Author:Paul Gilmartin

John H

The 25 year-old discusses his Generalized Anxiety Disorder, social awkwardness, difficulty making eye-contact, compulsive overeating, abusive ex-wife and the possibility of being on the autism spectrum.

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Roxanne R.

The 57 year-old incest survivor talks about growing up in a family “where being born female was considered a moral failure”.  She also talks about her struggles with repressed memories and possible DID (Dissociative Identify Disorder)

This episode is sponsored by Squarespace.  For 10% off go to www.squarespace.com and use offer code MENTAL.

This episode is sponsored by Harry’s shaving products.  For $5 off go to www.harrys.com and use offer code MENTALPOD.

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Tiffany Haddish

The comedian/dancer/actor shares about her mother’s descent into mental illness (schizophrenia), the abuse she suffered at her hands, the year she spent in the foster care system and the strength she feels it has given her.

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Dean Trippe

The comic book artist and father talks about the role superheroes have played in helping his imagination and creativity heal the trauma he experienced as a child, and trying to break the cycle of abandonment his father never could.

To read some of his graphic novel Something Terrible click here

To order a hardcopy edition of Something Terrible click here

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Inside His OCD – A Guest Blog by Michael Kane (no not the actor)

I’m used to relying on my intellect. I’m no genius, but I have to survive on my wits, because my looks aren’t paying the bills. Over the course of my life, I mostly trusted my capacity to reason, as did co-workers and professors. So, once I went off my antidepressant meds, and OCD falsely told me that I was a pervert, a rapist, a murderer and about a million other things, you’d think I’d still be able to discern fact from fiction, and dismiss OCDs outrageous claims. Nope. For years, I viewed these strange thoughts and fears as the result of a moral flaw, as evil thoughts that made me crazy, but that I could not tell a soul about. I was eventually hospitalized for a week after my body could no longer handle the perfect storm of OCD, anxiety and depression.

I became paranoid, considering every hypothetical possibility. “What if I had uttered threats? Would the NSA hear me in my cell phone?” This thought would occur to me despite being in the midst of a prolonged period of silence.

Life gets really small when you’re afraid that everyone is listening to things that you didn’t say, but fear that you might have. I wanted to be sure that my worst thoughts had not become reality, though in fact I had done nothing wrong and sought to avoid hurting others. In fact, I’d just been sitting there.

Going to restaurants was particularly difficult. I had developed a fear of harming others, particularly my family, kids and the elderly. In other words, the people I would never harm. So, I’d push the knife aside, and cut my softer meal with the fork. I would continually ask for reassurance – “I didn’t say anything bad, did I?” I would avoid the bathrooms for fear of being accused of flashing or touching someone. I would ask, “I didn’t bump into that lady, did I?” I would cry in the car or at home after being unable to complete a meal without panic.

I gave myself low- bar affirmations. “You haven’t humped anyone’s leg. You haven’t tipped over any wheelchairs. You haven’t talked about raping or stabbing anyone.” But until medicine and therapy took hold, my anxiety dismissed the facts: that I was a boring, innocent man who wanted to help, not hurt, to love, not assault. My rational mind knew my deep desire to be good, but my anxiety and OCD didn’t let reason win out. My intellect would have even bet money that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I lacked certainty. And that’s what I craved – a 110% certainty that I hadn’t been bad, that I wasn’t bad or shameful or evil. So, the anxiety overrides intellect. It says, “Nope. Sorry. Guilty.” I lived in hiding from imaginary guilt, imaginary charges, an inevitable ruin rooted in nothing but blurred fears that I confused with memories.

What’s amazing is that while the intrusive thoughts can get pretty icky and absurd, it’s not the content of the fears that is key, though I can talk about it now.  Rather, it is a quest to not be as bad as these random horrible thoughts that jabbed at me. I sought a level of self control that is impossible and a level of certainty that does not exist.

Therapy has helped. Medicine has helped. My OCD is pretty much under check. I still have depression, which has its own stories, and I get nervous about bumping into people, but I’m no longer convinced I’m a monster. As Freddie Mercury sang, “I’ve done my sentence but committed no crime.” So, I’ve made progress, with some ups and downs, the only real kind. I look back on how many times and places my OCD made me fearful of harming others. Study abroad in grad school. College. At work. Until 2014, I had no label to put on it but evil thoughts.  With treatment, I don’t just have a label, but real strategies to put these thoughts in their place. I am grateful for the lessons learned, and the relief of treatment.

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Weird Phobias email

The following is an email correspondence between myself and “Marie”, a listener who messaged me via Facebook.   She gave me her permission to post this.

Marie
Please have a show about weird phobias. I have a fear of answering the telephone  along with a lot of other anxiety and depression.
Paul
I will keep that in mind. Can you tell me more about your phone phobia? Is it related to some trauma or uncomfortable moments from the past around the phone?
Marie
I think my phone phobia started in the 4th grade. I was a very shy child and had a teacher who made each child get up in front of the class and pretend to talk on the phone to practice phone etiquette. My relationship with my dad was like yours with your mother. I always had an uncomfortable feeling with him from a young age though his behavior never really crossed the line. He did things like always kissing me on the mouth or rubbing my legs saying how pretty they were. I remember once he called me and my sister into the bathroom ( I was in the 4th grade then also) and said look what I can do. He had a wash cloth over his penis and raised the wash cloth up over his erection. Moving ahead he and my mother divorced in my teens and my siblings and myself had to take care of my mother emotionally. He would call frequently and I would be afraid to answer the phone because I knew my mother would give me the 3rd degree about what he was saying to me. When he would come to visit us kids I would take a book and my dog, and hide in the woods because there was always a confrontation between he and my mom. Moving to college, he started calling my dorm room almost daily. I always made my roommates answer and give an excuse for me. To this day when the phone rings I have a panic attack, heart racing, sweating. I have Cymbalta and Xanax prescribed by my family doctor. Sometimes I have to take double Xanax to make a phone call. I know in my head that this fear is irrational, but I can’t stop myself. I have given you a real cliff note version here of my issues. My mother also did a number I me growing up. I went to a counselor twice in college and came out so sad and crying so much I couldn’t bear to go back. I know I need to give it another try. Thanks for all you do to bring light to mental illness. Oh. I also have agoraphobia and can see myself becoming a recluse.
Paul
Marie,
I’m so so sorry you had to experience those things. They are clearly over the line and sexually abusive. Your phone phobia makes perfect sense to me. I really encourage you to get back into therapy. What happened to you is every bit as serious as a child who experienced fondling or penetration by their father. You were degraded, objectified and subliminally told that you don’t matter. You are an incest survivor whether you want to call it that or not. OF COURSE the world is terrifying to you. The person who was supposed to protect you was the very person who abused you.

Hug,

Paul
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