Matt Bellassai Hates That This Is So Good for His Mental Health“When I'm left to my own devices, I can't be trusted.”
Before comedian Matt Bellassai became a delightfully grumpy host on the Unhappy Hour podcast, he amassed tons of fans as BuzzFeed’s resident “drunken slob who’s angry at everything.” These days, Bellassai is all about honoring that persona and fandom while experimenting with all kinds of writing projects and trying not to get too stressed by the state of the world. Here, he talks about his go-to methods for conquering indecision, which popular mental fitness method he dreads, and how medication changed everything.
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WM: How are you doing lately?
Matt Bellassai: Today, I actually am OK. I work out a couple of times a week. Brag, I know. And I hate that I actually feel better on days that I work out. Like, I don't want it to work. It's so frustrating. So I worked out this morning, and I'm like, OK, I guess I have energy today. I guess. 'Cause that is the biggest thing for me: I get so sluggish, and all I want to do is take a nap. My go-to depression symptom is I'm going to conk out. So any day where I'm like, OK, I've got energy, that's a good day.
WM: What's your favorite workout that makes you feel energized?
MB: None of it is fun. I'm never going to be one of those people who loves to work out. I wish I had it in me, but I suffer through it. I have a trainer I work out with, so I basically just do whatever he tells me to do, like strength training. I hate cardio, so I'm never really doing anything on a bike or treadmill. I don't do a Peloton. I don't do SoulCycle.
WM: Is there anything that’s stressing you out these days?
MB: What is not stressing me out, honestly? Besides the general state of the world and, you know, the fact that we're on the brink of democracy crumbling and the climate killing all of us—all of that fun stuff. Everything else feels so trivial. On a small level, I've been thinking about getting a dog, and it is one of those processes where I know by the end of it, I'm going to be so excited and I'm going to have this new pet. I've never had my own dog before, but the process is so obnoxious and frustrating. They’re so picky, and I don't know who to trust and who not to trust, because some of these rescues are just secretly puppy mills that say they're rescues. I’m like, How am I supposed to figure it out? And now, because of COVID, they're limiting who they're letting meet [the animals] beforehand. They want you to commit to something, and I suffer from decision paralysis to begin with when it's what I'm going to have for dinner, let alone something that I'm making a commitment to for the next 10, 20 years. So stressful.
Then professionally, I always struggle with what to focus on on any given day. Because I kind of got my start on social media and making videos, it's almost like we've reached this point where the barrier to entry for doing anything is much lower. But also, that means I'm now suffering from decision paralysis [and thinking], What do I focus on today? I suffer from a lack of structure. I need discipline. I need someone to tell me, “This is what you have to do today. This is your schedule, and this is what you have to finish.” Because when I'm left to my own devices, I can't be trusted. Staying focused [and] staying disciplined, those are my daily struggles.
WM: Does that low barrier to entry ever make it hard to decide how you want your career path to take shape?
MB: Since I was in high school, I was that kid who was the overachieving nerd who was in honors classes and AP classes. The teachers would say, “I can imagine you doing anything.” At the time, that felt like such a compliment. Then you become an adult, and you're like, “Actually, you screwed me over.” [Laughs] It would've been a lot better if this was like The Giver, where everybody just has their life determined when they're a baby. That's what I need. Just tell me I'm going to be a chef, and then I'll go and do it. It’s a good problem to have, but also frustrating.
WM: As somebody who struggles with decision-making, what helps you finally commit to something?
MB: I definitely resort to a town hall of people; I need everybody's input in the group chat. I'm sending stuff to everybody, saying, “Help me make a decision.” In this process of getting a dog, I'm like, “OK, everyone needs to weigh in. I can't be left alone in this decision.” I often struggle with it, and then I have to remind myself to go through that process of me going to take a shower, going for a walk, doing that thing where I'm getting my mind off of [the decision] to distract my brain. Then, when I come back to it, I can make a clear decision. Because my usual approach is: I'm going to agonize over this and think about nothing else and then ultimately suffer. I always need to remind myself to do the distract-and-come-back approach.
WM: What's something that's had the most significant impact on your mental or emotional health?
MB: Drugs would be one…the prescribed ones [laughs]. I'm on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Those have been game-changers, obviously. Once again, working out, unfortunately, has made an improvement. I hate to admit it. I don't want to be the one to tell people this, but it does work. I remember when I first started working out with my trainer. I only see him two, three times a week. But on the days that I don't see him, he's like, “Just go for a 30-minute walk; you don't have to run. You don't even have to try. Just leave your apartment and go for a walk—30 minutes max.” I can walk 15 minutes in one direction, stop, and turn around. Just that small amount of movement and exposure to the outside world and having more kinds of stimulus outside of what's in my apartment do make a shockingly big difference. Going for walks. Who knew?
WM: If you were to talk to yourself like a friend right now, what advice would you give yourself?
MB: I oscillate between two types of friends. On the one hand, it’s like, “Get the hell up and do something. I don't care what it is. Get off the couch and go for a walk, wash a dish, take all of the cups off of your nightstand, just do anything.” I go between that and like, “Be easy on yourself.” … What makes it difficult is that I don't often know [what I need to hear].
WM: What is a stigma or misconception about mental health that you're trying to unlearn?
MB: I feel open about saying, “Yeah, I have depression and anxiety and all of that stuff.” [But] there is still that tinge of it feeling like a little bit of a novelty to acknowledge it. Where I live in Brooklyn, [people are more open], but I'm from Chicago. When I'm home, I'm reminded of how not normalized going to therapy is. … I have to [remember] the fact that it is not as normalized everywhere as I think it is and that talking about it and acknowledging it is more important now than ever.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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