Caroline Dooner is tired as f*ck of the pressures of self-help, diet culture, and trying to fix her supposed imperfections.
A humorist and storyteller, Caroline is the author of two books, The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy (Spanish version), and Tired as F*ck: Burnout at the Hands of Diet, Self-Help, and Hustle Culture.
Far from a typical “self-help” writer, Caroline blends a characteristic sense of humor with really honest and vulnerable memoir-style storytelling to share her personal history as a chronic dieter, her experience with undiagnosed eating disorders since childhood, and some really blistering social observations about modern burn-out culture.
Tired as F*ck explores the pressures that we all feel to constantly self-improve and be hyper-productive, including how toxic it really can be to feel like we have to become the “best versions of ourselves.”
She offers, instead, the idea of granting oneself “radical permission to rest” starting with letting go of some of the pressures we place upon ourselves, every day.
In this interview, Caroline shares…
- Why restrictive, calorie-deficit dieting is proven to not work, according to modern science
- How modern diet culture reflects our society’s anxious urge to over-control our lives
- The ways in which our busyness culture numbs the pain of being human, in socially acceptable ways
- Why we need to practice associating within the body more through feeling, and the mind less
Thank you to Caroline for joining us on The New Story Is!
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Dave Ursillo 00:13
Hello and welcome to The New Story Is my name is Dave Ursillo. I am the founder of The New Story Company and the host of this podcast.
Dave Ursillo 00:21
The New Story Is a show that explores the shared stories and narratives of our time, and the ones that shape and influence us. For better or for worse.
Dave Ursillo 00:30
Our guest today knows a thing or two about the stories that we inherit from society and culture, especially the ones that really place I guess we could say an incredibly unkind pressure on so many people, including pressures to want to look different or feel different or to change ourselves to feel more accepted by the world around us. In a world that really seems to value some people more than others. I’m joined today by Caroline Dooner.
Dave Ursillo 00:57
Caroline is a humorous, she’s a storyteller and the author of two books. Her first is called The Fuck It Diet. And her second is called tired as fuck burnout at the hands of diet, self help and hustle culture. I’m a big fan of the F word. So I’m really enjoying the titles of your books, Caroline.
Caroline Dooner 01:17
I am too, can you tell?
Dave Ursillo 01:18
I can definitely tell! Far from a self help book, as Caroline will soon tell you tired as fuck blends, really characteristic sense of humor, which I really appreciate, alongside some very frank, and very vulnerable memoir style storytelling about her personal history, in particular, as a chronic dieter, as well as her experience with undiagnosed eating disorders since childhood, and some really blistering and poignant social observations about modern burnout culture, tired as fuck also explores the pressures that we all feel to constantly self improve and be hyper productive, and how toxic it can really be to feel like we all have to become the quote unquote, best versions of ourselves. So we’re gonna talk about that. And more today, Caroline, without further ado, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.
Caroline Dooner 02:06
Thank you so much for having me. Oh, it’s so fun to hear those like a description of I struggle with describing myself so much. So it’s fun to hear someone else say it.
Dave Ursillo 02:17
It’s always easier. The hardest story I was told this one’s long ago, the hardest story to tell is always our own. I feel like because we’re so close to ourselves. But from an outside point of view, especially reading a book, or books like yours, even though you know, even even the greatest like memoir, or personal narrative book can’t possibly capture the totality of a person. I feel like your writing style. The stories that you tell are so candid, that your book is really like walking along with you on a journey to go exploring these really big and daunting topics and ideas. But I’m glad that the introduction felt like it was honoring to you and your work.
Caroline Dooner 02:56
Oh, my gosh, I know well, well, what I really have found is like, I can explain it all if you give me you know, 70,000 words.
Dave Ursillo 03:09
Right? It’s all it takes.
Caroline Dooner 03:11
Three sentences, I really struggle.
Dave Ursillo 03:14
That’s right. So let’s start Caroline with your first book, which came out in 2019. It’s called The Fuck It diet. Let’s just start by just kind of like pulling the threads around that book, how it came to be. And what inspired you to first sit down and write about your experiences with diet culture in particular.
Caroline Dooner 03:32
Yeah, so 10 years ago now, actually, oh my gosh, it was almost exactly 10 years ago that I started this very tiny blog that I really did not think many people would ever read. And it was called The Fuck It Diet. And I was on a journey to heal my relationship with food and I tried so many times before. So I mean, it had been a goal of mine such like a huge, huge, huge part of my life to try and first diet perfectly, which had never worked. I had constantly been going from diet to diet to diet wondering what was wrong with me. Why can I stay on the diet? Why am I binging? Why am I so addicted to food, and then I tried intuitive eating, and that seemed to backfire on me as well, because I didn’t realize I was still turning it into a diet.
Caroline Dooner 04:30
And I had this new realization that my obsession with weight and my attempts to micromanage the amount of food I was eating at every single meal was the reason that I was so dysfunctional with food and there were many things that you know that that kind of happened to make me have these realizations. And I explained that actually in the second book, tired as fuck, but I was reading science and all of the stuff that I didn’t understand why we didn’t know this, you know? Like, as, as a culture, why was this hidden knowledge about the way that we’re meant to nourish ourselves? Why are we all thinking that we are food addicts, when it’s really stemming from these really, really basic fundamental biological mechanisms.
Caroline Dooner 05:19
But we’re not meant to restrict our food we’re not meant to, it’s going to lead to what feels like a food addiction. So I was I was researching, I was trying to apply it to myself. And I was just writing about it as like a creative project because I needed an outlet. And it felt really important, but I started a million blogs before that had never gone anywhere. So I had no, I had no reason to believe that this would take off that people would read it, that it would become my career, or that I would write a book about it seven years later. But I was just really writing and, and sharing, and because it was so small, I wasn’t, you know, I wasn’t overthinking anything, I was just, I was just writing. And it grew, it had a mind of its own, it had a life of its own.
Caroline Dooner 06:07
And I grew into something that, you know, people, people really resonated with it, they would email me and say that it changed their life. You know, I didn’t know if my experience was going to be universal. I thought maybe it was just me. But it really resonated with a lot of people. And it grew to a place where I was able to write a book about it. And luckily, that led to a place where I was able to write a second book.
Caroline Dooner 06:33
So it’s been this, it’s been this crazy journey. And it’s had this life of its own. But yeah, healing my relationship with food and writing about it. And really, it’s been this like, so many times in my life, I’ve had these like, kind of deep feelings of how can this be right? Like, how can this be the way it’s supposed to be? There’s something isn’t right, and something else is going on. And I’m lucky for that, because it’s led to the experiences that that I’ve had, and helping me to kind of untangle the mess and the confusion that I’ve been in, in so many different aspects of my life. But that is how the fuck diet came to be.
Dave Ursillo 07:16
Yeah, well, you mentioned there, Caroline, that you’ve always kind of had this sense of like social social observation of kind of like this incisive? Well, what I would call it and incisive manner of getting to the heart of something that just doesn’t kind of add up to you doesn’t kind of just like doesn’t make sense. And that’s what I really appreciate about your work are one of the things one of the many things I appreciate about your work in the fucking diet.
Dave Ursillo 07:42
Specifically, you say that diet culture is a subset of our society’s obsession with control and, and our kind of like shared worship of self punishment? Could you tell us a little bit or give us an example of like how that manifests? Because for some of our listeners, I’m sure we’re just thinking like dieting is just like, what is real, we have to manage calories. You know, we go down that week, we have to find the right like food sets are subsets of a diet that work for us. And maybe for some people, that’s true. But your your work is found that your research has found and your personal experiences have all found that. That dieting doesn’t work A and B, that it really feels insidious, if you really look under the hood of why, and how diet culture has come to be.
Caroline Dooner 08:29
Yeah, well, I think for so many people, whether they realize it or not. Dieting is becomes a manifestation of our control issues and our, our desire to be able to control the parts of life that are not in our control. And it kind of becomes this perfect. This perfect way to it takes care of so many things at once, because it it kind of allows us to suppress our emotions, like it’s a, it’s an amazing distraction from what’s really going on a lot of times, because, you know, eating less calories puts us into this sort of sometimes euphoric state that it’s not sustainable, but it feels really amazing in the beginning.
Caroline Dooner 09:25
And it’s because we have to, we have to survive on stress hormones, and it it feels really good for a time being until we crash and binge and wonder why we’re so irritable and what’s wrong with us and why are we constantly thinking about food and snapping at people. But it can feel really good in the beginning, on on a on a very chemical level on a very physical level. And then there’s just the distraction like it’s it’s such a focus and it’s such a socially acceptable distraction and focus that it’s a way to, to ignore the parts of our lives that are too difficult to deal with. And we kind of were told or with, you know, in so many words were told in our culture that this is going to fix everything.
Caroline Dooner 10:15
So it feels like it’s actually it doesn’t feel like it’s a distraction, it feels like it’s a, it’s a solution to our problems. Well, if we just figure out the perfect diet and stick to it and, and do it perfectly, we’re not only going to become beautiful and loved and adored, which will make most of our problems go away. But it will make us extremely healthy, and we’ll have no problems anymore and will live forever. And, you know, we don’t maybe we don’t think that consciously but there’s so much in it, there’s so much wrapped in what people call diet culture and in, you know why we get stuck in a loop of going from diet to diet, or maybe we’d stick to one diet for, you know, 20 years, we all have kind of different ways of going about this.
Caroline Dooner 11:00
But the other piece is that when we diet, both physically and mentally, even when we’re just kind of mentally obsessed with what’s going into our bodies, it fixates fixates us on food, it makes us feel hungrier, it makes us feel out of control around food and makes us feel like food addicts, as I said before, which just reinforces the belief that we need to be on a diet in the first place, not understanding that it’s the cycle that we’ve gotten ourselves into. So there’s just so much there. But really, you know, I healed my relationship with food and, and body and it, it totally revolutionized my life, it opened up so much mental space, made me so much calmer and made me able to actually enjoy my life and enjoy going out to dinner and not overthink anything, and just eat and not feel like a food addict anymore. But a couple years later, I came up against you know, I basically I was like, great, I figured out everything, you know, like I, you know, my life is great now. But I realized a couple years later that I was still doing very similar things and operating in a very similar way in other areas of my life. And that there was I had fixed one little piece of this kind of dynamic of control and almost like you know, a fantastical thinking like if I can just take care of this one little thing then everything’s gonna fall into place. And I was doing it in a million other ways.
Caroline Dooner 12:35
And again, it was this kind of like cultural belief that if you just you know, if you just micromanage and you just buck up and you just like follow the rules and do what you’re supposed to do everything’s gonna be fine and everything’s gonna be perfect and you will be impressive and beautiful and rich and everything is just going to be great. And so I had to and this is a lot of what tired as fuck it’s about I had to kind of untangle that dynamic in the rest of my life and and I unfortunately still have to there’s still stuff
Dave Ursillo 13:17
it’s done the work continues Yeah. And so you said that really perfectly Caroline that so the the experience of writing and publishing the Fuck It Diet going through this process as long process lifelong process that I’m sure it continues to this day of healing your relationship to food and body image and, and self acceptance all the different things that get tied up it’s it is very complex, right?
Dave Ursillo 13:39
It’s not just about food and what you put into your body there’s so many thoughts, ideas, beliefs, social pressures, cultural influences, the basically de facto brainwashing that we all kind of biologically experience when exposed to different forms of media repeatedly, and all these different things that you detail in both the fucking diet and tired as fuck, but so so that’s how I understand you ultimately, are what ultimately led you to look at these larger and interconnected cultural issues and tired as fuck. In the opening pages of tired as fuck you mentioned that another runaway best selling book, Marie Kondo’s is the life changing Magic of Tidying Up. And this idea of decluttering your possessions sparked a deeper realization that you needed to make a life change. Could you tell us a little bit about how that came to be?
Caroline Dooner 14:32
Ya know, it’s so funny because I’ve been writing for a while before I even started writing tired as fuck. Oh my god, I’m sorry, my dog is.
Dave Ursillo 14:45
Supporting video just for our listeners. We’re recording on video too as we’re chatting and your dog’s head like floated in a few minutes ago. And I absolutely love his big noggin, and now he’s giving a lot of attitude to the camera, but we’ll have some videos we’ll post on Social media
Caroline Dooner 15:02
Why are you not petting me more like she wanted to like get right up here, breathing into the microwave or on video. It’s always always. So I’ve been writing about this kind of half joke, half serious healing phase that I went on which I called my two years of rest. And I called it that because it made me laugh. And it was also something that I was legitimately trying to do.
Caroline Dooner 15:29
And I, it took me like, I actually forgot until I started writing tired as fuck trying to explain, really, the book spends, spends a lot of time sorry, that’s her coughing again, the book spends a lot of time explaining the exhaustion before it even gets to explaining what I did about the exhaustion. But I had forgotten the Marie Kondo and, you know, decluttering part of the whole thing, but it was, it was, like such a big part that led to me, trying to, quote unquote, declutter not just the stuff in my life, but beliefs and, you know, things that I was forcing myself to do, and cultural expectations and pressures that I had taken on. But I got really, really into the life changing Magic of Tidying Up. And I could say that I was starting to treat it, like all the other self help books that I read, where I was, like, this is it, this is it, this is going to this is, this is the one that’s gonna change my life and make everything perfect.
Caroline Dooner 16:35
But I, I started, I went through the process of getting rid of everything that doesn’t, as she says, spark joy. And I loved it on so many levels. And there really, there were so many things that I had still that I just had no reason to be keeping. And so it was it did feel like the symbolic, like letting go and cleansing and trusting that, you know, if I needed something like this, in a couple years, it was okay, I was living in, I was living in a world I know there was there was abundance, I was gonna be able to get it again. So I loved it, you know, just for what the book is about. But I was at a time in my life where I didn’t realize how miserable I was in so many ways and how many things I was still forcing myself to do that I should not have been forcing myself to do that were going completely unexamined that I just assumed that I had to do, that I was too afraid to let go of. And when I realized that it was right at the time that I had just decluttered my entire apartment, I realized that this could be applied symbolically to everything else in my life.
Caroline Dooner 17:50
If I was and I was really burnt out, it was like all of these things happening at once. I was extremely burnt out, I was at a crossroads in my career of should I keep pursuing musical theater performing, which was something that I had done for so many years up into that point. And really, really made me miserable and stressed and overwhelmed. And it just was so clear that I needed to do what I had just done with all of my physical stuff, I had to do that with the way that my mind worked with the things that I was forcing myself to do. I had to take stock I had to do like a life audit on all of the things that was depleting me and stressing me out. And that I was that I was kind of taking on and putting on myself because yeah, people listening to this are gonna say, but I have all these things that have to do I have kids, I have a job, I can’t quit my job, there are so many things that I have to do, that I don’t want to do, that I can’t just get rid of. And that is true.
Caroline Dooner 18:50
There are there are things in our life that we have to do. Don’t want to do. And it’s but there are so many things. When we when we are not letting ourselves actually examine them. There’s so many things that we take on, that we put on ourselves that we don’t even realize we don’t have to we don’t have to do we don’t have. We don’t have to believe certain things about ourselves. We don’t have to beat ourselves up when we’re tired. But most of us do. And it’s things like that, that I was like if I can, I need to, like totally declutter the way my brain works, the beliefs that I have about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. And that is what sparked what I called my two years of rest because I was going to get rid of all of the things that I did not have to do to survive and be a happy person for at least two years.
Dave Ursillo 19:46
Yeah, and so you mentioned there, Caroline, that burnout was really manifesting and I know this is a big buzzword or buzz phrase in the culture right now. I’m I’m personally asked We’re really happy about it because it feels like the most apt descriptor of this really problematic, like, chronic stress that people feel that, really, I think I’ll, I’ll insert my own disclaimer of like, I come from these conversations with so much privilege that I always feel like I need to just be like, I’m a very privileged person to be able to say this and talk about it in this way, especially on a on a podcast, with an author like you. But without creating like a hierarchy, or a sense of like competition over like, who is the most tired, I think we could all, you know, without stereotype, but we can all identify that people from historically marginalized and modern day, still marginalized groups deal with a lot more chronic burnout, it’s, it’s, you know, we can talk about that you mentioned quite a bit of it in your book.
Dave Ursillo 20:51
But burnout is kind of, I think, you know, it’s becoming more universally known. And there’s a lot of forces and factors in play. There’s the stuff that we do on our own subscribe to different beliefs and pressures that we place on ourselves. You mentioned in the book that two thirds of millennials, when polled feel an quote unquote, extreme pressure to be successful, which is higher than any other, you know, previous generation on record, for example, but there’s also these external forces and pressures from society, culture, capitalism, white supremacy, the patriarchy, like all these different things that really do force and impress certain sets of pressures.
Dave Ursillo 21:32
I’m wondering for you, for those who haven’t read your book yet. Where did you feel like the burnout was coming from for you, for you? You mentioned the musical theater and things, but and obviously, going on? There was obviously a lot there. But I’m curious about what felt like it was fueling your burnout for our listeners.
Caroline Dooner 21:52
Yeah. Yeah. So just to speak to what you you just said, I had so much anxiety writing this book, and I was reading it during summer 2022. So I was like, not 2022, 2020, as well. So I was like, Oh, my God, like, me being like, Oh, I was tired. You know, like I so I really kind of struggled with that. And that’s why I put so much in the book to sort of like explore that. For people coming from every angle, like for the people who also feel that way who were like, oh, but I’m, you know, my life is good. I shouldn’t be tired. For the people who are like, Hey, you’re tired. Like, what about me? Like, I my life is way harder than yours.
Caroline Dooner 22:32
So what I really you know, and you’ll see what, when you read the book, if you read the book, but what I realized is, you know, we all we all can be tired in our own ways. And some people may be more tired than others, some people may have more resilience than others and can go a lot longer and can handle a lot more. But really, being tired and being burnt out should not be a pissing contest. Because if you’re tired, and you’re burnt out, you’re tired and burnt out, right? It doesn’t really matter whether someone else is more tired, we need to be able to take care of ourselves if we’re going to, you know, keep going. But what was really interesting for me is that, at first of all, at the time, I did not use the word burnout, I didn’t even realize that that’s what was happening to me. All I knew is that I was really tired, really, really tired. And I did not have the physical or emotional energy to keep doing what I was doing and to keep going at the rate I was going and to keep kind of relating to myself and relating to my life, the way that I had been up until that point.
Caroline Dooner 23:41
But I had always thought and believed that burnout was purely physical, like, okay, you’ve been doing a lot, you’ve been doing too much, you’ve been overworking, you’ve been under sleeping. You’re tired, you need to take you know, three weeks on the beach, and you’ll come back and your burnout will be healed. What I didn’t understand and what I experienced firsthand, before I could even start to understand this was that there was so much that had it taken so long to get to this point. This wasn’t like oh, this past year has been really hard. I’ve been just doing a lot you know, I have been I’ve been doing a lot but it had been it had been in the works for so so long.
Caroline Dooner 24:29
And it was actually my emotional and my, in my mental life that had allowed me to get so rundown. It’s like I had a leak that I had and sometimes I explained it as like I had these these computer programs running in the background of my of my brain that I didn’t even realize were there and it was the guilt. It was the expectations. It was the the voice of telling me constantly constantly constantly, you can’t relax And that was really that’s the core of it. Since I was a teenager, and maybe even before then honestly, I never, ever truly relaxed. I never believed that I was allowed to, there was always something else I felt that I should be doing. There was always some reason that I hadn’t worked hard enough. And, you know, even if what I was realizing is that, even when I took off, even when I took a week off, or what if I took a night off, or if I said no to something, because I didn’t have the energy. It’s not like I stayed at home and had a great time and relaxed and really recharged. I felt guilty about it the whole time. And that is a state that will not allow you to recharge the you will, you will, you will continue to deplete yourself, if you constantly are in that state of oh my god, what I should be doing something else, something else should be happening. I can’t believe that I took off tonight, or I better make up for it tomorrow, like all of that stuff. Really, really is able to bog you down. So it’s it’s the mental and emotional pieces that I think are the real reasons that most people are burnt out. And that
Dave Ursillo 26:11
Compounding pressure. Oh yeah, sorry to cut you off. And say, I feel like I hear this like compounding pressures to, to like be more, do more, don’t let your guard down. And that’s kind of like you mentioned the mental and emotional pressures. That That sounds like they just kind of like built up over time. And in your book, you talk about some of the pressures you were feeling even as a kid, right when you’re performing and singing for, for like great art, so and so. And Grandma, you didn’t want to let anybody down. So a lot of anxiety inducing stories and anecdotes that that our readers or listeners will have to read.
Dave Ursillo 26:51
So I want to go I want to go down one of two routes right now. And maybe you can help me Caroline, because I want to talk about burnout, that is specifically associated with this pressure to constantly self improve or become like I’ve mentioned in your introduction, this this best version of ourselves, because I feel like that’s a big part of your book. But maybe we could start with talking about what you’ve been learning and observing about burnout specifically with regard to the pandemic because, as you mentioned, you had no idea that burnout was the phrase that describe what you’re experiencing, and I feel like it the in our lexicon burnout is being elevated. It’s a conversation that’s in like news headlines. Now, burnout is being attributed or one of the one of the factors believed to be influencing the great resignation, which is, you know, about 4 million people every month for the last, what, nine months or so at least, quitting their jobs. There’s the pandemic fatigue, you know, the pandemic itself, there’s childcare issues that all parents have been experiencing.
Dave Ursillo 28:00
The World Health Organization, I recently learned, I think, in 2019, finally, termed burnout, as a chronic stress disorder or a chronic stress, not a disease, but a chronic stress issue that that they believe, is, is putting, like all workers worldwide at risk. So there’s a lot of focus and emphasis on burnout. I’m curious about what in light of your desire for, you know, as you said, the permission for radical rest that you wanted to give yourself those two years? And what you’ve been observing over the last couple of years? What have you been learning about burnout, in addition to it being physical, but also emotional and mental?
Caroline Dooner 28:45
Yeah, so using the, you know, the last two years of COVID, as an example. Not only have people, you know, been juggling more so like, think about working parents who were trying to juggle homeschool and work at the same time, somehow, impossibly. But you know, and then kids being sent home because of exposure. And so there has been this extra level of actual physical exhaustion, right. But there’s also been this nonstop sort of, like existential anxiety that people have been experiencing on so, you know, it’s only to even people on both ends of the political spectrum have been stressed out of their minds with whatever they believe is going on. Right.
Caroline Dooner 29:33
And that is enough to put people into a state of complete overwhelm of not being able to deal and one of the really interesting things that I learned along the way that kind of made me realize that what I was experiencing was burnout and not just being tired. was learning that burnout actually manifests as not just being tired. but also symptoms of anxiety and depression, like feeling detached, or, you know, not being able to get excited about things or not being able to focus.
Caroline Dooner 30:12
And, you know, that, that is what I was experiencing, when I looked at my calendar and was like, I hate my life, I don’t want to keep doing this, and I’m really, really tired. And I need to make some big, big, big changes. And that’s what people are experiencing right now. They’re like, I am not enjoying the life that I’ve been living. And it’s, it’s probably there probably a lot of things going on, people who were in the wrong jobs for themselves, are, you know, realizing that life is too short, I don’t want to be miserable, I can work at home and you know, get a different job. And, you know, not be so miserable day in and day out. And there are also people who are just like I am, something is not right, like, I am not, I’m not okay, and I don’t want to do this anymore. And I need to make a big change. And I think, you know, obviously, I don’t think that the pressure that people have been under is good, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for our nervous system, it’s not good for our bodies or our minds, not it’s not good.
Caroline Dooner 31:10
But if people can take that, kind of like rock bottom experience, and, and make a change and and realize like, look, you know, I want to figure this out, there’s, there’s got to be life has got to be a little bit better than this. You know, I think that that is a good thing, because it’s making people kind of reevaluate what’s important to them. And, you know, have better boundaries and figure out well, what job do I want to do if I’m if I’m going to resign from my job? You know, what, what would I rather be doing? So, I think, I think it really makes sense that people are at that point, not just physically but again, as we were saying that the mental and emotional pressure that we’ve all been under.
Dave Ursillo 31:56
Yeah, it reminds me, Caroline, there was a phase of what I thought was like, the end of the pandemic, or like the start of the end of the pandemic, and 2021, where I was reconnecting with people and catching up with like, former clients and friends and family members. And I would ask them this, this question of like, do you have Have you had a soul a pandemic silver lining? Meaning like, has there been like, some shred of anything good or positive that’s come out of this shitty experience. Just out of curiosity, you know, and I had like, some people say, like, oh, I Finally Quit smoking.
Dave Ursillo 32:32
And I had some people be like, no, there were none. But But what you what you mentioned there, like the silver lining, and I’ll say that to be, you know, pithy about it. But about there being some good to it. It does also remind me of a New York Times article that I read, maybe like 10 years ago about the upside to depression, I think was the title, or like, the the benefit of depression was the the article and the author was exploring, why does depression exist? Is it an adaptive trait somehow, which is a pretty controversial thing to say, because you don’t want to be like, you know, someone says that they’re depressed or anxious or burned out, you don’t want to say like, Hey, congratulations, like you did it, like you’re gonna really get somewhere now.
Dave Ursillo 33:16
But I think it is worth exploring that if, if it can be a means to an end, you know, I personally had some experiences with mild depression, in particular, probably 13, 13 years ago now. And in retrospect, once I got through that period in my life, I was like, Oh, what a what a gift. It really did turn out to be because I don’t think I would have made such dramatic changes in my life, had it not been for something literally every day, being like, Hey, Dave, you’re miserable. Hey, Dave, like life sucks. Hey, Dave, you’re also like 23 and privileged and shouldn’t feel this way. Just because, you know, like, life is short. And so that’s what I’m hearing you say that maybe the great resignation is kind of like catalyzing a lot of these questions, doubts or bringing enough awareness to light for people that they may be saying, you know, what, I don’t deserve to be underpaid. I don’t deserve to be overworked. I don’t deserve to, you know, to experience time theft from my employer, whatever the case may be, that’s causing this, you know, migration of people from one job to the other. Which I think is gonna be really interesting to see in hindsight, and maybe that’ll be in a future book that you write about.
Caroline Dooner 34:30
Oh, yeah, no. And when you said that, I thought this many times about my relationship with food, my really, really fraught miserable, dysfunctional relationship with food. I have thought so many times, I wish I could go back and do it all over again and never have experienced that at all. But then I realized that I would not be who I am. today. I would not have the career that I have, you know, so much wouldn’t don’t have happened, I have no idea who I would be.
Caroline Dooner 35:03
Maybe I would be way better, further along, but really what I feel like it, it was, it was a terrible experience, but it was a gift in so many ways because I have an understanding about things that if my life had been a breeze, and nothing had been difficult for me, I might have a very shallow understanding of, of certain parts of life, or I may, you know, never have had to figure certain things out. You know, there’s or I may not have understood people who have had similar experiences, I think that’s huge to is to be able to relate to people and their own struggles. But yeah, I, I do subscribe to the maybe polarizing belief that usually very often, there is a gift in the, in the difficult times and in the difficult experiences.
Dave Ursillo 36:05
Yeah, I really, I really appreciate Caroline, you saying that. The the journey that you’ve been through has given you the perspective, to be able to like, better understand, empathize, relate to hold compassion for the people who may, you know, still be in an expression of the journey that you’ve already been on to. And we’re all of course, we’re all on our own healing journeys in our own way.
Dave Ursillo 36:29
And it’s, you know, nothing can really teach you to care for people, like learning that you need to care for yourself in a lot of ways. And which is ironic, because a big part portion of tired as fuck is about this pressure to constantly be improving. And so there’s this is all very deeply nuanced conversation. There’s no quick answers here. I think like, we just need to say that because like, obviously, this is life. But there is no like, perfect diet for anybody. There is no perfect self help recipe to cure all your woes. And I’m really interested, as I mentioned a moment ago that this pressure to constantly self improve and, and be the best version of yourself was another kind of like, aha moment for you in recognizing how tired and how burnt out you are.
Dave Ursillo 37:25
Tell me a little bit about how you’ve observed busyness as a culture in especially like modern America, I think we could probably say like, you know, the Western world, or Western industrial world, the capitalist world, like so forth, but busyness as a culture. How do you How have you seen this, like obsession with being busy all the time, harm us and perpetuate exhaustion and burnout, like writ large?
Caroline Dooner 37:56
Yeah, you know, I think this is one of the things that was very interesting for me to go from healing my relationship with food, to train to healing, heal my relationship with busyness and obsession with productivity. And I never would have identified never would have said to you, Hi, I’m Caroline. And I am obsessed with productivity. Like I didn’t see myself that way. But it was the way that I was operating on the subconscious level.
Caroline Dooner 38:23
But the parallel I think, is that busyness and constantly being productive, is a distraction, it is a way to numb the pain, push it down, push it away, ignore it, not have to deal with it, because it’s very uncomfortable. And we live in a culture that doesn’t teach us what it is and why it exists and how feeling it’s going to destroy us, it’s going to allow us to just process it, we don’t know that. We don’t learn that, you know, we have to have a really good therapist or, you know, stumble upon the right teachers to even get that information in the first place in our culture, and yes, thankfully, we’re starting to have more, you know, because of yoga because of certain, you know, because of therapy because of certain things that we’re now kind of incorporating into our culture, some people are able to have that information. But really, the busyness thing is just like this obsession with diets. It is a distraction, and it is so socially acceptable and rewarded, that we will not realize the downsides. The dark sides we don’t you know, if we’re able to just kind of push through and get all this external validation and praise and money and you know, the perfect body to put these things together.
Caroline Dooner 39:48
Until we hit that wall of oh my god, there’s something you know, I’ve run my body into the ground or I’ve run my nervous system into the ground until we hit that point. We’re not going to know that there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing because From the outside, it looks like we’re doing everything right. But there, but in so many ways, you know that the thing that makes it so tricky is that it is this socially acceptable praised rewarded thing that we just assume is a good thing, a good way to operate.
Caroline Dooner 40:16
And it’s this really, really effective drug, so to speak. It’s this way to ignore everything and just focus on micromanaging, control and being praised for it, you know?
Dave Ursillo 40:36
Yeah. So Caroline, there, I feel like there are elements of what we’re talking about now with avoidance, numbing out distraction that are, I think this may be like an ethnocentric thing for me to say. But I think that they’re kind of universal. I feel like there’s a lot of like humaneness. Because if we go through all the, you know, spiritual texts and religious texts, and if different philosophies and religions, there’s always this element of like, the human being struggling with their own mind, and needing to learn to come into relationship with it. But I also know that there are cultures in the world today that aren’t so tormented with their own selves.
Dave Ursillo 41:27
You know, there aren’t there are cultures in the world today that aren’t seeing rising levels of you know, teenage suicide, depression, anxiety, opioid use, and addiction, substance use writ large, like the diet culture, which feels like so it feels as American as, as apple pie in a lot of ways, like the new fad diet, like, here it is. What do you think, if we are hiding or running from something or avoiding something as a society? Do you have any sense Helic? What it is that we’re so desperate to hide from?
Caroline Dooner 42:07
That’s a great question. My first answer, I’m sure there’s more to this answer. And I’m sure that it’s more complicated than what I’m about to say. But my understanding and something that I kind of came to, through, trying to figure out my relationship with food and my relationship with my body was that we, in our culture, are very, very wrapped up in our minds. And we really, you know, we really kind of prioritize the mind, and there’s nothing wrong with the mind, the mind is a wonderful, wonderful tool, we need it. But that we are very, very, very disconnected from our bodies.
Caroline Dooner 42:54
And it manifests in many different ways. But one of the big ways that it manifests is that we do not feel our emotions in real time, because we, as I kind of alluded to, before, we don’t understand them, and we don’t understand that they are not bad, and that there’s nothing wrong with with feeling. But what happens when we start to feel an emotion, and then we kind of avoid feeling it. And the way I’m going to describe this is, you could either look at it as symbolic, or you could look at it as kind of woowoo, and like talking about energy and you know, embodying ourselves with our spirit, but we need to have our awareness, like our actual physical awareness of what it feels like, in our bodies, in our bodies, we need to feel what it feels like to be alive and to have a body. And most of us do not. And all of our emotions, and all of our intuition and wisdom that our bodies can give us, for that matter are in our bodies, it’s down here, it’s not up here. And when we’re in a state of constantly avoiding so what I was going to say is when we feel that discomfort, we kind of pop up into our minds in the sort of thinking and we do not feel because we don’t think it’s either safe, or we don’t think it’s good. We think it’s weak or stupid or you know, embarrassing. So what that leads to is a nervous system full of unprocessed energy and unprocessed emotions and unprocessed experiences, which is why we need to go therapy.
Dave Ursillo 44:40
Are you seeing that as a future as a future mental health counselor, I appreciate you singing the praises of the profession. Obviously, I don’t need to be making a pitch because everybody needs and deserves good mental, mental mental health care. There’s not enough of it. There’s a limited access but I appreciate you shouting out therapy because I agree with you. So I think that we all need support with. Yeah, go ahead.
Caroline Dooner 45:04
No, no, I was just gonna say, you know, like, it is so important. And then, you know, I personally believe that the best therapists have an understanding of the somatic part of healing as well, because they are connected, they’re not separate, you know, and I think that’s another, so much of our culture, and even medicine is so focused and specialized on one part of our of our body. Instead of seeing how all of these aspects work together, all of these aspects of our lives affect our bodies and our brains and all of this. I know, I really don’t think anything can be isolated, really the way we we try to isolate it.
Caroline Dooner 45:43
But to answer your question from before, what I think so many of us are running from is feeling and feeling the backlog of emotions and feel. And I’m processing the backlog a backlog of experiences that have been overwhelming and confusing and difficult and stressful and overwhelming. I mean, not to mention traumatic experiences that we haven’t been able to process. There’s so much there for most of us that we don’t even know is there that we don’t even understand, like the dynamic of why we feel so overwhelmed.
Caroline Dooner 46:19
Every time we do a breathing exercise that like sometimes calms us down and sometimes brings us up against the things that are ready to come up and be felt and processed. I think that so much of what we’re running from whether we realize it or not, is just ourselves and being in our bodies and feeling what it feels like to be a human. And I think it leads to any number of addictions and and kind of dysfunctional relationships with different aspects of our lives, be it a relationship with food, our relationship with work or relationship with busyness, all any sort of addiction, any sort of substance abuse, I think that this is a big, big, big piece of all of that.
Dave Ursillo 47:10
That’s really beautifully put Caroline, I I think it was a maybe an unfair question to ask you because I was basically like, what’s wrong with with everything?
Caroline Dooner 47:20
I’m sure there’s more I’m sure in her other other things, but I think that’s a big piece. I really, especially culturally, because it’s something that yeah, culturally, you’re not going to learn it unless you seek it out.
Dave Ursillo 47:34
The in the over association with mind which is really prevalent, I mean, not just now but for the last few hundred years since like Descartes, “I think therefore I am.” And ironically, the dawn of the modern era of science and medicine that is followed, which have given us so much and created so many advancements throughout society civilization, for better and for worse, you know, industrialization, for better and for worse, but there’s, it’s almost a real it’s almost its own religion now, where like, it’s the religion of mind of thought of ego.
Dave Ursillo 48:07
And I’m not the type because I’ve drifted in and out of spiritual circles for a while. I’m not the type that believes like the ego is evil. We need to destroy the ego dissolve the ego, like our ego is what makes us human. Right? Personality.
Caroline Dooner 48:20
Yeah, it’s not inherently bad. Exactly.
Dave Ursillo 48:23
Right. But but over over identify with the ego and mind and only associating with mind is not fully human. It’s like just accessing a little part of the of the human experience that we all get to have. Yes, totally. Well, Caroline, before we wrap up here, you’ve been very generous with your time and I just want to honor and respect your schedule. I’m curious about the the nature of your writing, as I mentioned is so personal, and vulnerable, but so full of like Grace and humor, which makes it a such a delight to read.
Dave Ursillo 49:02
I’m just curious though, the writer me wants to ask you, the writer and you. Where do you fall on the spectrum these days of writing and sharing like so much about yourself in terms of like, what’s Do you ever feel an emotional hangover from what you share? Or has writing and telling your story felt more like cathartic and healing for you then then like, overexposing?
Caroline Dooner 49:26
A good question. And I can’t say that I am like, a master at this by any means. But there are a lot of things that I don’t write about in real time. And I think that that’s helpful. And in fact, I think a while ago, I I listened to some Brene Brown podcast episode where she talked about, you know, if you share things publicly that you’re still in the middle of healing from it’s, it’s probably going to end up being stressful for you.
Caroline Dooner 49:57
There’s going to be that emotional hangover or there’s going to be If you’re kind of exposing yourself to too much feedback while you’re still in a kind of vulnerable state, and that it’s, it’s a lot healthier to go through the healing process. And then when you’re in a stronger state to be able to write about it. And I think that’s what I do in a lot of ways. I get to a point where I have processed enough of it that it doesn’t, that I don’t feel as I don’t feel as kind of vulnerable around certain things. Everything entire destructors a lot entire does fuck that. I, you know, I thought like, Oh, my God, am I sure? am I sharing too much? Am I like, is this is this a bad idea? And then I think like there’s a lot that I didn’t say too.
Caroline Dooner 50:55
And I think that that’s important as well. I think it’s good to have things just to yourself or things that you’re not ready to talk about that yet that maybe in 510 years, you will. But I knew I had to really go through the kind of like the thought experiment of am I really okay with everybody, or anybody being able to know these things up, you know, these experiences that I had, or these things that I thought or these things that I did. And I had to be I had to be okay with it. Or I had to make sure that everything in the book were just things that I really was okay with people knowing. But also, you know, 10 years ago, I probably would not have been able to write about some of the things that were happening 10 years ago, I needed the time to, to kind of process and heal myself and then able be able to write about it from a healed place and a stronger place.
Dave Ursillo 51:52
It’s such a great lesson to give to other writers and storytellers out there. So I really appreciate you, you sharing that. Caroline dooner She’s the author of The Fuck It Diet and Tired as Fuck, thank you so much for joining us on The New Story Is I really appreciate your work and this conversation that we had today.
Caroline Dooner 52:08
Thank you. This is awesome.
Dave Ursillo 52:11
And thank you for listening to this episode of The New Story Is we’ll be back soon with a fresh interview for you. In the meantime, if you’re feeling generous and want to help support our show, please rate and review. The New Story Is wherever you listen to podcasts. It helps others to find the show. Until next time, I’m Dave Ursillo. This has been The New Story Is. bye for now.