Emily Gordon (Voted #2 ep of 2013)

Emily Gordon (Voted #2 ep of 2013)

The podcaster (Indoor Kids) and former licensed therapist opens up about her battle with Adult Onset Still’s Disease, her mentally-ill grandmother, rebelling as an adolescent, being a woman in the South, working with schizophrenic patients, and perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.  They also talk about the importance of having emotional support, and how to distance yourself from people who are draining.

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Episode notes:

Listen to Emily's podcast Indoor Kids.   Support the Shield Act by visiting www.eff.org/shield

Episode Transcript:

Paul: Welcome to episode 103 with my guest Emily Gordon. I’m Paul Gilmartin. 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 that doesn’t suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. There’s all kinds of stuff there. There’s a newsletter you can sign up for, there’s a forum you can post in, there are surveys you can take, about a half-dozen different surveys, and I like to read those survey responses on the show. And you can also support the show in various ways at the website.

What did I want to mention? Oh, there’s a really, really important bill in Congress right now called the Shield Act. And I would love it if you guys would call your Congressperson and people and tell them that you support the Shield Act. There’s a website called eff.org/shield that you can find out who your Congresspeople are, what the phone number is, or you can just email them if you don’t want to call. But calling is generally a little more persuasive because they know that people are taking a little more time out to do that so they must feel a little more strongly about it. And basically what the Shield Act does is it is trying to combat patent trolls who are really stifling innovation in this country. The shorthand version of what patent trolls are is they are people who threaten with litigation people who have types of digital entertainment, and digital—any place where there is some type of digital innovation, patent trolls go and they see, oh that person’s making money, I’m gonna swamp them with a lawsuit that’s gonna be so expensive for them to fight that they’re just gonna settle out of court even though I probably don’t have a case. And they are literally clogging our court system and stifling innovation, and it’s really, really serious. So please go support it. And again the website is eff.org/shield. And EFF stands for Electronic Frontier Foundation and, yes, so there you have my plea, my plea for help.

The other thing I wanted to mention was in last week’s episode with Peter Morrison, he had mentioned that at a very early age he became aroused by pain and wound up later in his adult life needing pain in his sexual experiences and I used the word “unhealthy” and I kind of regret that. I got an email from a nice listener who reminded me that that isn’t the case for all people and so I guess I’d like to clarify – I feel like if people have a fetish, it’s fine it terms of how healthy it is if it is not being used in place of intimacy between you and a partner. Because I think for some people if their fetish becomes their—the thing, instead of something that adds to the thing, and so that’s—if I could have rephrased that more correctly. And I hope I didn’t offend any people in the kink community. I don’t really know much about that, but one of the cool things about doing the show is I’m getting to learn more about you guys and what your private lives are like. It’s pretty fascinating, so pardon me if I’m a little clunky with it sometimes.

I want to kick it off with a survey, this is from the Struggle in a Sentence survey, this is filled out by a woman who calls herself Letteggs. She’s in her 20’s, about her depression, she says, “Major depressive disorder.” Her OCD, “Counting everything. Assigning letters right and left, values and balancing words and phrases constantly. My mind never stops.” About her PTSD she writes, “Childhood medical procedures made me despise my mother.” And then this is the one that I found really interesting. “Sensory processing disorder. Incredibly sensitive to smells and pulling away from all physical contact yet craving big bear hugs and physical pain.” I’d never heard of sensory processing disorder, and I know that she had filled out another survey and talked about that, so maybe that’s something we should post a thread on in the forum because I know when people have disorders that are not as common as other ones, they—something that burdens them a little more is this feeling that they’re, you know, a freak of nature and kind of isolated because nobody else has that, so if you suffer from that as well, shoot me an email, fill me in, let me know what—how you experience that disorder. Or go post on the forum.

This next one is also if from the Struggle in a Sentence survey. This is filled out by a call who calls himself HermitZM. He is in his 20’s. About his depression he writes, “The world will never think I am special or important.” Holy fuck, does that one ring true with me. About his anxiety he says, “If I don’t expose myself to the world I can’t be hurt. No one understands me.” And about his alcoholism and drug addiction he writes, “I need to feel, I want to feel, and I want to destroy myself.” I really related to those.

This next one is from the same survey filled out by a woman named Gretchen. She’s in her 40’s. about her depression, she writes, “It feels like I’m dying a little more every day.” About her anxiety, “Pounding chest. Dread of human contact.” About her alcoholism and drug addiction, “A complete waste of my health without enough reward.” Oh boy do I relate to that. About her sex addiction, “In my youth it felt incredibly exhilarating yet humiliating at the same time.” And then, “Other compulsive behaviors?” “Internet stalking. To soothe myself of past traumas.” And then comments—anything to make the podcast better, she writes, “Keep the surveys coming. It makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone.” I love when somebody writes that. I love that. It warms my heart. And I wish love for all of you guys. You know, my wish for all of you is that you all one day find love as deep as the love that women feel on each season’s second episode of The Bachelor.


Paul: I’m here Emily Gordon who is a podcaster and a podcast producer as well. You work with Nerdist Industries.

Emily: Yes, I have a podcast with Nerdist Industries. And all I do is talk into a microphone with that one, you’re amazing with all your stuff you have here. I don’t know anything about that stuff.

Paul: We’re recording at one of the places that you work, which is Meltdown Comics on Sunset in LA. Do you spend a lot of time working here?

Emily: I’m—for a year when we first opened, there’s a theater—a showroom downstairs that I ran from April of 2011 until fairly recently. Oh yeah, until like June of 2012 and I was running—I was booking all the shows there. And now I just run my own shows. I produce a show down there once a week.

Paul: Oh cool. And you’re gonna shoot an MTV pilot for that.

Emily: A Comedy Central pilot.

Paul: Comedy Central pilot.

Emily: This week actually we’re shooting that.

Paul: I’m switching it to MTV. I just think it’s a better fit.

Emily: Could you make some calls? It might be, who knows? Yeah, we’re shooting one on Wednesday and it’s definitely my first time at that rodeo so I’m just—my job is make sure that the live show is as good as it can be. Camera guys, their job is make sure that part of it is good, so.

Paul: I can’t remember why I asked you if you wanted to be a guest since we don’t know each other.

Emily: No, we don’t.

Paul: You’ve never listened to my podcast. I’ve never listened to yours.

Emily: We’re virtual strangers.

Paul: There might have been—maybe I tweeted something and …

Emily: Oh yeah, I think that was it. Somebody suggested me as a guest for your show, I think, on Twitter.

Paul: That was it.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: That was it. I get some really great suggestions from listeners for guests so I think that was it. So thank you if you’re the listener and you’re listening. Because you told me a little bit about your background and I was like, “Sounds awesome. Let’s do this.” There’s some crazy and you used to be a therapist.

Emily: Awesome. All those things.

Paul: How many years were you a licensed therapist?

Emily: I was—I practiced as a licensed therapist for six years from 2003 until 2009, kind of 2010-ish. I worked with really, really difficult populations because I loved working with them, but I got so burnt out. I worked with all suicidal clients, teenagers who were at a wilderness program for a year. Schizophrenic—I worked at a home of just all schizophrenic clients, 270. And then I tried to take a job that was a little less stressful and was very bored by it, unfortunately. So I kind of just slowly backed away from it.

Paul: So working with comedians, is that kind of in the middle?

Emily: It’s oddly similar. It’s amazing because a big part of it is you have to massage a bunch of different people’s egos and know like the one thing that’s gonna set this guy off is not gonna set this guy off, and you have to kind of balance all that. So that definitely, it absolutely helps. I think having a mental health background helps at any job that you have, because you kind of get to read people a little bit—I’m not gonna say “better”—but it’s just a little—I see thing a little differently. I’m always kind of sizing things up, it’s like, ok, what’s the best way to get what I want, get what they want, get what everybody wants? So it definitely, definitely helps.

Paul: Is there ever been a time where you’re like, “Oh this person seems to be a, you know, such-and-such, I’m gonna kind of deal with them this way?” Is it like a conscious decision that you feel like you’re showing the traits of …

Emily: That’s a good question. I would definitely say there’s been times that I’ve been around people that I—not anybody that I’m good friends with, where I’m like, “Oh, clearly you have a personality disorder,” and it’s like permeating—to me, it’s like permeating the air around them. Like I can—it’s just like this—

Paul: Like garlic.

Emily: Oh God, it’s like such a strong—and again, the training helped with this, but like you and I were talking about at the beginning, I have—there’s a lot of mental illness in my family, so I grew up being very attuned to, “Oh, there’s something going on. I need to be careful and kind of distance myself because this person’s not being themselves today.”

Paul: Your kitchen tiles were eggshells growing up.

Emily: A little bit, a little bit. And you would just feel it. And to me, I always—I see it—it sounds so cheesy, it’s not an aura, but I definitely like, I just see it pulsing out of people. And so there’s definitely people I’ve met that I’ve been like, “Oh, I’m gonna stay away from you. And I’m not gonna trust you. You might be a perfectly nice person but I’m not gonna lend you any money. I’m certainly probably not gonna help you move ever. Cause I just—I can’t—I don’t need any more people with personality disorders in my life.” Other than that, I think everybody’s got a little bit of, a little mix of whatever fun issues and it’s not my job to like treat my friends, you know.

Paul: Right. Right. And I will come across people sometimes where I’m like, “This person clearly needs help, but they are needy beyond what I can give them and it’s only gonna leave me feeling drained and them feeling like they’re not getting enough so I am really gonna put a wall up with this person.” And it makes me a little sad, but I didn’t—what is it, the phrase that they have? I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I forget what the third one is.

Emily: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I’m not gonna fix it?

Paul: I can’t cure it.

Emily: And I can’t cure it, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah, and it’s frustrating, and I feel like I am the kind of person that my whole life, part of the reason that I got into the field, my whole life, I’ll be the girl that’s in a public bathroom and a girl’s like, (sobbing) “I just don’t know what I’m gonna do,” and I’m like, “Oh, God, I don’t even know you. Like what am I doing?” So I’ve always kind of had people approaching me like with their stuff, and if it’s somebody I care about, I’m there 100% but, it is a give and take. It is—if you were putting more into it than you’re getting out of it, it’s not selfish to me, it’s like you have to think about yourself first because you can’t be a good therapist, you can’t be a good friend if you are draining yourself dry on one human being, or on several human beings. An analogy I used to use was cake. Like your job is to give out cake to people. But you have to be able to make the cake. So you have to have people around you who can give you eggs, can give you flour, can give you sugar, because if you don’t have that, you can’t make more cake, you’re just giving out everything you’ve got and then you got nothin’.

Paul: I like that.

Emily: And then you’re useless to everyone, including yourself. Yeah.

Paul: Speaking of diabetes, no. I couldn’t resist that segue. Let’s talk about what it was like growing up in your family.

Emily: I have a fantastic family, very supportive, wonderful. I’m from the South, and a big rule in the South—

Paul: Where’d the accent go?

Emily: I made it go away.

Paul: And dialect.

Emily: I’ve been gone—I’ve been gone from the South for a while, but I also kind of wanted it to go away.

Paul: Where in the South?

Emily: North Carolina.

Paul: Ok.

Emily: And now that I’m away from there, I have all the North Carolina pride on the planet. But when I was there, I was like, “Fuck this place.” Can I curse? I didn’t know.

Paul: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Emily: Ok, good, just checking. So yeah, I have a very supportive family, very southern family, and what means—many things—but one of them is that you absolutely—you always—women especially have to give off this aura of, “I am perfect. I’ve got everything under control. Everything is totally fine. It does not matter what’s happening in reality.” You have to put off this very, very—

Paul: So it’s the ‘50’s.

Emily: It’s the ‘50’s, yeah. A lot of it. There’s a—there’s a—I think there’s a line from Steel Magnolias where, “I don’t know how you’re doing on the inside, but your hair’s holding up perfect.” And it’s such a—it’s like exactly perfect, that’s exactly how it is. I have a grandmother—my grandmother on my maternal side was incredibly, incredibly mentally ill. A lot of OCD, a lot of near-catatonic depression. And she went through ECT – electroshock therapy – both in the ‘50’s when it was really, really terrible and also in the ‘90’s when it was not much better, but it was really the only option that we had. And so a lot of my childhood was spent—

Paul: So did it help her?

Emily: It did. It would help in a way that it would shock her system and for whatever reason, that mental illness would fall away for a couple of days, maybe a week, and then would always come creeping back, always, always, always. But it wasn’t anything that was ever harmful, it was just her pacing the house on a near-constant basis, her muttering under her breath, just being so tense and muttering, “What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?” over and over and over again.

Paul: Oh my God. How can that not fill the house with tension?

Emily: It definitely did, but it was never anything where anybody was in danger, it was never anything that it was like a harmful situation, it was just one of those things that my sister and I were always like, “Ok, where is she today?” Because at first, she would be like that some days, and then other days she would be normal. And then slowly it became that that’s all she was. And that was really hard, and so we ended up kind of mourning years before she passed because she wasn’t really there.

Paul: Was that your mom’s mom?

Emily: Mom’s mom, yeah. And we lived five minutes from them so we saw them all the time, all the time. But it was still a thing that like her family, her sisters would never acknowledge that she was mentally ill. Like not—it just was not—nobody would acknowledge it, even though—and so my grandfather had to put up with having to deal with, “Oh yeah, no, she’s fine. I’m sure, she’s fine.” Then actually trying to help her get the help she needed, I mean I grew up in a family where you whisper the word “cancer,” you whisper the word “depression,” you whisper anything that isn’t happy and wonderful and easy, you whisper it, you don’t say it out loud. It’s weird. So I grew up very, very cautious and very well aware of people’s mental illness. And it also kind of—and other than that I think my home life was very, very easy and very lovely, and I have a sister who was perfect, so I rebelled against that by being an absolute nightmare of a teenager, basically.

Paul: Like how, what would you do?

Emily: I, you know, I got a lot of piercings, I dyed my hair constantly, I wore all black.

Paul: They love that in the South. They love …

Emily: They love it. Do you know how many times I would come out and my car would have those Chick publications, those little cartoon books shoved under my windshield wiper? Cuz people had seen me going into a store and wanted to save me. That happened so often, it was ridiculous.

Paul: What’s a Chick publication?

Emily: Chick publications are these little tiny brochures that are for churches, but they’re little cartoons that are little stories about “The guy who smoked marijuana, then he went to hell, but it’s ok, you can pray for him and save him.”

Paul: Like a hand reaching out from Highlights magazine?

Emily: Basically, yeah. They’re really cool, you should look them up, they’re actually—the art is really interesting and they’re very bizarre and kind of kitschy. But I didn’t really appreciate having them shoved under my windshield wiper and given to me at a mall on a constant basis. So yeah, I got really rebellious as a teenager because A) it’s just in my nature, and B) because I wanted to be different. I had this perfect sister and it’s like I have to do something else. I’m gonna be compared to her, I might as well be the most fucked-up version that I can be.

Paul: Isn’t it funny how kids will take whatever role is not available? It’s like, “OK, the perfect role is taken, I’ll cast myself as this.”

Emily: I’ll be the bad guy.

Paul: I remember casting myself as the burnout, making a conscious decision, changing the way I dressed and deciding I was gonna smoke pot every day because I no longer was big enough to compete in sports. And my friends all went to the other school, so all of the sudden I went from being the popular kid who played sports in a class of 60 to the smallest kid in a class of 1300, with all of my best friends going to the Catholic high school. And it was terrifying for me. The only people I noticed would talk to me were the burnouts. And I liked smoking pot, so I was like, “I’ll just do more of this.”

Emily: That’s all it took.

Paul: So I just started. And yeah, it’s not a very smart decision, but sometimes when you’re a kid, it’s not about being smart, it’s about not being alone.

Emily: Survival.

Paul: Or surviving.

Emily: Did you feel like you were wearing—did you feel like you were being—that you—were you like, “Oh, I’m a stoner. So clearly this works.” Or did you think that you were—I’ll do this for a bit and then I’ll go back to normal at some point.

Paul: Um, I didn’t think that I would go back to normal, I just thought this is—this is—I need an identity and I can do this.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: I have a job at a Chinese restaurant so I can buy weed on a consistent basis, so that’s covered, and we have woods behind our house, so there’s a place to smoke it.

Emily: Two things you need, that’s it.

Paul: Yeah, and it was a very, very conscious decision. It didn’t work out well. I got busted the first day of school sophomore year, before the first class.

Emily: (laughs) You were a bad stoner.

Paul: Terrible. Terrible. Yeah.

Emily: I would tell my clients sometimes, like, “Some people can smoke pot casually, you’re clearly not one of them. You’re here with me, you’re clearly not one of those people.”

Paul: No, my friends nicknamed me “the dumbest man alive” when I would get high. And that was in my 30’s, they would call me that. So you can imagine how dumb I was in my teens. But let’s get back to you rebelling. Did you have a group of friends that you kind of rebelled with and what did that feel like?

Emily: I was actually—in middle school I just had like a couple of weirdoes that were like my pals and we were teased so much in middle school that I actually ended up getting a hardship transfer to a different high school than everyone else. Because they would call me a communist and they—people would try to wash the dye out of my hair. I would color my hair with markers and the girls would try to shove into the—under the bathroom sink to wash the dye out of my hair. And that’s not to say—I mean, middle school is miserable for everyone, but I had good friends there.

Paul: What would they say to you when they were shoving you under the sink?

Emily: They would call me a freak, they would call me a weirdo, and truly, I never—I did kind of pick a role of rebellion, but I always felt a little—I felt like a weirdo, I didn’t feel like I fit with everybody else. And I think everybody feels that way. That’s the only thing that’s consistent in all of this, is that we all feel like we don’t belong.

Paul: Even those girls that were shoving your head under the sink.

Emily: Isn’t that crazy?

Paul: Probably felt like they’re not keeping it up and here’s somebody that is admitting that they’re not.

Emily: Not keeping it up.

Paul: They refuse to.

Emily: Not even trying.

Paul: They probably hated, HATED your balls for doing that.

Emily: That makes me sound way more brave than I was. It wasn’t—it was part of me being like, “Oh, well, you’re gonna reject me, well, I’ll show you why should reject me. I’ll give you a reason to hate me. Because you were already gonna do it anyway, so I’ll just go ahead and show you what that looks like.”

Paul: This lets you know that I know that you don’t like me. And I’m not even gonna try.

Emily: Yeah. Why would I? Why would I try? And then high school was a lot easier because the high school I transferred to—I don’t even know if it’s a Southern thing, but I do—there is a certain thing of—when you….

Paul: Were people fanning themselves?

Emily: Sometimes. A lot of vapors. When it’s a small town and it’s like—this was before the Internet obviously, so it would be a situation—anything that’s different really just freaks people out and they don’t know what to do. I recently watched a country music video, very recent video, where the country music video is of a man—of a robot falling in love with a woman, and the robot and the woman have like a love affair and then he flies away at the end, I think. The comments on that video would blow your mind with how the like, “WHAT?!” (dumb person voice) “I don’t even understand, I don’t get what this is.” Like, how can you not get what it is? It’s a—they made a little movie, what’s so crazy about this? “I wish it would just show them playing their music. I wish it would just—“ And you notice I’m going into a Southern accent. This is what I’m thinking of my people, is that my people don’t always like change. They don’t like things that are different. And they—it makes them feel very uncomfortable. And I get that, I respect that. I respect it more now than I did.

Paul: I think that’s what’s comforting to a lot of people about country music, there’s a predictability to it.

Emily: Absolutely.

Paul: And that’s what drives me crazy about it. I love old, old country music.

Emily: Oh, Patsy Cline, holy shit.

Paul: Cuz that’s when there was still innovation within it, there was enough tradition, but they were still innovating and it didn’t seem like they were trying—it didn’t seem like it was being programmed by somebody. It’s like they found what was unique about that artist and they brought that to the forefront whereas today it’s like they stuff down what might be unique about somebody and just—it’s just ugh.

Emily: And maybe it’s that we’re so much on the outside of that and maybe to them there is innovation within it that we just can’t see. I definitely appreciate, I definitely appreciate the idea that different things make you uncomfortable more now than I did when I was a kid. When I was a kid all I wanted to do was like rub their faces in it and be like, “Yeah, this is different, why don’t you go fuck yourself?” Yeah, but when I got to high school I went to high school with a lot more kind of liberal kids and I had a very—an excellent group of friends there. And well kind of just egged each other on. It was ridiculous. The way we would dress, the way—everything we would do.

Paul: And how were you treated by your peers, the same way?

Emily: It was very interesting, I was in high school when grunge became huge, so like ’94, and we went from being outcasts to being like the cool kids.

Paul: Because you were ahead of the curve.

Emily: I don’t know—you could say that. Oh, whatever, we were on a curve that somehow had the same “could care” as the other curve. Yeah but we literally—by the end of high school I was, I was—people were like, “Yeah, you’re pretty cool, you’re pretty cool.” And that even made me angrier because I was like, “I haven’t changed. You assholes have changed.” No matter what I was just gonna find something to be angry about. But that was part of my—that’s why I asked you that question is that, to me, I think the whole time when I was doing like self-destructive stuff, or when I was, you know, out like being mean—I’m not a mean person, it was never—it always felt like—I was like, “Well I’ll be mean for a bit because I feel like I need to, but this is not who I am. I’m not gonna be like a mean, like angry, cynical person for the rest of my life.” I kind of like in the back of my head was always like, “I’ll do this until I don’t need to do it anymore.” Which may not be super healthy, but it’s what I did.

Paul: Did that, do you think, kind of fall under the role of being, you know, the outcast? Was it kind of testing your own power? Or was it for—was it so that you could feel something, or was it for the reaction of other people?

Emily: It was mainly for the reaction of other people. I wasn’t like one of those like numb kids. I was definitely like an overly sensitive kid, so I just like put up this huge wall of like, well, I’m really badass, you can’t touch me. You can’t mess with me. And that way nothing ever got past that and it always seemed like it was like a costume I was wearing, so that you couldn’t get into that costume and actually hurt me. So I was never—I would come home and cry, like if my mom said something to me, I would cry. But at school, no, nobody could touch me. I was never, ever, ever gonna break.

Paul: What would the sixteen-year-old you have—or the thirteen-year-old you, whatever age, you were putting that wall up, if that wall could have come down and there was somebody you trusted more than anybody else in the world to say what it was that you were thinking and you were afraid of, what would you have said to that person then?

Emily: That’s a good question. I was afraid of being rejected. Cuz I think the real lesson of—maybe just even the culture of where I grew up or maybe it was my family, I don’t know, but the real lesson was if someone finds out how much effort they have to put into like loving you, then they’re gonna leave, they’re gonna be out, they’re done. Because when you—I watched—and this has only occurred to me years later, I watched my family kind of slowly, out of necessity, turn their back on my grandmother, who, you know, was suffering, but also had become this completely other person. And I think—and it’s literally been in the last couple of years that I figured this out, I think that watching that happen, I was like, “Oh, that’s what happens if you are hard to be around. That’s what happens.”

Paul: Wow.

Emily: Everybody starts leaving you alone. Everybody goes away. And it’s not like we put her out on the street, she was still there but none of us could talk to her. There were no conversations you could have with her, and I think that …

Paul: Was it partly because she couldn’t recognize her own illness, or didn’t want to reach out for help, or she was trying to reach out and there was just no ability to make a connection?

Emily: I would like to think that she just wasn’t even aware and couldn’t reach out. Because the idea that she was trying to reach out and all of us were just like, “Oh God, we can’t handle this,” is heart breaking. So I would like to believe that it was the former. I don’t actually know.

Paul: The way you described her, it doesn’t sound like someone trying to reach out.

Emily: No.

Paul: It sounds like somebody trapped in their own world that doesn’t know they’re in their own world.

Emily: So trapped, that’s exactly—“trapped” is the exact word that we have used to describe her. She was trapped, and it was horrible but—and there was nothing that we could have done to make it any better. There was literally nothing we could have done, but that idea really stuck with me, that if you get yourself in a situation where you’re hard to be around, then that’s it, everybody’s gonna go. So that’s really informed a lot, I think, of my personality, a lot of my life, and it’s been a gradual journey over time to kind of get over that.

Paul: So I better be enough if I’m gonna be loved.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: I’m not lovable exactly as I am, with my flaws.

Emily: I gotta hide all those flaws, I gotta show them—and it’s funny because you wouldn’t think a kid, a punk rock kid, would be like—I call myself the punk rock Stepford wife. I would be like—

Paul: (laughs) Oh I love that.

Emily: Patent pending. Where it wasn’t that I was like, “Oh, I’m so perfect!” it was like, “No, fuck you, I’m fine the way I am! I don’t need you and you’re not gonna change me and I’m fine and everything’s fine” but really it was, you know, I would let dudes—like boyfriends could be mean to me, because I was like, “I don’t even need you. Who cares?” Because if I let them see me for a minute, and they were like, “Oh, this is too much work,” then I was screwed. And then they would reject me. So I always, always kept that wall up and rejected them before they had a chance to reject me. Way easier that way.

Paul: And you can’t let anybody see how sensitive you are.

Emily: Oh, God, no. No, no, no. Nobody ever saw me cry. But I would cry at home all the time. Like, at the drop of a hat. Oh, it was amazing. And I consider that a lot of progress when as an adult I now can cry easier than I could, you know, even just a few years ago. I see that as a huge sign of progress.

Paul: Can you cry in front of other people and let them know what’s going on with you?

Emily: Yeah, and I’ve gotten a lot better about that. That to me, and again it took me years, that to me is strength. Strength is being strong enough to show someone your vulnerability and realize that it’s not gonna affect you as a human being, and it’s not going to change—it might change how they feel about you, but fuck them, that’s their decision, it’s not gonna change me. So my feelings of self-worth have stopped being connected to how other people feel about me because it’s funny, because it’s self-worth, and yet we spend most of our lives having it be really what other people think of you.

Paul: And make, I think, one of the most common mistakes, which I made for years, was thinking that if I would impress you enough, then I would get the love that I needed instead of realizing I don’t let you know what’s really going on with me, how much self-hatred I’m in, how much fear I’m in, how much what you said hurt me.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: I’m just now at 50 beginning to realize everything hurts me. Everything hurts me.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: And that’s why I numbed out for years. It’s not fun being a, I don’t know what the word is for it because I don’t want to minimize it and say a baby.

Emily: It’s not a baby. To me, if anything, your nerve endings—you just are more attuned, and to be more attuned to other people, to the world, whatever it is, you have to have less armor, you gotta be a little more thin-skinned. And, yeah, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I am thin-skinned on certain things. Other things I’m not as thin-skinned. Like YouTube comments, I’m alright. I can handle YouTube comments now, it’s taken a while.

Paul: And you know there’s haters out there. Two nights ago I just had this emptiness in my chest, and I was like, you know, the go to used to be booze, can’t do that anymore. Then it was porn, I don’t want to go there anymore because I know that’s not gonna fix anything, it’s just gonna delay that feeling coming back.

Emily: Absolutely.

Paul: And food is just gonna have me put on more weight than I already have.

Emily: Make you feel terrible about yourself that you ate it, yeah.

Paul: And so I felt kind of lame but I went on Twitter and just said, “I have an empty feeling in my chest right now and I know that porn and food aren’t going to help it, so I’m tweeting it hoping that somebody else can relate.” And I got all of these beautiful tweets back.

Emily: Oh, that’s amazing!

Paul: From people that were like, “I’m feeling the same way,” or, you know, “I’m giving you a hug right now.”

Emily: Did that help?

Paul: It did, it totally helped and then I tweeted about how lame I was for tweeting my pain, but, you know, I still, I own it and I still think it was a good decision to make because it was two in the morning and I didn’t want to call somebody at two in the morning. You know, I have support group friends I could have called, but the point of all of that is to just say that it’s amazing when you let people know that you’re in pain. There are people, you just gotta find them.

Emily: Yeah. It’s true. It is absolutely true. And I think the idea of using social media for good, rather than just to tear people down is a new idea and it’s one that I love. It works, it’s amazing. You can tweet that you’re having a bad day. And you can tweet—if you have the courage to ask for something, then you’re gonna get it, which is amazing. Like it’s amazing just to realize that we have the capacity for both, I mean, the Internet is not all evil.

Paul: It’s what you make of it. It’s like saying the phone is evil. No, if you’re a prank—if you’re a, you know, perverted caller, yeah, it is. The other thing that I think helped on Twitter was I said, “If anybody out there feels like you need a hug, maybe we should just hash tag #needahug.” And a bunch of people tweeted #needahug, and we just started connecting to each other.

Emily: Oh that’s so beautiful!

Paul: It was really nice.

Emily: So beautiful.

Paul: It felt really good.

Emily: Oh wow.

Paul: Because I’d gone from feeling kind of empty and sad and cut off to all of the sudden I’m sending people a big warm hug and they’re like thank you, you know, that just—it’s so simple. And it’s right there for us but it’s—why is it so scary to go to that? Because we think we’re gonna be rejected?

Emily: Yeah, yeah, I mean that’s the worst-case scenario there, is that people are like, “Oh, fuck you!” That would be the one response that you would get, you’d be like, “Well, now I’m even more alone.”

Paul: Or pussy.

Emily: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And that’s a thing that dudes have to deal with way more than ladies do for sure. I’ve tried really hard to get better about identifying what it is that I need, and not sublimating it into a million different things and then just asking for it.

Paul: Like what do you say?

Emily: You know, like with my husband, who’s absolutely wonderful, if I’m having like a shitty day, it used to be that I would have a shitty day and I would throw a tantrum about something in order to get him to try to soothe me, when really I wanted a hug and I wanted to be soothed, even though, you know, there wasn’t anything huge going on. So I’m much better now, although he’d tell you, I’m sure that I still need to work on it. I’m much better now, “Can you just—I need you to like say really nice things to me for like five minutes, and then just hug me and be like—that’s all I need.” And it’s not like he doesn’t ever do those things, but asking for it in a targeted way and just getting it.

Paul: When you need it.

Emily: It’s amazing.

Paul: Maybe they’re giving it to you on a day when you don’t need it as badly.

Emily: Absolutely, yeah. And the idea—the people—I’d rather—“It doesn’t mean as much if it’s not spontaneous.” That’s bullshit.

Paul: Yeah, that is.

Emily: It’s complete bullshit. You cannot expect for people to read your mind and know what it is that you need. You have to be able to tell them. And if you can’t figure out what it is you need, then that’s your work, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the other person. You’ve gotta be able to identify it before you can then ask for it, and then be open to receiving it. Those are the three main steps.

Paul: Yet so many of us go through life trying to reach out for that substitute thing to try to fill that place, you know, be it trying to be more famous or have more money or whatever, when deep down all we wanna feel is loved and secure and that everything’s gonna be ok.

Emily: That’s it. That’s it. One thing that I actually say—tell my husband to tell me, is like, “Just tell me everything’s gonna be ok.” Just tell me that. Like that’s all—I just need someone to tell me that. And I know it’s gonna be ok but I just need someone else to say it to me sometimes.

Paul: That’s so beautiful. I mean that to me is like a really rock solid foundation for a relationship because you’re exposing the most tender part of yourself and you’re opening that up and trusting that person to not hurt that.

Emily: Yeah, it can—it sounds really scary when you say it. It sounds really scary and I definitely have not always been great at that, but I do—my husband and I, we’ve definitely had, well I’ll just say it. We’d been together maybe eight, nine months when I got incredibly, incredibly sick and was hospitalized and was in a—hospitalized for a full month and almost died, and that, that definitely twisted—did something to me—to both of us, our relationship, but also to me, to be like, “Oh, you’ve gotta be able to trust this guy. This guy stayed with you, watched you when you were like asleep—literally in a coma for twelve days on a respirator, like if you can’t trust him with that, like what are you doing? Who can you trust?”

Paul: Just to be an awful host, I’m so tempted to gloss over that. Just to piss the listeners off. Not even ask what it was you were sick with, to just go, “How do you think the Dodgers are gonna do this year?” It’s so tempting cuz one of the nice things about having your own podcast is—

Emily: You can do whatever you want.

Paul: Whatever you want.

Emily: I’d be fine with that, we can even cut that and just …

Paul: No, no, I’m dying to know what happened.

Emily: Well, I mean, it’s a sordid and a boring story. I just—I was getting really sick and I wasn’t getting any better, it was like a three month period, and I just kept getting worse and worse. And because I still had a lot of armor up, I was trying to convince him that I was fine. So I literally have memories of before I went into the hospital of going into a bathroom in a café we were in, smacking myself in the facing and going, “Fucking snap out of it! What is wrong with you, you are fine. What is wrong with you? You’re on a date, you love this guy. What is wrong with you?” Like yelling at myself, punish—like ignoring every single that was happening with myself, just—and I’d come a long at that point, but clearly a lot of self-loathing going on, a lot of me needing to seem perfect, and then it just crashed. I went to the doctor for like the eighth time, fainted in the x-ray room, and so my doctor put me in an ambulance, sent me to the hospital. And at the hospital was like, “Oh, this guy is so melodramatic,” like I was still trying to believe, like my heart rate was like 140, I was panting, I couldn’t catch any breath.

Paul: Oh my God.

Emily: And I was still like, “Oh God, this is stupid.” Called my husband, boyfriend at the time, and said, “Hey, I’ve got a Frosty in my car, I couldn’t eat it, and they took me to the hospital, could you go get the Frosty out of my car?” That’s literally—fucking—I’m an idiot.

Paul: Emily can’t have needs. Emily’s selfish if she has needs.

Emily: What an idiot! So …

Paul: Selfish, selfish Emily and her 104 temperature and her …

Emily: Miserable, I was so, so sick, and so Kumail showed up, that’s my husband’s name, showed up immediately at the hospital and that is the last thing I remember at all. I have—what it turns out is I have a disease called Adult Onset Still’s disease, which is a thing that gives you arthritis in your organs as well as your joints. So they kept trying to treat me with antibiotics but I wasn’t having an infection, it was literally my heart was inflamed, my lungs were inflamed.

Paul: Wow.

Emily: All of my organs were inflamed and shutting down, because they’d been inflamed for so long.

Paul: Wow.

Emily: It’s a shitty, it’s a rare—it was on House, it was on an episode of House, and it’s a very manageable disease if you know you have it. But before that, because I didn’t know I had it, I nearly died. And so they had to put me on a respirator, Kumail had to call my family to come from North Carolina to be with me. And I spent twelve days under, and then I spent another three weeks just trying to figure out what the fuck had happened, and like that was it, I was like, “Oh, I have to change everything, I’m done. Look what I did to myself.”

Paul: Change everything physically, or mentally or emotionally or both?

Emily: I would like to say, I feel like I am a bit of a different person. I think any last bits of armor I had just dropped away 100%. When your boyfriend sees a tube that has your excrement in it because you’re in a coma in the hospital, you can’t have much more vulnerability than that. You’re at the bottom.

Paul: That’s pretty vulnerable.

Emily: You’re done. You’re there. When your mom has to like wash your hair because you can’t—I had to relearn how to walk, because I’d been under for so long that my body just forgot how to do everything, basically.

Paul: Wow.

Emily: And relearning to walk wasn’t like—it took like a week.

Paul: How long did it take to relearn to break dance?

Emily: That I’m still working on. But that—and that—I was like, “Oh, I’ve been treating my body like shit.” I was still going to the gym even though I couldn’t—I was panting on the treadmill. And I was convincing myself that I—something—I was like, “Oh, you’re being a pussy, get over yourself, what are you doing?” I wasn’t eating at all basically, I had just been so—I had been ignoring myself for so long that my body was—that’s how I like to think of it. My body was like, “No, you don’t get to ignore me anymore. We’re done here.” Yeah.

Paul: You know, there’s a survey on the website for this show where people reveal their darkest secrets and shames, etc. and one of the most common things that I see people write is they fantasize about not experiencing the physical pain, but experiencing being able to collapse and people rally around them and love them and get the attention.

Emily: Yeah, the attention embarrassed me a great deal. That took some getting used to. I would cry anytime anybody would visit me. I felt so—it took me a bit to go from being mortified that I had caused this much of a problem for everyone, for all my doctors, for everyone, to kind of being like, “Oh, these people all wanted me to live. Oh that’s cool.”

Paul: They want to see you while you’re in the hospital, want to comfort you.

Emily: That’s really hard, yeah.

Paul: Want you to know how much they love you.

Emily: Like people—oh now I’m gonna cry, great—people I didn’t know very well would come and bring me magazines, and I was like, you’re taking—it’s hard to get here, the hospital was out of the way. You had to park in this parking deck, it cost you money, it’s hard to find my room, these were all the things I was thinking about while people were bringing me magazines, was like, “Oh, you went through so much effort, you didn’t have to do that.” No they didn’t have to, they did it because they wanted to. Like that, that is something I never realized. That’s something that just never occurred to me, that people would do something nice for you because they care about you, not that they’re complaining that they have to do something—they want to do it because they love you. Kumail coming, and he would stay the night in my room and we would watch Groundhog Day on his laptop. He didn’t have to—it was incredibly uncomfortable for him. I was fully expecting him the whole time, not really, but in part of my mind, “Oh, he’ll just leave, I’m just not gonna see him again.” That never happened, like that—and not for a minute did he even think of doing that, and that was a huge wakeup call to me. That was a big moment of like, “All these people give more of a shit about you than you do.” And that’s not ok, like that can’t happen.

Paul: And that is so common.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves?

Emily: Because I think I felt like it’s not my—I don’t know, it’s like I’m not worth that, like I don’t think I’m worth the other people caring about me so why on earth would I give a shit about myself, like that’s ridiculous. You know, and a lot of self-hatred, a lot of girly self-hatred of like hating the way you look and hating all that stuff.

Paul: Did you feel like the tube coming out of your butt was too fat?

Emily: I did, I put on so much weight when I was there because it’s all like water because you’re laying down, you know, and slowly—they’re like as you walk, that’ll slowly start to come off, and that part was really, really hard for me too. And I kept—I had a terrible limp for like a month and a half afterwards when I got out of the hospital and that mortified me, and Kumail would always be like, “Slow down, you don’t have to pretend like you don’t have a limp, like it’s ok.” So when I see people with limps now, I’m always like extra like, “Oh, this may be just what you’re doing right now. Like this isn’t who you are.” It wasn’t who I was but I fully, fully thought that now I’m gonna be the sick girl. I’ve gone from being this badass punk rock girl to being like I’m a sick girl and everyone’s gonna feel sorry for me. And so when we—and Kumail and I did some rash things after I got better. I got out of the hospital in April, we moved to New York City in July. We decided—we picked up and decided we were just gonna leave Chicago and go to New York City.

Paul: And your husband’s a comedian.

Emily: Mm-hmm. And when we got to New York we didn’t tell anybody that I’d been sick, like nobody knew whatsoever. And that was a weird—both a good and a bad thing, because I didn’t want to be defined as that, but then I was like, I also want people to know that this thing happened to me, and it was like a huge changing thing and you guys don’t even know, you just see me afterwards, you have no idea what I’ve been through. And so very slowly over time we kind of told some friends, and now it’s just like a thing that if it comes up, it comes up. I try not to like make it a huge thing or like downplay it, but it’s just like a thing that happened.

Paul: You know, I’m struck by—I always feel like events have, even if they’re bad and they’re tough, they have good things that you can take out of them. And I feel like you just squeegeed all of the good that could have been in there. You know it’s …

Emily: I try to. There’s still—and then the downside, the negative side of it is that now whenever I get a little bit sick, we both panic and assume that it’s happening again and that I’m gonna be back in the hospital, which I’ve had maybe three episodes since then and I can manage them with medication easily. But that’s the downside of it, is that I now panic any time I start to get sick. But for the most part, it’s been one of the most amazing things that I’ve been through and at the time that it happened, there was no way you were gonna—I even wrote an essay for a website about how I was in a coma and it didn’t change me at all. I don’t know who the fuck I was trying to fool. I was such an idiot. And that was right after I got out of the hospital and I’d just like kind of gotten my fine motor skills back and was like typing and I was like, “I’m gonna write a thing about how this doesn’t change me at all. I’m totally the same!” What a fucking idiot.

Paul: And you were a licensed therapist at this time?

Emily: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Paul: Isn’t it weird how we can lack such perspective on our own lives and can be of such help to other people.

Emily: And there is thing that you can’t go any further with your patients than you can with yourself, but at the time I was working with schizophrenics so I’m like, “I can go that far.” That’s why I think it’s interesting, me saying now, “Oh I’ve come so far and I’m doing so great, I’m gonna look back five years from now and be like, “Man I was in idiot. I didn’t know what I was talking about.” It’s a constant journey. We’re never—I’m never gonna be done, like I’m never gonna be done figuring out to like myself, how to be a good actualized human being, that’s never gonna stop.

Paul: Yeah and it’s like even if we have an epiphany and we suddenly realize, “Oh, I’ve been too much this way,” then sometimes we’ll swing too much that way.

Emily: Oh sure.

Paul: Then two years later be like, “Oh, I was Mr. Recovery Guy. Oh, I didn’t shut my fucking mouth.” And I go through that.

Emily: That’s why people were ignoring me at parties. Oh, I get it.

Paul: Yeah.

Emily: I’m the guy that went through the change and then now, yeah.

Paul: And so maybe what we should try to do is just be nice to ourselves and give ourselves the leeway that we would give a friend.

Emily: I know, that’s huge. And that was a big—that’s exactly a big thing I try to think of: never talk to yourself in a way that if you heard someone talking about your friend, your best friend that way, that you would be angry about that and say something to them, don’t allow yourself to talk about yourself like that, like why—we already have so many negative things, like why on earth are we trying to build more inside of ourselves? There’s so many more outside.

Paul: You are uniquely positioned to be your own best friend and yet it’s the last thing some of us do.

Emily: It’s true.

Paul: And I’m as guilty of it as anybody else.

Emily: I am too. I’m not any better. I’m getting—I try to get better. The biggest step I’ve taken now is that I don’t always know how to shut the voice down, but what I can do is be like, “Oh, God, shut up.” The same way I would ignore my mom when she would tell me to clean my room or not dye my hair, I ignore that voice now. I know how to be like, “Oh God, you’re trying to get me to fail. You don’t—whatever, shut the fuck up. I’m not gonna listen to you.” They don’t stop talking, but I try to reduce it down to like a low murmur.

Paul: That’s a great way of putting that, because I don’t think that voice ever, ever goes away, but how loud we let it be and whether or not we pay attention to it. That we have control over. And some people before they get into therapy or anything don’t even know that voice isn’t the truth!

Emily: Isn’t that crazy?

Paul: That—how can that not make you crazy?

Emily: Yeah, it’s—yeah.

Paul: We’re gonna pause the interview with Emily Gordon and give our sponsor some love. Our sponsor for this episode is Hover. Are you looking to register a new domain? You want to do it hassle-free and for a small fee? Well, you’re in luck. The domain registration and email management site Hover believes that everyone should have full control of their online identity. I second that notion. They have features like whois privacy, URL forwarding, and subdomains included in your domain registration so you don’t have to worry about extra charges. I can tell you, I have registered domain names at other places before and it is a hassle, you feel like an idiot, it’s not clear-cut. Hover is low cost, it’s completely stress-free, it’s a simple registration process and if you have any questions, they offer no hold, no wait, and no transfer phone and online support and tutorials. So you get to talk to actual people who have actual answers. And I think that’s really cool. And because you’re listeners to this podcast, if you go to hover.com/mental you’ll get 10% off. That sounds like a pretty good deal. So go to hover.com/mental and 10% off your entire purchase with the URL. And I also appreciate that you go there and show the support that you’re a listener and that you support people that sponsor this program. Um, yeah, and now let’s get back to some more of our chat with Emily Gordon.

So are there any other seminal moments from, say, high school onward?

Emily: Hmmm…. I’m sure there’s a million that I’m not thinking of, I mean …

Paul: Because the next thing I want to get into is your work as a therapist and what led you to want to do that and what your experience was like.

Emily: Okay. And obviously that was a huge, huge part of who I am, and still is, the clients that I work with, just getting through grad school, which is very difficult to do, was a huge thing, just realizing that I could kind of get through it and actually do it was huge for me. Other than that, let’s see, did we talk about—oh, I’m also divorced. This is my second wedding, or my second marriage, and that experience was a good growth experience. That’s what got me into therapy for the first time I’d never been in therapy before. And that marriage was great, it just was not, it just wasn’t right, like we both were very aware of it, it was a very amicable divorce, and it was really helpful for me to learn what my part in it was and what my responsibility was in that marriage breaking up so that I could then fix it later rather than be like (mopey voice), “Oh, my marriage broke up, and I don’t know what I’m gonna do and I’m broken now.” Like—

Paul: Well maybe you stop talking in that voice.

Emily: That probably would help, wouldn’t it? It would help. People hate it when I talk in that voice. Just revoicing that idea that divorce doesn’t make you broken, that you get to kind of decide what happens from there. I think that was a big—and staying in Chicago once I got divorced rather than fleeing back to North Carolina, which is what everybody wanted me to do, was really, really good for me to kind of be like this independent, like, I’m doing it all by myself, I don’t have anyone here (indistinct).

Paul: Were you a therapist already?

Emily: Yeah, I was—I became a therapist in North Carolina, practiced there for about a year, and then my then husband and I moved to Chicago together because he was getting his doctoral degree in Chicago, and then we were there—and like as soon as we got there, like once we didn’t have the buffer of our friends and like our regular life, we were like, “Oh shit, we don’t really know or like each other. Isn’t that awesome?” And then—he’s a great guy—and then we got divorced and then I stayed and I was working, I was doing kind of, some trauma work at that point. This was before I started working with schizophrenics, so yeah. I was doing—I had a job, I had a good job there, I didn’t really want to go back, so I just kind of stayed.

Paul: What did you take out of doing the trauma work, if anything? What are some things about people with trauma that the average person might not know?

Emily: I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about this. I worked with—part of my job was working with people who went to their job, their place of work, and started acting super erratic, or saying they were going to hurt themselves. And this is a very difficult job because what would happen then is the supervisor would call me and be like, “Hey can you tell me if this guy’s gonna kill people or not.” And then that would be part of my job, would be to—

Paul: What a huge responsibility.

Emily: It was very hard. When we would talk to the person, talk to the supervisor, talk to the person, and there were a lot of less—that’s the most intense that job got. For the most part it was just people who were said and their boss noticed that they were sad. So and then I did a lot of work with courthouse work with domestic violence survivors and then I helped run a group with domestic violence batterers. That was a big learning lesson for me, I think. I think people think that people who are in domestic violence situations are dumb, that the women dumb for staying, at that the men are these sleazy, horrible humans.

Paul: Cavemen.

Emily: Those guys were charming, those guys were funny, those guys were so awesome, which sounds terrible to say, but I was like, “Oh, I get this now, it’s not—“

Paul: That’s the side that the person that stays sees.

Emily: Exactly, exactly. And that’s the side we saw because it was court-ordered therapy and they were all on their best behavior. But I think I always felt a level of pity for victims that was not good. It was really, really bad, and—not all victims, but definitely domestic violence victims, I think I had—I cared about them and I wanted to help him, but I also was like, “Oh, poor you.” And that’s not what these ladies want.

Paul: It’s a much more complicated and nuanced than that.

Emily: So complicated, so nuanced, and learning to appreciate that was really helpful for me and helped me have empathy for the women who would take the men back after they pressed charges, who would get to court and refuse to testify. I had a lot more empathy for them. I worked with a lot of parents who had abused their kids and I would have to form bonds with these parents, that’s not easy to do, so you have to kind of dig around and find—everybody’s got some things about them that are redeeming, everybody’s got like intentions that they think are good at some point in time and you have to kind of dig around and figure out what those are because if I hate you I can’t work with you. And so I can’t hate you.

Paul: Wow.

Emily: I can hate a lot of things that you do. Absolutely, I can hate the things that you do, but I have to be able to appreciate where you’re coming from, or else I can’t—I’m not gonna be able to work with you.

Paul: Yeah, I don’t think anybody does things—hurts people because they want to, because that’s their first choice. I think they hurt other people because they don’t know how to not do that. They’re compelled.

Emily: Exactly, it’s collateral damage that you get hurt. But there are people that are monsters. I would say there’s a very, very tiny chunk of the population that are sadistic, horrible …

Paul: Should just be put down.

Emily: I don’t know what to do with them, quite frankly. It’s a—yeah, it’s a horrible thing to propose but there are certain people that I think there might not be any help for, but that’s a very small percentage. And most of the people—almost everybody I’ve worked I’ve seen the glimmer of, oh, you want to be a good mom, you just think that this is how you are—should be a good mom, and it’s not. And it’s my job to either help you be a better mom that doesn’t get arrested or, you know, do my best to do that.

Paul: What percentage of the people that were hurting others were doing it because they were experiencing feelings that were overwhelming and they didn’t know how to handle them?

Emily: I would say 90%. Absolutely 90%. Very—people—emotional management is a thing we don’t teach people how to do, we don’t teach—it’s not taught anywhere and it’s very, very hard to kind of figure out how to do, and most people just don’t figure out how to do it. And I’m not—most of us who have that training aren’t great at it all the time. But I think that’s—learning to kind of figure out like, identify your emotions.

Paul: That is so—it seems like such an obvious thing, but if you’ve numbed yourself or escaped and had to not be present as a child, you don’t know what you’re feeling. You just know you want something that takes you away.

Emily: It’s either you feel good, you feel bad. That’s it. Those are the two options. I had this gorgeous poster with like, I think it was at least like 50 or so feelings and like little faces that went with them, but like feeling words under each one. And I had it for kids and I had a suction—dart gun and I would have them shoot it and whatever it landed on, we would have to talk about that feeling, have you ever felt it, do you know what it means, what would be a situation you might feel it, and I did it for kids, but the grownups, the parents, would often be like, “I have no idea what half of these are.” And it’s not a thing where they don’t have vocabulary, they literally just had no ….

Paul: Way to articulate?

Emily: Yeah. And that’s it, sometimes that’s all you need to do, is help people figure out how to express themselves and then the rest kind of takes care of itself, but I would say for the most part, people who are lashing out, don’t know how to manage what’s going on inside.

Paul: And I think a lot of times too your brain will intellectually block you from even considering that you would be feeling that way about a loved one.

Emily: Yeah. That’s true.

Paul: I wouldn’t allow myself to think that I felt certain things towards my parents. And so you just feel numb or you blame yourself, or whatever, and you—how can you get around the bases when you can’t even get to first base?

Emily: And that it’s ok to be angry with your parents, I think that’s a lesson that—I do know a few people that would never admit that they would angry with their parents. Whereas me, I was very happy to admit when I was angry with my parents. Like I had no—that was something that I just did not have trouble with. So it seemed alien to me for a while that you like, yeah, it’s ok to be mad at your parents, it doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. It’s ok to be made at someone you love.

Paul: They get mad at you!

Emily: They engage you sometimes, they absolutely do, but that doesn’t mean that anything’s broken, or that anything’s gonna change, it just means that you are two human beings that have like a relationship, that’s all it is. Yeah, all these things are things that I think—maybe we don’t all think of as obvious, but certainly that’s a big part of therapy, for me at least, was helping people understand the complexities of their own emotions and their relationships.

Paul: I love that idea of shooting the dart and the thing that’s so great, that would a fun thing to start on Twitter too, would just be like, you know, today let’s tweet this emotion, what’s the last time you felt this, or do you guys ever feel this, and I just love when people all kind of get out there and get that little sense of community. And there’s almost nothing that a sense of community can’t soothe or heal.

Emily: I 100% agree with you. That to me is church. That’s why I love comedy, that’s why I love all these things, because when you have a group of people all doing the same thing, it’s—that’s got a power to it that like is amazing to me.

Paul: And when you gather for that purpose, you know that everybody’s motives are for the greater good.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: And so your brain that tells you, “I’m being judged, I’m being this, I’m less than” that goes out the window and that ego which is constantly comparing yourself to other people and saying you’re better than or less than is quiet and you feel one of many. And that to me—to me that’s, you know, that’s like, God, that’s where God lives.

Emily: I say the exact same thing. I say the exact—that’s where the good in people, and all the evil in people – that’s where the devil is when you see a group of people beating the shit out of a person, but that’s where God is, is when you see people helping somebody else who’s fallen down, it’s just that’s all it is to me, is like the power of people doing things at the same time, having the same thought, and having the same motivations, for good or for bad, I think that’s the most powerful thing we’ve got for sure.

Paul: So what would be another thing that you took out of being a therapist and working with people? What was working with schizophrenics like?

Emily: That’s very frustrating because they would be like …

Paul: What are the hallmarks of schizophrenia?

Emily: Flattened affect, so very kind of just dulled everything from the outside but obviously hallucinations, delusions, a lot very magical beliefs, and you’ll see a lot of like dressing inappropriately for the weather, that’s a big hallmark. If you see somebody like on a hot day who’s wearing a super heavy coat, that’s always a concern, whenever I see them I’m like, “Oh, ok.” And the idea that all these are incredibly destructive to your life. You can’t hold a job, you can’t really do anything, and it’s always, it starts blooming in a way that like you, they say weird things, they might—you might find them like, they’ve hidden a typewriter or hidden something that you’re like, “Why would you hide that?” “I dunno. I’m not sure.” And then slowly it just kind of slips away and this magical thinking, delusional thinking is pretty much prevalent. The problem with schizophrenia is that you do need medication, like you have to be medicated for it, you cannot—you can’t treat it otherwise and the medication makes people kind of listless and it makes them gain weight, and it makes them feel dull, and a lot of people prefer—a lot of people with schizophrenia sometimes prefer feeling schizophrenic and having their symptoms to the feeling that you have when you’re on medication and kind of feel like everything’s dulled. So that’s the problem is that they don’t want to be on their medication, the people that people I worked with. The other problem is that I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t prescribe medication, I’m a talk therapist. So they would be like, “Jimmy down the hall keeps peeing on his clothes, can you go talk to him and get him to stop?” and I’d be like “ok”. But then when you go and talk to them, he’s doing it because he’s trying to clean them. How am I supposed to talk him out of—I have to challenge everything to be like A) you’re not cleaning your clothes by urinating on them, B) you need to stop it, we do laundry here for you automatically. Me—I’m not gonna talk someone out of peeing on their clothes if they think they’re cleaning their clothes by doing it. So a lot of it was an uphill battle.

Paul: I can’t imagine how exhausting that must be if you don’t have clearly defined boundaries of what you’re gonna let go and what you’re not.

Emily: As a therapist?

Paul: As a therapist, yeah.

Emily: Yeah, and there was—some of the guys were definitely more higher functioning than others, so we worked with them on like getting jobs within the facility, which was good, and a lot of them made great progress and would be allowed to go and get snacks, like go down the street and get snacks. That part was great but it is, it is certainly more frustrating as a therapist to work with people who there’s a very, very little chance that they’re gonna be discharged. There’s very little chance they’re gonna be not living there anymore and be living on their own. And that part was—it’s challenging but it’s …

Paul: Even if they’re on their medication consistently.

Emily: Yeah, a lot of them were—because these were people—I should also say, this was the home that was like the last stop, like family members couldn’t handle them anymore, no more facilities, they weren’t high functioning enough to be in day programs, which is a big thing people do. So they were like, basically like either this or homeless or jail.

Paul: I see.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: So there’s high functioning and low functioning schizophrenia.

Emily: These were definitely people who were lower functioning overall and so it was, it was, you had to learn to celebrate the little moments, rather than being like, “Oh, you got a job, and you’re leaving, yay!” it would be more like, “oh, you kept your shoes on all day today, awesome. That’s awesome.” And that’s always a shift to kind of readjust when you walk in every day. They were fun to work with, they were—it was a great group, and what’s interesting—and this is just—most of them were in their 40’s and they had been institutionalized starting when they were in their 20’s, which was the ‘80’s, essentially. So most of them developmentally, their pop culture references were all ‘80’s, which was amazing because it’s the decade I’m the most into. And so they loved like when we had Valentine’s Day dances, when we did whatever, they would play all ‘80’s music, which was great. ‘80’s hip hop, amazing, it was just the coolest, it was so cool. And all of them loved Prince. Everybody—not all of them all of them, but a good number of them loved Prince. So we would—this one day I was in my office and somebody started, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word life.” Like the opening of Let’s Go Crazy, yeah. And all of them just started doing and I had this moment of being in my office, I was like crying, I was like, “This is maybe the best moment I’ve ever had.” It’s just like 15 human beings who their minds are absolutely hammered every day by this horrible fucking mental illness, and they can still remember the opening of Let’s Go Crazy. How can you not love that? How is that not the best thing you’ve ever seen?

Paul: If I saw that in a movie, I would go, “That would never happen.”

Emily: You would go, “It’s too spot on.” Every time I tell this story, people say, “It’s too spot on.” I know it is, but it happened. It’s so great.

Paul: Oh my God. I can see you’re getting emotional just thinking about it.

Emily: It was a beautiful moment. And that’s just another example of it’s a group of people that came together to remember a thing that made them happy when they weren’t plagued by this fucking horrible mental illness. That’s a time—any maybe some of them were already struggling—that’s a time that they remember Prince, and they remember that movie, and they remember that song. It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful. And so when I left I left them a couple copies of Purple Rain because I didn’t them—one copy to break and then they never have it again. So I gave them my VHS copies.

Paul: That’s so awesome. I bet you were a fucking great therapist.

Emily: I think, I will allow myself to say, I think I worked with teenagers really well. Schizophrenics I sometimes would have a harder time with, but I think I was ok, I was definitely doing alright.

Paul: I want to tell you my life story. I’m not kidding. There’s a feeling that I get with certain people where I just feel like I could collapse in front of them, and you’re like one of those people, you just have such a nice, fucking energy about you. And I don’t know why I said “fucking.”

Emily: Well, thank you, that’s very, very kind of you. I loved what I did, I love what I do now, and it’s always gonna be with me, I’m never gonna not be the person—even when I was like an angry goth punk rock kid, I still was this person, I just wasn’t—I was hiding it pretty damn well. But that’s why, I mean, yeah, my whole life it’s just been—in middle school I was like a peer counselor, like I just always, I’ve always been the person that I wanted—I like hearing people’s stuff. I love it. It kind of does something for me, I don’t know what it is.

Paul: And it brings you closer to them.

Emily: Yeah, that’s certainly true. That’s absolutely true.

Paul: Except for the ones that drain you.

Emily: Except for the ones that drain you. And learning the difference is a big, was a big growing up thing.

Paul: Well maybe you can, as a former therapist, you can help shed some light on that – when does intimacy turn into draining? Is it kind of like the cake thing that you were talking about before? But how do you know as the person who is going to the other person that you’re beginning to get draining? Is it the—should the person who’s feeling drained say, “Hey, I’m starting to feel kind of ..?”

Emily: Oh, so you’re saying if you were the person who is draining, if you’re like exhausting people, how do you figure that out? That’s a good question.

Paul: Should the other person tell you that I’m starting to feel this relationship’s kind of lopsided?

Emily: That would be an ideal world, but people aren’t—that’s a really tough thing to say to somebody.

Paul: I actually said that to somebody from a support group the other day, is this guy would always call up and it would always be in some type of drama, and I sometimes got the feeling that the drama was being exaggerated and he liked the attention and I said, “You know, I could be wrong here, but I get the feeling that there’s a part of you that likes the attention of this and likes that drama of it, and I just want to warn you that you can burn people out.” And he said, “Actually, that is the case. My therapist and I have been talking about that.”

Emily: And so he loved—he was appreciative.

Paul: He was appreciative of that but I was so afraid that that wasn’t going to be the truth and I was gonna hurt this person.

Emily: Sure, absolutely.

Paul: So I mean, that’s like—nothing causes me more anxiety than that but I was starting to feel drained by this.

Emily: Well that was great of you to say something. That would have been tough for me to do. I think, I think something I’ve done with friends before that are kind of draining me, and then I’ll get to being the draining person, because that’s hard, I’ve said, “Hey, you know you don’t have to be in like a crisis mode for me to hang out with you. Even if you’re just having a day where you just want to hang out, you just want to talk to me, that’s ok, like you don’t have to be like in a full on freakout to need me. That’s fine.” And that’s kind of worked, and then there have been a couple of people I’ve had to cut out. I’ve had to just be like I have to take care of myself and you don’t—being friends with you doesn’t do that for me. I can’t take care of myself when we’re friends. And that sucks. That’s a hard thing to do. That was a really hard thing to do.

Paul: I can’t imagine.

Emily: Have you not done it before, have you never cut somebody out of your life before, broken up with a friend?

Paul: Not where I’ve had to say it out loud, I suppose I’ve just probably gone the way of they—I turn down enough invitations in a row.

Emily: That’ll do it.

Paul: That they kind of get the hint but …

Emily: I definitely had the extra help of—it was after I’d gotten sick and I was kind of getting better and this girl that I was friends with kept kind of making it about her, and being, “I just need to see you. I need to know that you’re ok,” and I’d be like, “I’m exhausted. It takes me 30 minutes to walk up a flight of stairs, like I can’t give this to you right now.” And she just kept being like, “Well, you don’t know what this did to me when you got sick.” I’m like, “What the fuck it did to YOU? Fuck you! I don’t like—I don’t care what it did to you frankly, this is not the time that I’m caring what it did to you. I care what it did to the people that are very close to me, I don’t care what it did to you.” And so I had to—that is the one person that I’ve been like, “This is not helping me. It’s making me feel worse to be around you.” I imagine you’ve had times in your life where you feel like you have been draining to other people, is that correct?

Paul: Yes.

Emily: I have too.

Paul: I probably didn’t realize it until afterwards.

Emily: Me—oh me too, yeah. If I realized it at the time, I think I would stop. Maybe not, I don’t know. I don’t know how—that’s a really good question because I think that would be really helpful for people and I don’t know—I feel like maybe you do feel people kind of shrinking away from you. I don’t know—do you remember ever feeling people shrink away from you when you were like in crisis?

Paul: I don’t—I don’t think I’ve done it with people that were, that were close to me. I think the one thing I do too often is I tell too much of my shit to somebody that doesn’t know me well in like a, you know, one hour or two hour setting. There’s many times I’ve walked away from dinner and thought, “That person that sat next to me is probably gonna go home and shower, cuz I just….”

Emily: Now this is interesting, let’s talk about this. What do you get out of that?

Paul: What I get out of it is when I get a feeling, like you, if you sat next to me at dinner, I would, because I feel safe around you and I feel like you understand me, so I would start—I’m always looking for comfort.

Emily: Ok.

Paul: Especially from women that have warmth. So sometimes I will tend to spill my guts a little bit too much. Because I want that feeling that I never got from my mom, which was to be held and protected and heard and hugged. And just thinking about it makes me want to cry. I feel like I have this dam of tears that only certain people can let the cement come down low enough for them to start to flow. And that’s probably selfish on my part to do that around somebody that doesn’t know me that well, because I would imagine it might be overwhelming for that person, so I try to be aware of it, so I try to not do it too much. But sometimes it feels so good.

Emily: Yeah, it does.

Paul: It feels so good to feel—and it’s a look on a person’s face.

Emily: Well it validates the pain you’ve gone through.

Paul: It does, and I can see it, you know, I’ve—my favorite therapists have been the ones where I know in the first five minutes just from the look in their eyes, the warmth in their eyes and the reaction on their face when I share some of my pain with them, I know that they feel me. And I—my feelings and my body even were not my own as a kid. I was told that what I was feeling was wrong, I was told that I was selfish and I was rotten, and etc., etc. And my body was kind of violated. I was just very much my—who I was as a human being was kind of denied and so when I come across somebody that I feel like would love me for who I am, it’s incredibly powerful, incredibly powerful to me, and sometimes I want more of it. It’s almost like a drug.

Emily: And it’s interesting because if you have someone that you—you know, is in your life that you do love, that knows you well, what are you just gonna keep telling them your story over and over again? Like how do you keep getting that feeling from someone that you already have a relationship with? That’s the interesting part.

Paul: Because my, you know, my wife is not a naturally warm person. She expresses her warmth in different ways – cooking for me, thinking about—anticipating my needs. Extremely loving and extremely giving in those ways but not like the warm fuzzy kind of nurturing touchy-feely and sometimes I crave that. And I’ll ask her for it but sometimes it’s—it just doesn’t feel …

Emily: So even when your wife is doing stuff that’s very like, that’s her way of showing warmth, it doesn’t feel the same as when sitting next to someone at a dinner and you end up telling them everything about you.

Paul: Or talking to somebody at a support group afterwards and I can feel the tears starting to well up in my throat, and they’re like, “Are you ok? Do you need a hug?” And they’ll give me a hug and I’ll just start sobbing. That is like the—and I’ve done that with my wife too, but in a support group, those people have lived through what you’ve lived through and they know—there is nothing like being held by somebody who you know to their very core knows ….

Emily: Gets it.

Paul: What your pain feels like.

Emily: Absolutely.

Paul: So that can be a little, I don’t know if “addicting” is the right word, but that can be an example where I think I would maybe be draining or inappropriate. “Inappropriate” might be the better word for it.

Emily: Yeah, I can see—and that’s the thing that I’m actually really cautious of. I will deny myself talking about myself or talking about what I’ve been through on purpose just to not weird out the person. Like I almost go the other direction of like I can’t like, even if it would feel good, and even if it would, I feel like I can’t—again I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to—I don’t want to like—I don’t want to be—I don’t want to make it so that you need to spend the rest of your night comforting me, even if that’s what I want, even if that would be lovely to have, my desire to not be—still not be a burden sometimes is much bigger than that need.

Paul: Is there a difference in the comfort that you feel from a man or a woman?

Emily: That’s a good question. Since most of the dudes I know are comedians, they are not great at being comforting, they’re very like—they’ll listen to me and they’ll go, “Oh, that sucks.” And then that’s like pretty much it. I mean I have some dude friends that are very sensitive and wonderful, but for the most part I would say it’s the girlfriends that I have that are the ones that end up giving me the most, giving me the most kind of juice if I need it. And my husband. My husband is really, really great at that.

Paul: He sounds great.

Emily: Yeah, he’s great at that stuff. He’s well-equipped and it’s—and me, it’s also been me trying to figure out along the way how to get that feeling that we’re discussing without anybody else, on my own, with being my own self-soother, like being my own self-soother, like that’s the term, they say that for babies, like when babies can self-soothe, you never got a chance to do that. You never got a chance to—you didn’t have the ability to do that, and that’s a really, really tough skill to learn, but that’s what I’m moving towards. As much as I love my husband, as much as I love my friends, my family, I’m always moving towards like, can I handle this internally? Can I do this where I don’t need to, I don’t need anybody else for this? Whether or not that’s healthy, that might be another thing that towards, in a couple of years, well that’s really stupid for me to think, but I do like the idea that like I can do something to make myself feel better, I like that idea that I can self-soothe.

Paul: Is it possible that the best would be to have both, you know, a support system of people that …

Emily: 100% yeah, being able to self-soothe but also having a support system I think that’s maybe the goal and I think you and I together make that. I mean, do you feel like, do you ever have times when you feel like—because I’m not saying I’m always successful at it, it’s always something I’m working towards. Do you have anything that helps you self-soothe that’s not like a ….

Paul: Prayer and meditation.

Emily: That does help?

Paul: Yeah. And, you know, one of the weirdest self-soothers for me—I don’t even know if it would be called a “soother,” but there’s something soothing about it to me, are documentaries, especially about subjects that are kind of dark, because it feels like almost like somebody’s holding my hand and the world is saying, “Other people are going through this too.”

Emily: Ok, I like that.

Paul: And there’s something that I love about a story unfolding that just feels—that just feels good.

Emily: Ok. Those are actually pretty good. Those are all very good techniques.

Paul: Because it used to be alcohol and weed, that’s how I soothed myself. And for awhile, a long time, it was pornography, and I could see that that was creating distance in my marriage, because that was energy that I could have, you know, I could have had in my marriage.

Emily: It’s a good lesson that porn should always just be for what porn is intended for, and if you find that you’re using it for like distraction or because you’re bored, like, oh shit, you gotta start rethinking some stuff.

Paul: Yeah, or you’re feeling feelings that you don’t want to feel and you know that you’re gonna get that glowy feeling after an orgasm, sometimes you need to work through that feeling. And in the last couple of days I’ve had that feeling and I finally called somebody from my support group this morning and just kind of got honest with them about this empty feeling in my chest and, you know, what I’ve been going through and I felt lighter after I hung up and I think they felt like they were able to be of service to me.

Emily: That’s perfect. That’s really good.

Paul: Yeah.

Emily: I tend to, whenever I’m feeling an emotion, I will tell myself to double down on it, and force myself to feel it so that I get tired of it. And it doesn’t always work, but if I’m feeling empty, if I’m feeling lonely—my husband’s been traveling a bunch lately, he’s back now, but there were a couple of weeks where we’d not see each other, and we’re not used to that, and so I was like, “I’m feeling really lonely.” I first started making all these like plans, I was like, “I’m gonna go to the beach, and I’m gonna go have brunch, and then I’m gonna do this, and then I’m gonna do this,” and I was exhausted. Then I was like, I’m just gonna sit in this, I’m gonna sit it being lonely. I’m just gonna feel as lonely as I possibly fucking can. And so I had like three days where I didn’t see anyone, I didn’t talk to anyone, I just kind of was like, “I’m by myself.” I went to restaurants by myself, and that sounds like not that big of a deal, but for me I had to like—I was like I’m gonna burn this up and feel this until I’m like I’m done feeling this. And then it kind of felt more natural, and then I made like a plan with a friend rather than trying to pack my whole day. But if I’m really sad, I’ll fucking double down and try to feel as sad as I can. If I’m feeling anxious, which happens a lot, I will fucking double down and be like, let’s be anxious as shit for like an hour. Let’s work through every single “what the fuck are we anxious about, what is going on?” and then I find that I’m tired of being anxious and I can kind of ease off of it a bit. I don’t know how great of a technique it is but I tend to like—whatever I’m feeling—and my best friend and I always had this term like we’re “wallowers.” Whatever we’re feeling, we’re wallowing in it. I don’t feel anything 10%. Whatever I’m feeling, it’s 100 fucking percent. So I might as well use that to my advantage if I’m already doing that. And just try to like fucking get—wallow in it as much as I can, like roll around in it and then get up and then try and get up.

Paul: I like that because I think one of the most useless things we can do to ourselves is to say you shouldn’t be feeling this.

Emily: For sure, for sure. All emotions are valid. Not all your actions are valid, but all emotions are absolutely valid. And I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that. Yeah, it helps—my best friend is a therapist also and I think helps—we kind of help each other, we call each other on shit all the time. And Kumail and I call each other on shit all the time. And I’m very fond of when people call each other on shit when you’re close to each other, it’s very helpful.

Paul: I think it helps keep intimacy—you know, it helps keep the blood flow in intimacy, because I think it can kind of—you can really get some rigor mortis in a relationship if you just keep sweeping everything under the rug.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: Even if you feel like you’re—don’t really—even if you feel like you’re a little off base to be resentful of that person, just talking about your feeling, “You know, I just gotta let you know that I’m in some resentment right now and I’m not blaming you, I just want you to know where my head is at. And that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

Emily: It doesn’t mean you need to change anything.

Paul: Right.

Emily: Maybe you do. It doesn’t you do, but this is just where I am, absolutely. Yeah, I think that’s incredibly important.

Paul: Well do you want to do a fear-off and a love-off?

Emily: All right, let’s do it.

Paul: Let’s do it.

Emily: I don’t know that I got a dozen.

Paul: That’s ok.

Emily: I’m sure that I have more than this many fears and loves, but …

Paul: Even just a half dozen is fine.

Emily: Cool. I got that.

Paul: I’m going to reading the fears and loves (clears throat), excuse me, of somebody from the forum, Lamont Cranston is his forum name.

Emily: Probably his real name, maybe, we don’t know.

Paul: I know it’s not cuz I’ve emailed back and forth with him.

Emily: It’s a pretty good fake name, though.

Paul: Yeah, it is. Oh he did his loves first, tricky. Let’s do his—let me scan down to his fears. “I’m afraid that the kidney that I got from my brother in a transplant six years ago will fail.”

Emily: That’s a pretty big one. I’m afraid—some of these are going to be lighter—I’m afraid of falling down stairs. It’s one of my biggest fears.

Paul: “I’m afraid of dying way too early and not experiencing all the things I want to out of life.”

Emily: I’m afraid of my illness, Adult Onset Still’s Disease, getting worse and progressively getting to where I will be arthritic.

Paul: “I’m afraid of being very old and getting something like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Lou Gehrig’s disease and that I will have to depend on someone else for everything.” I have that one.

Emily: That’s a big one too, yeah. I’m very afraid of ET. I thought I’d gotten over it but I was just at Universal Studios two weeks ago, I’m not over it.

Paul: Of ET?

Emily: Yeah, very frightened.

Paul: The character?

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: Really?

Emily: He’s horrifying looking! He looks like a monster. He’s very scary. And my parents didn’t realize my sister and I were both afraid of him. And so they took us to see the movie several times, and I had so many nightmares, and we rode the ride, the ET Experience ride, cuz I thought I was like, “Oh, I’ll be fine.” I was just sobbing next to children, Kumail was like explaining, “She’s just fine, everything’s fine. Everything’s fine.” I was like, “No, I can do this, I’m ok.” And then I would see him and I would freak out again. Him and that wig and hat, oh God. Nightmares. Anyway, continue.

Paul: That is fantastic.

Emily: Oh, it’s horrible.

Paul: “I’m afraid of becoming a pariah among my friends.”

Emily: Oof. I want to know more about that. I’m afraid of missing my window to have a baby.

Paul: “I’m afraid that I won’t be able to pay off all my debts.”

Emily: I’m afraid of people thinking that I’m taking advantage of my husband’s success for my own career.

Paul: “I’m afraid that my fiancé will either break up with me or leave my standing at the altar.”

Emily: Oof. When I was a kid, I was incredibly afraid of the devil.

Paul: Good person to be afraid of—entity. Whatever—I believe in negative energy and I’m afraid of negative energy.

Emily: Yeah.

Paul: “I’m afraid that something will happen to my dad and I won’t be able to tell him how much of a hero he was to me.”

Emily: I’m afraid of something happening to my parents and me being on the other side of the country.

Paul: “I’m afraid I’m going to hell when I die.” That’s so funny. We’ve been doing this show for two years and I can’t believe that’s the first time we’ve had that.

Emily: That is the first time?

Paul: Yeah.

Emily: That is amazing.

Paul: I think it just shows how many atheists we have as listeners.

Emily: Yeah, that’s a bigger issue. I’m afraid of being a burden, which we’ve discussed.

Paul: “I’m afraid of having something go horribly wrong that wasn’t my fault and being sent to prison.” I have that one too. And that like all of the, you know, whatever the circumstantial evidence just coincidentally and everybody thinks I’m a monster, and I’m like, “But you—I, I…”

Emily: If you read too many true crime novels, or watch too many documentaries, that’s a fear.

Paul: Tell it to your cellmate. Clink.

Emily: I’m afraid—there’s a Jacksons video called Torture that when I was a kid I thought was the scariest thing I’d ever seen.

Paul: “I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get a really good job.”

Emily: That’s a good one. I think that’s all I have actually.

Paul: Well let’s go to some loves.

Emily: Sure. Ok.

Paul: I’ll start with Lamont’s. “I love turning on the TV and unexpectedly finding a show or movie that’s one of my favorites and I haven’t seen in a long time.” That’s a good one.

Emily: That is a good one. Even if I own it on DVD, I’ll still get really excited. I love birds and I love bird watching. That’s like my secret favorite thing.

Paul: There’s something really soothing about that. We have birds in our backyard and I love it. (sounds like something fell over)

Emily: Sorry!

Paul: How dare you!

Emily: I fear dropping things.

Paul: Lamont says, “I love sitting in the backyard in the summer with a cigar and a drink, looking up at the sky and just thinking.”

Emily: Wow. That’s good. I love FaceTiming with my family. That’s a new thing that we’ve all gotten iPads and it’s amazing.

Paul: I gotta try that.

Emily: Oh, it’s so great. So much better than phone calls.

Paul: With your family.

Emily: Yes, yeah. Just specifically—I’ll give you their numbers, they’re great.

Paul: What if we just started talking about you behind your back?

Emily: That would be weird. They’d get down with it. We’re pretty honest.

Paul: Lamont says, “I love driving on the freeway and having a kickass playlist of my favorite music on the iPod.”

Emily: Ooo I love that too. I have something very similar to that so I’ll just ditto that one. Oh do you want me to do it anyway?

Paul: Yeah.

Emily: Ok. I love a day with no expectations. I always have at least a million things to do.

Paul: Lamont says, “I love morning sunrises, especially when you have to wake up in the dark.”

Emily: Not me. I love looking at the Facebook profiles of people who have been really mean to me. And seeing how lame their lives are.

Paul: I did that with a guy that was biggest dick I’ve ever worked with as a comedian and his Facebook photo, he had his shirt off, and I was like, vindicated!

Emily: Yeah, you’re the worst human being.

Paul: He is a douche. Let’s see. He says, “I love waking up to a strong rain early in the morning, realizing that you have a day off, and going back to sleep.”

Emily: Oh shit, that’s a great one.

Paul: That is a really good one.

Emily: I love the way my husband laughs. He has a laugh, you know, he’s a comedian, he’s always around other comedians, but he has a laugh that when he’s caught off guard that he doesn’t—it’s like just his like, to me, his real laugh. And I love when I can make him laugh like that.

Paul: That’s a beautiful one. Lamont says, “I love going back to sleep early in the morning and sleeping soundly after having to get up and go to the bathroom.” I do too.

Emily: Yeah, that’s good, being able to fall asleep immediately like that. Shit. I love—actually I have a love Purple Rain. I didn’t even know I was gonna talk about that today. But I love that movie. And it’s very soothing to me.

Paul: “I love sitting in my darkened home late at night and working on something creative.”

Emily: Oh, that’s good. I love when people feel heard because of something I’ve either said or written.

Paul: Well I definitely got that feeling with you here today, that’s really nice.

Emily: Well, thank you. I love epic lunches, unplanned lunches with my friends that are like eight of us in a restaurant and we stay there for like three hours. I love that.

Paul: Oh that sounds great. Lamont says, “I love that neat feeling I get in my stomach and neck after laughing for awhile.”

Emily: Oh, God, that’s really good! Oh! I wish I had that one, Lamont. I love video games. My podcast is about video games and I play video games, it’s very self-soothing for me.

Paul: What is the name of the podcast again?

Emily: Oh, it’s called The Indoor Kids.

Paul: The Indoor Kids.

Emily: Mm-hmm.

Paul: And what’s your favorite video game? Is there one?

Emily: I mean, the—right now I’m playing XCOM, which is a really great like resource management, strategy game, and I love that game. But I would say all-time it’s either gonna be a Super Mario Brothers or a Zelda. Probably gonna be the first Zelda.

Paul: Oh my God, Zelda was—I would not shower for like a day-and-a-half and play Zelda. I was like, “You don’t understand, I think this next cave has got treasure.”

Emily: It’s the best. It’s—video games are amazing. They’re a great coping technique. You can overuse them for sure, but I think they’re amazing.

Paul: Lamont says, “I love the sound a driver makes when it hits a golf ball right on the sweet spot.”

Emily: Oh.

Paul: That is a good one.

Emily: I actually, I feel bad. There are many more things I love but I don’t know that I have anything else that I wrote down.

Paul: That’s ok, we got enough.

Emily: Yeah?

Paul: Yeah. We’re at an hour-and-a-half.

Emily: Wow.

Paul: Emily Gordon, Thank you so much for being so—just being you.

Emily: Aw.

Paul: Just being you. I mean I don’t know you very well but I feel like, I don’t know. You feel like a kindred spirit. And those are my favorite episodes where I get that feeling.

Emily: Well thank you very much, I appreciate that.

Paul: And I think my listeners are really gonna like this.

Emily: Cool, this was great, this was actually, this was a good one. I’ve not been on a podcast like this before. This was good.

Paul: Thanks Emily.

Emily: Mm-hmmm.

Paul: I want to have her back and I want her to be my therapist. I so enjoyed talking to her. It is really nice when you come across somebody that you feel, you feel feels you. Not just hears you but feels you and, um, yeah, thank you, thank you for that, Emily.

I’m gonna remind you again to go to that website and support the shield bill, and that website again is eff.org/shield. And remind you that I’m coming to Portland April 18th through 21, to so some satire. I’m doing my Republican character, Representative Richard Martin. If you want a taste of it, you can go to the website for it, which is askarepublican.com, and I might be doing a live Mental Illness Happy Hour show I’m not sure yet, but I’ll keep you posted on that.

Before I take it out with a couple of emails and surveys, I want to remind you there are a couple of different ways to support the show. You can do it financially by going to the website mentalpod.com, that’s also the Twitter name you can follow me at. You can do a one-time PayPal donation, or my favorite, a recurring monthly donation for as little as $5 a month. All you have to do have to do is set it up once and then it just repeats every month until you decide to stop it. And I deeply, deeply appreciate those of you that are monthly donors. It means so much to me, it gets me closer to my dream of being able to support myself doing this show. You can also support it by when you buy something at Amazon, do it through the search portal on our homepage. It’s on the right hand side about halfway down. Amazon gives us a couple of nickels. Doesn’t cost you anything. I don’t know what that fucking half-assed voice was but I didn’t care for it. I think I was being a little hard on myself. I get so trapped in my head, you know, I had therapy today and I’m really digging my new therapist. But one of the things that she said to me was, “You really seem to not trust your integrity. You really seem to question your integrity.” And it was like a laser went through my skull, I was like, “Yes! You described it exactly. I’m constantly second-guessing myself.” And she said, “Well that’s one of the results of being in an invalidating environment where your mom one minute is sexualizing and objectifying you and then the next minute telling you that you’re rotten and that you’re wrong and denying your experience and saying things never happened that you know for a fact happened.” And oh my God, it’s—I don’t know how I got off of on that tangent, but I suppose listening to that episode with Emily, she is—so much fucking raw emotion has been coming up these last nine months and it’s overwhelming how intense that pain is when I really sit and allow myself to feel that horrible thought that the person that was supposed to protect me exploited me. The nice thing is, when I meet somebody else that has been sexualized or violated by a parent, I know how they feel. And I know that they know how I feel. And when I hug a person like that, it’s so comforting. It’s so soothing. Because it’s the feeling I’ve been looking for my whole life. It’s the feeling I didn’t get as a child. So imagine for somebody that’s never experienced that, imagine how good comfort feels when you begin to open up that part of yourself after decades of it being shut down, how thirsty that part of you is. And it’s a little embarrassing because sometimes I feel like sometimes I’m just a big, clumsy ball of neediness, but it’s better than being drunk behind the wheel and trying to numb myself so that I can’t think of those things.

I want to kick it off with an email from a listener named Sarah, and she writes, “I just heard you mention NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI is an amazing organization and their meetings an website can provide a wealth of information. The one thing that irks me in my opinion here, is that a lot of their programs and classes separate people living with the illnesses and their families. The group I prefer is DBSA, the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance. Their support groups are open to anyone whose life has been affected by mental illness. I’ve been attending DBSA support groups for over six years and it has saved my life. I’ve made lifelong friends and gotten to help people on their journey. Support groups can provide people with all sorts of help, ideas for paying for meds, accessing services, finding cheap or free things to do, books to read, etc.” Thank you Sarah, and that’s DBSA. And she doesn’t say what the website is, but I’m sure you can find it. That’s the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance.

This next email is from a guy named Dan, and he writes, “Dear Paul, I’m listening to your podcast with Jess right now, and I just heard you read your email from Will. I am also 14 and somewhat suffer from the same thing as him. I have never thought about suicide and I do not cut myself, but I do hold back from telling my parents. After listening to your advice, I decided it’s about time I do something. Paul, I have heard advice like this from you before, but God damn it, now I’m really gonna do it.” And so I emailed him back and I said, “Dan, hoping to get an email like yours is the reason I started this podcast. You’ve warmed my heart. Let me know how it goes.” And then a couple of weeks later he emailed me back and wrote, “Hi Paul, I wasn’t sure if you actually wanted to hear back from me and not just making me feel good, but in case you were, I’ll respond. Ha ha. I told my parents about my depression and went to the doctor and just like talked it out a little. Since it’s winter right now and I’m not in any sports and I’m basically just moping around a lot. Since I wasn’t doing anything I was just always in that bad mood and my doctor said to work out a lot and run and even diet to lift up my mood. It’s been a couple weeks now and I feel amazing. I’m eating very healthy, running a lot, and lifting lots of weights. Not only has it made me feel like I was the happiest person ever, but I’m in great shape for baseball this year. Thank you SO much for the podcast. Dan.” And all I can say to that Dan is, yay! Fucking yay!

This is from the Happy Moments survey, and this was filled out by a listener named Annie. She’s in her 30’s and her happy moment, she writes, “I adopted a dog a month after I attempted suicide. I was figuring if I can’t bond with an animal, then I can’t bond with anything. It was a quick decision. Just picked her off the Internet and a rescue group. I was unsure about it until the first night. I climbed into bed not sure if she would sleep in her bed or what as she was awful nervous and scared. As I dozed off, I felt her weight on my bed and then felt her press her warm body against mine. And I felt such a sense of peace and belonging. She trusted me from the get-go. And we were a pack. I felt like there was something worth staying on this earth for.” I can’t even tell you how deeply that one touches me. There’s a dog that we had from like 1989 to 2003 named Charlie and we found her on the highway, highway 41 near Petoskey Michigan. She was just in the middle of nowhere and my wife and I took her and reported it to like a local vet, and said, you know, if anybody claims her, here’s our phone number. We were like, “I don’t know if we can keep her.” We got a tiny apartment back in Chicago, we’re on the road sometimes. And the hotel we were staying at, you couldn’t have animals in it, so I had a jacket on, I put her underneath my jacket and we snuck her in. And I laid on the bed to take a nap and she climbed up on the bed, climbed up chest, and put her head underneath my chin. And I just looked over at my wife and I just went, “Oh my God.” And the next three days we were just praying that the phone wasn’t going to ring, that we get to keep her. And we did. I fucking love dogs.

And I love you guys. I love you for listening to this show and helping me feel less alone and listening to me talk about my pain sometimes when it’s not very eloquent and it’s jumbled. You know, shit does not come out smoothly. Pain does not come out, pain does not come out, at least for me, very eloquently, but I know you don’t tune into this podcast for the eloquence. You tune in for the honesty, and it feels so nice to have a safe space where I can exchange information with you guys, and I can get to know your pain and your darkness and your joy, and get to share mine with you too. So if you’re out there and you’re feeling alone, I hope that this last hour and 40 minutes, hour and 45, however long it is, has shown you that you are most definitely not alone, that there is hope. So thanks for listening.

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