August 18, 2022
EP. 124 — Zachary Levi
Actor and authorZacharyLevijoins Jameela this week to share his incredible mental health journey. They discuss his painful childhood and how generational trauma is passed down, Zachary’s initial hesitation to take anti-depressants and the conversations which changed his mind, why love is truly the answer the world needs, and more.
Check out Zachary Levi’s book – Radical Love – wherever books are sold!
You can follow Zachary Levi on Instagram and Twitter @zacharylevi
You can find transcripts for this episode here: https://www.earwolf.com/show/i-weigh-with-jameela-jamil/
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Jameela is on Instagram and Twitter @JameelaJamil
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124 — Zachary Levi
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. How are you? I’m good. I’m excited because today’s episode is fucking brilliant. I have the excellent, excellent Zachary Levi on this podcast opening up in the most stunning way I have heard someone do so in a really long time. It’s such a great chat that I left feeling so energized and wanting to tell absolutely everyone about the conversation I just had and from the messages I’m already getting from all of you. It seems to be that you feel the same way and there’s so much helpful, tangible, unpretentiously put information in this episode. It’s such a warm chat and he’s just so honest and real. We discuss generational trauma. We discuss therapy, introspection. We talk about hormonal depression, which I didn’t really know a lot about, and how Zach has finally become comfortable talking about medication and taking medication. We talk about how love can really be the answer the world needs, which sounds pretty cheesy, and I didn’t really know exactly what the fuck he was talking about when he talked about love. Because I don’t really understand it because it’s a very abstract concept for me and for many people in the world. And I think it kind of means something different to each of us. But his definition of what it means to him is really stunning. And I loved it. And we kind of just democratized the conversation around mental health and hormones and misinformation and how the wrong people benefit from our pain and how to take that power back in your lives. And that’s the message we all, all desperately need right now. And so I hope you love this chat. I hope you love him. And I hope you learn something the way that I did. This is the excellent Zachary Levi. Zachary bloody Levi. Welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Zachary [00:02:01] I’m really well, thank you. How are you doing?
Jameela [00:02:03] I’m good. I’m good. You look immaculate.
Zachary [00:02:06] Oh, thanks! I just. I just got.
Jameela [00:02:07] Just clean and fresh.
Zachary [00:02:09] I got a fresh haircut, and a friend of mine sent me this shirt I quite like. So I’m just wearing it all the time now. Yeah, it’s good. Life is good.
Jameela [00:02:17] I really appreciate anyone who shows up to a podcast like this. This is. This is lovely.
Zachary [00:02:22] I’m just doing my best.
Jameela [00:02:23] So clean. How are you doing?
Zachary [00:02:28] You know, good. It’s been a really. I don’t know. I mean, it’s been a very interesting few years for everybody, obviously. I mean, between the pandemic and now, this recession, not a recession and all of the things that are going on in the world, I mean, it’s a it’s a really interesting slash gnarly if I can be so bold as to use the word like gnarly time. And but I think, you know, it kind of puts mental health into even more of an important focus, which is really what the book is all about and all I can’t stop talking about, you know, ever since I had my own personal mental breakdown five, you know, five years ago, which is the impetus behind writing Radical Love I there is nothing more important to me. I can’t I’m not that there aren’t, you know, so many important things in the world that we need to be talking about. But I feel like every single one of those things, the solution to all of them is if you go upstream, it’s always someone’s broken heart or broken mind. And if we can get upstream and help all those things and help all those people, then all of our other issues that lay downstream can all be held down. So anyway, that’s, that’s a roundabout way of saying I’m good, but I’m still I’m still kind of in this my own personal, you know, mental health journey always. It’s a it is a journey. And I’m still always healing.
Jameela [00:03:52] I absolutely feel the same way. And I feel as though there will be less war and there would be less crime and less sadness and loss. So many terrible things that happened in the world. I 100% agree with you at the root cause we have so much pain that is just completely neglected by governments, by schools. And so I in particular really appreciate having a tall, straight white male who has a very successful career and who anyone would look at from the outside as extremely privileged and probably has it all and all the confidence in the world. We need more conversations from the people that we don’t expect around mental health, and we need more men talking about their mental health and talking about sensitivity and talking about radical love and acceptance of self and others in order to heal the world. And it’s I appreciate you especially coming from the position that you do. Opening up about that subject, because I imagine you probably went a long time without getting help or being asked if you were okay because people just presumed you were from the look of you.
Zachary [00:04:59] I mean, you know, I, I don’t know, I, I’m perhaps I mean, I don’t know what was going through everyone else’s mind as they perceived to me. I certainly can believe that, you know, being even taking away the maleness or straightness or any of those things. I was and still am a successful actor. Right. And as somebody working in entertainment who is literally living millions of other people’s dreams, I’m sure there are plenty of people who didn’t even think to ask me how I was doing, but I had plenty of people who were asking me how I was doing. To me, the problem was not a lack of others caring about me. What ultimately was the root of it all was me not caring about me and me not knowing that I didn’t care about me. Me not recognizing that I didn’t even understand what self-love really was. And I perfectly to be perfectly honest. I don’t think most people do. I think we are just now really starting to unpack what it means to value and invest in ourselves. On healthy levels that aren’t then, you know, going into, let’s say, a narcissistic reality. For so long, so many of us have been programed in this kind of capacity. Well, if you’re if you’re self-focused, then then you’re then you’re you’re a selfish person. You are.
Jameela [00:06:31] A prick.
Zachary [00:06:32] Kind of. Yeah, you’re not caring about others if all you’re caring about is yourself. Now that there is some truth to that, if you’re only caring about yourself and not caring about others, then yeah, that’s a problem. But we can’t neglect ourselves at the expense of everyone either, which is what a lot of us find ourselves doing. I certainly did. And so it wasn’t it wasn’t for lack of others caring about me. I had friends and family throughout my life who cared about me and asked about me and also plenty of moments where I would be very honest about how I was doing. I just didn’t know how bad I was. I didn’t know how broke and how sad, how angry, how angst ridden I was regarding so many things in my life that just felt like normal. You know, I grew up in a home that was a very psychologically traumatic environment. I was psychologically hugely abused as a child, not because my mom and my stepdad even intended to do that. They were products of their environment in the same way that their parents who parented them with their bad parenting or products of their environment and so on and so forth. That’s generational trauma. That’s one of the biggest things I learned in therapy was how to forgive those that have abused me. How did I how do I forgive my mother for a really fucked up childhood. Not that she didn’t try her hardest. Not that there weren’t a lot of other moments where she did love me and my sister. She absolutely did. But she didn’t. She could only do what she could do with the tools that were available to her at the time.
Jameela [00:08:16] She was struggling as well. Right. With her mental health and with addiction.
Zachary [00:08:20] Oh my gosh. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes. She I mean, looking back on it as a child, I had no idea about any of these things also at all, you know, kind of going back a little bit or rewinding a little bit. That’s what I was referring to. And, you know, it all felt normal. I didn’t realize that all of these things that I had been feeling all the way until I had my breakdown at 37, I didn’t realize that, you know, anxiety. I didn’t even know what that was. I just always felt this this horrible feeling. I just assumed that was a normal thing that most people like some existential dread that people just felt. I don’t know. I didn’t it didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I went to therapy and recognized, oh, no, I had been normalizing all of these things for for far too long. My mother was someone who came from a very, very toxic, abusive, psychologically abusive and even physically abusive household when she was a child. Now she with nothing, you know, with everything in her, she wanted nothing more than to be the exact opposite of her mother. Like she would talk about it all the time. I am never going to be my mother. I am never going to be your grandmother. I’m I am going to break those cycles in my brain. Well, if you don’t go and actually do the work and heal yourself of the trauma that you’ve experienced, you will continue those generational traumas. They they are they are inevitable. It’s I wish that there was I wish that my story was a rarity.
Jameela [00:09:50] Unique. Yeah.
Zachary [00:09:50] Yeah, but it’s. But it’s not.
Jameela [00:09:51] No.
Zachary [00:09:52] It is just not. And again, that was one of the biggest reasons I felt compelled to write the book, because once I went through my, you know, hard core, three weeks of intensive, life changing, life saving therapy, once I went through that and recognized just how much I didn’t know about myself.
Jameela [00:10:09] Sorry just to be clear, just for anyone who isn’t aware, it’s not that you only had three weeks of life saving therapy. You had lots and lots of help and support. It’s just that in your lowest moment, you went somewhere where there was a kind of all intensive, multifaceted approach to saving someone’s life. You went somewhere in Connecticut. I’m correct. Is that correct?
Zachary [00:10:31] Yes yes yes.
Jameela [00:10:31] And you, like when it was just really almost life or death for you. You were extremely suicidal. You went for help to just to clarify, just in case anyone was like fuckin hell he got over all that in three weeks? What a legend.
Zachary [00:10:43] Wow yeah.
Jameela [00:10:45] Sorry sorry go on.
Zachary [00:10:46] No no. Yeah. Actually, that’s that’s a that’s a really good point to clarify. So I had been to some therapy leading up to that. I went through a very brief and tragic marriage and divorce and that that was kind of what initially led me into some therapy. And I thought I was doing pretty good. You know, I was learning things about myself and about why I ended up in that relationship and, you know, trying to grow from that experience and heal from that experience and just life in general, having no idea that there was so much more I mean, so much more to unpack. And then then a few years went by. That was in 2015 when I started really kind of going to therapy. But in 2017, I made this big move in life. I made all these big, sweeping changes. I thought I was, you know, I don’t know. I was going to totally reimagine my life and moved to Austin to build a movie studio and all these crazy things, things I still want to do. But I think I did those in a much, you know, in a very unhealthy place in my heart and my mind. And all of that ultimately led to me having a complete breakdown and, yes, not wanting to live anymore. And that was not the first time in my life that I had struggled with that level of depression. I had been in moments of sadness in my life prior where I didn’t understand the point of going on. I wasn’t you know, I didn’t I don’t know that there’s really a difference or the worth noting a difference. But I didn’t it wasn’t so much that I wanted to die, but I didn’t want to live. I didn’t want I didn’t understand how to keep going.
Jameela [00:12:24] No no I know exactly what you mean. I was going to say that like for me it was more of a tap out. I just wanted to tap out. I was like, This is actually too much. I was 26 and then also two years ago. And so I, I fully understand that there’s no, like, fantasy or illusions about death you’re not thinking about the death. You’re just thinking about stopping the pain.
Zachary [00:12:47] Yeah. Yes, exactly. And and yeah. And and really genuinely believing that there is no other alternative because how could there possibly be? I’ve done all of the things I’ve tried the other modalities of you know getting my head straight or whatever it is.
Jameela [00:13:04] This is why these conversations are so important, though, because then people get to hear two people who have been absolutely certain multiple times there’s no way around this who are now relatively functioning. I mean, we’re both clean. You know, that’s progress. And so I do think that there’s so much value to these conversations. That’s why we have the podcast as a kind of source of hope for even in your lowest moment, your brain is giving you fake news that there’s no other way out.
Zachary [00:13:35] Yes. Yes. And that, as it turns out, is really one of the most incredible things that I learned in this journey, and not just through the therapy that I did, which, as you were referring to, it was this this three weeks of intensive in Connecticut that I went to. And it was I mean, it was just throwing the kitchen sink at it. It was everything and anything and everything I could do. I can circle back to that. But one of the most fascinating things I’ve learned through this process is that, you know, our brains are these incredible supercomputers. They’re they’re they’re amazing. They can do so many things and they are so helpful for us. But they are incredibly fragile. They they they are they can be hijacked so easily if our hormones are out of whack, if our dopamine and serotonin and epinephrine and all of these other things are not in balance, that is where we start to believe this fake news, this fake news that our brain will start to generate. One of my favorite quotes is and it’s a quote that’s, you know, it’s words that have been compiled in many different ways by many different, you know, very wise people over over many years. But this one specifically is from a book called The Untethered Soul. And it’s essentially you are not the voice of your mind. You are the one who hears it. And when I really started to make that connection and recognize that, Zach, all of these things that you are so convinced of, when I was in my darkest, lowest levels and I was so convinced that I had failed my life, that I was a total fuck up and nobody loved me. And how can I ever pull myself out of this and all that? That was a whole bunch of, you know, what some might call stinking thinking. That was a whole bunch of me not recognizing that these were lies that I was telling myself about myself that were partly because of my hormonal imbalances, but also because that’s how my parents talk to me. Our self-talk is, by and large, the way you talk to yourself is the way your parents talk to you. That’s where it all. That’s where it all began.
Jameela [00:15:46] And talk to each other.
Zachary [00:15:46] And talk to each other. Yeah. Because that and your formative years, you’re growing and learning all of that communication skill from watching these adults, these gods, you know, I mean, when we’re children, we look at our parents as if they are infallible and all powerful. And, you know, and parents don’t recognize that all the time. Obviously, if they did, they would be minding their P’s and Q’s a little bit more. I think.
Jameela [00:16:10] We would hope.
Zachary [00:16:11] We would hope. We would hope. Yeah. And of course, there are those unicorns out there who had incredible parents who from day one were just nothing but loving.
Jameela [00:16:19] Oh yeah fuck those people. I hate them. I do think it’s pretty amazing that to watch, like my friends having babies now and seeing how careful they are about the way they talk about their bodies or their jobs or the way they talk to each other. And I’m like, fucking hell. Our generation was so starved of that kind of awareness from our parents because they just didn’t have the tools, they didn’t have the information, they didn’t have the the language and the books and the Internet to be able to become aware of this. And so I’m just so excited to meet these little people that they’re making this as a kind of almost social experiment to see how they turn out. Because we were just thrown to the wolves. Our parents were just like bleeding trauma. A lot of us not everyone but.
Zachary [00:17:01] And so were their parents, right? I mean, we are I mean, it’s pretty incredible that we this adult generation is kind of the first not the not the first. But I mean, where we’re at with mental health right now is unprecedented. You know, ten years ago, we weren’t anywhere near where we are right now. 20 years ago, it was so far away. And like you’re saying, you know, now we have so many more books, so many more.
Jameela [00:17:26] Possibilities and treatment.
Zachary [00:17:27] Possibility so many more treatments, so many more just studies, you know, actual clinical data that says if you talk about yourself or others in this in these ways, these are the ways you can manifest outcomes. You know, these are just kind of, you know, ideas or thoughts. I mean, you know, Freud was working on this stuff. Carl Jung, you know, took that ball and ran with it. I think Jung is one of the most prolific of all. I mean, I just think he really, really got so deep and understood so many things. And now we’re building on that and we’re building on that. And also, I. Find a really interesting kind of this really interesting like confluence of both the clinical and the spiritual almost. You know, the people are recognizing that there is so much value in a lot of the wisdoms, be they, you know, spiritual, religious, whatever, that have been passed down for thousands and thousands and thousands of years that we are recognizing that do have some validity that, you know, in in mind, body, soul, connection and all that and how and again, just how you talk about yourself, how are you manifesting your own energy and how does that affect you and those around you? I mean, these things are starting to kind of, you know, show themselves to be, I think, far more valid than a lot of people wanted to give them credit for. And so we are poised we are in this position now where we can either take all this information, we can apply it, and we can stop the generational trauma, the cycle of generational trauma that just keeps getting handed down and handed down and handed down and handed down. Or we can choose to be like our parents generation and not to do that, but they all kind of have a little bit of an excuse because they didn’t have the same tools. We have these tools now available to us, this information that’s available to us. So I think it’s our responsibility to take advantage of that.
Jameela [00:19:23] I want to circle back to something you talked about regarding hormones. Now, it’s not a conversation that we actually have a lot on. We haven’t had a lot so far in this podcast. We talk a lot about kind of trauma related depression and and things that one can kind of circle back to being something sort of tangible, something you can see and smell and remember. But I think it’s so important to and I’ve really only learned about it in the last two or three years watching some of my friends struggle with this, where where sometimes they don’t even have like a big trauma that is causing their depression. They are there is no specific thing they can link to things that objectively kind of quote unquote great in their lives, but they are sunk beneath the sand. And that just feels like it feels like there’s no practical way to pull them out. Sometimes it is just medication or like an SSRI, something that is balancing out their their endorphins or their dopamine, etc.. And so can we talk a little bit about that? Because I think that must be incredibly complicated to have both things going on. And how did you find out that you had a depletion of those balancing hormones?
Zachary [00:20:32] Certainly. Yeah. So, you know, I, I was always very hesitant as I think a lot of people are toward.
Jameela [00:20:41] Medication.
Zachary [00:20:41] Antidepressants, to medication. Not not to medication at large. But from a mental health aspect and this is one of the great stigmas that we need to continue to break down. And I think we’re making good progress. But I was always very arm’s length, like, I don’t want to go there. There’s something I don’t know. There’s something uniquely broken about being someone who’s on an antidepressant. What the weird nonsense lies and stigmas that continue to be pervasive. And so even after I went through this time in Connecticut, I still was struggling with the idea of taking an antidepressant. I thought, you know, I’m good. I did the work. I’m back and I’m back to work not realizing just how much, that was also a bit of a crutch. And then the pandemic happened. And then I was sitting around not working like everyone else, by the way. It wasn’t like I wasn’t uniquely broken in that regard. It wasn’t like the pandemic happened and Zach can’t find a job. We were all just sitting around trying to figure out what to do.
Jameela [00:21:48] I love the idea of your own private pandemic that only happened to you.
Zachary [00:21:52] Yeah. Yeah, right. I very quickly realized, oh, my gosh, I still have so much work to do because I hated I was right back to hating myself. I was right back to feeling like I was failing my life, even though it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t working. You know, I can excuse being upset with myself not working in the past because let’s say I was I didn’t do well enough in the audition or I wasn’t I wasn’t applying myself enough or I wasn’t putting myself out there enough or I wasn’t good enough or whatever it was. But this was a unique situation and that none of those things applied. I was just not working because I wasn’t working. And then it dawned on me just how deeply I still was struggling, actually loving myself. And and more than that, how much work was a supplement for my own self worth and love because, you know, you can attest to this, you know, working on a set, making a TV show or making a movie, it’s really just a bunch of problem solving all day long. You’re just solving a bunch of little puzzles, and every single time you do that, whether it’s completing a take or completing a full scene or a full episode, or whatever you’ve accomplished an accomplishment all along the way, you are you are literally getting dopamine hits all day long.
Jameela [00:23:07] Well, I mean, I’m getting dopamine hits because I’m at craft services all day. So I’m just Krispy Kreme-d up to my eye.
Zachary [00:23:14] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that. But so I like doing theater, doing Broadway. I mean, gosh, I would that’s the greatest drug I’ve ever been on, you know, you thousand people in the audience and you’re making them all laugh or they’re standing ovation and giving you applause and you’re like, oh my god well, that’s all just surges and surges of dopamine. And I was flying on that stuff. I was surviving on that. So all of a sudden that all came to a crashing halt. And and I’m sitting in my depression and I don’t know what to do about it because I’m doing all the other things, but I’m still just utterly sad and incapable. I would wake up in the morning and just feel again. I’d be like, I don’t know why I should get up and do anything right now. And so finally. I gave in to one well not gave in to. I finally was listening to some of my friends who have been talking to me about anti-depressants and saying, you know them with their own jargon, saying, Listen, I hesitated taking antidepressants, too. It saved my life. It changed my life. It does not make you someone that you’re not. It is it is nothing to be ashamed of. So many people do it. I started also listening to this podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression, I think is the name of it, and it’s a really interesting podcast. And they just have, you know, various comedy writers or stand up comics are typically very funny people just open up and talk about how they struggle through their depression or anxiety or OCD or whatever it is. And people that I, you know, esteemed people that I was a big fan of and I was like, oh, wow, why? Why am I knocking myself around so much of these people? If I were to have to tell any of these people, I’m on an antidepressant they’d be like, Oh, cool. Yeah, me too. Like, there’s nothing that I should be afraid of in that. And ultimately, my therapist at the time we were talking about it and he said, Zach. You have to think of antidepressants as like he says, think of it like this. Imagine you’re in a room and it’s pitch black, but you know that there’s a stool right next to you. You can feel the stool and you know that directly above you there’s a light switch and you can’t reach the switch unless you stand on the stool. The stool, antidepressants. You need to get up there at least once to get up there and turn the light on. And now you can see clearly and now you can now you can assess clearly. Now you can now you, you have a clear, clear and healthy vantage point to see yourself, the world and how you fit into it. That is what an antidepressant is supposed to be. And and I said, you know, but you have a what if I what if I have to take it for the rest of my life? And he said, well, how do you think diabetics feel? You think do you think that they’re just going to give up on life because they have to take insulin for the rest of their life? Or do they just have to accept that, hey, this is the way my body is. This is the way that I was born. This is what I’m struggling with. I’m not going to give up on my life just because I happen to be born with a weird mutation in my DNA, in my genes. I’m going to take the tool that I need and go live the rest of my life and be happy about it. And you have to think about and he was saying, you know, you have to think about antidepressants that way. You might need it for the rest of your life. You might need to just for a little while. You might need it for somewhere in between. But don’t be looking at it as just as something that you need to be afraid of or ashamed of. And so all of those things, all kind of came together. In November of 2020. I started to take an SSRI, I started taking Prozac and and it helped it helped me get up out of the initial depression. But I can tell that it wasn’t I don’t know, like your body’s smart, you know? And I and I can tell that my, my, my body wasn’t exactly needing or wanting that specifically. Plus, I didn’t really love a lot of the side effects that came along with it. But then I started doing more research in that time, listening to other, you know, really, I think intelligent people like this gentleman, Andrew Huberman, who’s got a Huberman Lab podcast and he he just breaks down the human body and just all these kind of incredible ways, but really going into the neuroscience of a lot of it and started and I started learning more about serotonin and learning more about dopamine, and I was like, you know, I really I think that my my issue is not so much a serotonin deficiency. It’s a dopamine deficiency based on what I was putting together in my life and realizing that, you know, dopamine is really you’re kind of like encouragement motivation.
Jameela [00:27:43] Pound the head.
Zachary [00:27:44] Yeah, it’s the motive. It’s why you’re supposed to wake up and make your bed in the morning. That’s your first little hit of dopamine. It starts the cycle of you can accomplish you can do this, you can accomplish, you can do this if you’re laying in bed. And you you know, so many of the times I’ve been super depressed in my life, I would be laying in bed and I would just feel no motivation to go and do anything because I didn’t see the point in it. There’s no point. There’s no there’s no reason to do any of these things. Typically that that not always but but I think typically that is a dopamine deficiency. Moreover, I learned that there is this really incredible kind of lever in our brains, which is the pain and pleasure kind of seesaw. And when you push down on the pain side and by the way, pain is really just kind of it’s not just physical pain, but it’s it’s challenge. It’s any way that we are stressing our selves to accomplish in any way. And that can be, you know, a creative challenge, an intellectual challenge, a physical challenge. It’s why when you go to the gym and push down hard and you’re lifting weights and you’re doing all that and you finish, you’re like, Oh my God, I feel great. You get this. You get a surge of I feel good when you you know, people talk about runner’s high or, you know, running for 20 miles and which sounds crazy to me, but you go and run 20 miles and you get this insane, high, sustained thing. So you’re pushing down on the pain side of the lever. And when you let up on it, you’re rewarded with the complimentary side of the pleasure. Right. But but the opposite is also true when we push down on the pleasure side, which I was very good at doing, because I was doing all kinds of self-medicating throughout my life. And by the way, that started with video games early on in my life trying to escape the trauma and the dramas of my and my household and my childhood. And you’re pushing down on pleasure. Pushing down on pleasure. Pushing down on pleasure. Well, when you let up on that, your body will counterbalance and you will have to pay the piper on the other side with the pain. And that’s where we end up in a dopamine deficiency. And that’s what I was learning. I was like, Oh my God. I think really, if anything, I probably have a dopamine issue. And so I switched over from Prozac to Wellbutrin, which is Prozac, and most antidepressants are SSRI. So what is it certain something serotonin reuptake inhibitor. I can remember that was one of the other s’s. But
Jameela [00:30:06] Sexy serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
Zachary [00:30:08] Sensual.
Jameela [00:30:08] Very obvious Zachary.
Zachary [00:30:11] Sensual serotonin. So so I so I went from a serotonin linked antidepressant to Wellbutrin, which is a dopamine linked antidepressant. And that was a game changer for me. All of a sudden, I just felt like a normal person. I felt I didn’t have any of the weird side effects. I just kind of felt like I was stable again. And, you know, for the first time in a really long time, if I was really looking back on my life, my childhood and everything, and recognizing that holy crap, I have not felt that stable or safe within my own mind and body for a really, really, really long time. So that’s why I think it’s very important that, by the way, I will also add, as I think it’s very important very recently, I’m talking about like two days ago, maybe three days ago, there was a big study, new study that just came out that says serotonin is actually not nearly as crucial to our happiness.
Jameela [00:31:08] I just read that.
Zachary [00:31:08] Yeah, which is really crazy because you’re like, well, wait a minute. Like, what does that mean? Because so many people, particularly in the United States, by the way, have been on SSRI. I’ve been on antidepressants for a really long time and there have been a lot of positive results. So you can talk to a lot of different people. In fact, I would say I would say the majority of people who have been on on SSRI in their life have felt a positive impact.
Jameela [00:31:33] But they’re wondering now if that’s placebo, because it’s because of the fact that there’s actually no link to what they understand as clinical depression and serotonin. With this SSRI information you found out that yours is dopamine, you feel better and clearer and happier than you felt before. So you are encouraging more people to be able to go out and find what specifically works for them and not take the blanket pill that gets given to you maybe by your first visit to a doctor. When you say you’re feeling sad or struggling with sleep or all these different things or people get put on antidepressants for you are encouraging people to really learn about. I mean, I fucking I fucking love that you’re having this conversation. It’s so important because even while you were talking, I was being able to put together things in my brain about friends of mine where we can’t seem to, like, crack the case. People that I love so much. And a switch just went on in my brain when you were talking, and thank you for that. So I’m going to go and have about six really interesting conversations the second I got off this podcast. But I love the fact that you have I love the fact that you’ve got like a big superhero film coming out and while promoting it, you’re promoting this and this message. It’s so fucking important, man. I really appreciate it.
Zachary [00:32:54] I’m happy, too. Like I said, I, I, you know, I’ve been an ambassador for other nonprofits in my life, and I think that there are so many incredible causes and things that we can all get involved with. And honestly, that’s one of the most important things for our mental health, is being involved in something that is altruistic and beyond us. And a lot of people don’t know that. A lot of people don’t realize that so much of our happiness is really tied to generosity and giving of ourselves and helping other people, because that boosts our own chemicals in such incredible ways.
Jameela [00:33:27] 100%. But also we but we could do so much more of that if we were mentally stable. And the reason I say this is I get made fun of a lot on the Internet for things that I didn’t used to know and things that I was ignorant about in my twenties. And I’m you know, I have a very simple answer for that, which is that, you know, especially in comparison to like where I’m at now and the things I know about. And people just choose to look at me as, Oh, I didn’t care. It’s like no, I was extremely mad. I was literally I was literally insane. I was clinically insane and therefore had no space to learn about politics or the world. And so I do have a super arrested development, which is why I have a podcast in which I learn. I left school at 16. I could not have had a more dysfunctional first three decades of my life. Complete, complete Looney Tunes. I don’t mean that I stigmatize my deep affection for that, for that earlier side of myself. But but now that I have become increasingly stable, I have so much more space to be able to help other people. If we were to focus on our mental health, if we were just to build our founda- is the foundation of the world. So it’s akin to climate, you know, as regards like what we should be paying attention to if we do not secure our foundation, everything else on top of it is going to fall apart. And so I fully, fully agree with you that it should be such a huge priority because we could help ourselves and each other so much more and so much faster if we just had, as you say, with the light switch, if we could just see more clearly.
Zachary [00:34:49] Yup and by the way, even the climate, the fight that we’re fighting right now for the climate, if you could get to the head and heart, if we can fix, if we could heal the heads and the hearts of all of the CEOs, of all of these industries that are and by the way, and it’s almost every industry that’s contributing to polluting our environment. But if we can get to all of these. These leaders of these industries and and heal them so much that they don’t feel that their worth is dependent upon making trillions of dollars that we could somehow.
Jameela [00:35:21] At the exploitation of [unrecognized].
Zachary [00:35:23] Then guess what? We wouldn’t have these problems. We wouldn’t have more. We wouldn’t have rape and murder and and theft and and all and.
Jameela [00:35:32] Megalomaniac.
Zachary [00:35:33] All of those things would go away because they’re all still tied to someone’s trauma. They’re someone’s broken heart and broken mind. It’s if you go upstream of all of our issues, it’s all there. It’s all there. And unfortunately, so many of that, like you’re saying, it’s megalomania. It’s so much of that is pride. So much of that is I’m not enough. I mean, everyone on this planet deals with some version of I’m not enough. And the people who are at the heads of these industries deal with it on hyper levels because they’re all looking at the other CEOs. Well, God, the CEO of Chevron’s making this amount of money and the CEO of Toyota is making that money and so on. And if I’m not making at least that, then what kind of a CEO am I? I’m not I’m I’m I’m failing. It’s like, no, you’re not. Everybody just stop. You don’t that is not should not define your value as a human being. And yet it does. And we’ve got to heal people of this this lie.
Jameela [00:36:24] Well, that kind of brilliantly circles back to what you said at the beginning of this. Right. You are you realize that in spite of everything you had and what everyone else perceived you to have, you didn’t love yourself. And I think a lot of people struggle with that. And a lot of people had that crushing realization in the last two years, because our moral values are so bankrupt right? The the things that we’ve been told to strive towards, which is the success, which is the nice stuff, which is being societally deemed as attractive, all this like empty surface level shit that doesn’t last and doesn’t mean anything is what we have all been told to prioritize in our lives. And so either we’re miserable because we’re striving towards it all the time or it’s so out of sight for us. Those things due to privilege or we have them and we feel completely empty. And I’m someone who once had all those things like in my twenties and then tried to kill myself right in the middle of that, the like peak of my success and external like achievement. And so I had that crushing realization. You have had that crushing realization, and it is our duty to make sure that we go out and tell everyone that it’s nothing is going to like no Band-Aid is going to last. Like you have to learn an alternate way. This is this is a capitalism infused lie to keep us on a treadmill, to make us continue to strive for these empty things and be told that they will make us happy. They will never make you happy. They will never fill the void. Sure, these things are fun, that things are nice. You’ve got a lovely new shirt that you like. That’s great. It’s made your day a little bit. But the point is, is that we have to stress this. And so as we don’t have too much time together, I would love to find your kind of like, you know, having written the book and having this be the foundation of the book, what is the message of self love you you hope people go out there and look towards? And then they should read more about it in your book, obviously. Give us a nugget.
Zachary [00:38:14] Yeah yeah. Well, so look, I mean, I really not to sound too trite or kumbaya, but. I and and years ago, I would have, you know, kind of laughed at this idea, like, you know, the Beatles saying All you need is love. I there’s something very kind of like, yeah, sure, great. But you need a lot of other things, too. And the truth is, we do need a lot of other things. But I do think that every single decision that we make in our lives and everyone else makes in their lives is either rooted in fear or it’s rooted in love. And I think that if we collectively are going to make it, if we are going to figure out how to get to the next level of what it means to be humans and really coalesce and and contribute together and also allow, you know, liberty and faith and freedom and all that stuff for people to be their individual selves, but for us to move forward together, coexisting, truly. It’s got to come from choosing love. It has to. And the only way for us to do that is to first choose to love ourselves. Right. You like on a plane. If the pressure drops in the cabin, all the masks coming out of the ceiling, you are told what? You’ve got to put your own mask on before you help anybody else. I made the horrible decision, like a lot of other people do, to go and help everybody else with their masks. While I was slowly suffocating and falling to the cabin floor. I didn’t realize that I was doing that until I went to therapy and recognized that if you really want to love anybody else properly, efficiently, then you’ve got to learn how to do that first with yourself.
Jameela [00:40:05] Can I ask a stupid question?
Zachary [00:40:07] Yeah. There’s no stupid questions. Just stupid answers.
Jameela [00:40:09] So. Okay. I’m quite detached person. I always have been. And so I hear this word love all the time. And I hear self-love and and love for one another. I it’s not that I don’t care about the people. I don’t know what anyone’s talking about. So when you say love, there’s just like, I see Disney love hearts. You know, I see expressions of emotion, things that I can’t really, you know, truly relate to. And I was. What do you what do you mean?
Zachary [00:40:41] So, yeah. No, no, that’s a great question. That’s not a stupid question at all. In fact, it’s a very great question. The more people need to be asking. You’re going to get a different answer per who you’re talking to. But as far as I’m concerned and based on the studying and whatnot that I’ve done love to like, is to like is to have an affinity is to have a a feeling about a thing and like is great, but love is not amplified like, which is what we’ve all been taught for so long. Like to love something is to be over the moon about when you like it so much you love it. Like that much like it’s now graduated to love. But that’s not love. Love is to quote Thomas Aquinas, who quoted Aristotle. I mean, it’s again, a very longstanding idea, but love to love is to will the good of the other. You could not like someone and still will their good. You can. You can love someone that will the good of this other person and still have all manner of boundaries between you and them. Loving to radically love is mirrored, in my opinion. It’s to it’s to finally just recognize that even this person that might sits across from you, whoever the person may be, is very easy to love people that love us. It’s very easy to love people that to will the good of someone who is a good person in your mind and you know, does all the things that you think people ought to do. It’s very difficult to will the good of someone who is very clearly doing things that are not good. I mean, just to use a kind of very extreme example. But, you know, there are terrorists who strap bombs to their chest and they go into markets and they kill innocent people right? Now very easily we can all look at that and say evil, wrong, monster, you know, whatever. Take your your your definition of this. I would I would go so far as to say, if you really take the time and it doesn’t mean to excuse what they’ve done, but to just ask yourself why they’d done what they’ve done. Those people go and do those things because in their mind they are a hero. In their mind, they are following whatever their religious creed is. And they’ve been taught by this, by you know, by their religious leaders and parents and all of these things throughout their life. That was a five year old child at one point in their life. And they were they had all the possibility and all the openness and they loved endless.
Jameela [00:43:06] I think this all the time.
Zachary [00:43:07] And all of a sudden, well, not all of a sudden, but gradually through their life, they were conditioned to do and to believe these things and therefore then go do these atrocities. Right now, we can choose to call this person a monster, which I don’t think we ought to do. I think we ought to will, the good will. And it’s tough. It’s so hard. It’s so hard. It’s so hard to look at somebody who you know or certainly believe is doing bad in the world and want to condemn them and and vilify them, have them killed, whatever it is. But if we want to get to that next level, if we really want to heal all of these people. We have to understand.
Jameela [00:43:49] We have to understand.
Zachary [00:43:50] And will the good of that person doesn’t mean you have to like them. It doesn’t mean yet that you give them carte blanche access into your life. You can love someone and still have all the boundaries. And that to me is love and with ourselves as well. To radically, we have to will the good of ourselves. We have to recognize that we’re doing our best. Everyone is doing their best. You are doing the best you can with the tools you have right now. And it’s still your responsibility. If you go and screw up and you do some stupid shit, guess what? It’s still your responsibility. You can’t just be like, Well, but I learned that from my parents. Certainly. We shouldn’t be shaming and blaming. We have to all take a huge step back on that. We want we all we want to do. We just want to point fingers and shame people to be like, I can’t believe you would do that. I can I can believe anybody can do anything. We’re all capable of anything. Every single one of us is capable of any decision. And so that’s tangential a little bit. But to sum it up as best I can.
Jameela [00:44:41] I feel the same. I feel exactly the same way whenever I talk about the fact that we have a mental health crisis, that leads to a lot of also I mean, controversially, I’ll be like men’s violence against women. We see all these attacks and we see the fact that there is also there is a link to that person having depression or anxiety or even, I think, hatred for any particular group of people that you don’t even know is a sign that you are mentally unstable. And I get piled on to anytime I suggest that we need more funding and more like mental health awareness and more mental health care access so that this would stop happening. People pile on to me and say, you are enabling them you are stigmatizing mental health. I’m not doing any of that. I’m saying that we have to like if we don’t investigate the cause, we will never be able to treat the fucking symptoms. There is no such thing as just inherent evil. No one is born evil. Something breaks along the way. Let’s find the cracks before they bleed out on to everyone else and everyone else gets caught in the debris of one person’s or one group’s trauma. And so I really appreciate you for saying that’s exactly how I feel. I’m very, like, pragmatic in how we actually fix things. I feel very obsessed with progress, and I always appreciate anyone who’s also willing to have that difficult, controversial conversation about, okay, yes, it’s fucked. It’s fucked. And this does all look a lot like evil, but what do we do now? Because if there are so many good people in this world, then, then clearly that is more likely to be the thing that we are born with and born as.
Zachary [00:46:08] Yeah, I I can’t agree more. I, I don’t. I know it’s, it’s easy for us to believe that people are evil, but I think that people are people and depending on how they are conditioned and programed, can do evil things. But even still that person is redeemable. Even still, that person is capable of being brought back from the darkness. I mean, there are murderers in prison right now, and there are people that go to these prisons that do not excuse their behavior, but merely see them as the human being that they are and say, I will choose not to turn my back on you. I will choose to invest, love into you, and tell you that even though you’ve done these atrocious things, you’re still capable of recognizing those things, apologizing for those things, repenting for those things, and coming back into a status of being a. A worthy human being still paying for the consequences. You still have to pay. You’re still responsible. There’s no somehow erasing that. And by the way, and there have been incredible results because of this. There have been people who were just carnal, animalistic murderers, who have because of the love of strangers have recognized that a) they have done wrong. They are actually truly sorry for what they have done and they are going even to death row. There they are. They are going through the rest of their life in a in a state of understanding what grace and mercy and love is really about. And that is where I think we are going to unlock the potential for everyone, as opposed to all of the shame and all of the hate and all of the fear and just choosing more fear and more fear and more fear. And that’s where we’re going. We’re just going to go backwards.
Jameela [00:47:51] Well, I’m glad that you’ve turned that lens of grace onto yourself, and it’s gotten you here through several really, really bumpy moments in your life. And I feel extremely happy for you that you are at this, you know, and who knows what’s coming for either of us. But it is it’s wonderful to be able to see you seem like well and in control right now. And I, I appreciate your your journey and you talking to me about it. So, Zachary, before I lose you, can you please tell me what do you weigh?
Zachary [00:48:28] I weigh my self to the extent that I’m able to fulfill what I believe my calling is in this world, in this life. Which is to bring as much joy, spread as much love and empathy as I possibly can before I breathe my last breath. And so far, so good.
Jameela [00:49:04] Right. I agree. I concur. Thank you so much. You’ve been a joy.
Zachary [00:49:09] Thank you. So lovely to meet you officially. And I hope you have a fantastic day and hope we get to see each other soon.
Jameela [00:49:15] Likewise. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and research by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month the Stitcher Premium by going Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners.
Listener [00:50:10] I weigh my loyalty being a good friend and partner. I weigh being a teacher to tiny humans. I weigh my education, my student loan debt, and the pride I feel when I walk into my classroom. I weigh the I Weigh movement and all of the good it has done for my mental health. I weigh my journey to self-love and my recent discovery of self-acceptance.
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