Episode 87: Listener Katie Yeargain Palacio
Listener Katie Yeargain Palacio was literally a red-headed stepchild. Though her blended family was large (7 kids), her stepfather was not Mr. Brady. He was, in her words Machiavelli. Attacked by a stranger at 15, something in her snapped. It would be years before she dealt with the pain, as she tried to numb herself with sex, drugs, shopping and men who treated her like, yep you guessed it, her stepfather. Topics include PTSD, Bipolar II, Attachment Disorder, divorce and mothering. Paul reads some listener emails that are critical of him and the show, as well as one from a girl who credits the Teresa Strasser episode as the beginning of her healing.
Welcome to episode 87 with my guest Katie Palacio. I'm Paul Gilmartin, and 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. I'm too tired to go back and edit that. It's not a doctor's office; it's more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn't suck.
The website for this show is mentalpod.com. Please go check it out. I just posted a new blog piece up there about when I grew weed in the 80s; I think it's kind of entertaining. There is also a guest blog that I am going to be putting up in a couple of days from a fellow Chicagoan who writes very movingly about having open heart surgery and the kind of psychic strain of that.
The other thing I want to mention as the holidays are coming up, please, if you're going to shop at Amazon, go through the search box on our homepage and that way Amazon gives us a couple of nickels and it doesn't cost you guys anything. I've been informed that people using Firefox, Mozilla -- I think that's what it's called -- for some reason that box doesn't show up, so if you don't see it, maybe use a different browser.
Got an email from a listener named Ben that I wanted to read. He brought up two points and I would like to address each of them. He says:
"I was listening to your new episode and I think that this might have been either last week or the week before and in almost the same breath you read an email from a woman who felt worse about the previous week's episode where a woman bounced back from rape to reading an email from a woman who wanted to rape her friend for not believing she was bisexual. And you said you wanted to be in the corner and cheer while she raped the dude. Okay, she didn't say 'rape,' but I think it's safe to assume the guy wouldn't be thrilled to get fucked in the ass by someone he didn't believe was bisexual. At that point, I finally threw up my hands and decided I had to write an email. I'll admit I was a bit offended that you could say rape was bad then less than a minute later you cheer for someone to rape someone else because he was a jerk."
That's his first point to which I will say "guilty." If you were to listen to all 87 episodes of this show, you would probably have a 3- foot thick exhibit of me saying one thing one minute and then another thing the other minute. So thank you for pointing that out. That was hypocritical of me and that's not easy to have somebody point out -- and hear -- but that's the truth.
The second thing that he wrote was that, "Lately, your shows, especially around the election, have been snarky towards Republicans and I don't quite understand why. It was my understanding that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion. Everyone's opinion is equally valid. It's seems that if you have a different opinion you're a racist, homophobic monster who is uneducated and probably punching a woman as we speak."
To that I would say I get really pissed off when I hear people treat gays as less than full citizens. I don't think it's any different than the civil rights movement in the 50s and I have a lot of friends who are gay and they don't have the same rights as I do, and I don't think that is a matter of political taste; that is a matter of basic human decency. If you disagree with me, I don't know what to say. I have trouble finding compassion for you and sometimes I let my anger get the best of me. The thing that really bothers me — I think that the difference between a Democrat and Republican, is that neither of them care about poor people; the Democrats just hide it better. I am ashamed that we are the only industrialized Western country that not only doesn't care for sick people, but profits from it. We live in a system that incentivizes companies to deny or minimize care and if you think that isn't contributing to the number of untreated mentally ill people walking around, then turn this podcast off because it's just going to piss you off what I have to say over the next couple of years. I put this podcast together as a plea for the understanding of mental illness, and when I see people take that lightly, it hurts me. It hurts my feelings, and it makes me angry because it makes my job that much harder. Alright, I'm off my soapbox.
I will say this: I had hernia surgery on Friday and I was lucky because I'm on my wife's policy. If I wasn't married to her I would not have health coverage. My health coverage lapsed through my union because I've been unemployed for a year. I have a friend who also has a hernia. He does not have health insurance, and he's been walking around for a month in pain trying to find a free clinic that will operate on him. That shames me. My surgery went well. It actually wasn't a hernia; they thought it was but there was a cyst in there that they took out. It looks like somebody hit me with a baseball bat right above my dick. In fact, it was kind of funny. As I was recuping after surgery, the nurse pulled the covers back and showed my wife the area and it was all swollen and purple and the nurse said you know, that's quite normal. As we were driving home, my wife turned to me and said, "It was so sad; you had two women looking at your penis and you couldn't even enjoy it." One of the many reasons I love her.
Okay, enough of my healthcare system soapbox.
I would like to read a quote that a listener named Dina sent in and this is from a book called The Monster of Florence. It's a book about a serial killer in Florence. It was written by Douglas Preston with Mario Prezi. What I'm going to quote was said by Brother Galileo Babbini, a monk in Florence, who ran a mental health practice out of his cell in the monastery and these are his thoughts on "the monster," as the killer was called, and mental illness.
He writes, "There is no longer true communication among us, because our very language is sick, and the sickness of our discourse carries us inevitably to sickness in our bodies, to neurosis, if not finally to mental illness. When I can no longer communicate with speech, I will speak with sickness. My symptoms are given life. These symptoms express the need for my soul to make itself heard but cannot, because I don't have the words, and because those who should listen cannot get beyond the sound of their own voices. The language of sickness is the most difficult to interpret. It is an extreme form of blackmail which defies all our efforts to pay it off and send it away. It is a final attempt at communication. Mental illness lies at the very end of the struggle to be heard. It is the last refuge of a desperate soul who has finally understood that no one is listening or ever will listen. Madness is the renunciation of all efforts to be understood. It is one unending scream of pain and need into the absolute silence and indifference of society. It is a cry without an echo. This is the nature of the evil of the monster of Florence, and this is the nature of the evil in each and every one of us. We all have a monster within. The difference is in degree, not in kind."
PG: I am here with Katie Palacio. I forget how we met. I think we met through Facebook and I went and read your blog and it was so open and honest and funny, and I was like the next time you were in town, you had to come to be on my show. We corresponded, sent many emails back and forth since then and we got to know each other a little bit, but there's still quite a bit that we don't know but I'm glad you're here.
KP: Thank you very much for having me.
PG: You live in Northern California?
KP: San Jose, California.
PG: And you've got three kids.
KP: I do.
PG: And you're divorced?
KP: In the process.
PG: In the process of being divorced. Multiple addictions. And your blog by the way, is Redheaded Stepchild?
KP: Redheaded Stepchild.
PG: What's the address for it?
KP: I am a redheaded stepchild. I define myself that way. I guess--
PG: What's the Internet address?
KP: www.redheaded stepchild.blogspot.com.
KP: Quite a mouthful.
PG: Yeah. When we put this episode up, on the show notes, will make sure we have a link to it there.
KP: Thank you.
PG: Where is the best place to start with all of this?
KP: Whether the beginning or the end to present, I don't know. There's a lot of stories: being homeless, and being divorced, and being raped and being part of a blended family. I guess I suppose--
PG: And then the bad stuff.
KP: The bad stuff [laughs]. That's just the good stuff. I was born in kind of traumatic circumstances. I was the last child of my mother's. She had four children all under the age of six when I was born and my father was undiagnosed bipolar, alcoholic had a casino so he was --
PG: Did he call it a candy store?
KP: Probably. Card club owner. I think he had affairs with chip girls and it was all very 1970s. The collars were all out to you-know-where. And so in the hospital -- and I only found this out years and years later -- when my mother had me my father was not present in the hospital. He came in later and boozily confessed to broads and the like and so I am imagining that my mother was probably super depressed and stressed out and I think that probably led to some attachment disorder stuff with me. Am I blaming her? Absolutely not. I mean, I think she was quite courageous to leave a year later when she did. But I imagine being in her shoes and trying to keep life together with four children in 1970, when it wasn't that okay to divorce, I think it took a lot of courage for her to leave when she did, but I think I probably got left by the wayside. I was described as a very bratty kid and 'don't touch me don't touch me,' and super shy, and super sensitive. It was only when I took a developmental psych class about two years ago that I realized 'oh, it was attachment disorder.'
KP: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, those are the effects of attachment disorder.
PG: Did that make you feel better?
KP: Absolutely. I mean, whether you're diagnosed with bipolar or not diagnosed, at the very least you have a door that's open that you can explore.
PG: Yeah. That's the most important thing that I always try to stress with this podcast. You don't have to have your mind made up about what it is; just seek, just constantly be seeking, and that in itself is super healing, and then you're not sitting still feeling sorry for yourself or feeling confused. It's okay. You can make a mistake and say 'you know I think I'm bipolar,' and find out you're something else down the road.
KP: Or hate yourself because you wonder 'why am I this way?' You can't figure out why you’re this way and you think it's your fault. And so when you find those different avenues to realize 'okay there is a reason why I am this way,' then that leads you to the next step: 'how do I fix this? How do I cope with this? How do I make it better?'
PG: 'How do I live with it?' And the cool thing is, along the way when you're seeking you're going to run into other people whose stories are similar to yours and that's the best part.
KP: Or who are more fucked up than you and that makes you feel good too. [PG laughs.] I'm sorry.
PG: You've just got to remember not to say it to them out loud. [KP laughs.] Although I've got to tell you I have friends where we do say that. We will say that kind of shit to each other. We'll be like "Wow, I thought I was fucked up. Thank you. I feel so much better." And then we'll laugh.
KP: That's a true friend.
PG: It is and there is a bond. There's nothing like being able to laugh about your misery or your lifelong problems or your issues or you know the gorilla on your back that is there every fucking day when you wake up. There's nothing like being able to laugh at that.
KP: I have a few friends like that too. It's an elephant in the room, isn't it, so when you address that elephant, then it becomes funny.
PG: It does, and it's very liberating. So you didn't get a lot of attention from your mom, which I'm sure is not unusual for any kid, but I think some of us genetically or for whatever reason, it hits us differently.
PG: You can't process it.
PG: But some kids can roll with it and some kids can't.
KP: My brother and sisters and I have extremely different versions of what happened. I think that memory is absolutely subjective, right?. It depends on who you were, where you were, your brain chemistry…
PG: How it felt.
KP: Absolutely. So my father after that wasn't real present. There was not a male role model from him. He got sober when I was about four or five. That was his journey, I think. I think he was struggling to kind of find out who he was in the grand scheme of things. My mother remarried when I was five, and that man was a narcissist, and he was a big fat baby. It was all about him all the time. And I had been my mother's baby and so I definitely remember this seismic shift of what happened in our household.
PG: Now hold on for a second. You were your mom's baby but you also had -- she would give you a little bit of babying but that it was never enough?
KP: No, it's that she understood me however I was the way I was. She was able to kind of rock me and comfort me and she got me. So I let her in. I didn't let anybody else in. Nobody else existed. So in effect, I think, my mother -- I could have used even more of her. I didn't get enough of her and that's a sign of attachment disorder.
PG: That's what I was asking because when you describe your mom it's like a healthy relationship. But there just wasn't enough of it. She was spread too thin.
KP: She was. I'll explain that later too, when she married this man who had five kids and she had four kids.
PG: Oh my God.
KP: It was not the fucking Brady Bunch, and I think that blended families are confusing, and there's a lot of tension that goes on and--
PG: What were the ages of the kids when you guys first got together?
KP: From five to 11.
PG: What was your side?
KP: No, for everybody.
PG: You're kidding me.
KP: I'm serious.
PG: Nine kids from five to 11?
KP: Yeah. We never all lived together at the same time, but at one time there was like seven kids living together. And so we were all kind of expected to just go with the flow and immediately we're going to be a family and immediately this man was who threw temper tantrums and called names and insisted -- He really took my mother's attention away. That's what it felt like. That was status quo. That was our new life and we had to get used to it. It was traumatic. In a way, you know, I used to be able to --
PG: Did you have a lot of hatred towards him back then?
KP: I did not until I was about 14 and I think at about 12, 13, 14 you start to see the situation for what it really is.
PG: And anger looks so good on a 14-year-old.
KP: Oh my God you should read my journals. It's disgusting. [Laughs.]
PG: It's not overly dramatic at all. It's very calibrated, very sensitive.
KP: Every time I read my journals when I finally get up the gumption to, I just cringe. But when I did turn 14 and was able to kind of see the writing on the wall and I was furious with my mother for basically selling us out. That's what it felt like. So she had a full-time job and all these kids and all their sports, and she volunteered and she was kind of a socialite. They started to get wealthier and wealthier and wealthier, you know, as time went on. So she had a very large social life. You cannot have it all. You know I think that women are sold this bill of goods that you can do it all. You cannot do it all. Something's got to give. And something did give and as a consequence -- I guess I don't want to blame my mother but I want to say that because there were so many things going on, you know, that begat drug addicts and teen pregnancies and dropouts and arrests, and you know none of us were perfect, that's for sure.
PG: And these were of her kids or all kids?
KP: Everybody. Everybody, The dynamic —
PG: How did you get along with the other kids? That's a dynamic that is so fascinating to me because I loved watching The Brady Bunch and never had sisters, and so I always fantasized about 'oh my God all of a sudden one day these cute girls show up at the door.' You know, you get to share a bathroom with them.
KP: Oh my God, Paul. Stop. Stop. It was definitely not like that. [Laughing.]
PG: I was just going to say disabuse me of that fantasy.
KP: Everybody came with their own little balls of issues and anger, you know, and confusion and rebellion and brattiness and at the same time I had stepsisters who were the same age as me so like every age, had a partner on the step side, so like I had somebody who was nine months younger than me. My sister, who was two years older than me, had somebody was four months apart from her. So we would grow up with these buddies that sometimes we got along and we grooved out to Saturday Night Fever or to Grease or whatever and jumped around on beds and danced and sang, and sometimes we were terrible to each other. And we were terrible to each other's parents. There are certain stepsisters that I love more than others, and there are certain stepsisters that I saw from the get-go that she was damaged. Still is damaged, in my opinion. She was the 11-year-old that when they got married I think there was a lot of bitterness on her part, and she did things that weren't nice. Often. Through adulthood.
PG: Is your mom still married to him?
KP: They were married for 30 years. My mom passed away in 2008.
PG: Oh, I'm so sorry.
KP: Thank you.
PG: I had nothing to do with it though. You realize that.
KP: She said [whispers] "Paul Gilmartin." [Laughs.] Those were her last words.
PG: It always feels a little weird when you say "I'm so sorry."
KP: I know.
PG: It seems like there must be a better phrase than that.
KP: How about this: "Well, that sucks"? That sounds good to me.
PG: That's better than "You too? I also got a dead'un."
KP: Whoa. Are you from Kentucky?
PG: No, but I went to school in southern Indiana.
KP: Say no more.
PG: Which is not far. So…
KP: So life was chaotic and you never -- when he came home when my stepfather came home he was super stressed out. He had a stressful job.
PG: What did he do?
KP: He was a lawyer and then he started a bank and then he became a bank president, and he was just a CEO type A, narcissistic ball of fun [laughs]. It was all about him all the time. How is he feeling, what was his mood like. That was going to determine the mood of the household.
PG: His name wasn't Mr. Mooney, was it?
KP: Who's Mr. Mooney? I don't get it.
PG: Lucy? When she worked at the bank.
KP: Paul, come on now. I was born in 1970.
PG: Yeah, you would've just missed it. You would have just missed it.
KP: He was a dick, I'm assuming.
PG: He was an uptight, quasi-queeny [impersonation] "Loo-SEE!" [KP laughs.] I like when a show gets galloping to just cut the legs out from underneath it with dated references. So the money started rolling in, and he was uptight Type A?
KP: It was like what we were being told and what actually was were two different things. So we were being told that he was a very important man, and he was a pillar of society and his name got in the papers, and they got photographed for social events, and you know, we should be looking up to him because he was very important. And yet I heard him calling my mother a cunt and a bitch and he slammed me up against walls and it was -- my reality was not what they were telling me. And so it was very confusing. It took me until I was about 35 years old to realize 'Okay, wait, I want my reality back. This wasn't how it happened.'
PG: Did you blame yourself when he would do these things to you, or did you know 'hey, I don't deserve what's happening'?
KP: It was really confusing, Paul, because at the same time he was being a jerk, I had no father figure and so I had no man to claim me. My father was a flake; sometimes he would show up, sometimes he wouldn't. My stepfather was a dick to me during the week and on the weekends when the little girls would come, the girls that did not live with him, he would go off and do dad things with them and he would be Superdad. And so I guess what I was feeling was anger and what was underneath the anger was hurt that he never claimed me. That I was never his daughter. And so because of that, I guess that's why when I turned 13, 14, 15, instead of you can't address the hurt –- you don't what the fuck it is -- the anger took over.
PG: It sounds to me like it was the worst of both worlds because you had to answer to him, but you didn't get any of that love and security from him.
KP: Not at all. Not at all.
PG: It's like you don't mind living under somebody's rules and their discipline and being taught stuff by them and giving them some of your power if you get something, the good part.
PG: Being able to let go, and fall into an adult's arms and feel protected and loved.
KP: He never hugged me, never said "I love you," I never said it to him. I never wanted any physical interaction with him at all. Like when I would get a card from the both of them on my birthday, I would always hope it just said "from Mom."
KP: Not just "Mom and Ted" because it was in her writing. Even then, I recognize that it was so fucking disingenuous, you know? 'Just say it's from you, Mom, and don't tack on this man's name and pretend that he's a father figure, because he wasn't.' And at the same time, he was the only father figure I had. And so if you ever wonder why this lady right here has man issues, you know, that was Chapter One.
PG: It's funny, you know, you talk about the name being on the card. I remember being a kid and every Christmas if you held a gun to my dad's head while the presents were wrapped under the tree and said, "Name one present the kids are getting," my dad would've been shot every Christmas [laughs].
KP: And that's just the way it was, right?
PG: It was. There was such a lack of interest in your kids and I guess that was your normal in some ways.
PG: It sounds even excessive though mydad never slammed me up against the wall and called me a cock. I mean, that must've been —
KP: Not even for your birthday?
PG: [Laughs.] Not even for my birthday.
That must have been so hard to --
KP: What was hard that again were expected to adore him. Here's an example. For Christmas we would all open all our gifts, all nine of us, and then at the very end the culmination was watching Mr. Puppetmaster -- that's what I call him -- open his gifts and we all had to sit with hands folded and watch him open his gifts, one at a time. This was from a very young age. One year for Christmas we got in a red leather-bound book, the thesis that he'd written on Machiavelli.
PG: Are you shitting me?
KP: With gold embossed letters [laughing]. My mother was like "Isn't this wonderful? Look at this." And the book – the thesis -- was about the duped and the dupee. You are either going to be the one that is getting fucked over, or the one that is fucking somebody over so you may as well be the one that is fucking somebody over [laughs].
PG: That is so fucked. What a horrible worldview.
KP: Machiavelli raised me. There was strife among the masses. The dynamic was there were the real kids, and there were the stepkids. I was part of the stepkids team. You can ask my brothers and sister; that was the dynamic. We were the less-thans.
PG: You literally were a redheaded stepchild.
KP: That's what I'm saying, Paul [laughs].
PG: For those of you that haven't seen her picture, Katie is a redhead and God, he just sounds like a cartoon character.
KP: Yes. Absolutely.
PG: A cartoon character. Like the corporate guy that America is ashamed of these days.
KP: The type of people who -- He was a philanthropist and he was doing all this good and then he would talk shit about poor people, or feminism, or unions, but he was giving giving giving. I guess that felt disingenuous to me as well. We had when we were growing up there was a family charity fund that they established in our names. We were to come up with the charity of our choice. We all sat at a table, you know, the huge table, we came up with the charity of our choice, and how we were involved with the charity and what we were going to do to help the charity raise money. You know, I feel like an asshole because it's $1000 for each kid and $9000 for charity is a lot of money, that's great, but it was so fucking phony. So you know, my stepsister would say. "I am involved at Sacred Heart, and what I do is volunteer there X amount of times," and I'm thinking to myself 'hey, driving through the drop-off line and dropping off your clothes from last season is not volunteering.' You know?
KP: It just didn't feel right. It always felt fake.
PG: Why is it too that the charity events that the rich people have to get all dressed up? There's something that really takes away from it for me when it's a charity event where everybody is in the cocktail dresses and they've got their diamonds. I don't know. That just saps the spirit out of it for me.
KP: It certainly does. I guess that's how rich people party.
PG: Is that how they tell themselves? I'm not bagging on rich people. I know a lot of rich people that are extremely giving and humble people, but there is that segment of rich people that I think that's how they live with themselves. They do that and they can't even get through that event without being narcissistic about their wealth.
KP: Yeah, you're right. You're right. And that being said, I want to be fair and say regarding wealth and as they got wealthier they were always -- my mother at least was always pretty down-to-earth about how she moved about in the world as I watched her friends get richer and richer and richer and the diamonds got fatter and fatter and fatter. She never was a diamond person, never was a big jewelry person. She drove a pretty low-key car. She wanted a Jaguar a few years back. She wanted it, wanted it, wanted it, and she finally got it and she had it for about a year and she said, "I don't like people looking at me." [Laughs.] So she traded it in for something less 'look at me.' So from five to 14 there was a lot of never being sure what you were going to come home to. A lot of fucking PTSD stuff. I lived in -- the physiological space that I lived in was in my chest, heart beating hard. You know a lot of the time, and when I got into my teenage years, never wanting to be home so I was -- Freshman year was fine. I was angrily writing in my journals about what a dick he was. "My mom sold us out." Sophomore year I went wild. I dropped out. I ran away from home.
KP: I got tattooes.
KP: Oh yeah.
PG: You fucking did it.
KP: I'm not even joking.
PG: You didn't fuck around.
KP: I'd like to say that dropping acid on a school field trip to Alcatraz is probably not a good idea. [PG laughs.] Just for the record. Because solitary confinement fucking sucks. It was so scary [laughing]. It was so scary. So I was a punk—
PG: So you were tripping while you were sitting in the cell with the other -- did they put you in the cell by yourself or were there other tourists in there with you?
KP: No. There were no other tourists. I was actually going to a school that was a juvenile court school. And I was the only kid that had not been to juvenile hall. So it was mostly like gangbanger kids, a couple white trash kids here and there, and I was from this wealthy family who was just this wild out-of-control kid. I was ruled by my emotions. That's what it was: I was ruled by my emotions. So this school was the type of school, where like, you --
PG: You were sent to the school because you were a problem?
KP: Yes. And it was a very interesting school. We went on an Indian spirit run for 7 miles where we drew on our totem sticks. That's pretty cool actually. It puts some spirituality in school. We went and learned how to fight fires, we did the ropes course. It was learning outside the box. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of schools like that around. Maybe because they're illegal now [laughs] but it was -- yeah, I got kicked out of that school and so those were angsty, angsty, angsty, teenage years and then there was a spot, something that happened in my teenage years that forever changed my life. And that was when I got raped and that happened in June of 86. I was 15 years old, I was riding a bus and I got off the bus. I was very confident in who I was and really not aware of my surroundings and really, you know, I thought I was invincible, as most teenagers do. And there was a man that followed me off the bus. And he was high on something, and he was kind of ambling along, and he was talking to me and I gave him a fake name and was thinking of how I was going to get rid of him, but not scared of him at all. And he walked with me for a couple of blocks and I said "Okay mister, I've got to go this way," and it was about 1 o'clock in the morning and he choked me, he choked me and he grabbed me by the neck and dragged me into it was somebody's front yard, but it looked like a field with an undone front yard with a fence and stuff. So he took me through there choked me really hard. I was fighting for my life, I was fighting for breath and he said "If you don't shut the fuck up, bitch, I'm going to kill you. In fact, I'm going to kill you after I'm done with you." So he --
PG: What do you remember thinking or feeling when he --
KP: My heart is beating so fast right now and it's so interesting because, as I tell the story. I'm so disassociated from this shit. I can't even feel it. I tell it, and like I see people looking at me like you are looking at me and it makes me uncomfortable that you have this empathy or that it's horrific because for me it's like telling a story. And I wish I could say that I worked on it and done my stuff and I've tried to. What I can tell you is that I tried to prepare to die. I tried to prepare to die, and I didn't know what else to do. And so he gave me a couple black eyes, he hit me, raped me, hit me, raped me, hit me, raped me and I was in the middle of saying like "Hail Mary, full of grace" and I saw these bright lights and apparently I died. No I'm just kidding, sorry [laughs] and it was the police. The police officer pulled this guy off of me and fucking beat him. Took out his baton and beat the shit out of him. Put me in the cop car and they took me to the public hospital. Called my mother. So what had happened was, and it was such a long time ago, there were no cell phones. There was nothing. There was this new technology on the bus where the bus driver could alert the police if anything strange was going on. And so this man was supposed to get off a few stops before mine and he didn't. And so when he got off with me, the bus driver called the police and said something funny was going on. Seriously, yeah.
PG: What would you like to say to that bus driver if you ever see him? Or her?
KP: I just Facebooked him a couple weeks ago. It's funny that you say that. There was a speaker who came to a class of mine, speaking about innocent bystander and I realized, more so than I ever have before, that that man saved my life. He saved my life. And maybe that's where I can allow myself to get emotional. There aren't enough words to thank him. So my mother came and thank God my stepfather was out of town. I was able to sleep with her that night. They gave me a bunch of sleeping pills and I slept that night with her. And the next day I went and I looked in the mirror and I had super gnarly fingerprint bruises on my neck, and there were weeds and rocks in my hair and I had two black eyes and I remember thinking to myself, 'this is who you are now.' And it was almost as if I was painting warrior stripes on my face.
KP: And something flipped and I became Crazy Warrior Woman. And I knew that I was going to wear it. I didn't know how, but I knew that that was what was going to define me for the rest of my life. Not like 'oh poor me.' It wasn't even that thought out, but I just remembered looking in the mirror and looking at everything and thinking to myself,'you are forever changed.'
PG: Was it the feeling in yourself of 'oh you want to fuck with me, I'm going to fight back' or 'I've just kind of been painted and I am forever a victim'?
KP: Even though I've never liked to use the word "victim" and I would always say "survivor," when I was writing and stuff, I think what I was, was a victim of -- The result of that rape was black-and-white thinking. You know, regarding sex and sexuality it forever changed my views of men and sex and intimacy. I really still think I'm not capable of really true emotional intimacy because in my mind you are either conquering somebody or you're being conquered. And so, you know, with rape victims -- there's that word again -- you either go one way or the other. You start fucking around with loads of people, or you withdraw and you don't fuck around with anybody. And I decided that I was going to sleep with as many people as I could and conquer before they conquered me.
PG: Makes total sense to me.
KP: So just as a backup, when I went to trial and put this guy in jail the defense attorney asked me if I ever had an orgasm.
PG: Are you kidding me?
KP: What she asked me was, "Did you have an orgasm while you were having sex with him?"
PG: Do you remember her name? [KP laughs.] Because we should shame this motherfucker.
KP: I don't remember her name. I remember all the people who did right by me. The police officer that caught him, he ended up driving by my house on his beat for like the next 20 years. Honestly. I mean, it was really lovely. I would see him when I was in my 20s and he'd say, "How's it going, kid?" and we'd catch up and --
PG: Do you remember his name?
KP: Bruce Ady.
PG: How do you spell that?
KP: A-D-Y. And the bus driver's name is Mark Bugna.
PG: How do you spell his last name?
KP: B-U-G-N-A. So what the man said was that it was consensual sex, and I wanted it, you know, even though there were pictures of me basically with the shit beat out of me. So she asked me if I had had an orgasm while I was having sex with him, and Paul, in all honesty, I looked at her and I said, "What's an orgasm?" And the jury just [gasps]. You know, their breath caught. They were just absolutely shaken to the core. So he got 40 years, which I imagine is 20, so I imagine he's out. I've tried to look him up a couple of times. My best friend back then she called his house and like started screaming at a wife or whatever it was. I lived in -- I still live in fear and have some PTSD stuff and am super jumpy and really recognize what PTSD does to people. It took me a long time to be able to admit that was probably what I had because I thought, 'Oh, I can't have PTSD. That's only for people that have been in a war.' But really, it was kind of my own version of hell, what happened.
PG: This amazes me how we will minimize shit that happens to us. It's easy to see when somebody else is minimizing it. How you could question whether or not that's valid PTSD just makes my jaw drop. Makes my fucking jaw drop.
KP: Oh God, wait till I get into the domestic violence stuff [laughs]. I don't know. I mean the women that I'm living with now in the transitional housing unit. They were molested, many of them, 99% of them were molested or abused as children. Sometimes daily. Raped daily. From the ages of seven to 11 stepfathers or fathers or and so I guess we'll talk about what's happened to me later in my life, but part of my journey in becoming an activist and becoming a feminist is thinking to myself, 'I was raped once in 40 years, a white, upper-class girl. She was raped every day, every day.'
PG: And that makes yours not as valid?
KP: I meant – I just – it's not that it makes – I guess-- don't call me out on stuff, Paul. It's annoying [laughs].
PG: By the way, would you like to see the name of the man that raped you, or –
KP: His name is Robert Winbush.
PG: How do you spell his last name?
KP: W-I-N-B-U-S-H. And so when he raped me I was 15 and he was like 42 and he'd done it to women before.
PG: So how old would he be now? I don't want to get him confused with another person with that name.
KP: I know. Wouldn't that be awkward?
PG: So he be in his what, 60s or 70s?
KP: Yes, it's that was about 25 years ago.
KP: So I still-- whether or not this was me stumbling through life and not finishing high school, or the journey that I went on -- whether that was a result of the when-I-was-born stuff or the stepfather or being raped, you know, I think it's a little bit of everything. It's nature, it's nurture, it's the kitchen sink maybe. I don't know [laughs].
PG: We don't know where the truth is; we will never know for sure where the exact truth is. What we can know is what we are feeling and how we deal with those feelings. That's the most important thing.
KP: Absolutely. It took me a while. I mean, I would say I live my life for the next 25 years trying not to feel. And it's only been really recently, I'd say in the past year that I even stopped to recognize what is this. This is a feeling. What kind of a feeling? How does this feel? Walking through instead of snorting a line of speed or contacting a stranger on craigslist or going shopping or any of that. So it's a process, I suppose. So I slept with a bunch of people throughout my teen years, and I probably regret about 85% of them. I'd like to apologize to those 85% of you, it just wasn't that great.
PG: So many women have regrettable sexual experiences in their teenage years. It almost seems like – I don't want to exaggerate, and say the majority of them, but just time and time again, the emails I get the women I talk to there was either coercion or they felt like they didn't want to let somebody down or be impolite or there was an abusive element that felt natural to them. Or they wanted the power back from when they were preteen and were being raped or molested.
PG: It's amazing.
KP: That's absolutely where it comes from. I mean, even in my relationships to this day, I have to really watch it to be aware of where I'm going in my intentions and where I'm coming from. If where I'm coming from is true or if I'm putting on an act. And it is so subconscious that I don't even realize it until after and I say 'Oh okay, that thing I was doing.' I was trying to wow him with my sexuality' and with 'look at what I can do to you.' Take back my power. You know, Rape Psychology 101. Unfortunately. [Sighs.] So didn't graduate from high school, moved out the day I turned 18, lived in downtown San Jose.
PG: Did your stepfather ever say anything to you about that event?
KP: No, and let me go back to that. The message that I was sent was that you shouldn't say the word "rape." They were very uncomfortable with that word "rape." I wanted to go out the very next day. I wanted to go out and have coffee with my friends and my brother had a girlfriend who was quite progressive, and was very creative and she was a photographer and she really understood me very much and she wanted to go out and photograph me, like in gritty scenes or whatever. And maybe that sounds distasteful to you or to anybody else but to me it would've for sure been healing to be able to capture what that looked like. Because I imagined what Crazy Warrior Woman looked like the day after with weeds in her hair and black eyes and fingerprint bruises and maybe this is macabre, but I would love to see that picture. And so I wanted to go out into the world and my parents wouldn't let me. They wouldn't let me go out with my friends or they wouldn't let me go out with Sandra --that was her name -- and the message that was sent to me was that 'you're not okay the way you are. What happened to you is not okay. You can't tell anybody. You can't talk about it.'
PG: 'You can't own it. What little ownership you have in it, you can't own.'
PG: 'We're going to own this together and we are going to set the rules on this.' Who would not feel even more power being taken from them by that?
KP: That's totally it. I had a rape crisis person come to speak at my class as well. She definitely stresses that you do not want to take over decision-making for rape victims. If you're the friend of somebody who's been raped you definitely want to have them be in the driver's seat and not start making all these decisions and be codependent by making all these decisions for them. Because that's exactly it. You need to somehow take your own life back. So I --
PG: So what did your parents call it?
KP: I don't know. Think of something funny.
PG: "Unrestricted wrestling"? [KP laughs.]
KP: [Stage whisper] You're terrible, Paul Gilmartin. Terrible.
"That which cannot be named"? I don't know. [Laughs.]
PG: There is something about that. It's like a trash compactor. that suburban squishing of truth and packing it down so that nobody can see that little cube of pain that we all have in us, and it is such a sick dynamic. It's so fucking sick.
KP: And that's what we were and that's why I didn't feel comfortable being who I was, because I've always been this brash and this bawdy and this open and trythful. Always always always. Since a very young age I was told that was not okay. You should not be that way. It was tacky or distasteful or classless. I remember my mother telling me when I was like 12 and I was burping and I was really good at it and she said [high voice]"No boy is ever going to want to date you." And I thought to myself 'I don't want to date any boy that doesn't appreciate this beauty anyway' [laughs].
PG: That's awesome.
KP: But you know, like you said, I was tamped down, tamped down, tamped down. Until I lived with this monkey on my back that I definitely was not appropriate. I was not appropriate, there was something wrong with me.
PG: Can you talk about that?
KP: My mother was loved by many. She was a very genuine woman. My mother, my sister, and I owned a business together. A business which I joined when they had already had it for four or five years. It was an interior design, home furnishing store, but we also did interior design and decorating. It was never my passion. You know, it was never my creativity, but when my first child was born when I was 27, I had been working in bars and I worked in a bar for about six months, happy hours, and when she was six months old, I decided 'This is yucky. I don't want to do this anymore.' The mother in me definitely took over. So I joined this family business. But I was a really good bartender and people really loved me and I loved people. I think the communication between two souls is magic and I was really very good at the interpersonal dynamics of that business. And I had to definitely tone it down a little bit when I went into the business with my mother and my sister because it was very proper. [Laughs.]
KP: And so I went from being in downtown San Jose, which I guess is where hipsters are now. It was just a lot of creativity going on and a lot of wildness and a lot of great bands, to now being in this box of suburbia --
PG: So when somebody was picking out a wallpaper you wouldn't offer them a Jell-O shot?
KP: [Laughing]. It wasn't Jell-O shots back then, it was like hot screaming orgasms.
PG: Sex on the beach –
KP: So bad, so bad. So my mother and I definitely have something in common, where she was very genuine with people and she wanted people's back stories and people loved her and she had that magic and my grandma had it too. But my mother certainly did not like the way that my magic came across and I was chastised often for being … inappropriate. [Laughing.]
PG: Do you feel like you were inappropriate? Or was it just a matter of taste?
KP: I probably was, for sure. And that's something that I struggle with to this day in trying to get stuff done for the transitional housing unit that I live in –
PG: When you say "transitional housing," does that mean from rehab to regular living -–
KP: No no no --
PG: What does "transitional housing" mean?
KP: I lived in a domestic violence shelter when I left my husband. And from the domestic violence shelter I went to this place. It's like a dorm room for mothers and children. Basically I have my own room, with my children where I share a bed with them and then we have a community kitchen and a community dining room. It's a nonprofit. It's not run by the government. But I pay 30% of my income, and since my income is basically welfare right now, which is like 638 bucks a month, my rent is $155 a month. It allows me two years to kind of get my shit together and say 'okay, what's the next step?' So we're getting ahead of ourselves, I think.
KP: So I owned the business with my mother and my sister until I was 35 when we sold. During that time when we owned that business, I met my now ex-husband. And he was charming, dynamic, handsome, great job. He was a builder, so he built spec homes, nice car. And he was just like my stepfather.
KP: Except worse. The control that happened was very very subtle at first. It was very subtle. It was, you know, "You're really cute, you are really pretty, but you'd look so much better if you wore this." "Your car is not that great. It would look so much better… Here, if just drive my car." It progressed pretty quickly.
PG: I would imagine there was a little feeling in your stomach that you ignored when he said that.
KP: Yes, yes. And he was older than me; he was 11 years my senior. And Katie needed a daddy, you know. There was definitely a daddy thing going on. And I was ready after all of this conquering that I –
PG: How many children did you have at this point?
KP: I had one. He was everything that I – I was tired of conquering my way through the town. And I had not really done that since my daughter was born, you know, I had more or less kind of settled down and was still going out and partying every once in a while, but I definitely was not doing that to the extent that I was doing it from the time I was 15 to the time I was 20-something. So I told him about my past, and about what it happened to me and how I understood from a very young age that that was what I was doing; I was sleeping with a bunch of people as a consequence of what happened and he was empathetic at first and then it became something that he used against me all the time. And I became hypersexualized and he became convinced that I was having affairs with everybody I ever met. So for the first six months, you know, he was dapper, he was kind, we were flying to Telluride to go skiing for the weekend, taking motorcycle trips across the Grand Canyon, and he swept me off my feet in a very short amount of time. It was about six months in that he called me a vile cunt and it was about a year in –
PG: Yeah, but did you do, Katie? [KP laughs.]
KP: [High voice] I deserved it, I deserved it [normal voice] and he would throw these temper tantrums and none of my friends were acceptable and everyone in my family sucked and he just – I just started being isolated.
PG: And it's awful too, when it's in the Grand Canyon and then you hear it echo back.
KP: Any you can't go anywhere. And where the fuck is that donkey? I want to go back up.
PG: Oh my God. There is an intensity to arguments on vacation that is unsurpassed by anything else.
KP: What is that about?
PG: I think that there's an expectation that there's going to be a certain amount of fun and all of a sudden because you're side by side for 24 hours a day and because you both have specific needs and kind of plans about what you're going to do and what you're going to feel, inevitably, you're going to get shortchanged into going to have to compromise and all of your fucking issues are going to come to the surface.
KP: if you can find someone you can travel with, that you can travel well with --
PG: Marry them.
KP: Exactly. Unfortunately, it's like one of my girlfriends is who I travel well with. With everyone else. It's like 'Oh yeah, you guys suck.' So everything was my fault for the first couple years of our relationship and if I go back through those journals it disgusts me how much I was taking on.
PG: That's got to be so painful to go back and read that.
KP: Well, because I knew – when I read those things like 'I just have to try harder, he's right,' -- Oh, and it was during this time, too, that I was diagnosed as bipolar. But it wasn't bipolar bipolar; it was bipolar II, which is like bipolar light. So it's not like I was super crazy, okay? So I was diagnosed with bipolar II, and I was diagnosed with ADD and I got on these drugs. And that was a very exploratory period for me. That is what kind of opened the door to psychology and trying to figure myself out. And I was relieved in a sense that finally I could name it. Unfortunately, as with my past, and my slutty past –
PG: He used it against you.
KP: He used it against me. [PG groans.] And I became "the crazy one."
PG: Oh God. That's so awful.
KP: And he used many things against me. I would be vulnerable and I would be sad and he would be just like you know, "you're acting really manicky right now. You need to..." you know. And he was just as paranoid as I was and he was just as jealous as I was. I mean, in retrospect, I think we both had issues up the fucking yin-yang, up the wazoo. We both had issues. And us combined together was a toxic, co-addictive disaster. And so when I talk about the My Fair Lady stuff that was going on, and him trying to mold me into this woman, I was a willing partner and when I talk about him, name-calling or hitting you know, he was definitely abusive. He was physically abusive, he was emotionally abusive, he was crazy. In the later years of our marriage, he tracked me via GPS and I didn't know about it for a few years. He would go and open my Facebook accounts and send messages to ex-boyfriends, you know, like "She's not well. You probably don't want to talk to her, because she's not well," when we would be having a normal conversation. I participated in that toxicity. I threw things at him and I went to his shop at two in the morning and looked through his shit, and so I feel like we brought out the crazy in each other.
PG: I'm glad that you can say that too, that you can see your part in it because so oftentimes -- and I talked with Dr. Zucker about this -- we want to make things black and white because they are easier to digest that way and we do a disservice I think to ourselves, and the other person if we try to make it black and white…
KP: You're absolutely right and for a long time I lived in black-and white-thinking and my ex still lives in black-and-white thinking. So for him it is still all my fault. All my fault. All my fault. All my fault. So for the first five years, I definitely said 'It's my fault. It's totally my fault. Oh my goodness.'
PG: And I think that's where we go in the absence of seeking. We take the other person's point of view, because it's easier. We don't have to open that door of the unknown of where is the truth because it's going to be exhausting.
KP: And scary. It's going to be exhausting and terrifying because you know the truth was, I knew in my heart of hearts that him throwing things at me in front of my child or him telling me that I was is nothing more than a cum receptacle—
PG: Are you kidding me?
KP: Seriously. Isn't that gross?
PG: That's just unbelievable. And I've heard a lot of shit on this program. Why did I call it a program?
KP: It is a program.
PG: That's such an old-person word.
KP: Are you ready to continue? Back to me. [Laughs.] So the next five years there was a couple of different things that happened that caused me to start rebelling. And because of what happened when I was 15, my inner child is a fucking 15-year-old rebel. I have a serious case of arrested development. I'm still a bratty rebellious punk rocker that's going to be like 'fuck you' and think that authority figures suck and whatever. So, that girl came out in the next five years of our marriage. It was a combination of Facebook – I know that sounds weird and super superficial – but I liked people liking my status. [Pause.] Okay, that was funny, Paul. Laugh. [Laughs.]
PG: I don't think that's a joke, I think that's the truth for all of us. It's a high.
KP: What it did for me was it allowed me to remember that I was funny again, and I was myself and I was charming. And I was isolated. I left this part out. So after we got married -- I was pregnant when we got married -- my sister, my mother and I had sold the business. Incidentally, when I got my share of the money, I handed him 150 grand and I said "Here. You know what to do with the money. You're better at money than I am." Just handed it to him. "Here you go." [Gagging.] So we agreed that I would stay home with the children and things changed for me drastically. I'd had my own business, I had been my own woman, I was making my own money, and I was in a controlling relationship, I had two babies. I didn't have a job. Our mortgage doubled. It was absolutely oppressive. And I think what a lot of women don't talk about when you have babies is it there's this kind of an identity crisis. Like you don't know who you are and you don't know who you're supposed to be. And when you're a mother, I think we all are taught like all of a sudden that's your be-all and end-all. But it's not your be-all and end-all. You still have a right to be a grown-up, and an adult, and have your own identity separate from that of "mother." So the message that my husband was sending me was, you know, 'You’re a mother now.'
PG: 'You're the custodian of my property.'
KP: Basically. I mean that's sick, but it's true. Yeah, it's absolutely true. And so I lived in a two million dollar house and I was very privileged and I had my swim and racket membership and I had nice designer clothes and I was fucking miserable. I was miserable. And I was isolated. And so what Facebook did for me was it had me come out of my shell. And he started to get – he'll tell you Facebook was the demise of our marriage, but for me – and it's not like I was doing anything inappropriate – he will say "you were contacting people inappropriate." Like an ex-boyfriend would say "hey, how's it going?" and you know, "I have three kids now. You look great, blah blah blah." It was not like [stage whisper]"Let's meet behind the grocery store, you know, for some housewife love." None of that.
PG: At a certain level he could sense that somebody else was going to weigh in on his control and chip away at it.
KP: Absolutely. Absolutely. So the Facebook thing and then my mom got sick. And when my mom got sick and died, basically, I didn't give a fuck about anything. 'Do to me what you will. I mean, the worst thing just happened to me. You can't fuck me up any more. My mom just died.' And watching her die was, in a way, one of the most important moments of my life. It was very sacred, very sacred, and I'm not saying that oooh everyone should have a chance to watch somebody die, but I'm really glad that I was there, and I'm really glad that my brothers were there. One of my brothers is a nurse and so he did the hospice work. So we were able to have these jokey laughy times together and bond while she was dying, and we were able to cry together. And I do have to give that to my ex-husband, because he "allowed" me, but really he did and he was very supportive in letting me go and be there with her. And he didn't have to be. It was kind of against character.
PG: What strikes me when you tell me that is that it shows me how much our sickness is based on fear. Because really, you going to be with your mom, there's nothing to fear on his part, probably, about you going to do that.
KP: I get it.
PG: You're not going to be cheating, you're not going to be doing anything else, so that is safe. It's fine for you to go and do that. But all these other things. These unknown variables that stir up all the fear in him which makes you want to clamp down and control.
KP: His mother when he was six years old. His mother was kind of a loosey-goosey. She'd go out dancing and she would be and making out with somebody or being at somebody's house and the dad put my ex-husband in the car when he was six years old and say, "Let's go get your mother." And what he would say to his son was "Son, you've got to watch your mother and make sure she doesn't do anything." [PG groans.] So you can imagine why he is the way he is and I knew from the get-go why he is the way he is. And he's denied that, you know. What I realized after all these years from trying to change him and trying to get him to go into therapy is that his stuff is not for me to try and change.
PG: It's so good you can see that. It's so good you can see that.
KP: So my mother passed away and the family kind of fell apart, the stapfamily. My stepfather started doing super gross questionable Machiavellian things like putting his private money into LLCs in his children's names so that it would look like he didn't have any private money, you know, so he would have to use the shared money. Getting engaged three months after my mom died. I mean, he was never around when my mom was dying. It was very weird.
KP: He was always at the office and it was just very odd. It was almost sociopathic, and so I made a decision that about after a year I kind of saw the writing on the wall. I saw that my mother was the glue that held the family together and we all presented so well as a family. "Look at this blended family, these nine kids, their family, isn't that great? That's hope for all of us. Everyone can be that way. It's like they're related." And it was very much not a healthy family. Not that any family is healthy, but the dynamic was still "you guys are the stepkids and we are the real kids." My mother had a list of her jewelry to be given out when she died, and I was with her when she made that list. When she died, the list somehow disappeared and I was handed a wrinkled brown paper bag full of shit that my stepfather had picked out and he said, "Here you go, this is for you." So you know with women and their mothers and their mother's jewelry it's all very sentimental.
PG: I can imagine.
KP: A lot of the stuff that she had that I liked was stuff from the 70s silver jewelry that I remembered as a kid or stuff like that. But the fact of the matter is that my stepfather told a fib. Because he wanted control. And he said to my sister and I, "Those are my things now, and I decide how they get distributed." So he distributed them evenly to his girls. So it was quite liberating, making a decision to split from that side of the family. It was painful but it was liberating. And in a sense, my mother dying freed me from the farce that was our family because I never would have been able to do that, had she been alive because I would've felt guilty. But every time we go to family gatherings down to the dynamics of who sat where -- I sat at the very end of the table. Wicked Stepsister always had the prime spot next to the parents. The writing was on the wall. So Mom dying, Facebook, led to 'hey I don't give a fuck about this marriage, I don't give a fuck about anything,' and I started to rebel against my husband. And so I would leave. I would say we were going to get separated and I would take off and I would come back. I left for the first time in 2009, cashed in some stocks, rented a cute little house, and something changed in him where he became like a super great lover. Before, he was a terrible lover and we would have sex like three times a year. And he became this super dynamic lover. And so what would happen is I would be in my little house, you know, with my kids and he would come over and fucking rock my world. And that's how we stayed attached for the next three years because that was our intimacy. Our chemistry was so phenomenal, sexually, for those last three years that it was how we communicated. I couldn't break apart from it. So after living on my own for about six months, we decided to get back together and my daughter from my first marriage, my previous relationship, she says to me now, "I remember the day you told me we were going back and I was so pissed off at you because I knew it wasn't the right thing to do, and there was nothing I could do." And I was convinced, like he was going to change that everything was going to be great now. So we moved to a different neighborhood because apparently changing locations is going to make everything perfect. And when we moved, he pressured me to sign a quit claim on the next house, which meant that I gave up rights to half of the house. So I signed it and gave up my rights to $200,000 because I wanted everything to be okay. I wanted to smooth it over and I wanted him to know that I trusted in our relationship. So we were there a couple months when there was an incident of terrible fighting between the two of us and my daughter was 12 at the time, and he lunged at me and he was calling me all sorts of names and he lunged at me and I got really scared and I screamed. She heard it all. She went into shock and she got really scared and she started kind of rocking back and forth, rocking back and forth. She said, "I want to go to my dad's house, Mom." I don't want to be here anymore. I want to go to my dad's house." He called the cops on me for whatever because he's fucking crazy and the cops came and it was like our second night in our new house in our new neighborhood, and I'm sure the neighbors were like "Yeah, cool. We got the domestic violence couple."
PG: Let's go ahead and put that casserole in the fridge.
KP: I need to say that before that I had put him in jail. He had hit me and slapped me around a bunch. I was super drunk when he did it and so I don't remember a lot, so it went from him being really sorry he was so sorry he was so sorry he was never going to do it again in a couple months down the line it became, "That was your fault, you were inappropriate with a man and you deserved to be slapped." So I put him in jail and he said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, you're right. You had every right to do that. I'm going to change." And you look at these domestic violence things and it's the cycle of abuse.
PG: It's the same thing over and over again And I believe in their heart of hearts they really are sorry. The anger is such a cyclical thing that it's like a drug. When you're high on it –
PG: Your reality changes.
KP: So when my daughter left it was – I don't have a lot of regrets in my life and the one big regret that I do have is that I still stayed. I mean, I lost my child. She never came back. It's been two years. And she basically the old wonderful little wise woman that she was, is and always will be, she said, "Mom, I can't do this anymore. This is crazy making." And so she went to live with her father and her stepmother. And still I stayed. And in a way I was repeating a lot of what had happened to me. You know my mom sold me out for a man. And here I was, fucking selling her out for a man. But at the very least, she had a place to go. And I didn't have any place to go. And I try not to think of mother-daughter parallels too much because her life is her life and it's her own. I just think it's interesting that there were kind of similar situations. I basically married my mother's husband. I married the only father figure that I knew. That's the only thing I knew. So …
PG: And that's what happens when we don't seek.
KP: Yeah, absolutely.
PG: When we just shove that pain down.
KP: So we would go to marriage counseling, and we would go like once or twice and then he would think of excuses as to why he couldn't go. He'd promised to go to therapy and then make excuses as to why he couldn't go. In the interim, he was a wonderful provider financially, and he was a good father to our two little ones. He was working seven days a week and therefore I was working seven days a week and taking care of little tiny children, seven days a week with no respite is fucking hard.
PG: You know, how good is somebody who is calling you a cum receptacle? Where your children around what he was saying these mean things to you or lunging at you?
KP: My older daughter definitely heard a lot. She heard a lot. And thank God for her because now when we talk about it, she remembers and she helps me remember that it wasn't my questionable sense of reality. You know, I've had two men in my life that have told me, "What you remember isn't true." And that fucks with you.
PG: Oh my God, does it ever.
KP: And so here I have this witness that says, "No Mom, if my brother and sister ever want to know what was really like, I'll be there to tell them."
PG: That's great. So you do still talk to your oldest?
KP: To my daughter? Oh yes, I continue to pick her up from school. By this time, like 2010-2011 I started sinking into a depression pretty badly. And so I left my husband in May 2011 after having reconciled from that 2009-2010 incident. This happened like three or four times. It would be exhausting having to tell people "hey we got back together" and you could tell they would be like "fuuuuuck."
PG: And you love the people who were like, "Good, he was an asshole" and then "We got back together." [KP laughs.]
KP: And my friends were so kind about it. They would just be like, "Good luck. Let me know if you need anything." And then I would isolate myself because I would be so embarrassed that when the fighting would happen again, I wouldn't call anybody and then I'd go into a hole of depression.
PG: And that's what the control freak spouse wants. They want you isolated because then you can control you. They probably aren't even conscious of it.
KP: He will deny it to the end. And again, I had a Cinderella complex, I think. I think I wanted to be taken care of. And I think my mom kind of gave me the message "Isn't that great. Now you have somebody to take care of you." Because I didn't think I could do it on my own, and he would tell me stuff like "Do you really think that you are valuable to the family business? They only hired you because I felt sorry for you. You can't take care of yourself. What will you do if you leave me? What you going to do, work in retail? Be a bartender at 40? Your looks are gone, you don't have that anymore. Who is going to want to sleep with you? You're a fat ass now, who's going to want to sleep with you?" And it became so normal for me to hear this stuff. The property-destroying became normal. He'd throw my phone in a field. He'd break my phone. I mean four or five or six times. He'd say to me "Hey, a friend of ours just saw you. Where are you?" And I would tell a housewife lie: "I'm at Target," when I was really at Anthropologie [laughs]. Do you know what Anthropologie is?
PG: I do.
KP: Okay. And he'd say, "No you're not." And I'd say, "Yes, I am. What do you mean?" "A friend just saw you." And so that started happening --
PG: Why would you not say that you were –
KP: Because I couldn't because I was having compulsive shopping stuff. And so I'd say I was at housewife Target when really I was trying to buy something to make myself feel better. "I just passed you on the freeway. Where are you going?" "That's weird; that's happened like four times this month where you've passed me on the freeway. San Jose is a city of 1 million people. How odd." So I left again in May 2011.
PG: I just want to pause for one second. You know, you talked about wanting to be rescued, which is a super super common thing with people in unhealthy relationships. And the thing that I want to point out is you cannot want to be rescued and not have that issue of control not come back and bite you in the ass.
KP: And the consequences are insanely intense and the consequence of that almost killed me. Honestly. It almost killed me. So when I moved out in May 2011 again, I went to stay with my brother this time and I got a job. The job I was qualified for – you know, I'n a high school dropout – and I had a retail shop source so I could work at The Gap, or I could be in restaurant management. So I decided 'Okay, restaurant management. That's what I'll do.' I went from staying at home with my children all the time to see my children half time because we were sharing custody and of that half time I was working 10- to 12-hour days. And so I started to become super anxious. Physiologically, heart beating, up high in my chest, and I didn't want to feel it. I didn't want to feel it. I know what it was but I didn't want to feel it. And so I did anything and everything that I could not to feel. I never stopped. So this is what I call "the compulsive era." And so I compulsively did many many many things. I compulsively played Ms. Pac-Man. I'm not even fucking joking. I'm not even joking.
PG: Oh I get it. Video games are sometimes the greatest on unhealthy escape.
KP: And I was very irritable with my children. I was on Adderall, which is great for a former speed addict. When that psychiatrist wrote me that script for Adderall, I basically thought to myself, 'Fuck, she just gave an addict over-the-counter speed. Awesome.' So the Adderall is making me super irritable with my kids, and I was working and [gagging] I was out of control, so I compulsively played video games, compulsively went online, compulsively shopped, compulsively ate, compulsively went on craigslist looking at Personal Encounters, compulsively masturbated, I mean, I was an equal opportunity compulsive, I suppose. That's how desperate I was not to let anything sink in. And you know, people when I write in my blog about why I went to rehab and I joke about the compulsive masturbation—
PG: When you say "compulsively masturbate," how often, how long are we talking about?
KP: There were a couple of weeks were like if I could go to sleep I would look at porn and then you go down that rabbit hole of looking at porn and pretty soon it's fucking three hours later. Four hours later.
PG: I know.
KP: I mean I was doing it—
PG: And you keep thinking 'I'm going to find the one.'
KP: 'Don't like that one, don't like that one…'
PG: I'm going to find that one scene that's going to fix me and that's going to take me to that place.'
KP: Yeah, and, and so I would look at it, look at it, look at it, look at it, look at it, look at it, obsessively clicking and then masturbate, get off, have an orgasm and the endorphins would rush in and calm me down. And I've known a couple of women who have had that compulsive masturbation problem. So it's a real thing, folks. It's titillating and whatever, and the housewives in the suburbs where I'm from can laugh about it all they want, but I used it as a coping mechanism.
PG: so was really looking at porn that was the compulsive part more than the act of the masturbation.
KP: One time with the craigslist personals what do they call it—"Casual Encounters." Look how long it's been. I must be all better if I can't remember what it's called. [PG laughs] You know, I never went through with an act with a human being physically, but at one point I was sexting, emailing, sending pictures with four or five different women. So I stayed up until like six in the morning one time.
PG: So it was with women, not men?
KP: I'm an equal opportunity employer. [PG laughs.] Come on now, it's the 90s or something like that. Yes, that was with women. With men, I had pursued a threesome with a man and his girlfriend, and what was new to me was that the woman did not know that the man was doing the setup. And so, imagine how embarrassing that was when a woman came into my work and started screaming at me [PG groans.] to get off her man with my bosses in this restaurant. [Laughs.] And I had to make something up and be like, "Oh I met this man on match.com and I didn't know he was married." Not like, "I'm so freaky that I'm trying to set up some freak sex act." And that's when I realized that this shit is kind of dangerous. What am I doing? And I was working off of my high, you know, however it was. So I had a started dating a man during that time who was a bartender at this place where I worked and he was the kindest, most gentlest normal guy. And here he gets me [laughs].
PG: Tornado coming in.
KP: What does Billy Bragg say — "a little black cloud in a dress"? [Laughs.] So there was my ex-husband, he and I still having the sexual chemistry in the middle of all of this. We hated each other. Hated each other. He would come into my work and be like "I'm going to burn your fucking house down." And he'd threaten me and show up and follow me. It was scary. It was scary. Scary stuff. And so what did I do? I did what I thought was best, and we got back together. Again. So we got back together, and I broke up with the nice guy, and I quit my job the day after we got back together. Because he was going to take care of me and everything was going to be great again and I didn't need my job and it was stressful anyway.
PG: And giving up control had worked out so well in the past.
KP: Exactly [laughing]. So at that point I told him everything. I told him about the threesome thing and I told him about the Adderall, I told him everything and so I stopped everything cold turkey. Everything. Adderall, sex, drugs, blah blah blah. Pac-Man,that was the hardest. Giving up Pac-Man?
KP: It's hard. That Dr. Zucker comment about the videogame was hilarious. So when that happened is kind of what I call my nervous breakdown period. I had a fucking nervous breakdown because I started feeling. And I didn't like what I felt. And so I sunk into a super deep depression. I basically wrapped myself in a blanket and went into the closet and would cry for hours. And my little kids who were like four and six would come in and they would be like, "Hi Mom! How're you doing? Are you still in the closet?" [PG groans.] That was their normal. I couldn't get up to take them to school. I couldn't get up to pick them up from school at 2:30 in the morning and I would drag my ass out of bed to take them to school, and then get back in bed at nine in the morning and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's, masturbate, whatever. So my therapist at the time said, "You have to get your ass to rehab. You've got to get your ass to a 30-day program." And my ex-husband was still very controlling with the money. I mean when we had separated before he was so controlling with the money that I would have to sell shit to be able to afford being on my own. I sold a watch that was my mother's for a couple grand, I sold my road bike, which I love dearly for a couple grand and so I survived in that way. I had nothing left to sell and financially we were pretty fucked anyway. The economy was in the shitter, and nobody was building spec homes. [Sighs.] So I begged him, begged him, to find the money for rehab. I had never been suicidal in my life, never. And I realized that I didn't want to live anymore. And I couldn't go on. I could not go on. So he came up with the money. He borrowed money which I'm forever grateful for. He didn't have to and he did. After fucking torturing me for two weeks. And I went to rehab in Tennessee and it was this wonderful rehab that was a combination of, you know, holistic stuff and psychiatric stuff and I think that every person in America needs to go away for 30 days and have eight hours of therapy a day. It changed my life. It made me get down to the nitty-gritty of the core issues, which was, I didn't know who I was. I had no idea who I was. I had been living my life in order to please people. I was thinking 'okay this is what they wanted, I'm going to be this person' –
PG: And then everything is going to be okay and they'll be happy and I'll be happy.
PG: I will be able to relax.
KP: I got quiet. I was able to identify my feelings and I think the most important thing about going to rehab was that I learned how to mother again. I learned how to… there were all these kids in rehab who were like 20 years old and heroin addicts who didn't know how to cook for themselves. And so the community living – was really -- that was 30% of my journey, being around women again and connecting, realizing that that had been sorely missing from my life.
PG: Do you think one of the reasons why the craigslist stuff was with the women was that you'd never really experienced that safe kind of nurturing, or was it just a physical thing?
KP: I think it was definitely a physical thing. I mean, I think that for women especially sexuality is very fluid, you know, at different times in my life I've been at different ends of the spectrum, and I've always been a bisexual. I mean, I pretty much knew it from the get-go and whether or not I will be with a woman in the future who knows, that remains to be seen. But even in my fantasies it is definitely half women and half men. Not that it's weird, not like a centaur-type of thing. You know what I mean, because that would be weird.
PG: There is something to be said for the half-man, half-horse. [KP laughs.] There is an ease to the reacharound that can't be found with other mammals.
KP: You've obviously told this joke before. How could you come up with that right now? [Laughs.] Did you really?
PG: No, it was just off the top of my sick skull.
KP: So, when it was in rehab, the therapist who I'd spent two hours with every single day in group therapy, said to me, she looked at me one time and she said, "You realize that you were being abused, right? You get that, right?" And the fact that she recognized it – the fact that it always been my secret that he wasn't that bad, that he just had a temper, and she saw it from the get-go. I couldn't talk to him for seven days. No Internet, and even when I could talk to him on the eighth day, my therapist and I together made the decision that I didn't need to talk to him for another week. And he was furious. Furious. But still I stayed. He went to Tennessee. We had a family weekend and everything was great, blah blah blah same story. I came back home after those 28 days and everything was going to be great, because I was the crazy one. And so as long as I was fixed, everything was going to be fine. And so I would go to support groups and I was going to support every day and I was hiking every day. But there was this feeling in me. What happened was the depression, the onslaught of the depression happened so much quicker than it happened before. And I started sinking into depression again. And I don't even know where this thought came from, but this thought occurred to me: 'Oh my God, oh my God,it's my marriage that is keeping me sick.' And I knew that I had to save myself and so I called the domestic violence shelter. I had no money left at this point. No money. So I called the DV shelter and I wasn't even really sure I was qualified because he didn't beat me every day. Because there were no scars. I didn't take into account the gaslighting or the financial control or the stalking or the property. The mind fuck was what was the most damaging. The mind fuck. I didn't take any of that into account. I just thought --
PG: Define "gaslighting." I've heard that term before.
KP: Gaslight was an old movie that Bette Davis was in. Basically, the man in the movie tried to get her to think she was crazy. There were gas lights all over the house and so he would turn down the gas lights and she would say, "Oh, the gas lights were just on," and he would say "No, they weren't; what you talking about?" It's crazy making on purpose.
PG: So it's denying someone's reality.
KP: Yes. Basically.
PG: To keep them off balance.
KP: Yes. And that's definitely how it was. I was definitely off balance for a long long time. So when I explained my story to the shelter worker on the phone, she said, "Yeah. You qualify." So I packed up my shit and I left my children –
PG: How did it feel when she said, "You qualify"?
KP: I guess I was ready to own it.
PG: Was there some relief?
KP: Yes… [pause] and then it turned into grief. Once I was able to finally see, I felt like I'd wasted a lot of time. I'd wasted a lot of time, I'd fucked up my daughter's life, and I'd wasted a lot of time because I had these two little kids and I didn't want to fuck up their lives. And so I was torn between my eldest child and being true to her, and my little children, and being true to them. I was convinced that they were better off with a mom and dad. Is it that fucking archaic? Who still thinks like that, right?
PG: I think most people still think like that because the thought of divorcing… and you know what the pain of that was like as a kid.
KP: Yeah. So I got a garbage bag, packed my clothes in it, he was kind of like, "You don't have to do this, we can work it out. You don't have to." I left my little kids there and I met this woman at an undisclosed location and I followed her to this apartment where these other women were staying and I had $26 in my pocket and I was driving a Lexus. Don't ever assume you know people's stories. They were like, "what's up with this chick?" That started this story, don't show up to the homeless shelter wearing your Burberry scarf. It's not a good idea. [Laughs] It was so weird. It was almost instantaneous, my mood shift. I became in control of my own life. Like almost overnight. And it didn't bother me that I was in a shelter, and it didn't bother me that I had no way that I was going to make money, and it didn't bother me that I had no man, I had no marriage, I had no house in the hills because what I had was capability and culpability, right? So I started mobilizing and I started navigating the system and I learned how to get on welfare and I learned how to get grants from school and I got back in school and I started fucking taking care of my own business. And that was the most empowering thing that I ever could have done for myself. I had told myself that I was capable of doing that. And I had other people tell me that I wasn't capable of doing that. So from that domestic violence shelter was where I went to stay in what is called the transitional housing unit, and the last piece of this is the blog stuff, but before I get to that what happened when I had that leap of faith is that I opened up my life and I opened up my heart and when I opened up, the universe said, "Congratulations girl. It's about damn time." And I started to be rewarded with life, you know? And I was part of life again. And I was part of the world and the world. I was such a dork. The world looked beautiful to me. Everything, you know?
PG: Isn't that amazing?
KP: It's like The Wizard of Oz. I walked into color. And I was able to parent better. Like I saw my children for the first time. And instead of 'Now we've got to do this and now we've got to do this, and we have to go to soccer practice and now we've got to get something to eat,' always on the run, always on the run, always on the run, I was able to sit with them and smell their heads, and love them. And I couldn't do that before. I couldn't mother before because I was so consumed with how I was feeling, you know. It was miraculous. So it was--
PG: It sounds like you were energized by hope.
KP: Thanks, Barack Obama. [PG and KP laugh.] What's that slogan? I forgot what it is.
PG: I forget, but hope can have so much energy and the lack of hope can be so draining.
KP: Draining. Absolutely. And that's why I said it almost killed me. I felt like I was slipping away. Slipping away. Slipping away every day and when I got back from rehab rejuvenated and ready to go, and things went back to how they were, I was panicked.
PG: Because you had had a little taste, you had had a little taste of "feeling felt," as Dr Zucker would say. Being heard. Having your experience validated.
KP: Yeah, absolutely.
PG: And we will never know, if we don't reach out for help like you did, we will never have a chance to get that validation that helps us begin to understand what it is we are feeling and what we went through.
KP: It's absolutely true. 'I need help' is a favorite sentence of mine. And 'surrender.' So it was in listening to your podcast, which made me reach out to you is when I realized that honesty about what you are going through was not only liberating and freeing but it also connected you to other people. And when you're honest about what you are going through, you receive the joy of 'Hey, I know what you're going through, because I've gone through this.' So through your podcast you are really what inspired me. And your guests.
PG: That's so nice.
KP: To be honest. So I started posting on Facebook, like "Hey, I'm on welfare and thanks taxpayers for giving me the opportunity to have Medi-Cal and get my son to the doctor," and so I posted about divorce and "Awesome, thanks for paying child support. I really appreciate it. You are living in the hills and I'm living in a room downtown." And I started getting feedback and support and emails from divorcees, from poor people, from Republicans, from old friends, from new friends. It was fucking amazing. And I started to feel validated and I started to feel part of the world.
PG: Isn't that amazing?
KP: So I started the blog. And when I started the blog, that's what really solidified my process, because I was able to be super honest about 'this is what has happened to me, this is where I'm at, this was my surrender leap of faith. This is how I got to be happier than I've ever been. I have nothing. Nothing. And I'm happier than I've ever been.' So that's what allowed me to be of service to others, to kind of look outside myself. When you're in your mental illness, and you're all depressed, you are so fucking self-absorbed, because that's all you can be. And so I'm glad it was through everybody else pushing me along that I was able to see outside of myself.
PG: That's beautiful.
KP: Yeah, my kids are happy, I'm happy. Would I like some money? Sure. It'll come. I'm in college right now, finishing up, in court, trying to establish support, looking for a job…
PG: What you studying in college?
PG: That's awesome.
PG: Do you want to take it off with some fears and some love?
KP: I would love to. What are we doing first?
PG: Let's do some fears first. I'm going to be doing a listener's fears and loves.
PG: I'm going to be reading the fears and loves of a listener named Patty, who's 28 and she lives in the Midwest.
KP: I got this.
PG: You're going to trounce her? She says, "I am afraid that when I am too sick to take care of myself, my friends and family won't be there to help me."
KP: I'm afraid that I won't be able to pay my tuition for my daughter's tuition for private school this year.
PG: "I'm afraid of slipping on an icy sidewalk and getting a concussion and not being found until it's too late."
KP: I'm afraid that the crazy random blank nipple hair that started showing up five years ago will only increase with time [laughing].
PG: You rock. You rock. "I'm afraid of someone breaking into my home while I'm asleep."
KP: I'm afraid that I am crazy after all.
PG: "I'm afraid that I will never achieve my dream of being a semi-famous author full time."
KP: I'm afraid that my ex-husband will tell our children inappropriate or untruthful things about our marriage and they will believe him and stop talking to me based on his skewed reality.
PG: "I'm afraid that as my mother ages that she will need full-time care and that I will be the only one to do it."
KP: I'm afraid I will never lose this weight.
PG: "I'm afraid of slipping off a high place like the edge of a cliff and falling hundreds of feet."
KP: I'm afraid of being hit.
PG: "I'm afraid of getting stuck inside a kayak that flips over, and drowning that way."
KP: Oh come on, Patty! Really? That was good.
PG: I think about that one and I've never kayaked.
KP: I'm afraid of being misunderstood.
PG: "I'm afraid that hell exists, and that I or my loved ones will be sent there."
KP: I'm afraid of cholas, circa 1984.
PG: "I'm afraid that people who have died really can watch over us from above, and that they are judging me."
KP: I'm afraid that I never will be able to financially support my kids.
PG: "I'm afraid that my teeth will become really bad and that I will need dentures before middle age."
KP: I'm afraid that I'm going to get sued for telling my truth.
PG: "I'm afraid that the people in my life don't appreciate me or know that I love them."
KP: Oh my God, I think Patty won. I'm done.
PG: She had probably about 20 more.
KP: Good job, Patty.
PG: And to the love-off. I'll start with Patty's. "I love the sound of a cat stretching."
KP: I love anything having to do with the Virgin of Guadeloupe.
PG: "I love seeing the first hummingbird of the spring."
KP: I love that too. I love progressive old ladies who swear.
PG: That's an awesome one. "I love looking at the stars on a clear night in the country."
KP: I love smelling my sweet babies' heads when they're sleeping.
PG: "I love the smell of freshly ground coffee."
KP: I love long car rides with my teenager.
PG: "I love hearing the sound of bacon sizzling when I'm in the other room."
KP: [Whispers.] My God she's a bastard. [Normal voice.] I love how being an armchair psychologist has put the puzzle pieces of my life together.
PG: "I love surprising people with small gestures of kindness."
KP: I love watching the kids' loose teeth get wigglier and wigglier.
PG: That's an awesome one. "I love telling people that they inspire me."
KP: I love what having nothing has given me.
PG: "I love when I finish a package of cream cheese and a package of bagels at the same time."
KP: This woman. I need to meet you, Patty. I love putting green food coloring in the toilet on St. Patrick's Day and convincing my little kids that a leprechaun stopped by to pee in our toilet.
PG: [Laughs.] That's fantastic. "I love waking up to the sound of songbirds outside."
KP: I love that my best friends are women that I have known since I was 14 years old.
PG: "I love falling asleep to the sound of crickets."
KP: I love people's back stories.
PG: "I love crawling between warm, freshly cleaned sheets."
KP: I love Patty. I'm done.
PG: That's awesome. Katie, thank you so much for just being you, and coming on and sharing your truth, no matter how painful it was.
KP: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. This has been quite healing for me.
PG: Good, good, and give them the address of your blog one more time.
PG: Thank you, Katie.
KP: Thank you.
PG: Many thanks to Katie Palacio. I don't know if you guys noticed the theme of getting somebody before they get you running throughout the episode. After she had been attacked, that was her mode and again I was a hypocrite because I was understanding of her doing that after her attack, but I wasn't understanding of her stepfather's attitude in business of 'get people before they get you.' While I can dislike that attitude and think that it's morally reprehensible, I have to remember to have compassion for the little boy that, obviously something happened to him in his life that made him feel that way that made him believe to his core, that that's how you have to act. And this is hard to say, but the guy that raped her: what was done to him as a boy? And I'm not justifying what they did; I'm just trying to highlight that these are all people who were once children who didn't have those feelings in them. I don't know what my point is in saying that, I guess I feel like maybe we need more compassion for each other in this world and we certainly need to keep ourselves safe. I'm not an idiot that thinks that we shouldn't lock people away from the rest of their lives, but that quote at the beginning of the show that that person wrote about the monster of Florence really struck a chord with me because it's what I believe. We're not listening to each other. We're not listening to the people that are difficult to listen to. And we will ultimately pay a price for that. I think that's what I wanted to say. You can send them away. And it starts with listening to your kid and making time for your kid. There's a lot of people, I think, that are so wrapped up in getting a bigger house and more stuff and kids don't give a shit what size house they live in. They just want you to love them and to be interested in them. Maybe when they get to be 15 they want a bigger house, and they aren't interested in what you have to say, but when they are little and their brains are being formed.
I got this email from a guy named Brian. He writes, "Very nice. Please drop the "I love" part. It's incongruent and forced." Brian, fuck off. A good, hearty go fuck yourself.
I'm going to take it out with a email that I got from a listener named Nicole. It's a little on the long side, and I know that this whole podcast episode is a little on the long side. I don't care. I don't give a shit.
"Hi Paul. In January of last year I had a nervous breakdown. It was my second semester of college and I locked myself in my room for three weeks at the longest, but on and off for three months. I became terrified of everything: driving, public transportation, grocery stores, laundromats, and eventually class. I failed every subject I took and I locked myself away. I spent what was left of my student loan on cab fares to get to work. I made exactly as much as the cab fare in my shift. I was on 30 mg of mirtazapine a day along with Xanax for anxiety attacks and whether it was the meds, my own craziness, or some form of current PTSD, I have almost no memory of the time. I'm glad of this. I have flashes of memory: working at a call center, going to McDonald's in the middle of the night, sobbing in bed for days on end. I remember going to brush my teeth and having to figure out if I was dreaming or not. That happened a lot. Or I would suddenly confuse the present for a memory and be in a state of panic, trying to figure out if I was doing something or remembering me doing it. I remember the night I tried to kill myself and lying on the bathroom floor, throwing up the next morning, and crying because pills hadn't worked. I started having flashbacks of being raped when I was seven. I had always known it had happened, but purposely pushed it into the dark recesses of my mind. All of a sudden it was there every day, screaming for attention. I woke up every morning and was sick for an hour. I felt the heaviness of my depression so much that I often would be doubled over with it. It is anxious about something, the pain of it would make me vomit or pass out. I remember not sleeping for four days at a time, and I remember when I decided to get better. It was the end of April and I had run completely out of money and was forced to take the bus back from work. I was so nauseous getting on the bus I thought that if I didn't have my headphones in, I would make eye contact with someone and vomit. I had my iPod, and I had just discovered the podcast. I was listening to Teresa Strasser episode. When I got on the bus I was completely, utterly, without a doubt in my mind, bereft of hope and options. When I got off the bus, I couldn't stop smiling and wiping the tears from my eyes because I finally had that thing that I had been searching for my whole life: perspective. I'm not going to say something like your podcast saved my life, but your podcast was the first stepping stone in the most difficult journey I've ever made. When I listened to that podcast with Teresa, there were many things that stood out to me as important, but the thing that shone above all was that connection. You actually connected with another human being. This summer I pursued that. I moved into a house with six strangers who are now my best friends in the world. We connect with each other every day and talk about our lives with as much vulnerability as you do on the show. Every one of us felt like somehow the universe had been making the most difficult path possible just because it would lead us to each other. We went to the park and found homeless people to bring home for supper. We made paintings, songs, poems, sculptures, and gave them away to anyone who would take them. And we talked to people and more important, we listened to them. Who would believe it, but I am so goddamned happy. I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I had anxiety and phobias that I am working through with my therapist, but it doesn't matter because I discovered it doesn't matter. Perspective. Love, Nicole"
Nicole was killed by a homeless person later that night. Thank you for listening.
That is such a beautiful email. Such a beautiful email. I never get tired of hearing about the light come on in someone's eyes. No matter how painful their past is, the resiliency of the human spirit is fucking awesome. So if you're out there and you're stuck, if you've listened to today's episode and you still doubt that there is hope, I don't know what else to do because between Nicole's email and Katie's story, you should know that you are not alone and that there is hope. Thank you for listening.