Episode 16: Danielle Koenig
Paul and Danielle talk about the desire to minimize painful memories, feeling like we’re not enough, writing for Joan Rivers, suicide and the lasting feeling of humiliation. And believe it or not, there’s laughter!
Mental Illness Happy Hour
Ep. 16 - Danielle Koenig
P: I'm here with my friend Danielle Koenig at her lovely house in Los Angeles. Those of you that know my friend Jimmy Pardo, Danielle has been married to Jimmy for - how long has it been?
D: Seven years.
P: Seven years. And you and I have talked many times about the fact that we both live with depression.
D: Yeah, 'cause you know, it's good times.
P: It's FUN.
D: It's fun.
P: When a party slows down you like to say "Hey! When was the last time you stared at a bare bulb for two hours and thought about what might have been?"
D: Let's go into a corner somewhere and depress each other [laughs]
P: But one of the things that I've always enjoyed about you: a) your sense of humor, b) your honesty about your depression, so ...
D: Yeah, I don't have any shame about it.
P: That's great.
D: I mean, maybe that wasn't always the case. But I don't have any hangups with ... any of it.
P: That's good. A lot of people are so embarrassed to admit that they need any kind of help or take meds, or go to therapy ...
P: And that to me is usually the sign that you need therapy.
D: Sure. Yeah. You're not comfortable ...
P: I don't know, am I jumping the gun there by assuming that? That if you're anxious about what people think you might need to go to therapy?
D: Well I for sure am anxious about what people think, but not about that particular thing.
P: Yeah. Do you think that's because we're in the entertainment field and it's kind of accepted that we're all a little nuts?
D: I think it's because ... perhaps ... or because my whole family suffers from it so I'm just so used to it.
D: Although I can remember dating guys and hiding my Prozac from them. So I guess at one time I was a little bit like ... and I remember one boyfriend pointing, saying "Oh, how's the Prozac going?" Like he saw the bottle.
D: And I was like, "uh, oh, okay." And then it was no big deal. I guess there's still a little bit of a stigma but, I mean there was, but ... no ...
P: When did you start taking antidepressants?
D: [sighing] A million years ago.
P: Before the dinosaurs?
D: YES! Because there weren't any other people around so I was really bummed [laughs] I was really lonely.
P: Your alienation was actually based in reality!
D: For once, yes.
P: In your cave, isolating, waiting for your period. [laughing]
D: I just marked the days off on the wall. I didn't know what days were but I thought when the big round thing goes down, then, that's when I get sad! A long time ago, like, boy, fifteen or sixteen years ago I guess.
P: Oh wow!
D: I mean I had gone on and off of them.
P: Right. Are you currently on them?
D: Yeah. But I don't have crippling depression. I'm highly functional, which...
P: You have limping depression.
D: I have limping depression, which sometimes - now this might be the dramatic person in me, the performer in me...
P: The ballerina?
D: But sometimes I wish it were more crippling, so that - I guess at times I wish someone could see what was going on and just help me. Because I was never the kind of person who couldn't get out of bed, or couldn't keep a job or...
D: I wasn't that person, so it was just a very solitary sort of conversation I would have with myself.
P: Yes. You know I'm glad you brought that up. Because I got an email from somebody, and this person had been through a tornado, and had PTSD, but was having trouble because nobody died in the tornado, and the house was destroyed and they weren't injured. This person was having a hard time allowing themself to
D: To grieve.
P: To grieve, and to say, "I've been harmed mentally by this." So I started a thread on the forum about the danger of minimizing things that have happened to you. And I shared that for a long time - when I was 11, there was a kid in our neighborhood that molested everybody he could get his hands on, including me. And I minimized it probably up until a year or two ago, because it wasn't like the molestation that you see about...
D: It wasn't a bad enough molestation.
D: You weren't anally penetrated, so therefore, you can't cry about it.
P: Exactly. Exactly. It was touching ... and somebody helped me point out, they said 'what's important is the feelings that you had around this. What are the feelings?' And I said, well, I felt shame. I felt kind of dirty. I felt manipulated. I felt used, and I felt uncomfortable every time I saw that person for the next 15 years. And so I thought, yeah, you know what? I can call it a molestation.
D: It is!
P: It is. But for the longest time, I felt like, oh, that was just a kid who was fucked up on our block. He wasn't that much older than me, he was fifteen I was eleven. But no, you know what? It was.
D: Did you ever talk to anyone else on the block who ... you said everyone ...
P: Well, the way I found out was, there was another kid on our block who had a nervous breakdown, and my mom said when this kid was in the hospital, he admitted ... or said to his mom, I'm really having trouble, this event happened to me. So my mom called me, and said, did this kid do anything to you? And I said yes. And my mom's really good friends with his mom.
D: So were you an adult at the time ...
P: I like how this has become all about me ...
D: No no no, but I'm seeing, this is what I do. I always ask a thousand questions, so. Were you an adult when you told your mother?
P: Yes! This was like, five years ago.
D: Oh my God. That's crazy!
P: Yeah. But I want to get back to the point about minimizing what's happened to you. So talk a little bit about what it's like in your mind when you feel like maybe you're wishing your depression was more ... beyond ... not in that nebulous zone where you're like 'I don't know whether or not to take this seriously.' Am I wrong? Is that what you're kind of ...?
D: I guess that's part of it. I felt ... I think I'm what they call 'low-grade.' Low-grade depression. But it's just been so consistent through my life that I guess I just thought it was my personality. In other words, oh, this is - kind of - shitty things happen to me, and I'm negative, and I'm pessimistic, and all those things are true. But it didn't help that I probably have a chemical ... and at least, I'm sure, hereditary design to be that way. So I wasn't shown how to not be that way. I remember the specific time that I first went to therapy.
P: How old were you?
D: I guess nineteen or twenty. And I was living by myself in my first apartment, my little studio apartment. Supposedly with my whole life ahead of me. And, sitting on the ground in front of my bed, just staring into space.
P: Oh my God, do I know that feeling.
D: Yeah. And really kind of getting scared. And I don't remember how long after, maybe a day or so, maybe a week, I don't know - being at my parentsí house, and just kind of breaking down. And telling them this is not good, I'm not doing well. And that's when I got into therapy.
P: What was the feeling that you had? Was it of paralysis? Difficulty making decisions? Feeling negative about the future? Describe that...
D: Well, I sort of think that the negative about the future thing was always there, and definitely ... I still feel paralysis in a sense. I feel like I never lived up to my potential. I realize this, that as a kid I was always worried that I wasn't living up to my potential. And I still feel like that. But maybe I am living up to my potential and this is as far as it goes. I don't know. Like ... maybe I don't have as much potential as I thought. So ... I'm sort of getting all over the place but ... so it was just a feeling of like, not knowing ... yeah. I don't know what to do, I feel empty. I feel disconnected. I don't have hope. That sort of thing.
P: That's the worst feeling. That feeling that you don't have hope and that you're never going to get out of it, and that this is the way you are and that you're fucked, and that's how you're gonna be for the rest of your life.
D: Yes. I think I just thought that I was just wired that way. I do think that to some extent that I'm still not ... healed. I'm not the most positive person in the world, but I definitely have changed.
P: Yes. And it's not a prison. It's not a death sentence. But if you don't do anything about it and you just try to go to your own mind to fix it, I think it is a prison.
D: Well, yeah. My brother ... I can talk about it.
D: My brother killed himself last year.
P: Your brother Andrew.
D: My brother Andrew. And definitely, he was in a prison. He definitely felt hopeless. I know that's what it was. There was no hope. There was no ... no getting out of it for him. And he had been on meds but then he stopped.
P: Did you know that he had stopped?
D: You know what's really ... shameful? Is that I never asked him. Because he had such a history of being up & down, up & down, and another thing that I never thought of was that he was probably bipolar. But I just never thought of it. I just thought he was depressed.
D: But anyway. I had been so used to his being up & down, the fact that he was down didn't trigger in me, 'oh, he's off his meds.' I just thought, this is him. Because he was so severely depressed. So I will always probably feel guilty about that, that I didn't, you know, say like 'hey what's going on?' because I was so ... it didn't seem .. it just seemed like this was the pattern of his life.
P: First of all, I think it's completely natural that you would go to that place to want to blame yourself and feel guilty. I think that's natural.
D: It's inevitable.
P: Inevitable. But I hope you realize how completely wrong that is. That there's nothing that you could have done.
D: Most of me understands that, intellectually, that there's nothing that I could have done. But that's even more frustrating. I keep peppering my therapist with questions like, what if, well not what if I had done this but, like, what if he had been more successful? Would he still have killed himself because that was in his brain? Or would that ... like how much of it was circumstantial and how much of it was physiological or chemistry?
P: Let's look at that for a second. I'm assuming there's going to be people listening to this podcast that have had people close to them take their lives. What are some of the questions that you ask yourself, or that you pose to your therapist?
P: So people know that they're not alone in feeling that ... I could have done something, or ...
D: Yeah, right. I say things like ... it's not that I'm under the impression that I could have done something. But I feel like I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish I could have talked to him one last time. Like, I had dreams for a long time, still occasionally, about ... well I guess the dreams are about stopping him. But in my conscious time I don't think, 'oh I should have done this,' or 'I should have done that,' that much. Because I know when I did try to talk to him, it was very difficult.
D: So it's not like I never tried. We all tried. It's just ... when you're talking to someone in that state ... I'm not a professional. I'm not hyper-intelligent. I don't know what I'm supposed to say or do.
P: Plus, people in that state, I think if they're like I feel, you don't want to be around people. That's the Catch-22 of depression.
P: It's that you want to isolate. You want to go in the corner, like a dog that's getting ready to die, and just lick your wounds and not have anybody touch you, and just stare at that bare light bulb for two hours.
P: And replay your life, and think that you're going to find the answer there. Or in some thought about the future that's going to save your life. And that's the quicksand ... in our mind.
P: The path to safety is doing that, getting out of our comfort zone, talking to somebody, saying 'hey, I'm feeling really hopeless. I'm feeling really scared right now. I'm feeling like the world is passing me by.'
D: He had talked to me over the years about that in certain ways, but I just didn't know, other than recommending therapy and medication - which he didn't take until later - I didn't really know what else to say. I did see that his life wasn't working out the right way, so I couldn't be like, 'oh, you're crazy, you have everything!' He didn't have everything. He was severely lacking in his life. And I can't get in his brain, and as much as I've suffered depression, it was not to that extent, so I can't pretend to understand exactly what that is.
P: Let me throw this thought out at you. I have a lot of friends in recovery from drugs and alcohol. Some of them sometimes go back to drinking & using, knowing that it's the worst thing in the world for them. And you can sit down, and I've had conversations with people and told them, look ...
D: This is what's going to happen ...
P: This is what's going to happen. You're not unique. You are going to die if you don't get help.
D: Right. Right.
P: If you go and try to do this on your own, you are going to die. Statistically, that's what happens. And I have had friends die.
P: Yes. Because they are reaching out to another person, talking about their fears, talking about, you know, their pain is more painful to them than the possibility of dying. That is worse to them. So the reason I bring that up to you is that even if you'd said things to Andrew, there's also a good chance that wouldn't have done anything. Because if people don't want to get - he knew he was depressed.
D: Right. And all his friends did try to talk to him. It's not like it was a hidden thing where, oh this guy's so happy-go-lucky, I mean everyone was aware - he wasn't shy about it. But then the other guilt thing is that ... it was hard to be around him sometimes.
D: So I probably didn't make myself as available as I could have. And, you know, I have a little boy, and ... maybe I use that as an excuse, but ... it was difficult being around someone who is depressed. You know it as someone who's been depressed and being around other people. It can be very difficult. You feel helpless, cause you don't know what to say after a while and ...
P: They're a drag to be around
D: There's tension.
P/D [simultaneously]: They're a drag to be around.
D: There was just always tension. And I was never a hundred percent myself with my brother. I mean, I just wasn't.
P: You felt like you were walking on eggshells?
D: For sure, I felt like I was walking on eggshells, which I do magnificently by the way, I've taken that to a new level...
P: You actually have eggshell shoes that you wear.
D: I do.
P: They almost look like ballerina shoes.
D: I know, right? And what I realized is you have to cook the eggs first, or else it makes a mess.
P: Oh, I never thought of that.
D: Yeah. So I am the Queen of walking on eggshells. Which is not a good thing. I really wish I were much more authentic and confrontational, but I don't want people to be upset, so it was sort of not a good combination. And also in general there was just some tension because we're very different people. I mean, we loved each other and we liked to hang out and have fun but we were very different people and ... yeah, it was hard to be around him.
P: And you know what? I think it's okay to need a break from people that are mentally ill, because ... they're a fucking handful.
D: It's draining.
P: It's draining.
D: And when they're related to you, you don't feel like you can just cut them off. And, you know, I didn't have any desire to just cut him off, but ... it was difficult.
P: Yeah. I have a friend who does not want to get help, but wants an audience. To talk about stuff. And at a certain point...
P: I have to pull away, because I'm not ... it's abusive to your friends to dump on them and yet not want to get help on your own.
D: Right. It's like someone who complains about being in an abusive relationship but they don't get out, and you're like, well what can I do for you?
P: Exactly. The best thing I think you can do is say, listen, I have done all I can do, and at this point it's just frustrating to me. And it feels unhealthy. So I ...
D: What is the reason for not wanting to get help?
P: I think pride. I think a lot of people ...
D: I guess. This is the part I just don't understand. I guess because my family is so comfortable with depression and not being perfect that it's so hard for me to understand that you would rather sit by yourself, feeling the worst you have ever felt, than take a pill.
D: Or talk to someone who can help you. I just wish I had more empathy for ...
P: For some people, I think it's the unknown. I think it's they haven't tried that yet.
D: But what could be worse than where you are? That's what I just don't understand.
P: Well, I think the thing too, is, addiction and depression and all these other things, one of their common manifestations is they warp reality.
P: And so you think in your mind, 'oh, it's gonna be this.' And so you have these distorted fantasies of how horrible it's going to be, and it's never as bad as you think it's going to be. In fact, it's usually life affirming and liberating and freeing but if you never get help and you never try that ... you know ...
D: I guess it's also just, culturally some people are ... you know?
P: They think it's weak.
D: They think it's weak, or they think, you know - I definitely thought that about taking drugs ... is this ...
P: Am I cheating?
D: Am I cheating, or something, but the fact is, once I took them and realized, oh this just ...
P: This makes me normal.
D: It doesn't make me a happy-go-lucky person, but ...
P: It doesn't make me euphoric at all ...
D: No, no, no, at all ...
P: It gives me the chance to be euphoric.
D: Right. But in no way gave me some false sense of floating on air.
D: I mean, I still feel everything I feel, it's just not paralyzing. That's the difference. And I guess I wish people would understand that. I mean, I'm sure there are some drugs, if you have the wrong prescription or amount ...
P: Yeah, I think like Valium and stuff like that are incredibly dangerous, and for years they were prescribed for people with depression, which is like putting gas on a fire
D: Right. Oh, yeah. That's funny, Valium for depression, right.
D: But it's not like doing coke or something, I think it's like people think I'm going to get this unnatural high, but ... you know ... I should have such a high, I've never ...
P: Yeah, we've talked about that a lot on this podcast.
D: So I'm treading the usual territories, is that what you're telling me, Paul?
P: No, no, but I'm glad you bring it up because it's a point that I don't think can be made often enough, because a lot of people do think of it that way, that oh, it's going to be, it's going to be cheating.
P: One of the things I emailed you before we did this was, to try to think of some snapshots from your life that you think are kind of seminal.
D: Yes. Well, one, the first thing I thought of was, [laughs] driving to Sea World with my Dad, I don't know why it was just the two of us but for some reason ...
P: Is it okay to say who your Dad is?
D: ... Sure, yeah. I mean you can look it up anyway, I mean ...
P: Okay. Danielle's father is Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on the original Star Trek.
D: Right. He's fairly open about his ... well, as much as he recognizes them.
P: The beauty is that parents and older people don't even know how to download a podcast.
D: That's true, but he is on Facebook. But that's okay. Anyway. So, we were driving to Sea World, which is in San Diego, from Los Angeles.
P: How old were you?
D: Boy. I want to say, like eight. We were driving - he tells this story and he thinks it's funny, because he likes to make fun of himself. But he doesn't quite acknowledge that I don't think it's - I still don't think it's funny. But he was pointing to the sign, he goes, "There it is! There's Sea World," pointing to the sign. And I said, "where, I don't..." cause there's so many signs off the freeway, and I was a little kid, I don't know which sign it was. And he was like, "There. There." And I said "Which one, Dad, I don't..." "THERE! IT'S THAT ONE!" IT'S THAT ONE." And he got really frustrated with me that I didn't know which sign he was talking about. And that is, like a microcosm of my life. That I'm afraid I'm not going to know the answer. I'm afraid of doing the wrong thing. I'm afraid of making someone mad. Cause he had a very short temper.
P: Mmm-hmm. What would happen when he would lose his temper?
D: He would just yell. I mean, nothing was ... it's not like I have horrific ... it's kind of like you were saying before about, oh my stories aren't sad enough.
P: Right. It's the emotion that it generated.
D: Yes. I just ... it turned me into someone who ... I'm not just saying that one incident or that it's all his responsibility, of course. But it's turned me into someone who is afraid to mess up. Afraid to do the wrong thing. As my therapist recently said to me, cause I was trying to figure out why, she said, "You don't have the 'I don't give a fuck' gene." Like I don't know how to just go, oh fuck it, I don't care.
D: About most things. Which is detrimental, because I don't really get outside my comfort zone as much as I would like to because I'm afraid of screwing up, or the unknown, or you know. And I'm getting anxious talking about it.
P: You're not going to talk about it in the perfect way.
D: What? I'm NOT going to talk about it in the perfect way! Right. I'm going to leave something out!
P: I'm not going to completely express myself.
D: Shit. Shit.
P: You know, I'm glad you brought that up too. Because one of the themes in the last couple of episodes has been the burden of perfectionism. And how draining it is. I'm beginning to think that perfectionism is really closely related to depression.
P: Because I can have things that I can have things that I enjoy doing, and all of a sudden there's this feeling: I have to do this so well that everybody goes 'wow,' and I think I'm not going to be able to do it to the point of wow for everybody. And then I just work myself up into a nap.
D: Yes [laughing], right, right. Exactly. Yeah.
P: And you wonder how could it go from this thing I was excited about a half hour ago, to, I'm standing staring at a bare light bulb thinking, why am I all of a sudden tired?
D: You need to get some lampshades, is what I'm learning from this podcast.
P: [Hysterical laughing]
D: You need some fixtures, an electrician to come over, and cover up those Goddamn light bulbs. Cause they aren't - you're living in a ...
P: I don't know why I go to the bare light bulb! [painfully] I don't know why I go there!
D: But that's perfect because ... okay, so my current job is that I write for Fashion Police, on the Joan Rivers show.
P: By the way, that's the other thing I forgot to do at the top of the show. Tell people stuff that you've written for and things that they might know you from.
D: I didn't mean to like make it as a plug.
P: No, no no!
D: Look at me apologizing.
P: I always do that in every episode, and it's one of the reasons I should bring notes when I do it. But I'm too lazy.
D: Okay, so quickly, I used to write on The Dish, which was a sister show to The Soup, I wrote on it the entire time. It's now over, and now I just have this part time job writing on Fashion Police, which is basically just writing jokes for Joan Rivers. So I can go in a day from feeling like I'm the shit because, oh my God, this legend wants me to write jokes for her ... to, if I don't get a laugh when we pitch the jokes around the table, I'm a fraud I'm ... you know, I know that's the clichÈ but it's true. This is ridiculous...
P: I've thought of my last funny joke...
D: Yes. Yes.
P: I've got nothing left in me.
D: I've got nothing left, if they don't laugh at it then it's not funny, and I've got nothing and I'm going to get fired. I thought last night - I was at the meeting - I'm going to get fired.
D: And then a few rounds ... cause we go in a circle pitching our jokes on each picture.
P: How do you know when you've gotten the disapproval of someone whose face doesn't move?
D: I'm ... good point ... uh, she kind of shakes her head. Nothing moves on it. Just, she's very low key. She doesn't give a lot away. But the atmosphere of the room is that people don't laugh at most things. Like if there's not...
P: Most writers don't laugh at...
D: Well I'm used to, if ... I don't know, I guess I had a different situation on The Dish, because we would all laugh at each other's stuff and then we'd add and we'd top and we'd, and we'd ... but it's not that kind of collaborative process. This is more like, you pitch a joke, people don't really fix it. Occasionally that happens, but it's very different from what I'm used to. So it's more like you pitch your joke. Like you read all your jokes for one picture, and then the next person reads all their jokes for that same picture.
P: I gotcha.
D: And then you go around. So I'm feeling, okay so one minute I'm literally getting fired, that she's just going to say that girl is no good, get rid of her. I've thought this every time, by the way. And then like two rounds later I have a huge laugh, and I ...
P: And you're the best writer in the room.
D: I'm the best writer in the world. And she loves me and everything is great, you know...
P: I'm going to get a spinoff from this show.
D: Yeah. [clapping] I'm the thirty-eight year old who still needs the approval of, you know, everyone in the room - and I feel ridiculous, and it can change like, it's ...
P: And I wonder, is that the, uh... projecting into the future, to me, I wonder why is it always that it's you're a peasant or you're a king. You're never in between. There's never any moderation in the future. Is that a thing about artists and creative people or depressives, or is that just human?
D: You know what I think? I think there's nothing romantic about being in the middle.
D: It's not interesting. It's either, I'm the lowest of the low, or I'm fanta... yeah, you're right, I think it's ... but I actually do think I'm sort of in the middle. I don't think I'm a genius and I don't think I'm talentless, but there are times when I think both those things. But mostly I don't. Mostly I just... but... yeah, it's like... I don't know. Just...
P: I remember this moment when I was about ten years old, and everybody else had kind of, um... maybe actually I was about twelve years old. And all of the other guys were starting to get into puberty and stuff, and I wasn't growing, I was smaller than everybody else, and I had problems with my body and I was ashamed of it...
P: And I had glasses, and I had friends and stuff, I wasn't lonely. But I felt like everybody was normal and I wasn't And I remember one of our teachers had a Nova, the car, remember the Novas?
P: And it looked to me like the most average car. There was nothing special about it. And I remember thinking, I want to be the Nova of people. I just want to be...
D: That was your aspiration?
P: Yes. And I wanted - I pictured myself as an adult, driving a Nova and think, then I'll feel okay.
D: That's hysterical.
D: I just wrote a piece about how my aspirations are very middle of the road. Like I just wanted to earn money doing something I liked. That's it. Like I don't have...
P: That's great!
D: Yeah, but I think it - I do think it's good in a sense but I also think I probably cut myself off a little bit by thinking like that. Because people who think they're going to be movie stars either are - they're all crazy - and they either do it because they're crazy, or they don't. And then everything is a big disappointment. You know, I didn't want to have a big fall so I never said, like, oh I'm going to be the world's most famous whatever.
P: Yeah but, the ones that dream of being a movie star and then become a movie star, don't you think all of them are disappointed cause there's aspects to it that they never pictured and it can't possibly fulfill what your fantasy ...
D: I'm sure - yeah I guess so, I'm sure.
P: I'm sure there're parts of it that are awesome and fantastic, but ... I don't know.
D: Wait I was going to get back to something. Oh, about feeling like you wanted to be the Nova.
P: Yes. Just wanted to be normal. I didn't want to be a sports car, I didn't want to be... I just wanted to... You know I think it was... I just wanted to blend in.
D: Yeah. And did you try really hard to blend in?
P: Yes, oh yeah.
D: You did.
D: See, I always find this interesting because I was always ... I always felt I wasn't the pretty girl. I was always the one that was kind of outside of the thing. I mean, I always had friends, so like you said I was never alone, always had friends. But my friends were cool, and I was ...not. Decidedly not.
P: Now, is that just your impression?
D: No. Mmm-mm. No. [laughs]
P: You sure?
P: Okay. So why did they hang out with you? Cause you were funny?
D: Yeah. I was funny and smart, and nice. But I wasn't ... um ... it's just like you were saying about the puberty thing, I was super behind ...
P: You didn't hit puberty until you were twenty three. Let's talk about that.
D: Yeah, very strange [both laugh]. I didn't hit puberty until Oliver was coming out of my vagina. Which is weird.
P: That is so weird.
D: Umm ... no. I was...
P: Oliver is her son.
D: I should probably clarify that. He's my son.
P: Actually she had the DVD of the musical 'Oliver' coming out of her ...
D: And it came out of my vagina.
P: And now we understand why DVDs are shaped the way they are.
D: Yes [laughs]. I was going to sing 'Getting To Know You,' but that's not Oliver. But, that being said, I never tried to blend in because I thought that that would be embarrassing if I tried to look like these girls that were really pretty, and tried to wear the clothes that they did. I thought that that would ... I thought that people would laugh at me for trying.
D: So I didn't try. I wasn't like crazy individualistic, but I wore like crazy prairie skirts and hats and things that were completely not like my style, because I thought it would be - do you know what I'm saying - I thought it would be - I can't make my hair do that. Everyone will just laugh at me, cause I can't do it. I'm not a pretty girl so why would I try to dress like that?
P: Yes, I know my place.
D: I know my place.
P: I'm going to dress for my place.
D: Yes. Exactly. So - cause Jimmy always tells me about trying to fit in and stuff - like ...
P: What do you mean he tells you about ...
D: Like what he did, my husband,
P: Oh, I see.
D: Like about trying to join the basketball team even though he was three foot seven in his words, and like why would you do that? But I think I stopped myself from doing those things because, who am I? Who am I to try to do that, you know?
D: So, I limited myself, for sure.
P: What are some other snapshots from your life, particularly early in your life if you can think of any?
D: I can. I remember, I had a best friend Nora, who is still my best friend.
P: I know Nora. From the wedding.
D: Yes, you do. Yes, she was just here. We've been friends since we were in kindergarten. And she was always the pretty one and I was always the goofy one. That's a nice way of putting it. And I remember distinctly one time, we were both looking in the mirror at our house, and she really did not mean this to be cruel, she really was just ... I think when you're little ... I was thinking about this the other day, I think when you're girls you say, "Do you think I'm pretty?" I think that's the thing you do. And you want your friends to say yes. And I think she said something like, 'yeah, I don't know why everyone says your nose is so big, I don't think it's big.'
D: So that was like one of those 'Wonder Years' moments, like, uh-huh, okay...
P: Did the Byrds, "Everything Turn, Turn, Turn?" come on in the background?
D: Yes. And I was wearing paisley and butterfly collars. So there've been a few like that. I was also the ... I was just thinking about this ... the same friend, this boy I really liked in grade school, who we got pretend married, that was like something you did. We had a ceremony and everything, we got pretend married and then he pulled me over one day and told me that he really had a crush on my friend Nora. So like that sort of thing throughout my entire life. But I remember them very clearly. They very much made a statement.
P: Yeah. Is there anything more painful than somebody you have a crush on coming to you for advice on how to get together with your friend? It is ...
D: It was ... It was ridiculous, I was like how does he not know that I have a crush on him?
P: And they don't.
D: And my reaction is always to be very gracious about it, and make it like it's okay.
D: Another time when I was - flash forward to like nineteen - I was in this improv group, cause that's what ugly girls do [laughs]
D: And this guy, this tall skinny guy, was very into me in that he wanted to hang out with me, he thought I was really funny. He asked me to have a sleepover once.
P: Hmm. Inappropriate.
D: I said "I don't know if I'm ready for a sleepover, and he goes, 'no, literally a sleepover,' and we went over to his house and we literally slept. He never made a move on me, he never...
P: How old were you?
D: I was like nineteen.
P: Oh, I thought you were a kid.
D: No, no no no, it's a flash forward, like when I'm nineteen.
P: OH, yeah yeah yeah.
D: So, but he would jokingly called it a sleepover, so I thought that was ... I assumed that was code for sex.
D: He didn't kiss me, he never did anything.
P: Then why have you sleep over?
D: I don't know to this day.
P: Is he gay?
D: No. And I liked him. And I thought - and everyone thought we were dating cause we were always together.
D: He had no sexual interest in me, I guess. He just liked me.
D: I don't know, it was very strange. One in a long line of men who wouldn't sleep with me.
P: Ha ha.
D: You know. So anyway, a friend of mine who's still my friend came to the show, who's not in the improv group. She came to a show one night. And he asked me for her number when she left. And I was shocked, but my reaction was, 'Of course. Of course.' Cause I'm the bigger person and I know my place and my place is that boys don't like me.
P: And I'm gonna go in the corner in my prairie skirt.
D: Exactly. And be funny. So I gave him her number and then she called me and said, "Why did you give that guy my number, I think he's so creepy!" And I was like oh, I thought I was doing the nice, gregarious, you know, gracious thing, and I thought I was being really generous.
D: So that sort of like...
P: Your heart is broken AND you've let down a friend.
D: Yeah. And so then it was awkward cause I had to explain to him that she wasn't into him...
P: That's one of your talents, Danielle, is that you can let down not only let down yourself but others at the same time.
D: Yes. Others. And as many as I can as possible.
P: You're like the plate juggler of emotions.
D: That's ... I have exp... I think someone has, um. Or a plate spinner. Always trying to keep ...
P: Yeah yeah, that's what I meant.
D: ...plates spinning. Moving from. I don't think plate juggling would be too entertaining [laughs]
D: Here's a dish. Well really juggling is not too entertaining in and of itself. But. Yeah, always trying to keep everyone happy. And that was like a prime example of trying to keep everyone else happy, and then fucking up everybody. Like everyone got upset.
P: But what else should you have done? Said, "No, I'm not gonna give your number out, I'm into you." I mean who would..
D: No, well I guess I should have just asked her if it was okay.
P: Well, yeah.
D: Or like said, what is going on with you? I thought, you know...
D: ...but I didn't ever speak my mind. So I was just like...
P: ...I think that's pretty normal. We were talking just a little bit earlier, and I felt like I have to share this story, we were talking about you know, loving somebody or having a crush on somebody. I was in 6th grade and I was in love with this girl, and I asked my friend to go ask her if she ... cause you've always got to put the feelers out ... would they go out with me if I asked them?
P: So my friend went and asked her. I remember we were at this school at night cause it was floor hockey night. The boys would play floor hockey, and the girls would hang out and watch us. And they were at the end of this quarter and they didn't know that I was at the other end of the quarter. And I heard this girl say, around her friends - and it reverbs - she says, "Oh, you guys, guess who wants to go out with me? Paul Gilmartin." And they all laughed.
P: And I could just feel ... I felt myself leave my body.
P: Like, oh my God. I'm THAT GUY.
D: And did you think you were that guy?
D: Oh, you didn't.
P: I didn't think I was...
D: Laughable, like.
P: I didn't think I was - I had friends and stuff, but that's when it sunk home. That, yes, everybody is growing and you are this little guy.
P: But that - I think stuff like that - I think almost on a cellular level, when you feel that kind of shame ...
D: That's an imprint.
P: I think it really does imprint you.
P: But I felt like I had to share that, sorry I had to, uh...
D: No, that's great, slash, horrifying. But very relatable.
P: I sent you an email about doing the fear-off.
P: Do you feel game? To try and do that?
D: Sure. But you go first.
P: Yeah, you know what I'm going to do for this one, at the start of our interview I sent out a tweet saying that I'm going to do a fear-off with Danielle. And since I've revealed 99 percent of my fears on previous episodes I'm going to repeat them. So I thought it would be fun to have people that follow me on twitter send in their fears. And so you'll be competing against their fears.
P: And if you want to follow me on twitter it's mentalpod. And I think I might start doing this for every episode and see how that goes.
D: You could start making up fears.
P: That's true.
D: FEAR OF EXPOSED LIGHTBULBS!
D: ...for instance.
P: lazysundaygirl says I'm terrified of the thought of dating while sober without having alcohol to help let my guard down.
D: She's fucked up.
D: No, I'm joking. Okay. I am afraid of not living up to my potential, as I said earlier.
P: chromadial says I'm a ridiculous person to behold, and whenever I've felt good about how I've looked, I've actually looked idiotic.
P: And I believe that's the guy that does our website. His name is Stig Greve. And I want to give him a shout out. Go ahead.
D: I am afraid of my son inheriting my depression.
P: Okay. sebwatt says I'm afraid that I will say a fear that relates to someone that follows me and they will realize that.
D: Okay. I'm afraid of hurting people's feelings.
P: Chromadial, Stig again, says I'm afraid by having a job that requires me to sit in front of a computer all day I've robbed myself of a fulfilling life.
D: Oh, God. That's a good one. I'm afraid of rodents.
P: Dylan Y says I have a fear that someone will rub Styrofoam on my teeth. That's awesome, I like that.
D: Oh, that's good. I am afraid of not being liked.
P: Ryan Noor says I'm afraid I'll never find a career I enjoy that also pays the bills.
D: I am afraid I will never find the proper balance between work and motherhood.
P: Seth D Wright says I'm afraid that I will never find a girlfriend again.
D: Oh. I'm afraid for Seth too. No. I'm afraid I'm doing everything wrong as a parent.
P: Churistina says I'm afraid every day I drive over this really long bridge and I think I'm going to crash and fall.
D: I'm afraid that I'll never be completely comfortable with myself.
P: Headbug says my current fear is that my view on love and relationships has been wrong. I think that's a pretty common one.
D: Yeah, for sure.
P: That fear that 'I'm not in the right relationship.'
D: Yeah, right. Yeah.
P: And I think that's totally normal. I've been with the same woman for twenty three years...
D: Oh, my Lord.
P: ...and we love each other, we're committed to each other, and I think it's just natural, sometimes. Especially after you have an argument to think, 'this is wrong. I'm in the wrong...'
D: This person is so different from me. This is, um, yeah. What would have been.
P: And when I used to be depressed, I was such an asshole, because I would be like, [in an asshole voice] 'we gotta get a divorce.'
D: Oh, really?
P: Yeah, cause when you're depressed, it's like everything becomes so dramatic and so...
D: Everything is black and white, yes.
P: ... and when there's no hope, you don't think 'we're gonna work through this,' you think, 'my whole life is fucked. and this is the reason.'
D: Was there also, like you felt so badly about yourself that you felt, well she's going to leave me anyway, or she deserves someone better, maybe even subconsciously that I'm just going to end this now.
P: A thousand different thoughts on this, depending on what day it was. And I put her through hell, and God bless her for still being with me. I think, is it your turn? For the next one?
D: Oh, yes. I'm afraid, um, well this is ironic, but I'm afraid of being laughed at. Not laughed with, but laughed at.
P: Is it Harry Shearer who said comedians do comedy because they want to control when people laugh at them?
D: Well, that's brilliant, and correct. Because you are trying to make a joke before someone else can.
P: Before you're at the end of a long hallway at floor hockey.
D: Before the guy in junior high calls you Pinocchio. And not because you want to be a real boy.
P: Let's talk about that.
P: Let's talk about that.
D: Yeah. There was a scary boy who was really ... he was alternately hitting on me and saying mean things to me. And he was really...
P: That was probably his way of covering up the fact that he was into you though...
D: I guess, but that seems very...
P: But you're not smart enough at that age to see that that's what somebody's doing.
D: Well, yeah. I mean, I don't know if insulting someone's physical appearance is ever clearly a way of showing that you like them. But ...
P: I could see how kids could do that.
D: I guess so, yeah. He was kind of like a tough kid, he was really like kind of ... oh this is interesting. This is very interesting that I'm thinking about this now because he was kind of like lower middle class and, like ... I don't even know what his name was. But I remember I think I was sort of attracted to him in some weird way. And I think I always liked that kind of bad boy who is seemingly dumb, but, you know, I have a thing for ... you know, like a Mark Wahlberg, like, I'm all over that. You know what I mean?
P: Sure, he's got a thirteen inch cock. How can you not be into that.
P: It's prosthetic, but...
P: Is it....?
D: I think It's your turn.
P: Okay. I like this one. Jimski says two things I'm most afraid of now are 1) losing this job and 2) keeping this job.
D: Ah, that's brilliant. Yeah, yeah. I'm afraid I'll never get another job again. I always worry about that.
P: Dr. West Anthony says I'm afraid that I'll spend the rest of my life alone and unloved as I am right now. Ohhh.
D: Aw, God. You won't. Hopefully.
P: No. And I'm sure there are people that love you, you just don't know it.
D: Right. He probably means in a singular relationship.
D: I am afraid ... I kind of said this before, but ... I am afraid that ... oh, I just have so many fears about my son. I fear for him not being happy. And not ... I fear for him making the same mis... that's what it is, I fear for him making the same mistakes I made.
P: That's funny that you say that. Cheesecake says, ... or chizecake, I'm not sure how you pronounce this... fear that I'll die and my son will be left alone with nobody who understands the weird way his mind works.
D: Awww. That's so sweet.
D: Oh my goodness.
P: By the way, you're doing a hell of a job...
P: Yeah, you're fighting against multiple people. Kudos to you. And your...
D: Thank you. And my fears.
P: ...rampant fear.
D: I just want to say this, I know I'm breaking for a second. And part of that is ... so I am stalling. But. I recently saw Albert Brooks at the bookstore. He was signing copies of his book and giving a speech. And someone asked him about where he got the idea of Defending Your Life, was it just ... I'm sure you're familiar with Defending Your Life, right?
P: Love it.
D: Yeah. Was it just like a reaction to all those feel-good heaven movies or whatever. He said really what it's about - which I always thought - is really it's just about fear, and how fear rules your life. Because all the things that are flashback are all things he didn't do or things he didn't say. So, I was like, yes, that's what's so brilliant about him, is that's such a common ... to me it's very relatable. I'm just...
P: Nobody, to me, plays insecurity better than him. He is...
D: Oh, my God. It's brilliant.
P: ...the funniest, like ... Steve Martin, as funny as he is, is never funny to me as the guy getting shit on.
D: He's not really vulnerable.
P: No, he's funny being the guy who's an arrogant douche who doesn't know he's a douche.
D: Yeah, he plays that very well. That's interesting, he's...
P: But Albert Brooks ... Oh, my God.
D: He's the loser, but, yeah. It was funny cause when I was a kid, and I saw Broadcast News which is one of my favorite movies...
P: Maybe the best movie ever made.
D: Yeah. I ... my perspective on life then was, I didn't understand why Holly Hunter didn't pick him. It's like he's so great, he's...
P: That's what makes that movie AWESOME.
D: ...so funny, and so smart. But as I got older I was like, oh, he's fucking annoying. I mean he's still smart and funny, but, no!
P: He's needy.
D: She shouldn't have picked him. He's needy and selfish and annoying, so it was like...
P: Yeah, just the greatest movie.
D: Like I don't think anyone was supposed to think he was...
D: ...the one that got away, but in my perspective he was like...
P: I kind of felt that way...
D: You did.
P: ...and yet I also know what it's like to think that I should be into this person but I'm not.
D: oh, yes.
P: And why am I into this other person, who ...
D: I've punished myself so much for not being into ... the few boys who were interested in me were always super nerdy or super not up my alley and I would chastise myself. Why can't I just be... why can't I be like the person who likes me? But I just ... and then I realized, oh, you just can't.
D: You can't make yourself do something like that.
P: You have no control over what you're into. Just like what the first thought that pops into your head, you have no control over that. You have control over whether you let it sit there and linger.
D: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay I got another one.
P: Alright, go.
D: Um, oh wait I just forgot because ... um ...
P: I'll do one ...
D: ...yeah, because I totally just forgot...
P: ...that makes everybody completely depressed.
P: Being alone after my mother, who has leukemia, dies.
P: AND THAT'S THE SHOW, everybody!!!
D: Yay, leukemia.
P: No, thank you for the person that did that, for being brave enough to tweet something so personal and painful.
D: My God.
P: That was from El Jessidi.
D: Okay I remember mine and it's very self-involved but I ... I'm afraid that I've not had an impact on anyone.
P: Oh, God, that is one that I so relate to.
D: You do.
P: Oh, my God. That I will die and will have not been special.
D: Yes. Yes. Which I'm sure many people think.
P: And I think a lot of artists, I think that's what drives us.
D: Exactly. You want to leave some sort of mark. But I don't even mean, like, I mean on people I know. So I've had this friend I've had since I was six. And we're very close. And I was visiting her recently, she lives up North. And she has a little boy, too. And her husband mentioned something about how their son has a godfather. They don't call it a godfather, but he has a godfather. And I said, oh, okay. And he said 'Yeah, he has twelve godparents.'
D: And I was floored because I'm not one of them.
D: So, I was like, he literally has a dozen. A dozen godparents, and I'm not one of them?
D: I mean this is my best friend since I was six years old.
D: So, and like each godparent was because something they could pass along to their son or something they could help him with. So the only conclusion to take from that is that I have nothing of value to impart on their son. I don't know how else you could possibly interpret that. And I did jokingly sort of passive aggressively bring it up with her because I didn't know how not to bring it up. And I said, 'so I guess I shouldn't be offended that I'm not one of the TWELVE godparents...'
P: Good for you, for saying that.
D: Yeah. And she kind of tried to answer, she was super uncomfortable. And we didn't really resolve it, because I was uncomfortable too, because I ... am uncomfortable with confrontation. Especially with friends, I can have confrontation with, you know, the guy on the phone anytime but like, friends, it ... so I actually do think it's something I have to talk to her about because it's like, well you've just given me a lot of information. You've just told me that I don't rank. Like I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that, and...
D: It really has made me think. Like when I hear friends talking about ... like my friend told me this, or my friend said to look at it this way. I'm like, does anyone ever do that about me? Does anyone ever say, well Danielle said, and like take it to heart and it means something? I ... I know that's ... like the definition of self-involved but ... you know, you want to matter, you want to have an influence or an impact on someone's life and not just feel like you're just there. You know, like, oh...
P: Yeah. I don't know who that wouldn't fuck up. That feeling. But I can tell you that you do matter in people's lives, and I know this sounds cheesy for me to say that because, you know, Carla & I have been friends with you for a long time. So, you're not one of those people that, you're like, 'ohhhh, we've got to go see Danielle.' No. You're a fun person to be around. And you're...
D: I know. I just feel like I'm periphery. Do you know what I mean? Like, I'm glad I'm a fun person to be around but is that it? Like I feel like, is that all? I'm just someone who makes ...
P: Do we ever get the answer to that, though?
P: I don't know if we ever get to the answer to that.
D: I think some friends show you. And you feel it. And I do feel that from my friends, but... you know, I realized a long time ago that you have different friends for different things. Some friends are great to hang out with and just have fun. But that's basically as far as it goes. Some friends are your person you dump everything on and tell everything to. And I guess sometimes I just worry, am I only the peripheral friend? What slot do I fill in these people's lives? Like, if you're just filling a slot in your life, what slot am I filling in your life? Is it a valuable place? Or is it just a placeholder, is it just someone you like to have ... Thai food with?
P: Am I the seat-holder at the Oscars, or am I ...
D: Am I the cardboard cut-out, really, yeah.
P: I think that's a pretty normal fear, though.
D: Yeah. I'm sure it is. But it's [laughs]
P: But yeah, that would fuck anybody up, I would think.
D: I was really upset about it.
P: But you know what? Maybe it'll be a chance for you - and maybe this is me just being too nauseatingly positive - but maybe this will be a chance for you guys to take your relationship to another level.
D: No, I think so, and I'm looking forward to it, it's just one of those things that can't be done on the phone or through email. So I have to wait til I see her again...
P: It's got to be done in the ring.
D: For sure. For sure. Bare fists.
D: So yeah, it's one of those things. So she actually called me yesterday, and so that was really nice, but in the back of my head I had this thing going on in the back of my head, like...
P: Was I the thirteenth call... [laugh]
D: No, but is she calling because she should call. You know, she should check up ... she should check in with me...
P: Mmm-hmm. Yeah.
D: I just, you know...
P: But the reality is, most relationships are messy.
D: I know.
P: And if you want to avoid messes I think you're never going to get close to people because I think intimacy is based on being comfortable with imperfection.
P: And imperfect, uncomfortable things, and just being patient and working through them, and being open to it working out however it works out. But for a control freak and a perfectionist, it's...
D: It's very hard. Like I have no problem in my marriage, to point out... to point out ... point out problems ... and no problem dealing with it.
P: That's because we have to live with that person though. And we're ... we think everything that they do, it's multiplied by five hundred, because we think, oh that habit is going to be in my house the rest of my life. I gotta nip this in the bud right now. Whereas with a friend, they say something, and you're like, well I see them once a year.
D: Or like I let things go because I don't .... [sighs] ... or like with my brother it's like I never really talked to him about how I felt about our relationship. I ... you know? Do I regret that? I don't even know if I do because I don't know that it would have gotten anywhere and it may just have made things more uncomfortable. But, I'm not saying life should be about avoiding discomfort, but sometimes ... I guess sometimes it is. But yeah, you know, I ... I just had this other friend visit, and the whole time I felt, I felt like my heart, like my chest tightened. Like I want to break through to some other level. And I do often feel this way with her.
P: This is the friend with the twelve...?
D: No, this is a different...
P: Totally different friend?
D: This is a different friend.
P: What did you..., you felt like your relationship was superficial, and you wanted it to be deeper?
D: It's not quite that it's superficial. It's more that... I don't know, I just feel like something is bl... again, this is someone I grew up with. So, we're different now, you know, and we lead totally different lives, and. Like for instance, we never... she doesn't care at all about my career or anything to do with show business, which is fine. She cares about me. But I kept having this debate in myself, like shouldn't she care somewhat? Shouldn't she ask me about my life? Shouldn't she... but if she doesn't, she doesn't, so... what am I going to accomplish by telling her, 'gee, I really wish you were interested in this.'
D: You know? So it was kind of like this back and forth in my head. And we were never alone cause she had family with her. So we were never alone, so that also became like a - I can't - ugh - like there's a wall here.
D: And then I feel like I'm a child because I need something more from, you know, a thirty year old, a thirty five year old relationship.
D: You know what I mean, I feel, like, needy. Needy. I don't know . It's interesting, I always say to my therapist, you know I thought if something catastrophic happened in my life, like, my brother killing himself, everything would change and I would be released of the burdens of... I know that's a little kooky, but like, 'oh, you get a new perspective on life so you let go of your fears and you let...' none of that happened.
P: Easier said than done.
D: Yeah. I just thought ... yeah, none of that happened. So it was almost disappointing, like, well what the hell is going to take me out of my ... habits that I don't like about myself, or ...
P: Well maybe it just happens slowly.
P: Carla & I were at a coffee place the other day and we saw a - I'm not kidding you - maybe a hundred foot stretch Hummer.
D: Oh, God.
P: And I wanted to go to him and knock on the window and say, "Hey, um, on September eleventh of 2001, two planes crashed into a building. I'm just assuming you guys haven't heard."
D: [laughing] that's hysterical.
P: It's just people that, it's like are you not aware that we are around the world fighting because there's a limited amount of oil? And you just don't give a shit? But. You know, sometimes I think people... you get stuff when you get stuff. I am always less patient with other people getting things than I am with myself.
D: Well, sure. Because it seems so clear to you. It's like, well why don't they just do that. Why don't they just change that.
P: And I don't think there's any character defect more embarrassing to confront about yourself than being needy.
P: I had this really embarrassing moment about ten years ago. I was with a friend and we were I think it was when that movie - wasn't there a movie called Needful Things, or something, came out...?
D: Sounds vaguely familiar.
P: There was a movie that had some type of title like that.
P: And I cracked... I said, is this movie about my mom? And this person said, 'Your mom? What about you?"
D: Oh my God.
P: And I just was like - suddenly it hit me, Oh my God. So, like, for the next two years, everything I did I looked at ... is this being ... and I began to truly see how needy I was, and how, you know.
D: But did you ... so were you happy that that person said that? Or...
P: Ultimately, yes.
P: But for the first two years I was embarrassed.
D: Two years. Of course. Well that's the other thing, I think, you don't ever really tell your friends exactly ... well maybe some relationships are like this ... but you don't tell them exactly what you think of them.
D: And so, I've been - that's been ruminating in my head. So what do they think of me? So what do, you know. I mean I wish I could just get that fucking thing out of my head, about ...
P: What do I mean to my friends?
D: What do I mean and what do people think of me, and why the fuck should I care what people think of me? Like I said, I don't have that "I don't give a fuck" gene so I do care. Like, I really care. I can't pretend I don't, and...
P: You know what would be cool? I don't know, maybe the people listening, you can send me some ideas for how to do this, but, maybe there would be a way for us to have something where we say something about friends of ours that we've never told them, on the website.
D: Like anonymously, you mean?
P: Yeah, anonymously, or just post something, maybe we go to the forum, and we say, 'here's my name, here's the name of my friend, and here is what I love about this person.' And then send your friend that link. Wouldn't that be nice?
D: That's lovely. I assumed you meant something negative initially.
D: That's lovely.
P: Cause I think sometimes we don't take time out during the day to - and the last couple of years, I've done this, I've started telling friends of mine, I love you, here's what I love about you. I did that for my mom about two years ago, I wrote her a letter. Cause I can get so trapped about what my mom did that I think was wrong or, you know, every parent does that. Makes mistakes, and you resent it for a certain while. But then I looked at all the things that my mom did that was nice since I thought she's getting older, I want her to know these things. So I wrote this big long list of things that she did that I'm grateful that she did for me. And I sent it to her.
D: She must have been...
P: I think she really - I think she really liked it.
D: I'm sure.
P: So maybe we should do that for people close to us. Even if they do things that annoy us.
D: Right, right, right.
P: Because nobody's perfect. I'm fucking close, but...
D: I know. I know. You're almost there. I had to say this because we were just talking about being needy. I just flashed on this today or yesterday. That when I used to - oh, God, this is so embarrassing - when I used to go out with guys - which was not a long history at all, but - I would always make them tell me what they liked about me.
P: Mmm-hmm. I so get that.
D: Cause I wanted to make sure that they were liking me for the right reason. And of course I wanted my ego stroked. But I really, like - it was very important, like - and that seems so childish now when I think about it - that's so crazy. But I was like, n-n-no, tell me - I remember telling Jimmy. Tell me what it is you like about me. I have to make sure that you get me.
P: I was going to say that's such a twenty year old girl thing to do, but then I realized when you started dating Jimmy you were in your thirties.
D: No, no no - I was in my twenties.
P: Were you?
D: I was twenty four when I started dating him.
P: Are you kidding me?
P: Has it been that long?
P: Oh, my God.
D: Yeah, yeah.
P: Well then I think that's all right. You're so insecure in your teens and twenties. And...
[simultaneously] Thirties and forties.
D: Well, I only imagine.
P: Yeah. Let's just finish the fear off, there's a couple more...
D: Oh, I'm sorry I forgot we were still on the fear off.
P: That's all right.
P: I'll do one. I don't remember whose turn it was, but I'm going to do one this is from cratigus. Running out of smokes before payday. Yeah, that's a good honest one.
D: That's good. Um. Oh, regrets. I'm afraid of having regrets.
P: Uh-huh. Uh, sufi lizard, nice name, primary current fear is failure followed closely by my fear of success.
D: I was gonna say, those two are usually...
P: Mm-hmm. If you can hang on for just a little bit longer, you might win.
P: You might beat the twitterers.
D: Oh, oh, oh.
P: Yeah, the list is almost done.
D: I didn't realize this was a competition. Had you told me that...
P: Oh, everything's a competition.
D: Everything in my life is a competition, so...
P: What is worth doing unless there's a winner and loser, Danielle?
D: I agree, I completely agree with that 100% I am - oh, I am worried I won't instill the right values in my son.
P: Mmm. That's good. Too late.
P: Kidding of course, he's a lovely kid. This one comes from Leo67. One of my children dying before I do. Oh, that's so sweet, and yet really bums me out. And brings the show down.
D: I don't think I even let myself go there. I am afraid I am not well informed enough.
P: Mm-hmm. Berry-fi, getting into a gnarly car accident.
P: Getting into a 'gnarly'
D: Oh, gnarly.
P: Apparently his surf board is strapped to the top of the ...
D: Yeah, he's ... tweeting from 1982.
P: [laughing] I like how I ask people to tweet and now I'm shitting on them.
D: That's my fault cause I think I started you doing that. I'm afraid of being called out. On an embarrassing personality trait.
P: Thisambivalence tweets: not finding someone in my life I can really dedicate myself to.
D: Hmm. Boy oh boy. I might be running out here. Ahhh. I think I'm done.
P: God. We beat you.
D: Am I so close?
P: And we had one left.
D: Oh, crap.
P: I guess I have to do it to win.
D: Yeah, for sure.
P: Actually two left because somebody just tweeted another one. Second to last one from tardy's pilot: being laid off from my job. And are you done? Are you out?
D: Wait, I think I had one. Uh, afraid of not being seen as my own person.
P: And this is the last one. So if you can think of one after this, you will be the victor. This is from thebailey, she says, I am afraid that I will outlive my husband who I am crazy about.
P: That's a sweet one.
D: Oh my Gosh. Wow. Okay, I am afraid - I don't know if this counts or if this is too much like the other things I've said. But I am afraid my son is going to have a hard life ahead of him for being small.
P: You win.
D: Yeah. I do.
P: [clapping] Danielle Koenig! Danielle Koenig! Ladies and gentlemen! Uh, I was small, and he does.
D: But you got big. He won't get big.
P: I don't know about that. You're not small.
D: I'm 5'2" and a half.
P: You're small. Good luck to him.
D: Thank you.
P: But he's adorable.
D: He is adorable and hopefully that will carry him somewhat.
P: And he's got funny parents.
D: Yes. And he's already pretty funny. Yeah. Oh, and he did something the other day that scared the crap out of me. He - I got hurt - oh, the three of us were playing - and I got hurt or something - oh, I bumped my head on the - I walked into a doorknob, okay Paul? I walked into a doorknob.
P: Hm. Yeah.
D: No, I bumped my head on the bookcase behind me. And he started doing a funny dance. And I said what are you doing? And he said, I'm trying to make you laugh. That's what I do when you get hurt, I try to make you laugh, and I was like OH SHIT! OH NOOOO!
P: It's genetic.
D: OH NOOOO! He's literally like dancing around trying to make me laugh - that's what I do when you or daddy get hurt, I dance around, I'm like ohhhh, fuck, fuck, no, no, no, no, no, no...
P: That's how I break the silence at the dinner table! I tap dance!
D: Jimmy tells the story one time - Jimmy was trying to get the trash out of the trash can and there was glass in it - because I put the glass there - because that's, I thought, what you do when something breaks you put it in the trash can - anyway, he ended up, it ended up slicing the bag, he hurt his finger. And he yelled, he said who the FUCK would do this? And got really mad. And Oliver literally started fixing the house.
D: Like pretending he was hammering the house and fixing it. And I was like, do you see what is happening? He's - this - he's literally trying to repair things. I was like, this is perfect.
P: Oh, my God. What are any recurring negative thoughts that you have towards yourself?
D: Not smart enough. Not funny enough. Not worldly enough. Not pretty enough. Not - I really beat myself up that I don't seem to have hobbies, I don't have other interests, I am not good at like - there's nothing I'm good at that's like a - like you have your woodcarving your wood - I don't know what you - you make...
P: There's literally nothing I hate more than wood carving. I do woodworking, yeah.
D: Don't you make beavers, out of, like - you whittle, don't you? Did sit on your porch and whittle? That's how I picture it.
P: And I whistle.
D: And whistle. Like I can't garden, I can't cook, and I don't - and I constantly beat myself up that I don't have an outside thing that I've taught myself or learned or - it's just like comedy, that's all I seem to have. I mean, I like reading and I like movies and that sort of thing but I don't have like a passion. Outside of my professional - so that bothers me.
P: So you feel like your life is too small?
D: Yeah. I feel like my life is too small and that I must not be interesting if I don't have that. I must not be valuable and well-rounded and ...deep?
P: Yes, and by the way, all of these are off-base, but I'm not stopping you because the show would be three hours long, for me to go, "You're crazy." "You're crazy," so...
D: Oh, oh, oh, okay, okay.
P: I'm letting you go on and because - the listeners now know at this point that all of these things that people say, are 99% myths made up in their head, and I'm not being a dick by going, "Oh, yeah, Danielle, you're..."
D: I understand. Right. Right. Um. I'm not a good enough daughter. Good enough mother. Good enough wife. Um. I think I'm a pretty good friend. [chuckling] Apparently not worthy of being one of twelve - a dozen - twelve - ten plus two...
P: [laughs] Well, if you could have started recognizing Sea World signs earlier in your life, maybe things would've worked out.
D: I'm sure everything would've turned around. Yeah, that I'm not sharp enough. Or that I'm not, uh... well, definitely the fact that I'm not confident, you know, that bothers me. I've definitely made huge strides throughout my life in that sense, but ... um, it bothers me that I care what people think. It absolutely bothers me. I wish I could just be - but I also worry that I don't exactly know who I am supposed to be. Like I see - I have friends with all these different personalities - and I think well, am I supposed to be like that or am I - is my natural inclination to be more like that and I have just changed myself, or...? I just constantly compare myself to everyone - and everything and anyone in every situation.
P: That's so draining.
D: And it's SO draining and stupid, and it makes me so mad at myself that I do that because I do have a nice life, and I am a good person, and I have a wonderful husband and a wonderful son, but why does everyone's life seem better by comparison? Or, more - oh, they did a more interesting thing, or ...
P: You know, there's a survey on the website for this podcast. The website is mentalpod.com, and there's a survey you can take and one of the questions - there's about 25 questions I ask of people - and one of the questions is some negative recurring thoughts that you have towards yourself and emotions. And at the top of them, the most common one that people have, is that they feel that they're not doing enough.
P: And that procrastination is a huge thing with them. And I think if that's such a common thing, maybe we are doing enough, and we just think everybody else is doing better.
D: Oh, I absolutely am constantly - like my friend who is a mom, and is a lawyer/judge and goes to ballet or goes to a dance class three times a week - I can't not compare myself to her. And if I am taking a nap, then I am a bad person.
D: You know what I mean?
P: Oh, my God, do I know that feeling and it's totally wrong because I think being good to yourself, being gently with yourself is so, so important. And every once in a while I'll say to myself, you know what? I'm going to be good to myself today. I'm going to have ice cream, I'm going to take a nap, and the world isn't going to end and I can still be productive tomorrow. And those are really nice days when I have them. So...
D: Right. It is a little present to yourself, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's hard to get over...
P: In fact, I think it's even better than nothing wrong with it, I think it's really important because, you gotta put that whip down. You gotta put that whip down. We think sometimes the whip is our way of good discipline, but it's not. It's a way of chipping away at our self-esteem. And it's...
D: I wonder why people - why - what is - not physiological, but what is the biological or - what is the reason that people are inclined to be self-critical, and insecure? What, why is that a survival method of some sort?
P: I do, I think it's evolutionary, because those are the people that created the most stuff, and built the cave that allowed you to survive in - the people that couldn't sit still - it was a survival mechanism, but I think it's become not as useful anymore now that immediate survival isn't as important ...
P: I think it's that - yeah - that feeling that I've got to be constantly doing to be okay. It served us early on in our evolution, but I think it's actually degrading our quality of life now.
D: It is. It's so, I don't know - Jimmy Dore has a funny joke about the guy who built the St. Louis Bridge, how pissed off was he at his dad? That's what makes you do the great things is that you're trying to prove it to someone or trying improve - you know, you know.
D: It's all, like, justifying yourself. But it just - I mean obviously everyone's insecure and people just deal with it in different ways and some people become assholes because that's how they deal with it. But yeah, it doesn't serve any function. I mean I guess - I don't know - maybe it does serve a function - but it just seems - it's exhausting and like, my whole life I was supposedly training to be a ballet dancer and I just wasn't good enough. And I still have incredibly mixed feelings about ballet. I don't go to the ballet - it still hurts to see it because it's something I didn't achieve - like I can't appreciate it on its own because ...
P: You can't separate your own feelings of inadequacy from it.
D: Yeah, yeah. Right. That also had a huge impact on my life, was being involved in something where you're supposed to look perfect, you know, be incredibly feminine, and work really hard, and I did work really hard, and it still didn't happen. And it angers me so much when I hear people say, 'you can be anything you want to be,' to their kids. It infuriates me, because no, you can't. There are certain things you're gonna be good at, and certain things you're not gonna be good at, and to give someone the impression that you could be president of the United States, well maybe you can't! Maybe you don't have that brain! But that's okay. It just - ugh - cut to me saying to Oliver, 'you can be anything...'
P: So what's - what should you say to kids, you can TRY anything you want to try?
D: Well, what I say to Oliver - well, he's only three and a half so it's not like it hasn't - but I say like - I just said it last night - like some people are good at some things, and some people are good at other things. I said like mommy's a really good dancer, but mommy can't sing. You know, that kind of thing.
D: Cause he'll say like, I'm the best at this, and I said you're really good at this, and I don't point out what he's not good at but if he says I'm not good at something...
P: I'll do that.
D: Yeah. [laughs] If he says like I'm not good at it - that's the other thing is that he's already like being hard on himself which is, you know...
D: Ugh. My m.o., so I'm a little bit worried about that. Add that to your list of fears. But I will say - I'm hopefully not going to say, "No, you're great, you're great," I'm hopefully going to say maybe you weren't great at that but that's okay because it's impossible to be good at everything, you know?
P: Yeah. It is.
D: And it hurts to not be good at something. But when everyone was telling me - you're great, you can do anything and then I didn't - I - what choice is there to feel but you've disappointed everyone, you didn't live up to your potential, you are a failure. Do you know what I mean, it's setting someone up for ...
P: Which is a terrible thing to be told in a birthday card.
D: I know, right?
P: Awful, I can't believe they even made that. I can't believe they would even print that birthday card.
D: I know. It probably had The Peanuts on it.
P: And the fact that it had your name on it, it was like, wow, everybody knows.
D: Spelled the right way and everything.
P: So body image was a big source of anxiety. I would imagine for any girl...
D: I think it's for every girl, but definitely being in ballet when you're in a leotard and tights every day and you're literally comparing yourself to other people.
D: Every single day. But I wasn't - I don't think - that came later, that I ...
P: Did you ever grow out of your body image issues?
D: No. Well...
P: You still have them?
D: Yeah. I - and definitely not to the same extent, but - well I don't know if I can say that's true. I don't - I actually just talked to my therapist about this the other day - because I foolishly got on a scale, and I was more than I usually am. I'm a very small person, I recognize that, I'm not saying I'm fat. Donít think I'm one of those people - but it was a number, and it was a number that I wasn't happy with. And my whole day was ruined.
D: And I instantly went back to that time - of weighing myself every day and - you know again, it's something you failed at. I didn't do the best I could. I let myself down. I - you know - and it's a number, it's stupid.
P: Did you ever make yourself throw up?
D: Oh, yeah. As I like to say, I dabbled in bulimia. [laughs] But I never had a taste for it. I did. I definitely did that.
P: When did that start and when did it end?
D: I would say probably...
P: Started at 12, ended about 1 o'clock!
D: Yeah. No, I think it started, probably in like tenth grade or so - on and off for just a few years. I never did anything to - it's interesting - I don't have an addictive personality - so I never did it to excess. I never was someone who was doing it every day. If I felt particularly guilty or something, then I would do it. And I don't know why I stopped but I did, it wasn't - I didn't need an intervention or anything. And my parents didn't know I did it, I don't think. I mean, I've talked about it in my act, so maybe they've heard it. But it was, you know - I mean I have friends who're super committed to it - that would probably be another thing I would denigrate myself about, cause I wasn't committed enough to bulimia. You know, I wasn't like - I didn't have the presence of mind to really dedicate - to focus on it.
P: Maybe you should've gone to bulimia school.
D: I know. But I did just, like, not eat properly and so, I definitely have an issue with myself. Like I don't like to deny myself food, which is a problem because you have to at some point, but, I don't count calories or anything like that.
P: Well, I'm going to wrap up here and there's two things that I want to do. I'm going to read a...
D: Please don't say poem.
P: Too late! I'm going to - one of the things I like to do is we have that survey I told you about on the website. And I think I might start for each episode, just randomly pick somebody's survey, and read some things about it to close the show with. So I'm going to do that in just a moment. But before we do that, I'm going to say goodbye to you, and tell you what I love about you.
D: Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna blush.
P: I love that you are funny, that you are open and honest and you are a good friend, and you're fun to converse with.
D: Well, thank you, the feeling is very mutual. And I had a great time doing this. I was - I actually wasn't anxious about doing it, I was actually very excited. I like talking about myself.
D: Who doesn't, right? So thank you, Paul. I really had a good time.
P: And I really appreciate you talk about stuff I know was painful for you to talk about, but I think there are gonna be some people that will feel comforted and will feel less alone by what you had to say.
D: I have to say - and I know we're trying to wrap this up, but - when my brother died, I was shocked at how many people have been touched by suicide.
D: I was really really surprised. I didn't know it was that common of a thing. And it's just - my parents and I both were like, Oh, my God, this is crazy - but it does help to hear other people talk about it, I hope. I mean it helps me. Every situation is different but ...
P: Is there anything in closing, if somebody is in a situation that you were in that has somebody close to them that took their life, is there anything that you would like to say to them?
D: Well this is - this might offend some people - and it might ...
P: It's okay.
D: And it might sound like I'm color-coding it, but I honestly believe - at least for my brother's case - and again, this was someone who had dealt with this his whole life - who thought it out and planned it - I honestly think that ... nothing was the right thing to do. And obviously I don't want my brother to be dead, obviously not. But I do think it was a relief for him. And I do feel like - God this is going to sound like I'm pro-suicide or something. I'm not. I'm just saying, just take some comfort in the fact that maybe someone is in so much pain - in so much pain - that they did what they needed to do. They didn't do it to hurt anybody. You know, they did it because they just didn't want to feel that pain anymore. And I wish to God he had stayed on the meds. I don't know - I can't say with 100% certainty that that would've helped. I know for a lot of people it does, and, you know - for people who have never gotten help, obviously, they should take this - they should take those steps. But - and you can't feel guilty. I mean, you will, cause there's no way not to feel guilty.
P: How can you not?
D: But I've sort of accepted that this was - it's going to sound so corny and I'm not even 100% sure that I believe it - but that this was his path. Like whatever anyone did, this was what was going to happen, in his case.
D: But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to help people, I mean I'm sure - it's not like everyone is not - everyone is beyond help, of course. When I hear about these teenagers - that's what kills me, is these teenagers - I'm like, you have no idea what a small part of your life this is - that's what's shocking to me.
P: Such little data on your life and who you are has come in yet, and you are making such a rash decision.
D: It's just - that's the stuff that ... kills me. I just - there's - your life is just not even started. Yes, these things affect us and we're going to have insecurities for the rest of our lives because of what happened in high school or whatever, but - I'm babbling.
P: Well, let's agree on this. Anybody over ninety, you've had enough data. You want to kill yourself? Go ahead.
D: You know if you're a shmuck.
P: Well actually, we might even swing by and help.
D: Right. Sure. But it's just - I don't think people understand their value. Certainly my brother didn't. Certainly.
P: And you can't see it when you're in that spiral of depression.
P: Well, thank you so much for being my friend, and for being honest, and if you're out there and you're stuck, don't give up hope. We may not have the answers on this show. We probably don't. But I do know this - is that we've felt like you feel. And know that you are not alone.
D: And it does - this is - it does always get better. It really does.
P: Yeah, you've just got to be patient. Thanks for listening.