March 9, 2023

How To Heal Your Identity After Trauma And Child Abuse

In this episode, we dive into the deepest parts of the human experience. We have a compilation of conversations with some of the most impactful voices in mental health podcasting... See show notes at:

In this episode, we dive into the deepest parts of the human experience. We have a compilation of conversations with some of the most impactful voices in mental health podcasting: Paul Gilmartin of the Mental Illness Happy Hour, family medicine physician Rachel Reinhart Taylor, and Vanessa Bennett and Dené Logan of Cheaper Than Therapy. Through their own personal experiences and expertise, they share insights into healing from trauma, rebuilding identity, and discovering who you truly are. Whether you're struggling with depression, anxiety, religious trauma, or other mental health challenges, these conversations will make you feel connected, human, and protected.

As you listen, remember that healing is a journey, and it's okay to seek support along the way. If you're feeling stuck, reach out to Michael directly at or on Instagram @MichaelUnbroken 

So sit back, relax, and get ready to explore what it truly means to find your identity after trauma with some of the most inspiring voices in mental health podcasting. Don't forget to subscribe and leave a review if you enjoy this episode!

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Exploring Mental Illness, Incest, Addiction, and Vulnerability with Paul Gilmartin 

Michael: We all know what we're supposed to be doing however, it takes a catalyst or a stimulus for us to actually move towards what that thing was or so what I'd love to know Paul is like, did you have that moment was there a catalyst for massive change in your life and what has been the biggest difference about the understanding of who you believe you are since that moment?

Paul: Well, the original catalyst was not wanting to commit suicide. I could see that my life on paper was great, I was hosting this TV show, I was making good money, I had time to spend it, I have my health, my physical health, my friends, why was I thinking about killing myself 50 times a day? Well, I couldn't look back now and say, it's because my spirit was dead but because all I cared about was myself, I wasn't feeding my spirit the second epiphany or launching point was the fear of living, the rest of my life, without knowing true intimacy and a relationship. I could have intimacy in platonic relationships with people, but when it came to romantic relationships, you can only get so close and, you know, I was able to realize that, oh, you know, it's probably related to my mom overwhelming me with her needs and a fear of being suffocated. And I learned that well that the tool isn't putting up an iron wall to keep you away from everybody, it's getting better at understanding who you open the door for and how much you open the door and it's a lot of trial and error. And so today, I don't allow toxic people in my life and that's been huge for me. So those were the two big catalysts in changing. But I had to be looking into a deep dark hole to be willing to do the work to do that because I don't like doing work and I don't like going back into the icky, icky memories, the icky feelings, the shame of ways that I've acted, but it's been necessary for me to begin to put together a little bit of humility, and to be willing to do the reading and the writing and to read books, a therapist suggest, you know, to share my secrets with somebody in my support group.

Michael: In that I hear massive massive vulnerability and I would argue that, it's probably the most important trait that one develops I will say that I do not believe its inherent to people who come from dramatic background.

Paul: No, but telling people that come from trauma to be vulnerable, is like, saying to a person that's just run out of a burning building. The very thing you need is back in that burning building.

Michael: That's the greatest fucking analogy I've ever heard of my life. Yes. You're spot on. Paul, for the people, who are listening this and they're just like, besides themselves in this moment because I'm one of them in real time having this conversation and they're like, okay, what do I do? Like, what do I really do? Like, I hear these guys are talking, this is gone through my head a million times on fucking suicidal, life feels like a disaster like what do they do Paul? Where do you start?

Paul: Well, if you are actively suicidal and you feel like you're making a plan or on the verge of making a plan, please call the suicide hotline. Do not reach out to a non-professional as your sole source of support because you won't get the full help that you need and it's not fair to them to feel like they've got to keep you alive, that's a lot to put on somebody. That doesn't mean you're a burden it just means that you deserve a larger support network. The very thing that you struggle over and the thing that you want to hide is probably the very thing that is going to connect you to your next group of close friends and there is trial and error in it. What's really important is to just keep going, to just keep trying different things. I have tried so many things and the last 20 years, I've probably tried 25 different meds, you know, my psychiatrist finally, we were able to dial in a combination of meds that works for me this is the first fall in God knows how long that my depression hasn't felt like Elvis entering a stadium.

The Hope is so hard when you've been kicked in the teeth, a lot of times when you've had failure after failure after failure, but being around as long as I've been, I'm almost 60, I'm 59 years old, I can tell you the greatest things in my life wouldn't have happened if I hadn't experienced failure, previous to it.

Michael: Yeah, and I'm right there with you. And every time I fell, I just look at my life and go cool, I learned a lesson and I've tried all the modalities you name it I've tried to ask, but all the money, I did all the things and I am going to wholeheartedly agree with you that if you can do that thing, whatever it is that you need to do to give yourself the strength to face your fear of just going one more day, tomorrow might be the day, everything's different. Like Sharon Lechter, who is an entrepreneur, she co-wrote of multiple books, but she has a book called Three Feet From Gold. And the idea of that book is very simple, you might be three feet from that thing that you've always wanted, one more day, one more minute, one more action. And I think that's the reality of life like, you find that reason to keep going, which for me has been being of service, right? You find that thing being a better brother, being a better communicator or a speaker, all those things.

And for you, it may be, you know, being a better mom, being the best entrepreneur business owner or whatever that thing is, but finding that reason to hold on will forever, change everything for you. And as someone who's attempted suicide, myself, I can tell you right now like the greatest moment of my life was like being able to come through the other side of that. And not saying it's not fucking hard because it's hard someday suck, some days I don't want to do this, some days I want to bad and fucking eat chocolate cake and do nothing. But I ask myself, who do I need to be today? And if I were a person whose kind to myself, what would I need to do?

Paul: If one of the reasons why? And thank you for sharing that. And I agree wholeheartedly and one of the things that I would have never imagined, I would get out of support groups, is other people seeing the change in me before I could see it myself and them helping me to see myself through their eyes. My psychiatrist after I cut contact with my mom which is a very long process and not simple and the most painful thing I've probably ever been through, my psychiatrist said to me, I just want to commend you, I'm looking into the jaws of the monster and said, so many people run from that monster; the monster of childhood trauma without ever stopping to heal. You know, your feelings won't kill you but running from them might.


Navigating Religious Trauma and Building Your Identity with Dr. Rachel Reinhart Taylor

Michael: Here I am in my life heading into the second half almost and looking at it and going, well, how the hell do you have a less stressed and more carefree life. Is there are some like in what I would call incredibly practical ways that you think that as trauma survivors people can step into that?

Dr. Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm a bleeding heart. I am also very Irish as you might be able to tell from the little ginger, my ginger hair and my very pale skin, so they can but the idea is that we can make these changes without my ideal is to make all of these changes kind of without medications or supplements or things that are not available to the populations that means the most really. So my have a bleeding heart and it started, you know, I'm a bleeding-heart 4-under through populations. So and I really came to my attention that while medical missions are amazing, I love doing the medical work, sometimes, you'll give medications and they don't have that, they don't have another doctor, they have no way to get the medication again, there's no pride, you know, this is also repeated, night working on reservations here, in our own country.

There's are so many populations that just don't have a money to pay for it, which I don't think is like ridiculous. You know, I had a stroke in West Berlin from work and I couldn't afford therapy and stuff at that time, so through medical school, I'm going on with Medicare or so Medicaid and all of that.

So it's not absurd to think that literally any of us could it, any plan our lives, not have access to these things that cost so much money, including the new therapy and like I said, in Western medicine all in violence.

So I really, really, really have become interested in the last now, 12 years since medical met my first medical Mission. I'm so interested in how can population, what does the science say about Tom populations can optimize their own health without needing someone else's like basically, without spending money. So there are few things, I don't know if you're familiar with neuroplasticity, neuroplasticity is when we can create new neuron connections in our brain or new connections, in our brains and a lot of times is might have one injury. So for example, a stroke and I had the opportunity to kind of rebuild that and actually when people exercise even though it increases their ability to kind of remodel their brain, that neuroplasticity and then there are other foods or certain types of meditation and you can remodel your homework things. You have to do things that are going to, I like the word potentiate them basically tell your brain, we're changing now and then when you're doing those have to be very, very, very mindful that you are focusing on the way you want your outlook to become.

So they're not so their refusal to as far as their opacity, there's some medicated, a kind of Mia is, by the way, I do not endorse using that off the tree that, please don't do that, it's very dangerous, but you can do, there are like a fusion center that are used and Physicians Overlook people who have PTSD and anxiety and depression and things like this, to help them, literally remodel their brain.

There was a yell study recently that showed psilocybin that in the like, active ingredient in magic mushrooms, again, exercise caution with this advice, but that does, cause your brain to say, we're remodeling you. And then again, different types of breathing meditation exercises and and things that there's medicine, there's a meditation, you can increase. There's been a part of your brain sentiments gray matter that helps you when you do this meditation, it helps that area develop and that area is helpful in controlling emotions and making decisions in high-stress situations. It's not like well, my life stocked and now it's locked forever, it's like okay, look, the science is showing that you can remodel this and you can fix it. And then you, if you change that, if using neuroplasticity to change your outlook, then your life starts feeling more carefully, you can see things I can see my stroke as a detour to get to a place where where my life is going to be better instead of this was the worst thing ever, I hate you, I'm screwed forever, what have another one would have been, you know, you have to actively choose them though, I mean, it's a marathon, not a sprint, you have to choose that all the time.

I think, you know, I mean, he talked about all the time to do, every time you make a decision that you can make that decision, help remodel your brain by meditating, by exercising and then knowing your brain was in remodel mode, so you're going to choose differently than before and that's all free and accessible to everybody.

Michael: Yeah, and that's such a great point. And it's so much of this does really start with the way that you're thinking, the way you're talking yourself, the way that you're allowing yourself to be in the world and I recognize it's difficult, right? Especially when you're inundated with the ideas that other people have put on you of who you are, who you should be and then you reiterate that into yourself and into the world and then suddenly you look at your life You know, like how the fuck did I get here? And it's a trial by fire to pull yourself out but you know you talk about one thing I think is really interesting that that would love for you to dive into in and I have gotten pushed back on this and so I will preface this that and I will say, I have gotten quote unquote canceled because of saying this before and this is the idea that anybody can be healthy if they're willing to do the work and I fully believe that. Look, I'm not smart, I'm not better than anyone, I don't have any college fucking degrees like I didn't graduate high school on time, I've destroyed my life and built it back up. I believe that it takes the same amount of effort to build your life as it does, to destroy your life. And I want to know your thoughts on this because I think that sometimes it helps to come from another voice but why do you think that anyone can be healthy if they're willing to do the work?

Dr. Taylor: Yeah. Well, I mean, that is definitely I'm gone. It's hard for doctors to get canceled I think, because the anus so bad, but, you know, I'm essentially loved or hated by my patients, more loves and goodness and sometimes very much hated and in a lot of this is that same believe, you know, I'm will tell people, you can get there, you can be healthy if you want to be and I think that really for me saying these things I can back it up with the science. I mean neuroplasticity just told you about. You can lower your blood pressure by meditating every day, let my God says shown scientific study, you can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by meditating and there are certain types of meditation and these are all studying, you know, you can your bunch of your gets better when you meditate, everyone has a reason why they can't, or they're different, or they blah blah blah, but honestly, I've seen a lot of bodies and treat a lot of patients and in surgery, we are and I'm Primary Care there is nobody I have seen that I'm like, no, this wouldn't have some never never ever ever have I seen that before. I don't care how sick you are, you can improve by doing things by only changing your mindset, I mean it's chronic pain, arthritis, I can literally me, 100 diseases that I'm worked with and revert, woman Academy, Madras top of my head, but there are lots of them worked with that I have gone able to reverse at least in part, this is science and it's all I got in science in my book and if anyone needs a book and they can pay for please reach out to me. I'm happy to see if we can figure something out and play send you one but I wrote that book, I wasn't looking to be rich, I wasn't looking to like be super famous, I just not in the book of all of the ways you can be healthy and free that, I know that I knew with the time I know more now, too.

So I would be shocked and I thought any patient that actually, again, hunker down worked with me and that didn't have a reversal of there are symptoms, I'm literally cannot think of any reason why that wouldn't happen and we can work with it, if you're busy single mom, I think about it and we can talk to you then you don't have the money, try and do this for free accessible to anyone who can access it from anywhere. You know, I have families coming in the book, I talk a lot about this patient bus driver is work 12-hour shifts, he's like, I didn't have to go too long, so, we got this thing where he, like, talked about busting in, like, ten jumping jacks, you know, the result and was fun and I kind of pretty healthy, okay, we're gonna do 1 cup of leafy greens, that in the bag makes seven bags and there's someone like the spinach on Monday and you can just end up putting it in your mouth and having to shoot on this, finish like a rabbit, that's fine, that's how we're going to do good, in this case won't pressure came down. We reverse the same retention, got em off of three medications, we got, you know, he had a family history of diabetes, which which is true okay can be a precursor, but that doesn't mean you have to be reversed his. I think he was someone Medication but I'm going to check them off of to, that's five medications he didn't need anymore by making really easy lifestyle changes and really just I think it comes with citing, the sciencing, here's the deal, this is what will happen, this was a little change in your body when you make these tiny changes and again, this is not expensive, this is meant on purpose to be free of changes.


Healing Through Identity and Overcoming Existential Crisis with Vanessa Bennett, Dené Logan

Michael: And when they're in that and they're trying to start from scratch and they find themselves with you, how do you do that? Like when your whole identity has been built on this idea of I need to have all these things and have all these experiences and ultimately show up in this kind of way in the world to have validity and validation, and love, compassion worth all those things and you come to find out like, that's not really how the world works and it's like is existential crisis for you. How do you start to rebuild in that?

Vanessa: Hmm. Well, I think a lot of it has to do with what today was saying about pulling back like, I think a lot of it has to do with pulling back and being able to see the cultural shift and how that actually has impacted, how we feel about ourselves and almost, like, seeing your place in it. And for a lot of people they're actually not even aware of that, right? They have no idea the kind of impact that has actually had on there and then on their sense of self, like I said, on their happiness. And so first and foremost, it's actually like restructuring and giving them new lenses to look at things through. And then I think the other thing is helping them rewrite their story, right? So it's helping to reclaim power where they feel like they have none.

So many of us I think grow up in a very like, victim mentality, or victim space and again, I don't want to blame culture entirely but I do think that tends, there's a cultural component to that. And so I think rewriting story is really important I think getting in there and helping them with tangible tools actually. I mean, this is where I would talk to tangible tools around building self-esteem or I'm building purpose, around being able to say no around getting to choose what their life is going to look like or not look like and sometimes it takes a rock bottom to do that but I think that the most common scenario and therapy.

Michael: Yeah, and I know one of the things that you both speak on it as self-abandonment and in this process, and I'd love for you to not only define that but to talk about and talk through that process?

Vanessa: Yeah, I talked a lot about self-abandonment. I think through not just art work with clients, but also our own personal work and personal journeys, I think we've really realized that so much of the cause of out root of our disconnection to sell for our unhappiness or whatever language you want to use around it has really actually been this abandonment of self, right? And so, I know that I've heard you say before, like I just simply don't do what I don't want to do, right? Like it just that simple and that to me is an indication of somebody who very strongly chooses self, who very strongly does not abandon self. And so many of us grew up, not just people who are maybe in a relationship with or have a family member who struggle with addiction, but many of us just culturally societally have grown up in very codependent families. And so when you grow up in this way, you are taught very early on to choose others above the self, right? Like you are taught to not speak up, not rock the boat, you know, do whatever you need to do to attach and to maintain attachment, right? And typically, all of those behaviors are acts of abandoning self, you're not choosing self, right? And so we talked about it from conceptual ones, but then we also break it down into very specific tangible actions, right? So, I will talk boundaries and we'll have an entire kind of topic around boundaries and how does learning to establish boundaries actually impact your ability to choose self, right? And to not self abandon and so it is like a concept, but you can see it in the actual tangible ways that we show up in our relationships and in our day-to-day always.

Michael: And in that, you know, because I think that, you know, obviously growing up in self or codependent family systems and then finding yourself in co-dependent relationships and always being in this place in which you're trying to leverage other people to build self. How do you like break that in a practical way? Because I think I look at it like this sometimes because I went through this experience myself of being in front of a brick wall with a sledgehammer and like literally knocking it down. What do you think is the best way for someone to step into kind of bridging that gap to remove themselves from codependency and start to show up for them self more?

Vanessa: Well, it's kind of like, I always when I teach my courses around codependency or I'm working with clients and codependency and I always say that codependency work is identity work. And the bottom line it's really about micro moments and I think that's really important people to understand because I think that people come into therapy or self-betterment, especially in the beginning and it can feel very intimidating and very overwhelming, and it's just like, it's big, right? And it's hard, I mean, it is hard, it's hard to choose the self, it actually is easier at least in the short term to choose the other verses choosing the self, to choose the action that is, at the moment versus choose yourself in that specific moment, maybe not long-term. And so, I like to talk about micro moments, right? It's in these individual times where like I have the opportunity to I've hit a crossroads, I can either turn right or I can turn left turning, right? Would be to do the thing I've always done. So not say no, at establish a boundary, that might feel good temporarily, but I know where that leads turning left is doing that thing, right? That thing that makes me so uncomfortable I want to throw myself off a building and knowing that it's going to be that uncomfortable, knowing that I'm going to feel that kind of pain and that kind of panic and that kind of potential abandonment, right? And I'm going to do it anyway, even though I call it a micro moment as I'm talking about it, I'm sure you can kind of feel the like, oh my God, that's my option, right? That's what I'm going to feel.

And so I think it is a micro woman of a boundary like, oh I do the thing, I set the boundary will guess what? In that tiny micro moment, you've just established a deeper sense of who you are, you've created a deeper connection to your soul, you've allowed your intuition, your soul to actually speak through you and you listen, you did the thing, right?

And so if you start compiling all of these micro moments, there does become momentum until at some point you don't even realize that you are setting a boundary, but it almost like come so naturally that you're like, man, I can't believe I used to just roll over and not say no all the time and that point does come but it takes a while, you know.

 connect to the source energy from which we come from and ultimately what the outcome of that is a society that is completely disconnected from mother Earth to the point where we are destroying it, right? And I think I do a lot of work with couples where I see this show up in that, like, we don't know how to meet one another because it's like everybody is sort of fighting with each other 

Michael: Yeah, I love that. You talked about momentum, I think it's everything ultimately, because today, you're always at zero, right? You're always at step one and people often want to go to step four thousand and I'm like, you're trying to run a marathon, I'm just trying to put my damn shoes on, you know, and so momentum is everything in this game. And it sounds to me, like some aspect of, this is also really about re parenting self, right? Getting yourself in this position where you're doing that thing, that should have been done for you, would you agree with that? Does that feel true?

Vanessa: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of the work around learning to choose the self for learning to not self abandoned is going to be done through re parenting. And so I think that this concept of getting really still and being able to ask the question of yourself of your inner child really, what would I have liked to hear in this moment or in that moment, if you're reflecting? What would I have actually needed from some kind of ideal parents, you know, if one existed? What is that thing that I would have needed and that moment and then can I give that to myself, right? And so then you can translate out into the moment by moment. How can I give myself this feeling of security? How can I give myself this feeling of worthiness or I mean extra credit, how can I actually verbalize and say to my partner and feeling really disconnected from you? And its kind of set of me into a tizzy, you know, I need to connect like can we sit down and talk tonight because you know, that feeling grounded and saving your relationship is something that's important to you amazing, right? So re parenting can be obviously re parenting self, but it can also be done through the close relationships in your life, too.

Michael: And in that one of the things that kind of comes to mind, is this separation speaking specifically towards relationships, as this bit of a separation of masculine and feminine identities that people have in the energies as well because, you know, literally, the first thing that came to mind is when someone approaches a partner about, hey, will you come and sit down, have this conversation with me? They immediately either become terrified or go, well, I'm a man, and I don't talk. How do you start to step into that energy and allow yourself as both of, you know, however you identify but to feel the full range of both masculine and feminine energies?

Vanessa: Yeah. I mean, this is something actually that young really talked a lot about in the anima and animus, and the idea really, is that every single human being had an energy is right, or dynamics. It's not that men are masculine, women are feminine, right? And so what's really important is that we have to understand that when we are out of balance and our relationships, and we were out of sync in our relationships usually it's because those energies are out of balance, right? I am too much in my masculine, and I'm not enough in my feminine, my ability to receive, my ability to just be, my ability to soften, my ability to be vulnerable.

And when I'm too much in my feminine rather, I am on the opposite, it's like I'm going to harden to controlling and to containing into, like, you know, it's got to look like this, A and b is equal C. And so there's nothing wrong intrinsically with either side of that spectrum, but what we see happen, especially in couples, is that they get really out of whack, they get really out of balance. And so part of the work that we do as a therapist, when we're working with, these energies, is really to help both parties regardless of sex, understand, where are you showing up to intensely and one side or the other, how can you actually lean into or embody, more of the other energy? Because when you're both in balance, in that way, energetically your relationship is going to be more in balance, your relationship not just the two our energies are out of balance. You know, and so we have this very patriarchal society that we live in is one that has had so much for so long, this hyper masculine energy and we are now seeing the kind of negative consequences to that right? Hundreds and hundreds of years and now we're kind of facing that reality.

Michael: Yeah. What are those consequences because I think it's often and especially in this society a very forest for the trees kind of thing? So, what does that actually look like in in the world that we're in right now?

Dené: So I mean, I think there's so many ways that shows up certainly if we think about living in a society where we have completely rejected the feminine, you know, everything we are taught from so young is that the feminine is has a negative connotation that you know, don't throw like a girl, don't be a girl, you're crying like a girl, all of these like energies of the feminine being unnecessary silly child like we we're what we have done is really disconnect from so much of our connection to our intuition, and our ability to be vulnerable, and our ability toto be the alpha women as a society I would say, collectively are so much in like really wounded masculine energy because what I believe happened was, as we had the rise of the feminist movement, which I mean, we're so grateful for that. But what happened was instead of sort of the feminist movement being about celebrating, reclaiming, feminine energy that had been disregarded by patriarchal culture for so long, what we did was decide feminism is going to look like women attempting to replicate wounded masculine energy. And so, so many of us as women were sort of raised to believe what I need to do to be equal, quote to men in society to have equal rights and a seat at the table is to act like wounded masculine energy and that's actually not serving any of us, but what I see play out in terms of couples dynamics so often is that women are so deep in wounded, masculine energy, which there will inevitably I find be a polarity created just naturally between two people and what ends up happening is men in relationships with women and obviously, I'm speaking very heteronormative lie in this context. End up showing up in these relationships in really wounded feminine energy, which repels the women in their lives and I found this fascinating, once I came to this realization because you know, I was married for so many years, not really understanding like unable to put my finger on, what is the difficulty in our dynamic? What makes it so hard for us to keep this energy of attraction and longing and all of these things that you know, in healthy, polarity we have. But what I find is this rejection of the feminine, this inability to integrate feminine energy for both masculine and feminine energies in a healthy way really means that we are both operating in wounded polarities.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.

Vanessa Bennett and Dené LoganProfile Photo

Vanessa Bennett and Dené Logan

Therapists / Writers / Mamas

Two soul sisters and therapists with a background in depth psychology. We’re also mindfulness coaches, avid yoginis, and the hosts of the Cheaper Than Therapy Podcast. But more than anything else, we’re passionate about supporting others in living their most authentic life.

We specialize in helping people unearth the limiting beliefs and behavior patterns that hold them back from their potential. We specialize in this because it’s work we have also committed to doing for ourselves in our own lives.

(we have 2 websites and 2 sets of social media, so let us know what we should give you since the below only allows for one)

Rachel Reinhart TaylorProfile Photo

Rachel Reinhart Taylor

Physician, Author

Rachel Reinhart Taylor MD is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, certified meditation teacher, intuitive health educator and author of Medication Detox: How to Live Your Best Health. She is passionate about ways to be healthy both mentally and physically in ways that are accessible to anybody and are free! She loves underserved population work and has gone through many, many traumatic experiences and is unafraid to talk candidly about them and the growth that occurred during them.

Paul GilmartinProfile Photo

Paul Gilmartin

Host/TV Personality

Comedian Paul Gilmartin hosts a weekly, hour-long audio podcast consisting of interviews with artists, friends and the occasional doctor.

The show is geared towards anyone interested in or affected by depression, addiction and other mental challenges which are so prevalent in the creative arts.

Paul’s hope is that the show and this website will give people a place to connect, smile and feel the return of hope. The biggest myth about mental illness is that you are alone and there is no help.