Raised in Repression & BPD – Anne from Berlin

Raised in Repression & BPD – Anne from Berlin

Creative and sensitive, born and raised in 1980’s communist East Germany by a dysfunctional family, Anne’s abuse was not dramatic, more like death by 1000 cuts.  Bearing the brunt of being a first child and resented for her intelligence, she developed BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) but has always turned the anger inwards, rarely if ever lashing out.  She talks about the benefits of learning DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) as well as her struggles with anorexia, bingeing, cutting and being passive aggressive as well as the greater context of her personal battles taking place alongside her country’s people fighting for freedom and independence from a regime that shot its own citizens for trying to leave the country.

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To experience a week for free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire

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

This episode is sponsored by Bombas socks.  To get 20% off go to www.Bombas.com/mental

To help finance Paul’s next trip to record international guests consider contributing to its GoFundMe page.

Consider becoming a monthly donor to the podcast (and get occasional bonus content from Paul) www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

To make a one-time PayPal donation go to www.mentalpod.com/donate

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Episode notes:

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To experience a week for free go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire

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

This episode is sponsored by Bombas socks.  To get 20% off go to www.Bombas.com/mental

To help finance Paul's next trip to record international guests consider contributing to its GoFundMe page.

Consider becoming a monthly donor to the podcast (and get occasional bonus content from Paul) www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

To make a one-time PayPal donation go to www.mentalpod.com/donate

Episode Transcript:

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

 

Welcome to Episode 337 with my guest Anne from Berlin. 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 is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I'm not a therapist. It's not a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. But I did go to college. I did go to college. I did my undergrad in how could you, and then I got my master's in if only, and I'm currently working on my Ph.D. in why didn't I.

This [chuckles], I can't tell if that was mildly amusing or eye-rollingly bad. That's the thing that I miss about doing stand-up, is I, that immediate response of an audience, and the mean voice in my head, as many of you know is named Mean DJ Voice, it fills the gap, immediately it fills the gap. And I'm a little tired of him, a little tired of Mean DJ Voice.

Hey, welcome to anybody who is a new listener, especially those of you who found us through iTunes. I think the podcast is going to be featured on the iTunes homepage this week under New and Noteworthy, or at least it's supposed to. So, any of you discovering it through that, welcome.

How do I describe the show? I did a little bit. The show is like half interview conversation with somebody either I know in my personal life or somebody I've never met before. Sometimes it's a listener. Sometimes it's somebody famous or a fellow comedian. So, half of the show is a conversation with them. Then the other portion of the show is me reading listener confessions, which they do through various surveys, and love it when you guys go fill out the surveys. There's so many great things that you've shared that really make it such an integral part of the show. But I digress.

Let's, actually before I do that, I want to give some love to our sponsor, BetterHelp.com. They provide online counseling. I use them. I love them. Go to BetterHelp.com/mental, fill out a questionnaire, get matched with a BetterHelp.com counselor, and you can experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is right for you. You've got to be over 18. I've been using them for about a year now, and my counselor's name is Donna. She is awesome. She even checks in with me during the week to see how I'm doing. She really, she's awesome, and the other therapists that I know personally who work at BetterHelp.com are great. So, check it out, BetterHelp.com/mental, and you've got to be 18.

Okay, so picking up with what's happened this last week. You know like those guys, when they do a news story and like somebody does something crazy and then they break into that person's apartment and they find like 500 rifles? I'm that guy but instead of rifles it's ice cream.

I was at [chuckles], I was at the grocery store, and I've been gaining weight because I've been feeling some feelings I don't want to deal with, and I said, I am not going to get any ice cream, because I go to the store once a week. And I almost made it all the way through and I said, you know what, let me just [chuckles], let me just see if they have anything new.

And it was like a robot was operating my arm, just going in and out of the freezer, just pulling, it was like I was watching myself pulling all of these different brands, but I justified it to myself that I was discovering new flavors of ice cream [chuckles], which is different than getting the old same five different Ben & Jerry's flavors.

So, currently, in my freezer right now, you will find Meyer Lemon and Marion Berry, not the mayor Marion Barry, although I would try a sample of that if I were at an ice cream place and, would you like to sample some Marion Barry? And I would sample it, and then I would say, you know, it's good but I didn't get any really big chunks of him in there [chuckles].

Here's the other one, mascarpone, or is it mas-, yeah, mascarpone pistachio caramel. Holy fuck, it is so good. Caramel cookie crunch. Cookies and cream. One love, which is a special edition Ben & Jerry's and is fucking amazing. And then some Ben & Jerry's AmeriCone Dream slices.

So that's right, I went in there saying, I'm not going to get a single thing of ice cream, and within 15 seconds I had shoveled six different brands, or five different brands into my cart like an animal. And I, you know, one of the things I am learning to do is, when I'm eating compulsively, say, what am I trying to run from? What feeling am I trying to run from?

And, oh, by the way, did I mention, in addition to getting divorced and my dog dying, I'm getting evicted? I'm actually more okay with that than I am my fear of me having no control over ice cream. You know, maybe I need, like if I knew that my next apartment was going to be made of ice cream, then I would actually look forward to getting evicted, but I'm actually okay on, in some way I'm okay with all of this because I'm at a place in my life where I've worked really hard on my mental and emotional health, and while I may not be at the place that I would dream of, I'm so much further along than I would have thought 14 years ago, when I wanted to die every single day.

So, in the grand scheme of things, I'm doing good. I'm doing good. And I do genuinely mean it. There is a sense of peace that I have in my life around the difficulties. It's just hard sometimes identifying the feelings that I'm feeling, and I think I'm lonely. I think that's the biggest emotion I don't want to feel right now, that and sadness [chuckles]. Other than that, I'm doing great. By the end of this, I'm going to be broadcasting from a bridge.

But I am okay, and I never thought that I would be able to handle life throwing stuff like this at me and still go out and greet the day and, oh, do I hate that phrase [chuckles], I so hate that I just said greet the day. By the way, I am dressed in an English butler suit, so it's understandable.

Anyway, I don't know what the point of all of this is. It started off by me wanting to let the new listener kind of know what the show is about, and that, and I have a problem with ice cream. Oh, my God, I'm dragging this whole fucking thing down.

Let's talk about something I do know. Socks. That's right. Let me tell you about Bombas, because I love their socks. Bombas started when two guys named Randy and Dave heard that socks were the number-one-requested clothing item in homeless shelters, and so for every pair of socks that Bombas sells, they donate a pair to those in need, which is awesome.

Dave promised Randy that he'd get a Bombas logo tattoo when they donated a million pairs of socks. Of course, they thought it'd take 10 years. It took two and a half, and now Dave has a Bombas tattoo and a great story to tell about it.

Here's what I want to tell you. I checked out their socks. I got four different pairs and I, now if it was ice cream I'd have gotten six pairs, I got four different pairs of socks and what I really, really like about Bombas is the selection that they have, because you've got to have the right sock for the right shoe.

And I had just bought a pair of Vans and a pair of high-tops, and you don't wear the same socks with both of those. With Vans you either don't wear socks or you wear a low-profile sock that doesn't look like you're wearing a sock, and Bombas had one that's perfect. It's super thin. I love it. And then they had a quarter-ankle sock that's perfect with my high-tops. And I couldn't be happier. They're great quality. There's no annoying toe seam. They don't fall down. What more do you want? What more do you want?

For the best socks in the history of feet, I don't know if you can prove that, but I dare you to take me to court, visit Bombas.com/mental and do it today and you'll get an additional 20% off your first purchase. That's B-o-m-b-a-s dot com slash mental for 20% off, Bombas.com/mental.

Okay, I want to read two very brief moments shared by, they're both Awfulsome Moments. To our new listener, that's a moment that when it happened was awful but looking back on it there's something about it that was awesome, and we call it awfulsome.

And these are two Awfulsome Moments, and the first one is filled out by a woman who is, I think she's in high school, and she calls herself Flying Cursing Potato Chip, and she writes, self-harm trigger warning before anyone reads this. It isn't gruesome or anything, but I understand some people can be quite sensitive to these things.

So this happened at college-slash-high school. I'm not sure what that means. Is there some place that's a combination college/high school? Never heard of that. Anyway, I had bought a blade from home because I woke up late and didn't have time before school, and in parentheses, I know, what the fuck? I agree and I am seriously disturbed.

I went to the bathroom, shut myself into a cubicle and put the blade to my arm and was about to proceed, so I looked up because it's not exactly a pretty sight, and guess what happened to be on the door opposite me? A fucking mental health info and prevention poster, talking about the signs somebody is struggling and where you can get help. Yes, self-harm was also listed on there, and I couldn't help but start laughing.

I'd never seen anything like it before, but here it is, just when I'm about to cut myself. It was absolutely incredible. I put the blade in the bin after that and decided not to carry on because I really felt that meant something. I suppose someone was watching out for me. I love it. Thank you for sharing that.

And then this is from Lily, and she writes, when I was 14, I read the Interview with the Vampire book series and I came to believe that Lestat would indeed come for me if I presented myself properly [chuckles]. I hated my home life and was willing to try anything to get away, including joining the undead. I put on a claret-red-colored crushed-velvet Victorian-style dress, tied a ribbon choker around my neck and went out to the empty pastures near my house every evening at dusk for weeks to wait for him. And when he never came, I got disappointed, believing it was because I just wasn't special enough and that he had chosen some other girl.

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I'm here with Anne. She's from Berlin. And she made the trip down here while I’m in Amsterdam. And you have been a listener to the show for a long time, and when we talked about atheism and what exactly that is or what makes somebody a, quote, unquote, believer, you wrote this e-mail to me about what atheism means to you, because I think you felt, and don't let me put words in your mouth, that the way people sum up atheism is sometimes as if it's this dis-compassionate view of the universe, and so you, would you mind reading me the e-mail that you sent in a couple years ago?

 

ANNE: Yeah, sure. I'm not going to bore you by trying to convince you that despite my being a Godless heathen I am an upright, moral, kind and caring woman and that even though I don't believe in divine intervention and mind-reading supernatural creators [inaudible], I cherish life and all the awesome things that come with it as the greatest good since the beginning of everything.

I don't believe in a universe as a force of love and compassion, but I do believe in a universe that is as loving and compassionate as we are. I don't believe that someone or something out there makes sure that I am well. How could I believe in such a thing if I know that so many people are suffering the most unspeakable pain and injustice from the day they were born till the day they die, and yet I believe that I am the only thing that stands between me and the kindness and beauty that life has to offer.

I believe in the atoms that make me. I stand breathless before an endless night sky, shaken by the vastness and unlikelihood of it all. And in this tiny fraction of time in which this set of atoms, forged in the heat of a star, has the privilege to experience itself.

I don't believe in a greater scheme, but I believe in the human mind, and the human mind, or so my human mind tells me, and living up to its potential. I don't believe in divine justice, but I do believe in the complex mechanics of what goes around comes around and creating the world that I want to live in by my everyday actions.

I believe in the power of the spoken and written word. I would like to believe in a soul but I really can't, though I do believe that everything that ever lived is still an inherent part of this world. We're all connected, not by gods, spirits or fate, but by our actions, by the very light bouncing off the things that we touch and create, from the eyes we look into, little photons going on forever, energy never running out, only changing its course and form.

The light which fell into my newborn body and into the eyes of my grandfather still exists. The energy that his mind gathered in this very moment to decide never to touch a drop of alcohol ever again is still there. Sorry for the cheesiness.

And above all, I believe that letting go of God and religion has also helped me in becoming a more wholesome, mature person, and I know for sure that a lot of people feel the same way.

I don't know why I'm writing all of this, other than for the sake of making myself miserable over the question whether you're going to read this and if you're going to understand, but I feel that the things you believe in are not so different from the things that I believe in. We just have different names for it, and it pains me that the mere definition of a word stands between that. Yeah, see, that's what I wanted to say. There you have it, hope you didn't have too much trouble reading through this wall of text since I'm not a native speaker, and thank you if you did at all. Take care, Paul. You are amazing set of atoms.

 

PAUL: So incredibly eloquent, and the fact that you wrote that in a second language just makes me want to say fuck you.

 

ANNE: Thanks.

 

PAUL: Just a big fich dich, is that right?

 

ANNE: Perfect. Really beautiful.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Anne is quite well aware that she is my one chance to practice my bad college German on and she has been extremely patient these last few hours we've been hanging out.

Thank you for that beautiful thing that you wrote. I would imagine there are many people out there who were nodding and saying, oh, my God, she just put into words exactly how I feel about the universe and religion or lack of religion, and it's her second language, I agree with Paul, fuck her.

I’m so glad that you're here [chuckles]. Thank you for that silence. We have so much to talk about. You are how old again?

 

ANNE: Thirty-five.

 

PAUL: Thirty-five. You were born in East Germany.

 

ANNE: Mm-hmm.

 

PAUL: You have borderline personality disorder. There is all kinds of dysfunction in your family.

 

ANNE: You could say that.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You were born in an area of East Germany that isn't considered the stereotype of East Germany by the West, at least in my mind, because it wasn't East Berlin. Would you explain to people who might not remember East Germany when it was under the control of the Soviets and it was communist? Can you explain to them where you're from, what East Germany was, where your family lived, etc., etc., so kind of the history lesson, paint a picture of where you grew up.

 

ANNE: Okay. So, after World War II, when Germany was basically being taken over by the Allied Forces, which you might recall has been the United States, France, England and Russia. They basically split up the country, so, and Russia took the eastern sector.

 

PAUL: The sector closest to Russia.

 

ANNE: Exactly, right. It's close to Poland, like neighboring to Poland.

 

PAUL: Which borders Russia.

 

ANNE: Which borders Russia, exactly. And I don't really know what the plan was for that or how things were supposed to go down or if there even was a plan. I don't know that. But basically Russia had this idea to create a socialist state and to make the eastern sector a socialist state, which is about like, hm, roughly like one-third of the country. That's probably super wrong, maybe a quarter, a quarter to a third of the country.

 

PAUL: Of Germany.

 

ANNE: Of Germany, exactly, yeah. And yeah, so they thought that that would be a great idea to get, you know, socialist ideas.

 

PAUL: And for young listeners, this was when Russia was the Soviet Union, which meant Russia, they controlled Poland, they controlled the Ukraine, they controlled Czechoslovakia. They installed puppet regimes in a lot of these, what were considered satellite states.

 

ANNE: Yeah. Yeah, so it makes sense that they wanted to do the same thing with this little chunk of Germany, right.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

ANNE: I suppose. And so, in the '60s, then, they built a wall actually around the eastern sector, and they said they wouldn't want to do it, and then it was almost like, yeah, that they did it, and they basically locked up the people in their own fucking home country, right, so that's what happened, and I was born in that country. And . . .

 

PAUL: And when you say that they were locked up in their own country, explain in more detail, if you would, what that looked like.

 

ANNE: I don't know what it looked like because it happened in the '60s, but I can imagine that, well, basically people were building a wall around this piece of land and people were wondering, what's happening here? And then the government said like, uh, nothing. And then there was the wall.

And a lot of people fled around that time, and some people who couldn't, might have lacked imagination that that could actually happen, they stayed. Well, it's not easy to leave everything that you have and everything that you are, so a lot of people stayed.

I don't know much about the history of my grandma's side. She is, she's been born in Poland, close to Warsaw, and she's been a child of World War II, basically, and she must have been I think sedate in German, which basically is neither Polish nor German. It's like Poland basically said, no, you Germans, go away, after World War II. And the German people said, no, you're Polish, go away.

So I don't know how that ended up in Eastern Germany, but it happened. I really wish I could tell you more about it, but I never really asked my grandmother that many questions, which I really regret. She passed away when I was 16, so I never really had the chance to clear that up. But yeah, so they made a living basically. They settled in Eastern Germany. And yeah, then--

 

PAUL: And to also paint a picture, there was not only the wall which divided East Germany from West Germany, but talk about Berlin.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And by the way, Anne lives in Berlin now, but she was not raised in Berlin. Where you were raised was about two hours north of Berlin.

 

ANNE: Exactly, yeah.

 

PAUL: So, explain the whole Berlin, East Germany, thing.

 

ANNE: Yeah, so not only was Eastern Germany split up, well, surrounded by this wall, but also the capital, which is kind of in the center of that, so Berlin was being split up in four different sectors. And there was the Russian sector, which was later the eastern sector, so it was kind of like an enclave, like the Vatican, for example, a country within a country.

 

PAUL: So almost like a democratic little circle in a sea of a socialist, of a communist country, and then that circle is divided even further into the Soviet communist section and then the other three quarters of the pie being Western, i.e., United States and its allies.

 

ANNE: Yeah. And there's a couple of pretty awesome documentary about that, like people lived like door to door but were being parted by this wall, and they were shouting things [chuckles] at each other, so it's a little bizarre. It's not really funny because a lot of people died. I don't want to ridicule it, but it's also pretty, I mean, it's not funny but it's kind of funny.

So, yeah, and I was born in '82, which was kind of like on the end days, I think, of the former German Democratic Republic. So this wall came actually down in '89, and I was seven years old by the time. I don't have much recollection of that time.

 

PAUL: And the GDR was the West or Eastern Germany?

 

ANNE: It was Eastern Germany. It's [chuckles], yeah, I'm glad that you asked, because it's called German Democratic Republic. It was not democratic. It was an autocracy, a dictatorship, some even say, and it was not a democracy but it was called that, yeah.

 

PAUL: Kind of like a lot of organizations that have the word family in them [chuckles].

 

ANNE: Pretty much, yeah.

 

PAUL: So, paint a picture of what it was like in your hometown politically and across the country politically for people who tried to escape or had differing opinions, made trouble, i.e., for the East German authorities.

 

ANNE: So, bizarrely enough, leaving the country, crossing the border unallowed, basically, was lethal, like you would be shot on sight, no questions asked. And some people could leave the country, but it was only with a permit and you would only get a permit if you were like 160 years old and you wouldn't leave anyway or you would leave a lot of family behind, like if you were a mother of three, you might be able to leave. You couldn't leave the country in, you know, the eastern direction, like you could, for example, go to holidays in Russia or China, even--

 

PAUL: You could.

 

ANNE: You could. Some people could, if you could afford it, because people weren't generally that rich. Yeah.

 

PAUL: And one of the things that I recently learned is, you know, as many of you know, Germany lost World War II and there was a, as every war does when it ends, the loser has to pay reparations to the victors, and I just learned recently when I was in Berlin that the Soviet Union took a lot of their reparations from East German resources, which greatly impoverished East Germany and contributed to a lot of the suffering. Does that sound correct?

 

ANNE: You know, when it comes to suffering, I think that suffering came about by families being split up. Like there was basically instant almost, well, not instantly, but almost instantly a wall being raised between families, like between cities and communities, and so a lot of families lost each other. And so that was a lot of suffering.

 

PAUL: And also because it wasn't just a physical separation. Your phone calls from the East were monitored.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: It was, you were being watched, or at least there was a feeling you were being watched all the time by the East German police.

 

ANNE: You were probably being watched. I mean, they would hire your fucking friends to rat you out. I mean, and that has created a huge level of distrust. I think you can kind of feel that maybe, it's, you know, and--

 

PAUL: Even today?

 

ANNE: Maybe. I don't know. Like I told you before, it's really difficult to explain Germany or Germans when you're a German yourself, so you kind of carry it within yourself. I might, I feel like I'm a little paranoid and distrustful, yeah. I think a lot of the suffering came about just by people not really being free to go wherever they wanted. A lot of people suffered from that. I mean, I'm not necessarily a globe trotter, but if you tell me I can't do something [chuckles], guess what I want to do? So, a lot of people felt like they were locked up in their own country.

When it came to social security and stuff, people got actually kind of okay, and people were doing good. Like a lot of people had work. It might not have been the work that they wanted. I remember my mom being very upset, she was a metal worker or something, and that's definitely not what she wanted to do and definitely was not cut out to do, and so she, but she had to do it because that was the job available at the time so she had to take that, so a lot of those stories.

But when you had a job, you were kind of okay. I mean, maybe I come from a very privileged standpoint because we had a huge chunk of land and I think my childhood was somewhat nice. I mean, the countryside is beautiful where I come from. People living in Berlin, really being somewhat cramped, too, in that city, I can imagine, might not have been so great.

 

PAUL: How did you acquire a large piece of land? Was it your family's before--

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --that, and so they just didn't take it. Were there lands that were taken?

 

ANNE: Oh, yeah, there actually were, yeah. I totally forgot about that. Yeah, a lot of people lost their land. The government just basically took it and didn't get anything for it, too. It was kind of like occupied and said, no, this is common good, it belongs to everyone, and of course everyone means the government.

 

PAUL: And when you say large piece of land, roughly what are we talking?

 

ANNE: I do not know the numbers, but I know that a lot of people lost their land, and especially if those were, might have been unruly people--

 

PAUL: I meant the size of your family's lot.

 

ANNE: Oh, it's been, what is it, like 2,000 square meters, which is, I mean, it's not a farm. It's not a field. But it has a huge house, a huge yard and a beautiful garden and we had like a couple of farm animals, so we were doing fine, like from a material standpoint.

 

PAUL: You didn't go hungry necessarily.

 

ANNE: Absolutely not, no. No. And I think a lot of people were kind of somewhat safe. There was health care. There were jobs. There was a base income for most people. So, but people were somewhat upset because the money that you earned might have been somewhat okay but you couldn't really spend it. Like there was a shortage on everything. Getting a car, getting a phone, some people, it took them like 20 years to get a car. You would kind of almost like apply for, yeah, you would apply for it.

 

PAUL: And did you have to save for it in addition to that?

 

ANNE: It was not the money. Most people had the money for a car, but there was just such a shortage. There was not enough import into the country and, yeah, and I think it was also an idealistic thing that, maybe that's just my opinion, I don't really know if that's necessarily true, but it's also like capitalism is being looked down on, and so consumerism is, too, so we won't have all of these fancy things, which wasn't maybe necessarily that smart because people were jealous of each other, because some people had a car and others didn't.

 

PAUL: And then also you see the leaders eventually . . .

 

ANNE: Well, probably you didn't really see it because there was no coverage on the huge mansion [chuckles] that all the government officials had, of course not, and their little Argentinean farms and just, no, you wouldn't necessarily see that, no.

 

PAUL: So paint a picture for me of the emotional kind of environment that you grew up in. How many kids?

 

ANNE: It's me and my sister. My sister is six and a half years younger than I am, and I also had a cousin that I grew up with quite close, almost like a brother a little bit, and he's two and a half years younger than I am, so that means that I'm the first one of my generation which have been a little bit of a downfall in hindsight, I think.

 

PAUL: How so?

 

ANNE: Because, first, children always get all the shit [chuckles]. And I think especially my mom, she wanted to do everything right, so she was a little bit anxious about everything and, yeah, I feel like my cousin and then my sister, we kind of like, if you would put us all together, you would kind of see, oh, yeah, she didn't turn out so well, she being me [chuckles], and my cousin, he was kind of all right, and my sister is like, she doesn't care for most of the shit, so she's pretty independent and I've been always very sensitive.

And I think I've gotten all of the attention that I definitely did not need as a kid from all of the family being the first one of the generation, being the first child.

 

PAUL: And when you say attention, obviously you mean non-nurturing attention?

 

ANNE: Good and bad, I think. Like, I got a lot of love from my granddad, which I mentioned in my letter, that he, him and I, I think we had a good bond. He really did stop drinking when I was born. He was a heavy alcoholic, so alcoholism runs in my family.

 

PAUL: He stopped or started when you were--

 

ANNE: He [chuckles], excuse me. He stopped.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

ANNE: My birth did not inspire him to drink, Paul. So let's set that straight.

Yeah, and he never drank again. So there was some love. But I think there was also a lot of pressure and, I think it's really good to have siblings, too, because then, I don't know, you kind of, you're not alone in this, but being the first child is kind of, it's difficult, I think. Also, I think [chuckles] being a good parent, it takes practice, and I've been the object of that, I think.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You were the warm-up.

 

ANNE: Yeah, basically.

 

PAUL: You had physical difficulties as a kid. Talk about that.

 

ANNE: Oh, yeah. This is something that unravels now at my older age. I had hip dysplasia when I was younger, and hip dysplasia is something that a lot of people get in the womb when the hips get kind of fucked up a little and then, so they get a little skewed and maybe get out of the socket on the, you know, and it's actually something that's being diagnosed pretty well today and can be fixed pretty easily without surgery even.

And it was diagnosed back in the day, but something went kind of wrong and I'm still trying to figure out what went wrong, whether my mom didn't take enough care of me, because neglect has been a thing in my childhood a lot, and whether the doctors were just shit.

You know, it's been a small town and might not have been the best of doctors, so yeah, I struggle with that today, like hip dysplasia, not being able to walk properly, and of course getting a lot of shit for it from my family, too. Like, I can't even count the many times where I've heard, go straight, watch your feet, do this, do that, and I physically couldn't, so I remember that kind of bullying from my family.

 

PAUL: Any particular members of your family?

 

ANNE: My aunt. Like she has been--

 

PAUL: Mom's sister?

 

ANNE: Mom's sister, mom's older sister, yeah, the first in her generation, which is an interesting connection, because she has always been very hard on me especially.

 

PAUL: Was she harder on you than your mom was?

 

ANNE: Yeah, she was cruel. I mean, my mom, with my mom, the main issue is neglect. My mom is a bit of a narcissist, and I'm struggling to call her that. I'm kind of [chuckles], I remember the face that my therapist made when I told her, hm, I kind of have an issue, you know, really tagging my mom as a narcissist because she's not so bad. I mean, on the scale of narcissism, she's kind of low.

And my therapist was like, [chuckles] she was kind of baffled a bit, and I remember that, that was just recently, you know, but I still do believe, yeah, I mean, there are narcissists and then there are narcissists. I mean, for a child it doesn't really matter. Neglect is neglect.

 

PAUL: Exactly.

 

ANNE: And if you have, you're kind of an ambassador of that, [inaudible] I think it doesn't really matter how severe it was, especially when you have a very sensitive kid, you suck all of that shit up and then--

 

PAUL: The message is, you don't matter, it doesn't really matter what envelope it was mailed in.

 

ANNE: Yeah, yeah. But I struggle really seeing that, and I'm working through that at the moment, actually, really seeing, okay, my mom actually might be a narcissist. And you know that's part of this whole issue with narcissists, they're really good at telling you that they're not--

 

PAUL: [Chuckles]

 

ANNE: --yeah, that the issue is you--

 

PAUL: I'm laughing because it's so perfectly described.

 

ANNE: And I know that, but, I mean, in that situation--

 

PAUL: And they project it, they project everything they hate about themselves.

 

ANNE: And I've done so much work, so much therapy and so much really self-research, you know, within myself, but I still struggle with that, and that's like the fuckery of narcissism, isn't it?

 

PAUL: It really is. It's, it is a form of brainwashing, being raised by a narcissist is a form of brainwashing.

 

ANNE: It is, yeah.

 

PAUL: And it takes years, years to undo. It doesn't, there isn't an epiphany when it all suddenly goes away [chuckles].

 

ANNE: No. Even though, I must say, my therapist's face, it came close to an epiphany, yeah. That felt really good.

 

PAUL: When you said I think my mom might be a narcissist--

 

ANNE: Yeah, her face and her being angry for me a little bit, I felt that. I just re-started therapy, not re-started, but I started my second round with her, and that felt really good, seeing that mirrored, because I had a very hard time for a long time to be angry. And yeah, so--

 

PAUL: Why?

 

ANNE: Because that's what I've been told not to be. We're not supposed to be angry or have any sort of feelings, really. Yeah. Also, I always had the idea that, like my story is not so bad. My family has its merits.

Like it would be so much easier if they would all just be completely shit, like [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Isn't that the truth?

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Isn't that the truth?

 

ANNE: It would be so much easier. I mean, I shouldn't, you know, I shouldn't wish for my family being worse. I mean, there are families that kill their children, right, so, but sometimes I wish that--

 

PAUL: Just in terms of making the decision to allow yourself to feel the pain, the loss, the grief over what baseline things you didn't get, I think.

 

ANNE: Yeah, without having this like major event that had happened and that you, you know.

 

PAUL: It's so important, I think, to resist the urge to sum up that abuser or neglecter as good or bad. It doesn't matter what the total score is.

 

ANNE: Yeah, but, you know, I suffer from borderline. We're not particularly good at that.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Well, would now be a good time, actually before we segue to you talking about having borderline personality disorder, give me some moments with your mom that were emblematic of your relationship with her and her neglect, and also give me some good moments with your family to show that complexity.

 

ANNE: Yeah, see, this is the problem. With my mom, it kind of eludes me a little bit. It's the little things oftentimes that mark her as a narcissist, I think. I'm just starting to really be much more aware of these things, and I, I had visited my family in December, right before Christmas, which is always a great time for most people probably--

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: --to figure out family stuff. It might actually be because like the worst things come often, oftentimes come out at Christmas, when everyone is kind of tense and stuff, and everyone wants it kind of to be nice but it really isn't because things aren't just working out.

And I had been depressed for a while by that time, and I thought it would be a good [chuckles], it's stupid, me saying it now. I thought it would be a good idea if I'm feeling low, I should really visit my family, I don't know what that was about. So yeah, I went for a couple of days, and I just noticed little things that I hadn't noticed before with my mom.

Like she can't really connect with me. She kind of tries, but I feel like she doesn't really listen. She just waits for an opening for her to chip in something that is about her. And I've always, I think I've always made an excuse for her. I just thought, oh, she doesn't know any better, or even worse, I would think, yeah, well, what I've been telling her wasn't particularly interesting so I guess it's okay that she kind of cut me short. No, it's not.

And the fact, I think the fact that I am used to that and I am making excuses for it actually tells you a lot, I think. So it must have already been like that. Yeah--

 

PAUL: Would your mom talk at length as well, or was it she just kind of wouldn't let you really express yourself, either because she would cut you off or she wouldn't really pay attention?

 

ANNE: Oh, both. I remember we had this talk, like she would come into my room. She has this little guest room where I would stay and she would come in, and she had just come from a birthday with her friends and she just, you know, opened the door and just told me, so I've been at this birthday and I've, I haven't really been feeling it, I haven't been really feeling my friends, I felt like I couldn't really connect, that's what she has been telling me about this little birthday party that she just came from.

And for a moment I felt like, hey, this is something that I can relate to because I have been feeling somewhat disconnected sometimes, even in, you know, the company of friends, and that's something that I've struggled with in the past. And I told her, yeah, you know what, I've been feeling like that, I can kind of understand, I think.

And, but, you know, I've just met these new people, at the time I had made a couple of new friends, some writer friends, so I’m a writer myself, or I aspire to be, and I've been, they really clicked with me and I felt like for a second there I really, maybe I found my tribe or something, and I was trying to tell her that, yeah, maybe you just keep on looking, maybe you'll turn up the right kind of people, trying to kind of have a conversation, but apparently that was not what she was going for and she just turned around and left the room.

 

PAUL: Wow, wow.

 

ANNE: And I--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

ANNE: Yeah. And I was really baffled by that, and already making excuses for it, maybe she, [chuckles] but really failing to make an excuse for it. And I said something like, yes, thanks for the conversation, that's been nice, and she looked at me and smiled as if I was making a joke.

And I think she actually thought she did nothing wrong, and also she didn't want to know anything about these new friends of mine, which was also very hurtful. Like, tell me about these new friends, who are all these people, maybe I want to meet them and maybe you want to bring them, showing some kind of interest.

And for a second I thought, well, maybe I've not been validating her, maybe I shouldn't have brought my issues up, but I really felt like, hey, this is something that we can actually connect on, but no, it just went, poof, between us, and then she left the room.

 

PAUL: And she thought you were serious, whereas you had kind of meant it sarcastically, thanks for having this great conversation?

 

ANNE: I don't know. I don't, I honestly do not know. I cannot relate to that. I can relate to a lot of things, but just walking out on something--

 

PAUL: Well, I was unclear when you said to her, well, thanks, it's been great having this conversation--

 

ANNE: Yeah, that's what I don't know.

 

PAUL: Did you mean it genuinely or was it--

 

ANNE: Oh, me.

 

PAUL: --like a sarcastic thing, like, wow, thanks, Mom?

 

ANNE: Yeah, that was my notion.

 

PAUL: But she didn't realize that you were making a joke because she couldn't see that what she did was--

 

ANNE: I think she did, but she might have just put it off as banter or something, like giving each other a little bit of a shit and then have a laugh about it, no, but I didn't think it was funny, but I was so baffled that I was struggling to say anything at all, so I said that. Maybe I wasn't clear enough, but--

 

PAUL: I see. I gotcha.

 

ANNE: Yeah. I remember that.

 

PAUL: Well, I think that's [chuckles], it says a thousand words. And I think people who experience neglect, it's a thousand cuts. It's a thousand cuts.

 

ANNE: I always love that saying in German, too, but it's not as visual, not as, you know, you have flesh and wounds and blood kind of, that's what it feels, death by a thousand cuts. I really love that saying, because I haven't been, I haven't gotten a huge, major blow or a couple of major blows.

It was just constantly, constantly these tiny moments which by themselves would have been just unfortunate. I mean, sometimes we don't pick up on social cues and we just let things by that we should have, in hindsight, maybe, you know, these things happen all of the time, but I think my life has been a series of these little moments and these little hurts, and I think they have really shaped me. And I'm only now starting to understand, okay, maybe they have had a huge impact on me.

 

PAUL: I mean, if you think about it, somebody that has a couple of traumas, big traumas, we can look at that and go, oh, yeah, I can see how that would have affected you, and yet the person who was neglected, we don't realize they've been given the message you don't really matter a thousand times.

 

ANNE: It sinks in, yeah.

 

PAUL: It definitely sinks in. And for the parent that sometimes has a lapse in focus and maybe doesn't pay as much attention as they should, is then there a lot of the other time, I think that heals those little things--

 

ANNE: Absolutely, yeah. I don't think that you need an ever-present parent. You kind of need an okay parent. That's enough. You just need, I don't need someone who builds me up constantly, but I just need a kind of, a foundation to stand on, and I think that only have I not been given that foundation, I think my stand in this life has been kind of manipulated and sabotaged a little bit.

I do think that my family, not necessarily consciously, but did make somewhat of an effort to keep me small, to keep me insecure, because I'd been a very smart child and my family, at least my parents, my stepdad and my mother, they're not that well educated or well informed, not saying necessarily that they're stupid. They definitely think they're stupid. I think that also has a lot to play in the way they treated me.

They had probably saw, okay, we have this talented child, which picks up on everything, and there are certain things we don't want to dig up, so we silence that child. We confuse that child, and that's something that narcissists like to do, like gaslight and confuse and question everything about me, and that's actually the recipe for borderline personality disorder.

You completely skew the perception of the child, and this is what I'm really struggling with because this is really, really mean, like this [inaudible] is already so difficult, but if you fuck up a kid's intuition, which is actually kind of good. I'm a very empathetic person and, you know, growing up in a family with alcoholism, of course, I am like any other child, that constellation. I am very sensitive. I pick up on the atmosphere of a room, the temperature of the room, kind of.

And when you fuck that up, I mean, you set your kid up for failure. Like, when you send your kid out into the world being so confused about everything, you fall, that hasn't happened too much for me, but I, a lot of people who suffer from borderline personality disorder fall in with the wrong crowd and meet the wrong people because they have been told, your feelings, your intuition about this person doesn't matter, their opinion about you matters so much more, and that is so mean. That is so mean.

 

PAUL: How did it begin to express itself in you? And by the way, I didn't know that Anne had borderline personality disorder until we were having a bite to eat about two, not even two hours ago, and one of the things that struck me is, she doesn't bear any of the stereotypes, other than sensitivity, but in a good way of somebody who has it.

Although I would also say being bright tends to be a common trait of people with borderline personality disorder, but in terms of mood fluctuations, one of the most even-keeled people I've spent time with, talk about that and how there is a spectrum of the way the disorder expresses itself in different people, especially those who have gotten help and learn dialectical behavior therapy.

 

ANNE: Well, first of all, the outside does not match the inside.

 

PAUL: In our spending time together this afternoon, have there been times when you've felt emotional turmoil, rage, terror, fear, things that you've hid from me that you're comfortable sharing?

 

ANNE: No, I've been pretty comfortable, but I, the time leading up to our meet-up has been really difficult because I've been really looking forward to this and then I've been like really scared, especially about the fact [chuckles], I was a little bit anxious that actually you would come to Berlin, that was kind of the plan, and I thought, so how do I entertain this guy that lives in L.A., so how can I make him happy and how can I make [chuckles] it worthwhile for him, and I've been dreading over this for a long time.

And I thought, there's also always this idea that I'm super boring and he's going to be bored with me and he's not going to like me anymore and blah, blah, blah, and so these two diametrically opposed feelings have been kind of switching back and forth, sometimes in minutes, and that's a trait of borderline, absolutely, and, but in general, I can say that this turmoil, this inner turmoil, usually does not show because this is also what I've learned, also there is something to say about, on the borderline spectrum, like the severity of it, I do, in all fairness, I do rank somewhat low.

There have been a lot of doctors kind of battling with each other, being in the hospital, and they just weren't too clear about it. They couldn't, someone said, yeah, she absolutely has borderline, and some other people said no. And, you know, this is something that's not necessarily too important for me.

I personally, in defense of people with borderline personality disorder, I really want to say that I've met some people with borderline personality disorder and they were, some of them were pretty much like me, like, because, you know, we've lived a lifetime with this disorder already, so we've kind of figured out how to hide it. That's what I've learned. Some people have, might have learned by themselves how to deal with it and not become raging idiots and mean and take it out on other people.

And yeah, it makes me sad that people see borderline as this, you know, the crazy maniacs that cut themselves. And I've met so many highly sensitive, highly intelligent people, beautiful people that really, really struggled, and yeah.

 

PAUL: I consider you one of them--

 

ANNE: No, no, no, no [chuckles].

 

PAUL: No, I do. You know, Anne and I have corresponded many times since you wrote that beautiful e-mail to me several years ago, and you're somebody who also doesn't mince words. You know, you're one of the least phony people I've met. And it speaks, to me, it speaks to the fact that borderline personality disorder is not a death sentence.

 

ANNE: Absolutely not.

 

PAUL: It can be managed. And that there is a spectrum.

 

ANNE: Not only that, I think people with borderline personality disorder tend to be very sensitive, and that can be harvested. You can tap in to that. And that, yeah, like I said, a lot of the people with borderline personality disorder are very smart and they're very social people, actually, very caring. They just oftentimes temporarily or by their upbringing have learned not to be that or to be overwhelmed with what, because there is something to say also about being sensitive in this world, because, you know, you know how the world is. It doesn't really treat sensitive people that well.

 

PAUL: Sensitive in this world--

 

ANNE: Yeah, that's difficult, just to be in general.

 

PAUL: Yeah, it is, how to be empathic without being a doormat. Show me where that is and I would love to--

 

ANNE: Absolutely, yeah.

 

PAUL: --to live there.

 

ANNE: Absolutely, yeah.

 

PAUL: So give me an example of a way that you handled something before you began to get tools for this and a way you handled something after you learned tools for it.

 

ANNE: So I remember the first time I started DBT, or even heard about DBT, was, what I learned is that you can actually regulate your feelings, that you can actually do that, that was pretty much a revelation for me, that I was not only able to do that, but also allowed to do that. I think this is something that a lot of people have to learn, not just people with borderline personality disorder, but of course people with that disorder, especially because their emotions are like completely, usually completely out of whack or just so extreme, I think, oftentimes. And also quite harmful, not only to others but themselves.

Yeah, I remember that gave me really, gave me some pause, just hearing that, and that already has changed me in, so there are different approaches to DBT and skills if you've ever heard that.

 

PAUL: Yes. And for people that don't know, DBT is dialectical behavior therapy, which was created by a woman named Marsha Linehan who later revealed that she has borderline personality disorder and it's a way of communicating and expressing your feelings with people that helps things from getting too intense and out of control.

 

ANNE: It's a pretty complex thing, and it encompasses a lot of things, like how to be, of course how to be vocal about your feelings, where to put them, when to put them, and not only regulate them, but sometimes just let them happen so you learn these different tools, and it's a lot of work, but it's also incredibly freeing.

And I can't really say, hm, it's, I think what's so great about this therapy and what has a huge impact are the minor moments, I feel like, like just when you come home from work or something or that you had a stressful day or you had a falling out with someone, this whole idea not to take it out on yourself, maybe not punish yourself by, I don't know, whatever dysfunctional thing it is you're doing, but maybe draw yourself a bath or watch a nice movie or call a friend.

This is something that we have to learn, that a lot of people have to learn, but especially people who suffer from borderline personality disorder and people who had narcissistic parents, because that's something that you just don't do. That's something that I learned, actually, that is this weird idea of modesty, like you don't do things for yourself, and I really had to learn that, and really also take the time, just really be worth it, and also--

 

PAUL: So self-care.

 

ANNE: Self-care is a huge thing, yeah. I have not learned self-care enough.

 

PAUL: It's interesting, too, because that is also a huge component of people recovering from sexual abuse, a huge one.

 

ANNE: I bet, yeah.

 

PAUL: But go ahead.

 

ANNE: Yeah, so I think I really learned to be unhappy. I think I've learned to be silent, invisible. I've learned to be depressed, that's for sure. And for a long time, I think this is why my borderline was for a long time almost like dormant, and why some people might not classify me as borderline, is because there has always been this depression over this whole construct of whatever else is going on with me, so I've kind of, I think I came to a point in my, when I hit puberty and later when I was like 16, 17, where I just shut down, I really feel like there has been a day where I just thought, I can't take this, I'm trying to please everyone.

And I've been such a, I think I've been such a good kid. I was so curious, and when I think about it, it makes me so angry. I've been so curious and I've been, I've been cute and always hated myself, and when I look back at the pictures, I really think, what did you do? Like, how could you fuck that up?

And I think also my family has always been somewhat scared of me being so sensitive because, of course, like I said, they didn't want all the issues to surface, like the alcoholism, the frustration, too. Like my family is kind of happy with being unhappy kind of, and everyone's kind of, there are so many like dependencies, like with dependencies, and people are so unhappy in that.

And yeah, when it comes to self-care, I have just recently realized that everything caring in my childhood might have been my grandma, actually, and that's, that idea is just a couple of days old, actually. I just thought about my childhood and I thought about, where was my mom in all of this, and she was just not there. Like the memories I have with her are mostly unpleasant, to be quite honest.

Maybe, I don't really know what that means because memory tends to be fucked up a little bit sometimes, but when I think about the facts, like who got me to the doctor, who waited for me with a warm meal when I went home from school, which is such a beautiful thing to do, and it's also such a thing, you know, like for parents to do, and that was my grandma. And she took me on vacation. Like I spent a lot of time on their boat, on lakes and rivers and in forests, and I cherished that time a lot.

She was the one who got me to the dentist and to the sauna and she was the one that talked to me when I got home, talked to me about friends and talked to me like I was a person. And I've been idealizing my grandpa a lot [chuckles], and he was--

 

PAUL: Were these the parents on your dad's side or your mom's side?

 

ANNE: My mom's side.

 

PAUL: That's interesting, too, that they would have been the parents of somebody who was so narcissistic.

 

ANNE: What I find weird about the whole situation is that my grandma has been a very strict mother and I think she had been very hard on especially my mom. I think my mom was a little bit of a Cinderella kind of character, taking care of the household, taking care of her younger brother, and kind of be a little bit of a maiden in this household and, yeah, my grandma has always also like, she beat my mom and her two siblings--

 

PAUL: But she didn't you.

 

ANNE: No.

 

PAUL: Yeah, I keep seeing this thing where a parent is abusive to their child, and then is a warm grandparent.

 

ANNE: Yeah, that happens often, yeah.

 

PAUL: Is it because they're so afraid that that kid represents them, but as a grandparent the pressure is off--

 

ANNE: I think so. I think that's the case. Also I think my grandma might have seen that my mom was maybe not cut out to be a mom, maybe.

 

PAUL: And so she was like, this is a chance for me to step in and--

 

ANNE: I think she felt it was her responsibility, and I think she also loved me.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

ANNE: And also she like, she made plans with me, so I always had this sense of there is a future, which is very important, as I realize now, because when she died I was 16 and she was just gone. She left this like huge gap. She was like the matriarch of the family, and then she was gone and with it went all of the care that I really had.

I started, around that time actually, my depression got really, really bad, and the alcoholism of my mom got really, really bad and, because the matriarch was out of the family and so she couldn't hold everything together with her iron grasp, which she definitely had, and not necessarily on me, but on the rest of the family, probably even my cousin, my little sister, too. So, I don't know what that was about, but I know that my sister and my cousin, they don't have these fond memories of her, but I do.

 

PAUL: Did you all live in close proximity?

 

ANNE: Oh, yeah. That's probably something that I should also mention. Like we had this huge house that was my granddad's on my mother's side, which has been in the family for, I don't know for how many generations, a lot of generations, and this was where we all lived. We had this huge yard and this huge garden, and this was the place that I grew up and where my mom still lives.

 

PAUL: Can you think of a moment when you had turned your emotions loose, either outwardly or inwardly, before you learned these tools?

 

ANNE: Passive aggressively, like that's my thing. I have an eating disorder. I was somewhat anorexic, or a combination of all of the things, like a little bit, I started dieting when I was like 12, because this is a huge thing, like when I was 12, I turned a little chubby and, like I said, looking back at the pictures, I was kind of chubby cute, you know, the kind of chubby that people usually grow out of, then, when they hit puberty.

But my family was making a huge deal about it and not necessarily to my face, but I heard them talking behind my back, which I still feel that pain, that betrayal of my, like I remember my whole family sitting together around the coffee table, which I was for some reason not invited to, probably because I was a little chubby, and so you just stop eating cake or something. I don't know what the thought behind that was. And I felt really struck and really betrayed, and that happened a couple of times and I realized, okay, so my body is apparently of public interest and apparently not right.

So I started dieting myself, and how you do that when you're 12 years old, what do you do? You stop eating. And that's a really good idea, I say ironically, when you're just about to hit puberty and you're growing and your brain is growing, your muscles and then your bones are growing, it's a really good idea to stop eating, right--

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: And so, yeah, and I think there's also some--

 

PAUL: By the way, first time I've heard a German be sarcastic. It was rumored that the Germans do not enjoy sarcasm. I want it noted, I experienced one.

 

ANNE: Come on, we've been spending the whole day. That couldn't have been the first time.

So yeah, what I also find interesting is that my binge-eating disorder, which later developed because when you don't eat anything the whole day, what you're going to do then is you start bingeing because your body kind of craves that food, and it's probably good that it does because I might not be here today. I might be dead. And even though I've struggled with weight and body-image issues my whole life, and I'm kind of coming somewhat to terms with it now, but it was a real struggle, and I've done a lot of damage to my body, I think. And I'm really sorry for that.

 

PAUL: With weight fluctuations or . . .

 

ANNE: Weight fluctuations. Like my skin looks really bad. It looks really like, it looks old and looks, I have like these, I like to consider them battle scars, but it makes me sad, looking at them. Sometimes it makes me proud because it shows me I've survived that, because that shows me there has been a battle inside of me, and my body really shows and, yeah.

So I think what also has not been too helpful with my eating disorder was, so back when my grandma was still alive, she would cook for me when I came home so that was nice, but she would also always make you finish, and this is so post-World War II grandma, finish your plate, no matter if you're still hungry, no matter if you like it.

And then what that teaches you is, your opinion, your intuition, your integrity over your own needs doesn't matter. So that wasn't incredibly helpful. And also like, she basically taught me to overeat, and then also would be the first one to tell me that I have gained some weight.

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: Which is the real kicker.

 

PAUL: [Chuckles] Ignore your sense of moderation. Jesus Christ, can't you do anything moderately?

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: Yeah. Yeah, and this is the level of confusion that I have learned, and I think, till this day, I am inherently confused, if I had one word to describe me, it would be someone like confused or just completely ambivalent and irritated, and I really struggle, which also plays into borderline personality disorder, because it fucks up your inner sensor.

 

PAUL: Sense of what is real, that--
ANNE: What is good for you and, yeah, like your intuition, who is good for you and what do you eat to feel better. And I think for a lot of people especially eating is a very, something very intuitive. You eat when you're hungry and you stop when you're full, and I understand it's difficult in this society because there's an abundance of food and of course sometimes it's just difficult to stop and some foods are actually engineered for you to overdo it, but I think most people don't struggle as much as people struggle with eating disorders.

 

PAUL: Talk about, unless there's some more family stuff that you'd like to touch on or some more developing of tools that you'd like to touch on, at some point I want to talk about when the wall came down and your family's perception of history, etc. And your parents were born late '50s, early '60s, so that was basically when the Berlin Wall was beginning to go up.

 

ANNE: Yeah, exactly, yeah. I think the wall was built in '60, in 1960, so they have kind of been born into it, from day one, and so my mom, she tells this story, so I'm not exactly sure whether I really remember it or I just heard it like one time too often her telling the story of watching the news and it was late October, I think, and then late at night, like, I don't know, half past 9:00 or something, the news showed this press conference of the foreign minister I think at the time of the--

 

PAUL: This would have been in what year?

 

ANNE: In '89, yeah. And apparently someone has been saying on the news, like a state official actually has been saying on the news that it's possible now to leave the country without any sort of permit. Like you could instantly leave, and this caused a huge uproar, or not really an uproar, but, and my mom told me about, I don't really know.

She tells the story of her sitting in the living room and being really, really worried about this, so apparently the former German Democratic Republic is falling apart, and she is very, very scared because--

 

PAUL: Meaning East Germany is falling apart.

 

ANNE: East Germany is falling apart, apparently, and now that's kind of the beginning of the end for her because capitalism is just around the corner and criminal-, crime and everything bad and drugs and stuff, which we totally did not have, which is me being again sarcastic because of course we had, we had shit going down in Eastern Germany, right, and so that was completely naïve and, yeah, but that was the story that she told.

Like, she would be scared for her children and, yeah, she didn't want that. She wanted the safety and the security of basically being locked up, and I must say, to her defense, she has been heavily indoctrinated, you know, when you're basically being the first generation, of course people are going to tell you that everything is great the way that we do it and we're going to protect you from everything, especially from free thought and all of the burden that comes with that. And, yes, so she has been scared.

 

PAUL: Well, my country has indoctrinated us into thinking it's freedom to be able to go bankrupt by having cancer.

 

ANNE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, if you would just try harder, you'd be healthier, I mean--

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: Let's face it. Yeah, and to be fair, of course, every country, every government has its own idea of how things are supposed to go, and every country forms its inhabitants. I'm not naïve, and we have that in Germany today. You know, we have a lot of anti-Russia propaganda and it's, I don't think it's always giving us the full picture and stuff, so yeah, I get that.

 

PAUL: So your mom's recollection of being afraid for this, as she recalls this, can she see that her fears were perhaps not justified, or does she, is she saying, see, I was right?

 

ANNE: She's one of the people, she kind of has her own thing going on. I think that does not necessarily always reconcile with reality. I mean, and we all have that, to some extent, but I think once she's stuck with a certain feeling, with a certain idea, then she's going to stick with it.

And she's somewhat open, I must say, to a couple of things, but I think, as I had already told you, I think for a lot of people who still idealize that time in Eastern Germany and things not being so bad and people kind of being secure, it has not been that oppressive. I mean, it has been somewhat tortuous and families been torn apart and people being incarcerated for like 20 years for just saying the wrong thing.

But, you know, for me personally, things have kind of been nice, and I give her that. That might actually be true. My mom is not a very political person. She gets along kind of. She doesn't speak up too much. So for someone like that, having a piece of land and a beautiful countryside, that might have been kind of okay.

And yeah, but you can't totally ignore like all the crimes of the regime. That's just, that just fucks me up completely, and also, I hate the fact that she cannot acknowledge that she, well, maybe that's the problem. She would have to acknowledge the fact that she brought a child into this oppressive system, which I wouldn't even blame her for because, you know, people reproduce. That's what they do.

 

PAUL: And she didn't honestly know any better. She didn't know that she had been raised in pure propaganda.

 

ANNE: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, but on some level, I think she might be a little bit ashamed by that, so she kind of subscribes to this Stockholm syndrome, that's what I like to call it, which it almost kind of is, I think. And also, like I said, she's been young and then kind of, things have been all right for her, so--

 

PAUL: I just love that somebody in East Germany had Stockholm syndrome.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: The West did get to her.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: So, when the wall came down, obviously you were young. You were, what, seven years old. What do you remember or what memories, as you watch them now, bring up any kind of emotions in you, video footage or things, what things kind of resonate and . . .

 

ANNE: I think that the events of that night in October have been pretty extraordinary and pretty unique, I think, because things could have gone south pretty easily. Like, so, if people are not familiar with the history of it, it's really worth just watching a documentary and watching the real footage of it, of that night, of the news. A lot of it is on YouTube, you can watch--

 

PAUL: Is there a particular documentary that you would recommend?

 

ANNE: No, not necessarily. There are a couple of good ones, I guess. I can't remember the names. There are also a couple of good movies we talked about, The Life of Others--

 

PAUL: The Life of Others is an amazing movie, and you had said that you felt like it was an accurate depiction of what it felt like to live in East Germany in terms of being watched.

 

ANNE: I can't say that. I was too young to really make that acknowledgement, but I--

 

PAUL: I'm saying it for you.

 

ANNE: Oh, thanks, Paul.

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: No, but what I like about it is I'm a sucker for these kind of stories, where the villains are not all bad. Like there's this Stasi worker who has been listening in on this actress, I think, and kind of being part of her life, and of course in a very invasive, awful way, but kind of like--

 

PAUL: Kind of human.

 

ANNE: I don't want to give too much away of the movie because it's very subtle and I just like that--

 

PAUL: It's really subtle, yeah.

 

ANNE: Yeah, and also, like a lot of people thought they were doing the right thing, like they were fending off the enemies of the state, and the state is kind of a good thing and needs to be protected.

And so, yeah, I think that's a good idea to keep that in mind and not to just vilify people without really reflecting on what might have driven them and stuff, so I like that. But I also, I really enjoy the footage of that night from the news, especially the press conference, which is still a little bit of a mystery what exactly happened there, who actually gave the order for the borders to open, which is all pretty interesting, and the fact that it was, it was a silent, [chuckles] almost a polite kind of uproar, which is so German, like you're basically standing in line saying, so is this happening or not?

 

PAUL: Looking at their watches, looking up at the guard tower.

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: It's kind of cold, I mean, it is October and, you know, I think we left the TV on, so--

 

PAUL: Did that guy with a rifle just yawn?

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I think this is my chance.

 

ANNE: I think the guys with the rifles were just terribly confused, that's what they were, and they have been very hesitant shooting at their own people, because there are masses gathering at the border in Berlin, at the border point, and nobody lost their shit. And if just one of them had, it might have been a bloodbath.

 

PAUL: And you were saying a lot of the guards hadn't heard the news yet.

 

ANNE: Yeah. It was all so sudden. Just the people that lived right around the corner at the border point in Berlin because it was just basically drawn in the middle of the city and people were walking up to it, just really seeing whether that was true, not really wanting to leave right now because, you know, all your livelihood was here and the families were here and of course they didn't want to leave right away.

They just came to watch, is this true? And the guards were like, I don't know, where did you hear that, we didn't hear anything. So they, I guess they just waited it out and people got impatient. And I love seeing that footage. There were a lot of courageous people really standing there, a couple of pretty moving pictures and video footage of, there's this one woman just yelling at the guard, crying, almost like, what are you doing?

And I don't know why that tears me up. Probably because it is really fucked up to make your countrymen basically keep people from getting away, like their own countrymen. How can you arrive at such a point? I find this whole idea incredibly preposterous, and even though I've never really felt being caught, I always felt kind of caught in my family but not really in the system, because I was much too young for that.

Like my garden was my world [chuckles], like all of the fucking animals that lived there, and it was a beautiful place, like I said, so I didn't really miss much of that. But I did have nightmares when I was younger after the wall came down of being locked up, like a wall rising around me and locking me up in this confined space. I find that incredibly scary. And like I said, I'm not much of a globetrotter, but this whole idea of not being able to leave the country because someone just decided you're not to be trusted with free will. How fucked up is that?

And I think German people have been complacent for a long time, and when they could smell freedom, they kind of, that's what it feels like to me, they were kind of like, yeah, freedom was a thing at one time, that would actually be kind of nice. So they kept standing there and kind of probably working themselves up a little bit, so that's what I find really beautiful, and some of them just shouted, we are the people, just, do you need a reminder, we are the people, we are this country, so what are you doing, and, yeah, pretty emotional stuff.

 

PAUL: Do you want to do some fears and loves?

 

ANNE: Absolutely.

 

PAUL: Hit me with them.

I'm going to do one since we're here in the Netherlands, and by the way, the reason we are recording you here instead of Berlin, Anne came down with the flu when I was in Berlin and was kind enough to warn me that, and just to let you know, you're not the only one that is, overthinks things and doubts her intuition. When you said that you came down with the flu, I thought, oh, no, she now knows that I'm a terrible person and she's backing out--

 

ANNE: See, and I knew, yeah, and that's what made me feel so terrible, Paul, so you're responsible, so thank you very much.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I love in the Netherlands just the silliness of some of the buildings. They're just, I'm not a big fan of the word whimsical, but there's really no other way to describe it. The hotel that we are recording this in right now is straight-up, like if you showed it to a kid, it would be their favorite toy.

 

ANNE: Yeah, no, that's what a kid would have come up with if they--

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

ANNE: --how do you want to build a hotel? Oh, like this, yeah.

So my fears. I fear that life would have been better if I would have been born 50 years later and that a major breakthrough in mortality research is just around the corner, and while I don't think that the idea of immortality is necessarily a good thing, I fear that I might be missing out on humanity's greatest, biggest and most exciting chapter.

 

PAUL: Hm, that's a great one. That is a great one. I'm afraid that I think I'm healthier than I actually am.

 

ANNE: Oh, wow, yeah.

 

PAUL: Mentally and emotionally.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I suppose and physically, but . . .

 

ANNE: I fear that by gaining confidence I'll become an arrogant asshole.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: [Sighs] I'm afraid I will always pick apart the way I look.

 

ANNE: Yeah, I feel that, too, about myself. I fear that my writing reveals something about me that I don't know and that marks me as that person.

 

PAUL: That marks you as a fat person--

 

ANNE: As that person, like--

 

PAUL: Oh, that person.

 

ANNE: --whatever it might be, maybe I'm pretentious, maybe I'm racist or sexist or something and I don't really know that about myself.

 

PAUL: I got you, I got you. That you'll be discovered for the awful person that you deep down are but can't see but everyone else can see.

 

ANNE: Yeah, and the funny thing is that after I wrote that down, a couple of days later, I listened to a writers' podcast and the host of the show, who is a famous author, says that's actually the stuff that you want to write, that makes you feel that way, like you're giving away a little bit too much of yourself, that's the good stuff.

 

PAUL: Hm. I am afraid that once I am no longer under my wife's health insurance, you know, when it's legal, our divorce is legal, that I won't be able to afford health insurance or I will be denied coverage because of all of the issues and operations, etc.

 

ANNE: Yeah--

 

PAUL: And medications I have to take.

 

ANNE: I am so sorry for everyone in the U.S. who is struggling with that. I'm really sorry.

I fear that the man that I'll finally fall in love with is secretly sexist and sees me as inferior.

 

PAUL: Is there a particular guy this is based on, or this is just in the future--

 

ANNE: The sad thing about it is I think, I think I'm picking the good one. I think my picker is okay. That's the sad thing about it, yeah. I'm also kind of afraid that that makes me a hypocrite because I am the one that looks down on people kind of secretly, but I am most afraid that these thoughts are only going to prevent me from ever knowing true human connection, intimacy and love, because I've never been in love.

 

PAUL: Would the word uber leben[sp?] apply to that--

 

ANNE: Who is uber leben, me?

 

PAUL: No, the previous thought about you overthinking about you actually being the one who's sexist.

 

ANNE: Yeah, I'm definitely overthinking this. I think this is the only way that you can really experience love, if you let go of the excessive thoughts and just accept--

 

PAUL: And trust.

 

ANNE: And trust, yeah.

 

PAUL: It's so fucking hard.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: It is so hard. I just wanted to work in the word uber leben, because somebody taught it to me when I was in Baden-Baden.

 

ANNE: Fantastic.

 

PAUL: I am afraid that this, all the political turmoil that's happening right now is not a blip on the radar, but we're heading towards an iceberg. And it's a minority portion of me that fears that.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: But it's a larger portion than I have ever felt.

 

ANNE: I'm hopeful. I fear that the long periods of isolation have driven a wedge between me and the rest of the world that can never be completely removed.

So, yeah, I did mention that I have these, when my depression gets really bad, I isolate myself and I get pretty antisocial somewhat, and I fear that also the years of depression have made me weak, and even if I'm getting better, I won't be able to shake off the bad habits of depression, and I fear that the lack of challenges and avoidance of conflict in my life have made me inherently lazy and self-absorbed.

 

PAUL: I am afraid that the longer I live alone the more set in my ways and used to having my own way I will become and I will become that curmudgeony person that's unbearable to be around because they always have to have everything their own way.

 

ANNE: Yeah. That's, yeah, that's basically in a nutshell what I wanted to express, yeah.

I fear that I will kill myself doing something stupid out of impatience or not calling a doctor soon enough.

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: Like trying to grab something off the cupboard or something and then not getting a ladder or something and just hitting myself on the head and dropping dead or something, just because I've been to impatient and stupid. It's going to happen, I know it.

Or maybe not calling the doctor soon enough when I experience the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack because I will always question, oh, I'm not feeling bad enough to call the doctor yet, I'm kind of getting blind and one of my limb is falling off, but I [chuckles], is it soon enough already--

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: And I am also afraid that I am doing something minor in my life that will have a major impact on my health in the long run, like buying the wrong brand of toothpaste or something.

 

PAUL: Any more fears?

 

ANNE: I think I have, oh, my God--

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: I basically wrote a book of fears.

 

PAUL: Give me two more fears and then let's go to loves.

 

ANNE: Yeah, let's do that.

Let's do the funny ones. I fear [chuckles], I fear that I will lose my sense of smell and I'll become that person that is being recognized by their funky odor.

 

PAUL: Oh, my God, I have that one, too. I have a fear that with older age I will lose the ability to hold in my gas.

 

ANNE: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I also fear that at an old age I get spiteful towards young people and be that grumpy old hag that can't let go of the olden days [chuckles], and I think, and I'm really afraid that I've been already born that way a little bit. Yeah, that's one of my fears.

 

PAUL: Let's do some loves.

 

ANNE: I love people chuckling, like especially a grown man that seems so serious and professional, and then they chuckle like little boys and their whole personality lights up, that's why I love watching footage of anchormen and -women completely losing their shit about some silly joke on the air.

 

PAUL: The outtakes of anchormen are the best.
ANNE: Yeah, it's awesome.

 

PAUL: The best. Any outtake with Will Ferrell is the fucking best.

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: I'm trying to think of something specific about Baden-Baden, because there's so many things that I loved about it. I love just how it felt like everything in my life had changed in those two days that I was there in terms of my surroundings, like I went from the hot, dry, crowded Los Angeles, where everything is, you know, fast, fast, fast, and all of a sudden I was in this throwback, church bells ringing, spring is blooming, everything is green, cobblestone streets.

And it all hit me in this one moment, as I was sharing with you earlier, where I was having a coffee and this guy was playing piano, he had rolled a piano outside, it was the most amazing piano I had ever heard, and I started crying. I asked him to play Fur Elise, and he started playing that and I started crying.

And I cried through the next four songs, and I was trying to not cry and people were starting to stare at me, but in that moment, I loved that I felt like the universe was giving me a hug by saying, you can have this sunny day, you can have this cobblestone street, you can hear this beautiful music, you can drink this perfect coffee, you can go to this incredible spa, you can, you have people that support you that have allowed you to go fly and interview people, the universe doesn't hate you, and I think that's what made me cry, and I was also a little lonely [chuckles].

 

ANNE: Aw [chuckles]. I love this moment when you're out in nature or [inaudible] building, you realize that you are actually part of this collective living, breathing organism called Earth.

 

PAUL: That's a great one. I love the excitement of somebody setting down a gigantic Dutch pancake right in front of you.

 

ANNE: You with the pancakes [chuckles]. I love to see women supporting and appreciating each other and I love how their courage and unapologetic self-love is helping me with my body-image issues and compassion for myself and others. And I love to see men encouraging each other to be vulnerable and toss the shackles of toxic masculinity.

 

PAUL: Wow, is that a great one.

 

ANNE: Yeah, and your podcast is basically part of it, too. Like, I really am a sucker for that.

 

PAUL: Thank you. I appreciate that. And it's been, it has been a hard thing to, it is a hard thing for men to navigate I think in so many cultures, because we haven't been taught an alternative to the hero that pulls out a gun or punches somebody in a bar.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I love [chuckles], I love sitting next to somebody with a ridiculously upper-class British accent and just eavesdropping and thinking, you have no idea how silly you sound to me. And then thinking, oh, that means I probably sound really silly to them.

 

ANNE: [Chuckles] Yeah, that ties in a little bit with the other one. I love to witness the shift in storytelling that you can kind of see, I think, especially seeing more diverse, more realistic and inspiring female characters and kind and vulnerable male characters that are not being portrayed as weak.

 

PAUL: I couldn't agree more. It's, I think it's one of the reasons why I really like the series Girls, too, because it just, to me, is like one of the things that feels like it is, just saying, you know, we've had enough of portrayal of this thing as this and this thing as this. You know, this thing exists. Let's show this.

And I think that's one of the reasons why I connected so much to that movie The Lives of Others, is because throughout the '80s, the villain was always Russian or East German, and then there was this character, this East German character.

 

ANNE: And also people bonding, like this man and this woman, and not necessarily it being romantical necessarily, right.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

ANNE: On a human level, you know. I, this is a little lame, but I just have to say it, I love the Internet and how it gives people access to knowledge and communities that they would have otherwise never have found.

 

PAUL: Fuck, I love it because I can make a living [chuckles].

 

ANNE: Yeah, it's changing people's lives--

 

PAUL: Doing something I love, doing something I love.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I have to do this one because you're here. I fucking love German engineering. The hotel in Baden-Baden and the hotel in Berlin was like something James Bond designed. It was crazy. It was crazy just how thought out everything was, and there was something very comforting to me about it. It's like I suddenly understood the, I don't know if it's the thing with Germans and order.

 

ANNE: I was about to say that, yeah.

 

PAUL: Yes. I suddenly understood it, because it was comforting to me.

 

ANNE: Yeah. And it also shows you how ambivalent something can be, like a character trait, like, you know, Germans are sometimes being known and mocked for being a little bit pedantic, is that a word, like a little bit, you know--

 

PAUL: Detail-oriented.

 

ANNE: Detail-oriented, and it can be annoying, but, you know, Germans get shit done. That's also kind of cool. So, you know, every character trait comes with its up sides and down sides, I guess.

Yeah, speaking of technology, I love space and I love the fact that I am living at the brink of space colonization and that I'm basically able to witness science fiction in the making.

 

PAUL: That is cool. I love . . .

 

ANNE: Pancakes.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I love visiting a country I've never been to before and having an experience, a moment there, that is kind of stereotypical but also has a uniqueness to it.

 

ANNE: This is my last one. So I used to sit my sister's dog, Charlie, and I trained him not to lick people's hands and faces, and even though the training went well and he generally wouldn't do it, I love the fact that when I came home he would lick my hand ever so slightly, just barely, and just the tip of his tongue and only once--

 

[Chuckling]

 

ANNE: --and even though I don't like it when dogs are licking people, I was always looking forward to that moment where he couldn't help himself but lick my hand just a little bit.

 

PAUL: We got to end on that one.

 

ANNE: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Anne, thank you for making the trek. Thank you for being a listener, being a supporter, supporting me personally and emotionally over the years, and being you.

 

ANNE: I love you.

 

PAUL: I love you, too.

 

PAUL: You couldn't see it, but when she said I love you, she made the jerk-off symbol and rolled her eyes, so I was actually very deeply hurt and it was a horrible way to end the inter-, [chuckles] I just ruined my own little bit. Oh, at least I wasn't in front of a club full of people. That is the worst, when you're doing stand-up and you, like if you're struggling to get the crowd and you just start to get them and then you botch one of your own jokes, ugh, the fucking worst.

Anyway, 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. And of course, a gazillion thanks to Anne for being so great, so great, really loved this interview with her, that interview with her. I would only say this if I was holding the mp3 file in my hand.

I love, by the way, too, that she has better English than anybody I know. And I love, too, that I didn't say speaks better English. She has better English [chuckles]. I'm getting dumber by the second. All right.

In case I haven't told you guys yet, and I don't think I have actually, a lot of these episodes you've been hearing recently were recorded when I made a trip to Europe for the express purpose of broadening our stories. I record a lot of Americans and I really feel like the show needs to have a more global [chuckles], what would the word be, palette? I am at a loss for words tonight. It needs more variety, but it costs money to go to Europe, and a listener who was kind enough started a GoFundMe page, so that I can get back there and get to Ireland and record some guests that I really want to record there but didn't have time or money to do so the last time I was there. So I'll put the link to that under the show notes for this episode, and you'll, I'm already starting to bore myself.

Let's talk about Blue Apron. You know, we talk a lot about self-care on this podcast, and cooking a delicious meal for yourself is a super-super-great way to be nice to yourself. And the first time I tried Blue Apron, I was like, I love it, and I subscribed and I have been doing it now for over a year and a half. And I eat it consistently every single week and I couldn't be happier with it.

For less than 10 bucks a meal, Blue Apron delivers seasonal recipes along with pre-proportioned, pre-portioned, not pre-proportioned, pre-portioned ingredients right to your door. Some of the meals available in July include seared chicken and creamy pasta salad with summer squash and sweet peppers. Creamy shrimp rolls with quick pickles. I don't know what quick pickles is. I actually, I briefly danced under the name Quick Pickles in the early '80s. Creamy shrimp rolls with quick pickles and sweet potato wedges. That was my second name in the early '90s, Sweet Potato Wedge [chuckles].

Fresh basil fettuccine pasta with sweet corn and cubanelle pepper, and, that's one of the things I love about Blue Apron, too, is they introduce you to items that you have never even heard of before. It's awesome. And then finally, chile-butter steaks with parmesan potatoes and spinach.

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

Okay, let's get to the surveys. And there are other ways that you can support the show. You'll see them on the show notes for this or other episodes, or just go to Mentalpod.com, that's our Web site, and click on the donate thing and there will be stuff there.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by I Dream of Weenie, and they write, my happy moment is coming to the realization this morning that not only do I no longer care what my younger, racist sister thinks of me and what I should be doing with my life and child, but also when she calls me, quote, too PC, politically correct, to talk to as an insult, since I’m supposedly not down to earth and real enough for taking offense to her and her husband mocking a homeless man with an illness by barking and making faces at him from her $30,000 Jeep and then creating an extremely offensive Halloween costume based on him, it's actually a fucking shining badge of honor.

It's amazing what a little perspective and talking to the right emotionally healthy people can do. Oh, I love that one. I love that one. I love, too, that you managed to pull off a really, really grammatically dicey sentence that I still somehow managed to understand and read. There was a lot of flow-charting needed for us to follow that, but you pulled it off. Kudos to you.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Celestial Speck, and she writes, my boyfriend and I were going to a show that his theater group was putting on. The day of, before we were supposed to leave, we started getting a little sexual and I started giving him a blowjob. His grandmother walked in midway. She thought we'd already left for the show and so she hadn't bothered knocking.

Me being the awkward person I am, I started nervously laughing. We were late to the show. And I'm hoping that come didn't shoot out of your nose. How could I not make that joke? Easily, but I have no sense of decorum and that's why I made it.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Risque, and she writes, I've been struggling with mental illness since I was 13-ish. At this point in my life, it feels like it's just a part of me, but at 16/17, I was really struggling to figure it out. Before I'd gotten any mental health care yet, I had what you would call an a-ha moment.

I was in my bedroom, feeling sorry for myself for cutting again. I remembered that I had been telling myself for years whenever I got very upset, it's not a big deal. There's nothing wrong with you. Just stop feeling badly about nothing. I thought I had life too good to have anything to be upset about, upper-middle-class family, good school, married parents, etc.

Well, all of a sudden I realized me thinking that I was making mountains out of molehills, so to speak, was my problem. Years of telling myself to stop feeling shitty about nothing was so counterproductive, and finally realizing this made it possible for me to do, for me to at least stop shitting on myself for feeling pain. Of course, in hindsight, I really did have some things going on that I do consider, quote, real problems. My dad was emotionally unavailable and had a hair-thin anger fuse, my mom was more concerned about her own feelings than mine, etc.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, validate your feelings regardless of circumstance. Otherwise you can never learn to keep them in check. Preach. Couldn't agree more. Could not agree more.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself My Upcoming Solo Exhibition is Entitled Oblivion but Really I’m Fine [chuckles]. You guys are the fucking greatest. She is bisexual, in her 30s, raised in a totally chaotic environment.

Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. I began obsessively drawing and writing characters having sex when I was eight years old, and hiding it. I would also play with dolls as though they were performing sexual acts on each other, and whenever I was at the house alone, I would watch, rewind and re-watch the scenes in movies where any kind of sexual act was taking place.

I don't remember anything happening to me and I don't know where this behavior came from. My parents weren't modest at all around us and would walk in front of my siblings and I naked or in underwear until I was about 13. But I never remember feeling uncomfortable about that. I also remember accidentally walking in on my dad watching porn around the same age, but I don't remember feeling anything other than embarrassed on his behalf.

I'm afraid that I was assaulted at some time around eight but suppressed it, and if I suppressed it, how painful must the experience had been that I forgot it to protect myself. I became sexually active at 13. I'm still very highly sexualized, and I feel proud of how, quote, and in parentheses, safely adventurous I am in bed, but I am also afraid that once whatever memory might be lurking surfaces, all of that will change and be a source of shame.

I couldn't help but think as I was reading this that, you know, there is nothing wrong in and of itself with nudity, but the intent of a parent walking around naked in front of their child when that child is eight years old and beyond, the context of it has everything to do with it. And I would start there in talking to your therapist about this. Because you didn't feel anything at the time doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't a big deal because a lot of us, when we were kids and we were trapped in environments where we didn't have a choice, we numbed ourselves and we buried how we were feeling about things.

So, I'm not a therapist, but my hunch tells me there's something more to this than you thinking it didn't bother you. I could be totally wrong, but a parent walking around in front of a kid older than a toddler is a red flag, to me. But again, the context would be something else. You know, it's a hard, this is the part, this is one of the reasons why I created the podcast. There is so much gray area with stuff.

It's so hard sometimes to categorize something, but a book I would recommend you, if you're listening to this or you relate to this, read a book called Silently Seduced by Kenneth Adams. It is a profound book about covert sexual abuse and what she just described in here many, many, many therapists would classify as sexually abusive, because if it doesn't take into consideration how the child feels about that adult walking around naked, that is abusive, because it is using sexuality in a manner that makes a child uncomfortable and doesn't give them, doesn't respect their wishes to feel safe. I think you understand what I'm saying.

She writes, ever been physically or emotionally abused? I've been emotionally abused. I was in a loving relationship very young. We were both very immature and ultimately became codependent to each other's codependency, which evolved into manipulative behaviors, which then morphed into a cycle of break-ups, always initiated by me, and reconciliations initiated by both of us at different points. All of this created resentment on his side and resignation on mine.

You know, a lot of times what, and especially people who have experienced some type of sexual trauma or had boundaries, icky boundaries crossed by a family member, love addiction or sex addiction appears when that person gets older, or even at that age, and it's really easy to mistake intensity for love or intimacy.

A lot of times we think, because I'm feeling so intense in this moment, that this is love, but love is a lot more complicated than that. Love is, love and intimacy means having difficult conversations. It means talking about where is the line between accepting you for who you are and being a doormat, talking about what is scaring you, all kinds of different things, and those are the things that, after that first three months of fucking a new person starts to wear off, those are the things that really kind of need to be navigated, to say, is this, is there love here.

Anyway, I hope, I hope you get, I hope you examine that with a therapist because it just, reading that, it made me angry at your parents, and it's all about me [chuckles].

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Peachy Flamingo, and she is straight and 19, and she just filled this out partially, so I'm just going to read what she has filled out. Raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. And I wanted to read this because this, much like a lot of the stories we hear, highlights how complicated relationships can be with people.

And she's never been sexually abused, but she has been physically and emotionally abused, and she writes, a phrase which has always stood out to me as one of the most hurtful things my mother ever said was when she suggested that I was a waste of vital organs and that my lungs, heart and liver should have been given to someone else because I don't deserve to live.

I was 15 when she said this, and since then I have struggled with severe depression, anxiety and low self-worth. To this day, she denies that those words ever came out of her mouth. She denies all instances of emotional abuse, stating either that it didn't happen at all or I am over-exaggerating or can't take a joke.     My mom would do that sometimes, too, and it, it just feels like fuel on the fire when then somebody, you know, somebody letting out their rage, I would say sometimes, I would say, well, where is the joke there, because really on the surface you're just being hostile.

And then here's one I wanted to read in addition to this. Any positive experiences with the abusers? My mother and I have tons of positive experiences together, and she is the person I love more than anyone else. The thing about my mom is she is only emotionally abusive some of the time, and so I try to stick it out for our happy moments. When she's acting happy and loving towards me, it feels totally worth it, but when she's angry and hostile towards me, I feel like I'm making a big mistake by sticking around.

You are so not alone in dealing with this, and I think a support group would be really good to help with that. I know there are some great 12-step ones for people that grew up in, listen to the episode with, I think it's the one that we did with Natalie Feinblatt about codependence and we talked about some codependency support groups, but the damage that a gaslighting parent can do to a kid's ability to trust their own instincts can't be overstated.

And it affects everything in that child's life when they grow up, their relationships, how they view the world, and especially their ability to set boundaries. And you deserve to have a mom who is consistent in her love towards you. Yes, all parents make mistakes. All parents occasionally get angry. But there's a difference between somebody getting a little upset and a pattern of emotional abuse. Those are two completely different things.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Poop Rope, and she writes, I'm sharing two moments. The first has to do with alcohol abuse, and the second has nothing to do with mental health but it is just gross and needs to be shared.

One, I abuse alcohol but not on a daily basis. I use it to cope, and by the way, there's many alcoholics who don't drink, they're binge drinkers. That's not to say you're an alcoholic, just letting you know. I use it to cope with depression, anxiety and once I start I cannot stop. That's an alcoholism red flag. I don't know if this is considered alcoholism or just stupidity. No, it's not considered stupidity.

That's not to say that it's a wise decision, but it's, it's a compulsive decision, not a, oh, shut up, Paul.

A couple of weeks ago I began walking home from a bar just after midnight by myself, completely shit-faced. I woke up over an hour later in the grass on the side of the road, confused and cold. I was only 100 yards from the bar. Clearly, I had needed a rest before continuing my journey and thought, why not just lay down any old place?

I was lucky nobody had seen me and called the cops. Once I got my bearings, I staggered the rest of the way home, tried not to puke in my driveway and went to bed. The next week my mom came to town for my bridal shower and we went to an outdoor picnic and concert with my fiancé's family. I have never told my mom or my fiancé's parents about any of my issues and generally wear a mask around them.

We sat right across the street from the spot I had drunkenly napped the week before. As I made pleasantries and politely passed the salad, I could see the spot out of the corner of my eye, a constant and glaring reminder of who I really am, a piece of shit laying uselessly on the side of the road.

Number one, you are not a piece of shit. Number two, it sounds like you are in pain and you don't have coping mechanisms that are working for you. And you don't have a support network. And I think a great place to start would be to look at the way in which you use alcohol. Alcohol in and of itself is not bad, but when we use it to cope instead of any other type of coping tool and the results bring about shame and secrets and self-hatred, you know, that's something to look at. That's something to look at.

And then her second one was, I'll just kind of condense this one, but her dog chewed its rope toy and swallowed all of the strands, and then a couple of days later she looks in the yard and noticed he was having trouble going to the bathroom. I watched in horror as he extruded a two-foot-long poop thread rope from his butt. It would not disconnect and I knew I had to go help him. I approached with a stick [chuckles]. How was a stick going to help? I say, pompously, because when that happens with Ivy I use a leaf [chuckles], like that's much better.

I tried to assist but he was startled by my probing and began to run. The poop rope followed. He turned and it whipped around, too. Then he began running in circles, afraid of the poop rope. I chased my dog around the yard for at least 10 minutes, trying to dislodge the now-violently swinging poop rope without it wrapping around my arm. Oh, my God, it must have been long.

When I finally got it out, I proclaimed my victory with a huzzah, only to look up and see my neighbor with the fucking perfect lawn watching with disapproval and disgust [chuckles]. Ivy, our dog, when she had diarrhea, she will become frightened of her own diarrhea and she does this like sprinkler, where she sprays diarrhea as she's running away from it and trying to see what is happening with her backside. And [chuckles] interestingly enough, on her Match.com profile, she puts, scared of my own diarrhea, which I think is really up front, but she has not had many matches since she put that on there.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Fracksinous, am I pronouncing that right? And they write, in my high school health class we had our mental health unit. I was dealing with suicidal depression but was hell bent on keeping that private from school officials, as I was receiving the appropriate medical supervision outside of school. Our teacher was frank that depression, not Frank the name, was frank that depression and suicide were a reality and that basically, in the teen years, they're unfortunately too common.

At one point he said, hey, all of you, your life matters, you have made a contribution to this world. Even if you die while you're being born, you provide information for doctors so they can prevent it from happening to other babies. You matter.

At the time, I was just kind of humored by it, but it really stuck with me. As I've gotten older, I've come back to that moment. He was right.

I love when you get a teacher that cares and is passionate. That's so great.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Locust Bean, and I'm not going to read the whole thing. I'm just going to read a couple of parts of it.

He is, he writes, I identify as queer in practice. I actually mostly date women because I have a hard time trusting men. He's in his 30s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. He has never been sexually abused, but he was physically and emotionally abused by a over-the-top physically abusive stepdad. His stepdad was abusive enough to be portrayed in a Lifetime movie, that's how bad.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? And he writes, none. My family keeps insisting that family is important and I need to get over it and forgive, and then in parentheses, you have to forgive for yourself, exclamation point. That I have to get over it and forgive and keep the peace.

I've grown more and more distant from them. Meanwhile they continue to support my stepfather as his temper and dishonesty cost him job after job. And that is enabling somebody that has a rage addiction, and it is so good that you are distancing yourself from your family, because, you know, when somebody says, you know, nothing is more important than family, well, that works both ways, so then your family should start treating you with respect. And if they don't, they've broken their half of the bargain.

And when people, you know, say that, you know, family no matter what, I couldn't disagree more. I could not disagree more. Yes, you should give it your best shot, but at some point, you need to be in the same reality. And what I hear when people say you need to forgive and forget and it's your family, what I usually hear is, I am afraid of having conversations about emotions, because if we open that door, I’m going to be really uncomfortable or experience some kind of feeling I don't want to.

And those tend to be, this is a sweeping generalization, but they tend to be the angriest, most hypocritical people, the people who are just, don't question tradition at all and don't talk about it and just pack it down, and I think those are the people that I happen to mostly see projecting their shame on to other people, because they just, they do not want to, they do not want to begin looking inside themselves.

This is, you know, I'm going to wrap it up with this last one. Actually two, two more.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Lady Costanza Anne Marie of Shitshire [chuckles]. You guys are the greatest. She writes, this is just a small happy moment from tonight, but I think it could be helpful to others. I've been dealing with my sister treating me really poorly this summer, although off and on all my life, predominantly name-calling, shaming me and making really unreasonable demands of which I usually give in to to keep the peace. It's so ironic that this is right after that other one, and it was not intentionally put back to back.

After lots of support from counselors, friends and podcasts, I decided to set a clear boundary with her. She violently violated it within seconds, after which I told her that I didn't feel safe any longer around her, and if she wished to try and mend/have a relationship with me going forward, it would have to be in a mediator/therapist's office.

Of course, she told me I was completely insane, yelled, cursed and insulted me further. I politely stated that I was seeking mental health help and I would love to have a healthy relationship if she was willing to work on it. Of course, she said she didn't need help and that I was the only crazy one and told me to fuck off. So, I left it at that. Of course I'm a little sad at having lost a sister and hope she will change her mind and come to counseling with me. However, I know if she doesn't, I made the right choice tonight.

Within minutes, I felt a sense of lightness and much more present. I noticed the breeze, a twilight sky and leafy branches overhead around me as if the universe was reaching out to give me a congratulatory hug. I came home and got on my bicycle, which I hadn't ridden since I bought it from fear of so many things, what if I fall, what if I hit someone, what if I'm not strong enough, what if a dog chases me? All those fears melted away and I just rode it, a little shaky at first, but soon I was doing big circles in the grass and really enjoying myself. I felt light and easy.

Setting that one boundary and losing the baggage of the relationship physically lightened me. I am proud, hopeful and, dare I say, happy tonight. Oh, I love that. I love that. I love seeing people stick up for themselves, set boundaries and give consequences.

And finally, this is an Awfulsome Moment. I think it's actually a Happy Moment, but this is filled out by Time-Traveling Bunnies, and she writes, when I was younger, it was always my dream to travel abroad, especially to England and Scotland. My parents highly discouraged it, you can just go to Epcot, it's just like Europe [chuckles].

Oh, my God, actually the satirical character I perform as sometimes, that's a bit, and your parents actually say that in reality, oh, my God. And my college boyfriend, who I was crazy about, went several times without me. I was not invited.

So it got to the point where I felt like such a failure, since it's something that so many people do easily, and I found the idea so overwhelming and intimidating that I couldn't. I'm 55 now, and I was especially embarrassed because I'm an architect and we're all supposed to be well traveled.

When my husband died suddenly a few years ago, I told myself that now I definitely never would go because who would I go with? In May of this year, 2017, my son was traveling through England to Scotland with his college choir, so I used this as an opportunity to finally do it. Even though part of me was trying to make excuses not to go, I was able to get my passport and book a flight.

I didn't travel with the choir but met up with them to see two of their concerts so I wasn't alone the whole time. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. In the hotel on the last night, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and did something I have never done before. I said to myself out loud, I am so proud of you.

Thank God for your surveys, thank God for your surveys. It, you know, even if I never read them on the show and just read them myself, they help me. They help me put whatever it is that I'm worrying about in perspective. They entertain me. And it makes me feel good that you took the time to do it, that you care. You know, so often I feel invisible in the world, which I know sounds crazy from somebody who was on TV for 16 years and did stand-up for 25 years, but I do.

I was just sharing with somebody last night that, when somebody says my last name in addressing me, I am still shocked that somebody cares enough about me to memorize my last name. It's still startling.

And when you fill out surveys, it's like, I don't know, whatever the opposite of that is, that's what it feels like. So, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you got something out of it, and I hope if you're feeling stuck that you know that you are not alone and that there is help out there. It's really about making that scary first step and asking for help, because there's a universe of safe, beautiful, loving people to connect to. It's just sometimes a challenge to find them, but once you do, life gets so much better and it's saved my life--

 

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--and I hope you give it a chance if you're struggling to help your life as well. And never forget that you're not alone, and thanks for listening.

 

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