Mclean Hospital

Podcast: Changing Course – A Lifesaving Decision

June 12, 2019

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Today, Trevor talks about being self-aware and the need to constantly remind himself that he is a work in progress.

Then we chat with Lindsay Kalter (06:20), a former reporter who bravely shared her experience with mental illness on the cover of The Boston Herald. Lindsay talks about the difficulty of being a writer with OCD and her struggles with depression.

She also discusses relationships, family, and her decision to write about her depression and her treatment and the internal battle she faced about the story’s release.

Learn More About Lindsay’s Story

Episode Transcript

Trevor: Okay. We’re back. I’m back. Mindful Things, episode 15. We’re doing well. Thanks to all of you, new listeners, returning listeners, we’re getting good numbers. We’re really happy about that. Please continue to spread the word. Review us on your favorite podcast app. Send us an email. Tell us what you think. It would be really great.

On today’s episode, we are interviewing Lindsay Kalter, journalist. She wrote for The Boston Herald, and presently she writes for the Association of American Medical Colleges. Lindsay Kalter, like myself, was a patient here at McLean. She did the outpatient program. She has a diagnosis of OCD, and she talked about her experiences here at McLean and coping with mental illness.

Most importantly, she wrote a column about her stay here at McLean, and it was not only published in The Boston Herald, the column took place over the course of two days. She was on the front page—a photo of her, her column. It’s pretty amazing. I think we’ll have a link to the column in the show notes. It’s a really good read. I highly recommend you all read it. I really enjoyed the column, and I really enjoyed Lindsay as a guest. She clues in real quickly to what she said is my snarky-ness, and she gives it right back, which is good. I like that. It was a lot of fun.

Just a really quick update, and it actually has to do with Lindsay. Something that she said during our pre-interview that stuck with me all weekend and really irritated me. Now, not how she said it or anything. It has nothing to do with her, but this is kind of a real sore subject with me. She said, in a very nice, complimentary way, she said, “You’re so self-aware.” Naturally I didn’t take it as a compliment, and it was. It was meant to be. Because this is an issue I’ve been struggling with for years, the more I become self-aware of my illness and what I’m doing, and how I act out, and how I express my emotions, I think that is a good thing. It’s on the road to being more mindful of your actions and just displaying better behavior. I think that’s great.

The problem is for me, and I’m aware I’m not giving myself enough credit. I’m aware that this is a very negative outlook, and I don’t recommend anybody else think like this. I’m just trying to be honest. Is that it infuriates me that I’m self-aware, and yet I still continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. The self-aware part I then use to beat, really beat myself up. Well, you know the outcome of this Trevor. You’re aware of it. Why are you doing this again? You just promised yourself five minutes ago, when you did it the last time, that it would never happen again, and here you are. It’s irritating. It’s frustrating. It’s not fair to myself at all.

I just feel I need to be honest. I think it’s important to be self-aware, I really do, and I wish I could give myself a break. I’m trying to incorporate mindfulness into giving myself a break, but this is something that I just can’t get over. It’s something that I’m actually just harder on myself about. You know how you react in these situations, Trevor. You know what the outcome is. Why do you keep doing this? Well, the answer is that I’m still having a very hard time regulating my emotions. Something happens, I get emotional quick, and then I act.

That’s not how the triangle works, which in this episode you’ll hear Lindsay and I talk, also known as complain, about the triangle, which is very important. I’m quick to emotion, quick to act off those emotions. I need to think about my feelings, process them, and then act. I also need to do this when I beat myself up for knowing better. I need to remind myself that I’m a work in progress, and that there is no timetable. That’s hard. It’s hard for me to not be on a time table. It’s hard for me not to go, “Well, in three months you’re going to be better about this.”

I want to do it. I want to set goals, and you should set goals with your mental health, but you also need to be flexible. You need to give yourself a break. I’m not doing that, and other than trying to be more mindful of giving myself a break, I don’t know what else to do. Clearly this is something I need to discuss with my therapist. I’ll leave that there. That’s kind of all I’ve got.

Yeah. Lindsay, really great interview. She’s very, very open, not afraid to say anything. Really wonderful person. I hope you enjoy it.

Lindsay: So.

Trevor: So.

Lindsay: What’s up?

Trevor: Pulitzer Prize, award-winning journalist—

Lindsay: That’s false. We’re starting with a lie.

Trevor: No?

Lindsay: Cool.

Trevor: Have you won any awards for writing?

Lindsay: No.

Trevor: No?

Lindsay: No.

Trevor: Where does the need to write come from?

Lindsay: That’s an excellent question. I have no idea. I just know that ever since I was a very small child I liked to write. I didn’t give a shit about anything else in school. I just wanted to write.

Trevor: Right. There was a rock journalist famous in the ‘70s, maybe the ‘80s. I don’t know if he’s still alive. His name’s Lance Bangs.

Lindsay: Okay—

Trevor: There’s this movie called “Almost Famous,” where Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays him, and he says this thing that really stuck with me. He said, “Sometimes I just do speed and a little bit of cough syrup just to stay up all night and write.” He goes, “Write about whatever.” He goes, “I would write about the faces of John Coltrane and all this stuff.” I’m not talking about speed and cough syrup—

Lindsay: Yeah, I never did that.

Trevor: Did you ever like, nobody’s going to see this, nobody’s going to read this, but I need ... Just like all night or a couple days just write something that came from here?

Lindsay: Oh yeah. Yes, and it was always very healing for me.

Trevor: I mean, was it drivel? Was it just stuff that like, I’m just going to get it out, and I’m not going to care about the structure of it, I’ve just got to get all this out, or because you’re a writer, there’s that discipline with it as well?

Lindsay: There was a little bit of discipline with it. I didn’t just, it wasn’t like free association. I wasn’t just writing whatever came to mind. I did try and create something, but it was mostly for cathartic purposes, and it was always after something bad happened. It was always when I was feeling bad. It was always when I was at my worst, and I really needed an outlet. That was my outlet.

Trevor: How would, because you have an OCD diagnosis.

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: Does your OCD manifest itself in your writing?

Lindsay: It’s been a huge barrier in the past, and thank goodness my medication is helping now, because I used to have problems when I was producing something. Nothing ever looked right to me, so I would get fixated on one sentence and not be able to move on.

Trevor: Okay. Explain this. What do you mean the sentence didn’t look right?

Lindsay: There would be something that just didn’t feel right about it.

Trevor: Okay. How it was worded, the structure?

Lindsay: The structure. The words that I used. Anything about it. Just there was something that felt off to me about it. If it didn’t feel like it was 100% on point, I couldn’t move on from it. That was really debilitating, given my job. I would either have to be very uncomfortable and move on, and go against what I felt was right at the time, or I would just spend hours agonizing over a paragraph.

Trevor: How would you deal with that when you have a looming deadline?

Lindsay: Right. Exactly. It was very painful.

Trevor: Were you hell for your editors?

Lindsay: Yeah, but for multiple reasons.

Trevor: I’m not asking if you have a book in you, but would you be able to write a book, or would your OCD just be able to prevent you from committing to something of that size or scope?

Lindsay: I definitely would love to write a book. One of the things that is difficult for me as a journalist is my ability to produce is totally contingent on how close my deadline is. I would need to set very close deadlines for myself, and that’s harder to do when you’re writing something long term like a book. No, I don’t think my OCD would prevent me from writing a book at this point. I think I have it pretty well under control right now.

Trevor: You’re a real journalist, so you’ve written in print and stuff like that.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: I have friends that are film critics, and I’ve been seeing my friends that were writing for print just dwindle over the years.

Lindsay: Yeah, it’s really sad.

Trevor: They’ve had to go to other avenues and stuff like that. What publications have you been writing for?

Lindsay: Like all—

Trevor: Yeah, through your career.

Lindsay: Over time?

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: I wrote for the Baltimore Sun in college. I interned there. The Dallas Morning News. I wrote for the Catonsville Times, which was a weekly newspaper. I was there for two months, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. Then Politico, People. A lot of people don’t know that Politico is a print newspaper too, but it is, and I was at Politico for a while. The Herald.

Trevor: The Herald.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: You’re well known for writing a column. It was a column that went over the course of two issues, right? Two days in a row, or was it more than that?

Lindsay: Yes. It was two days.

Trevor: Two days. It was about your stay here at McLean.

Lindsay: Yes.

Trevor: What was interesting about it is I read the column yesterday thinking, well there’s not going to be anything that, being a patient here myself, I’m not going to learn anything new from this. Because I’m an asshole, and that’s what I thought.

Lindsay: You are an asshole.

Trevor: I thought, okay. Then I read it, and you managed to describe a lot of the fears and the feelings that I wasn’t able to find the words to say or was afraid to say. You talked about something specifically which I struggled with when I was here, and I felt so guilty about that I never spoke of it. That’s when you’re sitting down in group, and you’re looking around, and you’re seeing, it’s not like you think you’re better than everybody, but you’re seeing what everybody’s dealing with, and then it hits you how grave your situation is.

Lindsay: Yes.

Trevor: I’m with these people.

Lindsay: Yup.

Trevor: They’re with me. It really hits you how sick you are.

Lindsay: Absolutely. I definitely had a couple moments when I first got here, when I was sitting in group, and kind of looking around and trying to figure out what everybody else was going through, and thinking to myself, I don’t belong here. Not me. I mean, I definitely did belong there.

Trevor: Oh totally. Me too.

Lindsay: It was just difficult to accept that what I was seeing in other people I in fact was experiencing myself.

Trevor: I had this situation. I think I told this on the podcast before. I had a gentleman sitting next to me. It was my first day. My first day was on December 23rd. It was right before Christmas. We’re sitting there, and he’s crying, really crying hard. Then he suddenly, and I mean suddenly, stops crying. He turns to me, now he’s totally fine, he turns to me, and he’s like, “Hey, how are you doing?”

Lindsay: What?

Trevor: He’s got a big smile on his face.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: I’m like, “I’m doing well. How are you doing?” He like, “Oh, I’m doing well.” Then he turned right back and then started crying again. I was like, oh shit.

Lindsay: Yeah, these people have some serious shit going on.

Trevor: Right, but I wasn’t thinking, oh, these are where the real screwed up. No, this is wrong, I don’t belong here. I totally belong here. My issues are just as extreme as ... I’m not better than anybody, but at the time you’re going in, and I was expecting things, but I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve never seen that before. I had never seen OCD before, and a friend I made ... I’ve never seen crippling OCD. She saw a little pile of dirt on the floor, and she literally froze. Froze. She just stopped. She couldn’t move. We actually had to pick her up and move her out of the room.

Lindsay: Oh my god.

Trevor: To calm her down.

Lindsay: Yeah, that’s really crippling.

Trevor: Yeah, and I realized, oh, that’s a prison. I’m no longer going to ... You hear so often people say, “Oh my god, I’m so OCD about this.” Yeah, I stopped that shit right after I saw it.

Lindsay: I hate it when people say that.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: It kills me.

Trevor: Yeah. I was like, I am never saying that again, because now I’ve really seen it, and that is a, that’s a federal prison.

Lindsay: Totally.

Trevor: That’s solitary confinement.

Lindsay: 100%.

Trevor: Yeah. How does OCD manifest itself with you in your everyday life?

Lindsay: It’s really strange because I’ve had it since I was a very small child, and so I don’t remember life without it. When people ask me how OCD manifests in my life, it’s almost difficult to pinpoint because they’re things that I’ve been doing for so many years that it’s just normal life for me. It’s a lot of the rituals that you hear about. It’s doing things. I have to do things eight times. I have to touch things a certain way with a certain finger with my right hand. I have to, if I’m reading a book, sometimes I have to read a sentence eight times before I can move on.

Trevor: Is that your OCD, or as a writer are you studying the sentence?

Lindsay: Oh no. It’s all my OCD. What continues to be so irritating to me about OCD is that I can’t articulate what I’m afraid of, what I’m afraid will happen if I don’t do these rituals.

Trevor: You do have an idea of what will happen.

Lindsay: I don’t.

Trevor: No.

Lindsay: I can’t say to myself, “If I don’t read this sentence eight times, I’m going to die.” That’s not a fear. I don’t know what it is that compels me to do it, and that’s one of the things that I find to be continually really, really annoying about it, is that I can’t even pinpoint why I do it.

Trevor: Do you think you have a fear of the unknown?

Lindsay: Maybe. Yeah, maybe I’m afraid of what will happen because I don’t know what it is.

Trevor: You wrote a column for The Herald. It was very direct. People can find it. Google Boston Herald, Lindsay Kalter. She’s right on the cover. It was a bold move for The Herald.

Lindsay: Yeah it was.

Trevor: It’s an impressive column. How did you feel about being not just your column being on the front page of The Herald, but a full-size shot of you right there on The Herald?

Lindsay: Yeah, that was weird.

Trevor: Talking about my OCD, my stay at McLean. How did that feel, and what came of that? Because I’m sure people came out of the woodwork you haven’t heard from in years and have been like, “Oh, I saw you on The Herald. How’s it going? Let’s catch up.”

Lindsay: Well, the really fun thing was that I met a guy at a hockey game the night before it came out, and we were texting, and it was great, and we were going back and forth. I was like, “By the way, I have kind of—”

Trevor: Only pick up tomorrow’s issue of The Herald.

Lindsay: Right. I was like, “I have a story coming out in The Herald tomorrow.” He was like, “Cool. I’ll check it out.” Never heard from him again.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: I definitely had moments of being like, what the ---- did I do? Why did I do this? I had time to think about it beforehand, and what I decided was it’s very unnatural for me to make myself the story and to make myself the center of attention. I don’t do well with that. What I decided was that if I didn’t write about it and if I didn’t try and make people feel less alone, then I really didn’t see a point in what I was doing with my life. I really felt like that was what I needed to do next in my career. The night before it was published, I remember lying in bed and just thinking, okay, so tomorrow I’m going to be on the cover of The Herald. I spilled my guts in that column, and people might judge me, and future employers might judge me, and future dating partners might judge me. I remember feeling definitely very afraid about that, but I never regretted it.

Trevor: Did anybody come to you and say, “You shouldn’t have done that.”

Lindsay: Yeah actually, I did have people coming to me. I think there was one guy who was, he worked in media relations for a hospital, and he was somebody I was in pretty regular contact with. He was like, “I think you went too far sharing too much of yourself there.” I was like, well, can’t undo it.

Trevor: Yeah, thanks buddy.

Lindsay: Thank you for your feedback. Then of course that was nothing compared to the positive. I had so many people sending me emails, sending me written letters.

Trevor: Did you find that annoying?

Lindsay: No. I actually was really shocked at how common mental illness was.

Trevor: Oh yeah, it’s pretty rampant.

Lindsay: Yeah. There were people in my office who came up to me, and I feel like most people came up to me either saying, “Yeah, I’ve suffered from something similar.” Or, a family member has suffered from something similar, or a friend, or my mom, or my dad, or my kid. It was really surprising to me that so many people could relate, and it definitely made me feel less alone.

Trevor: How are you feeling? You just got offstage, you’ve come right here to do a podcast, how are you feeling right now?

Lindsay: I feel really relieved that the speech is over. I really hate public speaking.

Trevor: Mm-hmm, but you agreed to do it.

Lindsay: Yeah, I agreed to do it because I thought it was important. I thought if people, if this group of kids can maybe benefit from what I have to say, then why not?

Trevor: I think specifically young women benefit.

Lindsay: Yeah. Hopefully.

Trevor: I don’t think enough women talk about it, and that’s not criticism of women. I think there’s little incentive to talk about it because the few that have talked about it in the past get raked over the coals for it.

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: Winona Ryder talked about it in ‘99 with Barbara Walters, and it almost demolished her career. I remember watching it, and watching the press fallout for the next month, and was like, this is, even in 1999, when nobody discussed mental illness, I was shaking my head. I was like, this is so wrong.

Lindsay: Yeah, but that was also during a time that, I mean so much has changed since then. That was during a time when—

Trevor: Has it?

Lindsay: Kind of. I mean, the way that the public speaks about it has changed.

Trevor: Yeah. Okay. I think it’s changed, and I think it’s gotten a little better. I don’t think it’s gotten a lot better.

Lindsay: It’s certainly not where it needs to be.

Trevor: I mean, we discussed yesterday in the pre-interview that the rhetoric these days is like, “Mentally ill equals no guns.” Now, we’re not going to get into the gun debate, but I am not going to own a gun. Not because I think I’m going to go out and shoot somebody, but I don’t trust me with a gun. I have enough suicidal ideation in my life that I just don’t need that. At the same time, being mentally ill doesn’t mean that you’re dangerous.

Lindsay: No.

Trevor: Also, being mentally ill and being in therapy is by far one of the most healthiest things you could be doing, even more healthy than somebody’s who’s not mentally ill, or somebody that if you’re sick, you go and get help. That is a healthy thing to do. How many people do you know that are sick, and they’re like, “Well, I don’t want to go to the doctor’s. I don’t want to deal with it.”

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: That’s not healthy.

Lindsay: Yeah. No, I think that there needs to be much more honesty in public discourse about it. I also think that, yeah, there is this idea that people who are mentally ill are dangerous, and we need to keep guns out of their hands.

Trevor: Right.

Lindsay: There’s a lot of that. I even think that’s changing a little bit. I think that there are plenty of people who realize that that’s not actually the problem at all.

Trevor: Actually it’s not even the guns. It’s just the implication that we’re all violent, we’re all dangerous, we can’t be trusted.

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: That’s it. Actually now that I think of it, guns isn’t really even the issue. It’s just the implication of that. Now whenever there’s a shooter, right away, “Oh, was he mentally ill?”

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: Right away, right off the top, or and then that comes out. You can feel this collective like, “Oh.” From the entire country, “Oh, makes sense, he’s mentally ill.”

Lindsay: I think people just really love to scapegoat, and that’s what it comes down to.

Trevor: Okay, and as a journalist, I find you making that comment to have more weight than the average person. Is that something that you see when you’re writing maybe a human-based, a person-based story, is that scapegoating is just something we do, or that’s something that the public enjoys?

Lindsay: I think the public loves it when you give them a narrative. When there’s a narrative, there’s a good and a bad. People love it if you can pinpoint what’s bad. I think it makes the story make sense to people.

Trevor: Is that something your editor will say. You turn in a piece and they say, “Where’s the protagonist and the antagonist in this?”

Lindsay: No, I’ve never had an editor just come straight out and say that, but I think it’s just this unspoken thing. You have a good person. You have a bad person. You have somebody to blame. I also think that the public takes great comfort in that. If there’s somebody to blame, there’s an out group and an in group, and if I’m part of the in group, I’m safe. If there’s an out group, then I know where to direct my rage. I know where to direct my fear. I think it’s just a natural thing for people.

Trevor: What led you to your stay at McLean?

Lindsay: My depression kept getting worse and worse. I couldn’t get out of bed. I was just lying in the dark in bed crying most days. Some days, just numb and not crying, but I felt like I was too big of a burden to exist anymore. I remember thinking, okay, so maybe I should clean out my closet so that my family doesn’t have to deal with that after I end everything. Then I was like, these aren’t good thoughts to have. Maybe I should try and get help.

I was seeing a therapist at the time, and my therapist suggested doing the partial program at McLean.

Trevor: That’s what I did, twice.

Lindsay: Twice? Do you feel like the second time it benefited you, even though you had already been through it?

Trevor: It reinforced what I knew. The reason I was back in the partial was because I had become so overwhelmed with things that I just forgot what they taught me. Then going and reading my notes, it didn’t mean anything. Going back a second time, even though I was like, I’ve heard this before, and I’m sometimes rolling my eyes like this is so boring. It finally sunk in the second time. That stupid triangle, which I wish I’d never—

Lindsay: Oh my god, the triangle.

Trevor: Yeah, which I mean, I feel bad for the people that teach those classes. They’re saints, they really are, because whenever they start the triangle, there’s just this collective groan in the room. Everybody’s like, “Come on. This?” The thing is, the triangle works.

Lindsay: Yeah, it really does.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: It does get so tiresome. Think about having to teach that all the time.

Trevor: Sure, and I’m grateful that they do it.

Lindsay: I know.

Trevor: Because it is, for some of us, and this isn’t being hyperbolic, for some of us it is, that triangle can be life or death.

Lindsay: Yeah. Absolutely.

Trevor: What is it? It’s feelings, actions, thoughts.

Lindsay: Yes. Oh my god, I’m just remembering all these things now. It’s all coming back to me, negative automatic thoughts.

Trevor: Right. You can’t work from your thoughts, because if you do, that’ll dictate your ... No. You can’t work from your feelings, because if you do, that’ll dictate your actions.

Lindsay: That’ll dictate your actions.

Trevor: That’s not ... What you need to do is change your thought process and then change your actions from there, and it’ll result—

Lindsay: Then it’ll change your feelings.

Trevor: Right, then it’ll change your feelings.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: That stupid thing.

Lindsay: That stupid, stupid thing. Oh man.

Trevor: We love the triangle. Relax, okay.

Lindsay: I mean, it’s a necessary evil.

Trevor: Yes, exactly. It’s just, especially in my case, and this is one of the hardest things, I think I talked about this on a previous episode, is I remember going through DBT, and then learning stuff like the triangle. I’d be like, why is this all worded, and why are you approaching this to me and treating me like I’m five years old?

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: They’re like, “Oh, that’s because you didn’t learn this stuff when you were five years old.” I was like, oh.

Lindsay: When it comes to this stuff, you actually are five years old.

Trevor: Literally. Well, not literally, but right now, ever since I’ve really started my therapy eight years ago, I really feel I’m on an accelerated, it’s still taken a really long time, but an accelerated maturation process. I think right now mature-wise, in terms of my emotions, I think I’m in middle school right now. When I was 35, I was five years old. Right now I’m in middle school, and I’m trying to get to high school, and hopefully within the next 10 years or so I’ll be able to process things emotionally like an adult can.

Lindsay: Interesting.

Trevor: Right now, I’m still in that place where, react first emotionally. I don’t take time to think it through logically. Then you throw in the narcissism on top of it, then I make it about myself, and then we’re off to the races.

Lindsay: Do you feel like you would have ... Well, how old were you when you went to the first program?

Trevor: 35.

Lindsay: You were, okay.

Trevor: 35, yup.

Lindsay: Do you feel like you would have been able to mature more quickly if you had gone to the program, say when you were like 25?

Trevor: Yeah. All I think about is lost time. That is one of the things I think about, and then what I do is I go back and I, the last six months have been a real struggle because I spend all of my free time high, on cannabis. It’s legal in Massachusetts, everybody relax. High and ruminating about all the stupid embarrassing things I did from my childhood all the way up, but now they’re re-contextualized. Now I know all those things were rooted in mental illness, and all I can do is just curse myself. If you had only known.

Lindsay: Why isn’t weed helping with this?

Trevor: Why isn’t weed helping with this?

Lindsay: Yeah. Why do you still have those intrusive thoughts when you’re high?

Trevor: I think nothing stops my intrusive thoughts, nothing will, but the weed takes the edge off my meds, and it brings my emotions down, but it doesn’t stop the thoughts.

Lindsay: Gotcha.

Trevor: If my emotions were high, and I was still having those thoughts, that can go to a real bad place.

Lindsay: Got it.

Trevor: Yeah. My approach with cannabis is to stay ... I say cannabis to make it sound more special than weed.

Lindsay: It sounds very fancy.

Trevor: Everything I do is to stay out of the darkness, because I can go there like that.

Lindsay: Is it just day by day?

Trevor: Hour by hour. Yup. It sucks. What’s your relationship with your family like?

Lindsay: I’m very close with my mom. I’m pretty close with, so I have two older sisters, I’m pretty close with one of them. The other one is a pretty toxic bitch. Yeah. I mean—

Trevor: Can’t wait for her to hear this.

Lindsay: She won’t listen. She doesn’t care about me.

Trevor: Okay, hold on. She doesn’t care about you?

Lindsay: I get the feeling that she doesn’t.

Trevor: You get the feeling?

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: Okay, do you know that she doesn’t?

Lindsay: No. Are we going to talk about the triangle again?

Trevor: No. Because I could give you 50 relationships of where I feel the same way right now, and if we could call those people, they’re like, “No, I do care about you. You’re just being dumb again.” I’m not trying to lump you into that, but I kind of am.

Lindsay: Yeah, you are a little bit. Just a little bit.

Trevor: Do you see the two of you ever, or if she’s toxic, it’s best that she’s out of ... I mean, I’ve done that with certain family members. It’s just like, you’re doing more damage to me the longer I stay in this.

Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, I’ve found a pretty good distance from her. We’re civil to each other. We talk maybe once every few months. We’ve reached a point in our relationship that I think we’ve found something that’s workable, but I could never be close to her. I feel constantly judged by her and scrutinized by her.

Trevor: Is she jealous of you?

Lindsay: You know, I get that feeling from her for some reason, but I don’t know what she would be jealous of, because I’m a mess.

Trevor: Yeah, but you’re a journalist. You’ve been on the cover of a major metropolitan newspaper. You’re brave. You’re open about your mental illness at a time where, yes, people are discussing about it more, but I mean you’ve jeopardized your ... I can confidently say that word right now. Putting our mental illness out in the public jeopardizes your career.

Lindsay: That’s scary.

Trevor: It does. It just does.

Lindsay: It does.

Trevor: It does. Sorry, Anna. We have an intern with us today, and today’s her first day, and she’s very young. Yeah. Sorry.

Ana: It’s okay. My career’s on the line too.

Trevor: Yeah. It just, it is. People judge you. They don’t want to deal with that. I’ve literally seen companies that are, “We’ll deal with alcoholics and drug addicts. We just can’t deal with mentally ill people.”

Lindsay: That is so—

Trevor: It’s fantastic.

Lindsay: Wow.

Trevor: Yeah, and by fantastic I mean I can only laugh at it, because it’s—

Lindsay: Right, because what else can you do?

Trevor: Because it’s crazy town.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: Where were we?

Lindsay: Oh, my toxic sister.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: I mean, I think—

Trevor: It’s like Britney’s sequel song 15 years later to “Toxic,” it’s “My Toxic Sister.”

Lindsay: That’s a way less fun version. Less catchy. I think she has her own issues, and hopefully she works through them.

Trevor: Do you all have your own issues?

Lindsay: Oh god, yes.

Trevor: Okay. Everybody has issues, but I’m talking about issues.

Lindsay: Yeah. We have serious—

Trevor: Like the issues you and I have.

Lindsay: Neither one of them have been diagnosed with anything. I would certainly be surprised if they didn’t have something diagnosable.

Trevor: Do you think they’re avoiding it? Do you think they may even be mad at you because you brought something into light that they have been trying to keep into the dark themselves? That they all might have a severe mental illness.

Lindsay: I mean, that’s one way to—

Trevor: I mean, there’s a genetic component to it.

Lindsay: That’s one option. That’s easier to stomach than just thinking she hates my guts. I don’t know. Well, one of my sisters has three kids, and I think she’s been so focused on her kids that she isn’t as focused on—

Trevor: Well, that makes sense.

Lindsay: ... figuring out her own mental stuff.

Trevor: That is very common.

Lindsay: Yeah, but as far as my—

Trevor: Kids ruin everything.

Lindsay: Kids are ruiners. That’s what I try and tell my friends who keep reproducing. They don’t listen to me.

Trevor: Folks, I’m so sorry. You know where I stand on kids. I don’t mean it. I love your kids. I just don’t want any of my own.

Lindsay: I’m just coming from a place of jealously because I desperately want children, and I’m getting old, and it’s going to be harder and harder to have them.

Trevor: Yeah?

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: It’s ticking.

Lindsay: Oh, it’s so ticking. It’s done ticked out.

Trevor: Yeah? It’s ticked out?

Lindsay: Yeah, I think it might be ticked out.

Trevor: Oh no. You think you’re past the point of no return?

Lindsay: I don’t know. I should have frozen my eggs. I really should have frozen my eggs, but it didn’t occur to me when I was young enough for it to make sense. Now, who knows. I mean, if I get pregnant at some point in my life, it will be a geriatric pregnancy, That’s what it’s called. Isn’t that lovely?

Trevor: Sure.

Lindsay: That is what it’s called. Then there’s the whole thing of navigating depression when you get pregnant.

Trevor: Sure. Postpartum.

Lindsay: Yeah. Postpartum, and dealing with taking medications when you’re pregnant, which ones are safe to take when you’re pregnant, if any. I don’t even know that stuff.

Trevor: We talked yesterday, and the thing is that you have a much more level head about it. My thing, I don’t want kids, and I told you, I do think I’m missing out, but I don’t want them because I’m afraid of what’s going to be passed down to them.

Lindsay: I think that’s common.

Trevor: Even though there’s hard science that suggests that’s different. I don’t know. I keep seeing two different takes on the thing. When we talked about it, that’s not a worry for you.

Lindsay: Not really. I just feel like I have a lot to offer. I know I think I have a lot of love to give, as very trite as that sounds, that’s how I feel.

Trevor: That is not trite at all. I wish I had the guts to say something like that. Instead, I wear a badge of honor how cynical, how negative, and how mean spirited I can be.

Lindsay: I mean, I can be all those things too. It’s fine. Parents get to be mean-spirited and negative too.

Trevor: Yeah, that’s definitely another reason why I’m not.

Lindsay: Makes sense.

Trevor: It’s how much of a jerk I can be.

Lindsay: Makes sense. Kids can be jerks too.

Trevor: I always made a joke. The moment the child comes out, I’m going to hand it a smartphone, and I tell it, “For your entire childhood you are not allowed to make a peep. You can communicate to me via text as much as you want.”

Lindsay: Oh my god.

Trevor: Whether I answer or not, it’s up to me. At the dinner table, at the house, silence at all times. You can be on that smartphone as much as you want. I don’t care. I mean, I’m making a joke, but—

Lindsay: You should still never have kids.

Trevor: Yeah. Exactly. What are you going to do?

Lindsay: With my life?

Trevor: No. With having kids. Do you have any other plans, like how are you going to go about this?

Lindsay: Well, I’m trying to do normal human mating things.

Trevor: Yeah. Dating?

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: How’s that going? Yeah.

Lindsay: Dating’s not fun.

Trevor: Yeah. I got out of that game two years ago.

Lindsay: No, you can’t give up.

Trevor: Yeah, totally. Rolling solo.

Lindsay: Really? Just you and the cat, huh?

Trevor: Me and the cat. The cat and I. Did I just correct you on your grammar?

Lindsay: I don’t think you did it in a way that makes sense.

Trevor: I have terrible grammar. Yeah. No.

Lindsay: Okay. Well I want to get a cat too, but I don’t think I’m going to give up on dating.

Trevor: Yeah. You’re doing way better than me.

Lindsay: It’s just I would prefer to have children with the help of a dude, so that’s my goal right now.

Trevor: This is a really great interview. I don’t know what you guys think of this, that are listening on the podcast, but Lindsay’s very funny. Before we leave, I’ve got to ask a couple questions about, when the feelings, when the darkness, when the anger, the sadness, when it takes over, what have been some of your darker actions—when you’ve acted instead of thought? Don’t give up the deepest stuff if you don’t want to, and you don’t even have to answer this question, but it’s something that I think people need to hear so that they know that other people act this way.

Lindsay: A lot of drinking. A lot of meaningless sex. I think the most harmful thing I’ve ever done to myself is isolating myself, because that only makes it all worse.

Trevor: I got to tell you, the cat has been really important, has been really helpful in that way.

Lindsay: Really?

Trevor: Yeah, because there’s at least an emotional transaction with the cat. I slump down in my chair, the cat comes up on my chest, on my lap, she half lays in my lap and half lays on my chest, and she’s looking at me and she’s like, “Um, are you going to love me or what? I’m not going to waste my time. What are you doing?”

Lindsay: Yeah. Cats don’t have patience for that.

Trevor: Yeah, and so I start and just the petting her, and all that stuff, it really helps. At least I’m getting some emotional feedback.

Lindsay: Yeah. I can see that.

Trevor: At least I’m loving something other than hating myself and letting what love I have to give go to waste.

Lindsay: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, I think I have felt at my worst when I’ve allowed myself to isolate myself, and I end up just getting totally taken over by the negative automatic thoughts, as we all know. Then I don’t have anybody to get me out of my own head. Yeah, the actual—

Trevor: Wait, is that true? You don’t have anybody to get you out of your own head?

Lindsay: When I isolate myself, I don’t.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: I mean, I don’t talk to people.

Trevor: You said yesterday in the pre-interview that you had a friend that just gave up on you because they were contacting you, and you just didn’t reach out to them, and they were finally like, “If we’re not even going to have this give and take, what’s the point of me being in this friendship?”

Lindsay: Yeah. She was my best friend from when we were kids too, and so that one was really hard.

Trevor: Have you tried to reach out to her?

Lindsay: No. No, I don’t think I can forgive it.

Trevor: Forgive her, or forgive yourself?

Lindsay: Forgive her, because I tried so hard to explain to her, and I guess not everybody’s going to understand. Most people won’t understand —

Trevor: Most people will not understand, and here’s the other thing, most people won’t understand. A lot of them absolutely do not want to understand, because to even want to understand I think will make them have to face things inside of them.

Lindsay: That might be true.

Trevor: To even acknowledge this thing exists is to possibly acknowledge that something’s happening with them, or within their family, or something like that. Oh, if I address the issue with Lindsay, then I might have to address the issue with my spouse, my child, with me.

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: They’re just like, “No.”

Lindsay: Yeah, and maybe that was part of her reluctance to really try and understand. She just really wasn’t having any of it. She was just so angry with me for being the way that I was. I don’t know that somebody who has that hard of a time understanding who I am, something so fundamental about me, I don’t know if they’re worth my time.

Trevor: The drinking, meaningless sex, I know what you’re talking about. We keep ending up making these ... I don’t want to label them as mistakes. We keep putting ourselves in these situations, and I don’t mean to speak for you, it may be different for you. For me, I keep making these poor decisions over and over again because at least the beginning of it, the lead up to whatever crazy thing I’m going to do is sometimes the only time I feel free and in control. When actually, it’s the opposite. It’s the only time I feel, I don’t even know the words.

Lindsay: No. I completely agree with that. There’s something about it that makes you feel like you’re in control because you’re about to make a really stupid decision. You do have control over your own behavior. You’re just using it in the wrong way.

Trevor: Because the other option is just to go home and be alone with the cat.

Lindsay: Right, or with no cat.

Trevor: Right. It’s easy to justify it. It’s like, well, you needed to get out of the house, so here you are.

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: You’re out of the house.

Lindsay: You’re out of the house. You’re in some random person’s bed.

Trevor: Right, or let’s have another drink.

Lindsay: Right.

Trevor: Right. It’s funny how that works. It was just a week ago you’re beating yourself up for a decision you’ve made the night before, and then a week later you’re back making the same decision, knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out, but lying to yourself, going, “It’ll be different.”

Lindsay: Yeah, I know.

Trevor: It’s never different.

Lindsay: It’s kind of amazing that we’re capable of that.

Trevor: It’s powerful. The brain’s powerful. Mental illness is really powerful. It really is. It has such a grip on me.

Lindsay: On everybody who has it I’m sure.

Trevor: Is there anything you want to add before we wrap up? Where are you writing these days? Where can people read your stuff?

Lindsay: I am writing for a nonprofit in DC called The Association of American Medical Colleges. They have a news site that’s called AAMC News. I write a lot about medical schools, and research, and hospitals. I don’t write about my own experiences anymore, but—

Trevor: You used to for them.

Lindsay: No. Just at The Herald.

Trevor: Do they know that you’re doing this?

Lindsay: Yeah, they do.

Trevor: Yeah, and they’re okay with it?

Lindsay: Yeah. They’re totally fine with it.

Trevor: They better be, if you’re listening.

Lindsay: Yeah. I hope they’re not listening. I don’t want them to know about my meaningless sex.

Trevor: I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people do that.

Lindsay: You think so?

Trevor: Yeah. Absolutely.

Lindsay: What did you do?

Trevor: Meaningless sex.

Lindsay: Oh really?

Trevor: I used to drink too much. I used to binge drink. I could go a month without drinking, but when I did drink, it was to completely obliterate myself and to burn down bridges, destroy friendships. I lost an incredible job, like one of the best jobs. Even though I started out at the ground floor, I was like, and they told me, they were like, “Dude, you’re one of our best employees, but we can’t have this.”

Lindsay: Oh no.

Trevor: They let me go, but the hard thing to accept is that I must have wanted to blow up that opp- ... Deep down.

Lindsay: You made the decision.

Trevor: Not only did I make the decision, but I must have wanted it. I must have wanted to jeopardize this job, this relationship, this friendship, because, oh it’s looking good, it’s working out for me. This thing might actually be healthy for me. I don’t know that stuff. I know chaos.

Lindsay: Yeah. That’s not comfortable.

Trevor: Yeah. I know chaos. I know bad feelings. I know sadness. I know suicide. I know darkness. I know all that stuff. I don’t know happy. I don’t know good. I definitely don’t know consistency.

Lindsay: Isn’t it kind of crazy how comfortable we get with our negative feelings?

Trevor: Totally comfortable.

Lindsay: That becomes preferable almost.

Trevor: Yeah. Last night I went to go see the 1929 film “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” Hands down, 90 years later, still one of the most depressing pieces of cinema, and it couldn’t be more topical with what’s going on today. You’re just literally watching a woman suffering, just suffering for 80 straight minutes. In a room surrounded by men, all not listening to her, all judging her. It is brutal. I own that film, and I still paid to go see it in the theater.

Lindsay: Why do you own that film?

Trevor: It’s a masterpiece, and I love it, and it—

Lindsay: It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that you re-watch.

Trevor: Oh yeah. Well, okay, as a filmmaker I do re-watch it to study it.

Lindsay: Oh, okay.

Trevor: I also re-watch it to subject myself to pain and suffering.

Lindsay: Oh right. I forgot you like to do that.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: I like to do it because it’s the only thing that ... Well, no. Hold on. That’s a delusion. I’ve deluded myself into thinking that’s the only thing that’s real, is pain and suffering. Totally. Anything that’s good I question. I’ve gotten better about it, but I’m still a long ways to go.

Lindsay: Do you see a therapist?

Trevor: Yeah. Not right now because I’m digging out of the ... This is the only stretch I’ve gone without a therapist. Digging out of a financial hole. I’ve still got to get on MassHealth, and then I can see a therapist.

Lindsay: Do you think you’re­­­­—

Trevor: I take therapy very seriously though.

Lindsay: Do you think your bad streak can be attributed to your lack of therapy right now?

Trevor: No.

Lindsay: Okay.

Trevor: No. That’s an up and down thing.

Lindsay: Okay.

Trevor: I really think that the last six months has a lot to do with the breakthroughs, and a few of the breakthroughs are because of this. I had a good friend take me aside, and she was like, “Do you really think this podcast is a good idea?” I’m like, “Yeah, I think it’s going to be really good. I don’t see how anything wrong can come from it.” Nope.

Lindsay: Really?

Trevor: No. There have been things that other people have said in this room that stuck with me for whatever reason, and then it becomes clear, and my brain just falls apart. Yeah. Absolutely.

Lindsay: You’re still going to keep doing the podcast?

Trevor: Absolutely. I don’t have anything else. This is my last shot. I’ve jeopardized all previous jobs. I am really, really good at what I do. It’s the only thing I have confidence in. I hate everything about myself. I don’t think I have anything to offer the world. I know that I’m good at my job. The problem is that I have this problem, and it’ll come up. I’ll have breakdowns. I’m very emotional. I’m very passionate. If something doesn’t go my way, instead of working it out, I have tantrums, and adult tantrums are ... I’m not violent. I’ve never been violent, but adult tantrums are far scarier than a child tantrum. I scream, and I say things that, I’m really good at hurting people with my words. I am phenomenal at it.

Lindsay: Get them where it hurts.

Trevor: Yeah. I can pinpoint your weakness and say the right thing to cut right through it. Because I’ve emotionally overreacted, so I’m really hurting, and my thing is I need to hurt you as much as you’ve hurt me. Even though you didn’t do anything to hurt me, I interpreted it that way. Do you do anything like that?

Lindsay: Oh yeah. I’ve definitely done those things in relationships before.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: Yeah. It’s bad.

Trevor: I’m not even talking about romantic relationships. Friends, family.

Lindsay: Same. Yeah.

Trevor: The one place where you can’t have that is at work.

Lindsay: Right. I’ve never had those problems at work, but—

Trevor: Oh yeah. It’s a huge problem for me. I get too invested in the work. So many times people are like, “Dude, this is not the job to get that emotionally invested in. Do the job. Do your best. Let it go. You’re an artist. Take that and invest it in your private work at home, the movies and the projects you work on in your free time.” Which I do. I can’t do it. I can’t separate them. It’s not like I’m trying to make great pieces of art. It’s just ... Okay, I’m going to admit something. Filmmaking, it’s not an art I’m exploring. Filmmaking is an extension of my narcissism. Filmmaking is a way for me to control the conversation, completely, from beginning to end.

Lindsay: Makes sense.

Trevor: Yeah, because I was never allowed to control a conversation in my childhood. I mean, you’re a writer. Is that a way to control the narrative? Oh, I have a narrative, and I can control it from front to end. I mean, yeah, you have an editor, but—

Lindsay: I guess it could be some level of control, but it didn’t start out that way. That’s not why I initially loved writing. I loved writing because of where it took me in my mind, and how it made me feel. I guess now that I actually have to … I can’t just write my feelings. I have to write narratives. I guess there is some element of control there.

Trevor: What would happen if your ability to write was taken away?

Lindsay: Oh, I would have nothing. I can’t imagine a life like that.

Trevor: Yup. I know that feeling.

Lindsay: Yeah. It’s the one thing that I really love.

Trevor: Well, don’t stop doing it. You’re really good at it.

Lindsay: Thank you.

Trevor: Yeah. I’ve read your stuff.

Lindsay: Yeah?

Trevor: Yeah. It was good.

Lindsay: Did you look me up on Google?

Trevor: No. What they do is somebody sends me an email with a bunch of articles. It’s for my research. Then I research.

Lindsay: Oh. Fine. No Google stalking. I get it.

Trevor: Is there anything you want to add before we go?

Lindsay: I don’t know. I think we’ve covered a lot of bases.

Trevor: Yeah?

Lindsay: Yeah.

Trevor: Okay. Well, Lindsay, it was really nice having you here. Thank you for coming to the graduation and speaking to the graduates.

Lindsay: Yeah. It was an honor. I was really happy to be here, and this was a fun conversation. Thank you.

Trevor: It was fun?

Lindsay: It was fun.

Trevor: Anna, was it fun?

Ana: It was fun.

Trevor: Yeah.

Lindsay: Wow. That sounded really enthusiastic.

Trevor: Yeah. Ana looks like she’s half asleep. I don’t blame you. I would be passed out.

Ana: No. I learned a lot about the two of you. It’s surprising. I’m sitting there, and I’m like, oh shit.

Lindsay: We’re basically all best friends now.

Ana: I shouldn’t be talking, but—

Trevor: Yeah. We’re the Musketeers.

Ana: ... there were so many times where I going to chime in and be like ...

Trevor: The next time Anna, and I’m serious, I’m going to have you on the mic, in case you ever want to chime in.

Lindsay: Yeah. That would be fun. She looks really reluctant about that.

Trevor: I realized after 10 minutes I should have had you over there on the mic, but I need you to learn the mixing board.

Ana: Yeah.

Trevor: Don’t stop writing.

Lindsay: Thank you. I don’t plan to any time soon.

Trevor: The best of luck with your career.

Lindsay: Thank you.

Trevor: Thank you, Lindsay.

Lindsay: Thank you.

Trevor: Okay. What did you think of Lindsay? She’s really great. She called me an asshole. I deserved it. It was really funny. My first. I’ll always remember this one, episode 15, the episode where I was called an asshole. Like I said, Lindsay writes for the Association of American Medical Colleges. We should have links to her Herald column about her stay here at McLean in the show notes. I’d also like to mention that she’s on Twitter, and I’d recommend you follow her. She’s a really good writer. Her Twitter handle is @lkalter, L-K-A-L-T-E-R. Again, that’s L-K-A-L-T-E-R. Yeah.

We’ll be back in two weeks. You know what I realized? I need a closing catchy line, a slogan, a tag or something like that, and I really can’t think of one. I’m trying. I don’t want it to be too thought provoking. I want it to be a kind of line that leaves people on a good note. Maybe a little funny. Maybe a little odd. Yeah, I’m trying to think of a closing tag. If you have any recommendations, feel free to email us. I hope you enjoyed the interview, and we’ll be back in two weeks. Looking forward to it. Bye.

Thank you for listening to Mindful Things, the official podcast of McLean Hospital. Please subscribe to us and rate us on iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you have any suggestions for special topics or future guests, email us at mindfulthings@McLean.org. Don’t forget, mental health is everyone’s responsibility. If you or a loved one are in crisis, The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day at 877.870.4673. Again, that’s 877.870.4673.

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The McLean Hospital podcast Mindful Things is intended to provide general information and to help listeners learn about mental health, educational opportunities and research initiatives. This podcast is not an attempt to practice medicine or to provide specific medical advice.

© 2019 McLean Hospital. All Rights Reserved.

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