Erin Tyler has worked on a lot of books in her time but, up to this point, she’s worked in the background, designing book covers for other authors. With her new book, The Bad One: A Memoir About Growing Up a Goat, Erin steps up to the center stage. In this book, Erin shares her experience of growing up in a family in which she was cast as the scapegoat. In a raw, poignant, and incredibly powerful way, she conveys the impact this had on her, including her internal dialog and self-harming behaviors.
Ultimately, Erin tells a story of healing, renewal, and forgiveness. I was so excited for the chance to speak with her today because I’ve spent several nights this week staying up way too late reading this book. Next up is Erin.
Nikki Van Noy: I’m joined today by Erin Tyler, who is the author of the new book The Bad One: A Memoir About Growing Up a Goat. Erin, thank you so much for joining me today.
Erin Tyler: Thanks for having me.
Nikki Van Noy: I have been counting down to this podcast. I’m so excited to talk to you about this book and I’ve got lots of questions ready for you.
Erin Tyler: I’m excited. Actually, my first time talking about it so this would be fantastic.
Nikki Van Noy: Is it really?
Erin Tyler: It is, yeah.
Nikki Van Noy: I love that. The first thing I want to ask you about is that I know you’ve been working on this book for a while. I’ve been counting down to it, seriously, for about a year now and I’m just curious what the writing process and being in this for so long was like for you?
Erin Tyler: Yeah, well, I think I’m kind of a different situation because I never cared much about publishing, which is such an odd thing to say but I never cared about publishing. I picked up writing a very long time ago because I was suicidal, and I needed it. I needed to write, and writing has been this kind of healthy habit that I’ve done since about 1998 actually, that I do every day, religiously, and it has been such a force of positivity in my life.
It’s just something I do that keeps me whole and it keeps me sane and it keeps me going. After 20 years of doing it, and always promising to myself and to others that I’m going to publish, I began to realize that it’s all well and good to heal yourself with writing, but if you don’t share your story with the world, you’re kind of doing the writing a little bit of a disservice.
Learning to Love
Nikki Van Noy: Was there anything specific that brought you to that mindset or was it more of an evolution over time?
Erin Tyler: The mindset that I needed to write?
Nikki Van Noy: That you were doing a disservice by not sharing it with the world.
Erin Tyler: Absolutely. I became a stepmother to two boys, and I began to experience what it might have been like–the dynamic between me and my boys and the dynamic between me and my parents. I began to see the things that they were going through were, not akin to what I went through because you know, obviously, if I’m doing the same stuff, I have learned nothing but yet, relating to them. As they aged and they got older and their concerns about the outer world grew and concerns about themselves grew, I absolutely felt like writing in secret and private and never putting it out there wasn’t doing enough.
Nikki Van Noy: I think that’s called love right there.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, you can never accuse me of not loving my boys.
Nikki Van Noy: How old were they when you became their stepmother, just out of curiosity?
Erin Tyler: Yeah, my youngest was in third grade and my eldest, he must have been in sixth. Yeah, third grade and sixth grade, and now they’re 16 and 19.
Nikki Van Noy: Wow. That’s an interesting time to step in, I would think. I just remember in my life and my own childhood, both third and sixth grades being pretty pivotal, important points.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, I think so. I think it was probably harder for my sixth grader, my eldest, just because of his personality. He’s more cat-like. You have to prove your worth, being in his life and I appreciate that, and I respect him for it. My youngest was, “I love you,” from the very start, but you know, I had the great blessing of having stepped in to the lives of the two greatest kids I’ve ever met. They were never mean to me and they were always open and always wanted to get to know me and be with me, and it’s just been a beautiful experience from front to back.
Nikki Van Noy: There’s something hilarious about hearing you describe anyone as cat-like because, as we’ll talk about later in this interview, you are perhaps the biggest dog person I know. Dogs are like babies in your lap. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before!
Erin Tyler: For sure. I’m obsessed with dogs. I mean, that’s how I learned to love, and I write about that in the book. My first dog was the first time I really felt unconditionally loved.
Nikki Van Noy: Absolutely. We will talk about Murph. I’m going to save the best for last. He’s kind of the highlight of this book as far as I’m concerned.
Erin Tyler: Yes.
Nikki Van Noy: Before we dive into the specifics of the book a little bit more, I just want to loop back to what you were saying about writing as sort of therapy for you. Why do you think it was such a powerful force in your life?
Erin Tyler: I think if you grow up a secondary villain in someone else’s story and you’re forced to live a lie, it is so incredibly crucial to your survival as a human being to figure out what your actual story is, because your story is your truth. In order to live that truth, you have to suss out what’s your story and what’s someone else’s story.
Nikki Van Noy: That makes so much sense, especially in your case. Let’s go ahead and dive into that. I’d love it if you could explain to listeners what your situation was as a kid.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, I grew up the youngest daughter–I have an older sister–I grew up the youngest daughter in a really great family. My parents are excellent people, they’re excellent citizens, they were excellent to my sister. They were perfectly functional, competent people. They didn’t drink, they didn’t take drugs, they didn’t do anything that would have made them bad people, and, from outward appearances, we were a perfect family–except for me.
There was always a problem. There was always a problem with me. I was always saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, being the wrong person, following the wrong pursuits. Nothing I did was right or good enough, and it manifested in a lifelong struggle with depression that first came on when I was about eight years old.
Eating disorders, self-hatred, being absolutely brutal toward myself, and not realizing why. It wasn’t until I discovered writing, I think I was 20 at the time, following a failed suicide attempt, that I could ever really figure out what had gone on. What actually was the truth of my story was that I was created to be a problem and a burden.
Things were projected onto me so that my parents, who were both abused children, and who both had very serious issues stemming from past childhood trauma, and what they were doing was they were projecting a villain onto me so that they could work those issues out. It nearly killed me.
A Negative Inner Voice
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah. One of the things that you portray so powerfully in this book is how that treatment just created this running voice in your head, that would comment on your thoughts and your actions about how it was bad or wrong, things like that. Can you talk to me a little bit about what that experience was like, and the impact of that inner running voice that you had for a while, was on you?
Erin Tyler: Yeah, I went to war with that voice, and that voice, you know Nikki, still pops up every now and then. I’ll catch it, you know? When I’m cutting vegetables and trying to make dinner, “You fucked this up.” I still get that voice, but now, I just don’t pay any attention to it, the other more positive, more healthy voices in me just beat it back down.
I was plagued with this internalized negative voice that told me I was nothing, I was not worthy of love. No one would ever love me because I’d never be good enough. I would never be good enough at my job, I would never be a good person, I would never do anything right, and it was just this constant nasty sing-song in my head, from the minute I set foot out of bed in the morning until, finally, I was too exhausted to stay up any longer at night. There would be a lot of nights I couldn’t sleep because that voice was so loud in my head.
It was just that internalized projection of, “Please be bad for us, because we have some shit that we need to work out.”
Nikki Van Noy: What did you do to get rid of that voice? Or at least to learn to tell it to fuck off when you were cutting the vegetables and it was talking to you.
Erin Tyler: Actually, that is such a funny story. I got to the point where I literally could not hear another word of it and I just decided that wherever I was, whatever I was doing, I was going to stop and I was going to scream at that voice and tell it to leave me the fuck alone.
I remember distinctly picking out cheese in the grocery store one day, and hearing that negative voice in my head, and literally screaming in the middle of the grocery store, “No, you will be nice to us! You will shut up now!” People were looking at me like I was an absolute crazy person, but I didn’t care. It was more important for me to just go to war with that voice and really beat it. And replace it with something that was healthy.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, I mean, that was probably one of the sanest things you could have possibly done–although I’m sure it did not look that way to standers-by in that moment.
Erin Tyler: It did not, but you know, I think it would be part of my healing has been–over the years–is just not really giving a whole lot of fucks about what people thought about me.
Nikki Van Noy: I mean, that seems like it would be a key survival mechanism for you.
Erin Tyler: Yes, absolutely. Because it’s a kind of condition of slavery, living by what are people going to think of me. It’s not just the average kind of human anxiety about your community and your culture, it’s constant–when is somebody going to knock my feet out from under me, and tell me I’m bad and tell me I’m horrible and tell me I’m just the worst person ever?
Nikki Van Noy: The situation that you grew up in is actually a thing. Just to explain it to listeners, because I know I had never heard of it before I met you, can you explain what scapegoating is? I believe it was also explained to you by a therapist at one point, through the lens of African witch children, if that’s correct, what’s this all about?
Erin Tyler: I obviously had a way better childhood than an African witch child. I have had quite the childhood compared to that, but it is the same kind of phenomenon. It is a quirk of humanity where anything that’s considered different or anything that threatens the wholeness of the others is deemed pathological. It’s the goat, you know, from the biblical story. Everybody lays their sins upon the goat and then cleanses themselves of any kind of badness, and then they send off the goat to die.
Technically in an American sense, being more contextual, it is a symptom of two parents who are dealing with some very strong narcissism. I hate reducing my parents down to a diagnosis, because I think people are much more complex than that but, , if we’re talking about what the symptom is, it’s the symptom of narcissism. When you’re dealing with that, you have a very hard time admitting your wrongs or admitting anything you’ve done is wrong, and apologizing for it. You just feel like you’re just going to break down and collapse if you admit that there’s anything wrong with you.
What was happening was, here’s this crazy, little thing that is running around the house and we get to decide what that little thing is, whether it’s good or it’s bad or otherwise. So, it becomes a useful tool for a parent, that is really struggling with narcissism, to call problematic and kind of cleanse themselves of anything that they think could be potentially construed as negative behavior.
Nikki Van Noy: You know, I feel like one of my big takeaways from this book, as a parent, is this idea that, even though your situation obviously was extreme, it’s easy to fall into in parenthood without realizing it and with all the best intentions. Placing an identity upon your child that they carry forth, even if it seems innocuous like my kid is shy or whatever the case may be. I just felt like this was a really good reminder to be aware of things like that.
Erin Tyler: Yeah. I think that in my situation, it was a perfect storm of potential future dysfunction because I ended up being very sensitive, with big emotions, and I ended up being extremely empathic as well. So, it was always super easy for me to identify with and understand the feelings and thoughts and emotions of my mother and my father. I loved them, that’s how I loved them, by being super empathic toward them. So, it was very easy for me to dive into them and what they wanted. More so than experience my own needs and wants.
In that case, I sided with them and I was very complicit with them and I colluded with them. That’s been the biggest struggle of my life, in healing, is to set that aside and say okay, well, you know, empathy is all well and good, but you got to take care of you.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah. Empathy is such a beautiful gift and can also be your worst enemy too. It’s a tough one.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, it has to remain in balance for it to be really healthy.
Nikki Van Noy: As a kid then, you weren’t able to discern. You just took all of this as true, that these were your parents who you loved, and you must be bad or you must be a problem, whatever the narrative was at any point in time.
Erin Tyler: You know what I mean? That is extremely uncomfortable. That is a very uncomfortable place, to be living two truths at once. No, this is the story, no, that’s not the story, no, this is the story–and then, if you live too long in my parent’s story, you’re going to end up binge drinking and throwing up on your bedroom wall.
Being split in two like that was brutal. It was brutal to live that way. Again, it all cycled back to well, you’re just bad. There is something wrong with you, you’re a bad seed. You were bad from the very beginning and that’s all you will be is bad and a burden. To the point where I attempted suicide at 20. At 20 years of age, which should be the start of your professional career, this exciting time, you’re dating, you’re learning about yourself. I was like no, that’s it, I can’t take the pain anymore. I am going to end it.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah. Something that was really interesting to me as a reader was that it seems like this was there from the get-go. One of the quieter, for a lack of a better word, stories in your book is actually your birth story, your origin story. You talk about how there was this story about how you were born amidst the great blizzard of ’77, and it’s a whole story in your family, and then you later found out that your birthday is in January, but the storm actually happened in February after you were born.
They didn’t align at all and that story just kind of stopped me in my tracks.
Erin Tyler: Yeah. I mean, that’s the great Christmas story. You’re going to hear that every Christmas holiday, “Well, Erin came in the snow and the cold.” That’s kind of typical parental behavior but, you know, if you’re also emotionally and mentally abusing your kid at the same time, a story like that can be much bigger in that kid’s imagination.
Shift of Thinking
Nikki Van Noy: Totally. You talk in the book about how your uncle, Mark I believe, how his funeral was an epiphanic moment for you.
Erin Tyler: Yeah.
Nikki Van Noy: Talk to me about that.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, for sure. I actually went to college at the same time as his son, and I remember I was suffering some very serious depression at the time. I can’t remember if this was before or after my suicide attempt. I think it was before. It was parents’ weekend, and my uncle Mark was coming, and my cousin called me and said, “Hey, would you like to go to dinner with us?” I couldn’t even fathom getting out of bed, let alone going to dinner, because my depression was so bad. I made some excuse that I had to work, or I had school or something like that.
I believe my suicide attempt was that year and, the following fall, my Uncle Mark ended up killing himself after a couple of failed attempts at suicide. I don’t really want to divulge too much of his story. He was much more than his depression. He was a really wonderful, lovely, incredible human being, and a great father, but he did kill himself at the age of 39, I believe.
We all went to the funeral. Everyone was quite numb, and in disbelief, and in pain–of course, in pain. I remember having this kind of odd experience at the funeral, watching my father break down in tears, as people were talking and eulogizing my uncle, and thinking to myself that could have been me. That very much could have been me.
I asked myself honestly if I thought that my parents would really be sad about that and I don’t write this in the book because it divulges too much too early, but the answer in my head, that I am imagining, is no. No, I don’t think so. I think it was something that was set up to happen, which is a really awful thought. It was a thought that really rocked me, and this was maybe one of the first times in my entire life I had stopped this thought train of, “You’re bad, you’re the problem in this perfect family. You’re bad, you’re the problem in this perfect family,” and thought, “Maybe this family is fucked up?”
Maybe the problem isn’t me. Maybe there is something going on here, but I don’t know. I had never really thought about it. I had never really considered that thought. From some kind of automatic, gut-inspired place, I started writing that night and I never stopped. I never stopped, and it was the thing that put me back together.
Nikki Van Noy: It is really pretty amazing. I had a moment of rooting for you as a reader when I read that because that just takes so much strength. I feel like even if there is one person whose reality is in conflict with yours in a way that impacts you, it can be difficult enough to parse out reality. But when you grow up with that, and it is three people against one, it just seems to me like the odds of even having that moment are fairly low, I would think.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, it would take something like your uncle killing himself. It would take something huge like that, and honestly, my own suicide attempt didn’t impact me as much as my uncle’s death, and that goes to show you just how low and how badly I was feeling about myself in those moments. Just watching his sons being really devastated and watching his brothers who are devastated and shocked and watching all of that happen–it was so moving.
It was so moving. I thought, my god, this family–it might just be a little sick, and that might be something I should consider.
Nikki Van Noy: Another thing that stood out to me was as you started to seek out therapy in various ways, it seems like you were getting such a broad range of answers. I think that you were diagnosed bipolar if I am remembering correctly, at one point and then another doctor told you there was nothing wrong with you.
Erin Tyler: Yes. I had a variety of experiences with therapists. I’ve had some really fantastic ones, and I believe in therapy, but I also had some of the worst therapists that you could possibly imagine. I think you have to be careful when you pick a therapist and you have to shop around and, if it isn’t going well, you have to cut the cord. But all of that is a growing and maturing process in you as well.
Nikki Van Noy: Can you talk a little bit about what happened with–I am assuming it is okay to say the name since it’s in the book–but Dr. Granger. As I was reading that story, I was like, “What?” I had a hard time even wrapping my head around what was going on there.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, I think I am still wrapping it up. So, one of the reasons why that relationship was so crucial and important to me, is not just that she told me the stories that I needed to hear and said the words that I needed to hear and forced me, again and again, to come into that room–very bravely on her part–to come into that room and examine, “Hey, what if you weren’t the problem?” In that way, she was an excellent therapist.
Our relationship over time actually became this meta-recreation of my relationship with my mother, and I learned in this recreation–I honestly sometimes still wonder if she isn’t just like this incredible genius that created her vocation as a therapist to teach me a lesson but, no. I think she really is this doctor perfect. It was a pitch-perfect recreation of this exploitative relationship that I had with my mom early on. In reliving it and now being an adult and seeing just how messed up it was, it taught me so much about the first relationship and, in seeing this person, who I greatly respected–I have a little bit less respect for now–but at the time, I greatly respected her. I still think she’s smart and I still think there are things that she does that are very helpful for people. In seeing this, I learned a lot about not just my mother, but my father and why they do what they do and that it wasn’t even 1% personal.
Not even 1% personal. They would have done it with anybody. It was just that they were struggling. They were struggling with themselves.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, that is amazing that that is your take away from that therapeutic experience. I just feel like, especially because she clearly was so helpful to you in a lot of ways, what a tough situation to wrap your head around what was happening and take the appropriate action, which you did.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, it seems to be when I am pushed to the breaking point, I will make the right decision.
Nikki Van Noy: You are such a strong person. There is nothing surprising about that, but the circumstances are just so extreme and just such mind-twisters.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, it was pretty crazy. I am not going to lie. It was pretty crazy, but I do really value that experience. I am very thankful that she had me coming to that office and said, “What if you are not crazy? What if you don’t need pills? What if the problem isn’t you?” That’s good therapy.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, it totally makes sense and you are right. I mean in the 0.1 percent chance that was an intentional way of working you through that experience, then, master therapist right there.
Erin Tyler: Yeah that’s like Hannibal Lector-type intelligence.
Nikki Van Noy: Totally, very apt description. Another thing that was so interesting to me about how you wrote this book, is that you go through different timelines and they interweave, but it is also very connective. I am just curious how you decided to write the book that way and put it all together?
Erin Tyler: I wish I could tell you a theory or a method to it. It was, “Okay, I guess I will go write now.” But it all worked out, and one of the things that I was super focused on when I was putting the book together was that I didn’t ever want it to feel like a New York Times bestseller. I didn’t want it to feel writer-ly. I didn’t want it to feel like anybody else had gone in and made it pretty. I wanted it to be just me, in my most raw form, talking about the things that I needed to say, the way that I would say them. It just happened to flow that way and if that’s good, that’s great. I am glad to hear that.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah. I mean it is interesting to hear you explain it that way because I think that what that effectively did for me as a reader is it was almost like being in your head, and seeing how one’s experience is sort of tied back to another experience that was at a disparate point in time, and it was all these threads going–I am drawing with my hand right now, which you can’t see–but yeah it was incredibly interesting.
Erin Tyler: That could also just be my ADHD.
Telling the Full Story
Nikki Van Noy: It translated well, for what it’s worth. You know and another thing too, I have always thought of you as a designer, because that is the context I know you in and the design in the book, you have weaved it in incredibly. I am curious if you were writing and drawing at the same time? What was that process like for you, bringing those two things together?
Erin Tyler: That was kind of cool actually. I would write the chapter–I would go chapter by chapter–and as I was writing the chapter I would see things, and I would think, “Well, shit. I have to make this image happen somehow, because it is absolutely contextual, and both of those things matter.” So that is how it went. I would write a chapter and then create an image that I was seeing as I was writing it.
Nikki Van Noy: One of the pictures that got me the most is when you talk about how you decided to dive into all of your emotions and there is this picture that goes under the sea. In 2009 it is diving in, and then 2010 at the depths, and 2011 starting to rise, and that just said so much more than words could have. Very powerful.
Erin Tyler: That was another reason the illustration part of this was so important to me because I don’t know if you experience this anxiety, but oftentimes when I’ll write, I will feel like there is more to say about this subject, but I just can’t reach it. So, I really used illustration to fill in the gaps where I felt like I was failing to really get to the heart of the emotion.
Nikki Van Noy: I feel that all the time as a writer. It is frustrating to me because there aren’t enough words, or they are not specific enough and my stick figures certainly are not going to convey that. So, when you put it that way that is such a powerful tool to have to fill in the blanks.
Erin Tyler: It was really nice to rely upon that. I think when you put anything out in the world, you should probably use all of the skills that you have at your disposal to make it happen.
Nikki Van Noy: So, what are your family dynamics like today?
Erin Tyler: You know, I have the best relationship I have ever had with my parents today. I love them more than I have ever loved them because I love them as actual people now. I think learning to love your parents as human beings, and accepting their faults, and accepting that they are not superhuman, I think, is one of the crucial parts about growing up. I think locked in the state that I was in and struggling with myself and the way that I felt about myself, I could never see them as such.
We progressed to the point where not only can I see them as human beings who had faults as we all do, I can actually identify with what they were going through. I mean they were two tragically abused children who got together, clung to each other for dear life, created this family, and expected everything to just go perfectly from that point on. That is not how it works. Life doesn’t work that way. You have to see your demons, face them, confront them, and move through them and move on.
Honestly, they became much better people over the years. They have definitely worked on their own shit. They have both been in therapy. They’re both retired now, so they are super happy, and travel all over and, when I see them, I am genuinely so happy to see them. When I call them, I just randomly call them up on the phone. That would have never ever happened in the past.
I would have avoided as much contact as possible but now I am just like, “Well I haven’t talked to mom or dad, you know I am going to give them a call,” and it really is just a very peaceful relationship at this point.
Nikki Van Noy: That is amazing. Have you talked through this stuff with them or was it stuff you had to work out for yourself and then could come back to the relationship with a different vantage point?
Erin Tyler: I think it is not everyone’s journey to confront everything. I think, for some people, things are better left unsaid. I think that my parents are those sorts of people. They’re retired now, they are happy, they are happy with their lives. They are not interested in staring down the demons. They are not interested in going to a silent retreat or a meditation workshop or anything like that. They just want to be as happy as they possibly can with the time that they have left.
I think it was like a three- or four-year period, when I refused to speak to anyone in the family. I just divorced my family because I needed to figure out who I was and learn how to love myself, and that wasn’t going to happen if I still had ties to the family. So, I spent three or four years without speaking to them or speaking to my sister, or really talking to my extended family at all either.
Then when we repaired our relationship at the end of that, I remember my mother saying to me, “I just don’t understand. I don’t understand, but I am so glad you’re back,” and I made peace with that and I accepted that. I can’t force her to live her life any other way than she wants to live her life.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, will you share this book with them, or do they know you’ve written it?
Erin Tyler: They know I have written it and I am going to share it with them. I think that will be intense, I am sure. I hope they understand that you have to live your truth. You have to live your truth in life.
Nikki Van Noy: As we start to wrap up here, the thing I obviously need to talk to you about is the real hero of this book, Murph. Tell me about Murph.
Erin Tyler: Oh Murph, she was the best, yeah. Oh, what a great dog. She was really just the first time that any human or animal or anything ever showed me unconditional love and she just healed my heart that dog.
Nikki Van Noy: Clearly you unconditionally loved her back too. There are stories about how to wash Murph or cut her nails you would strip down because she was a nervous pee-er and it would get crazy in the room. There’s a story about how she jumped out of your car at one point on the highway because she smelled steak or something and you literally stopped traffic on the freeway to get her back. Talk about empathy. You also talked about how you realized she was there but not coming because you sounded angry, so you had to adjust your tone of voice, and there she was.
Erin Tyler: Oh yes. She was amazing. Still to this day I get so upset when people call her crazy because I know that every single anxiety or nervousness, every single nervous wet she ever made was my fault, because I was anxious, and she was picking all of that up from me. If she was binge eating, it was because I was binge eating and it wasn’t ever coming from her. She was just this pure source of love, of unconditional love and empathy.
Nikki Van Noy: I actually think that is really true. When you are truly connected with an animal, they’re just inside of you and emulate all of the same behaviors.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, my husband says of our current dog, Ellie, if she could climb inside of me she would.
Nikki Van Noy: I have seen Ellie. I think she is actually literally physically trying to do that.
Erin Tyler: She gives good hugs.
Nikki Van Noy: So sweet. You mentioned that part of the impetus for publishing this was so that your boys could see it. Have they seen it and if so, what was that like for you?
Erin Tyler: Yeah, they haven’t seen the whole thing. They haven’t read it yet. I want them to have access to the actual physical hardcover of the book, which should be coming in two weeks. So they can actually just read it, but they have seen all of the illustrations and I think it is really cool.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, what an amazing moment that’s going to be to have.
Erin Tyler: Right, unboxing those hardcovers, are you kidding? After twenty years?
Nikki Van Noy: Totally that you have worked on so many other people’s books as a designer is pretty cool that you are going to be on the other side of the table now.
Erin Tyler: Yeah and that was a great experience too. Sometimes I think if you work in publishing it is very easy to lose your patience with someone who is just losing their shit because they are about to put their baby out into the world, and it was really great because it dialed me back into that experience. Like, “Oh my God,” you know, this is everything to people. This is their dream come true and you got to really respect that.
Nikki Van Noy: Absolutely and books feel so permanent in a way that few things do. It is un-retractable once you have it out there.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, it’s a legacy.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah. The last thing I would like to ask you, Erin, if there is anyone listening who can relate to your situation–who’s been a scapegoat or has someone else’s reality in some way inflicted on them–what words do you have to offer them?
Erin Tyler: Oh wow, so many things. Wow, that is a good question. I would say, first things first, get your ass in therapy. Start talking to a therapist. A much better one than I went to.
Nikki Van Noy: Don’t re-enact.
Erin Tyler: Yeah, get therapy, start talking. Start talking about how you feel about yourself, where that comes from. Start making some kind of art that springs forth from a very real authentic place, whether it is writing or painting or drawing or whatever, start doing it. Keep a journal and start a practice of radical self-love. Start exercising, doing the yoga. You always say you are going to do what you don’t do, start doing the yoga.
Start the meditation. Just start. And if you fail, fuck it, who cares? Just start again, you know? I mean I think so often we get so down on ourselves because, “Oh, well, I said I was going to do it and then I didn’t” Well, fuck that! That’s the past, you know? Start, start over, and get really comfortable with that. I failed. Okay cool, now we are going to start over. Just give it time. Give it time, it will heal. It will heal.
Nikki Van Noy: Erin, thank you so much for joining me. I am so happy that this book is out in the world right now. Again, it’s The Bad One: A Memoir About Growing Up a Goat. Erin, thank you so much. Enjoyed every single second of this.
Erin Tyler: I will, this was really fun. It was so great to talk to you.