Elizabeth Laime (Voted #6 ep of 2013)
The podcaster (Totally Laime and Totally Married) and aspiring writer chats with Paul about her idyllic upbringing, tragedy, loss, Xmas, porn, grieving and the sexualizing of today’s youth.
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Paul: Welcome to episode 97 with my guest Elizabeth Laime. I’m Paul Gilmartin and this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, 90 minutes of honesty about all the battles in our heads; from medically diagnosed conditions and past traumas to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional, mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room filled with conversations that you’ve always wanted to have but didn’t know how to start. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. That’s also the Twitter name you can follow me at.
Some of you may have noticed this is not the episode that was originally posted this week and the reason I took that episode down is it dealt with borderline personality disorder, such a complex and misunderstood issue. I got some emails from people who are licensed psychologists and they pointed out that there were some fuzziness with the presentation of some of the things that we talked about and it could be misinterpreted by those who suffer from it. And I thought better to err on the side of caution so ….
I want to share this with you guys. I had to show up for jury duty today which involves taking a train downtown, getting up abnormally early for me, I normally go to bed about 3:30, sometimes 4:00 in the morning and I had to show up there at 8:30 so I get down there on about three hours of sleep. And I’m supposed to report to the eighth floor. I get there and I can’t find the room that I’m supposed to be at and somebody says, “Oh, maybe you’re supposed to be at the other courthouse.” I had no idea there was two courthouses down there. So I know now that I’ve got like ten minutes to get to this other courthouse otherwise they’re gonna push my jury duty back to another date. So I’m running around trying to find—nobody knows where this courthouse is, where this other courthouse is. I finally find out where it is. It’s like a block away. But downtown—it’s almost like Vegas, where the buildings are so big you think it’s gonna take you like four strides to get there, and it’s like you’re on a treadmill. You’re walking for like eight minutes and you haven’t made any distance. I get about halfway there and I’m like, “I’m gonna be too late. I know – I’ll call and they’ll make an exception because I’ll tell them that I went to the wrong building.” I get this woman on the line—it was like out of a hack comedian’s bit. A strong Indian accent, I can’t understand what the fuck she’s saying. I’m sweating now. I’m asking her to repeat things. She’s getting annoyed with me. And I just wanted to scream. I don’t know what I wanted. I just wanted to throw my phone at a passing car and just fucking scream. And this is where all the years of going to support groups, going to therapy and talking about my shit helped. I stopped for a second and I went, “What is my part in this?” Cause I was pissed at the court system, I was pissed at whoever makes the maps for down there, there weren’t more people to give me information about where things are. And I had to look at the fact that I didn’t really look at what the address was, where I was supposed to go. It was my fault that I didn’t know where the fuck I was going. Because I just assumed I knew where I was going. And all of my anger left. For about fifteen seconds it transformed into resentment at myself but then I went, “You know what? I did enough of that for years. I know whatever power there is in the universe certainly doesn’t want me hating myself for the rest of the day and I was done with it.” And I got back on the train and I was too late so they had to push my jury duty to another month. I got back on the train and I had a nice train ride back. And now I have the flu. I wish there was a better ending for that but that, in a nutshell, is what is awesome about support groups. That’s the kind of stuff that I learned there. Cause it sucks walking around all day stewing about other people and not seeing where the truth really lies.
All right, I’m gonna read an email from Daphne. She writes, “Please tell Lillith—“ Lillith was our guest from our episode last week, she’s a woman who moonlights as an escort. She writes, “Please tell Lillith that I wish there was an escort like her in male form because I’ve been in an emotionally abusive marriage to the point where I began binge drinking to cope. But I would love to cry in a loving man’s arms for four hours, maybe it would cure my alcoholism.” I don’t know if she was kidding or not, but no amount of—I don’t care how big his guns are, it’s not gonna cure your alcoholism. If it did, I would live in a gay bar.
I want to read some responses from the Struggle in a Sentence survey. If you haven’t taken that yet, please go to the website and take it. It helps me get to know what—how you guys experience your—whatever battles you have, be it anxiety, PTSD, depression, etc. This is from Sean, he’s straight, he’s in his 20’s. About his depression, he writes, “Feeling guilty for being here in the morning and guilty for not doing a damn thing at night.” Anxiety: “Sitting in my apartment in an empty college town during the holidays, both relieved that no one is around and painfully lonely.” Boy, that one just got me to my core. I have experienced that. I have experienced that. “Other compulsive behaviors?” “No matter how many times I lock that door, I still won’t feel safe.” PTSD: “Useless anger an unnecessary running.” Anger issues: “Reminding myself that, no, a douche-y moustache doesn’t warrant a beating.” I don’t know if I agree with that. I gotta see the moustache before I can sign off on another being beat. I see some pompous ass with a David Niven moustache cut in front of me in line, that guy’s getting a fucking beat down.
This is also from the Struggle in a Sentence collector, or the Struggle in a Sentence survey, by a woman who calls herself My Cunt. I expect that from dudes, I love when a woman shows up with that old chestnut. She’s bi, she’s in her 20’s, about her depression, she writes, “I go through my life feeling like a country music fan at a rap concert, bored, unstimulated, and a little horrified.” About her ADHD she writes, “It’s like trying to catch grains of sand in a sandstorm, where the grains are thoughts. When you open up your hand to look at the grains you’ve caught, you only see them for a second before the wind takes them and they blend in with everything else.” That is so descriptive.
This one is from a guy who calls himself Uranium 235, he’s straight, he’s in his 20’s, about his depression, he writes, “Deflated, unmotivated and angry, without passion.” Anxiety: “Choked, paranoid, sweaty.” Sex addiction: “Just one more for variety.” Video game addiction: “Joyless, solitary, need that dopamine squirt.” Codependency: “Constantly need approval, worried about getting permission to pursue personal goals.”
This is from the Shouldn’t Feel this Way survey, and this is filled out by a woman who calls herself Becka Boo, she’s straight, she’s in her 30’s, she was raised in an environment that was totally chaotic. “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” “She was kind and made people’s lives better.” “How does writing that make you feel?” “Like I’m going to cry.” “If you had a time machine, how would you use it? You can’t change history, you can only observe it.” “I would want to see myself as an infant and see if I was happy then.” “Please write as many of these as you feel like: I’m supposed to feel <blank> about <blank> but I don’t, I feel <blank>.” “I’m supposed to feel happy about living with my boyfriend, but I don’t, I feel terrified. I’m supposed to feel proud of losing weight but I don’t, I feel insecure and already afraid that the weight will come back and I will let people down.”
And that brings me to a quote that I want to send you out with, or send you to the interview with, thanks to a listener Ian, he sent this in. it’s about fear and it’s a quote from the novel Dune. It’s called The Litany Against Fear and it goes, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Paul: I’m here with Elizabeth Laime. Elizabeth does the podcast Totally Laime and also Totally Married with her husband Andy who is a record producer? Is that correct?
Paul: And you won the Earwolf Challenge with Totally Laime. How cool is that?
Elizabeth: Pretty, pretty cool.
Paul: They had a—Earwolf, for those of you that don’t know, is kind of a podcasting giant. They have about probably 20 podcasts under their banner and they had a contest where people submitted their podcasts to win and you, out of many, many, many podcasts submitted, yours won.
Elizabeth: It won.
Paul: And I listened and it’s not surprising you do a great job.
Elizabeth: Thank you, thanks. Yeah, we’re—that was awesome. That was a good day. (laughs) Winning.
Paul: So I got an email from a listener who said, “You should interview Elizabeth Laime.” And I usually listen to my listeners because they are usually right when they suggest a guest. So I contacted you and I purposely didn’t ask you about your story. I knew a couple of pieces of it but I kind of enjoy hearing things for the first time, even if they’re sad and joy’s maybe not the right word but it—I find it to be—
Elizabeth: You find sexual pleasure in hearing ….
Paul: I get a really veiny erection when in hear about tragedy. Veiny erection, that may be a first. That is, that is maybe the worst adjective ever. Veiny. Who would that appeal to? Maybe somebody drawing blood. I think would be the only person that that would ….
Elizabeth: Nurses across America right now are thrilled.
Paul: That reminds me of a friend of mine—a guest who had been on the podcast before, Jesse Perez, who is a former heroin addict and a nurse was struggling to try to draw blood from him one time and he was like, “Let me show you how it’s done.”
Elizabeth: (laughs) Oh, that’s great. It all is for a reason.
Paul: Yes, it all happened for a reason. All of the tragedy.
So let’s start from the beginning. Where were you raised, what was your home life like, etc., etc.?
Elizabeth: Well I moved around a lot but I consider myself to be from St. Louis because I moved there when I was ten and stayed there until I was eighteen. Home life was good. I mean, I had a great childhood, like, I mean my parents had, in hindsight, maybe not the best marriage. When I was in high school my dad lived in Houston and commuted. Which like meant I didn’t see him much but …
Paul: What did he do?
Elizabeth: He was a construction engineer so he kind of worked—he worked himself up from—he was like a farm boy in Rhode Island. And he served two terms in Vietnam and he was super smart and hardworking and by the time he died he was like vice president of this huge international construction engineering firm and they built oil refineries and airports. So he was hardworking but he wasn’t around a lot and my mom, when I was in high school, I don’t know what was going on, but my senior year of high school was like on a cruise most of the year. Other than like those weird things in hindsight, life was good. We had—like my mom was a great mom. I got lots of affection.
Paul: You just had to be on a cruise to get the affection.
Elizabeth: (laughs) I would write letters to her, she would write very affectionate letters back. No, but it was good. I had like a very wholesome—in high school there was no—I had no angst. I was like, a was a cheerleader but it wasn’t—I wasn’t like in the most popular clique but I was kind of like liked by everyone.
Paul: You cheered for the other team, which people found really distasteful.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it rubbed some people the wrong way but I just, I kind of liked to spread the love.
Paul: So nice kind of typical kind of all American home life.
Paul: Not perfect but I think that’s typical all American. Did your dad ever seem to have …
Elizabeth: Rage issues?
Paul: Rage, PTSD, or with two tours in Vietnam I just kind of wonder what—how does somebody escape through that and …
Elizabeth: Well it’s interesting, I mean, he—my sister is like this too. He did not like to talk about the past, it’s like forward movement.
Paul: As opposed to all those Vietnam vet blabbermouths that—“Oh, he’s gonna open up again about killing the child in the hut.”
Elizabeth: Dad, can we have one holiday where we don’t bring it up?
Paul: Where we don’t glorify the burning bodies.
Elizabeth: For like a school project once I asked him about it and he did tell one horrible story. Like the first night he was stationed there his—someone that he had like made friends with was killed. So like I think that was like the first bad thing. I know he saw bad things. He was also like in the CVs. They were building stuff so that the troops could come in and so I don’t know. I think it must have sucked. But he was really quiet and very sweet but could be very intense and when he spoke it was like important and calculated. But he was also very loving. When I graduated from high school, my dad got a job out here in Pasadena and my mom, they finally like reunited and it was, there was an amazing house, and they were both very happy. They were also like really, oddly back in love, which was sweet and I was going to college, so when I would come home from break like my dad would be like slapping my mom’s ass. It was not sexual, just like love pat.
Paul: No, I get it.
Elizabeth: I didn’t mean to paint that picture.
Paul: No, I think it’s awesome. I think it’s great for kids to see affection between their parents.
Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: Pulling each other’s hair, saying “You’re fucking dirty. I got a treat for you. Suck it.”
Elizabeth: Just seeing all the collars he would have her wear. You know, really beautiful collars. It was so nice. No, it was nice though. And then kind of that’s when everything went to hell. My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It all happened really fast. I went back to school. I started school in Ohio and she had this huge surgery called the whipple and it was effective apparently and she was doing really well and then she like started to get jaundiced. This was probably six months later.
Paul: And you were at college in Ohio at this point?
Elizabeth: I had gone back, like I had just gone back for my sophomore year and I got a phone call that it was back. My dad was so in denial, it was like, “We’re gonna fight it.” And he was getting every, you know, amazing specialist in the world on the phone. He like was talking to Ross Perot about getting her into the best places and I wanted to drop out of school and come home to be with her. And he like forbade me and I had never gone against his will before. But I did, I dropped out of school in Ohio. I drove across country in my Jeep in like two days. I mean, I just drove straight to Pasadena.
Paul: What—can you describe what it’s like when you get that phone call and you’re driving cross country? What’s going through your mind, what are you thinking, what are you feeling?
Elizabeth: I think I was like crazy. I didn’t think really. There was—I mean, honestly, my fear of my dad’s wrath was almost equivalent to—I just knew what was happening. I knew my mom was gonna die. I—yeah, I think I was just out of my mind. I don’t remember anything about the trip. I didn’t sleep, I just drove. And so I arrived in Pasadena. My dad didn’t talk to me for a few days. But he came around and eventually it turns out I was right, you know. So that was September and my mom died in December 19th. And then I like kind of enrolled in school in Santa Barbara to make my dad happy, but I would come down, spend three days in Pasadena with my mom, go up to school, and the night the she died—and this is so weird, it’s like a Lifetime movie, but I—it was my debutante ball in St. Louis, and she forced me and my sister to go to it. It was like we didn’t have the choice and I knew (crying) when I was saying goodbye to her that I was like saying goodbye. I had to go be in this like ball gown presented to society of St. Louis and that night I got back to my hotel room and there was like a message from my dad and he just said, “Call me sweetie.” And I knew. And then that night we had like 60 people in our hotel room, it was all my dear friends from St. Louis and like family friends, so I kind of think that she choreographed all that. So that sucked. And then I came back. And I was really worried about my dad. He wasn’t doing great. He was drinking a lot, like he played a lot of tennis, and one day I found his tennis water bottle and it smelled like he had been putting alcohol in it, like he had been drinking while playing tennis, which is not a good sign. And he was just broken. He was totally broken. He was working so much and the one nice thing that we did, which I think does illustrate how sad he was, was he wanted to take my sister and me on a family trip to like kind of reconnect because we were pretty much all scattered.
Paul: And it was just you and your sister, the only two kids?
Elizabeth: Yeah. So I was 19 and she was 22. He took us on their honeymoon in Germany. Like we went on their honeymoon. Which was weird, it was sweet, but also, again looking back on it, I’m like oh my God, wow, and then two months later, on their anniversary, had a massive heart attack. And so that was another phone call that just rocked my world. And so …
Paul: And he died.
Elizabeth: He died. Yeah.
Paul: So within …
Elizabeth: Ten months.
Paul: You lost your mom and your dad.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Jesus Christ, you have such like sweet eyes. I feel like I can’t even look at you, but I was very, very, very alone. And I had had this really sheltered, protected life, you know, everything was planned out. And I think it’s hard enough getting out of college and being like, oh shit, now there isn’t like a roadmap, but I just, I didn’t have, yeah, anything. I had supportive friends and my sister, but my sister and I dealt with it really differently.
Paul: I mean, I can’t even begin to imagine how untethered…
Elizabeth: Oh my gosh, I mean, that’s the perfect word. I’ve used it so often. I felt so untethered. Yeah.
Paul: Where do you live then? The house in Pasadena? Do you come back to that?
Elizabeth: I think I did a little bit, and then we put it on the market pretty quickly. But that was one of the things—there had been flooding under the house.
Elizabeth: And I, like—we—this 19- and 22-year-old kids had to deal with putting this like big house on the market. Neither of us lived there at the time. I was up in school in Santa Barbara. And like organized having all the furniture moved out, having like the flood, like the floors refinished. Like all of the stuff that now would give me you know, migraine headaches, at the time, like I don’t know, I just kind of went through the motions.
Paul: You must have just like been in a fog. I mean …
Elizabeth: Yeah, I was. For—and that’s—it’s interesting because you know since then I’ve had depression on and off. I can tell when I’m starting—I think people’s depression manifests differently and like a couple weeks ago I could feel myself slipping into it again. And I’m trying to be—we’ve been trying to get pregnant so I can’t go on meds, which I’ve enjoyed in the past. So I’m trying to be really proactive and like healthy about it and put the work in before it slips too much. But for me it is the fog—when I feel the fog roll in and I’m becoming numb and sort of detached and I can watch five depressing documentaries in a row and not really cry.
Paul: Oh my God, yes.
Elizabeth: It’s when I’m like oh, maybe I should go for a walk.
Paul: I know when the movie Seven feels comforting, that’s when I know.
Elizabeth: Oh my God, yes.
Paul: Tomorrow is the anniversary of your mom passing away.
Paul: Is it related? Does the fog usually roll in when it comes around the anniversary of that?
Elizabeth: My friend Tammy and I were talking last—like last year there was a moment in time when I was sitting in her car around this time, hysterically crying, like really freaked out about money and all of this other stuff. And this has been a good year, like—but there have been all of these other stressors and I don’t know if it’s like this is coming and that makes me really more vulnerable to it, or if it just so happens. I mean it must be, it must be that it’s like a kind of buried trigger that I don’t even really see. Because around this time every year it seems like I do struggle but like the last few months have been stressful in other ways than they were last year and I’ve—so it’s been like I’ve had some hard transitions with like life stuff. So that’s sort of been what I’ve pegged it as but it must have something to do with that. I don’t know.
Paul: You were saying before we started recording that you actually love the holidays, you love Christmas trees and you love …
Elizabeth: I fucking love a Christmas tree. Once we got this bad boy up, I was like—my spirits lifted so much, it’s just, I don’t know why.
Paul: That must be nice.
Elizabeth: It is nice. Yeah, I was like not happy, then we went and got the tree. I love how it smells. I’m also a homebody and I feel like when you have the tree you have like justification to stay home and not be like out and about.
Paul: Kind of to nest.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I love to nest.
Paul: That’s funny. When I always look at Christmas trees I think of the errand to go have to buy it. And the errand to have to saw it up and put it in the trash can after it’s done. Although I do enjoy seeing the pleasure my wife gets from decorating it.
Elizabeth: Oh good, that’s sweet.
Paul: And then we put—I do enjoy—we put the collar of our first dog on the top of it.
Elizabeth: Aww. That’s so sweet.
Paul: I always kind of enjoy the tradition of doing that but I wish, I wish I could enjoy Christmas more. It’s …
Elizabeth: Yeah, well if you have the baggage that comes along with it, I mean, I guess it’s ….
Paul: How do you—you’ve got the most unimaginable baggage – your mom died on December 19th and yet you can still find a place where Christmas is beautiful so you must not have loved her.
Elizabeth: I didn’t really—cause I loved Santa so much. I just love Santa. He died for our sins.
Paul: Oh I think you got them mixed up.
Elizabeth: What? No, you know, I had so many great Christmases. Like Christmas was a total highlight growing up. So I think, yeah, I’m able to separate them somehow.
Paul: Are you able to have a Christmas memory of your mom and have it be fond and not have it be sad?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I think that that happened like maybe four or five years ago. And that was when I—there’s some point in grieving where your memories like flip back to the good ones. And also, I don’t know, being married and having sort of my own family and wanting to share more positive—like at first you front-load of all the shit on the person you’re going to spend your life with, cause you’re like this is what you’re dealing with. But after a couple of years of that, you’re like, oh.
Paul: You literally unpack your baggage.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. Here hold this. Here, is that crippling? Here. But it’s only fair because you’re meeting your in-laws and family and you get to analyze all of that, which is sort of fun. So, eventually I wanted to paint—I would love for Andy to have a sense of who my family is, which he does, he said, or who they were, and so, yeah, sharing more happy, positive memories I think.
Paul: The thing that I discovered in—I lost my dad in ’06 and the thing that I discovered about grief is that it has its own timetable. I felt bad that I didn’t cry for maybe the first four days. I was just kind of numb. I mean, he had been dying of cancer, so it wasn’t a shock. We knew the end was coming, but I didn’t feel anything. I felt, I just felt numb. But then the moment that it really hit me was about eight months later, I’m sorry about three months later, it was the NCAA March Madness thing and my dad was big sports nut, and every once in a while I would call him to say, “Who’s the big team going to be?” And I started to pick up my cellphone to call him to ask and I suddenly realized I will never be able to talk to my dad about his favorite thing again and that’s when I felt the loss.
Elizabeth: Yeah, oh God. That’s a big, yeah.
Paul: It just struck me as weird that I couldn’t cry in those first four days but then something as weird as that just hits—blindsides you and I guess I would want to say to anybody out there who is experiencing some type of grief, don’t put any presuppositions—is that the right word?
Paul: Presuppositories up your ass. Don’t have any preconceived notions about how you are supposed to grieve. Don’t tell yourself you’re grieving right or you’re grieving wrong. Because I—and also I had had a friend who committed suicide in 2000 and I couldn’t cry, and I felt like I was a terrible person because I couldn’t cry. I had to drink to cry. And I—it made me feel bad about myself. Have you experienced any part of the—let’s talk about your grief process if you would.
Elizabeth: Well, I mean, I relate to what you’re saying. Like I read all of the books about the stages and stuff and I fully expected to like look at my calendar and be like, oh, I’m moving out of anger and going into denial, but mine was so, you know, it’s messy and it’s sloppy and I didn’t—I had maybe some guilt feelings about my dad cause I had told me friend that I thought he was gonna die. Just a few months after my mom did, I knew it.
Paul: You could just see the stress on him.
Elizabeth: I could see it, he wore it, I mean he aged, like, they were both 53.
Paul: And it was what, about ten years ago?
Elizabeth: It was 13, yeah.
Paul: 13 years ago.
Elizabeth: So it’s—I mean honestly I’ve probably really felt like at peace with it for the last five years, so it’s a long time. But the first three or four years were just a disaster. I mean, I threw myself into schoolwork. So I graduated when I was 20 from UC Santa Barbara with a C average, watch out! Here she comes! But it was like I just had to get the fuck out of that phase of my life because it was all wrapped up together. So I just took massive course loads through all of this, it was all about efficiency and putting minimal effort in just to get the passing grade and get out.
Paul: Was it because being in college reminded you of when you got the call that your mom’s cancer was back?
Elizabeth: I mean, I think it was just, oh, this is a phase, because in my mind I was like—I don’t think it was like being in college reminded me of anything, it was more that I just lumped it all together. It was like college was not great for me and I just wanted out, like, yeah.
Paul: You looked at it and said, “This is a mile marker that I’m fucking ready to be done with.”
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly. And I moved to West Hollywood to pursue acting and I got here and I wasn’t discovered right off the bat, or ever.
Paul: You went to Schwab’s drugstore, you sat at the counter.
Elizabeth: I just waited with my malt milkshake. No, the first guy I met at—I went to this gay club called Rage, I don’t know why he was there actually—the first guy I met who showed an interest in me, I asked him to move in with me very—I mean, then basically. I was in a relationship—
Paul: I love that you were at Rage looking for guys.
Elizabeth: If nothing, I’m wise. I know where to look for single straight men at Rage, which is like so gay, it’s so gay. It’s like angry gay. It’s called Rage.
Anyway, he moved in with me. I also at the time, I inherited money which, I mean now that I’m 33 and an aspiring writer, I’m like what the fuck was I doing with all that money? Not great things with it. And I like floated both of us, and I bought friends basically and I—he was an actor and a musician and he just sucked all of the energy out of me. He—I didn’t feel funny, I like lost who I was for a few years. And then one day I found his wedding album and he had had like balloons at his wedding, and I was just like this is not going to work. So that’s when I moved to New York and that’s when I really started to find my footing.
Paul: Did he have lies on his balloons?
Elizabeth: Don’t all balloons have lies on them? It’s a floating orb, I don’t think so. Anyway, so yeah, in New York I like, I reconnected with some of my girlfriends from growing up. I like realized I was funny. I kind of got my shit together and that’s when I feel like the healing really began. But I was kind of in—the years after moving to West Hollywood I feel like I was like sepia-colored. Like I wasn’t me. I was like a shell, I don’t know.
Paul: I totally get that. It’s—I think when our depression or any other mental illness is kind of—moves in that fog, it does, it mutes everything. Your life just feels muted. And I remember going to a psychiatrist one time and saying, “I feel like my life is on the other side of Plexiglass and I’m just looking at it and I can’t feel it.”
Elizabeth: Oh my God, that’s so accurate.
Paul: And everything then just feels like an effort, like you’re just going through the motions of when am I gonna be able to have that smile that other people have at Christmas, or whatever, or to be able to laugh at a comedy.
Elizabeth: How do you feel about like faking it till you make it?
Paul: I think if you’re—I think there are certain people that maybe you just do that when you’re around them because they’re not appropriate to say, “Hey, I’m dying on the inside,” but I think you need to find somebody to say, “Hey, I’m dying on the inside.” And—I don’t know, I don’t know if there’s a …
Elizabeth: Cause I’m sort of clinging to that concept right now. Like, as this recent kind of slip, I’m like, “Ok, shit. I’m gonna start making an effort to get out, like I’m not gonna like being amongst people. In the meantime I’m also like totally hurt if I’m not included in stuff, you know, it’s like. But I’m gonna go out and like smile and nod and hope that that will carry me. But I don’t know, I haven’t had success yet.
Paul: I know that feeling so much, it’s like being around people almost feels like sandpaper, just like, ugh, I wanna get back to where I can just isolate and be where I know there isn’t gonna be intrusions and it can—it’s almost like you want to create a cocoon that while it has its own sickness, at least you know what you’re gonna get.
Elizabeth: Yeah it’s like—yeah, the sickness becomes your best friend, like I cannot wait.
Paul: Because you can’t get rid of it, so I might as well make friends with this fucking thing. Let’s watch a sad documentary.
Elizabeth: Let’s masturbate together!
Paul: That’s right. What does your depression like to masturbate to? I don’t even wanna know.
Elizabeth: Well, it’s hard because there’s a lot of feelings of numbness, so …
Paul: That would make it difficult.
Paul: What—is your sexuality tied to your depression?
Paul: In that you go to it to try to unnumb or it’s numbed by it and you become kind of withdrawn?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I feel like it’s—I don’t know. It’s similar to like the watching the documentaries, and kind of not feeling anything and it’s like you’re—it’s—there’s some weird sort of comfort in that. And it’s the same thing with sex and sexuality. And when I was really, really depressed, I would watch a lot of porn. And I mean not tons, but like enough to warrant saying that I watched porn. I don’t do that anymore, but I think if I did it would be another like, oh, this is not good.
Paul: This is not the right medicine for this.
Elizabeth: Yeah cause I have like, I mean, I have a great sex life with my husband, I have like …
Paul: I’ve seen the pictures, they’re quite impressive.
Elizabeth: Thank you. Yes, they’re hanging all over our home. I have like a good fantasy space in my head where I don’t need porn ever, like I almost pride myself in, I don’t know, being creative there and so to toss that all aside for the like (slapping sounds) is, I don’t know, that’s not great.
Paul: Can I ask you what type of—cause I’m fascinated by women who look at pornography. For the longest time I just thought it was men, and since I’ve started doing this show and been in support groups and read the surveys that people fill out, I’m surprised at the number of women that look at pornography and I’m also kind of fascinated by what type of pornography they look at. Are you comfortable talking about the type?
Elizabeth: Yes, because it’s pretty tame, I think, in the world of—as far as porn goes. I kind of—my husband looks at like free sites that are kind of like conglomerate and I don’t like dig really deep or anything, I’ll just like, I don’t know what it is. (indistinct)
Paul: What is that? What did you say?
Elizabeth: Ebony teenies
Paul: Ebony teenies? What is that?
Elizabeth: I don’t know, that just popped into my head. I’m pretty sure it’s a website. Huge plug for ebony teenies.
Paul: If you ever want to feel better about yourself, and you’re not a porn person, go online and just look at the number of things that people have—are into, it’s like, oh, wow, on the scale of …
Paul: Whatever, yeah, I guess I’m not like a sick pervert. Not that people who are into, you know, something different is wrong or they’re a pervert, you just suddenly realize there’s a gazillion different snowflakes.
Elizabeth: I think that there is—I think that there is a line to cross very quickly. Like I feel like kids today, their sexuality’s gonna be so fucked up because they are overexposed when they’re like developing sexually to some really unrealistic sick shit. And all of those women in porn—this is why I think it’s less likely for women to look at porn, is none of those women are enjoying it, and I can see that. I know that they’re getting paid to do this, like good on them, whatever. I’m not judging them, but I’m not suspending my disbelief to think that this girl loves what’s happening to her. So that’s of why—I don’t know what porn sites I’ve looked at because it’s been so long, but that’s kind of why when I go there, I’m like, oh, this is not indicative of like how happy it was last night.
Paul: That’s such a good way of putting it. Yeah the pornography thing I find—I totally lost what my point was. It was something, I know, a point I wanted to make.
Elizabeth: Can I ask you something about—were you married when your dad passed away?
Paul: I was, yeah.
Elizabeth: What was that like for your wife?
Paul: I think she kind of rallies around me when I am going through something tough and she can be—she’s Italian American so she will often express her love in terms of making sure I have things to eat, encouraging me to take a nap.
Elizabeth: Oh my God, that’s awesome.
Paul: She—there was time when I was playing hockey six nights a week and my team mates would say, “My wife would divorce me if I played six nights a week.” And my wife’s answer to that has always been that she knows I’ll appreciate our relationship more if I’m doing the things that I love so she always encourages the man activities.
Elizabeth: Oh that’s nice.
Paul: She did standup for a long time and knows men. She can out-gross men. She can tell the sickest joke. She will, you know, something dark will come up on TV or something not dark, and she will make a joke that I will go, “That is over the line.” You know, that’s one of the things that I like about her is that she can still surprise me and make me laugh and out-sick me. So I would say that she—probably the most consistent thing is she knows that I tend to minimize things that have happened to me and just say, “Oh, I’m ok, I’m moving forward.” And she will encourage me to see somebody about it and to not just assume I’ve processed it and move on. I would say. What the fuck was—there was something that I wanted to—before we finished up the—
Elizabeth: Maybe teenage years?
Paul: Oh I know what it was. Speaking of children and being exposed to stuff, I watched a documentary last night called Sexy Baby.
Elizabeth: That’s exactly—I watched that like five days ago.
Elizabeth: That’s exactly what I was thinking about.
Elizabeth: That kid—
Paul: Everybody should watch that documentary.
Elizabeth: The kid who was saying—it was like a 13-year-old boy, he’s the same kid that the filmmakers asked, “Have you seen a bush?” Like bush on a girl, and he said, “Yeah, but I’m not gonna call her again.” Because now everything is waxed even at like 13. He said that his first exposure to porn, you know, it wasn’t seeing a picture of a nip slip in his dad’s Playboy, it was like some gnarly shit and he said, “I will never forget it.” And it wasn’t in a good way. It was like that has scarred him.
Paul: Yeah and I believe one of the girls said the same thing. She came home and cried after accidentally seeing something, people fucking or something, I think she was 12 when she saw it. The thing that I took away from that documentary the most was the game that young girls are forced into or allow themselves kind of to be drawn into is competing for attention on Facebook by presenting pictures of themselves that are—will get boys’ attention but not doing it to the point where they the invisible line that makes them a slut.
Elizabeth: The point of no return.
Paul: The point of no return. And so they are trying to find how can I get more attention? And so it seems to be these girls one upping each other for the attention of these boys and not trying to cross that line and I just wanted to say to them, “It is not a race.” It is—I saw this in comedy when I first got into it – there would be comedians who would do really generic material, almost steal from other people. We would call them button pushers. And they would kill. But anybody who knew anything about comedy could see that these guys were going nowhere. They were just gonna work these shit clubs the rest of their lives and do their button pushing. And I see a similar thing to those little girls. I remember I asked Larry Miller one time, cause he was kind of a big name comedian when I was starting out, and he said, “Picture yourself as a powerful semi truck going about 2 miles an hour.”
Elizabeth: I love that.
Paul: And that’s the image I would like to say to these little girls is, “Don’t worry about who got more friends, who got more likes, whose Facebook picture got more attention.”
Elizabeth: It’s so depressing.
Elizabeth: I mean, I feel that way in the world of like social media and comedy, like me trying to build this Totally Laime brand and get myself staffed as a writer and all of this stuff, like, people get staffed off of their Twitter feeds and I’m like actively, consciously trying to make my Twitter feed more exciting and get more followers. And like that is a weight. It’s so annoying. It’s not my nature but I’m like forcing myself to do it. And to know that these 13-year-old girls are, you know—and they’re also in this insular bubble where they don’t know yet that their little social world is not the be all and end all. And so to them if someone else is getting more likes or looks sexier or whatever, then they’re losing. It’s heartbreaking. It’s so heartbreaking. And even the girl in that documentary was like, didn’t you see her like digress? Like she was, like before puberty she was like …
Paul: Into gymnastics.
Elizabeth: Gymnastics, she was so well spoken, she was into poetry, she was so self-aware, and I was like, whoa. And then like in the throes of puberty, she almost spoke to it like she knew it wasn’t good and she even said, “I wish I were more interesting so my parents would respect me.” Sort of like she almost knew. But it was like, oh my God, you’re slipping—and you can see her slipping into that world. It’s an interesting documentary.
Paul: Do you think that’s because in whatever it is we’re pursuing and we feel like we gotta be the Maserati instead of the slow-moving semi, do you think it’s because we’re wrapped up in what other people’s opinion, you know, be it the Twitter feed or posting an attractive thing on Facebook, because I catch myself doing that too with the Twitter, you know, if we take our attention away from being obsessed about what other people think of us …
Elizabeth: We die?
Paul: Or we become maybe healthier.
Elizabeth: I think so. But it’s kind of, to me it’s like I don’t have the choice, because to be competitive in what I’m pursuing, like—and also I do like Twitter, like when I have a clever tweet that I’m proud of I feel good about it. I’m not like shitting on Twitter. But this notion of like needing people to like me because that is what I’m building is like fans, basically, is, uh, it is sad.
Paul: I mean maybe the route to take is to say ok, this is a necessary part of building my career, I’m gonna put the footwork in and then I’m just gonna stay out of the results. If nobody retweets this I’m ok with that.
Elizabeth: That’s how I think I’ve operated up until this point. And like my husband, who’s just a fucking genius record producer, has been a two miles per hour semi and he is getting his shine on now and everything has always been so honest and like—our podcast is that way. Like put it out, if people like it great, if they don’t fine. I do a poem every day. I put it out. If people like it, great, if people don’t, fine. But suddenly, I don’t know why, I’m feeling this like, oh shit I maybe need to be doing more and like maybe I need to, you know, care more. And maybe this like I’ll just put my stuff out and hope it flies is not enough.
Paul: Well one of the surveys that I have on the website, and I think about 4000 people took it, and it asked, “What is the most common negative thought that you have?” And the overwhelming one that they had was that I don’t do enough. So if we’re all thinking that we’re not doing enough and that everybody is doing more, maybe it’s a lie, maybe we are doing enough.
Elizabeth: I think you’re right, I do.
Paul: So maybe we’ve gotta find to be ok with …
Elizabeth: Yeah, I’m glad this is happening right now. Honestly it was like two days ago I was like, “I gotta get this into high gear.” I think you’re totally right. And there’s some—I mean, if it comes from a place of honesty and I think of a clever tweet and I want to put it out and land how it may, that is so much healthier than like turning it into a burden.
Paul: You know, also the thought that strikes me is so few people I know who have achieved something that pleases them, has it been a linear path of their planning. Almost always it’s something that’s kind of random where the universe sticks a hand out and says, “Hey, come this way.” So you know it’s been my experience, because I’ve had to do this to stay sober, is to just kind of take it 24 hours at a time and try to care less about what other people think of me and care more about what I think of myself. Am I giving my dignity away? I gave my dignity away for many, many years because I was just—whatever you thought of me was what I thought of me. And that is a really sick way to live. And I think that’s what these—especially what these little girls, little boys too, but I think these little girls are dealing with when all of the sudden boys become the most important thing in the world. I also want to say to them, you know, boys at that age just have fucking boners and are dumb and, yeah, some of them are sensitive and smart, but most of them…
Elizabeth: You’re not getting anything from them.
Paul: They just want something to orgasm to in the next 24 hours. They are not concerned with the long term.
Elizabeth: And if you’re lucky enough it could be you! (both laugh) I’m just kidding. I agree totally. I mean, I think that I’m so glad that I was alive when I was as a child. Just the pressure that they feel, and also like …
Paul: And everything’s for keeps, because it’s all recorded.
Elizabeth: It’s for keeps!
Paul: It’s all recorded.
Elizabeth: It’s horrible. Yeah, it’s—I feel—my heart goes out to kids today because I think they just have so much pressure and so much more on their plate. Like it wasn’t hard enough. My—do you know Eliza Skinner?
Paul: Uh uh.
Elizabeth: She’s a fantastic comedian and writer, and she and I relate a lot on the career stuff and I think we’ve had like very different but also similar paths in the sense of like what we’re pursuing and where we are in things, and she—her advice is always like, “Eyes on your own paper.” And that’s, I think, speaking to what you’re saying and I apply that in career, and like in self-love and just be you, do your thing, eyes on your own paper, and it’s not about what so-and-so and so-and-so is about.
Paul: Cause I think you do, when you get into that race, you give some of your dignity away and I think dignity does like to move at two miles per hour, I don’t think dignity moves at 100 miles an hour.
Elizabeth: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Oh I love that. Two miles an hour semi.
Paul: Yeah, thank Larry Miller for that one.
Elizabeth: Oh, love him.
Paul: Many times like if a friend of mine would get something on TV and I didn’t I would just go back to what he said and think, “Ok, all right. You know, this isn’t a race. This isn’t a race.”
Paul: Let’s go back to the—talking about the grief. Can you talk about the process of—after you got out of college, after you moved here, you met the guy, you started spending the money.
Elizabeth: Oh, is that what?
Paul: That’s kind of where we were.
Elizabeth: Yeah, one thing I—I mean the guy, having him move in, I mean, I was just trying to create a family. I really wanted kids. I was 20. So I became a nanny which was awesome. But I also think I might have been inappropriately like enmeshed in their—cause I was so obsessed with family.
Paul: How could you not be?
Paul: How could you not be? Both your parents are gone.
Elizabeth: I also—I didn’t mention this. My first like love, he was my high school boyfriend, he was older, he went to Notre Dame. He was, I mean he was pretty shitty to me as like 18-year-old guys are to their girlfriends, especially if you’re in college and she’s still in high school, but he like, I mean, we definitely had a connection and he was there with me when I found out about my mom. But like ten months between my mom and my dad, he just kind of faded away. But he had just been such an important part of my life. So I also, like when my dad died, I made a choice not to call him. Like he called me later, he had heard about stuff, but in that time, I like lost my best friend who I thought I was gonna like marry some day, you know, both of my parents—my sister had just met her future husband so she was like, I don’t even know what that was like for her honestly in hindsight. Falling in love at the same time that you lose, you know, experiencing all this loss. So I was really fucking untethered and on my own and I didn’t have—I was out here, all of my friends where in the Midwest.
Paul: God that have been frightening.
Elizabeth: It was terrifying. So I did kind of try to create this family. I think I chose poorly, don’t go pick your family out of rage, lesson learned. And then when I moved to New York, that’s when I started to cultivate a really nice family. I had this awesome group of girlfriends. We were like the sad Sex and the City. We would watch Sex and the City while eating like Chinese takeout and Indian. Like just getting fat and stoned. Watching these women and being like, “We’re like them!” But we’re in like a basement apartment. Yeah, so New York was awesome. I mean, I just had a great time there. I met my husband there and kind of got my sea legs back. And humor has helped me so much in dealing with grief and I see you obviously can relate too.
Paul: Your relationship with your sister, what is the dynamic like when you two go through something like that even though you were apart—has there been a dynamic to it since you lost your parents and today in terms of how you two feel about it, talk about it, relate to each other about it?
Elizabeth: I think we’ve come a long way. See it’s hard for—I can only speak for my take on it. I actually, I don’t know what hers is and I almost feel guilty speaking about it—but I felt at the time like very—there was a great divide between us going through this. And of course it was hard and she had way more responsibility and had to take care of way more of the estate stuff and business stuff just by virtue of being older and like more responsible. And she kind of took on a mother role, but it was more, to me it felt more like judgmental. But then I think it’s similar to the self-love thing. She did not like the boyfriend that I lived with.
Paul: She could tell he was a user?
Elizabeth: She was right. So that like—we weren’t very close then. I think—it’s interesting like we started to become a lot closer when I was in New York and started to like find myself again. So I think that was just her being kind of protective, like she wasn’t supportive of my choices because they weren’t me making good choices for me.
Paul: She couldn’t hide the look on her face about how she felt about her concern for you.
Elizabeth: She was always polite. Like that’s like what it was, it was painful because it was like you know …
Paul: What she wasn’t saying.
Elizabeth: Yeah. But she was totally right. And so, and like she loves Andy, like our families get along wonderful now, wonderfully, and she has—I have two nephews who are fucking amazing. So it’s really great now, we have an awesome dynamic. I think one way we differ is she doesn’t like to talk a lot about the past. I love to. But I think we’ve kind of both come to a place where we can respect the boundaries there and as long as we do that everything is great. So, uh, but we do things—like Christmas Eve we cook my dad’s spaghetti. We do these little things that are really cool to kind of remember them, without you know, me crying on the phone with her every day. And I think I was probably pretty selfish because she had this boyfriend at the time it happened, and so I think I was probably really needy, and it was like what you’re not giving me at the time, but I was 19 and I don’t think I gave much thought to what she might have needed from me also. So it was just hard but I think we made it through pretty good.
One thing I’ve learned through all of this is my pain is not any worse, like it’s not less or more than anyone else’s. I think, yeah, all pain is sort of—we’re all human and we all hurt.
Paul: Absolutely. And the emails that I get from people when they express their pain, so often they say, “Why can’t I just get over this.” And I just want to say, you know, your pain is your pain no matter how little your tragedy is or large your tragedy is or whatever happened, just give it weight and talk about it and deal with it and I would imagine one of the big reasons you’ve been able to come out the other side of this is you talk about it.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I do. A lot. I mean, I almost feel silly now that I bring it up. But I also like, I find a lot of maybe bad, like humor, like I kind of enjoy making people uncomfortable about it. But I hope it gives them permission to then, like, talk about their stuff. But like in the podcast I throw down dead parent jokes all the time. I mean, it’s been thirteen years and I still bring it up all the time. I don’t know at what point I’m gonna need to …
Paul: My wife, her mom passed away from cancer in ’96, I think it was and probably for ten years—she’ll still sometimes even she’ll say, “Let’s do the bit.”
Elizabeth: Can’t wait to hear it.
Paul: Where somebody—or I’ll ask her, I’ll go, “Hey, how’s your mom doing?” And she’ll go, “Oh, my mom died.” And I’ll be like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry to hear that, but really she went quickly.” “Actually no, she had a lingering form of cancer.” And I’ll say, “Well at least it was in only one part of her body.” And she’ll say, “Oh, no, no, it was in her brain and then it spread to her lungs.”
Elizabeth: Oh, so great. Classic.
Paul: Some people will laugh, and other people will just feel like, oh my God, you two are … That’s how my wife dealt, you know, dealt with it. And when it comes to the anniversary of her mom’s birthday or the day that her mom died, you know, sometimes she’ll go, “I’m sad. I miss my mom.”
Elizabeth: Of course.
Paul: So we definitely have that but …
Elizabeth: It’s not to say that humor deflects the real emotions underneath it, but I do like a dead parents joke thrown around here and there.
Paul: There is a—and it’s one of the reasons I think people feel a kinship sometimes to what we talk about on this podcast, is sometimes we’ll make jokes about being molested. You know, if you’ve been molested, there’s something really cathartic about hearing someone who’s been molested cracking a joke about it. I don’t know why that is, but I suppose the people that are offended just turn it off and never listen again. But I think that’s a part of the healing process is to be able to laugh at it. Because maybe then it reminds you that there is still life, there is still, there is still forward.
Elizabeth: Definitely, yeah. I don’t know what it is but I know I’m cool with it.
Paul: Well, Elizabeth, thank you so much for—oh, we gotta do a fear-off and a love-off! What the fuck am I talking about?
Elizabeth: Oh, oh boy, here we go.
Paul: Were there any seminal moments that we didn’t talk about that you wanted to touch on?
Elizabeth: I think we really hit the big ones.
Paul: Ok. Let’s do fears first.
Elizabeth: Got those in droves!
Paul: All right. You wanna start?
Elizabeth: Well, my grandma had the second longest documented case of Lou Gehrig’s disease. So my fear is having the longest.
Paul: Oh my God, that’s intense. I’m going to be continuing the fears of a listener named Melissa. And she says, “I’m afraid something bad will happen in my house and I will hear a weird noise but be too lazy to move and check it out and thus not help people when they needed it.” I’m selfish. I would have thought and then be stabbed in my bed.
Elizabeth: I know, who are these people in her house?
Paul: I didn’t even think about anybody else.
Elizabeth: Who are these people, Melissa? How many peeps are in your house? These people. Is it my turn?
Elizabeth: Ok, having a child who is a psychopath. That’s a fear.
Paul: Yeah. I can—I don’t even know what to say about that. That is a nightmare beyond nightmares and I know we have listeners—I’ve gotten emails from people that have kids that have mental disturbances and my heart goes out to them cause not only do have to deal with that kid, but you also have to deal with people that think you’re making the kid that way, and that you’re a bad parent, and that has got to be agonizing. So big, big hug and lots of love to any parent out there that’s dealing with that.
Melissa says, “I’m afraid I will never be able to stop returning back to my obsessive thoughts after positive times.”
Elizabeth: Letting anxiety and hurt consume me until I’m a bitter shell who will die of a heart attack.
Paul: I wonder where that comes from? (both laugh) “I’m afraid that my tendency to return back to old issues after I think they are better disappoints those who care for or help me. Friends, therapists, parents.” You know, it’s been my experience that it’s two steps forward, one step back, and give yourself some compassion and some leeway when you take that one step back.
Elizabeth: Yeah, be gentle.
Elizabeth: I’m afraid that I’m gonna get to a point in my life where I for fun try out either meth or Scientology.
Paul: (laughs) That may be one of the best ones I’ve ever heard. That those are both side-by-side. “I’m afraid that I will never get out of my parents’ house because I can’t find fulltime teaching positions and will always only be an adjunct.” Nice word.
Elizabeth: I think you’re gonna find that teaching position. Adjunct.
Paul: Smarty pants. Smarty in the basement.
Paul: Just assuming.
Elizabeth: Just assuming. Adjunct. My husband dying and me being so devastated that I’m compelled to take our children on our honeymoon.
Paul: Where’d that one come from?
Elizabeth: I don’t know.
Paul: “I’m afraid of compost machine things in the sink. They scare the shit out of me.”
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, like your hand might slip in.
Paul: I see, compost machine, things in the sink. I got ya.
Elizabeth: Well I’m just afraid that the last thing I wrote or podcast I did was the best. Like it’s done.
Paul: You’re done. Your best is…
Elizabeth: In general, everyone.
Paul: “I’m afraid of dying in some embarrassing way like the girl in Dead Like Me who I believe got hit in the head by a flaming toilet. Yeah, I get—she’s a character, it’s not real, but ever since I watched that show I get scared that I will die in some weird ass death.” That’s a good one.
Elizabeth: That is a good one.
Paul: Is that it for your fears?
Elizabeth: I think so. I don’t like any of my others.
Paul: Ok. All right. Let’s go to loves.
Paul: You can never have enough love. Do you want to start?
Elizabeth: I love waking up my dog—my dog wakes me up with this like, she puts her face on my face and goes mmmm, which means she has to go take a shit, but it’s like so cute.
Paul: There’s nothing better than having a dog’s face on your face. I won’t even move when one of my dogs does that. That’s just like—you just want to soak in it. Jessie Giavunco (sp?)—this is a thread from Facebook. Jessie Giavunco says, “I love pretzels. I always forget that I love pretzels but the instant I eat one I remember how much I love them.” Totally relate to that.
Elizabeth: Good pretzels. I love overcast, rainy days, similar to what we were talking about, because I feel like it justifies me to sit inside and just cocoon.
Paul: I’ve said the exact same thing. It’s like finally the world is in sync with me.
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly.
Paul: Sarah Bong, I’m sure she’s NEVER gotten tired of having that last name, says, “I love that first full stretch in the morning.”
Elizabeth: I love post-snowboarding beers.
Paul: Oh. That is so good. It’s almost like you’ve earned it. Even though it’s recreation, yeah.
Elizabeth: It is such an award, you’re right.
Paul: Unless you’re an alcoholic and then it’s the beginning of a night that you will regret. Martin Willis, former guest, says, “I love taking the time to watch a beautiful sunset.”
Elizabeth: Oh, that’s nice.
Paul: He’s the only person who feels that way.
Elizabeth: Mine is—oh God I feel terrible saying this after this podcast, but I wrote it down. I love retweets, follows and @’s on Twitter.
Paul: Hey, I’m the same way. Thank you for your honesty. I’m the same way. I wish it didn’t excite me like it does. Angela the Artist says, “I love being at the beach and the anticipation of waiting for the sun to come up so I can go down to the beach.”
Elizabeth: I thought she was gonna say something like “go down on my boyfriend.” I really love the way my husband’s neck smells.
Paul: Oh, that’s sweet.
Paul: Courtney Hobson says, “I love feeling the unexpected nudge of a pet by my legs. It’s a little reminder of, ‘Hey, I’m here and I love you’ or the alternative ‘Feed me.’” Or your alternative, “I’ve gotta take a shit.”
Elizabeth: Yeah. That’s good.
Paul: Is that it for your loves?
Elizabeth: I think that’s it.
Paul: Elizabeth Laime, thank you so much. People can find your podcasts by going to Earwolf or finding them on iTunes.
Elizabeth: Yeah, we have totallylaime.com. It’s L-A-I-M-E. And you can find my poems and podcasts, that’s basically it.
Paul: Thank you for being so generous in talking about your pain.
Elizabeth: Of course, thank you for having me. This is nice.
Paul: I appreciate it.
Many thanks to Elizabeth for just a great conversation and being so open and honest.
Before we get to some surveys and an email that I want to read, I want to remind you guys that there’s a couple of different ways to support the show if you feel so inclined. You can support us financially by going to the website mentalpod.com and making a one-time PayPal donation or my fav—I lost my voice there for a second—my favorite, a recurring monthly PayPal donation for as little as $5 a month. It may not seem like a lot to you, but it means the world to me and brings me a little closer to my dream of being able to support myself doing this fulltime.
You can also support the show non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating and that boosts our ranking, brings more people to the show. And you can also help by spreading the word through social media about the show. That helps a lot too. And go check out the forum. There’s a really cool vibe in the forum. A lot of people really getting honest with each other and opening up about heir issues. It’s really a beautiful thing. Sometimes I’ll pop my head in there and just see some of the most beautiful, supportive exchanges between people on the forum and, yeah, all right.
I want to kick it off with—this is from the I Shouldn’t Feel This Way survey, filled out by a woman calls herself !K!, however you would pronounce that. She’s straight, she’s in her 20’s, was raised in a stable and safe environment. “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” “She didn’t give a FUCK.” I think just for that alone I wanted to read this. “How does writing that make you feel?” “Disappointed. I am not exactly living up to that.” “If you had a time machine, how would you use it?” “I would probably jet ahead a little bit and make some money off the stock market. While I was up there in the future, I would try to observe.” And then this is in all caps. “AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.” I don’t really understand that. Why the consciously not observing much in the future? Maybe she has fear about the future, I don’t know. “I’m supposed to feel <blank> about <blank> but I don’t. Instead I feel <blank>.” She writes, “I’m supposed to feel accomplished about my career advancement in this competitive field but I don’t. I feel fucking terrified. I’m supposed to feel good about having a committed boyfriend but I don’t, I feel fucking terrified. I’m supposed to feel good about being young and attractive, but I don’t. I feel guilty, privileged, ashamed, deserving of sexual assault, disillusioned about reality and fucking terrified of getting older. I’m supposed to feel good about feeling sex-positive and having a high sex drive but I don’t. I feel like a disgusting piece of shit slut who will never, ever, ever, ever find anyone who wants to stick around. I’m supposed to feel good about other people of my demographic entering my competitive field but I don’t. I feel ununique and threatened and losing some of the attention I whore myself out for by being young/female.” You know, I read a lot of surveys and a lot of people being hard on themselves, and this has to rank up there as some of the most harsh unforgiving, ah, I want to give her a hug. “How does it make you feel to write your feelings out?” She writes, “I think about this exact dichotomy a lot actually so although overall these things make me feel inadequate or confused, I’m accustomed to that feeling so writing them doesn’t feel too bad.” “Do you think you’re abnormal for feeling what you do?” She writes, “I don’t know. I am so bad at judging how humans feel behind what they present. For example, I absolutely cannot imagine somebody feeling guilt or shame or any of the bad things I feel. I just can’t imagine they are feeling bad and hide it. I imagine they simply do not feel bad. Logically I know I’m not abnormal but it’s hard to reconcile when I’m in my head and nobody else’s.” Well I can tell you this – a lot of people feel the way you do. I’m just struck by the intensity of the way that you feel about, about yourself. “Would knowing other people feel the same way make you feel better about yourself?” She writes, “Probably a little bit, but it wouldn’t change my negative thinking, just my thinking about my negative thinking.” I just want to give her a big dose of love.
This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Sushi Baby. She’s 24, bisexual, she clarifies, “I don’t really identify myself as either. If a person is attractive, then so be it.” She was raised in an environment that was pretty dysfunctional. Never been the victim of sexual abuse. “Deepest, darkest thoughts?” She writes, “Sexual thoughts about children. Boys specifically. I fantasize about homosexual intercourse involving a man and a child.” “Deepest, darkest secrets?” “I drink alcohol while driving and I won a strap-on that I masturbate with as if the penis were my own.” “Sexual fantasies most powerful to you?” She writes, “I would NEVER act upon these fantasies, that’s why they are fantasies, but I have strong sexual urges to molest young boys. I do not wish to harm, only to explore, juvenile curiosity. The fantasy can also include myself being the young boy, being molested by a loving, caring, older male. “Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” She writes, “My boyfriend of four years knows and has accepted it with lots of love and understanding. My best friend has done the same.” That’s beautiful. That is beautiful that you have, you know, such a clear boundary, that those are just your thoughts and that they don’t define who you are and that you can see you’re lovable. But we get to this part – “Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” She writes, “I consider myself the most disgusting person for even thinking such a thing. I want to protect kids and I’m a hypocrite for what I fantasize about. I’ve been getting help for this for the past few months but it’s hard to accept.” You know, I just want to give you a big hug cause the thoughts that we have in our head, we have no control over the thoughts that pop in there what we’re turned on by. And whether or not we act on them – that’s what’s important. And you’re doing something about it. You’re talking to somebody about it and you’ve opened up to people that are trustworthy. So I say high five. “Do you have any comments or suggestions to make The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast better?” She writes, “I’m a new listener and I’m finding such solace in the brutal honesty of your guests.” Well I want to thank you for your brutal honesty.
I want to read this email I got from a listener named Amelia. And there’s actually two parts to it. I’ll read the first part. “Hi Paul, I really enjoyed your interview with Maria Bamford. Thanks for that one. A long time ago you mentioned that you’d like to speak to someone who had severe post-partum depression. The Teresa Strasser interview definitely got into that, but have you ever spoken to anyone at length about PPD specifically, like for 90 minutes? I came to the podcast about a year ago and I think I’ve listened to all of them, so apologies if I’ve missed one about that. Anyway, I had really vicious PPD, medicated and recovered. And what struck me about your interview with Maria was the topic of unwanted thoughts syndrome. For me, that’s exactly what PPD is. For a limited time, which can be a month, six months, eighteen months. So it’s not pleasant at all. I had a phobia about my baby drowning. This is because one, we had a large pond in our backyard, and two, one of my exes lost an eighteen-month-old brother to this when he wandered out the back door and into a pond. What started as a sad story became my complete obsession. Eventually we moved because I couldn’t stand it anymore. I hallucinated, if that’s the right word, constantly that the baby would end up in the water. Like she’d fly out of my arms and I wouldn’t be able to catch her. Or somehow, even though she couldn’t crawl yet, she’d get out of her crib, unlock the door and scramble down to the pond. Or that I would lose control and throw her in. I could see every detail of this happening, over and over and over. It still makes me sick to think about it. One day I decided to try to desensitize myself by putting her in a Baby Bjorn and standing next to the edge of the pond to show myself, ‘Hey, see, you’re in charge here. Nothing’s going to happen.’ I ended up frozen, literally, it was in winter, to the spot for at least 45 minutes shaking and crying, unable to move in any direction. The whole thing made it worse, not better. And it just got worse and worse after that. Until I saw a psychiatrist who promised she would ‘fix me.’ And she did. Mostly through Effexor and sleep. My shrink calls these intrusive thoughts. They were never about harming my baby, just unbelievably horrible things happening that I never would have thought under normal circumstances. It was interesting to hear you both speak about it. I’m fascinated by PPD. There’s definitely a hormonal component but I think the type of person you are before becoming pregnant has a lot to do with it. I think for some people, especially those with complicated mother relationships, the sheer terror of being handed an infant, one that you wanted, which is even crazier, drives some people right over the edge. It did me. The way I describe PPD to other people is: there are hundreds of planes flying overhead all day long, every day. We hear them, we see them, we never think about them. With PPD, you suddenly start looking up and thinking, ‘That plane is headed for me. I know it is. I can’t stop it. And I deserve it. Because I can’t protect this baby or me or the planet or anything because there is no point in anything. Whose idea was it to create another human when the world is fucked? How can this child not be fucked up with me as its mother? Oh yeah, and there are spiders coming out of the ceiling, which is my fault too.’ It is amazing how fast mediation cleared that up. I definitely had my issues over the years, but that one was specific and fixed quickly once I sought help.” I love that as an example of how “crazy” things can get, and then if we reach out for help, how much better things can get.
I want to read—this is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a guy named Jeff. He’s straight, he’s in his 20’s, was raised in a stable and safe environment, and never been sexually abused. “Deepest, darkest thoughts?” He writes, “Going to sleep and not waking up. Drinking myself to death or taking a pill that will stop my existence.” “Deepest, darkest secrets?” “Not being aroused by my ex-fiancé and forcing myself into arousal.” “Sexual fantasies most powerful to you?” He writes, “Laying back and having a woman give me a hand job without me having to do any work.” I love that. That is just—that is fucking Roman. Just not doing anything, just laying back, just eating grapes. You know, fucking just go one step further. Have a machine breathe for you also. You know, I would be lying if I said that that fantasy doesn’t hold some allure. There’s something nice about being catered to and pampered. “Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” He writes, “I would and have, but the partner I’ve been with saw this as lazy and not giving her enough sexual attention.” Well that’s understandable. “Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” He writes, “That I am selfish and egotistical.”
This next one is—I’m gonna go out on this one. This is from the Happy Moments survey. And if you haven’t taken this one, please go to the website and do it. And these aren’t big moments, these are just kind of sublime moments. This is filled out by a guy who calls himself Anonymouse. He’s straight, he’s in his 40’s, he was raised in a stable and safe environment, although he pref—whatever the word is, adds (I want a better word than that)—qualifies, that’s the word I was looking for—a bit anal about being perfect, that’s the environment that he was raised in. “Describe a happy moment that you had.” And he writes, “I had spent most of the year helping my cousin build his house. I did nearly all the wiring myself under the supervision of his uncle, a certified electrician. When we finally got all the wiring done, and at the end of yet another long day, were getting ready to switch it on, I said, ‘Hang on,’ and quickly wired a temporary light socket to where the front porch light would go. His uncle hooked up the power to the house itself and we threw the main breaker and that one little light bulb on that front porch came on. The house was alive. We pulled out some chairs and sat there on the front porch, staring at it like it was a campfire.” I love that. That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.
And to anybody out there who’s feeling stuck, or hopeless, you are so not alone. You are so not alone. There is hope. You just gotta ask for help. I’m glad I did. Because I would not be here if I hadn’t. So, give yourself a big hug. Thanks for listening.