80’s Childhood Shitshow! – Dana Eagle

80’s Childhood Shitshow! – Dana Eagle

Imagine getting gay hate mail from your own family.  Or finding a letter where your parents talk about you in a way that confirms your worst fears.  How does Bipolar 2 compare to having something like cancer?  Comedian and author (How To Be Depressed: A Guide) Dana Eagle opens up about being a lonely kid in the 80s whose parents couldn’t relate to her perhaps b/c her dad was alcoholic or her mom was thriving in her corporate job.  Or is it genetic?  Paul and Dana talk about art, comedy, shame, money, puberty, homophobia, abandonment, being bullied, moving and apes!

Buy Dana’s book How To Be Depressed: A Guide

Visit her websites www.DanaEagle.com  http://howtobedepressed.com

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 Bombas socks.  For 20% off your first purchase go to www.Bombas.com/mental

The podcast is doing live recordings Aug 2 & 3 in Oakland.  For details and tickets go to www.eastbayexpress.com/mental

To become a monthly donor (and qualify for bonus content and goodies from Paul like 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

To make a one-time donations via Paypal go to www.mentalpod.com/donate

Help the podcast by shopping with our podcast’s Amazon link (it doesn’t make your product any more expensive – even bookmark it!)



Episode notes:

Buy Dana's book How To Be Depressed: A Guide

Visit her websites www.DanaEagle.com  http://howtobedepressed.com

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 Bombas socks.  For 20% off your first purchase go to www.Bombas.com/mental

The podcast is doing live recordings Aug 2 & 3 in Oakland.  For details and tickets go to www.eastbayexpress.com/mental

To become a monthly donor (and qualify for bonus content and goodies from Paul like 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

To make a one-time donations via Paypal go to www.mentalpod.com/donate

Help the podcast by shopping with our podcast's Amazon link (it doesn't make your product any more expensive - even bookmark it!)

Episode Transcript:

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


Welcome to Episode 341 with my guest Dana Eagle. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. The show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I'm not a therapist. It's not a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck.

The Web site for the show is Mentalpod.com. Mentalpod is also the Twitter handle that you can follow me at.

We are coming to San Francisco to do some live tapings on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. That's August 2nd and 3rd. We're going to do it in Oakland, again, at the New Parkway Theater, and for tickets or information, I'll put a link under the show notes for this episode, but the link is EastBayExpress.com/mental. The East Bay Express is a newspaper that is helping to put this together. And if money is a problem, you can get free tickets to this by using the offer code GUEST when you purchase the tickets. That's G-U-E-S-T.

I, this memory came back to me like a couple of days ago, and here's the thing that's so hard when you cut contact with somebody, is you always have good memories with that person, and one of my favorite childhood memories was going to see, and I think it might have even been a weekday, I went to see the movie Willy Wonka with my mom. I was probably about seven years old. And it, for some reason, I remember feeling like it was a school day and we had gone during the day.

And as the credits were rolling, I said how much I liked the movie, and my mom said, would you like to watch it again? And I said yes. And I just remember being thrilled that we got to sit there and watch it again. And that's the thing that's so heartbreaking about not having, having to cut contact with somebody, is those memories hurt. They hurt, they're so bittersweet.

Another memory I had recently, I was a theater major at Indiana University, and I was in an acting class and you would be paired up with somebody, who was called your scene partner, and you would be given a scene from a play, some classic play, usually, you know, something from the late 1800s or, you know, early part of the 20th century, and I had been assigned George as my scene partner, and George was this big, gregarious, openly gay guy, super sweet, really funny.

And George had just been in an accident where he had broken bones in his neck, and so, I don't know if you've ever seen somebody when they have their head immobilized. It's more than just the neck brace. It's the neck brace and then they have four rods going into their body and up along, shooting up out of their body, and like hugging along their head and then clamps, clamping your skull. It's like these rods are screwed to your skull.

So it's like Frankenstein times 10, and I just remember doing a play, a scene from a Chekhov play [chuckles] with just George and I, and pretending like it wasn't absurd that I'm doing a Chekhov play with a guy with a Frankenstein head. But I miss him. He was such a sweet guy, and he didn't die, but, when I graduated I never saw him again, but he had such great stories.

He told me that he was at a party in Key West one time, at Tennessee Williams' house, towards the end of Tennessee Williams' life, and for those of you that don't know, Tennessee Williams was a, one of the best American playwrights ever, and he, Tennessee Williams was gay, and George was at a party and said that he had had a lot to drink and he walked right up to Tennessee Williams and said, I think the characters in your later work are weak [chuckles].

I was like, why would you do that? He said, I had a lot to drink. I was like, that's no excuse. And Tennessee Williams threw a drink in his face and said, what the fuck do you know? And as people were hauling him out of the house, he called Tennessee Williams a dried-up old queen [chuckles]. Oh, my God.

I want to read two things. This is just a sentence from a survey that somebody filled out. They're agender and they call themselves Actually An Alien. And what, if anything, do you wish for? And they write, to find a group of likeminded people who would become my family and live with me in a big house somewhere secluded with lots of dogs and a really big backyard. Oh, my God [chuckles], yes. Oh, my God. How awesome would that be?

But how hard would it be to find a houseful of people that you could be around that much for? I think it would have to be like every three days fresh people would have to come in. Oh, maybe it'd be like that thing at, you know, dinner, where like every 15 minutes people change seats, so maybe it's like six houses, like around a lake. Listen, if I could make this happen, I would.

I want to tell you about [chuckles], how awkward was that segue? I want to tell you about our sponsor. Maybe I'll have my therapist set it up. Maybe we can write it off. BetterHelp.com is a sponsor of this show, and a really important sponsor of this show, because they are consistently here week in and week out, helping to support the show. And I love what they do.

They matched me with a therapist of theirs. I've been seeing her for about nine months. And I always forget how long it is. My brain is, I smoked way too much pot in my day, but her name is Donna Keene. I love her. We talk every Friday at 5:00.

And people who I've recommended BetterHelp.com to have gone there, I've heard nothing but positive results from it. And people who may get matched with a person who isn't ideal for them at first, BetterHelp.com allows you to say, you know what, I'd like to try somebody else, and then they, based on the information you give them, they try to match you with somebody. But I'm just hearing good things about them.

Go to their Web site, BetterHelp.com/mental. Make sure you include the slash-mental part because otherwise they won't know that you were referred by the podcast. Just go there, fill out a questionnaire. They'll match you up with a counselor, and then you can experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is right for you. You've got to be over 18, but I got to tell you, I am sold on not only online counseling but with the therapists there and highly recommend it.

All right, this is an Awfulsome Moment. For those of you that are new to the show, an Awfulsome Moment is something that was horrible at the time, but, looking back on it, there's something kind of funnily fucked up about it.

And she calls herself Can I Call Myself Tits McGee? Yes, you can. She writes, when I was a kid, my dad moved to another state where he was supposed to secure a job and a place to live so my mom and I could join him later. Eventually my mom found out that he had secretly shacked up with another woman. Obviously, the marriage was over.

When I was 15, my dad showed up for a visit with divorce papers in hand. His girlfriend was pressuring him to get married and, since he had been telling her for years that he and my mom were divorced, she wanted to see the proof. Only, they hadn't gotten divorced. He had been lying to her. And if he went through with the divorce right then, the date on the papers would give him away.

His solution was to somehow create papers that would convince his girlfriend and ask my mom to sign them with the false date. My mom wasn't too inclined to help my dad, but she got a perverse satisfaction from knowing that the woman who broke up their marriage would think she was legally married to him when she actually wasn't. My mom signed the papers.

Since both of their signatures were on the document and they needed a third, distinct handwriting, they had me forge the judge's signature. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making me a felon at age 15.


[Show intro]


PAUL: I'm here with Dana Eagle, who is a comedian and an author and we got introduced, your publicist contacted me and asked would I be interested in having you as a guest, and she said she's got a new book called How to Be Depressed: A Guide.

And normally, there are very few book pitches that I take people up on because normally they're the kind of books I would never read, like The Instant Solution to Your Problems, and it just, something about that just irks me. I don't mind something that helps you with something, but things that, you know, call themselves the cure to this--


DANA: Over-promise--


PAUL: --I always think, A, does your book not work like you say it does, but B, you are an egomaniac and I have to make sure to never be friends with you.

But your book is not about trying to tell people how to live better. It's a humor book that makes fun of the shit we go through in battling our depression. And I only read the first two pages and I--


DANA: [Chuckles]


PAUL: --you know, e-mailed your publicist back and said, yes, I definitely want to have her as a guest, because I love, I love this book. And I love what it--


DANA: Thanks.


PAUL: --sets out to accomplish, which I think it does. I'm just going to read a blurb that you wrote. And it says, this is not in the book. This is in a little card that came with it. I wrote How to Be Depressed: A Guide as part of a pledge not to heal anyone, parentheses, you're welcome. I just wanted to create a funny book about depression that would be a release for people. All I want is for you, the depressed, to get a laugh and know you're not entirely alone.

Rest assured, with How to Be Depressed as your guide, you'll discover your best depression moves, maximize self-destructive behavior, and nurture undesirable thought patterns that will let your sadness shine. It's just so, it's so refreshing, and obviously a lot of that is tongue in cheek, because your goal isn't to make people feel worse but it's to make them laugh and not feel alone.


DANA: Yeah, it is. It's kind of an answer to all of those books that are the--


PAUL: Hold on for one second. Your mic, for some reason, had turned off.

All right, there we go.


DANA: Okay.


PAUL: Yeah, for some reason, your mic had turned off. Go ahead.


DANA: Yeah, it was kind of written as the answer to all of those books that are the instant cure and the self-help book, because I did read a lot of self-help books. My joke in my act was I used to read a lot of self-help books because, I read a lot of self-help books because I used to think I liked myself, but now I realize I was just using me to get to someone else.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


DANA: And yeah, I mean, that was always kind of the thing, was there was always very helpful things within the books, but they were always more that if it didn't work then it was your fault.


PAUL: And you would feel worse.


DANA: Yes.


PAUL: That's why, like I can't--


DANA: Yes.


PAUL: --even look at a picture of Tony Robbins--


DANA: Oh, my God.


PAUL: --because all I think is, A, I will never be that fit, I will never be that handsome, I will never have that much energy, I will never make that much money, and I will fail in the attempt, so I'm going to sit here and eat popcorn and hate you instead.


DANA: And also, and, you know, I've never met him so I couldn't say, but I also feel like it lacks authenticity, which I think is such a huge thing with comedians, which is, with most comedians, the thing that I find, the thing that I like about being them is there's just no, it's just a no-bullshit zone. It's just, we're just going to call it like it is.


PAUL: And that in itself is a comfort.
DANA: Yes.


PAUL: I think people want to shy away from that, and I've discovered, as I was doing this podcast and reading really dark surveys or hearing dark stories, that there was a certain comfort in it, not in that someone else suffered but in that knowing I wasn't alone and the details of somebody else's suffering and the ripples from it are very similar to what I do and that was the universal bond that helps me feel like, okay, this isn't the end of the world that I slept till 2:00.


DANA: Right, right. And then, I feel like stand-up was, for me, the other step of it. It also gave me something to do with those crappy thoughts that were trying to work against me, of like, oh, okay, now, because what I used to do was I used to do the self-help thing. I used to do the thing of, you know, I had all these sayings to try and cheer myself up, and my apartment looked like one of those tunnels that the football players run through--




DANA: --you know, like, you can do it, go ahead, and it's, you know, but there was, it just wasn't honest. It was like, it took so much energy to keep that up all the time. And then, stand-up kind of allowed me to just go, okay, this is where I am, but if I can take a turn with it or now I have something to do with it, then I can--


PAUL: Yeah, instead of changing it, how can I express it maybe in a way that--


DANA: Right.


PAUL: --connects me to people.


DANA: Yes, yeah.


PAUL: And is self-loving instead of self-shaming.


DANA: Right, exactly. Yeah.


PAUL: And for me, then that is a release, you know, to some degree. It doesn't get rid of it, but it takes the edge off it.


DANA: Nothing gets rid of it.




DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: So, where would you like, well, let me offer you some water. Hold on.


DANA: Oh, sure. Am I raspy?


PAUL: No. I need some.


DANA: Oh, okay.


PAUL: So, I'm just trying not to be the selfish host, making sure I give my guest some water as well.

So, where should we begin? You were born where?


DANA: Oh, I was born in Jersey. I was born in New Jersey, and yeah, those were, there were some good years in there, up through age 11. That was a lot of fun.


PAUL: What happened at 11?


DANA: We moved. We moved and I went through puberty all like in the same month--


PAUL: Ooh.


DANA: Yeah. And I think, yeah, where I lived was really, where I started out in life was amazing, and I just, here's the thing. Like looking back on it, I don't know if I fit in, but it didn't matter to me. And I also think that that's not very unusual with girls. They say that girls tend to lose a lot of self-confidence in puberty and, you know, boys tend to gain it. And so yeah, so then we moved, and I think that that was probably the onset of the depression and the stuff.

And of course, now, looking back at it, it's kind of crazy because it ran in my family, and like my grandmother had been hospitalized a couple of times, but at the same time, I'm not sure if my parents ever relayed that to the psychologist that I went to.




PAUL: How old were you when you went to a psychologist?


DANA: I went to the first one when I was 12, and he was terrible. He was so awful, like I would just--


PAUL: Like how? Describe . . .


DANA: Oh, he was, I would tell him things that were happening, if it was something at school or my parents fighting, and, let me say this. Like my environment was not a stable one. And I, you know, and as an adult I can see why he was saying this, but he'd be like, yeah, who cares? You know, kind of like, it doesn't matter, it's okay. But, except that he didn't say the it's okay. I just added that to it.

And so there's not really a lot of coping mechanism in that--


PAUL: I see. So he didn't offer you coping mechanisms or comfort?




PAUL: He just kind of listened [chuckles] but didn't let you know he was really hearing you or what?


DANA: Yeah. I don't even know what I was doing there. I just, yeah, and there was also at that time, there was, I wouldn't say there was, I think there's always a difference between shame/this is private information and, but maybe as a child like you don't know the difference, and there was that part of it where we didn't discuss it with anybody.


PAUL: You're talking about outside of the therapist's office, you didn't discuss it with anybody, or you didn't discuss it in there with him.


DANA: No. Like I remember being at the dentist or, you know, at the dentist once and filling out some paperwork and I said, you know, it's asking about something with medical blah, blah, blah, and my mom goes, that's, something to the effect of, that's none of anyone else's business, no one else needs to, and there wasn't more of an explanation of it, but I just knew that, you know, okay, this isn't something we discuss with other people.


PAUL: So this is something that has some potential shame around it.


DANA: Yeah. Yeah. And I didn't, I didn't really, yeah, I didn't know what to think of that. I think I just didn't know what, [chuckles] and I think that's around my childhood, but I feel like that's around things now, too, like sometimes there's this just delay and like, what was I supposed to think of that, or it hits me like six months later, I'm like, hey, that wasn't nice, what that person said. Like I have a little bit of a, I sometimes suspend judgment for a little too long [chuckles].


PAUL: And that's known as terrible improv, waiting that long, five years later.




PAUL: Here's my reply.


DANA: Exactly.


PAUL: If you would, just tilt your mic up towards you a little bit.


DANA: Sure. Okay. Is that better?


PAUL: Yeah, that's better.

So, was your mom, was her attitude towards that about something medically physical or psychological, that she was like, that's none of their business, or either or both?


DANA: You know, I think she was just saying, I think it's just an issue of like, it just belongs to us, nobody, and now, you know, I could see there's more of like, I think it's what I would say to a child, too, but with a greater explanation of it's nothing to be ashamed of, or even with adults, because sometimes in L.A., you know, that thing that like adults kind of like over-share, and it's like, no, it's, depression is, I feel like depression is like sex. Like, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but at the same time, there's a time and a place where you break it out and you don't want to necessarily let everybody know about it.


PAUL: That's a good way to get it across, yes.


DANA: Right. So, and I think that's just, you know, she didn't necessarily want me to be vulnerable to other people's judgment.


PAUL: I got you, okay.


DANA: But I think there was also a little bit, because later on, when I was at a different mental health professional's office, I think there was a little bit also of my parents maybe not wanting me to share what was going on in our house.


PAUL: I see.


DANA: Which I don't think was, you know, that unusual. It was just a lot of loudness and fighting and stuff, and I think I was in one of those situations where I was the one with the symptoms, but the whole, yeah, they're not here to defend themselves, I'll just say it. They were the cause [chuckles].


PAUL: So, do you think it's maybe like a part nurture/part nature with your thing? I mean, obviously you never know, but the fact that it runs in your family and then it sounds like it was very stressful at your house as well.


DANA: Yeah. And that's not to, and let me say this. My life turned upside-, like that month that we moved, my life turned upside down. I mean, I always had working parents, you know, which all kids have now, but at the time it was actually more unusual that my mom worked, and then we moved to this, but I lived more in like this town where like in the morning, I remember knocking on my neighbors' doors, and they would say it later, and I'd be like, I can't roll up my pants straight, can you help me out, and, you know, like I had people that I could ask and I had no problem asking and fending for myself.

Like literally [chuckles], like just knocking on someone's door, being like, so what's for dinner in this house tonight? You know, and when we moved, we were suddenly in that place where we're in detached houses. We moved to more of like an upper-middle-class neighborhood. And I'm still wearing my brother's hand-me-downs, which I thought were great, and so I, I didn't fit in.

And now suddenly at school I didn't, I was very much an outcast and very bullied, and again, something today everyone's very aware of, but then it was just like child's play. But I knew, like I've always had very strong feelings about that growing up as far as like, you know, for the things that kids did to me at school, they would get fired from a job, so that shouldn't have been allowed to go on. So I feel like--


PAUL: You mean teachers?


DANA: Well--


PAUL: Or because the teachers allowed it?


DANA: Well, the teachers allowed it, but it's just like, you know, just like a shoving or passing a nasty note, like that kind of stuff. If somebody did that to their colleague at work, they would be fired.


PAUL: I gotcha.


DANA: And yet, for the longest time, until recently, like that was fine for kids to do and it wasn't. So, I think I just found myself in this place of, you know, there are, you know, my parents were out of the house a lot. My brother was off doing his own thing, so now I'm alone. I don't have the neighbors. I don't have the support system. And nobody likes me at school. It was just very--


PAUL: Wow, that's a lot.


DANA: --I couldn't find a place sort of where I--


PAUL: And puberty is hitting, and now you're aware of your body.


DANA: And puberty is hitting. And my parents are sort of starting to feel like, look, you're growing up now, you know, you should be able to do this. I mean, not immediately, but, you know, after a while [chuckles], like there was like, you know, you're growing up now, but I didn't, yeah, I didn't have the things.

And I think I felt sort of that shame, too, because now I was like 11, 12 years old. And it was only recently, I was at a friend's house and his daughter, who was 11, who's 11 years old, came out to say good night and she's like, Daddy, would you, you know, tuck me in? And afterward, I was like, oh, how old? And he said 11, and I was like, oh, I was a kid then. I was just a kid.


PAUL: I had a construction job a 11. That didn't seem right.




DANA: Right, yeah. So I feel like, you know, and the whole thing of, you know, taking into account like how my parents each grew up and all of that, but yeah, so as far as the nature-versus-nurture thing, sorry I got away from your question, yeah, it was destined to happen.

Even though you do still look back, I had this conversation with Greg Fitzsimmons, of like, you always like look back at different things and you're like, was that the cause of it? Was it this? Was it that? Even though we know it like ran in our families and . . .


PAUL: Why is it that we become obsessed with like wanting to know the cause, other people's intentions? It's--


DANA: Right.


PAUL: You know why? I think because we get comfort from being able to categorize and file things away, because then we can stop thinking about it, but it's almost like an emotional OCD. You know, like obsessively compulsive about categorizing, making things very black and white. I think some of us--


DANA: Yeah. It's like the politics now. Like everything is so much easier when it's an absolute, and shades of gray and nuance are really hard to sort through.


PAUL: It's more than 140 characters.


DANA: Exactly.




DANA: Exactly, exactly. And even now, you know, talking to you, I'm sort of going, oh, my parents, you know, they loved me, and they this and they that, it's like, you know, and yeah, they did--


PAUL: I think that comes across. It doesn't sound like they were monsters. It just sounds like they didn't have a tremendous amount of coping skills and--


DANA: They didn't have coping skills. I would say, and I, the thing I would also say about my parents that I got that I don't think a lot of people get is, both of my parents have acknowledged that they wish they had done some stuff differently and in some more specific ways, and yeah, but I think that was a little harder as far as like when I was growing up of feeling, I feel like my parents got a little caught up in the money thing of the '80s.

And it was this thing of, I feel like, almost feel like, as we got more money, we almost, for me especially because that was what the move was, too, it's like as we got more money, we actually became less happy and less connected and all of that.


PAUL: That doesn't surprise me at all, and to me, it doesn't have anything with the, anything to do necessarily with the amount of money accumulated, but the energy that goes into thinking about the amount of money that you can accumulate beyond, you know, we're surviving, we're eating, we've got a roof over our heads.


DANA: Right.


PAUL: I understand people that have to think about money all the time because they're in survival mode.


DANA: Right.


PAUL: But to me, when you're in the suburbs and you've, you know, the kids are going to a nice school and you got a car, etc., etc., and you're still driven by it, it's an epidemic, I think, in our culture, and I think all the violence, all of the depression, all of the addictions, I think that stuff is all related to us not knowing that we feel empty inside and how to go about finding something to fill it that isn't compulsive or addictive.


DANA: Right. And I think some of it is, it's that hierarchy of needs. You know, like you're very--


PAUL: Where is yogurt on that one?


DANA: Will you say that again?


PAUL: Where is yogurt on that hierarchy of needs?


DANA: [Chuckles]


PAUL: That's in the 50s, right?


DANA: I think so.


PAUL: Okay, go ahead. That was so not worth interrupting you for.




DANA: No, but I got it. It'd be like, yeah, once you're taken care of, now you have something else that you feel like you need to fill. And I, yeah, and we didn't look to each other, I don't think. I think, yeah, we didn't look to each other.


PAUL: Do you think the environment that you moved into also, because it sounds like it placed more status on having money or certainly more importance?


DANA: Yeah. And then that was just plain confusing to me. Like, I just didn't, I didn't even understand it. Like I didn't even get like, and my parents didn't either. Like even though my parents were out earning, like I remember coming home and, you know, I was like, Mom, I think we need to get me some different clothes because the kids are saying that these are boys' clothes, and my mom was like, you go to school, you tell those kids those clothes are unisex.




PAUL: That is fantastic.


DANA: And, you know--


PAUL: I would love to hear that come out of that kid's mouth, too.


DANA: Oh, and I did, too. Like I was such an idiot, like I did that stuff, too. And I just, I had no idea--


PAUL: And the other kids were like, oh, I'm so sorry, I had no idea. And then they bow.




DANA: Yeah. Oh, no, that's not exactly quite what happened. I spent a lot of time alone. Yeah, I think, yeah, it was just very confusing. And I think even like trying to look back at it now and make sense of it, it still is kind of confusing.

You know, and I didn't figure out until my 20s that I was gay. I thought I was just a late bloomer. And it turns out I was that, too. And, you know, I don't know, I think that started to factor into it of when I hit junior high and I think the kids sensed something was different, you know, before I knew it was different, they knew something was different, and they were right. There were a lot of very different things about me.




PAUL: Is it something that you would care to elaborate on? Or is it unimportant?


DANA: Oh, you mean as far as, you know, being gay and . . .


PAUL: Yeah. What, take us inside the emotional space of an 11-year-old who is all of a sudden having to consider things that weren't in her world a couple of years ago and kids are saying stuff to her. Were any of the things they were saying things you thought might be true or were true--


DANA: No. I was still like extremely, that started happening around seventh grade. And, no, I was still so naïve. I mean, I knew when they called me a dyke that like they were just, it was like the worst thing you could call someone, and I don't think they were calling me that because they actually knew that I was gay, but there was this way in which I was unlike the other kids.


PAUL: I see.


DANA: And so, I think that was, I didn't, yeah, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to make the kids like me and I feel like I didn't know how to make my parents like me, I think was kind of how that felt--


PAUL: Oh, that's heartbreaking.


DANA: It just felt like, I didn't know how to make, yeah, I just didn't know. I was just confused, you know, and it was just, yeah, I don't know. And I think I don't look at it too much now because I [chuckles], there's always more surprises in life and there were more that came up, you know, as life went on.

And, but I think from then on, from like 11 through the point where I was, you know, more officially diagnosed, it was like there were tough years and then there were okay years, and then tough and then, yeah, and it was just sort of balancing out. And it's interesting because I think, you know, when I was thinking of this interview and doing this, I was like, this is hard because I don't think I look at my life the way other people do, because I don't account for time. I don't track time.

Like when people, like I always brush off the answers of how long have you been doing stand-up, how long have you been in L.A., how long this, when did you, like I always just brushed them off because I think I knew at some point that my job was always to just move forward. From whatever happened, my job is just move forward.

And so I don't, and there's a fear of looking back. You know, there's a fear of like, I don't want to do math, as far as, well, I'm not very good at it anyway, but I don't want to do math as far as--


PAUL: Should've, could've, would'ves?


DANA: No. I don't want to have my ratio put in front of me of what are the good years relative to the bad years. I don't want to, and I really have no idea what they are and I've never like sat down to figure it out, because I just, I'm just like, it doesn't matter because my only job is to just move forward.


PAUL: I like that. It really is.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: It really is. And I've been hearing that a lot lately from people that are, say, okay, that sucked, what happened. What now? We can't go back and change it. What do we do now?


DANA: Right, right.


PAUL: What is the loving thing towards yourself to move forward?


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: A little bit ago, you shared something that was so, it touched me so deeply and it sounded like you got a little choked up, too, is you said I didn't know how to make my parents love me.


DANA: I knew they loved me. I didn't know how to make them like me. Like, I wanted to be . . .


PAUL: Have them enjoy your company?


DANA: Yeah. And I think this was a little bit of--


PAUL: Don't let me put words in your mouth. Elaborate on what it was that you felt was lacking. Was it that you felt that they loved you in terms of you're their child and they are going to love you in a protective way but they didn't love you and that you didn't turn out how they hoped a kid on that block would fit in with the other kids?


DANA: Yeah. Like I think there was, I can't speak for my, my mom is just this very, I mean, even my friends now, when they meet my mom, they're like so surprised [chuckles], and I'm like, yeah, I take after my dad. But, you know, like she's just, she's one of those people who like, she wore the power suit and she puts people at ease and she's very energetic, easy to be around. And I especially--


PAUL: So she wasn't shy and depressed.


DANA: No. That's my dad's side of the family. That's who I got that from. No, and my mom, yeah, and I should say that like my father's more the what you would, I think what they describe as the alcoholic paradigm of like very, he would be like very angry or very happy. And like that's another one of those things like I didn't know. I remember saying to my brother at some point, and I was in high school or something, because like there was always that thing of like which one is walking through the door.




DANA: And I remember saying to my brother, I was like, oh, Dad's like really happy, he's, and, I mean, at this point, I think I was like, I was like 16 or something. I was like, oh, Dad's really happy, he's really in a good mood today, and my brother's like, he's drunk, you idiot. And I was like, ah, oh, you know, like I had just gotten it [chuckles].


PAUL: And that was your older brother?


DANA: Yeah. He's three years older.


PAUL: And it's just the two of you?


DANA: It was just the two of us. And then with my mom, she was very much at the start of that thing of being her own person and a successful businesswoman and she ended up opening up her own business. And yeah, she was just that person that everybody always wanted to be around, including me, and it was, and they were both businesspeople. And so my brother and I, we both grew up with that thing of, what was it, it's How To Win Friends and Influence People.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


DANA: And I think that played a lot into how I connected with people or probably didn't, because the How To Win Friends and Influence People is all this, about this thing of how you get people to like you. And my parents, like even when we were kids, they'd be like, you know in business if you do something like that, like, you know, but we weren't businesspeople then.




DANA: But they would talk about it with us all the time as though we were, as though we were like these little businesspeople. And to their credit, I mean, they were both extremely successful people, but, and they were great, I mean, there was this huge turning point, I think, for me, like when I became an adult.

Like as soon as I was, I would say, in college or out of college, I think my parents, I think my brother and I were a little too much to have in the house, and I feel like our relationships changed like as soon as we left the house, because they were always so wonderful and giving about like, go do what you want and about talking things through and looking at jobs and businesses from all angles.

And I've heard the other side of it, too, where I had a friend that said that, you know, she had like a real mom-mom, like baked cookies and stuff, she's like, but then when I was, you know, suddenly an adult, we had nothing to connect us anymore. And with my parents, it was kind of, I feel like once I was an adult, we were pretty good with each other.


PAUL: You could relate to each other.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: Well, you know, part of what I believe is successful parenting, and I'm not a parent so maybe I'm a jackass for even--




PAUL: --opening my mouth, but I think--


DANA: We have the best observations, the child in us--




PAUL: --I think emotionally guiding and educating and paying attention to your child and having them feel seen and heard and be given structure and discipline, I think those are as important as making sure they've got nice tennis shoes and all the other stuff, because we ought to use that, we have to use emotional tools 50 times a day, and a lot of us get to the point where we want to kill ourselves because we don't even have the most basic emotional tool, which is to know that this isn't going to last forever.


DANA: Right. Yeah.


PAUL: And if you don't sit kids down and you don't occasionally model that for your kids, how are they going to learn that? They're not going to get it from browsing a self-help aisle? You know what? Some of them might, but I've never been one of those kids that could do that. I had to go to support groups and a therapist and all this other stuff.

But I guess my point is, because you've talked about how your parents are this with business and that with business, and it sounds like they were very career-oriented in terms of this is how we take care of our child, we prepare her to become--


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: --financially successful, and yet there is so much more--


DANA: Right.


PAUL: --for a kid to have to deal with when they become an adult than negotiating a contract or putting a good résumé together.


DANA: Right. Yeah, there is, and I think for their generation that was success.


PAUL: Yeah. They didn't even talk about it, the--


DANA: Yeah. And--


PAUL: And I'm not blaming them. It's just, it just wasn't there. I'm just kind of on my soapbox, saying, can we as a society please start now.


DANA: Right. And I think what my parents didn't understand was that really I was okay with not being liked by the other kids. And that I think, I mean, I’m saying this through adult eyes, but I think if I felt like that strength at home, that strength of unit at home, then what the kids said to me wouldn't have hit me so hard.


PAUL: That makes perfect sense.


DANA: Yeah. And I think there's also, you know, with my mom, I think there was just such a big world out there, too, that she hadn't been exposed to when she was younger because of, you know, she came from the projects in Brooklyn and, you know, and so I think there was that on that end, and then on my father's end, it was a little bit more of the avoiding. You know, I think when he, yeah, there was definitely just a little bit more of like avoiding.


PAUL: Has he ever gotten sober or . . .


DANA: Yeah, he did. He actually, my parents divorced after 37 years of marriage, and, which is always, people are always like, were there indications? And I was like, well, they were unhappy for 36, but other than that, no.


PAUL: I have so much respect for people that wait until they hit a really juicy prime number to get divorced.




DANA: I know.


PAUL: They were going to try to tough it out to August, that wouldn't be one.


DANA: Well, to 40 they could have--


PAUL: Oh, that was another joke, was a prime number.




PAUL: Yeah, 37 years, right, wasn't that the . . .




DANA: Yeah, I mean, so yeah, after that, you know, it got particularly bad, but he was always like the functioning kind.


PAUL: That's what my dad was, too.


DANA: Yeah. He was, you know, there wasn't, you know, there weren't car accidents or anything, but I remember, there were like these little indications of when, I don't know if it was when he left the job he was at or when the bar closed down, I remember he came home with a stool from the bar that they put a placard with his name on it--




DANA: --and I remember thinking to myself, that's where he was when I was in junior high. Like I thought he was actually working, and it was like, he was not working. That's where he was.


PAUL: Did that make you feel better, or no?


DANA: No, because he only worked like 10 minutes from the, 10 or 15 minutes from the house, and he had decided like instead of coming home after work he would go there after work. And so, I think it, yeah, there was that.

And then there was also, I had found, I had found some, and I don't know if they ever knew this, but I had found, I think they were going to counseling while I went to sleep-away camp. I went to sleep-away camp like really early. Like they had to send me to two camps because they wouldn't take kids my age for that long at sleep-away camp, so they had to like [chuckles] send me to two different sleep-away camps. And at some point, sleep-away camp just became miserable, because, you know, I couldn't fit in anywhere.

And I, I do remember, they must have been in like some sort of counseling as far as like writing notes back and forth to each other, and I found them in the basement and I read them and it was, because I had asked to come home. I was having a hard time at camp now, too. And--


PAUL: And you were how old at this point?


DANA: Well, I found them when I was 12, so that was when I found the notes, so they were probably from about that age, around, and basically they had both, I remember like one of the notes being like, I know, I don't want her to come home either, something like that, and I--


PAUL: What [incredulously]?


DANA: Yeah. And--


PAUL: What [incredulously]?


DANA: Yeah. And it's one of those things--


PAUL: Oh, my God. No, don't--


[Simultaneous discussion]


PAUL: --no, no, no. There's no yes-and. Let's stop for a fucking second. I know you like to move forward in life--




PAUL: --but for fuck's sake. That's like one of the heaviest things I've heard a kid have a moment of. I mean, my stomach fell just hearing that.


DANA: Yeah, and I don't, and I think, I think it's hard to find a, it was hard then to find where do you put that and it's hard now to find where do you put that, because I knew I was loved. But they just needed some space [chuckles]. And I took up a lot of space.

Yeah, I don't know. It was, I think these are things that . . .


PAUL: I'm going to pretend I’m a listener listening to this, and it's not just me giving my opinion.


DANA: Okay.


PAUL: Dana, don't you think you might be going a little easy on them?


DANA: I think I look at it, I think I'm looking at it as an adult, which is, I think parents, I don't think it was something I should have read at that age. I don't think it was healthy for me to see.


PAUL: And certainly to not dictate it to a secretary. That was just--




PAUL: --that was just unnecessary. And--


DANA: But I think it was, I think the reason I remember it is because it was, I think there was, I think I felt like an inconvenience to my parents.


PAUL: And that's what I mean. It feels like you're minimizing what a powerful message that is to a kid, not only through reading it literally--


DANA: Right.


PAUL: --but feeling it on a day-to-day basis that, because I'm not trying to vilify your parents at all. They had their idea of what success looked like, and it sounds like it was super exciting for your mom because she sounds like the, like what the equal rights movement set out to get rolling--


DANA: Yes, yes.


PAUL: --and here your mom was, the embodiment of it in the '80s, and--


DANA: Yeah, she really was.


PAUL: And in some way that's like so fantastic, but then there's also this kid that needs her parents.


DANA: Right.


PAUL: And the dad's at the bar and she's talking to Harrison Ford.


DANA: Yeah.




DANA: Yeah, and I think it had kind of that backlash, where now I look at kids that are in, you know, daycare all day long and then after-school programs, and I'm just, you know, I think it's better because now the programs are set up, you know, whereas we used to have to like string a bunch of stuff together for me, but I, it also feels, it also seems unnatural like to not have a parent home, yeah.


PAUL: And overly structured. You know, when I mentioned structure earlier in the podcast, I mean structure in terms of not just giving the kid a key to the house and saying, you know, you can come home whenever you want, I mean like having rules and stuff like that, but it's so, kids' lives just seem so regimented that there's so little time for them to just go and wander and be and have an imagination and other things.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: And maybe that makes me sound like an old fuck, but--


DANA: No. That's what it was like in the first town where I lived in. Like, we just, you, you know--


PAUL: To play, just play.


DANA: Yeah. We were just out, unsuper-, I mean, it was, it was everything like my parents [chuckles] did was completely illegal now. You know, it was just, we were out running around and, you know, different people's houses and we knew which people had candy.


PAUL: Yeah. We just had to be home for dinner.


DANA: Exactly, exactly, yeah. So, yeah, it is. It's been a huge, and as a woman who feels like, you know, of course women should be able to, and it is, and I do feel like women end up with a lot of, you know, they are the ones who can't have it all, you know, where there has to be some choices made, but I also, yeah, and I think it also depends on the child, too.


PAUL: And I'm not putting all the pressure on your mom. You know, it's both, both parents failed you on, to some degree, is what I'm saying. It just, it felt like you were minimizing the amount of emotional abandonment that you had experienced, and I just, I couldn't let that pass and at least give you my opinion on it. I could be totally wrong. Maybe I'm too touchy-feely. But it . . .


DANA: No, it did. It did feel like that, and it felt, yeah, and I think it felt like that, and I think it also gave me this very strange, maybe not strange, but, you know, just an unhealthy relationship with money, because I just, I remember having friends and the father was going through unemployment and, you know, they're going through a really hard time, but they were so close. Like the family was just so close, and they loved being together. And you know, and of course, you can have money and be that way, too.


PAUL: Yeah.


DANA: But yeah, for us, it didn't, I think it's a matter of being able to adjust yourself to the child, because, you know, before the move, I was absolutely fine on my own. You know, it was really, I mean, you know, there were times, you know, why can't you be like the other moms and, you know, that, but I was fine, but there needed to be more of an adjustment once we moved and more of, okay, we can't just let this kid that was successful in every way start to fall apart. And I did, and I, yeah, so I started to fall apart.


PAUL: And it seems like, as I've said before, I'm not a parent, but it seems like, you know, being a parent, there are stages of complexity to it that just get added on and added on, and when a kid hits puberty, that to me seems like the Ph.D. phase of being a parent, and it just sounds like your parents weren't equipped, like it was not malicious. Like, they sound like nice people. They just had their own issues and dreams--


DANA: Right.


PAUL: --and you just didn't fit into it--




DANA: Right. No, I know. I know. And, you know, and they've both acknowledged it. Like they've both been, and said, and they say that they would do it differently, but I don't know if I actually think that they would, but they say that they would do it differently. And I think the part of it where I minimize it is I'm like, yeah, I kind of get it. Like, you know, I've been with kids and my friends' kids and there's a point where you're like, all right, I'm ready to be done [chuckles]--


PAUL: Oh, fuck yeah. That's why I haven't had kids. I couldn't do it for a day.


DANA: Right, right.


PAUL: A day.


DANA: And I think what happened was my parents just, you know, that was what you did. You got married and you had kids, and I'm just not, I'm not sure if they, and I feel like I can say this because we do have a good relationship, but I'm not sure if that's what they would have each done, at least in that timing of it. You know, and I think because my father's temper, like my mom had a lot to contend with, because then it's almost like you have three kids instead of, you know, everybody's tiptoeing--


PAUL: In what way?


DANA: [Sighs] Because you're just always trying to like not set off this person's temper. You know, you're just always, yeah, you know, you're just always trying to--


PAUL: So both your parents could be that way, because you said your dad was, which dad is coming through the door?


DANA: Right, no. I guess I'm saying like my mom had more of like three kids to deal with instead of like two kids--


PAUL: Oh, meaning your dad was--


DANA: Yeah, yeah.


PAUL: --I thought you were saying--


DANA: It was almost as though she had three kids to deal with, you know, because it's, and I think it's--


PAUL: Oh, and an alcoholic is absolutely a child, an untreated alcoholic is absolutely--


DANA: Yeah. And very confusing, because my father did so much more than what other fathers did at that time, in terms of, you know, I remember a few years in there, in elementary school, of like him being the one to come home, and there was food in the refrigerator, but he'd be like, come on, get in the car, we're not eating that, and, you know, we'd go out and get food, which is probably why I went through puberty at 11, because we ate a lot of fast food.

But [chuckles], you know, so he did pitch in a lot, but then the behind the scenes of it was he was still more of that, you know, like that person that we tiptoed around a lot and, yeah, I don't, and years later, years later, like one thing that made a huge difference was I saw this National Geographic special called, it's called Stress: The Silent Killer, and I thought it was going to be about any number of things, of like money or working too much or this or that, and it turned out to be this thing, have you seen this?

It was the one about the apes and it was about the alpha apes. I'm saying it wrong, but anyway, we'll just go with apes or chimps or something in that primate field, and what they found was it was the, it was the ones like right below the alphas who had like the most cortisol in their blood, and sorry, I'm like trying to pull it back up again--


PAUL: Meaning the most stressed out.


DANA: Yeah, they were the most stressed out, and they were stressed out because of the terror inflicted on them by the alphas. And there was this scientist who was studying them and he would, I don't know how, but he got their blood and tested it, and what ended up happening, it was so interesting.

What ended up happening was, some humans left some meat or food that had gone bad and not locked it up and they got to it, and of course the alphas got to it first, and they ate it and they died. All the alphas like in this whatever amount of tribes that he was tracking, and he thought, oh, my God, I just lost years of research, like it's all gone, I can't do anything now. But what ended up happening was, they restructured how they worked the group, and they all became so much healthier without the alphas.

And just watching that--


PAUL: Are you calling for a revolution, is that what you're--




PAUL: --am I reading between the lines?


DANA: But how do you call a revolution with the ones that were like, yeah--


PAUL: Do you think it's they were so much happier because the alpha, the new alphas, had experienced not being an alpha and had more empathy--


DANA: There weren't new alphas. There weren't--


PAUL: It was just communism?


DANA: The alphas got to the meat first, so they all died, and so then it was just, it became this thing of like, then when an alpha would try and infiltrate the group, they kind of made it clear, like, no, no, no, we don't do that in this group. And--


PAUL: Oh, so there were some alphas left.


DANA: No. So what happens is they travel like in their little packs, and so this pack like lost their alphas.


PAUL: Right.


DANA: And then, you know, sometimes they'll--


PAUL: Oh, another alpha from another--


DANA: --if an alpha from another pack would sort of try and come in, you know, because it wanted to mate, and they would sort of make it clear of like, no, no, no, we don't behave like that in this one, we don't do that in this group. And so the group basically got rid of their alphas, and all of them were much healthier.


PAUL: So it's like the corporate tents at Coachella, but they were successful in keeping the corporate tents out.




DANA: Right, yes. But it changed things for me because I used to be the kind of person when I was around the alphas, I would still want to endear myself and make them like me, and now I'm just more, I sense who those people are and I'm just like, I'll be nice but they're not invited in. And I'm okay, yeah, I'm okay with our relationships not going any further.


PAUL: And how would you define somebody as an alpha, somebody that is not flexible, is entitled?


DANA: That, entitled, takes over the whole room.


PAUL: So you're not friends with a lot of white guys.




PAUL: We're not going to be friends after this.


DANA: Yeah, I think it's so, you know, I think it's so clear because everybody else in the room capitulates to them--


PAUL: I see.


DANA: --and sort of like kisses up to them. And it's kind of the only way, you wouldn't challenge them on any of their thoughts.


PAUL: The person that decides where everybody is going to dinner and if you have a different idea then it'll be kind of debated and this person is good at that, and so they still, or is passive aggressive and they still wind up getting their way or something--


DANA: Right. Or if they say anything out of order, nobody's going to, you know, say anything about it to them or--


PAUL: There's something about them that's intimidating.


DANA: Yeah, intimidating is the best word.


PAUL: Yes. Or wears you down [chuckles].


DANA: Yeah. I would say that, yeah, exhausts you--


PAUL: That's how my mom, that's how my mom--


DANA: It's exhausting.


PAUL: Yeah.


DANA: You have to, you need, yeah, you need to recoup after you see them because you spent, because you don't get to be yourself, so you have to, you're kind of like walking on eggshells, and so now I just know like, okay, you know, that's fine, we're doing a show together tonight and I don't need to see them ever again.


PAUL: So, getting back to the alpha thing which I derailed you from. So they found that these, there was no new alpha, that the second tier didn't choose to be new alphas, and do you think that that was--


DANA: And they became physically healthier.


PAUL: Right.


DANA: They became, like everything about them just became healthier. And that was kind of the conclusion, was it's actually not people at the bottom that are the most stressed out. It's the ones like right under the alphas [chuckles].


PAUL: I have, I completely believe that, because if you've ever been on a sound stage, the biggest assholes sometimes are the ADs--


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: --because they are getting yelled at, and then they have to disseminate all that stuff. They have all of these huge responsibilities, and they are kind of caught between a rock and a hard place.


DANA: Yep, yeah. And their head is going to roll and, right?


PAUL: Yes. And everybody's not doing what they want, and so they've got to try to control these people and hide that failure from the person that's going to yell at them.


DANA: Right, yeah. Yeah, and I, you know, you always hear that about different shows, of what it's like to work on a certain show, and I've always felt very firmly of like, nope, that comes from the top. It's the person, it's the--


PAUL: It does.


DANA: --host, it's the person that sets the tone. It doesn't matter if it's within the lower staff. If it's within the lower staff, it's coming from the upper.


PAUL: Yes. And if it's in the lower staff, it will eventually be found out by people above them, and they'll either be reprimanded or let go, because that's part of having a good staff, is not tolerating abuse above you or below you.


DANA: Right, right. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I can't wait to have my own show and be abusive to people.




PAUL: Just to take it for a test run.


DANA: Yeah, I just want to see how it feels.


PAUL: Today is Wednesday, no eye contact, no eye contact.




PAUL: So let's talk about how this stuff has, you think has affected you. Do you feel like sharing the process of you coming out is something that we should talk about? And let me explain.


DANA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: Thankfully, our culture is becoming more inclusive, and it feels like coming-out stories aren't as momentous as they used to be, in terms of like, oh, my God, you know, you made it, you made it out of the closet or, you know, whatever.


DANA: Right.


PAUL: Whereas today, it's, I understand back then it was different stakes than there are today.


DANA: It was different stakes, though it shouldn't have been for me, but I was still caught up in this thing of wanting to be liked and wanting to fit in.


PAUL: Yes. I just figured out what it was I wanted to say. I don't want to make too big of a deal of it, as if what sexuality or gender you are these days matters, but because you experienced it in a different time, I don't want to gloss over it.


DANA: Right.


PAUL: Because that may inform who you are today.


DANA: Yeah. And it's--


PAUL: Does that make sense?


DANA: Yes, absolutely, yes. Because, yeah, it does, and at the same time, it's always so hard to pull, like how do you pull it all apart, how do you, you know, as far as like what happened in your house, the DNA you were born with, I was gay, I was a performer--

PAUL: Yes.


DANA: --you know, it's like, how do you--


PAUL: In a sentence, how was World War II?




DANA: Loud. Yeah, and at the same time, like I think the biggest thing that, the biggest thing about coming out for me with being gay was that I just became more myself, which, of course, was a person I really didn't think I wanted to be [chuckles], but I did, but at the same time, I think is where the disappointment in my voice is.

I'm so disappointed about how I was with it, which is I just like, like I remember when I realized it and I was just like, oh, shit, I don't want to be gay. You know, I was just like, I just want to be like everybody else, you know. And I, I did like really work a little too hard to run away from it, of just, oh, and stupidly, too.

Like I went to the Identity House in New York City and I remember I went, I went for a few sessions of counseling, and then at one of the sessions she like hands me this thing of like, well, here's some activities we have, and I was like, no, no, no, I don't think you understand, I don't want this.


PAUL: I don't want to be gay.


DANA: I don't want to be gay. And of course, like if, like I was going there to return it [chuckles], you know, which I should have--


PAUL: And by the way--


DANA: --just gone to the Catholic Church, like I was completely at the wrong place.


PAUL: And great choice of a city to not want to be gay.




DANA: Yeah. And I had like all of those, I mean, when I did, I ended up going to a, quote, unquote, coming-out group, and it, you know, it's one of the best times in my life of like I had this really wonderful group of friends, and, but we would, there was a group of us that would go out to eat afterward, and I had that self-consciousness of, you can tell that we're a group of gay women by some of the women who looked more butch, and I just, God, what a waste of time and energy and how, I don't know, it was just so much, yeah, just really lacked character, and everything I saw in the news like I would take as like, oh, yeah, people are going to hate me. Like, I--


PAUL: You felt that you lacked character because you--


DANA: Looking back at it, you know--


PAUL: Right, because you felt self-conscious about being who you were and being around people who were living their life--


DANA: Because I had the inner homophobia, you know, which is . . .


PAUL: But does anybody get there just naturally and gracefully and without agony?


DANA: A little bit more of a kicking, a little bit probably less of the kicking than I did, and I was in theater. Yeah, and, you know, it's funny because I was taking UCB, like the first year at UCB was up, like when you took it with them, like with Matt and stuff, and I was on like--


PAUL: For the listeners, that's an improv company in New York. They were originally from Chicago, started by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh and Ian . . .


DANA: Black? No?


PAUL: Oh, my God, he directed a thing I was in with Matt, and I can't even, Ian [chuckles] . . .


DANA: You took a leap. You named them all [chuckles].


PAUL: Anyway, they founded a very, very influential improv, and now it's a school and they have them all over the place--


DANA: Yeah, a school, right. So, I mean, I was in a class with like, you know, at the beginning like with Rob Riggle and everything, and I ended up not continuing because, at that time, a lot of the jokes, and look, it's an improv [inaudible], a lot of the jokes were the men pretending to be feminine, and I took every single thing as, yeah, you see, people are going to hate me, they're going to think I'm dis-, like I took it as they're making fun of me. And it was just the times, but yeah, I managed to take everything very, very personal. It was very all about me.

But, you know, ultimately you get through to the other side of that and hopefully it just sets you up of like, what a waste of time to think about what other people, you know, what other people think of that or how much it's going to impact your life. You know, it just, it doesn't. Nobody really cares that much.

So, yeah, I guess--


PAUL: Depending on where you live.


DANA: Yes, geography is very important--


PAUL: And who your family is--


DANA: --and your religion and all of that, and there was an episode like years, years later within my family that was, you know, very ugly. And so I had to face it then, and that was extremely disturbing, so.


PAUL: Can you share it?


DANA: Yeah. It was, so my mom is one of three sisters, and so every, since my grandmother passed, every year for Rosh Hashanah, we would go away to a horse ranch, like the Jews did in biblical times [chuckles], and that was, you know, it was a way, because I will say, and growing up this was a very big deal, my cousins, you know, my mom and her two sisters, you know, all of us grandchildren, there was seven of us, like I felt I loved them and, I mean, I still do and I, you know, and it was, we had such great times and one of the camps I went to, a lot of us, you know, went to together, and they would always have to call a cousin of mine over when something happened and I was crying, which was every other day.

And so that was, you know, just this great history and not, and it was also everything my grandmother dreamed of, you know, because my grandmother grew up as an orphan, and so this was like everything she ever wanted, and it was, it felt special. It was special.

And then one year at the ranch, one of my cousin's children came out to me, and he did not want to tell his parents. And I said, are you sure? And--


PAUL: And you were out at that point.


DANA: I was out. And I said, are you sure? And he said, yes. And then we kept in touch for a couple of months after that, until he said he was ready, he wanted to tell them, and I said okay. And I wanted his parents to have this book. It's called like Now That You Know, and so I made sure I got that sent to him so he could give it to them when he, and I, and not that I had anything to hide, but I guess the receipt was in there with my name on it.

And, I don't know how to say it, I got, I guess you'd call it gay hate mail, like very--


PAUL: It's called gayte mail.


DANA: Gayte mail.




DANA: Yeah, a very ugly note that ended up impacting our entire family. And it never got, it never got repaired again, and . . .


PAUL: So it sounds like they weren't too thrilled with their son being gay.


DANA: They weren't thrilled with their son being gay. They made it very clear to me that they never liked me and never approved of me, but they never acted like that with me. And what was, and just to make it more confusing, it happened the year that Obama was elected, Prop 8 went through in California, and then there was--


PAUL: Which made it illegal for people to be--


DANA: For gay people to be married. Obama said he didn't know how he felt about it. And this college student at Rutgers had killed himself and now all of a sudden we're aware of the fact, so it was just a very confusing time and sort of how it impacted the whole family was very confusing to me.

And I will say that that sidelined me for a while. That was probably, that, yeah, that was probably like one of the biggest things in my adult life to kind of sideline me and to kind of find the place to come through it and, yeah.


PAUL: It sounds like they needed a scapegoat because it would be easier than saying, how do I now advocate for my child and . . .


DANA: Oh, they sent him to a change therapist, yeah.


PAUL: Right. But that's what I mean, because that is easier than them confronting the homophobia that their circle of friends may have, and whatever feeling that may bring up in them of being right below the alpha. That's what they are right then.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: They're the one below the alpha. Now I have to, how do I break the news to my son that he is hated by the status quo.


DANA: Right. Yeah, and the truth is, is that my understanding is that they came around, but it never got repaired on our end.


PAUL: How the fuck can they blame you? That's like the most loving thing that you can do--


DANA: Because the way it works is that if a child is gay, you can reverse it unless they've already spoken to a gay person.


PAUL: I had no idea. Thank you for--


DANA: I put the seal on [chuckles].


PAUL: --thank you for clarifying that. And is it a stamp that . . .


DANA: It's secret. We're not allowed to tell what it is, but yeah, but they could have, the therapy they took him to totally could have been effective, except for the fact that he spoke to me and I told him that it was okay.


PAUL: Do you think they truly believe that, or do you think they have--


DANA: I think there was a time that they believed that, and I also saw a note that was written to my mom, and it kind of had this thing of like, if you knew what she did, and my mom's like, I know what she did, and what I really think is I think they did, I think they really were homophobic, which I can never, I mean, I kind of feel like, if anybody can understand that I could because I was that way, too, about myself [chuckles], I think they were homophobic. I think they assumed the whole family felt the same way about me, of like we're just tolerating her, we're just tolerating it.

I think they were very frightened.


PAUL: And isn't that really the emotion that's underneath all ugliness, is fear?


DANA: Yeah. Yeah, I think, yeah, I think it was, and let me say this. Like, I thought he might be gay, too. You know, and I kind of like, oh, good, another gay person in the family, you know, but I have to say, when he told me, and actually one of the other cousins had mentioned it to me first, I sort of had that fear go through me, where it was like, oh, now I know how a parent feels.

Like, I just, like I had said to the other cousin, I was like, you don't discuss this with anyone else. Like, I almost admonished her. And it was kind of like that thing, again, of like this is, and I don't know if I explained it to her and I, you know, of like this is precious information and it makes him vulnerable.

And yeah, of like that thing of being, yeah, you're scared for the child, like you want a child's life to be as easy as possible, but I didn't end up having that feeling of like, oh, yay, we have another, you know. I more had that feeling of like, I need to know that he's going to be okay.

And so when I, when he and I did speak, when we were at the horse ranch, you know, like one of the conversations I had with him was like, we do not meet people on the Internet. We do not do that. You know, and I remember like grabbing him by his shirt and he's like, yeah, I know, and I was like, and I go, I mean it, you know, because like I guess that's like the family I come from is like, no, no, no, I need, you know, I guess there was probably a better way to do that, but I was like, I mean it, we don't do this, which is weird because later on I found out one of the reasons they were mad at me was because I set him up with other, I don't know, like I made it possible for him to talk to other boys. I don't know what it was. I think there was just so much by that point.

But coming through that, I at least had a little bit of that feeling of like, once I finally got through the wounding of it, I remember somebody just being nasty to me and just thinking in my head, like, wait, you think you're going to hurt me? I got gay hate mail from my own family. You can't hurt me.




DANA: And even now, like when I watch everybody who's so upset about the presidency and, I feel like I'm not, I was never as upset as I should be, because I spent that time trying to make sense of what had happened to me. You're trying to make sense of like what's going on politically, in your family, with the extended family who said, you know, we're there and this is not acceptable, but, you know, everybody, it was hard, like I'll say that.


PAUL: And not even factoring in all of the political family history and everybody--


DANA: Right, yes.


PAUL: Yeah, and all those power plays.


DANA: Yeah. And so, it was, but the conclusion I came to at the end, and I don't think I really knew this until Trump was in office, was like, you're not going to make sense of it. There's no, there's certain things in life you can't make sense of. You're not going to be able to parse this out.

So, you know, I mean--


PAUL: You can't file it away.


DANA: Yeah, and then, yes, yes. There's no category, there's no drawer--


PAUL: At least right now, yeah--


DANA: --labeled for this, except for fucked up. And so, it was just, then when the Trump thing happened and everybody's like, I mean, especially in the, you know, gay community, lesbian community, of like so much mourning and, I mean, just people trying to and, you know, it's just, you know, for me, I was just like, what are you going to do? People are assholes.

You know, I just was like [chuckles] that's the conclusion you come to in the end, of if you try and make sense of it, which it doesn't mean you shouldn't try and help fix the situation, but if you try and make sense of it, you're not. It's not going to happen.


PAUL: The last two things we're going to talk about is your two diagnoses, one physical, the other mental.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: You were diagnosed with bipolar, and then recently you were diagnosed with cancer, but that's, your cancer is in remission now, correct?


DANA: Yes, yeah.


PAUL: And your bipolar is spreading.


DANA: My bipolar is at Stage IV.




PAUL: Which one do you want to talk about first?


DANA: Well, the bipolar, I'd put that one first. That was--


PAUL: And is it I or II?


DANA: I have II, bipolar II--


PAUL: Electric boogaloo.


DANA: Oh, is that what you call it?


PAUL: Yeah.


DANA: I always say the sequel, never as good as the original.


PAUL: Yeah.


DANA: It was, yeah, so then when I came to L.A., that was when everything started to really peak and hit its heights. And it was weird because I had gone to a few different people who couldn't quite diagnose me, and then luckily I had a doctor, a gynecologist who actually had said to me, you know, because we had, what we had done was we had played a little bit, played is not the right word but that's the word I'm going to use because I'm comfortable with it, played a little bit with the hormones, and that made things much easier.

And then when I went--


PAUL: Did you put them on a roulette wheel and spin them--


DANA: Yes, exactly.


PAUL: Yeah, that's the best way to do it, yes.


DANA: Yes.


PAUL: The AMA actually recommends that.


DANA: You're always a winner. And so then that fixed things so much, but then when I went back to see her, she said, you know, I feel like we're just so close, and I had sort of given up, because you go to somebody and you try something, it doesn't work, you feel kind of disheartened, and she said, I feel like we're so close. She's like, just try one more, and I did, and that was the one.

And then like in just, you know, I want to say like an hour or two session, she had it diagnosed, had me on the right medicine, and it was actually amazing and really tough because as soon as I was on the right medicine, all of a sudden I was very clear about how different my life was, or how different my life could have been, or the fact that I wasn't, I had this feeling of like, oh, this is how everybody is experiencing life--


PAUL: This is what I've been missing out on.


DANA: Yeah. Yeah, of like, oh, it exists in, perspective exists in a range, it should exist in a range. Like, yes, you can have bad days and good days, but they should exist in a range, and I went to, because I was like, how do I deal with like these 19 years that are just gone? And I--


PAUL: Starting when you were 11?


DANA: Yeah. And I went to a therapist, and it was just like too much and I just, I ended up, after a few sessions, just going I, I think that was a lot of the, yeah, I've got to just move forward. Those aren't coming back. And, yeah, and so that was just like the, I got to just move forward, and my life changed a lot and I was a lot more, yeah, I was a lot more social. I was just, yeah, things just changed quite a bit.


PAUL: And had the mania, obviously it wasn't bipolar I, where the mania can be really, really off the charts.


DANA: And expensive.


PAUL: And expensive. Would yours be a mild mania? Was it mostly depression with . . .


DANA: It was mostly depression. The mania--


PAUL: Is your book A Gift of the Mania?




PAUL: Wouldn't that be ironic? I wrote the book about depression when I was manic.


DANA: No, I wrote the, no, but the book was definitely, it came out of that thing of like, being in my apartment, shaking, not even, my brain doing that thing of like, what if this, what if that, and then what happened was it hit something where it just was like, well, that's ridiculous, and it kind of made me laugh, like in this horrible state where I was kind of shaking. And it, that's kind of where the book came out of, of like, oh, we could take this and have some fun with it.


PAUL: Wow, what a gift.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: What a gift.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: Holy shit, that's profound.


DANA: Yeah. It is. It is. And I think the--


PAUL: The rest of us should be so lucky.


DANA: Well, I think the stand-up set me up for it, and it was, and a friend who I used to go out and do open mics with at the time, she's a late-night writer, but one of my first jokes was like, if you're a bipolar and you know it, clap your hands, and so I did that as she and I were talking, and she's like, you'd better do that. And I did it and I got a laugh, but like my face was flushed at the same time. Like I couldn't, I was not ready to talk about it. And she's like, well, if you don't keep doing it, I am.




DANA: Just like always go for the funny.


PAUL: Yeah.


DANA: And yeah, so, you know, I think the stand-up sort of set me up for it, of giving me something to do with crap--


PAUL: Making lemonade, yeah. Are you still on the med that works for you?


DANA: No, I'm not. So, no, and we're playing around with things now because I had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and so I had to get radiation to my stomach, and so it's been a little bit hard to get things to balance out completely with getting my stomach to tolerate things and, yeah, all of that, and that's been, that's been a little tough. But at the same time, I will say for the years that I was on the medication, I think I got to build a lot of the skills that I needed. So hopefully, you know--


PAUL: You're one of the more optimistic depressed people I've ever met.




PAUL: Seriously--


DANA: Oh, I'm trying.


PAUL: I mean, it, you're quite the survivor.


DANA: Thank you. Yeah. Sometimes I think too much, sometimes too much, you know. Sometimes it's a little, I have, in the book I have the types of depressives, and one of, is one of the sections, and I think one of them is the I'm-fine depre-, and I was like, yep, that's me, or I think the, oh, the cicada depressive, the one that like just goes away, and then everyone's like, hey, where have you been for the past seven years? And, oh, I was just working some stuff out, you know, yeah.




DANA: And most of my friends like, if they don't hear from me for a while, they'll be like, hey, what's going on, you okay over there, you know? Which is good, but I think they're also kind of letting me know that like I could call on them a little more if I want to, yeah.


PAUL: Yeah. Is there one in there the I-have-no-idea-I'm-experiencing-crushing-sadness depressive, because that would be, that would be--




DANA: I’m sure there is.


PAUL: --that would be my--


DANA: Is that you?


PAUL: Yeah. I just thought of it, because that's what I've been going through.


DANA: I-have-no-idea. A lot of them have very clippy names to them, types of depressives. Let's see. There's the I'm-fine depressive. The projector. The dumped depressive, has one relationship he never got past. Usually it's with his mother. She's seeing other people now.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


DANA: Texting depre-, oh, the break-through depressive. I like that, that's kind of like what we were talking about before.


PAUL: Yes, the epiphany addict?


DANA: Right, like every six month or so, breakthrough depressive discovers it, a transforming experience, religion or book that offers the key to total happiness. This time he really got it. You can, too, by making five easy installments of $19.99.


PAUL: How often do you think it's that person not realizing that this is actually a bout of mania?


DANA: Oh, my gosh. I think, I think most people have to be--


PAUL: Or hypomania.


DANA: Yeah, I think most people have to be told. I mean, essentially I was. I mean, I glossed over it before, but that friend that I was doing stand-up with, Beth, we, we were going someplace together so she was picking me up from Rite-Aid, and it was like around Valentine's Day, so when she walked in, like I had picked up this enormous frog with a heart and just walked over to her, I'm like, Beth, Beth [in funny voice], and she looks at me and she goes, this is going to turn into tears later.




DANA: And then it was like two weeks later, I was at the psychiatrist that inevitably diagnosed me, and she was like, do other people notice? And I was like, well, do you want to get Beth on a conference call now?




DANA: But Beth has always said, she's like, you were very funny when you were manic. It was kind of like you were a little buzzed. She's like, but it was not healthy.

So yeah, so I think most people need someone to point it out to them, because really you feel like that's the person I am.


PAUL: Yes.


DANA: That's the--


PAUL: Finally I’m my authentic self.


DANA: Yeah. I know.


PAUL: Obsessively looking at tracts of land in Portland.


DANA: Oh, is that what you do?


PAUL: I went through a phase of that--


DANA: Oh. I talk to strangers [chuckles].


PAUL: Do you? That sounds like the healthiest one.


DANA: Ask them a lot of questions. I have my own little, you know, late-night show going on, so where are you, did you do this, did you do that, so now what's that like? Yeah, oh, yeah.

So, yeah, I think most people need someone to point it out to them.


PAUL: Let's talk about the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And by the way, were you not able to save enough money for the Hodgkin's lymphoma?




PAUL: You didn't listen to your parents, did you?


DANA: I didn't listen to my parents, no. Oh, yeah, my parents.


PAUL: Share with the listener what you shared with me off-mic about--


DANA: Oh, yes--


PAUL: --about mental and physical--


DANA: Yeah, and I feel like this is the only place where I could say that, because I feel like almost if I say this any other place that it would cause a ruckus. And I will say it with a caveat of I had a very easy cancer as far as cancers go.


PAUL: Would you say you had a sexy cancer?


DANA: I had actually what they call a lazy cancer, so the doctor was like, you have lazy cancer, it's probably been in you for a long time. And I didn't know if he meant the lazy or the cancer.

So, I did, yeah, I had a lazy cancer, but yeah, I found physical illness, and to this day, so much easier than mental illness. And maybe it's more diagnosed physical illness.


PAUL: Yes, I would imagine somebody with fibromyalgia or something like that--


DANA: Right.


PAUL: --would be going, uh, fuck you.


DANA: Right, exactly, exactly. But it's just, I mean, first of all, with physical illness, the doctor tells you what's wrong, right? They come in and they're like, okay, here's what it is and here's what's wrong and here's what we're going to do. With mental illness, you know, and especially now I'm going through all this stuff again, it's like I have to go to the doctor and I have to describe, give them a picture of what's going on.


PAUL: Yeah. So, what's your T-cell count?


DANA: Right.


PAUL: I don't know. It's pretty good, I guess, I don't know.


DANA: I don't know this T-cell count required two boxes of tissues, I had no idea.




DANA: I mean, everything about it, you know, people want to raise money for you. You know, people are like, you know, people were like, do you need a GoFundMe, and I didn't, but, you know, or I could have but I didn't accept it, but, you know, they're like, do you need a GoFundMe, you know, but no one's going to ever do like a GoFundMe for like, oh, I just didn't feel like getting out of bed this morning and, you know.

And also, like I know, because last summer there was something that had swelled again in my stomach, and I knew I should be concerned but I wasn't, and I remember telling Jimmy Brogan, I remember saying to him, I was like, because I know if there's something wrong, I have a whole team of people who are going to tell me what to do, but I can't figure out why Comedy & Magic hasn't called me in for their July anniversary month yet.




DANA: And there's nobody to explain to me why, because I've been there every summer. And they did eventually call me in, but I think also, you know, within the realm of like, yeah, there's something that's so nice about things that can be accounted for and things that I felt more, and I will say, I didn't tell people at first. Like I always thought I didn't tell people about the depression because there was some sort of shame, but then it turned out that was just a little bit more of who I am, of like I just don't quite say things.

But yeah, but then when I did tell people, yeah, they were just there, and everything just changes. Like if you have cancer and you show up like, and you're smiling, like people are like, oh, she has such a great attitude about it, but like they don't know all the times that like I'm showing up smiling that I'm really white-knuckling it because I'm like not sure how I’m going to make it through the week, you know, because of depression and everything.

And I, yeah, you get so many extra cre-, I mean, especially cancer. Like, you get so many extra points for it [chuckles] that are--


PAUL: Do you think it's because we can define it, we can say, oh, the tumor is this big?


DANA: I've given it thought. This is what it is, because I think cancer is seen as something that is toxic or an illness that's attaching it to, itself to a healthy person, whereas mental illness is something from within a person, so it's almost like hard to pull apart the person and the illness.


PAUL: Right, like how much of Bob is just an asshole--


DANA: Exactly [chuckles]. Exactly, right, and that happens a lot with alcoholics, too, like where they become sober and you're like, oh, okay, well, they're not drunk now but they're still an asshole, yeah. It just turns out they were an asshole.

So, yeah, I mean, it was just, it was, and I think also, I think I gave my, you know what, and I will say, I think I came through it with that, too, of really, because I was always very good at the part of depression of like, you got to push yourself, you got to, you got to just try, that's your job, but I think the cancer gave me a little chance to go like, no, I have, I have cancer, you know, like now I could rest, which was something I did need to learn. I did need to learn to rest, to say no, to cancel out.

Like, I never, especially, I always, because I made fun of bipolar on stage and people knew that I was, I felt extra pressure of like, I don't want to be thought of as unreliable. And, but yeah, but the cancer just was like, no, just take care of yourself and, and really, looking back, I could have milked it for a whole lot more that it was worth, and now I'm just like, what were you thinking?




DANA: Yeah, except I had a book due at the same time and I was like, oh, man, so.


PAUL: A real turning point for me in how I dealt with my depression was not shaming myself for taking naps. That was a huge moment. And I found that when I would wake up from the nap, the nap that I didn't shame myself for, my battery had been recharged and my mood was better.

And even if it wasn't, I felt a little bit of love towards myself. So I always look at it like the flu, like, oh, the flu is back.


DANA: Yeah. Yeah, and I think, I don't know where any of us got the idea that shame was helpful.


PAUL: I don't either.


DANA: It just isn't. There's just, yeah, I mean, I've operated with the shame thing for so long and, yeah, it's not, it's not helpful at all. I mean, I just mostly learned that like, well, that's not going to help you.




DANA: That's not going to help you at all.


PAUL: And we can tell somebody else that, but for some reason we can't tell ourselves that.


DANA: Yeah.


PAUL: I think personally, because historically with the lack of coping tools, generation after generation has tried to use shame as a discipline because that was done to them by the people that raised them, because that was done by the people that raised them, you know, a way of trying to, you know, discipline your children, by projecting your own personal shame on to them.


DANA: Right. And for some people, it might be effective, but I think with depression, which is already made up of so much shame, it's not going to help. And I think that that was also a big turning point with my shrinky-dink, because I'm very good at, I was right about that, or I can be right, that that's my version of heaven, is everybody tells me I was right. Or we play like back footage of situations where I was right and someone else was wrong.

And so I would say something and then she would say a more positive version of it, still, this still, you know, and I'll be like this, and, you know, and it just seems like, and she'll be like, well, that's not what I see. I see this and this. And to me, it resonated as like the self-help-book lie, of like, oh, I'm going to just lie to myself so that I feel better.

And then I suddenly understood that like it doesn't matter whether it's the truth or not the truth. What matters is what's going to help me get out of bed this morning and feel good about my life, because, yeah, I think that's actually, there's not really a whole lot more to say about it.


PAUL: And in the grand scheme of things, at the end of your life, would you rather look back and say, I made some extra money or I loved myself, I loved the body that I had been handed at birth--


DANA: Right. If only American Express can love me that way.




PAUL: Would you, anything else you want to add before we have you read some excerpts from your book?


DANA: Hm, no. I think I'm good. I was worried about this.


PAUL: Were you?


DANA: Yeah, I was really worried.


PAUL: A lot of people are when they come in, but they never are when they leave. They're always like, oh, I don't know why I got so worried.


DANA: I was worried about cracking.


PAUL: Crying?


DANA: Crack-, yeah, I guess crying, yeah, crying, cracking, and then I was just like, I think once I sat down I was like, well, you're here, whatever happens happens.


PAUL: Yeah.


DANA: Okay. Oh, are we going to do--


PAUL: No, you read one and then I'll read one.


DANA: From which part?


PAUL: Whichever part you want.


DANA: Oh, okay. Should we do Daily Negations?


PAUL: Yes.


DANA: Okay. Hold on. I think I marked the page. I also have The Perks of Being Depressed in Different Cities, too. Okay, oh, wait, I just--


PAUL: I'm going to read one to start off with. Different types of depressives. Pot-smoking depressive. Totally not depressed, just chillin' out. Believes pot is not a drug. It's just a natural thing, sourced from the earth, like coal. He'll contend that this plant has been embraced by healers, musicians and countless [chuckles], and countless of the unemployed.




DANA: Oh, I can't find the section. Okay, I’m sorry, I’m making a spot for you to have to, for you to have to edit--


PAUL: Oh, here's a good one. Taking your depressed thinking to the next level. Tip number one. Disregard benefit of the doubt. It will never benefit you. Consider the best and the worst possible outcomes. Now eliminate the best. From now on, there is no gray area. Your circumstances are either awful or amazing. Hint, they are not amazing.




DANA: I love the way you read that. That's great. Okay, Daily Negations is page 62.


PAUL: Okay.


DANA: Okay, so I guess we could just alternate?


PAUL: Yeah, yeah.


DANA: Okay. What your father said, so it's in place of daily affirmations. It's Daily Negations. I don't think we have to read the intro. It's self-explanatory.

What your father said about you is true.




PAUL: That's it. Depression tip number two. Accept feelings are facts. If you feel bad, it is bad. Yes, you have a looming disaster on your hands, but don't get cocky. You're still at level one. For level two, simply take it up a notch. Look at the remaining areas of your life, whether health, love, work, family or money, have a mixer and introduce your problems to each other, see how much they have in common. You.




DANA: And we have things you shouldn't say to your therapist and things you hope your therapist doesn't say to you. Things you hope your therapist doesn't say to you, your problem reminds me of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but less solvable.




DANA: Oh, types of therapists--


PAUL: Oh, that's good.


DANA: Have you been to a lot of different therapists?


PAUL: I have.


DANA: The me-too therapist. For almost everything you say, the me-too therapist has had the same thing happen to her. Perhaps she should be coming to you for therapy.




PAUL: That's a good one. I like that.


DANA: Perks of being depressed in France. Tell people you are not depressed. You are Les Miserable.

My favorite section, because it, I don't know, I guess this is what goes through my head now at this age, with all the years that have passed, it's a section called I Ruined It, and it's where you, it's a write-in section so you fill it in for yourself, and it's--


PAUL: Let me try doing that, then. You give me the thing and I'll fill it in.


DANA: Three people who hate me with good cause.


PAUL: The three closest people near me at that moment.




PAUL: Because they have the facts.


DANA: Pets I neglected.


PAUL: I can't say Herbert. Herbert just died. It would break my heart too much--


DANA: Aw, right. I know, I'm sorry.


PAUL: --to say Herbert. The three pets that I neglected. Herman, he was a chameleon I had when I was a baby. Hamlet, he was a dog that my roommates had at college, and, I didn't neglect him, but I don't know what the third one is. The cat I never owned.




DANA: Activities that disqualify me from political office.


PAUL: Oh, Jesus, that's [chuckles], where do I begin?


DANA: Four game-changing moments I blew?


PAUL: Oh, I love that one. I love that one. Being myself, being myself, being myself and trying to be somebody else. Failing at trying to be somebody else.




DANA: There's the quiz at the front, which is, the quiz at the front, which is Do You Have What it Takes to Be Depressed? And I think my favorite one there is, do you go to bed early not necessarily because you're tired but because you don't want to be awake anymore?


PAUL: Oh, my God, that's so perfect. And I'm going to read one last one.


DANA: Okay.


PAUL: Finish it up with Tony Robbins. His quote is, you can't have a plan for your day till you have a plan for your life. And then you respond, settle down, Tony, I'm just getting a coffee and doing some light housecleaning. Tony Robbins is genuinely uplifting. Think how happy you just got that you don't live with him.




PAUL: Dana, thank you so much for--


DANA: Thank you.


PAUL: --coming and doing the show. And I love your book. I'll put some links up to it on our Web site.


DANA: That's terrific.


PAUL: Is there any, in case people don't get to it, anything you want to plug other than your book, which is called How To Be Depressed: A Guide by Dana Eagle?


DANA: I'm working on something new but it's not up yet, so they could just check back at my Web site, DanaEagle.com, and it'll be up there. Yeah, so thank you. Thanks a lot.


PAUL: Thanks, Dana.


PAUL: What a delightful human being and guest, really, really enjoyed talking to her, and get that book. It's fucking funny.

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

I want to give some love to a sponsor we have. Bombas. How often do you think about your socks? If you're like I used to be, not much, but I recently discovered socks that changed the way I think about socks forever, and they're called Bombas. They are so, so comfortable.

What I love about them, number one, they're comfortable. Number two, there's a great selection of colors and styles and especially sizes, because if you're like me, you have different shoes that you like to wear throughout the day. Sometimes I wear a little Vans sneaker that maybe needs a very low-profile sock because I don't want it to look like I'm wearing a sock. Maybe I'm wearing a high-top and I want a quarter-length ankle one. Maybe I'm going to be a dancer in Vegas, maybe I want to be a showgirl and I need something that's knee-length and bedazzled. All right, they may not have that, but they have so many great quality socks.

Go right now to Bombas, and every purchase that you make, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Keep cool, keep comfortable, and keep contributing with the best socks in the history of feet, Bombas. So right now, buy one pair or four at Bombas.com/mental today and get 20% off your first purchase. That's B-o-m-b-a-s dot com slash mental for 20% off, Bombas.com/mental. And again, I will be putting all of these links on the Web site.

I think I mentioned that I'm coming to San Francisco. If I didn't do that at the beginning of the episode, it's this Wednesday and Thursday. That would be August 2nd and 3rd. There are still tickets available. It's going to be in Oakland, and if money is a problem, you can get free tickets by using the offer code GUEST when you go. The Web site is EastBayExpress.com/mental, but again, I'll put that link here.

Hey, we're having a really good, we're having great success selling our new T-shirts, and I can't even tell you how happy it makes when I see that somebody has bought a St. Herbert T-shirt. I swear to God, if I am ever walking down the street and I see somebody wearing a St. Herbert T-shirt, there is no way that I am not going to run up to them, hug them and probably start crying.

We have other shirts, obviously, other than that. We have Mental Illness Happy Hour shirts. We have certain sayings from the show. But go check that out on our Web site under the buy stuff. There's all different kinds of ways you can support the show, by the way. Go to, just go to our Web site.

This is a survey from the Babysitter Survey, and this was filled out by a woman who calls herself Less Be Friends, and she, I'm just going to read portions of this, but she's in her 30s, and she writes, I babysat a large number of boys in my life and have never felt anything sexual towards any of them and, if anything, felt a little awkward changing baby-boy diapers and want to get just enough poop off their penis and testicles so they are clean but not so much I feel like I am unnecessarily wiping.

Anyway, I was watching two young boys who had a teen brother who had a lot of freedom, including an older girlfriend who spent a lot of time in his room and slept over. His mom was very sexy herself and seemed thrilled that her son had this hot woman.

She was maybe early 20s, gorgeous, blue-eyed, flawlessly tanned brunette with a diamond nose stud. Anyway, they were going out one night and she came up to me in the living room with her sexy tight black dress, unzipped in front, and she did it in front of the other two boys, and asked me to zip it up.

I saw her black lace thong, could smell her raspberry-vanilla lotion, and zipped her up, trying to inhale and absorb everything about that moment that I could. I felt very sexually turned on. Even to this day, I can't exactly put my finger on why, but I often relive that moment and still get a thrill each time. I am straight but I find myself sexually turned on thinking about various women in scenes that aren't sexual. I even bought the candles they scented their house with.

Remembering these things, what feelings come up? Sexual excitement and a desire to run around that house naked, rub my pussy on everything and be chased by my boyfriend and be licked and fucked on every surface.

I would like to see that happen and then a realtor have to show the house the second that you're done. That would be a challenge [chuckles].

That would be, that, how fucked up would that be for a show, that that's what contestants do and then the other contestant is a realtor that has to try to sell that house as the clock is ticking [chuckles]. I don't know, I like how it looks, but there's kind of a, I don't know, it's, have we showed you the living room? Come over to the living room. Look at the big bay window. Why is there a used condom? Come over, let's show you the basement.

Any comments to make the podcast better? I want to hear an interview with a woman who committed sexual acts with a younger male and what was in her mind, or even a dad who molested his adolescent daughter, maybe someone older, where the statute of limitations has run out and they can share freely.

I agree with you, and that's a great suggestion, and if you're out there and you're somebody, even maybe writing a guest blog about it would be one. We have a guest blog piece on the Web site written by a guy who is a pedophile but he has never acted on it and he has no desire to act on it, but he talks about his feelings and wrestling with his feelings and doing what is within his power to make sure that he is safe and responsible and doesn't break laws or hurt anybody, and it's a really interesting article.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Brooklyn Babe, and she writes, I had been home for the summer for no more than a week after my first year of college. I was 19 and my little brother, who had just finished his freshman year in high school, was about 14. My dad told my brother and I he and my mom had something to talk about. We knew it was serious by the tone in his voice.

My mom was already sitting on her bed when the three of us entered the room. She had balled-up tissues in her hands and puffy eyes. My brother and I felt awkward walking into the room because we had no idea what my parents had to talk about. My mom started tearing up as soon as the four of us were sitting on my parents' bed.

My dad looked nervous. He took a deep breath, and with a tremble in his voice and tears in his eyes, he said, I'm gay. My mom was crying heavily at that point. I mean, what wife wouldn't be a mess after your husband comes out of the closet after 20 years together?

After the four of us cried together for a bit, I said that I would always love him, no matter what, and him being gay doesn't make my dad any less of a father than he was before. My brother agreed. My dad began explaining how he got to this conclusion. I remember thinking to myself, oh, well, that makes sense that Dad's gay.

The conversation eased as we spoke about what would happen next, parents splitting up, moving, etc. Before we all got up to leave the room, I looked over at my little brother. Part of me was really just joking and teasing him, but I said, so, Josh, are you gay, too? He looked down and turned bright red. He looked up at us and said that he, too, was gay.

The four of us burst out laughing at how ironic the situation had become. We laughed and cried and embraced one another. It truly was a beautiful moment. I wouldn't want my family to be any different than it is. Having a gay dad and a gay brother rules. Thank you so much for that. It's so beautiful.

This is just a section of a Shame and Secrets Survey that I want to read. This is filled out by a woman who calls herself Hopeful With a Layer of Heartache and, I think that's on the dessert menu. And she writes, ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Yes, and I never reported it. And this is just, I'll give you a little backstory.

She was dating a guy who was very aggressive sexually, and she had told him that she didn't want to have sex until, I think until they got married, yes. And so they had been dating about two years, and he was, would often perform sex acts on her despite her saying no. They hadn't had intercourse, but he was sexually abusive and she didn't know how to stand up for herself and would often curl up and cry in the shower afterwards.

And she writes, about two years into the relationship, I was in a fit of depression. I felt weighed down by the world, devoid of energy or the will to live. I wanted to die. As I lay crying on my bed, telling him, I don't care about anything in life, nothing, I just want to die, he asked me, so you don't care about anything? I replied no. He said, so you wouldn't care if I just had sex with you right now?

I was so dazed and sad, I simply said, I don't care about anything, and continued to cry. Before I knew what was happening, he had unzipped his pants and entered me. I remember feeling shocked and unable to speak. He watched my face for a reaction. The only emotion I could muster now was betrayal.

I felt emptier still and betrayed. He stopped and I don't really remember what happened next. I remember telling him at a later stage that that was hurtful and not cool.

I know he said sorry and gave me a poor excuse, saying, I know how much you care about your virginity and I wanted to give you a reason to fight for life. I thought you would fight harder to live. Wow. How does he not hear that come out of his mouth and realize what an asshole he is in that moment? Wow.

Not surprisingly, she writes, growing up, my mother would always tell me I was stupid, dumb, an attention-seeker, a bitch, selfish, a brat, among other things. It's amazing the connection between people who freeze while being violated and them being abused as children. It's almost like it just takes the muscle, you know, if there was a muscle for standing up for yourself, it's like that just gets atrophied when you're raised with abusive or gaslighting parents.

Darkest secrets. When I was younger, about 13, I went into chat rooms and had all these older men tell me they love me and all that bullshit. They asked for naked photos of me, but at the time all I had was a scanner, so I scanned my boobs and myself masturbating.

Unfortunately, my mother found the files and she printed them out and kept them in a locker near her workplace and used to threaten me when we would fight that she would call the police and report me for distributing child porn. I am still so ashamed and embarrassed. Now my mom tells me I was tricked into doing it, but at the time I think I wanted to. What's wrong with me?

Nothing is wrong with you. You were failed as a child, and you were a child when this happened. You were preyed upon by adults, number one, the men in these chat rooms, but number two, your mother would have been the one to go to jail for having child pornography, not you.

How fucked up is it that your mom kept that? That is so deeply, deeply sick. And then she would shame you for that, and then you blame yourself. I mean, it's, oh, I just want to give you, give you a hug. Your mom is a sick, sick person.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Oh My Darling, and she writes, I'm the youngest of four kids, and my sister, the oldest, died recently. I never really liked her or was close to her, but since she was dying and in need of caregiving, I felt obligated. Nobody else offered to do it anyway.

During the month or so of home care and hospice care for my sister, many people came to visit her or to say good-bye, etc., including my other siblings. One of those siblings was my older brother. He didn't overtly sexually molest me as a child, but he did constantly refer to me in a sexual way all my life, as did my father.

For example, he'd say to one of his friends who would come over to the house, you should meet my sister, she's a real babe, if she weren't my sister, or he'd say, your boobs look great in that shirt, at the dinner table, that sort of thing. Not one single family member viewed this as inappropriate, but instead thought it was funny. I was mortified.

Anyway, my brother, now a grown man, married with children, comes to visit my dying sister, who I'm taking care of around the clock. I'm exhausted at this point. I've been cleaning, administering meds, making food, taking care of dogs, answering phone calls, calling hospice, changing bedpans, cleaning up vomit, washing clothes, emotionally drained, etc., for about a month at this point.

I tell everyone, I'm going to go lie down in the room where my sister is, but asked my brother to come in to talk since I needed to discuss some logistics. So he follows me into the bedroom, and as he's walking down the hallway says loudly, with a wink-wink tone, should I bring a condom? He says this loud enough so everyone could hear him, including his kids, his wife and guests, including my dying sister.

When I get into the bedroom, my sister wakes up, after sleeping for over a day, very near death, hasn't spoken even one word in weeks, and says, there's one in my drawer, Mike, to the left.

You guys are the best. The entertainment that you provide me, oh, thank you for that. A little tiny Christmas, an Awfulsome Moment is a little tiny Christmas.

This is part of a Shame and Secrets Survey I want to read. This was filled out by a guy who calls himself Addicted and Shamed. And he writes, I've stolen my mother's pain medication for a long time. It's methodical. I'd count what she has, check when her next refill is due and calculate how many I can take without her noticing and/or going without.

I feel like a terrible waste of carbon when I do it, but I let the promise of the opioid's siren song override my conscience. In my lucid moments, I want to stop, but when I just want something, anything, to dull the pain I feel inside, it's like I step outside my body and watch as a spectator, while some horrible man steals from his mother.

A few times I miscalculated or just was in too dark of a place to even consider the repercussions of my actions. I had to watch her suffer as she cut back her dosage until her next script was ready. She rationalized. She said that she must have simply taken too much at some point, but I knew I was guilty.

You'd think this would stop me, but it hasn't. It's just made me more careful about how much I take and to drown myself in alcohol when I know that I can't take any more. I can't justify it. I can barely stand to admit it. But here I am, I need help.

Thank you so much for filling that out, and my heart goes out to you because I have been there. And while I haven't stolen meds from somebody, I know the pull of addiction and the shame cycle of just wanting to feel better, and then you do something, you fuck up, and you feel the shame all over again and you're just caught in this whirlpool that you can't get out of.

And I just want to say, that breaking point, that humiliation, that hopelessness, that can be your friend, if you can make it a touchstone for change.

I celebrated tonight 14 years of sobriety, and one of the things I said at my meeting is that I am grateful that I was hopeless, that I was desperate, and that I was willing to try a new way of living and to connect to other people because I didn't want to die.

I was not a bad person because of the way I acted. I was a sick person. And I want to say to you, I don't believe you're a bad person. I believe you're a sick person, and there are ways to get better. But it usually involves a new way of living and actually asking for help, you know, to take it beyond wanting help and actually asking for help.

And July 21st, 2003, I did, I did do that, and my life has gotten better ever since that day. And this podcast is a direct result of that. And I say all this, number one, I like to talk about myself. Number two, I want to let you know it can be done, and like we said in Dana's episode, the solution isn't to shame yourself more. It's to break the cycle of shame and numbing and shame and numbing. Sending you some love, man.

And then finally, this is a Happy Moment, and I'm going to read the name after I read the happy moment. She writes, practicing enjoying the moment and getting better at it. This morning I took a short walk with my little kid and dog. Something that is really just a chore most days seemed quite magical this morning, the clear sky, bright, life-giving sun, and my little child telling me just how adorably cute our doggie's dewy footprints on the concrete are.

Such a small, inconsequential thing, but a whole full moment of enjoyment and beauty if you can slow down and let it in. Such a great tone to start the day. And that was filled out by Father-Fucking Cunt-Sucking Daughter of a Dick. Now you know why I saved the name [chuckles].

Thank you, guys, so much for all of your support. I hope tomorrow, for those of you that are stuck, I hope tomorrow, or today, is the day that you take that leap of faith and ask for help.

And if that first outreach for help doesn't turn out, you do it again, and you do it again, because you will eventually find the help that you need. And it's no fun doing it alone. And honestly, I don't think it can be done alone. I think human connection is why we're on this planet. I really do. We just got to find the right humans, and they're everywhere.

And one day I want to take a vacation and rent a big house and have a big yard and a bunch of dogs and--


[Closing music swells]


--I would love to see that happen. Somebody out there, make that happen. But never, never forget that you are not alone. And thank you for listening.


[Closing music]


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