pretending to grill in the garden of eden


, , , , , , , ,

I have lost some weight recently. A goodly amount, I think it’s fair to say. Only ten more pounds to go. I weighed 150 pounds nine years ago when my trauma began and by 2013 I was 224 pounds. I ate for a lot of reasons. I’ll tell you about it some time.

Today I am thinking about a picture of me grilling. Well, pretending to grill. It was 2007 and I had left my first husband and was just starting medical school. I was young. So damned young. 28 to be precise. I just knew my soul mate awaited me out there. And I would of course find him on the internet. A single mom going to med school doesn’t have time to go out, so she would of course take advantage of online dating. But, I needed a profile picture. This was before the advent of selfies and not too many of us had a gaggle of carefully angled, flattering pictures of ourselves lying around in our smart phones. I didn’t even have a smart phone. So I asked my mother to take a picture of me.

I wanted to look natural so I said, take a picture of me in the kitchen cooking spaghetti. (Because everyone has a picture of them in full make up smiling as they cook spaghetti. So natural. And maybe I could use it if I ever decided to sell my own brand of jarred spaghetti sauce. Kill two birds with one stone. Bam) Unfortunately, the lighting in the kitchen was bad so we went out on the back patio of my little ranch house in Erie. Unsure of how to keep up the natural theme, I went for the grill. Here, I said, take a picture of me pretending to grill.

And so here I am today, looking at a picture of me with my hair perfectly done, pink lip gloss shining, smiling with my mouth and my eyes (so it wouldn’t look fake. Even though it was). Holding a large grilling spatula in my hand, the cold grill lid opened. No sign of my special needs toddlers to be seen. None of the dark circles I’d soon earn staying up late studying. The flat stare of depression that had occupied my face most of my life, the fear of the abuse I’d lived under, the wide eyes of my mania, absent. I’m beaming with hope in that picture. An endless stream of possibility before me. Faith that I will have a wonderful life. (I did work in the Jimmy Stewart Museum in high school, after all).

I do have a good life now. Nine years later. I have been blessed and I have fought for it. I certainly do not have the life I imagined then, when I was young. How many of us do? I have walked through my darkness these years and come out on the other side.

I am now almost to the weight I am in that picture. And as I have dropped each pound, run each mile, I have thought, this is a victory over my trauma. I have reclaimed my mental health and now I am reclaiming my physical. He can’t take this from me. I am leaving behind my trauma pound by pound. I am escaping a body that is not really mine. Getting back to being myself after so long.

But now I am close to the weight in the picture, to wearing the clothes I wore then, all of which I have saved in anticipation of this day. And I look in the mirror and I have not returned to looking like myself at all. I am not the girl at the grill.

My stomach has gone from that of a 28 year old whose had 2 kids to that of a 37 year old whose had 4 and gained and lost a lot of weight. My face has crow’s feet and laugh lines it didn’t then. And my eyes don’t smile the same. They’ve seen too much to smile so damned naïve. They smile not with happiness, but with the joy that comes from knowing sadness.

I’ll be honest with you, I wish my body looked like it did back then. I’d love to be a good feminist and not feel that way. I know I shouldn’t subconsciously convey such attitudes to my sweet daughter. But, life’s a process, okay? And I wish I was a little firmer, a little perkier. Less stretch marks. Less lines. But I don’t wish my eyes were perkier. I don’t wish these past nine years had been different. Don’t wish I could return to being naïve.

I’ve never believed in regret. It’s never made sense to my logical autistic brain. If you can’t do something over, why would you possibly sit around thinking about what might have been? It is what it is, I often say. Life is what it is.

I have no regrets about choosing the medical school I did. About pursuing the awful man I did. About turning him in as I did. Never have, never will. But I have been continuing to labor under the false idea we get after trauma. The idea that keeps us from moving on, that locks us into PTSD if we believe it enough. The idea that we can make this trauma not matter. That it can become a minor footnote in our life story. That we can go back to being who we were before. Before. Before *it*. You know, that event that doesn’t matter anymore. Even though it’s the yardstick we now measure every accomplishment by. Constantly claiming victory. Telling yourself, living well is the best revenge. Tallying up everything you have that your perpetrators never will. Telling yourself, I’m not like those whiny survivors who blame all their problems on their trauma. I’m different. I have overcome.

The truth is, your life was divided the day the trauma began. There was before the trauma and after. And it drives you mad. You just want that damned line erased. You want your life whole again. A beautiful continuous flowing story arc. With twists and turns and dips and peaks, but unbroken. But that fucking chasm, fault, break, schism, crack, gully, canyon, whatever you call it, it’s still there. Won’t budge. It’s not something you can remove. Because it’s not something. It’s the absence of something. You can try and try to fill it, but it’s still there. Go ahead, dump in food, pills, booze, drugs, sex, work, reckless driving, overspending, self injury, reality television, starvation, obsessive relationships, obsessive religion, hours of staring blankly at walls… It’s still there. Fill it til it overflows. It’s still there.  It. Will. Always. Be. There.

The Garden of Eden will not be restored. The fallen world remains.

And that’s okay. Well, it’s not *really* okay. It’s trauma. And trauma’s hell. But… it is what it is. It doesn’t have to be okay. It just is. And you have to learn to accept that it is. Over. And over. And over. You build up a life on the other side of it. You peer down into it and thank God you haven’t fallen into it. That you’re here. Looking back at it as you run, mile by mile.

I swallowed a vitamin yesterday. A really big vitamin. I’ve always been good at swallowing pills. So are my kids. Family skill. (baggy esophagus maybe? we’re not the most coordinated family so it’s certainly not that we have an especially athletic swallowing mechanism). The thing is, Jeremy raped me a lot of ways but the scariest one was the oral rape. Because I thought I would die. He would suffocate me and count to ten slowly and I thought he might just hold me there long enough to kill me and I’d never see my babies again. I felt so utterly powerless. I was so utterly powerless. He would tell me he was training the gag mechanism out of me.

It didn’t work and ever since then, I have had trouble swallowing certain things like big pills. Vitamins in particular I guess since he had me on a vitamin regimen of sorts. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to deal with. I  just took gummy vitamins. But yesterday my husband said, these are really good vitamins, maybe you could try and see. And so I did. I put this rather large vitamin and my probiotic capsule and my two medications in my mouth and took a big gulp of water and threw my head back. And they all went down. Down the hatch.

I felt so victorious. I thought, I wish I could tell someone. I was so happy that he’d now taken one less thing from me. I thought about telling people, though, and how I would need to explain that whole oral-rape-until-you-suffocate thing. And then I remembered the whole orally-raped-until-I-suffocated thing. And I felt so powerless. So utterly powerless. There in my living room, my babies’ toys strewn on the floor, the fireplace I love, the pictures of our wedding and our first communion at the Easter vigil and… I felt so terrified and so sad and… I thought to myself, a really awful thing happened to me. A freaky, awful thing. A thing no one deserves. That happened. It happened to me. And it can’t be undone.

The moment passed quickly. In a matter of seconds it was done and I was back to my life. To my beautiful fireplace and crazy bubalink babies and my devoted husband and I stumbling through Catholicism. And now I was doing all that with the benefit of a wonderful multivitamin.

You tell yourself, you need to stop running *from* the trauma and start running *towards* the good things. And the truth is, I do have runs where I think about the healthy habits I’m giving my kids and going on hikes with my husband, maybe learning tennis or kickboxing. How good it feels to be lighter on my feet, to get around easier, to know I’m probably going to dodge the bullet of diabetes type 2 and keep the arthritis at bay as long as I can. But sometimes I think of how far I’ve come. Sometimes I think of him, of her (the head of my medical school),  of the sickness in their hearts that makes them do the things they do. Of the happiness they tried to deny me.

They did, in a way. They took from me the naïve happiness I had then. They put a fault in my life. Made it into a before and after. But I have made a home on the other side. I am not hanging off the edge. I am not in the darkness of it. My happiness has given way to joy and wisdom and a greater love than I could have known. The fault is there to stay. And that’s okay. Well, it’s not okay. But it is. It is what it is. And after all, it really is a wonderful life.

The World is Coming to an End


, , , ,

My husband is a filmmaker and he made our wedding video. I am blessed like that. He edited it, picked out the music and even hired an animator to make an animated version of the highlights of our relationship. Impressively, he did this while broke and during a really painful separation I had instigated. #MaritalSaint.

We watch it from time to time and we had been meaning to sit and watch it again for the past few months now. Our daughter Lena loves weddings and kept asking when we would watch it. We finally carved out some time to watch it last week. As Lena sat oohing and ahhing over my pretty dress and the “beauuuutyful flowas,” I found myself crying. Which was odd. You see, I am not a crier. I mainly cry when

  1. flooded with pregnancy hormones
  2. when extremely exhausted or
  3. when extremely depressed and heading into a panic attack. When it feels I am falling into the blackness and my world is coming to an end.

I cried several times during the video despite not wanting to do so in front of my sweet, very empathetic Lena. Unlike my boys, she notices any time I am sad or angry. Sometimes she notices before I do. #HighFunctioningAutism. And unlike the boys, I can never lie my way out of it.

I cried as we watched my father give me away and when my nieces walked down the aisle as little flower girls. My wedding was really the last time I saw my sisters and my nieces. I have since then physically seen them a few times, but it was a hollow, awkward exercise. It only served to remind me of what I’d lost.

I watched my two nieces in their pretty little dresses walking down the aisle. The older one was 6 1/2 and the younger one 4 1/2. Smiling and sweet. At the reception the younger one danced with abandon and ran around, often times chased by her father trying to get her to do something. She was quick and evaded capture often. As I watched them, I realized they will forever be caught in this age in my mind. They will never age. Forever sweet, spunky little girls.

I saw them for the first time since the wedding (the first time in 5 years, in 60 months, in 1,825 days) this past summer. 11 1/2 and 9 1/2. They were hard to recognize. They looked so much like their mother now. They looked so grown up. They did not talk to me or my boys.

My boys, especially the Axe, had been asking to see them for five years. He never gave up. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed. I didn’t understand either and couldn’t figure out how to explain it. I told him, my sister is mad at me and doesn’t want to see us. He asked why she was mad and I said, I don’t know. Because I don’t.

Now, they were strangers.

My sister gave her older daughter my name as her middle name. Because I had helped her through her very long, very difficult, downright heroic labor. It meant a lot to me. An overwhelming lot. I wonder now what she tells her when she asks where her name came from, as I often asked my mother when I was a little girl.

I cried because I will always miss them. Because they will forever be little girls in my mind even as they grow. And that is a very sad thing, to never grow up.

I cried too to see my parents. My father giving me away.

“Who gives this woman to be married?”

” I do.”

But they didn’t really give me away. They couldn’t bring themselves to let me go. They couldn’t stand the thought of letting me grow up. I was forever a little girl to them. *Their* little girl. They could let no one take me away. It did not occur to them I was choosing to go away, that no one was taking me. In their mind, I was theirs and now he was taking me to be his. After all, a little girl is not able to make such decisions.

If they’d let me go, I would have. I really did want to marry my husband and have a home of my own. Every time I’d left my home as an adult I always came back. I went away to college but then transferred to the local school and lived with them. Then I met my first husband and moved away with him and got married. But then I divorced him and again lived with them for four years during medical school. Then I met my forever husband and moved away again. If they’d let me go, I would have stayed with him. But they couldn’t and I didn’t. I left him twice. I left him in a sudden, jarring, couldn’t see it coming way. Twice. And each time returned to them. The first time I physically moved back in with them. The second time, only emotionally so.

And a man shall leave his parents and cleave to his wife. No mention of the wife in that one.

My husband would say to me I was too attached to my family and our marriage wasn’t going to work until I grew up and left the nest and learned to put my kids and marriage first. I kept insisting I had and offered up various bits of evidence to support the patently untrue assertion. He was never convinced.

They had made clear while we were dating they didn’t like him. My sisters broke off with me after the wedding. My parents remained and put up a show of liking him. When I left the first time, it was ay my family’s urging and we sat discussing their true feelings about him. When he and I attempted to reconcile shortly after the separation I kept it a secret as I knew they’d be upset. I was right. When they found out from reading text messages on my phone, my mother kicked me out. Me and my three kids. Me with nowhere to go. I remember calling my oldest sister crying uncontrollably, panicking, terrified. Terrified because I had nowhere to go but mostly because when this side of my mother came out, I felt that black hole feeling. That I was being sucked into the abyss. The world was ending.

Our mothers are the source of life. They are supposed to be the safe womb we can always return to in times of distress. Mine was not. It was in times of distress she was most likely to turn from a seemingly sweet cookie baking, nurturing mom to an ugliness words cannot describe. A cold hate would flow from her and destroy me. My world spinning around me, closing in on me, suffocating me into non-existence.  I would go from being a sacrificial devoted mother in her eyes to a crazy, unfit mother who put men before her children. She would threaten to give my ex-husband money to get a lawyer and take my kids away. Crazy. Unfit mother. Woman who puts men before her children. These were the things I feared most. These were the demons that haunted me. Was she right? Is that who I truly was? That doubt, that possibility, was an endless source of shame deep within me.

You never really knew when she would turn. I grew up in a minefield. Trying so hard not to set her off. And always failing.

I remember going back to my bedroom, the room I had slept in all my life, that I had returned to once again, and calling my husband. Speaking in hushed tones and sobs about my mother kicking me out. He couldn’t understand what I was saying. I was terrified for my mother to hear me so I spoke quietly and ended the call quickly. He had no idea what had happened.

My mother soon summoned me to the living room with an offer. She would not kick me and my babies out on condition that:

  1. I send my two boys to live with their father as she did not have the energy for them. My daughter could remain and she would watch her while I completed residency and
  2. I was to cut off contact with my husband. Any time we met for visitation with our daughter, I was to be chaperoned by my father. They didn’t want my manipulative evil husband sucking me back in. After all, I was just a little girl and easily tricked.

I agreed, so scared. I cut off all contact with my husband without even explaining why. They soon rescinded the demand I send my boys to live with their father, but not the second. We met for visitation with my father awkwardly standing with us. My husband brought me gifts, sweet gifts. A CD he’d made me. Sweet, thoughtful gifts and cards. My family rolled their eyes and laughed. How could he think gifts would make up for what a horrible person he was?

In time, I began communicating with my husband again and we decided again to reconcile. This time, I knew I couldn’t let them find out as we prepared, finding a house to live in and meeting as often as we could (he was living 3 1/2 hours away). My parents rarely left the house, but in August there was a family reunion they would be at for a few hours. In those few short hours we packed up my belongings, disassembled my boy’s bunkbeds and moved all of it out to the new house, an hour away, where I was completing residency. I left them a note saying goodbye.

Their little girl had once again been stolen.

In time, I unpacked the dysfunction of my family in therapy. I began slowly to set boundaries and view my family and my childhood for what it was. I realized there was no emotional intimacy. I realized I had been raised to trust no one but the family. I realized how afraid I had been all these years of my mother disowning me, as she had other people in her life. I realized my mother and I were enmeshed and yet not close at all. Not in the ways that matter.

I left my husband again this past summer just as suddenly, just as secretly, just as heartbreakingly. We reconciled again. And my parents said they were fine with it, but began to punish me in subtle unspoken ways. But still I kept them in my life.

The breaking point came a few months later with the dog incident I have explained in previous posts. I found after I broke with them, my marriage was suddenly so much better. My opinion of my husband so much better, my love for him unconditional. I was not expecting this. I came to see all the subtle ways they had undermined our marriage while, on the surface, appearing to be supporting it. How incredibly cruel. To me and to my kids. Crazy. An unfit mother. Projection.

I no longer have my family in my life and so I cried as I watched my father giving me away in my pretty white dress. They say in Catholicism that we are not waiting for the world to end when Christ comes. The world ends many times in our lives. When we get divorced, get a bad diagnosis, lose a loved on. It ended for me when I found out my son was sick at 6 days old, when a guy I’d been in love with broke my heart, when my medical school tried to ruin my career for turning in a child molester. The world ends but a new one begins. It prepares us for death, they say. For it is in dying that we are born again.

My world has come to an end once again as it has before. But this time I can see clearly the new world that has been created in its place. My children growing up healthier and happier than I, my marriage finally solid, my body and mind stronger than they’ve ever been, my connection to God growing.

They couldn’t give me away and so now I have left of my own will. I am not a little girl. I have grown up.

food is not love ( or: Hail keystone party mix, full of carbs…)


, , ,

I’m working a lot of days this week. 6 out of 7 days. Which when you work 12-13 hour days, is a lot. For me and for my kids and husband. #UrgentCareLife.

I needed to prepare for this by making freezer meals for both this hellish week and then the week after since I’d have no time to make *those* meals as I normally would the week before. Because I’m working 6 out of 7 days this week. Did I mention I’m working 6 out of 7 days this week? It’s kind of awful.

I was making a new recipe for the freezer. One I had never attempted before: chicken cacciatore. As it was simmering, I thought of my childhood, of my grandmother’s house. She used to make chicken cacciatore. She wasn’t Italian; she was a farm wife whose people had come from Scotland and England like the people of Appalachia tended to have done. She always cooked from scratch. Three meals a day. No sandwiches for lunch. It was boiled potatoes and pork chops and sliced tomatoes and fruit and… Something was always cooking, the scents hanging in the house when you walked in the door. She wasn’t much into baking so when we would walk the mile down the road to her house on hot summer days to go swimming in her pool, she would bring us Keebler Soft Batch chocolate chip cookies as a snack. Something we did not get at home. Something we absolutely loved.

I thought back on the chicken cacciatore she made as I watched mine coming along. I felt my heart warming to think mine was turning out as well as hers. And then I thought, my Grandma never seemed to love me. I mean, I’m just being brutally honest here. It sounds awful, but I come from a dysfunctional family where I just had no emotionally intimate connection with anyone. It astounded me when I grew up and found out how other people felt about their grandparents, the close bond they shared. Not so with me and mine. I had just assumed that’s what a grandchild-grandparent relationship was *supposed* to be like. Turns out I was wrong.

So, why was the chicken and peppers boiling away in our cast iron skillet making me feel all soft and gooey?

I thought back on my grandmother’s chicken cacciatore and my mother’s snickerdoodle cookies. The peanut butter bread my mother made for us with raisins that made a smiley mouth and two mini marshmallows for eyes. The trips to McDonalds with my mom when my sisters were at school, just me and her. I told myself that food was her way of showing love. But it wasn’t. It was the desperate attempt of a little girl to believe her mother loved her in a way she definitely did not. Children are completely dependent on their parents for their very lives. They have to believe in them, in their love. And so I found a way.

What I didn’t realize until that moment in the kitchen next to the hot stove with the chicken cacciatore wafting into my pores, is that it wasn’t love at all. It was just food. And for all these 37 years I’ve been alive, I have comforted myself with food because, to me, it is love. Not a symbol of love, not a sign. It is literally love. When you’re upset, you should be able to go to your mother to be comforted. I never could. But I could eat chocolate. I could pour my sadness out to Little Debbie cakes and my anger into Doritos.

If your parents don’t comfort you when you’re young, you never learn to comfort yourself. Not in a healthy way, anyway.

For me, food has been my answer to sadness, worry, uncertainty, joy, anger, boredom, frustration. It’s been my self care and entertainment. It has been my secret, my rebellion, my hiding place, my distraction.

I remember being 10 years old in 4th grade and we had to all cross the road to the YMCA and take swimming lessons. I felt horrible about my body. I thought my thighs were just massive. I couldn’t stand the thought of being seen in a bathing suit. I’d never been made fun of. But the idea was there because of what I heard discussed at home as well as the messages we get in our culture. I began looking for excuses not to participate. I would forget my clothes on purpose. Say I wasn’t feeling well.

There was a vending machine at the Y that we were forbidden to use (this is in the days before there were vending machines in schools). I used to try to be the first one out of the locker room after class so I could quickly deposit my quarters to get a snack size bag of Keystone Party Mix. A compilation of pretzels, cheese covered tortilla chips, barbecue corn chips and cheese doodles. I would hide it away in my bag and save it for later. I would take it back to my bedroom and eat it in secret.

My parents found out I was missing swimming class and sat me down and asked me why. Was someone picking on me? No, I answered honestly. But I knew I couldn’t tell them why I was really skipping class. An unwritten, unspoken rule of the family. Don’t have negative emotions. Don’t expose your vulnerability or they will pounce. Everything. Is. Fine. And so I said what I was supposed to. Made up some unbelievable excuse which they readily believed. Everything. Is. Fine. After all.

My Keystone Party Mix comforted me. My Keystone Party Mix was the secret I kept from them. It was mine and mine alone. A protective wall. The more they know about you, the more they will hurt you. Reveal as little as possible. Protect yourself.

Hail Keystone Party Mix, full of carbs, … protect us, Mother.

That was the beginning of it. This is the end.

I know I deserve more now. I deserve love. And food is not love. I am finally able to eat healthily and be happy. I am able to comfort myself without turning to cake. I can get angry with my husband and not stop off at McDonald’s on my way to work for a Sausage McMuffin. I can make it through a boring, frustrating day at work without noshing on candy all day. I can stop after a handful of chips or a single brownie, because I am not empty and searching. I hope I am giving this to my children too. The ability to sit with the hardships of life, to turn to people who love and support them, to know they’re worth more.

I do cook for my family because I love them. I work urgent care for them and clean for them and kiss boo boos too. But I do not offer food as a substitute for love and compassion, emotional validation and open, safe, discussions. Sometimes our family *isn’t* fine. Sometimes we’re a wreck. No, like, a flaming tire fire kind of wreck. And that’s okay. It’s life. It is what it is. We all have permission to feel whatever it is we’re feeling at that moment. We’re allowed to have boundaries. I hope they like my cooking and the birthday cakes I make them, but I hope that’s the least of what I mean to them. They deserve more.


I have slept in the bed with evil


, , , , , ,

I am wearing all black today. I am in mourning. I am not going to make a joke about my goth days in high school. I am not going to compare the title of this post to that awful made-for-TV movie from the nineties starring Tori Spelling, “Mother May I Sleep with Danger.” This is no joke. This is not a nightmare we will wake up from tomorrow, a bipolar fugue we will not remember when it ends and we find ourselves far from home. It may be the 1930s.

I do not use the word evil lightly. A lot of people have referred to Hillary Clinton as evil in this election cycle. I am as big a critic of Bill Clinton’s policy and Hillary’s record on free trade, her foreign policy, and her “super predator” comments as anyone. But she’s hardly evil.

For four months, I slept in the bed of a man who can rightly be called evil. A man who loved raping and torturing little girls above all else, who admired Hitler, who raped me again and again and again and threatened to kill my children. A man who disturbed even the seasoned federal judge and the FBI agent who were involved in his case. He was a medical student on his way to becoming a doctor. Nobody suspected. None of us even knew such evil existed as it all came out, certainly not that our fellow medical student possessed the evil.

Trauma changes you. It changes your relationship with yourself, with your family and friends, with God, with the world itself and every person you encounter day by day. They say the fundamental experience of trauma is the feeling you have been abandoned. By the people you love, by the ones who were supposed to protect you, and by God himself.

My Ordeal changed me in so many ways but one of the worst was the knowledge of just what evil exists in our world. Evil I did not know existed. And I had not lived a sheltered life to that point. I was not naïve. And yet I was. My fear now is that we as a country are being naïve. Despite our very violent history.

We cannot underestimate the possibilities of this new world. We cannot afford to be naïve. I do not know what will happen but I know it could be very, very bad.

A few years ago we were at a festival at a place called City Island in Harrisburg. Our three sons went off on their own while my husband and Princess (still a baby) and I stayed and chatted with some friends. Eventually two of our sons came back, but not the third. Our legally blind, autistic son was not with them. They told us they’d had some kind of fight with him and decided to leave him. They were too young to know not to do this. Too naive.

My husband and I split up to cover the island looking for him. And as I looked in booths and the dense woods that framed the island, pushing Princess in the stroller, terror went through my body. My mind went to Jeremy. To the people he talked to on the internet who also loved raping and torturing children. Who sent him images of their horrific acts, recorded in stills and movies. The ones presented at trial that took any remaining innocence from anyone in that courtroom. I cried as I looked. I pictured what might happen to him. Things that are worse and more common than we allow ourselves to believe. I didn’t want to scare Princess, but I could not hold back the tears. My husband found him and I ran up to him, shaking and crying and finding it hard to bring the oxygen into my lungs.

I do not know how so many people at Penn State stood by while little boys were raped and did little or nothing. I will never comprehend that. The coaches, the janitor, Mike McQuery whatever the hell he was. I could have been killed. My children could have been killed. I laid down my body. I laid down my mind. I lost seven years of my life to PTSD. So did my children and husband, lost seven years of me being truly present in our lives. I have no regrets and never have. Not for a second. But I know the men of Penn State are much more common than people like me. And this election confirms it.

Evil can flourish, slowly, insidiously. I see friends who loved Bernie so much now so glad they voted Trump. I can see the mainstream Republicans now falling in line or being eliminated (we’re assured by Trump’s people the are making “a list” of “his enemies”). I can see the inevitable persecution of journalists and violent crackdown on peaceful protests. Hate crimes and sexual assault rates rising (if you don’t believe me, look at what happened in the aftermath of Brexit). Muslims forced to wear badges identifying them (yes, Trump said this).

You think I exaggerate. You think this couldn’t be the 1930s. And I hope you’re right. But I know in my bones you probably aren’t.

God bless and protect the Union.


Lemons and sugar in the snow


, , , , , ,

My husband and I are trying to get out and meet new people, to try to make some friends. “We’re putting ourselves out there,” I said to him as we discussed it the other night, “so to speak. It’s kind of like dating. We’re trying to find another couple to be besties with so we have to be more social and put some feelers out.” He looked a little annoyed, or maybe mildly disgusted. Sort of like the face you make when your stomach is slightly off and you’re trying to figure out if it’s going to pass or if it’s the beginning of a full on GI issue.

I took the first step for us (just as I did back when we first met) and found a get together for us with other 30-something couples with kids at a nearby pub. It’s other Catholic couples so I figured I could pique my hubs’ interest with it and I was right (this is, in fact, even more complicated than dating as it turns out. It’s like I’m a matchmaker *and* I’m dating. This analogy is getting a little cumbersome). I checked with our babysitter and she was free the night of the cas’ soiree so I entered it onto our family scheduling app and we were all set (It wasn’t actually that simple because nothing in our chaotic life is that simple, but we’ll leave it at that).

A few days later, we were driving home from our Saturday evening marital therapy appointment where we’d spent an hour making a family genogram (don’t ask), and my mind began to wander as my hubs drove the minivan down 376 as Soldier Boy made explosion noises behind me and the Baby tried to decide if he was going to cry or fall asleep. I started thinking about what I would wear when we went out to the pub in a couple weeks. I’ve been losing weight lately and I thought of the clothes I haven’t worn in a while that will now fit. I mentally assembled an outfit from med school and paired it with a pair of boots I recently bought. I pictured my hubs and I alone in my car (not the damn minivan, thank you very much) heading out and what nice compliment he might pay me. And then I thought of what I might say to him.

“Do you remember this outfit? Remember the last time I wore it?”

The answer is not our honeymoon or our first date or anything other such romantic thing. The answer is actually that I bought this outfit at the Millcreek Mall in February of 2011 while we were in Erie for the trial of Jeremy Noyes. The man who put me through my Ordeal.

I did not think of this moment, of telling him this, with sadness or anger. I actually thought of it with a slight small on my face.

Jeremy’s trial started on February 14th. It was my hubs Eric and my first Valentine’s Day as a couple. We spent the week up in cold snowy Erie. Jeremy had fired his attorney and chosen to represent himself. He subpoenaed me to testify. I’m not sure which is worse: having to be questioned by your rapist in federal court, or all the time before it that you spend imagining what it will be like. We spent the whole week in Erie, waiting for it to be my turn to testify. Eric was allowed to sit in on the trial but I was not since it could affect my testimony when I was called to the stand later on.

I only packed one suit but I thought I might need a second if my testimony took more than one day. So, as Eric sat taking in images and words at that trial no person would ever want to, evil hard to imagine, I went to the mall. I bought more than I needed, more than I should have. I bought a really, really pretty top. A flowy translucent top with corals and browns and turquoisie blues in a muted floral design like the impressionists, Manet and Monet and all that. It was so pretty. The trial was so ugly. So I bought it even though I was broke. I’m not sorry I did.

We stayed at a nice hotel that the government said they would reimburse us for. We went down to the nice restaurant in the nice hotel one night. I don’t remember which night. The night before I testified? The night after? The night in between? (I was right, it was two days of testimony so I really *did* need that second suit. Not everything else, but, the suit yes)

I don’t remember which night it was but I remember getting ready to go downstairs and making him laugh. I remember sitting there in that nice restaurant in that nice hotel in that pretty flowy top eating a lovely meal with my lovely fiancé. I remember he ordered us dessert and we shared it with two forks and it tasted better than I thought food could. I remember laughing. I remember his eyes. His mouth when the corners turned up. We were still there. In Erie. At a horrible stomach turning trial of a sociopath child predator. We were still there, but for a night, it was a little less. A little less there. There, but better.

And so, almost six years later, when I sat in the mocha colored minivan, a wedding and two kids and a hell of a lot else later, I thought of wearing that top again with the corners of my mouth turned up. It didn’t make me think of my trauma or sitting in that courtroom as Jeremy said the worst things imaginable to me. It made me think of that night. Of that respite, of the soft lighting and the attentive waiter and the clean linen table cloth on the little round table we sat at together. It made me think of all the years and all the hell he’s stood by me through. Of this most unusual life we’ve had together. Of the sweetness that comes with the bitters.

We had watched a documentary about a Holocaust survivor the night before. Made by a man Eric had made films with in another life. And the survivor in the movie told a story of starvation, of being moved from camp to camp. And on one train ride they all looked so malnourished these village women threw food onto the train, whatever they had with them from the market. And so, they had things like flour and sugar and lemons. And at one stop, a man got snow off the ground and brought it on and they made lemon ice with the lemons and sugar. The survivor in the movie said how much he loved lemon ice for the rest of his life. How could that be, I’d asked my husband. Eric had made a lot of films with survivors and he said, yes, he’d heard that many times before. He said, the lemon ice was the first thing he’d eaten after starving for so long, why wouldn’t he love it now? I said, “I guess if I was more like him I could take fish oil capsules.” But I can’t.

Jeremy made me take fish oil capsules. I can’t take them now. I can’t even take vitamins. The body remembers. The esophagus remembers. Remembers the other things he forced down my throat, remembers not breathing, not knowing if he would ever let me breathe again. Eric says I should try to overcome my aversion to fish oil and I say, No. I have overcome a fuck of a lot in the past eight years. I’m just gonna take fish oil as a loss. I’m gonna pass on conquering that one.

But sitting in that mocha minivan, I see the fish oil capsules are not my lemon ice. The flowy top is my lemon ice. I see now how he could love lemon ice. The joy and the beauty and the bodily memory of quite a different kind.

Life is not simple. Is not, yes or no. Good or evil. Would that Eric and I hadn’t spent our first Valentine’s Day together in gray snowy Erie at the trial of a madman. But there was beauty there too. There were lemons and sugar in that snow too. There too.

Thank you for contacting the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section. This message acknowledges the receipt of your email


, , , , , ,


Eight years ago, in the hot sticky month of June, I called the FBI field office in Pittsburgh to turn in a fellow medical student for trafficking a child. A three year old little girl, specifically. They never returned my call. So, I sat and typed it all out and emailed it to them on their website. I didn’t think I’d ever hear from them. So, I copy and pasted it onto an anonymous blog I was keeping at the time. I didn’t think he’d ever go to prison. And I thought he would probably kill me as he’d promised to do if ever I turned him in. No one in my life knew what had been going on for months. My ordeal. So I pasted it to my anonymous blog. Because you need to speak, no matter what. Because I needed to believe somewhere someone would read it and know my truth. And maybe if I died, the truth at least had a chance of coming out.

He went to prison. He’s in prison for 45 years now. In Arizona. I track him online on this federal prisons website where you can look up any prisoner by name (who knew such a thing existed? Funny how life goes). My victim advocate from the FBI, Bridget, has long since released me from her care, although I wasn’t clear on what she did anyway. When the judge sentenced him, sentenced Jeremy, Jeremy Noyes, he said Jeremy was one of the worst sadistic criminals he’d ever seen. You should be grateful, dear reader, you weren’t at his trial when they showed the images he had on his computer. You would never be the same again. You cannot imagine the evil men are capable of. Men that are medical students, future doctors. I was there. I was there in that beautiful courthouse with its arches and mezzanine (or was it a balcony? It was beautiful either way) when my rapist called me to the stand to question me (did I mention he fired his lawyer and represented himself? That I got the unique experience of being cross examined by my rapist?). There I sat in federal court in Erie, Pennsylvania. Just me and my rapist. And 12 jurors. And the press. And several lawyers. And all the people who just came to watch.

My school was not kind to me for turning this man in. And so, after all these years, I have finally found the courage and the energy to once again email the federal government. I’m once again afraid nothing will happen, so here I am on a blog. Once again. But this time it is not anonymous. I am not ashamed anymore. I am proud. I am a goddamned hero.

The demons they won’t fight


, , , ,

When I was fifteen, I met a wonderful, intense, intelligent. creative, amazing, intoxicating group of boys who made me feel so alive. They swore and smoked cigarettes and drank beer and smoked pot out of a Coke can bowl. They were nothing like me. I was a quiet, shy girl who’d never sworn or done anything else good girls aren’t supposed to.

I spent the next three years with them, going on adventures always exciting and sometimes terrifying. They introduced me to William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac and E.E. Cummings. To grunge and industrial and Irvine Welsh and surrealist art. We were so intensely alive. In love. All of us.

They also did a lot of drugs during these years. I did not. I started to swear, I’ll admit, but I wasn’t into drugs. I was the permanent designated driver for three years straight. I was into political activism and applying to college and various other positive activities they thought were a waste of time. They started out with just pot and beer. They made fun of stoners and burnouts. Kids who did heroin and crack and too much acid. But by the end of high school, they were the kids doing crack and meth and tripping on shrooms.

One didn’t graduate. Another dropped out of college the third day. Another dropped out a year or two later. They all descended into more and more drugs and alcoholism. I would see the poetry and genius in them every now and then but it became less and less common. I knew they were in there somewhere. Somewhere. Deep inside.

I wanted to help them. Wanted to save them. I tried. They knew they needed to change and they would try every now and then to quit. They would try giving up beer and just drinking liquor. Giving up pot and just drinking. Giving up alcohol and just smoking pot. Giving up cocaine and just taking pills. It never worked.

I felt bad for them. I knew there was a sadness in them so deep and so wide. They were trying to fill it with drugs. I wanted to save them from that darkness. They were capable of so much. I loved them so much. But it wasn’t enough.

I realized one day that they loved drugs more than they loved me. More than they loved each other. Maybe it was the night they let one of their friends die from an overdose rather than dump him at the ER because they were afraid of getting caught and I was the only one who seemed to care. Maybe it was no special day in particular. I looked at them and knew. Knew they loved drugs more and it was time to let them go. As much as I loved them, they didn’t really love me anymore. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved and all that. It was time to let go.

People criticized me for it. Said I should have helped them more. How could I abandon my poor lost friends like that. And I’ll admit it made me sad at the time. But I never regretted doing it. Never regretted saving myself. Never doubted the fact that they would never change.

A time like this comes to all the relationships we end in life. The day you figure out the person you love, loves something or someone else more than they love you and that’s not all right. You stop asking, do they love me or not? They do, but not enough. They do not love you more than their dysfunction, the demons they won’t fight.

When you let them go and with them your guilt, you are light. You are free. You have fought the good fight and given them your best. And now you are free. For better things.

That choice is gone (or, This is hell. get walking)


, , , , , , ,

Mental illness kills.

It kills with heroin overdoses and self-inflicted gunshot wounds and anorexia induced cardiomyopathy and obesity induced sleep apnea and girls who take risks they shouldn’t with dangerous boys.

And when it does, there are usually kids left behind. And that is the worst tragedy.

When I was a resident, we would admit patients overnight who had failed at killing themselves with drugs. We needed to make sure they were medically stable before being sent to inpatient psych. The ER  had saved them but we were the ones to run fluids and monitor them and fill out the paperwork once the psychiatric hospital was ready for them.

It was the job of the residents to go see these patients at two in the morning and complete an H&P, a history and physical exam. We would ask the questions we asked all patients: chief complaint, onset, duration, intensity, chronology, exacerbating and remitting factors, associated symptoms. In this case, the chief complaint was not shortness of breath or fever. In this case, the chief complaint was, I wanted to die. So I tried.

Sometimes onset was a long time ago, often it was right beforehand. Intensity was of course always a ten. Sometimes they told you their story freely. Sometimes only the bare minimum. (we would write “history limited by non-cooperative historian)

I remember one patient in particular. She was a mom. She had three kids around the same ages as my three kids at the time.  She told her story of how her boyfriend had hurt her. Hurt her so badly she decided to die. I asked where her kids were when she took the pills. They were home with her. Maybe they’re the ones who found her and called 911. Maybe it was the worst night of their lives after many other bad nights. She didn’t know whether they’d found her or not. She didn’t care. She never asked us where her children were now. Just went on about the boyfriend and how he’d hurt her and how hurt she was. And I tried very hard to have compassion for my patient, but all I could think of was her kids. Of how badly a successful suicide by their mother would have wounded them.

I have never been the type to lack compassion for those so hurt inside they feel killing themselves is the best solution. I have heard good Christians say they will go to hell. I have heard people call them selfish for hurting their families and thought, do you have no grasp of how much pain they must be in?

But by this time, at the age of 34, I’d lived a bit more of life and had a more nuanced view, you could say. I still think its’s awful to say they’d go to hell. But I do not think, when children are involved, we can simply say they were ill, they were in pain, and so it was.

When I was 28, I had a boyfriend too, just like my patient. He broke my heart too, just like my patient. And I decided to die too, just like my patient. I planned out which pills I would take and when. I’d just had pharmacology before Christmas break had begun and knew which ones would be most effective. It was Christmas. The tree was up. I hadn’t given my kids their presents yet. We were alone in Erie for break. I decided I would drop them off with their dad. He would take them to his parents house for several days for New Years as he did each year. No one was expecting to hear from me. It was time to die.

I was in a depression as deep as any I’d been in many times before. But this time was different. I was 28. I’d been battling depression since I was ten. I always held out hope I would get better one day. Life held so much possibility. But at 28, I thought, here I am again. I can’t keep doing this. I can’t. I sat on my floor crying as my three year old and two year old asked what was wrong and brought me Children’s Tylenol to try to make me better. I hate that I did that to them. I am sorry that I did that to them.

I kept pulling presents from the basement and giving them to them one by one to keep them occupied. I fed them leftovers from the Christmas eve party at my family’s house I’d brought back. I suppose I changed their diapers. I don’t remember.

I planned out how to die and thought, they will go live with my parents and be so much better off without a worthless mother like me. But then it happened.

I entered into rational thought long enough to realize they wouldn’t go live with my parents if I died. They would go live with their dad. And their dad, luckily, was a tremendous asshole at that time. And I thought, I’m really worthless, but he’s even worse. Thank you God he was such an asshole. I couldn’t do that to them.

I remembered when my oldest son Soldier Boy was a baby and I didn’t know if he would live because of a genetic disorder they thought he might have. I remembered sitting in the glider in the nursery wailing a gutteral wail from as deep down as a person can, begging God not to take my baby. Put me through the pains of childbirth for all eternity, I said (I’d just finished a 32 hour natural birth so that’s no small statement). Put me through hell, I said. Just save my beautiful baby.

And he did.

And I thought to myself, I am in so much pain. It hurts so much to live. I am in hell. But now it seems I must do what I told God I would. I must walk through hell for my babies. And so I did. One step at a time.

When you are that depressed, finding the will and the energy just to get out of bed in the morning is excruciating and exhausting. But I did. I got out of bed and I took care of my babies. I went to class and studied. I called a psychiatrist’s office and was told they don’t take Medicaid. That about did me in. But I made myself call another. And I got a psychiatrist appointment for a month from then and a therapy appointment in a few weeks.

I kept breathing. I kept living. Every breath hurt. My heart ached. My muscles ached. My soul was not in my eyes if you bothered to look. Luckily no one looked.

I wanted to check myself into inpatient psych but I knew if I did it could ruin my career and I could get my kids taken from me. I was right. I’m glad I didn’t. But it hurt. It hurt so damn much.

It was in this time, this darkness, this exile, waiting to see a psychiatrist that I entered into the relationship with the man who was my trauma, who was my Ordeal. I was in hell, so I laid with a demon. I suppose.

There in the midst of my Ordeal, I made my way through hell. I chose to live each and every day in every decision I made. When I did not feel like getting out of bed,  I would say to myself, you either live or die. If you stay in bed, you are choosing to die. When I didn’t want to go for a walk to get exercise and fresh air, I would say to myself, you have two choices, life or death. If you do not go on this walk, you are choosing to die. And that is not an option. Your babies need you to live. This is hell. Get walking.

I do not know how it is that a part of me found wellness inside the trauma, the Ordeal. Sometimes I think it’s that a part of me, a version of me, broke off and endured the trauma while the rest of me went on with life as usual. Sometimes I think it was the adrenaline. Sometimes I think it was God. Maybe a little of each.

I know that with my therapist and my psychiatrist I got to a point where I could do a load of laundry without exhausting myself. Where I could study and enjoy neuroanatomy and feel proud of myself for rocking the exam. Where I could play with my kids.

Then came PTSD, but that’s another story for another time.

And so this is what flashed through my mind and heart when I stood there collecting this patient’s onset and chronology. For her chief complaint of choosing to die. This is why I could not lend her more compassion.

When we choose to have children, certain choices go away. Dying is one of them. Even when living is hell.

And to not die is not enough. We must choose to live every day in every choice we make. We must fight for our children. Even when we can’t bring ourselves to fight for us.

They are innocent. We are not. The body is weak, but the will is strong. Must be. For them. This body, this mind, this pain, is not endless. It will all fall away. Ending it a little sooner is not worth the price of their innocence.

It is not a choice. That choice is gone.






After 37 years, I did


, , , , ,

I feel different today. I feel lighter.
I am 37 years old and have never stood up to my mother. Never spoken back to her. Not once. Not as a child, not as a teenager, not as an adult no matter what she said or did to me. I have never stood up to my sister either. Yesterday, I did. After 37 years, I did.
I have worked hard to turn the other cheek, to look for the log in my eye and not the splinter in theirs. I have tried to be empathetic and loving and kind. To not meet their aggression with mine, as you cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools. But there is a difference between being aggressive and being assertive. I gave up the passivity that defined my role in my dysfunctional family.
It was no great scene. Not emotional or dramatic. I simply told my sister I did not want her dirty money (I don’t. She made it off the backs of the poor) and that someone who’d hurt my children like she did, did not get to dictate the terms of our dispute. And then I told her something true that I’m sure cut her to the bone: that she is just like our mother. Because she is.
My mother responded by telling me she knew I’d sent “hateful” texts to my sister. I told her the truth. I told her I’d simply told my sister she was just like my mother and my sister apparently considers that hateful. (it’s kind of funny, looking back on it) She said, I suppose I won’t be hearing from you for a while again (referencing the months I’d taken while in therapy a few years ago to work out my wounds from her and what kind of boundaries I needed to establish. During which she was free to see my children whom adore her, but whom she chose not to see). I replied, No, unlike you I don’t write people off for disobeying me. I wouldn’t hurt my children like that.
I texted her today to assure her she was still invited to the three children’s birthday parties we have coming up and that the children would be sad if she didn’t come. No reply. I’m not surprised but I am sad for my children.
The narrative of what happened will go down in the family history book like this: crazy Libby did something irresponsible again (believe it or not, this whole thing was precipitated by a dog I’d bought impulsively. Don’t ask) and responsible Becky came in to save her and the poor innocent dog (my mother was considerably more concerned about the puppy she’d know for 24 hours during our exchange than her grandson she once referred to as her “soulmate”). Libby responded vindictively and cruelly.
I’ve no doubt my sister Becky, who had shut my parents out of her life for the past five years along with me and my children, will now return to the fold. And so my dysfunctional family will go on as it always has. But without me. Not by my choice but by theirs. And my children will be the ones to suffer. First their cousins taken away and now the grandparents they adore.
I hope this doesn’t happen. I hope a distant awkward peace can be made enough that they can bring themselves to see my children.
I spent my childhood trying to be the good one, trying to earn their love and never be bad. Good grades, never talk back, extracurriculars, stuff your emotions down, don’t ask for help even when you’re in so much pain inside. I was never good enough. I tried.
And so in my lightness today, I am using my energy to write letters to my children. To let them know I love them and I’m proud of them. To let them know I only push them so they can be their best and achieve their dreams and purpose in life. I admit to them I am imperfect but I’m sorry for my wrongs. That they don’t deserve the frustration I take out on them at times. I remind them they have a perfect mother in heaven who is always there.
Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, I seek a new people now. For mine are gone away. They were never there; I just couldn’t see it.

Go For It


, , , ,

I stepped out into the cold January air, the first real 5 degree-wind blowing-makes your face hurt winter day of the year. It was Martin Luther king day. The kids were off school and we’d gone to visit my parents for the day. I took Soldier Boy, The Ax, Princess and Our New Baby. Poobah and Tree stayed behind to work on the house. It was a nice day, admiring the newly remodeled kitchen my mother finally had after dreaming of it for forty years and getting to meet my sister’s new boyfriend, the chef. I caught them up on all the goings on at our house and my mother shared the latest from the various relatives. We talked politics a bit (Go Bernie! was the consensus). My mom offered me a nice crockpot too big for her empty nest and a Keurig the wrong color for her new kitchen, both of which I excitedly accepted. She told me to go through the old board games because they were throwing out whatever I didn’t want. I scored some Gumby Colorforms (remember those?), VCR Clue II, and Go For It, my favorite 1980s board game centered on accumulating red convertibles, hot tubs, and ski chalets: the good life, eighties style.

Our afternoon was wrapping up. The kids were getting cranky and it was time for us to go. So I gathered up an armful of the dusty board games and headed out to my car. And as I stepped out of my parents newly remade kitchen onto the familiar patio, the bitter cold air hit my face and suddenly I was in Erie.

Erie. January 2008. Class just let out and we’re walking to his apartment through the snow. The crunchy kind with a thin layer of ice on top that your foot catches on for a moment before sinking in. They say the Inuits have a hundred different words for snow, don’t they? (I don’t know if it’s true but it’s what they say anyway) I could not normally tell you much about what kind of snow there was on any particular day of my life years ago. I am not an Inuit of old, surviving in the Arctic north. Snow is not something of great importance to me. But those days, those memories, are not normal memories. They are not stored in the circuitry of my brain as normal memories are. And I am not now remembering that day. I am reliving it. I am there.

We are walking to his apartment to study and eat lunch. And maybe when we’re done he’ll rape me too. My stomach is in a knot. My chest is aching. My limbs are heavy and slightly numb. Not from the cold but from The Ordeal. My head is there but not there. How do you force yourself to walk to a violent sadist’s apartment? You will it. It is survival, moral spiritual survival. Protecting the young. You must. And so you do. Your will tells your legs to move and they do. They feel heavy and numb like they don’t belong to you but rather someone else. Because they must. For surely you would never go with this man so seemingly cooperative. Surely this isn’t happening. But it is.

I am afraid of what he will do when we get there. I am more afraid of the plans he has for his other victims, that I won’t find a way to stop him. He makes my whole being nauseous. Not just my stomach but my muscles and my head and my skin. My myocytes and epithelial cells. My heart and my spirit. Helpless. I am helpless with him. If I cannot stop what he has planned then I’m hopeless too. Powerless. Utterly alone in the universe. That is how it is in his apartment. Just me and him. Only one soul in the room. Mine. And he is trying to take it from me. His apartment has become the whole universe. At once a vast expanse and a vacuum. Just me and him. Nothing else, no one else.

I make him lunch and he talks about nutrition and he talks his madness all over me, coating me in its sticky thick tack. Cortisol is coursing through me. My pulse is quick. I am hypervigilent. I must be able to detect any changes to his mood so I can prepare for what’s next. The worst thing is to be caught off guard. Defenseless. I must cut the apples just so, but I must pay attention to the nuance of his speech: the tone of his voice, the rate, the cadence, the choice of words. His body language too. The way he carries himself, the tone of his muscles, the subtle change of expression on his face. He is a sociopath so he rarely shows anger. It is not so simple as that.

The irony of this is that he has brainwashed me into believing he can read me so easily, that he is always watching me and can tell when I’m lying and what I’m really thinking. He tells me he has researched it all thoroughly, how to tell if someone is lying. The direction their eyes move when answering questions, the rate their heart beats, the tone of their muscles. (But he really was terrible at it. I fooled him. He went down. He lost his life as he knew it. Why? Because he wasn’t hypervigilent. Why? Because he wasn’t afraid. He was arrogant. My fear saved me really. And allowed me to stop him. It saved my life and my soul.)

It pressed this moment into my memory too. This moment I am reliving now eight years later. In an instant. Yes all of this comes and passes in just a few seconds. And then just as suddenly I am back in 2016 packing up my car, hurrying to get back to Our New Baby before he starts fussing in his car seat.

I’m free of my prison. I have been PTSD free for a year now. I have my moments. I have my hours. But I am no longer trapped inside. I am free and I can now appreciate the fear for what it did for me then. It saved my soul. It stopped a sadist. And now I am free to live the good life, 2016 style.