Fantasy & Love Addiction: Maia Akiva

Fantasy & Love Addiction: Maia Akiva

Paul’s fellow support group friend shares about the huge role fantasy has played in her struggle to accept life; especially her love addiction. She talks about being unable to watch lesbian films in moderation (she is a lesbian) and how the CPTSD from her physical (and emotional) trauma at birth and being raised in an emotionally stifled home (where success was the only thing that mattered) have made intimacy and trust difficult especially with her struggles with low self-esteem. Inspired to help others as she has healed Maia now facilitates workshops and speaks publicly to help others who are also struggling.

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Episode notes:

Check out Maia's website

Maia's Instagram

Maia's Facebook

Maia's Twitter

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. To get your 1st week of online counseling free go to  Must 18 or over.

This episode is sponsored by Blue Apron. To see this week's menu or to get your first 3 meals free (with free delivery) go to

This episode is sponsored by Young Health's probiotic Probimune To get your first bottle of Probimune free (plus $6.75 shipping) go to  and use offer code MENTAL at checkout.

Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to Episode 320 with my guest Maia Akiva. Today's episode is sponsored by Probimune. Did you know that up to 80% of your immune system relies on a healthy gut? Well, that's why the people at Young Health developed Probimune, a liquid probiotic that promotes intestinal health with a unique blend of bacteria not found in 99% of other probiotics.

It's easy to use, easy to travel with and easy to store, no refrigeration required. I can vouch for that. I take it with me when I travel. And now, you guys can get your first bottle of Probimune free when you sign up for automated delivery. All you pay is $6.75 for shipping and handling. Just go to P-r-o-b-i-m-u-n-e dot com, and use the promo code MENTAL at checkout.

I am Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental H-, [chuckles] Mental Illness Happy Hour. Sometimes people call it the Mental Health Happy Hour, and it makes me shake my fist at the sky. And so I just, right now, just made me shake my own fist at the sky, at myself. I'm very confused.

This show is called the Mental Illness Happy Hour. It's a place for honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. It's not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. I am not a therapist. It's not a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room filled with fun and sadness [chuckles].

The Web site for this show is Go check it out. Fill out one of our anonymous surveys. Maybe we'll read your survey on the show. All kinds of good things you can do on the Web site. You can read blogs, guest blogs, browse the forum, support the show financially, see lists of listeners' favorite episodes from certain years. In fact, I've got one for this year, or for last year, for 2016.

The number 10 most popular among the listeners was the episode with Katie Hirschberg, Letter to My Suicidal 16-year-old Self. Number nine was Religious Abuse with Hilary A. Number eight was NHL legend Theo Fleury. Number seven was sex crimes detective Don Howell. Number six was Murray Valeriano live at L.A. Podfest. Number five was Glamorously Dying with Nikki DuBose. Number four was Melanie R. with DID, a.k.a. multiple personality disorder. Number three was Mara Wilson. Number two was Dr. Jonice Webb on emotional neglect. And number one was ex-CHP officer Kevin Briggs.

Thank you, guys, for voting on those. And voting is still open, so maybe those numbers will change. Stay tuned. This is very exciting. I'm creating drama. I'm creating dra-, this is like my own reality show, I'm creating drama where there is none.

This show is, as I've mentioned before, is sponsored by They provide online therapy. They provided me with an online therapist, and I give you updates every week and love my therapist. She is really helping me with my boundary issues and we're doing some dream work together, which, I don't know, I'd heard about it a lot and so I asked her if we could try doing some of it, so I'm writing some of my dreams down, but I'm not going to share my dreams with you guys because the only thing more boring than listening to somebody describe their round of golf is listening to somebody tell you their dream. So, I'm not going to foist that on you.

But one of the things she is asking me to do is to notice how I feel when my boundaries are clean with somebody, and I'm talking about conversational boundaries. I'm not talking about physical boundaries. I like to think I'm pretty good with physical boundaries, but sometimes I just dive headlong into a conversation and just go too, too much information too quickly, and I know it's related to, you know, my addictions and trauma, whatever stuff you want to talk about, fantasy. By the way, this is a great episode for talking about the power of fantasy.

And so, as I'm writing these things down, it's really becoming clear to me how, when I'm in a conversation, when I'm in my addiction and when I am not. Here's some signs that I'm not in my addiction when I'm in a conversation with somebody. I feel patient. I respect boundaries. I'm aware of them. I don't have a set goal for where the conversation should go. I see the person instead of the imagined scenario that I want the conversation to go to, etc.

And the ways that I know when I'm in my addiction is I feel adrenaline. I begin to, I begin to fear that I am, how do I, fear that I am bad or wrong, because I think consciously I also kind of know that I am pushing boundaries, because I'm looking to escape my, whatever my issue is at the moment, be it pain, fear, loneliness, sadness, guilt, regret, whatever, and that adrenaline rush is one of the things that, when I'm in my addiction, I seek.

And the other thing, when I'm really into my addictions, be it any addiction, is I lose my perspective of myself, others and the situation that I am in. And there's a lot more that I've written down, but I say all that to say that I, I'm making some headway. I feel like it's the, you know, there's a saying in recovery that you're peeling the layers of the onion. I really feel like I'm doing that, like I’m getting to new things and getting better at dealing with issues as I kind of get past ones under control or find peace with or whatever it may be.

But I love You can go there, complete a questionnaire, and get matched with a counselor and experience a free week of counseling to see if online counseling is right for you. You've got to be over 18, and I love it.

I do video, camera to camera, with my therapist once a week. We could check in with each other more if I wanted to. She'll occasionally send me a message saying, hey, you know, how about, think about this for next week's session, and that was the list that I just read to you. But I love it, can't say enough good things about it.

I want to read you an Awfulsome Moment. This is filled out by My, What a Beautiful Fucking Day, and she writes, in parentheses, this one is rather dark, Paul. As if that's ever put me off anything.

My new job has been incredibly stressful at times, especially as my anxiety, social anxiety loves to act up around my co-workers. I've spent a number of times crying in a bathroom stall, beating myself up over the belief that I'll never get this job right and I'll always be an awkward annoyance to my peers.

I carry a few sharp instruments during work with which to do my job, including an X-ACTO knife. Unfortunately, I have a history of self-abuse and at times the knife has been all too handy. During lunch one day, I brought out an orange and took the knife out of my pocket to help start the peel. A co-worker sitting with me, over whom I have a throbbing crush, jokingly said, don't do it, as in slicing my wrists. Funny, he seems to like using that joke every time he sees me take out the knife.

And then, as I began to cut into the orange, he says, are you sure you want to use that? You don't know where it's been. I just looked at him, smiled, and said nothing.


[Show intro]


PAUL: I’m here with Maia, who is somebody that I've known for a while, a couple of years, and our paths cross in support groups, and I've just always enjoyed our conversations because you're a very open person about your struggles and your self-loathing--




PAUL: --and I think maybe that's something that we both certainly share. And when you shared with me that you listen to the podcast, I was like, well, let's get you on as a guest. I just want to cover some broad strokes about stuff that you deal with and on paper who you are.

You're a lesbian. You were raised in Israel. You moved here when you were in your 20s, to Los Angeles. You saw Ellen. That helped you to come out and realize you were a lesbian. But the real focus of why I want to talk to you, in addition to your low self-esteem and struggling to connect with people, is fantasy.


MAIA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: And that that is a drug to you.


MAIA: Yep. That is definitely a subject I can talk about.


PAUL: Let's talk about that.


MAIA: Oh, my God. You know, my--


PAUL: And the difference between, like imagination is a healthy thing for people to have, and fantasy is certainly something that everybody does, but we're talking about fantasy as an escape, as a coping mechanism, in a way that distances us from people.


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: So, when we say that, to . . .


MAIA: Yeah, you know, when I listen to the podcast, people talk about, you know, their early journey, and when I was kind of thinking about what should I talk about, you know, trying not to be too controlling, but what should I talk about, you know, my journey with fantasy, or with fantasy for survival, I will call it, because that's what it is, started the minute I came into Earth, because I had a birth trauma that, well, when I discovered it, I went to an NLP therapist--


PAUL: What's that?


MAIA: --which is neurolinguistic programming. It's what Tony Robbins practices, and it's--


PAUL: Neurolinguistic . . .


MAIA: Programming, yeah, it's a way of therapy, and she helped me discover this birth trauma because it's a story I've heard all my life but I didn't realize the emotional impact that it had on me.

But basically, my mother had a pregnancy poison and I was born very tiny, like dangerously tiny.


PAUL: What do you mean when you say a pregnancy poison? She got poisoned in her body--


MAIA: Something in her blood, something in her blood, so I was born in nine months but I was like really tiny, like they can hold me in the palm of their hand, that's what they would tell me.


PAUL: Wow.


MAIA: Yeah, like that's a favorite family story, here's a coconut in my hand, that's how big you were.

So, I heard the story for years, and then I went to the therapist and I told her the story and she like, her jaw drop, and she looked at me and she's like, oh, my God, you have no idea what you went through as a baby.

And basically what happened is, back then, in 1973, in Israel, because I was born so tiny, what they did is, I got out of my mother's womb, they took me, they wouldn't even let my mother touch me, see me, talk to me. They put me in an incubator. They drove me an hour away to another hospital, and they kept me there for two months, and after two months my mother came and took me.


PAUL: So, you missed all of that attachment with your mom--


MAIA: None.


PAUL: --in the key time when a baby is supposed to be smelling the mother and breast-feeding and being held and feeling that electricity.


MAIA: Everything, I missed everything, which I think explained the, I'm telling it to you because I think that was the beginning of my fantasy, you know, issues and checking out and using it because I think that that created such, I think it's created such trauma that, as I became older and became an infant and a kid, I had that thing in me and I didn't know how to cope with other human beings. And it was a traumatic event that happened in our family that nobody ever talked about.

I actually talked to my mother about it, finally, after the therapist, and the therapist, by the way, she did like a meditation to me to get me back to that place, and that place brought up in me the same feelings I have about romantic relationships and about things. So that started at--


PAUL: Really?


MAIA: --that started at minute one. And she said that any, according to her, any baby that was in an incubator or that had some kind of disconnected will be an addict. Like, that's like the beginning of addiction, because right away--


PAUL: They're craving something deeply.


MAIA: Yeah, something that they can't have.


PAUL: All babies or just a lot of babies?


MAIA: In incubator babies, like babies that are like torn away from their parents. And I did some research about it and, nowadays, even if you have a birth, something goes wrong with the birth, they always put you on your mother and they always let the mother have the connection with you. Like, they learned.

But back then--


PAUL: And you don't necessarily mean, because you don't struggle with substance abuse. Your drug is fantasy--


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: --and love addiction, as it were--


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: --and food. You struggle with food as well.


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: So, it's important to make that distinction that, you know, because somebody could, their thing could be workaholism or codependence or they could be a rageaholic, where they're addicted to control and anger.


MAIA: Yes. A part of my journey of recovery and addiction, at the end a humbleness of it, just really realizing that it doesn't really matter, that down, the point is to check out and not be here. Like, that's the point--


PAUL: To not feel the emptiness.


MAIA: Yeah, to not feel the pain, the emptiness, the low self-esteem, the no value. And again, the reason I'm telling this story, because I think it's so ingrained in me, like it's, from day one, I felt abandoned.

Now, the trick is that that wasn't the reality. My mother was so devastated and she went, she drove every day and hour to watch me in the hospital and, but my perception was that I was in danger. And when I got sober, I started having--


PAUL: When you say sober, what do you mean? What were you getting sober from?


MAIA: Sober from love addiction and fantasy addiction.


PAUL: Okay.


MAIA: And I started having those emotional flashbacks. Like, I didn't know what they were, but I would wake up or I would walk around during the day and I would feel in danger, but, in danger, like in danger for my life, in danger for my well-being, in danger for my, I don't know, from my being a human being, and I didn't know what was going on.

And then I started researching it, and I came across this article about post-traumatic stress complex, I don't know if you ever heard about it?


PAUL: Mm-hmm. Is that different than post-traumatic stress disorder?


MAIA: Yes. It's different in the way that post-traumatic stress disorder is about a single event that happened to you. Post-traumatic stress complex is about a period of time--




MAIA: --that you were, it's more applied for prisoners of war and people in cults and all of that, and for abusive children and that--


PAUL: Abused children.


MAIA: Abused children, children who were abused for a long period of time--


PAUL: Yeah, okay, I gotcha.


MAIA: --and emotional abuse, too. It doesn't, I'm not talking about physical abuse. And that the stuff that I was feeling, look, nobody ever like diagnosed me or told me that's what happened, but I, I know that, for me, that's the truth, is that I think that this feeling that came up when I got sober was from that time being in the incubator and feeling in danger for my life, because it has no rhyme or reason, that danger that I feel. I'm a grown-up. I can take care of myself. You know, everything is okay.

And it feels like infant, like when I think about it, it's like that's what a baby in an incubator, not knowing what's going on, thinking they're in danger for their lives would feel.


PAUL: And I would imagine, you know, even though clearly, as an infant, you didn't know, well, I was born too small and, you know, etc., etc., but just the lack of having the mother there would set off alarm bells that you're not getting something genetically that you need in there.

When I was two weeks old, my small intestine was too small, the valve that goes from your stomach to your small intestine, mine was too small, and so I couldn't digest anything, so everything I was eating I was throwing up. So, the first two weeks of my life, I was basically starving.


MAIA: Oh, my God.


PAUL: And so, they had to put me in the hospital and they had to do this surgery, and I'd never really thought about it, and then I got into therapy and a therapist said, oh, that's incredibly traumatic because you were away from your mom, you were physically starving.

And so, we did some EMDR work on it and I began to kind of think about, oh, yeah, that feeling of like, like a hole in my chest, I can feel that. I can feel that feeling. And one of the things I struggle with to this day is, if I don't know where and when I'm going to eat and I begin to get hungry, I panic.




PAUL: I have to know where my food is going to come from, and it's, I like, sometimes when I'm hungry, I can't even converse with people. I think some people, when they hear things like you're talking about and I'm talking about, they're like, oh, they're just looking for a reason to feel sorry for themselves, they're just, they're, you know, one of those people that look on the Internet and they go, yes, that explains everything for me, I'm going to go with that.

But I want to say this is a real thing.


MAIA: Thank you. And actually, I'm so glad we're talking about it because I feel like, first of all, it's so real to me, like I can, like the experience cannot be taken away. It's so real.

And I feel like, you know, when a kid is sexually abused, which is a horrible thing by itself. I'm not diminishing anything from it. Again, it's a very acceptable, quote, unquote, thing by society, like you know you're going to have trauma and you know you're going to have problems with relationships and you go to a therapist and you tell them that right away, but having infant, emotional infant trauma is not something that is known, and I think so many people don't even, either don't even know their stories or heard like some kind of story and don't realize the effect.

And if you read any, I'm not a psychologist but I've done a lot of research for myself, any childhood development research or understanding will tell you that it actually goes like the opposite of our sponge-learning thing. From day one, we are the most sponge ever, and as we get older, we get less and less and less sponge.

So, the earlier the trauma is, the more effect it will have on you.


PAUL: Oh, that makes sense. That makes sense.


MAIA: You know, that's why like when you, like again, from what I read, from when you're born, the effect of what you sponge in is so big that it's energetically, it doesn't even have to be said to you.

That's why like kids learn how to, how do babies learn how to do things? Nobody teaches them. It's like they, they can look at something and do it. They get it on an energetic level. And as the older we get, the less and less it is, and I think by the time we reach age seven, it really starts slowing down. That's why they say, you know, to teach babies language, like if you talk to a one-year-old with three languages, they will know three languages. If you talk to an eight-year-old with three languages, it will take them much longer to catch up.

So, I’m so glad we're talking about it because, to me, that was, it explains a lot of things that's going on in my life, and a lot of experience that I have and a lot of like reactions that I get, like rejection, which is hard for everybody.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


MAIA: You know, like I’m not thinking I'm special or anything like that, but there's moments where rejection to me feels like danger. Like, whenever something feels to me like danger, I now learn that it must be something to do with my trauma as an infant, because nobody's in dan-, like there is no danger except, God forbid, physical danger.


PAUL: So, for you, it goes beyond pain and hurt. It's like your very existence feels threatened.


MAIA: It's post-traumatic stress. It is. Yeah, it's post-traumatic stress.


PAUL: Is it that you feel like you're going to die, you're going to disappear, or is it just a general panicky fear that you can't necessarily articulate what it is that you're afraid of?


MAIA: It's feeling of danger. I know it's hard to explain because it doesn't make sense.


PAUL: But you can't say what specific danger it is that you're imagining. It's just your body is reacting the way you would if somebody were mugging you.


MAIA: It's existential danger. Like, it's like I'm in danger. Now, you look around and you go like, there's nothing dangerous around me, but your body feels like in danger. Like the same way your body feels good when you have an orgasm, like your body feels, like my whole being feels in danger. And it doesn't make sense, and it's the weirdest thing ever.

And I'm so glad Google is around because [chuckles] I don't know what I would do 20 years ago if that would happen to me and I couldn't Google it and kind of research, probably I guess I would go to the library and read about it. So, yeah, so I’m glad we're talking about it because it is a big part of my healing journey and my recovery.


PAUL: And so, I would imagine, of course you're going to be addicted to fantasy--


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: --because you need to escape that body that, when you are afraid you're going to be rejected, let's go to a place, let's go to the happy place in our head where--


MAIA: Yes. Well, that was my starting point, all right, so right away you know, you know, there were going to be some issues. But then, then it goes, you know, to the more regular stuff, where my parents were in their early 20s, you know, when they had me and they obviously did not know what they were doing and they have their own issues.

And they weren't ready to have kids, and I don't want to get into their stuff because that's their stuff, but they definitely, I was def-, there was definitely emotional problems in the, you know, in the household.


PAUL: Lack of emotion or too intense of emotion?


MAIA: Lack of emotion. So, everything was external, so everything was valued external and everything is about success and good, success and good, so bad, not, I guess there's nothing really bad, but failing or not doing something right--


PAUL: It was about achievement and financial success.


MAIA: Yes, yes. Any success--


PAUL: Any success.


MAIA: --any success you can show other people, you know.


PAUL: I see, okay.


MAIA: Which is something very common in Israel, I mean something very common in Western civilization, but definitely in Israel.

So, even in my childhood, so I think that that's, I think that I realized very, very quickly in my childhood, I mean, I can only imagine, you know, I can't remember consciously, but that I realized very quickly that I feel a lot of pain and I'm not getting loved and I need to check out because I can't survive this.

You know, I mean, again, I don't think it was consciously, but I think like I wasn't able to survive it as a kid so, and, you know, it's so hard to say because like I can see if somebody knows me or my family and they will listen to it, they wouldn't understand what I was talking about, but this is like my emotional experience in my family.

And it's not that my parents did anything wrong. They were wonderf-, like they love me, I know, dearly, and they gave me anything I ever wanted, really. I was not, I will not be able to have what I have today without them. But they didn't give me the love that a child needs because they couldn't, they didn't know how. Like, it's just--


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


MAIA: --you know. And for me, that was a very traumatic experience as a little kid. And I think that I just checked out and I went to fantasy.

Now, of course, as a three-, four-year-old, it's not a sexual fantasy. I mean, it's not a romantic fantasy, but I have very early memories of remembering times when I went to, like six, seven years, like went to camp and I was like sitting in the bus, having this imagination story in my head of how I was this kid who was, like I made a whole world around it, which kids do, so it's not like, you know, I was the only one that was doing it--


PAUL: But generally not when they're on a bus full of people.


MAIA: But, and that's the thing, that now that I look back at it, I remember how good it felt. Like, it felt like good like in a way that now getting high feels good to me. So, I can--


PAUL: Getting high from fantasy now.


MAIA: --getting high from fantasy. So, I can, I can see how it was, it was, for me, a checking-out, you know, thing before I even knew what checking out was.


PAUL: And checking out, not to mean like, hey, I'm going to check this out, like checking out like leaving reality.


MAIA: Yes, leaving reality in my mind. You know, like any, I mean, our imagination is a wonderful thing, but like anything else, like food is a wonderful thing, and somebody can eat, I will just externalize it because it's easier to understand, somebody can go and have the most healthy meal and feel great and nurture their body and it's food, and then somebody like me would go and get food and get high. Same thing with, like really, like literally like In-N-Out makes me high, you know.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


MAIA: It's like I can feel it in my body, like I can feel the high.


PAUL: That's, In-N-Out is a West Coast--


MAIA: Oh, sorry [chuckles].


PAUL: --burger place that I also get very excited to go to.


MAIA: Yes [chuckles]. And most people are, but again, and it's the same thing with imagination, I think, because people use imagination, and me, too, I'm a creative person. There's parts in my life where I use imagination very healthy and in a very great way, but I also use it to get high.


PAUL: Yeah.


MAIA: And I always like joke around with myself that it's like, like part of me is grateful that I'm not like, I don't use drugs that cost a lot of money and hurt your physical body and you can really get physically hurt by them, so that's that, that's good.

But I can sit on my couch alone, without any other circums-, you know, like nothing that I need from anybody, dependent on anybody, and get high, so it's--


PAUL: The pharmacy is in your brain and it's open 24 hours.


MAIA: You know what? I’m going to steal that from you [chuckles]. You couldn't have said it better. And it's so hard to explain it to people. Like I really think like you have to be a fantasy addict to get it. I think that if you're not a fantasy addict, you can maybe understand, you know, and kind of like go like, all right, I get it, it could happen, but . . .


PAUL: Yeah. It's, when you get good at escaping into fantasy, it's good. I mean, you've created, it's incredibly unhealthy, but when you're in that fantasy, you are able to coax feelings out of yourself, out of your brain, drugs out of your brain that feel almost as real as if you were in the situation that you're fantasizing about--


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: --like you could actually feel like, oh, I won the lottery, or I'm married to this person that I’m fantasizing about, or, you know, I'm giving an Academy Awards speech--


MAIA: Yes.


PAUL: --or I've created the, discovered the cure for cancer.


MAIA: Yes, yes, or somebody so cool loves me or somebody I’m not supposed to love loves me back or, you know, as you can see, that's my drug of choice. Or I think it's like--


PAUL: Or chewing somebody out, that's the thing I go to a lot--


MAIA: Oh, really?


PAUL: --is things that I would have liked to have said when somebody put me down or violated my boundaries, you know. I've had so many conversations in my head where I fantasize about how I would have stuck up for myself, where there isn't that fear.


MAIA: Hm. And that's the thing about fantasy, which I now know because I live more in reality, I didn't know that before, there is nothing uncomfortable, nothing painful, nothing that you have to deal with in your fantasy. In your fantasy, you only feel good, everything works to your advantage, even the conflict is just a resolution to get you to where you need to go, and I was kind of like in shock when I joined reality--




MAIA: --because I was in situations where I used to fantasize about and, you know, the sober part of me was really happy to experience it and I could feel gratitude and excitement to achieve something, but then everything comes with a layer of reality, which is insecurities and fear and unknown and--


PAUL: Ambiguity and--


MAIA: --out of control and--


PAUL: --things you don't like about it. Yeah, fantasy is complete control, and reality--


MAIA: Totally.


PAUL: --is, you know, and the other thing, as you're talking about this, this is occurring to me, is of course somebody who is a fantasy addict is going to have difficulty with intimacy because intimacy is giving up control.


MAIA: Oh, my God.


PAUL: And fantasy is taking control.


MAIA: Oh, my God, it's like, I think they're the yin and yang, like it's the complete opposite, and that's what I discovered when I joined the human race, when I got sober, is that relationships, A, I discovered I didn't have any relationships even though I thought I did.

I'm very good at, I'm very social, so I'm very good at, you know, talking to people and I, you know, I have friends and I know people, but I never had relationships with people, meaning like when, you know, the other person upsets you or the other person, I mean, that does not happen in my fantasy--




MAIA: Or that you have fears or that you have this fear that you're going to get rejected, and I'm not even talking about romantic relationship. I'm actually not dating and I'm practicing, I mean, I'm reali-, not knowing, not like intentionally, but I'm practicing intimacy with friends, and it's so hard. I can't even imagine dating [chuckles].

But it's so great because I'm, and I can't even tell you like how many times, like I laugh at it with myself how I have a friend and we're really close, and she's good so I can talk to her about it and tell her all the fears that come up for me, but I have broken up our friendship like 10 times in my mind.


PAUL: Uh-huh.


MAIA: Like, when--


PAUL: And it's a platonic relationship.


MAIA: Yeah, yeah. It's a friend, like a total friend, and like when I call her, let me give you an example, right. When I call her and she's having a bad day, so, it has nothing to do with me and she's just like short or whatever, you know, she's going through her own stuff. I hang up the phone and I tell myself, and I truly believe it, wow, this friendship is over.


PAUL: [Chuckles]


MAIA: I mean, it was fun, but she will never want to talk to me again. She was, I don't know what, she was pissed at me, she was, and I literally believe with every inch of my body that that relationship is over.

And then she calls me back [chuckles] a week later and I'm shocked, and I tell her that, you know, and she laughs. But what was amazing to me, the power of my belief that this relationship is over and how I used to just stop being in relationships with people because that would have been my assumption. You know, it just shows you how much fantasy was like what I, fantasy taught me how to have a relationship with people. And that is not good [chuckles].


PAUL: Yeah, fantasy taught you how to have an unrealistic--


MAIA: Yes, thank you.


PAUL: --relationship with people.


MAIA: Yes [chuckles].


PAUL: When you say, when I got sober, what were you defining your sobriety by, because, you know, when it's drugs or alcohol, it's very clear cut what sobriety is. It's very black and white. But with something where it involves fantasy or, I mean, what were the, what were and are the things you used to determine your sobriety for your love addiction?


MAIA: There is a list of actions that I’m not allowed to take, and to an average person on the street, they would laugh at that list. They would be like, [scoffs] I do this every day and I’m fine, but to me, if I take those actions, the odds of me getting high or kind of like stepping out of reality is pretty much guaranteed.


PAUL: What is, before we get to that list, if you're comfortable sharing that or some of the things on the list, the person listening that doesn't understand this is saying, okay, so you get high? What's the matter with that? So you feel this intense feeling. You know, they're probably thinking, well, when I orgasm with somebody who's exciting to be around, I'm getting high, right?


MAIA: Right.


PAUL: So, what's the, explain for the listener what the difference is between why that's not okay for you.


MAIA: Whew, that's a loaded question.


PAUL: Why don't we first do some of the list, and then you can say specifically why if you did--


MAIA: If you do that, yeah--


PAUL: --that action, it is not okay for you.


MAIA: Okay. I will try to externalize it as much as I can, because, you see, it's all like so internal that it's hard to explain to somebody, you know, something so internal in you, but I'll give you one example from the list. It's no lesbian movies, all right.

Now, lesbian movies are awesome and I support the lesbian filmmaking community completely and I think it's amazing that people make movies for lesbians and that there are lesbian filmmakers out there. But for me, if I watch a lesbian movie, I get high.

Now, again, it goes back to what we talked about before, about sitting on your couch and getting high, so we're kind of going back to that, but that's what it is. It literally makes me high.

Now, why is it wrong to get high? So, no lesbian movies is on an action list of me of I can't do. It, in the external world, I'd rather do that than anything else, meaning I'd rather do that than take care of myself, than take a shower, than eat healthy, than call friends, than deal with reality, you know, clean my apartment, go to a party where I will be uncomfortable because I don't know a lot of people, try something new, you know.


PAUL: Okay, so you can't control the frequency with which you would watch those if you began watching those.


MAIA: No. It's not about the frequency.




MAIA: It's about my emotional frequency. You see, it's like I'm, and I don't know if you're the same, but I'm a very functional addict. If you know me and if you, some people might listen to the podcast who know me, will be shocked by what I'm talking about right now.

If you know me, like I’m just a normal person. I'm very social. I, you know, I'm, I can talk to, you know, I don't have any, you wouldn't know any of this about me. I can, you know, for years people, when I told them I had depression or things, were shocked because I can put such a good show. I mean, really, like it's almost like a second nature to me.

So, it's hard to explain the effect of it because the effect are so personal and emotional. I can--


PAUL: It's so internal.


MAIA: Yes. Now, I can live the rest of my life on my couch getting high. I will have a job. I will have food. I will pay my bills. I will even have some friends. I might even be in a relationship. I'll see my family. I send birthday cards. I call on birthdays. I, you know, my cat is very well fed and loved. Everything is good. You know, everything is fine. I've never been arrested, never had anything with the law.

The effect are emotional, and so it's hard to explain emotional effects and how much it affects you because this is such an external reward we live in that we're judged, good and bad is judged by external, you know, what you do, but it hurt-, I’m hurting myself emotionally because, instead of having healthy relationship with real people, I’m sitting on my couch alone having a relationship with an imaginary thing, you know.

So, am I hurting anybody externally? No. Am I hurting my life externally? No. But I am not fulfilled.


PAUL: Go ahead, you're not fulfilled in?


MAIA: You know, I don't have, you know, I'm not fulfilled emotionally with just being a human being around hu-, you know, we can go into what's the meaning of life around that, you know, is it going to a party on Saturday night and meeting new people, or is it, you know, what is important in our lifetime, you know, what is important to all of us.

I can tell you that when I was getting high a lot and acting out in my fantasy addiction, I was not happy. I was high, which feels good, we all know, but I was not happy because you can have, you can't be in fantasy all the time because you do have to go to a job.

And also, and again, it's so hard to explain, but reality is beautiful. Like, reality is great and reality is here, and when we're, regardless what it seems like, we are emotional beings. We're not like doing things. You know, we're not like, we do a lot of stuff but our mechanism is emotional and our, and that's part of my journey of the healing of my happiness, I learned my happiness is internal. It's not external. But we won't, that's a whole other . . .


PAUL: Yeah. Let me try to articulate what I--


MAIA: Please do [chuckles].


PAUL: --think you might be experiencing based on something I experienced a couple of weeks ago.

Pornography can be addictive for me. It is addictive for me. And I go stretches of not looking at it for years, and then sometimes, when I do look at it, I'll look at it for five hours at a time, and I notice that when I'm in that zone of doing that, I don't want to do anything else, like you were talking about. It's like it, it takes the color out of the rest of my life--


MAIA: Mm-hmm.


PAUL: --and the rest of my life feels gray. Watching a doc-, like last night, I watched a documentary about van Gogh and it was beautiful and I felt moved by it, and I don't even care about painting. I've never had an interest in van Gogh. It just struck me as, oh, this would be an interesting thing to watch.

A week before that, when I was looking at pornography, it would have been the last thing I would have been able to look at. Even things that bring me pleasure I didn't want to, I wouldn't watch the NHL channel at night for the highlights. It decreases my love of everything else in my life. It sucks the passion out of everything. Making phone calls, the phone feels like 500 pounds.


MAIA: Mm-hmm, yep.


PAUL: So, that is, to me, why porno-, even though I can be probably experiencing something when I am looking at it, that is, on the surface, similar to what somebody else experiences looking at pornography, for me, it's about the fantasy and not about the arousal, because I don't even get necessarily aroused that much when I’m looking at pornography. It's the escape of the pornography.


MAIA: Mm-hmm. You couldn't say, you couldn't have said it better, yeah. It's exactly that. Like you said, thank you for that. You know, it's so great, I have never heard anybody say that about the phone. That's exactly how I feel.

Like e-mail, returning e-mail feels like you have to stand in front of a shooting squad--


PAUL: [Laughs]


MAIA: --like that's--




MAIA: So, thank you for that. I've never heard anybody else say it.


PAUL: And I become impatient. I feel like the clock is ticking. You know, putting dishes in the dishwasher--


MAIA: Oh, my God.


PAUL: --feels like it's taking forever. It's, yeah, it sucks, the rest of my life just becomes, it just becomes more difficult.


MAIA: Yes, no, it's true. And look, it's, addiction is very seductive, you know. I mean, we all know as an addict that we feel very, I mean, there's an element of like, we're very comfortable and well-functioning when we're in our addiction, because it's just like we feel safe, we feel in control, we're like we're good, you know.

But then, but it's all an illusion, you know. It's all an illusion. And I discovered that illusion when I got sober and I started like, when I'm like sober and I, I have like sometimes, I don't know if you experience that, days where I don't want to act out. Like, most days I do want to act out, but, and I don't.


PAUL: And when you say, act out, you mean engage in the things that would break your sobriety, that you've defined as addictive to you.


MAIA: Yes, want to get high, like I get, you know, I walk around the day and I'm like, oh, my God, if I can just get that feeling of getting high right now, that would be so great, that's what I mean by getting, you know, want to get high.

But I have experience of days that I don't want to get high, and the funny thing is that's what I'm learning to pay attention to, is in those days when I look at doing the things that I will die for do when I want to get high, they seem so like unsatisfying, you know. Like, lesbian movies, just like, I don't like the plot, I don't have time [chuckles] to watch it, and that's how I know, because I've had both experiences now, that's how I know that it's the illusion of the addiction and that it's not really serving me the way I think that it's serving me.


PAUL: So, it sounds like there is a rhythm to being in reality and experiencing the parts of reality that come with it that, when you're accepting that and you're kind of in sync with the universe, that you can get a clarity on the acting out that makes it not attractive, whereas when you're into the addiction, because it's distorted everything else and made talking to friends seem no good, it's like a room that you become kind of trapped in, like a small, sad room.


MAIA: Yes. Yes. I mean, to me, it's the same as drug addiction. I mean, I've never had drug addiction, but when I hear people who have drug addiction talk about how they'd rather go to their friend's house and get high than go see their family, I mean, when you listen to it, you think it's insanity, so I don't have a family, but it's like, it's the same idea. I would probably, if I had a family and I wanted to get high, I would prefer to get, you know what I mean, that like it's the same, it's the same thing.

And the thing about, you know, the beautiful thing about the human-being experience, I'm going to try not to get too philosophical, but, which because I am an addict, I don't get, but I've seen other people who are not addicts get it and I've, you know, had very small experiences, is that the whole human, the beautiful thing about the human experience is all the emotions we feel

You know, we feel happy. We feel sad. We feel joy. It's just like part of the flow of life and our experience of being a human being, and, as an addict, that's like you run away from it. You don't want to feel. You tell yourself, you know, you want to be happy, but in order to feel, you've got to feel everything.


PAUL: And you have to give up some control. You have to accept things on life's terms.


MAIA: Give up all control, and that brings us back to, why am I a fantasy addict, why am I, you know, like to get high from fantasies, because giving up control is meaning I might feel rejected, I might feel pain, and for me, like I said before, feeling rejection is so intense that it feels to me like I will die, that now, when you look at, you know, [chuckles] should I get high or should I feel like I’m going to die, to the addict mind, you know, you like, well, let's get high.


PAUL: And I think that's why trust and vulnerability, trust that there is love in the universe, that there is goodness in the universe, is so fundamental to being able to give up control, because if we solely view the universe as chaotic and negativity and cruelty are the dominating force in it, well, who's going to want to give up control and be vulnerable in those circumstances?

But I think when we build trust and deep, intimate relationships with other people, it's easier to release control and to say, I don't need to micromanage everything because I have the feeling that the universe is going to unfold in a way that will not leave me in the dust, that, yeah, it may cause me pain, it may be scary, but in the long run there's going to be enough beauty that it's worth staying in reality and staying in touch with my feelings and in relationships with people that can be complicated and messy.

That's been my experience when I'm in a really good place, is I, it's all how I view the universe views me and has what's in store for me, and I think that's why often in recovery why they hammer it into people's brains to say, you've got to find something in the universe greater than yourself that you can pray to or turn your life over to or whatever.


MAIA: Yes. No, I complete-, thank you for saying it. I completely heard you. I think that the chron-, I mean, you know, this is all addiction 101, but the chronological thing of like my life is that, when I was a kid, you know, to survive I needed to shut down emotionally, so, and I didn't turn it back on until like two years ago [chuckles].

So, I never got, so life to me was really hard and horrible because I never got to just experience, like you said, you know, the emotional, like there's nothing wrong with being rejected, so you feel a certain way and then you move on, and you're not going to be rej-, nobody's rejected by everybody, you know.

And especially yourself, like the amount of things you can give yourself and ask the universe to help you, you know, get yourself is, you know, it's endless, you know, and it's beautiful.


PAUL: I heard, was there a thought you wanted to finish?


MAIA: No, no.


PAUL: I heard somebody say one time, life is a roller coaster, and you can either bitch about it and shut your eyes and wait for it to be over, or you can throw your hands up in the air and enjoy how fucking scary and exhilarating it is.

And I go back to that often and I think, yeah, you know, without the terror, without the disappointment, without the sadness, the joy and the safety and the other things wouldn't feel as good. And if I don't get to share the terror and the disappointment and the pain with somebody else, it kind of just remains that. It just remains this part of my past that, it's like a toxicity that never gets released.

But when I get on the phone with somebody and I’m like, oh, I just made a fucking jackass out of myself and I am feeling so much shame right now, maybe we laugh about it, and that dissipates some of the poison in that memory. And then the next time I make an ass out of myself, maybe I'm able to laugh at it a little bit quicker and give myself some leeway, and remember from talking to my friend, oh, yeah, then they shared that thing with me that they did that was even worse and more humiliating, but when we're trapped in fantasy, we're not picking up that phone. We're not talking to those people--


MAIA: No, no. And even if you do pick up the phone and talk to this person, you're not present. You're not here. You're just, it's just words being exchanged. There's no--


PAUL: And you can't wait for it to be over with.


MAIA: Yeah--


PAUL: You're just looking for the opening to say, well, listen, I got to get going, you know. It's--


MAIA: Yeah, yeah.


PAUL: What are some other things that define your sobriety? So, we've got no watching lesbian movies.


MAIA: I think I will stick to that just because it's very--


PAUL: That's a big one for you.


MAIA: Yes, that's a big one for me. It's just such an intimate [inaudible] that to any, I think to any other human being, they will be like, is this a comedy podcast? Like [chuckles] what is going on, you know? It's just so personal to, you know, to my own, you know, to my own journey and what I know about myself.


PAUL: And I want people to know that it's really not about how X-rated this thing is. It's about how we use it to escape reality, and it's usually when there's something in my life that I don't want to face that I find myself wanting to check out and get a hit from this thing, to get that rush through my body.


MAIA: Yeah. And, yeah, thank you for sharing. And, you know, because of my, I think, early birth trauma and my childhood, like I have a lot of wires crossed.

Like, one of the major ones for me, which is so weird to admit [chuckles], but is that I used to like really find myself attracted to women in their 50s. And finally, I was called on it, and, in a loving way, you know, by a therapist, and started to realize that my wires between my mother's love and romantic love are crossed and that I'm, look, it's not that I want to date my mother [chuckles] and definitely not sleep with my mother, oh, my God.

But there are like this wires crossed where I confuse romantic love with mother's love, so I want to date somebody who's in their 50s because, when they love me, it's like this--


PAUL: Nurturing?


MAIA: Nurturing. I don't know what it is. It's like this lack of mother's love. And the fact that I don't, I'm not attracted to, in the same way to women my age or younger was a red flag for me, because it's like, and I can also like, now that I pay attention to it, I can feel it in my body.

And attraction to somebody my age is much more cleaner. It's much more, like it's not insanity. It's just like two people liking the way they look, enjoying the conversation, and an attraction to a woman in her 50s feel like it comes from a place in my body that it fills with so much mud and stuff on it, and I feel like I could die if I don't get that love, and I'm like, you know what I mean?


PAUL: That's a great way of describing it.


MAIA: Yeah. So, it shows me that, even though, again, on an external level, it's like whatever, but there is something there emotionally for me that I need to stay away from, which sounds insanity to tell to another human being [chuckles]--


PAUL: I think a lot of people listening to that right now, light bulbs are going off in their head, and they're going, oh, my God, yes, I know that. I know that feeling. That's why it makes, why I feel this emptiness after I get a fix of that thing.


MAIA: Yeah.


PAUL: Yeah. I think there's something about, also about wanting to be rescued in their, you know, not necessarily your life being rescued, but the emptiness in us being rescued, of that something plugging up that hole that feels like it's going to, like a black hole in the universe, like it's going, we're going to fold in on ourselves and disappear if we can't get something to take us out of that feeling.


MAIA: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think, you know, we're all like, we get our first relationship with our parents and we spend the rest of our life trying to either mimic it, run away from it, fix it, change it, whatever it is, for everybody it's different, and, to me, a big part of getting better was to realize what that relationship was, what I didn't get from it, and how to give it to myself and not try to find the right relationship or use other people to get it.


PAUL: So, how do you feed that part of yourself in a healthy way? What are, is self-care is a big one?


MAIA: Sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, right there.


PAUL: Yeah.


MAIA: You know, it's a struggle. It's a daily, it's a daily struggle and a daily triumph. I, it starts with a little thing, which is staying sober and allowing myself to feel my feelings, because that's something that wasn't allowed in my household.

That's a big one, feeling my feelings. I mean, I know it sounds so banal, but it took me a long time to feel my feelings. And--


PAUL: I think it's one of the most important things in the world, is for people to be able to feel their feelings. I think so much dysfunction and chaos and violence and addiction is because people have never learned the tools to sit in their body and feel their feelings and know that they're not going to die.


MAIA: Yeah. And also not judge the feelings, because a lot of times we feel feelings because we're human beings and we can't even stop feeling our feelings, but we then judge them. Like, I remember the beginning--


PAUL: We think we need to change them.


MAIA: Yeah, like in the beginning, sadness for me was such a horrible thing to feel. Like, I was really not okay with it, and I used to judge myself for feeling it. And then, again, with all the work that I've done, I learned to really embrace it and really see the beauty in feeling sad.

I'm going through this right now with anger, because anger for me is like the most like no-no feeling, and it's so hard for me to let myself feel angry because anger--


PAUL: Were you scolded as a child when you would--


MAIA: Oh, yeah, there was no anger. Yeah, there was just no, there was no anger. And so, anger to me, because I’m just starting to do work on it, is, it goes straight to danger and feeling unsafe.

And so when I get angry, I feel unsafe, so obviously, once that even ignite, I shut it down because who wants to feel unsafe, you know, who wants to feel unsafe?


PAUL: Like the danger is going to come from outside you or inside you and out?


MAIA: Again, it's hard to like give it an external explanation, but it's just this danger that, the external [inaudible] obviously is that the other person will just never be in my life--


PAUL: Okay.


MAIA: --or that if I get mad at work or if I get, you know, mad with somebody, that obviously I will get fired, I will never be at work or, I will never be friends, they will never be friends with me, I’m trying to think about like even with myself.

Yeah, like the thing that goes on with me, because it's not only about, sometimes I can sit at home and get, you know, angry at my c-, you know, get angry at anything. I tell myself that this is not okay, like the voices in my head goes like, this is not okay, this is not okay, you can't do this, you can't feel like that, you can't be like that. And I have to, I have to learn to walk through those voices and still feel it.

I took up boxing, which help a lot. Really, like it is a release. And I don't know, I start to, I'm starting to feel the changes a little bit. I get mad at people now, which I've never done in my life, and I get, but the danger for me is that--


PAUL: Externally or just internally--


MAIA: Externally.


PAUL: You yell at them?


MAIA: Yeah. I started yelling at people in the past two months, which shocked me, but what I notice is the danger with me, it's because I've never done it a healthy way. I can go from zero to 500 in a second, so I can, I can get fired and I can really ruin relationships because I don't do it as a healthy expression of my feeling.

I do it as like, [in a panicked tone] holy crap, oh, my God, I’m feeling angry, oh, my God, and I'm going to yell at you and I'm releasing and, you know, you know what I mean? Like, it's like this insanity. It's like learning to walk, you know, it's like a baby who learns to walk, they're not walking steadily, confident, you know.


PAUL: Yeah. So, it seems like the key is, you know, there's a difference between feeling anger and unleashing that anger in an inappropriate way on somebody else or on yourself. So, it's okay to feel angry. It's what you do with it that matters, that's healthy or unhealthy.


MAIA: Yes. And that's also been my biggest challenge, that I was, kept telling my therapist, I don't know what the hell you're talking about, because I told her, you know, fine, I'll feel anger, you know, but I don't know how to feel anger without release.

Like sadness, I can feel sad and I can sit on my couch and maybe I'll cry, maybe I won't, but I can feel it, like I can just let it, you know, run through me and feel it, but anger, I need to do something. I mean, I need to, I don't know, like something needs to happen, like it's, you know--


PAUL: Yeah.


MAIA: And she suggest-, she gave me actually some great suggestion, which is, you know, screaming into pillows and breaking 99-cent-store plates and like--


PAUL: Oh, that's awesome--


MAIA: --like, let it out, let it out. That's why I started boxing as wanting to lose weight and realize very fast that, oh, my God, I can't even tell you what goes on in my mind when I box, the people I imagine on the other side, and it's such a great release because it's very safe, but I can go insane with it.


PAUL: That's great.


MAIA: So yeah, so anger is definitely something I’m learning to, anger and happiness. You'd be surprised.


PAUL: Happiness is uncomfortable for you.


MAIA: Very uncomfortable.


PAUL: Is it because you think it's false and the bottom is going to drop out at any minute?


MAIA: No. It's because I don't know how to hold it in my body. I feel, I don't know what to do with it. I'm so used to feeling miserable and I’m so comfortable with feeling miserable that feeling happiness and joy, it makes me very hyper. It makes me like, I don't, I'm not comfortable with it.

Now, not to say that I'm not pursuing it and I don't enjoy it, but I'm very uncomfortable with it, which is going back to fantasy, is one of like how fantasy is dangerous, because in my fantasy happiness feels great and I'm awesome and happy and everything is great.

And when, in reality, happiness feels very uncomfortable for me, and I need to learn, I have to start learning how to deal with happiness, when I feel happiness, and I had to, I found that, for me, the only way to process happiness is with gratitude. Like, that's the only way I could, I can't wrap my head around it.


PAUL: Can you be more specific?


MAIA: That when I feel very happy and I don't know what to do with that feeling, I just go to gratitude. I'm just, I just go and I tell myself, all right, whatever it is at the moment, why am I, that I'm very grateful about the happiness, I'm very grateful about this thing that made me happy, and that calms me down. That makes me feel very comfortable with happiness.

Meditation has helped me a lot with, kundalini yoga meditation helped me a lot with happiness, because, again, I know it sounds weird, but like happiness makes me feel, it's kind of like anger, like I can't process anger, I can't process happiness. I can't just let it come in, go through my body and move on, you know, to the other side and just feel it. It gets stuck there and it makes me very uncomfortable.


PAUL: Wouldn't it be great to have it stuck there, though?


MAIA: No, because, I know, no, because the, the evolution of feelings is that they just--


PAUL: Pass through you.


MAIA: --pass through you. So, I know it's hard because happiness is so positive and who doesn't want to feel happy, but it doesn't, but, you see, it doesn't make me f-, I feel happy but I feel uncomfortable with it, so it's, so even though it's a great experience, it's still, I’m still agitated and I'm still, and I think that, in the backburner what happened is that, because it makes me feel uncomfortable, I'm afraid of feeling happy because I don't, I feel like there will be something, you know what I mean?


PAUL: I see, yes.


MAIA: Because I, and I can see the difference because, again, misery, give me misery any day, I love feeling miserable.


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


MAIA: It makes me feel safe. I feel, happiness makes me feel out of control, unsafe, you know what I mean?


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


MAIA: I don't know if you experience that or not.


PAUL: When happiness hits me, I just, I want it to last forever because I feel like it's been so long. You know, I suppose I feel that, more so that way about passion. When I'm feeling passion, happiness, you know, is right behind it, because the way my depression affects me is it takes away my feeling of vigor and vitality. That's what I suffer with.

I don't suffer from sadness with my depression. When I'm off my meds, I suffer greatly from sadness, but my meds bring me up to a place where I alternate between feeling flat and feeling, quote, unquote, normal, where I can experience passion and I can experience other things.




PAUL: And that's the day-to-day battle, is to feel vigor and vitality and passion. And that's why exercise is so important. Like, I haven't exercised now in like four or five days and I can completely feel it.




PAUL: I completely feel it.


MAIA: Yeah, yeah.


PAUL: Is there anything else you'd like to touch on before we wrap it up?


MAIA: I think this is it.


PAUL: This was a really great episode. You know, we haven't really touched on this topic so much, and I feel like . . .


MAIA: I think it's one of the best-kept secrets in the world, and, yeah, and there's different levels of fantasy addiction or people just using it, not even as an addiction, just through numb themselves or check out with TV and whatever. But I think that it's like not, Facebook is another one that--


PAUL: Mm-hmm.


MAIA: --I think ignites a lot of fantasy in people. But yeah, so I'm glad we talked about it.


PAUL: Yeah, especially the fantasy that everybody else has a better life than you.


MAIA: Oh, my God, that is like, should be the Facebook marketing motto [chuckles].


PAUL: You know, that's one of the things, why I recommend, instead of using Facebook as a way to feed yourself with external validation from people, I like to use Facebook as ways to connect and say, hey, here's this great thing that you guys should check out, or that, you know, maybe this person needs help or, or sometimes to ask for help, to say, could you guys take this new survey that I put up, could you, you know, support this sponsor that has been really supporting the show, because I find that if I start saying, I don't know, if I start trying to feed myself from Facebook, it's that bottomless pit that will never be fed.


MAIA: Yeah, no, that's a great example. And one last story was, I remember my relationship with Facebook changed the day that I was just like, I had two weeks when I was just doing a lot of social stuff and I remember a friend or somebody I know come to me and say, oh, my God, like you seem like you have the best life ever, and I did not.

I was miserable. I was just like posting things, and not even like to try to show people off, it was just like, you know, something you do, and that's when I realized that Facebook is an illusion. Now, there's nothing wrong with Facebook. I just want to clarify, again--


PAUL: The misuse of Facebook.


MAIA: Well, it's the emotional misu-, like if you, you know, if somebody's using Facebook to numb themselves, they should look at them-, you know, just check on themselves why they're numbing and do they want to numb, but that was for me huge because then I realized that I'm experiencing the same thing with other people and not to, not to feed the lies that I tell myself when I watch my news feed and think everybody has a great life.

And I keep remembering that moment and going like, all right, they just had fun this time, but I don't know what happened to them yesterday and how they felt about it.


PAUL: Mm-hmm, yeah. Well, Maia, thank you, thank you so much for sharing your life with us.


MAIA: Thank you for having me.


PAUL: And being my buddy.


MAIA: [Chuckles] Anytime.


PAUL: Many, many thanks to Maia. And this episode will soon be transcribed and available on our Web site. Many thanks to Accurate Secretarial for donating their time and helping out the show.

I, ah, I guess I'll do it. I [chuckles], I worry sometimes that I ask for donations too much and that I'm going to scare people away, but we need donations, and there's a couple of different ways that you can do it. You can do a single-time, one-time donation via PayPal, or a recurring monthly donation via PayPal, or my favorite, a recurring monthly donation via Patreon, and then you can get free rewards from me. And just the user interface on Patreon is so much better, not only on my end, but on your end as well. So, that's one way to support the show.

Another way is go to iTunes, write something nice if you feel like it's the truth, and give us a good rating. That boosts our ranking. It brings more people to the show.

You can use our Amazon shopping link, and then if you buy something at Amazon, Amazon will give us a small percentage of the cost of whatever it is you buy but it doesn't increase the cost of whatever it is that you're buying. It just comes from Amazon. That's a great way to help support the show. And spreading the word through social media is a really big way to help expand the podcast. So, any of the above are always greatly, greatly appreciated.

I got an e-mail from somebody that wanted, that said they wished that there was a place to meet up with other listeners in their area. Well, if you go to the forum, there is, I’m not sure the exact name of the thread, but it is something like Meetup, it should be pretty obvious when you go there.

So, and if you're ever browsing the forum and have any questions about it, just post a question, especially in the Introduce Yourself Here portion, and somebody will answer that for you.

This is an e-mail that I got from Lou, and I forgot to ask if Lou is male or female, but it doesn't matter. Lou writes, hey, Paul, I’m listening to the episode on misophonia and I feel compelled to tell you about my own personal hell, which is trypophobia, t-r-y-p-o-p-h-o-b-i-a, but I've never heard it named by a professional so it could be trypophobia [different pronunciation].

It's a condition I've had since I can remember. In a nutshell, it is a nervous, flesh-crawling response to particular patterns and textures, typically organic and often involving small holes. It's especially bad when associated with skin. It's a condition, a known condition, although obviously I've never Googled it, lest I turn inside out. However, it's not recognized in the DSM. This is probably because of the large pool of possible triggers, which are different for each person.

So, it's not like being deathly afraid of a single thing, say, snakes or cotton wool. And this is one of the particularly awful things about it. You never really know when you might come across a trigger. They often come out of the blue. You might come across something in the street or scrolling through images online and completely by accident trigger yourself.

My mum has it, too, although because I also have anxiety and depression, it can be much more acute for me. If I see something particularly bad, it can put me out for two weeks or more. So, that's like two weeks of prickling skin, adrenaline rushes, flesh-crawling sensations, obsessively imagining the trigger, where my mind very helpfully transposes the pattern onto my skin because, why not, panic attacks, etc. I only know one other person who has symptoms like mine and who experiences it so acutely, but it's really hard to talk about because even talking about it can be triggering.

There doesn't seem to be any specific treatment for it, other than anxiety management. Having spoken to few people, I don't know if that was meant to be a few people, I get the feeling that lots of people have this condition to some degree or another. It's just that my symptoms are really severe. I spent most of my life not knowing if it was even a condition with a name. I came across it through a friend when I was about 26. Before then, I just assumed it was a weird quirk that just me and my mum had. Anyway, I thought this might be of interest to you. Have you come across it before? Lou.

And no, I have not, and thank you for that. That, I learn so many things doing the podcast and add that to the list. And it sounds [chuckles] really overwhelming, especially when it's, God, that two-week thing, oh, my God. Sip of tea.

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Am I a mess tonight? Am I, am I over-judging, or am I mess? I think I might be a mess, might have been too much caffeine today. And I don't know why I'm drinking more caffeine at 10:58. I'd like that car to have a deeper rumble. Oh, my God [chuckles]. My new place, you know, I really like my new place, but the only thing I really don't like about it is that it is on a busy street.

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So, as I mentioned the last couple of weeks, I've been mixing up the surveys a little bit. I don't know why I feel the need to prepare you for this being a slightly different week, I guess for, maybe for the new listener who doesn't care for these surveys.

Why am I so worried about what people think [chuckles]? Why can't I just be me and accept the results? That's what it should say on my tombstone, why couldn't I have just been myself and accepted the results [chuckles]?

I think everybody has that question, though, about themselves, whatever, maybe not that necessarily, but, please, tell me I'm not alone.

This is the Shouldn't Feel This Way Survey, and it was filled out by Jellybean, and she writes to the question, how would you like to be remembered, that I was nice, loving and funny, that I was loved. How does writing that make you feel? Like it's impossible.

How would you use a time machine? To observe myself in childhood to figure out what exactly fucked me up. By the way, the most common, the most common answer to this one, along with, I would like to go back and see my parents' childhood or see my parents early in their relationship.

I'm supposed to listen to people when they talk, but I just can't drum up interest. I'm supposed to want to get a job, but I don't. I feel panic at the thought. I'm supposed to feel supportive to my crazier-than-me friend but she's so freaking needy and self-centered so I just feel annoyed. I'm supposed to care, but I just fucking don't.

How does writing your real feelings make you feel? I wish I could say or express my feelings in real life. Do you think you're abnormal? No. I think people just wear masks, mine just got too heavy.

Thank you for sharing that, and that, that is one of the things that I think codependent people really struggle with, is saying no to people or letting somebody know that they're starting to get drained by them because we don't have a script for that, and there are ways to do it. There are ways to do it, but it takes some thought and some diplomacy.

And I think mixing it with, reminding that person that you love them and you care about them, but you're just feeling a little overwhelmed right now, not even necessarily by them, but just, you know, by emotional conversations. And, or it could be them. It just could be, you know, I'm just, I need to recharge my battery, I need a break from talking about this, or why does it always have to be you?

I went to coffee with a friend one time and he talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked, and then I said, there was finally a pause, and I said, Brian, we have been here for 45 minutes and you have talked the entire time. And he and I have a good relationship, you know, so I said, you know, I love you, but this isn't a conversation. And I said, and sometimes that's why I don't return your phone calls.

And I know it was hard for him to hear, but he's somebody who's in recovery and I think he heard me. But at the very least, I got to speak my truth and it felt good. It felt good to stick up for myself.

Now, these are single answers to the, how would you use a time machine if you had one. This person says, I'd want to go back and tell a 13-year-old me to get out, to run away, but I can't change things, so I'd go into the future and witness my death so I could be prepared for when it comes.

I would not want that. I would not want that. It would ruin the rest of my life, knowing that. The only thing it would do is it would make me more efficient with my money [chuckles], because I would make sure I was spending my last penny on my last day. But it's interesting how different people would use it.

This person says, I'd like to relive any moments where I inspired some amount of pride and happiness in my mother. I would like to see her face again. Wow, that's beautiful.

This person says, I would go deep into my childhood and observe the behaviors and traits that lead to the anxiety-ridden hypochondriac staring at me in the mirror today.

This person says, perhaps it's the Olympics, but I would go back and watch Nadia Comaneci get two perfect 10's. I assume you mean in person because you can watch that. That's on video still somewhere.

I would go to 18th-century France and see the storming of the Bastille. I think that's still on video. Horrible quality, but I think it is.

I would go to classes that Aristotle taught. That one is actually, it's not on VHS. It's on reel-to-reel. I don't know why I'm continuing this bit [chuckles]. The first one was mildly funny, but, anyway.

I would watch Martin Scorsese direct Taxi Driver. That's a good one. I'd see the making of true greatness and the meaning of revolution.

I like this person, and I have the biggest crush on Nadia Comaneci. I think it would have been, I think it was the '76 Olympics, yeah, because the '72 Olympics, the big gymnastics star was Olga Korbut, and Nadia Comaneci was from Romania, if I'm not mistaken. And, yeah, it was fucking amazing. And it's funny, today she wouldn't even make the team, that's how far gymnastics is, has progressed.

This person says, I'd like to see my parents when they first met or were newly married, to see what the dynamic was before they got over each other [chuckles].

I think everybody is fascinated by why the fuck did my parents decide to get married? Like, my mom loves to talk, and my dad hates talking. I suppose in some ways it's a fit because the other person fills the silence, but after a while, nobody, I think, wants to be around somebody that constantly talks. I'm not saying my mom constantly talks, but she can go on a, she can go on a stretch.

This person says, I'd go far in the future and see what things were like. I'd want to go so far in the future that I could not connect to my life nor the immediate subsequent generations. Wow, that's some deep shit there. That is some deep shit.

I'd go back and see how my eight-year-old, how my father, when he was eight years old, was treated after witnessing his mother die in a car accident. Wow.

My grandmother, who had dementia towards the end of her life, when she was seven, she saw her mom collapse and die in front of her. It was at church, I guess. And my grandmother's last couple of years, when she had dementia, she would just tell that story over and over and over again. It was heartbreaking, and boring. That a little cold? [Chuckles] Was that a little cold? It's the truth. But that, by the third time you hear any story, it's pretty boring, but I fell for her.

She was not a warm woman. She was not mean. She was my mom's mom, but she was, she was, yeah. I don't know how to describe her. [Chuckles] There's a picture of me and her when I was like nine years old standing in front of a building in downtown Chicago, posing for a picture, and, I kid you not, somebody could, we're standing so far apart from each other with our arms at our sides, just both, it looked like [chuckles], it looks like a mug shot for the world's oddest bank-robbing team. She was not a hugger.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Shaman Secrets, but spelled S-h-a-m-a-n, instead of shame and. And he is straight, in his 20s, raised in a stable and safe environment, never been sexually abused, never been physically or emotionally abused. He writes, my parents deserve gold fucking medals for how they made me feel safe and loved as a child. Sorry, no shame or secrets here, just feelings I want to share.

Darkest thoughts. Whenever someone is rude or otherwise extremely inconsiderate to me, I imagine myself pulling out a gun and calmly shooting them through the head. It's essential in these fantasies that I remain completely emotionless. The idea of showing that person that they are so unimportant to me that I could rob them of their life without the slightest hint of pity or regret would be the ultimate way to prove that my disregard for them is stronger than their disregard for me.

That is like a really dark poem. That is so, that is so, [sighs] I've always wondered why when you hear a description of, you know, a gunman did this, it's always they were incredibly calm, and that's what must, that's what it must be coming from, is that place of, that it adds to their feeling of power to not be effusive. I think I'm using that word correctly [chuckles]. If I didn't, please write me back and shame me.

Darkest secrets. My younger sister was molested as a child by a neighbor boy when they were both around four years old. She now suffers from PTSD as a result. The thing is, I knew that they were, quote, experimenting with each other back when it was going on and never told anyone and even told my brother that it was normal and not to worry about it.

That's not on you, man. That is not on you. And you said that your sister and the neighbor boy were both four years old. It's not on that boy either. He was a child. And that's not to say your sister's suffering isn't valid and real, but I would imagine it, something had been probably taught or done to him that he was acting out.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Anxious Academic, and he writes, I've always struggled with social anxiety, understanding boundaries, perceiving social cues and that sort of thing. In university, I rarely went out to parties, but when I did I tended to drink heavily, both to lower my inhibitions and also to ward off the relentless anxiety.

In my third year, I began having panic attacks, severe anxiety and depression, all things I realize with the benefit of hindsight I'd experienced before, and I started counseling and antidepressants. Also that year, I helped to direct a play and we had a huge blowout party on the closing night.

I showed up, drank a huge bottle of wine, most of a bottle of Fireball Whisky, told everyone I loved them, and then blacked out. My next memory is of sitting on someone's porch in the neighborhood, reading their morning paper [chuckles] at 4:00 a.m.

Then I remember getting back into my then-girlfriend's, now-wife's, house she shared with four other students. I went upstairs, crawled into bed with her long enough to tell her something about one of the headlines I'd read, then was back up and in the bathroom, I was so sick. I drank an inhuman amount and had not counted on the antidepressants affecting my tolerance.

I was sick into the toilet, and after, because it was not my house and I'm polite, I cleaned it. Partway through, I needed to be sick again, so I used the sink. While cleaning the sink, I was sick in the toilet. While cleaning the toilet, I was sick in the tub. At the end, I was at it for almost 90 minutes and the entire bathroom was scrubbed, a first for that student house.

In the morning, my partner brought me scrambled eggs on toast to thank me for cleaning. I took one look at them and burst into tears [chuckles]. At least you didn't throw up again. Thank you for that.

This is the Shouldn't Feel This Way Survey. This is filled out by Grace and she's a teenager. I'm just going to read part of it. I'm supposed to feel happy about life, but I don't. I feel scared, alone, hopeless and like I’m always on the brink of tears. I'm supposed to feel happy about my academic life after having gotten into one of the best high school magnet programs in the country, but I don't. I feel inadequate and like a tiny, tiny, tiny fish in a very, very big pond.

I'm supposed to feel happy about my perfectly good life with a genuinely functional, supportive family, no abuse, with no reason to not be happy, but I don't. I feel depressed. I’m supposed to feel grateful for this opportunity to go to such a great school with genuinely awesome teachers and friends, but I don't. I feel stressed, like I'm taking it for granted and like I don't deserve the opportunity and that there are other people who need it more than I do.

How does it make you feel to write that out? A bit better. Compressing all of these feelings into words makes them seem less giant and unmanageable. Do you think you're abnormal for this? Yes, I have no reason to be clinically depressed.

I just want to stop you right there and say, you are not abnormal, and you don't need a reason to be clinically depressed. That's, getting better, it doesn't matter. It's not like, oh, well, your reason doesn't make sense to me so I’m not going to allow you to come in to therapy or prescribe you meds or teach you these tools to help you cope. No. It's the biggest myth about mental health, is that there has to be a reason for feeling the way you do.

All feelings are valid. There's just healthy and unhealthy ways of expressing it. So, thank you for sharing that, Grace, and a ton of people feel the way you do. You are so not alone.

These are some more time machine responses. I would watch how Gene Wilder dealt with Gilda's cancer diagnosis and see if the ways in which I responded to the diagnosis of cancer for my husband, at the time boyfriend, since I constantly worry that I didn't handle the news in the greatest condition.

If you, the one thing I remember from Gene Wilder's autobiography was he talked about, no, I'm sorry, it was Gilda's, was it Gilda's autobi-, I think it was Gilda's autobiography, and she said that the first six months she was, I don't know if she was emotionally abusing him, but she wasn't considering his feelings, and, in so many words, he said to her after about six months, just because you have cancer it doesn't give you the right to treat me like shit. And she said she was grateful that he shared that, because it kind of snapped her out of the mode that she had been in.

This person says, honestly, I would go back and see what my childhood was. I have thoughts that I simply made up a bunch of horrible things that were done to me and I really want to know the truth. That is a really, really common one.

I would visit my mom when she was a hippie in the '60s in California. She died when I was young, and I feel like I never knew her. I hear stories, but I want to know myself. People say I am like her. I'd also visit the Sistine Chapel when Michelangelo was painting the ceiling, and if possible, visit the time when the Earth was first created so that I knew my purpose and know the truth. Wow, going big, going big.

I would love to see Michelangelo sculpting David. That is, I never appreciated it until I saw it in person, and I think it's like nine or 10 feet tall, maybe even taller, and in person, you get a sense of the body language and that David's a badass that's about to kick somebody's ass, and I had never gotten that from the photographs of it. And it's, it's truly one of the most remarkable things that I've ever seen, and I'm including seeing Journey live in 1979. I never saw Journey.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Nerd Girl, and she writes, about eight months ago I started to see a therapist. My emotionally stunting parents forced me to bottle everything up and, for some reason, when I got to college it all started to come out. I kept my visits a secret for a while but finally told my mom, to which she bluntly asked, well, are you better now?

Short and sweet, actually, short and sour. Fuck. Just that sentence, I like [chuckles] so easily pictured your mom, so easily pictured her.

This is a Shouldn't Feel This Way Survey. This is filled out by a woman calling herself Tired. How would you like to be remembered? Funny and shy, liked food and cats, quiet and loud, did more to cheer others up than she realized. How does writing that make you feel? Trying hard not to cry, and now I'm hungry for Cajun food [chuckles].

What a fantastic sentence that is, trying hard not to cry, now I'm hungry for Cajun food. You just made my day. You just made my day. You know what, maybe our culinary choices are dictated by our moods. I'm going to try to keep a mood journal. I love Indian food [sighs]. I think I could be in any mood and eat chicken tikka masala.

How would you use a time machine? To watch all the shitty events from my past to see if it really was as bad as I remember, to find out if I was raped. I don't know if I really want to know. To see if there were any good times from my childhood.

That has to be one of the most difficult mysteries for somebody to live with, is not knowing, not knowing that about being raped.

I’m supposed to feel happy about moving into a new, bigger place with my boyfriend, but I don't. I feel resentful and depressed. How does writing that make you feel? Nice, because I finally put my finger on the word that describes how I feel. Do you think you're abnormal? No. Would knowing other people feel the same make you feel better? Probably.

Thank you for that. The power of writing, man, the power of writing. Sometimes we don't know what we're feeling until we have to form a sentence.

This person says, I'd use a time machine to go back to the typical nights at home, watching movies or Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and the Jay Leno show with my mom or dad cooking dinner every night and we'd all sit down at the table, with my brother and my old cat that always joins us as a family.

It sounds like you had a nice, stable home. And terrible taste in talk shows, but other than that [chuckles]. He wasn't bad, but not my first choice of late-night show that I would watch.

I would hang out with famous writers and comedians. I could use a good conversation. Well, hanging out with comedians, don't go hang out with a big group of comedians looking for vulnerability [chuckles] because you, one on one, probably fine, but yeah, as a group, it is . . .

This person says, I would watch the Big Bang, but also a bit of time before the Big Bang to witness simultaneously the hugest moment in all of time and the smallest, quietest moment. That is deep. That is so deep.

The quietest moment that I ever experienced was so profound. I was, and I might have shared this on the podcast before, but I don't give a shit. Look at me, footloose and fancy-free [chuckles]. Oh, my God, what if [chuckles], what an old-person saying.

Anyway, I was mountain climbing, I think it was like 1999 maybe, and we were on, we were climbing Mount Baker in Washington State and our base camp was above the tree line, so it was just glaciers up there.

So, with no trees, there's really no wildlife up there, and when there's no wind, there's no sound. It's, and, you know, assuming nobody around you is moving, and it was the first time I had experienced, the only time I have experienced perfect silence, because even if you are in a room in the middle of nowhere, there is still a thing called room tone, which is just, I'm not going to get into the science of it, but I felt, I felt, when I experienced that perfect silence, I felt my body change, not forever, but just temporarily. I don't know, it was like something, like something fell away that wasn't necessary, and I'll never forget it.

What did I just say? I think I forgot. Dumb. Dumb man. Dumb man with dumb joke. That was, that was Mean DJ Voice trying to sneak in using somebody else's voice. I won't have it.

This is a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by Disordered Dissection, and I'm just going to read a couple of excerpts from this. She's straight, in her 30s, and was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it. Been physically and emotionally abused.

And she writes, narcissistic abuse victim syndrome is the name of my game. The textbook male narc was who I decided to marry, daily emotional abuse and sadistic rage. I didn't know which way was up because of the gaslighting. Worst 10 years of my life. It doesn't stop though he is no longer around. It doesn't stop, though? He is no longer around to abuse me, so I myself have taken over the abuse. Okay, I understand.

I go over and over all of the horrible things that he did or I allowed him to do, all of the red flags painted white. It is a cut that won't heal because I think that I'm trying to remind myself about how bad it was so that I don't let it happen again.

I also find that rumination is really kind of a backdoor way of obsessing about ourselves, really kind of the different side of the coin of grandiosity.

Any positive experiences with the abusers? I loved him and he convinced me that he was putting me down to better me. Everyone else saw his greatness so I thought that I was making up the abuse in my head. I didn't know what emotional abuse looks like. It happened so gradually that I didn't recognize how bad it got until I was regularly dissociating, hitting myself and making an active plan for suicide. Wow.

Darkest thoughts. I fantasize about renting a motel room in the city that my ex-husband is a detective in and killing myself to have him have to work my case and see what pain he caused. I would never do this because he would never feel sad about it. He would use it as a sympathy play to get more pussy, my ex-wife killed herself, fuck my pain away.

Darkest secrets. I've been a funeral director and known of others engaging in necrophilia. There is a sick underground world in the L.A. funeral industry. Go cremation to lessen your stay in a mortuary, especially if you are a young, white male.

That is one of the heavier surveys I have come across. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing that.

And that is a topic, not necrophilia, but spousal abuse, that I do have plans to cover more on the podcast. I feel like it's definitely underrepresented. You know, we touch on it here and there in people's stories, but that person's story, it sounds like, could be an entire podcast in itself, talking about that, falling under the spell of a brilliantly manipulative, sadistic narcissist. That was the name of my first comedy CD [chuckles]. I just made myself laugh.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Crazy Rat Lady. She writes, two years ago, my older brother died in a car accident. I was organizing his funeral together with his fiancée. The undertaker asked us to bring over some clothes for my dead brother to wear in his casket, so we went into my brother's apartment and browsed through his enormous wardrobe. He was really into fashion and always looked stylish, so we picked out one of his nicest suits and dropped it off at the funeral house.

A couple of hours later, the funeral guy calls me and tells me, in a slightly panicked voice, that the clothes are way too small and do not fit my brother's corpse at all and they have to cut them so he will fit in, and he's asking for my permission to cut. My brother's fiancée was standing next to me, and I said, yeah, just stuff him in it. As soon as I got off the phone, we erupted in hysterical laughter.

I get it, man. I get it. That, thank God for humor in moments like that, thank God.

Some more time machines. If only to observe, I would jump five years to see if what I'm doing right now will amount to anything.

You know the reason I wanted to read that one, is because even if you could, we never know the connection. We never know what the thing was that brought about where we are. We think we do, but it's, in my experience, I have never been able to predict where something is leading. And I could have never, looking back in hindsight, seen the things that had to happen in the light at the time that I see them in later. I don't know if that makes any sense. I think I confused myself.

This person says, I'd go back to the '50s because I think it would be an awesome experience, said the white person [chuckles]. I will guarantee you that a person of color probably didn't write that one.

I would go back to watch, this is a different one, to watch the courtship between my mom and stepdad who've been married 29 years and have one of the healthiest marriages I've been able to observe. I'd love to see how that started and grew so that I could get confidence about my next relationship whenever and whatever that will be. Well, if they're alive, ask them. Tape it. Share it with us. Write a book about it. Make it into a movie. That would be a good thing to share with people.

This person says, I would spy, and spy is in quotes, on my ex-fiancée's life to find out why she is who she is and was who she was during our relationship. It ended less than two months ago, was great, until all of a sudden she went off the deep end and cheated on me and ended it.

You know, there's a good possibility that she has a fear of intimacy, and as the wedding was getting closer, she started feeling suffocated and it probably had nothing to do with you, and was just really how she was expressing her fear. A possibility, I don't know. I don't know her.

But you should write a book about her, get together with the person who's writing the thing about the other people, you combine it, you make a big book, you give it to the person who wants to go back into the '50s, you ask them to give it to, I'm bailing on this bit.

Another one, even thinking of an answer to this is exhausting. I can barely get to the grocery store [chuckles].

This person says, I'd go to the '60s and '70s and '80s and party. I don't get that one, as if partying isn't available now. Oh, I guess because it would have a different feel to it. Well, I can tell you this much, didn't party in the '60s but I did in the '70s and '80s, and the weed was shit. So, if you're going to smoke weed, bring some weed from present day back there with you.

This person says, I'd like to go back to the Victorian era and watch how Louis Carroll moved through the world. I'd love to know how his voice sounded, how he held his body and how he interacted with those around him.

This is one of the most fascinating ones I've ever read. You know, one of the things I'm really proud about on the podcast is how bright so many of the listeners are, how just knowledgeable and insightful and eclectic.

That, to me, is always, I always felt like when I was doing stand-up comedy it was so hard to get a sense of any of those people in the audiences, and so I always felt like I had to kind of, I don't know, pander, do kind of more lower-common-denominator subject matter. And the nice thing about doing a podcast is there's not that pressure. And then when I read surveys like your guys', it's just so, I don't know, it just makes me feel really good.

This is an intense one. This person says, I hate admitting this, but I think I would use it to witness some horrific act of mass violence. The, oh, no, did I lose the next part of it? [Papers shuffling] Hold on, hold on [chuckles]. Oh, here it is, okay.

Armenians on a death march in the Turkish desert, the gas chambers at Auschwitz, villagers being cut down with machetes during the Rwandan genocide. I spend so much of my time reading about the blackness of human history that I almost feel compelled to experience it in some way, as though absorbing some of that pain would give me a deeper understanding of the terror felt by the victims or an insight into the minds of perpetrators, although I doubt it would. It's a recurrent fantasy I've had since I started reading about the Holocaust when I was eight years old.

I, I have to wonder, was that where you, I have to assume you were instructed to read about the Holocaust when you were eight, that that wouldn't be something that, I've talked to people who have, in fact, I've had guests on the show who have said that the way the Holocaust was presented to them when they were young children was really inappropriate in terms of how it was presented.

And that makes sense to me, because I understand that you would want to educate kids about the reality of the world, but it would seem that there's also a way to do it, to educate rather than to traumatize.

But I've got to imagine that a children's book about the Holocaust is probably the least successful of the books by Dr. Seuss. I could be wrong. I don't know what it would be called. The Whos Saw Warsaw? Oh, shut up, Paul. I have just, I can't believe I just made that joke, but I'm not erasing it because that is how my fucked-up brain thinks sometimes and I'm owning it. I'm owning it.

This person says, I would go back and see what I could have done differently. I feel totally unjustified in crumbling like I am when so many people have had it harder than me. I just want to have a reason for feeling the way I do.

Stop. Do not do that to yourself. Do not. It is the biggest waste of mental energy.

I would go back and see if I was really as teased as I think I was in grade school. I would go back and confirm I was molested even earlier than I remember.

You know, if I wish for anything, it's that people would stop saying I shouldn't feel this way and then beating themselves up for what they feel.

This is from the Shame and Secrets Survey. And this was filled out by Water Flowing Underground, and they are non-binary, presenting as a woman. And I'm just going to read an excerpt.

Ever been physically or emotionally abused? Yes to both. My mom used to spank me. Then when my dad left, she started full-on beating me. It wasn't frequent, not like every day, but I always took the brunt of the punishment to protect my little brother from it. I know she physically abused me until I was probably 13, but now I'm just realizing that it was physical abuse. I guess she means that it was physical abuse.

I just thought all moms did this to their kids. I don't have a lot of vivid memories about it. I dissociated during most of it. I remember one instance when I was 11 or 10 years old, she held me down on my bed, spit on me, punched my stomach, slapped my face, pulled at my hair, and screamed, you're nothing but chicken shit, I hate you, I hate you, over and over again.

She verbally abused me by screaming at me on a regular basis, telling me I'm not good enough, you know, stuff like that. The emotional neglect and abuse was crazy, manipulating me, lying to me, using me, mainly for money, and taking all of her anger, sadness and stress out on me.

Here's why I wanted to read it. Any positive experiences with the abusers? Yes, of course, only with my mom. My mom is my friend. She's amazing. Now that I'm older, I put the past behind me and I forgive her for how she treated me. She was abused and neglected as a child and she also has mental illness.

That, I do not understand how, I have to assume that your mother changed so significantly that you can feel safe around her today, because I can't wrap my head around how anybody, once they realize that somebody is that abusive to them and refuses to change, how they could still be around that person.

Darkest thoughts. Sometimes I think about how cool and exciting it would be to find a body, like a dead body in the woods or the forest or something. I don't want to kill anyone, but I think seeing a dead body in real life would be so absolutely cool. Also, being the first person to discover a body would be insanely cool. Another thing, I think I have an extreme connection to the deceased. It's weird to think about and even weirder to talk about. I'm afraid people think I'm just, quote, crazy or, quote, weird.

Darkest secrets. When I was like eight years old, I watched hantai[sp?], I think I'm pronouncing that right, pornography on my grandma's computer when I was at her house. I did this for a few years. I never masturbated or anything. I just looked at it. Never did clear the history on her computer either. Whoops.

[Chuckles] Oh, you can't make this shit up. You can't make it up. Thank you for sharing all of that stuff, and the body-in-the-woods thing is fascinating to me. I've always had a fascination with dead bodies, too, but never a, like I want to actively see one, more kind of if you, you know, oh, did you hear, you know, there's a scene down the block or whatever, you know, more kind of rubber-necking.

This is an Awfulsome Moment filled out by Anna K, and she writes, when I was in my 20s, my boyfriend and I left Pennsylvania and took jobs in Hawaii for a one-year stint. My boyfriend took up surfing. On a bright, sunny Wednesday in June, our final full day in Hawaii, we headed for the Pipeline, a famous surfing spot on the north shore. Walking onto the beach, we passed a number of crosses and flowers, indicating that people, mostly surfers, who have lost their lives at this dangerous surfing spot.

By the way, I went there once and was not four feet into the area where Pipeline begins and I saw a guy bleeding from head to toe, waiting for am ambulance.

Anyway, my boyfriend, the waves were big that day, bigger than what my boyfriend usually surfed but he wanted to make the most of his last day of surfing in Hawaii. He headed out into the surf and I laid on a towel and fell asleep for about an hour.

When I woke, I sat up and scanned the horizon for my boyfriend. While looking for him, I saw something yellow in the ocean hitting a rock 20 yards from me. It looked a little like his surfboard. I got up to inspect and soon discovered that it was my boyfriend's surfboard, but it was half of the board. Immediately my heart started to beat very hard.

I began running up and down the beach, asking anyone with a board if they had seen my boyfriend and if they would please paddle out to see if he was out there in the surf. A few men complied with my request. I stood at the water's edge, bawling my eyes out, imagining the phone conversation later when I would call his parents and tell them their son died on his last day in Hawaii. The men did not find him.

Fifteen minutes later, my boyfriend walks up to me onto the beach and asks why I'm acting like a lunatic [chuckles]. I hug and kiss him. I am so relieved. But he looks angry. He says, when a big wave came he dove down deep and the wave hit the board, snapping his board in half. He spent some time searching for the other half of his board, since surf shops can repair a break, but then, a riptide pulled him about a mile down shore, after which time he swam to shore and walked back to me.

He said he was mad because he loved this board. It was very first and he was looking forward to surfing the East Coast with it. I told him my story of becoming panicked after seeing half of his board crash against the rocks. His face brightened and he said, oh, so you have the other half of my board? I told him I didn't think to grab it since I thought he was injured or dead.

The ride back was silent because I had failed to retrieve his board [chuckles]. I vacillated between wanting to shower him with kisses and wanting to choke him to death. Thank you for that.

This is a Shouldn't Feel This Way, filled out by She Tried to Make Everyone Happy. No, I'm sorry, her name is Pauletta. How would you like to be remembered? She tried to make everyone happy. How does writing that make you feel? Invisible. How would you use a time machine? I would have ran away after high school graduation.

I should be grateful that I have a home to live in and a husband with good health care from his job. Writing it out, unfortunately, I feel nothing, and I think I'm abnormal. Knowing other people feel the same wouldn't make me feel better but I’m sure there are some people somewhere but few in my situation.

I don't think so. I don't think so. But that's just me. I think a lot of people feel invisible and numb.

This is part of a Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Tired and Confused, and she's gay, in her 20s, and I just want to read, what, if anything, do you wish for? I wish my family would accept me for who I am. I grew up in an extremely religious household. When I told my dad I was gay, he said he hopes I'm never proud of who I am. I am a disgrace to the entire family.

I also wish I could feel my emotions. Sometimes I think I'm depressed, but other times I think I'm just making it up, like my symptoms aren't bad enough. I'm functioning okay, so I must be fine. Is this normal? I absolutely hate it.

Yes, it is absolutely normal for somebody who is depressed and who has lived in an emotionally invalidating environment that isn't safe.

Have you shared these things with others? No. No one really cares and I don't have friends. It's just me and my cat and, well, she doesn't care either. Ha-ha. How do you feel after writing this down? Scared. I've never realized just how alone I am.

Anything you'd like to share with someone who shares your thoughts or experiences? Just keep going. Life will work out. It always seems to work out.

And I would add find people who will be the family that loves you, because your family doesn't know how. I'm sure they think that they're doing what's best for you by shaming you, but you're not alone, not by any means. I read so many surveys that describe this situation, maybe different wording, but, and it's sadly much too common. I would suggest going to the forum and posting about that and getting some love there, because you will get some love there.

This is a Happy Moment filled out by a woman who calls herself I Procrastinated So Long I Forgot My Clever Name, and she writes, a few months ago when I was dealing with a medication change that impacted my sex drive, my boyfriend and I were trying to have sex. I started crying in frustration because my body would not cooperate. My boyfriend got out of bed and went into the bathroom. He came back with two of our Ninja Turtle band-aids, kissed my knee and put one of them on. He then had me do the same for him.

Even though my problem couldn't be fixed with a band-aid, he was trying to show me that it would get better. We put on a movie and he held me. It seems really small, but at that moment it felt so huge that he was seeing and accepting my pain and trying to show me that he was there for me.

That is beautiful, and the person whose survey I just read, that is how your parents should have reacted to you coming out, saying right now society is really hostile to you, and some portion of it probably always will be, but it's going to get better. There's nothing I can do to fix it, but I can hold you here and support you. That is what a fucking loving parent should do. I shouldn't say because I'm not a parent, but . . .

This is a Shouldn't Feel This Way, filled out by Days of Wine and Roses. How would you like to be remembered? She writes, I'd like people to remember how kind, goofy and funny I can be. I’m a good friend when I emerge from my introverted retreats. I fantasize that somebody would acknowledge the lifelong sadness and struggle that led to my end, but the trouble is I don't show it to others.

How do you feel writing that? Weird, guilty for wanting or thinking that. That's the fucked-up part of introversion, I crave understanding but can't open up to be people about it, about the real me.

How would you use a time machine? Oh, God, I would go back to at least watch parts of the '70s. It might change my view on life. I would go to Woodstock and just people watch for days. I would, too.

I’m supposed to feel regretful about not getting pregnant yet, but I don't. I feel relieved that I can drink. I’m supposed to feel hopeful about sobriety, but I don't. I feel underwhelmed with life minus booze. I'm supposed to feel disgusted about my alcoholism, but I don't most days. I feel like it's my identity.

How does it feel writing that out? Good. I am a closet alcoholic, too afraid of judgment from professionals. I've heard how they talk about addicts and clients.

You know, I don't know exactly what people, what you heard professionals talk about, but I can tell you this. The mental health community will talk differently about an untreated addict or alcoholic that doesn't think they need help or refuses help than the way they talk about a recovering addict or alcoholic who is into the solution for staying sober, completely different conversations.

So, there, I don't know if that's, was it work here, but I just wanted to put that out there, lest somebody not go to therapy because they think they're going to be judged for having an addiction.

She would also like episodes dealing with Asperger's. We did an episode with a listener named Louise, so Google that one. That's a good episode. I also had a guest named John H. and I think he is definitely probably on the autism spectrum, and we talked about it a little bit.

This is a Happy Moment, filled out by Emily. She writes, I want to share the happy feeling I have right at this moment. I'm grateful that I made the decision to go to therapy a year and a half ago and I'm starting to feel my depression lift, grateful that I no longer wake up in the morning flooded by thoughts of how pathetic I am, grateful that I feel optimistic and even excited for the future for the first time since I was 11 or 12. I'm grateful that because of the podcast I know that I am not pathetic. I am just human, just like everyone else, and we are all in this together.

Beautiful. She identifies as, well, I'll just read this to you. One request, I would love to hear an interview with a femme lesbian. This is purely selfish since I have struggled with femme invisibility myself, when other lesbians assume you are straight because you, quote, look straight, and also the topic of femmes who are attracted to femmes rather than butches. That's me, and it has been a very alienating experience for me at times. I feel like this is not an issue that has been addressed yet, and I would love to hear from someone else who has experienced it.

Great topic. We touched briefly on it in the episode with Dr. Lauren Costine, C-o-s-t-i-n-e, and she talks about her dealing with that issue herself as well, and particularly I think within the lesbian community. And that's just a great episode anyway. It's about love addiction, particularly in the lesbian community, and she is a therapist, Dr. Costine.

This was filled out by Smile, and this is the Shouldn't Feel This Way. How would you like to be remembered? Where'd she get the Hello Kitty coffin? Or, she tried to do good in her community, she tried to empathize with her fellows despite wishing a giant, fiery asteroid would take out the species most days, okay, all days. She tried.

How does it feel writing that? Super unoriginal. Someone I know had a Hello Kitty coffin. How would you use a time machine? I'd like to see an average day in the life of both of my parents in childhood and also a Bowie concert. I have to assume that it would be Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie. And there is actually concert footage of that, his last performance. I think it's at the, I think it's, it's in England somewhere, I think in London, and it's a great concert. It's a really great concert.

I'm supposed to feel despair to be suicidal, but I don't. I just feel like I can take or leave life and that that's not an unreasonable response to life. How does it make you feel writing it out? I make plans, A, B, and C for the D, but I'm still here, so maybe it's just comforting to have an escape plan. I like plans.

Do you think you're abnormal? Nope. Would knowing other people feel the same make you feel better? I'm sure other people do. Is there an original feeling in the world? If the podcast has taught us nothing else, it's that you're probably not alone in your feelings. Thank you for that.

This is filled out by Ella. I'm supposed to feel excited about my wedding, but I don't. I feel annoyed by it. This is particularly only about the wedding, not the marriage. I'm excited to get married. It is the wedding that annoys me because my mom has turned it into this big, stressful, annoying thing.

I’m supposed to feel regretful about how much I slept around in high school, but I don't. I feel happy with my experiences. I'm supposed to feel excited about spending time with friends, but I feel burdened. I'm supposed to feel happy about my brothers having kids, but I feel jealousy. They are able to own houses and support families and build these awesome futures and I barely make it by. I’m supposed to be all happy to have a full day of appointments for work, but I don't. I feel irritable. All I want to do is lay in bed. I’m supposed to feel discomfort about being sad, but I don't. I feel comfortable.

I think that's why so many of us like, thank you for sharing that, by the way. That was, I don't know what the word is, but I felt, yeah, in that. And I think that's why so many of us like rainy days, because it's, it's like the universe coming and wearing matching pajamas, putting on matching pajamas for us, [chuckles] like, oh, this is how you're feeling? Okay.

This one is a Shame and Secrets Survey, and this is filled out by a woman who calls herself Do I Really Have Problems, and she is straight, in her 20s, says that she was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment. I would beg to differ. Have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Yes, and I reported it.

I don't think this is the one that she reported, though. I remember showering with my mom until I was 13 or so. I didn't want to, but she told me to. I haven't really processed it. My childhood is pretty fuzzy in general, and this is a memory that recently surfaced. It probably has something to do with my repressed sexuality but I don't really know what to make of it.

I was pressured to give a blowjob to a guy in his car in the middle of the night when I was 16. I was passive and didn't say no, so I don't think it's abuse, question mark. At 21, I was taken advantage of by a man who let me couch surf at his place. I reported him because I was almost black-out drunk and did not reciprocate with him at all. It took a lot of convincing from my friends to report him. Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing because he didn't seem like a bad person. Does he really deserve a permanent sexual record? None of my sexual abuses, and in parentheses, if they count, bother me now except maybe the one with my mom.

I just want to read this sentence back to you. I wonder if I did the right thing because he didn't seem like a bad person. He didn't do the right thing. He didn't do the right thing, and that's not, that's the issue, is that he didn't do the right thing. If he hadn't done that, you wouldn't even be thinking about that question. And does he deserve a permanent sexual record? That's his problem to figure out. Maybe he needs one to not do that again.

And about the showering-with-the-mom thing, I really encourage you to process that with somebody. I have some suggestions for support groups and, if there is a woman you want to talk to, I have a friend in the mental health, with mental health background who has experienced similar things and I'd be happy to put you in touch with her to talk more about it. Thank you for sharing that. And I'm so sorry that you experienced that.

Darkest thoughts. I really enjoy having bruises on my legs and body. I don't know why. Something about the contrast of my pale skin and how dark bruises look on me, question mark.

I feel like a freak because I have no idea what turns me on. I know I have a sex drive since I started exploring my body when I was young, except that lasted one shower. I felt deeply ashamed afterwards and never touched myself for the next decade. I pushed my sexuality out. I'm trying to take it back, but I have no idea how and I never feel horny.

When I masturbate, not because I want to but because I feel like I should since it's healthy, right, question mark, and maybe I can force my sex drive out, question mark. I don’t think of anything and it doesn't do much at all. I’m worried that no one will ever want to be with me because I'm functionally asexual, notwithstanding the fact I'm bat-shit insane in relationships.

I think I feel a lot of anxiety towards sex and it manifests itself this way. I feel guilty a lot of times because I feel like I dramatize my problems. I still fail to believe my life is really fucked up. Writing it down here, it might seem like I have issues, but it's biased and one-dimensional, it's a biased and one-dimensional description.

I feel like I've caused a lot of the problems that I've experienced. I have this sick habit of romanticizing shitty things. Sometimes I view myself as this broken soul with so much emotional baggage who needs saving. I imagine a guy who will understand me fully and accept me and fix me. Those unrealistic expectations are part of why I'm an awful partner.

I hate my victim complex. I know logically no sane person would want to deal with someone like me. If they were really invested in me, they probably have problems themselves for not knowing when to cut their losses, but I can't get that through my thick skull.

Sometimes I feel like I'm just an overgrown child. I probably am in a lot of ways, seeing as my mom literally treats me as a kid, congratulating me if I do something basic, like wake up early or make food, which pisses me off so much, yet saying nothing about getting into a prestigious college, working at a start-up, etc. I feel like my issues aren't real issues because I’m just someone who hasn't matured properly, but then again, maybe that's all mental illnesses.

You are an incest victim, survivor, whatever you want to call it. What your mom did is incest, and it is one of the deepest wounds you can inflict on a child. I can't overstate it. I can't overstate the ripples that go into other parts of your life, but with a lot of work and a lot of help, you can heal.

And there is nothing inherently wrong with you at all. But that stuff, the coping tools that helped you survive as a child, it sounds like they're starting to backfire on you as an adult, and that's what happens to those of us who were abused as kids.

You know, I'm 50-something years old and I'm still learning how to not reach for one tool and instead reach for another tool that's a healthier way to deal with feeling stressed or overwhelmed or cornered or shameful or whatever.

But the things that you are experiencing, the being sexually shut down, that is all classic, textbook ways of reacting to being not only sexually abused, but also experiencing incest, and it can often swing between that and being incredibly promiscuous, but especially in a committed relationship, once it feels like, you know, things are kind of cemented and you're monogamous and that other person is dependent on you, that's usually when somebody who has been abused or, you know, whose trust was taken away by a caregiver or experienced some type of sexual violation, that's usually when the sex drive towards that person goes out the window. And a lot of people will, then, go act out sexually outside of their relationship or with pornography or, you know, whatever.

This is our last survey. It's an Awfulsome Moment. And it's filled out by I Want To Go Fast. And she writes, I discovered I had depression, then bipolar in my later college years. I used cutting as a coping mechanism, but I also did it in areas on my body that I could cover up easily, such as my ankles, stomach, etc.

I had cut my upper thighs a lot and had done this mostly in the winter, knowing I wouldn't be showing that part of my leg. Well, of course, deep scars take time to heal and they were still there in the summertime. I tried to hide it, wearing shorts over my bikini bottoms.

Last summer, I went to Firefly, a pretty big music festival. It was hot and we were camping for days on a dirt lot. Needless to say, I was pretty gross and sweaty. I had no choice. Short shorts is was? Oh, I guess she meant to type it was, short shorts it was. Luckily, there was a body-paint stand where some talented artists were working.

I paid a girl to paint my one leg where the scars were a bit worse in an attempt to cover them. I was so nervous because the artist would be right up close to my battle wounds.

When she started to paint, she looked me in the eye, lifted up her skirt a bit and said, me, too, but we are strong motherfuckin' women and you can do this. I looked over and on her upper thighs were scars, pretty obviously self-mutilation scars. It took that to remember I am not alone and I don't have to be embarrassed as long as I am doing my best to heal.

Thank you so much for that. That is, that's so inspiring. And isn't that so much of the battle, is how we just, how we heal without shaming ourselves, you know? While certainly monitoring ourselves and being honest with ourselves, but not shaming ourselves, that is, that just seems to be so hard. It's so hard.

But thank you, thank you for that. Thank you, guys, for all your surveys. Thank you for all the support, whatever, whatever you do for the podcast, even if it's just listen and tell somebody else about it or listen and it makes your day a little better. Even if you do nothing, nah, fuck you guys that do nothing. Fuck you guys. This has taken a terrible turn.

I am so grateful to be able to do this as my job and I love getting up in the morning because I get to do this. I get to do this, and a lot of you like it, and that's, it's so cool. I never thought that I could feel this deeply about work. I just never imagined. There's so much to my life that I never imagined could be so beautiful.

You know, I forget that my crystal ball is broken, and [chuckles] every time I go back to it to try to predict what the future is going to be and then base how I’m feeling that day on what I see in my broken crystal ball, every time I do that, I'm wrong.

And I hope if you're listening today, tonight, whatever, you heard this, it helps you quiet that mean part of your brain that tells you, you shouldn't feel this way, you're not handling your wound right, your wound isn't valid, you're lazy, you're whatever that broken record is, just tell it to shut the fuck up and do something nice for yourself.

Take a nap. Kiss your pillow. Take a nap and kiss your pillow. And [chuckles] say, you and I are going to make some sweet, sweet nap-love and fuck anybody that judges me. This is getting really weird [chuckles].

And just remember that you're not alone. You're so not alone. And I'll try to remind [chuckles], I'll try to remind myself of that--


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--when I’m beating the fuck out of myself for making a mistake that nobody probably even remembers 30 seconds afterwards. But anyway, thank you for listening.


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