Dear Food: I Want To See Other People – Chelsea Frank

Dear Food: I Want To See Other People – Chelsea Frank

Fat-shamed as a child by her mother and classmates, writer-performer Chelsea Frank, now 24, opens up about the complex role food plays in her life.  She talks about her struggles with weight, self-hatred, bingeing and restricting, going to “fat camps”, life inside an eating disorder rehab and cutting contact with her abusive mother.

Follow Chelsea on Twitter @ChelseaSFrank and on Instagram @ChelseaFrank

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To try a free week go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire.  Must be 18

This episode is sponsored by BoredWalk. an artist-owned and operated graphic apparel company.  To get 10% off your first purchase go to www.IloveBoredWalk.com and use offer code MENTAL

The podcast is recording some live shows in Oakland Aug 2 & 3.  For tix or info go to www.eastbayexpress.com/mental

To become a monthly donor and qualify for bonus content and goodies from Paul (including the upcoming raffle for a free hotel at LAPodfest Oct 6-8) go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

To learn more about LAPodfest go to www.LAPodfest.com

To help fund Paul’s next trip to record international guests, especially in Ireland, go to https://www.gofundme.com/pauls-trip-to-ireland

For more ways to support the podcast go to www.mentalpod.com

Episode:

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Episode notes:

Follow Chelsea on Twitter @ChelseaSFrank and on Instagram @ChelseaFrank

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp online counseling.  To try a free week go to www.BetterHelp.com/mental and fill out a questionnaire.  Must be 18

This episode is sponsored by BoredWalk. an artist-owned and operated graphic apparel company.  To get 10% off your first purchase go to www.IloveBoredWalk.com and use offer code MENTAL

To become a monthly donor and qualify for bonus content and goodies from Paul (including the upcoming raffle for a free hotel at LAPodfest Oct 6-8) go to www.Patreon.com/mentalpod

To learn more about LAPodfest go to www.LAPodfest.com

To help fund Paul's next trip to record international guests, especially in Ireland, go to https://www.gofundme.com/pauls-trip-to-ireland

For more ways to support the podcast go to www.mentalpod.com

Episode Transcript:

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

 

Welcome to Episode 338 with my guest Chelsea Frank. We're going to talk about being fat-shamed by parents, bullied at school. We're going to talk about eating disorders. And it's a great episode. My name, maybe I should start off by introducing myself.

I'm Paul Gilmartin and this, I don't like the way I said my name there. It was weird. I got a little self-conscious. I'm Paul Gilmartin [chuckles], and this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking.

This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I am not a therapist. This isn't a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. Half the show is interview, and the other half is me reading confessions and secrets from listeners through the surveys that people fill out anonymously online.

I want to remind you guys, L.A. Podfest is soon approaching, well, semi-soon [chuckles], a couple months away, October 6th through 8th, L.A. Podfest is going to be happening downtown L.A. And for people who are monthly donors through Patreon, I have booked a hotel room that I am going to be raffling off for monthly donors. So, I'll probably announce in the next week or two exactly how that raffle is going to take place, but it's a nice hotel. It's the Millennium Hotel in downtown L.A.

We finally have a T-shirt vendor. Yay. And a shirt that I can't wait for you guys to see, those of you that are new to the show, one of my dogs passed away about a month and a half ago, and his name was Herbert, and the new T-shirt vendor and I came up with a design to honor him, and it's an adorable picture of his face and the T-shirt says St. Herbert. I'll put a link on the show notes for this episode, but if you go to our Web site, Mentalpod.com, and then you look under Support the Show, there will be a little drop-down menu and it'll say Buy Stuff. If you click on that, then you'll see how to buy T-shirts. But we have other things. We have T-shirts that have the Mental Illness Happy Hour logo. We have a couple of sayings from the show, etc., etc.

I've been thinking, the weirdest thoughts occur to me when I meditate. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's just me thinking about myself with my eyes closed, but I, I was meditating this morning and a thought popped into my head that, how do I explain this. There have been times in the past where I looked at pornography compulsively, in a way that I felt ate into my life, kind of sapped my energy, left me feeling like a loser, etc.

And lately, if I do look at pornography, it's, you know, maybe for 15 minutes. It accomplishes its goal [chuckles], and it seems like it can fall into two different camps, at least for the way, if I am in the mode of looking at pornography, whether it's either a way of, you know, just finding some type of release so I can fall asleep or, you know, just have a release, or, and this is the one that seems to be problematic, is a way of escaping feelings that I don't want to feel, and that usually seems to be the times when it's compulsive, where it'll, you know, be hours of looking at it and then feeling shame and not getting enough sleep, you know, etc., etc.

And when I was meditating this morning, I was thinking to myself, what is it in me or other people that would look at pornography for, you know, four or five hours in a row? It's, yeah, I think it's the dopamine, you know, the high of looking at that and the high of searching for something that's really going to do it for you, air quotes, and I'm wondering if there's like a form of perfectionism that is emotional, you know what I mean, like searching for the perfect orgasm.

Because when I do say, okay, I'm just going to do this for, you know, 15 minutes, I’m going to take care of [chuckles] business, as my friend Jimmy Pardo would call it, I think it's like I surrender to the fact that I am, that there probably is a better clip that I'm going to, that I won't be finding, and I'm okay with that, but I, I wonder if when we're doing that compulsive thing how much of it is an escape from feelings that we don't want to feel and how much of it is the delusion that this time spent searching for a perfect clip is worth the time because we're going to find orgasmic perfection.

I don't know. But speaking of my crazy brain, our sponsor is BetterHelp.com. And I love my BetterHelp.com counselor. Her name is Donna, and she's awesome. We've been working together about a year now, and I can't say enough good things about it.

You can try a free week of online counseling. Go to BetterHelp.com/mental. Complete a questionnaire and then you'll get matched with a BetterHelp.com counselor and you can experience a free week to see if online counseling is right for you. You've got to be over 18. And once again, the Web address is BetterHelp.com/mental. It's important to go to the, to include the slash mental because then they'll know that you came from this show and then they will hopefully continue to support the show like they have been every week for the last six months.

I want to read an Awfulsome Moment. For those of you that are new to the podcast, awfulsome is a term we coined for something that was awful at the time but, after some distance from it, there's something kind of awesome about it also.

And this is filled out by a woman who calls herself Strokes of Genius, and she writes, my mother-in-law is a rare, interesting creature. She means well, but I have a hard time with her because of how shitty she was to my husband.

Anyhow, we were over at her home and my husband was out in the garage drinking a beer with his dad. Each time I visit, my mother-in-law and I talk about the new things she's bought. She's had some issues with self-esteem and gaining weight because of med changes, etc.

The newest outfit on the agenda was a pair of leggings and a tunic, something that I wear regularly. She wanted to, quote, model them, so she went to change. I'm waiting patiently while thinking it's sort of endearing but also simultaneously weird that she wanted to dress like me.

She comes out, looks cute enough, and wanted to show me the detail on the back of her tunic. When she finished, she turned to face me, lifted her tunic and, as I am eye level with her crotch, asks me, do I have a camel toe?

 

[Show intro]

 

PAUL: I'm here with Chelsea Frank, who is a writer, comedian. You've listened to the podcast.

 

CHELSEA: Yes.

 

PAUL: And I looked at some of your Twitter feed and I saw one joke in particular where I was like, oh, well, yes.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Do you know which joke I'm talking about? The one you have pinned.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, yeah. I have my father's green eyes and my mother's inability to love a small child, that one?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I feel like that just gives a lot of how, an introduction right off the bat.

 

PAUL: So where do we start with your story? Where are you from? How old are you?

 

CHELSEA: I'm 24. I'm from Los Angeles, actually. I'm a native. I lived away for like eight or nine years, though, so I got some, I got to be outside of this bubble. I actually went to boarding school, so I left when I was like 14. And do you know Idyllwild? Idyllwild Arts Academy?

 

PAUL: Nh-nuh. Where is it?

 

CHELSEA: Idyllwild is like three hours from here in the mountains above Palm Springs, and it's like this little hippie artist commune school that I got to go to--

 

PAUL: Was it a high school?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. It was like Fame, you know, it was like that. And so, except for like way gayer and more foreign. So, it was [chuckles], it was really fun. Went there for high school, and then I went back East for school, for college, and then like lived in a couple Third World countries, which is like the whitest thing I could ever say [chuckles], and then I came back a couple years ago.

 

PAUL: What were you doing in the Third World countries?

 

CHELSEA: So, in college, I spent a summer in India doing non-profit work, and then, after I graduated college, I went and did some documentary work in Uganda, in East Africa--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHELSEA: --which was really awesome. It was so awesome.

 

PAUL: Let's jump into that stuff.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, it was great.

 

PAUL: Let's jump into the--

 

CHELSEA: Sure [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Or maybe we should hold off on that until we know more about you and what led you to want to do something like that.

 

CHELSEA: Sure.

 

PAUL: So, what was home life like? Or let me ask you this, before you do that, give me some broad strokes of issues that you struggle with and negative self-talk you have about yourself.

 

CHELSEA: Oh--

 

PAUL: I’m assuming there's negative self-talk--

 

CHELSEA: No, I'm like super, I like love myself and like--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: I'm just a comedian just because like, I don't want to make life harder for myself. It's too easy.

No, I went to rehab actually for an eating disorder a couple years ago, so I feel like that's probably the most I've done work on any mental illness of mine, because I feel like I've got a few going on, but that is definitely one of the big themes in my life, is food issues and really unhealthy habits surrounding food.

And probably underneath that is just really low self-esteem.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: I had a weird, like it's weird for me to talk about my childhood in any, it was so conflicting, you know, like I can't ever really say it was too much of any one thing because, you know, I had a lot of really good parts of my childhood and really privileged parts of my childhood that I'm really thankful for, and then I had some really weird, strange, really unhealthy dynamics and weird relationships and just, you know. It was so, so many mixed messages.

 

PAUL: I think that 90% of us are nodding our heads and going, me, too, me, too, which is why it's so hard, because you don't want to feel like you're throwing somebody under the bus because there were good things--

 

CHELSEA: Right.

 

PAUL: --but I think it's not about saying, did this ultimately wind up being a good or bad childhood, you know, as if you're weighing the scales of justice--

 

CHELSEA: Right, yeah.

 

PAUL: --I think it's just about processing the stuff that was negative, and keeping in mind that there was stuff that there was positive.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Give me some beautiful moments with your family, cherished kind of memories that you have of growing up.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, well, we have a family movie that we always watched together whenever we were all together.

 

PAUL: How many kids?

 

CHELSEA: I have two older sisters, which is interesting, because we're all really different. I say all because it feels like 10, there's like 10 kids, with three daughters, it feels like a lot more.

Yeah, we would watch like Father of the Bride together, that's like a family movie. And those were always really nice moments because, you know, there was just such, there was a lot of fighting and chaos and my parents had a weird, a bad marriage, and so it was like, but that movie coming like always, and it was so funny, we knew every word and we would always act it out, and Steve Martin is brilliant. So like just that kind of comedy, coming together to watch that movie was always like really special. We would go on like family vacations, except for those were always just really stressful.

 

PAUL: Did your dad enjoy watching Father of the Bride--

 

CHELSEA: Oh, it's his like favorite movie ever.

 

PAUL: Really?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. My dad's really funny, and that's, I mean, he will mess with us, like if we have boyfriends and he'll imitate the same kind of like meeting-the-boyfriend scene from that movie, but yeah. I don't know, we had a lot of, we had family vacations that were special.

My dad and I have had a lot of really, I’m closer with my dad. I don't have a relationship with my mom right now, so it's harder for me sometimes to think back on good moments with my mom, but I know there were.

 

PAUL: Is that by choice?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. And I think with her it's, I, you know, it's not a forever thing. I think I just need time away from her. Yeah, I think I finally was like, I need space from you to like figure out who I am without you, which is hurtful to people, but I think with, you know, my parents are separated now and they're finally splitting up--

 

PAUL: When did they--

 

CHELSEA: A year and a half ago, after 32 years.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHELSEA: Which was like, ugh, are you kidding me? But, way to do it, like after you put us through, I mean, thank you for making me funny, but like beyond that, you know, [chuckles] you could have done this 20 years ago.

But, so when they split up, I kind of distanced myself a lot from her because it was, it's just easier to now.

 

PAUL: So, I take it that you, if you were to pick somebody's side, you would pick your dad's side?

 

CHELSEA: It's not really like that, because I don't, it's not that one person did something huge and that's what, you know, it's just that they weren't, you know, my mom, I think a lot of it was, you know, when my dad started hearing about some of the things that had happened with me and my sisters, like some of the things my mom had done and hurt us really badly, that was just too much for him.

 

PAUL: What were some of the things?

 

CHELSEA: Well, I'm so, you know, I’m so cautious right now because my dad is really private. He's a really private person, and I don't, I’m fine with talking about myself, but I get a little bit more uncomfortable because I know that he, he's not coming on this podcast.

He doesn't, you know, I don't want to air his shit out, but I think that personally, with me and my mom, my mom was really hard on me about my weight. And she was, I was an actor. She's a talent manager, was a talent manager, and I was an actor as a kid, and she was my manager.

This is like a walking platitude story. I mean, I’m a Jew from the Valley with like entertainment industry parents [chuckles] who like, I was an actor, it's like, got an eating disorder, it's like just such a, I’m a textbook.

 

PAUL: How could you not have an eating disorder?

 

CHELSEA: I mean, there's just no, like I would feel left out--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I would have said, you weren't paying attention in your childhood--

 

CHELSEA: I know, right--

 

PAUL: --if you have a healthy view of your body and an okay relationship with food. You must have been asleep.

 

CHELSEA: I honestly, I would have, even if I had turned out fine, I would have like pretended to have one just to be like part of the club. But no, it was just, it was classic. You know, she, I was really overweight as a kid.

My sisters were both thinner. I went to a school that was like an L.A. prep school where everybody was famous or their kids were famous, you know, the kids were famous or their parents, and money and industry and so Hollywood and that's such a shitty thing for like 13-year-old girls and boys to be exposed to.

 

PAUL: As if there isn't enough pressure to fit in already.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, it's horr-, I mean, and then so, so a lot of it was, I was really badly bullied, like objective-, I told people stories of like the bullying that went on that are, it's crazy. I look back on it and I'm like, that's insane, I can't believe that stuff happened to a 13-year-old, and I had no idea how wildly crazy it was.

 

PAUL: Well, now you have to share it.

 

CHELSEA: Well, yeah. So I was, I was [chuckles], I had everything from like, kids would take like naked photos of me, while I was changing for like--

 

PAUL: What [incredulously]?

 

CHELSEA: --PE and then post them online and like circle--

 

PAUL: What [incredulously]?

 

CHELSEA: --body parts, like fat rolls.

 

PAUL: You've got to be kidding me.

 

CHELSEA: And just like, yeah, no, and like I would LiveJournal, do you remember LiveJournal?

 

PAUL: No.

 

CHELSEA: LiveJournal was like pre-MySpace.

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

CHELSEA: And, or maybe at the same time. I don't know. And it was like what it sounds like. It was like a journal or diary. And it was like blog posts. It was kind of like Tumblr. And so they would just post it to that, and they would make fake MySpaces and post those pictures on there, and they were like blurred out, you know, of my, of like my private areas, but they would circle like my stomach hanging over my pants as I was changing.

They would pee in Ziploc bags and put them through the slits of my locker and leave it open so that when they put the bags over it would get all over my lunch and books and stuff. I mean, like really go out, [chuckles] it was just like nuts. And so elaborate, like that's so elaborate and detailed. Like I would never even think of doing something like that to somebody.

 

PAUL: What kind of a kid does some-, what do you think the home life is of a kid that does something like that?

 

CHELSEA: I don't know because I, you know, I like, I'm still kind of afraid of those girls, this many years later. I've seen them around L.A. and I avoid-, I remember one time I saw one of those girls who had done that, and this was like a few years ago, this was probably like when I was like 18 or 19, and I saw her at like the Sherman Oaks Galleria and I like [chuckles] hid in the bathroom, like in middle school. It was really wild. I was like, wow, I guess I'm totally not over this because she still scares me.

 

PAUL: Is this before you went to Idyllwild?

 

CHELSEA: This was after. I mean, I went from, oh, so, yeah, yeah, this was before Idyllwild. This was like eighth grade.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. So it was just really weird. I mean, these kids were crazy. And I, I have a joke in my stand-up about how like I was bullied a lot as a kid and now I totally get where they were coming from or something like that, because I was, I can look back and be like, oh, I instigated a lot of stuff. I was really dramatic, and I cried non-stop, and I was an easy target.

But st-, and I was, but I was really ugly, like conven-, you know, for a 13-year-old kid, we're all kind of awkward, but I was like, for L.A., I was a nightmare and so, and really overweight and, not that I assumed, not that I think that being overweight is synonymous with being ugly, but for a 13-year-old kid in L.A., that was, to them, very ugly, you know.

 

PAUL: Sure.

 

CHELSEA: And so yeah, I was just, so it was the weight thing, and yeah, the bullying was really crazy, and I just remember like my mom kind of reinforced that. Instead of being like, you know, you shouldn't change yourself for what other people want you to be or, you know, don't lose weight, she would be like, well, you know, they have a p-, like if you would lose weight, they would stop bullying you.

 

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

 

CHELSEA: Now in my adult y-, like now going through therapy and treatment and all this, I can see as, she was trying to be a protective mother, and looking at her kid who was being bullied and not fitting in and was like, well, I don't want her to be bullied anymore, I want her to have friends, so if she loses weight it's like a win-win, you know. And so I think that that's, I can understand that, while I don't think that that's the best way of going about it as a parent, I mean, I understand logically.

But as a 13-year-old, it's like I felt, I felt like it was coming at me from all sides. You know, like I just felt at school I wasn't good enough and at home I wasn't good enough, and it was like a constant thing at the dinner table of, you know, we would eat out a lot, and just my sisters were able to order things with no problem, and like I would, it would get to me and she would just stare at me and like--

 

PAUL: What did that feel like?

 

CHELSEA: It's so violating, because eating is such a personal thing, you know. It's such a personal thing.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: And--

 

PAUL: It's going to the bathroom in reverse.

 

CHELSEA: That's beautiful. That's beautiful.

 

PAUL: I have it crocheted, if you'd like a copy.

 

CHELSEA: I would. I would like a shirt and a hat.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, it's just so, and it's just, it's really weird. It's like my sister could order whatever she wanted and it was fine because she was skinny, but I was like, it was just, and it was so, my mom is like, because she has no poker face. So, you know, she just had to say something, always, like.

 

PAUL: And would anybody come to your defense?

 

CHELSEA: I mean, [sighs] not, it was--

 

PAUL: I'm not faulting them.

 

CHELSEA: No, no. I don't even know how to answer it really because I don't think I even, I didn't show how much it bothered me. You know, I don't think anyone knew like what it was doing to me, even though it seems like it would be obvious now.

It was so like, you know, and my dad would kind of like yell at me about my body and about eating better. You know, my mom would tell him, tell my father, you know, say something to her, she listens to you, and so he would end up having to like scream at me about, you shouldn't be eating this, you shouldn't be eating that, you need to lose weight, and it's like it came largely from her.

 

PAUL: Your mom sounds pretty controlling.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. She has an image about what she wants, what she thinks matters and her values and she has an image about what her daughters should look like and be like and--

 

PAUL: It's pretty narcissistic, huh?

 

CHELSEA: [Sighs] Yeah. She is, she's so afraid.

 

PAUL: I think--

 

CHELSEA: My mom is so afraid of so many things, and I'm just like, it, we, you know, she's very anxious and nervous and, you know, and I--

 

PAUL: Probably insecure and--

 

CHELSEA: Very insecure and, you know, she was always chasing someone's approval. And so I don't, I just think that she looked at me and she saw a lot of herself and didn't want me to turn out like her, which I really believe that. I really think that, you know, she just saw I was the heaviest of us three girls and she struggled with her weight, and I think she just didn't want me to feel like she did but went about it totally the wrong way.

 

PAUL: I have never met a woman who wasn't negatively affected by being raised by a mom who had body-image/weight issues or a parent that commented on the child's body in specific ways, you know, not, you know, the good way of saying, you know, everybody's body is unique and we should learn to love ourselves and fuck anybody that, you know, makes you feel bad about your body, that would, I think is a great way to talk about the body, but when people get specific, even to say like to a kid, boy, you have just a beautiful butt or your chest is so, you know, great, you're going to have so many boyfriends, you know, or--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --it just, it fucks kids up, because then they're like, oh, this is such an important thing about me.

 

CHELSEA: Seriously. And I also feel like a lot of moms, the way they talk about themselves, and even if they don't talk about their kids, but they talk about, they look at themselves in the mirror and they're like, I look fat, I look horrible, and when you're a child, your parents are God to you.

That's like the way that we have to view our parents, and especially as a daughter looking at her mom, it's like, if I come from you and you're like this everything being in my life, you're God to me, and you hate your own body and like, am I supposed to hate my body?

 

PAUL: Do I have a chance [chuckles]?

 

CHELSEA: Do I look, if I look like you, everyone tells me I look like you, does that mean that I have a horrible XYZ. Like, I think parents often don't realize that the way they talk about themselves is just if not more important sometimes than the way they talk about their kids or to their kids.

 

PAUL: I agree. I completely agree.

 

CHELSEA: But yeah--

 

PAUL: That's why I think parents shouldn't even talk to their kids.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, that's why I think we should just not have kids.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: I love my kids so much that I'm not having them.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: I think you should have kids, but I think you should take them to the desert and let them find their own way.

 

CHELSEA: I think you should just let infants raise other infants.

 

PAUL: That's not a bad idea.

 

CHELSEA: See what happens.

 

PAUL: They will certainly learn the importance of life skills, or not.

 

CHELSEA: I'm just imagining like a bunch of Moseses in a river, just a ton of babies in baskets--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: I don't know why, it's like the only image I have in my head now, it's like a pond of babies in baskets.

Anyway, so yeah, that's a lot about my, yeah--

 

PAUL: Any more of the bullying things? We don't touch on that a tremendous amount in the podcast, and I think it's a really important topic. Can you talk more about--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, because I feel like that's a huge part of all of my shit, is I had a hard time socially. And so, and most of my peers--

 

[Simultaneous discussion]

 

PAUL: And it doesn't end when you get out of school, you know, the ripples, I think, go on for a long time, even after you're not around those people. I mean, obviously, when you were at the Galleria and you were afraid of that--

 

CHELSEA: I have, and I have, my fears are so based in 12-year-old me. Like, you know, social anxieties I have, they would not happen now. My life is not set up like a school of 100 kids. You know, it's totally different in adulthood, but I still have weird social fears that are totally from like my 13-year-old self.

 

PAUL: What was the school that you went to where the bullying took place, if you're comfortable saying, or would you rather not?

 

CHELSEA: I don't, I would rather not.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

CHELSEA: But it was here in L.A. It's one of the private schools in L.A. But bullying wasn't just there. It was just, it came to a head. That was probably the worst year, eighth grade was probably the worst year of my, you know, childhood, I'd say.

 

PAUL: Did you have suicidal thoughts?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. And I remember early as five having suicidal thoughts, which is really weird. I told a therapist about that--

 

PAUL: I just call that precocious.

 

CHELSEA: I just, yeah, that just tells me you're going to be smart. If I see [chuckles], I baby-sit kids sometimes and I had this like really depressed five-year-old boy and I was like, you get it.

 

PAUL: Yeah. He knows how to weigh options at an early age.

 

CHELSEA: I would like, I'd get him ready for school and he would just be like, I would try to wake him up and he would just stare at the ceiling and be like, I need a minute.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: He was five, and I was like, I just, I see myself in you, I love you.

 

PAUL: Oh, my God.

 

CHELSEA: But yeah, where were we? Oh, the bullying. Yeah, I mean, I always, since I was like in school I've dealt with bullying. I think here in L.A. and especially in the Valley it's, it's weird, it's a weird dynamic going on here.

 

PAUL: It seems like, and maybe that's wrong, but I was going to say, it seems like when you throw money into the mix, which tends to have a lot of parents who are workaholics and don't pay attention to their kids, it seems like it's an even riper environment, or, you know, an area where there's huge amounts of drug addiction and the kids aren't being paid attention to.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Those two just seem to be the most vulnerable, because, in my opinion, that's where a lot of the meanness comes, is those kids take that anger that their parents aren't paying attention to them--

 

CHELSEA: Oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: --or they're giving them attention that is abusive.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. They just have access to so many things that most kids don't have access to. Like I Know, you know, the girls in eighth grade, seventh, eighth grade, were doing cocaine and like having sex and it's just like, you know, I know that kids younger and younger are getting into that, but it, I was always like really scared of that stuff. I was more, I was terrified of drugs, absolutely terrified of drugs.

I can remember the first time I smoked weed. I felt so guilty for a year, and then I cried to my dad in Baja Fresh about it [chuckles]. I like admitted it randomly when I was like 13, and I was like, I’m so sorry, and like I'm sobbing into like a burrito bowl and I'm just crying, crying. I was like so guilty about that stuff.

But yeah, I mean, I just always felt like one day, okay, I think the mixed-messages thing was like, one day I would come to school and I'd have a lot of friends and everything would be great, and the next day, nobody would talk to me, and it was so confusing to me because I never knew like what I was doing or what was going on that was turning people for or against me. And I think I carry that into now.

Like I’m always like, people can just flip one day, like maybe tomorrow, you know, my closest friend will hate me. And like I have this weird fear of like, you know, being myself turns people so hot and cold, and people will be like, that's not, that's everyone, that's not, you know, that's not a rational fear to have, but I'm like, I don't know, it seemed to be happening all the time in school.

 

PAUL: Would it be a bad time for me to say that I was expecting more out of this interview and I'd just like to go ahead and wrap things up?

 

CHELSEA: Is there a cliff nearby?

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: Do you have a gun? Could I shoot myself in the face currently?

 

PAUL: I hear so many stories of girls at that age where one day all of a sudden their group of friends completely turns on them.

 

CHELSEA: It's so weird, and, you know, it's so like, I think about this stuff and I think it's like, oh, you know, you hear the stories of bullying and it's like we get, you know, the PSAs and whatever, but it's so real because who you are at that age, it's the biggest deal in the world if you don't have friends or if you're alone at school. Like, it is the end of the world, because that is your entire, you don't have a job and a life and friends and, you know--

 

PAUL: A sense of self.

 

CHELSEA: A sense of self and a life that you can, you know, pick and choose different friend circles and stuff like that. I mean, your whole world is going to school and going home and then being online and talking to your friends from school and like that kind of thing. That's really it.

So it's, and to be that young and not know who you are at all and everything is changing and, you know, you're awkward and just, it is such a big deal, and then those wounds are that age until you heal them. So you can be 45 years old with a seven-year-old wound inside of you that just like still has never healed itself.

And so that's why I'm like so, in therapy recently I've just been like, I've never talked more about that stuff than I am now because I'm like, I don't want to be like a mom one day and like do some weird shit to my kid because I like never resolved my 10-year-old weird school-bullying self, you know.

But yeah, I think so that's, I mean, it was just, you know, a lot of name-calling, and most of the time it was all centered around what I looked like. It was my weight. That was primarily like what was people's problems with me [chuckles].

 

PAUL: And so when you would hear those things, would you believe what they were saying?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, because I also felt that way about myself. I was like, and also, my mom was putting me on diets.

 

PAUL: And how did you feel about those? Would you give it an effort or did you, were you like rebelling against it--

 

CHELSEA: No, I mean, who wants to feel, no, who wants to feel like they can't just be a part of the group? I mean, being on the Zone Diet when you're like nine, [chuckles] it's just, and when your friends are eating like pizza and ice cream because they're nine and you're like having to eat these weird prepackaged meals that you get delivered to your home, like you're some 30-year-old housewife, it's really weird.

So, no, it was, it sucked, it really sucked. But I also wanted to lose weight. And so it was a strange thing of like, you know, [sighs] who do you think like learns, you know, kids don't just like pick up bad eating habits out of nowhere. I mean, your family teaches you these, quote, bad habits, and then they shame you for it and make you feel like it's your fault and that you're like fundamentally flawed for being a certain way that you learned from them, so it's crazy.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: So yeah, that was not, it was hard. It was really hard. And then changing to that school was a nightmare, truly a nightmare.

 

PAUL: Why?

 

CHELSEA: Because I was, the first year I was there I was fine. I had a few friends and I was kind of one of the like, I was a little under the radar--

 

PAUL: At Idyllwild, you mean.

 

CHELSEA: No, no, no, no. Changing to the--

 

PAUL: Oh, going to the bullying school--

 

CHELSEA: --going to the where it got really bad, yeah.

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

CHELSEA: That was hard, because like the first year I was there, I was fine--

 

PAUL: So the school before that wasn't as bad.

 

CHELSEA: I'm talking about like, you know, I remember getting bullied as soon as kindergarten.

 

PAUL: Jesus.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah. This is like, it's always been weird, which is why I felt always that it was me, because it was so pervasive.

 

PAUL: Give me some of the negative thoughts that are still in your head to this day about yourself that you had when you were that age? Or that have grown since that age.

 

CHELSEA: That like are still very much from--

 

PAUL: Yeah, the greatest hits of negative things you say to--

 

CHELSEA: The greatest hits [chuckles]. I'm going to start a podcast of just like my inner dialogue.

I think that I am too much, I'm obnoxious, that I'm not good enough.

 

PAUL: Any particular things you think you're not good enough at?

 

CHELSEA: Just generally.

 

PAUL: In general.

 

CHELSEA: Like I think I, that's one of my biggest problems with myself, which is where a lot of the eating disorder stuff comes from, is--

 

PAUL: When you have been successful at something, do you think that you're a bit of a fraud, or are you able to take pride in it?

 

CHELSEA: I can like for a little while take pride in it, but, to me, it's always like, well, somebody else did it better. I'm so much better than I used to be, though. It's, this past year, this past couple years, since treatment, it's been a lot better. I'm able to fight with myself more, you know.

 

PAUL: I think that's the first stage--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I'm able to have--

 

PAUL: --is standing up to that voice and saying, you know, that's not true, I did this, even if you don't believe it, at least thinking that positive thought about yourself is the . . .

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I had a therapist once just, you know, because I'm very like, I can't do the moony stuff. I can't, you know, be all like Miss Positivity all the time and just like, I couldn't, some parts of treatment were very like Kum-Ba-Ya body and soul, and I just couldn't get on board with it.

 

PAUL: That stuff leaves me just rolling my eyes.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, it's like, it just, ugh, please. And so, I had a therapist that was really helpful where he was like, just fact check it. Just treat it like fa-, like, so if you have a thought or a belief about yourself or an event is going on and you're assuming that everybody is thinking XYZ about you, just go with the facts of like what's happening and what evidence you have to support it or go against it, and then you don't have to feel like you're lying to yourself. You're just checking yourself.

And that's, it sounds, I don't know, but it was a really useful thing for me to be like, I won't feel like if I fight with myself that I'm bullshitting myself.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: Or I’m just lying to myself. I'm going to feel like I’m just trying to be more of like a, almost like a journalist or like a detective about my own belief system.

 

PAUL: That's why I think leading a principled life and having ways that we can be of service and maybe try to make the world a slightly better place is so, so important because not only does it help build your self-esteem, but it opens up the reality that it's not all about what other people think of you and that it's not all about you.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Do you know what I mean?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, definitely I know what you mean. And that oftentimes people's weird behavior is entirely about their own shit or their own day or what they just came from or, like I have a tendency to just assume that everybody had a great day before they saw me--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: You know, like I was the thing that set them off into this horrible mood when, in reality, people are just like--

 

PAUL: That is fantastic. That is such a--

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That is such a fucked-up self-loathing and yet narcissistic at the same time.

 

CHELSEA: So narcissistic, it's like--

 

PAUL: I’m a piece of shit the world revolves around.

 

CHELSEA: Totally. It's so self-absorbed.

 

PAUL: My toxicity is so potent that I’m taking other people down with me. I love that.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, it's so gross. Oh, it's so gross. Like, it really is disgusting.

 

PAUL: I don't think I've ever met somebody who, you know, if it's always about them, I've never met a happy person who makes it all about them. The happiest people I know are the ones that find ways to get out of themselves and be of use, and that seems to calm them down. And I think for many, many years, I thought I need to think about myself more because I need a better plan to feel good--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --and I thought that it involved thinking more about myself, when in reality that was the thing that was sending me in the wrong direction, where I was too self-absorbed.

 

CHELSEA: Very true, yeah.

 

PAUL: And that's not to say I'm not self-absorbed anymore, but I'm less self-absorbed.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: But let's talk about me.

 

CHELSEA: Please.

 

PAUL: You were going to say something.

 

CHELSEA: No, and I think also part of it is like, when people, I'm also 24. Like sometimes I'm like, am I mentally ill or am I just in my 20s?

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: That's so going in the opening montage--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: Okay--

 

PAUL: --of a future--

 

CHELSEA: --I really am confused. The other night I was at a party and somebody was like, how are you, and I was like, I’m 24. Like, I’m either best I've ever been or the worst I've ever been, like, in probably my life. You know, it's like, it's such a high-low period that I'm like, ugh, maybe I'm just so stereotypically in my mid-20s.

 

PAUL: And the fact that you're in therapy, though, and you've gone to a rehab for your eating disorder and that you set boundaries with your mom, I mean, that's a good sign. That's--

 

CHELSEA: Thank you. Yeah, and it's hard. I'm working on it. I'm really trying to like, [sighs] I just don't want to like, I think I'm addicted to a story about myself. I think it's like I, I went through treatment and I went through all the stuff and I thought I was addicted to this and that and food, and I thought I was like, I'm addicted to this person, I'm addicted to this whatever, and I think I'm just addicted to this story that I have created for myself or that I am this like, ugh, like this hot mess, you know.

 

PAUL: I heard somebody say one time, this guy said, I realized one day that I'm an epiphany junkie.

 

CHELSEA: [Chuckles]

 

PAUL: That he's just constantly looking for a-ha moments, as if that's going to solve it, and then I realized, well, that moment even in and of itself is proof that I'm an epiphany junkie, having an epiphany that I'm an epiphany junkie.

 

CHELSEA: I know, right, that's so meta.

 

PAUL: That's so meta.

 

CHELSEA: So meta.

 

PAUL: But I think there can be a tendency with those of us that ruminate to want everything to be a grand revelation, instead of really, in reality, what most of life is, is barely imperceptible little spurts of growth--

 

CHELSEA: That build on each other.

 

PAUL: --that may not even feel good at the time, but--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --two years from now, we go, oh, if I hadn't gone through that shitty thing, I wouldn't have learned this thing that I'm going to use now in this situation to protect myself.

 

CHELSEA: Absolutely. I mean, probably the things that I have seen, I think what's helping me ride these waves of depression, ride the waves of, because my eating disorder is probably the worst it's been since treatment, right now.

 

PAUL: Right now.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah. It's been really hard lately.

 

PAUL: I'm sorry.

 

CHELSEA: It's okay. I mean, you know, what I feel like the positive part of it is, is that I used to get so wrapped up in my feelings, like in the cycle. Like, I would get in a depressive episode and it would all consume me and it would just be like, I can't' get out of bed. I have to, I can't work, I can't do anything. And I believe wholeheartedly that people go through those spells of depression and, I'm not going to qualify what I'm saying.

I just, for me personally, I used to get so absorbed in it, and now I, and with my eating behaviors, because my behaviors are so, from my childhood, I was overweight, it was a lot of binge eating. And then I went to fat camp [chuckles], so my eating disorder has gone from fat camp to treatment for anorexia, the whole spectrum of food problems and weight issues you can have. And--

 

PAUL: Is there an award for that?

 

CHELSEA: I want one.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: I feel like, come on, let's make this more about me. But I, yeah, so I went to, or what I was saying is, now I'm able to like see, have a little distance from--

 

PAUL: Your feelings?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, a little more distance from my feelings, a little more distance from like, you know, when I'm going through a depressive episode, it's not quite as, like I don't let myself soak in it as much.

 

PAUL: And I had never realized that you could distance yourself from your thoughts and your feelings and observe them and not feel like this is me, this is who I am--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --this is a template of what the future is going to be like. And reading Eckhart Tolle really, really helped me with that, to take the, to just observe, to detach from judging what it is that we're feeling. And it's helped me embrace the fact that I live with depression, it's helped me not judge myself, which then doesn't exacerbate it, you know, through either self-loathing or, you know, shaking my fist at the sky, why does this have to be my lot in life, that I have this depression that keeps me frozen.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: I think that's a really, really important thing, is to understand that you're feelings aren't who you are.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. And I feel like with those, definitely with depression, with eating and all that, eating is so, so hard. It's so gray area. You know, I think with a lot of mental illnesses, there's such a black-and-white, or addictions, there's such black-and-white, like with alcohol or drugs, it's like just don't use, and that's, and there's such a measure of how you're doing in your recovery because it's like it's been 10 days, it's been 10 years, it's been 50 years since I had a drink, and you can very easily measure how it's going.

 

PAUL: You don't have to . . .

 

CHELSEA: But with food, it's like, what am I supposed to say? Hi, I'm Chelsea, it's been two years since I ate? Like, it's really a weird thing to--

 

PAUL: People that aren't, yeah, go ahead.

 

CHELSEA: No, yeah, it's just, it's such a relationship fix, because, you know, like in rehab, like food rehab is the only rehab where they give you your problem six times a day and you have to like deal with it all day long. They don't give you like cocaine in cocaine rehab, you know what I mean [chuckles]? Like, it's just a weird, a really weird thing, and everybody has a different opinion about what a healthy diet is.

 

PAUL: And plus, the nature of addiction is black-and-white thinking--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --and to learn nuanced, you know, proportions are a version of nuance.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. And everybody disagrees. We have like a bajillion-dollar industry because nobody can agree on what's healthy.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: So it's really confusing, because I don't ever know what's my, you know, own intuitive eating and what's my eating disorder masking itself as intuitive eating and--

 

PAUL: And I think the other thing that's difficult about eating disorders is that it's a disorder that you wear your wreckage, where it's visible. You know, I imagine sometimes what it would have been like for me at the worst of my drinking if I had have to have all the beer cans trailing behind me, you know, on a big string.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. But that is one of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders, is that they are very, like you can tell, because I weighed about what I weigh now when I entered rehab, and I look normal, normal, quote. I mean--

 

PAUL: Why do you say normal, quote?

 

CHELSEA: Because, I mean, I think, you know, a lot of people, they think you can see an eating disorder.

 

PAUL: I see.

 

CHELSEA: As, you know, you're incredibly emaciated and very, you know, or super skinny and then that's an eating disorder, but if somebody's overweight or average body type or, I don't even know, whatever words we use for it, then they're not sick. They don't have an eating disorder.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

CHELSEA: Some of the sickest people I've ever met were not necessarily the thinnest or the heaviest.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

CHELSEA: Most girls in my treatment, in my rehab, looked like, like you wouldn't think twice. They just were average bodies, but the sickest people I've ever met. And so, it's still a mental illness, and I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions people have, is that you can see it and you can tell, because, and that also fucks with your eating disorder a lot because you're like dying to look like you have one. It's such an attention thing.

And so I, you know, if you're not totally bone-skinny, you'll convince yourself you don't even have an eating disorder, because other people are like, you look normal to me.

 

PAUL: And you can't look at the actions around it to qualify--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I mean, but you're so, you're so--

 

PAUL: You're so wrapped up in--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I mean, it becomes completely who you are.

 

PAUL: Talk about your eating disorder, how it manifest itself, when it started, what it looks like, how it's progressed.

 

CHELSEA: Okay. Yeah, so since I was a kid, I don't remember a time where I wasn't weird with food. I truly don't. Like I can remember being five and having a very strange feeling around food and shame around food and embarrassment, hiding food, like not wanting other people to watch me eat, and it was so largely because of, you know, the dynamics in my family.

And then, so I was always heavier growing up.

 

PAUL: And when you would, did you binge then as a kid?

 

CHELSEA: I would binge, but I also just ate, like I had poor nutritional habits, I guess you could say.

 

PAUL: Would you get a release, a temporary release from eating food?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I think I felt really bad about myself and food made me feel better, temporarily. I also just, it's what I knew. Like my family didn't eat very healthily, and so I just kind of, it's what I knew. It's what I copied from seeing them eat, but because my sisters were thin, it was fine and I was always like, why can't I eat like them?

 

PAUL: Do you think there was also a high in having something that was your secret?

 

CHELSEA: I don't know that it was that conscious. Maybe.

 

PAUL: Because I've heard people say that--

 

CHELSEA: Maybe.

 

PAUL: --and I know for me, when I was smoking a lot of weed, I would almost get high on the ride from the, back from the drug dealer's house with an ounce of weed on me, because it just felt like, I don't know, like this little mission that I had gone on, and now I knew I had weed for the next week, and I would think, my mood would lift.

When I’m in line for coffee, the five seconds before I put my order in, I'm never in a bad mood. I'm like talking to people, because I know I'm going to get out of myself for the next two hours, I'm going to have a coffee buzz.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, interesting.

 

PAUL: And I've heard people talk about having that secret, that it's their little thing, so I was just wondering if that was the case with you.

 

CHELSEA: I don't think at that point. I think maybe later on, but I don't know as a child I was aware. I think most of my food, me being overweight and the food habits were just what I knew. It's what I was taught or what was around me. And so, to me, it just felt normal to eat like that. But I knew it was not healthy and that it was contributing to me being overweight, but I also was just like, this is what I've always known.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

CHELSEA: And I also think like food is really good, and kids love, you know, I'm around kids a lot and it's like kids just love eating. It's like so fun for them and it's, you know, I love like seeing these little girls that I watch, they are so healthy about food and they're so excited about food and they're always like, and I just, it kind of, nannying, because I nanny, that's my day job, and it's like it makes me both like more compassionate to my parents and also more hateful, because I'm like [chuckles], oh, my God, you know, just seeing these kids so normal about food makes me resentful. It's a weird, it's weird--

 

PAUL: I totally get that--

 

CHELSEA: --and it, but it makes me so resentful because I'm like, I should have been able to be five and enjoyed an ice cream cone.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: It's like, watching a kid eat an ice cream cone is the funniest thing you'll ever see and it's so nice, and these kids, like one in particular I'm thinking of, she, ice cream is her favorite thing in the world and the way she eats an ice cream cone is pure bliss and not an ounce of shame, and like that's what five-year-olds should be doing.

 

PAUL: And messy as shit.

 

CHELSEA: Messy, and they don't feel guilty and they want more, and like, they never want it to end and it's not, there's not, it's not like, there's no pain in their joy of it.

 

PAUL: So the first marker for you was shame.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, I was so ashamed of it. I felt like a dirty, gross, disgusting person for eating.

 

PAUL: So then, how did it progress?

 

CHELSEA: Progress, yeah. So then, so as I just kept getting older and getting heavier, I just, you know, I gained more and more weight as the years went on, and I was, I was pretty chubby. I don't think I was like, I was never like obese, but I was pretty heavy up until high school. I went to that boarding school, and I was more accepted there because it was more about your talent and your art and everybody was like kind of the weird person where they came from.

 

PAUL: That must have felt amazing.

 

CHELSEA: It was amazing. I was still teased there sometimes. It was still high school, you know, but I got my first boyfriend and like it was just--

 

PAUL: What'd that feel like?

 

CHELSEA: Oh, my God.

 

PAUL: Talk about that.

 

CHELSEA: Well, I got my first boyfriend in [chuckles], I went to Carnegie Mellon pre-college program, like between junior year and senior year of high school, and I met this nerdy Jew from Maryland, and, yeah, I saw him like the first day and I was like, I’m going to date that guy, and I did.

And we were together for like two years, and it was great. It was so, I thought I would never find a boyfriend. That was all I wanted, because everybody I knew was dating and I never, like boys were never interested in me and I was just like, it's all I wanted and I was so happy. It was so cute. It was adorable. Our relationship was so like adult and serious. We had such like serious [chuckles] discussions and it was like more adult than any relationship I've had in my actual adult life.

But yeah, that was great, and we stayed together through like the first year of college, and it was good. But, and he was really accepting of my body, and I, this was before I had lost weight, and it was really weird. I was--

 

PAUL: Were you able to relax around him in your body and not be uptight about it once you knew that he wasn't judging you?

 

CHELSEA: I never like let him see me in the light, walk-around naked, but I was more comfortable with him than anybody else. And he was really, yeah, it was, I didn't, it was almost like I didn't believe him, and I was, I didn't believe that he like thought I was beautiful. I thought it was just that--

 

PAUL: So your mean voice was doing its job.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, yeah. And I think I was so afraid of ever losing him, because I was convinced he was the only guy that would ever love me.

 

PAUL: What did your mean voice tell you why he was staying with you, if you thought he was lying about you being attractive?

 

CHELSEA: I thought he was gay.

 

PAUL: And you were his beard?

 

CHELSEA: Mm-hmm. Every-, I mean, he was, yeah, I thought he was gay. I don't think he's gay now, but I thought at the time that he was gay and that I was just, you know, that's really what I was, but I was fine with it because he was kind of my beard, so to speak, of, you know, look at, I have a boyfriend and I'm, this is such validation and people will love me and I am lovable, see, Mom, like somebody can be with me and not hate me and not think I'm gross.

But yeah, I was, I just never wanted to, I was like, I can't ever let him break up with me because nobody else will ever love me.

 

PAUL: And did he treat you well?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I mean, I think he was always like, we were long distance. I was at boarding school and, you know, he was back at his home, and then we went to college and went to different colleges, but we were close by, so we'd visit. And like I, it was always a little bit me more invested, or just me more needy.

I was needy at that time, because I like needed the validation constantly and the reassurance constantly, because I was so afraid of it going away. And he was just like more relaxed about it. That was probably what it was.

 

PAUL: So, let's get back to your eating disorder during this time, so let's go back to Idyllwild. You felt more comfortable there.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Was your eating disorder still flaring up? Was it bad then?

 

CHELSEA: So, at that point, this was like all, you know, on the overeating side of my eating disorder, and yeah, I was consistent. Like my whole adolescence was pretty consistent of overeating and eating poorly.

 

PAUL: And so was it mostly bingeing and bad eating? Was there also purging and withholding?

 

CHELSEA: I would go through little periods of, I was never, like purging was never one of my behaviors, but there were periods where I would restrict for, but I could never like really get it toget-, [chuckles] I say that like it's a good thing, but, you know, I could never really like commit to anything.

 

PAUL: That is the insidiousness of eating disorders, you know, is that that's considered a victory. I read that on so many surveys, that I'm too weak to have an eating disorder.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, and the thing is, is that I would, I [sighs], an eating disorder, you do have an eating disorder if you have any, or that's not true. That's disordered eating, I would say. I think at that point it was more disordered eating than eating disorder, which like, I think it's important to differentiate between the two because so many people have disordered eating. America has disordered eating.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: But an eating disorder is not, it's like, you know, you're in recovery, right?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: There's such a difference between being like a big drinker and an alcoholic.

 

PAUL: Yeah, yeah.

 

CHELSEA: I would say it's similar to that, where people are disord-, they have disordered eating habits, where they're like weird about food or they feel guilty about stuff or they're, but it isn't all consuming and ruining their lives--

 

PAUL: So, the difference between having an unhealthy relationship with something and being compulsive and addicted to a process or a substance.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah. And almost feeling like you don't even know who you are anymore, like you don't see yourself, and it's like your full eating-disorder self has taken over and it's not even you.

But anyway, so then I went to college, and my first year of college was really hard. And I was like, all right, I can't do this anymore, I need to lose weight, because I'm not, like I don't want to be this person anymore. So I went to, I asked my parents if I could go to fat camp, because I had known other people who had gone and they were supportive of it, but they were like, you can't gain the weight back.

 

PAUL: Is fat camp called fat camp?

 

CHELSEA: Weight-loss camp.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

CHELSEA: But, I mean, everyone calls it fat camp.

 

PAUL: Fat camp, okay.

 

CHELSEA: That's shitty. I shouldn't call it that, but that's what, I mean, that's--

 

PAUL: That's what everybody calls it.

 

CHELSEA: That's what everybody calls it, and I feel like that's what we called it there, you know. I think it's, I don't mean anything, I don't mean any harm in it, and it might be harmful--

 

PAUL: I think we know that.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah--

 

PAUL: I think we know you're coming from--

 

CHELSEA: --but I don't want to offend people.

 

PAUL: Well, you picked the wrong show.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I mean, that's my like--

 

PAUL: Your mean voice, man.

 

CHELSEA: I'm just like choosing what everybody is taking away from--

 

PAUL: Your mean voice must have bags under its eyes--

 

[Simultaneous discussion]

 

CHELSEA: I've already thought, oh, I've already thought like 1,200 different critiques that I can like imagine people are going to think about or say about this.

 

PAUL: Oh, well, let's hear them.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, just I’m annoying, I say like too much. I sound really, like a privileged white girl. Somebody in my family is going to have a meltdown about something I've said about them, and that's going to be a disaster. Who is this girl and why are we listening to her talk? She's not even important. I've never heard of her [chuckles]. Does she even have a, like who is this? I'm turning this off. Like, I'm going to hear it back and be like, can you delete this, this is horrible.

Like, I've already planned [chuckles] what our conversations are going to be like and how I'm going to get you to take this off. Oh, [sighs] I'm going to pass out.

 

PAUL: You are fantastic.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: You are fantastic.

 

CHELSEA: Thanks. But I can continue, if you'd like.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: No, oh, no, I’m just, I’m kidding.

 

PAUL: Thank you for the honesty. I find that so refreshing. That is the only kind of conversation I, that would ever make it comfortable for me to hang out at parties. If I knew that conversation would be of that depth and that honesty like you just shared, I would leave my recliner much more often.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you. That means a lot. I mean, if somebody wants to leave their recliner for that reason, I'm impressed.

 

PAUL: But you're doing great.

 

CHELSEA: Thank you. I’m still so nervous. I'm even talking in a voice that is like my nice-girl voice.

 

PAUL: It's so funny, I asked you why, and I beat myself up constantly, I constantly judge myself when I'm doing the podcast. Every time I share something about myself, I immediately go, oh, you fucking narcissist, stop making it all about you.

 

CHELSEA: But it's your podcast [chuckles]. You're supposed to. Like, it's your podcast.

 

PAUL: But I am interviewing you and talking to you about your life story. And I'm not saying that voice in my head is right. I'm just saying that it just--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. You ask people why they're having these thoughts, and you're like, I know why you're having this thought because I'm having it, too.

 

PAUL: Yes, I'm having it, too, and this is what, you know, I've been doing the podcast for five years and it's still there--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: So, I get it. And as soon as I leave doing somebody else's podcast, the whole ride home is, oh, I'm such a douche, I'm such a douche.

 

CHELSEA: Oh, I'm going to be like editing everything I did the whole drive I have, you know, back to the west side. Yeah, and I'm even like aware that I'm using a voice that's like my sweet, like, oh-I'm-just-meeting-somebody-for-the-first-time voice and it doesn’t even feel like who I really am. Like it's just so we-, this is so, ugh, all my anxiety is happening at the same time [chuckles].

 

PAUL: What does the other voice sound like?

 

CHELSEA: Just like, you know when you're--

 

PAUL: Fuck you [in mean voice].

 

CHELSEA: What if I just like started talking like an old black man, like a Morgan Freeman, just dropped into like bass.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: Okay, my eating disorder, let's go back to that fun topic.

 

PAUL: So you were gaining weight and--

 

CHELSEA: Okay, so I'm gaining weight. Then I--

 

PAUL: Cut to college--

 

CHELSEA: --cut to weight-loss camp, I asked, and my parents were like, yeah, but you can't gain the weight back.

 

PAUL: What?

 

CHELSEA: Okay, yeah, which I get because it's really expensive, and they were like, you know, you've tried dieting before but like you can't gain the weight back. We'll pay for it, but, you know.

And, but you can understand. Like, see, for me, I have to be--

 

PAUL: Out of ignorance, I can understand, but if they knew anything about addiction they would know, they would--

 

CHELSEA: But they didn't see it like that. Most people don't see people who are overweight as having--

 

PAUL: They think, see them as lazy and undisciplined.

 

CHELSEA: Right. And they don't see it as a sickness or, you know, not everybody who is overweight has a sickness, but a lot of people, it's, they could have an eating disorder. They could have a serious mental problem that's, you know, more than just I don't like to walk, I don't want to walk [chuckles], I don't want to, you know, worry about my health.

But anyway, so I went to weight-loss camp and I didn't really lose a lot of weight there, but after that I, their food philosophy was totally fucked up. It was not--

 

PAUL: How?

 

CHELSEA: It was a no-fat diet, none at all, which it totally, which is completely unhealthy and bad for you.

 

PAUL: You need fat.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. But I became, speaking of fears, extremely afraid of fats, like a bodily anxiety fear of fats. If I saw butter, I was terrified. Like I, I had a meltdown over a baked potato once because it had butter on it, and I had a full-force meltdown over it [chuckles], like it was a bomb in front of me.

So, yeah, I developed a crazy anxiety about fats. I thought they were like the devil. And I went, and that was like the start. So there was a few months after weight-loss camp that I was pretty like, like a healthy person. I was like, I had a healthy, just really conscious of my weight and my, or of exercising and of my meal plan, and I felt like really good.

I had broken up with that guy and I was like dating for the first time and I was like having this really fun life, and everything was going so well. And it was like, oh, my God, this is who I've always wanted to be. You know, I'm social now, like school was easier. I was making new friends. I felt so confident. And I felt really good about, I didn't feel good about my body yet, but I felt good about the progress I was making, and it was just like, just a small window.

And then it just got more and more restrictive. Then it was like, I'm a vegetarian now, I'm a vegan now, now I don't eat XYZ, and it got more and more restrictive, because I had such a huge fear of ever gaining the weight back and going back to that other life. Like, I had known what it was like to be a fat person, and it's hor-, it's so shitty. Like we are so mean to fat people.

And so I just had this huge fear that if I let myself cheat one day or I give an inch, I would just fall right back into it and gain all the weight back and go back to being that like really miserable, self-hating person.

So over a year and a half, I lost like 70 pounds, and then I was, and then it was just like all I did. That's all I thought about. I went to the gym for like three hours a day and just barely ate and was just, it was my whole life, and I don't know how I survived. Like I honestly don't know how I did anything else. I don't know how I got through school or did anything.

 

PAUL: So what would your mood be like when you felt like your restricting was paying off?

 

CHELSEA: [Sighs] It's, it was like . . .

 

PAUL: Would you be high from it? Would you, why, why keep--

 

CHELSEA: No. You know, it's like I feel like, I look back on it and I'm like, I didn't feel that, I didn't feel it. I didn't feel that good. I never really like loved my body. And, I mean, I don't, even at my lowest weight, I never felt good enough. You know, it was never like, this is it, I'm satisfied. It could always be better.

And so it wasn't, I'm like, was it worth it? No.

 

PAUL: I wonder if, in a way, it served a purpose of distracting you from any pain that you had buried as a kid--

 

CHELSEA: Oh, yeah.

 

PAUL: --or as an adolescent.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, but I, and I think my eating disorder was just one of the ways I escaped. It's also a control thing. Like control is a big theme in eating disorders, and there's a lot of perfectionistic tendencies that go along with it, but I think--

 

PAUL: I've never met a person with an eating disorder that wasn't a perfectionist.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: Never.

 

CHELSEA: Which is, and I always, I never thought I was a perfectionist because I didn't think I was, I thought perfectionists actually seemed like they were high achievers, and there's such a difference between the two. Perfectionists often don't achieve a lot because they, it's like either--

 

PAUL: They get paralyzed by--

 

CHELSEA: --amazing or they won't do--

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. It's like we end up not doing it at all, and then you look like you give a shit as much as somebody who doesn't give a shit at all, you know. It sucks.

 

PAUL: You don't have to do anything to be a perfectionist.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah [chuckles], and that's why I was like, I'm not a perfectionist.

 

PAUL: Unless you count judging, and then, in which case, you're constantly busy.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. It sucks. It's such a, I'm either going to lose 50 pounds or I’m going to eat whatever the fuck I want. Like it's, you know, it's such a fuck-it mentality, of like I've already eaten this much today, I'm just going to binge more because, fuck it, who cares?

Or, you know, [sighs] but yeah, I think my eating disorder was just one of the many ways I was escape, I would use it through sex, through traveling. Like I spent, I did this international program for college and so I was able to go abroad a lot, which was really cool. It was a really, that was a healthier escape, because it was a cool, productive thing.

 

PAUL: What do you mean when you said you did it through sex?

 

CHELSEA: I totally used having sex with people as a way to get that validation, I mean that high of like I'm enough and I am, and somebody approves of me.

 

PAUL: I thought you were still talking about your eating disorder and I didn't understand.

 

CHELSEA: But I don't think that they're necessarily--

 

PAUL: I think they're extremely similar because they're both process addictions and you--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: --and for many people, there are some people who are asexual, don't have sexual needs, but I think for a lot of us it's like eating. We need to have sex.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And, you know, I've struggled with pornography, and the other night I found myself watching an R-rated movie specifically for a scene in it that I remembered as a kid where there was nudity, and I just felt really bad about myself, not because it was an immoral thing to do, but because I was using that to distract myself from something that I obviously didn't want to look at.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And, you know, the good news was, is that I looked inside at what it was that I didn't want to look at, and so I had some conversations with people that I had been afraid to have, and it helped.

 

CHELSEA: That's good. That's awesome.

 

PAUL: But that, those are now the markers for me of, you know, in many ways understanding what your triggers and your addictions are can be, if you can find a way to manage them, they can be a blessing to you because they can let you know when you're feeling uncomfortable and you're burying things. Does that make sense?

 

CHELSEA: It absolutely does. It absolutely does. And so much, but that requires like a level of trusting your own feelings and your own instincts, you know, your own intuition.

And when people try to like convince you that you're, this is a question I have for you, actually, of like, because you deal with so much of, you know, so many different, talk to so many different people about different mental illnesses and different, you know, I'm always like really confused by, all you really have are your intuitions and your instincts and your feelings, a lot of times. It's like, no one really has the answer for a lot. Everyone has different opinions and ideas.

But you have your feelings and you have your, you know, what your gut tells you, and so much of like your mental, of mental illness is that your feelings are flawed, that your thoughts are weird, that it's a mental, you have a mental illness so you can't really trust how you're feeling. You know, you're bipolar, so XYZ. You're depressed, so XYZ.

And it's so confusing because you're like, I need to, part of my depression is that I don't listen to myself, is that I feel like I can't be heard and that people are telling me that I don't, that I shouldn't have a voice or that I'm, I'm trying to find a way to articulate this in a better way than I'm doing right now.

PAUL: Are you--

 

CHELSEA: It just gets confusing, like what--

 

PAUL: When do you pay attention to your feelings and when do you say, this isn't a feeling that I really, this is just my mental illness creating this feeling in me.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I almost feel like it's what other people do to you and less so, because you can tell within yourself what's coming from where, a lot of times, after some work. I mean, you know, in the beginning you can't, but--

 

PAUL: The struggle for me is to say, this feeling that I'm having right now, is this related to something deeper, underneath me, that I don't want to look at, or is this just a feeling that is a byproduct of my depression or my anxiety and I just need to distance myself from it and observe it and it will pass.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: That's kind of the two big ways that I examine my feelings, is, is this something I need to examine deeper, or is this something I just need to take a deep breath and let it go.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: Does that make sense?

 

CHELSEA: It does make sense. It's just something I thought about recently a lot. I was like, you know, I think a lot of it with eating disorders is that it becomes so much your identity, and it's such a, [sighs] it's an attention-seeking thing, you want people to be concerned about you, you want people to look at you and be like, honey, are you okay, what's going on, because you don't feel like you have a voice often.

Like what I heard a lot of girls talk about in treatment, it was mostly girls because residential was all female. In the step-down program there were men, too. But, you know, a lot of girls would talk about just feeling like they were never heard, and so, this was a way to just be like, I'm fucked up, I have problems, will you listen to me now, you know? Like, now you kind of have to, now when it's gotten this bad.

And, you know, I'm trying to now just find ways to be able to like voice how I feel and feel heard without having to use bad behaviors, but sometimes, it's like why people scream, you know, they don't feel heard when they're talking in a normal voice so they start yelling so you'll pay attention, you know.

And sometimes I feel like people are busy and distracted and life is crazy and messy and people have their careers, and sometimes you have to scream to get people's attention, and it's never, it's always just hurting yourself, you know. It's always at your own expense.

 

PAUL: So you got out of the camp.

 

CHELSEA: Okay, so yeah, I got out of the camp. I know that was like a long-winded tangent [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Fat, huge fear of fat, then--

 

[Simultaneous discussion]

 

CHELSEA: Sorry?

 

PAUL: Then you had a huge fear of fat.

 

CHELSEA: I had a huge fear of fat, and--

 

PAUL: And then you went, kind of got into anorexic, restricting--

 

CHELSEA: So yeah, more restrictive, yeah, and then it would be considered, you know, by the textbook, anorexia. And then I went, I just, like there was a period, oh, I remember.

So, this was probably one of the most like, [sighs] one of those memorable moments. We were on family vacation, and I was at my lowest weight and it was like, I hadn't seen my parents, because, you know, I was away at school and I hadn't seen my parents in a while and my mom was really concerned. And I had just started to go see a therapist in New York about food and feeling like maybe I needed some help.

And I was, I’m sure you know this, like being outed, if you have an eating disorder and somebody outs you or like saying it out loud or having people know is the most terrifying thing. Like it like lives off of a secret. It lives off of being such a private thing, you know, as an addiction as well. Like it's your secret and it only survives if it stays a secret, and so to be outed is like it's killing a part of it and it's the most terrifying thing in the world.

And my mom totally, you know, just said, like she did this thing, we were, you know, sitting at the dinner table and I was like pushing around my food and I went to the bathroom, I got up to go to the bathroom, and my dad was like, oh, where is Chelsea going?

And my mom did this like, she like motioned I was like going to throw up, you know, and made this really loud gagging noise, like she was, you know, and it, I can't explain it well, but like there was, my whole family, our family friends, random strangers, like we were all sitting at this big table--

 

PAUL: What?

 

CHELSEA: --and when she did that, it was the most humilia-, one of the most humiliating moments of my life, because it was like, you're my mom, you know, like have my back. If you're concerned about me--

 

PAUL: Come talk to me.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. But that was so embarrassing. I'm getting emotional. But like, yeah, it was, I’m sorry. It's hard. Like I don't talk about it often because it's just, it was . . . it was just like [sighs], I just, I was like, I'll never be good enough, I'm not good enough at being overweight and I wasn't good enough at being thin enough, and so it just was like, no matter what, and then to publicly humiliate me like that in front of people I didn't know that well and my own family and just making that, it was just a disgusting noise.

It was so violating and so embarrassing, and I was still so like no one can know about my eating disorder, like still in that mode of it, of that like part of the addiction. So it was hard, it was definitely really tough.

 

PAUL: That's hard to hear. That is hard to hear. I mean, that breaks my heart.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I don't know. I don't know why people--

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: Again, I just, I think for her it was just her fear. I think she was just really afraid.

 

PAUL: I think you're absolutely right.

 

CHELSEA: And so people act out in different ways when they're afraid. But, you know, I just wish there was like a way I could explain it so that if you don't have any relationship to this kind of thing you can understand the level of like humiliation that that is.

 

PAUL: I don't think you have to explain that at all.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I don't know that it's clear [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: I mean--

 

CHELSEA: --it's so embarrassing and scary, because it's like, my eating disorder was my best friend at that point, and it felt like it was being so exposed. And, yeah, it was terrifying, and I was so uncomfortable in my own body, too. And she kept, you know, just, it just, that whole vacation was really hard.

And after that, I came back to school and I just, something snapped. I started bingeing like crazy, and I was like restricting all day, bingeing all night, restricting all day, bingeing all night, and it just was, it went from like a really restrictive period to I was gaining a lot of weight really quickly, because, you know, like in starvation mode, anything you eat just sticks, so I was, the binges were really crazy.

And I was probably the sick-, that was the sickest I've ever been, because it was not, I didn't feel that, it wasn't [sighs], I mean, my weight was becoming normal again, but I was like, I was such a mess, because I was caught between like this self of like bingeing and that crazy chaos of binges and that horrible physical pain, and then like that control of restricting.

 

PAUL: What does it feel like emotionally, from the moment you decide, I’m going to binge right now, buying the food, opening it up, eating it, and then you're done? Walk me through what you're thinking and feeling.

 

CHELSEA: I think so much of it is that you're not thinking and feeling. It's like you get to not think and feel for a bit. It's like almost autopilot.

 

PAUL: Have you ever found yourself, because I know people with process addictions have experienced this, and I've experienced this before, too, where it's almost like another person is driving me, almost like I'm watching myself, knowing, I shouldn't be, you know, doing this, but it's almost like there's like two people, and one just doesn't care and the other part of me is like, I can't believe we're doing this.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I think it, I think those two elements are there. I think a binge often, for me, what was helpful is, yeah, in treatment there was a lot of like describing your eating disorder habits and you see how they play out in relationships, so you can kind of see a lot of where these things are coming from on a deeper level.

And my binges are like often a little bit of everything. So it's not bingeing only on one thing. Like I won't eat, it's like two bites of a thousand things, you know.

 

PAUL: Oh, okay.

 

CHELSEA: So yeah, it's really weird. It's like--

 

PAUL: I imagine every person is different.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I mean, I can also binge, you know, bingeing on one food, but if I'm in like one of those like late-night manic binges, it's like a compulsion. It's like, I'll sit in my room and just try to distract myself, try to distract myself, try to go to sleep, try to just go on the Internet, write something, like I'll do everything I possibly can, and it's like an itch, you know. It just won't stop, and it's like such a compulsive thing.

And it's finally like, fuck it, I just can't do this anymore, and then it almost just feels like something is taking over. It makes me s-, I feel like [chuckles] when I say that, it sounds like I'm like being possessed or something, but it--

 

PAUL: Addiction is a possession.

 

CHELSEA: It sucks. It's so like, it feels like a monster, that's like a hungry monster in you. And it wakes up and it doesn't shut up until it gets fed, and then it goes back to sleep. But it's like, it truly feels like an inner monster.

And so, then it's like, I go to the cabinet and it's just [sighs], I think in the, throughout the binge, until the end of it, there's not much thought. It's really autopilot.

 

PAUL: So it's kind of an oblivion.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. It's just very manic. It's not enough time to think about anything.

 

PAUL: I see.

 

CHELSEA: It's too like grab this, grab that, like a little bit of this, two bites of that, and it, so when I was first bingeing--

 

PAUL: And are you eating kind of really fast while you're doing that--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah.

 

PAUL: As fast as you can or, so you're not really savoring anything--

 

CHELSEA: No, no. It's not like an enjoyable p-, this is not, it's almost like you don't even have time to taste anything, you know, because you're just tasting something new, but it's like, when I was first bingeing, I was so concerned with gaining weight that I was bingeing on low-calorie and no-calorie food. I was bingeing on like sugar-free jelly that has like 10 calories, you know, just like fisting that, which was really gross.

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHELSEA: It's really gross. Yeah, it's pretty nasty. I mean, that should tell you that that's not the same thing as, you know, a disordered eating. That's an eating disorder.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: When you're fisting sugar-free jam out of the bottle--

 

PAUL: Not even a spoon, just right in your hand--

 

CHELSEA: Not even a spoon. Like, really gross. And, you know, I would like eat a head of broccoli like a cheeseburger. You know, that's what I was, I was bingeing on vegetables because it would fill me up and I could eat a lot of it and it wasn't high calorie. You know, now they're not that way. Now it's like anything I can get my hands on.

But it's very, it's just a little bit of everything, and I think that's a weird thing. A lot of, you know, that's a very specific kind of binge, and so that was helpful to talk about with therapists and stuff, of, I don't know, I’m sorry, I just kicked you.

I think, different therapists have different ways about going about this stuff. Some people think it's not helpful really to examine your habits and whatever. It's more just stop doing the habits and replace them with something else and not fixating so much on why and what's going on and analyzing, but I think it's interesting, and I think one of the most interesting, oh, so then the binges were happening, restricting, bingeing, restricting, bingeing.

And I graduated from college and I came back, and I think, not having that, it was a classic like graduated-from-college-and-like-lost-my-goddamn-mind type of thing. I like felt really lost. I didn't know who I was.

 

[Chuckling]

 

PAUL: Yes. I'm doomed. I'm fucked.

 

CHELSEA: What the fuck now--

 

[Simultaneous discussion]

 

PAUL: I majored in the wrong thing.

 

CHELSEA: I majored in sociology, okay. Like what, I didn't know . . .

 

PAUL: Going for the big sociology dollar, huh?

 

CHELSEA: Oh, my God, I was just like, what am I doing? Yeah, sociology, psychology, which is interesting, but I was like I don't know what I'm doing. Like I just felt so, I didn't know. And I was like waitressing and I was just living back with my parents and it was just like my life had taken such a 180 from what it was.

And I just, and I had not practiced in like, I wasn't practiced in being myself and like knowing who I was and being confident about who I was and making choices and then not, you know, and then being like trusted for my choices. It was a lot of just like, you're brilliant but also an idiot, you know, like--

 

PAUL: That's what you would say to yourself or your parents would say to you?

 

CHELSEA: Just like, I think, you know, my family is just like an empire of mixed messages. They're the most supportive and also the most destructive people [chuckles]. It's really, it's so confusing. And on one hand, they'll be, not everybody, but I'm making, I’m trying not to single anybody out because I don't want my, I don't want war, but I feel like, you know, it's, my dad is super supportive.

He's, I'm so close with him and he's super supportive. It's just the rest of my family [chuckles], it can be . . . it's like, it's like nobody ever wants you to be that confident, confident enough, like they'll be the first to publicly congratulate you but in private cut you down and make your accomplishments seem like nothing and it's just, it's shitty, because it's, it's like, well, which one am I, then? Am I brilliant or am I an idiot? Am I hilarious or am I obnoxious?

Am I, you know, it's just, so I don't know. I think a lot of my eating disorder was like, well, I know this. I know what this is--

 

PAUL: That makes sense.

 

CHELSEA: --I know what to do with this and I know what the reaction I'm going to get is, too. So yeah, when I graduated I came back and it was just like, I entered into like a horrible, just a horrible depression. And I think a year prior, my parents had tried to get me to go to a rehab for my eating disorder and I said no and I refused to go.

And at this point, I was like, okay, I think I need to go treatment.

 

PAUL: So this was just like two years ago, three years ago?

 

CHELSEA: This was 2013, yeah, three years ago, August 6th it'll be three years.

 

PAUL: And how was the treatment?

 

CHELSEA: It was okay. It was, it was, it was totally eating-disorder mentality. I thought I was going to lose weight.

 

PAUL: [Laughs] That's so--

 

CHELSEA: I went to treatment [chuckles], I went to treatment to lose weight. I swear to God.

 

PAUL: That makes sense, though. I bet a lot of people--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I was like, I just want to get rid of the bingeing. I don't want to get rid of the restricting. I thought I was--

 

PAUL: But you didn't say that out loud.

 

CHELSEA: No. I was like, I want to get better, I care, I want to just be healthy, I want my life back, but I did not care at all. I was like, I just don't, I just don't want to binge anymore.

 

PAUL: You know, I think you can boil down all of the failed or unsuccessful rehab experiences, can almost all be boiled down to that person refusing to let go of their idea that I can do it my way, I can do it my way, and not surrendering to the suggestions at that, if it's a good rehab.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, and it was. It's one of the most respected treatment facilities, and I just didn't feel, I didn't, well, I think a lot of it's also like I just didn't feel connected to my therapist there. We just didn't click very well, so it just, you know, it was really interesting. Rehab itself was fascinating to me, because I didn't even realize a lot of what I was doing was eating-disorder behaviors until I went there. I didn't--

 

PAUL: For instance.

 

CHELSEA: I mean, I didn't know about food rituals. I'd never even heard of food rituals before I went, and I, then I was like sitting at the dinner table and seeing, you know, people cutting up their food into microscopic pieces and, or people, you know, one girl couldn't have, and this is why it's so, it's so, it's about the food and it's not about the food.

That's one of like the key phrases from treatment, it's like it's about the food and not about the food, because, you know, so much of your eating disorder just says a lot about where the underlying, what the underlying process is.

So, you know, there was one girl who all of her food, none of her food could touch. All the ingredients had to be separated. And she would Purell constantly and she would shower constantly, and she was totally afraid of germs. And she was like, you know, kind of OCD about cleanliness, and food was one of them. Food made her feel dirty. And, you know, and when, come to find, like there was a really traumatic past and so it just comes out in different ways.

And that's why I don't think that any of these things are that different. I don't think I'm that different from somebody who struggles with alcohol or sex addiction or, you know, because you can just turn, I turned my eating disorder into a shitty relationship. You know, you can make, that was underlying self-esteem, like for me it was self-esteem problems and it was a self-worth, like a self-hatred problem.

 

PAUL: What were or are your food rituals?

 

CHELSEA: I don't know that I had a lot of food rituals. But I just, it was something I didn't know about. I didn't know about water-loading, which is like, which is something I used to do and didn't realize that it was an eating-disorder behavior, which is just like--

 

PAUL: Try to fill up so you wouldn't be hungry.

 

CHELSEA: --fill up so much on water, but I thought I was just like drinking water normally, and it was a cra-, they regulated how much water we could have and I had no idea that it was like, that what I was doing was like crazy amounts. I used to drink like giant jugs of water one after the other, constant, to just not feel hunger.

And, man, I'm just trying to think of, and, you know, and just there's this, the self-talk element. We all basically talked to ourselves the exact same way. It's nuts. We're so mean to ourselves, and I would never talk to another person that way I talk to myself.

And I'm also the first person to be like, don't you fucking talk to me like that, to somebody else.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: And then I'm like, but I’m way worse to myself than they will ever be.

 

PAUL: If somebody talked to us the way we talk to ourselves, we would get a restraining order on them.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, or you'll--

 

PAUL: Or date them.

 

CHELSEA: --or date them, I was just going to say [chuckles], yeah, that's exactly. I left treatment and then got into a terrible, a horrible relationship, and that relationship was more transformative for me in terms of getting better and changing how I was, I mean, that changed my, that bad relationship changed my life.

 

PAUL: How so?

 

CHELSEA: Which is funny because it wasn't even a real relationship, which is probably why-, I had never, so I left rehab and immediately went to Uganda [chuckles], which was great, it was like against everybody's advice, like why would you go to a place where food is scarce? I went to Uganda and--

 

PAUL: Was that part, excuse me while I grab a water. Are you good with water?

 

CHELSEA: I'm good, thank you. No, I’m okay, thanks.

 

PAUL: Was that part of your plan, was to go to a place where food was scarce so that . . .

 

CHELSEA: No. I think I just needed to get out. I was so tired of talking about myself and talking, I know you can't believe that now--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: But, no, I was just so tired of like therapy and talking about myself and talking about my problems and--

 

PAUL: You were also living with your parents, right?

 

CHELSEA: Not during rehab. I mean, I was living there, and then the step-down program, I was staying in the apartments.

 

PAUL: I see.

 

CHELSEA: And, but yeah, I just, I needed, I was like, I got to get out of L.A. and do something totally different and just, I need a break from all of this. And so I got offered to do this documentary promo shoot thing for a non-profit there, and it was just, it just was like, oh, this is so different than what I've been doing. This is all about other people. This is, you know, it just was like, oh, that sounds amazing.

And it was. It was awesome, but I went immediately back into starvation mode, immediately, like . . .

 

PAUL: Well, it sounds like you maybe didn't have the tools to--

 

CHELSEA: It's also just like the irony of going to a place where people are starving not by choice and I'm still by choice starving. It just says a lot about like that whole, you'd better finish everything on your plate because kids are starving in Africa, like that doesn’t work. I had my eating disorder still in that environment. It's a very powerful thing.

Like, and I fully was like, I can't believe I am doing, I'm filming children who are starving, you know, because they can't afford food and I am doing this by choice. Like it just, I couldn't, and then that made it, it was just like a horrible--

 

PAUL: Your shame must have just skyrocketed--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, and then my shame for being like that's so self-absorbed, I shouldn't be even [chuckles], like, it's like just, it was so layered of like, oh, my God, why are you so self-absorbed, like that whole thing, like you're going to, you're still star-, you're still restricting here and you're focusing on that and that's obnoxious and gross. Like, you know, it just, it was like, it was layers and layers and layers of self-judgment.

 

PAUL: It's like your negative voice went to graduate school during that--

 

CHELSEA: Ugh. But it was fine. I mean, I think I, because when you're in the restrictive mode, everything's great. You're fine. Everything's fine. Like it's, I felt great, to be honest. I felt really, really good.

And, but that doesn't, you know, not any better--

 

PAUL: It's an illusion, right?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, totally an illusion, because the flipside will come back.

 

PAUL: Any positive memories from your--

 

CHELSEA: Oh, yeah, Uganda was amazing. I, the kids that I was filming, they were amazing. I mean, the two-year-olds were like building houses. There are two-year-olds with like hammers and nails, like building houses, and they're like infants, you know, and it's, the people were just so warm and friendly. Yeah, so inspir-, the kids were so inspiring.

I think, Uganda is also just a really beautiful place, and it’s a really calm place, relatively, to surrounding countries. They're pretty politically stable when they're not hating on gay people. Do you know about that?

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I was there when they signed that bill.

 

PAUL: There aren't many African countries that are pro-equality in terms of--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, that's horrible. And the people that I worked with, thankfully, were progressive and really open-minded, and so we had interesting talks about it. But, I mean, that was a wild thing, to be there for that, because I, you know, as a white person, I stood out and everyone wanted to talk to me about my president and how he pulled funding and, you know, we're trying to impose our sinful American beliefs on them, and, you know, and arguing with them about gay rights and just, it was, it was interesting and horrible [chuckles].

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: Because then you're representing America as a whole, you know, every time they're talking to you about anything, it's like, you are the entire--

 

PAUL: Yeah, I've been abroad before and it's like--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I, yeah, of course. It's just such an uncomfortable position to be in, so anyway.

 

PAUL: So you had some good moments, but the restricting was getting bad when you were there.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I just went right back to it.

 

PAUL: So then what happened?

 

CHELSEA: [Sighs] So then I came back and I immediately met somebody who I, I met him on Tinder, which was like the first in a series of unfortunate decisions. I fell [chuckles]--

 

PAUL: Is--

 

CHELSEA: --this was like right when Tinder was first starting to be, what?

 

PAUL: Isn't Tinder mostly hook-up?

 

CHELSEA: Now it's, now people are, it's anything. Now it's like, you know, dating or, at the time, Tinder was like relatively new, but, I don't know. I met this guy and I was like obs-, I was obsessed with him. It was completely a form of my eating disorder.

It was just, he was purely an escape. I do think I was, I don't know if I was in love with him or I was, I was so infatuated with him, and, but it was so bad. He was like, he was just such a shithead, you know, and--

 

PAUL: I'm going to just take a wild guess that you created an unrealistic fantasy of who he would be?

 

CHELSEA: Oh, my God, yeah. I was like, I wrote this character in my head of who he was, and it's totally, I mean, I don't know, he's fine. He's just some guy, you know. Like really that's it, he's just some dude. He's not a horrible person or whatever. He's just like some guy, but I made him into like--

 

PAUL: Sure, because then he could rescue you from your feelings.

 

CHELSEA: --perfect, yeah, he's perfect and he's the one and blah. I knew him for like five minutes and decided he was the one. And I turned into, like I think, I think this is why it was so much more eye-opening for me than all of the other stuff, treatment and all of the big things we think are going to like be these pivotal, life-changing experiences going to, like all these big gestures, because everything was so internal, everything was so, like I turned, all of my shit was like on myself, and this was another person and it was like, [sighs] I was able to see what my bad, what my self-hatred was doing in relation to other people.

And so it was like, it woke me up more because somebody else was able to be like, dude, you're acting this way, like--

 

PAUL: He said that to you.

 

CHELSEA: No. He was horr-, I mean, but it was just other people saw--

 

PAUL: I see.

 

CHELSEA: --what was going on between me and this person.

 

PAUL: Because you couldn't really keep a relationship a secret as you could your food.

 

CHELSEA: Exactly, exactly. Everything was so private with me. And I, I couldn't stop talking about him. I couldn't, I was like always on his social media. I was just, he was my everything. I was like totally obsessed with him. And he was not feeling it back. Like, I was a very casual person for him.

 

PAUL: Are you normally kind of obsessive when you're in a relationship with somebody, because that's the second relationship that, you know, you talked about the first boyfriend that you were kind of obsessed with him.

 

CHELSEA: I was obs-, I wasn't like this, though.

 

PAUL: Okay.

 

CHELSEA: I was, like I was like very typical 16-year-old girl, like I love my boyfriend, you know. It wasn't like scary.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: This was scary. This was scary, for sure.

 

PAUL: Scaring yourself or him scared of you?

 

CHELSEA: He didn't, okay, so we started dating and I was in the beginning like trying to play it cool and--

 

PAUL: Failing.

 

CHELSEA: [Sighs] Failing miserably. And he had been really misleading about stuff, like he had told me his girlfriend of five years, that they broke up a year prior when really it was like a couple weeks before we met, and, you know, he was misleading about what he was looking for.

I think he knew I was like so obsessed with him, and I was helping him deal with his break-up. You know, I was like a nice, young girl that, because I was like 22 when I met him, which was only a couple years ago. You know, that's frightening that it was so recent [chuckles].

 

PAUL: How old was he?

 

CHELSEA: He was like late 20s, 28, 29. And I, I was just, yeah, I was completely obsessed with him. And he didn't want to commit to me, and I freaked out, like absolutely lost my mind. He broke up with me, in quotes, like, you know, stopped wanting to see me because I was too--

 

PAUL: Clingy?

 

CHELSEA: No, just--

 

PAUL: Intense?

 

CHELSEA: --just I kept being like, I want more, and he would be like, I don't, so, you know. And I, I like just lost it. I had to take like a couple days off of work. I was just like devastated. It was heartbreak.

And yeah, I spent the next two months like being anywhere I thought he might be and--

 

PAUL: Wow.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. And just like, you know, going to his local grocery store all the time and going to, you know, coffee shops that I knew he might be at, just like really classic stereo-, like that annoying horrible stereotype that I can't stand, but that I lived, of just crazy girl--

 

PAUL: And you couldn't stop yourself.

 

CHELSEA: No. I knew, and I was so evil--

 

PAUL: You were aware that you were engaging in sick behavior, right?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I think I, of [chuckles], yeah.

 

PAUL: Because some people don't. Some people think he just, you know, he or she just needs to understand, you know, there's this other thing I need to tell them and then they will change their mind--

 

CHELSEA: Oh, that's, no, no, that's definitely where I was for a while, where it was like, I mean, I've always had a sense of humor about like my, about this stuff. Like even through treatment I was always getting in trouble because I was always making jokes about everything, but, so I would like, but I, I was so, I was so in deep with this thing, and it had nothing to do with him.

Like it was just a reflection on how I felt about myself. You know, I felt so bad about myself and here was this person who I had decided that, if he approved of me, that if he wanted to be with me, I was good enough, and he was like, you're not good enough. That's what I was getting. I was--

 

PAUL: How did you come to that realization, that he just represented your own desire to love yourself--

 

CHELSEA: Enough time and moving on and perspective on it--

 

PAUL: Okay, because that's pretty, that's a pretty profound realization for somebody, especially at your age.

 

CHELSEA: I mean, I'm just like really wise and like really deep and, you know, like better than you--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: So like, yeah, I mean, uh-huh, for sure. Definitely.

No, I just, I think enough time goes by and you're like, you get perspective on it. And also, like, and then we started dating again and I, then it was 10 times worse because he was just like, he was, he's a classic narcissist. I mean, like he is textbook narcissist. So those two together, of like somebody who just is dying for approval and dying, literally dying for approval and acceptance from other people, and I decided if, and he was the one. He was, his approval, I was suddenly going to be--

 

PAUL: You would feel Mommy's love [chuckles].

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: He was my mom. Basically, I was dating my mom--

 

PAUL: That's what I, that's what I thought when you talked about him being a narcissist and--

 

CHELSEA: He was, he was, you know, a total narcissist, and I just, I don't know, for whatever reason, I think a concoction of I had just gotten out of rehab, I was really vulnerable, and that age and also like, he was doing so many cool things to me, or like at the time he was so cool and out of reach.

Like I was not a part of this like L.A. community really. I had just moved back, and he was like doing all these cool things and I was like, he has this life I want and he's like hot and like blah, blah, blah. I just decided, like this guy was everything, he represents my self-worth.

 

PAUL: Mm-hmm.

 

CHELSEA: And I just, yeah, it made me nuts. But yeah, so when, in the interim of when we were not seeing each other anymore, I was definitely full-on crazy, of like he's--

 

PAUL: Facebook stalking?

 

CHELSEA: Oh, my God, and [chuckles] so much to the point where like I would look at his recently added friends and any girl I would like try to meet her. Like I would try to find out where she hung out--

 

PAUL: What?

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. It was like really embarrassing [chuckles], but yeah, I was nuts, like totally--

 

PAUL: And I imagine then you would click on her and look through all of her photos and see and, what, like where she went to school, where she was from.

 

CHELSEA: I know so much about so many people who have no idea who I am.

 

PAUL: You should be a detective. That's all you've got to do to get a great detective--

 

CHELSEA: It was like a detective--

 

PAUL: --is just have their love spurned.

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: It's really gross how many people like, because, you know, there were like characters of his life that I, I was like, oh, I'm now emotionally invested in people's lives who have absolutely no idea who I am [chuckles], and I don't want them to know how I know who they are.

But, yeah, I was, but I would be like, if I just see him and I look this way and I say this thing and I'm really funny and I say I'm working on this really important thing and I'm doing this comedy, whatever it is, then maybe he'll be like, oh, I miss her and I want her back, and that's never, we would run into each other, like, oh, my God, I can't believe I saw you here, and he would just be like, hey, nice to see you, bye.

 

PAUL: Yeah. And ignoring the fact that you have waves of desperation coming off of you like a pizza just taken out of the oven--

 

[Chuckling]

 

CHELSEA: It's so gross. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, yeah, then I started seeing him again and I would just do, like he would drive my, he would like use my car and he would like totally take advantage of so many things from me. And like he would, you know, he was such, he was just like such a narcissist and just really, he's an only child, too, and like, I don't know. I have beliefs about only children [chuckles], but he--

 

PAUL: So then what happened?

 

CHELSEA: So, he, we started dating again, and then it was one of those things where it was like off and on, off and on, off and on, because I would always get like I need more, I want more, I want to be with you, and he would be like, I don't want a girlfriend.

And then finally, we got in, it became so, so bad, like we became so unhealthy and he got progressively, like he did a couple really horrible things and I was able to be like, oh. I’m trying to find a way to talk about this.

Yeah, he just did some really, really shitty things and basically I was like, I have to go to therapy, and so I went to therapy and I talked about it. And I don't, I just, I think enough, I think it's just time. Like you spend enough time away from somebody and you're bound to have more perspective on it.

 

PAUL: Absolutely.

 

CHELSEA: You can't live in total like hysteria for that long. I mean, that's just the nature of life, is that you're always changing somehow. So like, I just, I don't know, I got enough perspective on it where I was able to look at it and be like, it had so little to do with him and pretty much everything to do with how I felt about myself.

He was just like the perfect tool--

 

PAUL: Vehicle.

 

CHELSEA: --to hate myself.

 

PAUL: Yeah.

 

CHELSEA: And that's why I feel like it was more enlightening than all of the therapy I had, because it was outside of me.

 

PAUL: So when did your, right now you said that your eating disorder is almost as bad as it's ever been. What does it look like today?

 

CHELSEA: I go in like waves of excessive like bingeing periods and then restricting periods still, so it's pretty much where it, I don't feel like it's the same as where it used to be because my mentality about it, like my behaviors are pretty similar to what they were before I went to treatment, but my feelings and my thoughts about them feel way healthier, which is weird. I don't know what to do with that, you know.

 

PAUL: So kind of like you haven't necessarily made as much outward progress, but there's more inner knowledge about thee way your thoughts and feelings operate and how they're related to your--

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. It's not running my life, but it's, but it looks similar. Like--

 

PAUL: Are you attending any kind of support groups for it?

 

CHELSEA: No. I'm in therapy still, and it's, I talk about it with her. But yeah, right now it's been like, I've gained a lot of weight in a short amount of time, and I'm in like a bingey stage.

And then what seems to be the pattern is like, for six, seven months I'll be in like a bingey, excessive weight gain, you know, not taking care of, not exercising, not taking care of myself, just having like no interest in, like eating whatever I want whenever I want. And then I will like, it's almost like I wake up one morning and it's, the light switches and I am in like an excessive exercise and barely eating anything mode, and I lose a ton of weight really quickly and it's like--

 

PAUL: And is that a solution to you, because to me it just sounds like, you know, as we say in recovery, switching deck chairs on the Titanic.

 

CHELSEA: What do you mean by is it a solution?

 

PAUL: Swinging from bingeing to restricting, because it almost sounded as if you were saying then switching to restricting, you know, almost like, oh, okay, the problem has settled down, when in reality you're just switching to a different problem.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah, I mean, they're equally bad.

 

PAUL: Right.

 

CHELSEA: And it's also like, if I have negative relationships in my life, I treat that just as badly as something weird I'm doing with my food. Or if I have bad, you know, that's why I write, like I, you know, I don't know.

So yeah, I don't know if it's a solution, but it's like, it's so tempting to do that when you felt for so long so out of control, you know, gaining all this weight. And, you know, I've put on a lot of weight really fast, so it's uncomfortable, and I know that restricting for a long period of time is terrible for me, that it will lead to another cycle of bingeing, that it will just keep the process going, but it's so sexy, that idea of like, oh, I could just lose all this weight really fast and I can be done with it, and it's like such a shameful weight, you know. And it's just, it's such a weird, a weird place to be.

 

PAUL: I don't know anybody who's been able to get any kind of, if they have a straight-up addiction, I don't know anybody that has been able to manage it without being around, either through support groups or some type of fellowship with other people who share the same struggle.

And I'm just, I don't want to be a, you know, Mr. Bossy or Know-It-All, but I can't see how you could ever make headway with this if you're not interacting with other people that have the same struggle. That's my experience of addiction, because underneath the addiction is emotional well-being. And I think it's just so hard to become emotionally stable in our own little bubble.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. I agree. I think, I think that, you know, I'm not opposed to it and I think that like support groups are amazing. And I think I just--

 

PAUL: And I hope that doesn't come across as--

 

CHELSEA: No, no, not at all--

 

PAUL: --as preachy.

 

CHELSEA: --not at, not even a little bit. I appreciate it. I mean, I know that [sighs], I just feel like I've tried to, I thought, I think I thought if I just dive into work, if I just get really into working and comedy and, you know, I'll stop feeling the need to do this stuff, and it's like, that's so not what it is.

 

PAUL: It's just deck chairs, man. You're just switching deck chairs--

 

CHELSEA: I think I'm running out of excuses. I think right now I'm in the phase of exhausting all my excuses.

 

PAUL: That's probably a good thing, though.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. So I think I'm just getting to the end of, you know, oh, this didn't work, oh, this is not going to work either, oh, this isn't going to be the thing that fixes it. And I think I just like, I'm in that stage of I just need to go through those excuses so that like, when I go back to a support group, I can buy in to it. Does that make sense, or that just sounds--

 

PAUL: It makes complete sense--

 

CHELSEA: --or does that just sound like another excuse [chuckles]? I don't know.

 

PAUL: No, no, because we have to, we have to, the nature of the addict is they have to try every iteration doing it their own way--

 

CHELSEA: [Chuckles] Yeah.

 

PAUL: --before they finally surrender to the fact that they need to connect to other human beings and get vulnerable and . . .

 

CHELSEA: Yeah.

 

PAUL: And do that to yield control. We're all about control.

 

CHELSEA: It's so true.

 

PAUL: And yielding it is terrifying. Saying, oh, okay, I'm going to take your suggestions on how to do this and that and this and that, and I'm going to call you when I feel like completely isolating and I’m going to take your phone call, person who I'm not that crazy about in the meeting but who wants to reach out, that's, who the fuck, what addict's nature is to say, yes, I want that?

But the longer we do it, I think the easier it becomes and it becomes part of our routine. And before we know it, those obsessions are no longer, they're either removed or they don't have the intensity that they, they don't have the hold on us that they used to. That's been my experience with dealing with my many addictions.

 

CHELSEA: Yeah. And I think I, I think it takes a certain amount of self-love to do that.

 

PAUL: Yes.

 

CHELSEA: And it's one of those things where you like get, you learn to love yourself more by doing it, but to do it requires a certain amount of self-love, because you're like, I don't know why I want to call you and reach out, or I don't know why I want to take care of myself. Who am I taking care of? I don't care about this person.

 

PAUL: And for most of us, we have to let other people, strangers, love us first unconditionally, with nothing to gain, because until dozens of people did that for me, only until that happened could I say, maybe they're not all wrong, maybe I am loveable, maybe I'm not a fucking piece of shit, and that was when it really started to change for me.

 

CHELSEA: That's awesome.

 

PAUL: Chelsea, this was a great conversation. I love talking to you. I love how open and honest you were. You helped shed some light on eating disorders for me. But more than anything, I loved the fact that we'd never met, how much you trusted the process and how vulnerable you got, and that means a lot to me.

 

CHELSEA: Thank you. Thank you so much. And this was, [sighs] this was pretty amazing. This is scary. This was really, really scary.

 

PAUL: Those are the best episodes.

 

CHELSEA: But thank you for being really warm and easy to talk to and soft. You have a softness to you that I feel like is why I could cry in front of you, you know, so thank you for that. This was really fun.

 

PAUL: And if people want to follow you on Twitter, it's @ChelseaFrank--

 

CHELSEA: It's--

 

PAUL: Oh, it's Chelsea--

 

CHELSEA: It's Chelsea and then the A becomes an Anne Frank. It's too complicated. I should change it.

 

PAUL: Spell it.

 

CHELSEA: C-h-e-l-s-e-a-n-n-e-f-r-a-n-k.

 

PAUL: I gotcha, I gotcha.

 

CHELSEA: And on Instagram @ChelseaFrank.

 

PAUL: Okay, thanks, Chelsea.

 

CHELSEA: Thank you so much.

 

PAUL: I really, really enjoyed talking to her, and I love having a guest on where I learn so many new things about someone's struggle that I'm sure is not unique to her. So, many thanks to Chelsea.

I got an update from her. She's doing great. And she says her eating has never been cleaner and healthier, not overeating, not under-eating or restricting, and she's been doing a lot of writing lately, getting writing jobs, so she sounds like she's in a really good place.

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

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Okay, this is a survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Dad Is the Root of My Problems, and she's in her 20s, and she writes, this past 4th of July weekend my mom had tried to communicate to my dad that I felt like he was avoiding me and that I'd like him to talk to me more. Well, that went terribly and somehow ended up in a yelling match with my parents that took me right back to high school when they'd do this all the time.

While my younger sister is older than she was then, so she came out of her room to get them to stop and, as I learned, it did not stop it and their fight got worse. Since the fight was about me, I stayed in my room until my mom's voice got to the level where it sounded like it could turn into a fistfight, and when I came out it was like a projection of my past.

I honestly thought, wow, this is what I've been training for in therapy, and I laughed on the inside. Right before my dad walked out of the house, he says, this is all your fault, and I said, no, it's not. Don't blame me for your problems.

And while he slammed the door and said, fuck you, I thought about how wonderful it was that I finally stopped blaming myself for my parents' relationship problems and I finally believed myself when I said, I'm not the cause of your problems, you're the cause of your problems.

Even more irony in this situation, five years ago when I started going to therapy, I had asked my dad if he could go to therapy with me because I felt our communication and our relationship was a big problem for me, and there we were, with communication being the problem. And I realized that I'd healed myself a lot and that I wasn't as big of a, quote, problem as I used to be. I love reading that. Thank you for sharing that.

You know, one of the things I'm noticing, been doing the podcast now for over six years, you guys are sharing more moments of recovery in the surveys, and it's really cool to see how many people are getting help and growing and learning how to deal with toxic people and to stop beating themselves up as well, being mean to ourselves.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and this was filled out by a woman who calls herself Elevator Lady. I'm not going to read all of it, but I want to read some parts of it. She is, she's bisexual, in her 30s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. She's been emotionally abused, never been sexually abused.

She writes, my mother was overbearing and invasive my entire life but worsened as I got older. I was good in school and participated in lots of extracurricular activities but was exhibiting signs of depression pretty young.

When I was in third grade, I remember her shaking her head at me and saying, you turned into a bad person when you were seven. You were a good kid before that. I'm going to take a wild guess that that was probably the first time you questioned her authority or stood up to something sick that she was doing, but anyway, continuing.

My bedroom in my early teens did not have a door. She would go through my belongings, read my diary, found my online LiveJournal account. It's so funny, I've never heard live journal and then twice on this episode we have LiveJournal mentions. Read my online LiveJournal account and confront me about what they contained.

In my later teens, I moved into a bedroom right off the laundry room so she was constantly in and out, and if I had the door closed, she would open it, even if she didn't need to do laundry.

When I was in high school, she routinely accused me of being promiscuous and doing drugs and drinking, none of which I was doing at the time. She accused me of worshiping Satan and enrolled me in a Christian high school when I suggested I wanted to dye my hair.

She would insist I give her my work and school schedules weekly, and would call me at my job to yell at me. Once she called me during a dinner rush at a fast-food place I worked at to scream at me for having the lyrics to Nirvana's Dumb written on a piece of paper in my room.

She smashed my CD collection because she thought one of the artists was satanic. We went to church but weren't particularly religious. When I moved out at 18, she would show up unannounced at the apartment I shared with my roommates and loudly berate me in the hallway about how I was literally killing her for not checking in every day.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the sense of it. And she, this woman cut contact with that mom about five years ago, thank God.

Any positive experiences with the abuser? My mom would take me to see musicals as a kid, even taking me out of school early once or twice to go downtown to see a matinee. Performance was and still is important to me, and I feel fortunate to be exposed to this culture as a kid.

That's one of the reasons why I wanted to read this. There's other stuff, too, that I want to read, but the complexity of our relationship with people who are sick is one of the things that makes it so hard to determine, is this salvageable, how do I work on it, am I being, you know, am I the problem, are they the problem, are we both the problem, you know, do I have a right to do this. And I just think this, like that person that would see your mom coming to take you out of school early, to take you to a matinee, would just immediately think that that mom is consistently probably like that in the rest of your life.

And that's one of the things that is so hard with sick narcissists in our lives, is that they do a good job of hiding it from people that they don't see every day, people outside of the family.

Darkest thoughts. When I am upset, I have very vivid thoughts of killing or seriously maiming myself in bizarre ways, like falling off of a ledge onto giant rotating blades or running through a field of scissors.

Darkest secrets. I was the, quote, other woman when I was younger. I fooled around with but never slept with a friend who had a serious girlfriend. I was desperate for love and attention, and he made it clear I was just an accessory to his libido. That would be awkward if that [chuckles], if that was the phrase he actually used.

I feel terrible about my role in their relationship, though she never found out, and terrible I let my vulnerability be taken advantage of.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven't been able to? I'd like to be able to explain to people why I can't take criticism or why I want to die if someone I love appears to be upset with me or mad at me. Right now all I can do is just shut down, and it is hurting my relationships with people.

What, if anything, do you wish for? I wish I wasn't so afraid of being vulnerable with people and that I could break down my wall of fear.

Have you shared these things with others? I have shared some of these things with my therapist. One of the things we run into is that I find it hard to open up. I've been in therapy for years and only recently have started digging a bit deeper. It's hard.

I just wanted to give you a high-five and say, after the nightmare that you went through with such a sick mom that you can, that you are breaking that cycle and that you are this aware of these ways that you're coping that you would like to improve, you know, for instance, shutting down and etc., etc., but give yourself some credit. My God, you are climbing out of a hole that your mom dug that is so fucking deep, and you should be really proud of yourself. So, be patient with the process, and I don't think anybody who experienced what you experienced would immediately be comfortable opening up. So sending you some love and a hug.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Accepting It Wasn't My Fault Has Been the Hardest. He is bisexual, in his 40s, raised in a totally chaotic environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.

He writes, I was a bed-wetter and my father would wake me up to take a piss with him. It wasn't until recently I realized he was exposing himself to me. When I was 10, he would start trying to get me to look at pornography with him. When I would close my eyes, he would say things like, look what kind of a pussy your mother made you.

On a trip to Canada, he got extremely drunk and I didn't want to sleep in the same bed as him. He raged and ordered me to join him in bed by threatening to beat me. I was sitting on the couch and staring at my stepbrother and his friend in their bedroom. They just stared back. Fear made me go into the bedroom.

I got into bed and he fucking spooned me while I laid there in abject terror the whole night. My mother and family did nothing when I reported his incestuous behavior towards my sister, so I never told them about this. I was punished for my normal reaction to terrible abuse, so I stopped going to adults for help.

It stopped for a while, but when I was 24, he started rubbing my back in front of other people, like I was his girlfriend, so I broke contact. It's been 20 years, and I have never been happier to not have a father.

This is, if that wasn't fucked up enough, this might be hall-of-fame, one of the most fucked-up things I've ever read. One Christmas Eve, my drunk father took me into a darkened room of my baby cousin's, my baby cousin's darkened room and left the door open so everyone could hear, and challenged nine-year-old me to a fight.

He shook me and poked his finger into my chest as I cried. I was scared and confused because he was my father and I loved him. I looked at the floor the entire time because I knew he would hit me if I looked him in the eyes. He tried to goad me into a fight, asking me if I was a real man or a pussy.

His mother, sister and brother-in-law did nothing and acted like it wasn't happening. He eventually let me go. And then this, this is the thing that I was referring to. As if that isn't fucked up enough, that same Christmas Eve, after dinner and before the opening of presents, guess what movie he puts on? Faces of Death [chuckles]. Oh, my God. That is, oh, my God.

Any positive experiences with the abuser? There are a lot of memories that, quote, feel nice but I now know they are seen through the lens of a boy that loved his father because he was projecting what he needed on to him. It caused a tremendous amount of grief, guilt and confusion. After I went no contact, I would have dreams where everything was and always had been nice, and I woke up being angry for feeling love for him.

It took a lot of self-reflection, alone time, and therapy to realize the man I loved was really my projection of the father I wanted, which means, it's the father I would be. That is when I realized I was really loving myself all those years, even from an insanely young age. That is when the healing began.

That's one of the most profound things I have ever read, and beautiful. I'm just, you know, I had that moment in my relationship with my mom when I realized the pain of cutting contact with her also had to do with that image I had created of her as a child, was created because I needed to survive in that house. The truth would have, you know, the truth would have exploded our little heads. But that you could see that it's the father that you will be is, or at least that you strive to be, is so beautiful and profound, and I want to thank you for sharing that.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Frances Halliday, and they are agender. And they write, several days ago, after a tough shift, my managers pulled me aside and asked how I thought I was doing. I'd thought I was doing pretty well, but obviously something was up. They went on to tell me my pacing just wasn't acceptable, that the other workers were picking up slack, and that we needed to figure out a way to help me pick up the pace. They approached it in a mostly constructive way, even telling me that my personality and people skills were great, that it was just this one thing that needed improvement and that they didn't want to fire me.

I just want to pause right there and high-five those employers for doing that. So many people have no idea where they stand at work, are in an unnecessarily stressful environment, which I think would actually wind up hurting production. Anyway, continuing.

Being the sensitive person I am, though, and being that this was the end of a stressful, overstimulating day and seeing as I was already very anxious about my financial situation, I had a panic attack, right there in the grimy orange diner booth, these two straight-shooter managers continuing to ask me questions about what course of action they could take to help me.

I ended up wheezing in the back storage room for about an hour to try to collect myself so as to not show any weakness in front of my co-workers, who I'd describe, uncharitably, as prison bitches. I apologized to my managers, telling them I knew I was overreacting, that I appreciated the feedback and opportunity to improve and that this was just what happened sometimes. They seemed to understand.

My happy moment wasn't this moment, but afterwards. By the way, I think that's a happy moment, too, getting compassion from an employer, which you're seeing more and more now these days and it's really awesome.

When I walked out with my head held high, that was my happy moment. When I went home and didn't berate myself for my, quote, failure, or think of myself as a sack of shit, but took the perspective of an awesome friend. I understood and empathized with myself, thinking things like, damn, what a day you just had.

I ordered myself a pizza for the first time in months and let myself eat it in bed, watching Michael Scott make an ass of himself, and dipping my cheese-stuffed death bread in ranch. I took out the trash and picked myself a flower bouquet on the way back, because I seemed like I could use some cheering up right now. Thank you for that. That's really great. And I want to know where this cheese-stuffed bread is that you're talking about.

Every time I see the pizza that has the cheese stuffed into the crust, I kind of like, ugh, that's so disgusting, and then a small part of me is like, oh, but I bet it's really good, let's go try it, let's go try it.

This is an e-mail I got from somebody who [chuckles] calls himself Master Sobbing to The Great British Bake Off. I love The Great British Bake Off. It's so good. And master sobbing is a term that we coined for when you are eating in shame and you're crying at the same time. Oh, no, that's sob gobbling. Master sobbing is when you're crying while you're jerking off [chuckles]. I get our terms mixed up.

And they write, hey, Paul, I didn't really know who else to talk to about this. I know there are a lot of people who can relate and I plan on perusing the forum, but was hoping I could get some insight into treatment-resistant depression, which as I've stated on the podcast is what I have been dealing with for a long time.

I've been dealing with depression for almost a decade now and have worked through a vast array of medications. I'm feeling totally hopeless about finding some kind of relief, but what's worse is that this latest episode has heavily impacted my job performance.

I work at a standard 9:00-to-5:00-type marketing job and have communicated to my bosses the nature of my depression and asked for some leniency. We've had some dozen meetings about my schedule since January, but I've hardly been able to improve. My boss is trying to, quote, get depression, but I don't think she will ever really understand and is just continuously disappointed and passive about me, so I feel demoralized.

I'm doing everything I can to try to manage my depression, therapy, meds, spirituality, but it's becoming clear that I might not be able to pull it together in time for my boss, who is getting more and more panicked and controlling about my schedule.

Do I need to accept that things might not change and quit my job, or wait until I get fired? Finding some magical alternative with a flexible schedule? Is it even possible for someone like me to work a normal job or have a normal life? Do I need to eat more unfrosted Pop-Tarts as a part of medication routine? Just as long as you don't eat frosted Pop-Tarts.

Do you have any suggestions for treatment-resistant depression in regards to conventional jobs?

You know, as I often say, I am not a therapist, but I would be happy to share what has worked for me in dealing with my treatment-resistant depression. And so I wrote them back and said, not being a psychiatrist, I'm not sure what to say, other than here are the things. Number one, I don't beat myself up no matter what is happening, unless I'm recording the podcast, and then all is fair.

We don't beat ourselves up when we have the flu, and depression is a flu of sorts, but because we don't sound congested, so many people don't understand the seriousness of it.

Number two, be patient with the process of learning to manage your depression. It's a lot of trial and error. Number three, don't shame yourself for taking naps or not, quote, pushing yourself harder. There have been periods when I couldn't bring myself to open my mail for months.

Number four, remember this isn't about laziness. This is about vitality. And depression is an illness that saps vitality and resilience. The author Andrew Solomon put it best when he said the opposite of depression isn't happiness. It's vitality.

And the most important one is, let your psychiatrist know everything that is going on with you. You might qualify for disability even, depending on what state you live in and if he or she can verify it. Plus, they might be able to start thinking about other meds for you to try. I tried about 15 different ones before I found the most current version that works well.

So, hang in there, and you're not alone. Sadly, [chuckles] you're not alone in dealing with that type of depression. But the fact that you are working on what you do have control over is really, really huge.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Shut Up and Let Me Find My Depression Funny, and she writes, in the past few years, I've still attended church, but I've become very progressive. At first I kept a lot of my opinions quiet. During Pride Month, I decided to put up a Facebook status expressing my love and pride for the LGBT+ community.

I had a friend who is married with children from my religion private message me. She came out to me as bisexual, something she hadn't been able to tell many people. She fears people will not understand she still has desires unfulfilled, even though she has a loyal, sexually healthy relationship with her husband.

Also, our church isn't exactly accepting. I felt relieved that the only reactions I got were positive ones. I half expected something rude. She told me that I was a, quote, safe person for her. It felt so good to be there for someone in such a difficult situation, but I also felt sorrow for her pain, so maybe it's awfulsome.

It's so beautiful that you put yourself out there, you know, at the risk of being judged by others in that church. And it, you know, I think we're approaching a real watershed moment in our society, because more and more people are finding it not that difficult and not that scary to stand up for themselves or other people.

And social media gets a bad rap, but one of the things that I love about it is, you know, we don't like, we like things to be convenient. A lot of times what stands between us and doing the right thing or something that makes the world a better place is honestly the convenience of it, and I'm all for it. I'm all for it.

This is, I just want to read two parts of this. This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Manic Pixie Dream Bitch, and she's bisexual, in her 20s, was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, and she was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.

She writes, I often feel like a, quote, bad victim because I have been extremely sexually active after being raped. When I'm in my worst states, I feel like if I just fuck the right person at the right time it will somehow erase what happened to me.

I also feel like part of my brain is permanently stuck in his apartment in New York where he raped me, and I hate that it's hard for me to go to the city without feeling extremely nauseous, vulnerable and on the verge of tears.

I hope you know that being promiscuous, whatever you want to call it, after sexual trauma is like textbook. It's a textbook way that a lot of people respond. So I really hope you can stop shaming yourself for that.

Darkest secrets. I've started cutting again after being in recovery for a few years. Recently I realized that I'm a love addict and I’m terrified that in order to be considered in recovery I'll have to cut myself off from any intimacy whatsoever, even the healthy kind. Which is why I wanted to read this and say, emphatically, not at all.

Actually what you work on when you go to programs that deal with sex and love addiction is, you know, it's looked on as an intimacy disorder, so it's actually the thing that you wind up focusing on the most, but what you, one of the things that on the surface it may seem like you're denying yourself intimacy is part of the work involves learning to identify healthy intimacy from unhealthy, compulsive, trauma-driven intimacy.

And it would take me multiple shows to probably express what exactly that looks like, but I would check out Pia Mellody's book, Facing Love Addiction, and it, in my experience, the way that it has worked for me is by developing platonic intimacy with people and then that gives you a standard against which future relationships can be judged healthy or unhealthy. I hope that makes sense.

So, it would be a great place, a great place to, you know, even if you don't wind up liking it or going back, at least check it out.

Oh, let's, I don't think I'm going to make it through all of these [chuckles]. I'm going to go to the last one. I'll share the fear that's going through my head right now, is that we have supposedly Apple is going to put this, like in the next couple of days, put the podcast on their New & Noteworthy, which means we will get some new listeners, and my fear is that the length of this episode will keep people from clicking on it, because right now we're at 150 minutes, which is just short of three hours.

And I'm tired, honestly. It's been a long day. I'm still trying to find a place to live and it's stressful. I have to leave my apartment, and I don't want to because I like it, and yeah. I don't need to justify why I want to stop the episode [chuckles].

All right, here's the last thing I want to read. And by the way, can I thank you guys how, for how supportive your e-mails and tweets and stuff are when I share that I'm going through something on the podcast. It just, it's so nice. You know, I mean, I have a support network around me and my support groups and my friends and stuff like that, but I don't know, sometimes when love comes from a complete stranger, there's something really, really beautiful about it. And that really touches me.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by Error and Validated Operator, and he writes, last week I was chatting with my grandmother over coffee and I think she could tell I was unhappy. I'm struggling a lot in my life right now, but I was trying not to let it show. I've distanced myself from my family recently because an abusive individual who harmed me a lot as a child is still present and I'm tired of denying it.

My grandmother finally just asked me, what did we do so wrong? What should we have done for you? I declined to answer a couple times, but she insisted. So I finally just poured my heart out and she listened.

She didn't always follow me, but she let me speak and tried to understand. She's 87 and can hardly hear, but finally someone in my family actually wanted to listen to me. There were tears in her eyes, but she's an old-fashioned Southern lady and she kept her composure. And when I was done, all she wanted to know was whether I was getting help and if there was anything they could do for me.

I went home and cried and cried. It felt like someone had lifted 100 pounds off my back. Everything didn't suddenly turn out okay, and I still have a lot of recovery to do, but for once in the history of this family we really talked about something hard, and for the first time in my life I actually felt believed.

Man, that is powerful. That, although I have to apologize that I was picturing Jessica Tandy as your grandmother and that right after you finished sharing that stuff with her she had her chauffer drive her to go make water. But other than that, no, seriously, that, I think all of us listening to that felt that feeling that I think so many of us long for, which is to be accepted as we are right now, with having to put on a mask, having to do, to be extraordinary or hide some part of ourselves to get love.

And for somebody to just listen and to feel our pain, you know, the few times in support groups when I've cried while I'm sharing, looking up and seeing other people cry with you is one of the most healing experiences I think you can have. So, thank you for sharing that with us.

Well, I hope you guys heard something that helped you, inspired you, entertained you. Actually, let's put the bar even lower. I hope that this thing didn't bore the fuck out of you. How's that? How's that for shooting for the moon?

Just remember, you're not alone. It doesn't matter what you're feeling inside, there is somebody else probably within 100 feet of you feeling that same thing. What matters is what we do with those feelings, and whether or not we reach out and let somebody know what's going on with us.

 

[Closing music swells]

 

And I'm glad I did so I could be here to share all your stories, and that means a lot to me. Thanks for listening.

 

[Closing music]

 

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