Leaving Domestic Violence – Jenna Brister

Leaving Domestic Violence – Jenna Brister

The comedian/storyteller (The Moth) shares about her whirlwind 86 day romance that led to a Vegas wedding to a man who soon turned into a man she didn’t recognize, leaving her in fear for her life.  Jenna talks about her experience escaping from domestic violence and stalking, especially how family and friends reacted in terms of supporting her (or not).  She also shares about having to cut her mercurial, often emotionally abusive mother out of her life and the freedom she feels in learning how to stick up for herself even if it means disappointing someone.
Links for Jenna: 
This episodes is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To see if it’s right for you and to experience a week free, go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental
This episode is sponsored by Adam and Eve.  To get 50% off an item, free shipping plus some free gifts go to www.AdamandEve.com and use offer code MENTAL
This episode is sponsored by StampsDotCom.  For a 4 week trial including a digital scale and stamps go to www.Stamps.com, click on the radio mic at the top of the page and enter offer code MENTAL
This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter.  To post your jobs for free go to www.ZipRecruiter.com/first
To become a monthly donor for as little as $1/month go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod and qualify for free stuff from Paul including bonus episodes.



Episode notes:

Links for Jenna: 
This episodes is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To see if it's right for you and to experience a week free, go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental
This episode is sponsored by Adam and Eve.  To get 50% off an item, free shipping plus some free gifts go to www.AdamandEve.com and use offer code MENTAL
This episode is sponsored by StampsDotCom.  For a 4 week trial including a digital scale and stamps go to www.Stamps.com, click on the radio mic at the top of the page and enter offer code MENTAL
This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter.  To post your jobs for free go to www.ZipRecruiter.com/first
To become a monthly donor for as little as $1/month go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod and qualify for free stuff from Paul including bonus episodes.

Episode Transcript:

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


Welcome to Episode 327 with my guest Jenna Brister. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. The show's not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I'm a jackass, and this is not the doctor's office. I'm not a therapist. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck [chuckles], in a waiting room where you can hear the traffic outside because the doctor moved to an apartment.

What did I want to share with you? Go to our Web site. Check it out. There's all kinds of things you can do there. You can support the show there. You can browse the forum. You can read blogs and guest blogs. You can fill out our anonymous surveys, which we read all the time on the show. Maybe yours will get read.

Maybe it won't and then you can hold a resentment against me, and then if we ever meet in person, maybe you could say something passive aggressive to me and then we could both part ways and forever just hold just a little, just a little pearl of hate in our bellies for each other. That's one possibility. Or you don't have to.

One of our sponsors is BetterHelp.com. They do online counseling, and part of the deal with them is I share about what is going on in my life therapy-wise, things that I'm struggling with, and I'm proud to say that I have not eaten Marshmallow Fluff by the tablespoonful immediately before going to bed for over a week, and I consider that a little bit of a victory.

You know, one of the things that my therapist and I talked about the last time we had a session was that I am clearly trying to run from the pain of my marriage splitting up, and that solution is to sit in those feelings and feel them and process them instead of trying to run from them with sugar or, you know, whatever other distraction I can think of.

And so I've been doing some crying this week, but I think in a healthy way, and I’m eating less sugar and it's nice. Of course, I'm obsessively now searching the Internet for the lowest-sugar-content chocolate that I can find. I want to find chocolate that is just short of so tart it gives you a headache, because I do like really bittersweet chocolate, and so I figure, you know, if I get to that place where I feel like I need sugar, I'll just have a couple of pieces of that and that'll tide me over.

Something that I wanted to share with you guys, I was at a coffee shop, I think it was Tuesday. The day doesn't matter. Why am I telling you the day? I’m already hating myself. I am at this coffee shop, and because it's Los Angeles, sometimes you get people talking about show business in an unnecessarily loud tone of voice. I had never, in 23 years of living here, I have never heard somebody talk so loudly about show business as this guy who was sitting four feet away from me.

And he was not just talking about show business. He was lecturing this young man about screenplays and writing. He wasn't discussing. This guy was putting on like a, I don't even know what to call it. It was [chuckles], for one, it was rude, because there's people all around this guy, and if somebody is, the person he's talking to, it's just one person, they're two feet away from him, if even that, maybe a foot and a half away, and if he were talking to the guy just like I'm talking to you right now, there would be no problem. I would be able to hear him, because I'm two and a half feet away, but I could also tune him out.

But this guy [chuckles] was the biggest windbag I have ever heard, and I, I'm sitting there, trying not to judge this guy, saying, you know what, maybe he was raised in a family where that's the volume they talked at and he's not aware of it. And maybe he likes imparting wisdom to other people and this makes him feel like he's being of service. I tried every tactic to not resenting this guy, but I'm not exaggerating, [in booming voice] this is how loud he is talking to people, and when you, when the Greeks invented drama, I'm not kidding, it was that loud. And I was like, I really want to say something, but that people-pleaser in me couldn't.

And this guy, it was almost like a sketch, where somebody is saying, you know, whispering in his ear, now do something even more annoying. He starts quoting Aristotle and French philosophers, and then he [chuckles] starts talking about Confucius, and he says, [in affected voice] well, in the opening act, the character seems to have a Confucian dilemma, and I turned and looked at him with the most passive aggression I ever had in my life, hoping that I wouldn't have to say something, that he would just see by the look in my eye.

And he looked right at me, turned away, and just kept on talking. And I didn't say anything. I could not, I could not find the part of me that felt I deserved to not have somebody being that rude, and I fucking hate that I couldn't, I don't know if it's that I'm so afraid of confrontation. So, I did what any person who struggles with [chuckles] going between people-pleasing and passive aggression, I live tweeted the whole thing and everything that I really wanted to say to the guy, and it was really just Mean DJ Voice in my brain feeding me mean jokes that I wanted to say out loud to the guy.

And I won't go into what all of them were, but I know it wasn't the healthy thing to do, but comedy has saved me for so much of my life, it's hard to not go there when my brain starts to overheat and that steam valve, I know how to work that steam valve. Well, I'll tell you one of the jokes that I wanted to say. I wanted to turn to the guy and say, sir, volume will not erase your 60 years of professional frustration. But I didn't. I didn't.

So, anyway, as I said, I do online therapy every week with BetterHelp.com. I love my therapist. Her name is Donna. She's awesome. If you want to try BetterHelp.com, go to BetterHelp.com/mental, and then complete the questionnaire and you'll get matched with a BetterHelp.com counselor and you get to experience a free week of online counseling to see if it's right for you, and you've got to be over 18. I highly recommend it. I am sold. I am sold.

I want to welcome a new sponsor to the show this week, AdamandEve.com. You know, we've talked a lot about on the show about embracing your authentic sexual self and how it can be a healthy thing. You know what? Maybe that involves buying a toy, doing some exploring, trying something new. Go to their Web site. Check it out. Type in a crazy phrase, see what comes up. Type in, punish my butthole. I bet you something comes up. Maybe you buy it, maybe you don't. Maybe I bought it all up and there's none left. It's none of your business.

And speaking of [chuckles] none of your business, they make your privacy a top priority. They use state-of-the-art encryption to protect your credit card info. They send your stuff out in plain, anonymous packaging. The name Adam and Eve will never appear on your billing statement. And for a limited time only, you get 50% off just about any item. After you pick out your item, you also get to pick three free things, and then they throw in a free mystery gift. And it's free shipping.

So, go to AdamandEve.com. Use the offer code MENTAL at checkout. That's M-E-N-T-A-L at AdamandEve.com, MENTAL at AdamandEve.com.

This is from the Happy Moment Survey and it was filled out by a woman who calls herself I’m A Casualty. And she writes, it's been a long season of depression and suicidal ideation, and I've recently become introduced to the monster of bipolar II's mixed states. I was lying in a lukewarm bath for the fourth time this week, trying to ease the body aches and anxiety, when I started listening to the newest episode with Jenny Jaffe.

As she shared her story of childhood depression and her list of fears, I found myself smiling and actually feeling relaxed because I heard a story of someone who went through exactly what I went through, minus the supportive family and help as a child, and I was genuinely happy to know that there are parents out there who see their own kids and are unafraid of the darkest truths. To feel a little less alone is the most beautiful thing on the planet, and Jenny did that for me.


[Show intro]


PAUL: I’m here with Jenna Brister, who is a stand-up comedian, writer. What am I, storyteller.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: You were recommended to me by one of our guests, Laura House. I think she saw you perform in a storytelling thing or something?


JENNA: Yeah. She saw me at Taboo Tales at Groundling Theatre.


PAUL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Taboo Tales is also a podcast, for you listeners. It's a live show here in L.A. but also a great podcast done by former guest of this show, Laurenne Sala and her partner Corey, remind me of Corey's--


JENNA: Podell. Corey Podell.


PAUL: Podell, that's right. I got to get Corey back on here.


JENNA: She's so great [chuckles].


PAUL: Where do we begin? You're how old?


JENNA: Oh, I guess, I'm 32. Yeah.


PAUL: And what are, because I don't know anything about you other than Laura said you should have Jenna on, and my friends are usually right about guest recommendations--


JENNA: Yeah [chuckles]. Yeah, absolutely.


PAUL: So, where would be a good place to start? You brought something in that you have written and read publicly before. Do you want to start with that?


JENNA: Yeah. I guess I'll just give a little brief intro about, we were talking a little bit before about my background. I guess I just, I grew up in Seattle. My whole family is still there. My parents are still married, which is, you know, amazing, because I'm not, and we'll talk about that.

But after college I moved to New York and started doing comedy and did UCB there and then got way more into storytelling and The Moth and stuff like that. I kind of found--


PAUL: So you've been on The Moth.


JENNA: Yeah. I--


PAUL: That's such a great--


JENNA: It's awesome. It's, I love that organization. And so, that's kind of where I started learning how to write my own stories, and so I moved to L.A. about five years ago to do the Groundlings. And I live in Venice and I have a dog and a cat.

And this story was really hard for me to write. It took me about three years to really get back up on stage and tell this story. And so, I'm excited to tell it to you guys because it's, it's not a fun topic, but I guess I might as well go ahead and launch into it.


PAUL: Okay.


JENNA: And this version that I wrote, it was initially for Taboo Tales, and they have, you've done the show, the visual punch lines.


PAUL: Yes.


JENNA: So, if you're listening, I'm just going to describe the image that was put up on the back [chuckles]--


PAUL: The slide that they would put up on the projection, yeah, yeah--


JENNA: Yeah. And so, and if you want to ever see a video of this, hit up Paul, he'll hit up me, and I can send you the video. So, here we go.

All right, so, I did a storytelling show on my 29th birthday because it's a great way to lure all my friends to one place and talk about myself into a microphone.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


JENNA: Kind of like this, so, thank you for listening. And after my birthday show, we were at a bar, and this tall Venezuelan friend of a friend sat down and wished me a feliz cumpleanos. Let's call him Javier. He was funny, charming and the chef of the restaurant next door.

We made out because it was my birthday and he's a Latino hottie. And the next day, he invited me over and made me dinner and from then on we were inseparable. And we were getting to know each other as he sliced and sautéed delicious things for me.

In week three of our romance, I was sitting on the toilet with the door open, talking about what we're allergic to, me, ChapStick, him, feathers, and I suggested that we move in together. I'd never lived with a man before, so I was thrilled.

We began sharing everything, including keys. And a few months later, he made me risotto and proposed to me with his grandma's gold rings that were brought up from Venezuela, and I said yes. And when I get good news, I like to go outside, and so [chuckles] we went outside and went to Zanzibar for salsa night. It was the only place open. This was in Santa Monica. But I can't dance backwards, so we just drank instead.

And it was fast, impulsive and wildly romantic, just like other successful couples I look up to.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


JENNA: Like a flash of was Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee, Chloe and Lamar and then Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey, and the list does go on [chuckles], and so I got married in Vegas, premeditated.

And the photographer at the chapel had us do this roll-the-dice motion for half the photos in the Romance Package, and upon hearing the news, most people responded with, oh, I didn't know you were even dating. I was like, well, you're right, I wasn't. And a few concerned friends asked if his green card status made him eager to make it legal.

No, of course not. We've been in love for 86 days. You know, and I even did--




JENNA: --a show talking about my taboo whirlwind nuptials the day we got back from Vegas, inspiring others to dive in. Who needs conventional timelines? And then they flashed up a picture of me doing that show, looking very confident [chuckles].

So, when we got back from our honeymoon, he quit his high-paying chef job, citing stress, so I got a second job, because that's what my instincts said a good wife would do. And over the next few weeks, the man I loved began to rapidly deteriorate into someone I didn't recognize. It's like he had this switch inside his psyche that flipped into control mode.

And he had all my passwords, because I trusted him, he's my husband, and then he went through my phone, deleted all male friends from my contacts. He said I can't have male friends anymore. Now that I'm married, it's not appropriate. And I was confused, but marriage was new territory for me, so I just justified it as recalibrating, you know, and figured it would pass.

Now, the only time he and I were apart is when I was nannying or at improv class, and one day I got a text from him, that he went through all my e-mails and found one from back in 2007 from an ex-boyfriend. At this point, that was about six months, you know, prior. He was in a rage.

So, I'm helping some celebrity's kid make a butterfly mobile for a science project, and my husband is pissed at me for getting an e-mail six months ago from a man that I was monogamously banging, and that was only the beginning.

Now, why didn't I tell someone about this bizarre turn in his behavior towards me? Well, it's because it's embarrassing. I'm a smart lady and this shit isn't supposed to happen to me. And he insisted on driving me anywhere, and at first I thought, how sweet, he wants to hang out, but this way he was able to keep tabs on my every move and isolate me from my friends.

After coming home one night from a double nanny shift, he was playing zombie video games in the dark and glares over at me. He says, you're lucky that I love you, nobody else ever would because you're a whore.


PAUL: Wow.


JENNA: And I, and this was after a night when I came in from nannying, from taking care of three children who didn't come out of me, so that I could pay our rent. And the extent of the verbal abuse is too intense to lay out, but trust me when I say it was really fucked up and things that no one should say to anybody.

But the screaming didn't let up, and it was always when we were alone at home or in the car, and he told me that I'm worthless, that I'm shitty, that I'm fat, that I'm ugly, that I'm stupid, that I have no talent, that I'm not a woman for not taking my husband's last name, that I'm not feminine, that nobody else would ever love me, brutal, brutal things.

And I had a real moment thinking, really? Like, my friends love me. My family does. And a homeless man just told me I had beautiful eyes outside the Whole Foods. And after a few scary episodes of him chasing me in a rage and then him driving barefoot to LAX, threatening to deport himself, he grabbed my cat Dante by the scruff and dragged his body along the stucco walls at our house.

And I grabbed for Dante and I felt this very pure fear that this guy could kill me. He's six-foot-four, 280 pounds, and he has a full set of knives. And I knew I had to get out.

But when you share a bed with someone scary, who's monitoring your every move, you don't want to get sniped in your effort to escape. And so I thought getting out of town for a bit would be good, change it up, so we went up to Seattle to see my family and to get some fresh air. And he cooked a big dinner for all the Bristers, and I was relieved at any moments of non-rage. And it was really creepy how he was in front of them, you know, chopping vegetables, singing my praises, and telling my parents how smart I was, how I peeled the potatoes perfectly, but I saw right through it, but they just ate it up.

And after a long, happy evening, everyone left and I went upstairs to put on pajamas when suddenly he appeared at the door with his hands behind his back, and he strolled past me slowly and a knife-blade cover dropped to the floor, and he pulled the knife out and I froze.

And then I thought, how poetic, being murdered in the family house where I spent so many Christmases, but then he held up the knife to his own wrist and he started crying hysterically and he said that he wanted to kill himself, and I begged him not to. And he said he wanted to die for being so mean to me and that I didn't deserve it, and I was so confused, like pick a side. You know, but I got him to drop the knife and then we cried and we fell asleep, and we drove back the next day with more screaming and fighting.

During a rare moment alone when I was at work, actually, I Googled, how do you know if you're in an abusive relationship. And it seemed silly at the time because the A word wasn't on rotation in my vocabulary, until I found one of the top results was the top 10 signs you're in an abusive relationship, and I clicked on it and it was from constant criticism to controlling behavior, hijacking your finances, verbal insults, insisting on driving you places, and I had nine out of 10. I was like, oh, okay, shit, this is real, this is.

You know, if you've ever seen someone yelling at their partner in public, it's exponentially worse behind closed doors. And the main event shitstorm began when he screamed at me to fuck off in public after tagging along on what was supposed to be a girls' night. He said I was a whore and pinch-twisted my leg under the table until I yelped out in pain. And he never crossed over into physical harm, so I panicked, and so we left the bar and his car was parked in front of mine.

And I pulled on my seatbelt and I saw his two white reverse lights, just as his car slammed into my front hood. And I looked out the window as he turned around and I locked eyes with my husband, and he drove off and I felt this instant rush that I was going to be okay. Because that's the thing with verbal, mental and emotional abuse. There's no bruises to show or no evidence to convince people what's really going on.

But finally, I had physical evidence of his aggression, and so I ran into my friends' house and I told both of them everything, which led to an all-night standoff with more knives, him threatening to kill me if I didn't come home, and so this time I had to call the cops at 3:00 in the morning.

They told me that we were newlyweds and this was normal for us to fight and that I should just go home to him--


PAUL: [Scoffs]


JENNA: And I knew that that would be certain death. So, thanks for your marriage advice, Officer, and go fuck yourself.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


JENNA: But I had no choice now but to tell my family, and I was terrified and so embarrassed. But I called my parents and told them what's been happening. My dad and my brother flew down that afternoon from Seattle, and I'll never forget the look in their faces when I picked them up at the airport. I was embarrassed and they were somber, but we talked only logistics, you know, I booked a storage space, you know, rented a U-Haul and we planned out when to call the police escort, you know, the usual.

And the next morning, my dad, brother and eight friends moved me out of the house in under two hours. And I told Javier not to be there because I needed to pick up a few things and that we would talk later that night. So, he obliged, you know, thinking there's no way I would ever leave him.

But the cops who showed up as the escorts were shocked. He doesn't know you're moving out right now? And they called for backup in case he returned. Because I described him to them and they said that this is typical, that my description of him fit a violent domestic abuser and that they usually take statements like this from a hospital bed. They told my dad I was smart to get out this fast, that nobody gets out this fast.

I figured this wasn't the time to tell them that I'd gotten it into even faster and how fun and carefree it is to wed in Vegas.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


JENNA: I didn't have time for such nostalgia. I left his grandma's gold rings on the dining room table and we left. And I tell you this because it's not easy getting out. I am so lucky to have that much support. And I didn't take his apologetic calls, texts or letters, and he was relentless.

But I felt that if I let him near me, he would kill me, and that instinct proved to be right. And I educated myself after this on abuse and I joined a support group, and type of abuser he was, there's several different types, 90% of victims who are able to escape are killed by their abuser within the first year. And a couple weeks ago, it was three years, so that's great. But the old nine out of 10, it turns out I had a greater chance of being murdered by my first husband than I did of being called to come on down on The Price is Right.




JENNA: And I was relieved to be safe from it, but absorbing the endless tide of I-told-you-so's and, Jenna-you-should-have-seen-it-comings was too much to bear. There must have been signs. You got married too quick. How could you know him well enough? And everyone who said that stuff to me, or said that to anyone, you are part of the problem. That's victim-blaming.

And this is why it's wrong to say and think. It blames me for his abusive actions. It suggests that I am some way at fault and deserve this for my negligence. It's not my responsibility to not be abused by my husband. It's his responsibility to not be abusive to his wife.

But it is easier to say, you must have seen it coming, there must have been red flags, because that makes people feel safe. In our current culture it's more digestible to accept the stupid-woman narrative than the man-turned-monster narrative, like in The Shining. That pale lady never should have gone to the lodge with Jack Nicholson.




JENNA: Right? It's her fault for being stuck in that snowy lodge and not his fault for being bat-shit crazy.

But I got help from one woman who I nannyed for who knew a thing or two about escaping from monsters, and the picture that flashed up was Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, that I nannyed for her at the time, and she's an amazing woman, but she was away filming A Fault in Our Stars in Philly and offered me her L.A. house to stay in. And it had a gate, an alarm system and a black lab named Jamal. It overlooked the ocean.

And I was safe, and it was a lot like the first part of Jurassic Park, minus the dinosaurs. But in the weeks after, my dad and I had insomnia on the same nights, and he'd text me, hey, Jen, I can't sleep, I’m trying to figure out what I can do for you. And that broke my heart.

And I can't imagine the depth of his own heartbreak, seeing his girl go through this. And I would just text him back, Dad, you did everything right, because you taught me what love looks like and to love myself, so that I was able to tell the difference, and that is what saved me.

I had a pure heart and the best intentions going into it, and because of that I have zero regrets. A week later I flew up to Seattle to be in a girlfriend's wedding with everyone from my past, and I filled out divorce paperwork with my dad in my childhood home two months after filling out marriage paperwork in front of him, so my confidence was skyrocketing.




JENNA: When I got to the wedding, in the program it said, bridesmaid, Jenna Rodriguez, and I never took his last name and that was the first time I saw it in print, and she felt horrible, but I didn't mind so much, because it's like seeing a bird shit on a casket as it's being lowered into the ground. Why be upset? The worst has already happened.

Now, I do a lot of stand-up and storytelling and improv shows, but I cancelled everything I had booked in the aftermath of this because I was scared he'd show up to a show and shoot me, to be honest, and I gave the bouncers at the Improv pictures of him and I would have to text my dad and brother when I was coming and going from shows.

And I saw a therapist, who was really hot like JLo, and she helped me deal with feeling overexposed, to take good care of myself, and I had more support than I could fathom from both my biological and my L.A. families, and I slowly started to feel safe. And it doesn't feel good to talk about, but it's important, because it's a scary issue that's silenced by shame, which is why it took me so long to get back up on stage to talk about this polar opposite story from what I usually say.

And if any of you have ever, if any of you saw that show and got married in Vegas, I hope it's going better for you, and how fun is it to get married in Vegas? But sometimes you roll the dice and then the dice explode in your face. Thank you.


PAUL: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that.


JENNA: Yeah. Thank you.


PAUL: That's, I have so many questions.


JENNA: Yeah. Let's talk about it.


PAUL: What are you feeling? What are you feeling right now, after reading that?


JENNA: It, I think what strikes me the most, because it feels different, I think, every time, because it's something that you end up talking about a lot one on one, you know, and I think after it even happened is when I had other friends come to me and be like, I think I'm in something similar, I think my sister is in something similar, and being able to talk about it openly.

But it took me this long to have perspective on it. I think that's why it's so embarrassing, because there was a lot of that. Like I've lost some, I mean, lost a couple friends who didn't handle it well and who instead of offering support and understanding blamed me for getting into it.

But I remember thinking, it could have gone, we could have been together forever, but it's on him. He's the one who has, as I learned later, domestic abuse in his family and grew up in isolation witnessing that. And I didn't know that when I got married, and I can't blame myself for it.

All I can do is just choose my own freedom, and to get out of it, it's really hard, and that's the other thing, too. Like, I think so much in the news, I mean, there is so, like that Johnny Depp thing, I mean, the list goes on about domestic violence in the news. But there was a recent story I saw about this woman who even told the police, like I can't go back to my husband, you know, I think he'll kill me, and they're like, no, you should go home, and she got, he murdered her. I'm like, the cops told me the same thing.


PAUL: How, I don't understand how you can put police out on the street who have that little of an education about such a common and important topic.


JENNA: I agree. It's so prevalent. There are millions.


PAUL: Well, thank God there are some, because it sounds like the police that helped you, where they helped you move out, understood.


JENNA: Were awesome. They were so wonderful. And they were really supportive and--


PAUL: And were they from the, a different police unit than--


JENNA: Same. Yeah, a precinct up in, I want to say maybe in the Burbank, up in there, because I was living in Echo Park at the time and that was the closest station we could find. And so it's shocking that there isn't a standard of protocol, because I experienced polar opposite. One man called for backup. The other one told me to go home. I was like, pick a, you know, but that's why it's so--


PAUL: Sadly, I've heard that from so many people who, or in the news heard that story, that the cops thought this is, because I, you know, I guess, and I'm not defending what those cops did. I guess I'm trying to understand why it would happen, because I suppose there are many domestic disputes that aren't necessarily life-endangering or physically abusive, where both parties are super worked-up and maybe a neighbor calls because they're concerned. I don't know. I'm just trying to--


JENNA: You're right, though, because there's a yelling match versus a--


PAUL: Right.


JENNA: --an abusive, yeah, totally, because I've had a scream, you know, had it out with a boyfriend before [chuckles], you know, but very different, yeah.


PAUL: So, when was the last time that you had any contact with, right before you moved out? Have you managed to evade him since then?


JENNA: I have, yeah. I have. And it's been hard. It's hard, because he's still in Los Angeles, but I, doing the divorce paperwork was tough because I had to send it through someone. You know, I had a friend be the delivery person, you know, and he reached out a lot, sent letters through friends, and I said, don't give these to me anymore, because there's no way, you know, because I knew my instincts were like, no, this--


PAUL: He is not to be trusted.


JENNA: --he turned into a monster too fast, about five days after we got back from our honeymoon and, and after I, I like educated myself on it. There's this book, it's called Why Does He Do That? by this man named Lundy Bancroft, who--


PAUL: What's the first name?


JENNA: It's called, oh, Lundy, L-u-n-d-y Bancroft, and it's, I mean, the most incredible book. He's done case studies for 30 years, and he kind of breaks down, you know, the patterns, the different types, and then just offers like ways to tell, ways to deal with it, how to get out, and that's, that was my first education in this, you know, of being like, oh, I'm not alone.

Reading the book was bone-chilling, bone-chilling to see all these accounts of the exact same thing that happened to me, and I was like, oh, this is a, you know.


PAUL: You know, what's interesting, too, is the pattern they use to control the person they're going to abuse is so similar to the pattern that the pedophile uses on a child. You lavish them with praise. You fill a need that they're not getting somewhere else. You isolate them. And then you chip away at their self-esteem so they believe that they need you.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, absolutely. That's exactly what it was, you know, because it went from, in our short courtship, I would do a show, come home, there would be a banner on the wall and a bottle of champagne, congratulations on your show. And then right after we got married, it was, no, you can't do that show, no, you can't do stand-up, you can't talk about sex on stage, you know, or you can't talk about this, because you're married now. And I was like, exactly, you know, it's that polar opposite.


PAUL: Wow.


JENNA: Yeah. It was shocking, you know, but even, like I think that's been the biggest deal lately, is just, and why this is so, it's so good to talk about it, because like shining a flashlight on it, because then that, you know, like every time I read it, and it's so maddening. I try to not go crazy when I read the news, when they're like, oh, well, you know, she's probably lying because she wants half his money.

I'm like, it's so embarrassing. It's so embarrassing to tell people after, you know, you have a wedding [chuckles] that, and we got married at this chapel where like, you know, Britney Spears got married and like all these celebs because they livestream it, so people were tuning in all over the, you know, all my friends, and then have to come out and be like, oh, this person I thought I knew is a monster, is so, you know, I thought I could trust myself more, and that was, that's been the hardest thing.


PAUL: Talk about what it felt like when he was putting his show on for your family.


JENNA: Oh, God. It was so scary.


PAUL: What did you feel like in your body, and what were your thoughts, if you can remember?


JENNA: Yeah, I can. I can picture specifically--


PAUL: Because I can just feel my stomach drop picturing--


JENNA: Yeah, yeah, because--


PAUL: --watching someone put on a show that you know is a psychopath or whatever you want to call it.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, totally, because that's another thing, too, like, yeah, they charm everyone in your life, and it is, I mean, yeah, a nauseous feeling because I could just, it was almost like I was terrified to see what was going to happen in the car, because I knew I was going to get yelled at for something I didn't do or say or think.

And it's, it was almost like watching a, like a nightmare puppet show, you know, like you're watching these things happen where you're like, this isn't real, you know, he doesn't really think these things, and, but I can't say anything. He'll be like, you're lying, because, you know, he's my husband and my friends think we're happy and, you know.


PAUL: Do you think he will ever, I know you probably don't care, but this is just an intellectual question.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.


PAUL: Do you think he will ever seek help, or do you think he's such a narcissist that, because, you know, he did break down that one time outside the bedroom at your parents' house--


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: --which kind of, I don't know, it kind of confused me because he's, from what you've described, he strikes me as the type of person that does not hold himself accountable for things.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.


PAUL: But now that I think of it, that's not his way, that's not being accountable. That's actually just another way to manipulate you to keep you from being mad at him. It's to, I'm going to coat over this with her sympathy--


JENNA: A thousand percent.


PAUL: --so, strike that question, that I just--


JENNA: No, but you're exactly right, and that's, that was the cloud of confusion--


PAUL: That's such the mind fuck, that's the mind fuck.


JENNA: Totally. And I was in that cloud deep, you know, because I remember, even during some of his screaming fits, I remember thinking, I would have to ask him like, what are you yelling about? Like, what, and he would just scream like, I don't know, I’m tired, and then storm off somewhere. And I was like, what is even happening? But you're right, it's because he wanted me to feel bad for him so I wouldn't be mad.


PAUL: Be mad at him.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, because that's manip-, he was just a master manipulator, like the best at it. But then I'm better because I got out, you know.


PAUL: But you, what you did was truthful. That wasn't manipulative at all. That was beautiful.


JENNA: Yeah, yeah, telling the truth.


PAUL: It's beautiful.


JENNA: And it's, and, you're right, that was like the, I think the hard part, too, because I had never been married before, and I, I think part of me just at first kind of was like, is this part of the deal?

But then I remember thinking, no, I've seen marriages that people don't treat each other like this, you know, really. And I've had long-term relationships where that man has never been anything like that towards me, and so I, you know, in the cloud of it all, I was kind of like, I know that this isn't love, and I think that's why it's so prevalent, because, you know, it's confusing because it's attention. It's all the attention that you don't want, but it's still attention and the possessiveness, I can see why it's confusing. You know, it seems like, oh--


PAUL: Yeah, absolutely.


JENNA: --he wants to drive me everywhere, oh, he cares--


PAUL: Yes, he loves me so much it's upsetting him.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: But that's not love.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, no. Exactly.


PAUL: What have you learned in the, if it's not a private support group, can you say what the name of it is and what you've learned there? I know some support groups are anonymous, 12-step-based, stuff like that.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: I'm just thinking in case there's somebody listening that is like, oh, my God, I want to find a support group like that, where did you find it and what have you learned there and how has it helped you?


JENNA: Yeah. I went to it only for the first month, actually. It was a, this one was an abused women's group through the Y, the YMCA, not the YWCA in Santa Monica, and I only ended up going a handful of times, because it was on the night I worked. I nannyed still, and it was on Wednesdays, and so I remember I took a couple of the Wednesdays off because I was like, I need this for myself, and my boss was so cool and like, yeah, go, you know, you need to be there.

The most shocking part of it was that I was the only woman there who had left the man. Everyone else, about 15 women, who had not left him, and that was the most heartbreaking, because I remember thinking, like, oh, my God, you're going to leave here and go see him, you know. And one woman was like in a cast, like a body cast, and--


PAUL: And that wasn't enough.


JENNA: Yeah. Had been with him for I think 19 years. I remember thinking, I made it two months and I, you know, I got out before that, and I think that, but that's I think the realism of it, is that I'm the odd one, you know, in that I was able to get out.


PAUL: And, you know, the truth about illnesses like love addiction is that that is how bad it can get, that people die from it. People die from their inability to accept reality, because they don't want it to be true. They so badly want to believe that this person is going to change.


JENNA: Yeah, totally. And that the shame outweighs the desire for self-preservation, you know.


PAUL: Yeah. And I think there's, too, a confusing of can people change with should I wait for this person to change--




PAUL: --and those are two completely different things. Yeah, people do change, but [chuckles]--


JENNA: Mm-hmm, totally.


PAUL: --you're not safe waiting for this person to change.


JENNA: Yeah, exactly. And by you staying, it doesn't give them an incentive.


PAUL: How do you feel that what you have went through has strengthened you, made you a better person, positive? I'm just guessing there have been positive things that have, silver linings to what you've been through.


JENNA: Absolutely, absolutely.


PAUL: Can you talk about them?


JENNA: Yeah. I think I had no idea how much I loved myself until this. I, and my dad, just being so grateful for having males in my life, like my dad and my brother specifically, who have always loved me so much, and they were the ones I kept thinking of when he, I remember like one night he screamed at me all night.

And the sun rose outside my window and then I had to go I think do improv, I had like improv class at the Groundlings, and I was like, I have to go throw fake knives with other adults [chuckles] at 10:00 a.m. and I've been screamed at all night. And I remember thinking like, my dad and Joey would not stand for this, like--


PAUL: Joey is your brother?


JENNA: Yeah, Joey is my brother. I was like, and if they were here, they would be mortified, and that was such a barometer to me, you know, because it's, that was so hard, and I think I knew I had something bigger to do. I have things I want to create and stuff I want to write, and I'm working on that now, and that I love, like the things that I love were in jeopardy. And that--


PAUL: Do you feel that you now have a tool in your belt when it comes to getting yourself out of toxic friendships, that you're able to recognize them sooner or, at the very least, not tolerate them to the degree that you would have tolerated them before?


JENNA: Absolutely, yeah. Definitely, whether it's, because I've noticed that people show themselves, or I'm more aware, people really show themselves, you know, in times of like, in good times and in bad times, you know, and I think that's the other thing that happens a lot, because I'm a very, I'm a naturally joyful person.

I love life. It's very fun. You know, you're a comedian, too, like it's very, I get to do what I love, but that's something that since this happened, when people find out, you know, because I don't lead with it. I don't often talk about it. You know, but they're like, well, how, you know, you're so happy. And I'm just like, yeah, I'm not with a monster.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


JENNA: I got out. Like, I'm the happiest girl on the planet, you know, like I experienced something and I think also, like the hard, I mean, this just came to me, but I think I was really surprised at how genuinely excited I was going to, I was to get to be a wife.

That was never something I really, like I think, you know, and growing up I assumed that, you know, I was like, oh, I'll probably get married and have kids, but the older I got and then, you know, doing stand-up and everything and this life, I was like, that'd be fun but who knows, but I didn't have the chance to do it.

You know, and I think it's maybe different for people who were married for long enough. Then you get divorced and you have a nostalgia, but I didn't even, I have no idea what it's like to be married. I would love to experience it someday because I think there's something beautiful about that partnership, and I don't know, you know. I just, it was very different, so.


PAUL: What else would you, if anything, would you like to talk about, struggles you've been through, things you think about yourself, battles in your head, difficult things you've been through in the past, fantastic things you've been through in the past that have changed you, you know, any kind of a seminal moment in your life from childhood or adulthood or yesterday?


JENNA: Yeah. Oh, that's a great question. It's a great question.


PAUL: And especially the things that are hard to talk about, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way, but--


JENNA: Yeah. And I think this kind of goes in with this, and this is something I, again, I think is probably on theme with the podcast, is that my, I don't speak to my mom anymore because of a lot of what's coming up in this story and recognizing, after this happened, recognizing the abuse patterns with her and that, that's really hard. That's really hard for me.

And I don't ever talk about it, you know, socially or on stage even because it's, you know, I don't wish her bad whatsoever. I mean, she Googles me. She's probably going to hear this. She Googles me all the time.

But she was the only person in my life who was ever, you know, really kind of emotionally abusive and told me I wasn't funny and that, you know, she was always really disappointed in me for not being married and, you know, she also called me a whore once. And, because she Googles me and tries to see stand-up and, I think she told me I'm not funny, that was like two years ago, and after that I was like, we're done-zo, you know.

After living through this and being on my own and then having someone, you know, but, and that's the hard part, is like recognizing, even someone in your own family, it doesn't mean that they're a good person or that they're the most mentally safe for you to be around. And, I mean, it sucks, but I think it's because she's got her own stuff that she has to work out.


PAUL: I did the same with my mom four years ago, and it was the hardest thing I ever did.


JENNA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: And I would go back and forth in my mind between good for you, you are doing what is healthy for you, and you're a terrible son, you didn't try hard enough. And as the time has gone on, I've become more and more comfortable in the decision and I feel more and more strength and resolve within myself.

So, I, I get it. I get how difficult it is. And I'm sorry that that's the, that was your experience, but, you know, high-five for you taking care of yourself, because I, yeah, I don't buy in to that, you know, biological bullshit--


JENNA: I don't either.


PAUL: --you know, just because you come out of somebody, or you have their genes, that doesn't give them, you know, the right to not see you and treat you--


JENNA: Definitely. Do you have siblings?


PAUL: I have a brother.


JENNA: Okay, yeah. Yeah. Does it, it helps me, having siblings, because I can, you know, they're the only ones who are witness to it, I think, and, because it's hard to describe.


PAUL: It is hard to describe. You know, a lot of the stuff that happened to me happened out of view, even from him, but when I told him, he supported me. He said, I'm surprised but not I’m surprised.


JENNA: Mm-hmm. Yeah. That's good. And does it feel, you know, is your father still--


PAUL: My dad passed away in '06. My dad was not abusive, just neglectful, a high-functioning alcoholic who was just at the end of the couch and didn't really want to interact with anybody, not mean, but just in his own world, in his own world.


JENNA: Mm-hmm. Yeah.


PAUL: Do you, can you try to give me some snapshots of your relationship with your mom?


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: And maybe, if you can think of any, some, and this was the part that was so hard about cutting contact with my mom, is there were beautiful moments and there are parts of her that are positive, that helped me grow as a person, and that's what was so heartbreaking about it, is that there's a part of her, and I said this in my good-bye letter to her, is there is a part of you that I will always love, but there is a part of you that is not healthy for me to have contact with.

Talk about the parts of her that you love and miss, if there are any.


JENNA: Yeah, there definitely are some. That's a great question. My mom is so crafty. She's an amazing seamstress, and I think growing up, my favorite part is that we always were doing art throughout the day.

My dad was always, you know, at work, and I have a brother and a sister, and I remember waking up as a little kid and we'd have watercolors laid out and, you know, fabric and a mud pit to play in, and we would just get to paint our, we have all these photos of we would just paint watercolor on our bodies [chuckles], like we would just, and then she would hose us off in the front yard.

And we had a very Huck Finn childhood in that way. You know, I'd tell her like, I want to make a penguin quilt, and she's like, perfect, and we would go to the fabric store and pick out fabric and then she taught me how to sew, so I know how to sew, which is amazing. You know, I can make quilts and clothes and dresses and everything--


PAUL: Wow.


JENNA: Because she was amazing at that, you know, and even to this, I mean, not to this day, but up until recent, you know, she's someone you can, she can make anything out of, you know, fabric or yarn and stuff, which is awesome.

And I think, too, she was at every sporting match I ever had, I think. I played a lot of sports. In high school I played tennis and volleyball, softball, basketball, and my mom was always there. She was at every single thing, you know. And that's amazing and I think has a lot to do with my own personal confidence, because that's rare, you know. To me, it was just like, oh, of course my mom's here, you know, but that was--


PAUL: That is not a given.


JENNA: No, it's not a given.


PAUL: Do you remember things that she would say to you after games?


JENNA: Yeah. I remember actually one time, I've never talked about this before. She came to a match, I remember I was playing this girl, or no, it was a doubles match, and these other, it was in high school, and so these other high-schoolers are in a car and they were heckling the tennis match and my mom was there.

No one else was, like our coach was kind of there, and they were yelling, saying that I looked like a boy, and my mom got up out of the bleachers and ran over and bitched these high-schoolers out [chuckles], to the point where they were just like were in shock, because my mom's like this little, you know, like five-five, just like very sweet, like bobbed haircut, and she just tore them a new one for yelling at her daughter.

And it was like one of the first times I've ever, only time I've ever seen her be like a mama bear to me and to protect me. But at that moment, I was like, this could be embarrassing, but it's also really cool, you know, and I thanked her in the car afterwards, and it was like a very, that was the only time anything like that has ever happened. Because I was never bullied before, but that was like, that was it, you know. But she, I'm trying to think of another like--


PAUL: It's interesting, too, that she had the instinct to protect you from bullies but she couldn't not bully you herself.


JENNA: Yeah. Yeah, totally. And it accumulated, I think, over so many years. Like it starts off so, you know, oh, she just has, you know, rage issues, you know, or would lose it on me but not on my siblings, but always me.


PAUL: Really?


JENNA: Yeah. I think because I was always the one that I think she knew was not going to stay nearby. I was always going to leave, you know, because I, ever since I was little, I was like, I'm going to go do big things, I'm out of here, you know [chuckles].

And so, and since I, I think I haven't lived in Seattle since I was 18. You know, I went to college and moved to New York and then here, and I think it was easier for her to just still be like that because I wasn't there. I wasn't in her day to day, so she could call me up and say whatever she wants and then, you know.


PAUL: So, she got meaner after you moved out.


JENNA: Ooh, I guess, that's a good question. I think she got more cutting, where in high school it was, same thing with like the weight, where she would, you know, make fun of me for being underdeveloped, you know, like I'm a confident A cup and, you know, she used to just, you know, I'd be like, oh, I want to go dress shopping, and she's like, well, you know, why, you can't fill anything out. And I remember being like, oh, God, okay.


PAUL: That's so horrible.


JENNA: But yeah, it's really bad. Like back then, it was one of those things where I would just kind of go in my room and be like, oh, God, okay, you know, like all my feminine development and learning didn't even happen, you know, and like I think only recently in, you know, talking to some therapist, when I was like, oh, I have to go back. Like I've been doing this thing where I go back and I journal as seven-year-old Jenna or 12-year-old Jenna and I talk to myself, you know, and go back--


PAUL: It's so powerful.


JENNA: It's so good.


PAUL: You cry so fuckin' hard.


JENNA: Mm-hmm. Because you can see them, right, you can see, I see myself.


PAUL: My therapist had me talk to a picture of myself at the age I was, the abuse was the worst, and, oh, my God, when you see the innocent face of that child is when it really hits you, because I think to protect our brains as adults, we picture ourselves as little adults experiencing what we experienced. But when you see that picture, you see--


JENNA: How innocent you were.


PAUL: --how innocent you were.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, and no idea, and defenseless, like we didn't, I couldn't defend myself, you know, because I was so little, you know and--


PAUL: Do you remember what you said to yourself, or what you thought or--


JENNA: I remember when I got ballsier in high school, I think that's when, she would say stuff like that to both my sister and I but not to my brother. I mean, he was, you know, they always wanted a son, so he was like the prized one.

He's a lovely person, but I remember I would yell at her and call her a bitch, and then I would run down to my room crying, and my dad would come down and be like, I don't know why she says this, and I'm like, why are you married to her? You know, like, I didn't understand the source. I didn't understand that it was her, it was her own dislike of herself and her own--


PAUL: Yeah.


JENNA: --unresolved trauma.


PAUL: Projecting it all on to you. I'm sure her mom shamed her, her dad shamed her. And I'm just going to guess that your dad had a controlling mom or a controlling dad?


JENNA: Oh, yeah, he, actually I never met his dad. He passed away very young, I think when my dad was in college, and my dad's mom was like definitely the matriarch of our family. She is so awesome, like a total storyteller, like a Big Fish type person, but it was very much the, she was like a socialite, like a debutante in Texas, you know, was like in the papers and just like larger-than-life woman, so yeah, definitely like a more, she was a personality for sure.


PAUL: But a nice person?


JENNA: Oh, yeah. Yeah.


PAUL: Oh. For some reason--


JENNA: Lovely.


PAUL: --I pictured, you know, the stereotype of somebody being drawn to an abusive mate. You know, it's usually they're trying to replay some relationship with a parent or something like that.


JENNA: Totally. And I think they met and married so young, in college, so maybe there wasn't even, you know, signs or awareness of that at that point, but--


PAUL: Have you ever experienced any rage at your dad for not sticking up for you when your mom would be abusive?


JENNA: I did more in college, because when I would go home, that's when it was more potent, you know, because when I lived at home it was kind of more spread out. There'd be good times.

But then when I was home visiting for a holiday or a long weekend, it would be more rapid-fire, you know, because I was there and she was able to, you know, throw daggers at me much faster. And it usually was just about my weight, which was so odd because, podcast listeners, all bodies are beautiful, but I was not, I was like a size zero in high school, and I remember--


PAUL: That's too much.


JENNA: Yeah, right [chuckles].


PAUL: That's too much.


JENNA: Yeah. And I remember thinking--


PAUL: If you're not a negative size, you're a, you are a manatee, you are a manatee.


JENNA: Yeah, exactly [chuckles], I'm walking home from this.


PAUL: Yes.




JENNA: But yeah, and I think that was also, I mean, coincided with my first boyfriend ever, and I remember like, you know, I had my own phone in my room and I would call him just crying, and he was like, Jenna, you're beautiful, she doesn't know what she's talking about. And so I miraculously never developed an eating disorder, but I developed a, like a, you know, a tolerance disorder to this woman, you know, for saying--


PAUL: What do you mean?


JENNA: Like I just, I put up with it. Or I let it affect me in a way that, because I felt like I had no other choice.


PAUL: I was going to say, I have never met anybody who had an abusive parent in childhood that saw it for what it was and just tuned them out and put their head down and, you know, bided their time. I've never, I think because we so badly want to believe that we have a parent that isn't that way. We then go, well, they must be right, you know, or some part of it must be true.


JENNA: Yeah. Or I have to do something to earn this.


PAUL: Right.


JENNA: You know, and I think that's, the older I've got, the more when I look back on kind of how my life's trajectory went, like I very much, from a young age, decided that I was going to earn it, earn her love. You know, I was going to--


PAUL: How'd that work out?


JENNA: --be the best. Oh, man, I burned out so hard. I mean--


PAUL: Are you a total perfectionist?


JENNA: Oh, God, it's bad. I was like president of every school I've been to. I was homecoming queen. I was tennis captain. I was this, on the outside, what looked like a perfect all-American childhood, and looking back, I'm like, wow, I, I burned myself out as a kid, you know.


PAUL: What were your common negative thoughts about yourself as a kid and your common negative thoughts about yourself today?


JENNA: As a kid it was that I--


PAUL: Kid/teenager, any time--


JENNA: Yeah, a young woman, yeah. That I wasn't pretty. I never, she never told me I was pretty or beautiful as a kid, you know, which I know it might sound strange, but I, that was, you know, that's a big deal as a girl, you know. And I think I just thought that I wasn't enough, that I must be doing something wrong, or something's wrong with me if she doesn't love me, because aren't you supposed to love whatever comes out of you, you know?

And so I thought I must have some sort of unlovable defect. And as a grown woman, I still wrestle with the feminine thing. I think that has been a process. It's getting a lot better because I think I've had more awareness of it, where before, especially in stand-up, like I think I put on a, you have to put on a shell being, I think I was, I was 22, doing stand-up in New York, and it's, you know, like a shark tank [chuckles]. You're like a tiny minnow.

I put on a masculine energy around myself as a shield, and not until now where I'm able to kind of take that off and break down those layers, I’m like, wow, I didn't, I never tapped in to my like feminine side or that intuition side of me or like let myself enjoy being a woman and like that part of me, which is very real. Like I love cooking and baking. I do it all the time now, you know, because I'm trying to just make a conscious effort to do what I love no matter what it looks like.


PAUL: And it's a nice thing for yourself.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, totally. Yeah, like it's meditative for me now, just getting to do that.


PAUL: I can't watch old stand-up of myself because the way I am performing, not necessarily the ideas that I had, but the manner that I'm delivering it in is so what you called it, just there's this shell, and it's just autopilot and there's, like I put a tape in because somebody's doing a documentary about Chicago comedy and they wanted me to send them a tape so I had to look, and I kid you not, as I sat watching it, every five seconds I just went, ugh, ugh, it was so hard.

But more than anything, it made me sad. It made me sad that I didn't, that I didn't, that I was trapped in a prison of my own making, I guess, that the door was open for me to get out but I couldn't see it, so I just thought, I've just got to keep, you know--


JENNA: Head down, just do it, put on the shell and--


PAUL: Head down, just do it, and--


JENNA: Take the bullets and then just, yeah. It is, it's unlike anything. I think there's something so, especially with stand-up, too, you know, because that world is, you know, eight minutes on stage but then all the other time [chuckles] is the really, to me the really, you know, hard stuff. It's hard.


PAUL: Yeah, especially when you're starting out, your worth seems to be tied to how your last show went.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, definitely. Yeah.


PAUL: It's nice when you break free of that and you've been doing it long enough that you go, it just wasn't my crowd, you know, what am I going to do tomorrow?


JENNA: Yeah, mm-hmm.


PAUL: I think I'll go play basketball or, you know, whatever.


JENNA: Yes, yeah. Exactly.


PAUL: Any other issues or things that you struggle with today or things from your past you want to talk about?


JENNA: Oh, yeah, I think, oof. I've been really more, I guess--


PAUL: Before you go, and let's remember what it was you were going to say--


JENNA: Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely.


PAUL: --I meant to ask you this. What is it about yourself that you think is not feminine enough?


JENNA: Oh, yeah. [Long pause] I mean, I would probably have to be, and this is the biggest one I've had to wrestle with, is my body, and that's where it starts, is just, you know, seeing myself, looking in the mirror, and saying, you are a beautiful woman [nervous chuckle], that's it, you know. And, because I'm, I mean, it's so hard not to compare yourself, you know, but I think it does go back to that.

Early on, you know, I wasn't curvy and voluptuous like my sister, you know, and so I was shamed for that instead of being like the opposite, which, oh, my God, if I could go back and be able to just whisper in my own ear and be like, you are great, you will one day find a man who loves the fact that you have an A cup, you're going to do cartwheels in a tube top and love your life--




JENNA: --and you can wear little kids' clothes from the thrift store and you can do all sorts of things, you know, and you're perfect, you're perfect, and I think that's the biggest thing, is, you know, learning how to dress for my body type, you know, what to wear so that I feel feminine when I put it on.

You know, because everything's cut for, you know, a 34C, you know, and I'm not that [chuckles], and finding ways how I can do that so that when I'm, you know, getting ready in the morning, just taking care of myself, treating myself well, getting massages, getting my nails done, you know, stuff like that that seems so silly but something I never indulged in as a kid, ever, you know.


PAUL: That's one of the reasons I think sports can be so healing, if they're, you know, approached in a way that isn't, you know, I'm trying to feed a bottomless pit and Dad doesn't hug me so watch this--


JENNA: Yeah [chuckles].


PAUL: --if, for me, it reminds me, because I have also hated parts of my body for a long time and still struggle accepting some of them, but when I, for instance, play hockey, I love my body and I feel strong and I feel masculine and it's a relief, you know. It's really nice, and I imagine a lot of kids and women especially have strengthened their self-esteem through sports and seeing that, oh, my body is more than just something that may turn someone on on Facebook.


JENNA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: It gets me around. It helps me kick a goal. It helps me spike a volleyball or, you know, whatever.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, see sights that I wouldn't normally see. Like I run a lot, I got more into that about 10 years ago, and that's the best, and yoga, I've gotten more into that lately, too, but you're right, the feeling of being strong. Like, I'd rather be strong than anything, because I think that's all I have, you know. It's like, this is it. This is our space in the universe right now, and so it's like, yeah, definitely.


PAUL: Yeah. So, back to the thing you were about to talk about before I cut you off, anything else you'd like to talk about, things past or present you've struggled with.


JENNA: Yeah. I think, I wanted to, the mom stuff. I love that you said you wrote a good-bye letter, and that's something I, I never thought of doing but that might be really great, not just like--


PAUL: I put it off forever. And it, it was hard to sit in that kind of limbo.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, and then just, and you're right, that makes a lot of sense, because I feel like the times when I tried to help her get help or talk it out or be the one to have the solution, it was just argument, you know, and I have never laid it all out.

You know, I just announced to the family that it's game over, I'm not, I'm done with this, I'm not going to be her punching bag anymore, but she doesn't get it. She doesn't get it. She texts me sometimes. I had to block her e-mail. She'd still e-mail me, like, hey, everything's great, love you, and I'm like, what? Like I told you that we're done with this--


PAUL: It sounds like she lives in her own reality.


JENNA: She does, yeah, very much so. And you know, I spent Christmas down here with my pets in Venice and I loved it. There was something very peaceful about waking up alone on Christmas morning and not having to do anything [chuckles]. I just--


PAUL: That's Christmas.




JENNA: That's Christmas, really. It was amazing. I was like, oh, oh, and I took my dog for a walk on the beach, it was blustery, I was like, I love, I love the choices that have led me to this moment, whatever those are. They led me here and I'm doing something right because I'm at peace right now, and I think the letter, that's something I want to mull over and do and just, you know.


PAUL: And for me, it was much easier to send it when I was not sending it from a place of anger, which took me years to get to. And it felt like it was coming from a place of compassion and diplomacy towards her, but even more so compassionate for myself.

You know, one of the, I had an epiphany one day that it, we should have compassion for other people but not at the expense of compassion for ourselves, and that was what finally dawned on me why I needed to do this, because I had been kind of serving her feelings since I was, since I was a little kid and it was killing me. But it's, it sounds like you're in that place right now, where you don't hate your mom but you're just taking care of yourself.


JENNA: Mm-hmm. And wish her the best and hoping that she in her own way will get the help she needs, that I, it's not my responsibility to give that to her, and that's what took me a lifetime [chuckles] to realize, you know.


PAUL: Are you a fixer when it comes to friends and their problems and emotions and stuff like that?


JENNA: Yeah. I think I am, you know, because I want to help them and I feel like, you know--


PAUL: And then you don't have to think about yourself.


JENNA: Yeah. And I think you're right, what you were saying before about the responsibil-, you know, since then how friendships have gone, and I think I've gotten much better, or I know I have, about being able to honestly look at someone and be like, am I taking responsibility for someone else by showing up? Am I being a crutch to them instead of letting them figure their shit out, because a lot of times that's what it is.


PAUL: Yeah. And the other thing is, is this relationship feeding me in any way, and a lot of times the answer to a relationship is no, it's draining me. It started off as I want to help this person, but it's completely one-sided. It's all about them. Or when it does come back to me, it's backhanded compliments or, you know, whatever.

But I think if you can, if you can live through cutting a family member out of your life, it's, because it's so scary and so hard, but if you can do that, I mean, it's, there's a lot you can do, there's a lot you can do if you've gone through that and come out the other side.


JENNA: Yeah, totally. And the experience, too, after, and I'd love to hear about your experience, too, because right after I made the conscious choice to cut her out, so much started happening. Like I went on my first-ever comedy tour up the West Coast. I always wanted to do the road, did a month on the road.

I met, or I started dating my best friend and we're still together to this day, the healthiest partnership I've ever been in in my life. He's amazing, and we have this really cool, we call it we're sovereign partners, is how I describe it. You know, we're both, like he's just awesome, and I've never dated anyone, you know, where I would feel just complete support and like that I am independent and able to say and do everything that I feel.

And also, I think I just stopped, you know, binge drinking, so I wasn't trying to fill, you know, to numb it anymore. Yeah, my friendships got deeper because I wasn't trying to please everyone, because I wasn't trying to please the main one anymore, and so the other ones kind of fell off.

And I finished two screenplays, you know. I was in my first movie recently. That's why I have these bangs--




JENNA: --I got a movie.


PAUL: Congratulations.


JENNA: It was great, yeah.


PAUL: Is it something that we can see?


JENNA: Yeah, yeah. It's actually, it's called Permanent. It's with Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson.


PAUL: Awesome.


JENNA: Yeah, it's awesome. It's going to come out, it was through Tribeca Film Grant, I think. The director and writer is this woman named Colette Burson. She wrote that show Hung on HBO--


PAUL: Oh, okay. Yeah.


JENNA: Yeah, and she's awesome, and she was at a stand-up show I did last March, I think, and so, yeah, she asked me to audition for it and it was such a great experience. But yeah, it's called Permanent so definitely--


PAUL: Cool.


JENNA: Yeah. And I think once, looking at that, at the before and after, if that's the earthquake in my life, afterwards, oh, my gosh, the freedom to create, because before I was terrified of her Googling me, because that's what she would do.

She would Google me and then call my siblings and be like, Jenna did a show about this, rah, rah, and I'm like, I, you know, [chuckles] I'm proud of who I am on and off stage, and if this woman insists on, you know, and she started sending me hate mail. That's why I had to cut it off, too, like hateful mail, and I was like, this is just--


PAUL: Did it at least at the bottom say happy birthday?


JENNA: Yeah [chuckles], with love, Mom, yeah. And I remember reading it as if, you know, I was like, this reads like a crazy person from the woods went to a library and then like e-mailed me. Like it didn't read like anyone who knew me, and so that's why I knew, I was like, okay, like I have to make a real choice. And so, and the proof is in my life afterwards, that it's like awesome [chuckles], you know.


PAUL: I try to remember that, when I'm in the middle of something that's painful or difficult, that maybe this will help me appreciate life more when this is over.


JENNA: Definitely.


PAUL: Anything else you want to share before you hit us with some fears and loves?


JENNA: Oh. You know, I think just that, like I, my heart feels so light right now, getting to talk to you about this.


PAUL: Oh, good. Good.


JENNA: Really, I--


PAUL: It's going to help a lot of people.


JENNA: Yeah, I'm so excited, and I guess, anyone who's listening, if you know someone who this resonates with, the best thing you could ever do is give them the space to talk about it, because they probably won't bring it up themselves. But if you have an idea or have seen anything, you can be sure that something's going on because, once it hits the light of day, then you know it's really bad in the dark, so.


PAUL: And if you've never experienced that kind of mind fuck from somebody that gaslights, you don't know the power that it has, especially if that person already has a voice in their brain that tells them they're not enough.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, definitely.


PAUL: Yeah.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: Do you remember the name of the support group you, it was just at the YWCA? Did it have a name?


JENNA: I don't--


PAUL: I'm sure there's a thousand places people can Google.


JENNA: Yeah. That was the one, because I looked up a bunch and that was the closest to me, and I know the YWCA is, oddly enough, my mom volunteered for them for five years through our church, like stocking apartments for homeless families to move into. And so that was, that's why I was like, oh, I've heard of the YWCA, and it was lovely. I think I just ended up, my work schedule kind of prevented me from continuing to go, which sadly is probably a reality for a lot of people who want to go to a thing [chuckles] and, you know.


PAUL: You know, and that's another thing that speaks to the complexity of people that we experience as abusive, is your mom does volunteer work. My mom did a ton of volunteer work. And people are so fucking complicated. They're so complicated.


JENNA: Yeah, definitely.


PAUL: Did I, was there a thought you wanted to finish or something--


JENNA: Oh, yeah, just that, yeah, yeah, I think that's it, just talk about it, or, you know, reach out to people.


PAUL: And a lot of times a friend doesn't want to be fixed. They just want you to listen compassionately.




PAUL: Hug them, hold them, say I'm here for you.


JENNA: No advice. Don't be like--


PAUL: Just hold them and let them cry. I mean, that's the best moments I've had with friends, is when I cry on their shoulder, they cry on my shoulder, and not a lot needs to be said. You know, them just being there and not trying to change it is--


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: --like a really deep form of love and acceptance.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, definitely. And even offering to go to the group meeting. I remember I was like so nervous to go to the meeting by myself, because you, I didn't know, but once I went I was like, oh, this is great, this is like, you know, these are my people [chuckles], you know.


PAUL: Isn't that the best when you walk in, I always say that the first time I walked into a support group, it's like my entire life I'd felt like a three-legged dog and then I walked into a room of three-legged dogs.


JENNA: And it was like, what's up, everybody?




JENNA: Yeah, definitely.


PAUL: It's like, it's going to be okay, this is going to be okay.


JENNA: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Definitely.


PAUL: Give me some fears.


JENNA: Oh, yeah. All right. Do we go back and forth?


PAUL: I'll try to think of some.


JENNA: Okay, great.


PAUL: I've probably listed 400 fears of mine in the course of doing this show--


JENNA: Totally [chuckles].


PAUL: But, you know, maybe I'll repeat some.


JENNA: Awesome.


PAUL: Maybe I'll repeat some.


JENNA: I love it. All right, so this is, my first one is waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a human face staring in the window.




JENNA: That's my ultimate.


PAUL: One night my wife and I were in bed, and we have like a little skylight, and we looked up and some animal was looking down at us, and we couldn't really tell what it was, but its eyes were lit up and beady.


JENNA: Jesus [chuckles], oh, my God--


PAUL: And we were both so fucking terrified that I had to get a ladder, and I used Christmas paper to cover it up because it wouldn't stop looking at us.


JENNA: That's terrifying [chuckles].


PAUL: It was like out of a horror movie.


JENNA: That's so scary.


PAUL: Like out of a horror movie.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: Yeah.


JENNA: Oh, that's so freaky. Oh, my gosh, bone-chilling.


PAUL: Give me another one.


JENNA: I have, oh, so another big earthquake, like you mentioned Northridge, hitting while I'm trying on ill-fitting swimwear in a Ross Dress for Less fitting room. And that--


PAUL: Oh, and an earthquake hitting?


JENNA: Yeah, and then that's my outfit for end times--




JENNA: --is that I'm in like a really bad tankini for the apocalypse.


PAUL: That's the wrong size.


JENNA: Yeah, exactly, like too big or too small, either one, and that's it, and you have to run out and like get help.


PAUL: Oh, my God. When the earthquake hit, you know, it was 4:30 in the morning so we went running out, and I was just in my underwear and I didn't, this is when I wore glasses. I hadn't had Lasik yet, and I hadn't met anybody and it's all in our courtyard, so 20 apartments in a courtyard and there I am, in my underwear, and I can't see anything.

And I was like, do I go back in and risk dying, because it's still aftershocks are happening all the time and it's still scary, and I thought, I'm going to risk dying rather than stay out here another minute in my underwear, unable to see.


JENNA: Yeah, in front of all my new neighbors.


PAUL: Yes.


JENNA: That is wild.


PAUL: Yeah, it was not, it was not fun. But I've heard people that naked--


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: --you know, just out on the street, how are you, this is [chuckles]--


JENNA: Yeah, like this is it [chuckles]. That's why I don't, I used to sleep naked all the time. I don't here, because I think we've had a couple, you know, earthquakes, there was one last year, where the same thing, I grabbed my dog and ran out into the street--


PAUL: Don't run when there's an earthquake. Don't run.


JENNA: Don't run.


PAUL: Just maybe slide to like the nearest doorway. You want as many door frames around you as possible because that's more support from the roof falling in. Always have shoes near your bed.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: And shoes, comfortable shoes in your car, and always have water in both your car and in your apartment. And don't light a candle after because there could be gas leaks--




PAUL: And always have some type of like flashlight or something that’s charging or have batteries laying around, and some canned food. Sorry if that bores--


JENNA: No, that's great.


PAUL: --the people that don't live in earthquake countries, but--


JENNA: But that's so true. I need to do that in my trunk. I think I have water and shoes and some clothes and a blanket, but flashlight is a good call.


PAUL: Oh, absolutely. And the best is actually, REI sells them, and it's like the elastic headband miners' thing, because when it happens, you're going to be, you know, needing to bring the dresser back up and you're going to need both your hands.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, that's so true. I'm going to go get one. This is good.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


JENNA: Oh, oh, that I could pass away suddenly and my family will read all my journals [chuckles]. That's terr-, my sister is the first responder. I was like, just go get there first and do a sweep. Find everything and put it in a trunk and drive away [chuckles].


PAUL: [Chuckles] Somebody shared through a survey, we have surveys on the Web site that people fill out anonymously, and somebody shared that they had to be checked in to a mental hospital and their aunt went over to get something and in the middle of her bedroom was like some crazy dildo--


JENNA: Yes [chuckles].


PAUL: And her [chuckles], and her aunt and her laughed about it, but she said she was pretty horrified that her aunt found this thing.


JENNA: Yeah, totally.


PAUL: Well, the fact that you would be embarrassed that somebody would find your journal means that your journaling is good.


JENNA: Yes, totally [chuckles].


PAUL: You know what I mean, that you're getting the good--


JENNA: Unfiltered.


PAUL: --the good stuff out.


JENNA: Yeah, exactly.


PAUL: The good stuff out. Go ahead, give me another one.


JENNA: Oh, okay. This one, spending the night alone out at sea treading water, like if you get pulled on a riptide--


PAUL: Oh, oh.


JENNA: Right?


PAUL: Yeah. I almost drowned in a riptide in Mexico.


JENNA: That's terrifying.


PAUL: It was terrifying, and by the time I realized what was happening, I was just in full panic mode. I didn't even realize that I was caught in a riptide. I just knew, and it was weird because I was only like 15 yards from shore, but every time I would make headway, the backwash would bring me back out and I was starting to get exhausted.

And just as I felt like I couldn't go on, one brought me to the beach and I just remember laying face-down on the beach and I couldn't do anything except breathe as hard as possible, and I was just like, oh, my God, I almost fucking died.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: It's crazy.


JENNA: That is crazy. The ocean is so powerful, it's terrifying. Wow.


PAUL: And yet it gives us Baywatch.


JENNA: I know. Right?


PAUL: Maybe that's part of its power.


JENNA: Yeah, exactly [chuckles]. Oh, this is another one. Finding a scorpion in my pant leg.


PAUL: Ooh.


JENNA: We don't even have scorpions here, but there's, I think I saw some sort of show. I love like Discovery or a nature channel and watching that as a kid, and always having this deep fear that one will get up there.


PAUL: I have that about black widows or brown recluses getting in my hockey gear, because I keep it in the garage and there's a ton of wood in the garage, and I did get bit one time by one.

I didn't, I wasn't aware of it when it happened, but one of the things they say when you get a spider bite from something that powerful is you will see a line of red going from the bite towards your heart, and after the second day, you know, I thought it was like a mosquito bite, and then I saw on the second day that there was a trail of like a red line going up my body. And so I went to the doctor and he said, oh, yeah, yeah, it's good that you came when you did [chuckles].


JENNA: That's terrifying. Oh, my gosh. Could you imagine, it could hide in your gloves or your skates or something. That's so scary. Oh, my God.


PAUL: I like how I have an example of every single fear that you have.


JENNA: I love it. It's awesome. No, this is so great.


PAUL: Give me another one.


JENNA: Oh, my last one is, same thing, stepping into a boot and feeling, like crushing a frog or like something--


PAUL: Oh, yes--


JENNA: --slimy that you kill, you know what I mean--




JENNA: --like that toes and that just, that's terrifying.


PAUL: That's why I can't walk like in a murky lake--


JENNA: Oh, ulg.


PAUL: --not knowing what's on the bottom.


JENNA: Yeah, no.


PAUL: I can't do it. I can't do it.


JENNA: Yeah, crawdads, glass, like you just don't know. Those are all my fears.


PAUL: A body's eye socket--


JENNA: Yeah, exactly [chuckles]--


PAUL: --and there's still some goo left in the eye.




JENNA: Exactly, exactly.


PAUL: Give me some loves.


JENNA: Oh, loves. Oh, my ultimate love is unlikely animal friendships.


PAUL: The best.


JENNA: The best.


PAUL: The fucking best.


JENNA: Those calendar montages--


PAUL: The best.


JENNA: --I love it. Like I saw this one, it was like a grizzly and a duckling in a meadow together. You know, or like a pig and a falcon drinking out of a puddle. And I was like, I just I think that those are the best things on the planet.


PAUL: There is no way that you can be cynical about the universe when you are looking at one of those pictures.


JENNA: Mm-hmm, yeah.


PAUL: You're like, oh, there is love.


JENNA: Yeah. If a baby cougar and a swan can do it, we should be able to do it, right?




JENNA: Like it's, it's so cute, oh, it just melts me. But it just shows like, you know, love is blind, love is blind.

Oh, I loved watching meteor showers in my parents' backyard. You know, sometimes in August up in Seattle there'd be a meteor shower. I remember just thinking that was the coolest thing.


PAUL: I've never seen one.


JENNA: Oh. They're wild. I guess--


PAUL: Or at least not a big one, not a big one.


JENNA: Yeah. I love those.


PAUL: I bet that's great.


JENNA: Oh, grocery shopping alone on a Friday night, I love that.


PAUL: I like that. That's such good self-care, too.


JENNA: Yeah, because there's not that many people there, and you can just browse every aisle. I just, I love it. I've been doing it for years, you know, if I can, I'll just, that's the time to go.


PAUL: I get it.


JENNA: Because daytime, it's pandemonium.


PAUL: And that's the nice thing about being a stand-up comic, is you are always on the opposite hours that everybody else is.


JENNA: Totally, mm-hmm.


PAUL: You get very spoiled about there not being lines.


JENNA: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Another one is an icy-cold pina colada after a massage.


PAUL: That sounds nice.


JENNA: Yeah. I love pina coladas. I don't ever really have them. I did when I was 21 because, you know, and then a couple days ago, I was just, I got a massage and then I was craving one, and so I went to the grocery store and I bought all the ingredients and I went home and I blended myself a pina colada and it was amazing. I had two of them.


PAUL: Good for you.


JENNA: Yeah. It was so good, post-massage. They were like, just have a lot of water, and I'm like, no, I'm going to have like [chuckles], you know, it was amazing.


PAUL: Yeah.


JENNA: I love, oh, this dessert called the worms in dirt that my grandma Roseanne, my dad's mom, used to make. We'd have like an annual camping trip and she thought it was hilarious to give us this, and it was just chocolate mousse, crushed-up Oreos with gummy worms.


PAUL: Mm, that sounds good.


JENNA: And she was like, it was so good.


PAUL: Did she come up with the name?


JENNA: I don't know, actually. She might have.


PAUL: It's a great name for a kid dessert, yeah.


JENNA: Worms in dirt, yeah.


PAUL: Worms in dirt.


JENNA: And I remember being like, ahh, you know. Oh, this is one of my other favorites. So, I have two rescue pets who are both 20-pound males, one dog, one cat, and they wrestle on the bed.




JENNA: They do WrestleMania--


PAUL: Have you posted videos of it yet?


JENNA: I have photos. I think I could probably find a video.


PAUL: You have to get videos of that.


JENNA: Yeah, it's so funny. The cat wins.


PAUL: And give me the link when we put this episode up so that people can watch it.


JENNA: Absolutely. Oh, I will, for sure. I'll record some and send it. They wrestled earlier today. It's so funny.

And then my last one is, a really good, and this is something that's new, since I've lived in L.A., is a really good plate of huevos rancheros.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


JENNA: Oh, my gosh, the best Mexican food--


PAUL: It's--


JENNA: --yeah, is here. It's amazing.


PAUL: It's, it is one of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles, and mine regarding Mexican food would be a platter of enchiladas when they bring it out and you can't even touch the plate because it's so hot and the cheese is melted where it's just a little bit browned around the edges, and it's so hot that it's almost like liquid. And the refried beans are just--


JENNA: I'm salivating.


PAUL: Yeah, I can't even describe it, but I, and you can taste that the peppers that they used in the sauce were real peppers and fresh. You can taste that depth of that red, that red sauce--


JENNA: Mm-hmm, yeah, exactly, that it's like fresh made. You know, it's so good. It's so good.


PAUL: Jenna, people can follow you @JennaBrister on, and it's B-r-i-s-t-e-r.


JENNA: Yeah, correct.


PAUL: J-e-n-n-a.


JENNA: Yeah.


PAUL: On Twitter. We'll put other links up--


JENNA: Perfect.


PAUL: --on this, and go see the movie, which is--


JENNA: Permanent.


PAUL: Permanent.


JENNA: Yeah, it'll come out, it's, I'm so excited. The script is awesome. I'm very excited to see it.


PAUL: Very cool.


JENNA: Yeah, they were great.


PAUL: Thanks, Jenna.


JENNA: Thank you so much, Paul.


PAUL: Many, many thanks to Jenna. She's doing well, still with the same guy, and we do not have the footage of her dog and her cat wrestling yet, but when she gets that, I'll upload it onto the Web site.

This episode will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site. Many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

Speaking of helping out the show, if you're so inclined, there's a couple of different ways you could do it. You can go to our Web site, Mentalpod.com, and you can either do a one-time donation, which you would do through PayPal, or you can become a recurring monthly donor through PayPal or Patreon. I recommend Patreon because then I can give you freebees, like little mini episodes or silly videos, stuff like that. All these links are on the Web site.

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And donating frequently flyer miles, that would really, really help, because I'm going to Europe May 1 through 15 to try to get a greater variety of voices, not so many Americans, and it's expensive to go to Europe, and so I had to use my personal frequent flyer miles to go there, and it would just be nice to be able to go there again in the future, because I don't think I would be able to afford the airfare to go there without frequent flyer miles. Anyway, enough about that.

Hey, I got a question for you guys. Why are you still going to the post office and dealing with their limited hours when you can get postage on demand with Stamps.com? Don't answer me now. You can e-mail me later. But seriously, if you're a small business, especially one that sends packages or letters, why would you not use Stamps.com? I tried it out. It is super simple to set up. It's straightforward. It's convenient. And I got to say, it's actually pretty cool, printing out your own stamps. I almost felt like the Secret Service was going to kick my door open.

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It's a four-week trial that includes postage and a digital scale. So, don't wait. Go to Stamps.com. Before you do anything else, though, click on the radio microphone at the top of the homepage and type in MENTAL. That's Stamps.com, find the little radio microphone at the top, enter MENTAL, and you're on your way. Stamps.com, never go to the post office again.

I want to also give some love, some praise, some attention to ZipRecruiter. They've been a really great supporter of this podcast for the last few months, and I greatly appreciate it. Let me ask you another question. I hope I'm not being too nosy. Are you hiring? Do you know where to post your job to find the best candidates? Because posting your job in one place isn't cutting it. You want to find the perfect hire, you need to post your job on all the top job sites, and now you can.

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And right now you guys can post jobs on ZipRecruiter for free by going to ZipRecruiter.com/first. That's ZipRecruiter.com/first. Let's do it a third time. ZipRecruiter.com/first.

Let's get to a couple of surveys. The other thing is, I've gotten more than a few e-mails from people who want to turn people on to the podcast but the length of the episodes is a bit of a turn-off. So, I'm going to try to, for a little while, to make them not quite as long. And like I said, for monthly donors, there will be some, every once in a while there will be some extra content done through the Patreon site.

Anyway, so, this is an e-mail that I got from a woman who writes, I was going to put this in a survey but couldn't find a place for it. What is up with PTSD? I think it's way overused and having anyone with trauma describe themselves or be diagnosed with PTSD really hurts the legitimacy of individuals that truly suffer from it.

I mean, is being bullied as a kid the same as seeing your friends blown up? I heard a woman on Sincerely X TED Talk that I thought was total BS. Maybe being used by, quote, sad sacks that you want to do seem more tragic than they actually are.

And my thought on this is, you know, the far greater problem is the huge number of people minimizing their experiences. You know, what someone wants to label their experience is their own business. They still deserve compassion. And maybe somewhere down the road we'll find a way to create labels that are more specific, but in the meantime, there are a lot of people suffering who need help and we need more inclusivity, not exclusivity.

You know, what is the worst that could happen? Let's say huge numbers of people started claiming, you know, I had a hangnail and, you know, I have PTSD. Okay. So, what, what does that harm? Maybe you get annoyed talking to that person. But let's look at the downside of somebody with PTSD who says, no, I'm okay, what happened to me wasn't bad enough, they don't get help, they, you know, seek comfort in addictions, problems with their anger, they want to isolate. Maybe they take their life. So, that's my two cents.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Dog Shit Darla, and she writes, my parents wanted me to show the house that we were selling. I was a young 21. The people seemed to like the little place. It had a charm, kind of bungalow-y. The lot was very deep and there was a built-in open area that had a light bulb with a hanging cord to turn the light on. This isn't going where you think it's going [chuckles].

The lot was very deep and there was a built-in open area, okay, I read that. It was dark outside, so I was struggling to find the cord to turn on the light. The man who was looking at the house came over to where I was to help me find it, which he did, being a good foot taller than I. The bright light came on and every eye present was magnetically drawn to his foot, ankle-deep in dog shit. I was mortified beyond words, but I knew I had to make a full report to my very exacting, angry-at-all-things mother.

I called her and when I started to relate the information, I dissolved into hysterical laughter and she did, too. Incredibly, the man chose not to buy the house [chuckles].

I think that when everybody saw that I think you should have just said, we'd be willing to throw that in. That might've sold him. That might've sold him on the house [chuckles].

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, excuse me [coughs], filled out by a woman who calls herself Still Bitter. She's gay, in her 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused, no response to whether or not she was physically or emotionally abused.

Darkest thoughts. My last relationship ended largely because my parents are racist against my partner. I'm still extremely bitter about it. It hurt a lot and still hurts. I should move on at this point. It's been over three years since we broke up. I want to move forward but I'm still so angry and sad and I don't feel heard.

Sometimes I fantasize about telling my parents how fucked up they are on pivotal moments in the future, like on my wedding day if I marry someone else. I'd like to tell them that I still think of that person and know I would be happier, because I'm afraid that's actually true, or even saying something on their deathbed, although I would never actually do this. I want them to know they hurt me deeply.

Darkest secrets. I used to casually and vacantly touch my genitals while watching TV often when I was little, for some reason.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Sexual fantasies about a previous professor I've had. Sharing that makes me feel vulnerable and guilty, but it's also super funny because all my friends feel the same [chuckles].

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? And this is all in caps, fuck you for taking away someone I loved purely, blissfully and fully because you are a racist jerk. I will never forget that.

Thank you for sharing. How do you feel after writing these things down? The feelings I've been suppressing are more raw now and I feel a headache coming on. I feel a sob in my chest.

Thank you for sharing that, and I, I can't imagine what that has to be like, but a moving-forward question to ask yourself might be, what is the cost of not speaking up with my parents, and what are the benefits of not speaking up with my parents? And also, might there be a way for me to express what it is that I want to say in a way that is diplomatic without being apologetic, where I'm sharing what it is that I'm feeling?

You know, generally I find that, if I can share how something makes me feel instead of saying, you're an asshole for doing this, you know, for instance, you know, if somebody is, well, here is an actual real-life instance.

A guy I was playing hockey with started barking at me that I should be playing more defense, and this guy [chuckles] never plays defense, so I was like, who the, you know, first of all, why don't you play fucking defense for once, and then tell me how to play hockey, and so we started going back and forth with each other.

And one of the things I've learned in support groups is, when I get agitated, try to find a moment to just shut my eyes, take a deep breath and say, okay, what's really going on here? And I thought, what's really going on is he hurt my feelings with the tone of voice that he used. I don't think he was wrong in saying that I should have been playing more defense.

So, I went up to him and I said, Mike, I don't have a problem with what you said. I have a problem with how you said it. And he said, you're right, I apologize. And we moved on, and we moved on. That, to me, I didn't learn how to do for decades, and now it's one of the best tools I have. So, maybe there's a way to share this with your, share what you're feeling with your parents, but my feeling is, if they're racists, they might not be very self-reflective. How's that for the understatement of the century?

All right, this is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Anon, and he is in his 30s. He's asexual. He writes, I have avoided any sexual contact with anyone. He was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. Despite my parents' terrible marriage, they somehow managed to do a fantastic job. I am grateful for that.

Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Yes, and I never reported it. He writes, I was a young boy, maybe six or seven. I was wandering alone around an old abandoned mill near where I used to live back in England. This place was a huge expanse of degraded buildings that was home for street kids and hobos alike.

I was found by a gang of older girls. I don't recall how many, probably five or six of them, probably in their mid to late teens. They surrounded me menacingly and started asking personal questions that I could not possibly understand. They asked if I liked girls, if I liked tits, if I wanted to taste a pussy, and laughed and denigrated me as I struggled to answer.

I was trapped and terrified and kept closing my eyes in the hopes that I would open them again and they would be anywhere else. One girl demanded I take off my pants because they needed to make sure my dick was okay. They told me that they could tell me if it was a good one. When I refused, they began slapping and pinching me and calling me a coward. I capitulated and dropped my pants and underwear. One girl grabbed my penis and violently retracted my foreskin. I shrieked in pain and tried to move my hands down there to guard myself, but I was grabbed from behind and restrained.

They took turns, quote, inspecting my penis, which involved them taking turns grabbing it, twisting it, digging their nails into it, tugging on it violently, and trying to hit my testicles, which had withdrawn into my body. They told me my penis was disgusting and worthless, that it smelled rotten, that the color of the tip was weird, the girls will never like me and that I will never be any use to them. They threatened to cut or rip it off many times.

I was so afraid that eventually I shut down. It became a dream. They finished the ordeal by pushing a stick of lip gloss fully into my anus and then all kicked me in the butt and lower back as I silently laid there, curled up in a ball. They walked away laughing and talking about how pathetic I was. I don't know how long I laid there. I didn't dare move because I was sure they were hiding somewhere nearby. I soiled myself as I laid there, unable to move.

After what seemed like an eternity, I found the ability to cry, then to stand, then to remove the ChapStick from inside me. I walked home feeling numb and didn't say anything to anyone. That was 31 years ago, and this is the first time I have ever told this story. I don't fully remember how it affected me at the time. I remember being quiet and withdrawn for a little while, and I remember hating being alone. I know this has irreparably changed how I see women, and I hate myself because of it.

I am so, so sorry that you experienced this, and it's amazing to me that you would hate yourself because of this. But I guess that's the nature of trauma, is we find a way to blame ourselves. I just want to give you a hug, buddy.

Darkest thoughts. I have fantasies of catching young women in the act of abusing someone and I then torture and kill her. I want to be the hero I begged for back then when nobody came to help me.

Darkest secrets. I masturbate to violent fantasies of self-harm. I am aroused by the idea of replicating myself so I can hunt, torture and kill myself.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. Cutting my own throat and feeling the warm rush of blood over my hands.

Have you shared these things with others? Never. How do you feel after writing these things down? All I feel is fear that you will not believe me. I do believe you. I wish it, I wish it had never happened. I think everybody listening to this is, I bet there's a lot of people that had to fast forward because it just got too heavy. But I believe you. I believe you.

And your story is worthy of sharing with a professional or a support group. You are worthy of that. You deserve compassion. And that little kid that probably retreated somewhere inside your soul when that happened, that kid deserves to feel safe in this world. Sending you some love.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Rhymes With Lasagna. Does anything rhyme with lasagna? I'm sure there is. And she writes, my dad was psychiatrically hospitalized for the first time when he was in his early 60s. He was finally diagnosed as bipolar after his first and luckily only psychotic break. He had been misdiagnosed for decades as depressed.

Regardless, this hospitalization was a shock to the family and heart-wrenching for him, as he often lamented that he, quote, failed us in having, quote, ended up in a loony bin. After three weeks of stabilization, he was cleared to be discharged. However, he was going to be released the day after his birthday. He begged the doctors to let him out two days early so he wouldn't have to spend his birthday at an inpatient facility.

Clearly, they wouldn't budge. I called him on his birthday to cheer him up. I was a few hundred miles away in college, finishing up my final exams, so I couldn't be there in person. To lighten the mood, I said, hey, Dad, it's your birthday, go crazy. He chuckled a little bit and said, I already did.

Thank you for [chuckles], for sharing that. Oh, man, it's so good to be able to laugh when you're in the middle of shit like that.

This is also an Awfulsome Moment filled out by a guy who calls himself Not Your Punching Bag. I think this could also be a Happy Moment. He writes, I was staying with a new friend in a foreign country. She was someone who I had met through Tinder and we had hooked up but it had quickly transformed into a platonic friendship.

We had had some open conversations in the previous days and how she had a crush on me and I didn't reciprocate and I thought we had come to some mutual ground and respect on it. Then one night she had a panic attack, common for her, and I tried to comfort her but she pushed me away.

Then later, after it was done, she started screaming at me and going off about how I caused the panic attack and how I hadn't done enough to comfort her. She blamed me for all her emotional problems, saying that I forced her to deal with emotion that she didn't need to deal with, etc. This was super triggering for me, as part of my history is around an abuser blaming me and making me responsible for her emotions.

I recognized how dangerous this situation was and told my friend that I was sorry she was struggling but I had to leave to stay safe myself. I encouraged her to call someone else and took my bags and left. Sitting on a street corner at 3:00 a.m., waiting for an Uber, I was so proud of myself for taking the stand I needed for my own mental health, especially as I had just come off my meds the week before [chuckles].

That is, you know, moments like that, to me, are like when, and I know that this is a really old reference, but like when Rocky runs up the steps at the end of the first Rocky movie, because that is, when we have been raised in emotional ignorance or poverty or whatever you want to call it, it is, we don't have the muscle, the emotional muscle to take care of ourselves. You know, we either freeze or we people-please or we do something that doesn't help anyone. But thank you for sharing that.

And then finally, this is a Happy Moment filled out by Missy. And she writes, I was running late to my own wedding. We were to meet at the courthouse. I rode with my sister and mother in one car. My soon-to-be husband, my father and my brother rode in another. I was feeling like a bundle of nerves as I walked up the stairs. I knew I loved him, but I wondered if I was good enough for him.

I looked up and saw my significant other and my little 13-year-old brother peeking their heads out of the entrance, grinning ear to ear, eyes sparkling, something so beautiful and rare. They were genuinely happy to see me. Time slowed down, as if my mind took a picture of them and all felt right in the world.

Six years later, my mind still goes back and remembers that moment when I try to convince myself that no one loves me and I'd be better off dead. That moment has saved me from the edge many times. I love my husband and my brother even more for that.

That's so beautiful. That's so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. And I hope this new sub-two-hour episode looks good on me. I know it kind of depends on what season it is and what kind of light, if I'm being lit from behind, but I hope that this, I hope that you can't see my gut as much in this sub-two-hour episode.

And to those of you that I will be recording when I'm in Europe, I look forward to it. And anybody out there struggling, I hope you heard something tonight that helped, that reminded you that--


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--we’re all in this together, and you are most definitely not alone. And thanks for listening.


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