance of your mom taking your keys and sitting you down at the kitchen table, because all the surveys I read, so many parents miss that moment. Some aren't even looking for it. And it's just, I just want to give your mom a hug.

 

MIKE: Well, no, it's [sighs], it's weird, yeah. I'm glad you're giving me a grateful context for it, too.

 

PAUL: She didn't shame you. She didn't, you know, she, she saw you, as you, and not, you know, why can't you be this other thing? It sounds like she met you where you were at.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And it's, I think it's I've also always had a weird complex about appearing frightening, because I'm like a little taller, like I shave my head, like if I’m having a bad day, I can look very intimidating, but I'm the gentle giant or whatever.

So yeah, just I don't remember much but the fear sort of, and to, to make your mom, like, you know, when Mom's afraid, like everything is like [chuckles] absolutely fucked.

 

PAUL: She was afraid for you, though, not of you.

 

MIKE: Both. I mean, it's--

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

MIKE: --she's a little lady. I'm a big like teenage, you know, not that I would hurt her, but that there was something frightening in me.

 

PAUL: Some type of chaos inside you that she doesn't know how it's going to express itself.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: If you were to bring this up with her today, what do you think you would say to her or want to say to her?

 

MIKE: [Sighs]

 

PAUL: If you're comfortable thinking about it or talking about it.

 

MIKE: Yeah, I just, well, I [chuckles], I mean, it's a very Jewish mother thing, but now I just feel like I owe her a thank-you note--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: Like, thank you for recognizing that I was at the edge, like . . .

 

PAUL: A boy never forgets his first 5150.

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: At last, yeah.

 

PAUL: I want to see that as a menorah, actually.

 

MIKE: Yeah, that's a good, sure that's, yeah, oh.

[Sighs] I don't, it's, you know that thing where Patton Oswalt talks about the blues and the blacks, where he can get like a certain amount of like regular sad/depressed, and then there's a certain hopelessness, like I, I very much have it resolved within myself that no one's taking my shoelaces again.

Like, and so, even thinking about that question, even going back to that day, I'm just like, well, that's, even at my w-, like even at my most heartbroken or everything awful that's happened since then, I've been glad to be alive and committed to doing that, at minimum. So it's a tough place to go to. I think just to, and, I mean, I also, the other thing is thank you to my mom, and also I want her to get into therapy because she's still constantly apologizing for messing me up.

 

PAUL: What does she say she did to mess you up?

 

MIKE: Just I think sort of like spoiling me or giving me too many safety nets or like not doing things diff-, I feel like the way she'd hear it was like, oh, I didn't get him into the institution a week earlier when it was like [chuckles] [inaudible], so like, to try and give her credit for something, I think she would like deflect it all over the place.

 

PAUL: So, to be full of yourself was a high crime in your family.

 

MIKE: Yes.

 

PAUL: Because it sounds like there was a fear of ever appearing cocky, kind of, at least among you and your mom.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, no, I think it's just the I'm-never-good-enough mom thing, is, yeah. I think she, yeah, she only, she only sees her mistakes and stuff, and I've, I have to give her the same reality check I gave myself, which is like, hey, Mom, like I'm very much alive, I'm a good person, I'm good to my friends.

Like I'm not, I’m not as successful as she maybe thinks I should be, because it's the like hyper-insistence in believing in me, where it's like you told that one joke at your sister's wedding, that was so great. Seinfeld told a joke on TV, like why aren't you Seinfeld [chuckles]? Like, it's this very, very simple parent-showbiz math, where like, you know, I've published three books since I've been in L.A. that I'm like very proud of, that are very deeply silly books, and I thought I was like, oh, once I hand her something I've made, like once it has a back to it, then it's going to be--

 

PAUL: Official.

 

MIKE: Yeah. But you never like get that totally, you-are-totally-done moment, and the parent shouldn't give it to you. A parent should be like, okay, pack it in [chuckles], like retire. They should always sort of be looking for the next thing, but I think the ADD and depression messing with my lack of drive and self-sufficiency is something that she might not ever understand.

 

PAUL: I see. So, she's always kind of doing, reading your temperature on where your hopelessness or motivation is at--

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --in the fear that she's, you know, ignoring her duties as a mom to guide.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And then I think sometimes, from the child's perspective, what appears to the parent as guiding feels like being smothered to the child, or being treated like a child.

 

MIKE: Right, absolutely.

 

PAUL: And so, how do you find a language between the parent and the child that shows concern without appearing controlling or dismissive of that child's intelligence and autonomy?

 

MIKE: I don't know, but we could put that as, that's her poster, that's her T-shirt [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah. Some psychologist, get on that, because that's a big gap. That's a big problem between parents and children, is that not knowing how to show love and concern.

 

MIKE: Well, like the--

 

PAUL: Or the child not knowing how to hear it as that, or to be able to tolerate it as that. I don't know what the answer is.

 

MIKE: Yeah, that there'd be like two different conversations happening in the car, where I feel like I'm defending and she feels like she's encouraging, but it never--

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

MIKE: Yeah. It also like, the phrase of hers that's been ringing in my head for a few weeks has been, like, I told her, I was like, Mom, I met someone, I think she's really perfect for me, she cares about like mental health and comedy and all these things.

And I realized I was getting into trouble when I pointed out, like Jenny's somewhat objectively more successful than me. She's like staffed on a show and like really gets it done. I really admire her. And my mom was like, well, does this Jenny have executive processing functions [chuckles]?

 

PAUL: What?

 

MIKE: I was like, in that like, does she have like that missing piece of motivation and productivity that you've never had? Like, which is [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Wow. That's--

 

MIKE: No, it hit you harder than it hit me, but like, yeah, it's, I'm not looking forward to, my mom's meeting her this weekend. This is all coming up, you know, very, very quickly, but like, I can't have my mom ask my girlfriend to put me in touch with her manager. Like, that's not going to fucking happen [chuckles]. I might just have to explain that to her before she comes as a show business etiquette thing she doesn't understand.

 

PAUL: So, it sounds like your mom has some control issues that maybe therapy might help her with.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And I'm grateful because my sister had twins about a year ago, so she's fully involved in the grandma thing and locked into that battle. I'm like, it's very nice how the joy of babies takes the heat off everyone else in the room, because you can just be like, oh, he like sneezed for the first time [chuckles] and then it's a whole conversation on how cute a baby can sneeze.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles] That's nice.

So, let's go back to the day that, did they decide for you to go in? Was it a joint decision? How did that work?

 

MIKE: This is, [sighs]. I don't know, well, I [sighs], also in terms of, prom's not the happy ending. The happy ending for me to this, because I really, I've given you most of the details I remember.

 

PAUL: And what do you mean when you say prom's not the happy ending?

 

MIKE: Oh, well, like in terms of--

 

PAUL: That you made it to prom or what--

 

MIKE: Yeah, that I made it to prom or that I'm here today, but I, a few months ago, had to pick up a friend from the mental institution, and it was one of those things where I was so worried that I would go in there and still feel like one of the people in there.

And I approa-, like and it was, I was the only friend that could come and get this person, and I approached it so hesitatingly and had to call like three people in the parking lot to get out of the car, and like, you know, left messages on like friends' phones [chuckles] with like, I know I'm okay and I can deal with this, and I know what you'd say, which is you're okay and you can deal with this.

 

PAUL: That's so beautiful that you did that, man. I mean, that's such a vulnerable, that's just . . .

 

MIKE: Thank you.

 

PAUL: You must be a great friend.

 

MIKE: Yeah, well, and it was [sighs], it was something that I, and I was also, for my friend's sake, determined not to let my issues get in the way of helping them. And I got in and sort of got the, I got their version of what happened or how they were taken away and things like that, and I was writing down the instructions for taking care of her cat and then like, while they were watching over my shoulder, I just wrote like, steal all this person's weed, it's like one of the point--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Because you knew they were looking over your shoulder, yeah.

 

MIKE: Right, yeah, because they were looking over my shoulder, and like, I just like looked at her totally deadpan, I was like, well, I'm not doing this for free--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: --and like something about that, like I was able to give them the gift of like having a normal time, and we did some comedy writing and planning [chuckles], and I was like, you know, everyone else who's like not locked up in L.A. right now is not writing, I'm like, and just being crazy, but we're here getting it done.

 

PAUL: That's fantastic.

 

MIKE: And I like walked out and I was very much like felt, and it doesn't make sense so much to say sides, but I felt very much on the sides of the doctors', where I just saw these people who were just at work and just doing okay and, like using my emotional acumen as a skill and consciously doing that instead of just using it to pick myself apart, I can help people with it. I can help teens and kids and make people laugh with it. So, it's nice, I love it [chuckles].

 

PAUL: That's awesome, man. That is awesome. And I had an experience that, as you were sharing that about, with your friend, and by the way, if you ever go visit a friend, who you share a sense of humor with, in a situation like that, from the people I've talked to, who have been the ones in the institution, the last thing they want to feel is pitied--

 

MIKE: Yes.

 

PAUL: --or somebody feeling sorry for them.

 

MIKE: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: They want to feel as much normal as they can.

 

MIKE: Yes.

 

PAUL: I went to visit a friend of mine, actually I went to pick him up, and we were sitting in the lobby while they were getting his papers together, and a song came on, what's that song?

 

MIKE: Mambo No. 5.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I think it was, [singing] I've had the time of my life, and I--

 

MIKE: Beautiful.

 

PAUL: --and I looked at him and I said, just to see how everybody would react, let's slow dance, because, you know, there were people shuffling all around us and we both laughed so hard, and it just like dispersed all of the tension--

 

MIKE: Right, yeah.

 

PAUL: --all of the I'm-different-than-you, because I think that's the fear of the person who's in there, is that they feel different and separate.

 

MIKE: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: And I think anything you can do to remind that person, we are together, this just happens to be maybe an event in your life, which is different than something I've experienced, but you are not now suddenly in another tribe.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Anytime I have a friend who goes through like a big trauma, I just let them know, I'm like, this is the year that that happened. Like, there's going to be another year, but if it's a big thing, you might deal with the fallout of it, but, you know how you remember the shitty thing that happened five years ago, like you'll have at least that distance at some point, which is something that's much harder to tell yourself but very easy to like [chuckles], oh, my fun, capable friend can like do this, I've just got to put it in the right context.

 

PAUL: You lose your phone, you think your life is over, and yet, when have you ever, five years after having lost your phone, still feel the same emotional reaction to your phone having been lost at that time? You probably don't even barely remember it.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: But you think it's life or death when it happens.

 

MIKE: I've sort of developed a weird skill in those situations, because I lose stuff a lot to put my self-hatred on hold, where like I lost the keys to my place, my car and my girlfriend's fancy apartment and I had to walk up Sunset to like retrace my steps in the middle of Hollywood, and I was like, it's not till I get all the way back that I’m going to hate myself, and the keys were like in the gutter next to Arby's--

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: And I was like, I was like, I'm glad I didn't waste any time hating myself, even though this is the, like that is legit dumb, like to have it in that place.

 

PAUL: So, how far into your walk did you find it?

 

MIKE: It was three blocks.

 

PAUL: So, not too bad.

 

MIKE: Right, but like, that's psychic battle of like hold those forces at bay, everything's not going to collapse or like--

 

PAUL: Just breathe through it.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: This isn't going to kill you. It's inconvenient, at worst.

 

MIKE: But I think maybe I have like 17 minutes of strength in that area, like [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: I've got about 17 seconds.

 

MIKE: Okay, but those are hard-won. Like, you worked your way up from 16. You're doing great, man.

 

PAUL: Yes. But that's 17 seconds without sucking your thumb.

 

MIKE: Yeah [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Which counts. That's what adults do.

 

MIKE: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: They resist sucking their thumb in front of people.

 

MIKE: Yeah, neither of us are doing it now. We both have our hands on the table--

 

PAUL: Exactly.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: So, anything you want to share from your stay there? You said you don't remember much from it.

 

MIKE: Yeah. I remember, well, because when you mentioned your friend, I remember calling my friends up and being like, hey, guess where I am [chuckles]? It was, I sort of had to treat it mischievously or I had to try to find the prank in it and like--

 

PAUL: One of our guests tweeted from the back of the ambulance.

 

MIKE: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. And it's, well, and that was, that was before social media. I think I started being really open about mental illness on social media just as a matter of example, just a matter of people aren't talking about it enough, I believe in it, I'll talk about it.

 

PAUL: And it gives us a chance to own our issue instead of it being owned, somebody grabbing it before we can talk about it and just being on the defensive.

 

MIKE: Absolutely, yeah. And I had a friend who lost her sister at an early age, and she was like, there was a time in which I would just do dead-sister jokes to everyone, like waiters and things like that, because you want to offload your discomfort.

And so, I used to think about them getting that call and like having to pretend to laugh at my hilarious joke [chuckles] that I was in a dire situation, but that pained laugh was the best gift they could have given me, like [chuckles]. And so I, when I picked my friend up a while ago, I got to like sort of thank them for that. Like, I got to go back and be like, I know that that must have been the weirdest call to get, but you're still the person I'd call in that situation--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

MIKE: --and frame it in like some weird, knock, knock, who's there--

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: --I'm in the back of the ambulance, like . . .

 

PAUL: I'm in the back of the ambulance who?

 

MIKE: Right.

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: I'm still working on it, yeah.

 

PAUL: I want a whole book on that, 5150 knock-knock jokes.

 

MIKE: Sure, okay. Yeah, no, I need to pitch another one, so we'll get that going [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Anything else that you'd like to touch on?

 

MIKE: I was, did have in the bag of like things I was afraid would come up, which we might as well just lay them out--

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: --and whatnot, I think in my extreme like dating life that I sort of launched into and was gracefully pulled out of by Jenny, there's, there was a lot of kink and cross-dressing, to sort of adjust my self-image, because I don't, like tell me if you feel this way. Like, I don't understand what handsome is.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

MIKE: Like, to me, like handsome is like a leather couch or a watch ad. Like I've never felt like whatever handsome is supposed to be, but I know what pretty is.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

MIKE: I know that that's a thing.

 

PAUL: Oh, that makes sense, that that would be, that that would be a thing, you know, for somebody to--

 

MIKE: Right.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: And so it's like, it's not a trans thing or identity thing for me, really, but like once I started sort of going more outside the box sexually, like I was able to, and I think in the middle of pretty and handsome is beautiful, like I was able to get to beautiful through pretty, and that's been like liberating and that's been really helping me.

 

PAUL: That's awesome, man.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Talk more about that, because we've touched on these subjects on the show, but I feel like, because there's still these ridiculous taboos about it, anything that can help other people out there shaming themselves to feel less alone, I would love to talk about or hear.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, I'm big into pegging. That's a lot of fun and also a very interesting emotional experience.

 

PAUL: Yeah?

 

MIKE: Like, getting fucked is pretty great [chuckles]. Like this--

 

PAUL: It's one of my fantasies. I've never done it, but, you know, I think, my big fear is that, you know, if I were ever to do that and I were in a relationship, that they would never look at me the same way again.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, that was sort of one of the things, too, that I discovered going around dating and like, because I was always a very like five-year-relationship, seven-year-relationship kind of guy, but figuring out that there's lots of women who are like kind of weird and perverted and like, that they would feel, it's a little crude, but like that they would feel the same way about me bent over as I would feel about them--

 

PAUL: Oh, dude, I read the surveys. It's a fantasy of a lot of women.

 

MIKE: Right.

 

PAUL: They want to feel, they love the idea of wanting to fuck a man in the ass, and/or feel like what it would feel like to have a cock and fuck somebody.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And like, it's a great mutual understanding thing, because like after a certain point [chuckles] like the girl's like, God, moving your hips back and forth like--

 

PAUL: It feels great.

 

MIKE: --but it's also hard work [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Oh, it is.

 

MIKE: --which is great, which is great to feel appreciated in that way and--

 

PAUL: [Laughs] I never looked at it in terms of the calories, that that would be another--

 

MIKE: Right, exactly.

 

PAUL: --another angle on the sex.

 

MIKE: Absolutely. Or like just like the muscle, like the, now I appreciate what it takes to like ride someone and like the weird like leg muscles and things like that. It's just, it's an extension of the bouldering--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: --there's someone at the bottom and I climb up, if I fall it's all great.

 

PAUL: Very low boulder.

 

MIKE: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yeah, that's what I like to call it, low bouldering. Honey, do you feel like engaging in a little low bould--

 

MIKE: Yeah, a little low bouldering. That sounds really cool.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Also known as knee climbing.

 

MIKE: Yeah, there we go.

 

PAUL: Talk about, and anything else on the pegging or other kinks?

 

MIKE: I've found that I'm like very submissive, that I feel, because to me, and I don't think Jenny would mind terribly talking about it, but I am a large-type person who feels very small, and she is a small-type person who feels very large, and to me, women have always loomed gigantically like psychically to me.

And I've never, I've never really wanted to be the guy in the porno who's aggressive and like dragging someone around by their hair or whatever, but like, I would like to be dragged around by my lack of hair, like--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: --and I think it might just be a societal thing, but if I'm not in power, like if I'm being whipped or bitten by someone who is two feet shorter than me, that's hilarious and great and fun and hot. Like, it's all safe then.

 

PAUL: Is it, what if it were somebody who was your size or taller, would that still be a turn-on or would that be a bad thing--

 

MIKE: Oh, that would be fabulous.

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

MIKE: Yeah, no, because I think all women are gigantic to me in terms of the influence they have over my heart and mind and body, so yeah.

 

PAUL: I'm sure you've heard of the, I don't know if it's porn or what it is, but it's the videos of women who are shot as looking giant and controlling--

 

MIKE: Yeah, giantess [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Yes. Is that something that does anything for you or is that just kind of . . .

 

MIKE: Well, it's something that [chuckles], this is, I was talking about this on a comic book podcast like a month ago. But it's not something I’m into but it's something I understand.

 

PAUL: I get you.

 

MIKE: Because then, you know, but the weirder step from that is, is not only the giant woman but the giant woman who eats you [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

MIKE: You've done some Googling. We all have.

 

PAUL: Dude, I've read 8,000 surveys of people's deepest, darkest thoughts and sexual fantasies. There's nothing that I, almost nothing that I haven't come across in the survey multiple times, multiple times.

 

MIKE: Well, I'm in like the good place, too, where like I think I was like [chuckles], because I was seeing someone for a long time with a lower sex drive, and I think with good communication we averaged out into a very healthy sex life, but--

 

PAUL: Every other year?

 

MIKE: Yeah, the leap years, the leap day--

 

PAUL: February was always a big argument.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: But I'm like, to me, my big fantasy was like, oh, yeah, like someone is like really interested in me or like wants something specific out of me and stuff like that, and so I don't have any impossible fetishes or anything like that. Like, it's not buried that deep, because I think for the first seven months I was dating, I was like, oh, a woman paying attention to me, like this is the best.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: And then I looked at, like I learned to ask, do I like this woman? Does she like me? Like--

 

PAUL: Right.

 

MIKE: --the questions sort of came later, but I've been taken to a dominatrix to be whipped and electrified and humiliated, and it's one of those things where, also with the cross-dressing, like to let your masculinity go or whatever you see as that, if you let it go freely and you just watch it come back stronger, like--

 

PAUL: Oh, wow.

 

MIKE: There's a weird point in which you're taking something, like a big fake dick or like some pain or something like that, and you think you've hit your limit and then you just push through that and there's an incredible strength to it.

You're like, I didn't know that I could sort of take something like this and, yeah, it's done wonders for my sort of confidence and like just sense of peace, where like I don't, I just don't care anymore, too. Like, I think it's a great thing about getting older, is like, I'm like--

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

MIKE: --if everyone thinks my thing is weird, that's fine. I still want it. Like, if nobody, and also, because pegging is somewhat mainstream now, like it's a known thing. It wasn't a totally known thing five years ago. But I was like, now that it's normal, I still like it [chuckles], so maybe I just like these things, so yeah.

 

PAUL: I liked pegging when it was underground. Now, it's [groans]--

 

MIKE: Now they did the Broad City episode about it, like it's all, yeah.

 

PAUL: People are getting pegged in line at Starbucks, which is so . . .

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That's fascinating, about the giving your masculinity away, because I do occasionally have submissive thoughts or fantasies, and I, but I had never thought of it as the freedom of relinquishing this idea that we have to be masculine all the time, and I think, you know, as most people know, everybody has a feminine side and a masculine side.

 

MIKE: Right. And to let that out and to explore it and to not need more from it, like I now have a small collection of dresses, and I was like sort of forced to consider, I was like, do I really like, I mean, first of all, magnificent to have something like flowy around your ankles [chuckles].

Like you sort of like, all those weird like poodle-skirt-twirling moments, you're like, oh, this is, like this is exactly what I would do if I was in love and I was wearing this garment.

 

[Laughter]

 

MIKE: Like all that's great, but I have to, I really, really checked myself for if it was an identity thing, if I felt that like, that the woman's voice was more true to me, but it's like, no, I just, I have, I'm a man with these qualities and it's fun for me to indulge them.

 

PAUL: So it's more of a vehicle for you to play with power--

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --and identity--

 

MIKE: And gender, yeah.

 

PAUL: --as opposed to this is how I see myself all the time.

 

MIKE: Right. And so, like I love dresses now, but I'm like, if I put on like a headband every time that I was like going to have sex or like, like I would love headbands [chuckles], and then that also came full circle with the body issues when I was like vintage shopping and, I mean, women's sizes are terrible. Like, they're just all over the place. So, I suddenly couldn't fit into a dress the same size as I could, and I was just having issues all over again.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That's fantastic.

 

MIKE: Because of my privilege, too, I'm like, I want the advantages of being a woman without the disadvantages, which is something I’m sort of allowed. So, I'm very lucky, yeah, [inaudible] lucky.

 

PAUL: When was the first time you cross-dressed, and what did it feel like? Let me ask you this. When was the first time you imagined doing it and it felt pleasurable to imagine yourself doing it?

 

MIKE: Well, I think, I remember doing it at acting camp, like a running joke about me like wearing this one girl's underwear that became a thing with friends and like, you never know if that's something you knew about yourself or was a weird joke. Like, but I also think, yeah, because I like [chuckles], like I used to make constant jokes about hand jobs as a teenager, and I never like liked them, but that's a funny thing to talk about.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: So, I had the early thing of that, and then, I don't know how my dating life like slid into that. Oh, yeah, it was when I specifically started seeking out kink things and I went on what was once 3nder and is now Feeld, which is a three-way dating app.

 

PAUL: What does that mean, a three-way dating app? Like, so three people can get together?

 

MIKE: Yeah, so three--

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

MIKE: And you can be a couple with a profile on there.

 

PAUL: I see. Or three random people or--

 

MIKE: Yeah. And you can do a group chat, which you can't do on the other things. I did all the apps, which was like [chuckles], I just went whole hog on it. I met someone both on that app and on JSwipe, which is Tinder for Jews. And I was like, oh, this is too cute.

And like, I knew I had liked kinky stuff and pegging stuff but only in a loving relationship, so this was my first time going into the scene of it, and I met a dominant woman who I thought was like dangerous and cool, but once I got more experience and tact, learned was like very rude.

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: Which like, I was just sort of very, like I was fooled by the new lifestyle part of it, but I noticed, I was like, there's just minor boundary violations that, if a female friend told me a guy did that to her, I would say, run, like that's, it's a regular red flag.

So, but I remember just sort of the, I remember sort of, because there's a whole thing about like sissification, where sometimes it's humiliating, like a humiliating play situation to be dressed up as a woman, but I think I was dressed up to humiliate me and I was like, oh, no, I look kind of nice [chuckles], like the legs are working and like--

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: --just, you know, I feel like guys, you're constantly trying to make yourself more square with fashion and like, just feeling things like open shoulders is like just lovely [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah?

 

MIKE: So I was like, oh, no, I kind of like this, I look good, and so, and then when I would bring it up with subsequent women, they would be like, oh, yes, please, because they were the Rocky Horror-watching theater kid, so [chuckles], so that they would have a particular thing they'd want me to indulge, like, that was so exciting.

 

PAUL: Like can you give me an example or am I prying?

 

MIKE: Well, [chuckles] it's just funny because like I'm not coming up with any particular thing. Like I know--

 

PAUL: Oh, okay. That's all right.

 

MIKE: --I know the women who like really liked it, but there was no one moment that I was like--

 

PAUL: I see.

 

MIKE: And it's kind of, I've done open mics and some amount of stand-up sometimes, but I've never had that moment where I got on stage and I was like, this is it, like this is where I’m supposed to be--

 

PAUL: This is home.

 

MIKE: Right. And I felt so much shame about that for so long, but then, I--

 

PAUL: Felt shame about the stand-up?

 

MIKE: Yeah, the stand-up, yeah, and so there was no one moment where I'm like, oh, a dress is where I'm supposed to be. It was always a part of the hot, fun evening, and then it became, you know, a staple.

I did have the eureka moment when I got back my first illustrated comics page, and it was, like I thought of something and I wrote it down and someone returned to me an image that looked exactly like what I had thought, that was magical for me. So like, that led me in that direction creatively, which I was happy for, but like, I feel like there's a lot of people in any art who are like, why don't I feel completely at home in this particular part of this thing that I love, and that's tough.

 

PAUL: And so, how does that relate to your exploring your sexuality?

 

MIKE: I had no eureka-dress moment--

 

PAUL: I see.

 

MIKE: --like I wanted to have a eureka-stand-up moment.

 

PAUL: I see, okay, okay.

 

MIKE: Yeah, there was like no one thing--

 

PAUL: Like you've unlocked a key to the door that now your life is whole.

 

MIKE: Right, yeah. And I think it's my knowledge of myself in that I sort of like weirdness itself. Like, it doesn't matter what the thing I'm doing is, like as long as I'm pushing a boundary or doing a new thing, that's what it, like that's what really excites me. So if like, you know, if a woman was like, you know, I really want to like fold your ear over 15 times, I'd be like, well, I've never done that before--

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: --like, and, you know, five times later, I'll be like, let's get a new thing.

 

PAUL: Is that a thing, folding somebody's ear--

 

MIKE: I assume it is--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I was like, wow, I’m so out of the loop.

 

MIKE: I was like trying to, it was like an ear-insertion thing in my mind, and then I was like, no, this would be really funny if just someone was like really getting off to it.

 

PAUL: Back in the '70s, the biggest kink used to be that you would return a library book one day late and then go home and masturbate to the look on the librarian's face.

 

MIKE: Just the disappointment.

 

PAUL: Just the disappointment.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, and it was a lot of, I feel like in dating and improving my body and getting rid of toxic friendships, it was just a lot of straight-up saying no to shame, because I think with being a little weird or with depression, there's just so much unnecessary shame that you wouldn't put on your friend. Like, you have your weird friend and you love your weird friend, and you're like, go do your weird-friend thing, and you have to bring that attitude towards yourself.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And like to, and it was also because I, I forced myself to go on a podcast called Eating Pie and talk about pegging, just to have talked about it, because it scared me, and it was a very resounding nobody cares. Like [chuckles], I was like--

 

PAUL: Not in a critical way.

 

MIKE: No, not at all.

 

PAUL: Just like this is no big deal.

 

MIKE: Like, both this is no big deal and like, there's a certain vanity to depression, where you're like, oh, everyone hates me. It's like, no, no one's thinking about you that much.

 

PAUL: Exactly [chuckles]. That's the good news and the bad news.

 

MIKE: Right, exactly. Like, it's like nihilism--

 

PAUL: You're not an asshole, but you're also not that--

 

MIKE: Great.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

MIKE: Yeah. You're just a guy.

 

PAUL: You're one of many, like us.

 

MIKE: Yeah, and that's really okay. Like, that's when you break through the isolation and it comes full circle. So, it's, it took me a lot to get there, but I also don't care about that. I also don't care about, and can't let myself care about, the amount that I've isolated myself or turned down things.

I think the way that this podcast changed my life was hearing Paul F. Tompkins talk about being sort of a late bloomer, and I was like, oh, you can bloom late [chuckles]? Like it was, like I knew the expression, but it wasn't until it was like someone who's like material and work I really constantly enjoy, I was like, it doesn't matter what he was doing from one to 29 if he got to where he wanted to be at 30. Like--

 

PAUL: Or 45, or 55--

 

MIKE: Or 40 or 50, yeah, or like Ricky Gervais or like something like that, where--

 

PAUL: Rodney Dangerfield at 60, I think he started to--

 

MIKE: Wow.

 

PAUL: --his career started taking off, or, you know, 55, maybe.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: As you're sharing these things, you know, I see this beautiful through-line of you, both personally in your relationships and sexually in your exploration, that it seems like you are letting go of things that either society or you have told yourself you need to be to be okay, and you're like, I don't have to be this--

 

MIKE: Right.

 

PAUL: You know, I'm going to let go of that thing of being the guy that has to be everybody's friend, or the guy that has to be masculine 100% of the time, let's let go of that and see what happens, and, wow, this feels like I can breathe more, or it didn't kill me.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And it's also like I can fully enjoy being slightly weird, because I feel like I was like raised in the Bay Area and I went to Sarah Lawrence College, and like if I had had, I don't want to say like a more serious, but if I had had a more distinct identity path other than like, I love weird shit, constantly, like if I had been gay or trans or something, there would be a script for that and like a path and a club and things like that, but I've been in spaces with very weird people and felt grossly normal because I, you know, have a couple first one-on-one fetishes or whatever, like [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah.

 

MIKE: But no, it's great, like--

 

PAUL: Thank you, because you shed some light on it, because I had never, I've never really done kink. And I didn't realize that cross-dressing, I knew that there was a continuum of what people get out of it and how they see themselves, but I didn't realize that it could be used to feel, what would be the word, smaller, less powerful, what, prettier . . .

 

MIKE: Yeah, I think--

 

PAUL: I know prettier, I knew, but it sounds like, when you described the fantasy of, you know, your being dominated, does that relate to also being dressed as a female, or is that separate from--

 

MIKE: No, I think--

 

PAUL: --am I conflating the two?

 

MIKE: No. I think it was something where it, in the kink context, like sissification can be for humiliating purposes, but I didn't see it that way.

 

PAUL: You saw it as presenting yourself as beautiful.

 

MIKE: Yeah. And so, sometimes they line up and things like that, but they're not necessarily, they're all just like in the mix. It's all, yeah.

 

PAUL: Because I didn't realize that a man dressing as a woman to be humiliated, I didn't realize that that was a thing.

 

MIKE: Yeah, yeah. That can be a part of it. That can be a vibe to it. But, yeah, I'm just using it to, like to see myself as beautiful is like so difficult. And also to sort of have the, have the sensitive-guy chip on my shoulder, where I’m like, I'm not a hunk, like I’m not into sports, like I'm, you know, I do so much to distinguish myself from that.

And then now I look in the mirror and kind of see that, but then you throw a dress on, I'm like, this is more of a balance [chuckles], like this is really, yeah. Like, I wouldn't want Arnold Schwarzenegger arms, but I have Michelle Obama arms, like that's great. Like, that's elegant. That's something to aspire to.

Like, yeah, it's, it's kind of like I'm, my femininity is sort of like I'm Jewish and white, where there's nothing in whiteness to explore for me. I'm so interested in being Jewish because that's the different thing. There's a rich history. There's fun accessories [chuckles]. So like, I don't, I'm not interested in exploring my masculinity. I'm interested in like feeling a certain amount of dignity and self-confidence, but that doesn't have to come from beating someone up or, I don't know, what do guys do?

 

[Chuckling]

 

MIKE: Most of them don't sit around and talk about our feelings, but like we're--

 

PAUL: No, no, no, play sports very physically.

 

MIKE: Yeah. Repress anger, let it out in traffic.

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You know, the things I get annoyed by in our culture are the things where you sense that it's not really that person's love of it. It's rather they see it as a statement of, hey, look here, can't you see that I am clearly not gay?

 

MIKE: Yeah. Well, it's, and it's, I also just chafe at the idea of anything ever being mandatory. Like sports or Christmas or it's like, whenever I’m assumed to be interested in something, I couldn't hate it more.

 

PAUL: I’m pretty much the same way.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Thank you so much for sharing, sharing all that stuff.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And I'm really glad that we got together and we talked and I hope our paths cross again. I think you and I are kindred spirits in a lot of ways.

 

MIKE: I'm glad to be on the same crazy bus as you. Like, it's good company.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Now let's go drive it and get some flat tires. I'll put any links up you want connected to your books, but just briefly, your Twitter handle?

 

MIKE: At biz Michael.

 

PAUL: At b-i-z M-i-c-h-a-e-l.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Okay. Mike Levine, Levine [different pronunciation]--

 

MIKE: Levine [chuckles].

 

PAUL: God dammit--

 

MIKE: No, you got it right the first time and you asked me, which means more than you ever getting it right or not.

 

PAUL: Thanks, buddy.

 

MIKE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Wow, I really had a great time getting to know Mike, and I love, too, when I have a guest that shatters stereotypes of what a gender or any group of people can be in expressing themselves or what they think or how they act. That was just fun.

Before I take it out with some surveys, I want to remind you guys, there's a couple of different ways to support the show. One of the biggest ones that I could really use is, if you have any frequent flyer miles that you would like to donate, we have a page on our Web site. I think it's the Support the Show drop-down menu, and then you can do either Buy Stuff or Donate, so click on Donate, and then the bottom half of the donate page shows you how to donate frequent flyer miles.

As I mentioned before, I'm going to Europe to record non-American listeners, and I don't really have a budget for it, so I'm using my own personal frequent flyer miles to cover it, but I would love to be able to go to more countries than I'm going to on future trips and record a bigger diversity of people, and that would just, it would help greatly.

Another way you can help the show is by making either a one-time donation or a recurring monthly donation. You can start doing recurring monthly donations for as little as a dollar a month. You can do it either through PayPal or Patreon. I think Patreon is the only one you can do it for as little as a dollar a month, but I highly recommend doing it on Patreon versus PayPal. Just their interface is better, and I look at PayPal as kind of a necessary evil in terms of doing business.

You can support us, if you're going to buy something at Amazon, enter through the link on our homepage and then they'll give us some money if you buy something and it doesn't make the price of what you're buying any more expensive. And all these things add up. It, you know, advertisers come and go, and really, the platform that this show is able to function on is through the donations of you guys and I get nervous, I get nervous [chuckles]. I'm a nervous person to begin with, but the thought of this show not being able to continue because of financial reasons kind of freaks me out a little bit.

I told you that I bought new car a couple of months ago, and my fear is, because I got a new car, people are going to think, well, he's fucking rich, he doesn't, I’m going to cancel my monthly donation, and quite the opposite. It [chuckles], I wasn't thinking about the fact that I hadn't paid taxes yet and I hadn't made any kind of a contribution to my retirement fund, and now I am pretty broke and now I'm beating the fuck out of myself for bringing this up on air, but all this is to say, if you can, brother, if you can spare a dime, spare a dime.

Another way that you can support us non-financially, because I know a lot of you are strapped for cash, and I should be donating to you, you can spread the word through social media about the podcast, or go to iTunes, write something nice about it. Tell a friend to listen to the show. I know we get a lot of listeners that way. All of those things help, because I depend on you.

This is, oh, I also wanted to mention that the episode that you just heard will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site, and many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

This is from the Awfulsome Moments survey, and this was filled out by a woman who calls herself Beautifully Painful, and she writes, I recently attended a women's retreat with my church. Each year, we have a speaker who teaches workshops about spirituality and life. In the past we've had artists, writers and even a Buddhist nun. This year, however, we had a, quote, holistic health coach, who spent two hours ranting about doctors being in cahoots with the meat and dairy industry and claimed that her son had been cured of autism by eating a vegan diet.

What made me the most angry, though, was how she said that medication for mental illnesses didn't work and that no one would be mentally ill if they ate a vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, fruit-free diet.

I left this workshop feeling so angry and defensive. However, I soon learned that I was not the only one feeling this way. It spurred a group discussion where women as old as 88 talked about their experiences with mental illness and how many of them had found relief and healing from medications and support from doctors.

I myself spoke about the way that medication has saved my life. There were hugs, and I felt amazing solidarity within this diverse group of women. I am grateful that something so awful could turn into something so awesome.

I investigated this, by the way, and that lady is 100% right. I threw all my meds in the toilet and it turns out all I needed was a carrot. She is on to something. No, I, I am happy that that woman found out that her son's autism could be cured by eating vegan, but don't assume that what your son experienced will apply to every other person. That is the problem that I have. And I'm guilty of that, too, sometimes. You know, I assume that other people are like me and will react to something just like me, and we get into trouble when we do that. Plus, I just fucking hate vegans.

I hate, you know, it's not that I hate vegans. I hate the idea of vegans because they feel morally superior to me, because I wish I could eat vegan, but I can't, because I like meat too much.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Not That Good of a Guy, and he is straight, in his 30s, raised in a stable and safe environment, never been sexually abused but he has been emotionally abused. He writes, growing up, I was a social pariah in my school. Since I went to school in the same town for my whole education, the role I was placed into never changed until I graduated. I was bullied both verbally and physically and would often worry myself to the point of getting migraines and nausea when I thought about going to school the next day.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? None. Kids are pricks [chuckles]. That is fantastic. That just made my night. That, you just personally, sir, probably saved me three or four tablespoons of marshmallow crème.

Darkest thoughts. I sometimes wish I had been sexually abused so that I had an excuse for how I behaved. I sometimes browse the Craigslist Casual Encounters and fantasize about meeting up both men and women for anonymous sex.

Darkest secrets. I've been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, ADHD, pretty much means that I can worry about a million things at once and get really sad from it. I'm also struggling with porn addiction. I have lost days to looking at porn and masturbating. I know that it's not just about a sexual release because I will often stop myself from ejaculating so that I can spend longer looking at porn and moving to the next video.

Sometimes it gets to the point where I begin experiencing erectile dysfunction issues. The other day I spent so much time masturbating, 11 to 12 hours, that afterwards my penis was left red, swollen and painful to the touch. When I've been watching porn and masturbating often, I often have to turn to more and more taboo porn to maintain the rush. When I do finish, I'm immediately disgusted with myself and become depressed.

I've told my fiancée that I think I have issues with porn addiction, but I have never told her to the extent that I think it is. It does affect our relationship, as I have little interest in normal sex and have never ejaculated with a partner. I am so afraid that I will somehow drive her away because she feels unloved or undesired because of this.

I am seeing a therapist for my issues with depression and anxiety, but I'm afraid to talk about this with her because of how embarrassing it feels. I've tried to quit before with mixed results, often making it at most a few weeks before I eventually relapse. I have lost so much time to this that I feel it is keeping me from achieving my dreams.

I've had issues with self-pleasure since I was very young. I can remember being as young as four and doing things like rubbing myself or humping objects to become aroused and feel pleasure. When I was a teenager, I began doing things like masturbating in the window so that people walking by would see. I think it was because I had never experienced any intimacy with women. It wasn't until I was 20 that I kissed a girl and had sex. Masturbating with viewers felt like a way that I could have sexual connection with someone that I so desperately craved.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to realize that it was a form of sexual assault and the guilt washed over me and I went into a deep depression. When I was 25, I also engaged in online sex and picture exchange with a 15- and 16-year-old girl. They were often the more aggressive ones in initiating anything and often pressured me to meet them in person for sex, but I could never do it and felt awful about it.

I know that even though they were equal partners in it, I should have known better as the adult. I live in fear that one day someone will find out and I will either be arrested or socially ostracized. I also feel incredibly guilty having viewed illegal porn when I was a teenager as well.

Last year, these feelings put me into a deep depression and I began to plan my suicide. I was researching various methods and trying to figure out how to do it so that none of my loved ones had to be the one to find the body. I just felt so guilty for the things I had done and was so afraid that I was going to hurt my family that I thought they would be better off without me.

I still struggle with these thoughts from time to time but have since become medicated, which has helped immensely. At the end of the day, I just don't want to hurt anyone by my actions. For me, sex should be something that is 100% consensual, and my favorite part of sex with a partner is making them feel amazing. I wish I could ask for forgiveness to anyone that was affected by my actions and I wish that I could forgive myself. The guilt and anxiety make me feel like I can't breathe.

Thank you so much for pouring your heart out into that and sharing things that I am sure were really, really hard to go back into and to look at. And just my thoughts, as I read this, is, one, you should check out any literature by Patrick Carnes. His last name is spelled C-a-r-n-e-s. He's an expert on sex addiction, and there's also a book by John Bradshaw called Healing the Shame that Binds, because it sounds like right now you are trapped in a lot of shame, and it's keeping you from even feeling like you deserve to become healthier.

And the other thing I wanted to mention is, you're doing what a lot of us do, myself included, is that when we do things that we regret, be they harming somebody else, you know, being irresponsible with our lives, whatever, we assume that is a statement of who we are inherently, and that is false. It just means we reached for the wrong tool when we were feeling uncomfortable.

You are lovable. You just get overwhelmed and don't have the right tools to cope with the right feeling, and that is what recovery looks like, so there is hope for you. And if you really do want to apologize, do the work. Get some help. Maybe join a support group. Read that book by Patrick Carnes. But don't be stuck in self-loathing because that doesn't help anybody, not you, not your family, not your friends, not your neighbors. So, those are my thoughts on that.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. I rarely fantasize when not masturbating anymore, but when I do, it can be anything from group sex, gang bangs, sex with a high school girl, or anonymous sex on the Internet.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I wish that I could tell my fiancée everything I have ever done and beg for her forgiveness.

What, if anything, do you wish for? I wish that I could go back in time and undo everything I ever did.

You know what, I want to go back to that previous one. It's important when we share stuff with somebody when we're apologizing to understand, too, what the distinction is between what you are doing for them and what you are doing for yourself, because sometimes an amends to somebody should strictly be about benefiting that person and not about letting go of our guilt.

So, I would talk to your therapist before you decide to say anything to your partner, and if you do say something, how to say it, what to share, etc., because you might be bringing up something that is not helpful to your relationship, you know. Sometimes a living amends is the best thing that we can do for somebody. Apologize by making yourself healthier, by getting help, by humbling yourself and saying, hey, man, I can't control this thing anymore, can you, can you help me, so.

Let's see. How do you feel after writing these things down? A little better but I know that there is much more work I need to do to get better and find a way to make up for the awful things I have done.

Let go of the beating yourself up. You have already reflected on the fact that what you did was not the person that you want to aspire to, and that it's harmful to others, but we all make mistakes, and I'm not justifying what you did. I'm just trying to help you get in the right head space to move forward in a way that is constructive instead of destructive.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Please Imagine This is Witty, and she's 14 and she writes, before I start, sorry if I don't describe this so well, but writing is most definitely not my strong suit. Also, context is in order for my moment, so I hope that's okay, so here it is.

After about two months of suffering through freshman year, my depression had become overwhelming and I ended up barely attending school. Then I completely stopped going for a week by faking sick, and on the Tuesday of the next week I had a failed suicide attempt. After calling 911 and have a quick ride to the nearest hospital, I ended up in the pediatric unit of the hospital with my dad, waiting to get a blood test and psych evaluations.

After a few hours, we were led into a room to wait for a blood test, and my dad turns to me and says, it smells like old people and pee in here. I know we've been busy. It's been hard to make time with you to hang out together, but don't you think we could find somewhere else to do it?

I don't know why, but this was hilarious to both of us, and we both started laughing so hard that we cried. And then she put in parentheses, I think we really freaked out the nurse when she walked in and saw us. Thank you for sharing that.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Wisconsinner, and sinner is spelled like as in sinner. He is straight. He's in his 60s. He was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. He writes, a narcissistic mother. He's never been sexually abused, but he writes, just developed a deep sense of shame about sexuality growing up in the '60s and seeing how much fear and shame my parents felt about sex.

When I asked where I came from at about age six, my mom acted like someone died, but she took me into the bedroom, where she laid down and I sat on the edge while she looked at the ceiling and told me in a very hushed and nervous fashion how it all worked. I don't blame her for this. She didn't brush me off, and it obviously took some courage to tell me but I thought, holy crap, this is really messed up and scary.

You know, that is a form of scar in a kid. You know, and I know it's not on your mom. I'm sure it wasn't demonstrated for her how to pass that information on. But yeah, that [chuckles], I remember when my dad, when my dad gave me the sex talk, we were on vacation. I was 11. And we were at Lake of the Ozarks in Arkansas.

And you know, when you're a kid, the first thing you do when your car pulls in is you run out, you throw your bathing suit on as fast as possible, and then you go to the pool, and so my brother and I were having a good time in the pool, and all of a sudden my dad comes to get me, and my dad just has a resting I'm-unhappy face, so I thought, he said, Paul, come with me, I thought I was in trouble.

We go back to our cottage, and he tells me about sex. He doesn't preface it by saying, here's what I want to tell you. He just starts going into it, when a man puts his penis in a vagi-, so for like the first five minutes, I was like, I didn't do anything wrong [chuckles]. I thought I was being accused of something.

And then, towards the end, I was like, oh, this is the talk that some of my friends have already got. And I just remember this awkward silence after he finished, and I just went, so can I go back to the pool? And he said, yes, go back to the pool. Anyway, I got sidetracked.

He's been emotionally abused. I came to feel unsafe and isolated. My older sister, by five years, did some weird and cruel stuff to me and she knew how to push my buttons. My parents usually didn't intervene other than to punish both of us. I was often alone with her, and she physically abused me until I was old enough to defend myself, but it was the mental abuse that did the damage.

Back in those days, you could dial a number to test the ring. One night, I heard the phone ring and she called me in a panic. I ran into the room where the phone was and she was crying and said it was the police calling to tell us that our dad was killed in a car accident. She handed me the phone, saying she couldn't talk. I was numb and starting to feel the shock when I took the phone and said hello to what turned out to be a dial tone. I turned around and she was laughing the most fucked-up laugh I ever heard.

There were lots of other incidents, but this one stands out for me. I couldn't sleep and was terrified every time my dad left in the car. I tried to avoid her more and more as I got older. She has been hospitalized a few times for depression and has fibromyalgia. I think she is actually bipolar or BPD, but we don't communicate these days.

Any positive experiences with your abusers? Not too many positive interactions with my sister. My parents always treated her as a victim and I assumed the role of the, quote, perfect kid.

I wouldn't be surprised if something happened to your sister that you didn't know about. You know, that's just a thought that popped into my head, not justifying what she did at all, but I was just thinking, why would her parents, why would your parents be doing that and why would she be acting out? Where did all her anger come from?

Anyway, continuing, darkest thoughts. I mainly think about having all kinds of sex with all kinds of women. This probably doesn't set me apart from too many men. I've only had sex with my wife and lately that is a very rare occurrence. I've thought of leaving many times, but I think we should at least try marital or sex therapy. I have wondered how life would be if she wasn't here, either not living or otherwise not in my life. I feel a lot of shame about these kinds of thoughts.

Darkest secrets. Mainly the use of porn as a substitute for sex. I can't seem to totally quit. I seek out fantasies about women, a mother, aunt, or other nurturing figures sexually comforting me and massaging and pampering me.

By the way, I did not pick these surveys specifically because I'm going through porn and marriage issues and stuff like that, but it's weird how sometimes when I'm going through the surveys, something almost like ripped from the pages of my life is in the few surveys that I look at and choose for the week.

The ones I'm reading tonight were just from a selection of 10 surveys in a row. I think I picked like five of them maybe. I'm talking about the Shame and Secrets Surveys.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Mom and other nurturing female sexual fantasies. What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I'd like to tell my wife that I feel like she wants all the power in the marriage and none of the responsibility. What, if anything, do you wish for? A more fulfilling marriage and sex life.

Have you shared these things with others? I've been in therapy twice, once for over two years 25 years ago, and for a year four years ago. How do you feel after writing these things down? Okay.

Anything you'd like to share with other people who share your thoughts or experiences? Just like to hear the stories and experiences of others that provide insight into my life. Thank you for sharing all of that, and you are most definitely, most definitely not alone.

This is a Happy Moment [chuckles] by a woman who calls herself Fucking Downer. Let's see, let's see how this plays out with these two opposing forces. I was telling my brother the most depressing moment of my life, when I actually realized that we would have the same parents forever. They were it. Our childhood was over and we could never go back and do it again with parents who loved us or loved each other or were even capable of being halfway decent people. He sighed, but then began telling me about his girlfriend's family and how they have shown him what it means to love unconditionally. He tells me he's so lucky to know this girl and, by extension, get to know her parents.

He says they have treated him with love and respect from the moment he met them and how he hopes one day I can meet someone like that, too. I was so preoccupied with thinking about how I would never experience good parents, but seeing his face light up talking about this family that, if all goes well, will one day be his, it gave me hope, and it's been a while since anything has.

I still get sad that I, myself, am without that kind of love in my life, but seeing someone you care about being happy can be intoxicating.

That's beautiful. It's so easy to forget that it is not all about us. God, that is just the place we go to in that moment, just that tunnel vision, just that tunnel vision. You know, I had this kind of epiphany, when I'd been sober for a couple of years, and my support group meeting was that night and I was tired, and I thought, eh, I don't need a meeting tonight.

And then a thought popped into my head, but maybe a meeting needs you, maybe there's somebody in that meeting who can't identify with anybody else's shares because their stories are just too different from theirs but yours happens to be similar to theirs, and then that's the beginning of them sticking around and getting help. And it's so easy to forget that we're all connected and that we're not just this island that's experiencing a hurricane.

By the way, I hope you hated that metaphor as much as I did. Is that a metaphor or is that an analogy? I don't know. I always get, I can still not figure those out, and I blame my sixth grade teacher.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself I'm Okay Now, and she's in her 30s. She is straight. She was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused, but then she writes, I don't really know, only that I stopped talking to anyone outside my family when I was five or six and developed a strong fear of other people, eye contact, touch, conversation. I didn't understand why I was hospitalized when I was that age, but it was a psychiatric evaluation, and I later, as a teenager, learned that my pediatrician suspected my father of sexual abuse. I don't believe he did and have never feared him.

She's been emotionally abused and not sure if she's been physically abused. I am reluctant to say I was, but technically I suppose I was mildly. I don't really blame anyone, but I'm still negatively affected by things I was told. I suffered from depression as a child and young adult but was shamed for avoiding people or situations, and I didn't feel comfortable voicing my feelings to the people around me.

I believed I was an inherently bad person because I was negatively compared to other family members and things I did as a four- and five-year-old were constantly brought up as an example of my character. And then in parentheses, my interpretation. And I feared that I didn't deserve to be loved.

Yeah, that is definitely emotional abuse, and I would say, you said that your environment was slightly dysfunctional. I would classify that as very dysfunctional, because you missed the baseline shit. You know, put aside whether or not anything even happened with your father. That stuff alone, the stuff outside of that is abusive and would fuck anybody up, and then you throw the not knowing if you were sexually abused, that is a lot.

That's a lot on someone's plate, and that, that is one of the, I think one of the hardest mind fucks that, pardon the term, that you can put on somebody, is for them to not know what happened or if something happened, but bear all the signs of something having happened.

So, anybody out there who's struggling with that, sending you a lot of love and a hug and an unfrosted Pop Tart. Now, if I hated you, I would send you a box of frosted Pop Tarts.

This, continuing, darkest thoughts. It's very difficult for me to access them when I am not there. I can compartmentalize anything, so processing takes a while. My most enduring darkest thought is that I have no value to others, that my having something means that someone else goes without. I feel guilty for everything and have a fear of bothering people. I've wanted to die.

Darkest secrets. I started masturbating in the attic when I was 10 or 11. I became obsessed with sex and scoured through the boxes of books in the attic for erotic material. I wrote stories about girls being abused and raped when I couldn't find what I needed from my mom's old books. I couldn't talk about sex or my body or fears with anyone.

I felt like everyone around me was good and honest and pure and I was disgusting. I was still afraid of people and struggled to make eye contact or convey anything personal, which made it almost impossible to make friends.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Being overpowered in any way. My fear of intimacy makes me aloof and I learned that others can be intimidated by it, even though I am afraid of everyone. Sharing this anonymously makes me feel nothing.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I don't know. I have, quote, not said so many things to so many people that I can't think of anything specific. There are people I've known for years that I've never addressed by name because it seems to intimate.

What, if anything, do you wish for? To know that I am as important as anyone else. I mean, to not put myself below everyone and to not be afraid of bothering me. I want to feel comfortable in my skin and be able to express my true feelings without guilt or shame.

You are as important as anyone else. I know this is corny, that I’m just becoming this person saying this to you, but I really, truly do believe this. And it wouldn't have sunk in if somebody had just said this to me 10 years ago, 15 years ago. It took a lot of support and developing friendships, which I did not want to do in my support groups, but that is the seed that planted not hating myself as much [chuckles] and experiencing moments of self-love, maybe even stretches of self-love and acceptance. And when I'm in that place, it's really beautiful and all the work is worth it, but to go through life with a completely shattered sense of trust is, I don't even have a word for it.

It's, it's like going without food, having a life without any trust is like, trust for me, and vulnerability, the ability to trust and be vulnerable around other people is, for my spirit and my soul, it is food. And if I don't do it, I get in bad shape.

So, as much as I’m sure that seems like, what the fuck is he talking about, human connection, I think, would be something to look into. Maybe start with therapy. I don't know. But I'm sending you some love. That, fuck.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Shitty McShitstain, and he writes, I just finished watching the Leah Remini, or is it Remini [pronounced differently] documentary on Scientology.

By the way, coming up in the next couple of weeks, hopefully we're going to be airing an episode with Jamie DeWolf who is the great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, and he talks about how his grandfather, who he knew, his grandfather being the son of L. Ron Hubbard, the stuff that he shared, how his life was affected being raised by a cult leader.

Anyway, continuing. As I’m watching the second episode, as Mike Rinder, a former high-ranking official, is describing the techniques they used to intimidate critics, the things they did to people internally who questioned the, quote, church, describing the mindset of his own while he was being abused, it hit me like a ton of bricks. These techniques that they used on people are fucking identical to what abusers do to their victims. The symbol for Scientology should be a big gaslight instead of whatever they have now.

Why is this a happy moment? Because at the same time I realized their MO, I realized that I am in this kind of a relationship. I had suspected, having had people tell me for years, but somehow this validated all of those suspicions. Listening to Mike R. describe what he was thinking as he was physically assaulted, that somehow he must have done something wrong, that he really deserved to be beaten and used, I identified with him immediately.

I have never been physically abused, but, man, have I been fucked with mental abuse. One of the biggest things I noticed is that so many of the people they interviewed wanted to leave, but the way Scientology operates, if you are kicked out of the church, any family members that are in the church are not allowed to communicate with you ever. They must, quote, disconnect from you.

So, the people that woke up and realized that this was wrong stayed in the church because they feared losing their family. For me, at least, that's the same way I feel if I were to leave my marriage, that I would be the outcast of the family, would have a strained, if any, relationship with my kids and grandkids. I feel trapped. But now I see the insipid, rabid sickness this is and how it is a constant across the board, at least with the basic framework of tactics that abusers use.

My eyes are opened a little wider now. Thanks to your podcast, I'm able to see things a little more clearly. I think you might want to recommend that people watch this series to see how institutional gaslighting works and, more importantly, how good, smart, honest people can be tricked into believing this shit. It makes me feel better to know that I am not a piece of crap, that I am not stupid or weak but that I trusting of others and scared to lose my family.

That is so profound and so beautifully worded, I'm just talking about the part where he compliments me. No, seriously, that, thank you, McShitstain, as you call yourself [chuckles], for sharing that. And I would imagine people who are stuck in domestically abusive relationships, especially women, hearing this feel slightly less alone right now, I hope. I hope, because they get judged so much because people don't understand mind control and emotional manipulation, and I was one of those people who didn't understand it. And I still think I have a lot more to learn in terms of that.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Animal Sadist, and he is straight. He is in his 30s. He was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts.

Weird stuff happened with babysitters, touched by an older girl babysitter underwater in a swimming pool. Older male babysitters jerked off in front of me to satisfy my unsolicited curiosity. He's been emotionally abused. My parents' emotional neglect was not so benign.

Ever been physically or emotion-, oh, I just read that. Any positive experiences with the abusers? My parents provided for me materially and intellectually but not much emotionally. I feel an emptiness in my heart where my love for my parents should be.

Well, I would definitely not call that a slightly dysfunctional environment. That is like saying, you know, there's no food in the desert but I wouldn't call it a famine. Again, hating that metaphor. I think maybe at the end of the show what I'll do is I'll sweep all of my metaphors up into a dustpan and then throw them all out at the same time.

Darkest thoughts. Obsessive thoughts about being sexually humiliated by a group of older women or a group of young, prepubescent girls. Darkest secrets. I've gone jogging in tight spandex shorts that emphasize my bulge and firmness of my ass and jogged past groups of young girls or old women so as to provoke jeers, scoffs and giggles. I get off on the feeling of humiliation. It excites me but fills me with shame at the same time.

I've also had intense urges for killing squirrels. He goes into detail about stuff here, but I'm not going to read it. But the reason I wanted to say that is because, mention this is because he said it was incredibly sexually arousing and charged my brain with so much dopamine, I've never felt so alive.

He said, I have had a compulsion but I cannot or would not kill people's pets, and he has since stopped the things with the squirrels.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Sexual fantasies that involve some sort of domination or submission by me. I have no actual sexual interest in prepubescent girls, but I have a strong sexual compulsion to be humiliated by them.

For instance, I'm jogging in spandex and a group of girls walking home from school start laughing at me. I tell them to fuck off and then they start chasing me or throwing rocks at me. Knocked off my feet, they pin me down and start kicking or grabbing my genitals as punishment. I feel so ashamed that this fantasy seems to be at the height of sexual excitement for me. I feel like a total worthless creep.

I wouldn't be surprised, again, I'm not a therapist, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was some type of connection between that babysitter grabbing your genitals in the pool and, you know, you being sexually aroused in your fantasy of these girls grabbing your genitals, because as regular listeners to this know, there is, a lot of times sexual fantasies are born out of some type of trauma and it's our way, our unconscious way of trying to go back kind of in a time machine and have some semblance of control over the situation.

You know, even though it looks like in the situation we're fantasizing about that we have no control, we're controlling it by the very act of fantasizing about it and making it pleasurable to us. I hope that makes sense.

He writes, I feel like a total worthless creep. You are not a worthless creep. What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I've been trying to express to my parents the ways in which they ignored or discounted my emotional reality while growing up. Every attempt to communicate to them reopens the original wounds because they just can't grasp how invisible I felt to them, and talking about it today just brings back their denial, which then triggers my chronic sense of abandonment.

And I would imagine triggers those feelings that then you need to act out to medicate. So, I think finding some tools for dealing with those feelings of being rejected and abandoned by your parents would be a really, really great way to begin to cope and to not have to resort to hurting an animal.

There was something else that I wanted to say. Oh, stop going back to the well for water with your parents. It's dry. And you're just going to hurt yourself every time. I made that mistake for years. I would try to get my dad to, you know, make a big deal about something that I did, and I'd come to him with some new thing that I'd done and he'd either, you know, look uninterested or, you know, say it wasn't your best work, or, you know, it just, one day I was in the car, I think it was like 15 years ago, and I just started laughing, because I realized how insane it was to try to connect to this man whose walls were so, so high.

Your parents have walls that are so, so high. Stop trying to climb them, man. You're killing yourself, and it's affecting your family, too. Because one of the things he says later on is, what, if anything, do you wish for? I wish I could maintain a consistent sense of psycho-emotional serenity. I'm working on it. I wish I had some good friends. I feel very, very alone and though I have a loving wife, even though I have a loving wife and adoring children.

Have you shared these things with others? My wife and kids were finding evidence of the squirrels. My wife said, I don't want to know. Since then, I've stopped doing it. Thankfully, this violent impulse is directed towards animals and not my own children. I wish to emphasize how gentle I am in all other areas of my life except for this one, single bizarre compulsion to inflict terror on trapped animals.

And I know this is a hard survey for some of you to listen to because I think if a lot of you are like me, you feel more, I feel worse about animals being hurt than I do about people being hurt, and I don't know why that is. Maybe because animals have loved me [chuckles] unconditionally throughout my life, I suppose, as long as I have food, but I wanted to read this for two reasons, because I don't want to back down from shit that is dark in this, on this show.

And second, I wanted to tell him that he is not a worthless creep and that it's about getting help and finding tools. These things that you did, that is not inherently who you are limited to being. There is still time to grow emotionally, but you have to be willing to do that work, to open up to a therapist, or a support group, or whatever it involves, but it's not going to change by you just sitting by yourself and thinking about yourself and trying to get your parents to open up.

This is from a rarely filled-out survey called Vacation Arguments, and Polly writes, my extended family all share a few cabins in the woods. We don't all visit at the same time anymore, but throughout my childhood summers we did. The adults drank to excess each night. When I was seven or eight, I remember we all woke up in the morning, and when my uncles came in for breakfast they were both beaten up, black eyes, cut lips, swollen cheeks. When the kids went to bed the night before, they'd had a fistfight about something I still don't know to this day. It was a tense week.

I've watched my mother and her sister get wasted and scream at each other, pull hair, cry and slap each other in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods, in the middle of vacation, everybody unable to stop them. It makes for an uncomfortable rest of the vacation, especially when the kids are expected to never bring it up again or face the consequences of the fight re-ensuing and it being your fault for not being able to keep your mouth shut.

On a lighter note, my own siblings and I, as adults, got drunk and fought over whether Jimmy John's or Taco Bell was a better late-night food decision. No fist flying necessary, although my sister did cry because she was too drunk to remember how her Jimmy John's tasted [chuckles]. You can't make that shit up. That is so fucking good. I can't remember how my Jimmy John's tasted [in mock-crying tone], I think it was oniony. Oh, my God.

This is a Happy Moment Survey filled out by Fuck the Lemons, and he writes, I often tear up with hope about the beauty of the world when you speak about how you are still alive today because you were willing to reach out and connect with others. That means a lot to me, and it makes me very, very happy to hear you say that, or write that or type that or however the fuck it got here.

And then finally, this is another Happy Moment, filled out by a woman who calls herself I Can't Commit to a Name. For the past few weeks, I have been feeling really shitty. My depression has increased in its severity and I've been feeling so empty. Last night, I couldn't go to sleep and was feeling worse than usual, so I went downstairs to talk to my brother but he wasn't home.

I laid down on the floor of the family room and started sobbing. After a while, my brother came home and walked in on me crying like a baby. He dropped everything and asked me what was wrong. We talked for a long time about how I was feeling, and I really spilled my guts out to him.

He was extremely understanding and compassionate. I tend to bottle my feelings up and isolate myself, so it felt extremely cathartic to truly be seen and heard. After talking to him, I felt at peace. I feel so lucky to have him as my big brother. I know I'll probably always struggle with depression, but knowing I have people like him in my life makes the struggle worth it.

And then any suggestions to make the podcast better? Accept the superiority of frosted Pop Tarts. I'm going to say that that was a beautiful survey despite your cheap shot at the end. I will choose another episode to cast you to hell on the express train, oh, yeah, one of those bullet trains that goes like 150 miles an hour, yeah. And we're going to pack it, we're going to pack it with the most annoying commuters you can imagine.

Thank you for, thank you for supporting the show. Thanks to Mike for a great episode. Thank you for your incredible surveys. As hard as they may be to read sometimes, I can't imagine how hard they must be to fill out, so thank you for all of that. And never forget that you are not alone. We are all connected.

 

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You know, the illusion is that we're just this island that doesn't matter, and that's bullshit. That's bullshit. You are not alone. Thanks for listening.

 

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