Author:Paul Gilmartin

Alycia Schlesinger

Even though Alycia has a Masters in Spiritual Psychology, her raw experience in a chaotic home has been the “gift” that has really allowed her to understand the dynamics of her own self-hatred, fear, and low self-esteem. She shares how facing that pain allowed for the eventual transformation to it being an experience that gives her life purpose.   An especially powerful episode (for Paul at least) as Alycia played a part in one of the most transformative days in his life.   They also discuss Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning and John Bradshaw’s book Healing the Shame that Binds You.

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Nathan Rabin

The author, cinephile and head writer of The Onion’s A.V. Club talks with Paul about his deeply painful childhood and a seemingly endless series of rejection.  Foster homes, mental institutions, kidnapping by a mother who ultimately had no interest in him and a fear-off that includes a phrase we may never hear again: “I’m afraid I ruined Weird Al’s Easter.”

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There to Catch You – a guest blog by Ether

Enlightenment seems to be inevitable when you realize that the hole you are falling down is most likely bottomless. Allow gravity to perform it’s natural duty. Yield to the flow of the universe. September was an unusually cold month this year of 2011, even for the weather standards of New England.

Saturday, the day before the 11th,  I was on my way to an outdoor cookout when I received a call from one of my half-sisters. Her voice seemed void of expression, the words came out slowly. “I just got a call. Dad’s dead, and the police and coroner say it looks to be definitely self inflicted.” This surprise hit me like a meteor. In my mind I traveled back home where a chocolate bar and pairs of socks lay waiting as gifts for his birthday and Father’s day.

Those moments disappeared and the thoughts of our last phone conversation from the prior month appeared. “Dad, I hope to see you at least before your birthday and give you all these gifts. I miss you. Take care, I love you.” There was a sigh, then my father responded, “Yeah…well…yeah you know. The words. Take care.” Memories surfaced: the moment my half-sister’s mother committed suicide, and just 8 years ago my own mother had entered her own downward spiral. But my dad was the stronger one! He had quit smoking cold turkey years ago, no health issues, and was still painting houses in his seventies.

The amount of tears that came forth could have flooded the countryside, as if Hurricane Irene hadn’t already done so the week prior. That faucet was then opened again a few weeks later when my wife admitted to me that during the past six years of marriage she’s lost all interest in me and has been living a perpetual lie.

This news comes after having two children, one only 9 months old at the time. If you had asked me two of my greatest fears I’ve had quite some time, I would have told you that I was afraid of my father ever passing away, and that I was afraid of my wife falling out of love with me. Within a 30 day span of time the two worst things I could imagine happened at once, and unfortunately it coincided with a time when my depression/anxiety medication stopped working.

What really saved me was my support structure. I learned awhile back that I was not alone, no one truly is, and decided to reach out. I had started therapy at the beginning of the month, and now had a life coach. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I talked to everyone I could and learned that there are others who are willing to help you put on that parachute as you’re being pushed out from the plane. They’re willing to walk you through opening it up.

They’re even there to catch you if it never opens!

Realizing this fact has saved me.

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Kulap Vilaysack (Voted #5 Ep of 2011)

You’ve seen her on The Office and I Love You Man, and you’ve heard her as the co-host of the podcast Who Charted?  Kulap talks about her chaotic upbringing by immigrant Laotian parents and the battle today to overcome the memories that haunt her.   They discuss her involvment in a little known therapy called the Grinberg Method and what she does today to find peace.

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My Blue Jebuses by Emma

This guest blog is from a listener named Emma.

Last week I had an unexpected anxiety/paranoia day.   Earlier this year a run of them, capping a gradual shift into the unhappies, sent me into therapy.

Sudden onsets stink.  Heightened anxiety/paranoia with no obvious triggering incidents brings a painfully out-of-control feel to the party.

I’ve been learning that recognition is nine-tenths of the battle.  I don’t know how many other people struggle with sudden onsets of anxiety, or what alerts them that the blue jebuses are on board.  It would be interesting to find out if recognition is part of a learning or management curve for other people, and what that curve looks like.  I’ve also noticed some great management strategies on the forum – my personal favorite of those so far is the “giant green salad” ploy.

During my crap day this week, I figured out what was happening when the road rage hit.  In retrospect, probably the first clear manifestation was waves of panic when a supervisor left a phone message asking me to call about some paperwork.  The next clear sign was a marked increase in snapping and snarling at other drivers.

But the clue made me recognize my own toxicity was when I heard myself snarl at a plump Hispanic woman in the parking lot of Costco.  She was walking a HUGE cart in the center of the driving lane.  There were three cars backed up behind her.  There is no question she was irritating, but not to a degree that I should seriously think about stopping my car to rank her out.  I mean, the woman was wearing an office suit — a cute little black and white blazer, sad little black office pumps — and she was clearly upset because someone yelling at her on the phone.

Where was my compassion?  I know the pain of those un-foot shaped little pumps, of being yelled at on the phone, of pushing a too heavy cart full of things I can’t afford but need.

I realized I’d been eaten by the blue jebuses, by an Oscar in a garbage can, a slash of anxiety/paranoia washing over my consciousness like watercolors going muddy.  It is a horrible feeling.

But as horrible as it was, the fact that I was able to recognize the external quality, the otherness of this state of mind, helped.  Recognition offers potential for control.

I also had a management strategy: I slowed the car down, pulled to the outskirts of the mall, and began self-talk.  In a loving tone of voice, I said the things I’d want to hear, things that would ground me, calm me, which a loving friend would say: “E, you’re OK.  It’s OK.  Sounds like you’re having a pretty wretched time right now.  It happens, and it doesn’t make you a bad person.  Let’s let this wash over us, around us, through us, and eventually we’ll step out on the other side of the anxiety.”

There was more of that, a soft dialogue from the empty car seat to the empty car seat.  When I got clear enough of the nastiness to not shame myself with poor behavior, I went into the store and got through my shopping list (which included a frightening purchase, perhaps the trigger for all of this), then I went home.

Now, of course, I’d eat a giant green salad during some phase of this.  Vitamins, eating therapy without high calories, the ritual of preparing salad, the distraction of variety… and all those wonderful dark green leafies – premium self-care.

In general, one goal in therapy has been good self-care, including consciousness management.  I’ve worked hard at learning to recognize a bad head and be realistic about what it’s doing, prioritize what is important, and contain the damage.

In practical terms, once I understood how much anxiety and paranoia were driving me in that parking lot, I managed the immediate crisis, then went into longer term damage control.  Among more extended strategies, I clipped off several other errands from that day’s list (re-allocating them to later in the day, tomorrow, or if necessary, later in the week).

Then I prioritized what absolutely had to get done (always a surprisingly small part of the list).  I got out of my car determined to shut up as much as possible, and filter what I said and did through compassion and necessity.   I abstained from engaging except for the immediate business of my purchases and drive.  At home, I stayed off the phone and email, got much needed sleep, food, relaxation, and when I woke up in the morning, almost all the anxiety/paranoia was gone.

And I’ve been thinking ever since about what it’s like when the stain of bad head doesn’t go away, what it would be like to live with it all the time, what larger portions of it might feel like.

Emma

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Teresa Strasser (Voted #1 Ep of 2011)

Adam Carolla’s former sidekick comes guns blazing to the fear-off.  Holy shit she brings it.  This one gets dark.  From her being vanquished by a stepmother at age 3 to seriously considering suicide earlier in the year. Touching and funny.  She is also the author of the critically-acclaimed pregnancy memoir Exploiting My Baby.   Paul made a mistake when he uploaded the first version of this interview.  Though an editing error, a reference to another female guest (with a book), sounded like Paul was talking about Teresa.   Hopefully this version clears that up!   Apologies to T for the mixup.

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Hank Adams

Prostitution, alcoholism, fetishes, swinging, abandonment and being stabbed by a bayonet.  Handyman Hank Adams has experienced them all.  Paul’s friend has to literally pause to count how many stepdads he has had.

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Paula Newman

Part-time actor, friend and meditation teacher talks with Paul about her life being profoundly affected by her painful English upbringing, Hitler and Back to the Future.   They also discuss the importance of Vedic meditation and the Body Ecology Diet.

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