Isn’t it interesting how mental illness hardly massacres anybody in the UK, Canada or Australia? Or how guns don’t massacre anybody in heavily armed countries like Switzerland, India or Germany?
There’s clearly more to this than guns and mental illness. We should be digging deeper. Americans have always had guns. Shootings only started in the 90s. Our media whittled down from over 50-plus companies to just six corporate-owned entities also in bed with pharma, food, and tech. Mass shootings tripled between 2011 and 2014….at the exact time that social media and sensationalized news hit their heights.
If you pump divide and conquer and hate and racism and gender conflict 24/7, the collective will pick up on that.
Energy is contagious.
We can feel that when we walk into a room, enter a club, or are near someone unhappy or hostile. It also emanates from the collective, our screens, and the TV. Social media also erodes empathy. It’s been said that lack of empathy is the real root of all evil.
Additionally, a “false flag operation” doesn’t mean the violence and victims are not real. They very much are. It simply means there’s an agenda behind it. A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party.
I think the majority of us know by now that the sacrificing of lives for power and profit is something our government is absolutely willing to do…without a blink of an eye. And it’s not just this administration. It’s been going on for a while, regardless of party. The two-party system serves no other purpose than to divide and create infighting so that we cannot unite. Stop being manipulated.
For the love of humanity and this country, please smarten up and see what’s going on. The rest of us need you to. We beg you to.
When you live in a “democracy”, what happens when the majority believe the narrative being spoonfed to them instead of stepping back and seeing the bigger picture?
We do not live in a democracy. We live in a corporatocracy which is a form of fascism. Corporations run our country, from the government to the media. We labor under the delusion of choice and freedom all while being divided.
Those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it. Rome. The most powerful entity fell because of infighting. That’s us. We are ceding power to China, which owns a solid portion of this country, incidentally. As does Abu Dhabi. Incidentally, Abu Dhabi also owns all of Chicago’s parking meters. It’s amazing what people don’t know about their own history and backyards while claiming to be Patriots.
Be awakened, not woke.
We don’t need to save the Earth. The Earth survives no matter what. It has survived five extinctions. The green movement is honorable but it’s another reason to levy taxes, and electricity is mostly powered by oil. We need to simply save ourselves and preserve our freedom.
Fact: The overwhelming majority of shootings happen in gun-free zones. I’d argue that we need more arms, not less…(and to be safer and smarter about it – balance is key) because the 3-D printed and black-market weapons aren’t going away, and punishing law-abiding citizens isn’t the answer.
If every household *was known to be armed*, would you break in? I certainly wouldn’t. Criminals like easy targets. Mandatory arming of every home is why the Nazis couldn’t take Switzerland.
It does not matter who is in office. Pointing fingers and blaming is beyond petty and ridiculous because they all work together…and they are very happy to use social issues to divide us. **The people who run this country are not elected.** The sooner we realize this the better off we’ll be.
We can only do this as a collective. United. Stop fighting with your friends, your family, and on social media. Immediately. That is how we fix this and turn it around.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in a relationship. I’ve always put someone first, even at the cost of myself, my career or both. This is the very first time I don’t have to answer to anyone. I’ll admit, I kinda enjoy it.
There was an adjustment period after a tragic breakup with someone who had undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. He was also bipolar. Well, shit. If anyone could help him, it would be me, right? As a card-carrying member of Club Van Gogh, I understand crazy. I know what to expect.
What in themuther-of-fuck was I thinking?
The difficult part for me to swallow is that before I saw all the mental issues, I actually *thought* I was in my first healthy relationship. Yeah. Then I stuck around out of hope and loyalty. That really fucked my head up.
It didn’t help that of the two of us, I was the calm, nonviolent one (yeah…me!) and with his disorder, he had the ability to twist things around, convince me I was the problem and everything was my fault.
I spent a lot of time on therapist’s couches and having coffee with friends working on rewiring myself since. Luckily, these are also the same couches he sat on and friends who knew him, so these people had insight as to what was really going on.
My own bipolar medication doses have been spot-on the past few years. I get regular blood tests and the aforementioned therapy. I’d been better than ever. And yet, that happened. The lack of judgment and constant second-guessing made me unable to figure out what was up from down. Now that I’m dating again, I’m very cautious and wish I could rely on my instinct and judgment. You know, like normal people don’t. I over-think and get confused at times. Living alone has been challenging, too. There’s no one to reign me in when I go a little too far outside the lines. I think that’s one of the things you need to find in both your closest friend(s) and a partner when you’re bipolar, or it won’t work.
My Fucktarded Brain:
“Is this what’s going on in reality, or is it just my mind seeing things in the worst possible light?
What if I’m simply being paranoid that it’s my bipolar mind, but it IS really going on and I’m talking myself into staying calm and letting things go while I’m actually getting completely fucked over?”
That’s what it’s like to be crazy. Even on stabilizing medication, it never completely goes away. I’m just able to keep it hidden better.
It’s like a little MMA/Lucha Libre match going on in my head:
“In this corner, Irrational Thoughts! Coming in from Parts Unknown at 6’5” and 385 pounds! His opponent, the high-flying Lucha Libre sensation known simply as SANITY! Sanity hails from Doctor’s Orders and weighs in at a sleek but deceptively quick 135 pounds! Ring the bell!
Oh, wow. WOW! Sanity is just taking a BEATING from Irrational Thoughts! It’s going exactly as we’d thought. Irrationality is all over, just cleaning freakin’ house. It got real ugly, real RAPIDO, folks. He’s got Sanity locked in the WTF-Are-You-Thinking submission and is not letting go…oh, ouch!…but Sanity refuses to tap! He goes for the pin! 1…2…no! Shoulder raised!
Irrational has just put Sanity on top of the cage…he’s backing up…he charges at him… OH MY GOD…Sanity has KICKED Irrational Thoughts IN THE FACE! IN.THE.FACE! And here comes Sanity OFF THE CAGE with a flying triple Functionally Balanced! HO-LY SHIT! Sure didn’t see that coming! Ay, Dios mio! 1… 2…3! Sanity! Sanity! Sanity WINS!”
But Sanity doesn’t always prevail, does he? Sometimes Irrational Thoughts hits the ring and it’s a travesty of a squash match. There have been several times where I have connected the dots to something and let someone have it. Friends, lovers. Over something that wasn’t there. This, while stabilized. Meanwhile, those dots connected clear as anything to me. For me, it was a calm, rational connecting of dots. THE FUCKING DOTS CONNECTED. Not only did they connect, but they fit together like Legos.
But, the other person couldn’t have been more shocked at how in the blue hell I came with my dots OR connections. Oh, and my Legos? They can just piss the fuck off, mate. After that, my dot connecting ability was severely questioned. I lost a lot of my dot connecting credit. I was put on dot connection suspension.
Now, what kind of defense does one have in this case? “Well…you knew I was bipolar!”
Sure. OK. They can say, “I know. You were straight up about it.” (Or in my case, “I read your blogs.” Nothing like having it all out there.)
But does that actually work with someone who really has no clue what it’s like to be something they cannot possibly imagine? Maybe they can look past it, but are fissures not created, tiny hairline cracks?
Meanwhile, they’ve put you in dot connection Time Out.
(Note: There have been a few times where I thought I was crazy because I was told I was wrong – but I found out later I wasn’t. This has happened when I’ve been seeing someone and they simply weren’t comfortable with me calling something so accurately or being brutally truthful. I’m not one for games or bullshit.)
It makes me crawl inside myself. I apologize, back away. Far away. It makes me not want to interact with anyone. Because, clearly, I can’t. I can’t sustain a normal fucking…whatever you call it. Just when I think maybe I’m OK – surprise, mutherfucker! -Nope.
And this, onmedication.
Previously, I hurt everyone around me and walked away unfazed. Now, I just hurt myself trying to make sure others are okay. I suppose it’s an improvement.
Let’s skip the n-word (normal), in lieu of aiming for “functionally balanced”. One day. Not just out of debt, paying my bills, healthy and responsible. I’m already there. But I’d like to be completely balanced. I’d like my mind to quit fucking with me – and I’d like to retain the quick wit and creativity bonuses that come with being crazy, por favor.
I want it all.
Functionally balanced. So much prettier of a phrase than the n-word.
April Hunter is a writer, professional wrestler, full-time student at Full Sail University, professional cosplayer and pin-up, Playboy and fetish model.
She’s also a fitness competitor, former Met-RX & Extreme Nutrition spokes-model, the subject of several comic book characters, an admitted coffee snob, road rage enthusiast, Mother of Chickens and world renowned potty mouth. She uses the C-word as liberally as you use butter on your biscuits. Which you shouldn’t be eating, since you know…carbs and gluten. She struggles with bipolar disorder and Lupus and chooses to view challenges as opportunities.
See more of April on Instagram @realAprilHunter, www.AprilHunter.com and Twitter @AprilHunter. She’s also on Facebook.com/AprilHunterOfficial and owns AprilsScentSations Soy Candles.
They say the way to stop time is kissing. She stood under the shower, warm water streaming down her face, and she imagined their wedding. A Hollywood themed wedding, with R.S.V.P. cards that looked like theater tickets, guests arriving on a red carpet and metal film reels for centerpieces. He loved movies, she thought.
She tried his last name on. Could work.
No, maybe not.
Of course, there would be no wedding. She had no interest in getting married again. But she imagined it, just because. Because she’s a woman. She did this with everyone she dated; tried on their last name. She just did.
Not with the redhead. There wouldn’t be any wedding, real or imagined. Because he was already married. She knew she should feel bad about dating a man who was committed, but she didn’t. She just didn’t.
She’d known him fifteen years. He was barely twenty-one years old when he arrived from a small farm town in another country. They sat across from each other on the frigid concrete floor in a dim locker room in snowy Pennsylvania, and he averted his eyes, polite, but intimidated. They faced each other around the ring, meeting the first time as fighters, and later as lovers.
He remembered what she’d worn that night.
She walked through the entrance and the host pointed to his table without asking who she was meeting. He embraced and kissed her, then she slid into a seat, once again sitting across from him. Now he was a man, with the confidence of someone who had been through the rigors of life and ended up on top.
She studied his face, which was no longer familiar. He looked like the professional athlete and fighter he’d become. His thick, muscular physique was covered in tattoos and his nose looked like it had been broken more than once. His unruly auburn hair was shaved into a punk style and he was attractive in an unconventional way. He looked like he stepped off the set of Vikings. They had common views and values, yet he knew little about her. None of the deep stuff. None of the illness. None of the things she struggled with. And that was fine. He was a fun distraction. It was genuinely light. After the heavy mess she’d gone through the year before, something sweet was welcome.
She rarely connected with people, but something felt right about him and she didn’t know what it was. They were cut from the same cloth – that’s how the host knew. He was familiar. They knew all the same people, they traveled all the same paths. He felt a little like home.
He made her feel things she hadn’t felt in a long time. Elated, euphoric. When he texted, which was frequently, she smiled. He was there as much as the other wasn’t. He was warm, sensual and animalistic. It wasn’t mental with him, it was physical.
She wanted to rip his clothes off and bite him, feel him pressed against her. He told her his dreams of her, how he couldn’t wait to see her in a few days, he wished he could fast forward.
She had never been attracted to vapid or stupid, no matter how pretty a package it was wrapped in. He was bright, not afraid to say exactly what was on his mind or ask for what he wanted. They never ran out of things to talk about, but there were no profoundly deep conversations. An avid reader, he asked about her writing, which fascinated him. He didn’t probe for more about her life, and she was grateful. He texted to say he was thinking of her, morning, noon and night.
She liked him.
I’m into you, he said. I like being with you, around you. You’re easy to talk to. I want this to keep going…if you’re OK with it. I knew we’d be right. I haven’t been wrong yet.
And they were, but in a different way than she was right with the other. She wondered if the redhead was like her, crazy. Game recognizes game. He laughed when she suggested it. She appreciated crazy. She appreciated redheads. She appreciated tattoos. She appreciated kissing.
Anticipation. Waiting to do things they weren’t supposed to be doing. It was utterly intoxicating. He brought out the best in her. He brought out the worst in her. He brought out her, the person she knew for a lifetime, before the bipolar diagnosis and stabilizing medications.
He will never be mine, nor me his. It’s fleeting. Safe. I know exactly where I stand with him. He was honest; never afraid to say how he felt, never holding back. They agreed to that from the start, brutal honesty. He traveled distance to be with her, driving several hours after a day rife with flights, appearances and filming.
It was temporary. Dangerous. Was it the illicit element? Living in the moment?
When he stopped on the street lit sidewalk on that first chilly night and pulled her into him, people stepped around them or stared as he wrapped his hands in her hair, his lips on hers, and neither of them cared.
Maybe eight minutes passed. Maybe thirty. He pressed her against the brick building, and with his hand still wrapped in her hair, he pulled her head back and his full lips were on her jaw bone, down her neck…he came back up, parted her lips with his, and bit one, holding it gently with his teeth. His blue eyes crinkled at the corners as he grinned devilishly down at her. It was an audition. An invitation. He never once touched her anywhere else. He didn’t have to. This is what I can do for you…if you let me. The glow of the street lamps glinted off his dark ginger beard as they sized each other up. He brought her hand to his warm lips and kissed it softly, then tucked her arm under his for the remainder of the stroll. He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was. She already knew the answer, and so did he.
There it was. That ever-pervasive drug, her drug of choice — hypomania — seeping its way back into her life again. It pulsed through her veins, splashing vibrant hues of color to her world, as time stood still.
I’m ‘bout as low as I can get, I’d leave but I can’t forget.
Still wonder why it ain’t right. It ain’t right.
Now we’re as low as we can get. Can’t leave and can’t forget.
We ain’t right. Not right.
Well, it’s hard to believe that somebody tricked you.
When you can see you were only high.
It’s all up to you, so you gamble.
Flat on your face and into the fire.”
Written July-September 2016
The moonlight shimmered off the ocean as the waves broke and lapped at the sand. Walking along the beach, puddles of sea water felt warm and cold at the same time. Bob pranced alongside us, a glowing ball in his mouth. Scooter said this was the only time Bob could play in the water since The Powers That Be decided dogs weren’t allowed on the beach. Makes sense. Dogs digging holes or pooping is far more devastating to the beautiful beaches than the endless broken beer bottles, cigarette butts, cans and plastic wrappers we humans leave.
Scooter and I were in a parallel situation with our significant others, but mine came with a deputy eviction and lawyers. He was mostly angry; I was mostly beaten down.
We commiserated. Words of frustration and hurt tumbled from our mouths, often crossing over each other at the same time. Taken advantage of, damaged, misunderstood, unappreciated. Incensed.
“Oh, your neighbors are definitely talking about you,” he said.
“I know.” The endless parade of police cars and drama in our driveway was mortifying.
“The minute you guys leave, they are SO turning that place into an age 65+ community.”
“Probably,” I said.
“What I want to know is how this happens,” he said, gesturing around with his hand. “This. How two people, who mean the world to one another, get to the point not being able to stand each other?”
“How it goes from that person consuming your every waking thought to just get the fuck away from me?”
“Yeah. Exactly.” He threw the ball out to the waves and Bob scampered off into the darkness to find it.
“If we could figure that out, we could write a book called “Break the Pattern”. Which would obviously hit the bestseller list and we’d rich,” I said.
I felt fortunate to have landed softly at the beach after falling hard. There was something about the water and waves that calmed, and I spent my days holed up in that secluded location walking along the sand until I couldn’t remember which inlet led me back.
The fact that Scooter allowed me to stay at his rental getaway by myself was the proverbial last straw between him and his girlfriend, who, despite being incredibly friendly towards me, hadn’t been happy. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of male friends due to their significant others not being comfortable around me. I never understood this. I’d known them for years before these women came into their lives. If anything were to have happened, it already would have.
To be fair, unlike most of my male friends, I briefly met Scooter on an online dating site, before my profile was yanked down for being “fake”. He looked (stalked) me up on Facebook and said he was surprised I wasn’t some bored guy with stolen photos. We chatted for a while and then got caught up in traveling for work. However, we made a date for the following month. Meanwhile, things with C got more serious. Upon finding that C left his dating profile up, I decided to keep my plans with Scooter. I was up-front and told him that I was seeing someone and thought it was going somewhere, so he probably wouldn’t want to keep the meeting. He said he’d take his chances, thankyouverymuch. I reluctantly met the man and his dog that would go on to be part of my life in the future.
After a glass of wine and witty conversation, I liked him. It was nearing my birthday and he arrived with gourmet dog cookies for Bella and a bullet for me (we share a similar fucked up sense of humor), which I still have. His dog, Bob, sat at my feet, tail gently wagging every time I looked at him.
“Your partner in crime?” I asked.
“Well, we get along well. We’re very similar.”
“We both love food. For another, we both get super excited when we poop.”
He was tall and lanky with sandy-colored facial stubble. He could have used a few pounds and didn’t always seem comfortable in his own skin, but he had a bold, blue-eyed gaze that dared you to look away first. As my friend Heather would say, “Guuuuurl, he is hot!” Though he’d been in Tampa for a while, he hadn’t quite lost that California surfer laissez faire personality. He was confident, humble, independent, and I would eventually learn, self-aware. This is a rare superpower most people don’t possess. Too many choose to place emphasis on their looks or acquiring material possessions rather than take the time to learn about themselves. While it’s great to keep yourself up, looks eventually fade. Who you are will not, and an education of any kind is always a solid investment.
The evening ended with a bro-hug in the parking lot and him saying that if anything changed to let him know. Had Christopher not solidly been in the picture, I’d have seen him again. He had a vintage German car habit, was more broken down from various sports than I am (which is no easy feat) and his dog was quite literally his best friend, but that’s who he was.
We routinely text sarcastic jabs back and forth.
Him: “Many unanswered questions in life. What if Rosa Parks had a car?”
Me: “Well, December first and February fourth would be way different for many of us, that’s for sure. I think cars ruined the Civil Rights movement. Had more people sat their asses in the front of the bus, shit would be further along now. I blame cars for these bullshit shootings and retaliation riots. One hundred percent. Are you putting baby in a corner tonight or do you want to grab something for dinner?”
Him: “So, what do you think the handicapped parking situation is at the Special Olympics?”
Me: “I just want you to know you ruined my night. I’ll be thinking about this for the next several hours. Thanks, Fucker. ”
“Anytime. Do you know what fastest car in the world is?
Me: “Uh…something Italian?”
“A rental car.” He usually wins.
A couple weeks ago he asked, “Level up. Are you ok?”
A pause. “Why are you asking?”
“Because you seem off.” I stared at his text and exhaled as tears welled up. It had been a long time since anyone had noticed how I was doing or cared. Fuck. I thought I was hiding the cycling mania/depression hitting from all angles. I cover it well and don’t talk about it. A key thing with bipolar disorder is awareness. I was aware that I was currently fucked in the head from all the crap going on around me in the aftermath of C. Most people close to me can’t tell. This person, whom I see once I week, could tell how I was doing through text?
“Nope. Not really ok.” And I told him the brutal truth, like I always do, figuring it’ll freak him out and scare him off – for his own good.
“So, where do you want to go for your birthday?” Guess it’s gonna take a little more time.
Photo: Getty Images/Doug Benc
We had a lot in common, so it hadn’t been tough to move into a friendship after we first met. He traveled a lot and once lived in that elusive limelight, signing autographs and trying to catch sleep on planes while winning trophies in professional sports car racing. (We probably share more than a few of the same fans.) I didn’t have to explain my life to him. After that first meeting, every once in a while he’d email to say hello and ask if C had suddenly died in a fiery automobile crash. He found a girlfriend not long after our date, one whose muscular thighs and gym dedication put mine to shame. I followed their escapades on Facebook, often wishing C was the adventurous just-get-in-the-car-and-go type. Or even a workout-without-complaining type. The couple of times we vacationed, it because I arranged and paid for everything. Scooter had once told me, “I have no doubt that we would be an amazing duo. Partners in crime and traveling companions.” I occasionally wondered if I had chosen wrong.
Photo: Dustin McClease
Bob bounded back with the ball, wiggling his entire behind.
“Here’s something entertaining,” I said. “One of the deputies who evicted me asked me to hang out.”
“Guess he didn’t think you were guilty.”
“Yeah, well, dates aren’t going to be a problem for you.”
“Ha. Dating. I can’t even fathom that right now. I think I just need to do my own thing for a while. School, work, get back to making candles. Be alone for a while. This one is probably going to mess me up pretty good. My douche bag radar is clearly wrecked. I don’t know if I can trust myself to make a good decision anytime soon.”
Looking back now, my stomach was in knots from the first day C and I stepped into the house as owners. Once we got inside, we saw it needed far more work than we’d first realized. Our previous walk-through had been while the former owners were living there, clutter piled high against walls and windows; walls that had water damage and windows that didn’t open. He flipped out. I love a challenge and told him not to worry, I’d done this before and it would be fine. He stalked off to the garage and I continued to take inventory of the house. When I found him, he said he went out to the garage to find rope and was seriously contemplating killing himself. That day. The first day.
Oh… my… fuck.
What had I just gotten myself in to? We signed a thirty-year mortgage together. I never saw any of this until that day. He’d always come off as calm, stable and logical. I spent the next year that we lived together trying not to let boiling water spill over. My own life, career and hobbies suffered. I gave up candle making, barely had time to read a book, blew off bookings and didn’t have energy for anything other than putting out fires.
To recap: Between the house renovations and the first contractor ripping us off, then the neighbor’s incessant complaining about everything we did (along with surprise inspections by city and county) which brought the HOA coming down on us about the shed and chickens. (It’s a big yard surrounded by woods, no rooster. No one else had an issue except the guy who shared a property line.) Meanwhile, two of our three chickens mysteriously died, and then I was diagnosed with Lupus. All the while, the aforementioned neighbor went house-to-house around our (elderly) neighborhood with topless photos of me, telling people I was a “porn star, who will bring the property values down”. We had to go to court to get a harassment & stalking restraining order against him to make him stop. Court again to get the HOA to leave us alone. Once we were on their radar, the letters and threats kept coming. We won that mediation as well, but it was stressful as fuck. As soon as it calmed down, C got injured. I’d just started Full Sail University and had been unsuccessfully trying to balance work, travel, school and learning to be a full-time student in an accelerated degree program. His niece moved in. While it was a great help at first, it became a game of pitting us against each other while trying to take care of him. I often felt unwelcome in my own house.
(Note: Despite my big ass titties, I’m not a porn star. I am a centerfold/fetish/pin-up model, pro wrestler, comic book model and professional cosplayer. I’m also an entrepreneur, freelance ad writer & blogger, student, own a small soy candle business called AprilsScentSations and run two websites. Sometimes things are busy, sometimes they’re not. It depends on the market, exposure, and time of year. As far as I can tell, my big ass titties haven’t ruined the property values. However, it’s always entertaining to come home from a convention dressed as Poison Ivy or Jessica Rabbit to get the mail and wave hello to someone walking by. Never gets old.)
Photo: Steven Griffey
In the end, shortly before he evicted me, I’d started to emotionally pull away. At one point, after he broke or punched something in rage, I told him a friend said I should file a restraining order – but I was doing my best to handle everything. I told him I needed more from him. Shortly after that, he filed for a restraining order, claiming he “feared for his life”.
While I was out on my thirty-day eviction, C reported me several times for violating the protection order. First, over some magnetic letters on the fridge I’d had up since the day he left, which he perceived to be a threatening message. (The letters: break-up song titles. Pantera’s This Love and I Will Survive aren’t usually frightening to read.) Another was when I sent him a brief email* after not being able to get in touch with my lawyer all day, asking him to please contact USAA because our mortgage company was about to put us into collections because he hadn’t paid the due payment and they didn’t have his new phone number. Instead of handling the situation, he opted to call the police and file a violation against me. He never did pay it until after our final day in court, where I was forced to split it with him because he had to pay attorney fees. I hadn’t even lived there in June. He also filed a complaint against one of the deputies he knew I used to be neighbors with for “being partial and unprofessional.”
(*Note: I paid the entire down payment for the house and the renovations. C was to handle the mortgage/electric/water/insurance so I could cut back on work and go back to school for my degree. That’s why it was his responsibility to take care of it.)
We went to court after fourteen days, and he and his lawyer pushed for a one-year permanent injunction. Had it been granted, I wouldn’t have been allowed back into my home. C played his head injury to the hilt, claiming total disablement and that he needed “exclusive use of the home.” (Incidentally, Bipolar Disorder has been listed on the Americans with Disabilities Act since 2008.) The judge waived their motion but allowed the original order to stay in place for two more weeks until we could figure out a living arrangement regarding the house. After court, he got into his car and drove away, but not before posting on Facebook, “Time to celebrate! Who’s up for drinks?”
I’d been granted a one-time visit to the house to collect more things. C changed the door locks, which under a temporary restraining order, he wasn’t supposed to do. I couldn’t get in. He let my houseplants and garden die, too. He made me wait four hours, presumably to enjoy his celebratory drinks first.
It’s never just one cop car, there are always two. A deputy escorted me into my own house, checking my ID and paperwork with his left hand, right hand resting lightly near his gun. There’s just something about that that made me feel guilty, no matter what. For this latest episode of That Nice Looking Man vs. The Weird Chicken Lady Who Looks like a Porn Star, the neighbors hid behind their shades.
When I finally got in, I went straight into the bedroom and started packing underwear and dresses.
“Can I talk to her?” C asked the deputy.
“No,” I said.
“Sure, as long as you two don’t fight.”
He followed me around like a puppy, talking about normal household stuff as if he hadn’t just tried to take everything away from me that morning.
I then asked what the hell he was thinking. He told me he filed the order because he ‘just needed a break.’ The deputy looked at him incredulously.
“Sir, that is not why you file an injunction. They’re used because you need someone to stay away long enough so you can move out. Not for a relationship break.”
“Pull the order, C. You said you would.”
“I can do that?”
“Yes,” the deputy said. “You can.”
“Ok, I’ll see about it.”
“Ma’am,” the deputy said to me, while looking directly at C. “No matter what he says right now, there is a chance he is not telling you the truth.”
Driving back from a frenetic weekend of taping customs for SlamminLadies after that, the thought of facing the secluded bungalow became overwhelming. I just felt as if there was no point. If the one person whom I would put first and trust would turn on me for no reason; if everything I’d worked for could be taken away by the county without a single shred of proof – even my ability to earn a living and my pets, it all seemed futile. I started to calculate exactly how much sleep medication I had, and if it was enough to do the trick.
Then…FUCK. His asshat lawyer (“Your Honor, I have the privilege of representing Mr. C…and we request a one-year restraining order, as my client is disabled and needs sole occupancy of the home”) stated we were “tenants in common”. Should one of us kick the bucket, the house would automatically go to the other. Suicide would be a fucking Christmas gift to this guy. Hell, he was probably hoping to drive me to that point in order make things easier for him. No. I’ll die one day, but it wasn’t going to be that day. Plus, it would’ve been extremely impolite to leave a body in a place that someone had so kindly lent me, especially in brutal Florida summer heat. Can you imagine the smell? Scooter would have to burn my soy candles twenty-four-seven. There’s also the fact that my fat cat would’ve eaten my face off within a scant few hours if his kibble wasn’t replenished.
Two days later, C’s sister in law was dead. She’d killed herself, leaving behind two great sons whom she loved very much. There had been a huge betrayal by C’s brother, and C moved him into our home the day I was taken out. She had a very public meltdown in our driveway, where she hysterically dumped his brother’s stuff all over the yard while screaming and crying, and then overdosed the day after.
While we were married, Jordan had given me crap for wearing old tee shirts around the house. “Your fans see you looking hot, so I should, too.” Not an unreasonable request. I bought a bunch of cute little chemise slips that were comfy and perfect for the hot Florida climate.
Pre restraining order: Chris said I was showing too much and he was getting impervious to my “constant nudity”. He stood in the living room, vein bulging in his neck and yelled at me. “Did you know my niece [whom we took in because her father/his brother wouldn’t take care of her, which turned into an excellent six months full of C pitting one against another] saw your VAGINA??”
“Uh, she’s 19, female, it’s just us and she’s living in our house. Vag happens. It was an accident. It’s not like I’m running around naked or anything. I’m not sure the issue here?” He was so irritated, like he was looking for anything to berate me about.
“You need to cover up more. I’m becoming immune to everything.”
“Oh, Jesus. It’s always something with you and your reason to not have sex. Now it’s too much sudden vagina. Fantastic.” I finally caved and went back to shorts and tee shirts to keep the peace.
With a lot of time alone to think while couch-surfing, I eventually realized that a large part of C’s appeal was his complete “normalcy” compared to my life. In society, he was average, safe. Normal. That dreaded N-word. I wanted to avoid the crazy, a circus, and the insane. When my Gram and Mom died back-to-back in 2012 from battling dementia and cancer respectively, then I got divorced, it was gutting. I was neck deep in the entertainment and fitness businesses and walked away from nearly everything for almost two years while coping with depression and nonstop respiratory issues. As awful as that time was, it wasn’t half as traumatic as this past year has been with C.
I think that I believed if I was with normal, then I would be normal. Clearly, it didn’t exactly work out that way.
“Sometimes, when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.” – Unknown
What I didn’t know then is that ultimately, I’d be grateful to C for filing that order, even though he put me through hell and so much embarrassment I still avoid walking my dog during daylight hours so I don’t run into neighbors. As brutal as it was to go through at the time, it worked out for the best. He severed everything clean. Had he not, we’d still be limping along. I would never have left him, not with his head injury. I still don’t know what happened. One moment, we were cuddling in bed in the morning. In the next, he drove himself to the courthouse and filed a domestic violence report. Those around me said he probably set it up ages ago. I’ll never understand it. The only thing I’m certain of, if I go by actions and not words, is that C only cared about his own interests.
You shouldn’t always put someone first, because that teaches them you come second. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this story, he said, “All my exes are crazy.” I have no doubt I’ll be labeled as yet another crazy ex, despite the common thread in the constant insane equation being him. If someone calls you a horse, tell them to go fuck themselves. When four or five people call you a horse, you might want to think about buying a saddle.
I think Scooter and I needed each other during this bleak time. No one understood the frustration, grieving and dashed dreams better than we did. And besides, our friends were sick of listening to our shit. We also talked about some fairly deep life-politics-religion-thoughts stuff. It had felt like forever since I’d really talked with anyone. My dad used to quote: “Great minds talk ideas. Good minds talk events. Small minds talk people.” After nothing but tears and frustration I’d been starving for real conversation and laughter.
“So, wait. He filed a bullshit restraining order and had you taken out of your house,” mused Scooter. “Then you had to pay him to get him to leave, and he’s tried to contact your exes. You do realize you were the man in that relationship, right?”
“Seems to be a role I play too often.”
“That’s not a role anyone should play.” He shook his head. “OK, let’s get this out of the way right now. Exactly how big is your dick?”
“Not big enough.”
I talk to him about some no-holds-barred shit. Through all of this, he’s pretty much seen worst of me and is still there. He’s going through his own realizations/mid life crisis/epiphanies as well. Our conversations run the gamut from the works of Hunter S. Thompson to Hunger Games, obscure documentaries to obscure dog breeds, Trump to tranny porn.
Him: “You really need a fuck buddy.” I *may* have mentioned missing human contact.
Me: “Think so? I imagine being solo for a while might be smarter. I’m a mess. Plus I don’t wanna confuse sex for something it’s not.”
Him: “That’s why it’s necessary to have more than one fuck buddy. Keeps it from getting serious.”
Me: “Player teaching me how to be a playa? Hmmmm, no. I don’t think that’s a great idea. Don’t need any more complications. You bitches be crazy. Or haven’t you noticed?”
He’s right, of course. Both therapists have encouraged me to ‘get back on the horse again’ to some degree. I refuse to let Chris break me, even if I feel broken.
Not sure what you’d call what we have. Companionship. Going places and doing things. It’s more than friendship, but less than dating. Why isn’t there a word for this? Frating? Diendship? It’s kind of dating without actually dating. I’ve had this before, mostly while traveling. I tend to connect with people more easily on the road than home. With frating, there aren’t any expectations, no physical entanglements, nothing owed or promised, but we’re there for each other. Middle finger to the world, he is opinionated, quickly helps those in need, honest, unapologetic, open minded, introverted, moody, loyal, kind, and considers himself a bit of an asshole.
He’s a whole lot like me and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing yet. However, the sheer irony of turning away this guy for C only to have C inadvertently reintroduce us was not lost. While I felt exceptionally connected to him mentally, we stayed far away from each other physically. There was a constant polite awkwardness present, likely from the overall situation and how we originally met.
Learning to be alone – and not angry. “You always keep what you give away.” For many men, anger is the first response that comes hard and fast. Being “kind of a dude” (as Scooter had called me in Part 1), it always had been for me, too. It gnawed at me. I carried it over into everything else in life. With years of reprogramming, I try not to let it rule me any longer, and I forgive easier. I’ve been allowing myself to mourn. Feel it. Be alone. Not bury my sadness under another person or in a shot glass. American culture tells us that “grief is bad”. We try to distract ourselves from sad feelings rather than embrace them. “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new.” Maybe, if we are the type who doesn’t mind repeating mistakes over and over again and hoping for a different result. But then, that’s the textbook definition of insanity, isn’t it?
There was no unfaithfulness from me during our relationship, or even after the incident. It never even crossed my mind. I didn’t feel that need to go looking for what was missing elsewhere, even though a lot was missing from our relationship. I think I just wanted it to be fixed. Or, the meds worked in keeping me sane enough to realize that infidelity wasn’t an answer to that problem.
But I’ll tell you this; being angry is a great deal easier than being sad and gutted.
However, at that moment in Scooter’s tiny luggage-laden bungalow, all I needed was a place to stay and an ear to bend. And, that was all he offered. After dinner, the beach walk, a Wi-Fi password and an awkward hug goodbye, he and Bob Barker stepped toward the car.
He opened the door to let the gentle blond dog climb in, then he turned and said, “Don’t waste your days. You don’t get them back.”
When the vintage Porsche drove away, I washed Bob’s slimy, rubber ball and placed it on the windowsill to recharge for his next illicit beach adventure.
Coming soon, Part 3: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn – An Ex-Wives Club of Sorts & Predatory Habits of a NarcissisticSociopath
As I’ve written before, I’ve almost no family left, and none of whom are here in Florida, so my friends are my support network. They mean a lot to me. My sanity is a direct result of being able to lean on them some days. Scooter has been a good friend (not a boyfriend…he seems perfectly satisfied with his free-range single status, and I am happy with remaining that way myself for now) who stepped in to help with wise insight and ridiculous humor during a critical time. History has proven I’m lousy at picking people to date, but frating… got that down to a fucking art.
Thank you to Danielle Dadamo, Hubert O’Hearn, Jeff Ritter, Brian Hairbottle, Nick Wilkinson, Carroll Grant, Matt McDermott and Mick Foley for their valuable time editing.
I am deeply grateful to my psychotherapist, Amy. She goes above and beyond, keeping me grounded in times of upheaval despite having her own battles to fight.
Thank you to those who have reached out to help. So many of you were good to me during this time and I feel incredibly fortunate. You know who you are, and so do I.
Note: I wrote about this because I withdrew from nearly everything from this time until the present with little explanation other than “lots going on right now.” Work, customers, friends. I blew a lot off and let people down. It was too much to talk about and explain. I’ve always been better at writing than speaking.
Disclaimer: This is my recollection of events and I’ve related them to the best of my knowledge. Some names have been changed or omitted.
No part of this blog may be copied or used without permission.
*This blog is dedicated to Dr. Wendy Potts, who committed suicide after she was suspended from her practice because a patient of hers complained about a blog in which she openly chronicled her struggle with bipolar disorder. For those who battle this challenging illness and try to make sense of it by publicly exposing ourselves and our issues, while hopefully helping others in the process, her death won’t be in vain because some self-serving asshole used her disorder against her. It’s difficult enough to deal with this. Having it used against you in life, court, work; to destroy everything you’ve built and worked for is criminal, inhuman and immoral.
The highway asphalt gave way to bridges flanked by sun-soaked palms and colorful beach motels. The Florida heat, oppressive for June, beat through my windshield while my air conditioning struggled to keep up. I turned onto a street where everything looked the same; block after block of Spanish tiled houses, pink, yellow and blue pubs boasting live music, Cuban restaurants. I slowed to “Florida driver status” looking for the turn that would deliver me to my new home.
Thoughts pinged around my head like mad on the drive from Valrico to Redington Shores. One resounded above all others. Fuck me. How did I get here?How could a man who claimed he loved me file a restraining order against me when I hadn’t done anything to harm him? Why did I have to hire a criminal attorney?
Someone I barely knew from a dating site offered me a place to stay. I swallowed my pride and accepted, since the (fantastic) friend I’d been staying with was expecting company and needed her spare room.
Oh, this is where I casually mention that this was the same man I’d basically declined for the one who’d just had me removed from our home.
I opened my car door and the humid, sea air enveloped me. Bob Barker ambled over to my car with his tail wagging. I hugged his big, blond Labrador head and kissed his pink nose, waving at Scooter (not a dog) who was stretched out barefoot, sitting in a lime Adirondack chair on the deck. He came over for a hug and proceeded to help me haul my belongings into his tiny beach bungalow.
“Women,” he muttered. “None of ya can pack light.”
I put my fat, gray cat down, and opened the pre-filled disposable kitty litter box I’d picked up from the store. Whoever created the portable cat poop tray is brilliant – and hopefully a millionaire. Bob shoved his face into the pet carrier, hoping for a playmate or a treat. Finding neither, he decided his water bowl was more interesting.
After loading the little tiki-style bungalow to capacity, Scooter and I sat opposite each other on patterned blue futons serving as couches. The hard surface bit into my tired body and I shifted around; trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable. My health had been an issue lately. I hadn’t slept right in weeks, hadn’t had a period in months and was doing all I could to keep the painful Lupus joint flare-ups and rash to minimum. I felt nauseous and weak. Trouble jumped up and laid next to me, purring, satisfied with this new living arrangement.
Scooter spoke directly, skipping the small talk as usual.
“So,” he said. “What happened?”
I handed him the injunction, which removed me from my own home on a false domestic violence charge for thirty days. My boyfriend – pardon, ex-boyfriend – listed bogus claims alleging I was a drug user, had a violent criminal record, was non-compliant with my bipolar medications, and previously had a restraining order issued against me. Of course, he knew all of this was untrue. That did not stop him from stating lies under oath in order to (successfully) achieve his goal of having me removed from our house. This, after a weekend of arguing.
To prove to the judge what a threat I was, he’d even listed my “intimidating” wrestling height and weight that I use for gigs, instead of my real size and actual measurements. How could this man lay next to me every night and not know how tall I am, or what I weighed? I wondered if he knew my eye color when he filled out the “description” for the police. Or did he have to Google that too? He also marked down that I was armed… with toys. Costume props to be precise.
He blatantly used my career and illness against me to achieve his goal. Of course, anything can be considered a weapon, even a pen. This meant that an Airsoft bb gun and plastic sword can potentially kill someone, as could my coffee cup and hair dryer. Jackie Chan could prove this theory, but with five magic words he got his wish. “I fear for my life.”
Done. Signed, sealed and delivered. I was evicted.
Scooter shook his head. “What’s his deal?”
“Wish I knew. Never saw this coming. He said all his exes were crazy. Giant red flag, right?”
“Well, all my exes are crazy,” Scooter said.
“Here’s a thought: maybe you guys are the ones that drive us crazy?”
Unlike most ex-girlfriends who were (allegedly) crazy, I am legitimately crazy. Bipolar 1, with a side order of anxiety, ADD and OCD, which I’ve gotten under control with stabilization medications, diet, exercise and regular therapy. I get mandated blood tests every couple months to verify all my medication levels are on target and I’ve never once (ever!) not taken my meds. I love them. Being a control freak, I like that I finally have power over of my emotions and temper. I’m happy to have the choice to decide whether or not to get upset or just let something go and walk away. I have an extreme dislike for the saying “I’m in good place” but that’s exactly where I’d been before all the bad stuff with C (that’s what I’ll call my ex – C. It’s an initial, not a grade) started happening. (Note: I am the one with bipolar disorder, although C has a couple of his serious mental diagnosis’ I can’t disclose. Because of what I went through when living with my father, who had bipolar disorder, then getting myself on the right stabilizing medications, I honestly thought I could help him. Who better to understand it all than me? Ha.)
However, for the sake of safety to others, I should mention that his name is Christopher Leonard Harris, born May 23, 1971, he is also known as BlueEyedPrince71. Hopefully, this never happens to anyone else…but it will, over and over again.
With luck, the next woman Googles him and reads this. By the way, dear future ex-girlfriend, keep reading. It gets better. While you may think I *could* be making things up out of spite or bitterness, there are quite a few of us, and you’ll hear tragic and heartbreaking stories from all. It’s a damn Ex Wives Club. Actually, the “Nearly The Ex Wife” Club is more like it. The devil doesn’t come to you with a red face and sharpened horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wanted. The reason Chris seems so into you and asks so many questions is because he’s trying to find an “in” to work.
He will be so damn perfect – the most perfect man you’ll have ever met. And, we, his exes, will be “crazy”. Or, he’ll read this and change his tune a bit, but it’ll be the same ending for you. It never lasts more than about two-ish years and you’ll be broke and broken, because he’ll have taken everything from you. He’s a sociopath who can’t feel, and he preys upon women he finds online who are independent and doing well in life. Therein lies the challenge. Sooner than later, he’ll be pushing to move in with you. After passing six weeks of church pre-marital counseling with flying colors, he left one of us at the alter two days before the wedding. He packed up and walked away from another while she was at work without any reason or goodbye – and she’d paid for him to go back to school, supporting him while he got his degree. He threatened to have a pet dog put down by animal control for “attacking him” if one woman didn’t shut her mouth when she started to come forth with the use and abuse she’d dealt with. And me? Well, this is my story. Read on to see a little of the details from when he demanded a five-figure payout on a house he didn’t buy after leaving me in debt while in school. The best part? He filed a completely bullshit restraining order against me for ‘domestic violence’ (I never laid a hand on him) which had me kicked out of my home for thirty days until court, where I had to hire a defense attorney. Charming, huh? And the threats? Lies? Back stabbing? Head games? It’s still going on to this very day.
Another lesser thing to be aware of: his flag only flies at half-mast and the guy was never interested in sex. None of us could figure out what was up with that. (Or, wasn’t up with that.) Not much of a conversationalist after a while, either. Anyway, no matter how “perfect” he is right now, you are simply a means to an end. Not the wonderful, beautiful soul his empty heart has yearned for like he’s likely telling you. Even if you are all that. And chances are, you are. Because he tends to go after women who are amazing, smart, talented and beautiful. Which is why I am warning you!
Once this blog was published, other’s surfaced with similar stories. These women let me know that what he did had nothing to do with a head injury. It’s just how he is, and that it’s part of his Borderline Personality Disorder. He is what’s called a Narcissistic Sociopath, which I didn’t realize…until I did.
There are two sides to every story…and then there are screen shots. Please scroll to the bottom for more information.
A few days after Memorial Day, two deputies knocked on my door and served me papers. I was sitting on the back porch in my nightshirt, with a coffee. I was told I had twenty minutes to pack and leave the house. I was also instructed that I could not come within five hundred feet of my property, and when I looked down at the phone in my hand, I was warned not to contact C and ask him what in the blue hell he was thinking, or they’d arrest me on the spot. He already had the courts issue a no contact order.
We’d have to go before a judge to find out when – and if – I could return.
To my house.
Which I paid for.
Where I lived, worked, and went to school. With my pets. Where I planted fruit trees and veggies. (The majority of which didn’t survive my absence. I waited two years for those damn pineapples and almost managed to save them. But “almost” only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.)
I put in for an emergency withdraw from the university I was attending. Since most of my “day job” work was done on my desktop computer, size and circumstance forced me to leave it behind. I also left my shoot clothing, school books, wrestling gear, chickens, dog and the life that C and I made for ourselves.
In a roundabout way this sudden “forced vacation” was probably for the best. But that was not my mindset at the time.
After being served the order, my head was spinning. I grabbed as much as I could make sense of in those few precious minutes I had: clothes to sleep in, gym stuff, makeup, an overnight bag, medications, important papers, cash, laptop, protein powder, the cat, and very little everyday wear. Oddly enough, I packed my travel coffee pot first. Priorities? Foreseeing how long I’d be gone? I put the chickens in their coop, refilled their water and food, fed Bella, grabbed my stuff, locked the door, and not-so-silently cried every step of the way. I figured it was all some kind of huge mistake and I’d be back later that night. I was advised to go straight to the courthouse and file an appeal.
My ex-husband, Jordan, whom I remain on good terms with, went over later with a police escort to get Bella. At that point, the neighbors were sitting at the end of their driveways, unabashedly eating popcorn and refilling their Cokes. To his credit, he kept his “told-ya-so’s” to a minimum that day.
This also happened:
Cute Deputy: “So, I guess that relationship’s over.”
Me (standing in front of my car, wiping tears): “Ya think? I can’t believe he would do this.”
Deputy: “Well, when it all calms down, do you want to go to the beach or something?”
Me: “Um…too soon?”
But, let’s be honest… it’s only sexual harassment when they’re ugly. Or someone is trying to make a quick buck. Everything else is flirting.
On the way to the courthouse, I called an ex-boyfriend, who was an attorney.
“Holy shit. Are you serious? OK, wait. Don’t fill anything out yet. Let me make some calls. We know the right words and most of the judges,” he said. (See a pattern here? I generally get along with people after we split up. This one had been particularly sweet to me with the many legal issues I’d encountered this year.) He referred me to his close friend, who quickly filed the appeal paperwork.
Several hours later, the phone rang and the thick New York accent told me what I didn’t want to hear.
“It’s Friday. No one at the courthouse does jack on a Friday. C. fucked you. He fucked you good. Judges don’t consider injunctions a high priority, so prepare to sit this one out. I’ll do the best I can.” My phone rang again and it was his office collecting their (discounted) fee. I’d been sitting in the courthouse cafeteria all day, waiting, with a soggy sandwich in front of me, too nauseous to eat. Surrendering, I walked out to my car. I opened the GPS app to enter an address and realized that I didn’t have one. That’s when the weight of the situation I was in hit me and I fell apart in the parking lot, in tears.
My lovely friend, Matt, used points to get me a hotel room for the night, which was highly appreciated. After unceremoniously appearing on my best friend’s doorstep in the form of a snotty mess while she was making dinner for her kids, I headed over to my new current residence. Despite copious amounts of Xanax, there was no sleep. I still couldn’t believe what happened that day. The next morning, I gathered what little I had with me and drove the hour out to Valrico to stay with my friend Lexie and her family for a while.
I experienced a lot of feelings at that time, but the most prevalent was utter disbelief and betrayal. I would have preferred him to cheat on me. He’d never so much as broached the subject of splitting up. It was insane.
Let me give you some back-story for context. Seven months’ prior, C had fallen at an ice rink and hit his head so hard that he’d (allegedly) suffered some brain damage. This was only four short months after we bought a fixer-upper house and renovated it together.
Living together was awful from the start. We powered through a series of not-so-comedic tragedies which included contractor rip-offs, a nasty stalker for a neighbor, pet deaths and learning that our HOA was intent on taking us all the way to court over a shed, our pet chickens or both. As you know, I’m a fighter, so we kept moving forward. But it took it’s toll on me and my body started to break down. Meanwhile, I put Chris first.
Told not to drive or work, he wound up on disability. The rational, patient, fun man I knew and adored was replaced with someone who was unpredictable, hostile, violent, emotional, and depressed to the point of being suicidal. He reminded me of me before I was on meds, and I wondered if this was some kind of karma coming back to me for all the bullshit I’d put my exes through. (Dear Jordan, Paul and Rick… the words “I’m sorry” don’t nearly convey what I feel now that I’ve been on the other side. I’ve since learned to deeply appreciate and understand all you did and gave for me. I’m grateful to still have you in my life, as you three are amazing – and forgiving – human beings.) There were countless days I skipped the gym, or blew off work, because I was afraid to leave C home alone.
At one point, he spelled out to his niece and me exactly how he was going to hang himself from a tree out back, so I called his doctor on a Sunday in a panic asking what to do. She told me to Baker Act (institutionalize) him.
“I can’t. I can’t do that to him. I wouldn’t want that done to me.”
“Then reduce his Depakote by half and let me know how he does in a week.”
My friends and therapist said I should have Baker Acted him. They were right. He continued to put us both through hell.
That Memorial Day weekend, we argued.
I was on edge from end of semester school overload, and he was dismal from having officially been let go from his job. I remember him flipping out because his boss unfriended him on Facebook and the reaction was similar to learning that a close friend had died. He was utterly morose, dejected, and pissed. He was also filled with spite. I still didn’t put two and two together. I had no idea what a Narcissist was. I thought it was just someone who took too many selfies or they loved looking in the mirror or talking about themselves. I was about to find out it was none of that – and very, very dangerous.
We found out we were about to lose our health insurance and had spent the week cramming in doctor’s appointments and med refills. For once, I didn’t back down when we bickered, and I should have. After arguing all evening, it culminated in him trying to leave the house intoxicated on sleeping pills and xanax. I asked for his keys and he refused. I then tried holding him back by the waist, to stop him from leaving and driving while under the influence, insisting he sleep it off in the spare room. He said he wanted to sleep in our bed instead. I said OK, and the issue was put to rest for the evening.
THAT is where I made my mistake. Never hold someone back from being self destructive, even if that person is going to possibly take someone else out with them. That’s how the laws work in the USA. You just have to let them go, or YOU are the one who will take the bullet. Holding him back from driving intoxicated was what he called “abuse.” Doesn’t matter that he came back and slept in our bed with me. He’s a sick little scorpion. All they know how to do is sting, it’s just their nature.
The next morning, we decided to take a break. He agreed that he would go stay with a friend. He stood in the doorway with his duffle bag in hand and told me he loved me. Little did I know that when he left, he contacted his friends, family and police. C claimed that he thought I wanted to ‘murder him’ and single-handedly blew our entire life up. He was advised to get a restraining order.
He even contacted my own brother. I wasn’t raised with my brother past the age of 13, and my brother was barely 10 years old then. After our parents split, I was sent to live with our father because my mother felt he could ‘handle’ me better. My brother has never known me since I’ve gotten medicated, which has turned me into an entirely different person. (C has never known me as anything but medicated.) Brother has mostly only ever known me through stories and my mother’s rants about what I’d done this time, often inserting himself into situations that had he little to do with, which made them much worse. Gas on fire. To this day, he has no idea what bipolar disorder is or how someone acts with it. He doesn’t know that things he had done were exactly what someone should never do when dealing with someone with bp. Lack of education destroys. Lack of understanding keeps wounds open. Lack of forgiveness makes it hard to move onward. Despite these things, we had managed to put issues behind us and move ahead to the point of being acquaintances. For Mom. Honestly, I was happy about it. I have almost no family left and lots of fun, shared memories with him from when we were kids.
C was quite aware my brother and I had a tremulous relationship at best, which was based upon our mother’s dying wish for us to get along, yet he managed to drive a wedge into it. Why he would contact someone whom he’s never met, who has never been to our house, never invited us to visit, never even sent a Christmas card, was beyond me, but he seemed to think the advice held validity and later blamed the entire thing on my brother. My brother blamed me, even though he used the opportunity to twist the knife to scare someone whom he knew to have brain damage by plying him full of stories about irrational behavior during manic episodes and urged him to get the restraining order.
C, who doesn’t have strongest of spines on his stellar days, decided this was the best possible advice, despite there being no threat, no violence and having never seen any of that behavior. Ever.
C never experienced anything more violent than me raising my voice and the rare smashed plate on the floor. I handled him with kid gloves. Apparently, worst thing I ever called him was when I told him he was acting like his brother by ignoring issues when he needed to be there.”FUCK YOU, YOU CUNT,” was his response. I think my reply was, “Well, thanks for finally getting back to me.” I was told saying that was “unforgivable”. (He wasn’t a huge fan of his brother’s. He viewed him as an eternal fuckup who did nothing but complain, was ungrateful, entitled, didn’t raise his kids, hurt everyone around him and completely self-centered. Then, C moved the guy into our house a few months later, while I was gone.)
Anyway, just like that, my brother and C had me removed from home. I was unaware any of this was going on until C later told me, pointing the finger at my brother for all of it. He even named him on the court document. But, at the end of the day, it was C’s writing on the paper.
Brothers, huh? I knew I should have let the end of the see-saw drop a little harder when we were at the playground.
I’ll never know what happened, so if I use Occam’s razor, with the simplest answer usually being the correct one, here’s my gut feeling (which has a very high success rate when I bother to listen to it): I think C didn’t like or respect me as a person any longer (that, he told me), especially when I asserted myself a little and explained that I needed care and help, too. I’d recently been diagnosed with Lupus and the stress was wreaking havoc. Before that, it had been all about him. I think he got overwhelmed with everything we’d been through since buying the house and was looking for validation to do what he wanted to do, which was leave in any way possible. My brother simply gave him enough information to make him feel OK about doing something shitty. This is the only explanation that adds up.
(When confronted with this theory, he shut down. The court dismissed all charges in a matter of minutes on “no sufficient evidence” and the judge reminded us that injunctions shouldn’t be used as revenge. Only 30% of restraining orders are actually legitimate. 70% that are complete bullshit. That is a serious system failure.)
I would may never have realized what was going on if it weren’t for Scooter. He texted me that “Here’s the deal, sweetie” at the very bottom of this story with a note that said, “this sounds like what you’ve said about Chris.” The more I looked into it, the more unfolded. I researched talked to my psych. I talked to OUR couples psych. I talked to his psych. It all fell together.
But because I didn’t realize how off the charts he was in his NPD, which is under the Borderline Personality Disorder spectrum, I never understood any of this insanity with C. This man, who had been in the military, was freakishly strong. At almost four inches taller, and at least fifty pounds heavier than I, was suddenly “afraid of me” (on paper at least), even though I never threatened, let alone harmed him. I’d never done anything but look out for him, even when he pissed me off. It just didn’t make any sense. The lies. The manipulation. The weird behavior. The total lack of empathy. The drama. The outbursts of anger, the shaming, the mental abuse and laying on the guilt…the reaction to his boss pulling away from him…the reaction to ME pulling away from him.
Remembering back, his ex-girlfriend emailed me through my blog with a warning back in 2014. She said that he was a “sociopath”, the most vindictive person she’s ever known, would ruin my life, and I “wouldn’t even see it coming.” (She also said some other stuff I won’t print here that was a little, ah…revealing.) I did not presume that she was clinically trained to make any kind of medical diagnosis and figured she was simply being spiteful. After rereading her words post-eviction, I wondered if his irrational behavior was not part of his head injury at all. I recently remembered that C told me he had contacted her ex-husband on Facebook (who had nothing nice to say about her, thus giving C the words he needed to hear), which seemed to be a pattern for him. He contacted my first ex-husband as well. Rick chose to ignore him and alerted me.
Normally, I have caused the majority of the problems in my relationships. As most bipolar people who aren’t on (any/the right) meds will (delusionally) tell you, “it’s always them, it’s never me!” But guess what? That’s a load of fucking horseshit. If the constant in the equation is you; if you have done this to everyone, then it’s you.
Pre stabilizing medications, it was always me. I’m fortunate to have forgiving people in my life and the opportunity to be stabilized.
However, this time it was notme. And I am no longer delusional. Even our therapist took me aside and said he didn’t understand what was going on with C.
Before the accident, if things were going smoothly, C would find a way to create conflict. He could never just be. He always had to be doing something; playing a game, on Facebook, checking email, cleaning, or rattling around. Sitting still, reading a book, or enjoying the patio just wasn’t possible. He had untreated anxiety issues and started spats over cleaning, how I folded towels, or how much room my varied coffee creamers took up in the fridge. For a guy who’d nearly died from a heart problem a couple years earlier, he didn’t seem to treat his second chance in life the way most people would. C was the world champion of causing death by paper cuts.
Our values and morals weren’t aligned and I didn’t realize this until we lived together. I came from a household that managed on one military paycheck and a stay-at-home mom. We had a garden, used a wood stove, and if we ever went out to dinner, it was an event. We got what we needed, not what we wanted. He came from privilege. I conserve (read: am cheap as fuck), don’t believe in debt, am environmentally conscious and think taking care of yourself is important. He viewed me as “narcissistic” (and later posted about it publicly), abhorred exercise, spent time looking up articles that stated recycling is a waste of time, put everything on credit cards while making minimum payments and had no issues running water full force for two minutes while brushing his teeth.
Dr. John Gottman wrote that when people argue, it’s not really over money or chores. It’s rooted deeper. Their values are different and that is the problem. So, despite trying to resolve things, arguments keep happening. One of the main factors in relationship success is finding someone whose values match yours, or getting on the same page as far as understanding and respecting each other in this department. I felt C misrepresented who he was to me, but we were in a thirty-year mortgage together and I loved him, so I wanted to try and make the best of it.
To be fair, he tried. We both tried. I posted a rant or three on Facebook myself, before hastily deleting them. I am most certainly not saying I’m wonderful and he’s evil. That’s not the case. C had a lot of really amazing qualities about him (which I’ve also written about), and that’s why I wanted to share a home with him in the first place. But this is the story of how it all ended… abruptly and without any rhyme, reason or remorse on his part.
Perhaps with the injury, Chris wasn’t able to hide who he was any longer. Or, with a head injury that scary, it consumed him (us) and thinking about others just didn’t matter to him anymore. All I knew for sure was that I didn’t know this person who had me put out of our home with absolutely no regret. I’d never touched him in any harmful or physically violent way. My best friend, who used to adore the ground he walked on and often defended him when I complained, said: “He’s just a fucking asshole and liar! No real man does that. He’s a pussy!”
Over winter, he became violent. He first snapped when I reminded him the doctor told him to stay off device screens for brain rest, which he found impossible, and threw his iPad across the room. He ran over and stomped it repeatedly, breaking it and the heel of his foot in the process. In a rage, he went out to the garage to throw the iPad away and when he came back through the laundry room, he looked at me like he might kill me. I don’t rattle easily, but he scared the shit out of me right then. It was the first time I was afraid of him, and it wouldn’t be the last. He smashed picture frames, threw his eyeglasses at me and broke them, threatened to put me through a wall, called me every name in the book and punched a hole through our pantry closet. He screamed, “I hope you rot in hell, just like your father.” (My father was a firefighter pilot and died in a plane crash putting out wildfires in California when he hit a mountain.) I was told I should put my sixteen-year-old cat to sleep (several times) simply because Trouble didn’t care for his young Siamese kittens and would go to the bathroom outside the litter box as his way of acting out. (He later apologized for both comments. C, not Trouble. Trouble doesn’t do apologies. Trouble also starting using the litter box again as soon as all the strife disappeared from home.) C didn’t understand that what I did for work was actually work because I did it from home. “Just get a real job.” My dog, Bella, was afraid of him. I often sent her to stay with my ex-husband, Jordan, who shook his head. “You can’t date a civilian. Let alone a mentally unstable one.”
He berated me endlessly over putting watermelon in the refrigerator because it leaked off the plate. He used a divide-and-conquer approach to dealing with me vs everyone in his life: his sister, his niece…it was messed up. He even flipped out at me for not…wait for it…wearing underwear underneath my nightgown at home while no one was here except his 19 year old niece – who apparently never saw or owned a vagina, despite going to nursing school. He ragged on me so hard about how “clean” I kept the house scornfully asked, “April, really…do you think other people really live like this?” waving his hand around the room…which was clean. But apparently, NOT CLEAN ENOUGH. (For him.)
In calmer and less hurtful moments, C asked if he could get me anything on the way home, offered to proofread my writing, helped cook dinner, slaved over keeping the up the pool or fixing things around the house, and was as sweet and affectionate as one can be. I thought I could help him. If anyone could understand his erratic behavior, it was me. In other words, despite his regular psychiatrist, neurologist and neuro-psych visits, I was living with an unstable psychotic who often told me I was the unstable one who “needed to have my meds fixed.” It was always “my fault”. I “pushed buttons”. It was never him.
It was extremely rare that I lost my proverbial shit and yelled back because my stabilizing medications kept me calm. He once screamed at me, “I can’t push your buttons. You’re like a fucking stone wall.”
However, C managed to drive me close to the edge a few times, and after smashing a jar of my favorite jam in the kitchen out of frustration (which I instantly regretted, because it was Bonne Maman’s Four Fruits and not that easy to find, dammit), I realized living with him was not healthy for me.
I spent Christmas Eve in Starbucks. He’d started in on me because I left the laundry in the dryer when my friend showed up at our door after driving 17 hours from Louisville to stay the weekend, and it escalated. I turned away from him, shattered my lunch plate on the kitchen floor (a month after the jelly incident), grabbed my purse and left. We had gone to the beach the day before with my friend Joe and my debit card was in another purse, so all I had in my wallet was my Starbucks gift card. I camped out with a breakfast sandwich and a cappuccino. He texted, repeatedly: “Please come home.”
When things were good with C, they were really good. I honestly thought he’d get better. But, they didn’t, and I felt trapped in a mortgage and a school commitment with a half-lunatic, hanging by a thread of hope that was stretched to its limit.
“I’ve heard of this happening from some of my buddies, but never a female,” said Scooter.
“Yeah, well… I guess I’m just lucky,” I said.
“Yeah, well… you’re also kind of like a dude. How many women do you actually hang out with? Women are fucking crazy,” he said. He was wearing glasses and looked good in them. I like glasses on men. I think it’s the whole sapiosexuality (Google it) fetish I have. I prefer the men I date to be intelligent, curious and witty. Most people aren’t.
“I know. I’m in a locker room full of men and hear about it all the time. I just never thought it could happen to me.”
I had to leave for an appointment back in Clearwater. Despite his hospitality, it gave me an uneasy feeling leaving my cat, makeup, clothes, cash, passport, medication, mortgage papers, and laptop with Scooter. Trust was now an issue. It took everything I had not to completely lose my mind after what had just happened. All he had to do was lock his door and what little I had in my possession would be gone. I’d be fucked. My stomach churned with uneasiness until I pulled back into beach bungalow a half day later, where he was still barefoot on the same green chair as before.
I felt foolish for being so paranoid and angry at C for making me think that way.
The night, the moonlight shimmered off the ocean as the waves broke and lapped at the sand. Walking along the beach, puddles of sea water felt warm and cold at the same time. Bob pranced alongside us, a glowing ball in his mouth. Scooter said this was the only time Bob could play in the water since The Powers That Be decided dogs weren’t allowed on the beach. Makes sense. Dogs digging holes or pooping is far more devastating to the beaches than the endless broken beer bottles, cigarette butts, cans and plastic wrappers humans leave.
We were in a parallel situation with our significant others, but his was without a deputy eviction or lawyers. He was mostly angry; I was mostly beaten down.
“Oh, your neighbors are definitely talking about you,” Scooter said.
“The minute you guys leave, they are SO turning that place into an age 65+ community.”
“Probably,” I said.
“What I want to know is how this happens,” he said, gesturing around with his hand. “This. How two people, who mean the world to one another, get to the point not being able to stand each other?”
“How it goes from that person consuming your every waking thought to just-get-the-fuck-away-from-me?”
“Yeah. Exactly.” He threw the ball out to the waves and Bob scampered off into the darkness to find it…
Note:I’m writing about this because I withdrew from nearly everything from this time until the present with little explanation other than “lots going on right now.” Work, customers, friends. I blew a lot off and let people down. It was too much to talk about and explain. I’ve always been better at writing than speaking.
Thank you to Danielle Dadamo, Hubert O’Hearn, Jeff Ritter, Carroll Grant, Matt McDermott, Brian Hairbottle and Mick Foley for their suggestions and valuable time editing. I am deeply grateful to my psychotherapist, Amy. She goes above and beyond, keeping me grounded in times of upheaval despite having her own battles to fight.
Thank you to those who have reached out to help. So many of you were good to me during this time and I feel incredibly fortunate.
You know who you are, and so do I.
(See below for more screenshots.)
Disclaimer: This is my recollection of events and I’ve related them to the best of my knowledge. Some names have been changed or omitted.
Thank you to Pam Ella Lee for the photos around my home. Thank you for Steven Griffey Photography for the cosplay photo of Thundra (not Flash!)
The restraining order/injunction, which was dismissed.
Above: Chris trying to access my accounts – always – after he moved back to Michigan.
Below: Accounts from previous exes who assured me his crazy behavior had nothing to do with any head injury and had everything to do with him being batshit crazy and just a horrible, vindictive person.
No part of this blog may be copied or used without permission.
This is a guest blog by Jennifer Scott. You can find more about her after her article below.
About 56% of people with bipolar disorder will suffer from addiction at one point or another. Though addiction to drugs is common at 41%, the biggest risk is alcoholism at 46%. Though researchers haven’t pinpointed a definitive causal relationship, the rate of addiction is clearly higher in people suffering from bipolar disorder compared to the population as a whole. There are several theories on why this correlation exists.
Bipolar causes physical discomfort such as an inability to sleep and mental discomfort such as anxiety, leading a person to self-medicate. Here are a few reasons someone with bipolar disorder might self-medicate, how to recognize addiction, and the consequences of substance abuse in those living with the disorder.
Self-Medication is Often Used for Sleep and Relaxation
People with all kinds of mental illness turn to alcohol in an attempt to silence racing thoughts, numb emotional turmoil, and jump start sleep. For Self-medication is more common in people who are are not receiving treatment, as they believe they have no other way to stabilize themselves.
Preventing self-medication is a matter of ensuring that the person is receiving proper treatment. A person suffering from bipolar disorder needs a regimen of medications, talk therapy, and a set daily schedule to avoid stress. A consistent schedule can resolve many of the problems a person with mental illness might use alcohol to treat including insomnia and anxiety.
Addiction in People Living with Bipolar Disorder Should Be Recognized and Treated
Common signs of addiction can include visible, repetitive use of a substance, shirking of responsibilities in favor of the substance, and an inability to function without the substance. With bipolar disorder, it can be a little confusing whether or not the person is showing symptoms of addiction or is having an episode. If you are concerned, confront them gently.
To treat alcoholism, therapy programs and replacement treatments for bipolar are necessary. If a prescribed medication is given to replace the alcohol, the person is likely to have more success kicking the addiction as they will no longer feel the need to use alcohol.
Abuse of Alcohol Has Detrimental Effects on People with Bipolar Disorder
Though alcohol can dull some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it actually causes more serious episodes in the long run. The actual drinking can cause negative thoughts and impaired thoughts which can easily lead to poor decisions. A night of drinking can set months of therapy back even if it may seem like it will offer temporary relief.
If you have a person struggling with bipolar disorder in your life, it is best to avoid drinking around them. Keeping detrimental substances away is the best thing you can do for them.
Spending time around someone with bipolar disorder can be worrisome for those who have not experienced spending time with someone struggling with this disorder or another mental illness, as they may be unsure what to expect or how to help. Certainly, people who are untreated may lash out, experience suicidal thoughts, and take unnecessary risks. If your loved one is behaving in these concerning ways, it is important that you convince them to get help.
However, if they are already receiving treatment, a person who suffers from bipolar can live a very successful life with healthy, solid relationships. All you need to do is be understanding, be aware of the risk of substance abuse, and be courteous.
Jennifer Scott has been experiencing anxiety and depression since she was a teen. She shares her journey toward improved mental health on her website, SpiritFinder.org. When she isn’t blogging, Jennifer loves to travel, volunteers at her local animal shelter, and rock climbs.
I haven’t updated my blog in a while. The main two reasons for this are that I started school full time in autumn, pursuing a 4-year degree in 2 at an accelerated (and expensive!) art school for Creative Writing in Entertainment (TV, Film, Games). I’ve also been taking care of my significant other, who is out of work on disability at the moment. He had a horrific ice skating accident and managed to bounce his head off ice so hard, he got a concussion, brain bleed, brain contusion, rear lobe cyst and frontal lobe blood clot. Go big or go home, right?
We went to three hospitals before someone got it right. The first (Trinity) said he needed surgery immediately or he’d die. The second wouldn’t even give him the MRI he’d been sent over in an ambulance to receive, since they said he simply had a migraine. They gave him a migraine ‘cocktail’ he had an allergic reaction to and sent him home. (Don’t ever send anyone you love to Tampa Community Hospital.) Tampa General was a long wait, but worth it. Then came The Concussion Institute and various neurologist appointments. A second stay in the hospital to administer IV drugs round-the-clock to shrink brain swelling and address the migraines.
Brain injuries can hard to properly diagnose and take a long time to heal. Additionally, there are a lot of things to deal with. He can’t drive and has brutal head pain. There are issues walking around, speaking, vertigo, light and noise sensitivity. Then there are the personality swings. Emotional, hostile, anxiety, tantrums. Kind of like the worst bipolar behavioral mood swings you can imagine. He’s been wound up like a spring and the slightest thing makes him explode. He has been irrational, unpredictable and violent to live with and it’s been trying most days. He picks fights over laundry or how the refrigerator is organized. I’m on great stabilizing medications for my bipolar disorder, but there’s a cap. Things around here have been able to push me to over the edge and that calm, cool reserve I now have dissipates as fast as the blink of an eye, which has been alarming. I raised my medication a few months ago, but there’s only so much one can take at times. I am stretched to the breaking point and trying to do the best I can to take care of him.
There’s concern (read: he’s anxious as fuck) about being able to go back to work. He put himself through school as an adult and his career as an app developer isn’t possible at the moment. Screens and monitors make him worse. Money has been a challenge with lack of funds and medical bills. I’ve had to take on much more around here. There are a ton of appointments to drive him each week. It’s been really, really hard. A (very sweet) friend set up a GoFundMe for us back in February. If you want to donate or share, it’s certainly appreciated. Link:GoFundMeMedicalBills
Being a wrestler with pre-existing conditions, I’ve never been able to afford insurance and always opted to pay in cash when things got bad. (Or I’ve gone to other countries for treatment in cash.) I’ve also gotten my prescriptions overseas to save money. Now I’m insured and have had a brutal and up close look at this messy bullshit we call a healthcare system. What a joke. After using healthcare in Japan, England, Canada, Germany and various other countries, where the aim is to a.) get your diagnosed quickly and b.) tell you how to prevent coming back, I can only surmise that the reason Americans put up with this is ignorance. We don’t travel and have no idea what other countries have, so we have no clue how shitty our system truly is. With zero preventative care, several appointments just to pinpoint an issue, lack of addressing other issues (environmental, food), medical willingness to write a designer brand script for all ailments, referrals needed for specialists and insurance company denials to battle. Let’s not forget that we get to fork out lots of hard earned paycheck money for our health insurance and hand over even more in person for high deductibles on each office visit. The ever pervasive a-pill-for-everything mentality couple with the For Profit inflated costs, and it’s no wonder we have the highest priced heath at the lowest quality care. It’s frustrating. I wish others could see things for what they ARE. There’s a valid reason no other country has a healthcare system like ours.
Anyway, I’ve started writing more fiction and this is a Flash Fiction assignment I had recently. I’m new at this, so I’m living and learning!
The Moonlit Road
The cold air cut into my bones every time a car passed. I’d been walking this densely wooded road for nearly two hours.
Jesus H., I thought. What else can go wrong? The few who were out that night didn’t so much as tap their brakes. Maybe a bear can put me out of my misery.
A black pickup truck rolled to a stop.
“Where you headed?” The man had dark hair and a solid, muscular build.
“Town,” I replied. “Thanks. I’m Dave.”
“Tom.” He shook my hand. “That’s where I’m going after I make a quick stop. Did you break down?” His face and faded jeans reminded me of James Dean.
“No,” I said, shifting uncomfortably. “I…uh, had a fight with my wife. We were out this way, but she got pissed and took the car.”
He snorted. “Been there, friend. Been there.” He cracked the window and lit a cigarette.
“I haven’t. She just started acting…I don’t know. Weird. Different. I think she’s cheating on me. When I confronted her, she went crazy and accused me of cheating on her…and then she took the car.”
“Are you?” he asked.
“What? Cheating on her? No. I’m not.”
“Well, why do you think she’s cheating on you?’ Tom asked.
“Standard issue stuff. She’s suddenly working late, not returning texts or answering my calls, and she’s going out with supposed friends I’ve never met. Seems like bullshit.”
I’d also found new lingerie in her dresser. And in her car, ashes and a licorice gum wrapper. She hates licorice.
We drove in silence while the moonlit highway stretched before us. The occasional car passed, dampening the steady chirping of crickets that filled the air. Tom’s cigarette glowed in the shadowy cab. There was a Yankee Candle air freshener swaying from the rear-view mirror. Tahitian Breeze. It was slightly overpowering. Everything was at the moment. My stomach roiled and I was damp with feverish sweat.
“What are you going to do?” asked Tom.
“I don’t know,” I admitted, staring at the empty road. “We’ve been married fourteen years. I really don’t know how to be anything else. I’m just praying I’m wrong.” I could see Tom nod out of the corner of my eye. He took a final drag on his cigarette, flicked the stub and rolled his window up. The crisp breeze had been refreshing.
“Maybe you’re wrong.”
The lights from town became visible through the windshield. We passed McDonald’s. The greasy smell of fries which normally made me salivate now made me queasy. I needed to talk to her. I had to know what was going on.
“Here’s my quick stop,” Tom said. He turned onto a local road.
“Oh. I live down this way, too,” I said.
If we drive by the house, I can see if she actually went home.
Tom folded a piece of gum into his mouth. With a jolt I realized that the crumpled wrapper was Black Jack gum.
Before I could say anything, Tom pulled into 58 Teaberry Lane. My house.
“Be just a minute,” he said, leaving the truck running.
My heart felt as if it was going to pound out of my chest. She ran out to him. He kissed her. He gave her something and she threw her arms around his neck. She couldn’t see me behind the blinding headlights.
I’m going to be sick.
“Who’s with you?” She asked, squinting through the bright headlights.
“Nobody. Just giving a guy a ride. Gotta go, but I’ll call you later,” he said as he watched her go inside and shut the door.
Nobody. Should I throw this thing into reverse and drive off? Let him take me to a motel? Beat the shit out of him? Did he even know she was married? Did he know I existed? That I am not ‘NOBODY’?
I stared at the dashboard and tried to make sense of my racing thoughts.
“Okay,” Tom asked, as he opened the door. “Where should I drop you off?”
“Here.” I pulled out my keys.
“Are you going to walk the rest of the way?”
I took a deep breath and tried to steady my shaking hands and lurching abdomen. What the fuck. It’s over.Everything.Making dinner together. Sharing the bathroom in the morning. TV series marathons. Cuddling in bed. Our future. Without looking at Tom, I got out of the truck, stood tall, crossed the final agonizing yards of my driveway, and entered my house.
David Bowie. Glen Frey. Lemmy. Scott Weiland. The sudden deaths of some of the most beloved musicians hit pretty hard and I wonder if these artists knew how much they’d impacted our lives.
For me, this last month has been a bittersweet reminder of a brilliant musician who received virtually zero mention at the time of his death.
Most people have no idea that Alice In Chains’ front man, Layne Staley, died around the same time Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes did. The press covered her passing extensively. Every channel, paper and radio station mentioned Lopes, while running TLC video clips and songs 24/7. Of course, Lisa died from a sudden auto accident while Layne died the typical rock star death at age 34 from a mixture of heroin and cocaine.
I’m not sure how many are aware that Layne Staley was dead for two weeks before anyone realized it.
When I learned of this, my heart broke. How is it possible that someone who touched so many could have gone unnoticed for so long?
“I wish I could just hug you all, but I’m not gonna.” –Layne Staley
Alice In Chains has been a profound and unique grunge rock band, instantly recognizable largely due to Staley’s voice more than their overall sound. When you hear a song by Tool, it’s obvious it’s Tool by their uniquely defined musical style. With AIC, it was more about Staley’s lilting vocals.
Alice In Chains (and Layne himself) was the true leader of the Seattle Sound grunge movement. They were Sleze in 1984, which morphed into AIC and later became the super-group Mad Season. They influenced and opened doors for Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam.
Unlike much of what came out of Seattle, AIC was inclined towards rock in addition to alternative in genre. Their heavier sound, array of styles and soulful lyrics struck a chord within me, and I’ve never wavered in my love for them.
“Man In The Box”
I’m the man in the box Buried in my shit Won’t you come and save me, save me
Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut? Jesus Christ, deny your maker He who tries, will be wasted Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut
I’m the dog who gets beat Shove my nose in shit Won’t you come and save me, save me…
What I know about Layne’s death is two things: Layne had two families; his blood ties and his band members. He was also a drug user and recluse with a mental disorder.
Anyone who has had to deal with a person struggling with any or all of these issues knows the tendency for that person to alienate everyone who loves them, which is often a harsh reality. We are hard to love.
I am speaking from experience, as an entertainer and someone who has experience in living with mental disorders. My father had one. I’ve inherited it. I’ve seen both sides of this kind of damage.
The fact that not one single person from his life noticed he was gone for two weeks shatters me.
Even if he’d told everyone to fuck off, just die, leave him alone – did no one love him enough to swing by and check on him? Bring him a meal? Pick up some groceries?
Nothing? Nothing at all?
“We started this band as kids, and as time has gone on, we’ve grown and are learning to accommodate each others’ differences.” – Layne Staley
There are lessons to be gleaned from losing Layne Staley. Instead of sitting back and judging the situation; blaming drugs, calling him a fuck-up, writing it off to “just another classic rock star death” or practicing Schadenfreude, we should view it as an opportunity to save someone else.
“When everyone goes home, you’re stuck with yourself. People have a right to ask questions and dig deep when you’re hurting them and things around you.” – Layne Staley
Dying alone and forgotten are valid human fears. Alice In Chains sold over eleven MILLION albums. Layne Staley touched an innumerable mass of people from all over the world. If this can happen to someone as known and beloved as Layne, it could happen to anyone.
“There are lasting consequences for using drugs. I’ll still be paying for my prior use.” – Layne Staley
Layne was introduced to what would ultimately be his cause of death by his own father at the age of twenty. His father was an opiate addict and used with his son. This is a harsh lesson to wrap one’s head around.
But my main reason for writing this is to make people aware.
Bandmate and best friend Mike Starr bore the brunt of the guilt regarding Layne’s death before he passed in 2011 from a prescription drug overdose. He was the last person to see Staley alive and the two had argued, with Starr storming out and Layne calling after him, “Not like this. Don’t leave like this.”
Reportedly, they argued over Starr insisting on calling 911for help and Layne threatening to sever their friendship if he did.
When someone we love pushes us away, perhaps there’s more to it and we’re unable to see what’s really going on. Maybe we shouldn’t LET them have their space.
People often push away as a test – to see if you’ll push back, to see if you care. It’s common for many to feel unworthy of love. It’s especially common for those with a mental disorder, since we tend to hurt those around us the most. We simply don’t feel deserving. We need you to push back.
Talk is cheap. Anyone can say, “I love you, you mean the world to me.” But can you show it? Will you do what needs to be done?
In Layne’s case, no one pushed back. He is dead now because of this fact.
It’s pretty fucking simple. If someone had physically removed drugs and needles from his living area, watched over him, fed him – he would be alive. He clearly wasn’t able to take care of himself. It was no surprise how sick he was to those around him. Mike Starr tried. But in these situations, effort doesn’t mean shit. Only results count. If he’d had cancer, there would have been help. But he had a mental illness where he turned to “self-medicating”, which is why Layne was cast away.
Kurt Cobain, who admitted he was manic-depressive (which is now called bipolar disorder), died in a not dissimilar way. His suicide note stated that his baby daughter would be better off without him in her life. “For her life will be so much happier without me.”
“God Am” Dear God, how have you been then?
I’m not fine, fuck pretending
All of this death your sending
Best throw some free heart mending
Invite you in my heart, then
When done, my sins forgiven?
This God of mine relaxes
World dies I still pay taxes.
A lot of things aren’t understood about mental illness and suicide, but I can tell you one thing for certain; No one wants to die. They simply don’t want to live in the state they are in any longer. There is a vast difference between wanting to die and not wanting to live. When someone is suffering from something that goes with them no matter where they are and affects everyone around them badly, sometimes they hold on to a belief that the only way out is death.
Layne’s death is extremely sad on so many levels. Wasted talent, wasted youth, but mostly it’s a constant reminder that our society doesn’t seem to care about the mentally ill. It’s felt we are disposable, to be shamed and anything that happens to us, it’s likely deserved. I’ve seen this attitude in everything from drug overdoses to police beatings.
No matter what we give to the world, it really doesn’t matter.
Or does it?
Push back. Prove me wrong.
“Every article I see (about myself) is dope this, junkie that, whiskey this – that ain’t my title. I don’t do much else but stay in my hotel room. Music is the doorway that has led me to drawing, photography, and writing. Music is the career I’m lucky enough to get paid for, but I have other desires and passions.” –Layne Staley
My hope for whoever is reading this is to have you recognize signs. When someone we care for is ‘acting out’ or being reclusive, maybe we shouldn’t take it so personally, get so angry or give up so quickly. Think of the bigger picture; that you love this person. Despite what they’re doing, saying or how they’re acting, they need you.
I realize I’ve been AWOL for a bit. I’ve moved and with drastic house renovations, a psycho neighbor, horrific HOA, contractor rip off, and worst of all…2 of my pet chickens suddenly died. It’s been a mess and has taken all the energy I have just to exist and deal with daily routines. But things are starting to smooth out a bit now.
So, I did something different. My friend Hubert asked me to be on his podcast to discuss many of the things I write about on this blog.
I realize I’ve been AWOL for a bit. I’ve moved and with drastic house renovations after buying a fixer-upper (and having far more to deal with than originally thought!), I’ve been incredibly unlucky to have a psycho neighbor (who lives to harass and report me to the city and HOA for blocking his view into MY pool with a fence and shed), horrific HOA (threatening me over the aforementioned shed. Yes. A shed. It’s to be my writing office, but they feel it’s “too large”. It’s not. I feel it’s likely they’re just close with my psycho neighbor), a contractor rip off, and worst of all…2 of my pet chickens suddenly died. It’s been a tragic, stressful mess and has sucked all the energy I have just to exist and deal with daily routines along with this daily bullshit. But things are starting to smooth out a bit now.
So, I did something different. My friend Hubert asked me to be on his podcast to discuss many of the things I write about on this blog. I’m posting it here in case you’d like to listen to it.
“Thoughts and Opinions with Hubert O’Hearn. Writer, wrestler, model and candle-maker April Hunter discusses her career. In a wide-ranging conversation, we first talk about bi-polarity and the prejudices faced by those with mental illness. Then we go on to wondering why women’s wrestling isn’t promoted more, how April became a candle-maker, and finally the ins and outs of internet dating!”
I applied to Full Sail University this summer for a bachelors degree in creative writing for entertainment (TV, Film, Radio). I’ll be starting in 6 weeks. Fairly excited about that!
If you’d like to see me in person, I’m on Shine Wrestling in Ybor City/Tampa FL Oct 2nd. That’s broadcast worldwide on PPV on wwnlive.com and on the ROKU channel World Wrestling Network. Info: ShineWrestling.com
I’m on Lake Collect-a-Thon in Mt Dora, FL Saturday September 19th. Info: https://www.facebook.com/LakeCollectACon
You can also visit me on Third Friday in Safety Harbor (Clearwater) FL on each…wait for it…3rd Friday. I’m there with my uniquely scented organic soy candles (www.Facebook.com/AprilsScentsations), so come out and say hi!
Oh, and it’s my birthday on September 24th. I don’t know if I should totally no-sell it and ignore the entire thing or go all out and celebrate the fact that I survived another year. I suppose that’s the conundrum associated with being bipolar. It could swing either way, right? 😉
If you’d like to spoil me, here’s Amazon Wishlist! Be prepared…it’s super sexy. Well, it’s sexy if you find candle wax, fruit trees and standing desks hot. I sure as hell do.
A couple more reno photos. It’s amazing what some flooring, paint and tile can do.
We are currently trying to get a larger chicken run built that’s fully covered. There are a lot of hawks where I moved to. Not safe to have her out. I say “her” because we lost our others from mysterious illnesses. It was absolutely gutting. They’re pets, not just chickens…but losing Daisy just absolutely destroyed me for a while. She was my ‘happy place’ and I loved (still love) her very much.
All that’s left is one tiny shellacked eggshell and an unplanned $2500 in vet bills. Yeah. We tried to save her at an emergency clinic. After she passed, her blood tests revealed kidney disease. Delilah passed 2 weeks later from blocked crop. Daphne is doing well, so far. Just lonely. I’m not yet sure what to do about it. Chickens are fantastic to raise, but heartbreaking. It’s an odd mix of rewarding mixed with apprehension.
This has been a lot of sadness and an energy drain as well. It just seemed like we were getting kicked while down non-stop. I’m just tired. Mentally and physically. Drained tired. Where cappuccino does absolutely nothing for you kind of tired.
I’m trying to overcome everything, fight back and learn how to use a ‘velvet gloved fist’ with everyone I’m dealing with regarding all the aforementioned annoying issues. I’m also trying to get caught up on work, promoting, making candles and yes…writing blogs.
So. That’s what’s been going on.
More soon. With me strength, luck and fortitude. I need it.
Enjoy the podcast and especially the swanky entrance music. 😉
I had no idea I’d almost died on Memorial Day. I planned on a good workout, some pool time and a movie. None of that happened, because while I was watering the plants on my porch, a Yellow Jacket stung my right calf.
I had no idea I’d almost died on Memorial Day. I planned on a good workout, some pool time and a movie. None of that happened, because while I was watering the plants on my porch, a Yellow Jacket stung my right calf.
My left calf was stung two weeks ago. While it took forever to heal and itched like a ma’fucker, I didn’t have any real issues, having been stung many times before with no problems.
This day was different. My throat tightened, the right side of my body went numb, my eye swelled almost shut, and I lost vision. My entire body broke into burning hives (even the palms of my hands and feet, mouth, tongue and throat). Being an ‘idiot wrestler’, I usually tough everything out.
Me to Chris, as I’m frantically scrubbing my leg with alcohol: “Um, I should probably mention that I don’t feel very well. I feel kind of weird.”
Him: “Do you have Benadryl? I’ll go get you some.”
Me, bending over like I’d been running: “I don’t think I can breathe. You might want to hurry.” He ran out to the corner store, but before he got back, I knew I was way past allergy medication. He attempted to speed me to the emergency clinic (with him swearing at the slow driver in front of us. At least Florida is consistent!) and I honestly had no idea how bad it was.
I am largely in denial about my own mortality. I believe my own gimmick; that I’m Super Woman. Big Red. The Prize, April Hunter. A Viking warrior, ass-kicking my way through life. Moments like these, flashes of reality, crush me.
When I arrived to the emergency clinic, they took me immediately. Or mostly did, as I was in the process of passing out during check-in. I received a series of injections: epinephrine, steroids, more Benadryl . Wash, rinse, repeat. After several doses of everything, my body broke out into more hives, my tongue swelled and my blood pressure dropped. We were informed that they were calling an ambulance to have me rushed to the ER because it was getting worse. (As ‘rushed’ as one can be in this beautiful healthcare system we have, complete with staggering wait-times and gigantic bills, even with insurance.) I’d just gotten on Blue Cross at Christmas, but had never used it. I vaguely remember looking at the doctor and then Chris and being worried. “I don’t know if I can do that…is an ambulance covered?”
“The ambulance is covered.”
Rushed Defined in the USA:
-The ambulance took 32 minutes to go 8 minutes down the road. Fortunately, I was stabilized right before they’d arrived.
-Upon arrival, you must check in with name, social security and insurance card before anyone does anything for you. I’m fairly certain they hand you two Tylenol and dump you off the gurney sideways if you’re missing any of that information. After all, you can’t be “denied treatment”.
-You are informed there will be a $250 to $5000 deductible to pay, depending on your insurance coverage. You’ll still be surprised with fat bills, which you’ll have to submit again and again to your insurance company and spend hours of your life trying to argue off.
-A US hospital has been known to charge up to $800 for an IV that is 6 liters of salt water. An ambulance ride is approximately $750 for 5 miles. By the way, that Tylenol pill will cost you $15.Each.
-Only once you are checked in are you treated. By a nurse, who doesn’t give a shit. The one who does give a shit comes in later. She is an absolute sweetheart, and you kind of want to stuff her in your purse and keep her. The doctor arrives about an hour after that.
I was given a bunch of injections and, of course, the aforementioned $800 saline IV. To be fair, it was a lovely IV. A designer brand…from Italy, I think. Haute couture.
If you’re a walk-in, bring a book. Or three. While I was at Quick Care Doctors Express, a woman checked in to have her wrist stitched up after sitting in a hospital emergency room for four hours. She’d tapped out and decided that bleeding in her car was better than waiting another four hours.
I’ve been treated for emergency and non-emergency issues in Canada, Japan, Germany, Jamaica and England. I’ve never had to wait as long as I have here, with the exception of once in Alberta, Canada.
In England, Germany and Jamaica, the doctor came out to treat me; I didn’t have to go in. Let me just state for the record that house calls are awesome! While in Toronto, Canada, I was treated for a shattered nose (from an elbow to the face, and I still have issues breathing to this day), but they also x-rayed my ankle to confirm it was sprained instead of broken from the previous week of wrestling in Mexico. Furthermore, they did it gratis. The wait time was about fifteen minutes. Being American, I did have to pay a bill, but it wasn’t much. The company I worked for in Canada covered it.
Some things should never be for profit; healthcare is one of them. There is no amount of money a mother or father won’t pay to save their child. That’s why it’s completely wrong, and the USA is the only country doing it this way. Clearly, we are a country of laws and capitalism, not ethics.
The question is : why do we tolerate it? Is it because we think there’s no other way? Do we believe the lies we’re told about how other countries have “horrible” socialized care, where you’ll die while waiting? Currently, the socialized healthcare we do have, like the VA and Medicare, is mostly crap…so we think if we go that way across the board, it might all turn to shit? Is it because we think that we can’t afford it? That’s laughable. Every other country can afford it, but we can’t? Yet, we’re still #1 in cost per person for some of the worst care in the world. This makes absolutely zero sense. None.
Perhaps, it could be that we’re simply stupid and ignorant as a country? I feel we fail to “Question Authority” (a saying from when I grew up) and see what is really going on – that we are being taken advantage of. Each and every single one of us is being taken. We are being lied to by Pharma companies who run/own the media and congress. These companies are in bed with our FDA, which is why our food is so contaminated. Our foods are banned in other countries. Much of what we eat is considered toxic. This is why we’re sick. No other nation is as ill as the USA. Not even third world countries.
However, get this: Medical Profit is a huge part of the American GDP. Healthcare is one of our top grossing earners. Our slogan could be this: “Illness-The Only Thing Left That’s Made 100% in America.”
So, let’s recap… Contaminate the food (check), people get sick (check), charge a fortune to keep them alive (check), and rake in fuckloads of money being a completely parasitic system (check). Get it?
Avoid this by opting out. Go certified organic, locally grown, free range and grass fed. (To those of you who will now quote the show ‘Bullshit’ to me about how organic was found to not be any different than standard stuff; if you’re getting your dietary advice from a Penn & Teller show, you have issues.) Yes, you’re going to pay a little more on the front end for quality food and preventative care (such as a gym membership, massage, supplements, yoga, etc…), or you’re going to pay a fortune on the back end. Remember, every bite of food you eat will either nourish you or kill you. It’s your choice.
If we total the money being taken from our paychecks for insurance, payment deductibles and co-pays each year, we are probably paying more than some of the higher taxed countries are who have quality healthcare included for their tax dollars.
I’ve been denied care in a Connecticut emergency room without health insurance (after being unceremoniously dropped by Blue Cross Anthem for being a wrestler) when I broke two vertebrae in my back. But legally, I wasn’t “denied care”, because a nurse gave me two painkillers before sending me home. She’d assured me nothing was wrong and I’d be fine. Turns out, she was wrong. Not only were the vertebrae broken, but my tailbone disc had ruptured. I ended up going to Canada for real treatment I could afford and zero wait time, since I elected to pay in cash.
My ex, who was Canadian, was appalled at our system. He just couldn’t believe that ballsy, outspoken Americans were willing to put up with something so crappy, subpar, and expensive. He could never understand why we would jump up and fight over guns and God, but roll over and take it up the ass with no lube when it came to our own healthcare. Quite frankly, he was right.
Two different doctors told me that I almost died last Monday, and that they rarely see a reaction as bad as mine…that I was lucky. If I’d waited a few more minutes (fuck you, slow driving time thieves), or had gotten stung twice, not so much. Thank God I chose Quick Care and not the hospital. To those who might find themselves in the same situation one day, perhaps skip the ER if you want to live. I was also told that since my reaction was so bad, next time it’ll be worse, so I probably won’t make it to an emergency room on my own. Go big or go home, right? (Totally my catch-phrase on this one.)
Eventually, I was allowed to leave with a prescription for two epi pens and a variety of other medications.
However, more fun ensued the following evening when I headed back into the emergency clinic with complications. That wasp was killing me! Literally. (And financially.) My lower leg and foot were hot to the touch, hurt and had doubled in size. I have a high pain tolerance and of course, waited too long once again.
I had a skin infection from the sting site called Cellulitis. “When can I work out?”
Doc: “Not for a while.”
Me: “Define a while.”
Him: “At least 4 days.”
Ugh. I’d skipped the gym all holiday weekend, too. I’ve missed too much gym time this year between pneumonia, bronchitis and now this. I was told to sit on my ass with my leg elevated, and take more medications. I won’t lie; this fucking sucks.
You know what pisses me off? I didn’t even get to kill that wasp. Chris killed its entire family, Frank Castle Punisher style. I suppose that will have to suffice. I left the decimated wasp nest on my front porch as a warning to all others.
The fact that I was so close to dying still hasn’t sunk in. My blood pressure dropped and my heartbeat nearly stopped, too.
I’ve managed to survive much in life:
A highly, abusive ex who tried to strangle me on his way out. (The police broke in to the apartment and tasered him multiple times before taking him to jail).
Bad ring accidents; including a broken back which brought on an asthma attack so bad that I didn’t think I’d make it through.
Multiple battles with pneumonia.
Traveling to foreign countries alone (especially during the Bush era, when everyone hated Americans. I got sent into a dangerous area of Paris “for fun” when I had asked for directions).
One near plane crash during takeoff.
An accidental med overdose as a kid.
Living with a bipolar father.
A wrist cutting. (Hey, I inherited the bp gene. Kind of comes with the territory.),
Falling out of trees/off bikes with alarming regularity (sans helmet).
Working in retail at Christmas.
All of that, only to be done in by a stupid insect?!?
I knew moving to Florida would kill me. On the plus side, at least there’s no death tax here.
I shudder to think what the hospital bills are going to be.
This is where I should say how grateful I’ve realized I am, but to be honest, I was grateful before this. If I had died on that day, I’d have been fine with it. The people I love know I love them. I’ve been places and done things. I’ve lived. I feel lucky on most days, with the clear exception of that Monday. So, I’ll just say thank you for being fans and friends – and if I should have the ironic death of having been through so much shizz in life only to kick the bucket from a fucking bee sting, feel free to have a laugh for me. I know I sure would!
In the meantime, I am sitting around until I finish the antibiotics catching up on Game of Thrones. Silver linings…
Onto the positives…
Thank you to Doctors Express in Clearwater, FL. You’re all awesome.
Huge thanks (big time!) to those who have sent things off my Amazon Wishlist ( http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/258GQWZANXBQ3/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_ws_CUhAvb0YTKWPE ) . Unfortunately, we don’t get rich in wrestling or modeling unless you’re at the very top tier. We are more often than not in trade; content for time. Comic books for our image. Photos for our day of work. It matters more than you know when fans are sweet and supportive. I am very thankful to those who go the extra mile.
I realize I haven’t updated my blog in eons. I’ve been writing, but not FINISHING. Much has been going which that has consumed energy like a vampire; a 5-week ComicCon tour, house hunting and Chris’ bipolar meds being all kinds of fuckity, to name a few of the higher priorities.
But one of these things is that I got baby chicks! At a Shine Wrestling show in January, a friend found a rejected hatchling. She couldn’t keep it due to her extensive cat collection, so I took her home. I’d always wanted chickens one day…just not THAT day. I was a completely clueless chicken (pullet) owner. But things have a way of working out. Her name became Daisy (we hoped it was a ‘her’) and I believe she may be a (bantam) Easter Egger. They’re called that because their eggs are in shades of blue, green, red and yellow. For the first 24 hours of her life, she wasn’t kept warm (unless she was tucked into my boobs), so we didn’t think she’d survive.
But, she did. Chickens of that breed roam around Ybor City. On Google and through talking to others, I’ve learned about heat lamps, Chicken Math, medicated feed and what the term ‘broody’ means, among many other things. The first time I had to reach into a bag of (delicious and nutritious) meal worms, I’ll admit I was extremely grossed out. Now, it’s no biggie.
We honestly had no idea if the little fuzzy yellow ball of cheeping sweetness was a Daisy or a Duke. This became a problem. Where I live, Roosters are illegal and I’d gotten insanely attached to the baby chick. She perked up when she saw me, responded to her name, answered back if talked to, came when called. She also couldn’t stop looking into the mirror I’d put into her brooder (box), which meant she was lonely. I learned she should not be alone, so we got two more chicks from a farm that were show quality silver and gold laced Wyandotte breeds that were slightly older, as that was all that was available in our area. Delilah and Daphne weren’t as warm and fuzzy as Daisy is. They’d been treated as livestock, not pets for the first several weeks of their lives and it showed. The new girls were skittish and hand-shy. It took a lot of work to get them used to us, but they’ve adjusted to a degree. They’d fall asleep in our arms, while we rubbed their necks each night. Daisy turned out to be 100% female (thankfully!) and 100% pet. She loves being picked up and petted. As soon as she sees us, she starts chattering. If you’d told me that chickens make great pets, I would have laughed. But, they do.
I can’t meditate. I’ve tried. I’ve even gone to classes to learn. Clearing a bipolar/ADHD mind is nearly impossible. But watching those chicks play, scratch, interact with each other and chirp away is just about the same thing as meditating. I am able to shut the world out, clear everything and just take them in. It’s strange how calming they are for me. The world quiets, my thoughts stop racing, and it’s just them.
With all this, I have come to a conclusion : chickens = happy.
And they haven’t even started to lay eggs yet. Can’t wait!
Big thanks to Micheal Patry, Danielle Dadamo and Jennifer Dunham for editing my questionable grammar! And thank you to Chris for being the first to read everything and the first to help with it…no matter how honest it is. 🙂