Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria

The neuroscientist and senior science writer at Huffington Post (Talk Nerdy to Me) talks with Paul about the roots of her depression, her parents divorce, her decision at 14 to leave the Mormon church and her father’s inability to accept it, her love of science, how she currently treats her depression and the toll it has taken on loved ones.  Plus Paul reads some listener emails and surveys and a list of signs that might mean you’re a narcissist.

Episode:

Play

Episode notes:

Be sure to visit Cara's website where you can link to all of her writing.   Follow her on twitter @carasantamaria

Episode Transcript:

Paul: Welcome to episode 81 with my guest Cara Santa Maria. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck. I’m not a doctor, but I am a hypochondriac.

I want to report that the suicide prevention walk raised a ton of money last weekend. I got a nice email from April who is one of the people that helped put that together. She said the raised a lot of money, so any of you guys that heard me promote and went and participated thank you so much for helping such a great cause.

I wanted to mention that this episode I have with Cara Santa Maria I taped it about three months ago, so there’s a moment in there where I talk about how I was feeling suicidal a couple of weeks ago and I just want people to know I’m feeling great. That was about four months ago and I’ve never felt such peace and joy. And I’ve never been fatter, which is kind of interesting. I have almost no money coming in unless I count weight and then I’m raking it in, putting on the pounds. My new medicine, it makes you gain weight. And I don’t really like that, but it’s better than staring at the wall with my mouth open.

I want to kick things off with an email from listener named Ginger. She writes, “I appreciate your show in the mental illness vein because I have a genetic addictive personality and mild depression and social anxiety. For me, sex and sexuality have always been a source of solace and beauty in life. One thing that is free, natural, feels amazing, provides intimacy and connects one to being human. I credit my parents and their healthy, honest attitude towards sex for giving me the gift of acceptance for my body and honoring myself and my lovers. Please try to keep in mind that not all mental issues in a person’s life are related to sexual experiences. Honey, stop being so damn Freudian.” I don’t know how to respond to that. I love getting feedback from you guys, the listeners, and I’m just being me, I’m not trying to be one way or the other. When things pop into my head, I share them and that’s one of the beauties of having your own podcast.

This next thing I want to read is just an excerpt from the Babysitters survey. A woman that filled it out calls herself Lolita and she had been hit on by some dads when she was babysitting and that’s why she calls herself Lolita. But the thing from her survey that I wanted to read was—and she’s in her 30’s and she has a kid. She says, “With respect to mothers intruding on sons’ personal boundaries I want to add that I nursed my son until he weaned himself at four-and-a-half. For a short time after he would go after the breasts as if they represented a security blanket. But I enforced boundaries and he respected them. He also shared a bed with me and my husband for many years under the family bed principle at use in so much of the world, along with term nursing as it is called. I think he’s turned out great. While he has the boundaries you would expect, he’s also one of the most empathetic young men around with his family and classmates. I’m glad I haven’t heard detractors of attachment parenting speak up yet on your show, because the first thing those people claim is that a mother who nurses beyond the traditional first year is in it for the sexual sensations and the children are sexually confused. A load of crap.” I cannot weigh in on that one way or the other because I truly am clueless on that. So I’ll just keep my mouth shut but I found it interesting so that’s why I wanted to read it.

And the last thing I want to read before we start the interview with Cara is from the Shame and Secrets survey. This was filled out by a woman who calls herself Murphy. She’s bisexual, she’s in her 30’s, was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional. Some stuff happened but she’s not sure if it’s sexual abuse or not but she doesn’t get specific. To the question, “What are your deepest, darkest thoughts?” she writes, “I hate kids. I despise them. I don’t want them and I don’t want to live with them. I’m 31 and have been sterilized the most permanent way possible aside from removing the uterus completely.” You know, by the way, they can do that at Jiffy Lube, but it takes the better part of the afternoon and sometimes they don’t have a part until they get you up on the lift and it can be a little awkward and breezy. She continues, “A lot of the people I talk to, mostly women, do not understand my choice and have been telling me for years that I might have changed my mind before getting fixed. These people just don’t understand that some people don’t want to be parents. They don’t understand that some people just aren’t meant to.” And to that I would say hear, hear. I’m one of those people. Occasionally I’ll get that pang of, “Oh my God that looks so great to have those little kids.” But it’s never been a thing for my wife or I and fortunately we live in Los Angeles where there are a lot of people like us so there isn’t that pressure. So my heart goes out to people that are made to feel like they’re freaks for not wanting to have kids.

“Sexual fantasies that are most powerful to you?” She writes, “God, this is embarrassing. When I was a teen I was at a farm with a few friends and the relative of my friend was mating some horses. Since then I’ve been imprinted with the sexual fantasy of animals. Bestiality is a turn on for me. Watching videos or looking at pix have always triggered my most powerful orgasms. I also admit I feel attracted to much younger guys like 15-21 year olds. I would never take part in either case, but just the fact that I think this way is somewhat shameful for me. More so now than before.

“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” She writes, “I’ve told several. I’ve told my boyfriends of the past and they’ve all been mostly supportive, the exception is the current one. I’ve told him and he’s made me feel nothing but shame and disgust in myself. It spurred me to suppress that side of me to the point honestly I have no interest in sex anymore unless it’s by myself when no one is around.” First of all, that bums me out. That makes me sad. And second, if you’re not hurting anybody, if you’re not looking at pictures that are illegal, if you’re just indulging in a fantasy that is in your head, you know that person doesn’t have to be into your fantasy. You know, but to make your partner feel shame about their fantasy when they’re not hurting anybody, that’s not love. That’s not accepting your partner. And I say fuck that guy. I say dump him and go find somebody who loves you for you instead of trying to change you or hate you. And if that guy doesn’t fucking like what you have to say, tell him I told you so. And if he says, “Who the fuck is Paul Gilmartin?” you say, “That guy was on basic cable.” And when he asks, “What’s basic cable?” you say, “That’s the part of cable that you have to get, you actually can’t turn off.” And watch his reaction.

[SHOW INTRO]

Paul: I’m here with Cara Santa Maria who I just met five minutes ago. Somebody had, a listener, had heard her on The Nerdist and suggested her as a guest, and said she’s this brilliant scientific person who is very candid about living with depression, and I was like, oh that sounds like a wonderful, wonderful guest. She is the senior science correspondent for The Huffington Post. You’re a science educator, would that be—how would you describe yourself?

Cara: I’d probably call myself a science communicator now, I think that’s probably the best description for all the hats that I try to wear between being a science journalist but also kind of speaking up for science in different media and in new media and on television, and just kind of being and advocate for science literacy.

Paul: You’re the Higgs boson agent, you’re the agent for the Higgs—am I pronouncing that correctly?

Cara: Higgs bo-zahn, yeah.

Paul: Higgs boson. How exciting is that, is it a particle that is faster than the speed of light?

Cara: Well, it’s a particle that—and, you know, I—my background is neuroscience so actually so that any listeners know, if you watch the video that I did about the Higgs boson right after we got the announcement from CERN, you’ll notice that what I’m struggling to do is to create an analogy to help listeners understand why the Higgs boson is so important to scientists, and I myself was kind of in dark when I first started studying it. So I reached out to some physicist friends of mine and really worked with them to come up with this solid analogy that ends up being a completely mixed metaphor and it’s all over the place. But you know, from what I’ve gathered, what the Higgs boson does is it’s a particle that gives other things mass and so it was basically a particle that was necessary for the calculations to work in order for kind of this, this quantum mechanics under—this quantum mechanical understanding of the universe. The way that the equations are formed right now they require this one particle that was a theoretical particle, we’d never found it before, to exist in order for everything else in the universe, even inside of ourselves, to have mass. So it’s pretty important, because without the Higgs, we wouldn’t have this kind of structural matter, you know, we wouldn’t weigh anything. And so um when we found it—I mean, I think most scientists expected to find it, but it is really exciting to find what you’ve been looking for.

Paul: Wouldn’t there be some people though who’d be excited to know they don’t weigh anything?

Cara: Maybe. (laughs)

Paul: So, how did they—well, let’s, let’s—I was just kind of curious to pick your brain about that because that was in the news recently, but obviously that’s not the focus of what our podcast is and the reason I—that I want to have you on. Your specialty is neuroscience, you got your degree …

Cara: I have a master’s in neurobiology that I got in Texas, from the University of North Texas, when I was there, I was born and raised in Texas and so I did my undergrad in psychology with a philosophy minor. I did a master’s in neurobiology. I started a PhD in clinical neuropsychology at the SUNY University of New York at the Queens College campus, and I dropped out and moved to LA.

Paul: So neurobiology is basically the study of the brain in a biological, physical realm, as opposed to the mental …

Cara: Exactly. There’s a lot of crossover. Like when we use the word neuroscience, it’s actually kind of a catchall word. So we could be talking about—well generally it is biology but we could talking about the chemistry of the brain, the physics of the brain and some biological processes of the brain. When we use the term specifically neurobiology, you know, then we’re talking about biological components which of course include physics and chemistry. And then on the flip side when we talk about psychology, there is still a lot of crossover because I think modern psychology is starting to evolve and understand that the brain is the basis for all behavior. You know, I personally—and I think a lot of kind of colleagues would agree—that mind is brain. Mind is just a manifestation of brain they’re kind of like two sides of the same coin. So to me it’s kind of meaningless to talk about the mind if we don’t understand the brain basis for that mental expression or that mental experience.

Paul: It’s like trying to talk about crops without talking about the ground.

Cara: Exactly, and so you I don’t—I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God, I definitely don’t have any sort of like—I’m not beholden to the idea of the soul, I’m definitely not a ghost in the shell kind of believer, so for me it’s like what we are, our personalities, our mental processes, it all comes down to our biology. You know, I think that philosophy is important because we can talk about implications of our mental states and we can talk about h-how they, um intersect with society. And we can talk about morals and values and things like that which are super important, but I don’t see the point of trying to separate those things from the biology.

Paul: I agree. And for I’m always trying to—I am a, I suppose deist would be the best way to describe what I am. And I had a listener help me with that and say—because I fall somewhere in between being and atheist and being what would be considered a “believer.” I believe in something out there that is science-based, that’s what—that’s—I believe that there is a positive universal law—karma would be the closest thing that I kind of believe in. But I’m always annoyed when people talk about spirituality as if it’s mutually exclusive from science. I believe that there is a genetic, scientific component inside of us that needs to be connected to other human beings, that something we—is just primal.

Cara: Sure. You know what’s funny about that is I just posted Monday on my newest piece in my series, my video series called Talk Nerdy to Me, which is on Huffington Post’s science section, I just posted a piece where I had interviewed a man named Dr. Mathew Ricard who—he was a cellular geneticist who instead of doing a post doc—he graduated with a PhD in cellular genetics from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, instead of doing a post doc, he moved to the Himalayas and became a Buddhist monk. And so it was the most interesting interview because he’s a scientist and a Buddhist monk. And I, obviously, had a lot of preconceived notions about Buddhism before I sat down and talked with him. As an atheist I—you know, he used the word spirituality at one point during the interview and I kind of stopped him and I said, you know, “I don’t really like that word it doesn’t mean anything to me.” Like, why does it have that root “spirit” and whenever people talk about like having a spiritual experience, I’m always like I don’t—that doesn’t compute for me. And so we sat and we talked about it and it was really fascinating, you know, how he kind of said, “Well, I try not to use that word too because I think it does have a connotation and the truth is, you know, when I talk about spirituality what I’m really talking about is the human potential for transformation and the human potential for empathy and for love and for kindness.” And just a lot of the things that he said really opened my eyes because, as a Buddhist, he doesn’t believe in God either.

Paul: Right.

Cara: This concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful dude in the sky who has like direct control over somebody’s life is just as kind of laughable to him as it is to me, and so it was really interesting to hear his perspective and, you know, a lot of things in Buddhism are just very evidence-based. It’s like what they call like a contemplative science. It’s an attempt to understand the science of the mind, and the more we know, the more we learn, the more we realize the science of the mind cannot be separated from the science of the brain. It all comes back to that. I mean, granted there are some things in Buddhism that are, you know, like reincarnation that I don’t buy at all, but it was really interesting to hear his perspective. And so for me there are certain words that I avoid like God, or cosmic consciousness, or spirituality because I think that they have been kind of marked by religion in such a way that they’ve lost whatever meaning other people are often trying to communicate them to have. So I try to kind of come up with a new lexicon for that, but you know, I consider myself and atheist in the cleanest way. I am a-theistic. There is no theism in my daily existence, the concept of a God just doesn’t compute to me. So I’m not an anti-theist necessarily, I can be kind of anti organized religion depending on the context, but, um—and it’s not that I believe that there is no God, it’s just that I simply don’t believe in God. And I think that that’s an important distinction.

Paul: Ok, let’s talk about your story. So you were born in Texas and what was your life like growing up, what kind of environment?

Cara: So, I yeah, I was born in a town called Plano, Texas, which is right outside of Dallas, and it’s kind of a upper middle class suburb of Dallas. You know I think that probably when I was born I was in a position of relative privilege. I don’t remember it that well. I actually have a hard time with very, very early memories, um, but I know that the median income in Plano is relatively high. I grew up there and I actually spent most of my life there, but when I was I think seven, maybe nine, but I think seven, my parents were divorced and after that I was raised by my mother, a single parent. My father was still in the picture obviously, I had—they had joint custody so I would stay with my father, um, I think every other weekend and a few weeks in the summer and they lived in the same town still. But you know my father I think had um more means than my mother did, and so, because I lived with my mom fulltime and so did my sister, my biological sister, we lived with my mom fulltime. You know, my mom struggled, she, um, worked three jobs at one point, I remember—

Paul: Was she not getting child support from your dad?

Cara: She was.

Paul: But it wasn’t enough.

Cara: Not much. I remember thinking that’s pretty low actually. But I was pretty young and I don’t think I really understood the circumstances at the time, but my mother um—at one point—I mean she’s a schoolteacher, she still is, and I remember at one point she was teaching school, she was, around tax season working at like one of those H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt type places, and she was delivering pizzas like late at night and on the weekends.

Paul: Oh my God.

Cara: Yeah, and I remember, you know, being kind of embarrassed but also feeling like really proud and also feeling really guilty, so I did try to contribute as much as I could. I got my first job when I was 14.

Paul: My “oh my God” was at the amount—not that that’s a substandard job, but the amount of effort that was required.

Cara: And it’s not a substandard job by any means, obviously like I wouldn’t judge anybody for delivering pizzas. I have a ton of friends that would love to deliver pizzas because they can smoke pot and you know, like just enjoy themselves. But, um, for my mom, she’s really educated and, you know, she has worked hard her entire life. And I do remember thinking that there was this honest feeling of “this is beneath her,” and like I was a little bit ashamed and then I felt guilty for feeling ashamed because I was young and I think everybody when they were young, they have at least a layer to their personality that’s a little bit kind of entitled and a little bit like, “Why us?” and “Why me?” And it’s—

Paul: And you’re almost looking for as a teenager, you’re almost looking for something to be embarrassed about your family.

Cara: It’s so true, yeah, it’s so true. I mean, gosh, I have plenty. But um, that was just an interesting kind of mixed, ambivalent situation because I was proud of her and I was grateful, but I was also, you know, upset with kind of the hand that we were dealt. And so like I said when I was young I started working. Um, when I was 14 I got a job at a bakery, um, when I was 15 I worked at Cici’s Pizza, which we lovingly called Feces Pizza. And um, and then after that when I was 16, when I was able to get regular jobs and not worry about, like the child labor laws, I started working a lot of retail jobs and stuff and I would contribute as much as I could. By then my sister had gone to college and so, and that was kind of my mother’s side of things. You know, my father—when I was born, I was born into the Mormon faith. And so my parents were both, uh, Mormon. They had converted together and, um, when my parents got divorced, you know, my mother kind of distanced herself from that—I’m not sure if she was ever really a true believer. I don’t think that my mother is an atheist per se, but I think she’s either a deist or maybe what somebody would call like a secular humanist. Like there—I don’t think she thinks about it that much. Like maybe she does, but I don’t think it’s important to her at least the concept of a God, and definitely not the concept of this like, the highly structured organized religion. My father though is still a devout Mormon and, um, his family is. So when they got divorced, I continued to go to church and I continued to kind of go through the motions. I was baptized when I was eight, you know, the Mormon faith requires a lot of dedication. So it would be about three hours every Sunday, it would be, um, family home evening every Monday night, so the whole night you spend with your family and there’s a big kind of church component to it, singing songs, having dinner, but also usually there’s a lesson involved. Meeting with the missionaries on a regular basis. Wednesday nights going to kind of a youth group and then when you get to high school, every morning before school, from 6:00-6:45 in the morning you would go to what they called seminary where you do Bible and Book of Mormon study. And so it’s a big dedication especially for somebody like myself who—I don’t think I ever really believed in it. I think I really wanted to believe in it. I think I really tried to believe in it, it’s what my father, you know, um, found to be probably the most important thing in his life, is his faith kind of structures how he thinks about the world. And the rest of my family, it was really important to them and I tried for as long as I could. You know, but when I was about 14, at this point he had already remarried, when I was about 14 I remember coming in and saying, you know, like, “I’m just—I don’t buy it anymore and I’m—before it was fine but now I’m starting to feel like I’m really lying to myself.” And so we discussed it and he was pretty hard lined about it. He said, you know, “I have a moral obligation to God to force you to go to church until you’re 18 years old. And after that you can make your own decisions.” And I remember thinking, you know, “I’m old enough to make a decision about my custody, and if you’re gonna put me between a rock and a hard place, honestly, I just can’t do this anymore. It’s that important to me.” And he said, “Ok, well then you’re not gonna live under my roof anymore.” And so after that I didn’t have joint custody with my parents anymore, lived with my mom fulltime. And there was a big rift between my father and myself for many, many years. More recently I’ve felt really good about where we are, but it did take a while, I think, for us to even get to the point where we are today. And there’s still obvious differences, but I think that there’s a mutual respect that’s grown, especially in adulthood. And I think what I may have mistaken before for a lack of love or for kind of what I thought were really, really screwed up priorities, I’m starting to understand from his perspective, he was doing the only thing he could do, he was doing what he felt to be the exact right thing to do. I still disagree that that was the right thing to do because I have a different framework, you know, I look at the world differently than he does. Um, I still ….

Paul: Probably, probably felt incredibly dismissive to you as a teenager, especially because at that point in a kid’s life you are so trying to form your own worldview. You are so trying to become and adult, and, you know, the primary caregivers in your life are the first people that you begin bouncing that off of and to have that summarily rejected, um, and to be rejected to the point where I want nothing—not only do I not agree with your idea, but I want nothing to do with you if that’s your idea.

Cara: Yeah, that’s what it felt like. I think what I realized is that I don’t think he felt like I want nothing to do with you, but I think he felt like well, if this isn’t going to be a part of our relationship together, I’m not sure if we can have a relationship. You know, whatever his motivation was, you’re right, it was really difficult, and you know, I fancied myself an adult even when I was 14. When I was 16 I started college and I moved out of my mother’s house and moved in to college —

Paul: So you were a fancy pants.

Cara: I was—you know, I thought—

Paul: You went to college when you were 16 Cara. You had to be a pretty good student.

Cara: Yeah, I was a good student, but you know what? Being in college at that age, you may be intellectually equipped for that kind of a life change. It doesn’t mean that you’re mature enough for that kind of a life change. Granted, I’ve always kind of thought of myself as a really old person in a younger person’s body, but at the same time, it’s like, looking back, c’mon, you’re sixteen years old.

Paul: How do you get to college when you’re sixteen?

Cara: So I think I was a little ahead in school as it was, I was just always young. I was just always younger than my friends. My very best friend in the whole world, who I went to school with, I’ve known since third grade, she is one year, one month, and one day—one year, one month, one week and one day older than me. And, you know, we were in the same grade. So I’m not sure if I was put ahead when I was young or what, but I was always younger than the rest of my peers. They actually wouldn’t let me go to public school there’s like weird laws about the age at which you can go to public school and so I went to this kind of weird private school for kindergarten and first grade, and then I started public school in second grade. And then when I was a junior in high school, towards the end of my junior year, I was becoming really fed up with my high school experience. I dropped out of—I had dropped out of cheerleading, yes I was a cheerleader in ninth and tenth grade (if you know me at all you’ll think that’s funny), um I dropped out of cheerleading after tenth grade because I felt like it wasn’t really important and I lost a lot of social support when I did that. It was really silly but kids care about those sorts of things. I was a jazz vocalist in school and like I really focused all of time on my studies and on my singing and by my junior year I was really thrown into this jazz group called Sound Invention that I loved, loved, loved, and made a million friends there. And I was working really hard in school, but there just got to be this point where I think the high school environment was starting to feel suffocating. I remember very specifically doing a project on the Pentagon Papers for, I guess, like a history class or a government class and we had to make a poster, and I remember putting like a little photo in the middle of the poster, like a black and white photo and filling the poster with like text. I basically wrote an essay on this poster and I made a terrible grade and I remember specifically one of the notes that the teacher had given me was like something along the lines of it could have used more pizazz or something. I remember something, specifically she wrote, “More glitter,” and I remember thinking like, “I can’t do this anymore.” And so I went to the guidance counselor and I went to my mother like in tears one day and I said, “I’m dropping out of school. I’m dropping out, I don’t care anymore. I can’t do this, it’s like overwhelming me.” And they were like, “No, no, no you can’t do that, you’re an international baccalaureate student, like we don’t want to lose you.” And I was like, “I can’t be here anymore, like what should I do?” And they offered that my senior year of high school, that I could go to college instead. They said, you know, “You’re only shy two credits, you need a science and you need an English.” So they said, “Both semesters take a different science and an English and then take two other classes so that you’re taking a full load and you’ll get high school credit for it.” It dropped me out of my gifted and talented program, it dropped me out of the runnings for all sorts of things, because even though technically I graduated with the rest of my graduating class in 2001, like I wasn’t there my senior year, but it was worth it to me. All those things were worth it because I was ready to move on. It was funny though going back to my senior prom and some of the kids being like, “We thought you dropped out,” or “We thought you got pregnant.” Or whatever the case may be, it’s like no I’ve been at the community college down the street. But at that time, you know, when I was 16 I was like, “Well I’m going to college. It’s hard enough being really young and you kind of lie about your age and you don’t want people to know. And my mother was remarrying around then and it was just kind of like, you know, we don’t all three need to get a place together, so I got an apartment. Or I didn’t get an apartment, the first place that I lived was a house with a friend of mine and she had some roommates and it was really cheap and I think my share of the rent was $150. I was working at a head shop in Plano, so I was just like high all the time and like all the people who hung around the house were like meth heads. It was kind of like not a good situation, but I struggled through it. I was there for a year and then I moved away to university, of course, moved away – I was 45 minutes away from home, but I did. I moved there, got an apartment with a really good friend of mine and just started the actual kind of college experience.

Paul: So what was your emotional life like up until that point, you know, starting in childhood?

Cara: That is so hard for me to comment on, honestly, like I don’t remember much before—like I don’t remember my parents living together. Which is super weird, because I think they got divorced when I either seven or nine, and you’re supposed to start forming memories when you’re about four or five. So I do have—this is so silly—probably my strongest memory that I’ve ever had, and this may resonate with you it may not, it’s actually so freaking sad to me, the one memory that I have when I was a little kid is, we had—my family, we had gone out to eat at like Fuddrucker’s was the name of a restaurant in the town where I grew up, um (maybe that’s a chain, I’m sure people know about Fuddrucker’s).

Paul: By the way, if you’re curious about the noise in the background we are the AOL Huffington Post offices where Cara works.

Cara: Yeah, and Arianna’s in the building so people are kind of excited.

Paul: Oh, she’s normally not here?

Cara: No, she’s in New York, she lives in New York and so I think we were celebrating, kind of a birthday celebration, giving her some things. So everybody’s getting excited behind us.

Um, s-so I remember being at Fuddrucker’s and I remember—no I don’t remember being at Fuddrucker’s—I remember getting a balloon when we were at Fuddrucker’s and it was this balloon and I was so excited about getting my balloon and I remember coming home after dinner and walking up the sidewalk to the front door of our house and it was my father and my mother and me and my sister, and we had these prickly bushes in the front of my house and I remember rubbing up against the prickly bushes and my balloon popped and just crying, just losing it, like this sense of I lost something that I loved, something that made me so happy, and now it’s just destroyed. And what’s so weird is when I have really sad experiences now, even as an adult, I sometimes get these weird flashes of that one memory. So it’s the one memory I have of being a kid is a pretty dark memory. A lot of the other things I know, I can see images from being a kid, I think they’re from watching home movies. I don’t think that they’re true memories.

So I really don’t remember much up until they got divorced. I do remember that during the divorce, um …

Paul: Was the balloon before the divorce?

Cara: Yeah, that was when I was like a child, like maybe four or five years old. I was very young.

I remember that during the divorce, I was in elementary school and I specifically remember the counselor that I would go to, because it was like children of divorce would go to this special counseling session during the week and you know, it was in the school, like the school counselor. I remember his name was Mr. Weaver, he had red hair. He wore like a braided kind of colorful belt, and I remember we would play games and things. And I do remember being kind of like, “Hey, it’s better.” Like I had this attitude even when I was a kid, you know, where I was like, “They fought all the time. If they didn’t love each other, they should be divorced.” So I was always like I said, like a mini adult or at least I desperately wanted to be. I desperately wanted the people around me to see me as being very stable, as being kind of in control of my emotions. And as being kind of ok with everything. I remember that we went to some family counseling in a big weird house with like puppets, I don’t really remember that well. But um, then after that I started going to therapy somewhat more regularly and—because I think I probably was acting out of it or whatever my behavior, it did lead my parents to think that I needed to go to therapy. The problem is my father sent me to like a Mormon counselor. Which really didn’t help me very much because everything was kind of framed in that God reference and in that religious reference and I didn’t really believe in God, so I kind of would roll my eyes and I went because I was supposed to go. And I didn’t, I think, take it upon myself to really gain much from therapy but I’m pretty sure that I had dealt with depression from the time I was a small child. I think I am kind of a classical example of somebody who has serious depressive episodes and the rest of the time, intermittently, is just dysthymic. Is just kind of lower than other people’s baselines. Even when I was a kid I don’t think I was the type of kid to squeal with joy, to jump up and down. When I watch old home videos of my birthday or Christmas, my sister is ripping open packages and, you know, screaming and laughing and I’m very measured, like, you know, even as a child, why should I be concerned about that. I think I’ve always been really concerned about what other people think. My mother tells me, I don’t know if this is true but I don’t know why she would lie about it, but the very first she ever heard me speak—they thought I was a delayed speaker because she didn’t hear me talk when other babies start to talk. And the very first time she ever heard me speak, I actually said a whole phrase. And the only reason that she caught it is because she came into my room at night, and I was standing in my crib and I guess the dogs outside were barking, we had two labs when I was growing up, the dogs were barking outside, and I was pointing and I was saying, “Shut up doggy. Shut up doggy.” And it was like I was practicing. Like that’s what she said. She got this strong sense that I was practicing. And I think I’ve always been that kind of person who kind of wants to like fail while I’m alone so that when other people are observing, I can feel proud of my performance. Like but even as a small child—it’s such a strange phenomenon. And of course I don’t remember any of this and I can’t really verify it, but I do think that when I was a kid I was anxious, I was depressed, I was always in my own head. I was dark. I thought a lot about a lot, you know, I was always thinking. I couldn’t turn my brain off at night.

Paul: Like what stuff do you remember thinking about as a kid that didn’t strike you as ….?

Cara: Kidlike?

Paul: Kidlike.

Cara: Um, you know, just being worried about bigger picture kinds of things, you know, watching the news a-a-and having empathy for the people that I would see on the news. Um, I think that I did have a taste for science when I was really young and I was always kind of a critical thinker and I always liked to try to find logic in things. I didn’t actually get into science until college. I separated myself from it in a way and I was kind of afraid about it. Or afraid of it when I was a teenager. But definitely when I was young, I think that I was concerned, you know what I mean, like I was a concerned child, which is not the way that we think of most kids as being. And I would take a lot of things upon myself and internalize them.

Paul: Did you have a parent that confided adult-like issues?

Cara: Definitely.

Paul: Ok.

Cara: I think that there is a huge difference between the way I was parented by my father and my mother. My father was kind of, um, what’s a good word, an absolutist kind of parent. He was strong. He was loud and it was the way that it was because he was my father. My mother, I think, really talked to me more like I was an adult and I think that she—I think she was depressed as well, especially after the divorce and she was struggling. I don’t think that she would ever have admitted that she was depressed but she was definitely, um, you know, she was overwhelmed a lot.

Paul: You know that’s an achievement though that you managed to feel such guilt without organized religion.

Cara: (laughs) Yeah that’s true.

Paul: Although I suppose you did have organized religion back then.

Cara: That may have contributed.

Paul: But Mormonism isn’t real heavy on the guilt like Catholicism.

Cara: No, it’s really not. They even actually—one of their articles of faith is that they don’t, um, punish, or they don’t believe kind of in Adam’s transgression. They believe that individuals are good people from the start and so there—it’s all about, um, kind of works for them and it’s not just like a grace-based faith. And it’s definitely not about kind of making up for somebody else’s sins.

Paul: One of the subjects that we get into a lot on this podcast is boundaries between children and parents and there’s this grey area between where you want your kids to feel free to be able to express themselves to you, but there’s also this boundary that parents need to have where they need to hold their issues back from their children because they’re not issues that children should be exposed to or feel the weight of, and it sounds to me—and when I find people are measured, who have difficulty expressing joy, who are concerned, feel like they have to keep the room going, make sure this person is happy, if everybody else is ok, I can relax and be ok. I’m one of those people. I think it’s a really important topic to talk about because I think a lot of parents don’t understand that there’s a difference between what their child needs and what they personally need and they try to get that from their child because they happen to be the closest human being in proximity to them, especially when it’s a single parent or it’s a parent who has a spouse who is emotionally withdrawn, or an alcoholic or a drug addict, or something like that. And it’s—I don’t think it can be emphasized enough how much that can fuck kids up because you put too much on their plate too soon. Can you talk about any more about that?

Cara: Yeah, you know, and I think honestly it’s a really difficult issue because it’s not something that I think people are aware of when they’re doing it and I think when a parent is struggling with a mental illness on their own, you know, or themselves that any comfort they can get is probably beneficial, you know. They think like well if I can bond with my child and if I can be a happier, healthier parent to my child, that’s gotta be beneficial and I mean in a way it is. In a way it is better.

Paul: Take them to the movie, tell them you love them, take them out for ice cream, listen to them.

Cara: But how do you make it so that when you live in a small apartment with one child that when you can’t help it anymore and you’re gonna break down and cry, how do you make it so that that kid doesn’t see that? You know, how do you hide from your child when you’re doing that, or when you know that you only have $20 to last the rest of the week and you want them to understand why, you know, you can’t afford to do this or why they can’t do that. How do you tell them that without seeming like just because I said so and then you’re the bad guy.

Paul: That’s tough.

Cara: You know, so I think that—

Paul: I can’t imagine how hard that must be for a parent.

Cara: Yeah, I mean it’s a really though situation and it’s a situation that I think a LOT of parents deal with and it’s tough for a child too, you know. And so when the parent opens up as says, “We’ve got to make this money last, that’s why,” I think the kid immediately understands, the kid immediately becomes, um, more measured, but the kid also starts to feel guilty, like, oh God, I’m the reason, like I cost so much. And then all of the sudden it’s like, you’re right, it translates into adulthood into, “I don’t want to be a burden. I want to make sure everybody else is comfortable.” I am constantly—you’re exactly right about that—I’m constantly measuring, you know, how other people feel, what their comfort level is, how they are when they’re interacting with me, but also how they are when they’re interacting with other people.

Paul: Right. I can’t be too joyful around this person because this person is a flat person and that’s gonna be too out of balance.

Cara: And then you find yourself doing weird things, like when your significant other is talking to a friend or a waiter or whatever, you find yourself kind of interjecting to be sure they really understood what they meant, you know, it’s like so crazy.

Paul: You have to make sure nobody comes across rude in your sphere.

Cara: Exactly, or like, oh, he was joking just then, I’m not sure if you noticed it. It’s like it’s crazy. It’s like how is that my responsibility? And you know what that contributes to is just tension and constant feelings of stress. I swear, I need a massage like every week. I don’t get one, but I think I honestly need one. Like I’m always stressed out. And I create stress. And I create a stressful environment around me when there isn’t one. You know, because I just—it’s so important to me to make sure that everybody’s comfortable. So in a way it’s like I absorb that from them. And I, you know, take it upon myself. It’s also extremely important to me that people don’t see me have strong emotions.

Paul: What emotions are the most—do you most not want people to see you experience or express?

Cara: I mean, I think that’s hard to say. Like, you know, I think that it’s very rare for people to see me experience or express joy, it’s very rare for me to allow myself to experience or express joy, and I think there’s a weird sense of embarrassment if I’m too happy around somebody. If I can’t control my laughter or it’s like I’m embarrassed, I don’t know why. But I think what’s actually more of an issue is, you know, my depression, is crying. I won’t cry in front of anybody except my significant other. And what I think ends up being detrimental is that, um, they bear the brunt of all of it, because it’s like if I can feel close enough and vulnerable enough with somebody that I can completely be myself, that includes meltdowns and then all of the sudden they get all the meltdowns and that can be really tough.

Paul: It’s almost like repeating what your mom did but obviously with somebody who’s more appropriate, you know, a significant other’s way more appropriate than melting down—you know, putting that burden on your kid.

Cara: Sure, but you know what it is – it’s the person that you trust the most, it’s the person that you love the most, you know, it’s the person that you’re closest to. Um, but more recently I have opened up a little more with my parents and also with my best friend who’s also my roommate, and I think it’s partly—but you know, I think it’s honestly mostly because last summer, it was probably the hardest summer that I have ever had and it was the summer that basically taught me that I need to be on meds, and it was the summer where for the first time in my life I didn’t really trust myself to be alone. And so during that experience I cried in front of my roommate, I cried in front of both of my parents, and by in front of them I mean on the phone with. And on the phone with an ex-boy—with a couple of ex-boyfriends who I was still very close to. And I think it’s just because I couldn’t not. I was so not functional.

Paul: How often do you in your lifetime, if you could average, how often do you feel the urge to cry, how many—would it be daily, weekly?

Cara: It’s hard now that I’m on SSRI’s because it’s really rare now.

Paul: Ok, let’s say before.

Cara: Before I was taking meds probably daily I would feel the urge. I wouldn’t cry daily, but I would feel the urge daily. If I was in a situation that I think, um, exacerbated that emotion then I couldn’t help it. So let’s say that I felt the urge to cry and I was also watching a documentary about famine in the eastern horn of Africa, like I wouldn’t be able to control myself. Or let’s say that I felt the urge to cry and then, you know, my boss or somebody that had—like an authority figure or somebody who I looked up to or whatever, you know, expressed disappointment in something that I did, then I would definitely not be able to hold back. And mind you, I would never like do it in front of somebody else, I have a really good—there’s almost like this block, it’s like well you can’t cry because somebody’s watching. But definitely maybe like on the drive home, or when I was finally alone again. So I would say probably daily, but in terms of those intense depressive episodes where—the way that I like to the depressive episodes that I used to have, I honestly don’t think that I’ve had a true depressive episode since I started taking meds, but the way that used to describe them is that I would be sad—and I was always kind of sad—and I would start to feel more sad than usual, and I was still kind of in control and I was still ok until I hit a certain point. So it’s almost like there was a threshold of sadness and the second that I hit that threshold, it was immediate drop. Like the floor would drop out from under me and it was like pain, despair, agony, can’t see anything positive, can’t see past it, and feel like you’re never gonna get out of it too. Like that’s a really interesting and important component to my depression, was like it’s never gonna stop and so …

Paul: The hopelessness coming with it and being convinced that you’re never gonna come out of it is the absolute worst part of depression.

Cara: Yeah and other people don’t get it because they can be looking at you in the face and be like, “It’s gonna be ok,” and you’re like, “Fuck you, it’s not gonna be ok.”

Paul: You don’t know what it feels like to be in my body right now, you don’t—and the worst thing you can tell somebody who’s experiencing clinical depression is, “Look at all this stuff that you have to be grateful for.” That just makes you feel worse then because you feel like an ingrate – a depressed ingrate.

Cara: Yeah, you feel, again, guilty always guilty. You feel guilty that you’re not as grateful as you should be and you also can find fault with all of those things. Like it’s like, “What about this, well you have this?” “Well, I fucked it up in that way.” “And what about this?” “Well, obviously it’s not gonna actually pan out,” or whatever the case may be. And then you know you’re with somebody and that somebody’s trying to make you feel better and you feel guilty that ….

Paul: You’re having a good time or you’re not feeling terrible.

Cara: Yeah. Or you know, you feel guilty that they can’t help you, that’s a big thing.

Paul: Oh, we’re talking about you, what you feel, I thought you meant …

Cara: No, no, not them, exactly, they feel guilty that they can’t help you and you feel guilty that they can’t help you. And then you do get to be a bit indignant a lot of times where you’re crying, you can’t get out of it, and they’re saying, “What about this?” or “Don’t worry, I can do this,” or, “We’re gonna get through it.” And you’re like, “We’re not gonna fucking get through it. You can’t fucking help me.” And, you know, to stare somebody you love in the face and be like, “You can’t help me,” they’re like, well, at a certain point—almost all of my previous relationships were like, “Ok, then I guess I’ll stop trying.” I mean, it was like learned helplessness after a while and it’s tough because all you wanted—I think all I ever wanted was for somebody to put their arms around me and say it’s ok in spite of the fact that I was screaming and telling them, “Fuck you, it’s not ok.” I wanted them to keep their arms around me and just keep saying it’s ok, by it’s like why would I want somebody to just let the shit be piled on them. It’s like the weirdest feeling and of course, after—like you’re gonna break anybody’s back as long as you’re doing that, and so of course I think with all of my previous relationships, that obviously became a huge sticking point.

Um, so, so—but the truth is, I think I—I think it took what I consider to be my rock bottom to decide to get a therapist, because my therapist was not right for me, and I finally realized that. And to—

Paul: Can you be specific about that?

Cara: Um, you know, my shrink was, at the time, um—

Paul: Therapist or shrink?

Cara: Well, I call them all shrinks. Um, my therapist, and I didn’t have a psychiatrist, yeah, so, I think—I call my psychologist my shrink.

Paul: Oh ok.

Cara: Cuz that’s where I go to get my head shrunk.

Paul: For some reason I always think of a psychiatrist when I say shrink.

Cara: That’s so funny, yeah. Well I guess because I don’t have as much experience with psychiatrists, so it’s like, she’s my psychiatrist, she is a physician. So, you know, it’s like, “I’m going to see my shrink.”

Paul: Before we go to that, I just want to touch on one more thing about how do you deal with somebody who has depression. And the best advice that I could give to somebody that has a loved one, is that when that person is going through it, the one thing that you can never go wrong with doing is putting your arms around that person and telling them that you love them.

Cara: That’s—I mean, it’s honestly—it’s not gonna fix it, but it’s the only thing that even gives them like an ounce of comfort in that moment. It means that like—it’s the one way that I think you can tell somebody that they’re not alone, that they’re gonna come out on the other side, and that you won’t be gone when they do. Because, you know, experiencing a depressive episode, especially in front of somebody else, you’re sure that you’re doomed, and you’re sure that whatever it is you’re going through is gonna make that person leave. And if they can kind of demonstrate that, you know, what we would like to call unconditional love, and that’s what I think a parent should do. And, you know, parents have experience doing that with their kids, even if their kids don’t have clinical depression, because kids throw fits and if I kid is throwing—or if a kid is autistic, if you have a kid who’s dealing with any sort of, um, you know, behavioral, developmental, or mental disability and their arms are flailing around and they’re saying, “I hate you,” and they’re screaming and they’re screaming, it’s like holding them close and saying, “I love you, I’m not going anywhere, I love you. We’ll get through it together.” Even if they’re like, “Fuck you, that’s not gonna happen.” And I mean, c’mon, that’s asking a lot of somebody. It really is. And the hope would be that once you come out of that episode, that the love that you share and the positivity that you have between each other and the gratefulness and the thank-you’s and the “I never wanna be apart”’s kind of make up for it. You know, because otherwise you do, you get really, really riddled with guilt. And what I find is that the people the people in my life who have stuck it out, who have pushed through regardless help assuage that guilt a little bit. Because they also help me see when I’m on the other side of it what they get from me, and they help me see that there’s a reason that they stick around. Because even though in those moments it’s just horrible …

Paul: And you don’t feel loveable.

Cara: And you don’t feel loveable at all. When you get back of out it, and maybe I still don’t feel loveable, maybe I still struggle with that. At least, even if I think they’re crazy for it, at least there’s something about me that makes them want to be around me, you know, and even if I can’t see what that thing is myself, um, I’m reminded that that thing is there and at least it’s real to them. So that’s—it’s important because in essence it becomes a positive feedback loop where I think the more that you feel safe, the less likely you are to have to go as deep, as dark, when you do actually fall into those depressive places, because you’re desperately trying to claw your way back out and a lot of times you’re fighting yourself and you’re fighting the other people in the room. And if you don’t feel like you have to fight the other people in the room, you know, what I find is I can just kind of collapse upon myself, tire myself out, and maybe fall asleep in my boyfriend’s arms or something and feel safe. And I’m not also dealing with a whole other layer of guilt, of anger, of feeling neglected, of feeling like I was left. Which, you know, inevitably is what used to happen, meaning that I would have my depressive episode, they would tell me how hard it was for them, I would say, “What the fuck? However hard you think this is for you, look at my face, can you see what I’m going through? Can you be a little empathetic?” And then we would fight, you know? And my episodes were now horrible, crying, basically fits, these just really negative experiences that were coupled with anger, and hostility and feelings of rejection and all these other things. It’s like kicking you when you’re down. But of course they don’t see that, because they feel like you’re kicking them, which you are.

Paul: And it feels like all the anger is directed at them, but what they don’t realize is so much of the anger is directed at yourself and the universe for you being cursed, whatever you want to call it, with this malady that it’s like, you know.

Cara: It’s like why me? It’s so unfair. And why am I sabotaging myself? And then it’s like, you know, I think you get past—most people who have dealt with depression their whole lives get past the why me feeling when they’re teenagers and by the time they get older, it’s like then you go into this, like, “Well I deserve it.” You know? And then you just …

Paul: Because you’re looking for something that makes sense.

Cara: Of course. There’s gotta be a reason. And then it becomes this very—I know so many people who struggle with mental illness who are just like, “Oh, I’m broken,” you know? I’m broken, and …

Paul: Or they wear it like a badge, you know, if they’re an artist and, you know, that is such a dead end, you know, that is such a dead end.

Cara: It’s like, it’s like well, um, you art is beautiful and your songs are sad and they really haunt me, but you are alone every night, you know, and that’s really tough. Like, for me, the reason that I chose—and I’m not trying to say that I’m better, you know what I mean? There’s no better. Um, I still struggle every day of my life. But the reason that I chose to change therapists, the reason that I chose, especially, to medicate, and to be proactive, is because I want to be able to contribute to somebody else—I want to be a good partner to somebody and I think the only way I can be a good partner to somebody is to be there, you know what I mean?

And I also—I don’t know if I ever want to have kids. I’m still young enough that I’ve got time to decide. Um, I don’t think I ever physically want to have kids, that really freaks me out, but I may want to adopt. And, um …

Paul: And if you don’t adopt, you can always abduct.

Cara: Or, yeah, or I could abduct. (laughs) Um, but, I definitely think that, you know, if I do decide that I want to have children one day, I want to be a good mom. And I don’t think I’m gonna be a good mom if I can’t focus on them, you know what I mean? And I can’t focus on them if I’m just depressed all the time.

Paul: You can’t keep your shit from spilling over onto their plate.

Cara: Exactly. I mean that’s—yeah, that’s a big part of it.

So, so yeah, I changed shrinks. My old shrink just didn’t work for me, you know what I mean? He was, uh, he was old school. He was really—like if you miss an appointment that’s your time slot and we can’t do a makeup and, you know, I remember being like, “Well, I have a job and I have to leave town, and can we do something?” And he’d be like, “Well, if you’re not gonna prioritize your therapy,” you know. It was very like, eww, I just felt guilty all the time.

Paul: It was a little bit like your dad.

Cara: Uh huh, right? I don’t know. I mean, maybe, I don’t know. But it was just—whatever it was, it was like too absolutist, too extreme. He was also like hardcore into psychoanalysis which it think is complete bullshit, like I have a really hard time with anybody who says the word Freud in a therapy session, it’s just not evidence-based, and it’s, you know, I want to—I think the best way for therapy to work is to operate within the framework of what is going to make sense to the patient. And so for me, I’m a person who has a strong psychology and neurobiology background, and those are the kinds of things that I want to be able to focus on. Um, and he just—I don’t know. It’s like, you know, I think there is a component of like, let’s take you to an uncomfortable place so that you can explore things, I think that that’s important, but it was like his only goal. And after a while, you just like wall up to your therapist too, and so it was like I’m not even letting this guy in.

Paul: That’s bad.

Cara: So what’s the point? Yeah, it just wasn’t working. So I found another person who I think is—he was younger, he has this very like kind, unconditional way about him, I mean, and it’s almost funny. You know, I might say something to like a friend of mine, about it, where he’ll just be like—I remember one time he said something to me like, “You know, I’m here, and I’m listening, and I really just—I want you to feel like you’re safe,” and blah, blah, blah. And I was just like, “But I pay you to do that.” You know, blah, blah, blah. And he was like, “But you don’t pay me to care.” It’s like so cheesy but it’s really meaningful to me, so… I do, I get this like, I get this—I feel very safe in his office, and even though most of the time I’m rolling my eyes and I’m cracking jokes and I’m trying to, you know, subvert what he’s saying, he still gets to me a little bit, which I think is important. Because that’s what we do. Like we—I think people who deal with mental illness are like ninjas at not letting people in. We are so amazing at figuring out a way of not talking about it, to minimize it, to turn it into a joke, whatever the case may be which obviously is hugely adaptive, and I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that we do that from time to time, because otherwise we might not be able to get through a business meeting, you know, without like bursting into tears or without like being horribly mean to somebody. But, um I mean it’s what we do, it’s a coping mechanism, but in therapy that’s the place where you’re not supposed to do it, but he works with me instead of against me. And I may only let him in a few times, you know, for a few minutes each session. He also—I’m such a handful because I hate opening up at the beginning, which is hilarious because I love to talk apparently, but, um—and I’m really ok talking about myself—but I do kind of, I go to the office every week and I kind of sit there and I’m like, “Well …” and I’m like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I remember I need to start.” You know, whereas my old therapist like wouldn’t start, he would just stare at me until I said something. And he’d be like, “Just free associate, just say what’s on your mind.” And I’d be like, “What’s on my mind is that you’re making me uncomfortable,” you know, it was—I could just never be like, “So, I want to talk about my mom.” It’s just not my way. You know, so I found, I think I found the right guy.

And honestly, really key for me was getting on Celexa. I mean, it changed my life. I need antidepressants. I know that about myself now. I require medication. I will probably require medication for the rest of my life, I’ve come to terms with that. I’d fought it for years and now I look back and I go, “Why the hell did I wait so long?”

Paul: Why was I so prideful I was spiting myself.

Cara: Why was I spiting my brain?

Paul: I was spiting myself.

Cara: I was spiting myself, but you know what, I was scared. I was scared to be dependent on something.

Paul: Understandably, and we talk about it all the time on this show, that who wants to trust pharmaceutical companies? You know, you hear horror stories all the time about the side effects that they are suppressing, you know, from being made public. But let’s look at the side effects of not treating your depression. People don’t think about that: listless, no energy, suicidal, destroying relationships, uh, wearing the same clothes for three days in a row, dishes piled up.

Cara: Pointless. It’s like wasting life. You know what I mean? It’s like being a goldfish in a bowl. Just like, what are you contributing? What are you getting out of anything? You’re just—you know, not being able to get out of bed. You know, I remember just lying in bed and my puppy is like curled up next to me, I’d be, you know—desperately, I can see the look in his eyes like, “Take me out, I want to go out on a walk.” And I’m just like (sighs), “I don’t know, if he pees in the house, I can clean it up later.” You know, it’s just like disgusting, it’s like so said, I’m like god, can you imagine if you have a kid and you have those feelings? Like, is the kid gonna motivate you to get out of bed?

Paul: I can’t imagine how overwhelming that must be to be a parent with depression. M-my heart goes out to any parent out there that is living with depression.

Cara: And many, many, many of them are.

Paul: Yeah.

Cara: You know, and pregnancy and childbirth itself can cause depression in a lot of women. And those women who, you know, were already dealing with depression, it can be exacerbated by that and also a lot of women have to stop taking their antidepressants while they’re pregnant and for some of them they say that, you know, pregnancy itself is something of an antidepressant, and for others they say, you know, it’s tough, it’s just really tough. And that’s just the beginning, you know, and that’s why for me it’s just like I feel like I can’t say it enough, like there is some type of treatment out there that works and will work for every person, to whatever extent that it can, it’s just that you might find it the first go around. And I experienced that. The first time that I went in to see my psychiatrist, she put me on an ND—like an SNDRI, so it was a serotonin norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor. And it fucked me up. Like I felt like I as on meth. The first week was the mini dose, you know, the starter dose and then—

Paul: First taste is free.

Cara: Yeah. And then the step up dose was—I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I remember a friend of mine coming over because my roommate was out of town, which was so scary because I mean, I felt like I was losing my mind. And I remember a friend coming over, you know, and saying, “I’m going to take you out.” We went to a movie, the whole time we were in the movie I was like sweating, rubbing my hands on my legs and I was just like, I couldn’t breathe and I kept apologizing. Because it just felt, you know—I was on basically this—the dopamine is one thing, the serotonin I now know is what I needed, the norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor is not a good thing to take if you already struggle with anxiety because it’s going to make it so that you have more norepinephrine which is adrenaline – it’s brain adrenaline. More of this available to you. So maybe the antidepressant was working, I couldn’t even think about depression.

Paul: To me that’s one of the reasons why I stopped doing the all-in-one pills because I was on Effexor for a while but it made so sluggish and so hard to get out bed that I—my psychiatrist put me on three old school ones so we could dial in the exact dosage of the dopamine, the norepinephrine and the serotonin, and to minimize the side effects.

Cara: Yeah, cuz what if you need a low, you know, norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor and a really high serotonin, you can’t get that because they’re all in one. So, for me it didn’t work. The one thing that I have to say, you know, looking back, there are times in my life where horrible things happened but I did get something good out of them, and the one thing that I can say that I’m so kind of thankful that I was on this drug only for a week and a half, and it was like the worst week and a half of my life, is that these are the same active ingredients that you find in drugs like Chantix, and I didn’t want to smoke, while I was on it, I didn’t want to smoke and in that one week and a half—

Paul: What’s Chantix?

Cara: Chantix is a, I think it’s a dopamine antagonist, so I think it blocks your dopamine receptors, maybe, I could be wrong. But anyway, it’s a drug that is prescribed to help people quit smoking.

Paul: Oh.

Cara: Are maybe it’s an agonist and it like floods you with too much dopamine so you don’t need the nicotine.

Paul: That would make more sense.

Cara: That makes a little more sense. And so, um so I—the dopamine component, I think, of this drug—as I was taking it, I was like yuck, cigarettes, who needs them? Tastes kinda bad. Not really into them. I would smoke and it wouldn’t do anything for me. And I was like, “Fuck it, I can’t get any lower than this, this is like the worst week of my life, let’s quit smoking on top of it.” I would recommend that. But, you know, because of the drug I just—I didn’t need it. I also couldn’t drink any caffeine that week. I’m back on the, I’m back on the Coca-Cola now, but, um, but then I couldn’t drink caffeine because I was so jittery all the time. And I did, I quit smoking and I haven’t touched them since then. So that was last August.

Paul: That’s great.

Cara: Yeah, I’ve been smoke-free since then, which is like amazing and I have to say that drug helped me with that. But I went to my psychiatrist, actually I called my psychiatrist, and I was like, “I don’t know what’s happening but I think I’m going to die. Like I’m so stressed out, I can’t, you know, I don’t feel like myself.” And she’s like, “Oh God, it’s not supposed to be like that, stop taking it, you know, you’re not high enough on the dose yet, you can stop taking it right now. Come back to my office, you know whatever day and we’ll come up with something new.” And she was like, you know, “I think based on all the things that we’ve talked about, you being a little bit more of an anxious person, you not having the most kind of addictive, necessarily, personality, you know all these different things, you know, the way that your depression manifests itself, the way that you—“ because I have a drug history, not that I was ever, um, a big abuser of drugs or a drug addict but I definitely, you know, enjoyed my fair share of drugs when I was young, so the nice thing is I could communicate to her exactly how different drugs made me feel. So when I would take ecstasy, which is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, it would do this to me, and, you know, we know that it acts on your serotonin system and then I would get really depressed the next day, but then when I would take this it would do this, so you know, we started to see kind of a picture, like detectives trying to figure out a picture of my brain chemistry, and, um …

Paul: And she would just send you to a rave for ten minutes on your step up dose?

Cara: She was awesome. So she was like, “I want to try a really clean SSRI because I think that you might feel more sober on that.” And she started my on Celexa and it was like hilarious—I mean like the first week the starter dose I was like, “Oh, I feel kinda tired.” And then was like, “Well, you can take it at night instead of during the day.” It’s like you feel tired, great, capitalize on that. And so, um, so, I started taking it at night, and even now that I’m on my maintenance dose I don’t even notice that it makes me tired, and it could be because I take it at night but I’m not like out like a light the second I take my drugs or anything. Um, but I now do not feel like I am on drugs. I do not notice that there are drugs in my system unless I accidentally skip more than one day’s worth. Then I feel what it’s like to not be on drugs. And it’s not like I’m going through withdrawal, necessarily, it’s like the sadness starts creeping back in and it’s that fast. And so it’s almost like I know what it feels like to feel normal now that I’m on the drugs.

Paul: I’m so glad you said that.

Cara: Yeah, it’s like what I’m being reminded of when I accidentally skip doses is what it’s like to have biological, neurochemical depression.

Paul: Which used to be your normal.

Cara: It was, it was the only thing I knew. And honestly, I felt obligated to it. I felt like I was cheating on myself if I tried to just put a Band-Aid on it, like people like to say, you know, “Oh, just take medicine, it’s the easy way out. Oh, you’re just slapping a Band-Aid on it.” You know, what? Depression is multi-faceted, and depression has many, many, many different causes and some of them have to do with experiences in your life that actually cause, you know, our brains are very plastic, and they tend to rewire and when we have the same experiences over and over we form really strong pathways that respond to those experiences, so, you know, just like you and I were talking about being the types of people who want to make sure everybody’s comfortable all of the time, this is an experiential function of our depression, of our—of things that happened when we were young that we will have to deal with pretty much always until we learn how to behaviorally intervene and change our brains that way. But not having enough serotonin available to my cells, I can’t smile that away, I can’t will that away, and I can’t talk about my mom for ten hours and expect that to go away. That requires medical intervention the same way that somebody that’s diabetic needs insulin.

Paul: I say that all the time.

Cara: Yeah. They can’t get insulin therapy, they can’t talk about insulin, “Oh, I really wish that my cells could uptake that sugar, because if they can’t then it’s gonna hang out in my …”

Paul: Insulin doesn’t make them euphoric. These SSRI’s that we take don’t make us euphoric, they—

Cara: Oh god, no. I still cry all the time.

Paul: I still get sad sometimes.

Cara: And you know what? My doctor even told me I can raise my dose, but I’m at a place where I’m on a low—

Paul: What are you on?

Cara: It’s really low, I’m on 20mg of Celexa. But it’s like lock and key for me. Like, it’s like night and day. I could raise it easily to 30 or 40 and I would be fine, but the truth is I want to still feel a little bit of that sadness. I don’t think I’m quite ready to—or maybe I never will be or maybe it’s the one way that I can remind myself that like, you know, when I watch a really sad movie, I want to cry like a bitch. So I still can. That’s not an issue. I can still cry when I feel really close to my boyfriend, you know, I can still have—you know, I can still feel emotionally overwhelmed, and you know what, I think that that became such a part of my personality, you know, the way that I respond to music, the way that, um, I used to write a lot of poetry, the way that spoken words can affect me. I wrote a piece, um, kind of out of step with my typical journalistic kind of mindset, I wrote a piece about an evening that I spent, um, spending some time with Stephen Hawking and I, instead of talking about physics, I talked about ALS and what it must feel like being trapped inside of your own body and trying so desperately to connect with him, and not knowing if I was because I couldn’t get that feedback that I wanted. And, I mean, I was like crying when I wrote this piece. I also wrote a letter awhile back to Carl Sagan on his birthday, thanking him, obviously it was a soliloquy, um, and just telling him, you know, basically what he means to me, and I was crying when I wrote that piece and I think that if I couldn’t feel this kind of emotional connection to my work, which I felt too much before, which I felt to a point where I couldn’t actually work, you know, it was an impediment before. If I couldn’t feel it, I don’t think I would be happy. And I do know that if I amped my dose up too high, I might not be able to. And so I think that I’m at the right place but I also know that there’s room in the future if I experience an intense life circumstance and I do need to tweak that, I won’t feel like, oh god, I’m overloading.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. Do you feel like—is there anything else you want to talk about before we do ..?

Cara: I’m sure as we do whatever else we’re doing it will inspire me to talk about other things. So we’ll be organic with this.

Paul: Ok, let’s do a little fear-off.

Cara: Ok.

Paul: And I’m gonna be reading the fears of a listener named Allie. I’ve done about half of her list before so I’ll continuing the other half of her list.

Cara: Ok, so mine is—mine are short.

Paul: That’s ok.

Cara: Just to let you know.

Paul: That’s ok. We just go back and forth and you don’t have to comment on it unless you feel moved to.

Cara: Ok. But if you want to ask me any questions.

Paul: Absolutely. Allie says, “I’m afraid of not having health insurance.”

Cara: I’m afraid of animals that swarm.

Paul: That’s a good one. “I’m afraid of not making it in California and having to move back to upstate New York.”

Cara: I’m afraid of actually getting in the water at the ocean.

Paul: Really? Are you afraid that you’re gonna be swept away?

Cara: I think it’s partly because I’m afraid of animals that swarm, but also there’s something about salt water that really freaks me out.

Paul: Yeah?

Cara: Yeah it’s weird.

Paul: I love the ocean. Allie says, “I’m afraid of killing myself and being deemed weak or a pussy because it was facilitated by seasonal affective disorder.”

Cara: I’m afraid of rejection.

Paul: “I’m afraid of disappointing my parents.”

Cara: Even though I’m fascinated by outer space, I’m really afraid of it.

Paul: Really?

Cara: Yeah.

Paul: I suppose how can you not be a little afraid of outer space because it’s the ultimate unknown.

Cara: It’s such a void. I’m afraid of the vastness in all directions.

Paul: How does a black hole not …

Cara: A black hole is really scary because it will murder you upon you.

Paul: It’s like the worst way possible.

Cara: Exactly

Paul: It pulls your feet in so fast your head will come off.

Cara: You’ll be just shredded, shredded.

Paul: Allie says, “I’m afraid my dad will love his new baby more than me.” Aww.

Cara: I think that’s probably a really common fear.

Paul: I bet.

Cara: Yeah. I’m afraid of loss.

Paul: “I’m afraid that I will be afraid for the rest of my life.”

Cara: I’m afraid of my own depression.

Paul: “I’m afraid I’ll never get married because no one wants a wife with bipolar disorder.”

Cara: I’m afraid of crying too hard.

Paul: “I’m afraid of losing my ambition.”

Cara: I’m afraid of getting fat.

Paul: “I’m afraid of not being admitted to the California bar due to my history of mental illness.”

Cara: I’m afraid of failure.

Paul: “I’m afraid that no one things my jokes are funny.”

Cara: I’m afraid of letting people down.

Paul: “I’m afraid of getting stuck in a job I hate just so I can pay off my student loans.” Oh that’s a good one.

Cara: That’s a good one. I think we’ve all been there. Yeah.

Paul: Yeah.

Cara: I have been stuck in a job I hate for that very reason. I’m afraid of pain.

Paul: I’m afraid of not making it to 30 things on this list.

Cara: I’m afraid of looking stupid.

Paul: Yeah. I don’t know why she felt the need to go up to 30 on this. But God bless her.

Cara: Yeah, looking stupid was my last one because I only wrote twelve.

Paul: Twelve is good and totally relate to that. That is one of my deepest fears, of looking stupid.

Cara: Yeah I think that—because of what I do for a living, you know, I’m a science writer now, a science communicator, but I never finished my PhD. And I think we live in a culture where unless you’re called doctor, you don’t know enough to talk about what you’re trying to talk about. I think that also—

Paul: I’m fucked then.

Cara: Yeah, right?

Paul: I have a theater degree, Jesus!

Cara: I think that I also, um, I look a lot younger than I am. I am covered in piercings and tattoos, um, even though I’m kind of a tomboy, I’m still somewhat feminine, and I have to prove myself in a lot of ways coming out as a strong voice for science because there’s just an automatic—like I can’t tell you—

Paul: You don’t fit the mold of the old guy with the crazy, wiry gray hair.

Cara: Totally. I don’t fit the mold at all. And I can’t tell you how many times—it’s usually very subtle when I look at the comments um, from my pieces on the Huffington Post but also from on like YouTube, which is why the fuck would you look at the comments, like “Hello trolls.” But when I look at the comments it’s usually a little more under the surface, you know, there’s intelligent, interesting ways that people will write it. But I do remember coming across one comment that was so overt, it was something like, “Hot girls don’t need to try to sound so smart.” Like where it was like, you know, it was like, the thing that we always say that we’re worried about but that guy was just gonna put it on out there, this is how I think. And, you know, I have this fear that I’m gonna try too hard to try and prove people wrong and so I have to always just remind myself, like, “You know what you know, be humble when you don’t, try as hard as you can to represent the science in as clean and as kind of honorable way as possible and, you know what, haters will hate. Trolls will troll. And the truth is if you can, if you can reach even just a handful of people with a piece and then go, “You know what, I know something that I didn’t know before,” or they can start thinking about the world in a slightly more critical way, you’ve done your job. And if you piss people off in the process, fine.

Paul: And what I love about that attitude, Cara, is that you have shifted the focus from yourself to other people’s needs and that is the key. That is the doorway through so much emotional freedom, is if we can stop obsessing about ourselves and think just for a minute about we might make the world a better place, that stuff can bounce off of us.

Cara: That’s so true and I think that’s something that’s such an important point to make. And I think that this was a problem that I saw with my last therapist, was it would always be kind of about like, but why do you want to do this for you? And I’d be like, “I don’t give a shit about me, I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it so that my boyfriend will be more comfortable when I’m with him.” Or I want to do this so that, you know, the people that I love don’t have to worry about me so much or whatever, and the truth is, as much as my shrink would say, “That’s not the appropriate motivation, you should really love yourself,” I’m always like, “What the fuck does that mean? I don’t love myself, I don’t know what that means.” It’s like I want to make sure that I contribute to other people’s happiness and—in whatever way I know how. And I know that if I’m dead, I’m not gonna be able to do that. And I know that if I’m struggling to the point where I can’t focus on anybody else, I’m not gonna be able to do that. And I know that if I’m doing things to myself, you know, I used to be kind of a self-harmer and I would cut a lot. And generally I could hide it, um, but if other people saw it, even if they didn’t understand, because I have some weird, um, I have some weird ideas about cutting. And I don’t advocate it in the least, but I also used to defend it, like, vehemently with my shrink because it would be like other people medicate in different ways. Other people go out and they get drunk, and I don’t drink. Or, you know, they go out and they do drugs. And I haven’t touched a drug in many, many years. And I’d be like, you know, it’s just a cut on skin. It’s totally superficial. I’m, of course, a very kind of scientific thinker so I clean the wound and make sure it’s all sterile and it’s like what bad could come of it? And, you know, obviously it’s—I don’t think the cutting itself is the problem, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, but I would defend the cutting because I was like, it works for me. If I’m starting to feel like I’m crying too hard or I can’t get a grip, you know, I feel pain. And I can focus on that pain and I can get out of my own head and I can brush it off. And I can—it helped me be functional. I mean, it was a quick fix.

Paul: A blunt tool but a tool nonetheless.

Cara: But a tool nonetheless, exactly. But the truth of the matter is if I was with somebody who I really loved and they saw those wounds, or they saw those scars (I hide them really well) but if they did see them, now all of the sudden the focus is somewhere else. You know what I mean? The focus isn’t on being there for one another, loving one another, and conquering the world together, the focus is on, ah, why do you do this to yourself, and I worry about you, and it’s just like I didn’t need that anymore. And so, you know, it’s the same kind of thing. I didn’t quit cutting for me, I did it for the people around me. And, like, the truth is maybe that’s not the, you know, from the therapeutic perspective, maybe that’s not supposed to be our motivation. But you know what? I don’t care what my motivation is because it had the same result.

Paul: If that gets you started on the journey necessary to help understand yourself and be more comfortable in your own skin, you know, what does it matter? And the other point I’d like to make too is, you know, we talked about the importance of getting out of yourself, um, you know, obviously swinging the pendulum too far that way is its own sickness.

Cara: Totally.

Paul: And you’re not taking care of your needs so there is a middle ground where you need to build self-esteem within your self so that you have stuff to give to other people.

Cara: Yeah, I mean you see this with people—I have very good friends who deal with bipolar disorder who completely get outside of themselves and that’s obviously also dangerous. I am not at risk of every doing that, it’s like not even possible for me. I think once you know your illness and once you know, um, you know yourself and you start to feel comfortable with who you are in a therapeutic setting and in a real life setting, you start to understand where your limits are. And whereas, you know, you might push so hard to achieve something that if somebody else tried, they’d go too far in that direction and it would be detrimental in its own right because of course we all operate within a gray area. Nothing’s absolute, so, but for me, for example, just trying this one thing could be huge, and somebody else trying it could cause them to go into downward spirals, so it’s really about knowing what’s right for you too.

Paul: That’s what’s so good about having a therapist or a support group is cuz you get that feedback from other people instead of just coming up with your own wonderful game plan.

Cara: Exactly. And the truth is what we see in the mirror is super different than what other people see when they look at us and it’s important to remember that.

Paul: Uh, let’s do the Struggle in a Sentence.

Cara: Ok

Paul: I put up a survey on the website called Struggle in a Sentence, the gist of it is to try to describe your—whatever it is you’re struggling with in a sentence so that people who don’t experience that can better understand. And sometimes it just is fun and funny to hear how people describe their things. Um, I’m gonna read what some tweeters—how they described theirs.

Melissa describes her compulsive eating as, “It’s like an insatiable, bottomless pit that you keep feeding and it feeds you nothing but lies in return.”

Cara: Wow. Wow. I’ve never—I’ve never struggled with that. So it’s so interesting, I think, to try and be empathetic to somebody else’s experience, especially when it’s so out of left field for you, you know, like when I’m depressed I don’t eat. And I kind of am not—I don’t think I’ve ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder. It’s not really something that I deal with but I definitely—

Paul: Because you’re not denying yourself it, you’re not hungry and denying yourself it, you’re just not—that’s what my depression does too, yeah.

Cara: Exactly. And it’s something that I’ve always kind of dealt with, just in life, I don’t eat as much as other people. I definitely—you know, people eat to live and live to eat. And I definitely eat to live, like, I have to eat when I start to have hunger. As soon as my hunger goes away, I stop eating, I don’t eat—not with chocolate, that’s different.

But it’s so interesting to try to get inside of the head of somebody who’s struggling with something that feels so foreign and trying to get that perspective, you know?

Paul: And I have to say my heart goes out—I think to people with food issues more than anything else people that overeat. That would be like when I was at my worst drinking, that would be like I would have to tie all my bottles of Guinness behind me and walk around with those empty bottles clanging. You know, somebody that has a weight problem. And then the other one it think is anorexia and bulimia because I think they are the ones that people have the hardest time understanding, and I think anorexics don’t get enough empathy from people that don’t understand it. And that, I think, sucks, because they think it’s about vanity, and they don’t understand that it’s not, it’s about control.

Uh, do you want to finish up with a love-off?

Cara: Sure, we’ll have a love-off, sounds good to me.

Paul: This one is from Dean and he writes, “I love when my therapist told me she enjoys talking to me.” Oh, kinda similar to yours.

Cara: Yeah. I love on a bad day, going to Barney’s Beanery and eating chili and French toast.

Paul: Oh that’s awesome. I love specific ones like that. I love that.

Dean writes, “I love that I can play soccer after work with people that don’t care that I suck at it.” That’s good, I like that one.

Cara: I love my dog Killer.

Paul: Dean says, “I love petting zoos, even though I’m probably past the age where I should.”

Cara: I love sunshine.

Paul: Jimmy Loony writes, “I love waking up thinking I’m late for work then realize it’s Saturday.” That’s a great one.

Cara: I love jazz music, especially Ella Fitzgerald.

Paul: Dean writes, “I love watching Eddie Pepitone in Puddin’ every morning.”

Cara: I love chocolate.

Paul: Dean writes, “I love the bleeps and bloops in the old video games I played when I was growing up.”

Cara: I love Breaking Bad.

Paul: Oh my God, I’m so glad. I so glad it’s the—although this episode we’re taping will air, I’m sure, at a different time. But the season premiere was—

Cara: Amazing.

Paul: A couple of nights ago and I just ….

Cara: Amazing.

Paul: Their sense of story and character is just …

Cara: It’s like the best show that’s ever been on television.

Paul: It’s so good.

Cara: To me it rivals only, um, Band of Brothers when that first came out on HBO, the ten-part series. You know, I think one of the best things that had ever been put on television. And I think that Breaking Bad and Band of Brothers are just right up there together.

Paul: For me the two I’d put up there is Mad Men and The Wire. Right up there with Breaking Bad.

Cara: And, you know, Mad Men, I love Mad Men, but it’s, you know, what else are they gonna do? I don’t know. I could be wrong, but, but Breaking Bad, it’s like with bated breath for the next one to come out.

Paul: It’s so—and he’s—yeah, I’m not gonna say anything. Whose turn?

Cara: Your turn.

Paul: Angel-Headed Hipster tweeted, “I love the smell of the ocean and laughing so hard I snort.”

Cara: I hate the smell of the ocean.

Paul: Well apparently you’re not gonna settle down with Angel-Headed Hipster.

Cara: Right? Whenever I go to the ocean, especially to the marina, to me it smells like bird poop and fish. Like whenever that marine layer comes in, that is not a fresh smell to me. Um, let’s see. I love science.

Paul: Dean writes, “I love when a friend asks me for advice or what I think about something.”

Cara: I love books. I love rereading books. I love getting the author to autograph my book, and I love organizing my books in just the right way.

Paul: Yeah. Dean writes, “I love eating a bowl of noodles when it’s raining.” Oh that’s a good visual.

Cara: That’s—I kind of do too. I’m with you, Dean.

I love dinosaurs, and my two favorite dinosaurs are styracosaur and ankylosaur.

Paul: Going outside the box! No triceratops, no, uh, what’s the big one?

Cara: Uh, brachiosaur? Tyrannosaurus rex?

Paul: No, the big one.

Cara: You’re not gonna say brontosaurus.

Paul: Velociraptor.

Cara: Velociraptor’s good. I also have on my forearm an archaeopteryx with a graphic tattooed there. I love this dinosaur because it’s kind of like a missing link, it’s kind of part bird, part dinosaur.

Paul: You are—I hope this doesn’t come across insulting, because I mean it in a good way, but you are kind of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Cara: You know what’s so funny, is that Maureen Dowd, you know Maureen Dowd, she’s an op ed columnist for The New York Times, she actually sent me the copies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because after we had dinner one time she told me, “You remind me so much of this girl.”

Paul: Totally. You totally remind me of her. You are much more sociable than she was.

Cara: She kind of had almost like Asperger’s or like autistic spectrum thing going on, which is not uncommon with scientists and it’s actually something that although I do feel like I sometimes have components of it, there are certain sounds, like if somebody’s cooking with a metal spoon I can’t be in the room because it kind of hurts my spine, and there are other things where, you know, I feel a little autistic some days, but for the most part, yeah, I think I’m more social than that. But I can really relate to people who, obviously not people who are extremely autistic or people who are difficult to relate to, but I don’t know, there’s a part of me that’s kind of empathetic for that autism spectrum situation. And like I said, a lot of scientists deal with it and I kind of enjoy communicating with them.

Paul: Yeah, maybe what they share is that kind of brain that likes to sponge things in.

Cara: Mm-hmm. And it’s a solitary process, like working out problems and things like that. So, um, yeah, but …

Paul: And I think the other thing that autism and scientists probably enjoy is that there’s a minimum of gray area.

Cara: Yeah, it’s true. You know, and that’s one thing where I think that I am a little bit different, is that I love to operate in the gray. I think that’s where my kind of creative side comes in, my poetic side comes in. And my problem-solving skills. I’m kind of ok saying, “I don’t know,” or “we sort of know this, but we kind of don’t know that,” and qualifying things. Like the gray area to me is where we belong. You know, I think that is a really—it makes a lot of people really uneasy.

Paul: It is, and I think that’s where the best art comes from, is the gray area, but it’s also where the most pain comes from which is probably why the art comes from that.

Cara: Which is why I can really operate there, is because of that kind of depressive side of me.

Paul: Whose turn? I always forget whose turn it is.

Cara: It’s your turn.

Paul: Dean says, “I love when I take a baby step forward, getting a project done, then spending the whole night on it out of momentum.”

Cara: Oh yeah, I love that too.

Paul: That’s a good one.

Cara: Yeah. All right, so this is my last one, I love my boyfriend Todd.

Paul: Aww, that’s sweet. And I’m gonna with a tweet from I’m Just a Girl, who tweets, “I love how my kids smell after they take their baths.” That’s a sweet one.

Cara: That’s really sweet.

Paul: Cara Santa Maria, thank you so much for being a guest and opening up and people can find your writing if they go to huffingtonpost.com then go to the Science section. You are the senior writer in that section.

Cara: Yeah, I have a column called Talk Nerdy to Me, so up in the nav bar you can click Talk Dirty to Me. An easier way to get specifically to the things that I’ve written is if you go to carasantamaria.com. I have that URL forward straight to my column on the Huffington Post.

Paul: And they can follow you on Twitter at?

Cara: @carasantamaria

Paul: Awesome. Thank you so much Cara.

Cara: Thank you.

Paul: Many thanks to Cara Santa Maria for a great interview. And if I can ask you guys a favor, please listen to the rest of this show because there’s something that I want to read to you. There’s two things that I want to read to you. Actually, I’m gonna read three things. One is a list of things that I wrote of things that I think is kind of funny and I don’t want you to miss it. And, um, the other thing is an email that I got from a listener about supporting the show. I’ve mentioned before that there’s a couple of different ways to support the show. The website’s mentalpod.com and you can make either a single PayPal donation or a recurring monthly PayPal donation. You can also buy t-shirts there. You can search, use the amazon search box that we have so when you buy something from Amazon they give us a couple of nickels, doesn’t cost you anything. And you can support the show non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating, brings more people to the show. And you can also support it by spreading the word on social media. Some of you have been doing that and it’s making a difference and I really appreciate that.

I want to read this letter from a kind listener named Sandra and she writes—she wants me to read this part to you guys, so it says, “Dear listener, I’m no economics major nor am I time management specialist, but I would suspect that a podcast such as The Mental Illness Happy Hour must take quite a bit of time to produce: finding and interviewing guests, doing whatever voodoo sorcery goes into the technical creation of podcasting, it’s no small thing to put this show together, I’m sure. Here’s my worry – my worry is that Paul will get a job,” not much chance of that, “little things like need for food, clothing and shelter dictate that such a thing will likely happen at some point in time. What will become of you and I then dear listener? What happens when the man finds some way to actually support himself and little or no time to create The Mental Illness Happy Hour? I think we can all agree this would be a dark, dark day indeed. Whatever throes of debilitating depression we may be struggling with now, imagine then the Fridays we go to our podcast inbox for your gift of ‘you are not alone’-ness wrapped in a delicate puff pastry of ‘go fuck yourself’ and find there is none to be had. What I’m saying folks is that we need to keep Paul from finding a job. How can we do that, you ask? Well here’s the stroke of brilliance I’ve come up with. WE give him a job which is really just the redefining of what Paul already does. He already has a job and does it incredibly well. Paul gives us hope and a voice and a hug and so much more.” I love that part. “The thing is technically right now he is doing charity work. Which is noble and all but a guy’s gotta eat. So stay with me here – if we pay him, it would be a real paying job that buys food kinda gig. If I was a ga-jillionaire, I would underwrite The Mental Illness Happy Hour myself. But I’m not. However, I am a monthly donor and by my rudimentary calculations, if every person who gave Paul a five star rating on iTunes, which by the way is every single rating,” she put that in there not me, and it’s not, “if just those people gave the podcast a mere $5 a month, Paul could make over $80,000 a year. I don’t know Paul’s standard of living, but that kind of bank could at least take some stress off. To put that in perspective, Kim Kardashian made $18M last year. No judgment being made on Kim’s entertainment value, I’m just sayin’ folks. The reason I use $5 as an example is to show that, even though it is not a huge amount, added up it can make a big difference. Ideally, you might give more as your budget permits, because this kind of show is valuable and needed and so worthwhile a cause to contribute to. As I said, I am a monthly donor, I signed up on line, it’s super easy, do it once and you don’t have to think about it again. Please consider it. Just because you can get something for free doesn’t mean it ain’t worth anything. Show Paul how much he is worth, make a donation or go fuck yourself.”

Sandra thank you so much for writing that and making it easier for me to put in—I mean if you listen to this show, you know that I don’t actually—I’m not exactly walking around with towering self-esteem and my fear—one of my biggest fears in the world is that I’m going to overstep my boundaries and be considered full of myself. And it’s hard for me to ask for financial help but I could really use it. I could really use it.

So the next thing I want to read is an email, we’ve only got two more things to go and these are good ones. We’re in the home stretch. This is from a listener named Ryan. He writes, “Hi Paul, just wanted to send a quick message. I’ve been dealing with depression for at least six years. I used to be incredibly outgoing, tons of friends, smart, funny, motivated, creative, blah, blah, blah. But at a point I started distancing myself from the world and it only got worse. Social anxiety took over, a best friend died and an important relationship cut off, again and again and again. Trouble leaving the house, trouble helping myself, finding work because I can’t get myself to even try. It all consumed my life, because who I was, completely empty and only comfortable alone. I started listening to your show a few months back. For a while, the “you are not alone” line sounded cliché and I didn’t think much of it. But one time, for whatever reason, it really hit me, deeply, on a personal level. For so long I felt hopeless, figured I’ll never make new friends, never be in a relationship, never be able to walk down the street just to enjoy the day. Never go on adventures, travel, enjoy life. This show made me realize I’m truly not the only one who feels trapped. Something is legitimately wrong and life can get better. For so many years I’ve been telling myself tomorrow will be easier, next week I’ll get this done. And the day comes and it’s never easier. Now I’ve realized because of your show the depression is not just my own flawed messed up mind but something real and I can actually do something about it. So I finally decided I will see a doctor. And presumably get on anti-depressants, through a handful of episodes, especially Danielle Koenig and Steve Agee, I’ve come to understand anti-depressants truly can help me. And they’re not something to feel ashamed of. I wound up the courage to call my parents today to tell them and to let them know it was not easy. I thought I’d be ok. I practiced what to say for an hour, dialed, and my voice became shaky as soon as I said the word ‘depression.’ But it was ok. They were understanding. They’re going to help me find a doctor. It’s such a relief to have finally said this out loud, to admit it, to know things will improve. I just wanted to say thank you. It was honestly because of your show I’ve been able to understand depression and get me to a point where I can find help. I really believe this is what I’ve needed to get back to being the person that I used to be and know I still am inside. Thank you so much. Ryan.”

That’s a beautiful letter. Thank you, Ryan.

All right. The last thing I want to share with you is a list of signs that might let you know if you’re a narcissist. You might be a narcissist:

  • If you root for people to die because you look great in black.
  • If you think immigrants are coming to this country just to try to meet you.
  • If your mirrored ceiling is only over your half of the bed.
  • If you refer to yourself so often in the third person the IRS lets you claim it as a dependent.
  • If you’re jealous their stories get so much attention when all they did was survive the Holocaust.
  • If you bring a tiny statue of yourself when you play Monopoly.
  • If you can’t understand why people climb Mt Everest because you’re not at the summit.
  • If you refuse to read the Bible because you’re not in it.
  • If you’ve never acted but you still listen for your name at the Oscars.
  • If you don’t use your turn signal because you assume everyone knows your schedule.

And finally, you might be a narcissist if when you masturbate, you imagine yourself masturbating.

I hope you guys enjoyed the show. If you’re out there and you’re stuck, don’t give up. Do not give up. I almost did twelve years ago and I would have missed out on so much, so much. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It could be the beginning of something really beautiful, it was for me. So I hope you enjoyed the show, remember you’re not alone. And thanks for listening.