A spacious reflection on the unfolding pattern of life and death, placing it in the context of nature’s flow of the seasons. A succinct statement of Ram Dass’ views of death and reincarnation, and of the soul’s journey into greater awareness in life after life. (11/19/1978 - Irvine, CA). Please click the following link for additional teachings on Death and Dying:
A discussion about "somebodyness", and the urge to break out of our conditioned bonds of the thinking mind and into the spacious realm of compassion and being.
Please visit the following link for additional teachings on Compassion:
Photos: Mary Bloom, Tom Asher
Watch hour 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Earz…
Stay tuned for the complete interview coming today.
This week’s Direct Message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hP0G…
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Why religion is lost,
disavowed, dismembered, or totally dissed.
Ram Dass first went to India in 1967 when he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an already eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means "servant of God." Everything changed then - his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words "Be Here Now" ever since. Ram Dass’s spirit has been a guiding light for three generations.
Through the auspices of Center for Spiritual Studies, Director Sridhar Silberfein brought Ram Dass over to Maui in 2004 to host a retreat. When recognizing a notable difference in Ram Dass’ well-being, it was decided he would stay on the island to maintain good health. After securing a home, assistants, doctors, therapist, and making sure Ram Dass was well taken care of financially, the Love, Serve Remember Foundation was created to replace Center for Spiritual Studies in 2009. Simultaneously Bhakti Fest was created and founded by Sridhar—from a vision he had on the stage at the Woodstock Festival standing along side Swami Satchidananda. Looking out at the field of humanity of 500,000 wild Americans, Sridhar said to Swamiji, "wouldn’t it be wonderful to be casting our eyes on the same amount of people chanting the Hari-nam (the names of the Divine…
Since Bhakti Fest’s inception, Ram Dass has made an annual appearance through exclusive interviews with founder, Sridhar Silberfein, who travels to Maui each year and films their conversations. Known for their humor, inspiration, and unmasked devotional attitude, these videos have been a highlight of the festival for the past six years. Transcribed for print and edited by Amy V. Dewhurst, author of Heartbreak Yoga, with a forward by notable kirtan artist Krishna Das, these conversations are presented in ways that are relatable to the Western yogi, no matter their level of practice or experience with yoga and Eastern spirituality. Known to never shy away from controversy, Sridhar approaches sensitive topics with ease and candor-from the spiritual significance of psychedelics to contemplating one’s own death. Always poised, Ram Dass handles each hard-to-touch-area with grace and wisdom. This is the rebellious yet affectionate Ram Dass who shocked many in the 60s but inspired generations to a higher way of thinking, and ultimately being. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll be inspired to buy a ticket for Bhakti Fest-the only place in the world that consistently provides a space for the exploration of this level of consciousness and devotion.
In this lecture, held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, Ram Dass discusses the changes he’s experienced in himself over the many years that he’s been teaching. He admits to having been caught in the separateness of acting as a, ‘holy man’, trying to be what everybody wanted him to be. He eventually had to acknowledge that part of him was using the spiritual path to avoid the things he couldn’t face in himself, and that the game wasn’t about getting high, but getting free. This requires embracing all of life, incorporating the darkness into the light. The human heart is the doorway to intuition and our actions must come from the blending of humanity and divinity. Until we fully accept our humanity, our intuition will lack harmony. When we embrace our uniqueness and accept responsibility for the creation of who we are, we begin to let go of the forms that keep us separate. If we can identify with our inner being then we can open to a much broader appreciation of the outer world in which we must live. We can learn to operate within our roles, without getting lost in them. Who we think we are disappears, and we find action in that previously confined energy.(Pacific Grove, CA - 8/7/1982)
Please click the following link for further teachings on emotions:
Episode notes:Be sure to check out Maria’s most recent tv special, it’s well worth the $5.
Episode Transcript:Paul: Welcome to Episode 95 with my guest Maria Bamford! I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty…eh, not an hour, more like 90 minutes. 90 minutes of honesty about all the battles in your…I’m not going back! I’m fucking plowing ahead. 90 minutes of honesty about all the battles in your heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive negative thinking.
This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like in a waiting room that let’s see, what is…uh, our listener James says, "More like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t have a really cute girl or guy sitting across from you who you really want to ask out but you feel would be so inappropriate you’re literally paralyzed with shame and it derails your entire session with your shrink." Ha! That one made me laugh! So yeah, it’s more like that. Not a doctor’s office. crumples paper
I uh…I want to apologize for last week’s, um…the…just, I was listening to, uh, I couldn’t remember if I had read a survey or not and so I was like, oh fuck, I’m going to go back to last week’s episode and um, uh…play…listen to the intro and outro and see if I had read that one yet and holy fuck! Was I depressed?! I hope I didn’t drag you guys down with me, uh, last week, but I’m sure as you can tell, um, from the sound of my voice, I am feeling markedly better this week and I had therapy today and I don’t know if that helped or what, but, my therapist said that the progression in therapy sometimes is that you will have an incline and then you will have a plateau and that plateau may feel like you’re back to square one but you’re really not. You are actually still further ahead than you were when you originally started.
And then I shot her! Oh, that is not funny. That is—why? Of all the jokes I could have made…wow! In the last…and I’m not going back! I’m not erasing that! I am standing by my poorly timed comment. And those of you that don’t care for it, you know what you can do. I don’t even have to say it now. You already know to go fuck yourselves! And…speaking of uh, going and fucking yourselves…there is—I got an email from somebody from the forum whose handle is uh, g-f-yourself and he had a great suggestion which is to occasionally read posts from the forum which I think I’ve done before but it’s been awhile since I did it, and there’s a thread that somebody started, um, entitled "Can you cry?" and a bunch of people have posted about this, about, um, the ease or difficulty they have in crying and somebody posted, um, some statistics on crying and here’s the fucking weird part, is…It’s according to the German Society of Ophthalmology…really two groups I don’t care to hear from, but apparently because the eyeballs make the tears, um…maybe they know something about it, but, um….although I shouldn’t say that about Germans! I love Anna, our listener Anna, who wrote such a beautifully profound piece about what being an atheist means to her, but I… am getting sidetracked. According to this study, over 300—according to this study of over 300 adults, on average, men cry once every month. Women cry at least 5 times per month, especially before and during the menstrual cycle when crying can increase up to 5 times the normal rate often without obvious reasons such as depression or sadness. Um…According to this German Society of Ophthalmology…uh, is everybody else, by the way, picturing them saluting Hitler like I am right now? Uh, according to the German - But! Seeing Hitler very clearly and focused. That was the nice…that’s where that…the Society of Ophthalmology really…when they were at the back of the, uh, what’s the name of the, uh, the Reichstadt…um…They could…they could see clearly to the front row. Wow! Was that a belabored bit? Not going back.
According to the (drops voice) German Society of Ophthalmology, which has collated different scientific studies on crying, women cry on an average between 30 and 64 times a year and men cry on an average between 6 and 17 times per year. Um, men tend to cry for between 2 to 4 minutes and women cry for about six minutes. Crying turns into sobbing for women in 65% of the cases compared to just 6% for men. And um…they don’t say how often the sobbing turns into masturbating. You guys master-sob, right? Oh, you haven’t lived until you’ve master-sobbed. That is a sweet piece of business. And it doesn’t say how many people…(laughs) I had to stop myself because I truly knew at that point, I was the only person on the planet that wanted to hear more of that bit. (turns paper)
Let’s go from talking about…(turns paper) sobbing and masturbating to…I want to read an email I got from a counselor. His name is Dave and he’s in Georgia and um, he’s talking about a couple of episodes back when I read an email from a listener who was frustrated because I kept saying if you Google low-fee counseling or Google low-fee therapy and the name of your city, you should be able to find some place that works on a sliding scale and this woman had written in and saying pretty much ’Stop fucking saying that because I live in the boonies and I can’t find any place and fuck you.’ Uh, so Dave, the counselor from Georgia is writing in and he says, "During your intro you read a pretty dark le—uh, email from a listener who can’t find help in her area. This is so frustrating. I would like to encourage her to keep looking. Um, to keep looking. In addition to Googling for low cost counseling services, she can search for community mental health or community service board offices in her town or county. C-M-H-Cs, as they are often called, are a fantastic resource. They work primarily with uninsured clients and they provide counseling, psychiatric, and pharmaceutical services. The C-M-H-C that I work at in Georgia provides services to a huge number of clients. Since Georgia is hardly the state at the forefront of providing mental health services, I tend to believe that people in other parts of the country may have an easier time accessing services than our clients do. She mentioned getting help at her local emergency department. In case of crisis or suicide, this is obviously the place to go. However, the doctors and nurses who work in an emergency department often are not interested or trained in working in psych. They may not know the local resources for help or they may just not want to get their mentally…or they just may want to get their mentally ill patients out of the way. They definitely don’t provide good ongoing care or medication management. If they don’t provide good resources, she will have to seek them out on her own, but she needs to seek them out, obviously, or things just get worse and worse." And Dave, I want to thank you so much for that very, very helpful email that, uh, that you sent in.
Well, I hope you’re having a good start to your new year. I’m so excited to have Maria Bamford on the show and um, let’s kick it off with a quote from, uh, Mohandas Gandhi. Mohandas? Is that…I’ve heard of Mahatma. Mohandas? Is that like the Zeppo of the…uh, Gandhi family? Or maybe is that the main Gandhi guy? Wow…I am…This…this intro has re—literally been a hosting crime scene. I’m just gonna…I’m going to cordon it off and allow the podcasting detectives to come in and try to assess what went wrong. Um…and the quote from Mohandas Gandhi: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you are doing…" Oh God! I’ve even fucked that up!…(laughs)
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
Paul: I’m here with Maria Bamford and I’m soooo happy to have you on the podcast. I’ve been wanting to get you on for a while and I know your schedule is pretty crazy so I really appreciate you taking time out to—
Maria: No, thank you very much, (whispers) Paul Gilmartin, thank you so much cause I desperately have something to promote so I have to, I have to—so it’s sad that, yeah…
Paul: Are you starting at the bottom then and working your way up to things that will actually promote it?
Maria: Yeah, yeah well yeah, where do you start when you start promoting? I—God, maybe that’s a, but it’s…’it’s attraction rather than promotion,’ isn’t it? Wait a minute…I don’t know where I got that. But um…yeah, so I have the "Special Special Special" coming out, Wednesday 28th. You can download it at chill.com and it’s an hour long comedy special for just my parents in the audience.
Paul: You’re just performing for two people, your parents—
Maria: Well, cut out the middleman. Why get all these 800 strangers together (and that’s being generous) into a theater when the only people I’m really trying to please - Marilyn and Joel Bamford!
Paul: And Maria is not kidding. This is a downloadable, uh…special!
Maria: No, it costs something. It’s $4.99.
Paul: And you are literally performing just for your parents. I can’t wait to, uh, to see this!
Maria: Especially I close with a suicide chunk, but I serve pizza right before I start going into the suicide material.
Paul: Oh my God, that’s fantastic! I can’t wait to see this. I’m sure it will already be up by the time this airs.
Maria: By that time, yes.
Paul: I sometimes record things weeks in advance. Um -
Maria: I’m so sorry for promoting something right in the beginning.
Paul: No! Not at all. We’ll promote it again at the end and I’ll make sure to put a link up on my website so that people -
Maria: Yeah, that’s so much more appropriate.
Paul: Maria’s already beating herself up. This is fantastic.
Paul: So you are, uh…For those of you who have been living under a rock and don’t know who Maria is, she is one of the most original voices in standup comedy today. She, uh, has been very open on stage about her, uh, mental illness and makes light of it in a way that is so funny and so touching. It’s like, a lot of comics will skim the surface talking about their life and their pain and will occasionally dip down a little bit into it, but like Maria, in the first ten minutes of her act, will just go right to the center of the earth and spend your time there and there’s a bond that your audience members feel for you that is…can you feel that, that, that depth?
Maria: Well, um, I’m having a lot of feelings during the show. I usually don’t go into my darkest material until - or not dark, but more intimate material until, you know, uh…I have to warm up and do some stuff about food. Some lightened materials about gas station recipes. And uh, how I wish they would provide them for—have you ever had a gas station tuna fish sandwich? Oh my God, it’s so good…’cause there’s no tuna in it! Just a scrumptious fishy nougat!
Anyways, so I start with something and then, yeah…so no, I’m not, uh, that was a very generous description of me, kindly. But what I’m trying to say is, I like talking about stuff like that, and I think, um, now, because of the internet where you can get a more specific audience, I think I get an audience that is more open to that which is such a relief…so delightful.
Paul: Yeah, I mean when you think of standup comedy in the, in the 90s, it was very often the headliner and the audience…the audience just showed up for the comedian and for an original voice like yours, I would imagine that had to have led to some painful nights because there are people that don’t get you, people that haven’t experienced profound pain in the place that your comedy comes from!
Maria: Or, I mean, I think everyone’s experienced some profound, but or they don’t want - cause I, I understand, like I, I like to go see music - no I don’t, wait a minute. I’ve seen music, that’s what I want to say. I’ve seen music but I think I kind of like pop music and I, ugh! You know, like I’m not so much like a folk music kind of like sad, real songs of like - and I think I may be the mus- comedy equivalent of something I don’t like…in mus…you, know, not, not, don’t like, but just like, if I wanted to go out, ‘Oh, I wanna go see Lady Gaga!’ you know, and like something super fun and some people…but I prefer to, uh, so I understand that people would: ‘I’m going out on a Friday night! I don’t want to hear about the 8,000 US veterans that die of suicide every year!’ Which is funny cause you’d think they’d die over there but they come home! Ahaha! Oh, I thought it must be funny ‘cause no one’s taking it that seriously! Oh ho ho ho ho ho!
Paul: Have you said that on stage?
Maria: Oh yes, yes.
Paul: And just awkward silence?
Maria: Yes. Yeah yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s sort of a shock value. My dad was in the military and I, I just get so mad about it. I just get so mad. I’ve read…I mean, I don’t know anything more than anybody else. I’ve just read magazine articles and listened to the New York Times and quote it as if it were the bible. Um, it is not the bible. Nor is the bible the New York Times. And if there is a science and we don’t know, uh, but, uh, we don’t know if there’s a science but there is a God.
Um, uh, but what was I trying to say? What was I trying…I can’t remember now. Uh -
Paul: About more soldiers dying of suicide than dying overseas.
Maria: Yeah! Yeah…Why…what’s going on? And my own personal experience with suicide or, uh…you know, unbearable mental, uh, mental problems…you know, whatever those are for anybody, whether it is PTSD, you know…it is unbearable and the reason that people kill themselves is not out of you know, like, uh, sassy pettiness or like that, you know, that just kills…
Paul: ‘I’m not getting my way!’ Right?
Maria: Yeah, yeah! The one thing I always hear is like, or one joke I’ve been making up: ‘People get so mad at you if you do that, they will get so mad at you if you commit suicide!’ which is like, why would you get…you don’t…I mean you can get mad at anybody for dying of an illness but it’s like, no, the reason they die is…suffering! Just like, you know, unbelievable suffering. And…that…But so much for society, like, even myself, like when I got to a point where, you know, I was making plans to kill myself, I thought, ‘Ugh! It might be just a little bit less dramatic if I killed myself instead of going into a hospital, you know?’ Like I…
Maria: Like you know what I’m saying?
Paul: How long ago was this?
Maria: It was about a year and a half ago. I went through a, into the hospital like three times. I had some sort of, uh, fiscal cliff. It wasn’t fiscal, it was just a cliff. And um…Everything was fine!
Paul: It wasn’t triggered by money?
Maria: No! Oh no no no no no. But uh, no -
Paul: Oh, you’re talking about what’s going on with the country.
Maria: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fiscal cliff. Which sounds fun sometimes if you think about it. ‘How tall is it? Um…, uh, is the water warm?’ Um…So, yeah, I live in California which is super liberal, super kind of groovy. And I’m a comedian, I’m in entertainment and I have a problem? with, you know, going into a hospital for 72 hours just so I won’t kill myself. You know, I can’t imagine what these 18-year-old dudes who are coming back who are from, you know, more conservative backgrounds. You know, they, yeah there’s counseling available or somebody to go, but I can’t imagine that there isn’t some, you know, huge block to going in for help, because I felt embarrassed and I talk about this stuff all the time! And I had to…and I’d even heard stories of people. You know, there’s so many people who have come out to talk about…you know, Jonathan Winters and um, the, uh, oh goodness, I’m so sorry I’m going to forget everyone’s name who has ever come out to talk about it. Um…um…
Paul: William Styron?
Maria: William Styron. The guy who, who, um, he was the talk show host in the, in the 70’s…the 60’s and 70’s…fairly…he interviewed John Lennon and Janis Joplin…
Paul: Dick Cavett?
Maria: Dick Cavett!
Paul: Oh, I didn’t know that. Dick Cavett?
Maria: Oh yeah! He’s totally come out about going to the psych ward and - yeah!
Paul: Really? But he’s so handsome!
Maria: And cheerful and fun and he was on TV!
Paul: He has so much to be happy about! Now, is there anything more aggravating than that than when people say, ‘But look at what you have to be grateful for!’ That…you might as well just wear a sign that says ‘I DON’T UNDERSTAND DEPRESSION!’
Maria: I don’t understand! Well ‘cause yeah! Like, William Styron’s book ‘Darkness Visible’. I mean, that is it! Like just, whoa! Just like, it’s um… It has nothing to do with anything! You know, has nothing to do with…uh…It’s like you forget anything in the past. Your brain just forgets anything in the past. I could not believe that I was ever going to come back from it. And I just thought, ‘I’ve got to end it!’ and um, also, with our healthcare system which I mean, I have great insurance but, you know, they kind of want you to get out of there and um, which…like they kind of…they trusted me. Like, they gave me…I was trying new medications and all the mood stabilizer medications had different side effects. I mean, just like any other illness, you know, I’m sure anyone who’s had any experience taking medication, it’s like the side effects are sometimes worse than the actual…
Paul: Right! It’s like two steps forward, one step back.
Maria: Yeah, and so I had uh, I was taking something that started, uh, cognitively affecting me where I couldn’t say things.
Paul: This is while you were in the hospital?
Maria: No, this was while I was trying to work! You know, like, I was trying to like get the meds…you know, change my meds and then, uh, still work. And that was, uh, ridiculous.
Maria: Yeah. ‘Cause I mean…and I think nobody…That’s another thing is that…cause no one will tell you to stop working. Like people go, ‘Well you seem…I mean you’re competent!’ Well, of course I’m competent but like, you wouldn’t say to somebody who just had a kidney transplant - you wouldn’t say, you know, ‘Maybe you should fly to Atlanta this weekend! Maybe do like 8 shows? I mean you could do it! I mean, this is stuff you could do, you know, cause it’s not’…yeah, and…That’s what happened is I didn’t take the time off and it really snowballed into this nightmare, you know of, um, I was, I mean, I’ve told this story before. I was in Chicago and, uh, I was supposed to be doing a bunch of shows and I just thought, ‘Okay, I just gotta go,’ even though I was feeling worse and worse, like just like, not able to think. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that experience but it’s terrifying. Not able to think or calm down and I have all the benefits at my disposal. You know. I exercise. I eat right. I have tons of family and friends and support and, uh, I have a therapist and all that stuff and…uh -
Paul: And you go to support groups?
Maria: Yeah, support groups. And…yeah! I mean, meditation. You know, everything. And um…you know, I was in Chicago. I lost all of my identification. Like I was trying to get ready for this show and I just somehow lost everything. Like I was walking the streets and I just lost everything. Somehow cut myself on something. I started bleeding. And I was like, "I…I…" So I called my mom
She’s like, "Honey, get yourself to the airport. Go to Delta. Tell them you are Gold Medallion. And tell them about your website." And so it came to pass, Paul Gilmartin, and uh, I got an upgrade all the way home to Los Angeles and I missed all those shows, but…I felt so ashamed about and I…had I, had I just had some…and there isn’t a lot of heads up either when you’re taking medication cause they don’t know what those side effects are going to be. Sometimes they don’t tell you what they probably will be cause they don’t want you to think that you’re going to have them or whatever.
Paul: Each person is a little bit different.
Maria: It’s totally different! Yeah! It’s totally different.
So…but, um…and it did…it was such a long process. It was like a year until I…I only started feeling better, you know, more like myself, like, probably in the past 3-4 months, so…
Paul: Wow, that’s a long time.
Maria: Yeah, it’s a long time! And…but that’s…that was…at least I go…I wanna say that because I wanted it to be right away. I was just like, ‘I’ll get this taken of and, um, everything’s going to be great.’ And that’s what everybody else wants too! Just like, ‘Fix it! ‘Kay, Back to work! You’re doing great!’ Yeah, and I definitely wanted that, too, and, um…
Paul: I’d just like to interject at this point. The two most important things I think when you’re dealing with a mental illness, towards yourself, the two most important things are kindness and patience.
Maria: Yeah. Yeah! And that’s the hardest thing because your brain is all confused and you’re feeling terrible about yourself and you know, you just gotta…I mean, I have some really good friends and…who are very, yeah, loving, caring, and said, ‘Oh…you know…come and stay overnight with us or whatever.’ But at the same time, I mean, there’s some point where I felt I needed to be hospitalized cause I didn’t want to put them in the position of like, ‘Hey, could you just kinda watch me? Uh…’cause I don’t know what I’m going to do!" (laughs) Like…
Paul: When was the first time you…and we’ll come back to the hospitalization but I wanna kinda set the table for where this all started and how it progressed. What was…uh…What was your childhood like?
Maria: Upper middle class Duluth, Minnesota. Delightful! My father’s a physician. Um, I think I just got the gift. I don’t think there was anything terrible happening. I think my brain has the gift of seeing the terrible and…but it wasn’t spectacularly dysfunctional or anything and um…but I started having, when I was ten years old, I started having suicidal ideation, like starting to think of wanting to die and kind of writing in my journal of wanting to die. Like, um, and I got into like, kind of obsessive prayer, you know, like praying to God: ‘Please help me, please help me, please help me.’ And then I think I um, I think we all know God doesn’t exist! He does exist…uh, for some. And um, (laughs) no. I don’t -
Paul: Do you believe in God?
Maria: Um, not…not so much anymore. Now I…I…and partially because of that that mental crash. Um…Cause I felt no, no comfort, like nothing and just feeling like okay, and feeling like some of spiritual friends were not super helpful in that area where like, ‘You know, you just need to keep praying, you know, and God will…’ and I do think it is a function of the brain is our God consciousness and mine was just broken and off and I do believe in human beings…I know I don’t understand why people are kind or loving and you know, I know I’m not. I’m not powerful at all. Um, but um…But also, I don’t like that idea of saying, ‘Oh…’ I did have some, uh, friend of mine come visit me in the hospital who was of that belief where she um, said, ‘Oh, this place has really negative energy. God, you just really need to get out of here!’
That’s what I said but they 51/50ed me! And I’m like, ‘You know, they took away my shoelaces!’
‘You know what you need to do and I’ll drive you. Let’s go to Ohi…right? Like, jump off! Right? Or like go slowly into the cold water or like from a tree, right?’
‘You know, I just feel like this is the story you’re telling yourself! I mean, if you…I talked to my spiritual advisor and he said if you want to leave…if you want to go to the next level. You know, maybe you’re done with this plane of existence and you want to move into the next world! And, you know, I’m ready to let you go!
Paul: Are you serious?!
Maria: Yeah! And I was like, ‘You’re horrible! Um…and please come visit me tomorrow. And you’re horrible! And if you could bring me some sort of bottled Diet Coke cause they won’t let us have cans. Uh…and it’s the one thing I’m living for despite, uh…! Besides, uh…crushed ice.’
They have lots of crushed iced machines in the psych ward which is helpful. And uh…hey, why don’t you bring that little ray of sunshine to the children’s hospital! ‘You wouldn’t have to make a wish if you believed!’
Um, you know where there’s that element with religious or where it’s like it’s somehow your fault that you’ve distanced yourself from this God through sin or through uh, lack of awareness and I just…I just feel like that’s so cruel, you know, to say it. I mean, it can be a great comfort, I think if you believe it but then at some point (laughs)…you know, uh…it’s devastating when you can’t feel it at all, um…but I don’t know. So, uh…
Paul: So childhood, you developed suicidal ideation at ten…
Maria: Yeah, so I developed sort of an eating disorder I think which has kind of helped me kind of numb out where I, you know, starve and then eat a bunch of food…So I think it kind of helped me regulate my mood, really, you know, where I could really kind of be out of it all the time.
Paul: What was it? Like it gave you something to focus on other than the thought of killing yourself?
Maria: Yeah, cause I started kind of having OCD at the same time of…there’s a type of OCD, it’s called like ‘unwanted thoughts syndrome’ which, people think I’m making up but I have…there is some books about it called ‘The Imp of the Mind’ and um, uh, what is the other one?
Paul: By the way, uh, Maria, people who take the survey on the website. You cannot believe how many people have unwanted thoughts syndrome.
Maria: Yeah, yeah!
Paul: I love my dog more than anything in the world, they’ll write, and I think constantly about killing it.
Maria: Yeah! (laughs)
Paul: I’m afraid I’m going to do that! And unfortunately, these people take this anonymously so I can’t email them back and say, ‘You have no idea how common that is that people have unwanted thoughts!’ And the most common one is you’re at the top of a building and you just keep thinking ‘I’m going to jump! I’m going to jump! I’m going to jump! I’m going to jump!’
Paul: But it can present itself in many, many other…
Maria: Many and horrendous things! Things like…There is…the other book is ‘Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals’ which is um, an…(coughs)…it’s about… it happens as a part of postpartum depression too where women…you’ll think about molesting or um, or killing uh, your baby or something and how … also, it’s such a taboo thought. Every human being has weird thoughts going through their heads. Sometimes comedians, you know, will say things like that! Like, ‘Have you ever thought my dog looked sexy?’ Like, you know, whatever! For most people, it like will go fleetingly through your mind and you just like blink and you move on. But if you have that OCD trait, you start trying to want to get rid of that thought which makes it come back. You know, so I started like gripping my fists, you know, tried to…and started to avoid people which that’s what happens with OCD. You start avoiding the, um, whatever it is, the dirt or whatever the external thing is, but I started avoiding…My thing was…I was…and I was lightly molested, uh, as a child by…it wasn’t…you know, it was sort of like a…Oh gracious, I won’t go into detail but anyways…it wasn’t a long term thing, and it was just…but it was very big in my mind of what had happened and it was just some light touching around the breasts and…Anyways, um…
Paul: Well, you know, I say this all the time in the podcast, Maria. It’s not what happens physically as much as the mishandling of our soul and the feeling that we don’t matter, that someone is sending us a signal, ‘You don’t matter. You are my object.’ That is…
Paul: That is the injury.
Maria: That’s the powerful thing! And I think I was also a super sensitive kid and…but anyways…so what my unwanted thoughts syndrome would be is that I would do that to another person so I stopped spending time with friends, like cause I was worried that I would try to reach out and touch somebody, um…and then…and then also I started not being able to sleep at night because I was worried that I was going to kill my entire family and then I told my mom that. You know, I finally got the courage to tell my mom that cause I wasn’t sleeping and, uh, they sent me to therapy where I went and talked to an ex-nun and she let me sleep on her couch which is basically all that happened which was therapeutic in itself to get to sleep, uh, but it was also Christian therapy so she gave me this terrifying book called ‘The Hinds’ Feet in High Places’ which is this horrendous like allegorical uh, book about a…it’s like a dwarf going on a journey. Anyways, I found it so deeply disturbing and I still do now! I went and got it to read it and see what it was like and I was like, ‘What the fuck??? Like, why would this be a comfort at all???’ It was all about suffering and that this little being suffers and suffers and suffers and then through suffering, meets God. Whoa! You know, I mean, I was like 12! You know, like…oh, It was just so awful!
Paul: She couldn’t give you ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’?
Maria: Yeah, why not something more upbeat? Uh, you know…Clifford, the Big Red Dog! What about that guy? He’s pretty…that’s pretty comforting.
Paul: So…the unwanted thoughts, um, you told your mom about that and then this therapist knew about that.
Maria: Right! And my mom thought I was gay because of those thoughts. She thought it was a gay thing that I was thinking of molesting cause you know, it was girlfriends, but it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like I was attracted to somebody and I have really thought through that uh, extensively. As Jackie Kashian says, ‘I’ve been to college.’ And, uh -
Maria: And uh…you know, so it wasn’t about that. You don’t want to molest your dog. You don’t want to kill your dog, but it’s like… as soon as…it’s just like this dark thought that - and you can’t get it out because you want to fix it. What does it mean about me as a person and then I’ve gotta make sure that I don’t do it so I’ve got to isolate myself from people. And I had that until I was about 35! And then I finally decided to start Google on the Internet - I love the internet! - and you know, on disturbing thoughts and up came all these OCD sites and added some books and I got an OCD therapist and did some flooding where you…I mean, they have it on the OCD show where it’s like someone sits in a dumpster. And the equivalent of that for me was like letting myself think all the horrible things I want and staying with people. Like, just sitting with a friend and just going, ‘I’m having all these horrible, creepy…thoughts!’ and just letting it peak, let it get as bad as possible and then finding out nothing happened. So uh…so it was uh…but yeah, it was a big deal.
Paul: Are you comfortable sharing any of those thoughts?
Maria: (sigh) Ugh! They are intense. They’re just so -
Paul: I have them too! I have them too! And they don’t stick with me as long as they stick with you, but they shame me.
Maria: Yeah, they’re shaming! Yeah, yeah!
Paul: And that’s what I…The reason I ask you to share some is I would be willing to share some too if you want to go back and forth to help the listener feel less fucked up!
Maria: Well, I do have a joke that I do um where uh, which brings up…I talk to the therapist, the OCD therapist, and she says um…’Have you ever thought of…’ uh…yeah just all the…they have to ask you questions of what your thought patterns are and…Geez, What was it? I’ve forgotten this joke now, but uh…’Have you ever not wanted to go to a religious institution cause you worry you’d lose control, run up on the altar, take a shit, and yell "I’m a promise-keeper!" ‘Have you ever not wanted to go to Sea World cause you worried if you were left alone with a baby starfish in a tide pool you’d try to, uh, take it out and kiss its poop hole? Okay, um….have you ever not wanted to spend alone time with friends or family cause you worry you’d, ah, chop them up into chunks and bits and then have sex with the chunks and bits and then put the chunks and bits on a Caesar salad and then toss it and then feed it back to your parents or eat it yourself?’ Yeah! I mean, really, because we have imaginations! Like it just goes and goes and goes and I mean, that’s the tenure of what…I don’t even know if that’s the right word…that’s the uh, thematic uh, of what I would think about and yeah, I just…it does…it would be good if I could talk about it but it just does gross me out so much that it just…yeah, it makes me feel bad.
Paul: Okay, we won’t go there then. I just wanted - um -
Maria: But I just want to let everyone know I’ve thought of everything. (laughs)
Paul: I feel the, I feel the same way. You know, slicing uh, nice people’s heads off, fucking…fucking babies, killing puppies, uh…you know, um, you name it. You name it. I have…things that I…Where the fuck did that…did that come from?
Maria: Yeah! Yeah! And I mean…And I think there is a difference between…that almost everybody has weird thoughts come into their head and that the only people to get obsessive about them are people who are most likely never to do them, who are like the people who are so hyped, like the person who is worried that they’re filthy and they wash their hands a thousand times a day. Uh, they’re the least likely person to ever be filthy but um, um, and then there’s a difference between that and like, uh, um, psychosis, where someone might genuinely or uh, what is…uh, yeah, when somebody’s a predator or something like that. I mean, there’s a genuine difference between that and I want to take that seriously too, uh, that there is that as a problem if you act out on those things but that’s the reason I think people don’t talk about it because you don’t want people to understand.
Maria: ‘Cause I’ve had that happen. I went to a therapist and a psychiatrist who I told them I - and I just kind of said it in passing - just saying, ‘I have unwanted thoughts syndrome. It’s a thing’ And then they asked about it and I was like…’I’m just trying to educate, Paul, cause I just wanna….I just want to help.’ (PG laughs) And both of them were horrified…were just like, ‘I might need to make a report about this.’ Like, one guy said that I was…that I could be psychotic and I was just like… I can see why people…it…why people feel alone because it’s a harder thing to talk about because people can misunderstand what you mean by it. Yeah…it’s not a delightful thought that you’re (laughs) wanting to enjoy.
Paul: Right! And these aren’t thoughts that you know - I’m going to hold that thought and then go masturbate. No, that’s the LAST thing I wanna do when I’m thinking this thought.
Maria: Yeah, yeah. So anyways.
Paul: So, uh…you’re 10, 12 years old. You’ve got an eating disorder, you’ve got unwanted thoughts syndrome and you’ve got suicidal ideation…you’re a triple threat!
Maria: I’m a triple threat! And also, I’ve got a great family and I’ve got a good school I’m going to and I’m learning to play the violin. I was an excellent violinist from the age of 3 to…you know, and I think those things do help a lot. Like I got a lot of…I was in a gifted kids’ program where you could go and you know, I had a really good neighborhood where I could knock on my neighbor lady’s house and go, ‘What are you doing?’ (PG laughs) and she would go, ‘Well, I’m just playing the piano,’ and then, you know, I could have someplace to hang out, like a nice neighborhood where you could, um…there, there was a community. So I look back on that and I go, Oh my God, that’s awesome!…that I had that. Um, and yeah, I think, the one thing I think that almost…people in the US can relate with is uh, that you can so easily be isolated, like put kids in front of a TV and the kids love the TV and you might not see them for 6 hours and um, yeah…I just, I know…I wonder about that…and 1, that’s probably why I’m not a parent cause I would probably want to put them in front of a TV, but…cause children are exhausting but uh, I think that’s problematic too because then you don’t know how to connect with people or comfort yourself through connection rather than…or having boundaries but you know, having healthy relationships rather than just a TV or video games.
Paul: And also I imagine too that the little 12-year-old girl thinks that she’s worse than everybody.
Maria: Oh yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, yeah.
Paul: So that is standing between you and bonding and feeling a part of because in your mind is always the thought that ‘I’m the biggest piece of shit in the room. If they only knew they would all turn and run out of here’ when in reality, you’re probably the most sensitive, funny, loving kid in the room but the 12-year-old, even the 22-year-old, even the 35-year-old doesn’t know that!
Maria: Right, right. Yeah, it’s uh, I did pretty well at stuff as a kid…you know, I was relatively…I had friends and everything and was relatively social but uh, I’m just grateful for all those little elements that I think helped a lot. The creativity helped a lot, like that’s when, like I remember when I was in the gifted program I got to do speeches, that was like, kind of the first time I - probably a precursor to standup which I…I really liked performing because it kind of blocked out anxiety and…cause I…was also a way to communicate people en masse in a safe way where they couldn’t say anything back.
I think my feelings got hurt so easily, like it was sort of…I was such a sensitive…plant that was…yeah, I was sort of dumb and um, sometimes I wish you had videos of yourself when you’re a kid so you go, ‘Jesus! I was a pain in the ass!’ like, cause, I probably was, um…but uh - ‘I can be super sweet, too, I’m sure.’
Paul: You were very sweet.
Maria: …sweet kid.
Paul: You had also mentioned, uh, I’ve listened to your appearance on the JV Club, on Janet Varney’s podcast - loved it - you also mentioned that mental illness runs in your, uh, in your family.
Maria: Yes. Yeah. And I don’t know…My mom’s done a lot of genealogical stuff so there’s certain members of her side of the family who just like - ‘And then she went in the attic and didn’t come out for 25 years’…like, okay, that sounds familiar. Like, you know, like, back in the 1880s where it’s like ‘She didn’t want to be around people.’ and um…
Paul: ‘All she wanted to do was churn butter.’
Maria: Yeah! Gee, everyone said how sweet she was though, she was very nice…when you saw her! Uh, but, my aunt has had manic episodes on my mom’s side and my mom has had one hypomanic episode. I think my mom, where, she didn’t go totally full-blown which is that super-agitated, um, calling the pope…uh, which, someone should call him.
Paul: Did she get through?
Maria: Uh, she did…my mom is very charming. She did get to talk to a Monsignor.
Paul: Did she really?
Maria: I don’t know if he hung up, uh soon after, but … And she called my manager a bunch of times. Uh, poor Bruce. Just telling him how I was in danger and I needed to get off the internet and…which, you know, is pretty true on some level. We’re all in danger.
Paul: And we all need to get off the internet!
Maria: These are wise. These aren’t manic. And I get why people don’t like mental illness, cause you know, it is frightening. It is frightening to see somebody like, when my mom went off the rails, I was just like kind of making fun of it.
Paul: It’s confusing.
Maria: Yeah, confusing and it feels personal. It feels like they’re being mean, like my mom got kind of agitated-mean, like was saying, you know, kind of heckling my sister on Facebook, which my sister then shut her out but, uh, you know, saying, ‘Come on! Give me a break! You don’t…’ Like being this really oddly sassy, uh, you know, sort-of version of herself, um, like, you know, yeah, cruel, and not very nice, and um…so, yeah, it was disturbing. She also didn’t want to get help cause I think it’s part of the mania. You’re like, ‘I’m fine!’
Paul: And part of it probably feels good because you’re feeling vigorous and energized
Maria: …in control and…
Paul: …very mentally focused.
Maria: Right, right. Totally mentally focused. And it’s so funny…my mom, she used to work in the psych ward that she went into in Duluth, which…
Maria: I mean that is so brutal/courageous, like to live in a smaller town and have to go into…where you know people …she knew everybody, and um…you know, how humbling that is and, um, yeah so, and that’s what…I felt that way. I went into Glendale Adventist Medical Center a couple of times and then once to Las Encinas in Pasadena and you know, what it is like…
Paul: You should write a travel book!
Maria: I did want to do that! Like some saga cause there is no…I mean, I…I was a little bit out of my gourd. I went to Las Encinas and it was all false advertising! Like they said there was going to be a swimming pool and yoga and who knows if I could have done, but none of it…like, it wasn’t at all there and they just hadn’t updated the website in like 4 years or something and uh, I think that’s the thing that is interesting about mental health. It seems like people are ashamed to be there so they’re less likely to complain on some level like…cause you look crazy anyways for complaining so…
Paul: Sure! ‘Oh, she’s going on and on about how there should have been a pool!’
Maria: Yeah! And, you know, and it is a hospital and you are just there so that you’re safe, um, but it was like, oh! I…I guess, uh, I guess…I tried to find someplace that, uh, that was aesthetically pleasant cause that helps your mental health if there’s trees. I had been to Las Encinas, uh, in passing before. Sometimes they have support groups out there and…yeah, so…I went out there and it was, yeah…
Paul: Not good.
Maria: It was good in that it was safe. They’re just funny, psychiatrists…The psychiatrist who, he’s got an iPad, and iPhone, and like, another bag of tricks, and he sits down and he’s like, kind of lays out his entire body. He’s probably like 6’3", puts his feet up on the table and he’s like, ‘So?’ and kind of like squinches down in his chair kind of like a basketball star and I’m like, ‘What…what’s going…?’ Not that…I mean, I get it. You’re here all day. Maybe, you see everything, you’re tired, but then he started taking phone calls during the session which is, um, I had to pay cash out of pocket. He was the only psychiatrist I could see. So it was $350 and he was taking calls and I said, ‘Hey man, you know, could you just not take a couple of calls?’ He says, ‘Well, I’m very busy.’ I go, ‘Yeah.’
So I tried to say something about it and then, um, we got into, you know, what…he was just asking about my story and I think he was listening cause he did say, when I was a comedian, and um, all the sudden I hear from his iPad come up the sound of, like a voice or something like that. I was like, what is he playing, a video game now? He’d YouTubed me during the session and was playing it back to me like target spots and I was like, "Hey…
Paul: Are you sh…
Maria: …hey buddy! What?!…I said, um, “This is insane!" And I think I was fairly pleasant about it. He said, uh, ‘Oh, well, I just had to make sure that you weren’t psychotic.’ And I’m like, you know, if someone’s psychotic, you check that shit later out, you know, like… So you’re Jesus, I’ll put that in an internet search later and see what comes up. You don’t look like the Jesus I know but I’m just going to take you for your word. He was saying, you know, that he had to know that I was really an entertainer. Like, how many people say that they’re entertainers in Los Angeles County? Even if I’m not, who gives a shit? Like, what does that have to do with anything? So that…I think the humbling part of it of going, uh, yeah, like what you’re saying when you go in the hospital, it’s like you gotta let go and go…okay, I’m here and just um, let go. Just hope for the best, cause um, you know, it was good for me to be there cause I felt, um…safe, you know, and I was, so…
Paul: I just want to interject something for anybody…I’m so glad that you talked about that because a lot of people will have an experience like that and then say that stands for all psychiatry and they will never go back.
Maria: Oh my God, yeah, no, no, no, no …
Paul: And there are bad ones out there but there…the majority of help out there is good and if you just keep going, just keep looking, you will find the right one and you will know because you…when you walk into that room or after a couple of visits, you will feel safe, you will feel listened to, and you will feel like, ‘Okay. I’m moving forward with this person.’
Maria: Yeah, and….this guy could’ve been having a bad day…
Paul: No, he is a fucking asshole.
Maria: Yeah…or burned out or whatever. Everybody has…I mean, I know I’ve had some bad days where I’ve just not shown up. So…I get that but uh, you know, I’ve also had some wonderful ones like the one in…I mean, have you ever read the medical reporter for…He writes uh, he’s a physician Atul Gawande, is it? He’s a—sometimes he’ll write…
Paul: I don’t read foreigners. (laughs)
Maria: Okay…um, he’s an American and we’re all immigrants. Just about the American healthcare system and, like, just the idea that listening is so important part of medical…like any medical transaction is like, just that it’s healing to be heard, you know…and uh -
Paul: So healing.
Maria: Yeah. This guy, the who was the psychiatrist at Glendale Adventist, he said, "Tell me your story from the beginning!" which I was like, "WHAT!" Like, in a very calm, like genuinely interested way and I was like, "Oh my God, dude, you’re good!" That’s very generous, like that’s very generous and um, it just seemed very…I mean wanted to keep it tight, I tried to keep it tight cause I don’t want go over the light. He did have a light and I did try to wrap it up after the 5 minute mark but yeah.
Paul: Did he lose interest when the checks went out?
Maria: But that’s cause he was distracted! It wasn’t that he wasn’t enjoying the show.
Paul: Standup jargon that Maria and I are exchanging.
Maria: But, but, and I have a current psychiatrist, who she’s not perfect, you know, we’ve had some—like I got totally irritated
She put me on, she didn’t put me on, I chose…accepted the prescription of Lamictal which is I think is very successful with people who um, mood stabilizer, and one of the main side effects though is cognitive problems where you have trouble speaking, talking, or thinking and I think if you’re…and I felt so mad that she did not tell me that, you know, that that was one of the main side effects and it’s like, Dude, I’m a comedian! That’s my job! and so I was able to tell her that and she was like, ‘Yeah, yeah…’ I haven’t had…She hadn’t had anybody who’d had that kind of job before so um…
Paul: So you got off that one?
Maria: Yeah. I got off that and I think that’s good too to be able to share. I’m sure she’s been irritated with me cause one thing I do, I don’t know if you do this, Paul but I like to forget to refill my prescriptions! Oh my God!!! What??? I’ll be fine just for a couple of days…what am I doing??? Don’t touch the hot stove! as my sister says. The stove is hot! Don’t touch it. What if I just go off my meds for a couple…No! Hey…stove! Hot! Don’t touch it. Uh, (laughs) so that’s…I can not imagine how irritating that is to physicians like, you know, like cause I’ve called her from various cities and said, "Oh, I forgot. Could you call in a prescription and (mumbles)” You know, and I’m sure there is a huge high burn out rate because it’s just so super stress…I have friends who work in mental health. Just to have people, especially people like myself, white, privileged, you know, I’ve got everything, then hearing that person being in crisis. I mean, Come on! There’s plenty of people…I’ve got a friend who worked in mental health in South Central Compton Mental Health Center and people are sleeping overnight in the alley to make their meds appointments.
Maria: Because you have to take three buses to get there or um, I mean, like it’s um, yeah…it’s just…
Paul: And you also think about the fact that that is a depressed person who struggles to get up, who is struggling to do the most mundane of tasks so imagine how many people aren’t willing to jump over those hurdles and are just going to sit in their sickness and take what comes.
Maria: Yeah, yeah, yeah! No, or why not just drink all day because you gotta wait at the mental health clinic while you’re feeling horrible for four hours for your appointment. Uh, maybe they’re there? Maybe the appointment got screwed up and you gotta come back tomorrow on two, three buses? Uh, maybe they’ll have your meds? You know, yeah, it’s not…it just…it just…
Paul: And a lot of the people you probably encounter at that place are burnt out…
Maria: Super burnt out.
Paul: …and so you get the feeling from non-verbal cues that they don’t really care about me…
Maria: My friend had 200 clients…200! 1 person, 200 clients. And many of those people were people with severe mental illness…like schizophrenia and um, quite a number of things going on like drug and alcohol abuse, so many things. Some people have it really terribly and that was the good thing in hearing from my…of people who uh, especially in the hospital, I’ve found that, um, some of the people who were like lifelong, you know, schizophrenia….where, you know, where sometimes you’re in and out of the hospital or halfway houses or on the streets or it feels better to be out on the street and off your meds cause the meds make you feel fat and sleepy and terrible all the time, you know, like, um, like those people seem to be very Zen on some level, you know, like I, (laughs) I have a joke just saying that, you know, sometimes you gotta wrap a blanket burrito around your meats and cheeses, put a little feedbag of microwavable popcorn around your neck and…have the Coast Guard take you to Lost at Sea Hospital because you are lost at sea and there you’ll walk around the cement courtyard with a schizophrenic man with no teeth and no pants who keeps saying things like, ‘It gets better!’ … ‘I don’t think I believe you but you’re very sweet.’ Um, but that’s…um so swee—
Paul: Was that your experience?
Maria: …just yeah, really lovely sweet man, I was just pacing the halls like everybody and um…he would always go by and go, "You’re gonna be okay!" and you know, he’s obviously been through this a bil…billion times being hospitalized…but yeah, it was just very, very sweet, very uh…
Paul: Can we talk about the hospitalization from the beginning of before where you were and how it progressed to the point where you knew you wanted to hospitalize yourself.
Paul: This was about a year and a half ago? I remember getting an email from you saying you were checking yourself in.
Maria: Going in…checking…Yeah! Yeah! Didn’t get a response from that. (laughs) No…
Paul: I did! I did email…
Maria: Yeah, I know you did. Ah, yeah! What happened…I was…I mean, probably ever since I turned 40 I started…and I don’t know if it’s a biochemical thing or, I also…situational thing. I moved into a house so I was more isolated, also a bit more stressed and pressure. I had a relationship breakup, a bunch of things going on so its like maybe those things added to it and I told my mom had a manic episode and I told my friends, "Hey, if I ever start talking too fast or have a lot of great ideas, just let me know, you know, just…and I’ll go into the hoosegow and um…
Paul: Can I stop you for one second? You have bipolar…
Maria: Bipolar 2, I guess which is the new gladiator sandal, so that’s what it’s called now…
Paul: (laughs) Okay.
Maria: …yeah, cause I always thought I was just depressed, which I felt was true, but I did have times of like agitated and wanting… getting a bunch of stuff done. I do remember staying up all night doing things and I guess that’s like a…light mania and I didn’t realize that, um, cause I had heard about…I heard about Bipolar 1 where you can really tell someone’s spending thousands of dollars and then alternately really cutting themselves or severe ups and downs and I didn’t…I didn’t know I had that so…uh, my friend said, "Hey! Maria! You know how you told me…it just seems like you’re kind of talking kinda fast," and I was like, "Okay!" and my psychiatrist said also that I for the past couple of months had been saying, "Really, you’re speedy. You’re really speedy I want you to try this mood stabilizer." And I was like, "No, that’s for crazy people." and I refused and then I thought, "Okay, I’ll go on this mood stabilizer and I was…and I just wanted to do the responsible thing, uh, and I was feeling bad so I thought, "I’ll just…I wanted to go into Las Encinas and then you know…
Paul: Got ready for a nice swim!
Maria: Right, right! Got ready for a nice swim, it’s going to be a relaxing weekend! So it wasn’t super high pressure! I’m going to nip this in the bud, and just not be by myself when I’m going on this new medication, I’m not feeling the greatest. Um, so I did that and um…and it was helpful and I think that’s when I got on Lamictal and I thought, ‘Well, I better have this cause I spent three days in the hospital, so back out on the road! And then, you know, uh, with Lamictal wasn’t working and then also you know, starting to have real problems with work…working and um…yeah, that….
Paul: Because it was difficult to form sentences and thoughts…
Maria: Sentences…and I started to get more and more terrified and more and more jacked up depressed, like suicidal hopeless…like, and uh, so the second time…Oh! And I went through an outpatient treatment program at Glendale Adventist for about 6 weeks after that and basically kind of like breezed through it, not breezed through it but just was like ok, “I got this! Okay! Okay, bye!" And um, basically outpatient was to create some sort of structure, I think, and that was very helpful. It wasn’t…it was cognitive behavioral therapy and um…It wasn’t like, "Oh, I’m learning a ton!" It was providing a comfort and a place to go where I could kind of stabilize while getting on these new meds. So -
Paul: So you were off Lamictal at that point.
Maria: No, no, no. I was still on it. I was on the road and I was starting to go back to work. And then just things kept getting worse. Like, I was doing the road and like, I’d have to call my psychiatrist freaked out cause I wasn’t able to sleep and uh, and yeah, it’s just things just started to get more and more confusing and sort of frightening and it wasn’t getting better and um…so…
Paul: That must be terrifying!
Maria: Yeah, yeah! I almost feel like, especially you know the American way is like, "Oh, you take the correct actions, you know" and maybe this isn’t - I come from a family where people are always suggesting things. ‘You know what I did! You know, um…’ My mom is like, ‘You know what I did?’ It’s probably exactly what I did because you raised me, we do the exact same things. We do almost the exact same things. Uh, you know, "Did you…Honey, did you call around and see if that plumber…?" I did. I did do that, Mom. Oh! If I take the right actions, then everything is going to be fine and it just wasn’t that way at all. It was just like this long, embarrassing process. I had a mentee…mentee somebody, a friend, and she, uh…she called…
Paul: Somebody you were mentoring in your support group?
Maria: I’ll called her from the psych ward, just to tell her I was in the psych ward. She was like, "You know what? Um…It just sounds like you’re really busy…you know what?" You don’t think I have what you want? Um, So anyways…things just started to get worse and worse. I didn’t want it to become worse and worse. And I was kind of feeling like it was my fault, like the medications weren’t kicking in and they were kind of confusing me. I just couldn’t get a handle on my thoughts and uh, then so…I think it was, um…6 months late…I don’t know…I don’t know the timeline cause it feels like….
Paul: It’s okay.
Maria: Six…5, 4 months later… I had gone through the outpatient treatment program, gotten the certificate, signed by all the therapists which does feel good and um, my sister had come to visit and I just…and I thought that that was going to help. Oh, that will be fun! and I just started to kind of freak out so I checked myself in at Glendale Adventist which is…is definitely more of a, a very hospital-like setting. It’s very closed in and there’s like a cement courtyard place you can hoof it around in your socks and uh, they give you socks. You get some nice socks with rubber…
Paul: They take your shoes, right?
Maria: They take your shoes and your shoelaces. You can wear your shoes as long as you don’t have shoelaces and that feels a little cuckoo.
Maria: and you go to different groups all day that are you know, whoa. You know, it’s uh, humbling, like you know, grooming group where you have to ask the nurse, "Can I please have a razor to shave my light mustache that is growing over the…? And you know, they watch you as you’re doing it and wow! It’s not fun. It’s not super fun but I think the important thing is I was safe because I had started planning, going Well! I have all these pills! I’ll just, you know, and it was such a disappointment to my sister, my family…just feeling like I had invited her out here. I was feeling worse and worse and getting terrible ideas. Then! and this might have been…the…my, uh, psychiatrist suggested they do brain scans where they can tell the now, tell you what medications might work best for you, but you have to get off all your meds first. Oh boy. And, and the funny thing is my mom does really well on Depakote and she has for like 30 years. I didn’t want to take Depakote because I worried about weight gain so all that to say, uh, I refused to take Depakote which probably would’ve worked right away cause what I’m on now and uh -
Paul: You’re on Depakote now.
Maria: Depakote now. Yeah I feel really great, yeah really great. I’m still a little bit more sleepy than usual but I went off of everything and, I mean, that was when I went into the hospital for about 7 days cause that was just…
Paul: Was that when you sent the email?
Maria: I think…I don’t know…I can’t remember…there’s several cries for help. I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t…
Paul: No. I feel bad because I didn’t know it was a cry for help! I thought it was your way of saying, uh, ‘I’m going off by myself now. I’ll…please don’t contact me.’
Maria: Oooohhhhhh, okay. Oh, that’s so funny! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah …
Paul: If I had known that you wanted visitors cause I heard you say on Janet’s podcast that you wanted people to visit you and I felt terrible because I was like, ‘OH! I would’ve visited you in a heartbeat!’
Maria: No, no, no, no! I think I…part of me, I guess…I think it was low self-esteem of going, ‘Oh, I don’t want…’ And also not wanting anybody to see me like that!
Paul: It felt like you were pushing everyone away.
Maria: Yeah! Everybody away…
Paul: Just the way it was worded.
Maria: Yeah, yeah. No, I think you’re right cause then I -
Paul: I think you said something about, ‘I’ll contact you when I get out.’
Maria: Yeah, and now I look back and I go, I mean, were something like that to happen again, I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, get everybody. Anybody wanna come visit? Come visit. It’s uh…#1, it’s hilarious and it is kind of a very fun memory in retrospect that I share with some friends coming to visit…just uh, how, uh, ridiculous it was and, um, but yes, so then I went in for about 7 days and um, and that was just, and it was awful. You know, I just felt awful, so awful.
Paul: Can you describe what you were feeling?
Maria: Um…I just…there’s not really…it’s anything I felt before. Uh, sort of this whole gradual slide…it was…it was like that Darkness Visible book, just like, yeah…it’s like breathing is…is not good. Like, I just wanna be knocked out, like every day was just, uh, like a minute by second by second sort of torture. It wasn’t…I mean, I’ve been depressed before and crying and stuff like that and this was not crying. This was just like, I am in this high state of agitation, just sort of like, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t focus on anything. Um, I couldn’t really talk to people really well, um, yeah. It was um, very odd, very odd and disturbing -
Paul: It sounds exhausting.
Maria: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, there was no…this is the thing…they don’t have any exercise. I mean, some of the things that are so helpful for mental health, they don’t have, like there’s a lot of carbs in mental health facilities and a lot of uh…and I think there may be some lack of funding issue or, or burnout, you know, like some things I thought, like they’d have groups and there’s some wonderful people, like really wonderful who did things for people, would kind of connect people and like, one lady was so great. She came in and she was Filipino and she was like, ‘Let’s do a game or something’ and it was hilarious. I mean, it was kind of like really did occupy your brain for a little bit, everyone could participate. But then like, there was one guy in the group every day, and the whole group would be like, ‘Let’s go around the room! How’s everybody feeling?’ And people are feeling horrible. Their answers aren’t going to change from day to day. He’s like, ‘You know, sometimes life, it’s just suffering, you know? You just…you just feel, you know, it’s not good! You know, and you think, ‘Is it going to get better?’ And it doesn’t! Anyways, how you doing, Alice? How you doing?’ (PG laughs.) ‘Oh, there’s a television in my head and sometimes I hear it and sometimes I try to turn it off!’ ‘Well, how are you feeling though, Alice?’ ‘Well, uh, I worry that the uh, Russian militia’s coming over the hill.’ ‘I know that, but uh, Alice, how are you feeling?’ ‘I’m pretty good. Pretty good.’
I mean, so totally useless on some level. I was like, you know what would be more useful is if we played some game like One Big Blob. Have you played One Big Blob?
Maria: It’s a tag game where one person has to chase somebody else and then they start chanting “One big blob” and people chase somebody else and they all start linking hands and pretty soon there’s 20 people, one big blob chasing one person, and then you become one big blob. Anyways, like easy things, like having like just a joke book, like even if people could read aloud from it. Some of the moments of relief were like I’d ask people, “Hey, do you have any jokes?” and they’d tell—and I’d be like—it was sort of like a relief for a second cause I couldn’t read anything and just to get your mind off, yeah, just how it wasn’t so good.
Paul: Would you try to make other people laugh and break the ice?
Maria: Oh no, I was beyond—well beyond that.
Paul: Sentences were too hard.
Maria: Yeah, yeah. It was not, not good.
Paul: So what was the turning—any other highlights or lowlights from there?
Maria: I did see another comedian there though.
Paul: Oh yeah?
Maria: Yes, hilarious. And I could not—I, um, they were having some sort of issue, I think it was addiction-related and—but anyways, it was so funny. They were making phone calls off the phone to get gigs the next weekend, from the psych ward. And I’m like oh my God, that is awesome.
Maria: It was so great. Which, you know, had I
When confronted with dogma-threatening, worldview-menacing ideas, your knee-jerk response is usually to lash out and try to bat them away, but thanks to a nearly unavoidable mistake in reasoning, you often end up doing battle with arguments of your own creation. Your lazy brain is always trying to make sense of the world on ever-simpler terms.…
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