Former NHL Goalie Clint Malarchuk (voted #3 ep of 2014)

Former NHL Goalie Clint Malarchuk (voted #3 ep of 2014)

The former NHL goalie opens up about his difficult childhood and the OCD that helped him professionally but ultimately almost ended his life.  He shares about his anxiety, depression, alcoholism, suicide attempt and the PTSD from a skate to the neck that almost caused him to bleed to death during a televised game in 1989.   Clint has survived it all an more importantly got the help his “cowboy” upbringing had stigmatized for years as “weak”.   Clint’s book is called A Matter of Inches (in Canada it’s called The Crazy Game).

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Episode notes:

Clint's book is called A Matter of Inches (in Canada it's called The Crazy Game).

Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Episode 200, with my guest Clint Malarchuk. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour—honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas, and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show’s not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. I’m not a therapist. It’s more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck. The website for this show is Go there, check it out, join the forum. Read a blog, read a guest blog, fill out a survey, see how other people filled out surveys, sharing their deepest, darkest secrets, their struggles. You can support the show there. You can buy a T-shirt, you can buy a coffee mug. And don’t forget to use the search box to search for episodes that cover certain issues or blogs that cover certain issues. So for instance, if you’re interested in stuff that has to do with bipolar, type in “bipolar” in the search box and maybe an episode will come up that’ll help you—or maybe it’ll aggravate you and you’ll be done with the show forever. Hmm. Maybe that’ll happen. And then maybe you can go fuck yourself. Why? Why, three minutes in, have I pitted you against me? You, the kind listener, who’ve—who has given me positive feedback that kept me going for 200 episodes. Why do I drop the gloves? Maybe because our guest is Clint Malarchuk and I’m afraid that I’m—that I need to be tough, in case Clint listens. I was so happy that we were able to get Clint for this episode. I had contacted him on my own after I saw the 30 for 30 documentary short on him, and thank God the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival in Toronto arranged for me to go up there and record him.

Let’s see—on my way there, I’m going through customs in Canada, and… I shared this before I brought Clint out with the audience, but it—for some reason, it didn’t record, but I’ll share it with you. So I’m waiting to go through customs and they ask me, “What is the nature of your business?” And I said, “Well, I’m up here to do a live recording of a podcast. I’m a podcaster.” And they said, “Oh, what is your—what’s your podcast about?” And I was like—I suddenly—I just kind of froze, and I was like, “I talk about being crazy. And other people—other crazy people come see me, and we bond over how we often wanna die, or… I dunno, poke someone in the eyes. Can you let me into Canada?” And I’m so lucky that I don’t have to deal with the stigma of mental illness because of the industry that I’m in and the city that I live in, but I got just a little bit of taste because I was suddenly…embarrassed to have mental illness in that moment, with that customs guy. And I was honestly afraid that it was—that I was gonna have to go into a room and be questioned, that they would think that I was dangerous. And fortunately they didn’t, but it was funny and kind of unsettling at the same time. Maybe that’s the funniest stuff, is the stuff that’s unsettling on a certain degree.

I have to share this you. A kid—somebody tweeted—this 13-year-old kid had said—he heard somebody say to somebody else, “Why do you have depression? You have so much good stuff in your life.” And this kid said, “Well, that’s like saying to somebody, ‘Why do you have asthma? There’s so much air.’” Fuckin’ genius, man. Teenagers! They are not worthless! You teens out there, you are not worthless. God, remember when you were a teenager and you would just look at people that were, like, over 30 and just think, “I will never be like you. I’m so much smarter than you.” And maybe some of them are.

What else did I wanna share? I wanted to share this with you. I was playing hockey the other night, and it’s against this team that we always get into some type of scuffle with. And I know most of the guys on their team and they’re good guys, but there’s, like, two guys that just have bad attitudes. And two—honestly, there’s two guys on my team that have bad attitudes. And we each had three guys from our side ejected and pretty soon there’s no substitutes, and it’s getting ridiculous. People are still arguing. The clock is running down and the refs are so busy assessing penalties, and those of us that weren’t fighting were just, like, standing there, watching the game slip away. And I just got so tired of it in that moment, and I just looked at this guy on the opposing team who was, like, five feet away from me and I just looked him in the eyes and I just skated over and I went, “Let’s hug it out.” And we just hugged each other! And then I just started going up to the guys on their team, and I was like, “Where’s the love?” I said, “I don’t wanna hate. Where’s the love?” And just one by one, I hugged each of the five guys on their team, and we all kinda laughed—started laughing, and we played. And it was beautiful. It was a beautiful moment. And I’m proud. I’m proud that I was the guy to bring love into the momentary cloud of hate. ’Cause I have been that guy, making the cloud of hate. And it’s not satisfying. Maybe for a split-second, it’s satisfying, but…

Yeah, so I wanna read you a couple of Struggle in a Sentences. This one is filled out by a guy who calls himself “Sorry I Picked the Wrong Parents.” He is in his 20s, and about his depression, he writes:

“The unrelenting sadness isn’t what scares me. It’s the episodes of complete apathy I experience in between. I begin to casually think about ways to kill myself and find the only way to remind myself I’m alive is to cut myself.”

About his love addiction, he writes:

“I feel like I need somebody to love me and be intimate with me for my life to have any kind of purpose or meaning.”

About experiencing racial or cultural bias, he writes:

“Dear white people, I’m sorry I picked the wrong parents. I’ll choose more wisely next time.”

About his anger issues:

“When I get stressed, I get very pissed, very quickly. It can be something as small as dropping my phone while I’m using it or getting food on my clothes, and this anger drives me to cut myself. I imagine doing even more violent things to myself but don’t have the means to at the moment.”

And a snapshot from his life, he writes:

“Right now I’m in a state of absolute apathy. Eating, bathing, going to class. None of it means a fucking thing. I don’t care about what becomes of me and haven’t eaten in about three days. I can’t cry, I don’t laugh, no smiling or anything. I’m just numb.”

Buddy, my heart goes out to you, and I want to encourage you to go talk to somebody, especially—it sounds like you’re at college. There are often very, very low-fee or free counseling services. But you should see somebody ’cause it sounds like there—obviously something is very… serious going on, and it might be something chemical that could be helped with meds or beginning talk therapy, but don’t just sit there and accept that small, painful life. You deserve better than that. This is—and I have been that—in that place that you’re at, and that is not—you don’t have to be that way.

This is—I love this guy’s name. This is filled out by a guy who calls himself “Fuck Everyone Who Gives a Fuck.” I am gonna go actually get that, dot com. I’m gonna go buy that domain name. And dot org, ’cause there just seems to be a little bit of altruism in that name.

About his depression:

“The task of brushing my teeth is like asking a healthy person to run continuously for ten years.”

About his love addiction:

“Purposefully looking away from an attractive woman because I can already feel the pain entering my soul.”

That is profound. That is fucking profound. About his OCD:

“Telling my negative side to fuck off while I tap my toe exactly ten times before getting out of my chair.”

About his co-dependency:

“Wishing my mate were as co-dependent as me, then it’d be a match made in fucking heaven.”

This is filled out by “The Other Heather,” and she writes about her depression:

“It’s the feeling of, ‘I just want to go home,’ but you have it everywhere, even at home.”

About her PTSD, she writes:

“I should be strong enough to handle the shit from my past, but some memories I can’t simply un-see, and it makes me feel weak that I’m still affected after all these years.”

A snapshot from her life, she writes:

“My adoption was a taboo subject in the house I grew up in. Any questions regarding the topic were completely ignored. It made me feel incredibly lonely. The thoughts I had on the adoption subject were pretty heavy and a lot to deal with on my own. One day at around age 12, I broke down crying because I felt so burdened with all of my questions. My mother came to my room, stood in the doorway, and asked why I was crying. Through choked tears, I started to explain, but once she understood it had to do with my adoption, she covered her ears with her hands, turned, and walked away. The sense of abandonment I had felt up until that point doubled that day and it’s still with me today.”

Thank you for sharing that. You know, the longer I do this podcast, the more I realize…what we all experience may be different on the surface, but it’s so similar in terms of how we feel it, how we experience it. I was having trouble getting out of bed the other day just because of the anxiety and the dread and the fear of responsibility. And the thought occurred to me that every morning my body wakes up in a custody battle between my goals and my fears.

Before I roll the interview with Clint, I just wanted to give you—set the stage, as it were. Before they brought me up to record the podcast, there was a speaker named Kendra Fisher, who is a goalie who played at extremely high levels, at one point playing for Team Canada, and she had untreated mental illness—OCD, depression, a lot of other things. And she’s since worked through them and manages her mental illness, but she shared her story, and so much of it was similar to Clint’s. So when he gets on stage, he’s deeply affected by not only that, but they also rolled the 30 for 30 documentary short called Cutthroat, which ESPN did about Clint and his story, and he hadn’t seen it in a long time. And so the two of those were very emotionally overwhelming to him, so I thought that would be important for you to understand as we begin here, the interview with Clint.

Paul (PG): Let’s get him to the stage, ladies and gentlemen, former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk! Thanks, buddy. So where do we—and his wife Joanie is in the audience. So nice to meet you, too. And I think the—is the—your co-author of your book here?

Clint (CM): Yeah, Dan. Dan Robson, co-author of my book…

PG: Beautifully done—

CM: A wonderful guy and, y’know, we didn’t know each other when we started, but we’re great friends now.

PG: Oh God, how could you not be?

CM: Yeah.

PG: The book is called—in the States, it’s called A Matter of Inches and here in Canada, it’s called The Crazy Game. I just finished it and highly, highly recommend it. It’s such a great peek into not only someone who lives with PTSD and OCD and had a rough childhood in many ways, but it’s fascinating getting inside the head of a professional athlete and what that pressure is like. And I love the stories of being a junior, traveling on the bus, and pranks with your friends and all that kind of stuff. Let’s talk about what it was like for you growing up as kid. You grew up in Edmonton, spent a lot of time on the—outside of Edmonton, in nature. What… I guess, let’s start with, what was the home life like?

CM: Well, it wasn’t good. I mean, home life was—I grew up with an alcoholic father and… Just—excuse me. I haven’t seen that video, or the screen of that for some time. I’m a little taken aback by it, but not only that—Kendra, your story was so similar. I was fighting tears hearing your story. I mean, wow. It’s so similar to mine and I thought I was the only one, knowing that I’m not now, as far as I’ve come, and talking and meeting people that suffer. But just hearing that story so similar—we’re not just hockey players and goalies on top of that, but… Wow. That got me going right away, so I’m a little taken aback. Let’s lighten it up. Tell a joke! You’re supposed to be a comedian, aren’t you?

PG: Dude, I love this! I love this! Clint’s crying—

CM: Yeah.

PG: Kendra’s wife is holding her hand and she’s crying.

CM: You know what’s amazing, though—and really, you started off with sharing at the top of it, and we’re able to come together and help one another, meet one another, support one another, cry in front of one another, man or woman. And it’s okay, y’know? That’s—I’m safe in these environments because I can cry, and I don’t have to apologize or anything for it. But we can also laugh, and—y’know, you’re talking about the book and we can get into that or whatever, but it’s amazing how my wife and I now—I mean, doing the book with Dan and being interviewed and going deep into that—those dark places again was really, really hard. And then we—now that we’re out and we’re speaking about it more, and my wife and I—some of the stories, like me escaping from a mental hospital and the CIA and FBI are after me, I got my cell phone on, doing the army crawl through bushes, and they’re looking for me—and I’m talking to my wife, “The CIA, the FBI!” And, y’know, at the time, it wasn’t that funny, but now…now we go, “Oh my God, remember that? The CIA? C’mon, Clint. The FBI? You’re not that important.” And—but we laugh, and that’s good and it’s healthy. It really is. And, like, when you opened, “What are you doing coming to Canada?” “Well, crazy me talking to crazy people, and…” Y’know, we can use that term, “crazy.” At least we can, y’know? ’Cause I feel like I, at times, still am and I definitely was—at least I felt it. And for our afflictions, y’know, I guess it’s a term of endearment.

PG: It is, and you’ve used it, y’know. I would bristle at somebody who doesn’t know me saying, “Paul Gilmartin, that guy’s crazy.”

CM: Yeah.

PG: But, like, if a friend says—refers to my—somebody who I’ve shared with refers to it as my “crazy” or something like that, I know it’s coming from a place of love.

CM: Well, as a goaltender, we—everybody says, “Well, they’re goalie, they’re crazy.” And so, it was actually kinda cool because you could act any way you wanted and you’d have the excuse, “Oh, he’s a goalie, they’re crazy.” If you’re a goalie, you can do that. You can do anything.

PG: Is there—I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the two most idiosyncratic athletes that you see in sports are pitchers and goalies, and it makes sense because there is no—other than maybe a golfer, but they’re not supporting a team—there are really no other athletes where there’s as much burden on their shoulders that I can think of.

CM: Well, I—quarterbacks. A pitcher. Something about the objects coming at you increases the—you might wanna say, goaltending is maybe a little more…

PG: Have you ever taken it personally, like, when somebody—and I know you have, because I’ve read about all the fights, so I would imagine you took a lot of things personally when you were in your sickness—but if somebody really unloads a slapper at you, does it ever just piss you off?

CM: Well, in practice, it did, like—

PG: When they go high on you.

CM: Yeah, and especially in warm-ups. And I think I wrote about that in the book, when I threw my stick and broke that guy’s nose, I think that made the—it’s like—

PG: One of the many noses Clint broke in the book.

CM: Look at my nose. I didn’t give all the punches. I took a few.

PG: You have supported so many doctors’ kids going to college, it’s not even funny.

CM: Oh, absolutely.

PG: You’re a gift!

CM: Not just the medical doc—like, the psychologists—psychiatrists. Hey, I’ve built a few mansions for them.

PG: But it would piss you off when…

CM: If they didn’t respect the warm-up, and that once you’re warmed up you’re kind of fair game.

PG: But I guess what I was asking was, ’cause you didn’t really refer to it in the book, but there’s a headspace I would imagine—I know, just playing amateur hockey—that you get into, “It’s us against them,” et cetera, et cetera. But when the stakes are so much higher and you’re somebody like you, who was raised to be a cowboy

CM: What do you mean, “somebody like me?”

PG: Did you ever—when you would be tending net—let’s say you’re having a bad game and they were lighting you up, would you feel rage at the other team or was it turned inward?

CM: No, all definitely at myself.

PG: Okay.

CM: I mean, yeah. If you’re having a bad game—I had one, I think. And I can’t remember that one very well, so… Next question? No, for sure, it was always internal. It’s about you—listening to Kendra again, too, on that stuff. There’s—it’s yourself and also the sleepless nights and not wanting to leave the home and, and, and… I was really impressed with your story.

PG: It’s shocking how similar your story is—

CM: Oh, ridiculous. Kendra and I met yesterday, I think it was at a strip club, and she was working and… No, we were here at this great festival, by the way, and I was like, “This is—this is too weird.” And I said, “You must have read my book and you’re screwing with my head ’cause you know I’m crazy and you’re telling me you’re crazy, and you did this and this and this…” And it was on and on and on. I’m like, “Come on.” Finally, I said, “Do you like horses?” Okay, there was the only thing, that she wasn’t really into horses, because it was really getting weird on our—the things that we have shared in our positions as goalies in hockey and also just on where we’ve been, to the depths that we’ve been, and a little bit of self-medicating in there and all this stuff. It was just like—and then to hear her speak was even—she went into more depth of it, and I was tearing up because it was like she read my book, but she didn’t! She didn’t read my book, so now I’m pissed off and taking that personal. I don’t take things personal, right? Well…

PG: Isn’t that the best—even though you’re not happy they had to go through what they went through, but isn’t it the best, just knowing you’re not alone? And feeling it—

CM: Oh my God. Y’know—

PG: Feeling it in your bones, in your gut. It’s like—

CM: When I wrote the book—I mean, I relapsed. I relapsed and started to drink again because it was so painful. And I remember the final edit I did and—like, on the video, that’s all filmed in my barn because that’s where I live. My wife won’t let me in the house too much. But I love my barn. I like being outside, and if it’s the winter, the barn has a little bit of warmth or whatever, but I like to be out there. So anyways, I’m on the phone with Dan and we’re—I’m doing the final edit, telling him the things we need to tweak or whatever, and I—as soon as we were done, we went through it and I just cried. And I just—like, not cried. I sobbed. I just—it was coming out of me and it was just so emotional. And the bond that Dan and I had formed doing the book, because he’d seen me cry before, many times. But it was like he hugged me through the phone. Now, that’s what sharing did at that point. I could feel his love for me. And—but, I guess my point—the book was so damn difficult and I—that I did relapse and start to self-medicate again, so that’s how hard it was. I’m not proud of the relapse but it happened, and the point is, now that the book is done—everybody goes, “Is it hard? You’re out there and you’re talking about it.” Oh my God, the feedback has been so phenomenal because people are going—basically just saying thank you, and all that is, is I just shared. And it’s like you said, now it’s out there and people can relate and you don’t feel alone.

PG: You don’t feel alone—

CM: Even when I still think, “Oh, I don’t know if anybody had it quite as bad as me,” and then Kendra shares her… It’s the same stuff. And there’s a lot of people, I’m assuming here, that know somebody or are struggling, and we’re all in it together and we speak—I think Michael Landsberg with TSN coined the phrase, “It’s not a weakness, it’s a sickness.” And that allows you—okay. And what’s the difference between—there’s so much physical parts of this element and for me, I have a chemical imbalance. I don’t produce enough serotonin, which causes anxiety, depression, all the things we talk about. And what’s the difference, if you’re diabetic? It’s a chemical imbalance.

PG: It’s a perfect metaphor—

CM: It’s physical. It’s physical. The problem is, because it affects our emotions and our thinking, it becomes mental.

PG: I always say—when somebody emails me and they say, “I went to my mom or my dad or my spouse and said, ‘I’m experiencing this stuff,’ and they say, ‘Just look at all you have to be grateful for!’” Y’know, look at—

CM: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been there.

PG: People that think they understand clinical depression because they’ve experienced situational sadness is like thinking you understand Italy because you’ve been to the Olive Garden. There’s a slight resemblance, but it ain’t the same thing. It ain’t the same thing. Let’s—I wanna talk about your…how you got to where you are today, so let’s start with the beginning. Paint that picture of your dad coming home that night, trying to get into the house.

CM: Yeah. And it goes back—and whether this had a big part of my mental illness, I don’t know, but I had severe anxiety as a kid. But home life was bad. My father came home drunk one night in the middle of the night and I woke up to smashing of windows in the house, and those are traumatic things. And shortly after that, I was hospitalized with severe anxiety. I didn’t feel normal as a kid, by any means. Over time, things—and at that time, they didn’t know what to do with me. They had no idea. And so I was hospitalized, they were sedating me, and there was nothing really done. I did get somewhat better and went through my—my teenage years, I know I was obsessive because—obsessive to be a goalie, a good goalie. For me, it wasn’t the blue and white, it was to be an NHL goalie. And I, too, can relate to the obsessiveness of doing everything—and I knew I trained harder and did more than anything, but I don’t know if that was a channeling of my anxiety from my childhood. I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. It just—I was overly obsessive. But it saved me in some ways because—I thought about this later, that I’d walk home from the outdoor rink, and on the outdoor rink I’d play for hours and hours and hours, and I didn’t wanna go home. And you’re a kid, you don’t think, “Why don’t I wanna go home?” or anything. Now I look back—I probably didn’t wanna go home because home was not good. But I’d walk back home through this big field of snow, and it was like the anxiety would start to build again. And I’m sure that was because I was going home. So my freedom was the rink. My freedom was hockey, and it evolved into later in life and making it into the NHL, and I think my obsessiveness got me to the NHL, no doubt, because I trained… A quick story—my brother was seven years older than me, also a goalie. We had a lot of the same coaches, and he was the skill guy. Coaches—when we go back, they say, “I can’t believe that…” I made it to the NHL and he didn’t, ’cause he had the skill. But I obviously had that work ethic that was beyond even work ethic. It was obsessiveness. So I give the OCD credit for getting me there. It was later on that it overtook my life.

PG: What percentage of professional athletes do you think have a touch of OCD or…

CM: Oh, not just athletes. I think there’s a lot of very, very successful people in business, in athletics, artists, that are driven. They have OCD. I think we all have a touch of it, to an extent.

PG: How about professional hand washers? Do you think…

CM: Are you talking about me again? I don’t take things personal, but man, you’re getting under my skin. I was a professional hand washer. I still am. I still am. But I can live with that. I don’t get as many colds as you guys.

PG: What does it feel like in your body when your mind is telling yourself you gotta wash your hands again, and you resist the urge to—is there an energy that’s left in your body as you fight that urge?

CM: It’s anxiety. And that’s just one element of it, what you’re talking about. Germs and the anxiety—

PG: Describe it, if you would, in your body.

CM: My gut would just be knotting up and then I can feel my—just describing it, I’m starting to feel it. My shoulders start to get tight, I hunch in a little bit. My breathing will get shorter and my mind starts to—I’m not thinking about you talking to me. I’m thinking about, “When can I get up and go wash my hands?” And—see, I just took a breath because it’s like that right now, describing it. I’m getting that gut feeling. My heart rate will speed up. Yeah. And that’s just one aspect of OCD we’re talking about. We could go into ritualistic thinking or a lot of different things, where the same bodily things happen to me—

PG: What are some of the ritualistic thing—I’m sorry, I cut you off. Didn’t want to finish—what are some of the ritualistic thinkings that you just mentioned? Some things that you ruminate over—

CM: It’s not so much what it was, it’s that I couldn’t turn it off. And people that don’t have OCD, they go, “Just quit thinking about it,” or, “Quit doing it,” or whatever, and… My wife always says it’s like somebody—we’ve all had a song stuck in our head. It might be a—not a good song you don’t like—

PG: It’s always a terrible song! It’s never a good song!

CM: Yeah, yeah, and it’s stuck in your head and you… “Get outta there!” Well, it’s kinda like that, except magnify it and really know that you cannot stop that thought. You can’t stop it, no matter what you do. And that is the chemical imbalance. It’s got nothing to do with willpower. It’s got nothing to do with—just change your—get busy with your hands, or anything like that. You can be busy with your hands, but it’s not gonna turn it off. And it’s that chemical imbalance that doesn’t allow your rationale to go, “Okay, I’m gonna think about something different.” You don’t have that ability, and it’s a chemical imbalance. It’s like telling your pancreas, “Okay, start producing more insulin so I’m not diabetic.”

PG: It’s like a terrible song stuck in your head that’s written about you, by a bitter ex.

CM: Yeah, yeah. It’d be like going to see a bad stand-up comedian and—

PG: Easy, now.

CM: And—

PG: Easy, now.

CM: And trying to laugh so his feelings aren’t hurt.

PG: I wish I could say that that never happened. You name a shit gig, I’ve done it. I performed for two people one time, who did not care for me.

CM: Wow.

PG: Yeah, that was tough.

CM: How’d that work for you?

PG: Yeah. Not good, not good. So, talk about—and this is a—this is the hockey geek in me coming—there’s no way I’m gonna interview Clint Malarchuk and just stick to the stuff about—

CM: Yeah, I found out you’re kind of a groupie before the show started here.

PG: Yeah. I was gonna wear your jersey, but there were too many teams—

CM: You should see what his underwear looks like, never mind his—I mean, this guy is—

PG: You just missed my shot at you. I took a—I just joked at how many times you’ve been traded. I said, “I was gonna wear your jersey, but there was nine different teams to pick from.” Come on, he took a shot at me, I can’t take a swing back?

CM: Yeah.

PG: Talk about the—when you went from living at home to playing for Portland Winterhawks.

CM: The thing with that—yeah, okay, you kinda get an idea, the abusive father and things—I didn’t go into a bunch of detail, but things weren’t good when Dad left and we had nothing. Zero. He wasn’t—we didn’t even know where he went. So, we were selling furniture to live. We were doing all sorts of—Mom and I probably developed—what’s one counselor of the… How many counselors were there? Six, seven, eight.

PG: He’s counting on his toes now.

CM: Yeah. Described as an abnormal relationship, but said, “Hey, you had no choice.” I depended on her for support. She had to go back in the workforce. I supported her, like—I was young and so, we developed such a bond that, like, we almost became partners, in an abnormal way, with the support of each other and everything. And I think that leaving home—I was so homesick. I mean, I almost quit hockey. I wanted to quit hockey. It was that bad. But hockey was my life, it was my love, it was my savior of my mental problems I was having without even being diagnosed back then. So it was very tough for me to leave home and—because of that bond I had with my mother. And I’m not ashamed of it. We had—we developed that bond because we had to, for survival and support of each other. So that was the biggest thing for me, leaving home was just—unbelievable homesickness.

PG: When you—there’s one other thing I wanna talk about, and I’m not trying to throw your mom under the bus, but I found—there was a kind of a link in my brain between that moment—

CM: Imagine that.

PG: That moment when you were a kid and you got hurt on the ice, and what your mom—when you wanted her to comfort you but—remember what she said?

CM: A lot of people ask me, “What did you think? What was going through your mind?” Because you see this blood pouring out—

PG: No, no, no, no, I’m talking about when you were a kid, and you shared this in the book, where you got hurt one time—

CM: Oh! Yeah, yeah. She was a tough old broad, in really good ways. I mean, she knew the hockey. She knew the game and she brought me up to be tough, as far as hockey went. And one time, I went into the—I was playing forward then, I was just a tyke. And I went in the boards and the butt end of my stick…oops! And…

PG: Speared yourself in the gut.

CM: Yes. And she—I remember, she was up on the snow bank looking and she says, “Skate off! Don’t go down…” I’m like, “It’s a notch!” And she goes, “It’s a long way from your heart! Get—don’t lay on the ice!” Be a man about it, almost. And so she taught me that toughness.

PG: Yeah. ’Cause as I was reading your book, it’s—there was just time after time after time where that was your coping mechanism, was to “cowboy up”—

CM: Oh, for sure.

PG: And deny what you were feeling inside, which is—at the beginning of the interview as you were tearing up—it’s beautiful to me when anybody does that, but when you do that, it’s especially beautiful because you were that cowboy stereotype for so long. Can you talk about that?

CM: Well, it’s taken me—that—I was always trying to be the tough guy, all the time. Hence the fights, hence the rodeo, hence hockey playing, hence everything that I did, was always trying to be masculine and tough. And I think that hurt me from a young age, trying to always be—and it’s part of society with men, that men don’t cry, men don’t show emotion, men… I did an interview the other day, and there was a lady and a man interviewing me, and off—on a commercial break, he says, “Well, she’s real open and honest about her mental illness and depression and everything.” He goes, “I got panic attacks. I touched on it a bit on the air, but I really struggle with anxiety and panic.” And I said, “Well, that’s the man thing.” And before you know it, we come back from a commercial break and he’s now going, “Yeah, that panic stuff, I got some of that. Well, I got quite a bit of it.” And he started to open up because I shared. And it’s like, okay, that’s why I feel like, for me, playing in the NHL and even the rodeo and the ranch life and everything, they’re all kinda manly stuff. In Canada, hockey—in the NHL, you got the Superman cape, you’re bulletproof. So that has given me an avenue to be vulnerable now, because I’ve done all that stuff and people—

PG: You’ve proven that you’ve got that side figured out.

CM: Yeah, I’ve got some “test–tethtothterone” and—

PG: That’s actually how it’s pronounced!

CM: Yes!

PG: A lot of people mispronounce it “testosterone.”

CM: Yeah, I nailed it.

PG: Yeah.

CM: And now I can—hey, my book is out there. It’s open and it’s described as raw and, like, almost too honest. You can never be too honest, but… And, so what am I gonna do? You’re all gonna know my deep, dark secrets. So what?

PG: I think so many guys are afraid to admit that we have a feminine side to us. Everybody—women have a masculine side to them and men have a feminine side to them. And I kept mine buried for 48 years, and now that I’ve gotten in tough with it doing this podcast, it’s fuckin’ awesome! It’s so nice to—

CM: Yeah. Like, I’m tearing up with Kendra talking, and I thought, “I gotta get my shit together before I go out there because they’re gonna see me cry.” So what, y’know?

PG: There’s one guy—no, there’s a guy in the back that was mocking him. You should have seen it. And he was somebody we all respect.

CM: Hey buddy, come here and bend my nose for me. I’ll straighten yours.

PG: It’s so beautiful seeing somebody get in touch with that side of themselves, ’cause it’s funny—people can see that—us suppressing that side. Most people can see us, somebody who’s well balanced can see somebody suppressing that side in themselves coming—trying to come out. And it’s heartbreaking to watch somebody deny part of their authentic selves. And in your book, it’s just such a beautiful arc. Let’s—I know we saw on the clip—I’m recording this, and the listeners of the podcast are gonna hear this—they won’t get to see the clip. If it’s not too painful for you to talk about the accident when you were playing goal, could you talk about that? But if not, I completely understand.

CM: No, no, no. I think it’s important because that was the push that really—not realizing it at the time, in fact, it was years later that I realized that that accident really spiraled me into the depths of real clinical depression, anxiety, OCD. Yes, I had OCD but it was not—it was manageable. Like I said, it got me to the NHL and probably kept me there for a number of years. The accident itself—when I see it—first of all, after it happened I had terrible nightmares. And I always thought those movies are so fake where the guy—you don’t even know it’s a dream they’re showing in a movie, and all of a sudden they cut to the guy and he wakes up in a bed and he’s sitting straight up and he’s sweating, going… Yeah, right. Hollywood bullshit. That was me. That was me. I’d wake—I’d see that skate come up and I’d just wake up. But when the accident happened and I saw the blood, I thought, “This is it. That’s an artery or it’s a vein. I’ve got minutes here.” And I immediately thought of my mother.

PG: And for the listeners, a guy was coming into the crease, an opposing player—your defenseman kind of knocked the guy off balance, his skate come up—came up. It hit you in the neck and the footage of it shows the blood coming out with each heartbeat, pumping out in a stream.

CM: Yeah, where every time my heart would beat—I’m assuming that’s why it was squirting. And it would squirt—the first couple pumps went about six feet. And I went, “Oh my God. This is not good.” And I thought of my mom. I thought, “I gotta get off the ice because Mom’s watching this on TV and she shouldn’t see her son die on Technicolor.” And, so that was—’cause I was given credit for manning up and skating off under my own power, rather than laying there—well, the other thing, Terry Gregson was the referee and he’s looking down at me and his eyes are like—he goes, “Get a stretcher! He’s gonna die!” And I’m going, “Thanks…” And so I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna—I got seconds, maybe minutes or whatever, and I’m gonna wait for a stretcher? No.” So that was part of it, too, getting off quick. But definitely, my mother was first and foremost. “I gotta get off. I don’t want her to see this.” That’s trauma, and…

PG: Do you think part of the trauma, in addition to what happened, was the look on people’s faces?

CM: Oh God, everybody’s panicked. Even the doctors were looking at me, going, “I’m used to broken arms. What are you doing, bleeding like this, buddy? I’m not trained.”

PG: Yeah. Talk about the two guys that were there that helped you on your way to the hospital.

CM: Well, interesting—our medical trainer was a Vietnam vet, so he’d seen some blood and guts. And I think they’re all trained at—for these injuries, but seeing it firsthand is a different thing. And this guy, thank God, had some—because he was very calm. Jim Pizzutelli. And he handled it really well. The doctor that saw me immediately handled it pretty good, too. And there was a lot of medical personnel, rushed down from the stands that were watching and I don’t know if they just wanted to get close or really wanted to help, but everybody I looked at had eyes—big, big eyes. Marty Feldman. I’d only been traded there three weeks before and I was kinda buddied up. I knew the trainers kinda better than anybody and Rip Simonick, the big, stout guy with the banana fingers, he kinda held my hand. He’s the one, I said, “Call my mom. Tell her I love her.” And there—I’d seen a priest—I’m not Catholic but I’m a spiritual guy and I said, “Is he around? Get him,” ’cause I saw him around the team quite a bit and, again, I’m a new guy. And I thought, “Wow, if I got three minutes, I got a lot of repenting to do in three minutes, so get him here quick!” What’s interesting about that, though, is—I came back so quick. Again, the macho, “man up”—

PG: Despite everybody telling you, “Take the season off.”

CM: Right, right. No, no, no. “I’m a cowboy. Man, you watch. I’ll be back. I’m playing this season.” So I came back really quick. Let’s fast-forward to 2008, when I shot myself. And now I’m in this treatment center, and this lady counselor who’s—I called her some names, too, that would make Joanie proud because she’s—like to know that’s not the only person I ever cussed when I was at my worst, but—

PG: Tina?

CM: Tina. And she was, like, trying to convince me I had PTSD and I’m going, “Eh. Why?” “Because of that accident,” and blah, blah, blah. “Are you kidding me? I’m—I came back so quick. I played ten days later,” blah, blah, blah. It was almost insulting, y’know? And she gave me this book to read and it was about trauma in animals. Of course, I’m an animal lover, so there was this one story that really hit me and I went, “Wow.” It was about an antelope and there’s fight, flight, and freeze. Well, the antelope gets caught and it froze. The tiger takes it to the bushes, goes and gets the cubs, cubs come back to eat and the antelope—it went into freeze, so it wasn’t dead. And what it did, it got up and it shook all its limbs and bounced off. About four days later, Joanie’s coming to visit me, gets in an icy fender-bender in the mountains, and she says, “Oh, I held it together. Cops came, we wrote out everything, I got in the car and I just started to shake and then I cried.” I went, “That’s what you’re supposed to do! That’s what the antelope does! We’re animals! This is all good! This is good! Tina, I got PTSD!” And so then we went into extensive therapy on PTSD and she did some weird voodoo shit to me that was really weird. And then—she even shared to me, she goes—because I—after we did this stuff, she was like—she’d seen me and every time I saw her, just sobbed—for three days, I cried after she did this stuff. But it’s amazing, all that time—as animals, antelopes know what to do, y’know? Nature takes care of that. But as men and people, but especially men in society, you don’t cry. You get trauma, you buck—you… “Man up! Let’s go!” Ignore it, whatever you gotta do.

PG: And we’re so oriented to fix things instead of to just be and feel.

CM: So, for how many years? Do the math. ’89 to 2008. Somebody…

PG: Nineteen years?

CM: Nineteen years, thank you. Nineteen years, I had all this trauma in me that I never got rid of, because I was a man and I got back quick and I’m—I play hockey and I never had counseling. Never thought of counseling, nor did the team in ’89. And when Zedník cut his neck, he had counseling, the family had counseling, the players had counseling. That’s how far we’ve come, thank God. It’s good. But I had all this trauma, and that’s why I cried for three days. It just came out of me.

PG: And Richard—for our listeners, Richard Zedník was a player who had a similar injury years after Clint’s, and it triggered—that kinda brought you down to—

CM: Yep, a spiral again.

PG: To your knees.

CM: Yeah, and his—ironically, my accident happened in Buffalo and his accident happened in Buffalo, so don’t go to Buffalo. It’s a cutthroat town.

PG: Talk about the darkest of the dark days and—

CM: Jesus Christ, I shot myself! How dark—you want another dark from me?

PG: No, I want to talk about—’cause our listeners—

CM: This is a sick man. But he admits it!

PG: Our listeners don’t know—and I don’t need graphic details about what happened, but you just referred to, “Yeah, the day I shot myself.” And I think our listeners are gonna go, “What?! What?”

CM: Maybe your listeners should have bought a ticket and come here, huh?

PG: We have some listeners here.

CM: There is?

PG: How many listeners?

CM: Oh, isn’t that nice? What, two again, huh?

PG: Yeah, two. Just tell the listeners what it was that happened. This was in 2008…

CM: I think a lot of people can relate. Now that I’m in a 12-step program and a lot of—I realize there’s a lot of people that have suicidal thoughts. And I think a lot, a lot of people have suicidal thoughts. And I acted out on it. Obviously, alcohol helped me to do that. But there was a time—and at that time, I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to live. I wished God would just take me or I’d get hit by a train or a car, ’cause I didn’t want to do that drastic act of suicide.

PG: That’s one of the nice things about turbulence on a plane, and I’m not kidding, is when you’re in that place that—I would get giddy when the plane would get turbulent and everybody would be sacred and I’d been thinking, “I hope it goes down so I don’t have to do anything.”

CM: Yes. They’re all scared, they’re all scared to die. I relate. I concur. Yes.

PG: Go ahead.

CM: Yeah. It’s like, y’know…

PG: Finally, somebody’s helping me!

CM: Yeah, somebody’s listening. “What took you so long? I was ready two days ago.”

PG: So you’re in that place—

CM: Yeah, and I realize that there’s a lot of people that share that. And for me, it was, I didn’t want to—so I used to pray, “God, take me or take this away from me. Either way, I can’t go on like this.” And so I really didn’t want to commit suicide. And when I actually picked the gun up, I didn’t leave a note or anything. My head was spinning. And that day, I started drinking even earlier, so…

PG: Did you set your alarm to get up and drink?

CM: Yeah.

PG: I bet there are people that do that!

CM: We’re in recovery, we can relate. Yeah. And so, it was like I’d come to a peak. There was one time in Buffalo after the accident where I didn’t sleep for ten days. And that’s not a—

PG: Oh my God.

CM: Yeah, and that’s not an exaggeration. And this was similar. I don’t think I would have slept but I’d pass out because I was drinking. And so I was using alcohol very much as my self-medication. And of course, now it’s a big problem, too. So my head was spinning so much, and I wanted God to take me but I didn’t want to do a suicide because you can’t—it’s… And when I picked the gun up, I didn’t—I was shooting tin cans and rabbits and anything that moved. Thank God the neighbors weren’t out. But—and I was just thinking, “A bullet could do it. A bullet could do it.” But also, that mind was going on other things that I couldn’t stop. So when Joanie finally came home, I didn’t know if the gun had a bullet in it or not. And when I picked it up and I just—boom, under my chin. I mean, I heard it. I heard the bang, and I didn’t feel any pain and then I saw the blood, so I knew I hit the target. And I was kind of in shock. I was like, “It was loaded. Oh my God.” And I immediately told her. She called 911, I said, “You do not tell them that I shot myself. Tell them I was crawling through a fence, that the gun went off.” I mean, this is crazy—and then the helicopter comes, they’re gonna LifeFlight me and I’m going, “I’m not getting on that thing, it’s gonna go down! That doesn’t look safe!” No, I’m not—this is all—this is all true. And the police are there, they’re—well, first of all, the whole police department—well, we got three there. No, they all show up and they don’t—you gotta remember now, Joanie’s phoned in a gun accident, and…

PG: So they come, guns drawn.

CM: Well, yeah. They don’t know if she shot me or a neighbor—they don’t know anything, so their guns are drawn and I’m walking around, I’m bleeding. And the cops are telling me, “Get down on the ground or sit down.” They didn’t know what they—they’re not used to seeing a guy with a bullet in his head, walking around, yelling, “Fuck you! I ain’t going with you! I didn’t do anything wrong, the gun went off, I was crawling through a fence! Right, Joanie?” Joanie’s, like, in total shock now—

PG: How are you speaking at that point?

CM: I know! That’s what’s incredible!

PG: You missed part of your tongue—

CM: No, it went through my tongue.

PG: Through your tongue, through the roof of your mouth. Knocked—

CM: Yeah, knocked two teeth out.

PG: Two teeth out, which is considered a kick save, by the way.

CM: Yes, thank you. And Joanie found a tooth later, totally intact. But yeah, it went through the roof of my mouth, through my sinuses and it’s stuck right there. Can you see it?

PG: Did—it has not caused any—other than the hole in your mouth, which needed time to repair.

CM: Right.

PG: No lasting damage. It’s just amazing!

CM: I know, it’s incredible that I didn’t lose an eye—well, that I didn’t die, lose an eye, speech impediment, anything. It’s amazing, and that had a big part of me waking up in intensive care. I think I’d just gotten out of intensive care. My mother had flown down and that—hence the book. I thought, “You know what? I’m spared for a reason. Why did I—why am I alive?” There’s another episode—I’ve almost died three times. Why did God spare me?

PG: Was this before you went through the PTSD stuff with Tina?

CM: Oh, yeah.

PG: Okay.

CM: This was the beginning—

PG: So you hadn’t cried yet, obviously, when this—you hadn’t released all that stuff when this happened.

CM: No, I never cry—I’m a man! We don’t cry! Right. No, no. Then I went—after I got out of the hospital, I immediately went to a treatment center and I was in there six months. And the first two months—you wanna talk about a mean son of a bitch. Was I mean, Joanie? Oh, it was awful.

PG: And relentless. You were relentless.

CM: Everybody in the place was afraid of me. It was—I mean, I was a mean, angry—because why should I be there?

PG: You had it going on.

CM: Yeah, life was great!

PG: Yeah.

CM: I mean, that’s how sick I was. I thought I should not be there. “Yeah, I shot myself. If you guys wouldn’t have intervened, I would have stitched myself up, which I’ve done before. And what’s the big deal?” Seriously, that’s where my head was at. I mean, “Get me outta here.” As sick as—that’s how sick I was. I was not rational in any way, any way.

PG: So let’s fast—and thank you for sharing, retouching on those things, as uncomfortable as it must be to call the accident—

CM: Well, it helps people, and…

PG: Okay. Let’s fast-forward to—you get out, you’ve begun to process the PTSD. Let’s talk about the relationship with Joanie, who in the meantime had been—when you were at treatment center, she was going in for family counseling and finding out about the dynamic of what it means to enable somebody who’s in their sickness and they won’t get help. Let’s pick up there.

CM: She tells it really good because—I was fortunate in so many ways because the NHL and the NHLPA were funding my treatment. I couldn’t afford it, to go six months to a treatment center. Then they decided—and Joanie and I were still, like—I just shot myself, I blamed her. Things were not good. But we didn’t see each other much at all because I was in treatment and she was in—at home. And I was phoning, and we’re not supposed to have two phones. I had a hockey phone and a personal phone so, of course, I kept one. So I was able to phone her until she turned me in, said, “He’s got a phone.” “No, we got his phone.” “No, he’s got two phones.” “Okay.” So now I’m really mad at her, and it was a lot of anger. And then I’d borrow somebody’s cell phone or steal one—not steal one, but see one and grab it, use it, put it back, and she turned me in for that. So finally, I took her off the list, where she could not contact me. They could not tell—“Yeah, I’m gonna get back—I’m gonna get even with that bitch.”

PG: For standing there and looking at me while I shot myself.

CM: Yeah, exactly. But this is where I’m—as sick as—well, as sick as it sounds, that’s how sick I was. How’s that for you? It sounds—what an asshole, but you know what? These are the things I did.

PG: And that’s the power—

CM: But I did—lot of the stuff, I don’t remember. It’s been told to me. But Joanie went—they sent her to a family counseling with the Betty Ford and it’s a five-day thing. And it’s funny when she tells the story because she didn’t know what to make of me, because I was so ventful to her and hurtful in my verbiage. And—big word, “verbiage?” And she said—she was sitting there, they—everybody was sharing about—because they all have somebody that was mentally ill and self-medicating in a treatment. So these people are sharing about so-and-so, and she goes, “Well, he says that—Clint says that. Clint did that. Clint said that. Clint did that. He’s not even original!” And then she felt like, “Okay, it’s not really Clint.” It’s—

PG: The sickness.

CM: All these people saying the same thing, so again, it’s like being here and sharing. You’re not alone. So she didn’t feel alone, so then we started to open up the communication. And she could understand more that it was the sickness. It wasn’t really me. And she knew that anyways, ’cause she seen the good Clint, she just didn’t like my evil twin, and he lived there. I mean, he was there and he came out every day. But she’d also seen me when I was reasonably healthy. And I think that’s—helped motivate her through a lot of the staying with me and giving her hope that I could be well and be back to my old self. I heard—during the video, there’s some people when Joanie was speaking, and when I shot myself I didn’t lose consciousness, so that’s how thick my skull is. So I’m standing there, bleeding, and I said, “See what you made me do?” And I heard some people go, “Ugh.” That’s trauma for her, but that’s how sick I was. I didn’t—I had no idea where my head was at. I mean, it was going a hundred miles an hour and I was—so I blame her. Terrible, terrible, terrible thing. And in the book, I’m very honest about what an asshole I was. I was, and it wasn’t really me, and that’s why—they ask her, “How did you do it? Why did you stay with him? He’s such a…” But I’m not. That was a sickness.

PG: You were sick, yeah. You weren’t an asshole, you were sick.

CM: I was acting like an asshole.

PG: You were playing an asshole on TV and you did such a good job.

CM: Yeah, no acting there. And now when we sign books, it’s incredible ’cause the people have read the book, want her to sign it. And to me, that—she’s become a hero, and rightfully so because she was a hero and I dedicate the book to my mother and to Joanie, my saint. Because she was. I mean, the shit she put up with, it was beyond, like…

PG: Give them a snapshot of a typical day when you were at your sickest, ’cause there was a repetitive, like, day or week that you would live out again and again and again. There was, like, six in a row, a period of, I don’t know, a couple of years. Paint the picture for our listeners.

CM: Probably at the worst of it, getting to the climax of my gunshot, I would say that I would wake up in the morning, I’d feel okay. But within—the anxiety would start within 20 minutes, but it was manageable and I’m used to living with anxiety because as a kid, I thought that was—I lived with anxiety, and if I wasn’t feeling anxious, something was wrong. So I would—so I’m getting to that anxious point. Within two hours, it would build to where I’m just clenching my fists and the head would start to spin and thoughts would come in and I couldn’t turn my brain off. So I would start to drink. It would calm me down a bit and I could go about my day a little bit and breathe a little bit, because I couldn’t really breathe and I’d be all tight. So I could breathe a little, and then I’d obviously drink more because my head’s fighting—now I’ve got both things going. The head’s trying to combat that booze, I think, so I’d drink more and more. By 8 o’clock at night, I’m pretty much 30 beers in and—

PG: Nice round number, though.

CM: Well, I wore 30.

PG: Was that your number?

CM: Yeah, that was my number. So I drank 30—

PG: You really do have OCD!

CM: But I quit at 30! I never went to 31 or 32. And by then, I would be—now I’m a drunk idiot, where as before I was just an idiot. But I would become very violent and verbal and mean and—

PG: And needy! Needy, too.

CM: And needy. Well, this is the thing—I’d go to Joanie, and now I’m—now I’ve—okay, this is where mental illness is—I didn’t want her to know what was going on up here. So, now I’ve got a belly full of beer and that’s giving me the courage to go to her and talk about it. “I need this, I need this,” and I’m not making sense because I got 30 beer in me, and now my mind is going so fast that she can’t even make out what I—and I don’t know what I’m trying to get out there, and I’m just emotional, confused—and I’m just like, “Augh!” I could hold my head and scream, and I did sometimes because I couldn’t communicate, I couldn’t turn it off, and I couldn’t—I wanted her to help me but she couldn’t. So then I’d—“You stupid bitch! What the fuck… Jesus Christ, can’t you see my pain? I’m in pain here!” I’d grab my head, I’d roll on the floor, I’d violently act out, throw chairs… Yeah.

PG: And—

CM: But then tomorrow…

PG: I’m sorry.

CM: I wouldn’t have as much anxiety till 20 minutes into tomorrow. And then the whole thing would repeat itself.

PG: And you would also ask her over and over again, “Do you love me? Why do you love me?” You wouldn’t—and she would say, “Yes, I love you. Here’s the reason why I love you,” but you wouldn’t believe her and would go on for hours and hours and hours—

CM: Right. Because I wanted that thought to complete, and I thought that she could help me complete the thought. Yeah. “She loves me,” or, “I’m a good guy,” or, “I’m a great horse dentist, I’m a great hockey coach,” or whatever was bugging me. And it’s usually—comes from our insecurities, I think. Something that you care about. And—because if it’s something you don’t care about, you’re probably not gonna have that head spin on it.

PG: I think, too, that there’s a war in our brain that we’re a piece of shit and we’re a fraud, and we believe that on a certain level but we don’t want that to be the truth, and so we want that person to end that war for us. But no other person ever can—

CM: Yeah. And as Kendra said, pathetic, y’know? Felt pathetic. And it’s not anybody’s thinking that, but we are. And it’s things sometimes that we’re insecure about or that we really care—for me, it was things I really cared about. The one thing I really cared about was, I hope Joanie loves me. And so that’s why my head would spin a lot about love and her love for me, and other things like coaching—good coach or… It could be—mine usually, at that time, I think I was just so insecure that I wasn’t—I didn’t love myself, probably. I wasn’t lovable. I was pathetic. She must think so. Let’s ask. Let’s ask her. Maybe she can convince me. And even when she’d say, “Yeah, I love you.” “What? I didn’t hear you.” I heard her, but the head couldn’t complete the thought.

PG: Would you ask her 30 times?

CM: That time—I think I broke my ritual and probably asked her a hundred.

PG: You did multiple. Multiples of 30.

CM: Multiple 30s.

PG: Hundred and twenty. You’d get winded at 100 and you’d be like, “Twenty more. I can do it. I can do it.” Well, we’re out of time, so—

CM: That went quick.

PG: I’m gonna—that did go quick—

CM: You didn’t even tell a good joke.

PG: I never tell good jokes!

CM: Well, there’s two people that think you do.

PG: They’ve spread the word. There’s probably now four. Your story’s such a beautiful story and you’re such a good ambassador for talking about this, and—as well as Kendra. Clint, I wanna thank you so much—

CM: Thank you.

PG: For just being you, man—

CM: You, too. You, too.

PG: And being honest and—

CM: You’re the same.

PG: Yeah, and thank you guys for coming out and supporting not only the festival, but the podcast. Thank you very much.

CM: Thanks, everybody. Good job.

I so, so enjoyed that conversation with Clint and meeting Kendra and her wife, Kristy. And I’m hoping to record Kendra next time I’m in Toronto or if she ever gets out here to L.A. Anyway, before I’ve—I’ve got a stack o’ surveys. I know, sometimes with the live episodes I don’t do stuff after them, but there’s a lot of surveys that I wanted to read and… Yeah. My brain just went to screensaver. Which my dad used to say, it’s one of my favorite things my dad used to say.

Before I read the surveys, I just wanna remind you there’s a couple of different ways to support the podcast, if you feel so inclined. You can support us financially by going to the website and making either a one-time PayPal donation or a recurring monthly donation, which helps the most because it gives us a secure financial footing to continue doing the show, and you can sign up for as little as five bucks a month. And it means the world to me. And once you sign up, you don’t have to do anything, just takes care of itself—re-bills every month until you decide to cancel, which is naturally going to happen because you will, at some point, get your fill of me and probably even want your money back. And you won’t be able to ’cause I’ve lawyered up. So fuck you. That took a weird turn.

You can also support us financially by shopping at Amazon through our search portal, not to be confused with the search box for our website itself, and Amazon will give us a couple of nickels if you buy something, doesn’t cost you anything. And you can support us non-financially by going to iTunes, writing something nice, giving us a good rating. And you can also help us by spreading the word through social media. That really helps bring more listeners to the show, because people get tired of podcasts and they leave them, and we always gotta kinda find new listeners to keep it growing, ’cause… I want—I wanna keep this as my thing to do, my job. And there’s no other thing I’d rather do in the world. I love it, I love it. I think that’s it, that I wanted to share with you before we get into the surveys. Yeah. Yeah, that’s it.

Let’s get right into it. No fuckin’ around, huh? This is from the Shame & Secrets survey, and this one is filled out by a guy who calls himself “Phooey.” And he is in his 40s, he’s bisexual, was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment.

Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?

“Some stuff happened, but I don’t know if it counts. When I was seven or eight, I was playing truth or dare with my babysitter. She had me insert my finger into her vagina. I remember it like it was yesterday. I felt guilt and I told my mom and the babysitter got in trouble. Secondly, my father had dirty mags hidden in toolboxes and I found them all the time. I seemed to find porn in other places, too. My neighborhood was weird. Not the innocent girly mags, but swinger mags and other hardcore stuff.”

Ever been physically or emotionally abused—and by the way, that is sexual abuse. Somebody in your care doing that, that is. And I don’t know if it—probably doesn’t help you feel any better, but it’s super common for little boys and little girls to be sexually abused by babysitters.

Ever been physically or emotionally abused?

“Not sure.”

Darkest thoughts:

“I’m addicted to porn. As I grew older, I was rendered incapable of seeing women as anything but sex objects.”

Darkest secrets:

“My days are consumed looking at hook-up sites and weird shit like that. Being an ADHD-er, I crave stimulation, both visual and otherwise. I have cheated on my wife with happy-ending massage and even hook-ups with other men. The sneakiness of it is titillating. The build-up is intoxicating. It’s getting to the point where I’m not even satisfied when I orgasm. My wife understands my insatiability but she is clueless about the occasional hook-up. I’m embarrassed that I have detached myself from feeling guilty and long for a mindset that is not consumed with sex. I feel like there is no way back to normal.”

There is a way back to—first of all, I don’t believe in “normal,” but there is a way back to not being consumed by sex all the time, and it sounds to me like there’s a sex addiction at work there, which is super common with people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, which you have. Again, I am not a therapist, I’m not a mental health professional. All of these are just my opinions, but there you have.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you:

“Getting tricked into gay sex when sleeping and making a heavy, plain-Jane type cum really hard.”

I would bet a thousand dollars that the babysitter that abused you fits that type. That’s just my—you know me, I’m the orgasm detective. I just put my little Sherlock Holmes hat on and my magnifying glass—which is insulting to men’s penises, when I go in as the orgasm detective. They’re a little off-put by that. And the pipe. They find the pipe smoke to be… I’m bailing on this bit.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven’t been able to?

“I’m really caring, I just have this compulsive dark side.”

Boy, did you nail it. You just nailed it. You have an injury to your soul that needs healing. You’re not a bad person.

What, if anything, do you wish for?

“A reboot on my early sexual imprinting.”

Have you shared these things with others?

“Yes, but not the hook-ups, and it was met with a shrug.”

Well, I encourage you to find a support group or a therapist, because there are people who will meet it with more than a shrug. They’ll meet it with a hug! There’s no way I was gonna rhyme and not make fun of myself.

Anything you’d like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences?

“Just how they got help without being totally ashamed.”

Well, I’ll tell you. I went to therapy and I went to support groups. And that’s where I have started to heal, and I feel way, way better. I’m still crazy, I still get depressed, but it’s manageable.

This is a Shame & Secrets survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself “Going Gray Too Soon.” She is bisexual, she is in her 30s, and I wanted to read just a portion of this. Which part did I wanna read? Oh, I found this really interesting, because I’ve heard other people who identify as bisexual sharing this same thing.

And she writes—to the question: What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven’t been able to? She writes:

“I would like to stand in front of my father at one of his conservative, anti-gay marriage rallies and maybe even some of the gays and lesbians I have known, and give them the same speech. I am bisexual. My husband is bisexual. Just because we are man and woman does not mean that we fit into the heterosexual marriage mold. And just because we did this doesn’t mean we chose a direction, either, so gay men and lesbians can stop calling us breeders any time now. I fell in love with a person, not a man. His gender was irrelevant. I can’t believe that both sides are discriminating against a group that neither of you completely understand. Stop. Let us love as we want to love.”

Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing that. And I’m not insinuating that the entirety of the gay and lesbian community views that that way, but she’s not the first person I’ve heard say that the—bisexuals can—I should say, people who identify as bisexual can often feel ostracized, like they don’t… Ah Jesus, Paul. Shut the fuck up. If I had had my head on a pillow while I was saying that last couple of lines, I would be sound asleep right now. And those of you that are listening as you go to bed, pleasant dreams ’cause you’re already asleep.

This is a happy—an Awfulsome Moment, filled out by a guy who calls himself “Whaler,” and he writes:

“One day, I was struggling with everything and wanted to die. The stress was too much, feeling like I’m letting everyone down, but I promised my wife I wouldn’t do anything stupid. So I went to the hospital. There I sat on this bed in a hallway, in New England, with a nurse watching me and a cop there as a guard. He looks at me in my Washington Capitals hat and says, ‘Really? A Caps fan?’ Like I needed that right now. He asks if I was from Washington, which I’m not. I’m a born New Englander. Then he asked why I’m a Caps fan and my reply was, ‘Well, I grew up a Whalers fan.’”

The Whalers moved to Washington and became the Capitals.

“And before I could finish the sentence, he smiled and said, ‘Now I like you.’ That was the first time I smiled in a few days. So there I sat, red eyes from crying, tears dried on my face, talking about the Hartford Whalers in an ER with a police officer who didn’t ask about my problem, nor did he care. He was just happy to find a fellow Whaler fan, as I was. I’ve since gotten help and am on the road to recovery. Go Caps.”

Fuckin’ love that. I think I read this one. Did I read this one on a previous episode? That sounds familiar. Papers on my desk sometimes get very…very piled up and mixed up. This—I wish you could see—I should take a picture of my unopened mail on the dining room table. It has overtaken. It is officially an occupation. My mail, unopened mail, is officially illegally occupying the dining room territories.

This is from Shame & Secrets, and there’s just a part of this that I wanted to read. This is filled out by a woman who calls herself “Trickster.” She is bisexual, in her 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. And he has a sister who is extremely gaslighting and really unhealthy and toxic and abusive.

And so, to the question: Any positive experiences with your abusers?—meaning her sister, she writes:

“No. I’m so confused about how I should feel about my sister. People tell me to love, that this is a normal sister behavior and that we won’t always get along. This is just how siblings are with one another. But I am so tired of people saying that. I don’t think the way my sister tries to manipulate me is usual of loving siblings. This isn’t teasing, I don’t think.”

And it does not sound like teasing. It’s abusive.

“I always think she is going to grow up but she never changes. She’s super sweet to me one minute, like a lure, but then unloads the minute she has me hooked. Maybe I should stop thinking that she has changed.”

Darkest thoughts:

“I sometimes think how great it would be if my sister died. I feel so guilty, but if my sister died I wouldn’t feel so much happier.”

“But if my sister died, I wouldn’t feel so much happier.” I’m confused there.

“I’m afraid what will happen if she dies before me and I attend her funeral. I’m afraid I won’t feel sad and that I will have nothing good to say about her.”

Do not feel guilty about that. Do not feel guilty about that. And don’t run from the sadness of that, y’know? Feel that sadness that you have with her, and talk to someone about it who can handle a heavy conversation and who speaks the “language of the heart,” and I think that will help and start to set some boundaries with your sister. And maybe it means cutting contact, but that does not mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re loving yourself in a way that’s loving but firm. And honestly, if she’s abusive, that’s loving to her. To give consequences to an abusive person is the most loving thing that you can do. They won’t be able to see it at the time. They may never see it, but it increases the chance that that person will realize the way that they’re living is unsustainable, if they want to have connections with other human beings.

This is a Happy Moment, filled out by a woman who calls herself Jay, and she writes:

“For as long as I can remember, my father’s always been open and comfortable showing affection and true love for his kids through touch. It has never been of a sexual nature and elsewhere in the world, I would describe him as being uncomfortable with physical contact with other people, i.e. kissing or hugging hello. Sometimes when we’re out somewhere together, he will put his hand on the back of my neck and give a slightly awkward, slightly massaging squeeze for ten or perhaps as much as 30 seconds. In this moment, I feel safe and loved and supported by him. My hope for my romantic life is to find someone who understands the importance of touch, and not just in a sexual scenario, but in the silent communication of all the things my father was and still does share with me.”

That’s beautiful, and I really wanted to share that because I feel like, with all the inappropriate stuff that we read on the podcast, all the inappropriate touching between people—to remember that touching is and can be a fuckin’ awesome thing when it’s—there’s no objectification going on and… Yeah. That’s… Just love that. I love that.

This is a Shame & Secrets survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Marvin, and he is bisexual, he’s in his 20s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. Never been sexually abused, never been physically abused, never been emotionally abused.

Darkest thoughts:

“I sometimes find that while driving, I can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to not stop for a pedestrian or biker, but usually only when I’m tired or need a cigarette.”

Darkest secrets:

“No one knows that I am gay or at least sexually and emotionally interested in men, not even my girlfriend of many years. I repressed my homosexual feelings and urges early in adolescence and didn’t have them come up again until I was a year into a perfectly happy relationship with a girl. We started dating in high school and now as I reach the end of my bachelor’s degree, I often feel as though I’m going to burst, with not only repressed emotions but with anxiety that my girlfriend will find out that I have feelings for guys. Though I at times want to—want so much to break it off with her, and opportunities have come up where I could initiate a break-up, I think of the good times we’ve had and how emotionally tied we are and cannot do anything but fix the problem to ensure she is happy with me. While I want to experience the world of the feelings I have, I hate myself for feeling like I may leave a lifetime of happiness and a traditional family with my girlfriend for something so shamed by everyone in my family.”

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you:

“I often fantasize about guys I see in the university library. When I go to study, I look for a spot by a guy I find attractive so I can fantasize in between studying. I imagine I follow him into the restroom and stand at the urinal next to him, and once he pulls his dick out, I come from behind and grab it and whisper in his ear how hot I think he is. I kneel on the floor and bring him so much pleasure with my mouth before letting him bend me over and fuck me right there in the restroom in the middle of the day. Sharing this makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable, and even though it is anonymous, because homosexuality is so shamed in my family, I think of anyone—if anyone knew I wanted these things, they would hate me and remind me that I can’t be happy with the normal life of heteronormativity.”

That’s a big word. You are in college!

“I also feel a slight amount of shame for wanting something I’ve been told is disgusting.”

What, if anything, do you wish for?

“To come to terms with my sexuality and for it to be accepted by those in my life that I love.”

My first thought is, it does—they will probably—maybe or probably never accept it, but you can accept your sexuality. And that’s… That is the mission that is on your plate, my friend.

Have you shared these things with others?

“I’ve shared my sexuality with one gay friend, who is my support system as of right now. I feel somewhat like a burden on them because they are the only person I can talk to about these issues, but they are wonderful and are always so supportive.”

You might ask them—you might ask him, “I’m getting this feeling that I’m becoming a burden on you.” Maybe try to expand your support network. But that’s fantastic that you have that person, and… Yeah. God, I read survey after survey after survey from people whose families are so homophobic and it just—the pressure they feel.

How do you feel after writing these things down?

“A small sense of relief due to letting this all out and seeing it written on my screen. It feels in order instead of a jumbled mass of thoughts inside my head, building up pressure and threatening to burst at any second, with either extreme sadness or extreme anger.”

Thank you so much for sharing that. I didn’t realize when I put the surveys together for today that we’ve got a nice theme going. Let’s see.

This is from the rarely filled-out Memorable Vacation Arguments. And this is filled out by “A Cuddlah,” which is a nickname for people that listen to the Walking the Room podcast. He’s in his 30s and he writes:

“My wife and I got married in Hawaii. We had some friends there and a bunch of our family and friends came for the wedding. A few days after the wedding, we were invited to get together at my friend’s girlfriend’s family’s house.”

And in parentheses, he writes:

“(There has to be a better way to say that.) We went, although my wife was on the fence about going, probably due to the fact that she is socially awkward sometimes and an introvert like me. We ended up going and it was on the other side of the island, over an hour’s drive. The party was at a family’s house and it seemed like the entire neighborhood was there. There was a live band, people were eating, drinking, smoking. There were elderly people and young children. We mostly sat and ate and felt a little awkward, but everyone was very nice. My friend told me that they had a room for us to sleep in and my wife did not want to sleep there. Driving back to the hotel was not an option since it was too late to drive that far. She wanted to sleep in the car. I was very upset by how inflexible she was being. To me, it was not all that big of a deal to sleep over at someone’s house, especially since we had the privacy of a separate room. I’ve done it many times with my extended family. After some quiet bickering, I told my friend that we would just sleep in the car, and he was insistent that we sleep in the room. We did, me angry at her and her too uncomfortable with the situation to sleep. We got up the next morning early to watch the sun rise over the ocean, still a rift between us. We drove for over an hour on the side of the island in tense silence. For the first time in our relationship, I felt trapped, heightened by the fact that we just got married days before. I couldn’t understand how inflexible she was being, why she couldn’t articulate it so we could just discuss it, and I began to think of the other experiences her rigidity would cause us to miss out on. Whenever I got angry before, I always toyed with the idea of just walking away from the whole relationship, and now I couldn’t do that. The fact that I no longer had that avenue of thought available to me further spurred my anger. We drove on and the rift between us began to lessen slightly. Then we stopped by a botanical garden on the seaside that was either closed or ignored, and had sex in an isolated corner. Everything was pretty much fine after that.”

I so much wish that somebody would have popped up while you guys were fucking and said, “Hey, take it to the car!” Wouldn’t that have just been a beautiful ironic—or appropriate end to the day? I gotta tell you, there is—there’s nothing like a vacation argument between people who are committed, either by blood relation or marriage, because it’s like every annoying thing that person does gets amplified. Because you’re like, “I gotta fuckin’ deal with this the rest of my life. I’m gonna try to change that person!” And I think people’s insecurities, when we get out of our comfort zone away from home—I know for me, when I was up in Toronto last weekend, I called my wife at one point and I said, “I’m not doing well. I feel so invisible.” I was at a Starbucks in Toronto and—just, everybody had somebody to talk to and I just felt—and I know it was ridiculous, I know it wasn’t the truth, but that’s how I felt. And after I said that to my wife, I felt better. And then I got a bite to eat with somebody later that night and we had a great conversation, and it was nice. And I went back to my hotel room and I didn’t feel as alone, but that feeling—I think sometimes being on the road can just—even though I loved being in Toronto. It’s, like, one of my favorite cities. All right, here we go.

This is a Shame & Secrets survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself “Captain Midnight.” He is straight, in his 20s, raised in a stable and safe environment.

Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?

“Some stuff happened, but I don’t know if it counts. When I was a kid, an older boy maybe four years my senior pulled down his pants and asked me to kiss his penis. I remember this so vividly because there was a single drop of urine just sort of idling there. That penis forever leers over all my insecurities and I’ve only ever told one person. I’m not sure if that counts as sexual abuse, but I knew it felt wrong.”

It sounds like sexual abuse to me.

“And the fact that he told me if I didn’t do what he asked, then he would beat the shit out of me.”

Oh yeah, that’s definitely sexual abuse. Reaffirms the notion that it was abuse.

He’s been emotionally abused:

“An ex-girlfriend constantly debased me with insults and manipulated me into believing that the problem was with me. She was constantly saying things like, ‘Nobody will ever love you.’”

Boy, that is the greatest hit of the abusive partner. “Nobody will ever love you.” If you are in a relationship and any—and your partner has ever said that to you, fucking leave. Fucking leave. That is the family crest of the abusive partner. Anyway:

“She was constantly saying things like, ‘Nobody will ever love you,’ ‘You’re a waste of space,’ or, ‘I used to only use you for sex, but now you’re always sleeping. I don’t even have that.’ When people asked me why I stayed with her as long as I did, I simply replied, ‘I had nowhere else to go,’ and that was sad because it was completely true.”

Darkest thoughts:

“For the longest time, I was horrified that I would just somehow wake up and become a child molester. I have a nephew and my greatest fear is that someone will steal his innocence and fuck him up emotionally. For the longest time, I thought I was the only person who had thoughts like these, but this podcast has helped me realize I’m not alone. And now when I have those thoughts, I have a logical explanation that keeps me from dwelling on those foolish, obsessive thoughts. Also, in high school, I had an intense fear that I would wake up one day and be gay. Sexual thoughts—”

By the way, I think every high school person goes through that. And probably grade school, as well.

“Sexual thoughts with other men would pop into my head and it would drive me crazy. It tormented me for the longest time, until finally I woke up and said, ‘If I ever look at a penis and it gives me a boner, then I’ll know I’m gay.’”

That’s so awesome. I think we got a T-shirt there!

“I’ve always been sexually aroused by women and have never experimented with another man. I’m not quite sure what that is all about, but it isn’t a problem anymore.”

Darkest secrets:

“I was an alcoholic for a decade.”

I’m sorry to butt in, but I gotta say, if you were an alcoholic, you are an alcoholic. Maybe you meant you were drinking alcoholically. Anyway:

“I snorted pills, cocaine, crystal meth, and even snorted heroine once. For a long time, I was addicted to stealing things. I was addicted to cough syrup at one time. In high school, I would do anything to make my friends laugh. I drank my own pee once or twice for beer money, and I’ve eaten my own vomit. I used to put cigarettes out all over my body. When that activity lost its allure, I would put them—I wouldn’t put them out, I’d just touch them to my skin and let it burn my flesh. I used to cut myself and have had multiple failed suicide attempts. I tried to slit my wrists with the blade of a pencil sharpener once, but it was too dull. After my ex-girlfriend happened to see what I had done, she laughed coyly and said, ‘Pity it wasn’t sharp enough.’”

She sounds like a keeper! I think you go back and you find her and you try to work it out.

Sexual fantasies most powerful to you:

“I have an armpit fetish and a foot fetish. I love the smell of a woman’s armpits right before it starts to stink, that natural smell. Sharing this makes me feel normal.”

I wanna high-five you on that one. I do kinda like that smell, too. There—supposedly, Napoléon used to tell—was it Josephine that was his wife or lover or whatever? He would be gone for, like, two weeks and he would beg her to not wash when he was away. I like that smell, too. I’m not a big fan of the feet, but I know a lot of people are.

What, if anything, would you like to say to someone you haven’t been able to?

“I forgive you, all of you. Please forgive me. I’d like closure.”

What, if anything, do you wish for?

“That my anxiety wouldn’t become so overpowering that it causes me to step away from whatever it is that I’m doing. I wish my anxiety wouldn’t keep me from sitting through all my classes at the college. I wish I didn’t have the intense fear of a panic attack manifesting itself at any moment, always lingering in the back of my mind. I wish I didn’t have to deal with my mood swings. I wish Depakote and my other meds didn’t fuck up my teeth and make my gums bleed. And I wish my girlfriend was able to get health insurance so she didn’t have to order her meds from Canada and wonder if they are exactly what the packet says they are.”

Have you shared these things with others?

“Yes, with the one closest to me. She has encouraged me to be open and is the only—and is the one who told me about this site and podcast. She accepts me for me and all the fucked-up shit from my past. It seems like it’s too good to be true at times.”

How do you feel after writing these things down?

“Better. Grateful that there is a place like this for others like me.”

Anything you’d like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences?

“Thank you for encouraging me to talk about these things, and for not making me feel like a two-headed boy under the tent at the visiting freak show.”

Thank you for that. Thank you so much for that.

This is filled out by a kid who calls himself “Octavius the Octopus,” and he’s gay and he’s between 12 and 15 years old. And this was a Struggle in a Sentence survey, but if—I wanted to read it in the heavier part of our surveys ’cause it is very heavy.

About his depression, he writes:

“It’s the kind where some days, I can’t get out bed knowing what I’ve done and how dirty I am inside.”

About his anxiety:

“Panic attacks. I did what? Oh, God. I did that? I’m going to be sick. No, wait, I didn’t eat enough to throw up. I need a screwdriver.”

About alcoholism and drug addiction:

“My dad is proudest when I can drink as hard as he does.”

About his anorexia:

“Guys don’t have anorexia. I just don’t eat so I can feel more alert. It makes me smarter and better. This isn’t a disorder. It’s an accomplishment. My ribs are a testament to my dedication.”

About his love addiction:

“Sex is love, or it’s close enough for me.”

About his sex addiction:

“I can make you want me, even though I’m underage. I’ve been getting people better than you since I was 12. I can own you and use you and you can’t hurt me, but you can want me and if you play your cards right, I’ll pick you. The more you say you don’t want me, the more I promise I can have you on top of me by the end of the night.”

About being a sex crime victim:

“I don’t even remember how many times my uncles threw me around, but all my anger turns to hatred for my father and what he knew, and the hate gets so big, I have to hurt myself just to get it out of my head. My dad thinks if we drink together and go out to bars together, I’ll forgive him for letting my uncles fuck me, but instead, getting me into bars just gives me a chance to do stupid things that I’ll be terrified of the next day, but feel great at the time.”

Snapshot from his life:

“If I go to a therapist or something, they’ll put me in a foster home where I’ll be raped, so I’ll just keep throwing whatever’s in this drink back, and then I’ll realize it’s empty so I’ll get up to get more. And then it’s morning the next day and fuck school. I don’t need to learn. I need to unlearn everything.”

That is some of the heaviest shit I have read in the three years of doing this podcast. And I just wanna send you the biggest, warmest hug, buddy. And I don’t know what to say, other than there are people in the world that will love you, who won’t abuse you. And I don’t know what it’s like—or to what to tell a kid who is afraid of going into a foster home but is being abused at home. I don’t know what to say, ‘cause I’ve heard about bad foster home experiences. Maybe post in the forum, and if we get some mental health professionals who have some stuff to weigh in with, we can have them post underneath it. Or maybe email me. But we’re sending you a big hug, buddy. Hang in there. You don’t have to live in that shit fuckin’ environment for much longer. And you gotta heal those wounds.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by a woman—girl. She’s 18, calls herself “Perdita the Penguin.” And her awfulsome moment, she writes:

“My birthday was on the 15th. My father is a cynical, bitter human being who was verbally and emotionally abusive to everyone in his life from day one. He frequently under—”

I’m just imaging from day one—literally, he came out of his mom’s vagina and went—holding his nose. “Oh, sweet mother of God! Sweet release!”

“He frequently undercuts any accomplishment anyone mentions and goes on at length about how hard his own life was, and cannot compliment anyone. We went out for Chinese for dinner and I could see he was about to make my mother cry, so I started firing back for the first time without regret. Any other time I’ve defended myself or others, I felt guilty about it and stopped after one comment and apologized. Not the night of the 15th. It was non-stop jokes about my dad being so old, he remembered the invention of the horseless carriage, how even if I stop college right now, I would still have more education than his dumb ass, implying he got passing grades in college English because he banged the teacher. And my brother joined in, perhaps encouraged by the fact everyone at the table was laughing except my father. After years of him telling us things like we’re mistakes and we’re the reason he had heart problems—not the genetics that’s a huge portion of my family—we cut loose. Highlights included my brother telling my dad he should have used a condom, my loudly instructing my dad to sound out the menu when it turns out he’s forgotten his glasses, and both my brother and I singing on the way home to the tune of Let It Go, ‘Fuck it all, fuck it all, don’t give a shit anymore/Fuck it all, fuck it all, flip the table, screw you all/I don’t take this bullshit anymore/I don’t give a fuck.’ When we got home and he turned to pound on our mother, my brother, being six-foot-eight and muscular as hell, put himself between them and told my dad, ‘Real men don’t pick on women.’ After I chimed in, ‘Dad’s a man? When did that happen?’ our dad left in a huff. As his parting shot of drama, he tore up his birthday card to me and said he wouldn’t be getting me anything for Christmas. I said, ‘So I guess it’ll just be family this Christmas, then?’ shrugged, turned to my brother and my mom and said, ‘So, who wants cake?’ My mom, of course, apologized to her beloved psychological and verbal abuser because he has her trained to do that at this point, but I don’t feel remotely guilty. I talked with my brother about it and he’s agreed that it’s the best birthday anyone in this house has ever had. I’m done with my dad waging verbal warfare on the people he claims to love, and being expected to apologize even when I’m on good behavior. I don’t care about him anymore. He’s not a real dad to his children and he’s not a real man, and I will not feel bad about defending myself, having fun, and being who I am. As I told him on the 15th, I don’t take this bullshit anymore. I’m sure this makes me a selfish person, but again, I don’t care. It’s so liberating, like a giant weight has lifted from my shoulders. I still haven’t apologized and I don’t plan to, ever. I have worth as a person and he doesn’t deserve me getting upset because he just doesn’t matter as a human being. Unhealthy view of things? Probably. Am I enjoying life more? Definitely.”

Thank you for sharing that.

This is—Shame & Secrets survey and this one’s heavy. ’Cause the other ones have been so light. This is filled out by a woman who calls herself Stormy. She’s straight, she’s in her 20s—I think we’ve done surveys by her before. She identifies as “straight, mostly.” Raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. I would say, having read this, that it’s more than a slightly dysfunctional environment. She was the victim of sexual abuse and reported it. She writes:

“I was molested by my mother’s boyfriend when I was a teenager. I always thought that the abuse was caused—was what caused many of my problems, but through working on what I now know is my PTSD, I realize that my trauma was in fact—was the fact—was in the fact that my mother continued to see him, even though he no longer lived with us, and no one in my family wanted to talk about it. I had a case worker who did nothing other than make sure I was alive and I went to court to testify alone.”


“I was 14 years old and no one came with me.”

Herbert’s crying outside the door right now.

“I’ve cried twice in therapy when I get to the part of the story where I remember that the social worker did not even put her hand on my shoulder as I told the judge what had happened to me. No one asked me why I was alone.”

That is the definition of heartbreaking.

Have you ever been physically or emotionally abused?

“Not sure. Never physically abused, but my parents did not do a very good job of letting me be a kid. There were not many boundaries on what they would tell me. My first real boyfriend was also very controlling and jealous.”

Any positive experiences with your abusers?

“Of course. They’re my parents and I’m an only child. This is the first time in my life where I have created some distance from the both of them in order to just think about myself. It feels selfish but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to survive what I am currently going through if I had to put my energy into parenting them as well.”

Darkest thoughts:

“I’ve gotten over thinking messed-up thoughts. There are much worse things in the world.”

Darkest secrets:

“I have herpes. I still can’t say it without tearing up or stuttering. I can read it, type it, but saying it hurts too much. I’ve learned so much about the virus now that I know I have it. I did not know that it is basically never a simple situation. Many people will never know when or how they got it, although I’m pretty certain of how I did. Also, the types and locations make for so many different situations. I have herpes simplex virus, type 1 genitally. I basically have had one cold sore outbreak on my genitals and my entire life has changed because of it. The stigma my kind of herpes has because it is below the belt. I hope people know that it kills souls. Physically, I am more than fine. My antibody levels were still low four months after the outbreak. I do CrossFit, pole dancing, ride my bike. But emotionally, I am so unhealthy. I almost killed myself this summer. Hopefully Zoloft will help.”

She doesn’t really have sexual fantasies anymore. She writes:

“It’s hard to think of having sex with anyone since I would have to add the ‘talk’ in there before we engaged in anything.”

What, if anything, do you wish for?

“To not have herpes.”

Have you shared these things with others?

“I’ve shared it with a few people. The person who I am fairly certain gave it to… I gave it to—be—still says he is negative…who gave it to me still says he is negative for type 2. He knows the kind I have and has refused to get tested for it. My ex, a different person from the one who gave it to me, who was so supportive at first, ended up telling one of his close friends, which ended any chance of the two of us working through our issues aside from this. I no longer tell anyone besides medical professionals.”

How do you feel after writing these things down?

“The same.”

Is there anything you’d like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences?

“I do not think I could be of much help, besides just sharing my story right now. Knowing that other people have gone or are going through something similar does not help because there is no one in my life who is or has gone through this. Sure, there are some—sure, there are people in the world, but no one around me. I’m the only one out of all of my friends. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I will not have a romantic partner. People can find comfort in knowing that it is possible to come to terms with that.”

First of all, I wanna give you a hug and… You’ve been through so, so much. And I just wanna say, I know a half-dozen people that live with herpes who are in committed relationships, so people can—I’m not saying it’s easy. I don’t know what it’s like and I don’t pretend to know what it’s like, but don’t write that off. Maybe there are support groups. Maybe there are online dating places or things, but I hope you heal from that stuff that was done to you as a kid, ‘cause I think that’s a lot… That’s just—that abandonment by your mom and that fuckin’ social worker. Oh God, I hope that social worker quits her fuckin’ job. I’d like to say “fuck” one more time.

This is a Happy Moment, filled out by a woman who calls herself “Missing My Stargazer.” And we’ve read surveys from her before. She’s a widow and he’s in her 20s. And this is her happy moment, and she writes:

“I’m not sure if this is more of an awfulsome moment or a happy moment. I think it may fall somewhere in between, but I’ll share it here. I’m a 29-year-old widow—”

Her husband died in a car accident.

“…who belongs in an online support group-slash-message board for—specifically for young widows. About a month ago, I had dinner with a woman I’ve gotten to know through the group. We both lost our husbands unexpectedly, her about six months before me. We were both in their—we were both in… They were both in their mid-30s when they died, and they were both huge music fans who had really similar tastes and favorites. One of those shared favorites was The Flaming Lips. They were my husband’s absolute favorite. And we spent a little bit of time discussing how hard it’s been for us to listen to them now. I had actually just seen them at a summer music festival a few weeks prior and, while it was an incredibly difficult and emotional set to listen to, it was something I felt I had to do for my husband, like I was seeing them on his behalf. I ended up breaking down three times during the set. One of those times was, of course, during the performance of their song Do You Realize??

That song made me cry the first time I heard it.

“It turns out that the other widow has also had a really hard time with that specific song for very similar reasons, because it reminds her of her husband. It’s just too overwhelming. Anyway, we keep talking about music and at one point, joked that there—if there is some sort of afterlife, we hope our husbands have found each other so they can talk about all their shared favorite bands and compare notes about all the concerts they were probably unknowingly at together. I’m a pretty committed non-believer, but I still sometimes like to entertain the possibility that there’s a little piece of my husband’s consciousness out there somewhere, pulling strings and sending signals. This other widow and I both agree that if our husbands could still communicate with us, if they could still somehow send us messages and signs that they were still out there somewhere, listening and watching over and loving us, they’d let us know through music. So we laugh and cry and talk about things only other young widows can really understand for over two hours before we say goodbye, goodnight, and part ways. She heads for her car, I head to the train, and we make our way home. When I get home, I log on to the young widows’ support group message board to see if there are any interesting new posts and see that I have a new private message. It’s from the young widow I just had dinner with. She tells me that when she got in her car, turned the radio on, what was the next song? The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize?? So maybe our husbands are friends now. Maybe they’ve run into each other and hang out and talk about music, wherever they both are. And maybe they hear us and are waiting for us. And maybe that was their way of letting us know.  It’s silly and it’s not something I actually believe most of the time, but it’s enough to put a little smile on my face as the tears roll down my cheeks.”

Thank you for that. That’s beautiful.

This is—this last one is an Awfulsome Moment, filled out by—I would classify this as a Happy Moment, but…filled out by a guy who calls himself “Norse by Norsewest,” and he is 17. And he writes:

“After having run through every excuse in the book and having had nightmares about my extremely Christian roommate finding out I was gay, I came in to find him crying his eyes out, his cell phone snapped in half on the floor. I asked him what was going on and he blurted out that nothing had worked and eventually he admitted he was gay. I spotted pills in his backpack and realized he’d been considering killing himself, so I did the logical thing and threw his backpack out the window—we live on the fourth floor—and told him my own sexuality, and how there were worse things to be. After our conversation turned into a screaming match and back into an actual conversation, I told him I and everyone we knew would rather have him alive and gay than dead and gone. When we went to go get his backpack, he asked me if that meant I was going to actually start eating now. It turns out I may have hidden my sexuality, but the fact that I’m over 70 pounds underweight didn’t go over his head. When I protested I was better off this way and admitted I didn’t feel like I deserved food, he told me he’d rather have me weigh more and still be here than be dead. I was so moved, I ended up crying and we ended up hugging on the front lawn of our dorm. When someone walked by yelling out, ‘Faggots!’ we both laughed like crazy people. I still haven’t gotten treatment for my anorexia and he hasn’t come out to anyone else, but when I think about that moment, I really believe we can make it through this shitstorm that is college, so long as we stay friends.”

That is a hall of fucking fame moment. That is… That is so beautiful. That is so beautiful. Thank you, guys. Thank you so much for filling these surveys out, helping to remind me that I’m not alone and how much love there is in the world—yeah, and how much pain and fucked-up shit there is, but…without the sadness, the joy wouldn’t feel as good. Without the pain, the comfort wouldn’t feel as good. And…yeah. Sometimes I’m left speechless by the beautiful things that you guys share. Just speechless. So, I hope if you’re out there and you’re feeling stuck, this last two hours has reminded you that there is hope and that you’re not the only one going through whatever it is that is making you feel hopeless and alone. You just need to reach out for help, as scary as that is. And just remember you’re not alone. And thanks for listening.

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