February 16, 2023
Comedian, writer, and singer Rachel Bloom joins Jameela this week to discuss struggling with intrusive thoughts from an early age, learning about ADHD as an adult, going from a fear of “crazy” to embracing the term with her tv series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” processing grief during the pandemic, seeing mental health as bespoke rather than textbook, and more.
Follow Rachel Bloom on Instagram @racheldoesstuff
You can find transcripts for this episode on the Earwolf website.
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150 — Rachel Bloom
Jameela Intro: Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. I hope you’re well and today is the ultimate guest because I feel like she is such a staunch and bold advocate against shame; about how you can own all your shame and then repurpose it and recycle it into making the whole world feel happier and better. Her name is Rachel Bloom, the genius behind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and truly just one of the absolute babes of our generation. Someone who has made so many people feel seen, and she does so again in this wonderful chat in which we discuss everything from intrusive thoughts at an early age to learning about having ADHD as an adult, and how that’s kind of recontextualized her life, going from a fear of crazy to embracing the term and even making her art all around that, about processing grief during the pandemic. She went through something unbelievably tricky just a few years ago and we really get into that. And also her ability to see mental health has bespoke rather than textbook, which I think we all need to do. There’s so much information and misinformation all over social media and it’s hard not to just kind of put ourselves in boxes and not treat ourselves enough as individuals who need very very specific care according to our circumstances. She’s so fucking great and real and cool I like her so much that I don’t even want to talk to you anymore. I just want you to listen to the excellent, Rachel Bloom.
Jameela [00:00:28] Rachel Bloody Bloom. Welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Rachel [00:00:31] I’m so. I’m doing so well. How are you doing?
Jameela [00:00:33] I’m so good. And I love hearing that you’re doing so well. You’re very important. And we all care about you very much.
Rachel [00:00:39] Oh thank you. Ok I’ll take it.
Jameela [00:00:40] I genuinely like you’re one of my favorite people for putting a discussion out there that other people don’t have. And you do it via the kind of spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, use comedy and music and all sorts of forms of entertainment, including a hilarious book to be able to destigmatize important conversations for everyone. But I think more specifically, women and women especially, who feel like they are dealing with the fucking challenges of life, especially mental health stuff. So thanks.
Rachel [00:01:12] Thank you. What an intro.
Jameela [00:01:15] `Oh well big fan. Big fan. I, I can’t tell you how many of my friends felt so unexpectedly seen by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Important not to be misconstrued with My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Which is something that people sometimes think the show is called. And that drives you crazy because then it’s like.
Rachel [00:01:32] Oh, my God, I really appreciate you calling. Yes, it’s always hard because it’s just one extra word. But I don’t want to have them call it the wrong thing. So especially if it’s like a public appearance, I have to correct them and I don’t want to do that.
Jameela [00:01:46] And the reason you have a problem with it isn’t because you’re just like, you know, a stickler for an accurate title. It’s because then it suddenly makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend seem like it’s from the point of view of a man or the lover rather than the person themselves who’s dealing with the trauma.
Rachel [00:02:02] Yes, exactly. I mean, are you available to work as a publicist? I know you’re quite busy,
Jameela [00:02:09] Yeah.
Rachel [00:02:09] but I pay good rates.
Jameela [00:02:13] So just to land in soft and easy. How has your mental health been your whole life, Rachel?
Rachel [00:02:21] Oh, I mean, up and down. It’s so interesting how much the conversation, at least the way I perceived it, has changed because I’m I’m 35. The nineties don’t seem like a long way away, but there was no mental health wa- I don’t.
Jameela [00:02:41] It couldn’t have been more stigmatized. We thought mental illness was just paranoid schizophrenia and we only saw one side of paranoid schizophrenia and it was like a very kind of like stereotypical Jekyll Hyde. And they were often a killer or very troubled. Like there was no, I think Girl Interrupted was one of the first times I saw something that addressed women’s mental health. And that was in the noughties.
Rachel [00:03:00] Yeah. You know, mental health for me is such an interesting term because so so I grew up first of all, let’s just to not throw anyone else under the bus but in a family that in retrospect had a lot of mental health issues, but it was never labeled as such. And then around age nine, I started to develop these intrusive guilty thoughts and I was like, What’s wrong with me? I’m doing this to myself. I didn’t think mental illness and I didn’t think intrusive thoughts. I just thought, something’s wrong, Something is happening. And it was just it was this dread. It was just this. It was basically these intrusive guilty thoughts that I could only purge by like confessing them to my mother, which is insane because I didn’t grow up Catholic. I grew up in a pretty, I don’t know, un stigmatizing household, but I had these, like, intrusive thoughts with like cleanliness and like sex. And it was look and it was and it was I remember watching a program about OCD and being like and it was it was like Dateline, like kids with OCD. And it was kids who had to check the heater. They had to check the stove every 5 minutes. It was very much like, there’s a fire, there’s an earthquake. And I was like, There’s something about there’s a reason that I remember this, right? I was like, There’s something about this, huh? I wonder. I wonder. But my I didn’t I wasn’t worried about checking the stove. My stuff was all internal, so I just thought I was doing this to myself and that I was weird and that I was weird and abnormal. So the idea of that being mental health or a form of mental illness, which I now realize is a form of was a form of OCD. And I’ve and I’ve.
Jameela [00:04:55] I was going to stop you just to ask, like because I think OCD is something the terminology that more people are familiar with and we’re starting to become more familiar with the fact that OCD isn’t just around hygiene or repetitive physical action around repetitive thought. We had a great episode on that last year with Catherine Bohart, but can you explain intrusive thought? Because I feel like that’s again become like a widely used term this year on like TikTok, but some people don’t know what it is.
Rachel [00:05:23] Well, I can describe how it feels to me, which is. There’s a feeling of dread.
Jameela [00:05:29] Mm hmm.
Rachel [00:05:30] So I’ll use the like. Okay. Like one of the first intrusive thoughts I had was when I was a kid. And I started masturbating when I was like, 11, 11 and a half. That was normal. And I guess I was. I don’t know if I was masturbating too hard or. I don’t know, I, I got it into my head that I like was masturbating too hard and that maybe I’d like, hurt myself. And I had guilt about it and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and then trying to solve it. Again, like, I think it’s really personal for everyone, but basically it’s the thought of like, okay, um, my pelvis hurts. I mas I masturbated too hard. I didn’t masterbate too hard. It’s fine. I’m fine. Masturbation is normal. I’ve been told it’s normal. But what if it isn’t? What if it isn’t normal? And it’s and I would try to kind of solve this feeling of dread. So it all started with a feeling of dread. And then I’m going over in my head, solving it’s solving it, solving it, solving it, solving it. The dread gets worse and the questions get worse. And it got to the point where I was having chronic stomach problems just from all the anxiety.
Jameela [00:06:33] Wow. Just from stress.
Rachel [00:06:33] And worry. And but I didn’t tell my parents and they knew something was going on, but I don’t think they understood the extent. So we went to a doctor and they were like, Oh yeah, there’s a buildup of shit in your intestines. You have some sort of fiber deficiency. So then I got put on a high fiber cereal and I had to drink mineral oil every day because they thought there was a fiber deficiency. But it was it was anxiety. I just had chronic stomach problems from nervousness and guilt and dread all the time. And this lasted from fourth grade to early eighth grade. And then it kind of went away for a while. But not anxiety didn’t go away. I had other issues, but the idea of like an intrusive thought you can’t control, it’s just this feeling of dread that makes me feel like I’m not myself. That started back again in my early twenties.
Jameela [00:07:40] Do you know what triggered it coming back?
Rachel [00:07:42] Yeah, I know exactly what triggered it. It was my boyfriend at the time who is now my husband was moving to L.A. and I drove cross-country. I was still in New York at the time. I drove cross-country with him, and I remember we’d just seen Avatar in theaters in L.A. And then I was going to the airport, and I don’t know what prompted this. We were watching some movie maybe the night before about like asking men how many women they’d slept with. And I was like jokingly, like, how many women have you slept with? And he’s like, I don’t want to answer that. We’d only been dating like a year. And he’s like, That’s a weird. I don’t want to talk about that. And on the way to the airport, it’s just like, How many women has he slept with? How many women? And it and it became like this obsessive thought. I had to know the answer. But also I kept talking myself out of being like, why are you obsessed with stop? It’s fine. It’s fine it Why does it matter? Why does it matter how many women he slept with? It’s almost like this dialog of myself that gets deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper. And I hadn’t had intrusive thoughts in so long. I was like, This is Oh no, they’re coming back. But it’s basically what it was, was the deeper I got into these questions, the deeper the feeling of dread in my stomach. And then the fear becomes not even about the questions anymore. It became, I am always going to have this feeling of dread when I think about my boyfriend and it’s going to ruin my relationship. And that was always the core, I think, of the intrusive thoughts. It was always this kind of whirlpool spiral down the drain that eventually led to This is never going to go away. I am always going to feel like this. So it’s like drea- it’s like body, mind, connection, but in the worst way.
Jameela [00:09:32] Yeah and it’s a it’s a fight for control, right? It’s a fight for control in your brain where you’re being told you don’t have control over this, you don’t actually have agency, something else is going to control you. And that creates a terror in anyone.
Rachel [00:09:44] And you try to and for me, I try to solve it. And I think a lot of people try to solve it. And part of getting into therapy was knowing what thoughts are worth engaging in and what thoughts aren’t. Because your body, my body’s telling me on a primal level, there’s a there’s a lion in the bushes. Something is wrong. You. This is life and death. You need to solve this now. You need to solve this problem. But it’s actually not. It’s nothing. It’s. There’s nothing to solve. And actually trying to solve it makes it worse. And that is something that I’m still actively working on. I mean, that’s the kind of core, I guess, of a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy is what thoughts do you engage with and which ones are just you try to not engage with. And it feels like going to the mental gym.
Jameela [00:10:36] Mmhmm yeah. CBT is is a very interesting therapy for something like OCD because it’s something that’s very hard to medicate. It’s not impossible, but it’s not always it’s very rare that that can be the sole thing that you do. It takes medication plus like an understanding and an acceptance of how your brain works and not punishing yourself for it, but going, okay, why do I feel this way? What triggered this thought? And what would be like the most sensible way to advocate for my self basically right now?
Rachel [00:11:05] Yes. Yeah, exactly. And the you know, the idea of medicine, I was very I was very resistant to medicine for a long time because I thought wrongfully that people who took antidepressants or anti-anxiety, they were just lazy. That’s why I thought secretly for a long time. I was like, ah it’s just people who are overmedicated and they don’t want to do the work. And that was wrong. That was 100% wrong. And I came to a breaking point when I was 20, about 26, basically was the year I was I got engaged. We were about to make the pilot of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and my intrusive thoughts that had really come back was this fear of not being able to sleep. And it started with this horrible night of insomnia before the first pitch of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which incidentally, is how my intrusive thoughts started in fourth grade. It was this one night of insomnia before the first day of first fourth grade of not being able to sleep. And I was like, I think I need chemical help. And I found this psychiatrist and I went on Prozac. And it really did help everything. It really did for me because there’s still learning so much about how these chemicals work in your brain. But I have a natural not it’s like a serotonin deficiency or from what I understand, it’s like a serotonin deficiency or my neurons can’t naturally pass serotonin well to each other. So the Prozac makes my serotonin levels, you know, quote unquote, normal and like, it totally changed my life.
Jameela [00:12:41] Yeah, I used to have a very similar thing with medication where I thought not quite that it was lazy. I just thought, well, it just treats the symptom, not the cause. And I’ve said this before in this podcast, but for anyone else who feels similarly, I just want to remind you that sometimes you can’t get to the cause because the symptoms are so fucking bad. So it’s okay if the symptoms get treated so that you actually have space to find and reach and deal with the cause if you are so lucky. And so it’s it’s sometimes really lifesaving. It saved my life anyway. Medication, the not sleeping intrusive thoughts are something that have haunted me for like a lot of my life. I’ve only really been able to get over it via sort of training in the last few years that my boyfriend reinforces of just like constantly kind of talking me through the steps of of actually, you know, you’re going to be okay and you’re going to survive if you don’t sleep tonight, that’s actually okay. And you’ll just get up and you’ll be a bit tired tomorrow and you’ll have some extra coffees and that’ll be alright and the world is not going to stop turning. You’re not going to be able to not do your job like it kind of goes through. I had this like checklist of like rational thoughts and then normally I fall asleep as I’m going through my checklist of all the things that are going to be okay if I don’t manage to sleep tonight. And that has been my kind of CBT.
Rachel [00:13:53] Wow, that’s great.
Jameela [00:13:56] For that issue. It’s a long and exhaustive and deeply deliberately dull list Rachel.
Rachel [00:13:59] No, but that helps. I did the same thing I have learned personally when working through intrusive thoughts, I need to do it with the supervision of a medical professional. There is something my brain does that when I’m going over. Well, what if this happens? What if this happens? Outside of talking to a therapist or psychiatrist, it leads me into a spiral. But doing those questions with a psychiatrist and a therapist, similarly, they’re exhaustive. They’re you know, it’s a long, long list of what if what if Because you’re my therapist says it well, your brain is always looking for holes in the fence. I love this. It’s like you build your life, you build your house, and then you build a fence to protect your house. And your brain is always looking for the holes. How am I not safe? How can I protect myself? And sometimes the holes are real and sometimes they’re not. So the idea of especially like the sleep anxiety. Oh, no, that’s a that’s a hole in the fence. And. And I need to fix it. And it’s like, well, let’s talk about the hole in that fence. Is this really a hole to fix? And going into the worst case scenarios in a safe setting has really helped me. But when we’re talking about mental health, I wouldn’t have thought this was. For so long, I would have thought. I thought and would have thought, I’m doing this to myself. I’m being irrational. I wouldn’t have put it under. Even under mental health, I still would have been like I could get out of this if I chose to. And I’m choosing to be crazy. I’m choosing to engage-
Jameela [00:15:44] It’s self-sabotage self destruct. Right? Like those are the words that come into mind where it’s like, well, I’m just sabotaging myself. And other people, sometimes even out of love are just like, you’re just getting in your own way.
Rachel [00:15:55] Yeah. And that’s like the other thing is, I mean, not to pile on the diagnoses, but something that has recently happened to me in the last year and a half is because I got a new therapist, because my, my psychiatrist, this is a long story, unfortunately passed away. So I was on this search for someone else, but my new therapist said, Have you ever been tested for ADHD? And I said, Oh, it’s it’s been mentioned to me that I’m on the spectrum or whatever. And she was like, Yeah, let’s test you. And I did this questionnaire. And she’s like, Oh, you tested quite high in all of these things you’re talking about, you know, depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts. That’s actually kind of all linked under because I think 80% of people with ADHD have anxiety or depression. And so
Jameela [00:16:38] Before you again, before you go on just because so I, I am someone who doesn’t actually know a lot about ADHD and I’m sure a lot of people don’t either. And there’s like A.D.D. and then we also use the word A.D.D. or ADHD for, you know, colloquially for anyone who’s like gets easily distracted or this, that and the other, you know, someone who’s good at like juggling multiple things at the same time and who enjoys that life. And so we just go, Oh my God, that’s so ADHD. And so sometimes that’s true. And you are and I think people are learning a lot from TikTok and Instagram about what the signs of ADHD are that they wouldn’t have. They would have seen as like a moral failing or a bad memory rather than an ability to be distracted. But I actually don’t know of sort of sweet fuck all about ADHD, and I would love it if you would explain it to me.
Rachel [00:17:25] Well, I can only impart.
Jameela [00:17:27] From your own experience.
Rachel [00:17:27] So here’s what I’ve been learning. So it’s ADHD. It used to be called A.D.D.. They because it’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Now they just call it all ADHD. I think for a long time it was A.D.D. versus ADHD, from what I understand. It. It is the way it’s been described to me is it’s you’re fundamentally dopamine seeking. It has something to do with chemicals. And so it’s like I listened to one podcast that described taking Adderall or Vyvanse as if you call an antidepressant and SSRI selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. You could call Adderall, an SS di or a selective dopamine.
Jameela [00:18:19] What’s that mean?
Rachel [00:18:19] So so it’s something to do with there’s something with the way your brain is processing dopamine. So as a result, you are dopamine seeking, which means you seek out things that give you pleasure. Well, that gives you dopamine. And the things that don’t give you dopamine are intolerable. So like I know someone who has a kid with ADHD, before she was medicated, she literally would walk out of math class because being in there was so intolerable, boredom was so intolerable, she couldn’t handle it. And I used to I had this a lot worse in high school. So I understand. I remember being in a study group and just being so bored. It was it was painful. And I just kept trying to distract everyone the other way. It manifests to me. I can do a bunch of things at once. I have a bunch of ideas at once, but there’s a point where my brain almost gets overheated like a computer, and I’ve. I’ve gone overboard. It’s too it’s too much. And the line between how much is too much multitasking is like really unclear for me and something when I’m on medication. The minute I was always told that that ADHD medication, you know, oh, it’ll numb your creativity because ADHD is synonymous with creativity. For me, that’s not true. When I’m taking an ADHD medication, my creativity is the same. I just panic less. Suddenly it’s like things are clearer, okay, I have to do this and then I have to do this, and then I have to do this without medication. Sometimes I’m like, I have so much to do. I don’t even know where to start. I feel overwhelmed with all of the things that I have to do. So and then and then there’s this also this idea that, oh, ADHD people can’t focus on anything. No, it’s actually the opposite. The people with ADHD are quite good at focusing when they like something and you actually go into like a hyper focus, it’s almost like a fugue state because you’re getting the way it’s been described to me. You’re getting so much dopamine from the thing that you love. Your brain is like, Yes, yes, yes, more and more and more. So it’s there is like lack of focus, but also there’s hyper focus. And I’m learning so much about it every day. Like I think there are oh, I think there are definitely overlaps with ADHD and autism. And I think it also depends, again, where you’re at on the spectrum. I take five milligrams of Adderall on weekdays, which is like a very, very low dose. So my experience with medication and my experience with it is, I’m sure like very different than other people. My therapist was saying she has a client who needs 40 milligrams, otherwise he can’t drive.
Jameela [00:21:12] Wow.
Rachel [00:21:12] Literally can’t focus enough to drive. So.
Jameela [00:21:14] It also isn’t for everyone, just to be clear, it’s
Rachel [00:21:19] Yeah.
Jameela [00:21:19] it depends on what works for you. And by all means, try it with a licensed psychiatrist. But some people get terrible anxiety on some of these.
Rachel [00:21:29] It’s a stimulant. It is a stimulant.
Jameela [00:21:29] It’s or they have sleep problems or so there’s just just to be clear that whenever we talk about actual medications, we actually name the thing. I just always want to make sure that people go into it not expecting like if it worked perfectly for Rachel, it’s going to work for me.
Rachel [00:21:45] A hundred, 100%. And also I would say I’m on when I talk about Prozac and Adderall. I’m on pretty low doses. And those have worked for me.
Jameela [00:21:54] Yeah.
Rachel [00:21:54] I have. You know, I guess ADHD and generalized anxiety. I don’t have bipolar one, bipolar two, a personality disorder. Like, it’s just so bespoke for everyone. And that’s what I think is scary because when I was going through this at age nine, ten, 11. It felt so personal. It doesn’t feel when you’re depressed, when you’re anxious, it doesn’t feel like words. It doesn’t like I feel anxious. It’s it’s it’s a feeling of pervasive dread. And so, like, even terms like, are you feeling depressed? Are you feeling anxious? Like I that doesn’t even scratch the surface of how horrible I actually feel right now. So I think this is all just so mental health. It’s just so specific. And I think there are overlaps with people, but I don’t. From what I have been learning as a wannabe doctor, but I’m not a doctor at all. It’s just very it’s a beautiful bespoke suit for everyone.
Jameela [00:22:58] Yeah, I agree. And I think that it’s important to look at it as such. I’ve read that like when you were younger, you had a terrible fear of people thinking that you are, quote unquote, crazy. Right. You you had a you seem to be in a much more kind of like accepting state of the things that make you different and you feel it seems that you come at it from a very therapeutic place of like, it’s okay that my brain works differently, but how can I make myself comfortable within that rather than how do I shut this down and hide this from society? So can I ask what your journey with stigma and like shame has been like? Because it feels like you’ve been on one. And I think even calling your show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in and of itself as a way of like reclaiming that power.
Rachel [00:23:41] Yeah. So I grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, which is a beautiful, idyllic beach suburb. And everyone there is it seems like everyone’s happy. It’s if the weather is perfect, it’s beautiful. You’re by the beach. Everyone there, especially when I grew up. Now it’s a lot of billionaires who are in tech. When I grew up there, it was definitely some rich people, but it was more like middle, upper middle class of, you know, beachy people, surfer people and blond moms. And like, there wasn’t really a a sense or appreciation of culture. And I basically I felt me and my family were were New Yorkers transplanted to Manhattan Beach. But my mother has only ever lived in California. My father’s from Boston and I had never lived in New York. My parents, I was an only child. My parents were weird. Like I they’re kind of meant to be Manhattanites. My mom’s not blond. I’m not blond. We’re not outdoor people. I got really into outdoorsy people, I mean. I got really into musical theater. Everything about me felt like an other. And I started to get bullied pretty early on. I would say starting in, like, second, third grade. And it got really, really bad in middle school. And it was just like, There is nothing about me that fits anything here. There is no overlap with who I am and what and who my family is. With the values of this community down to like casual spelling errors, you know, like there’s a kind of with, with, with, with SoCal Beach people. There’s a lack of specificity in the way they talk. Like, yeah, yeah, I was we were renting out we were we were like doing an Airbnb in Malibu. This is like a year and a half ago. And I remember like, okay, I was just trying to ask the lady, Do we have a parking space? And she’s like, Yeah, yeah, totally. Like, if it seems cool, you can totally park there. I’m like, No, no, no. Is this a space or is this not a space? Well, you know, like, it’s technically a red zone, but again, just like, you know, the neighbors are cool. Is it a space or is it not a space? And that was a lot of my life. I feel like growing up there with everything is is there’s just everyone’s happy and there’s not a lot of introspection. And so I was into theater, I was depressed, I was dark, I started having these intrusive thoughts. I started cutting my own hair, which was a terrible idea. I had no fashion sense. I wasn’t raised in a family where we valued like fashion or makeup. It was just nothing that made sense with with Southern California. And I talk about being Jewish a lot because I am I was raised pretty secular, but I think that being Jewish was just another thing that added to being an other in this community. So it was it was just like a it was a bunch of things. Does that make sense?
Jameela [00:26:48] It does make sense. It just means that like a so what I want to understand is because you’d spoken about not fitting in as a child, having to learn how to mask which is. God I don’t know how to describe it necessarily. But covering up your natural instincts, behavioral instincts in order to socialize better, in order to fit in with everyone else. So just kind of pretending to be someone that you’re not essentially and doing things you wouldn’t instinctively want to do just so that you don’t get kind of ostracized and otherized from the tribe, which is something that women in particular do, which is why neurodivergent in us get spotted at such a late age. So you talked about having to mask when you were younger, feeling worried that people thought you were crazy. How did you get from there to then making a show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and being the accepting advocate that you are now?
Rachel [00:27:40] Right. I got into college and I, first of all, finally was in New York in a place where the type of person I was was less of an anomaly because I would have been weird as a person, especially growing up anywhere. But I was like, I was weird as a person growing up in a particularly like for lack of a better term, basic bitch place. So I got into college and it confirmed, Oh, I do want to be in New York, and I was a musical theater major. And then I transferred to this thing called the Experimental Theater Wing, which is NYU. And I got really into writing. I fell in love with sketch comedy writing, and I guess slowly I kind of spent four years in my writing journey in college, realizing how much I had studied structures and tropes like pop music, how cool people seem in entertainment, and how little it overlapped with who I actually was and felt inside. And so that’s slowly, as I think writing became was my into almost therapy where it was like. The I want to try to marry what what society and pop culture tell me I should value and feel with what I actually value and feel. And that was my slow journey. And that started inspiring the music videos I made because they were all very tropey. They were all like, Okay, this is a sexy pop song. This is a kind of like, wistful Adele ballad contrasted with okay, But here are like the feelings I actually have that aren’t sexy or aren’t don’t fit into like a cool pop song. And so that.
Jameela [00:29:26] You’re sort of Trojan horsing like your honesty in through all of these sort of stereotypes.
Rachel [00:29:31] Yeah yeah and kind of never the twain shall meet of of the real things that I feel put into a pop song and it’s like, oh, these things, these are things are clashing. They don’t make sense together because that’s how I feel inside. There are a lot of parts of me and I really a good example is my love of happy musical theater, that doesn’t match the generalized anxiety disorder, but doesn’t match like my kind of, you know, obsession with reading like books about serial killers. So there is this like light and dark that I felt like I wasn’t able to match, and writing was my way of working through that. And it helped my mental health. And it and it kind of did motivate me to get more and more into therapy.
Jameela [00:30:21] Amazing. And so making a show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, did that make you worry that people in real life would then think, you know, think that you are unstable or did it feel really, really fucking liberating or both?
Rachel [00:30:34] Well, I think what annoyed me first was that we called the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because it which is to me is such an inflammatory title. It’s it’s it’s there’s like a there’s a play called Fat Pig. It was like calling the show that but people because we were on the CW thought the show was just actually, at face value, being like, Look at this crazy bitch. So that was the first annoying thing that I would rather them see me almost as unstable than I’m doing a cheesy, schlocky portrayal of a man’s point of view of a crazy woman. So being, I had never worried me being seen as unstable from the show. I almost worried more about. I just wanted to make sure people understood what the show was and why we were making it.
Jameela [00:31:41] And so do you feel like all of the feelings of of shame or stigma and around like the new conversation around neurodivergence, do you feel comfortable with that? Because I think that the reason I ask is because I think a lot of us in this generation now feel more comfortable talking about mental health. But I do think specifically women have this kind of unspoken, often unspoken fear that like, okay, well, if I tell the whole truth about this, is this going to be used against me? Is this going to be used to gaslight me? Is this going to cost me opportunities? Am I going to be seen as unstable if I am open at my workplace about this? As someone who doesn’t openly have all these issues going to get hired or promoted over me because people think I can’t handle these things. And I think that’s an important conversation to have, right? This is a mental health podcast and and it’s a conversation I don’t get to have with a lot of people. And I think it’s so fucking great and empowering when we have the conversations about people who can just own it and love it. And I and I, I’m all here for that. And, and I want that for everyone. But not everyone has that. And not many of us in this industry, like a lot of people, will say, okay, I have anxiety. I have had bouts of depression, but not a lot of people go in and own it the way that you and I do. And I guess I’m just interested in a kind of open dialog of like how we have come to a place that can hopefully also liberate other people when it comes to owning their mental health and still knowing that you can you can still achieve your like your ambitions. And it’s it’s it is possible to navigate reassuring employers that you’re still cut out for the job.
Rachel [00:33:22] That’s a really, really good point. And it’s one that I hadn’t thought about before. You know, I have the luxury of openly talking about my mental health because I started as a a a writer actor. I started by making my own work that was in the form of these music videos that was never not going in depth into mental health per se, but the characters were always pretty sad and unstable. So I didn’t start out like I think a lot of people who start as like, I’m an actor, I’m, you know, I got successes, people who get success as like an actor. You’re not being hired or paid to delve into your personal life. I have the the I’m lucky that part of my career is being open and it’s only been reinforced over the years that the more open I am, the more people respond to it. And it’s very healing for me because a lot of what I felt growing up was the aloneness and feeling I am the only person who feels these things. So I think as an artist, one of my main motivations is to talk about it almost not compulsively, because compulsivity is a different thing, but to talk about it a lot because that’s part of what I do almost for a living.
Jameela [00:34:43] Yeah, And you say that you do that quite selfishly because it validates your experience rather than just this charity work that you’re doing. And I think that’s very important. I do think it can. I have never felt less alone than when I’ve been honest about this stuff, and there’s still some stuff that I kind of working my way up to talking about openly, you know, in my own time. But again, it’s just because you there’s a there’s a fear right, a fear of like people being like, well, she has too many things, you know, like you had a reticence when you were about to tell me that you also had ADHD on top of the other things. There was a natural reticence, I noticed in you that like immediately I recognized in myself you were like, I don’t want to pile on another diagnosis because people think you can have one or the other. And then if you have too many, then you’re just like self diagnosing yourself whereas actually, I think it’s really important to point out to people that a lot of these things overlap. A lot of these things are interlinked, a lot of these things cause the other thing, for example, the fact that you notably pointed out the OCD was the cause of a lot of your anxiety, not the sole cause of all of your anxiety, but it was one of the first things that really triggered anxiety in you.
Rachel [00:35:46] Yeah.
Jameela [00:35:46] So a lot of these things are inextricably linked and it’s very important. And that’s another reason I was so excited to have you on the podcast that you are someone who deals with a multitude of realities all at the same time. And I think it’s really important for women especially to hear about that, to be like, okay, fine, this this doesn’t make her an exaggerator. You’re not a liar. You’re just as with many people recognizing that there’s a multitude of shit going on, and to deny that all these different things are happening means that you can’t actually medicate or therapize or like dedicate attention to each of them appropriately. Does that make sense? Am I word salading this.
Rachel [00:36:27] Yeah. No, no. It makes a lot of sense.
Jameela [00:36:28] Trying to just make it neat. And just like one of the things that you don’t sound like you have too many problems means that sometimes you then just don’t deal with everything basically.
Rachel [00:36:37] 100%. And I think that I do feel a justification to be like, Hey, all of this stuff falls under an ADHD umbrella, because I do I do have the fear of piling that on, piling that on as well. There is an internalized like poor me fear 100%. And I know that you’ve dealt with that and gone through that. And and by the way, you were saying there are things about yourself you’re still processing. Same. And I and I think it’s important for people to know. I’ve talked to a lot of entertainers about this. Even the most open book entertainer is not telling you stuff. They’re just not. And.
Jameela [00:37:13] Yeah. And also, it’s harder as women because I feel like when men come out with this stuff, even about childhood trauma or this, that and the other, they are so much better received than us. You know, even comics, we’re able to hear more about their manic depression and be like, what a genius to be able to go through all of that and still sell out Madison Square Gardens, whereas we hear about a woman having manic depression that she often won’t get to book that Madison Square Garden. So that feels like it’s changing now. But that’s what we were raised in because we came up in the eighties.
Rachel [00:37:40] Yeah, absolutely. It was it was judging anyone who wasn’t stable because it was like they’re doing this to themselves. It was almost kind of kind of the manifesto of, Listen, we’re all miserable so just get over it. Which, which is a horrible thing to tell ourselves and to, you know, tell our children. I was I was moderating a panel like a year and a half ago about mental health, and someone asked, When do I know I can share trauma in my writing in art? And a therapist said when it’s processed, when you’ve processed that trauma. And so anything that I share with you or anything that I share in a book, it’s all been processed. It’s not the first time that I’ve shared it with anyone because that’s dangerous, because the internet and the world are a scary emotionally and physically dangerous place.
Jameela [00:38:38] Yeah.
Rachel [00:38:39] But but to your earlier point about like, okay, you know, what about people who they’re not they’re they’re their job isn’t what I do. Their job isn’t writing about mental health. They just they, they’re a lawyer, they work at a fucking bank and, and how much do you tell your employer? And that’s a really interesting, difficult question. And I think that there are two no but I think that there are two different one solution I can think is there’s your private life and your and your public life. And I think that how much you want to admit to an employer or your friends, that’s going to be case specific, but how much you admit to yourself and knowing to yourself that you’re not alone and finding an outlet, finding a community, finding a place where you can openly talk about it. Maybe it’s not a work, maybe you don’t talk about it at work because it you have a terrible boss. And it.
Jameela [00:39:33] Yes it’s because of them, not because of you.
Rachel [00:39:35] 100% not because of you, but I think that even if you are under the most you know, even if you work in the most oppressive place or you live in the most abusive household, which is a horrific situation, just the knowledge that you’re not alone and knowing that you’re not doing this to yourself. All I can say is it would have helped me. Even though I would’ve never admit in school.
Jameela [00:40:03] Yeah it would have liberated the shit out of me as well.
Rachel [00:40:06] I would have never said in school like I actually remember there was a girl in school, my middle school, who was having panic attacks, and I totally judged her along with my mother. We were like, Oh, my God, these panic attacks, she just wants attention. So even if I know, no, I have intrusive thoughts, I have OCD. Would I have said that at school in 1999, probably not. I probably wouldn’t have. Would it have been something privately that I was like, I know I’m not doing this to myself, but but other people aren’t and I’m not ready for other people and their bullshit to judge me. They’re kind of two different things. But I do think that my being open and honest with it has just become part of what I do as a writer. I’m I’m again, like, almost compulsively, like, want to de-stigmatize things because so much of the pain for me for so long was feeling. I’m alone. I’m the only one feeling this way. I’m doing this to myself.
Jameela [00:41:09] And it’s. It is. It’s it. You’re so. You’re so right about the Internet and the fact that sometimes, regardless of how big or small your following may be or whatever line of work you’re in, be very careful to wait until you feel like you have a support network, whether it’s one therapist or like a close family member, whatever. Make sure you have that support strenuously in your inner circle before you go and tell that to strangers, because not everyone has the information that you do. Not everyone has an appropriate response to things. Not everyone comes at things with good intentions. I mean, part of my fear in talking about anything now personal is that I was accused publicly of having Munchausen because I have a variety of different health problems, like more than someone who’s well, and that’s because I have Ehlers-danlos syndrome, which is linked to fucking every problem under the sun, right? It affects every cell of my body. And so because I was publicly accused by some really vile media figures and it just kind of exploded and blew up because I responded like an idiot, it has traumatized me the way that a stranger spoke to me about my own health that I live with. And I was like, Fucking hell, you’re so lucky if you don’t know what this feels like. You’re so lucky if you don’t have a health problem that is too many symptoms to imagine someone could contend with because it is really fucking hard to live with EDS, but it has terrified me and made me like wish that I had been much more careful and thoughtful in how I had delivered the information. My desire to be like. I want other people with Ehlers-danlos syndrome to feel less alone, or I want other people with this health problem to know that, like, if I can do it, you can do it because I’m a fucking basic bitch with like no real skills. I left school at 16, so if I can do it, you can do anything. And I shared before, I was prepared.
Rachel [00:42:57] Yeah, yeah. It was unprocessed, right?
Jameela [00:43:00] Because I couldn’t fathom how disgusting people on the internet are and how ignorant people are and how ignorant, privileged people who don’t have mental health problems or who don’t have physical health problems are, and how lucky they are to live in a bubble where you couldn’t conceive of someone having as many like mental health issues as maybe someone like yourself has like, coped with and and thrived through, you know, similar with me and my health. But it has given me like set like I feel my face feels hot talking about this with you right now because it’s something I don’t even talk about because I’m so afraid. But it’s great for me to hear you talk and really important, not just for my listeners, but also for people like me to hear you. And I really appreciate your openness. And I know that that comes a kind of a little bit of a price. And it’s it’s inspiring, but also very important to hear you say that you should be ready and have processed.
Rachel [00:43:52] Yeah. And there are things that I can say right now that I’m like, you know what? I don’t really wanna talk like, I don’t want to talk about that.
Jameela [00:43:57] I feel the same way.
Rachel [00:43:58] I have. I have learned. Because I have learned. Kind of the hard way. And I’ve had little sk-, I’ve had little things like I haven’t really had like a major thing. But just even just at one point being on Twitter and being sensitive and by the way, part of part of ADHD, some of the way that manifests in some people, something called, oh, rejection sensitivity dysphoria, which is because ADHD is dopamine seeking. When you are rejected or when someone insults you, it’s almost like a supercharged insult. It’s like you’ve been stabbed. And so, like, I think I’ve gone into the wrong business obviously, being a comedian who’s hypersensitive but.
Jameela [00:44:46] Anyway it’s fine. I do action, I do stunts and marvel and I have a physical disability. It’s perfect.
Rachel [00:44:53] Jesus, that just
Jameela [00:44:55] Go on.
Rachel [00:44:58] But I think I learned the hard way to assume anything I do or say publicly, assume the worst of the Internet, assume the worst, and then am I okay with that? Because you’re not going to prevent people from saying shit. So for instance
Jameela [00:45:11] exactly
Rachel [00:45:12] are people going to say, Oh, she’s I mean, I haven’t really actually dealt with this. People seem pretty supportive of. Of the the of the mental. I haven’t really gotten at least I probably haven’t been to the right websites. I haven’t experienced much much like fuck you shame and stigma for just talking about mental health. But if I did, I’d be like, Well, fuck those people, they’re idiots. So I think it’s it’s a very delicate weighing of what? What are you okay talking about? Because what have you processed in your own life? And also, what are you okay with the Internet and when I say the Internet, I really mean just
Jameela [00:45:53] Trolls.
Rachel [00:45:54] People, people who are troubled on the Internet spinning wildly out of control. And it’s one of the reasons I, I haven’t shown my daughter’s face is because I read a New York Times article when I was pregnant that a huge amount of child porn is children’s bodies with then Photoshopped faces of just random pictures of kids on the Internet. And I’m like, Well, I’m not going to put my daughter’s face not because I don’t trust my fans, the fans of me and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on my Instagram. They’re really lovely people. And in fact, they tend to be people who are like in deep therapy. So they’re quite enlightened. They’re not the people I’m worried about. I’m worried about the rest of the world. So I think that at this point you have to just assume the worst of the Internet and ask yourself, am I emotionally fortified for whatever the worst means?
Jameela [00:46:51] Yeah, I wasn’t. I wasn’t I didn’t ever expect to be accused of having Munchausen, so I was so horrified by it that I almost killed myself.
Rachel [00:47:00] Oh, my God. I’m sorry that I’m so sorry.
Jameela [00:47:02] No, it’s fine. It was just so crazy, I think was just because of how ugly everyone was in their behavior and how how it just felt like a prison where I was like, oh, my God, I’m already suffering in this much pain all day, every day. Like, my life is already so hard. It’s already such a miracle that I’ve even gotten here in spite of this fucking illness. And now I’m just being told that it’s in my head and being made fun of for that. Which, by the way, even if I did have Munchausen, it’s a fucking debilitating disorder, not a punchline, but it just made me feel like, Oh my God, what am I doing all this for? Like, why am I trying to, like, help or inspire anyone? Why am I even putting myself through these hours and through this job where I’m trying to be this fucking, you know, I don’t know. Not to sound like a martyr, but I’m trying and I’m trying to be a role model, trying to be helpful as people don’t even fucking believe me. And it made me feel so, like, sick with the world that I almost took my own life in 2020. But it’s kind of good because it got me on meds. And I never would have taken meds otherwise. And now I love meds, but but I, I yeah, it is a it is a sensitive and important issue. And I think that it’s something that I haven’t really spoken with someone about when it comes to like how you deliver that information. But you were just someone I was so desperate to like get into it with. And I so appreciate you. To move on from this. Another thing you’ve been really open about and I think is an important subject if you feel comfortable talking about it is grief. You’ve had a really interesting experience with grief in the last few years. Maybe the word interesting sounds trite. Sorry, but you’ve had quite a relatable experience the last few years that I was wondering if we could talk about, which is that you experienced like new life with your child being born, which is, you know, euphoric and also scary at the time, but you also experienced great loss simultaneously.
Rachel [00:48:51] Yeah.
Jameela [00:48:52] Could you talk me through.
Rachel [00:48:53] Yeah. Yeah, of course. So I was not prepared for grief. I mean, I really didn’t grow up and I and I, I have a show I’m working on right now that’s a lot about this. So I thought in addition to going through it, I’ve thought a lot about this. So I wasn’t raised talking about really talking about death, talking about the existential implications of death. I was a gor I was a gor gory, dark kid. But that doesn’t really have much to do with death and loss. So, yeah, in 2020 I when COVID hit, I was nine and a half months pregnant and I got induced to avoid a potential COVID surge. And the night I gave birth, first of all, my daughter was in the NICU, which is the neonatal ICU, which I hadn’t expected. No one had really prepped, no one really talks about the likelihood of that. But 10 to 15% of babies born go to the NICU, which is why I think giving birth in a hospital or near a place where you can near a NICU is the right move. But anyway so my daughter was in the NICU and uh, and that night I found out that my songwriting partner, partner Adam Schlesinger, was sick with COVID in New York, and I didn’t know anyone who had COVID and that he was so sick he was already on a ventilator. And then basically almost exactly a week after my daughter was born, he died. So I was grieving at home. In a pandemic alone, no one could enter the house because it was the pandemic. Experiencing grief for the first time, but also having a newborn. And it was just the worst I’ve ever felt.
Jameela [00:50:36] It’s so it must have been so confusing. And just like I wonder if it’s even confusing, I just would feel like you. I don’t know if you’ve experienced, like, guilt for the happy, joyous, loving moments or did you.
Rachel [00:50:49] No no.
Jameela [00:50:49] Were you just able to, like, ride out in a very self like, accepting way.
Rachel [00:50:56] No, I didn’t. No, there was no guilt luckily for those moments. I just felt horrible. Just being in the. I just I remember it was my birthday two days after Adam died it was my birthday, and I asked my husband all I wanted. I was like, make me a Shabbat dinner. So I grew up Jewish, but pretty secular. My husband grew up rather religious. I was like, Throw me a classic Shabbat dinner. I want to grieve because I what I really wanted to do was mourn for Adam. I wanted to sit Shiva because if it was any other time, we would have flown to New Jersey. We would have mourned him. I don’t know if we would have sat Shiva. We would have would have mourned in a group and we didn’t. And I wanted I craved that. I craved some solace that I know people and my people had been seeking for thousands of years. I, like, craved tradition for for for the first time in a long time. And I just remember sitting at that Shabbat dinner, like, just wanting it to make me heal, wanting it to make me feel better and just feeling the worst I’d ever felt. And like it maybe helped like one percent. But that’s what I take from that time was just this feeling and it and it fucked up the way I see the world just going through death like that and really fully taking in that people can die at any time. It definitely sent me on a massive existential and spiritual crisis.
Jameela [00:52:30] And how have you moved through that since then? Because I know that you said that now, like the birth of your daughter and the death of your close friend are kind of inextricably linked. And I imagine your birthday is a hoot. Oh, it was the following year. Hopefully now you’ve found some, you know, joy in it. But how have you moved through that? Because I think a lot of people went through tremendous loss, especially in the pandemic that felt very shocking. And then they weren’t able to have the closure, whether or not it, you know, a funeral or a Shiva or any of these things actually soothe everyone. There was a hunger for a closure that people were flatly denied.
Rachel [00:53:08] Yeah, we’re all I think a lot of us are still grieving in many ways. And I think the this idea of now we’re back to normal. Like, I definitely have the impulse to, like, now we’re back to normal. Let’s just go back to normal and pretend this never happened and just act like it never happened. And the big struggle that I’ve had, which is what I’ve been writing a lot about, is, okay, how do I how do I live my life knowing that death is a possibility, but still living and not being paralyzed by the existential dread of knowing that death is coming for me and coming for everyone. And to me, writing about it, talking about a lot helped. And I think acknowledging that the world has changed and that my life has changed and not trying to push down thoughts or like, go back to normal, you know? So I think that processing that grief and really talking about it um, has really held me. And I think that everyone during the pandemic went through a certain amount of grief. It was hard on everyone. Obviously some people more than others. And I think at the time when Adam died and I had a newborn and I would see people being like my bread starter won’t work, I was like, Fuck you.
Jameela [00:54:32] The sourdough movement. Yeah.
Rachel [00:54:37] Yeah, yeah. But also, who am I to judge?
Jameela [00:54:39] Well it was a it was a it was quite an illuminating time in that I was experiencing loads of like it’s like 12 people I know, not all of whom I was close to but died.
Rachel [00:54:54] Oh my God.
Jameela [00:54:54] During COVID and various different ages and like, you know, health issues and stuff. But at the same time there was this huge baby boom in which most of my female friends seemingly kind of started giving birth and getting pregnant. And it was just this kind of like perspective shift for me in that like, okay, there is a lot of life ending, but there’s also a lot of life beginning and life does go on and we kind of have to keep going on. It kind of, I don’t know, It seems to have rewired my brain slightly around death.
Rachel [00:55:29] Yeah.
Jameela [00:55:30] And endings and how we just have to. I think a lot of people experience this during the pandemic of like right where we got to fucking seize it while we can. I haven’t gone to so much of a neutral zone. I’ve gone into overdrive of pleasure seeking. I wouldn’t necessarily say in an ADHD way, but like in a, a rampant, selfish uh not quite hedonist, but like, I feel like an almost anarchist level of fuck this and fuck that and fuck those rules and fuck the fucking diet industry and fuck everything that is holding me back from instant joy.
Rachel [00:56:06] Yeah.
Jameela [00:56:07] I feel this almost like panic and emergency of like, making the most having fun. I’ve just taken a bunch of time off work that I’m now just going to fuck off for and just do this podcast and do nothing else and not leave my house now for like two months and just play with my dogs and and hang out with my roommates and my boyfriend. And I just like, I just feel this like palpable sense in a kind of not to diminish anyone’s experience, but in a kind of exciting way where I’m just like, I’m going to make the absolute fucking most of this.
Rachel [00:56:37] Yeah, I mean, from what I’ve read, I mean, you’re kind of almost going through and I think a lot of us are going through what I think the Roaring Twenties kind of was. We just been through a world war and a worldwide pandemic and people were like, Oh, fuck it. Like, let’s have a lot, let’s, let’s say and have a lot of fun and like.
Jameela [00:56:58] But you know what? Mine is more like the boring twenties. That’s my version of the Roaring Twenties where I don’t want to go out anymore and I don’t want to go to events and I’m canceling everything and I’m going to hide in my fucking house. I’m doing I think anyone who wants to join me. This is the boring twenties and it’s something that brings me extreme joy just hiding in my house. I have the same sweatsuit on that I bought in nine colors and it’s all I’m going to wear now for the next few months.
Rachel [00:57:25] Great.
Jameela [00:57:27] This is my revolution.
Rachel [00:57:28] I think it’s fantastic.
Jameela [00:57:30] Thank you very much. I think you’re fantastic.
Rachel [00:57:33] Thank you.
Jameela [00:57:33] I’ve loved talking to you. I know you have a billion things to do. So before you go, will you please tell me, Rachel Bloom, what do you weigh?
Rachel [00:57:40] I weigh my effort to match the person I want to be and the way I want to live my life with what I actually do. So my inside and my actions. I weigh my love and understanding for other people. I weigh my urge to communicate what’s going on inside my brain with everyone else. In the hopes that we can all be kinder to each other. And I Weigh my joy, my joy with my friends and my family.
Jameela [00:58:31] Rachel Bloom, thank you very much.
Rachel [00:58:33] Thank you for having me.
February 20, 2024
Guest Cindy Gallop
We’re revisiting this incredible episode with MakeLoveNotP*rn’s Cindy Gallop, as Jameela shares an exciting announcement.