Yossarian Cole Transcription

JEREMY [narration]:
Hi everyone and welcome to the In The Shoes Of podcast where I make it my goal to see life as much as possible from someone else's point of view; just like we all have a unique heartbeat, every single one of us sees life only from our own perspective. Think about it. Can you see and process life exactly as Elon Musk sees and processes life? The answer is you can't, and it applies to every living conscious being here on this pale blue dot.


JEREMY :
And it's In The Shoes of episode time, and today I have an old friend by the name of--


JEREMY [naaration]:
Just letting you know that I had to make a last-minute update to this episode, which is why the quality is a little bit different for these few seconds. I'm actually outside of a coffee shop in my car right now. For reasons I won't get into here, I will not be using the real name of the interviewee today. So, the title of the podcast will include the fake name of Yossarian Cole. Anyway, the content is still there, still great, and thank you for understanding. Enjoy this show.


JEREMY :
--who is a self-proclaimed burned out night shift E.R. nurse, aka trauma junkie-- you're going to find out that he's much more than that, obviously. We're going to delve into some pretty heavy stuff here, and some lighter stuff, but I mean to give you an idea - electron transport systems, collective hypomania, vagus nerve communication, suicidal contagions, alcoholism, e'erthing and more.
We've kind of started but, well not officially but whatever. Have you heard of Wim Hof, the Wim Hof method, or the Iceman?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh definitely.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah well, Tim Ferris talks about him.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
But I have his book, I bought it a couple of weeks ago. What the real benefit of that - cold therapy is tweaking your vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Oh, that's right, you're kind of an expert on the vagus nerve.


YOSSARIAN :
Definitely. That's kind of my whole mission in life, is to help people fix their vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Can you explain, just before we even get into that, what a vagus nerve is?


YOSSARIAN :
The human body has two biggest nerves - it's a pair, so a big guy. And that's Cranial Nerve #10 and, you may have heard of heart rate variability? Extreme athletes are checking their heart rate variability, often first thing in the morning. It tells you how stressed you are, how much stress you have, and by stress, I'm not talking about some vague emotional state of being. I'm talking about physiologic stress.


JEREMY :
Right.


YOSSARIAN :
And a huge stressor is an extreme workout. So, if you go run a marathon today, that is a tremendous amount of physiologic stress, and then your heart rate variability would tell you the next morning basically whether you should workout or not again that day, and how recovered you are. And so that heart rate variability is the vagus nerve and its influence on the heart.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
The vagus nerve is the brakes to the heart basically. It's what slows the heart rate down. And this is all talking about the parasympathetic nervous system.


JEREMY :
Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
Opposite the parasympathetic is the sympathetic nervous system and that's what we think of when we're talking about ‘fight or flight'. So, a bear jumps out of the woods to eat you, and you freak out and take off running, or maybe pull out your bowie knife and fight the bear. But your fight or flight is kicked in - it's all revved up, and that is the sympathetic nervous system.


JEREMY :
That's the sympathetic, not the parasympathetic. And so, you're saying the vagus nerve - does it moderate the parasympathetic system?


YOSSARIAN :
Yes exactly. And so that is the 'rest and digest' system, the 'feed or breed' system.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
So, the opposite, or antidote, to stress is the parasympathetic nervous system.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. So, if it notices that you're stressed, it will do something to compensate for that stress somehow?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Like, when you told me one day when I was really stressed out and I was traveling in… I think I was in Thailand or Malaysia or something, and I was texting you about how stressed out I was about something and I was telling you about how on a Friday I went for a run and I was like, extraordinarily just peaceful - blissed out beyond words. And you told me that it was probably my vagus nerve that kind of kicked in, or my parasympathetic nervous system kind of kicked in, to say, "Hey we need to chill out, otherwise bad things are going to happen." Is that the gist of it, kind of?


YOSSARIAN :
That's exactly it. And we call that parasympathetic overshoot, which is the exact same thing that happens to an opossum when it plays dead. So, if a possum is confronted with a life-threatening situation - bam! it is paralyzed, immobilized, can't move, because the vagus nerve of the opossum shuts his entire body down. And that's called parasympathetic overshoot, and the interesting thing about overshoot is that is what--there is a seminal research article from 1990 by this guy named Baumeister, entitled Suicide as Escape from Self.


JEREMY :
Hmm.


YOSSARIAN :
And it's not entirely true, but it was very profound at the time in 1990 when he wrote this and he talked about this phenomenon called cognitive deconstruction.


JEREMY :
Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
That is when, basically, your brain stops working.


JEREMY :
Really? Well, doesn't that equate to death, if your brain stops working?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, it is highly lethal, because that's when people kill themselves.


JEREMY :
So, what do you mean when you say, "Your brain stops working." What do you mean by that?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, we can actually see this on functional MRI brain scans now. This comes from studies of alcoholics -abstinent alcoholics, when they are confronted with a high amount of stress which means their vagus nerve is shutting down, their prefrontal cortex, the front part of your brain right behind your forehead, the part of your brain that makes you human, in the abstinent alcoholic, It just simply turns off.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
When confronted with a high amount of stress.


JEREMY :
Wow, so are you going back to like the primal... Like a reptile brain then, at that point in time?


YOSSARIAN :
Definitely. That's exactly what's happening. So basically, instead of your human brain working, you're in crocodile brain mode. And the only thing that crocodile brain is good for is instinctual reflexive behavior. So, a crocodile sees something move and it automatically tries to eat it. It's just very--they call it the appetite of tri[00:07:26]. And basically what your prefrontal cortex, the human part of your brain, is good for is executive functioning. And executive functions are-- there are dozens of them, but things like inhibition; your ability to inhibit a behavior is an executive function. And so, it just stops working.


JEREMY :
Wow, sometimes the mind really stops working. There are just points in life where that really happens.


YOSSARIAN :
Yep, and that's kind of, in a roundabout way, modulated by the vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Really. Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, and the vagus nerve is fascinating. In the human, it has evolved to where we have three distinct branches, at least, of the vagus nerve. And this is... A guy named Stephen Porges came up with the polyvagal theory. What that means is, it's all based on evolution - and over the millennia, we have evolved a newer branch, and then an even newer branch. And so, there are at least three branches, each one newer than the previous one. And so, the most recently-evolved branch of the human vagus nerve is responsible for social interaction.


JEREMY :
Really? There's just one nerve, like vagus nerve, that's responsible just for that - for social interaction?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah - the vagus nerve has branches throughout your body. So, when you think one nerve, it's branched throughout your entire body. And we know, for example, acupuncture. Acupuncture has been around for 3,000 years. Well, when you mapped every site that they are trained to puncture with a needle, every single site is within millimeters of a branch of the vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Oh really? Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, and so that's the benefit of acupuncture and why it actually does help people. It's not a dramatic treatment effect, but it does--for example, you can have your ear pierced with an acupuncture needle for smoking cessation.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
Because there is a little branch of the vagus nerve, called the ‘auricular branch', that runs through your ear, and it seems to help some people quit smoking.


JEREMY :
Neat. I mean, I just got a GroupOn for acupuncture, so this is going to be--I'm going to put this to the test! See what happens.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah definitely. I've always meant to do it, I just haven't got around to it.


JEREMY :
So, do you think that we can influence--kind of like going back to Wim Hof, it seems like his belief, and he seems like he's pretty much kind of proven it too, is that he can override some of our ‘fight or flight' function, some of our parasympathetic or sympathetic reactions to life, and even kind of influence how our body reacts to viruses and things of that nature.


YOSSARIAN :
Oh definitely, the vagus nerve is responsible for immune system functioning. It's the brakes of the heart. And we've known this for years you know, probably 20 years ago when I was in first taking ACLS, which is called Advanced Cardiac Life Support. If you have a kid that comes in with a heart arrhythmia, called SVT, their heart is just beating way too fast for no apparent reason and could be running like--I had a kid once whose heart rate was 240.


JEREMY :
What.


YOSSARIAN :
Running way too fast for no reason. Kid looks terrible; there's a chance he might die. So, we got to slow that heart down. And there are various ways to do that, but one of the earliest things that we used to do is simply dunk their face in a bucket of ice water.


JEREMY :
Oh really. You're using the Wim Hof Method without knowing about Wim Hof at that point in time.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, this was before when Wim Hof named it "Wim Hof".


JEREMY :
[laughs]


YOSSARIAN :
A doctor could have been using an ice bucket to slow rapid heart rate, and often quite dramatic. The poor kid thinks they're dying of course, but their heart slows down because what the ice water is doing is powerfully stimulating the vagus nerve.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
And the vagus nerve is the brakes to the heart.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
It can actually be dangerous you can slow your heart rate a little too much even if you're not careful.


JEREMY :
So where are you currently living right now?


YOSSARIAN :
I currently live in Nebraska.


JEREMY :
Cool.


YOSSARIAN :
Lincoln, Nebraska - Home of the Huskers.


JEREMY :
Yeah [REDACTED] and I actually met in Nebraska. He was -- he and his brother moved there, to Nebraska, from, where was it, Pasadena? Is that right?


YOSSARIAN :
Yep, Pasadena, California.


JEREMY :
So, from there it's been a wild ride. What shoes are you wearing today?


YOSSARIAN :
I am glad you asked. I'm wearing a pair of Earth Runner sandals.


JEREMY :
Earth Runner sandals! Whoa!


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, these are--I'm not really wearing them actually because we started talking...


JEREMY :
Yeah, me too, same thing. That's probably how it's going to go--


YOSSARIAN :
--I feel like I'm out of character. No, but I just I love these barefoot running sandals. The fascinating thing with these: they're handmade in, I believe, California and they're not super expensive - I think I paid $80 for mine, but the neat thing, the little catchy part to the Earth Runner, is that they have some built-in copper grounding wires.


JEREMY :
What? Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
There's actually fascinating science building on this idea of "earthing" or "grounding." Which means that kind of from an evolutionary perspective, our feet were meant to touch the ground.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
That's how we evolved over the last million years. And so, with the invention of these high-tech running shoes and things, our feet are no longer in contact with Mother Earth, and there actually seems to be a little bit of science behind that and, I don't quite understand it, but it has to do with every cell in your body is fueled by mitochondria. And in the mitochondria, this process called the electron transport chain is taking place and we actually collect electrons from the ground.


JEREMY :
Oh wow. Really? And this is proven stuff?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, the science is still out there a little bit. It's not super robust, but I think if you could just look around, you'll see people benefiting from grounding. There was a recent study that showed barefoot running increases working memory by something like 14%.


JEREMY :
Whoa.


YOSSARIAN :
Which is a huge thing? So basically, you go outside and run around with no shoes on, your brain is working better. What kind of sense does that make?


JEREMY :
It makes no sense on the surface.


YOSSARIAN :
Science doesn't lie. And so, I was walking around downtown Lincoln on Friday and just kind of enjoying myself and collecting data. I'm a people watcher and I am very interested in why people do what they do. And I walked past a homeless man sleeping on the ground and it occurred to me that he is gaining some benefit from sleeping on the ground. I know this because the homeless shelter is only a couple of blocks away - he could very easily have been sleeping inside in a warm environment. But for whatever reason, he chose to sleep right there on the ground. And Edwin Shneidman is a man I want to introduce you to, he's the founder of the entire science of suicidology.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
He was the world's first suicidologist. Why do people kill themselves? Edwin Shneidman has passed away; he wrote his last book when he was 88 years old.


JEREMY :
That's awesome.


YOSSARIAN :
So, he's written something like sixty books on the subject. And he says, his quote that I live by is that "therapy is anything that helps."


JEREMY :
[laughs] Yeah right.


YOSSARIAN :
Anything that helps. And I believe that's, for this man, sleeping on the ground made him feel better. For whatever reason, it may feel--


JEREMY :
Yeah, just having that nice, cool air on his face maybe? maybe being able to see the stars? I don't know.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, and potentially grounding with Mother Earth, tweaking his electron transport chains in all his mitochondria. I don't know. So that's why I do have a pair of Earth Runners because I like the idea of running barefoot, but we also do see a lot of injuries in the E.R. from people stepping on stuff.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, I'm sure.


YOSSARIAN :
You know, you get outside and take off down the trail barefoot, and then they step on a piece of glass and can't run for a month. I think you have to be smart about it.


JEREMY :
I'm going to have to look into some Earth Runners then. Connect me to Mother Earth a little bit. That's really cool. Cool - so the next question--and these are just kind of questions I want to ask everybody in this podcast, but I want to know… Who you are today and if you were--let's say you were pretending to be someone else and you had to speak about yourself in the third person, and someone asked you, "So tell me about [REDACTED]? Who the hell is he?" What would you say? What would you tell them?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, [REDACTED] is a registered nurse, currently a mental health nursing instructor at the community College. He's been doing that - teaching about mental health psych type stuff - for the last ten years, since 2006. But really at heart, he's just a burned out, crusty, sarcastic night-shift E.R. nurse. a former trauma junkie with the little whiff of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Just like all of those guys have, and a large whiff of alcoholism. So that's... That's who he is.


JEREMY :
Okay. Yeah, I'm going to go out and just run with that then. Can you tell me a bit about how and where you were brought up?


YOSSARIAN :
Kind of my formative years were in Pasadena, California. We lived there until my first year in high school. And so, we were the only white family on our block. And I sort of grew up with this fear of drive-by shootings and things like that. Fell asleep at night in listening to sirens and the distant sounds of gunfire. A lot of those inner-city areas are still a war-zone. I talked to an E.R. nurse from UCLA Trauma Center in Los Angeles and in her career, she worked there for something like fifteen years, they saw more gunshot wounds in that E.R. than the entire Vietnam War.


JEREMY :
What?


YOSSARIAN :
So, where the real people are dying and things like that are often not where the news media tells us they are dying. So that's kind of the background and then landed in Nebraska.


JEREMY :
What year was this, when you landed in Nebraska?


YOSSARIAN :
Maybe 1989.


JEREMY :
Yeah, that sounds about right. Some good Metallica albums around that time. And then you started teaching me a little bit about how to actually throw a little bit of rhythm and funk and hip hop into my drumming, as opposed to just straight-up speed metal type things and thrash.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, that's a funny story that I tell and I've exaggerated it over the years. It's kind of got a life of its own now when retelling it. It's basically a real high school musical sort of a deal, where the skinny blond kid shows up, and you and the other best drummer in town Jeremy Dutcher - this is how I tell the story- are like, "Oh so you're a drummer. Let's see what you got."


JEREMY :
Yeah, right! [laughs]


YOSSARIAN :
And I'm like, "Well okay, I guess I could." I don't know, it's not true.


JEREMY :
That's awesome. Wow, that could be another podcast in and of itself. Just like music in high school. I don't know if anybody would really listen to that one, but you know. Well, how much do you think that your upbringing contributed to who you are today?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, I honestly don't think it contributed much at all. My real formative years, I would say, were the nights I spent in the E.R. I did that for probably about a decade. Ten years working three or four 12-hour shifts a week in the E.R. I've never taken a vacation. I always just worked.


JEREMY :
Oh wow, this whole time you still haven't --you still haven't taken a vacation? Is that what you're saying?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah no, I really have never gone on a vacation. I should do that, it's on my bucket list.


JEREMY :
You've got to do that; we've got to go. I think you would enjoy that, man.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah! But that being said, I thoroughly enjoy what I do for a living too. And so, I am one of those guys that honestly, I don't feel like I have a job because I can't believe they let me do what I do every day, so there's that. That's nice, but--


JEREMY :
Oh, it's awesome.


YOSSARIAN :
As far as childhood events influencing adulthood outcomes, a lot of people really latch onto their parents' parental style of... Their cold and distant father or whatever, or their codependent mother.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
Things like that. But there's actually, this comes from the field of positive psychology, the research really shows that childhood events have very little influence on adult functioning. Which is surprising, but it is a testament to, I believe, the resiliency of the human organism. We tend to bounce back and often we bounce back even stronger and better than before.


JEREMY :
Yeah. I feel like there is a way that a lot of people can, you know, whatever happened in the childhood… Sometimes we can let that become part of our identity today. Which really isn't necessarily beneficial, but once again, I can't--I don't know that I can judge that whatsoever. But--


YOSSARIAN :
Oh no, I don't think so. You know, I think for some people it is beneficial; it makes them feel better to blame their parents or whatever. And there are, of course, definitely cases of severe--


JEREMY :
Oh yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
--continuing child abuse and things like that. I'm not talking about that.


JEREMY :
Yeah, okay.


YOSSARIAN :
But as far as... Like the reason I have anxiety, for example, I like to say, "Oh it's from working in the E.R. and I have literally seen a thousand different ways someone can die."


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
But that's not actually true at all. I had anxiety before that, and I most likely inherited it from my mom, who inherited it from grandma, you know. So, it's just a long history and largely genetic. Some of it is not genetic and we can influence it. Some of it is.


JEREMY :
Yeah. That makes sense. Wow. So that kind of leads me to my next question then: How did you decide to become an E.R. nurse?


YOSSARIAN :
I became a nurse initially because I didn't have a choice. I had a new baby and no decent job, and for whatever reason, it seemed like this was the only thing for me - was to go to LPN school. I became a licensed practical nurse - it was just a simple one-year degree and suddenly I was making a little bit more money. And then that led me to become a registered nurse, making a little bit more money. And not excellent money, but it's at least a profession.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, for sure.


YOSSARIAN :
So I never wanted to be an E.R. nurse because I'm a big coward at heart. I'm terrified of everything, all the time. So I was an ICU nurse, and ICU nurses - we tend to have a decent amount of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I think. Good ICU nurses fit the criteria for OCD.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
We like to have all of our lines and tubes in perfect order and lined up, and everything well-controlled, and we'll kind of fuss over just one or two patients for an entire 12-hour shift and nothing is too dramatic. We like to think that we're super bad ass because we're ICU, but there's never anything real... You know, our patient might code and die, we do CPR, we shock them but then they come back. But it's only one patient. The E.R. is a completely unpredictable, chaotic environment that you cannot control. Absolutely terrifying.


JEREMY :
Can you go into that a little bit?


YOSSARIAN :
I think there are a couple of things that TV tries to capture, the just insane chaos of an E.R., but it just can't capture what is really happening. Let's say during flu season - one flu season, we had an additional 7,300 patients check-in over the month with just flu symptoms. So you're just overrun, you've got people stacked up in the back hallways, everyone needs you now. And as an E.R. nurse, your only priority is to figure out who is the most likely to die in the next two minutes or so. So you have to triage everything that you do, every step that you take has to be with the priority patients in mind.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
And so, the other component to the E.R. that television cannot capture is your sense of smell. Your sense of smell is, from an evolutionary perspective, it was the oldest and first developed sense.


JEREMY :
Oh really? Before eyesight even?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah! Yep, so actually that nerve, your olfactory nerve, is the only nerve that bypasses the thalamus, which is the filter in your brain that filters stuff out. The olfactory nerve doesn't get filtered out because it's the oldest, from an evolutionary perspective. That's why crocodiles and snakes and different animals are good at smelling stuff.


JEREMY :
What about... What about fish? They don't really smell, Do they? Or... Or do they?


YOSSARIAN :
I don't think so. I honestly don't know.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. Anyway, anyway. We could go down another rabbit hole there, but yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
So your sense of smell is tied directly into your amygdala, which is the emotion processing area of your brain. Really strong emotions are modulated by the amygdala. And so, you can't capture that on television - what the mixture of blood and alcohol smells like, for example. That's a smell that's permanently attached in my brain.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
Vomit - you can't capture the smell of vomit.


JEREMY :
Probably a combination of vomit and alcohol and blood at the same time… That might have been a common kind of mixture.
YOSSARIAN :


Yeah, a very common smell. It's just a very common smell that has emotional ramifications. But that's why, I'm just off on a tangent, when we're talking about quitting smoking, this is a little key that WebMD will not tell you. If you get on WebMD and you're like, "I quit smoking and my sense of smell is returning." They'll be all like, "This is a great thing." It's not necessarily a good thing. If the smell of autumn reminds you of some child that got shot to death that you did CPR on, you don't want that smell to come back. You don't want those memories. Smoking is a simple way to eliminate that problem - you can't smell!


JEREMY :
[laughs] Right!


YOSSARIAN :
I'm counseling people who are trying to quit smoking, I'm like, "Just be aware that you're going to have some memories that you had long forgotten about come flooding back, and that may make you want to go buy some cigarettes."


JEREMY :
Right!


YOSSARIAN :
If you're aware that that might happen, then you can sort of prepare for it. For instance, you might say, "Oh this just happened. I haven't thought of that former lover" and you smell perfume that she used to wear, you know. "I hadn't had that thought or emotion for years."


JEREMY :
Yeah. So how much has that affected you then, the E.R.? And you probably have - I'm sure you have a lot of smells that are you associated with E.R.?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I wouldn't say that - I can't say that it's affected me, you know, horribly--


JEREMY :
Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
--one way or the other. It has changed the trajectory of my life, for certain. But what was really the culprit was the drinking myself to sleep at night.


JEREMY :
That was after you'd get off work or whatever - you'd come home and just pour yourself a couple martinis or whatever?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, that was, I believe, a much bigger impact. And so, we tend to really minimize that when we're talking about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or anything like that. The problem with alcohol before bed is it really puts the damper on R.E.M. sleep.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
So, you might fall asleep easily because you're drunk or whatever and you might sleep for a long time, but it's not a restful sleep. Because during R.E.M. sleep is when our brain processes memories, for example. And basically, that's the phase of sleep in which our brain heals itself.


JEREMY :
Really? Okay.


YOSSARIAN :
Other phases, the deeper phases of sleep like the non-REM, that's when our physical body recovers. Things like growth hormone are secreted, that's when our muscles build up during non-REM sleep. But R.E.M. sleep is vital for memory consolidation and learning and processing emotion. If you eliminate that phase of your sleep with alcohol or benzodiazepine, yeah, you're going to struggle with symptoms of what looks like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So--


JEREMY :
Ah ha! And so, how long--How long did this go on where, you know, and I think this is this is very… I think a lot of people can relate to this because a lot of people-- and even in jobs that maybe it's not an E.R. where you know, wow, Crazy stuff happening. You never know what to expect. But even just the drudgery of like, for me, I think sometimes every, you know, you’ll be working something and just kind of, you know, just the mundane aspect of it. And you just feel like, “Well, I need a little bit of a something else to get me through the day.” And so, you have a couple of drinks, or more than a couple as was often the case with me. So how long did it go on for you?


YOSSARIAN :
You know, years. Years and years. But I can't say exactly at what point it became a problem.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
And part of that is because of the impact on memory that alcohol and benzos have on a person. You can't ask a Xanax addict how many Xanax they took in any given day because Xanax itself is an amnesiac.


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


YOSSARIAN :
They're not lying to you, they just simply can't remember.


JEREMY :
They have no idea. Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And it causes retrograde amnesia which is fascinating. So if you pop a benzodiazepine, your memory for maybe two hours prior to taking that is gone. So not only can you not formulate or create new memory, but your previous two hours is gone as well. And so a lot of people don't recognize that and don't even realize they have a benzo problem, because they simply can't remember.


JEREMY :
Wow, that sounds like it could turn into a really interesting and probably not-so-good cycle, right there.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Wow. Okay. So in addition to like -I don't know, how you made the switch? It seems like at some point in time you were in E.R. and ICU, and then you started working in a psych ward over in, was it Grand Island or Hastings, Nebraska?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. When did you do that? When did you switch, or did you switch over, or was it just a combination? You were working there and as a nurse or--


YOSSARIAN :
I was doing both for a lot of years. Basically, the way I fell into becoming the psych instructor at that college, there's a different college that's similar where I'm at now, they had no one apply for the job. And I was friends with the dean there because I was doing some part time - I was teaching like one day a week for them. And no one applied for their mental health nursing job and they had a whole year’s worth of students lined up to graduate as RNs and they had no instructor. And I said, "Well I'll do it. Sure, sign me up." And one of my E.R. doctors printed a research article because we had to prove to the State Board of Nursing that I was - that I currently took care of psychiatric patients even though I did not work in actual psych ward at that time - I was just an E.R. nurse. And he printed off the research that says at least 50% of night shift E.R. patients are there purely for psych reasons.


JEREMY :
Oh well, there you go. There's your in.


YOSSARIAN :
Whether it's a psychotic break or substance abuse, that's why they're in the E.R. is for mental health. And so, the State Board of Nursing said: "Yeah you have the expertise; go ahead teach psych." So that's how I got started.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And then I did a ton--You know, I had to get myself up to speed, just reading tons of research over the years.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
Learning as I go, kind of.


JEREMY :
That's pretty fascinating as--I'm always fascinated by neurological disorders. Of course, just even from having a little bit of, you know, a little bit of mental muckups here and there. Can you tell me a little bit more about working in the psych ward - how it's affected you, what you've learned, some of your I guess big takeaways? How this maybe influenced even your worldview?


YOSSARIAN :
I think between the psych ward and E.R. it's given me, hopefully, a down-to-earth approach to life. That has changed my perspective on life. I get two common questions from my nursing students. I've had maybe four or five hundred registered nurses go to my class and the number one question is: "What the fuck is wrong with me?"


JEREMY :
Oh, from the nursing students? They're asking you what's wrong with them.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. Not - I'm not talking about psych patients. I'm talking about-


JEREMY :
[laughs] Right - The actual students.


YOSSARIAN :
Actual professionals, Yeah.


JEREMY :
And so, what do you tell them?


YOSSARIAN :
I say, "Well the nice thing is I'm not a doctor. I'm a nurse. I can't make a diagnosis!"


JEREMY :
[laughs]


YOSSARIAN :
That's my cop-out. “When this says M.D on this name tag, then come to me. But I'm a nurse. I can't give the diagnosis.” So that's my little cop-out. But the other thing of it is, you know, I don't know, people will worry, "Maybe I have Anti-Social Personality Disorder." Well simply by asking that question or worrying about it, it pretty much means you don't have that problem.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, right.


YOSSARIAN :
And that's one of the number one predictors of morbidity with all of our different mental illnesses is lack of insight.


JEREMY :
What do you mean?


YOSSARIAN :
So a patient with schizophrenia who knows he has schizophrenia is going to do way better in life than a patient who doesn't know he has it.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Most definitely. Anytime you're cognizant of what's actually going on inside of your - being able to see... Yeah. Because otherwise, if you're just in the throes of something I can imagine, I mean, I can only relate to it in my own way and like, with OCD when I didn't know what it was I just thought, "Wow I'm just like messed up. I don't know what the heck - it's all this anxiety and thoughts and whatever." But yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
So, one of my proprietary catch phrases is: "If you got it, own it. Life will be so much better."


JEREMY :
Yeah, just own it!


YOSSARIAN :
And when they realize, "I'm a bipolar, borderline," whatever. Life will be so much better if you own up to it, learn as much as you can about that, and then I think you will end up happier in the long run. And the second most common question is: "Should I leave?"


JEREMY :
Should I leave?


YOSSARIAN :
And people wanting relationship advice.


JEREMY :
Oh, really? You get students that are like, just seeking out relationship advice from you?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah and that in itself I consider to be a boundary violation.


JEREMY :
[laughs] Right? That is really interesting. It's almost like you need to do a self-help course or something, instead of, you know, in addition to this.


YOSSARIAN :
But basically, the answer to that is, "No idea. I have no idea-"


JEREMY :
Yeah.
YOSSA

RIAN :
"-If you should leave." And so that's kind of funny because that's the name of a book written by a psychiatrist - Should You Leave. And he discusses that exact question because he gets it all the time, too, in therapy. "Should I leave my husband," "leave my wife," "he's a blah blah blah." And then the basic answer, according to the book, Peter Kramer is the author, by the end, he's like, "Hm, I have no idea."


JEREMY :
[laughs] Seriously? And so, working at the-- and then you worked actually in the psych ward too. In addition to just teaching, you worked with patients, right?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. Yeah.


JEREMY :
Cool. And I know you probably, you know, of course there's the HIPAA code and all that stuff you can't really probably delve into a lot of that, but I imagine you saw some pretty... You had seen some pretty crazy stuff and I imagine it had to have affected your psyche in some form or fashion.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah definitely. So I probably saw more just batshit crazy stuff when I was an E.R. nurse.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, honestly. Because the truly sick people actually don't end up on the psych ward. They have to be what we call ‘medically stable’ to end up on the psych ward. So the guys who, let's say they take a knife and eviscerate themselves and pull their small intestines out - they're not going to end up on a psych ward. They're going to have to go to surgery and end up in the ICU.


JEREMY :
And you've seen this?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, the truly bizarre things, honestly, we don't see in the psych ward because they're not mentally stable. I could tell story after story of things like that.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Wow. Is there anything you could tell us that stood out right now without violating, I don't know, whatever. Whatever you can't violate.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I don't want to tell any stories because the interesting thing about health care is it's such a small world and I found that when I do tell stories, people always know people who know...


JEREMY :
Oh yeah. No, totally, I just thought I'd throw it out there to see if this, but you know.


YOSSARIAN :
I will say a couple things. If you want to get six pack abs and truly look amazing, just combine steroids--anabolic steroids and methamphetamine.


JEREMY :
Really, that's all you have to do?


YOSSARIAN :
The meth will shred you. You'll be ripped, 3% body fat. The steroids are going to bulk up, you’ll look amazing.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Now you will also be completely batshit crazy. Just psychotic. And so, the few times when I truly felt in danger for my life were these humongous bodybuilders who were just completely psychotic, and I've had a couple of guys come after me for various reasons.


JEREMY :
Oh really? Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, a few times I felt afraid... One guy was a former professional football player, actually, developed a meth habit. So, it's very interesting.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Yeah, that would be interesting.


YOSSARIAN :
So one other thing, I think to answer your question on how has this changed my view. This idea of demon possession, that's something that I get questions about a lot like, "Isn't schizophrenia just demon possession?"


JEREMY :
Wow, you actually get questions like that a lot?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And there are still people that believe this, and that the thing was that psychosis and schizophrenia and things like that, hearing voices, is that we can see--we're starting to be able to see with the functional MRI the exact part of the brain that's not working correctly and that's the same part that processes hearing - just a little module that tells you that this voice is coming from inside your head. Like, we all talk to ourselves inside of our brains.


JEREMY :
Oh, of course.


YOSSARIAN :
But that little module is dysfunctional and so they can't tell that it's that our own process. It sounds like a scary man's voice coming from outside their head.


JEREMY :
Wow. That's probably the best explanation I've ever heard of that phenomenon. Wow, okay. Go ahead. That was good.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. And so, a lot of times when I explain that to people they’re like, "Well that's interesting. So it's not demons...?" Well, probably not, especially considering the fact that we can recreate psychosis by taking, you know, hallucinogenics or whatever. We can have very similar experiences. In fact, in the E.R. we can't tell the difference between a first psychotic break in schizophrenia and a drug-induced psychotic. You know we had a rash of junior-high kids Robo-tripping one summer.


JEREMY :
What's Robo-tripping?


YOSSARIAN :
That's where they take Robitussin DM, the dextromethorphan in Robitussin, if you take high amounts of it, it's a hallucinogen. It'll make you become psychotic and it's usually not described as a good trip. Most people are like, "Holy crap, I never want to do that again."


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
But so, they would come in Robo-tripping and we honestly can't tell whether this is schizophrenia or drugs.


JEREMY :
Really? So they're kind of doing case studies right there for you. Really.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. That right there is telling me it's not demons - if we can do it to ourselves.


JEREMY :
Right?


YOSSARIAN :
By drinking too much Nyquil or whatever.


JEREMY :
Veering off a little bit, I did want to make sure I asked, and probably and do a few plugs for you here too, because you've written like... How many books have you written? Where are you at now with that?


YOSSARIAN :
I have a couple of published books. Where I'm currently at with writing is just hammering out my word count. I'm not really trying to conquer the world and solve all the problems, I just want to see if I can write a book a month.


JEREMY :
Oh, one book a month? That's awesome.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I did do that in 2015.


JEREMY :
Are you serious? You wrote a book a month in 2015?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. But that's based on my word count of 50,000 words per month. And that's just something I've done for years. And so, in 2015, I achieved that goal - I wrote 50,000 words a month, and in November I wrote 100,000 - I just wanted to see if I could do it. And then in 2016, I kind of fell off the writing bandwagon a little bit and that was because I was building a new course at the college and different... Just doing other creative endeavors. And so, I'm back on my word count goal for this year. And I've changed things up this year. I'm taking a screenwriting class.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
And I'm just thoroughly enjoying that.


JEREMY :
Oh, That's awesome, man. Wow. I may need to ask you for some help at some point in time then, in regard to screenwriting. That's actually really cool that you mention that.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah that--I signed up to the class and then I am also in grad school you know, and working two jobs and so I thought, “You know, I'm too busy. I don't want to go.” But this has been on my bucket list for about 10 years. And so, I just drag myself to class on a Monday evening and it was literally a watershed moment of my life. Where--have you ever had a moment where you knew your life would never be the same from this point forward, but you are conscious of it happening in real time?


JEREMY :
Yeah, I mean I think I have.


YOSSARIAN :
Most of the time it's you know, in recollection… You think back, "Oh that was a watershed moment. My life changed its trajectory at that point, but I wasn't aware of it at a time." Maybe five or ten years later, it's like, "Oh, my choice to become an E.R. nurse changed my life." That, I wasn't aware of it at the time. But when taking my first screenwriting class, I was aware of it happening real kind-


JEREMY :
[laughs] Wow! You could actually see the... Whatever kind of emotions that were happening.


YOSSARIAN :
-my future self has changed today.


JEREMY :
Wow, that's kind of awesome. I want to... Wow, maybe at some point, I want to talk to you more about your screenwriting, for sure. Because I have some ideas myself too and I could use for your input and you're making me want to go back to school. Man, this is... anyway. But you're working on right now a book about biohacking, right?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. I have two books in the works. One is biohacking as the solution for alcoholism or biohacking for alcohol. And I finished that book a couple of years ago. And by finish, I mean it's about 14,000 words. But I decided it's all crap. And I'm like...


JEREMY :
You're just like, throwing it out, time to jettison that.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. It's got some good points, but then it's... I've learned so much in the last two or three years that I just want to sort of... But the one I'm currently working on is biohackers guide to smokers cessation and that's been taken me down some fascinating paths as far as the substance of nicotine. It's way more complex than we had any idea. The interactions with different hormones in the body and things like that. So, nicotine is the perfect neurotropic, meaning the perfect smart drug, in the sense that it simultaneously hits the sympathetic nervous system which gives you that alertness and focused attention, and it simultaneously hits the parasympathetic nervous system which gives you that sense of calm and stress relief. So that's why people smoke - it's because they're, you know, tweaking both branches of their nervous system simultaneously. It's one of the few substances on Earth that we know that can do that.


JEREMY :
Really? It's one of the few that can actually hit both the same time. That is... Man, I can't deny it - I'm going to go out and buy some nicotine. I don't know. I'm tempted to buy some.


YOSSARIAN :
I would stay away from it if I could, just because it's so highly addictive and so once you have a daily habit- you know, quitting that daily habit is virtually impossible, and it's expensive. You know you can spend a lot of money on nicotine replacement.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. Note to listeners, I guess.


YOSSARIAN :
I just want to throw this out, there are some new psych meds that are coming out that seem to mimic that. So that'll be interesting to see in the next couple of years. But anyway, just as a side note if you're addicted to cigarettes, you're not actually addicted to the nicotine in the cigarettes. That is a big component, but the real thing that is causing addiction to smoking cigarettes is the additives.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
And this is my conspiracy theory, but it seems to be true. For example, sorbitol. Sorbitol is a grass additive, which means that it's generally recognized as safe. And so they can add it to whatever, and it's added to tobacco leaves to keep the cigarettes somewhat moist so they don't dry out. Sorbitol is extremely addictive when it's lit on fire.


JEREMY :
Really? 


YOSSARIAN :
In a simple way if you're a smoker to test my theory, go buy some cigarettes with absolutely no additives and see how much you like smoking.


JEREMY :
Really. You mean like an American Spirit, for example?


YOSSARIAN :


Yep.
JEREMY :
So, you're pretty much doing away then with the biohacking one about alcoholism?


YOSSARIAN :
I hope to get it done this year. So that's my sort of goal right now. But I'm currently working on the smoking one because, you know, that's currently what I'm struggling with the most. I haven't smoked for about eight months but--


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


YOSSARIAN :
--I still am tempted. Still, into, you know, eight months.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, I remember I was still tempted. I still wanted to smoke, for sure.


YOSSARIAN :
Even talking about it, I'm like, "I really want a cigarette."


JEREMY :
Yeah. Well, can you talk a little bit about alcohol? Do you consider yourself an alcoholic?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. But I do want to clarify that term. An alcoholic is not what AA will lead you to believe that it is. The science doesn't support this idea of everyone who drinks a little bit is on this pathway of eventual destruction.


JEREMY :
Right.


YOSSARIAN :
About two billion people in the world drink alcohol every single day, and not all of those people end up in liver failure.


JEREMY :
Yeah. And did you experience something like that, liver failure or anything like that?


YOSSARIAN :
Yes, I did have some catastrophic organ failures. Pancreatitis, primarily. But the research shows about 72% of people who are alcohol-dependent, which means if they don't drink on any given day they will go into withdrawals. So, alcohol-dependent individuals, and that's potentially life-threatening by the way, you can die from not drinking if you are dependent on alcohol, so I highly recommend close medical supervision if you are dependent. But 72% of people that are dependent on alcohol are only dependent for about three to four years once in their entire life.


JEREMY :
Oh really?


YOSSARIAN :
And then they're just done!


JEREMY :
So, you can be... You can be a temporary, I guess. Yeah, that was actually, to be honest, that was my idea. My thought was that, "Okay, once a person is an alcoholic then they're always an alcoholic." Something like that. But you're saying that it's just a temporary thing.


YOSSARIAN :
Yes, 72% of people that's simply not true. They realize one day, “This is not working to improve my life. I'm just not going to do it anymore.” And they quit without any treatment of any kind. And they never drink again.


JEREMY :
Wow, it makes me wonder if I an alco--anyway. Wow. okay.


YOSSARIAN :
The other percentage, the remaining percent, whatever 72 minus 100 percent is, and those people are more of what I think of when you're talking about a chronic, long-term you know, those individuals tend to be dependent for three to four years at a time. And it happens over and over throughout their life. And so those are the guys who end up homeless with liver failure and things like that so. So, of the two billion people that drink every single day, 72% of them are just going to say, "You know what. This is not helping me achieve my life goal. I'm not going to do it anymore."


JEREMY :
Yep, gotcha.


YOSSARIAN :
I do fit in the latter category, where I have a lifelong problem and I have to--will always have to be cognizant of.


JEREMY :
Yep, gotcha. An d so do you think- I did want to maybe go into a little bit of murky waters and ask: Do you think that it affected your relationship with your family in any way, with getting into that?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh yeah, I think so. Definitely were some tough times there. So hard to see your dad be a homeless alcoholic preacher[00:52:29], which is my profession prior to moving to Lincoln. But then, on the other hand, I think that the bounce back, the resiliency, is the important lesson for me in my life. And that's really the research that I've been digging into is how do you help people bounce back. Because especially E.R. nurses, paramedics, law enforcement, firefighters - these guys see horrific things day in and day out, day in and day out. Suicide rate is high for firefighters. 


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
The divorce rate is almost 100% for career paramedic firefighters and for E.R. doctors. The substance abuse rates, you know, are sky high for our military veterans. And so, people that have seen the shit go down over and over again, day in and day out, they are affected by that. And that's really where I want to spend my time as a researcher and an educator. How can we empower people to bounce back? How can we take care of the frontline providers, the people that are absolute heroes in my mind? Our volunteer firefighters, EMT, most of our ambulances are driven by people who are doing it for free.


JEREMY :
Oh wow.


YOSSARIAN :
Because that's their mission in life. They're absolute heroes and they suffer.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
They suffer. I'll just throw a statistic out there. For example, if a firefighter witnesses or cleans up a suicide. One thing we know about suicide is, it's a contagious process. It's contagious.


JEREMY :
Is that something do with the vagus nerve?


YOSSARIAN :
Well, we don't know. We don't know, but possibly - that would make sense to me. And so, I mean it's almost like the influenza virus. You're around it too much, you catch it. And so, for a firefighter at what point has he seen too much shit?


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
Well with cleaning up suicide, there's a magic number. The number is 12.


JEREMY :
12?


YOSSARIAN :
If he's cleaned up 12 suicides, he is then suicidal himself.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
A very high percentage.


JEREMY :
Like what percentage give or take? Do you know? 


YOSSARIAN :
Like 50% of those guys will then have chronic suicidality.


JEREMY :
Wow. And it will... It's not just a temporary thing that, let's say they you know help clean up... We'll go to a site where there's been a suicide of 12 times. It doesn't just like, fade after time, or is something that sticks for a while?


YOSSARIAN :
It seems to have some sticking power, which is very frightening.


JEREMY :
Yeah, no kidding. That's very frightening. How do we even get onto the topic of firefighters and in all that?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh well, I just was talking about how that does affect people's lives and the numbers prove it. You know, the E.R. doctors -- the profession with one of the highest suicide completion rates are pediatric oncologists - cancer doctors for kids.


JEREMY :
Oh.


YOSSARIAN :
And it makes sense to me. I mean, they're fighting a losing battle most of the time. They pour their entire life into trying to save these kids' lives and often don't succeed and that creates this helplessness, and helplessness and hopelessness are the two fueling emotions for suicide.


JEREMY :
And do you see that where, you know, people have, you know, there are some suicidal ideology going on there but have you seen it happen where there's like a... What percentage of them actually go through and actually commit suicide?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh, the percentage is so small, it's to be almost not measurable.


JEREMY :
Oh okay.


YOSSARIAN :
In reality, and that's an interesting point because the idea of suicidal ideation, people who think about it.


JEREMY :
Yeah.


YOSSARIAN :
We're talking 20 to 30 million Americans in any given year. And so, that's not the same population as the people who actually do it. And so, what we actually know about "completers," people who actually get the job done, we don't know a damn thing about. We do not know.


JEREMY :
Really?


YOSSARIAN :
And the reason is that we can't study a population who’s dead.


JEREMY :
Yeah and they, maybe they don't really give many indicators beforehand - is that true or do they give indicators or can you tell?


YOSSARIAN :
So, it's so hard to tell. So yeah, but there are some things we look at. Substance abuse, for example, and the heroin overdoses definitely. Whether that was an intended suicide or not is hard to tell. But if somebody has an IV heroin problem, they're at a high risk for death. And so there are definitely things we can look at.


JEREMY :
And you said also that you struggle with bipolar disorder. Is that kind of go along with bipolar because... Do you have like have you struggled with suicidal ideation too?


YOSSARIAN :
Well that whole bipolar thing, I've never been actually diagnosed by a doctor.


JEREMY :
Okay yeah, neither have I.


YOSSARIAN :
So yeah, that's a total self-diagnosis, but the interesting thing with any of those diagnoses in the DSM V which came out in 2013 - that's the most recent bible of mental illness. Any of those diagnoses, they all have a disclaimer at the bottom of the page which says, “If you are currently abusing substances of any kind, then you don't meet this diagnostic criterion.” You can't say that someone is bipolar if they are currently alcohol-dependent.


JEREMY :
Really. That is interesting.


YOSSARIAN :
So I've been playing with this idea as we do clinicals at nursing school. How many of our patients who have the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, how many of those people actually have a Substance Use Disorder, because they don't technically meet that diagnostic criterion if they're high on meth all the time. And so that's what one of the assignments I have my students look at is, "Dig into this patient’s history and find out what substance they're abusing." And we've been doing this for the last year and a half, and quite honestly haven't found very many people who don't abuse something. And the most common thing is your benzodiazepines, because that's not considered abuse if your doctor prescribed it.


JEREMY :
Right. So it's almost like a rat chase to find out what is the cause and effect. Is a person quote unquote “bipolar” because of or there are showing the symptoms because of this you know substance or are they-


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah. So hard to know. But so, then my premise is just eliminate all the substances of abuse and wait a few years and then see. Guaranteed most people won't get the diagnostic criteria after they've been sober for seven or eight years.


JEREMY :
Oh okay. So you're in line then with the DMV.... Is it the DSM?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, DSM.


JEREMY :
[laughs] You're also in line with the Department of Motor Vehicles.


YOSSARIAN :
They would agree with me too.


JEREMY :
I'm sure. So with the DSM. Wow, okay. That's crazy. Do you still diagnose yourself then as bipolar?


YOSSARIAN :
I honestly don't. I'm definitely hypomanic, which is a diagnostic criterion for Bipolar Type 2, meaning I have high energy, grandiose ideas and things like that. And so, but the interesting thing with that is there is this discussion that everyone, especially in America, fits that bipolar spectrum somewhere because... Here's the deal, if you're grandiose enough to leave your country, to go to the new country, the United States, to create a better life. That's some pretty serious grandiosity. And then to have the sustained energy level to get that done. BAM, you're hypomanic. If you're an immigrant, which we all are, unless you're a Native American, if you're from an immigrant, you have the genetic predisposition to Bipolar Type 2. Just the fact that you're making a podcast - that's pretty grandiose and then have the energy to get it done. You're Bipolar Type 2.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, I definitely am, I fully admit. I think you're just... Yeah, I've probably got some weird form of hypomania and it sounds like you're saying we have a collective hypomania in the States.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, so the idea is that in America, or any country that's primarily made up of immigrant population, is more hypomanic, is part of why we dominate with business, new business creation, and things like that. New technology. Because we tend to have a higher percentage of people on the bipolar spectrum. So the question then the DSM would ask is, "At what point does this become a disorder?" Because that's the key. Bipolar Disorder and that means it's getting in the way of your life in some way.


JEREMY :
Yeah. Wow, this is fascinating, because basically I mean, in a nutshell what you're saying is because it's so widespread in the States and probably a lot of us or most of us have hypomania because of that, that's why we've been so robust in a number of areas like commerce and business?


YOSSARIAN :
Oh absolutely. So the idea of it being mental illness is totally subjective. You know, if that person gets so profoundly depressed that they commit suicide, obviously that's a problem. But they go out and start a company like Facebook? They meet the criteria--


JEREMY :
Wow! That is just fascinating to me. I love it. I think I'm going to have to put that in the title of this podcast or something. Seriously. We're all bipolar and that's the reason why we're doing decently or whatever. Wow, that's really cool. Okay, so the final question then is: Imagine that you were, well first you have to imagine something that - you were visited by an alien who spoke flawless English with the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. You know, the U.K. Sherlock version guy. And after exchanging pleasantries, the alien then demands that you give them- give him or her or it - the most accurate description of how you see and understand life on this planet. And if you don't, they guarantee you that you'll lose your eyesight for a year and you may wake up the next morning missing a kidney. And you cannot lie because they can totally tell if you're lying. So basically, I'm asking--the alien is asking you to give them, and you're giving the audience here and myself, the most accurate description of how you see and understand life.


YOSSARIAN :
If I was visited by an alien that'd be totally kickass, especially if he had, you know, Sherlock Holmes sort of accent and everything. So here are my thoughts on this Earth. We are very limited in our perception of reality by our senses. You know, we can only perceive reality based on what inputs into our brain we get, and we're somewhat limited. For example, we can only see a very narrow spectrum of light waves and things like that. So, our perception and senses are very limited. And so, we're doing the best we can, sort of muddling through life without being able to have this big picture very well. And one of the things we're limited on is our perception of time. Time is such a bizarre construct and actually, you were with me when we are talking to our friend Tim Stratton and he mentioned that physicists have really not been able to prove scientifically, mathematically that time is truly linear.


JEREMY :
Oh yeah, that's right.


YOSSARIAN :
That one day comes after the other. And so, as citizens of this planet we're very much stuck in this idea that tomorrow comes after today. But does it? Mathematically, it makes more sense that time is all happening at once. So we're very limited as far as that goes. But that ties back into the suicide discussion and depression discussion because we know that a suicidal individual that truly gets the job done or even somebody that is profoundly depressed is not processing reality correctly in their perception of the past. They cannot remember, for example, ever being happy and you can show that person a picture of them being extremely happy maybe three years ago at their daughter's birthday party or whatever but they don't remember.


JEREMY :
Really.


YOSSARIAN :
And so, with this whole idea of memory is just simply by accessing a memory our brain changes that memory. And I heard a neuroscientist say here a week or two ago that we don't have the scientific capability to even understand how memory works and probably won't have that capability for another hundred years. We don't even know what memory is or how it works.


JEREMY :
Wow.


YOSSARIAN :
And so here we are, going through life trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me and we don't even know how the brain works yet. So sort of my life's mission is to go around helping people to increase their executive functioning, which is the working of their prefrontal cortex, and the best way easiest way to do that is by increasing the working of your vagus nerve. That's kind of my mission in life. And simple, simple ways to do that. Simply sleep better and eliminate all the crap that you eat. We ingest so many toxins on any given day that our body isn't designed to like them. High fructose corn syrup or whatever that it really shuts down our vagus nerve and that directly impacts things like our social functioning - how nice we are to other people. If our brain shuts down, our prefrontal cortex shuts down. We are in fight or flight mode, which is our crocodile brain and so other people seem threatening to us. We feel threatened by other people and we see that dynamic play out in politics and in the broad picture of an entire nation who is scared of each other. And so then, people do really weird things when they're living in their crocodile brain. They lash out at other people. They have road rage. They beat up their spouse, you know. And so that's kind of my mission in life is if we can increase executive functioning, that will eliminate the alcohol problem in the world. Two billion people in the world drink alcohol every single day. This another interesting statistic I've been ruminating on is clean air. Clean air - that's on the World Health Organization's Top Ten List. It's the number 10 reason people die in this world. They don't have clean air to breathe. Three billion people in this world still cook their food over an open fire inside their home. And then they die. They die from lung disease and air pollution, indoor air pollution. So we don't have that problem solved. No wonder they're not able to use their executive functioning. And they're stuck in this self-perpetuating cycle of homelessness and poverty, because to get out of poverty you have to have a prefrontal cortex that works. So does that answer the question? That's kind of what I would tell this alien what I see going on is a lot of vagus nerves not working.


JEREMY :
The cool thing about your story is you practice what you preach - you know what it's like to be going… Basically just having the reptile brain or whatever, to have the prefrontal cortex or executive function just not function properly. So I feel like that gives you a lot more street-cred, a lot more cred you know, to be able to say, "Hey, this is what needs to happen and here's why." Because you actually know too; you've researched, you understand it, you're intelligent, but you've also been in a lot of people’s situation before, that in a not-so-great situation. Does that make sense?


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah, I agree.


JEREMY :
Cool. Dude, well this has been ridiculously awesome. I appreciate your time man, and I know you're busy with a million jobs, and a family, and now you're taking screenwriting courses, and who knows what--and writing a million books a year, so that's... It's freaking awesome man; you're inspirational. I hope that listeners out there, too, are inspired by your message, and inspired, really, to really think about executive function and how to kind of get past our reptilian responses, especially when you're talking about, you know, working with one another and trying to get past political hurdles and things like that. But yeah, so I appreciate it, man.


YOSSARIAN :
Yeah cool, thanks for having me! It was awesome, I enjoyed it.


JEREMY :
Cool. All right man, we'll talk again. Take care.


JEREMY [narration]:
Hey, thank you so much for checking out this episode of In The Shoes Of. If you like or don't like the podcast, feel free to leave a review or reach out to me. My email is JNickel@InTheShoesOf.Org. I'm Jeremy Nickel, the host and producer of the show. Until the next time, see you later.