Episode 85: Coping & Trauma with Brenda Feehery
How do each of us cope with trauma? Brenda’s story is remarkable for many reasons. She is a former Div 1 softball player and hockey mom with two kids who endured a day most people only experience in their nightmares. She shares how she got through it, where she is at today and the role athletics played in honing her mental toughness. Paul also reads some very intense survey responses covering a variety of ways people cope with trauma. Not a light episode, but hopefully illuminating.
Paul: Welcome to episode 85 with my guest, Brenda Feehery. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive, negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It's not a doctor's office. It's more like a waiting room. It hopefully doesn't suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. Please go check it out. There's all kinds of good stuff there. You can take surveys. You can post in the forum. You can financially support the show. There are resources. We have a link for a guide to help you find a therapist or answer questions about any mental health questions that you may have. And I believe it's called helpguide.org is the link that we have on our homepage, so if you just want to go there directly. But listen to the podcast first, fuckface. Don't fucking turn me off after I hook you up, give you the help you need...and you turn around and shit on me right out of the gate? You know what, fuck it. I don't know why I'm even gonna finish doing this episode if you're gonna go to that link right away. If you're gonna be such a dick, here I am doing this podcast for you—All right, maybe I took that a little hard. The—And scene. The episode that I have today, I got an e-mail from a listener, and they were like, 'Hey, you know, what's up with the podcast lately? You know, where's the darkness? There haven't been any really dark episodes lately.' It wasn't intentional. I don't necessarily seek out darker episodes though I certainly don't shy away from them. But sometimes I'll hold off on airing one until I feel like the show needs it. I don't know how else to describe it, but I feel like the show kind of has a personality and that, each week, it kind of—I get a feeling of what the show needs in terms of what I'm gonna air, because I usually have a dozen episodes that I've recorded already that I can choose to air from. And this episode that I am going to air today with Brenda Feehery, I recorded about a year and a half ago, but I had only been doing the show I think like six months. It's pretty intense. And so, I decided that I would have other stuff—the surveys that I would read would also be of a—not all of them, but a lot of them be of a fairly intense nature. The interview with Brenda is on the short side. It's only about 38, 40 minutes, so I'm gonna be reading a lot of surveys in this episode. And I guess the reason I'm prefacing with all of this stuff is, if you're one of those listeners that doesn't like some stuff—the awkward and the icky, this might not be the episode for you. But if you are the person that likes that, strap on your fucking seatbelt and make yourself a smoothie. That's what I'm saying. Thank you for the feedback that you guys gave me about—there was a question I had about the survey as to what choices should I give people to identify their sex and sexuality. And I used the word—I knew it wasn't right to use the word, but I used the word 'hermaphrodite,' saying I know that's not how people are referred to anymore but I didn't really know what word was used as a substitute. I might as well have used the word 'colored.' That's how fucking just out of the 50's I am sometimes in terms of knowing how things should be referred to. I got a couple of really illuminating e-mails from listeners who have kind of laid it out for me as to the different ways that people can express physically, emotionally, and sexually how they see themselves. And there are three categories: sex, sexuality, and gender. Sex would be, are you a male, a female, or an other? And it would not be called hermaphrodite. It will be called intersex. And there is a continuum. It's not a binary choice. Sexuality would be, who are you attracted to? Straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, asexual. And then gender, which would be, do you identify as masculine, feminine, or androgynous? And again, it's a continuum. So, thank you for illuminating me on that. And hopefully when I create future surveys, I will take that into account when I set those up. Unfortunately, I can't go back and change, really, the ones that I have there right now too much, so I'll have to leave those as is. All right. Enough of the apologizing. I want to kick things off with an e-mail that I got from—I don't know if you guys remember American Idiot? She was a survey respondent. She took the Shame and Secrets. I will just read it. "Dear Paul, I'm writing to give both you and your listeners an update. You all know me as American Idiot. At the end of episode 73, you read my Shame and Secrets survey." American Idiot was the name that she had chosen to identify herself on the survey. She writes, "I sat with a pounding heart and sloppy tears rolling down my face as the words that I was terrified to even think about were repeated by and met with empathy and compassion from you. You immediately called out my low self-esteem, rightly so, and you said that what I described was exactly how you felt when you were in your 20's. You told me that things would get better, not to be so hard on myself, and that it's my actions that count, not these shameful thoughts and secrets that I've held onto for so many years. I don't remember what I said in it, but I sent you an e-mail while the outro music on the podcast was still playing. I've decided to take action towards helping myself. First I told a good friend about all of the shames I could think of, and he shared his with me, and we both felt a ton of relief from letting the words escape our souls. Once they're told to someone else, they seem to lose their power. Paul, it was soul cleansing. I recommend that to all your listeners. Find someone who you trust and feel safe with and tell them you'd like to have a shame off. I also searched the Internet and found a psychologist who is a great match for me. She's the only therapist I've ever looked forward to seeing. We've been focused on my negative self thoughts, my interpersonal relationships, and setting healthy boundaries. We've only had a handful of appointments together, but I'm already seeing progress. Over the last two months since you've read my survey, I've been seeing myself in a whole new way. It's been a lot of work and it hasn't been easy, but knowing that someone is out there, a man I've never met who lives across the country who has his own life and problems and friends and family to deal with, knowing that he cares about me and he would go out of his way to reach out and say that I'm a good person, that I'm too hard on myself, well, that means the world to me, Paul. And I know you feel the same way about each and every listener out there. I've thanked you so many times, but I'm going to keep thanking you every way that I can. Thank you—" And she mentions that she has become a monthly subscriber. She writes, "I've become a monthly subscriber. I don't know you didn't read my survey or respond to my e-mail for profit, but I am hyperaware that if this podcast were to shut down because you couldn't afford to keep it going, not only would you and I suffer a loss but so would the many wonderful listeners out there who get so much from the show. I'm a big believer in paying it forward and I couldn't think of a better way than to ask you to share this story with your listeners in the hopes that it touches their hearts the way that you have touched mine. Thank you, Paul, from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely, American Idiot." Then she crossed out "idiot" and put "woman." And that just really touched me. And thank you for the little plug in there that slyly said to the listeners 'I'm a monthly subscriber.' I like that you put that in there and that I can passively aggressively include that and maybe guilt them into giving me a couple of fucking nickels. Alright, this is from the Shame and Secrets survey. I'll be reading quite a few of those today because those seem to be the darkest and the juiciest. This was filled out by a woman named [beep]. She is straight, she's in her 20's, was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional, was the victim of sexual abuse and reported it. Deepest darkest thoughts. She writes, "When I was in junior high, I used to sleep with a knife under my bed. I wanted to kill my father." What are the sexual fantasies most powerful to you? She writes, "I have sexual fantasies about being raped, spanked and abused in every way possible. I am so ashamed. I wish I was normal and was just attracted to big dicks or the simple thrill of public sex." Well, I, for one, am glad that not many women are attracted to big dicks. Like I know what the stat is on that. I'm praying a lot of women—let's just put it this way. I'm thankful my wife, if she does care about big dicks, keeps it to herself. Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies? If not, why? She writes, "I've never had a partner longer than a month. I've slept with any partner I've had. Conversation of a sexual nature never came up. I did recently mention my fantasies to my therapist." Deepest darkest secrets. She writes, "I was young when I realized spanking and abusive behaviors made me excited sexually. I was with some kids at a babysitter's house when one boy who was younger than me was being a jerk. I told him I was going to spank him. I pulled him over my lap just to freak him out and told him to go away. I felt excited. I was only about nine, but I am so ashamed. I have also struggled with self injury for many years. I'm afraid of being intimate with someone I care about and them judging me for my scars, especially the ones on my breasts and genitals. No one knows how much of my body is covered in scars." Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings toward yourself? She writes, "Shame, sadness, disgust." Well, I just want to send her a big hug. And tell her that she is not alone. And you know, when you're a kid in junior high and you sleep with a knife under your bed and you want to kill your dad...that's somebody who is at the top of my list of needing some compassion for themselves and also somebody who should go talk to a professional, 'cause that's some heavy fucking shit to deal with. No human being can live with that stuff and just sweep it under the bed. So...This next survey was filled out by a woman who calls herself Swiss Cheese. She's gay. She's in her 30's. Was raised in an environment that was stable and safe. She adds, "And my mother had major depressive disorder her whole life, but I wasn't diagnosed and treated until I was in my 20's. She became a new woman after Prozac. I also knew my parents loved me, but sometimes her inner misery bled through and tainted my childhood and adolescence." Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? She writes, "No." Deepest darkest thoughts. She writes, "I think about breaking into the pharmacy where I work and stealing every pain pill in the store. I know exactly where they are and could find them blindfolded. It's so pathetic. But my happiest moments in life have shrunk to the hour or so I spend after getting high, sitting in my La-Z-Boy, eating something greasy and reading a book. Tell me that doesn't sound like a happening party." You know, Swiss Cheese—that was, until I got sober and really had to do some intensive work on myself, those were my most peaceful moments, too, was getting fucked up and sitting in my La-Z-Boy, eating shitty food. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. She writes, "I think about forgetting what my body looks like and not being the slightest bit self-conscious, then just getting my brains fucked out. I'm not all that attracted to men really, but in this fantasy I'm always with a guy. The only purpose is to cum so hard that I lose touch with reality momentarily. No concept of consequences or making noise or getting caught. Just a relentless, selfish pursuit of pure pleasure. I usually picture getting it from behind and rubbing myself to heighten my pleasure. Or even having someone else there whose only job is to get me off. I want to cum so hard that I remain completely sated for a long time. And I could just lay there and feel total satisfaction throughout my body." Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend? She writes, "Maybe a close friend, but not my girlfriend of seven and a half years. She is so wonderful and our relationship is great, but she often worries that I secretly still want to be with men, which I don't, despite this fantasy, which is really just about me getting 100% selfish, physical pleasure without any thought or emotions." Deepest darkest secret. She writes, "I am addicted to opioid prescription medication. Of the many shameful things I've done, which include the inevitable stealing and lying, the thing that bothers me the most is this. When my grandmother died earlier this year, I happened to be there visiting my parents. I changed my flight so that I could stay for the funeral, but I lied and said the only flight I could get back was for the day after the funeral. In reality, I could have stayed several more days and helped comfort my distraught mother, but I wanted to get back to my pill stash. This violated my inner moral code that family is the most important thing we have much more than the many felonies I've committed to get drugs." Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings toward yourself? She writes, "I feel like part of my soul is gone forever. What's worse is that even that awful feeling is not enough to keep me clean longer than a few weeks at a time. Pathetic." That's addiction. That is addiction in a nutshell, and your soul is not gone forever. It is there. It is just covered up by your addiction. And then my favorite thing, do you have any comments to make the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast better? She writes, "More lesbians. Paul, there can never be too many lesbians."
Intro theme music
Paul: I'm here with Brenda Feehery, who I met through my friend, Bob Boldt. Brenda helps Bob do a fundraiser for my high school hockey team every year. And one year, I was here and Bob, unbeknownst to you, Bob told me a little bit about your life. And I thought I think Brenda would be an interesting guest for this show, so I appreciate you coming and agreeing to talk with me. Tell me a little bit, 'cause I really don't know much about you at all. I know you got a couple of kids. You're around my age. Where did you grow up?
Brenda: I grew up in Country Club Hills. I am actually 44. I graduated from Rich Central High School in 1985. I have three children and a husband.
Paul: Okay. And how did you come to know Bob?
Brenda: Both my boys are hockey players and they were trying to decide what to do for high school. We had investigated possibly sending the kids to some private schools and had found out that Bob had some history in ice hockey and was going to change the program around at HF, and we felt that was a better fit for our kids, and so we made a decision to play at HF. And because of my involvement with travel hockey, you know, when my kids were younger, we decided to go ahead and volunteer our time and effort to make sure that the program was gonna go in the right direction.
Paul: Okay. And what was your childhood like?
Brenda: You know what, I have two sisters. I'm actually a twin. And growing up, I played competitive softball. I played travel softball and local softball representing Country Club Hills, and actually was very successful, put a lot of time and dedication into that. Went to nationals 1980, '82, and '84.
Paul: Really? I had no idea.
Brenda: Yes. For three years.
Paul: What position did you play?
Brenda: I was actually a catcher by default.
Paul: Why do you say that?
Brenda: My twin sister was a pitcher. And, you know, growing up, I was always the one that had to catch her at home during her practices. And we got to college—or to high school and the sophomore coach wanted me to pitch for them. The varsity coach wanted my sister to pitch as a freshman. So, we were both on the teams. And after the first couple of games, they were losing because the catcher wasn't strong enough to catch my sister, so they asked me if I would take on that position as a freshman and play varsity softball, and I did that. And at that point in time, I never lost the position and I continued catching her throughout the years.
Paul: There is, to me, no position in baseball more difficult than catcher. I tried it a couple of times and it just baffles me, how you can focus on the ball when the bat is swinging right in front of your face. Was that ever a problem for you?
Brenda: It really wasn't. No. You know, I am a fairly focused and driven person. And I liked having the control behind the plate. So, it was kind of nice. It was just, I think just a natural thing for me. You know, because I had done it for so many years in a casual position. You know, and then when it came to a game situation, it was very natural.
Paul: You just had to bump the focus up a little bit. That must have been fun.
Brenda: It was a blast. It was a great bonding situation for my sister and I. 1983, we took second in state for Rich Central. And then were recruited both to go to Bradley University on a D-I scholarship.
Brenda: So, that was a lot of fun. Lived with my sister for the four years, always had that friend with me.
Paul: Bradley is a powerhouse in baseball, aren't they?
Brenda: Softball, yes.
Paul: Yeah. And also men's baseball, right, aren't they?
Brenda: Absolutely. And men's basketball as well.
Paul: Div-I, you get a scholarship, Div-I softball.
Paul: I mean, how—was that something that you expected to get? Or?
Brenda: You know, we always had that hope and that dream but never an expectation that it was definitely gonna happen.
Paul: Right. And when it came through and it was both of you getting the scholarship, what was that like? Was it just elation?
Brenda: Yeah. Oh, absolutely, it was. We had put all of our time and dedication towards the sport and to perspective, and to realize, hey, you know what, every Saturday morning we woke up at seven a.m. and went to softball practice and all the weekends that were taken away from socializing with our friends—It was an ultimate dream of ours to be able to participate at that level, you know, and know that we truly have succeeded in not just academics but also athletics as well.
Paul: Yeah. But watching a good softball pitcher throw heat is, to me, one of the physically most impressive things in sports. The amount of torque and velocity they are able to generate pitching underhand—I was just watching a couple weeks ago this woman just throw these balls of fire.
Brenda: Oh, correct.
Paul: I can't imagine the amount of dedication it must take, not only to pitch at that speed and that level but to catch and to hit at that level. Does there reach a point at which you're—'cause I was always afraid when I was batting and I was playing baseball, when somebody would throw fast, I was afraid for my life standing at the plate. When you are facing somebody who's throwing the ball that hard, do you ever get to a point where you're not a little bit afraid of getting hit?
Brenda: Oh, absolutely. You know what, honestly, the last couple of years—
Paul: Absolutely you get to a point where you're not afraid or absolutely you're always—
Brenda: Absolutely, you get to a point where you're not afraid. You know, I never ever felt threatened at all up there, very confident, because, basically, the harder it goes in, the harder it can go out. If you can hit the ball square away, it's going to go out there. And if you can have that focus —
Paul: You want somebody throwing it hard.
Brenda: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Because, you know what, it takes less power to swing the bat and it goes farther out there.
Paul: See, that never occurred to me when I was playing. I was playing baseball. All I kept thinking was they are going to hit me and it's going to hurt. Maybe that's why you went to play Div-I and I never got beyond Little League. But, so, you go to college. You're playing Div-I softball with your sister. You're having a great time. Did you say that you went to a national championship or no?
Brenda: No, we did not, not at collegiate. Actually, our freshman year, we finished 13th in the nation but did not participate for the final 12.
Paul: Okay. Any other memories from high school or college worth pointing out? One of the things I ask you to do—I ask all my guests is to try to remember moments from their childhood or adolescence that kind of stand out as especially painful or embarrassing or transformative. Anything kind of stand out in those—
Brenda: During my youth, no. Just that my dad was a huge inspiration to us. My dad was a Vietnam vet, you know, and we actually were nine months old before he actually came home from Vietnam and actually saw us. And know the strength and determination it took my dad to get where he was and the dedication he put into our lives, you know, and I think that ultimately reflects on how I am as a person today and my dedication towards my kids and, you know, the passion of sports in general.
Paul: Is your dad still around?
Brenda: Yes, he is.
Paul: And what branch of the service was he in?
Brenda: He was in the Army.
Paul: In the Army. And what year did he tour in Vietnam?
Brenda: He was there from '65 to '67.
Paul: And did he see combat, or was he more kind of a desk job?
Brenda: He actually was an assistant to a, like, a pastor, you know. So, he dealt with a lot of death and grief and things like that, you know. So, he was kind of his right-hand man, you know. So, he actually was stationed right next to Vietnamese territory, you know. So, they had a lot of orphans that would come over from Vietnam and, you know, kind of come to the Army base and they would feed them and—
Paul: So, he was outside the border of Vietnam. I see.
Brenda: Correct. And they would actually—
Paul: Was he in Cambodia?
Brenda: I honestly cannot tell you. He doesn't talk much about what his experiences were. You know, I know he had a difficult time when he came back here and has not really shared it with us. You know, so, details I can't really tell anybody about, but I think it's made him stronger, which ultimately has reflected back onto us and has made us stronger, you know, in the long run.
Paul: Yeah. Do you ever get the feeling that he's got stuff kind of—I don't know, demons is too strong of a word, but got things that would be healthier if he shared with someone or let out, or do you feel like—
Brenda: No. I think, you know what, ultimately, he has faith in himself, you know. And he believes that what he did for the government and, you know, the country was enough. And he is very confident, you know, with what his experiences were. And, you know, I don't think that he holds any grudges whatsoever. You know, I think that he was very proud to serve in our Army and to this day, still believes that.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah. And you guys are pretty close?
Brenda: Very close. Very close. Yep. He's a wonderful man.
Paul: So, you get out of college. Then what happens?
Brenda: I was married, you know, and had two children. Unfortunately, we're divorced. And then started dating my—actually my twin sister's ex-boyfriend from high school. And then—
Paul: What's that like?
Paul: Was it—did she have any problem with that?
Brenda: None at all. None at all. No, you know what, he was more of a friend, you know, then an actual boyfriend.
Paul: To her or to you?
Brenda: To her. You know, back in high school, I don't know—
Paul: So, they weren't really serious?
Brenda: No. They weren't serious at all. It was more of a casual friendship relationship, you know. Hey, somebody to go to prom with an homecoming and things like that. You know and—
Paul: And when she was going out with him, do you every member thinking to yourself I wish I was going out with him or did you not think of him that way?
Brenda: Never even thought of him in that regard whatsoever. Not at all. It was, you know—
Paul: Did that hurt his feelings to know that you didn't care about—
Brenda: Absolutely not. I think we both grew over the years. He had to—he was going to a friend's wedding that we had a mutual friend and he was looking for a date and I was divorced at that time. And I had a two-year-old and a six-month-old. And you know, so he's like, well, why don't you go with me? We'll have fun. We'll have a great time. It was after that. We went on a couple of other dates and decided that we wanted a future together.
Paul: Yeah. And so, then what happened after that? Did you guys—
Brenda: We decided to get married in July of 1994. And then on March 1 of '94, I was actually involved in an accident where I was brutally attacked—attempted murder, rape, you know, um, robbery.
Paul: And this is the story that Bob—he showed me an article from the paper about this and one of the reasons why—when he told me that you would be open to talking about it, and I asked you, would you be—is this something you are comfortable talking about, and you said absolutely. Let's start with the morning of that day, as much as you can remember and as detailed as you can remember from that day.
Brenda: Okay. Sure. I woke up that morning and, you know, business as usual. My older son had been in Florida with my parents on vacation and I had my six-month—or almost a year old—he would have been 11 months old at that time with me. And got up, had breakfast, you know, got ready for work, dropped him off at the day care center. And I went to work. I worked part-time at Olympia Fields Hospital. And—went to work. Spent the afternoon at work. Picked up my son at 4:30 from the day care center, and then went to the grocery store because my current husband, his parents were coming over for dinner. So, ran to the grocery store to pick up apple juice for my son and garlic bread 'cause I was making spaghetti. And ran through the grocery store and came back out of the grocery store with my son. And as I was putting my son into his car seat, a gentleman had put a knife to my kid's throat and told me to get in my vehicle. At that point, my groceries were still in the cart. My purse was still in the cart. I did as he asked. And then he reached for my purse, brought my purse into my van. And I had a conversion-type van with the windows, you know, with the drapes and stuff. And he asked me for money. And unfortunately, all I had was a two-dollar bill in my wallet and a debit card, you know. And so, I had no cash to give him. And something triggered something in him. And he got mad and proceeded to rape me and then stab me with the knife that he had stolen from the grocery store, you know, where I was parked five spots away from the front door.
Paul: What were—was going through your mind at—what can you remember of your thought pattern as this is—what were you thinking and feeling as this was unfolding?
Brenda: Um...feelings, I can't really say what I was feeling. My only concern at that point was that my baby was gonna be okay, you know. That was my main, primary focus through the whole, entire situation, was please let my kid be okay, please let my son be fine. And at one point during the struggle, I was able to get a hold of the knife and I tried to bend the knife and break the knife blade off, hoping that that would maybe then deter him from, you know, continuing to do what he was doing to me. And then he grabbed my son again. And at that point in time, you know, it was just 100% focus on Brandon. You know, all I wanted to do was whatever he wanted me to do is what I was willing to do for my kid, you know. And I wanted his life to be saved and not, you know, at that point, my life was not anything that I was thinking about, whether I was gonna lose it or not. You know, my son was my primary and number one and only focus at that point in time.
Paul: How many times did he stab you?
Brenda: 55 stab wounds. You know. But fortunately, through the, you know, the hospital, et cetera, they told me that had I not had control of the knife and had not bent the blade, that the penetration would have been much deeper and the wounds would have been more severe and it would have definitely been life-threatening. I was trauma when they—when they actually did, you know, get a hold of the situation and they found me in my van. A gentleman from—[indiscernible] Park had actually gone to the grocery store and had pulled up —
Paul: So, he just—he raped you, stabbed you, and then he just bolted?
Brenda: No, he was actually still in the vehicle. And during the —
Paul: How long of a period of a time did this —
Brenda: Probably about 12 or 15 minutes. And what had happened was, I guess when I was putting my son in the vehicle, there was a gentleman that had parked kitty corner from me and had seen that my purse and my groceries were still in my cart and, thinking to himself that that's not really safe, then he saw me with my son thinking, oh, well, she is putting a little one in the car, okay. You know, everything—she made a poor choice, but, you know what, all right. So, then 15 minutes later as he exited the grocery store, he saw my groceries still in the cart with my car parked there. And at that point in time he approached my vehicle, heard some screaming, and tried to call on those old-fashioned bag phones 911, and couldn't get through. So, he drove across the street to the—to the police station and let them know that there was something going on. And at that point in time, the police showed up and were able to apprehend the, you know, the perpetrator and, you know, caught him red-handed, and, unfortunately, had to tear open the back end of my car because I had fallen behind the back seat on my side and I was wedged back there. And so, it was all my left side—pretty much the majority of my stab wounds were on the left side of my body because I had been turned on the side towards the back door.
Paul: He stabbed you 55 times?
Brenda: 55 times. I have like—
Paul: On one side of your body?
Brenda: Pretty much. I have one stab wound on my right leg and then I have like eight or nine of them on my face. You know, one on my throat and I have three down my spine. So everything else would be on the left-hand side. You know, but the ones down my spine are, like, centimeters, you know, millimeters from the spinal cord, which would have paralyzed me. And, you know, unfortunately, you know, he was not able to do that, and I was very fortunate that I could, that I was—I walked out of there with just —
Paul: How big of a knife was it?
Brenda: About a six-inch paring knife.
Paul: So, that's a pretty big blade?
Paul: And were some of the—some of the stab wounds to the hilt of the —
Brenda: Correct. Yeah.
Paul: How did you survive that?
Brenda: You know what, it was just—you know, God was on my side. I truly believe that he—you know what, he had plans for me. And because of everything that I endured during that experience, you know, I think I have tried to put back into the community, into my kids, you know, into other people's kids, giving other people the opportunity to know that life is too short, you know what, to do what—try to do what you can and offer as much as you can of yourself, because you never know what's going to happen. You know, I went to the grocery store, would have never dreamed that anything would have happened to me like that.
Paul: How long was your physical recovery?
Brenda: It was about six weeks, you know. For the first three weeks—I actually lived with my mom for a week and then my aunt from Missouri actually came and stayed with me at home because I couldn't lift anything. I couldn't do anything. But at that point in time—Steve and I were supposed to get married in July, and after that had happened, we decided that, you know what, life is too short, why are we waiting? So, three weeks later, as soon as I was physically able to leave the house, I put on a wedding dress and we went to the justice of the peace and got married, you know, at the courthouse, and then in July had our big, huge, picnic wedding, which was fabulous.
Paul: Wow. Wow. So, what—Describe for me...what the mental and emotional recovery of an event like that is like. What—From—Starting from the day after it, what does it feel like? What are the thoughts that are going through your head? What are the emotions that are going through you?
Brenda: At first, I think it was disbelief. Like, how could this have happened to me? You know, I actually was very fortunate. You know, I was in the hospital in trauma for a couple of days, completely, totally out of it. My parents had flown back in from Florida that actual evening. I have a twin sister, you know, and you talk about the twin...intuition, you know. She actually was driving to the airport at the same time of the incident going on to pick up my son and my parents, and she had severe abdominal pains.
Brenda: And so she believes, you know, and I personally have never experienced it, but she thinks that—she really believes that she knew something was going on and had that twin intuition that something was wrong with me. And later on, you know, when she got back home, she got the call that I was at the hospital, and they all, you know, drove down in 24 hours. My dad never left the hospital. I was very fortunate that I had teachers from the high school that came over and visited me. I don't remember any of their visits, you know, the first couple of days at the hospital just because I was pretty much out of it. I had a lung that had collapsed because he had actually punctured my lung, so I was on a tube and things like that for the first couple of days. But when you talk about feelings, you know, my main concern was that this was a gang situation and that there was gonna be retaliation because they caught the guy. He didn't succeed. You know, but from reassurances through the park—
Paul: Because you think his intention was to kill you?
Brenda: Correct. Correct.
Paul: Did he say that he wanted to kill you, or you just—that was just your —
Brenda: No, he did not. That was just my opinion.
Paul: I mean, you would certainly look at the evidence and say, you know, yeah.
Brenda: Right. Correct.
Paul: How could you stab somebody 55 times—you're not looking to just send a message.
Brenda: No, correct, exactly. And I—like I said, you know—
Paul: Were there things that he was saying to you as he was stabbing you?
Brenda: Not that I remember.
Paul: What do you remember the look on his face? Was it—was it—
Brenda: Anger. Frustration. I think that, ultimately, it was premeditated. He actually had had a conversation with his girlfriend. He actually was a student at Rich Central—or Rich East High School. A former teacher of mine at Rich Central actually had him as a student—
Paul: He was a high school student.
Brenda: He was a high school student, correct. And his teacher was in utter disbelief that this kid could have done what he did to me.
Paul: So, he wasn't an outwardly violent kid?
Brenda: Not whatsoever. He had had some issues with home and he was kind of living on his own, didn't have—you know, kind of left home, and was looking for money and a place to live, and his girlfriend had—He had had a conversation with his girlfriend, and this was—his primary focus was to pick a white female victim.
Paul: He was not white?
Brenda: He was African-American. You know, so, but he wanted a white female victim because, unfortunately, he knew that the white females tend to give up their money as opposed to fight for it. You know, the black women tend to fight for their money and are not as easily to give up their money first.
Paul: Right. So, what—what's your opinion on why then it turned violent? If his intention was just to get the money, you think something just snapped in him? Did he ever say —
Brenda: Yeah. I truly believe—No. And you know what, and I didn't go to—I didn't have to go to court 'cause he was caught red-handed. My parents and my husband, current husband Steve actually went to the hospital—I mean, to the court, and through the whole time, they said that he didn't show any remorse whatsoever to what he did. He never apologized. You know, so, at that point in time, I don't know if something clicked in his mind and said, you know what, if I'm going to do this, you know—Who knows what his thought process is? But, unfortunately, even through the court, they never, you know, he never said an apology. He never—
Paul: How does that make you feel?
Brenda: A little disappointed, you know. Especially knowing—
Paul: That's such an interesting choice of words. You stabbed me 55 times and never apologized and I'm a little disappointed in you. You're such a gentle person. You are such a gentle person, you know. You are really just lovely.
Brenda: And ultimately, I—you know, I went to see psychologists.
Paul: Thank god.
Brenda: I did the process of everything you're supposed to do. And through the whole—
Paul: Did you fight to go see—Was your urge to just try to soldier through it on your own or did you know that you—
Brenda: No, no, no. I felt that that's the way I should do it. I should go not only for me to try to help and deal with, you know, my children and let them know what they need to know about it. And you know, at that point I really didn't know do I share every single detail with my children? Do I try to mask the situation? Do I just give a few things out? You know, I didn't really know how, you know, I needed to do that and I felt that I needed to go to talk to somebody, you know. And I went with Steve, you know. And the two of us went and did individual counseling sessions, you know. But at the third visit after speaking with this, you know, counselor, she said to me, well, there is this little black box in the back of your brain. I think one of these days that's just going to open up and this flood of emotions are gonna come back to you. And I looked at her and I said, I guess I'm confused on how you can say that, because it's been three weeks now, I've been recently married. And I, at that point, would go to the grocery store with, you know, somebody. A couple weeks after that, I actually went on my own. And I think she was utterly amazed that I didn't hide in my home, that I was afraid, you know, that I was not able to, you know, do this kind of stuff. She was just amazed that I would actually do this. And her comment to me was, well, I've had people that were just raped and five years, you know, go by and they're still afraid. And my comment to her was, then that person that did that to them is gonna control their lives. And I was not gonna allow anybody to control my life, you know,. And looking back at it, I can say, well, you know what—The only time ever through that whole process that he controlled my life was the time that I wasn't able to do anything on my own. You know, but the minute that I was able to do stuff on my own, then what he did to me was just a speed bump in life, you know, and made me stronger. I could not have ever gotten through it without my family, you know, support, you know. I mean, they were there from the get-go. You know, the police department in Park Forest were fabulous, you know. They took my son and took care of my son until Steve was able to get to the hospital. You know, so when you look at it in the big scheme of things, I had a lot of support, lot of family, lot of friends, and it's their support that, you know, ultimately got me through it, yo uknow. But once again, I do know I'm a very strong-willed person.
Paul: Oh, my god, yeah.
Brenda: I just was not going to allow him to control my life. Not at all.
Paul: The thoughts that are going through my mind right now is—Has she completely dealt with this, or is the—is the, um...the kind of, uh, alpha, driven, achiever in you, um...kind of taking over and—and coping with it that way? And what would you say to that? 'Cause, you know, I'm not a psychologist. I'm a jackass that tells dick jokes, you know, I say that all the time. But one of the things that this podcast is founded on is being honest and hopefully saying that in a way that is respectful and not sensational, but is honest. So, what would you—what would you say to that? Do you feel like you've dealt with it as much as you need to deal with it?
Brenda: Truly, I think I have. You know, we—you know, stuff will come up and I'll say, well, yeah, when I was attacked, and then somebody will look at me and say, well, what do you mean? And I'm like, well, back in '94, I was, you know, a victim of this. And you could be a complete stranger walking up to me on the street corner and if the right thing is said at the right moment and it's a situation where I feel I need to bring up what happened to me, you know, I have no problems doing that. You know, last March, you know, it was 15 years—well, actually almost two years ago, a year and a half ago, it was the 15-year anniversary when the article came out in the local newspapers. And I had no problems, you know, inviting the press into my home and talking to myself, my children, you know, my husband. And I actually got feedback letters, you know, from the articles that were written regarding the situation and thanking me for actually having the guts and fortitude to come forth and, you know, share my story.
Paul: Yeah. And to not have any shame because you were—there was no fault of yours.
Paul: A lot of times when people are raped or molested or victimized in some way, they're so afraid that they are going to be perceived as—I don't know, something that is undesirable...um...so they kind of keep it all balled up inside and, um...and I think it's great that you are able to talk about it in a way that is so honest. It's just—I guess to me, the part that just seems miraculous is that...there doesn't seem to be any lingering kind of anger or fear or—Yeah, anger or fear, which to me would be in such abundance for any person that had lived through that.
Brenda: Well, and like I said, going back, if I'm angry at anybody, you know, I have to be angry at him. But then again, anger, what does that do? That kind of holds you back in life, you know. You can't be angry for the rest of your life because it doesn't do you or I any good. All it's gonna do is—
Paul: In theory, absolutely. But most people can't get to that place that you're at.
Brenda: No, they can't. Correct, correct. And I truly don't know why. I just look back at my childhood, you know. My dad worked his butt off for us. We as kids put a lot of time and dedication into everything that we did. Our heart went into everything. I was a three-sport athlete in high school. Um, so—
Paul: Do you think your experience in sports helped you?
Brenda: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Paul: Can you talk about that?
Brenda: Well, you know what, I think when you spend time and, you know, sacrifices, you know, along the ways, you know, where you have to make choices and decisions in your life, you know, when you do that kind of stuff, I think it makes you stronger. I had experienced failure, you know, in softball. I was not the best basketball player in the world, you know. Unfortunately I'm too short to play basketball. But you know, like I said, if you grow up and, you know, be able to experience success and failure, I think that makes you stronger as an adult, you know. And I think athletics definitely gives a great foundation for that, you know. Growing up as a kid, we were never given participation trophies or medals or anything like that. You had to earn what you got, you know, and I think it puts a lot of emphasis on if you try, you're going to succeed and succeed brings happiness in life, you know. And ultimately, I truly believe that.
Paul: Yeah. I think there's also something to sports, um, it's a microcosm of adversity testing. You know, every game, there's moments of adversity. And all of a sudden, you're down. One of your players is injured. You know, your shoulder hurts. But, you know, can you fight through this and, you know, get to the finish line? And if not win, at least give it the best effort that you have inside you. And so, it sounds like you were able to draw upon that strength that sports had taught you. You know, I—I'm so happy that, um...little girls are being encouraged to play sports nowadays, because I read this book by a woman named Lynda Obst years ago. And she was a producer in Hollywood. And she—one of the things she talked about is that she was always amazed that when men would negotiate and they would get into a fight at a business table, how they were able to shake hands and not hold a grudge, and she couldn't do that. And she eventually theorized that the reason was is they had learned how to do that playing sports, and she didn't learn how to play sports as a kid, and she thinks that if she had played sports as a kid, she would have learned how to compete, you know, have somebody, an opponent, but then know when to let it go.
Brenda: Correct. Yeah, you know, and I believe that. More so in hockey. I think that's a fabulous sport. I actually am a female hockey player. My daughter is a hockey player as well. You know, so, but—as grueling as hockey is as a sport, what do they do at the end of the game?
Paul: Shake hands.
Brenda: They always shake hands. And that to me is just—regardless of what happened on the ice, the score, win or lose, it doesn't matter—you know what, the handshake at the very end shows that, you know what, you respect the sport. You know, and I wish that all sports were like that. You know, it's not just about winning and losing. It's about life lessons and, you know, experiences along the way. And if you can say that you put 110% into the effort that you did during that game, then, you know what, you can walk away with a smile on your face, saying no regrets.
Paul: Well, you know, I was watching you at the fundraiser the other night, and you were laughing with people and you were hugging people, and I just remember looking at you from across the room in just amazement and thinking, this is a woman who could be so broken and so afraid of physical contact and intimacy. And you really—it's not bullshit, you know. I want to say to anybody that's listening to this podcast...Brenda is not—I see you walk the walk. I see you out there giving to people, volunteering. You work your ass off every year for no money to do this hockey fundraiser, and you have this great attitude. And you know, what I take out of that is something I heard somebody say a couple years ago. The worst handicap you can have in life is a bad attitude.
Paul: After the attack, did you ever have compassion for yourself or what you went through? 'Cause I—The reason I ask that is because I think it is important sometimes to address our hurt and to feel compassion for ourselves, not self-pity, but compassion.
Brenda: Oh, absolutely. And you know what, I went through a range of emotions, where I was angry at moments, you know. I was angry at what he had done to me, probably more so physically than anything, you know.
Paul: As opposed to?
Brenda: Just the scarring. It was very ugly. You know. Gone through—
Paul: I don't see any scars on you, by the way.
Brenda: I had a fabulous doctor that took care of me. But, yeah, I actually don't have feeling in my face from the center of my lip all the way to my ear.
Brenda: And then on the right side of my leg, I don't have any feeling from my knee to the mid-thigh. I do have some, you know, physical limitations.
Paul: So you are reminded of it every day of what happened—
Brenda: Absolutely. Right. It feels like I've been to the dentist and he's numbed my lip, and that's a permanent, you know, feeling for me. You know, I don't have that. If I drool on occasion, somebody has to tell me, you know, just 'cause I don't have that feeling. You know, so I do have the physical scars. I have emotional scars, but not scars that are going to inhibit me from doing anything, you know, that I want to do out of life.
Paul: Uh-huh. If a second wave of emotion did come up that was overwhelming to you, would you rule out going and seeing someone again?
Brenda: Oh, absolutely. I would definitely do that. I would make sure that they kind of knew that—you know, where I was, where I came from. But, ultimately, I don't see that that, personally, that I would have to do that. You know, I had one Christmas about five years ago, my brother-in-law had gotten a whole set of steak knives for Christmas and he kind of rubbed his finger along the edge of the steak blade, and then all the sudden, I just felt this cold, sweaty sensation.
Paul: Oh, my god.
Brenda: You know, and I left the room, you know. And my dad came to me and he says, Brenda, are you okay? I said, yeah, all of a sudden, it was just a flashback of what I experienced, you know. And, you know, five minutes later I was completely, totally fine. And you know, we talked about it. You know, at that time, we sat down as a family and we talked about it with my sisters and my brother-in-law's, you know, and my husband and my parents and the kids. We all talked about it, you know. My nieces and nephews all know about the situation, have shared it with their friends.
Brenda: My children have shared it with their friends. And I think that makes it stronger because, you know, just not myself personally can share it with other people, that my children can, and they're not ashamed of it whatsoever, you know, and I think that's a miraculous thing for them as well.
Paul: Yeah. And that's so—that's so beautiful. And it's—you know, the two things that I am in danger of over-repeating on this show is reach out for help if you're hurting—
Paul: And know that you are not alone. And you are really a great example of that. Because, boy, have you been tested, and I have a lot of admiration for you.
Brenda: Well, thank you very much. But, you know, like I said, it's the friends and family that get you through everything. You know what, I'm very fortunate and blessed that I have all of those.
Paul: Yeah. Well, thank you for being my guest, Brenda, and thanks for opening up.
Brenda: Thank you.
Paul: Many thanks to Brenda Feehery for being so open and honest. And, uh...man. It's amazing how different people respond to trauma. And yeah, I really do believe that there is something about athletics that helps with our coping mechanisms. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's just kind of my feeling on that. Before I take it out with some more fun and upbeat surveys, I want to remind you guys there's a couple of different ways to support the show. You can support it financially by going to the website and either making a one-time PayPal donation or a recurring, monthly donation, which is my favorite, because then I have a gauge of how much money is coming in month-to-month and I know how much to panic or not. You can support the show for as little as five dollars a month, which may not seem like a lot to you but it means the world to me. And it's simple. Once you fill it out one time, it just, you know, keeps going monthly until you decide to cancel, so you don't have to do anything. You can also support the show by buying a t-shirt there. And you can support the show—also, there is a search link, an Amazon search box. So, the next time you buy something on Amazon, do it through that search box on our homepage and Amazon gives us a couple of nickels and it doesn't cost you anything. And you can support this show non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating and also by spreading the word about the podcast on social media. I really appreciate those of you that have done that. That helps. It helps greatly. Brings me closer to my dream of having this be my full-time job that supports me. All right. I am going to...read a survey. This is from a survey that not many people have filled out because it's very specific. The name of the survey is Young Male Abused by Older Female. And this one—I wouldn't—I don't know... I don't know if this con—if this really is considered abuse or not, but I'm gonna read it anyway, just because I think it's interesting and I think—A lot of the surveys that I've picked for this show today I picked because I wanted kind of a spectrum of showing how differently people react to abuse or trauma in their lives. And I felt like this one...was just another kind of point in that spectrum. This is filled out by a woman who is straight. She's in her forties. She calls herself My Shame. And she checked the following. "I'm a female who seduced a much younger male." "This is my confession," she writes, "In my early twenties, I slept with many younger guys. All were over 17 years old, still legal. I enjoyed being the fantasy older woman to them. The one I truly feel ashamed of is my affair," question mark, "with the son of regular customers at the grocery store I worked at. He crushed on me from the time he was 10 years old and would bring me a little treat or a handful of wildflowers. I thought it was cute. Then he grew up. At 15, he became a tall, fit hunk of a male. Still crushing on me. For some reason, his parents were fine with it because I was a nice girl, but I felt weird and, for sure, his friends were weirded out. Hell, I was halfway in age between him and his parents. We started dating on high-school level dates, bike rides, movies, the beach, the mall. It was chaste at first. Eventually, it got sexual and I enjoyed being tender and teaching him. But I especially feel like a loser for going to his prom with him, his freakin' prom. I wore a strapless, sequined, Marilyn Monroe-ish dress. It was fitting for me and inappropriate for the dance. I can only hope that he's not damaged for my bad behavior and is happy and attracted to someone special. Me? I'm still alone." I'm not clear whether or not he was—was he 15 when she was doing this? Or is that the age at which she began to notice him? Because if he was 15 and she was in his [sic] twenties, then, yeah, I would say that is abusive. And that the parents would sign off on that is weird, too. If something happened, did you tell anyone? She writes, "I didn't tell anyone about my younger conquests, because I knew I'd sound disgusting. I hid any young guy rendezvous from others." Remembering these things, what feelings come up? She writes, "Wow. Sad and regretful and ASHAMED." And ashamed is in capital letters. "At what I may have done to the young guys. Sad that at that time it was what I needed to elevate myself. I feel no sexual excitement and am glad that I only desire men my age." Well, that's—that's awesome. I'm so impressed...that she can be...so—I don't know what the word is...so...honest in appraising what it—Let me refinish reading the survey and then I'll talk about it. For those of you flowcharting this experience. Do you feel any damage was done? She writes, "Part of me feels that it was innocent and natural, but only in the cultural prism that most young guys seem to have an older, hot woman fantasy. For me, I feel bad that I used them for my own ego." That's what impresses me, is that she can see that. If you have never experienced one of the above situations and it's only a fantasy, how does that fantasy make you feel? She writes, "I have no fantasies about younger men. I have no desire for younger guys now." Describe the environment you were raised in. She writes, "Totally chaotic." Have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse outside of the events described here? She writes, "Yes, and I never reported it." She continues, "I say yes, but I've only recently admitted that it was so. I was gang raped at 17 by three friends and thought it was just an extreme sexual scene, wrong place, wrong time." And that is what made me want to read this survey, is because...you know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why she was attracted to 17-year-old guys. And that is the interesting thing about human sexuality and when we get hurt. There's something wired in us that wants to try to go back, re-create the events, and have control over them. And the fact that she could not only work through this, but to be able to have such a firm self appraisal without going to the place of "I'm a worthless piece of shit, I don't deserve to live," that she could just say, "Hey, man, that was my ego, I got really hurt." And if she had never had the compassion for herself to say, hey, it was gang rape, it was more than just something that got out of control. You know, that took—That's the leap that a lot of people can never make, because it's too painful to say "I was helpless and I was victimized by somebody." And she was able to do that. She was able to go to that scary place. But from going to that scary place, she was then able to see, oh, that's how it connects to this thing. That was my ego trying to survive by dating those young guys. So, that scary place that we're so afraid to go to, you know. 'Cause it's a lot easier to blame ourselves than to say, hey, you know...I was helpless and powerless and degraded and humiliated. Most of us will go to any length to avoid thinking that thought, and it usually involves blaming ourselves. Oh, look at what I was wearing. Oh, I shouldn't have been at that person's apartment. I shouldn't have been at that person's hotel room. I had too much to drink. All right. This next survey is filled out by a guy named Nondo. He's gay and in his thirties, was raised in an environment that was totally chaotic, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it. Deepest darkest thoughts. He writes, "I'm ashamed to admit that I'm afraid of being around children because I might perpetrate the same abuses I suffered onto them. I constantly think that I wish I would've let my father fuck me because I wanted him to love me and approve of me. I think a lot about when I planned to murder my uncle for sexually abusing me, and I regret not following through since he went on to abuse many other boys and women. Because of my abuses, I constantly want to fuck and control every person around me, literally every person. My norm is to picture myself fucking every person around me. I'm a sadistic—I'm a sadist deep inside and secretly want to destroy every person within reach. I fantasize about hurting them in ways I know would devastate them. This could be psychological, sexual, or in some other way that will trigger them and ruin them and disable them from trusting anyone again. Every time I drive my car, I want to hit pedestrians. I fantasize about running over people with strollers the most." What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you? He writes, "When I jerk off, I still fantasize about my father. I want him to physically abuse me while I suck him off. I want him to cum in my ass while I sob, feeling conflicted and suicidal. With men, I generally fantasize that they simply love me and are tender. They don't have to check in with me about touch or about how vocalizing may trigger me. Powerful doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about simply being loved and accepted. When I get into that headspace of fantasizing that I have value both romantically and emotionally to a man, the horrible abuse fantasies about my father seems to go away. But ultimately, every man I've felt love for has turned into my father or uncle. They are who I picture most when physically engaged." Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend of your fantasies? He writes, "I would never ever, ever. I used to tell my partners about my incest and abuse and they always back away and break off the relationship. The effect is lessened if I simply say there was a little abuse in my childhood. I have to keep passing myself off as someone who is quirky instead of someone who has had night terrors for the past 35 years and lives in horror of being alone and also being with someone. I fear that telling anyone the whole truth would bring about a mental collapse that I would never recover from." To that, I would say—you know, again, I'm not a mental health professional. But telling a mental health professional the whole truth I think would be the opposite of a mental collapse. I think, yes, letting that stuff out, you may feel a sense of collapse, but a good therapist that is there for us to collapse in front of, instead of somebody that doesn't understand abuse and will get freaked out by it and back away. Deepest darkest secrets. He writes, "Until I was about 17, I was a sexual predator. I used to try to rape boys my same age until I was in the fourth grade. I know that this is a regular behavior for people that were sexually abused at a very young age. As I moved into my teenage years, I would make friends with a guy and get him wasted until they passed out and I would fondle them, unzip their pants, and get them off both manually and orally. When I was very young, a boy in my neighborhood dragged me into his garage where his friend was aggressively attempting to fuck my sister, who was about six. She was stripped and held down while other boys from the neighborhood watched. When my uncle molested me, I enjoyed it even though I wanted it to stop." Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself? He writes, "All of these secrets and feelings of shame have ultimately kept me from sharing any true, deep intimacy with men, especially sexual partners. I hate myself for these thoughts and past deeds, that I often can't—I am literally unable to keep from thoughts of suicide every day of my life. I am struggling constantly in therapy because I never talk about these things. I don't feel particularly able to love another person in a way that allows for growth beyond the first few dates. After I've had sex with someone, I'd almost rather that they pay me and tell me they feel ripped off. In this scenario, there is no pressure for me to grow beyond my abuses or live up to any expectations of ever being partnered or happy. Because I had feelings of sexual arousal-slash-gratification with my father and uncle, which I recognize is physiological arousal, need for intimacy and pleasure are unrelated in my actual relationship with these men, I feel sick with myself. I hate my body for its need for touch and arousal and think there is something pathologically wrong with a man if he shows interest in me. I constantly turn cold to that person. Even though I haven't had any predatory urges or experiences since I was about 17, I still feel terrible and guilty. I engage in penpal relationships with men in prison so that I can be there vicariously. I feel like I belong in solitary confinement and should die there." Well, if that isn't dark enough for you. Nondo, whatever the biggest hug is that I can summon, I'm sending it your way. You have been through a lot of shit, and you deserve some compassion for yourself. You know, the phrase that comes to mind is "Hurt people hurt people." And the fact that you're in therapy is great. And my suggestion would be go one step further and let it all hang out in front of your therapist. Let it all out. You have nothing to lose. Um, just sending some love your way, man. You're not alone. There's a lot of people—there's a lot of people that are so much more like you than you think. And the fact that you haven't had any predatory urges since you were 17 is fucking awesome. That is awesome, so... All right. Continuing in this carnival of giggles. This next survey is from—I wonder how many e-mails I'm going to get from people that're gonna be like, Dude, I can't listen to your fucking podcast anymore, I was tying a noose—I was searching for how to tie a noose while listening to your last episode. This is filled out by a woman who calls herself JM. She's straight. She's in her thirties, was raised in an environment that's pretty dysfunctional. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? She writes, "Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts as sexual abuse. One night when I was about six or seven, my mother had passed out drunk in her chair while watching TV. My sister, who was six years older than me, had me take off my pants and underwear. She did the same and proceeded to fondle me and use her tongue on me there on the couch. She asked me to touch her, too, and I did, but that was it. I remember giggling that it tickled and being worried that my mother would wake up any moment and discover what we were doing. There was another time when I was around six that I had just gotten out of the bath, and my mom and my sister decided that it would be cute to take a picture of my little bare ass. I had a towel around my head and one around my shoulders and they had me stand facing away from them while they took pictures. I remember being very upset by this and crying the whole time. They just thought it was cute." That second one doesn't...um, you know, I don't know if that—that doesn't sound like sexual abuse to me. But my god, that first one, that is sexual abuse. Your sister was twice your age and performed sexual acts on you. You were six years old. There—True, your sister was also a child, but that's still sexual abuse. And...it just constantly amazes me...the lengths people will go to to minimize things that have happened to them. And I put myself in that category, too, because I did it for 20 fucking years, so I'm not judging you. It's just—It astounds me. It just constantly astounds me how we can minimize things. What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you? Oh, Deepest Darkest Thoughts. She writes,"I think about suicide." By the way, almost every person who's ever been the victim of sexual abuse...they always on Deepest Darkest Thoughts, suicide. And my kind of hunch on that is, when you've been sexually abused, when your boundaries have been violated and there is a message kind of pounded into your head as a kid that no place is safe, even home isn't safe, even the people who are supposed to love you aren't safe...you know, it sends you out into the world with an anxiety that—Suicide begins to seem like, man, at least that feeling of when is the other going to shoe drop—At least that feeling would go away. That's my two cents on that. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you. She writes, "My main fantasy is having sex with two bisexual men." Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend? She writes, "I would because it's not that crazy." Deepest darkest secrets. She writes, "When my depression gets too overwhelming to me, I hurt myself to try to ease the pain. I started in high school. This goes beyond the stereotypical cutting, not that I'm proud of it. I used to have—I have used knives but also a horse whip, belt, hammer and even paint thinner. I have also come home and binged on junk food and then made myself sick to be rid of it." Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings toward yourself? She writes, "From early on, I have often thought that I was worthless and stupid. I felt ashamed and weak, a waste of time, and just an irritation to people. I wasn't worth the effort of the teachers in the schoolyard to come and see what the commotion was and possibly rescue me." JM...you are—you are worth—you are worth somebody coming and wrapping their arms around you and giving you comfort. You're so worth it. And just because it didn't happen as a kid doesn't mean it can't happen as an adult. We just got to find people that are capable of giving us that love. And I found them. I see them on an almost daily basis, weekly basis, my friends in my support group. And their hugs feel so fucking good. And it fills that hole that wasn't filled as a kid. So, it can happen. All right. I'm going to take it out with a shotgun to my head. No, I'm going to take it out with, this is a list from... Well, I'll just read it. "My name is Taylor. I'm male, straight 21 years old. I've e-mailed you a few times before but I've never sat down and wrote a list of fears and loves. I've been having a rough couple of weeks, and I thought getting some of these things off my chest could help calm my nerves a bit. I really love the show and you're doing a great job. I hope that when you read e-mails and surveys from people, it lifts up your spirits when you're feeling down because you have no idea how many times your podcast has done that for me and others like me. I'm not alone and neither are you. Thank you." Thank you, Taylor. His fears—"I fear that every time I send an e-mail the person who receives it thinks that I'm a moron who can barely put a complete sentence together." Definitely have that one. "I fear I will never gain the ability to be truly open with someone and I will have to hold all these depressing and heavy thoughts in my head until I just kill myself because I can't sustain them anymore. I fear that my social anxiety and depression blinds me from realizing if people actually enjoy my company, so, instead of trying to be around people more often to break my anxiety, I just make up excuses to stay at home by myself because I think that's what people want me to do and the only reason they ask me to hang out is because they feel bad for me." I relate to that one. "I fear that I will never be able to experience a moment of happiness again because I have become so critical of myself that I can't ever leave an event without thinking, that was fun, but I looked dumb when blank, blank, blank. I fear that I will never have sex because I can't lose enough weight to feel comfortable naked in front of a woman. I fear that I will die before ever experiencing what it is like to fall in love. I fear that I will never move out of my parents house. I fear that my bucket list will only have a few things crossed off of it and the things that are crossed off will be really dumb and simple like Eat at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles or Go snowboarding. I fear that my parents will never truly know what I'm going through and just assume that I'm just a lazy, ungrateful bum that doesn't appreciate the privileged life that he has had. I fear that my anxiety and depression are all in my head and I'm just a pussy who can't cope with reality, so I use all of this depression bullshit as a crutch." Oh, my god, do I relate to that one. Oh, my god, do I relate to that. "I fear that my parents will never admit to things they did or said that shaped me into the mess that I am today." I would just comment on that one by saying do not wait for your parents to admit things, because that—that is a exercise in pain. I did it for 20 years, and I finally just accepted my parents as they are and started taking care of myself. "I fear my parents will die and I won't be as upset as I should be. I fear that I don't sympathize with my mom or dad as much as I should. I fear that the issues I have with my parents have just been blown out of proportion by me and I'm just an oversensitive asshole who can't just let it go." Oh, boy, do I agree with that one—or agree—identify with that one. Actually, I know him and his parents and I agree. You are an oversensitive asshole. Thanks for listening. "I fear that my lack of eye contact with people makes it seem like I'm a narcissistic asshole who only cares about himself, even though I just want people to like me, which I just realized is a very narcissistic thought in itself." I don't think so. Wanting people to like you I think is just plain human. "I fear that I will never be able to turn off or minimize my, quote, ability to be hyper critical of others. I fear that I will always consider myself to be inadequate in every facet of life, as a man, as a friend, as a student, everything. I fear that I will never leave Ohio, no offense to people who like it here. I fear that growing dreadlocks was a horrible decision and everyone is too nice to tell me. I fear that no matter how progressive our country gets, every white person I'm friends with will go home and say the most foul, racist things imaginable about me when I'm not around. I fear that black people don't think I'm black enough and view [sic] as some sort of racial traitor. I fear that I made a mistake by playing football in high school when I could have been doing plays or joined the band so I could have had more fun and be better equipped for what I truly want to do now. I fear I will never try to pursue standup comedy as a career and 20 years from now will say to myself, I wonder if I could have made it. I fear that I won't be able to tell my therapist that I don't think she is a good fit for me and I'll just stick with her until I leave the state. I fear that the medication I am going to try won't work and eventually just make me feel even worse. I fear that I'll never experience the feeling of having a woman you love hold you in their arms. I fear that my parents stayed together and wasted their time together because of me and resent me for that very reason. I fear that I have such bad self-confidence people look at me with disgust, like I'm some sort of ghoulish swamp creature. I fear that I will never make friends that have the same interests as me and that will prevent me from being able to go do things that I want to with a group of people I trust and am comfortable with." Well, thank you for those fears, Taylor. And now I'm going to take it out on Taylor's loves. He writes, "I love discovering a musician before most people do and see them steadily rise to stardom. I love to lift weights. When you lift something that you couldn't lift before, it's like you're literally conquering gravity. I love the sound of a bouncing basketball going throughout a neighborhood on a quiet, warm day. I love that as a kid I used to think coffee was gross, but as an adult I realize how awesome it really is. I love driving at night when no one is around. I love seeing the underdog win in any sport. I love seeing dogs jump up when someone says 'You want to go outside' in a high-pitched tone. I love seeing a beautiful girl without makeup on." I love that one, too. This is an interesting one. I've never heard this one before. "I love the sound CD cases make when you open and close them. I love going places that it seems weird to go alone—movie theaters, restaurants, et cetera. I love seeing kids play a sport that adults take so seriously and completely throw all the rules out the window, then proceed to run around like maniacs and just have fun." I love that one. "I love playing video games with friends and turning everything the characters say into stupid bits about really silly and inappropriate things. Even though I am extremely self-conscious, I love that I started to grow dreadlocks because I like the way they look." And finally, "I love that I feel better the more fears and loves that I type out." Thank you so much, Taylor. Those were beautiful. Just beautiful. Well, I want to thank you guys for—If you're still here and you aren't a mess on the floor, thank you for listening. Thank you to Brenda. Thank you to all the people that help keep this show going. The guys that help keep people—the spammers out of the forum, the transcribers, the audio collectors, my wife Carla, all you guys that take the surveys and e-mail me, thank you so much. And if you've listened to today's episode and you still think you're alone, well, fucking rewind it and then go fuck yourself. I'm starting to overuse that now. Now I think I need to go fuck myself for having said that. All right. If you're out there and you're stuck, you are so, so not alone. There is help. You just got to get out of your comfort zone and ask for it. Thanks for listening.