Author:Paul Gilmartin

Anya Marina

The Singer/Songwriter opens up about her lifelong battles with body image, weight and food, as well as the complicated and overwhelming experience of being a part of the Twilight franchise (she wrote and performed the song “Satellite Heart” on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, and hosted a red carpet event).  Anya’s songs have also appeared on Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl.   She ends the interview with a performance of her song “Miss Halfway”.  Paul reads a response from the Shame and Secrets survey written by a mild-mannered housewife who shares about the abuse she suffered as a child and the endless murderous fantasies that play in her mind while politely chatting at parties.

0
0

Guest Blog by listener Jill: Dealing with the Beast

Coming out of an overwhelming depression is like swimming up from the

deep end of the pool with heavy weights attached to your body.  You

aren’t sure if you will make it all the way up or survive the journey

at all.  You tell yourself, “This too shall pass,” while your

Depression says, “Yes, but I will come again.  And again and again.

I’m an addiction you cannot beat.” You consider this fact and wonder

if you can keep surviving these spells or if you want to keep fighting

this continuous battle.  Each time, it gets a little worse.  You are a

little older and a little less likely to beat it.  That’s what

Depression tells you.

 

You wonder how long it will take for your dogs, family and friends to

get over your passing and start fantasizing a new happy blonde wife

for your husband. “Make sure she doesn’t have depression,” I tell

Gary.

 

The crazy thing is you know things aren’t that bad in your life.  You

are just having some kind of chemical pressure in your brain.  It’s

pressing on your will to live.  It exhausts you, drains you and tries

to coax you into ending it all, like a cartoon devil on your shoulder.

 

I am emerging from another bout.  I don’t feel victorious yet, but the

fact that I’m still here means I won.

 

Yeah, a little dark, but you can take it!

😉

 

Hope you are feeling well and beating the beast!

0
0

Fred Stoller

Standup comedian, writer and actor Fred Stoller opens up about his childhood with a sensitive withdrawn father and a fear-filled overbearing mother who he describes as a “Rainman Savant of bad news stories”.    He and Paul talk about the corrosive effect a joy-snuffing parent can have on a child’s ability to experience joy.   People know Fred from appearances on Everybody Loves RaymondDumb and Dumber, orSeinfeld.  Paul reads some polarizing emails about the Ted Lyde episode as well as a happy moment survey response from a German listener who recalls the moment her depression ran out of fuel.

0
0

Listener Katie P.

Listener Katie was literally a red-headed stepchild.  Though her blended family was large (7 kids), her stepfather was not Mr. Brady.  He was, in her words Machiavelli.  Attacked by a stranger at 15, something in her snapped.  It would be years before she dealt with the pain, as she tried to numb herself with sex, drugs, shopping and men who treated her like, yep you guessed it, her stepfather.  Topics include PTSD, Bipolar II, Attachment Disorder, divorce and mothering.  Paul reads some listener emails that are critical of him and the show, as well as one from a girl who credits the Teresa Strasser episode as the beginning of her healing.

0
0

For Crying Out Loud: A guest blog about open-heart surgery by Walter Michka

The crying started my third or fourth day back from the hospital.

I was in the shower, the first time I let water hit my incision. I’d been shielding my chest even after they said I didn’t have to. But I finally rubbed a bar of soap across it, finally touched the bumpy red scar, 9 or 10 inches long. I could feel other lumps, too, under my skin, the titanium wires that held my breast bone together while it healed. Those were permanent. I looked down but couldn’t see where the scar started. I could see it ended at three pink puncture scars where tubes used to stick out from my lungs.

Instantly, uncontrollably, a wave of emotion bubbled up inside me and burst out and I wept. It was a pressure pushing on my head and the rest of my body. Sadness or fear or despair or all of the above. I felt people digging around inside me again; my chest was open and they were touching my heart. I pictured myself flat on the operating table under harsh, glaring lights, laid out like a frog in biology class, naked but covered in green, sterile sheets. They shaved me, messed around with my genitals to put in a catheter. People I didn’t know, people I’d never met. I pictured them cutting into me, slicing my skin, sawing my bones, prying me apart. They reached in and dug around. They gutted me for parts, pulled veins from different places, chopped them up, then sewed them onto my heart, turning it into a contraption of some kind.

Deep and primal, the emotional wave washed over me then let up and I could breathe again. It left me with an overwhelming feeling of doom. My life had completely changed almost overnight. In the blink of an eye I was finite.

The New York Times says up to three-fourths of patients have uncontrollable emotional outbursts or depression months after a bypass like mine. Doctors think it has something to do with cooling their heart for the procedure, the heart/lung machine, or the prolonged anesthesia. Maybe the operation itself dislodges chunks of plaque that finds its way to patients’ brains. The doctors couldn’t be sure; they had theories. They needed more studies.

A physical rehab nurse spotted my problem when she asked, innocently: “How’re you doing, Walter?” as she took my blood pressure. I looked at her, still keeping pace on the stationary bike. That same, familiar sadness bubbled up inside me. I tried to hold back the tears and give her a stoic answer but I couldn’t. “I’m… o-kay,” I told her and burst into tears.

The other guys in rehab, guys and one woman, were all jokey, happily trundling on their gym equipment. Most of them were mid-60s at least. They called the nurses Sweetie. They made cold enough for ya? jokes and shouted at Wheel Of Fortune on the overhead TVs. Not one of them bawled like a baby.

“Here’s somebody who can help,” she said and handed me a business card: Dr. Julie Cooper, neuropsychologist. Yeah, okay, a shrink. Why not? They dug around inside my chest, I guess; why not dig around inside my head?

I went every Wednesday.

I talked. I cried. Dr. Cooper listened.

She suggested a prescription for Wellbutrin.

She told me I was in mourning, grieving the loss of my former self. I was also experiencing a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Over the course of our sessions together we worked through the immediate why me? heart-related stuff then went beyond to uncover a few other issues that had risen to the surface along the way.

I had self-esteem issues. I didn’t feel worthy of her attention for one thing. Other people had more important problems than me. Plus, over time, I had grown to expect criticism but rejected any kind of praise.

I had Daddy Issues. My father was an alcoholic who ignored me when he wasn’t calling me a prick.

I have what she called a “melancholic personality.” I downplay good things that happen to me while expecting the worst. This could have something to do with my dear ol’ dad, too, and his words of fatherly advice: “Don’t worry about a thing,” he’d tell me. Followed with a laugh by: “‘cause nothin’s gonna be alright.”

Dr. Cooper used a technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing to unlock memories that had been stuck, festering in my head for a long time. EMDR is sort of like hypnosis without the eyes are getting heavy, squawk like a chicken part. She had me stare at her finger as she moved it side to side, guiding me through thoughts with verbal suggestions. It dredged up childhood emotions trapped in an endless feedback loop so I could reprocess them as an adult.

After three years with Dr. Cooper we both felt we were done. Done-ish, anyway. I’m as “cured” as a patient who feels nothin’s gonna be alright can be.

That was eight months ago.

Sometimes I think I should still be seeing her. We didn’t solve everything, not that everything was solvable. I still get flashes, vivid mental pictures of my heart. It’s a mushy thing as I imagine it with tubes coming out like a steampunk, cyborg heart from a 60s Jules Vern movie. Sometimes I image the tubes coming off and squirting blood everywhere like a child’s backyard sprinkler toy.

I still inexplicably tear up from time to time.

I drink too much.

Sometimes I imagine myself dead. Not in heaven dead. Non-existing dead. I’m not an atheist, but no one’s convinced me they know what happens to you when you die. My bypass made me see that it’ll happen some day and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So in bed, late at night or watching TV or on the train to work I’ll get a jolt of being dead. Anxiety fills me from inside, full-blown panic, until I can fool myself into thinking about something else.

Stuff like that.

My one-year follow-up with Dr. Cooper is in March. I should be able to make it ’til then. But then again: nothin’s gonna be alright.

 

Walter Michka is a Chicago writer and comedian who’s performed on numerous Midwest comedy stages, written for national TV (NBC and Jenny Jones), local radio (WLUP), and major ad campaigns. Clackamas Literary Review fairly recently published his short story “Gut Feeling” and is eBook “Thought Nuggets” is available for download at fine e-retailers near you. You can read the recovery journals he wrote during therapy as well as his weekly Open Heart Blog at www.somethingswrongwithwally.com.

0
0

What I Learned Growing Weed & Playing Nintendo

The year was 1989 and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign was in full effect. Weed was getting harder and harder to find and becoming a lot more expensive.

I had just started supporting myself doing standup fulltime and since I only had to work an hour a day (plus another hour or two writing new material and taking care of the business side), I decided I would grow my own.

Be careful what you wish for.

Like most things I do, I either get discouraged immediately and quit, or see a ray of light and go full bore. For some reason, I believed I could grow my own pot. Not sure why my self-confidence chose an illegal activity to make a rare appearance, but I was glad to feel inspired.

I tried using a fluorescent grow light that couldn’t have been more than about 50 watts. I’m not sure what that light was equipped to grow but it wasn’t weed. The seeds I had planted in Styrofoam cups barely sprouted then quickly died.

I was in Barbara’s Bookstore on Wells in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood and found a book on how to grow pot. I soon discovered I needed better equipment; much better equipment.

My wife – at that time my girlfriend– was a little nervous, but I assured her everything would be okay. She reminded me that with the new harsher drug sentencing laws in addition to doing jail time, they could confiscate everything we owned. I reminded her that we didn’t own anything. That’s not entirely true. In about four days we would own a valuable light that made free pot.

I also felt that being a white, college-educated male from the suburbs with no criminal record even if I was caught I probably wouldn’t see much, if any, jail time.

The book suggested buying anywhere from a 250 to a 500 watt metal-halide or sodium-vapor light. Which do you think I bought?

The 1000 watt metal-halide light arrived. It could easily have been mistaken for the sun. It was gigantic. The bulb alone was the size of a basketball. It gave off so much heat it would roast the plants if they grew too close to it, so I attended to their height by pruning them daily.

I set it up on a timer to simulate the shortening of the seasons, which is what triggers the female pot plants to bud and release their sticky THC (the part that gets you high), and the male plants to release their undesirable pollen, which creates seeds when it lands on the sticky female buds.

With the new light, I was shocked at how easy it was to now grow pot and soon our spare bedroom had a half dozen foot-high plants.

My wife was cautiously happy. I was giddy. I had two things rarely found together; weed and a sense of accomplishment. I set out to do something I knew nothing about and did it. I had made and completed my first adult to-do list! And committed my first felony! I was on a roll.

The seeds I had planted came from two different strains of pot; some high-end Hawaiian and some low-grade Mexican.

For some reason the Hawaiian didn’t grow indoors very well, but the Mexican seeds were thriving and were no longer looking low-grade.

But when I cut their light cycle back and they began to bud, I was disappointed. The buds didn’t look like the pictures in the book. So I reread the book.

The author had stressed that a plant will only be as healthy as it’s weakest link (light, water, air, soil/nutrients). Well I knew I had plenty of light, water and vitamins. The weak link must have been the air it was breathing.

CO2 is to plants what oxygen is to us. It’s also the bubbles in drinks, so it’s widely available, but I still felt nervous buying a tank of it in person.

 

Salesman: That’s a lot of CO2.

Me: I love soda.

 

I was sure he knew why I was buying the tank of CO2. I used a fake name and paid cash. Driving home I checked my rear-view mirror.

I got the tank home and hooked it up to a timer and a loop of plastic tubing with holes poked in it to disperse the CO2 around the room.

My wife didn’t like it. It looked like a huge bomb. She was sure it would explode, killing us. I assured her it was safe and then casually mentioned to not spend too much time in there when it’s putting out CO2 because you could suffocate.

I went to bed.

I woke up to something out of a comic book. It was like a magic wand had been waved over the plants. They grew more overnight than they had in an entire week.

Within three or four days, the buds exploded in size, color and thickness. They looked like the pictures in the book. The buds were the size of the erection I had looking at them. I inspected the buds through a magnifying glass marveling at the colored hairs and especially the ridiculous amount of THC, which could be seen in the clear, tiny bubble-topped stalks that held it.

By then it was obvious which plants were male and which were female and I got rid of the males, since all they produce is pollen which makes seeds, and I wanted to grow seedless pot, also known as sinsemillia, the most highly sought-after kind.

Harvesting the buds was comical. It was like I had dipped my hands in glue. I could literally press down on a bud with my open palm and pick it up. I hung the branches upside down in our pantry to dry.

I must have opened that pantry door a thousand times, and just gazed in admiration at my accomplishment. I got a kind of a high just looking at them.

The first harvest was probably ¼ pound of the highest-grade pot I had ever seen. I would repeat the process every three to four months for the next year.

In case I needed more reasons to never leave my apartment, Nintendo became popular that year. I would tend to my plants, smoke weed and play Nintendo, only leaving the apartment to do standup, rollerblade with the dog or get food.

I remember looking at the bags of weed in my fridge. I would pull them out and smell them, examine them. I laughed out loud. I would never run out of pot. Ever. And never pay another dime for it. That thought boggled my mind. I knew I could escape any time. forever I felt at peace. I felt safe.

I loved the look on friend’s faces when they’d see the plants and the bags of incredibly potent pot they produced. I would open up our crisper drawer and show them the bounty. Their jaws would hit the floor. I felt smart. I felt tough. I got high from the weed but I also got a high from feeling I was impressing people and that they looked at me as kind of an outlaw. I felt dangerous and clever.

I had decided early on that I would never sell any of it. I knew with my addictive personality that if I started to, I would always be trying to outdo my previous sales and that would get me busted. I also knew that if I were caught, the fact that I had never sold it would lessen my sentence.

I gave away a LOT of pot. You can’t imagine the look on a stoned person’s face when you hand them a free ounce of really good pot in a bone-dry market. I wish I had taken pictures.

Needless to say, I became popular; too popular. It got hard to get people to leave our apartment. I guess they didn’t want it to look like they were just coming by to get free pot, which most of them were, but I didn’t care, I could only smoke so much, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest. I just wanted them to leave so I could retreat into the cocoon of weed and Nintendo I had created.

We lived in a four-unit apartment building in Chicago’s Lakeview Central neighborhood. Fortunately I knew the people in the other three units and they all smoked. If they hadn’t, I surely would have been busted from the smell.

The potency of the pot was so great that one or two hits of it equaled ten or twenty hits of regular pot. When the plants were budding, you could smell the unmistakable skunky scent the second you walked in the door to the apartment building on the floor BELOW us.

Bees even started hanging around me. One day I opened the door to the grow room and there were 50 bees swarming around the plants. To this day I have no idea how they got into a completely sealed room.

My favorite Nintendo games were Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda.

I would play for hours, not getting up to eat, shower or even pee, just holding it in, wasted out my mind, intent on finding Zelda’s next hidden treasure, hoping to not be killed by a dragon.

I remember one night my wife left around dinnertime, did three shows and came home to me in the exact same spot. I hadn’t budged in eight hours. She gently tried to point out how unhealthy this was. I pretended to hear her.

My health started to suffer. My back started going out, I’m sure triggered by sitting paranoid and full of pee for hours on end, too focused on Zelda to move. My bladder must look like a weather balloon.

I remember the moment I realized I had a problem.. I was on the phone with my brother, who was annoyed with me about something, and my wife was in the kitchen disappointed about something else, both were talking to me at the same time, and I suddenly broken down. I hung up the phone with my brother and started to cry.

I couldn’t take it anymore. The blunt tool of escaping wasn’t working any more. It worked great for a couple months, then like all addictions it stopped working and made things worse.

It would be years before I would call myself an addict and get help, but I quit smoking pot that day and gave away all my equipment. Years later I would start smoking pot again, but it was the first time I realized getting something you really, really want isn’t always good.

Months later I started going to therapy, and soon discovered the relief of a tool that didn’t have side effects.

It’s ironic I was playing Zelda, which involved exploring a darkened map, square by square, illuminating each one, sometimes finding treasure, sometimes something awful, like a dragon.

I wasn’t ready to explore my own dark squares in 1989. When I finally did, I discovered huge amounts of pain, rage, guilt, fear, sadness and despair; an Irish Catholic casserole. Many, many times I wanted to die, because I truly didn’t believe I would ever get through it.

Nothing presents the opportunity for growth like pain, and if we avoid getting stuck in its two major trappings, self-pity and self-righteous anger, pain can leave some great things in its wake, clarity, compassion, humility, vulnerability, trust and even joy.

We wouldn’t have a word or even a concept for what light is if we didn’t experience darkness.

Most of our actions in life are driven by the feelings at our core, the ones we can’t even put into words; the ones that run the show. If we don’t go in there and identify them and process them we will be unconscious slaves to them for the rest of our lives.

I have lived in that prison. My core belief was that I don’t matter. If you had stopped me on the street and asked me if I thought I mattered, I would have said yes, and thought it was a ridiculous question. But at my core, I didn’t FEEL it. My actions proved it. I had spent my life trying to stand out. I was constantly trying to impress you. I had trouble speaking up for myself, and I didn’t think I deserved a better childhood.

I began to hang out with people who treated me like I did matter, (mostly friends from support groups) and I began to avoid people who didn’t. I began to heal.

I ran around for years thinking the right achievements would bring me love and then I would be able to relax and turn my spinning brain off. Turns out what I needed to relax, was to just give myself permission to do it. But to give myself permission, I had to believe I’m okay exactly as I am. And to believe I’m okay I had to EXPERIENCE living through something terrifying, like processing my past, and coming out the other side okay. And that could only happen by asking for help.

There is no place in the future that is safe from pain.

All we have is here; this moment, this little Zelda square. Explore it. It’s your map. The universe gave it to you.

We all have great things to discover inside ourselves and most of it is guarded by dragons. I have wanted to turn and run hundreds of times, and I often did, but I kept coming back for help. I don’t know why that is. Maybe deep down there was still a tiny part of me that believed I matter.

Ask yourself, “Am I worth working on?” If the answer is “yes”, start doing it tomorrow. If the answer is “no”, start doing it right now. If money is tight, Google “low fee therapy” and the name of your town/city. And most support groups are free. A great resource for any questions is www.helpguide.org.

Break out that broadsword and start exploring. Holy fuck is it an adventure. I’m not bullshitting. Like my support group friend Tim says, “We have no reason to lie to you, you’re not that important.”

You’ll be amazed what you’ll find if you can let go of where you think you should be, what you think you should have, and who you think you should be.

0
0

Ted Lyde

Some find actor / comedian / filmmaker Ted Lyde’s honesty about being a parent refreshing, some find it off-putting. Ted talks about the sacrafices and compromise as a father and husband, that lead him to state, “I don’t recommend it and I wouldn’t do it again.”   He also opens up about his disabled son who was born with Muscular Ataxia.    Paul reads an email from a listener who found last week’s episode anything but inspiring.

0
1