Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of The More Than You See podcast hosted by me, actor, filmmaker, mental health advocate Deborah Lee Smith. Every Monday just like this one, I come to you to share some resources, have a conversation, and generally just dive into all sorts of topics around mental health. I am not a licensed practitioner or therapist, but just a woman exploring my own mental health journey and sharing it with you, my listeners. My hope is that this podcast and conversations bring you some joy, some understanding, and some tools so that you can build your own mental health toolbox.
Welcome back, everyone, to Season Two, Episode Two of the podcast. I am really honored to share this guest with you all today. This is a very special friend of mine, Lynn Chen, who is a filmmaker and an actor and she also has a lot of experience addressing the difficulties of eating disorders and how much eating disorders can really affect our mental and physical health. And that is definitely something that we go into today.
A short little background about Lynn. Lynn has a multi-decade career with credits and over 50 television shows: Shameless,Silicon Valley, films like Saving Face, Go Back To China, audio books Crazy Rich Asians, and video games Call of Duty: Black Ops - three and four. Now she adds filmmaker to her resume with her directorial feature debut, I Will Make You Mine, which premiered at South by Southwest in 2020, and is streaming everywhere on VOD and DVD. Lynn is also an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association and Mary's List.
I really don't want to give any more introduction, but just dive into this interview. Because I think that Lynn and I cover so many incredible talking points. And I just want you to be able to soak up all of the juicy goodness. As always, please be sure to rate review, share, interact with this podcast, in whatever way works for you. I know myself and Lynn will be so honored to hear what you think. And I'm just really excited to bring this important conversation to you all today. And without further ado, here is Lynn Chen.
Thank you so much for being here. I'm so so excited to have you.
Thank you for having me.
Yeah, of course. So, there's so many different things that I want to talk to you about. You have been in the entertainment industry for 20 plus years, you are an actor, a writer, a producer, and most recently a director. And I definitely want to dive into that whole experience about transitioning from you know, you're still an actor, but being an actor, and then going on the other side of the camera, and how you've managed your own stress and anxiety. And just all the feelings that come with that. I certainly want to get into that. But I would love to start with some different periods of your life early on in your career. You had a really incredible blog that is still active, although you aren't writing as much called The Actor's Diet, and I would love to hear, you know, what brought that on and what that was about. And yeah, just tell me a little bit about that, that side of yourself.
Yeah, so The Actor's Diet was during - it was from 2009 to 2019. I ran it for 10 years, and I thought 10 years was a good time to stop. So when we started, you know, there were barely phones that had cameras on them, you know, and this was before people were taking photos of their food and blogs were definitely in their infancy or just starting to, you know, gain some trackage in terms of like, people coming to them daily and participating in a community and it's definitely before Instagram, definitely before Twitter. So I found a real community. In reading blogs, I had been suffering from an eating disorder, binge eating disorder, specifically, almost all my life, but I didn't know it was an eating disorder. When I was growing up, eating disorders were categorized into basically two, you know, two things, which was anorexia, and bulimia, and anything else was just sort of like you overeat or you eat emotionally.
Can you just explain a little bit about your upbringing as far as you know, your ethnicity, your family how it was? You know, growing up?
Yeah. I grew up in New Jersey, I was born to two immigrant parents who are from Taiwan. And I, I grew up so when I grew up in New Jersey, it was a mostly white, very small town outside of New York City, I was one of very few Asian Americans, I definitely felt like I was an other. I definitely was embarrassed by my race and my ethnicity and my culture. I definitely wanted to be white. And, you know, back then I was also performing it was actually the thing that made me so different from everyone else. My mom was an opera singer at the Metropolitan Opera House, and I sang in the children's chorus with her. So, I learned at a very, very young age that I had a gift, and that it was really a way for me to express myself that was special. And I felt like other people knew that about me. But also, you know, at that age, it's sort of like, you're the annoying girl who sings and performs all the time. And I was also leaving school a lot to go to rehearsals. So people were also, people already just thought I was like, weird. And then when I went to high school, I was definitely the lead in the school musical and all of that. I was in band, I sang all the solos and chorus. So I was that girl.
And I was also known as being very skinny. People used to call me Skeletor. In fact, people used to accuse me of having an eating disorder when I was growing up, because I was so small. And I, I would try to combat that by overeating in front of them. Well, there was also this other piece, which was that I want to be a quote unquote, American. I wanted to eat American foods, which was basically at the time like hostess cupcakes and Chef Boyardee. You know, I wanted to eat everything that was like in a can, processed, and advertised to me on Saturday mornings. And my parents did not want that in the house, they didn't even know you know, what those things were. So the only times I got to experience those things were when I went to other people's houses or after school when I would save up my lunch money, and go and like buy a box of Entenmann's and just pound them, before I came home. And I remember, I would come home not be hungry for dinner, and my mom would be like, "you better eat." Like, there's no way you're not going to eat my dinner. Right? So I would sit there and eat another dinner.
And it started to become like this thing where it was like, impressive because I could eat a lot and not being weighed, almost like this stereotype that we still have about Asian women to a certain extent. You know, some of the world's greatest competitive eaters are Asian American women, who are known for being so tiny and they can just take down all the hotdogs and, you know, bring these huge men to their knees. You know, it's like, it's, it's also at the time, you know, the only Asian American woman we saw were concubines. They were prostitutes. They all did martial arts. You know, there were very small women who kicked ass and didn't say much. And, you know, I'm sure that that had something to do with it. This idea of just basically stuffing my feelings down. But I didn't know that it was an issue. I just thought that I really loved food and I turned to it whenever I felt anything, joy or pain or anything. And when I went to college, I gained the inevitable freshman 15 but it's more like the freshmen 30. 'Cuz on top of the food I was also like drinking and doing drugs for the first time ever. So that obviously made me a little less careful. Or just in general, I always had the munchies and
Yeah, inhibitions are down.
Yeah, it was again, it was like a way to bond - I found it was an easy way to bond with people was talking about food. So, I at that same time, I became a woman studies major. I started studying feminist studies. And so of course, I learned about eating disorders. I remember thinking like, "Well, good thing. I don't have one of those". And I and I came home and my and there's, it's customary in Asian American Asian families to comment on your weight as if it's just, it's like there's no tact or any politeness about it's more just like, "Hey, you got fat, you got skinny." And so there was a lot of that going in. And I remember saying to people right away, like "don't do that you're going to give me an eating disorder".
So when I graduated from college, and was starting to act, and was starting to see that I did not fit in size wise with other not only other actresses, but definitely not other Asian actresses. It, it definitely felt to me like, hey, you're so pretty, you are really shooting yourself in the foot by not like losing five to ten pounds. And for me, I was so like anti dieting. You know, because of everything I learned in feminist studies, I was just like, I'm not going to get into that. And in turn that would make me angrier and would make me eat more.
So until I - around 2005 was when I booked a role in Sony Pictures Classics film called Saving Face where I had to play a ballet dancer. And I knew this was a role that would change my life. And, and it did. And I also knew that it would require me to lose weight. I mean, they told me that, you know, they basically told me when I was auditioning, like, you're our number one pick, and you need to lose weight, because you're playing a ballet dancer. And, and I started off doing it healthfully. And then just quickly, it just became the obsession. It was like the opposite of what my binge eating was, it became the other end of the spectrum. And so, you know, I basically and once the movie came out, and obviously I gained back, I gain back the weight because I wasn't heavily starving myself or exercising any longer. People said things. You know, fans, people in the industry, my family, and everyone said things. And so it became a thing of up and down and up and down.
So that's why I started the blog. Because when I was reading blogs, it really helped me see what a quote unquote "normal serving would be". Because I, my body was so confused at that point. I couldn't stop at a bowl of cereal, I had to have like the entire box of cereal. And I couldn't tell the difference between true hunger or, you know, just like a gnawing of boredom. So I would turn to these, to these food logs to see like, Oh, that's what a serving of lasagna looks like. That's what a serving of cake looks like. And it became something like a, like a food diary. You know, and it very quickly turned into a way for me to communicate with people that - the same way that performing allowed me to do. You had immediate access to an audience via comments, and a community. And I could be creative by writing daily, I could be creative by doing photographs. And very soon my relationship with food quickly changed. Because of it. I went from basically being very fearful of food to really, really celebrating food.
And so the blog was really like this, this interesting time for me, because whereas acting was still, like, so difficult. And it was just hard for me still, I was still struggling a lot. All of the opportunities coming from blogging were so easy, you know, like, I suddenly had like a meeting with a producer from the Food Network. And by the end of like our meeting, he was like, let's make a show. And I was like, how is this happening? You know, it was almost like, way too easy.
But the story with that goes, that the more I was in that world, the more I realized, this is not not my passion. You know, I've fallen into this. And yeah, it's easy, and it is fun. I mean, what's not fun about like going to a restaurant and having a chef put down all this food in front of you. And I was also really grateful for how it changed my relationship with food. But I knew that at the end of the day, I didn't want what the ultimate goal was, which was to have a cookbook, to have my own show to sell a, you know, see, like a bunch of pans and knives. Like that was not at all fun for me, or even what I wanted to do. And what ended up happening was I found out I was diagnosed with celiac, right about the time I stopped blogging, and it just became like a crystal clear sign from not even just the universe, just like life was just like, you got to stop. You can't, I can't even touch I can't even touch flour without breaking out into hives.
So it was a it was a really great thing because what has ended up happening is that my quote unquote diet now is extremely limited. And on the one hand, you could look at it on a day to day basis and be like, uh-oh, eating disorder trigger, you know, once again, because there's so much limitation. But for me it's an incredible amount of freedom. Because I feel like, much like with college, I had my heyday with food like, I I had the best of everything in massive quantities for 10 years. And I like did it up. I did not take one second for granted. I loved every minute of it. But I can't do that anymore. And so it's okay. Like when people are like, "don't you miss pie?" I'm like, not really.
Like 10 years of the best pie ever. So what is it? What basically long story short is what it's taught me is that your relationship with food is constantly changing. And my relationship with food has constantly changed. And the best I can do is just not to judge myself for it. And to go along with whatever is working for me. In the moment, at this time. Right now it's really working for me.
Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, my ex-husband has Crohn's. And so that, you know, similar very, very specific foods that he can eat. And it is kind of freeing in some way. Because you can you can allow yourself to be creative within some restraints instead of like, a kind of being frozen with possibilities, because there's so many things out there for you. I, you know, I think what you were saying about the, your parents and your family members, as far as you know, commenting on weight, like, unfortunately, I think that that's, I mean, that's certainly stereotyped in Asian culture. But I think it's also very prevalent in just immigrant cultures in general, I think more, you know, more so than American, like, based families or whatever. But I, I mean, I think that what you said about the way that our experience around food changes all the time is spot on.
I mean, I know that myself as an actor, as well, I certainly, that's something that I probably think about way too much - like, food. And it's just, it's an ongoing thought process that I talked to my therapist about, that I talk to, you know, like, that I read about in a healthy way, but it certainly is, you know, I've also gotten to this point, because I had friends or family members, in the past who I was, I was a ballerina, as a kid. And even my ballet teacher told me that I was too fat to dance. And I was, you know, I was, like, normal sized, you know, quote unquote, normal size child. Like, there was nothing fat about me, but it, it's so damaging, because those are the things that we can, I mean, it's still something that's affecting me as a, you know, 30 year old. And that's, that's such a shame. And I think it's just so important for us to be careful about what we say.
And also just, I think it's so wonderful that you were able to be so public about your experience. Because I think and that's, you know, one of the reasons that I've created More Than You See is because I think that the more that people who are public facing can talk about their experience, the more that everyone else can feel less alone and feel like, "Oh, I resonate with that, like, I feel exactly the same, like, this is so wonderful that I feel the same way as you". And I think that it just like unifies us in a really wonderful way.
So I want to ask you about like, how was it for you as a, you know, public facing figure you've just finished this film that, you know, you said changed your life. You like, it really was one of the catapults in your career. So how was that for you in dealing with criticism, comments from people? Like, what tools did you use in order to work through that? Just how was that?
Yeah, when it was happening, you know, one of the, one of the first places I turned to was the National Eating Disorders Association. I remember going to their site, because I knew I had a problem. And I knew I needed to get specific help in this area. And I remember I went to the site. And I remember seeing Jamie-Lynn Sigler, from The Sopranos on the site as their celebrity ambassador and thinking to myself, "Oh, my God, I could never do that. I could never like, announce to the world that I have this problem" because, for me, like, like, she was anorexic. And for me, it was like, Oh, my God, like, still in my head. It was like that, that equation of like, skinny equals good. So like, if you're saying you're anorexic, oh, she'll get too skinny. But like, if you're a binge eater, then they'll be like, oh, she'll just let - her being in recovery, and she's going to let herself go. Right. And I my fear was that publicly saying that publicly saying, like, "I'm proud of my body, no matter what," would mean having to stand up to people who are like, she's actually heavier than we would like her to be, but she's okay with that. And, you know, good for her, but we're not going to hire somebody like that. Really? Like I, as I say it out loud. Yes, right now I am able to untrue in my head. That was what a false story that was, but at the time, that's how it felt.
And what ended up happening was I ended up seeing a therapist that I found through their site. And I saw her for years. And for the first, I'd say two years, all we did was talk about food, like, every second of those 60 minutes, twice a week was devoted to like, my analysis of the calorie fat content of something and how it made me feel and how I did good this week. But how I did bad that week. And I remember her telling me at some point, "you know, one day, food is not gonna have this power over you". And I was like, that sounds lovely. I don't believe you. I don't believe you. But she was really right. Like, it was - it was not, it was not a trick. It was not an anecdote, it was not like a new method of thinking, or a technique that my husband was going to utilize. In fact, like, one of the biggest things that helped was my husband stop trying to fix things - of him, just like letting whatever was going to happen was going to happen without judgment.
What I found to be the most helpful was just constantly getting knocked down after like having a relapse after having had like, weeks, and then months of quote, unquote, success. And then like, falling off the wagon and just being like, what the fuck? Having that happen continually, and then not having that what the fuck feeling anymore? And just being like, well, this is it, it'll be it'll be okay, I got through it before and I'm going to get through it again. The more and more that happens, the more I was able to just relax about it. And I think that's what she meant when she said, food is not going to have that power over you anymore. It was just this feeling of like, your eating disorder, is not going to have this power over you anymore. Like a lot of these, a lot of the same behaviors will still be there. And I mean, it's not like, I don't binge on Thanksgiving. It's not like, I don't find joy, on Halloween, sitting with like, 40 pieces of candy and taking a bite of each. Like, that's, that's joyful for me. But, and it always has been, and I'm not gonna, it's not like I denied myself that, but at the same time, like, I know how certain foods make me feel. That's very clear to me now, especially with celiac. And it's just, it just, it's not even, it's not even a thing anymore.
I find that it's more thing for other people. And, and that was that was the main thing I had to deal with was like, you know, when I'm hungry, I want to eat, I want to eat right away. And if that means we're not having dinner until seven, like, I might like, go, I might go nuts, right before seven pm. So if I'm sitting at dinner with you, and I'm not hungry, because I've already eaten an energy bar on my way to the restaurant, and I'm just going to order like a salad. I'm not going to freak out in my head over the fact that you're going to be like, oh, Lynn has an eating disorder. Or Oh, Lynn like, there's like she's hiding something like, I don't have to worry about that. Because I know the truth. And I'm okay with it. And I think a lot of it was like dealing with that. And also educating my friends and everyone I eat with on a regular basis. But that's how it is. And it's not helpful to me, if you make comments like that. It's not not only like, is that not helpful, it's not true. So that's not something that they have to worry about anymore with me of trying to be like, how do I help my friend who's like fallen off the wagon? There's not, they don't have to worry about that. Because if I do, quote unquote, fall off the wagon, I've got resources, I'll be okay.
Right. I think that's so wonderful that you now have that perception and that understanding as far as your own your own relationship with how your body is, but also how other people are seeing your body and seeing you interact with your body. I think that that's so important and so important, just like in the mental health space in general, like something that I talk about all the time is the importance of advocating for yourself and the importance of advocating for your mental and physical health. Like yes, of course we have these resources in order to help us but no one is going to, like no one can help you if you if you aren't going to be able to take the advocacy and like help yourself first. And I think it's so you know, valuable that you have you reached this point in your life and I'm wondering if you have if you've struggled with any other, you know, like if this had a, what like increased your anxiety or if there was any other, you know, psychological impacts of your eating disorder or just, you know, on how you are feeling about yourself on an on a day to day basis.
I mean, I definitely still consider myself an anxious person, but I'm just really gentle with myself about my anxiety. For example, if I have to go shoot on location, I'm just really clear with who like production, like, Hey, I have celiac, I'm probably not going to be able to eat most of the things - even if they say it's gluten free, they don't have a dedicated kitchen. So let's make sure wherever I'm staying has a microwave, has a kitchen, has access to grocery. Like, it is very anxiety provoking, you know, especially like when I went to go shoot a movie in China for three weeks, like, I probably drove production crazy. And I felt really badly. I mean, like, I was like, so no, soya sauce. I had, they had to go get Tamari, they had to, like, buy their own woks and bring it to places. I had to have a dedicated chef. But, and I was of course worried like, who the hell am I? Like, who am I to be making these demands? I felt so diva-ish. But like, and that, of course gives me anxiety and what are people gonna think? But it - I mean, I just got over it. I just am really gentle with myself. And I and I allow myself to just be like, well, I don't see any other options. Like the whole the whole, you know, the whole idea of just being cool girl - of like, "Oh, it's fine. It's fine. I can eat whatever, whatever you want me to eat. It's gonna be fine. Oh, and you want me to get in a bikini afterwards? No problem. No problem." I'm not that I'm not that person. I may play her over and over and over again. But I'm not that person. And the more upfront I can be with you, the more relaxed we can all be. I'm unapologetic about who I am. And, and I'm proud of myself for that. It took me a lot to get to that place.
Yeah, you should be. That's really awesome. So now I kind of want to skip ahead to your directorial - this is your directorial debut right? I Will Make You Mine?
Congratulations, by the way, it's a beautiful film, everyone should check it out. And so, you know, you just spoke about the importance of like advocating for yourself. And I'm curious how you brought that into your role as a director, because I think that I've had numerous conversations with friends about mental health in the entertainment industry, and how I mean, it is a very difficult industry to be in period. And then when you add on the stress of being on set, of the long hours of you know, having to make days... which for anyone who doesn't work in the industry is basically like you have a certain schedule of things that you need to get done that day in order to stay on schedule for the whole shoot. And if you do not make your day, if you do not get those things done, then it has to obviously be added on to another day and all days cost money. So it's that and that is why we work long hours. That is why it is such an intense, stressful situation. So I'm curious, you know how you brought that advocacy into your role as a director in order to you know, advocate for yourself, advocate for the storym advocate for the actors, like that's, that's a big job there.
You know, I actually found it very easy to do the high stress stuff. Like I feel like that i i tend to thrive in those situations. And maybe it's because I'm I've done mostly independent films, very low budget things. And so I'm really used to being extremely scrappy, and very close to my crew, and really leaning on other people to help making things - make things happen. So that that actually came really simply and easily for me, and but that also was because my movie was the third in a trilogy. And so a lot of the people that we were working with the cast and the crew were people we had worked with before. And so there was that familial feeling already there was this sense of like, Oh, it's Lynn's turn to cook in the kitchen where we've like, we've been - we've been summering here every year. Now it's like your turn. So that's what it that's what it felt like a little bit of just like, oh, now it's my turn to do this. That's great.
What I found incredibly challenging, and it actually took my breath away with how intense the emotions were, was post production. I just could not believe how difficult it was. Like I've been through some really tough things like the death of my father, mourning infertility for many years of an infertility struggle. And that all felt like nothing compared to like, what it felt like, every single time I finished a major barrier with the film. Our film was actually divided up into two separate shoots, because of just the timing of things. We had to do half of it in the summer and half of it in the fall. So I had a good chunk of time in between. And when I finished that first shoot, and we began to do post, I did not know how I was going to rally the troops again to do another shoot. I mean, somehow, we ended up doing it, and I was fine. But I, I fought so hard against having to do reshoots, because I just didn't think I had it in me. I like, just did not feel as though like I could get the group together and do it one more time.
Um, and a lot of that was because I think, I mean, I've always felt this way with acting, and I've gotten a lot better with it, where, when you let go of a character, it takes a while for them to leave, you're just - your spirit and, and you miss them, and you mourn them. But when, when I wrote, I had written this movie, and I starred in it. And not only was I in her head, but I was in the heads of every character that I had written for a year. And so the holding on to them in between shoots was so difficult. Like I was trying to just, you know, be a director, and do all of the things I needed to do to edit. But I was finding it so difficult, because I wanted to hang on to them. I was, I knew I was in trouble when I was like walking around my neighborhood. And my neighbors would be having parties. And I would be like, I'm just gonna go in and like crash this party and come in as a different like, who is like who is this person that wants to go and do that. Like, like, that's normal at all whatsoever. But it was almost like I was like, because I don't turn to drugs, or food or any other type of outlet. I needed some kind of like place to like, put this energy and like, disperse.
And I found, I found it to be a lot easier the second time, but in the editing, I think it was just so difficult, I think. I think it's one of the loneliest feelings I've ever felt. Even though I had my husband by my side helping me edit it. It still felt like I felt the weight of everything on my shoulders of this film, and trying to make sure that it was going to be the best that I wanted it to be. And I definitely had a few moments where I understood why there were so many indie films or shorts that I've been a part of that never saw the light of day. There was a part of me that definitely felt like, well, that was such an expensive mistake. I'm not going to ever make that mistake again. It just felt like a big, huge mistake. And I just did not trust myself to fully breathe it into the world. Like I just -so much doubt. So much doubt, especially every time we like, did testing and I heard like one person, say something negative. And I was just like, well, that's it. Everything we've been doing, like, forget it, because this first - it doesn't make sense to this person. This person is like, one person.
And I knew that was irrational, but at the same time, I could not fight against like, the feeling of the responsibility of that. I just wasn't prepared for that. And I also wasn't prepared for you know, when when you release it out into the world and you just, it's like it a lot of people say don't compare it to like having children. And I don't have anything to compare it to. But like, I would imagine, like, at least when you're like bring your - you birth your child to get to be with it. Right. This felt like I like birthed the child and then it went on like walked. Right went to college. And I'm sure a lot of that had to do with releasing the movie during the pandemic too, of not being able to at least like enjoy it with an audience. It was just, it was so difficult. And of course, I just want to do it again.
Yeah, good for you. Yeah, oh I know. Yeah. I mean, I had two films that released during the pandemic, and I totally it was, it was really hard. And it was really, I don't know if you experienced this at all, but like, it was really hard for me to have the film come out. And then number one, I mean, I live by myself. And so I would like, I would like see it on whatever, iTunes or whatever. And then I would like, watch it with my dog, and like drink wine. And then I was like, and that's it. And it's like, you pour years of your life into something. And then that's it. And it's just like, and it's so - I mean, taught talk about like, wanting external validation. As far as, like, yes, I did a good job, this is something I should be proud of, it's so hard to, like, stand in your own truth and your own power of being like, I did a good job. And I - and I finished it. And like, I'm going to walk away from the outcome like that - it's just going to do what it's going to do. But I - and it's interesting, because I know for myself that I've, because I've now gone through this, you know, twice in the pandemic, but also, I think I'm just going to totally track this into my future - is I now anticipate the feeling of depression that comes after I release something into the world like that.
And the trick or the negative side of this is that I can sometimes - because I know that that depression is coming - I won't allow myself to celebrate the wins, because the higher the high, the lower the low. And that's something that my therapist was very, you know, she was like, you know, it's really important, you have to feel like if, if you're proud of yourself on something, you have to feel it in its entirety. Like, it's so important for you to celebrate yourself and like, truly feel that that happiness. And if that means that you have that you have a crash as far as feeling depressed about something like, that's okay, that's also just an emotion, and you work through it, and you write about it, and you process it how you need to. But because I definitely was getting into a pattern of kind of just feeling numb about things, because I didn't want to allow myself to feel happy, because then I didn't want to feel sad. And I'm just curious, you know, how, how it coming out - how processing all of that was for you.
I mean, what was interesting was, you know, with Saving Face the movie I'd mentioned earlier, the one I where I played the ballet dancer, I feel like, because it was my first feature film, I didn't know any better. I didn't know that most movies, if you feel like it's special, that it probably means it is. Like, not all movies are magical and stuff. And so - and I really didn't allow myself to enjoy Sundance or Toronto or any of the other amazing things that were happening. Because for me, I was like, Oh, this is the beginning of my career. This is this is just gonna be normal, right? Like so, so I'm just gonna stuff my face.
Spoiler alert. It's not. It's not normal.
Yeah. And then fast forward, I have never been back to Toronto. But that said, like, I knew when we were making this howspecial it was, so much so that I would cry each day in front of my crew, but like, unapologetically, because I was just like, oh my god, this is so magical. So beautiful. And I want to remember this like, because like, it almost felt like, it was my first time. And I got to like, do it with everyone. And I like knew how special it was like, Let's light the candles. Really like, like, absorb this. Of course, like, I don't think anyone else was absorbing it as much as I was. But I definitely felt like that. All of that. And when we got into South by Southwest, I was fully prepared to give myself what I did not allow to give myself at one saving face was at Sundance. I was like, this is good. That's why I agreed to sell the movie before we went to South By, cuz I was like, I want to enjoy myself and my mom is comin, my brother's coming, I want them to be there when the credits roll. And they see that the movie's dedicated to my dad passed away in 2012. Like, I want like all of it. I want to feel all of it. And the fact that I was denied it, was like really another thing that I was just like, whoa, whoa, I was not prepared to like not be able to party. And like I was prepared to party and it's it's not happening.
And there's something about that, that just feels so, I mean, I know it's not just happening to me obviously, but it feels very on brand with the Lynn Chen School of Life. Which is like, you just keep trying, like, just just keep trying, and maybe never enjoy the party. Like maybe the party will never come. But, but I, at least I got like that magical couple weeks on set. You know, enough so that like, to me, it's totally worth it and I completely agree with you there is something about, like, when you watch the finished product, and you're like, that's it. I felt that over and over again, with like, every BuzzFeed viral video that I filmed, you know, we're like, we would like, put it up, it would get like 4 million hits in a day. And like, I just felt like all the adrenaline and everything, and then it would go away. And he'll be like, do it again.
And, to me, that whole thing as lovely as it feels like to have that, that shot of adrenaline. At the end of the day, if I don't love, like, what I created, like, there were so many times when a video would go viral that I was like, why? Like literally just sitting around in my car. I don't understand. Or that but then there would be something I worked my ass off on, and it wouldn't get the same kind of attention. So yeah, that whole - this whole year has been about taking, shifting my validation from external sources. Which is hard, because I have to admit that a huge part of making this movie was because I desired to be validated and taken seriously as a director. And I don't feel like I got that. And, and maybe I never will. Yeah, it was a driving force for me to create.
And so now the challenge is, how do I keep doing this? Because I, I do like it. I love it. And how do I keep doing that without that expectation or that hope? Like, without that being the reason why I sit in front of my laptop and do things. And that's really hard, because I think we're taught a lot to like, dream huge and picture ourselves in that place. And I do think that that is very useful. But at the same time for myself. I just think there's got to be something more to it. And I'm still figuring that out. But, but I find that to be really, I don't know, that's what life is about, like, trying to figure out what what makes me tick is like, is really exciting. And, and feels more like it's in my control. And knowing that that shifts constantly is is reassuring to me, even though it feels so like unpredictable. And unreliable.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, talking about, you know, taking control of your life. You mentioned this before, you know, you struggled. How long did you struggle with infertility when you were, you know, trying to have a have a child and then figuring out that you couldn't and what was that, you know, journey like? Because I'm sure you know that as well...like, we have these ideas about what our life is going to be like, what our career is going to be like, and then and then life happens. And then we have to let go of those things that we want. And just like try and embrace what we have, and I'm just curious how that experience was for you.
Yeah, I, I always thought I was going to be a mom. And I always thought I was gonna be mom of two or more. And I honestly always pictured myself acting and then having kids and then not acting anymore. I would just put my life into my - like it was almost like it was an excuse for my career never to blow up. Because because like, because I got kids to worry about, I've got mouths to feed. And so it was that much more like, Oh my god, what am I going to do now that I don't have mouths to feed. But I had always wanted to have kids. I always thought I was gonna have kids since I was little. And when it wasn't happening, you know, it took about two or three years of infertility treatments. Until like, and SAG/AFTRA insurance at the time, I wasn't qualifying for it. And my husband's health insurance did not cover infertility treatment. So it was really a thing of like, Oh, your if you do IVF it's your life savings. And it's not even, it's not even 50%. Like, you're not even like like that, to me just felt like a gamble. I just was not willing to take
And so I I said to my husband like let's just take a year off because the pressure of my age was what was like driving a lot of this fear of like, Oh, I'm going to turn 35 and fertility rates double. Like, what am I gonna do? What are we gonna do? And instead of like trying to plan for the future that was not happening, I was just like, let's just plan for what's actually - let's just live our lives as it's happening. I just need a year off. And it was the best like, I, I took all these like super low budget movies, actually one of them was the movie that ended up leading to I Will Make You Mine. You know. Like I said yes to it, because it was filming on location, and it was paying nothing. And I still said yes, and I and I went, and I traveled a bunch to bunch of film festivals that year.
And when we came back, and we analyzed, you know, we basically were like, Hey, we could always adopt, we can always foster. But what ended up happening was, each year that we reassessed, we would be like, I don't want the responsibility. And because we don't have the luxury of having children, we are going to have the luxury of having a life without children. So we purposefully were like, okay, then we will take these trips, and we will not worry about pissing off our families if we don't go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Because we don't have children for them to guilt us into wanting to see during that time. And, you know, it was also extremely difficult being around my brother who has five children. And my sister in law who has two children. And it was, you know, it was always just like, a reminder, like, there was there would be this, like regression on everyone's part, but like, it was like, they were the real adults now. And we were still like, the kids, even though we were older. And it just did. It just did a real number.
So I, I really, like, it wasn't until I passed the age of 40. And I guess it was just in my head even though I know people have children after 40. And can I can very well still adopt. But for me, it was just sort of like, okay, I can like relax about this now. There's no like me accidentally getting pregnant. Like it's already happen. So I could just like relax a bit. And at this point, like, I've been to enough baby showers. I've been around my friends kids enough to like, feel like, I'm not missing out on anything. It's fine. Um, and so I'm, I'm really like, I'm having a great time right now. Because my friend, Sam and John had a baby last year, beginning of pandemic, and they asked us to be her grandparents, or God parents - not her grandparents. And we've just been like, super leaning into it.
Yeah, that's so nice.
In a way that I didn't get to do that with, you know, my nieces and nephews, because it was still too painful. We just took her to the zoo recently. And it's just been really great. And I always think about my infertility as like, the lesson of something you want. So much, because I wanted our kids so badly. And there was like, no reason that I could think of why the universe was not providing me with a child. Like I would have been a great mom, they would have been a great dad, we would have provided like the greatest life like why is it that like, there's children in dumpsters and by people who don't want kids and they're getting pregnant? Like why why why? It was very similar to like this feeling of like, my career. Just if I if I'm such a good actress, and I'm working my ass off and people tell me I'm doing everything I can Why isn't it happening? And, the second I just stopped feeling sorry for myself. And I just realizing that like what I want can change. It just relaxed to me. It just like relaxed me about everything made me like realize there's no part that's gonna change my life. There's nothing that's going to seriously alter the universe in any way
The course of your life.
Yeah, exactly. I'm fine. I'm fine. And what I want can change and I can adapt. I can adapt to anything. Yeah. It'll be fine. And so that - it really did teach me that and I'm, I'm grateful for it. But it was it's been hard. It's hard. It's hard to exist as an adult. As a married adult, especially. And not have the same experience as most other people and have wanted it. Most people I know who, who are married and childless, were childless by choice.
Yeah, no, I mean, same. It's interesting because mine - I have a few friends who have kids, but most of my friends are with partners and they and they want kids, but they're just not ready yet. And it's interesting because I think we're kind of in this, I mean, not new, but like, so many of the people that I hang out with are, they're just like, we're just not ready yet. And you know, and I think that there is, you know, thankfully more of a acceptance of fostering and adopting. Where it's like, you know, when I know that that's the case for me, like, I desperately want kids, I have no way of doing that right now, unless I was going to do it by myself, which I have also thought about. But I also have kind of come to terms of the fact that if I end up adopting, or, you know, whatever, that that's okay. And it's, you know, it may not be exactly the way that I wanted to, like build a family and a life. But that's, this is what happens, and this is, this is life. But I think that it is just so important to like, continue evolving, and to just like focus on stability and our own happiness, and, you know, finding whatever, we need - our tools in order to get us to that to that space. I think that's so important.
Just a few more questions, something that I really like to ask people is, you know, I created More Than You See because I, I do think that we have so many masks that we wear, and it's so valuable for people to take off those masks sometimes and be vulnerable. And so I'm curious, like, if there is a specific situation, or like group of people or something - and it could be present, or it could be in your past - that you feel like you've worn a specific mask, and what the feeling was. You know, either when you step away from that, or when you put it on just that that idea of wearing a mask. And what that brings up for you.
I mean, the first thing I'm thinking about is high school. You know, of the masks that I wore for many years, which was like, I'm going to basically soften and hide any part of me that you might find to be grating or annoying. This is not just high school, this is college also. Of I - to not risk you talking poorly about me - because that happened, you know.
And was that ethnicity focused. Do you think that? Or...
Well, I mean, not really, although there was definitely like some racist microaggressions going on. But for the most part, it was more just like, you're a lot. Like, like you like you're a lot - with your everything. You're crying and public. And you're, like all of it. It's a lot. And I felt that. And it definitely felt like - what was interesting was - it wasn't until, and I definitely used drugs as a way for me to like, have an excuse to be that big still. Because it was like, Oh, it's not her. It's because she's high. That she's being this annoying. But it allowed me to like, get it out, you know. And sometimes people would like love it. And sometimes we would just be like too much. Getting away from her.
But what was so interesting to me is when I met my husband, my junior year of college, so really young, and really in that formative time, like I wasn't even 21 yet. And he couldn't be more different. He's also the son of two therapists. He is like, and I had been going to therapy for years already. And he is like, a really quiet doesn't need to share like, kind of guy. And on paper, he should be the type of person who would be like running the other way when I'm there. But instead, not only did he accept me. I wouldn't say he celebrated me like, initially, he wasn't like, great give me everything...
This is what I want.
Yeah, exactly. But I think what it was was he was more like, he really heard what I had to say. And was just like, I'm not going anywhere. You know, but I'm also not going to chase after you. Like when you go like slam the door in my face and run away. That's not a nice way to treat me. Like running after you. And so I really, I really learned that I was enough with him. That I didn't need to like, be so loud, or I didn't need to share so much. I tend to be an oversharer I think that's probably something that I, I've constantly struggled with my entire life. And that's like, part of the mask that I feel like I put on that you're referring to is like, I really want to share everything and be super vulnerable with you and have you be vulnerable with me and like, just had the feelings and then we'll just like have a, like hang over together. But that's unhealthy. You know, like, like to constantly do that. And I and I think this is probably the reason why I've had so many best friends who like, are very quickly not my best friends after the first year unless, like constantly being together.
But with a my husband, he has been that person for me. And what's just really interesting is we never have the hangover. Because he just he just like, he doesn't absorb. Yeah, like, my everything. He's just like, there to be like a, like a mirror almost for me, and, and he's not going anywhere. So like, that's why I feel like it's it's been really healthy for me to be in this relationship for the past 24 years with him. Yeah, we just celebrated our 18th anniversary together. And you know, it's our relationship, our relationship constantly evolves. Yeah, but I can depend on it. And, and I just love that.
That's so wonderful. So final question, what do you think has been the thing that you've learned about yourself most this year,
This year I just feel like, you know, it's interesting, I was just talking about college. Because in college, I feel like every semester I changed so much. With each, you know, passing season, I would like change my hair, changed the music I listened to, changed my look, change dmy friends, changed what I was studying. And it was always just like, happening so quickly. And it was so drastic. And I feel like that kind of happened this year. A little bit of like, I was like, first I was in the phase of putting out the movie and hustling and doing everything I could with I Will Make You Mine. To like a very quiet moment of just like completely like doing a lot of The Artist's Way and journaling like crazy and like coming into myself. And then becoming like a super political activist doing everything I could with the election. Doing so much with just - like every weekend was filled with some sort of way that I could help others to like, now, which is this strange period of trying to figure out how we're going to come out of the other side of this and just really... of course, I'm anxious about it. I think like a lot of people are. But at the same time, I'm just really like, I'm not in a rush. I'm just really taking my time with it the same way you would step into a pool, slowly, and get acclimated. Like some people are like, don't do that. And I think my instinct is never to do that. It's to like, jump right in. And I I think I've changed a lot in the, in the sense that I don't want to jump right in anymore. At least not right now. It doesn't, it doesn't feel right.
And part of that is because the pool is different. Everyone, everyone has gone through this. And everyone has like a different way of dealing with this. So it's not like the pool is just stagnant and I just like, I'm doing my thing. I'm really conscious, I think of how I'm affecting others and how, like what I'm doing, can can change the way others are experiencing things. And how can I do this without me - I'm using this water metaphor... not making too many waves, or the ripple effect is real. So like just just being conscious of that and like, really taking my time with this and not being in a rush. It feels very different. But at the same time, I actually think this is what I - I think this is what I've been wanting in my heart. Is to not like, you know, hustled my way, pushing people aside to like, make myself heard or, or noticed. Of just like being like, I can be here. And it's totally fine if nobody notices. Yeah, I'm gonna be okay.
Yeah. Well, it's about celebrating different sides of yourself, instead of like, changing different sides of yourself all the time, and then waiting for whichever one is going to be celebrated. You're kind of just like, focusing on all of the different aspects of Lynn and being like, I'm here who, you know, who can I interact with in a positive and controlled and, you know, whatever way works for me and works for them, but it isn't..yeah, I just think that that's so wonderful that you've got to this place. And I know, I mean, we've obviously touched on so many things, so many different ups and downs that you've had over your insane career, in a good way. And I just I'm so excited to see where your career continues to go. Because I think that, I mean, of course, I am biased here. But I think that people who've worked in indie film have so much resilience and understanding of the work and of themselves and of community. And I think that we are such assets to the industry in such a beautiful way. And, yeah, I'm just really excited for the industry to continue to celebrate you both as a writer and an actor, and a director, and producer, and editor, and all of the things, whatever you decide to pick up, I'm just really excited for you.
Thank you, Deb, thank you for creating this. I love the show, and thank you what you're doing really, it's important. But I also know, you know, personally how hard it is to constantly be talking about these kinds of subjects. It's a lot. And so I thank you for doing it, because it is it's a service that you're giving all of us. And I just want you to know that I appreciate that.
Well, thank you so much. I look forward to chatting with you again soon.
Yes, for sure.
Thank you so much for listening to the podcast today. I think that Lynn really ties together so many important elements of mental health, how our families and our histories can impact how we feel about ourselves, about our bodies about others, how the things that we put in our body can impact us so many interesting and important ways. If you didn't listen to the episode last week with Liana, we actually talked about the importance of, and the connection between ,gut health and mental health. So I strongly encourage you to go and check that one out as well.
Lynn is really an incredible person and I'm so excited to see all of the amazing work that she is going to bring to this world. I think that she has a very unique and important storytelling voice and I am honored that she came on here to share her personal story and connect with you all on this platform.
As always, thank you so much for participating in the More Than You See community. I really hope that you let me know what you think. I hope that you are kind to yourself and to others this week. Please remember that you and everyone around you is More Than You See. I look forward to seeing you next week. Thank you so much for listening.