In today’s changing world, life gives us a dose of challenges and tough situations. With that, it’s important to learn how to build up your resilience and experience internal satisfaction. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen sit down for a conversation with Katy Dolle about techniques to achieve that. Katy is an actress, filmmaker, and podcaster whose ultimate passion is creating art that makes a difference in people’s lives. They delve into self-authenticity and their respective definitions of it. Perception of our work as creatives can be radically different from how the public, friends, or family perceive us. It isn’t easy because you have a filter on what you think you’re creating, but then people have a different interpretation. In this episode, Katy explains internal satisfaction with our work, independent of other people’s opinions. She shares both personal and professional experiences and the impacts of all those on her mental health. Coping and healing from life’s traumatic experiences, Katy faces every disappointment and obstacle throughout her journey. Find inspiration from this conversation!
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Resilience And Internal Satisfaction With Katy Dolle
Getting Back To Authentic Self And Artist Expression
We have a special guest on the show, Katy Dolle. I don’t know what we are going to dive into. For any first-time readers, we jump into this with a light sketch of where we want to go with each episode. I have had the pleasure of being a guest on Katy’s incredible show called Crying Behind Sunglasses. Katy, I want to jump into the deep end right away. You are what I like to call a multi-hyphenate artist in the world. You have this great background where you went to NYU, you have been acting, doing voiceover, doing direction and have been a staple in the LA comedy scene for many years.
We have talked a lot on the episode about the intersection of entertainment, artistry, celebrity, mental health and how all those things interplay. It’s interesting to be in the entertainment world and also have struggles and challenges with mental health. I want to kick it off by asking you, does it seem like maybe the worst thing in the world to choose a profession? I say this because we are also involved in entertainment. Choosing a profession where you are faced with near-constant rejection and a lot of doors being shut in your face.
I’m sure you have incredible stories about a whole lot of different projects that never came to fruition. My question is, as an artist, how much more difficult do you think it is to choose this profession? Maybe it chose you. I don’t know. We are going to find out. When dealing with your mental health, it seems crazy on one level to be like, “I’m going to choose a profession where there’s constant rejection and yet I have mental health issues.” I was thinking about that before the show. How has that landed for you throughout your career? How difficult has that been for you as an artist over the years?
First off, thank you for having me on the show and for that lovely intro. I appreciate it. It was nice to have you on my show as well. It’s nice to do a little pod swap. To answer your question about mental health and being in the entertainment industry, it’s a broad one but something that I do think about often where it’s like, “I have anxiety. I have panic attacks. I’m sure that being in a less stressful line of work would probably be better, theoretically.”
However, I have tried before to work normal office jobs and it doesn’t make anything better for me. It’s something that I learned how to manage. You get stability and a paycheck but at the same time, my anxiety is alleviated by being able to be creative and perform. That’s one of the biggest outlets for me. If I don’t have that outlet, then it’s much more difficult to manage. You have to pick your battles. It’s like, “Do I want to feel bad because I’m not pursuing my dream? Do I want to deal with the bullcrap that might come along with that dream and develop some resilience and some toughness?”
We hear those words a lot, “Have a thick skin, build up your resilience, get comfortable with rejection and with no.” Over the years, how did you do that? As far as where you are at in your artistic career versus when you started, how did you develop those muscles, proverbially speaking? They are not actual muscles. There’s no resilience. Maybe there is. Maybe we haven’t discovered it. I feel like we have discovered all the muscles in the human body. It’s a metaphor. How did you build those muscles? We hear about resilience all the time. For you, how do you continue to do that?Do I want to feel bad because I'm not pursuing my dream, or do I want to deal with the BS that comes along with it? Click To Tweet
The resilience muscle is located in your brain. It’s a wild guess. Also, it comes with time, experience, going through whatever it is that you think is the worst thing that could happen to you, coming out the other side and realizing that it didn’t kill you. I don’t think that can be taught traditionally because it’s something that you have to live through. You can teach tools. For anybody who is not an actor out there so you know, a lot of actors don’t book most of the auditions they go on. If they did, then it would be a lot easier.
You say to yourself, “Next time I go on an audition and I don’t get it, what am I going to do? How am I going to set myself up for success? Am I going to do something awesome right after I film that audition so that I can treat myself nicely and take my mind off of it? Am I going to journal about it? Am I going to tell a friend about it because I want to feel a little excited? Am I going to not tell my friend about it because I don’t want them to check in on me and ask if I booked it?” There are a lot of different things that you can do that are techniques specifically around this scenario. As far as the resilience factor, for me, it’s not just these techniques but it’s having a lived experience of going through these things over again. Knowing that whatever is meant for me is for me. No one can take that away and having peace with that.
That’s important that you shared these tips because for anyone who’s reading, who is an actor or performer, it’s easy to ruminate after an audition and play it over again in our head, “What could I have done differently? Did I flub that line? Did I bring the right spirit of the character?” For me, at least, Whitney knows this because she was very much involved tangentially. I had an audition for an Apple TV+ show. I put everything I had into it. It’s one of those things where you know you put everything into something. You know that in your heart. It’s an individual thing. You are like, “I put everything I had into it.”
I remember clicking that button and sending the self-tape of like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.” I found out that I did well and almost got the part but I wasn’t the right ethnicity. In those cases, to even get that feedback from the casting of like, “You were great but you weren’t the right ethnicity.” It’s like, “I can’t do anything about that situation. That’s completely out of my control.” I love what you shared because even with that information though, I watched the video again and I was like, “Are they using that as an excuse? Did I suck?”
It’s odd to me sometimes because our perception of our work as creatives can be radically different from how the public, friends or family perceive us. It’s hard though because you have a filter on what you think you are creating in the world but then people have a different interpretation. How do we as artists find an internal satisfaction with our work, independent of the opinion of others? As the words are coming out of my mouth to you, I struggle like hell with that.
Everybody does. Everyone who is an artist or not, even if you are a business person and you are putting together a proposal to show your boss, you are invested in their opinion of your work. That’s normal and that’s okay. I don’t think it’s bad to be invested in what other people think because you want to know, is this resonating? Especially with art, some people make art for art’s sake. Good for them. That is not me. For me, I like to make art that interacts with the society that makes people think that is of the moment and not necessarily ripped from the headlines but it is tapping into something in the collective unconscious.
If I’m making something that is self-indulgent, it’s like, “Why am I doing something that’s only for me when I could be creating something that’s a gift for others?” That’s how I feel about it. Especially when I’m making films, I like to make art that is drawing attention to social issues or is for a good cause. If you can find a bigger meaning behind whatever it is that you are doing, then the one thing that you didn’t get or the one opportunity that doesn’t work out is not going to matter as much because you are on a mission.
It’s way bigger than you. Through the years that Whitney and I have been doing social media, I have been taking a break. I didn’t delete my Instagram and Facebook accounts. I disabled them. I’ve got a text from someone who’s an acquaintance, “I saw you are off Instagram. Are you okay? Is everything okay?” I’m dreading that because I don’t want people to think like, “He killed himself.” Given my mental health history, some people might think that. That’s a little morbid but here we are in the show.
You’ve got to get honest.
People who know me know that I’m suicidal. I’m concerned that I might get more texts. That wasn’t my intention. My intention of getting off of social media for a little bit was not to concern people. I’m glad you brought this up. The thing I was going to say about self-indulgence is I had a moment where I realized that I was getting drawn into that on social media way too much. Whitney is way deeper into the research on social media than I am in many regards. I started to notice that pictures of my face or human faces were getting much more engagement than other things.
It’s this pressure of like, “If I want the engagement, then I need to post pictures of my face all of the time but I don’t want to post pictures of my face all the time. I want to post what I want to post.” “Jason, if you post what you want to post, you are not going to get the numbers.” It’s this cyclical, crazy-making relationship, which is why I took a step back. With your mental health and the intersection of your mental health, artistry and having this mission of wanting to create art that has a deeper meaning, how does social media play into that for you? Is it more of a love relationship, a hate relationship? How would you characterize your relationship with social media?
You could have taken the words right out of my mouth. I agree with you, it sucks. If I post a photo of the most beautiful painting in the world, that will not get any engagement. If I post a stupid selfie that I took in my car, all of a sudden, everyone wants to look at that. It is a little bit crazy-making. I understand that completely.Find something artistic that you're bad at, and let yourself be bad at it. Click To Tweet
How do you navigate that as an artist where you have this higher mission of creating with an intention to unite people, reach and speak to them? Yet, we have algorithms and platforms that quite often do not allow us to easily promote the work that we are doing in the world because of the way the algorithms are skewed. From not only a mental health perspective but more so when you are sharing the films you have done, the things you are proud of artistically, the things you want to reach more people, how do you navigate that? You want to express authentically what you have created but you want as many eyeballs on it as possible to get your work out there. It then becomes this negotiation of, “Do I change it and alter it to get the eyeballs? Do I stay true to what I want to express?” It’s tough.
I’m being reminded of a time when I did a Seed&Spark fundraiser for my short film. I remember that was a big hurdle for me because I had never done a crowdfunding campaign before and I felt self-conscious. I knew that if I wanted to do it right, I was going to have to take it on as if it was a full-time job and that I would have to post every single day for about two months straight. I psyched myself out. I pre-planned some posts but then I left some days open and have vulnerable, interesting content that was relevant at the moment. I consulted with people.
I would highly recommend Seed&Spark. They are incredible for crowdfunding for filmmakers because they assign you a crowdfunding specialist who you can talk to and ask personalized questions, and will answer you. That was cool because I had someone who was holding my hand through that process. Everyone I spoke to told me that the main thing in getting people to engage with these posts and to take action, which in this case was to get them to donate was authenticity.
Whatever it is that you are bringing to the table, as long as it’s something that matters to you and you could talk to someone about that for six hours straight, that’s the key. People can sniff it out when you are not being authentic and you are saying what you think people want to hear or you are posting something to post something like a filler. People can smell it. They don’t care. They don’t want it. When you post something real, from your heart and you speak from your heart, that’s when you can get people to respond.
The two films that I have directed both were intertwined with social media either in their creation or, in this case, the funding of it. I have to say, it informed the filmmaking process as well because I could hear what the audience wanted and what they cared about. That was positive and interesting for me as well. For my short film, which is called We’ll Never Make It, you can see it on Amazon. I will give you guys a quick little elevator pitch so people know what it’s about. It’s about a young woman who gets stuck on the side of the road with her crazy Jewish grandma and her autistic brother. It is heavily autobiographical. We shot it mostly in Joshua Tree and partially in LA.
Back to my point about using social media before I even filmed this movie is that it forced me to be solid with my ideas. If you don’t know what you are talking about, you can’t explain that to other people or get them excited about it. That was one. The other thing was because this was such a personal story for me, I was able to talk about my brother, my experiences growing up with him and the lack of representation for people with disabilities and film.
We found it to be important to cast a person on the spectrum to play my brother. We talked about that. There were a lot of interesting issues that came up that I was able to latch on to and bring to the forefront. I like to make art that has some social action in it. It’s a love-hate relationship but I found that if I’m on a specific mission and it’s not, “Look at me,” it helps a lot. Otherwise, it feels narcissistic and completely pointless.
I’m curious about your process with that. How do you define authenticity? It’s a question somebody asked me. Sometimes I struggle to define it because it has become a trendy word. For those of us on social media for years, we have been encouraged to be authentic. Sometimes you can lose sight of what that means.
When you were saying that, I took the liberty of googling it because I was like, “What is the actual definition before I make up my own?” It is defined as, “Not false or copied, genuine, real. Representing one’s true nature or beliefs. True to oneself.” I agree with all of that. As it relates to presenting ourselves in social media, we do get these buzzwords and it sucks because authenticity is a good word but it’s being sullied by people who are using it and being fake. Even gratitude, people love to use that word, especially in the self-help space. We should be grateful. We are doing our gratitude journals. I’m tired of hearing that word. As far as authenticity, it is something thing that moves me and matters to me. It’s not about outside influences, me trying to please other people or say what they want to hear. It’s about something that speaks to my heart.
To dig in a little bit further to what Jason brought up going back to this question of, “How do you stay authentic and how do you stay in that internal place when so much of the work that you do is external?” I saw in one of the posts that you identify as an extrovert. I’m an introvert. Jason is an extrovert as well. That’s what we think we are at least. We had done a few episodes on how we might not be what we think those terms are. I wonder being front-facing and extroverted in a time with social media and where you have chosen a career as a performer. As maybe a lifelong extrovert, how do you figure out how to stay authentic to yourself? What is your process?
I’m especially curious about this because as a people pleaser or someone that’s trying not to be a people pleaser anymore, I tend to shapeshift a lot and be a bit of a chameleon. You brought up the dictionary definition and then shared your definition afterward, that’s exactly what I would do. I find that to be harmful to me. I’m curious if you do because I have spent much of my life asking, “What do you think before I share what I think?” I thought of that as a selfless act and a collaborative thing. I have reflected on that and how maybe that’s not serving me. Maybe that’s taking away from my ability to be authentic because if I’m focused on what other people think first. If I’m focused on how things are already done and then modifying afterward, I start to wonder if it’s mine. Is it a modified version of what somebody else said or did?
There’s a metaphor that came into my brain when you are talking about when you are hanging out with someone and instead of sharing your feelings, you ask them to share first. There is a body of water and you don’t know what temperature it is, and you ask the other person to jump in first. That’s what it feels like. You sharing first, that’s you being vulnerable, taking a risk, don’t know how they are going to respond and not quite sure what you are going to say. We are all improvising through life. You don’t know how it’s going to come out and that’s scary. If the person says their piece first, then it’s easier because you can say, “This is the category of things we are talking about. This is the level of vulnerability that I’m going to match.” It’s playing it safe.Success means that if I died tomorrow, I would feel like I left behind something meaningful. Click To Tweet
What is your process to avoid playing it safe? Do you prefer to play it safe? Being safe could still be part of your authentic process. That’s another thing that I have been working on. The show has supported me in this process of being open-minded and not judging somebody else’s process. If they believe that authenticity is one thing and it’s different from my version of authenticity, that’s okay because we are different human beings. I’m curious, how do you decide what to post on social media or even your show? Any of those processes that you go through to decide like, “Is this me? Am I doing this for myself first and others second?”
I love what you said, “What’s authentic for you might not be authentic for me and that’s fine.” Expanding upon the definition of what’s authentic is that it’s unique to you. No one else is going to feel that way. The extrovert introvert thing is interesting because I was thinking about the different ways that I recharge and that I tap back into my inner world and figure out what’s true for me, what’s on my heart, what am I wanting to express. I either go in or go out. If I’m going out, then that means I’m going to call an old friend, my grandma or somebody who knows me well and either spend time with them in person or over the phone. I feel like that helps to remind me who I am.
As far as going inward, I’m a huge fan of journaling. That helps me to receive messages from myself. I journal almost every day. Also, I find meditation helps me to get messages from the universe and the big picture because I’m quieting myself down. I’m a huge fan of baths. I love to take a bath, especially if I have had a tough, busy day. There’s nothing better than getting in there. I’ve got my little LED light under the water so I feel like I’m sitting in a jukebox. I’ve got my music and a little glass of wine. I don’t have to worry about anything. I feel like I’m being cradled by a big, warm blanket. Those are some ideas for ways that people can get back to their authentic selves.
Also, if it’s an artistic thing, any artistic expression is a way to figure that out. If you are professionally doing art, find something artistic that you are bad at and let yourself be bad at it. For example, I’m not great at drawing. Maybe I would go get some canvas, some paints and try to paint a portrait of my dog and let myself have fun with it. I’m not invested in it. I’m not trying to make a profit off of it. I’m expressing myself for fun. That brings you back to your inner child.
This echoes to something I saw as the idea of creating for creation’s sake. There was a clip I saw from Ethan Hawke who was talking about the importance of creativity for society and art as a lens for the collective human experience. In part of the video, he echoed what you said. He was alluding to the fact that as we get older, we become serious artists, “I’m a serious actor. I’m a serious comedian.” It’s an oxymoron, I suppose.
As we go on, we want to be serious artists. We want acknowledgment, money, success and to be celebrated. He was talking about when he fell in love with acting at age twelve, none of that was in his mind. He did his first play and he was in love. He said he was overcome by this deep connection to his creativity that, up until age twelve, he had never experienced. He wanted to act to express this thing that wanted to come through him, not all these other externalized reasons.
In some ways, it’s like, “If I want to do this professionally and make a living as an artist, I suppose there is a level of focus or intention. At the same time, not losing that free-wheeling, free-spirited sense of play as a child.” When there were no expectations, we weren’t putting all these requirements of like, “I’ve got to have this make me money.” That’s something I still struggle with, especially with my music, “How do I create and allow the thing to flow through without forcing it to be something so that it can make me money and give me these things?” It’s a balancing act. It’s like, “How do I keep the childlike desire to do it alive but also as an adult, need to pay bills and keep a roof over my head?” To me, this is a difficult thing I struggle with every day.
That is the eternal struggle of artists and performers, especially you need to have a regular thing that you are doing that reminds you why you love it. For me, in the before times and perhaps sometime soon, I’m involved in the LA comedy and LA theatre scene. When I’m doing those shows, I’m not doing it hoping there’s an agent in the audience or anything. I’m doing it so that I can go flex my acting and comedy muscles, go interact with other artists, come up with fun ideas and have the experience of being in front of a live audience and getting laughs. That way, when I go into an audition or whatever, it’s like, “I’m already doing my art all the time. I don’t need this.” Do I want it? Yes. Of course, we all want money and these gigs. My need to express myself has already been fulfilled. I’m not going around thinking, “I have to beg someone for the opportunity to do my art.” I permit myself to do that in my normal life on a different level that’s not immediately linked to a job or money.
A reporter asked Andy Warhol, they said, “How do you know when you are a successful artist?” Andy Warhol said, “When the check clears.” This is interesting because that’s coming from someone who is one of the most celebrated artists of human history. How do you define success for you, Katy?
You’ve got to have work that you are proud of that’s out there. If I died tomorrow, I would feel like I left behind something meaningful. That doesn’t put any parameters on me being on a sitcom and making $1 million an episode or anything like that because that’s more of an external definition of success. Influencing a few hundred people versus a few million people, you are still making a difference. Also, being successful is not just focusing on your career because that’s one small slice of the pie. You also can look at spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, your family, friends and letting yourself have fun sometimes. Being a well-rounded person is my definition of success versus someone who is married to a career that they are not even enjoying life.
I want to jump back to the extrovert and introvert conversation because I have talked to a lot of friends and colleagues throughout the lockdowns that we had in Los Angeles and other major cities when they were in their most intense form of lockdown. A lot of artist friends and colleagues who identify as extroverts had some serious emotional challenges being used to being on the road, touring with their bands, doing stand-up gigs regularly. Over that lockdown period, what was that like for your emotional health and mental state? As an extrovert who is used to going out and doing live theater, doing comedy, engaging with the community here in LA, not having those available to you, how did that change your level of artistic expression? How was that emotionally? How did you navigate all that?
The lockdown was difficult for everyone for different reasons. Being an extrovert who performs regularly and having that rug pulled out from under you is tough. I’m not going to pretend it’s not tough. At the same time, it was beautiful to see the way that the comedy community came together online to put stuff together. Almost immediately, within the first month of the lockdown, I was involved in a bunch of different online projects. I remember I’ve got asked to do a voiceover for a puppet show someone wrote. I’ve got to be a part of a project where I wrote songs. I’m not even a musician but it was a lot of comedians writing up songs. You can check it out. It’s called The 50 States Project.To be in the human experience is to have a million different emotions all the time. Click To Tweet
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sufjan Stevens. He had a project that he never finished where he was going to make an album for every single state. My buddy, Joey Clift, decided that he would get together hundreds of comedians and crowdsource this project. He put out all the albums for all the states. There are at least 200 different songs that are on SoundCloud. It was such a cool, weird thing to be a part of. I wrote three songs about Hawaii that are out there. That would never have happened if we weren’t all locked inside of our houses with nothing to do. My buddy, Joey, was like, “I’m going to do something to keep myself busy. Let’s do this.” That unlocked all this other creativity for me.
After that initial period of everyone being excited about collaborating online which was around maybe May 2021 or June 2021 ended. I’ve got more into writing. I wrote a whole screenplay and spent my time working on that. I had me and a few other girls. We were in a writers group. We would meet up every other week and read each other’s scripts. Having that accountability and interacting with other artists in that way was super stimulating. It turned on a different part of my brain. I focused all my energy on that as well as the show, which was a new thing that I birthed during COVID.
I directed all my energy into other places because I’m a Jill of all trades. I prefer the term Renaissance woman, honestly. Jill of all trades implies that I am the master of none, which is not true. I can pretend I’m good at everything but there are a few things I’m good at. It’s important to not put yourself in a box and say, “I only do this.” If you say, “I’m only an actor. I only perform and that’s it.” What happens when your stage is gone? Who are you? You are an artist. Find another place to channel it.
It boxes you in the sense that people don’t realize that you do things outside of that, too, which has happened to both me and Jason. Jason, in particular, has been known as a chef for so long. Now that he’s losing the desire to do that, it’s tricky. This happened in a small, less significant way. When I moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a year, it took years once I moved back to LA for people to realize that I lived here again. For years, people kept saying like, “I didn’t know you are back in LA.” I thought, “They’ve got it embedded in their head that I moved.” I thought I was being clear that I moved back to Los Angeles.
Sometimes in people’s heads, you tell them what you do. You are an actor, a chef, a social media person or whatever it is, that’s how they define you even though you might be consistently defining yourself in other ways, it’s part of how the human brain works. It compartmentalizes or puts on the blinders. Jason, this might be something that you want to chime in on due to what that has been like for you and that mistake you have made. Katy, I’m curious if that has been something that you have successfully avoided or if you have struggled with that as well.
To me, it’s a parallel to typecasting in the sense that you do something outstandingly well. We go back to what Katy said about how we are like, “I’m going to do a few things. I know what those things are. I’m good at them.” I have found in my career that by being good at 1 or 2 things and focusing so much many years in reinforcing this image on social media or magazine covers, then it’s like, “I want to branch out from this thing. Maybe I don’t want to do that thing at all anymore.”
People are fixated on you, “You are the funny guy who makes tofu. Funny tofu guy.” I don’t want to make tofu anymore. I don’t necessarily want to be funny all the time. Maybe somebody calls me the funny tofu guy. I don’t know. My point is it feels like typecasting where you do something well that everyone knows you by that thing. It can result in some success while you are doing it but if you want to break out of that box, people are like, “You are making scarves out of cat hair. You are the cat scarf weaver. We don’t like that. We want you to be the chef.” I’m like, “I don’t want to be the chef. I want to make scarves out of cat hair.”
For me, getting boxed in by others does happen a lot in every industry. In the entertainment industry, specifically, I worked as a freelance film editor for several years and that has been a day job of mine. It’s tough because if people meet me in that context, then convincing them that I’m an actor is difficult. Also, vice versa if people meet me as an actor and a comedian or they meet me out in the world and they see my face. Not to brag but no one has ever told me I have a face for radio. I don’t fit the profile of what people think a video editor should look like. It’s some pale dude with a neckbeard who has never been outside and is in a hoodie. Maybe I’m wrong but I’m sure that’s what people think of when they think of a video editor.
I am outgoing. I’m a girl. I don’t look the way they think I should look. That was difficult. When I was in my role as a video editor, not only was it hard for them to see me as an actor or as a different person but also because I didn’t fit the mold of what they thought I should look like, I was treated differently. My opinions weren’t heard the same way. That’s tough. On the acting side, the only people who have had a hard time seeing me as an actor are people who meet me as an editor first. They have a clear delineation of behind-the-scenes versus in front of the camera and it’s confusing for people to understand that someone might want to do both.
I’m glad that you brought up the Jill of all trades point because there is this cultural idea, “If you do it all, you are never going to be good at any of it.” Part of your example is that you can be good at multiple things. You can be a multi-passionate person. That’s starting to shift a little bit. I noticed this a lot when I was first studying business and entrepreneurship. It was so much about staying in your lane and carving out a niche for yourself and having one specific audience and avatar.
I have noticed in the past years, it seems to have broadened out and allowed people to have multiple audiences, multiple passions, different career paths. It’s becoming a little bit more culturally acceptable. I hope that’s true and not my perception of it. It’s important to remind people of it because there are still plenty of people who are afraid of that. They are afraid to either admit or open up and say, “I do multiple things.”
I have been that way for a while. I still feel a little shame when I write multiple titles on my business card or my email signature. In my bio, I have three things, “Whitney Lauritsen is blank, blank and blank.” I feel like, “Are people going to think that I’m not good at any one of those things?” I then remember that it doesn’t matter because if somebody is going to hire me because they want me to be one thing all the time, that’s probably not someone that I want to work with.The job of a therapist is not to sit there and fix you. It's there for you to learn how to fix yourself. Click To Tweet
The people that I work with tend to appreciate that I’m good at several things because that brings something to all the roles. Your experience in video editing is huge. When you are podcasting, you are thinking like an editor. When you are acting, you are thinking like an editor, which makes the editor’s job a lot easier even if you are not the one doing it. As an editor who understands acting, you can edit it in a way that an editor that doesn’t know what it’s like to perform can. It’s a beautiful thing to have experience, many years of practice and passion for something in my opinion.
Learning more about multiple disciplines can only help you in the end. It’s not going to hurt you. It’s not like, “You have seen the other side and now you can never go back.” Specifically, with editing and acting, it is interesting the way that they interplay with each other because it’s not always bad. I have had a lot of times where I’ve got hired to edit comedy stuff. I have edited for Smosh or Good Mythical Morning because they know I’m in comedy and they know that I understand this timing. It’s not always bad. Also, on the acting side of it, you are right, it does help because when you are doing multiple takes, you know to give something a little different every time because you are giving options.
You know to hold that extra beat or these little things that you don’t think about until you are in the editing booth and you are ready to throw your computer out the window because this one actor keeps messing up whatever it is that you are trying to achieve. It’s helpful. Something else that I was thinking about is the pressure to be funny all the time or to have a certain mood all the time. Even if it’s not funny, maybe your audience expects you to be serious all the time or you don’t want to be funny. That is tough on social media.
A huge reason why I started my podcast is that I had not been open about my mental health on social media at all. I had my social media funny and ambitious. I talk about my career stuff but I didn’t talk about my anxiety or vulnerabilities as much. It was something that scared me. That journey of deciding to not only be open with it but also start a podcast helped me to get over having to appear one way, one mood all the time. I show up however I’m going to show up and people are going to accept me.
Also, it helps other people because I was scared to start talking about my anxiety on social media. I found that once I put that out there and started talking about my panic attacks and going to therapy, I had many people that were responding and saying, “Me too. You inspired me to go to therapy,” would come to me for advice or a listening ear. That’s such a gift. I was holding myself back from all these beautiful people and this beautiful community that I’m building. I was only doing myself a disservice by trying to appear one way because that’s what I thought people liked. To be in the human experience is to have one million different emotions all at once all the time. Maybe it’s for me, I don’t know.
I must be human too because I am a snow globe of emotions all of the time. Shake it and who knows what emotions are going to come out of, Jason? That is how I found you, Katy. When we started this show, both Whitney and I were hungry to discover what other creators were out there talking about mental health. I did a Google search and that’s how I found you, followed you on Instagram and Facebook and got to know your work. I’m glad that you started not only talking about it publicly but starting Crying Behind Sunglasses.
You mentioned this when you are talking about your short film. I wanted to bring this back and acknowledge your openness in talking about your family experience too. You mentioned your brother who is on the spectrum. Whitney and I are often talking about mental health here on the show so we can understand things like neurotypical versus neurodivergent. The acceptance versus the judgment or the misrepresentation versus the representation.
You mentioned you cast someone who was on the spectrum to play the role of your brother. I’m curious about, A) The importance of you doing that and making sure that people are represented in Hollywood entertainment. B) If you could tell us more about your relationship with your brother and how that has inspired your activism through your art. We want to learn more about it. If you are open to sharing how your relationship with him has affected your art, we would love to know more about that.
I’m going to go backward and answer your second question first if that’s okay because I can’t talk about the importance of representation without talking about the reason behind it for me and what even inspired me to write this film. My relationship with my brother, Chad, is we are close. We are only eighteen months apart. He’s older. He was diagnosed when I was six months old and he was two, which was rare back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. People were not getting diagnosed that young but my mom was super proactive. Growing up, it was tough. He didn’t talk until he was four years old and he was throwing tantrums, breaking VCR. Everything was going on until he was about ten. Now he’s a dreamboat, which is great but it took a while.
I do have a few stepsisters. He’s my only actual flesh and blood sibling, it informed my experience of being in the world for better or for worse. I learned so much from him that I wouldn’t be the same person now at all. I have more empathy and compassion. He and I have this special connection. When people talk about twins having a weird connection, I feel like we had that. He didn’t talk until he was four years old and I started talking when I was nine months old, which is young. That’s because I feel like I have wanted to talk for him, I can tell what he wanted and what he needed for the most part and I was accurate with that. I’m able to help him navigate the world.
As far as getting people like him to have representation, not just in movies but in the world, that goes back to my childhood. Every time we go to a restaurant, sometimes there would be kids from my school or on the playground, people look at you funny. They make judgments and say mean things, especially kids. Kids are mean. I found myself in the role of a protector and an advocate all the time, constantly. I felt protective over him and I wanted to defend him. I knew because I was given 100% more social abilities and more abilities to navigate our society than he was that I wanted to put that to good use and be there for him.
It brings me back to the film because people will ask what you asked me before, “Why would you choose this crazy profession?” My brother inspired me because he is smart. He memorizes all of the perpetual calendars. If you give him any date in the past or the future, he can tell you what day of the week it is. For example, I was born on a Monday. If he met you, Jason, he would say, “Jason, I’m Chad. What’s your birthday?” He doesn’t know the full thing 1 or 2 years and then immediately, he would do a little calculation in his head and tell you what day of the week that you are born. He’s into that and he’s in the maps. He memorizes the new roadmap to California, The Thomas Guide, every year so he knows all of the roads in California. This is what he does for fun. He’s smart.I consider pharmaceuticals like the big red button. If you need it, take it. It's better living through chemistry. Click To Tweet
Someone like him could be cracking codes at the CIA. He would be good but the problem is because there’s a societal stigma for people who are like him, not to sell him shortly but I don’t think he would ever even be considered for a job like that. It’s because of that, I felt like I don’t have those limitations. I don’t have that stigma around me. I should pursue whatever it is that I’m passionate about 100% because I can and nothing is holding me back.
The other thing that I realized once I’ve got older was that my ideas of what he’s capable of and the crazy glamorous career he should have in my mind, he doesn’t care about any of that. He’s the happiest person I know. He’s perfectly fulfilled with the normal job that he works at. He gets rotated to a few different job sites. He’s worked at Costco, at the library, at a Senior Center serving food. He’s happy to have a job, be a part of the community, have his house, family and everything. He’s fine. He doesn’t have these pressures and expectations on himself to have this impressive career. He’s happy to be himself, which is beautiful as well.
As far as representation and film, I’m tired of all of the representations I have seen of people with autism. I feel like they are inaccurate most of the time. Everyone thinks about the Big Bang Theory or they think about What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. It’s great that they are telling the stories at all. I’m not going to act like that’s not a good thing. However, it can often become a caricature and it’s upsetting. Also, I feel like people who are on the spectrum are just people. If they are in a story, the entire story doesn’t need to just be about that and be about some tragedy of their life because they are a person with autism. That’s what I did in my film on purpose. The film is not about autism. It’s about a road trip with a family, like Little Miss Sunshine. He just so happens to have autism and it is a thing. “She has red hair. She has blonde hair. He has this.” That’s how I want people to think about it. I want it to be more normalized. That’s my definition of representation. It’s part of the fabric of diversity.
That’s such a great point because you listed two classic movies and it’s hard to think of many beyond that, which is a bit frightening. A lot of us shape our awareness of media. That’s why whatever we are posting online as social media creators, we have an opportunity to contribute that. Similar to you talking about mental health and how freeing that is important for us to discuss these things, better understand them and talk about the things that we don’t understand.
I’m grateful to have a place where we can do that but I encourage anyone reading to raise your awareness and go outside of your comfort zone as we often encourage on the show. There are people out there that are yearning for it but we haven’t created enough acceptance and normalcy around it so they might not even realize how important it is to them. I watched that show Love on the Spectrum on Netflix. I would love to know your thoughts on it because I don’t think we ever brought that up on the show. It sounds like Jason doesn’t even know what we are talking about so I would love to know from your perspective, Katy. Why do you love that show?
First off, the reason I’m primed to love that show is that it’s like a Venn diagram of two things I’m into. I love The Bachelor. I love dating shows. Growing up with my brother, I have a huge piece of my heart that anytime I watch anyone on the spectrum or with a developmental disability doing anything, I am like, “I have to see it.” The show is incredible. What I love about it was that it’s a dating show but because everyone who is on this dating show is on the spectrum, they acknowledge the cameras all the time. They acknowledge how awkward everything is. They are themselves. They don’t have a filter and it’s not rehearsed. There are no Real Housewife taglines. No one’s got crazy plastic surgery. Everyone is just there.
A lot of them have never even been on a date before, which is interesting. At least one guy on the show had a dating coach. It’s sweet. Also, what I realized was that a lot of them were so much more considerate on their dates than neurotypical people would be. They were asking so many questions about each other’s hobbies, interests and what TV shows they like. I can’t remember the last time I went on a date and someone said, “What are your hobbies?”
I felt like they were so honest when they weren’t interested in each other. That’s what I remember at least. They are being like, “I’m not into you. You are not a good match.” That was just that. That was refreshing.
It was like, “We could just be friends.” They are upfront. I find that’s one thing that I like about interacting with people who are like my brother. I hate to generalize. I’m not going to say everyone with a developmental disability is this way. It’s interesting because they will just say how they feel and that’s it. One of the funniest things that my brother said is embarrassing for me. I remember I had a boyfriend that I brought out to dinner to meet my family for the first time. I had gone through a breakup but it was a year before that. He said, “John’s out and he’s in.” Everyone burst out laughing because he said the elephant in the room. “She replaced the other boyfriend with this guy.” No neurotypical person would ever come out and say that with zero ironies.
To me, that’s so refreshing but also perhaps why it feels uncomfortable to talk about this is I feel like we sweep people with disabilities under the rug or hide them in a corner. As I awoke to how racist this country is, I also started to notice all the different ways that we discriminate against people. Ableism is a huge issue that does not get talked about often enough. I didn’t even know that term until probably the past few years. I didn’t even recognize how much privilege there is to be neurotypical, able-bodied, young, all these things that we put so much judgment on and have all the shame around people that have different body shapes, ages, body developments, on and on.
If you look at the statistics, there are a lot of people that fall into an untypical way of being. I have noticed the term neurotypical starting to come up a lot on TikTok, especially around ADHD. It’s talked about so much. The amount of information I have learned about that, which growing up, ADHD was something that a few kids in my school had and they had to go on medication. It was weird or something because it wasn’t normalized. Now, it’s becoming more normalized, at least with the younger generations. It’s empowering.
I bet you more people are part of the spectrum than maybe they even realized themselves because perhaps their parents had shame around it. Unlike yours, maybe they were afraid to have their children diagnosed or admit that their children were on the spectrum or neurodivergent. It’s such a shame because those people are either struggling and not even knowing why. This part of my passion with ADHD, the number of people that don’t even get diagnosed until they are adults or never get diagnosed but are struggling with this their entire lives. They are thinking that there’s something wrong with them and carrying around the shame or a mental disorder. This is the whole thing.I hate the messaging that it's natural to not take something that you need. You can do yoga and still take an antidepressant. Click To Tweet
It applies to a lot of different things. You could be saying the same thing about depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD, OCD and anything that’s your brain is not functioning the same way with, “Neurotypical normally wired brain would function.” If you don’t know why you are different and you don’t know the tools to help you navigate society, it’s frustrating. I have met a lot of adults who were either never diagnosed so they were just self-diagnosed as adults or did get a real diagnosis as an adult or their parents knew and didn’t tell them. I have heard that before, too.
There are a lot of different ways people come to figure out who they are but I have noticed that it is more damaging to not know. It is better, in my opinion, to at least understand why your brain operates the way that it does, then you can decide what to do about it and you can understand what’s going on. Especially for people with autism, it’s so hard with all the social stuff in school. They feel like they are outsiders, misunderstood and don’t understand what’s going on and why everyone else understands the social hierarchy, understands these social norms and knows how to play this whole game. Everyone else got this rulebook that they didn’t get. Instead of feeling like you are totally left out, you are like, “I’m on the spectrum. I’m different. I’m going to have to go to therapy or whatever it is that I need to do to figure out how to interact with other people. I’m going to do it.” If you don’t know why you are different and you feel like, “I must be cursed,” that’s a terrible place to be.
That being said, you were talking about self-diagnosis versus seeing a clinician having a condition verified. With your particular mental health challenges, with your history, how did you come to fully grasp what was going on with you? Was it, “I’m having panic attacks. I’m having consistent anxiety. I’m having depression.” Did you go to see someone who clinically diagnosed you with those things? Beyond that, what is your protocol for handling your mental health challenges? Are you doing it more holistically? Do you take pharmaceuticals? Is it a combination of those things? What’s your personal care regimen?
What you wanted to ask me, Jason, is like, “How did you find out exactly how effed up you were?” I’m happy to share, super effed up but it’s great because we are in good company. Growing up, I was always a high-strung, stressed-out kid but it was normalized in my household because both of my parents were always super stressed out with their jobs. I didn’t think there was anything “wrong with me.”Also, because my brother was referred to as disabled, I was referred to as the normal kid. I wasn’t on the spectrum, I’m fine and normal, “Katy is fine.” That was the feeling in the house growing up.
It wasn’t until I was able to go away to college, moved to New York when I was eighteen and separate myself from my family that I was able to see, “These are some patterns that are negatively impacting my life.” There were also a lot of tough experiences that I went through in college. My biological dad passed away when I was a freshman and then also going through my first big breakup. Things like that sent me into a whole downward spiral to the point where in my last year of college, I’m looking down the barrel of a gun almost like, “I’m going to be graduating. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
I remember that was a breaking point for me where I started having panic attacks but I didn’t know what they were. I thought I was dying to the point where I called an ambulance and went to the hospital. I thought I was having a heart attack because that’s what it felt like. The room was spinning, my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe. When I went to the hospital, they told me that I was fine and that I had just had a panic attack. That was the beginning of a long journey of learning about my mental health and taking care of myself that is still ongoing and will probably keep going forever.
The journey with my mental health started slightly sooner than that because I remember when my dad died, I did go see a counselor at the university to talk things out, share my poetry and process things. I remember after I graduated college, it was tough. I was on meds for a while. I was on a crazy cocktail that made me feel like a zombie. It was Lexapro, Ativan and Ambien. I have never taken anything and all of a sudden, I’m taking all this stuff. I was like, “I don’t feel sad or anxious anymore but I also don’t feel anything.” That was for a while.
Once I had been back in LA for a few months, I decided I wanted to step off of that stuff and try to do things on my own so I did. As far as therapy goes, after that first initial few months, I will take the car into the shop when it’s making noise. I will go to therapy when I feel like I need it, I will go anywhere from 1 to 6 months, and then I will be like, “I’m going to go back out into the world and remember that I can cope by myself again.”
That’s a danger with therapy that not a lot of people talk about, which is you have to be okay enough that if your therapist cancels on you at the last minute, you are not going to fall apart. You need to be okay enough that when something happens to you, your first thought isn’t like, “I should wait until therapy to process this. I should let them tell me what to think.” Your first thought should be, “What are my coping skills? How am I going to self-soothe here?” Therapy gives you tools to be able to take care of yourself. The job of the therapist is not to sit there and fix you. It’s for you to learn how you can fix yourself. They went to school, educated and they know more than I do about Psychology and everything so they are going to be able to guide me on that journey. Ultimately, it’s driven by the person.
I have had many friends that are like, “I wish that my boyfriend would go to therapy.” It’s like, “You can’t push someone else to go to therapy. They have to want to go and even if they do go, if someone has been pushed, it’s not going to work out because they are not going to want to change and probably not going to share much with the therapist. It has to be a self-driven experience.” As far as my diagnoses, officially generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, it’s not like something I deal with every single day. It comes and goes in waves.
Coronavirus was difficult because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of my normal outlets that I would have to help me with that but I also found at the same time, I had more time to work on myself and do the internal work, journaling and being in touch with my feelings. It was a little bit of columns A and B. As far as how I deal with my mental health, it’s a lot of the same things on how I deal with rejection or how I deal with being in a tough industry. Like meditating, making sure I get enough sleep, getting all my needs met, playing with my dog, writing my journal and surrounding myself with positive people. That’s most of it.
As far as pharmaceuticals, it’s similar to my approach with therapy where I don’t love taking something every day. I don’t like the way that I feel about that. I will sometimes take something as needed for my anxiety. It’s like the big red button. I have tried all my other things. I was spiraling out of control. At this point, I know this is all just a bunch of chemicals and I’m powerless over it. I’m going to have an Ativan, Valium or something in that family of drugs but I don’t think there’s any shame around it. I hate that people have a stigma around taking medication or referring to medication as being unnatural.
Some people have a chemical imbalance in their brain and they need to take something every day, whether that’s for depression or anxiety. My brother has epilepsy and he takes anti-epileptic drugs every day. I’m glad that there’s not a stigma around that. That’s probably because there is a physical manifestation. Epilepsy is the same. It’s an imbalance in the brain. Things aren’t wired the right way. There is a stigma for whatever reason for taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication and I don’t think that should be the case. The only real issue with anti-anxiety meds is that sometimes, people take them recreationally. People are taking Xanax for fun and I don’t think that’s a good idea but if you need it, take it. Better living through chemistry.
As we are dancing hopefully like Laverne & Shirley across the finish line, I don’t know why, “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” Now that song is in my head the rest of the day. As we get close to wrapping, I wanted to thank you for sharing that point about not only your personal journey but this breaking of the stigma around pharmaceuticals. For the first time, I’m having a conversation with my therapist. After we wrap, I’m going right into a therapy session.
It has been several years since my diagnosis of clinical depression and suicidal ideation. It has been hard. I’m finally going to broach the idea of experimenting with a pharmaceutical with my therapist. I have been trying to manage it naturally for years with varying degrees of success. On a final note, Katy, I’m glad you brought that up because I am battling my own internal judgments and internal stigma around pharmaceuticals. I have had this mantra of like, “I’m going to do it the natural way.”
That’s what I hate. I hate that messaging of, “It’s natural, holistic and organic to not take something you need.” We’ve got to let that go. You can eat organic, do yoga and also take an antidepressant. Those things can all coexist and it’s fine. That’s brave of you to share. I hope that you can find the relief that you need. From my perspective of various experiences with pharmaceuticals, I have had successes and failures. For me, it takes the edge off. It makes things easier. It doesn’t totally fix the problem. You still got to do the work. It brings you to a place where you have enough spoons that you can do the work. If you are feeling bad all the time and you don’t have that little window of opportunity to take those steps to make yourself feel better, that’s tough. It’s going to be great for you.
I know you are not asking for advice but I’m throwing it out there in case other people want advice if they are thinking of starting meds is that, just because one of them doesn’t work, doesn’t mean that all antidepressants are bad. Also, it takes a while for your body to adjust. Give it time and be gentle with yourself. Something else that someone advised me to do before, which is smart, is to keep a little journal. Not a long entry but every day, “I took this much and this is how I felt.” Each day tracking it, so then you can look back and when you talk to your doctor, you are like, “I had X amount of days where I felt good this month. I felt tired most of the time. I felt nauseous,” or whatever it is. I feel like that helps. Sometimes, you can make up stuff in your head where you think you are doing bad but then you look back at your journal and you are like, “Actually no. Things are fine.” Those are some hot tips for people thinking about meds.
Overall, I want to thank you for being with us and being you. Putting your heart into everything that you do, coming on here and sharing your story, family history, these wonderful tips has been a goldmine of soulful wisdom. Check out her incredible work, support her show and give her the fuel to keep doing the good things that she’s doing in the world because that’s how I found you, Katy. I was grateful to be a guest and to have you here was an absolute joy. Thank you for doing the work that you do.
Thank you for having me on the show. This has been great. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated to come on because I wasn’t sure what I would be able to share. You both are knowledgeable and have so much wisdom about the world. I’m glad that I could add to that and be part of the conversation.
Thank you, Katy!
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- Crying Behind Sunglasses Podcast
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- The Thomas Guide
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About Katy Dolle
Katy Dolle is a renaissance woman – actress, filmmaker, and now podcaster with the show Crying Behind Sunglasses, a mental health podcast for cool people. Katy’s passion is creating art that makes a difference.
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